Cooking for Munchkin
Home cooking to me is a creative activity I enjoy while prepping and cleaning up the mess are a chore that becomes quite daunting time to time. I used to clean up as I cook sipping wine and listening to music followed by a leisurely dinner with more wine. Now that I have a toddler who seems to get hungry as soon as she smells food, I’m in a hurry to finish up cooking leaving all the mess to be dealt with afterward. Sometimes even after giving her a bath and getting her to sleep. That’s when the freezer stash of Munchkin’s food becomes so valuable, but alas, I didn’t have any left when I needed it the most.
We survived, but it was time to stock up the freezer as soon as I muster up the motivation. For freezer food, I figure it’s best to make substantial meals that have a bit of grain, meat or legumes, and vegetables all mixed in. I made a kids-friendly Tex-Mex casserole with brown rice, beef, veggies, and cheese served with mashed avocado.
I’m calling it kids-friendly only because it’s not spicy. I know that Munchkin can eat paprika with no problem but can get a bit irritated by chili powder. She also suffered from a bad diaper rash after eating some poblano peppers before.
Kids friendly Tex-Mex Sauce:
4 tbsp tomato paste, 1 tbsp ground cumin, 1 tbsp (smoked) paprika, 1 tbsp onion powder, 1 tbsp dried oregano, 1 tsp coconut sugar, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp raw cacao powder (optional)
Mix them all up.
I made this sauce with and without cacao powder, and it’s tasty either way. Cacao powder makes it more like an enchilada sauce, and I thought one tsp spread in the entire casserole wouldn’t be too much of a stimulant for Munchkin.
To make the casserole:
1 lb ground beef, 1 red bell pepper, 1/2 onion, 1 cup spinach, 2 cups cooked brown rice, 1.5 cups shredded cheddar cheese
a. Preheat the oven to 375F. Chop the vegetables. Soak the ground beef in water for 20 minutes then drain out the water. I do this to reduce the meaty smell that could be off-putting to Munchkin.
b. Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, coat with oil, and place ground meat. As soon as the meat is placed in the Dutch oven, break up the meat into small pieces using a metal spatula. When the beef is no longer pink, mix in the pepper and onion, and cook for couple minutes.
c. Mix in the Tex-Mex sauce and cook for another minute until it becomes fragrant.
d. Remove from heat. Mix in spinach, cooked rice, and 1 cup of cheese. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top of the mixture.
e. Cover the Dutch oven and bake in the oven for 15 minutes.
With the freezer full and peace in my mind, I enjoyed a satisfying bowl topped with avocado, chopped lettuce, cilantro, and extra-spicy salsa verde to compensate for the “kids-friendly” sauce.