Planetary Pasta Salad

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With just a little bit of imagination, orecchiette pasta can look like flying saucers, making this dish from Raddish Kids the perfect recipe for my little outer-space lover. It’s the first of three recipes from their Cosmic Cuisine kit, and Travis loved it!

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First, cook 3 cups orecchiette according to package directions. The recipe card even featured a section on cooking perfect pasta, exposing Travis to terms like “al dente“. Drain, rinse with cold water, and set aside to drip dry in the strainer.

Meanwhile, Travis helped me wash and halve 1 pint cherry tomatoes. In fact, rinsing the ingredients was his favorite part of this recipe, and he was so proud when I let him cut one tomato entirely by himself (I guided his hand for the rest).

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Place the tomatoes in a large bowl. Drain and rinse 1 (15-ounce) can white beans; add to the bowl. (Note: the beans were Raddish’s vegan alternative to 1 package of fresh mozzarella). Drain a can of black olives. Slice 1/4 cup and add to the bowl; reserve the remaining olives for another use. Chop 1/4 cup fresh basil and add to the bowl.

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Add the orecchiette, stirring to combine.

To prepare the dressing, whisk together 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, and 1 teaspoon sugar. Gradually whisk in 1/4 cup olive oil. Drizzle over the pasta and stir to combine.

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One very happy galactic traveler enjoyed his meal! We read the fun solar system facts on the recipe card as he dined for extra cosmic fun.

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Pasta Play

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Looking for the perfect sensory game for your baby? Look no further than cooked pasta from your pantry! As soon as your baby can pick up food and chew, you can safely play this texture game.

I cooked a batch of rotini pasta, figuring the swirls and ridges would make for the most exciting texture. Let cool completely, then set out a bowl or strainer of the pasta for your little one. It helps to have a blanket underneath – this game is about to get messy!

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Veronika got her hands right in there.

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First we simply talked about texture. I used words like soft, squishy, and cool to describe the noodles that she pulled up by the handful.

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Picking up individual pieces is great for developing her pincher grip.

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She also loved scattering them about on the blanket.

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And of course a few made their way up to her mouth!

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In sum, this is simple fun, as cheap as it comes and perfect for kicking off a summer of play!

Easy Goulash

 

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I’ve been looking for a way to beef up Travis’s pasta dinners, and it turns out that adding vegan, well, beef, did the trick! This is a simplified take on the Hungarian dish of goulash. Parents magazine tells us the stew dates back to the ninth century, and we were more than happy to eat this updated version.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 (14-ounce) package ground meatless beef (such Lightlife Smart Ground)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 8 ounces ditalini pasta
  • 1/2 cup shredded Daiya cheddar
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes, until softened. Break the beef into crumbles and add to the pan; cook for an additional 5 minutes, until browned.
  2. Stir in the tomato paste, then add the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, water, oregano, and paprika. Bring to a boil.
  3. Stir in the ditalini; cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes, until the pasta is tender.
  4. Ladle onto plates or bowls, and top the servings evenly with the cheese.

 

Creamy Squash Pasta Bake

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This homey casserole is perfect for chilly autumn nights! This time of year, consider using 1 and 1/2 cups pureed fresh butternut squash, but the canned version will do in a pinch.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound penne pasta
  • 4 tablespoons Earth Balance butter
  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 and 1/2 cups unsweetened non-dairy milk
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 cups shredded Daiya cheddar
  • 1 (15-ounce) can butternut squash
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
  1. Cook the pasta according to package directions; drain and return to the pan.
  2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for 30 seconds.
  3. Whisk in the milk. Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking frequently.
  4. Once at a boil, remove from heat and stir in the mustard, salt, black pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cheese, stirring until melty. Stir in the squash.
  5. Toss together the squash mixture and cooked pasta, then transfer to a 13×9-inch baking dish. Sprinkle evenly with the panko.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes, until bubbly.

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Cold Peanutty Pasta

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I love getting my little chef into the kitchen for each month’s recipe from High Five magazine, and this month featured a perfect summer pasta, meant to be eaten cold or at room temperature. The recipe was a great chance to hone skills including whisking and chopping with a butter knife. Plus, we got to use neat ingredients like fresh ginger root! Here’s my chef, excited to start.

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Adults, cook 8 ounces spaghetti according to package directions. Reserve about 1/2 cup pasta water, then drain the remaining pasta water and rinse the spaghetti well with cold water. Set aside.

Meanwhile, have your little chef help you combine the following in a bowl:

1/2 cup chunky peanut butter

2 tablespoons tahini

1 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon sugar

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Add about 6 tablespoons reserved pasta water to the mixture, and whisk until combined. If the sauce is still thick, add another tablespoon or two of the water.

Travis was so excited to try his hand at a butter knife for the next step. I cut a cucumber into rounds, and let him cut each round into quarters.

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In a large bowl, combine the cooked pasta, chopped cucumbers, 1/2 cup chopped peanuts, and the peanut sauce, tossing well to coat.

Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Note: To make the recipe nut-free, simply omit the chopped peanuts and use all tahini in place of the chunky peanut butter.

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Eat the Rainbow

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In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, we whipped up this meal featuring every color of the rainbow! You can mix and match different components, or serve them over a few days leading up to St. Pat’s.

Red & Orange Salad

Red Orange Salad

Thinly slice one red bell pepper, one orange bell pepper, and 1 red apple. Toss with 1 cup matchstick cut carrots. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil,  2 tablespoons cider vinegar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. (Note: Bigger kids and adults might also like a little spice – try adding 1/2 teaspoon cumin or 1/4 teaspoon paprika).

Yellow & Green Pasta

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Cook 12 ounces fettuccine or linguine according to package directions, adding 1/2 cup frozen peas toward the end of cooking. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet and sauté 1 package Gardein chick’n strips and 1 cup sugar snap peas until heated through. Combine the chicken mixture, pasta, 1/2 cup plain non-dairy yogurt, 1/4 cup reserved cooking water, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. My son preferred this served in separate components on his plate!

Green Smoothie

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In a blender, combine 1/2 cup plain non-dairy milk, 1/2 cup water, 1 cup fresh baby spinach, and 1/4 cup mint leaves; process until blended. Add 1/2 a green apple, 1 frozen banana, and 1 tablespoon agave nectar; process until smooth. Drink through a green straw of course!

Blue & Purple Parfait

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For dessert, toss 1 cup mixed blueberries, blackberries, and purple grapes with 1 teaspoon sugar and 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon. Layer the fruit in parfait glasses with vanilla non-dairy yogurt. This also makes a yummy breakfast treat!

Want even more fun? Eat green snacks all week, like roasted edamame, kale chips, or green olives.

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Noodle-y Kugel

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To be frank, I’ve never seen a recipe quite like this in my life! It came to us care of Travis’s March issue of High Five magazine, and has multiple steps that are sure to delight your sous-chef in the kitchen. Pineapple with noodles? Yes, apparently this is a thing.

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You can find eggless egg noodles, but I was unable to this time around. Instead, I chose a bag of curly pasta, both because the curls are reminiscent of the way wide noodles loop after they cook, and because it came in the right kind of bag instead of a box (more on that below!). Curly noodles also have the advantage that you won’t need to cut them into much smaller pieces for young eaters.

Ingredients:

For the noodles:

  • 1 (16-ounce) package eggless wide noodles or curly pasta
  • 6 tablespoons Earth Balance butter
  • 4 Ener-G eggs
  • 1 cup plain unsweetened non-dairy milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 (12-ounce) container non-dairy sour cream
  • 1 recipe vegan cottage cheese*
  • 1 (20-ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained

For the topping:

  • 2 cups organic corn flake cereal
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons Earth Balance butter
  1. Adults: cook the pasta according to package directions in a large pot; drain and set aside. Make sure to reserve the pasta packaging for step 6!
  2. Cut the butter into small pieces and have your child add the butter pieces to the warm pasta. Travis was very interested to see how quickly the butter melted!Kugel (2)
  3. In a bowl, whisk together the Ener-G eggs, milk, and sugar.
  4. Stir in the sour cream, prepared cottage cheese, and pineapple. Travis insisted on stirring all by himself.Kugel (3)
  5. Add the pineapple mixture to the noodles and stir to coat, then transfer the mixture to 13×9-inch glass baking dish coated with cooking spray.
  6.  To prepare the topping, place the corn flakes in the empty pasta bag, and seal; crush with your hands. This was – hands down! – Travis’s favorite part.Kugel (4)
  7. Add the sugar and cinnamon; seal and shake to coat.
  8. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the noodles, and add the remaining butter, cut into small pieces.Kugel (5)
  9. Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes, until browned at the edges. Let stand at least 5 minutes before serving.

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*To make a quick vegan “cottage cheese”, combine 1 package firm tofu and 1 tablespoon lemon juice in a bowl. Mash with a fork until the mixture resembles cottage cheese curds. Refrigerate until ready to use.

White Bean Pasta Sauce

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Here’s the easiest hack ever for sneaking more beans into your child’s diet. They’ll never know what makes this sauce so creamy and thick… and adults love it, too! For extra appeal, use a fun pasta shape like wagon wheels.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup rinsed and drained canned cannellini beans
  • 3/4 cup jarred marinara sauce
  • 1 cup uncooked pasta
  1. Combine the beans and marinara sauce in a blender and process until smooth.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions; drain and set aside.
  3. Toss the pasta with the sauce, let cool slightly, and serve.

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Pasta Shape Up

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Believe it or not, I’m 35 and this was my first attempt at homemade pasta. Because we don’t have a pasta machine, I knew we weren’t going to have a perfect batch, but Travis has adored playing with food and recipes in the kitchen lately, so we cooked up some fun!

First, scoop 2 cups flour into a bowl. We used whole wheat flour, but you can use semolina or regular white flour. Add 1/2 cup warm water, stirring to form a dough – we needed to add a bit more water before our dough was the right consistency.

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To my delight, Travis didn’t hesitate before getting his hands right in there. He loved kneading the dough!

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This was definitely his favorite part of the whole process, carefully working one portion of the dough while I demonstrated kneading techniques for him.

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We set the dough aside to rest for a few minutes (ideally you’ll want about 20 minutes, but that was long for this preschooler), then rolled the dough out as thinly as we could.

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For shaping fun, first we tried bow ties. Cut a 1×2-inch rectangle, and pinch in the center. You can also make tubes by rolling rectangles around a straw.

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More so than shaping, though, Travis just loved playing with the dough. He tried a few raw bites (which he declared yummy!) and pretended he was drinking pasta “juice.” What an imp!

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If you really do intend to eat your pasta, cook it in boiling water for 3 to 4 minutes, and serve with your favorite sauce.

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Creamy Tomato & Sausage Pasta

Sausage Pasta (1)This hearty pasta is a crowd-pleaser for grown-ups and kids alike. Weeknight dinners are solved, at least in this house!

Ingredients:

  • 12 ounces penne pasta
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 Tofurky Italian sausage links, finely chopped
  • 5 ounces baby spinach, chopped
  • 1 and 1/2 cups jarred marinara sauce
  • 1/4 cup plain non-dairy creamer
  1. Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup cooking liquid, and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until browned.
  3. Add the baby spinach; cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until wilted.
  4. Stir in the marinara sauce and creamer. Bring to a simmer.
  5. Add the pasta and the reserved cooking water, tossing to combine.

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