FEEDING BABIES : COOKING WITH MY NIECES
I could pick out clothes or a new lego set, but what I really wanted was quality time with my nieces, who are turning 7 and 4 this month. My sister-in-law actually came up with the idea, I just needed to plan and execute a cooking class with them. I mentally prepared myself to forget trying to keep everything tidy and I asked them their favorite foods to be sure we made something they’d like. These girls are great eaters, the only request was to not have mushrooms or curry involved, which left me a lot to choose from. After a few attempts in the past, I will be honest that I don’t really enjoy teaching. Not cooking at least. It is something I just have a feel for by way of experience and am pretty quick with because of that. I find it difficult to teach things that I’ve learned by trial and error myself. I can tell when cake batter looks too wet or smell if a vinaigrette is too oily only because I’ve messed those things up myself. Luckily, a four and seven year old are mostly concerned about when the cookies will be done and who gets to put the kale down the food processor shredder, so they were forgiving students. Leading the girls through this opposed to adults was refreshing. They were eager to touch and work and less concerned with the reasons and science that can be involved in making food taste good. It was so nice to have an afternoon with them even if I’m not sure I taught them anything, per se.
I can’t speak as an authority on the subject, but I learned a few things about cooking with kids through this. First, the mise en place thing was huge, especially with baking. I measured and set out all of the ingredients, but they got to do the pouring and the mixing. I basically prepared half of the recipes in advance to keep their attention and for it to not take all day long to make some tacos and cookies. Example: I made the slaw dressing, but I saved the limes for them to squeeze in. Or the fish was cut and set in it’s dish, but they were able to oil and season it. Yes, it’s slightly more work than doing it yourself, but they were so excited to eat what they made I’d slow down again in a heartbeat. I am in the clean-as-you-go camp but that just doesn’t work with kids around. Let the sink pile up and do it later. On recipes. Like I said, these girls, thanks to their mom, eat all sorts of things and are great with vegetables. Curran (2), prefers things a little more hidden and is exercising his own autonomy by using “no” often. In order to make one meal please everyone, I pulled out some crunchy beans on their own for his plate, and made his taco with melted mexican blend cheese, fish, easy slaw, rolled it up and called it a burrito because he’ll eat nearly anything if he thinks it’s a burrito (so long as any green vegetables are cut very small).
I realize I was sharing kid friendly recipes based on how I was learning to eat well with a young toddler and then jumped ahead a few years on you but this can still work. On a normal day, I am not making everyone here different meals, we are just rearranging the one meal, to please everyone.
The taco recipe is below and for the cookies, I worked off this thumbprint cookie recipe from Green Kitchen Stories. Based on my own pantry, I swapped in almond meal for the sunflower seed meal, whole wheat flour for the buckwheat flour and used the whole egg in the dough since I didn’t put seeds around the outside. I also used store bought jam to save time and it worked great.
FISH TACOS WITH CREAMY KALE SLAW AND CRUNCHY BEANS
The beans and fish need to be made fresh, but the dressing and slaw can be prepared in advance. I used wild rockfish here, but halibut or salmon would be great as they are in season now. If you are not a fish person, sub in your protein of choice, or even some mashed black beans or sweet potatoes could work.
1 1/2 cups cooked garbanzo beans, rinsed, drained and dried
1 generous Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil or grapeseed oil
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. cumin
Preheat the oven to 400′. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Spread of the dried beans and drizzle the oil, chili powder, cumin and generous sprinkle of salt. Toss to coat. You want them coated well to get crispy. Bake in the upper third of the oven for 20 minutes or until crispy. Set aside.
2 lbs. firm, white fish or wild salmon
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. taco seasoning
2 heads lacinato kale, spines removed
1/2 of a small red cabbage
4 green onions
// cilantro pepita dressing //
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup toasted pepitas
1 tsp. capers
1 jalapeno, seeded
1 larger bunch of cilantro
juice of two juicy limes
2 tsp. rice vinegar
2 tsp. agave nectar
2-3 Tbsp. mayonnaise or vegan alternative
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. each sea salt and pepper
8 corn tortillas
crumbled feta cheese
hot sauce, for serving
Put the fish filets in a baking dish and oil both sides. Sprinkle on the taco seasoning and salt if your mix is unsalted. Brush or rub the mix into the flesh of the fish. Set aside.
For the dressing, in a food processor, blitz the garlic, pepitas, capers, jalapeno together until mostly blended. Add the cilantro, lime juice, agave, mayo, oil and salt and pepper and blend for 30 seconds until mostly smooth. Taste it and season to taste. This will be a dressing, so it should be thick, but still easy to distribute. Adjust oil and lime juice as needed. Set aside. The dressing can be made up to a week in advance.
Shred or chop the kale and cabbage very thin. I use the shredder blade on the food processor to get a fine, consistent cut. You should have about 4-5 cups of shredded vegetables. Cut the onions and add them to the mixture. Toss with desired amount of dressing and set it in the fridge while you cook the fish.
Preheat the grill to medium heat. Grill the fish about 4-5 minutes per side until just cooked. Timing will vary based on thickness of the fish. Note, it may also be broiled if you don’t want to grill. Broil for about 8 minutes total.
Heat your tortillas over the grill or stove. Assemble with a piece of fish, slaw, crunchy beans and crumbled feta cheese.