Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Spice It Up!

Spices are a great way to make food more delicious without adding extra fat or calories. And thinking globally gives us an infinite variety of ways to spice up what we eat. I think we do a disservice to our kids when we assume that they won't eat something just because it is "spicy." I think we should encourage our kids to try all sorts of new foods and help support their taste exploration. So with each of the following recipes, I included some strategies for helping kids to enjoy unfamiliar flavors.

I think my oldest son was eating chili before he was talking! And the secret is... sour cream. We would give him a little bowl of (mild) chili and a little bowl of sour cream and when he started feeling that "spicy" sensation we would have him taste the sour cream to cool his mouth down a bit. You can also use plain yogurt like they do in a lot of Indian cuisine or even a glass of milk. "Spicy" is a new sensation for kids and if you show them how to control how it, they may find that they actually like it!

There are a lot of great chili recipes out there. But for some reason, more often than not I find myself craving the chili from Wendy's. It's nice and basic and easy. You can spice it up however you like and add whatever topping you want. We leave out the beans for my picky-eater husband. (This is a repeat recipe from Super Bowl week 2013.)
Serves 8
2 lb. lean ground beef
1 quart tomato juice
1 (29 oz.) can tomato puree
1 large onion, diced
1/2 c. celery, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1/4 c. chili powder
1 t. cumin
1 1/2 t. garlic powder
1 t. salt
1/2 t. black pepper
1/2 t. oregano
1/2 t. sugar
Shredded cheddar, sour cream, and pickled jalapenos for serving (optional)
In a large pot, brown the ground beef. Add the remaining ingredients, cover and let simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, stirring every 15 minutes.

Strategy #2 - Let kids help prepare food. This is a great recipe with lots of ingredients for kids to smell and taste as they are added to the pot. Older kids can also help cut up the vegetables with a nylon serrated knife like this one from Pampered Chef.  I think kids are more likely to try something they've made themselves. I serve this with Near East Whole Wheat Couscous with Roasted Garlic and Olive Oil with 1/2 cup chopped cilantro stirred in.

Serves 4
2 T. olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 T. minced fresh garlic
2 T. flour
1 1/2 T. curry powder
1 c. butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 c. cauliflower florets
1 c. diced red potatoes
4 c. vegetable broth (I like Pacific)
1 t. black pepper
1/2 t. salt
15 oz. can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 c. frozen peas
1 c. light coconut milk (I like Thai Kitchen)
Lime wedges for serving (optional)
1. Heat oil in large pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook 5 minutes. Add flour and curry powder and cook 1 1/2 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in butternut squash, cauliflower, and potatoes. Add vegetable broth, pepper, and salt. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer, 15-20 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
2. Remove pan from heat. Stir in chickpeas, peas and coconut milk. Season with salt to taste and serve with lime wedges (optional).

Strategy #3 - Everything on the side. When I make this for the boys, everything is separate - noodles, chicken, sauce, and some extra uncooked vegetables. They get to decide what goes in their bowls and what doesn't and we can all enjoy our personalized dinners just the way we like them. This is definitely a simplified recipe, but the flavors are there. Lime juice and brown sugar substitute for tamarind paste, I leave out the eggs, and I don't stir fry the noodles.

Serves 4
8 oz. Pad Thai rice noodles
1/4 c. brown sugar
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 c. fish sauce
2 T. rice vinegar
1/2 T. sriracha hot sauce
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 T. canola oil
1/2 yellow onion, sliced
1 large carrot, roughly chopped
3 scallions, roughly chopped
1/2 c. peanuts
1 1/2 c. shredded rotisserie chicken
1/2 c. cilantro
1. Cook rice noodles according to package directions.
2. In a small bowl, pour 1/4 c. boiling water over brown sugar and stir to dissolve. Add lime juice, fish sauce, rice vinegar, sriracha, and garlic and stir.
3. Heat oil in large skillet over medium high heat. Add onions and stir fry 1 minute. Add sauce and cook, stirring for a few minutes. 
3. In a small food processor, process carrot, scallions. and peanuts until finely chopped. Stir into the sauce and remove from heat.
5. Toss noodles and chicken with sauce and top with cilantro.

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