Tag Archives: meals for the whole family

Eggplant Recipes: In Season NOW

Eggplants are peaking right now, in our garden and in the markets, so I wanted to share a round up of quality eggplant recipes to inspire you! Here’s a tip for picking a great eggplant at the farmer’s market or store: find one that is relatively heavy for its size. It will have less seeds and more delicious flesh. Papa Bird (our family’s resident farmer) says homegrown eggplants are ready to pick when you push in with your thumb and it leaves an imprint. He recently put up a shade barrier to protect our growing eggplant from the strong San Diego sun. For more tips on cooking eggplant, check out this post.

Eggplant Recipes: In Season NOW

EGGPLANT RECIPES FROM BABY BIRDS FARM

Some of my family’s favorite, “regular rotation” recipes highlight eggplant.

  1. Baba Ganoush: a garlicky dip, similar to hummus, and delicious with veggies to dip. Makes great baby food, too!

lamb, eggplant and pomegranate moussaka

  1. Pomegranate, Eggplant and Lamb Moussaka (above): a layered dish that is sweet and savory and spiced with cardamom and cinnamon.

EGGPLANT RECIPES FROM AROUND THE WORLD

Maria Nasir of foodaholic is a Pakistani home cook and caterer turned international food blogging star. She has lot’s of delicious eggplant recipes from around the world. But this kid-friendly appetizer caught my eye:

  1. Eggplant Roll Ups: kid-friendly but with a delicious vinaigrette to please picky foodie parents.

 nam prik noom thai green curry

Another international blogger I follow, Azlin Bloor of Lin’s food, recently shared the above treat featuring aubergine (eggplant with a British accent):

  1. Nam Prik Noom (Thai Green Chilli Sauce)

EGGPLANT RECIPES FROM FAMILY SPICE

Laura of Family Spice features eggplant in both Italian and Persian-inspired dishes.

roasted eggplant parm sandwich

  1. Roasted Eggplant Parmesan Sandwich from Laura of Family Spice (above): a nice, non-fried version of an eggplant parm.
  1. Pickled Eggplant and Vegetables with Pomegranate (torshi-yeh bademjan va anar): I have never even thought of using this combination of flavors and I am dying to try it.

Persian Eggplant Stew

  1. Persian Eggplant Stew (Khoreshteh Qiemeh Bademjoon) (pictured above).

EGGPLANT RECIPES FROM SIMMWORKS FAMILY BLOG

Danielle of Simmworks Family Blog makes a lot of delicious family meals that are often quick and easy for busy families – without sacrificing taste.

Baked Eggplant Parmesan

  1. Baked Eggplant Parmesan: an easy family dinner that will please adults and kids.
  1. Eggplant French Bread Pizza: simple, with just a few ingredients and perfect for lunch.

For even more eggplant ideas:

10 Fantastic Eggplant Recipes from Simmworks Family Blog.

Fresh Vietnamese Spring Rolls with Zucchini Noodles

Fresh Vietnamese Spring Rolls, or gỏi cuốn, are also called salad rolls or summer rolls. They are light and refreshing, and much healthier than fried spring rolls. Over ten years ago my friend, Quentin, invited me over to dinner at his mother’s house. She is originally from Vietnam* and put out a spread of delicious ingredients for us to roll our own fresh spring rolls. I’ve never forgotten it. (*Similar to how I’ve learned a lot of Mexican sweets living in San Diego, we also benefit from a large Vietnamese population here.)

how to make fresh vietnamese spring rolls

I think “Salad Rolls” is a better description for fresh spring rolls, as they are light and fresh with lot’s of greens, herbs and lean proteins. Many restaurants also put in rice vermicelli noodles. I took it one step healthier and used raw zucchini “noodles” made from cutting an enormous garden zucchini with a julienne peeler. Handy gadget. The wrappers are made from rice. The rice paper comes in hard discs that are softened in a few seconds in warm water.

How To Make Fresh Vietnamese Spring Rolls

You can’t get more straightforward instructions than the back of the packaging!

fresh spring roll instructions

Here are my suggested fillings, feel free to only use what you like and to get creative:

  • Grilled Shrimp, Leftover Chicken, Steak or Tofu
  • Salad Greens
  • Fresh Herbs including Thai Basil, Mint, Cilantro , Scallions and Lemon Basil (use a LOT of herbs)
  • Cooked Rice Vermicelli or Raw Zucchini Noodles
  • Chopped Peanuts
  • Bean and Pea Sprouts and other raw veggies

Dipping Sauces for Salad Rolls:

  • The most common is a peanut sauce, easy recipe follows.
  • Another traditional is called nước mắm phawhich is a clear, sweet and sour with a little fish sauce. A girl I once worked with gave me her mom’s recipe, I’ll have to hunt around and see if I still have it.
  • You can’t go wrong with Sriracha!

fresh vietnamese spring rolls with zucchini noodles

Easy Peanut Dipping Sauce for Fresh Spring Rolls

That’s it! Warm in a sauce pan over low heat to mix easier. You can add a little water to thin, if needed.

True story: When I first made these rolls at home, I went to a Vietnamese market in search of peanut dipping sauce. I asked the young man stocking where it was. He didn’t think they had it and asked his grandmother. She laughed and (with her grandson translating) explained they always made it. She swore all you needed was these two ingredients. I usually can’t restrain myself from throwing in a little sriracha and nước mắm, but try it as is!

Shopping Notes:

The best prices are in Asian markets. These ingredients are pretty common, so you can usually find them on the “ethnic” aisle of big grocery stores. If you can’t find them easily, I’ve included some affiliate links to Amazon. Have fun and let me know if you have any questions!

Corn Pudding Cake

I was craving an alternative to the corn bread or corn muffins I usually make with chili. I love the creamy corn pudding at Indigo Grill (a popular San Diego restaurant) and searched for a similar recipe. Unfortunately, all the recipes I found were the same one, using processed, packaged and canned foods. If you follow my recipes, then you may have noticed we prefer to eat whole, real foods that have not been processed. I even found the Indigo Grill recipe published and, strangely, it claimed to be the same processed mix. One intrepid blogger made it from scratch, but first she recreated the cornbread mix, the creamed corn concoction, etc. and then followed the same recipe. There had to be a simpler way! So, I whipped up my own version with corn meal, flour, eggs, milk, butter and yogurt. It was very moist and delicious, but slightly more “cake” then “pudding.” Maybe somewhere in between. It was a keeper!

 corn pudding cake

Corn Pudding Cake Recipe

  • 3/4 cup corn meal
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • (optional) 1/2 cup brown sugar or honey
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup of plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cup of fresh or frozen corn kernels
  • (optional additions) thyme, green onions, cheese (omit the sweetener)

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Use the end of the stick of butter to grease a round soufflé pan or baking dish.

In a small sauce pan, melt the rest of the butter. Take off heat and allow to cool slightly. In a medium bowl, add to the milk, yogurt, eggs and a liquid sweetener, such as honey, if using.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Include sugar if you are using it, but not honey or a wet sweetener.

Combine the dry and wet ingredients until just mixed. Add the corn kernels and any additional ingredients. Have fun and make it your own recipe!

Bake in greased dish for about an hour, just until the middle is set and not liquid.

Serve warm as an appetizer or along chili. (I promise to share my chili recipe, soon.)

The Best Meals to Freeze Before Baby Arrives

The first few weeks after a baby is born are the most wonderful, most difficult, slowest, and fastest time ever in the life of a family. Many families feel as though they struggle just to keep breathing. Cooking should be the last thing to worry about. Take out can be great. But nothing is as nourishing as a home cooked meal. Freezing precooked meals can be the best of both worlds when preparing for baby’s birth. Drawing on my experiences before and after the birth of my girls, scouring the interwebs, and picking the brains of some of the best food bloggers and recipe developers, I have created a list (or round up) of the best meals to freeze before baby arrives.

best meals to freeze before baby arrives

SOUPS TO FREEZE BEFORE BABY COMES

Both Maggie of Mama Maggie’s Kitchen and Laura of Family Spice recommend soups as freezing well.

Purple Sweet Potato Soup

1. Purple Sweet Potato Soup

Laura has a delicious (and beautiful) recipe for purple sweet potato soup.

2. Clam Chowder 

Maggie’s Clam Chowder will freeze well.

3. Beet Borscht

Borscht can be made with beef (which, along with the greens, is good for replenishing iron) or vegetarian, is affordable, and can help with losing baby weight. Enjoy it chunky or pureed, as in this photo.

Beet Borscht

For more soup recipes, click here.

SAUCES FREEZE GREAT FOR EASY MEALS AFTER BABY

4. Roasted Red Pepper Pesto

Defrost this, or a classic basil pesto sauce, frozen in convenient one-ounce ice cubes, and add some freshly boiled pasta. Step it up with a few shrimp.

red pepper pesto

5. Ragu

Lisa is a New Zealand-born food blogger, living in Italy. She shares authentic Italian recipes on the aptly named, Italian Kiwi, and this Ragu, a tomato sauce with ground meat, is no exception. She explains why you should never order Bolognese in Italy and why this recipe may not be her husband’s 95-year-old grandmother’s secret recipe, but how it holds it’s own.

CASSEROLES TO FREEZE BEFORE BABY ARRIVES

6. Salsa Verde Chicken Enchiladas

Bri shares a delicious recipe for Salsa Verde Chicken Enchiladas. This is very similar to how I make it, too.

salsa verde chicken enchilada

7. Pomegranate Lamb Moussaka

I made a double batch of this recipe before baby was born and was able to defrost and reheat the frozen one in time to bring along to the last session of our hypnobirthing class. (We also brought 7 day old Baby Bird.)

Pomegranate and Lamb Moussaka

8. Lasagna

Debbie Anderson from San Diego Momma shares, “I’m invoking The Pioneer Woman here…but this lasagna truly is the best ever and freezes well and is amazing and I love it and totally make it.”

OTHER GREAT FREEZER MEALS

9. Crock Pot Balsamic Chicken Thighs

A dear friend of mine brought us a fresh batch of this recipe after Baby Bird #2 was born. It was delicious. And according to comments from Brenda of the Sugar Free Mom, it will freeze well, too.

10. Curry

Azlin is a veritable encyclopedia of world cooking. I asked her about the best food to freeze and she recommended curries. She has several on her website, but handpicked this Massaman Curry, a mild Thai curry. She states that it is one of the milder ones, in case any new moms are worried about too much spice.

11. Beer Braised Pot Roast with Herb Dumplings

Laura reports it freezes well and it just looks delicious!

beer braised pot roast with herb dumplings

BREAKFASTS THAT ARE EASY TO DEFROST

Don’t forget the first meal of the day! A big dish, ready to go, can be a blessing, especially when extended family is in town and you don’t feel ready to face a busy, weekend restaurant. A frittata will freeze and defrost well, as well as one of these French Toast/Bread Pudding hybrids.

pumpkin french toast

12. Pumpkin French Toast Bread Pudding

13. Zucchini Bread French Toast Bread Pudding

14. Banana Brûléed Bread Pudding

(Add the Brûlée after reheating.)

15. Frittata

What else would you add to this list? Please share in the comments and feel free to share a link.

Banana Brûlée Bread Pudding

Ta da! Banana Brûlée Bread Pudding! Made with challah, a toddler and love. I haven’t shared many recipe posts since Baby Bird #2 joined us. Baby is actually very easy tempered. It’s Little Bird that keeps me busy! Fortunately, she loves cooking and is legitimately a big help in making our bread pudding/french toast combo (you may remember the Pumpkin Bread Pudding French Toast or the Zucchini Bread Pudding.) This morning she buttered the pan, beat the eggs and milk, and ripped up the challah and added it to the pan (only stealing a few bites!)

Banana Brûléed Bread Pudding

Bananas are a common addition in our house, but the brûlée topping is something I have been playing with since seeing a friend on Google+ share her Panettone Pudding which she brûlées to make it all that more. Lin uses a blow torch, but since that is one of the few gadgets my kitchen lacks, I finish the bread pudding under the broiler (or the “bread and butter pudding” under the “grill” as she says) to get that crisp brûlée top. The first go got a little too burnt, so check it frequently!

homemade challah

My mom texted a picture of her homemade challah last night. (Yes, she texts now, crazy.) I did not make challah from scratch. But I did remember that I had half a loaf in the freezer. For those in San Diego, Charlie’s Best Bread makes a great challah, very light, eggy and sweet. And for those not in the know, challah is simply the best bread for french toast and bread pudding. Add a little vanilla ice cream, and take the Banana Brûlée Bread Pudding into dessert!

Banana Brûlée Bread Pudding Recipe

  • 2 Tablespoons of butter
  • 1/3 to 1/2 loaf of challah or other bread (at least one day old)
  • 6-8 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups of milk (any milk or milk substitute will do but I like whole milk)
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • (optional) 1 Tablespoon of sweetener of choice
  • 1 banana, thinly sliced
  • 1-2 Tablespoons of sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F. Take a stick of butter and liberally rub the bottom and sides of a large baking dish. Tear challah into small chunks and scatter in the dish.

Beat the eggs, and then mix in milk, vanilla and cinnamon. You may not need much sweetener if you are topping with the sugar crust. Mix well, then pour over the bread. Top with the banana slices. Bake about 20-30 minutes until just completely set in the center (by set I mean it looks solid vs. liquidy.) Remove from the oven and liberally sprinkle with the sugar.

Melt the sugar with a blow torch OR turn the broiler up to max, and put the pan on the closest rack. After 2 minutes, check every minute until the sugar melts and turns brown and then take out and let cool slightly. Enjoy!

banana brulee bread pudding