What's for dinner? That is the question, especially when caring for kids with food allergies. Since it's full summer and we have garden-fresh vegetables from our own gardens, farmer's markets and even the supermarket, I thought I would share two family favorites. Both of these recipes, Pasta with Fresh Tomato Sauce and Stuffed Bell Peppers are a great way to get your kids to eat vegetables and both are nut-free, of course. They can also be made dairy-free and if you use gluten-free pasta, they can be gluten-free.
My kids love herbs, vegetables and garlic, but if you're feeding very young children or picky eaters, you can go easier on some of the seasonings; just be sure not to skimp on the salt and pepper.
I hope you enjoy these easy main dishes as much as my family has.
Pasta with Fresh Tomato Sauce
This is an uncooked sauce that you place on hot pasta and it can be pulled together literally in minutes. It is so refreshing on a hot summer evening and if you can involve your kids in picking the tomatoes and/or basil from the garden, all the better. My kids seem to enjoy their food more if they're involved in the process. This recipe is adapted from one I saw in Real Simple Magazine a couple of years ago.
12 ounces linguine or pasta of your choice
1 1/2 pounds tomatoes (plum or beefsteak work well), quartered
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
kosher salt and black pepper
1/2 cup fresh basil or parsley, chopped
1/4 cup grated Parmesan (1 ounce) (Skip the cheese if you are dealing with dairy allergies.)
1.Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot.
2.Meanwhile, in a food processor or blender, puree the tomatoes, oil, garlic, ¾ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper.
3.Toss the pasta with the tomato sauce and half the basil. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and remaining basil and serve.
Stuffed Bell Peppers
In the summer months, I like to use ground turkey in this dish because it tastes lighter. And it's healthier, too, but the ground beef version is delicious. This is typical of a dish that would be served as an appetizer in our favorite Greek restaurant, but with a salad and bread it makes a full meal. If you like (and can serve dairy to your kids) a sprinkle of cheese at the end of cooking is a nice option. Without is great, too. In fact, that's my preference.
6 large bell peppers, (green, red, yellow, orange or a combo),
cleaned, cored and seeded
1 lb ground beef or ground turkey
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 tsp salt
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 cup cooked rice (I use brown rice--if you use the Uncle Ben's Whole Grain rice (in the orange envelope) for the microwave, this recipe is even faster and easier!)
1 15-oz can of organic or natural tomato sauce
Oregano, fresh basil to taste
Shredded mozzarella or Parmesan, feta or other hard Greek cheese, if you like
In a large pot, bring about 5 cups of water to a boil and add salt to taste. Cook the peppers in boiling water for about 5 minutes; drain. For added flavor, sprinkle the bottoms of the peppers with a little salt and sugar (to boost sweetness of peppers.)
In a medium skillet, brown the meat. Add the onion and cook until tender. Drain the fat. Stir in salt, garlic, rice and 1 cup of the tomato sauce and heat through to blend flavors. Add oregano and fresh Basil if using and mix lightly.
Lightly stuff each pepper evenly with meat mixture. Stand the peppers upright in an ungreased baking dish, at least 8-inch square. Pour remaining tomato sauce over the peppers. Cover with foil or a glass cover and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. If using cheese, sprinkle on top. Uncover and bake 15 minutes longer.
Makes 6 servings.