Weeknight Meal Weds: Black Bean Burgers

Weeknight meal for new moms: black bean burgersFinally, the return of my extremely popular not-really-recipes food series for haggard new parents. I hope you all weren’t starving in the meantime!

Kind of a good-news/bad-news situation here.

The bad news: This is varsity-level effort for new parents. Something I’d recommend you work on during a Sunday afternoon while you have some extra help with the baby. (What can I say? I never thought the day would arrive, but it does start to get easier to cook when your baby can crawl under the couch entertain himself on the floor for awhile.)

The good news: Make a batch of these, pop them in the freezer and you can have several easy weeknight meals. The other good news: They’re super healthy and really tasty. The other other good news: This is a baby led weaning-friendly recipe.

The other bad news: This is a great example of what I refer to as “improv cooking” which means I didn’t measure anything and used leftovers in the recipe, so… good luck. Be creative. You’ll be fine. I adapted my recipe from the Pioneer Woman who clearly pays closer attention to her cooking than I do (and has stronger forearms and/or forks).

Black Bean Burgers (Good Enough for Baby)

Ingredients

  • About 1.5 cups of cooked black beans (If you’re feeding this to your baby, cook the beans yourself so you know there’s no added sodium, as babies can’t have salt and canned beans are super salty.)
  • 3-4 slices of bread (check the sodium content in your bread, too)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 small onion
  • About a half cup of leftover mashed potatoes (optional)
  • 1 small beet
  • Dried herbs of your choice – I used oregano and thyme
  • Chili powder
  • Garlic powder or chopped fresh garlic
  • Kosher salt (just for your portions)

If you’re eating the burgers tonight, you’ll also need

  • Washed baby spinach
  • Cheddar cheese
  • Hamburger buns
  • Mustard, ketchup, etc.

Instructions

Black beans

Drain your cooked black beans. Don’t rinse them. (If you’re using canned beans, remember this probably isn’t a good BLW meal, because of salt.)

mash black beans

Mash them up in a bowl so they’re still chunky but smashed enough to stick together well. The Pioneer Woman used a fork but I guess my arms aren’t strong enough for that.

DIY breadcrumbs

Meanwhile, toast some bread. I used four pieces of whole wheat bread, but three of them were butts. Making your own bread crumbs is another good way to control salt, but if you can find low sodium breadcrumbs (and I’m leaving it entirely in your hands to do your BLW/sodium research), skip this step. (If you don’t like the state of my toaster oven, you should see my office hahahaha someone please come clean my house.)

breadcrumb grind

Let your toast cool off a few minutes so it doesn’t steam up, then grind it up in a food processor/bullet/etc.

black bean burger mix

Add to your black beans: The breadcrumbs, the herbs and garlic, a half teaspoon or so of chili powder (The Baby seems to like a little spice, but I didn’t go nuts on this recipe), the egg, a shredded small beet and a shredded small onion, and if you have it, some leftover mashed potatoes. (Mine had sauteed onion, zucchini and peas in it from some zucchini boats I made the night before. Salt reminder goes here.)

mixed black bean burger

Mix well and let sit for a bit. (The beets make it look like bloody red meat a little, don’t they?)

salt and blw

If you’re giving some to baby, pull out a portion to leave unsalted, then add kosher salt to yours.

burgers sizzling

Heat a cast iron skillet and add a little canola oil (I also used some butter – aim for unsalted, said the broken record.) I’m getting used to a new stove (backdoor brag) so I got the pan a little too hot. Don’t be like me. Cook your burgers thoroughly on both sides. If you’re planning to freeze any, turn the heat down so they’re good and cooked but not super browned.

black bean burgers dressed

To serve, melt some cheese on your burger, then put it on a bun (or two pieces of bread if you’re improv cooking and don’t believe in grocery lists). Add mustard and baby spinach and enjoy.

baby's black bean burger

Here’s The Baby’s portion. The cheese helped hold it together a little, and because I was cautious about how much salt was in the burger itself (and he didn’t have anything else with salt in it that day) I didn’t feel nervous giving him any.

freeze black bean burgers

I froze the leftover portions first on a cookie sheet then wrapped them up and put them in a freezer bag. I’ll just turn the pan on nice and low and cook them from frozen the next time we eat them.

Bon apetit, my dear mamas. I know this is a more time-consuming recipe, so if you can’t pull it together, may I offer an alternative *recipe from my earlier days:

3 string cheeses, eaten on the couch while nursing. Three heaping tablespoons of frozen yogurt, eaten in front of the refrigerator. No more than two high fiber cereal bars, eaten in front of the computer while the baby naps. One very well-earned bottle of your favorite IPA.

*Not suitable for BLW.

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Weeknight Meal Weds: Black Bean Burgers

Baby led weaning, indeed!

adventures in baby led weaningI hadn’t heard about Baby Led Weaning until I was pregnant and a friend asked if I planned to try it, but once I started reading about it, I was committed. It makes a lot of sense to me that babies should be given lots of variety, and the agency to decide what they want to eat and how much of it. As someone who was fed purees as a baby and grew into a kid who didn’t eat anything but peanut butter and jelly, mashed potatoes and chicken nuggets until basically college, I wanted to give The Baby every opportunity to start off on the right foot with food.

When I explained to my mom what BLW was, you’d have thought I was explaining how I was going to feed The Baby lit firecrackers and broken glass. When she was raising kids, purees were the only way to go because choking.  (As the BLW book explains, gagging ≠ choking, and babies gag easily and regularly as they figure out how to manipulate food in their mouths. As long as you’re supervising and not giving them nuts, whole grapes or other obvious choking hazards, they’re going to be fine.)

And while my mom still is adorably cautious about the whole ordeal (she peeled cherries for The Baby and then proceeded to cut them into pieces about the size of a small booger), I think at this point her delight in The Baby’s messy, exuberant dinners has diminished her fears about having to rescue him from a too-big piece of food.

This all started about a week ago. Although The Baby has been advancing pretty rapidly developmentally, sitting up with very little assistance needed, putting anything in sight in his mouth and gnawing on it with his gums, everything I’ve read has said not to start BLW until baby hits the six month mark, that any earlier than that is just too early for the baby’s digestive system and can up the risk for choking.

But I was holding a fussy The Baby at the dinner table during family dinner on Sunday, trying to finish up my corn on the cob so we could get him to bed, when he grabbed the other end of the corn cob and started chewing and sucking on it with the determination of a starving dog.

After that, The Husband and I tiptoed around the fact that this particular baby was leading us headlong into a new phase, trying to stick to the 6-month recommendation. The Husband would surreptitiously let the baby suck on the bitten side of a whole apple; I’d offer a chunk of banana in the mornings after TH left for work. Finally, unceremoniously, we gave in and started offering food on the regular. Each day The Baby has tried something new, and each day he has impressed us with his enthusiasm for whatever’s on the table (and his capacity for making a gigantic, gigantic mess.)

Here’s a short list of things The Baby has *eaten so far during his short but promising career:

  1. Corn on the cob
  2. Apple
  3. Banana
  4. Toast fingers with apple butter
  5. Cheddar cheese
  6. Mushrooms, beet greens and carrots out of a tomato-based soup
  7. Broccoli
  8. Penne pasta with broccoli and chicken
  9. Roasted potato
  10. Asparagus
  11. Roasted green beans
  12. An assortment of Indian food on naan
  13. Watermelon
  14. Peaches
  15. Frittata with spinach, onion and cheese
  16. Roasted sweet potato fingers
  17. Rice with sweet potato and chick peas mixed in
  18. Cucumber sticks
  19. A taste of mom & dad’s morning smoothies (usually beets, bananas, blueberries, spinach and almond milk)

So far, he hasn’t outright rejected anything, though the texture of cheddar cheese threw him a bit, and the tartness of some fruits makes him go a little walleyed. I’m really happy we opted to go this route and can’t wait to continue exploring new tastes and textures with my favorite little gourmand.

As a bonus, his eating our dinners has forced me to step back toward healthier meals from my exhausted and defeated approaches to dinner in the recent past. Someday soon I’ll revisit Weeknight Meal Wednesdays with a BLW-friendly meal.

Join the conversation: Did you go the BLW route? What were some of your baby’s favorite foods? Any tips for someone just starting off?

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Baby led weaning, indeed!

Weeknight Meal Wednesday: Mom party food

Weeknight meal for new moms: Greek salad & pizzaI referenced in my post earlier this week a Greek-style salad and white pizza I made for my mom friends a few weeks ago.

I should say: My baby is getting older so my obstacles are shifting as I cook. When he was all about sleeping in a baby carrier all the live long day, I wouldn’t have been able to get a pizza in and out of the oven very successfully. So keep that in mind if it’s still early days.

But the great thing about this meal is it tastes great at room temperature, so you can make it a little ahead and your mom friends (or your significant other) can grab and eat as timing permits.

Greek Salad

This is an easy and very adaptable salad. A yogurt-based dressing or Bulgarian (soft) feta cheese make it creamy.

Ingredients

  • 1 English cucumber
  • 1 can chick peas
  • 1 small jar Kalamata olives (Be kind to yourself. Buy pitted!)
  • 1/2 medium red onion
  • 1-2 ripe tomatoes
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley
  • 1 small container *feta cheese
  • Baby spinach (optional)

For the dressing:

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Lemon juice (it’s OK to use bottled)
  • Brown/dijon mustard
  • Dried or fresh herbs, oregano is especially good
  • Salt & pepper
  • Plain yogurt (optional)

Instructions

Seed and chop the tomatoes and cucumber into bite-size pieces. Toss in a bowl with the rinsed can of chick peas. Check the olives for pits, chop coarsely. Chop the onions. (I don’t really like the bite of raw onions, even red onions, so I did a quick pickle: I chopped them into bite-size pieces and tossed them in a very small pot to which I had added white vinegar, salt and some pickling spices once it came up to a near boil. I let it sit for a few minutes before draining and rinsing. This is entirely optional, but I enjoyed it.) Chop and add the parsley. Finally, add the feta.

*My grocery store sells Bulgarian feta, which in addition to being way cheaper than the Greek version, is very soft and ends up lending a creaminess to the salad once I mix it in. If you don’t have this option, no worries.

Mix the dressing separately. I usually use a mason jar and shake the whole thing up. I do about 1 part lemon juice to 3 parts oil, add a good dollop (a teaspoon?) of mustard, a small handful (tablespoon?) of dried herbs that I first smashed up in my hand, and salt and pepper to taste. If you want a creamy dressing (and/or if you didn’t find Bulgarian feta), add some plain yogurt to the mix. Taste and adjust as necessary.

Because there’s no lettuce in the salad, it won’t wilt much. Toss it with the dressing and chill it for a little while before you serve to let the flavors meld. I ended up having a lot of liquid from the tomatoes & cucumber, so I mixed in some baby spinach leaves before serving to pick up some more of the dressing.

Greek salad
The salad, pre-dressing. Gorgeous, no?

 

White pizza

I used to make my own pizza dough usually. Then I had a baby.

Ingredients

  • 1 package of fresh pizza dough (I bought whole wheat)
  • Red onions (use the other half from the Greek salad recipe)
  • One tomato (a meaty tomato like Roma is probably best for this)
  • A few slices of bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
  • Olive oil
  • A ball of fresh mozzarella cheese
  • A few cloves of garlic
  • Dried herbs of your choice

Instructions

Bring the pizza dough out of the refrigerator and let it sit on your counter to warm up for awhile so it’s easy to stretch. Once it’s pliable, stretch it out and lay it on a greased pizza pan (you can also spread cornmeal underneath it.)

Preheat the oven to pretty hot. Say, 450°?

Drizzle or brush olive oil onto the dough. Finely chop the garlic and spread it around. Add some dried herbs if you want; I went with dried oregano to match the dressing in the salad.

Slice the mozzarella cheese into disks as thin as you can get them without cutting yourself and cover the dough with them (you can leave gaps, it will spread.)

Thinly slice the onions and separate the circles. You won’t need a ton, just enough to spread out over the pizza.

Thinly slice the tomatoes and try to seed them well and get out as much moisture as possible. If you skip this step, you could have a very soggy mess on your hands, so take care.

Spread out your seeded tomato slices. Top the whole thing with bacon crumbles.

Bake until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is starting to brown. Slice and allow to cool a bit (you can eat it hot, but you’ll worry less about dropping crumbs on the baby if it’s at room temp!) Leave out some crushed red pepper flakes for people to season as they like.

Enjoy this easy white pizza with a Greek salad at your next new-mom get-together. Via The Last Mommy Blog.
The finished pizza. Yum!

Bon apetit, mamas!

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Weeknight Meal Wednesday: Mom party food

Weeknight Meal Wednesday: Nacho Matrix!

weeknight meal - nacho matrixI’m going to have to keep this post brief as I am currently babysitting for a friend and both babies are sound asleep, but who knows for how long?

After skipping a week, here’s another installment of easy, practically non-recipes for new moms who maybe haven’t showered in a few days and are filled with joy but empty of food. Lady, you need to eat. Let me help.

One of my favorite easy (though not always particularly healthy, I admit) weeknight meals is nachos, because they’re so versatile and can serve as a blank canvas for whatever cuisine you’re craving.

The last time I made nachos (last week) I tried to take a photo, but it looked like trash so instead of subjecting you to my disappointing photography, I made you a…

NACHO MATRIX!

While you can go by the book across any row and make a stylized nacho recipe, you can also mix and match or substitute to suit your personal preferences.

The main rules for nachos are: Pour chips into a baking dish (I usually use a 9″x13″ Pyrex dish because The Husband and I can murder a pile of nachos), layer on your toppings (leaving out things that won’t survive the broil very well, like avocado, green onions, etc.) broil for a few minutes until cheese are melty/starting to brown, and then eat! I also like to pour a bowl of salsa to dip into, along with any leftover refried beans, sour cream, etc.

Nacho matrix

You can also download a PDF of this if you want to print it out and stick it to the fridge.

Enjoy, mamas! Time to go check on my two slumbering little buddies.

Weeknight Meal Wednesday: Nacho Matrix!

Weeknight Meal Wednesday: Tomato bean soup & grilled sandwiches

weeknight meal for new moms: tomato soup and sandwichesHere’s another dinner idea for new moms (and dads) to get you through those times when you’re too tired to remember that  dirty dishes belong in the dishwasher and milk goes in the fridge, let alone how to cook your once-favorite meals.

Today’s meal is a classic combo infused with some extra protein and fiber thanks to a secret ingredient: beans.

White bean and tomato soup with grilled sandwiches

This soup makes a great quick weeknight dinner with leftovers for lunches.

Ingredients

For the soup

  • Tomatoes: I used a gallon freezer bag full of tomatoes I had blanched and frozen over the summer. You can also use a couple cans of whole tomatoes. Seed them if you feel like it.
  • One medium onion, chopped
  • A carrot or two if you have them around
  • A few cloves of garlic, smashed
  • A can of navy beans
  • A bay leaf or two
  • Dried oregano or marjoram, or basil (fresh or dried) to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Chicken or vegetable broth
  • A stick blender or regular blender or bullet blender (you do need one of these or you’re going to have weird, stringy soup from the tomatoes.)

For the sandwiches

  • Bread of your choice (we always have whole wheat in the house, so I used that, but something like Italian or English muffin bread is also killer for a grilled cheese. Heck, use hotdog buns if that’s all you have.)
  • Cheese and, if desired, meat of your choice. (Here are some good combos: cheddar and ham, Monterey jack and bacon, the last of the string cheese in the fridge drawer and nothing)
  • Butter and a cast iron skillet

Directions

To make the soup:

  1. Thaw the tomatoes if you happen to have frozen tomatoes. If not, skip to step two.
  2. Heat some oil in your soup pot and sweat (in this order) the carrots (will take the longest), the onions and the garlic (add last after everything else is pretty translucent so you don’t burn it.) You can also add dried spices at this point if you like.
  3. Add the tomatoes. I used all the juice that drained from the frozen ones and that basically was my broth. If you’re using canned tomatoes and are worried about how much salt is in their juice, you could probably drain them and add chicken or vegetable broth. I did not use broth for mine, but I know not everyone has frozen tomatoes.
  4. Let the tomatoes cook down for awhile (15-20 minutes? Time is weird when you’re home with a baby), using a wooden spoon to stir smash them up a bit.
  5. Once the tomatoes are good and soft and it’s starting to smell like tomato soup in your house, add the (drained) can of navy beans. Simmer another 10 minutes or so.
  6. Fish out the bay leaves if you put any in, turn off the heat (*danger: use caution, allow the soup to cool or have someone else do this if you’re baby wearing) and blend the soup up with your blender of choice. Return to the pot and salt and pepper to taste.

To make the sandwiches:

  1. Slice or shred your cheese (shredding=quicker melt, more even coverage, but do what you want) and lay out your ingredients for your sandwich
  2. Turn your cast iron skillet on medium-low heat.
  3. When the pan is warm (but not too hot, we’re cooking with butter) add a pat of butter to the pan (can cut it with vegetable oil if you want) and add two pieces of bread. When they have browned, flip them over and quickly add cheese to both pieces of toasted bread so it melts.
  4. Add meat to one piece of bread, and once the cheese on the other piece of bread has melted enough that it won’t fall off, top the meat with it.
  5. Finish browning the outside of your sandwich. Remove from heat and turn off the stove, you sleep deprived fools!
  6. I like to cut my sandwich into quarters so I can dunk into my soup.

Here are some glamour shots I took from my  next-day leftovers. Delicious!

cast iron grilled ham and cheese

tomato and white bean soup

soup and sandwich

P.S. I have made this same soup with, instead of a can of white beans, some leftover hummus I was trying to use up. It was great – try it!

Weeknight Meal Wednesday: Tomato bean soup & grilled sandwiches

Weeknight Meal Wednesday

weeknight meal for new moms: sweet potato, chickpea & avocado quesadillasI’m no gourmet, but I’ve always enjoyed cooking. Of course, this was nearly impossible to do in the first few weeks postpartum. I had done some freezer-stocking in my third trimester, and we were lucky to have friends and family bring meals by (never turn this offer down), and a really good carry-out sandwich shop open around the corner from our house.

It felt good to finally get back to cooking after about six weeks or so. Because I do most of my cooking while baby-wearing or in between feedings, laundry, etc., I’ve had to adapt. For example, most of my cooking has to be done on the stove so I don’t have to reach into a hot oven with the baby on me. Also, after a few years living microwave-free, we conceded we might starve to death without it.

I thought I’d start sharing some of my easy dinner ideas for new moms. (I promise, future ones will have better photos. Actually, I make no promises, but I’ll try.)

My goals are as follows: Easy, relatively healthy (to make up for the fact I eat mostly string cheese and granola bars for breakfast and lunch), and tasty (to make up for the fact I eat mostly string cheese and granola bars for breakfast and lunch.)

sweet potato, chickpea and avocado quesadilla

Sweet potato, chickpea and avocado quesadillas

Quesadillas have been my go-to easy dinner since college. Last week, I made sweet potato, chickpea and avocado quesadillas that took almost no time, were pretty healthy and were really tasty. This barely counts as a recipe, it was so easy, but if you’re not much of an improviser, here you go:

Ingredients (serves 2 very hungry adults with limited portion control)

  • One large sweet potato
  • One can of chickpeas
  • One ripe avocado
  • Lemon or lime juice (you could use fresh if you have your sh*t together; as I do not, I use refrigerated lemon juice out of a squeeze bottle.)
  • Salt to taste
  • Cumin to taste
  • Red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper or hot sauce (unless you don’t like spicy)
  • About 1/4 block of Monterey jack or pepper jack cheese, shredded
  • Four soft whole grain tortillas
  • Salsa

Instructions

  1. Microwave the sweet potato until it is fully cooked. Allow it to cool enough that you can peel it.
  2. Drop the peeled sweet potato into a large mixing bowl. Add the can of chick peas (rinsed), 3/4 of the avocado, a few splashes of citrus juice of your choice, cumin, salt, and pepper flakes.
  3. Mash with a potato masher until the chickpeas start to smash up and everything is fairly uniformly spread out, but not complete mush. Leave some texture.
  4. Heat a cast iron skillet on medium heat. Add a little oil. Sprinkle some cheese on a tortilla and then add a few heaping tablespoons of the sweet potato mixture. Fold in half and cook in the skillet until the tortilla is browned and a little crispy on both sides. Repeat with other three tortillas.
  5. Cut with a pizza cutter and serve with salsa and the reserved 1/4 avocado.

 

 

 

 

Weeknight Meal Wednesday