Our family is busy. My husband and I both work full-time+ jobs, plus have side gigs, and making family time with our children is a priority. Not to mention bills to pay, laundry to do, housework to keep up with. Something that always competes with these other responsibilities is feeding my children healthy food.
I refuse to be a "mac-n-cheese/chicken nugget" type Mom (not that I never cave) but I want my children to prefer fresh foods, fruits, veggies, whole grains, and to have eclectic palates (if I can help it. I can't always. I'm pretty sure a penchant for mac-n-cheese is in a child's DNA).
We often get home from work pretty late, with only a short window to cook dinner and eat as a family before we have to get started on bath and bedtime. Therefore, we often opt for pasta because of its ease and that it can be prepared quickly. Pasta is not necessarily the healthiest choice, but if you opt for a whole-grain or bean-based pasta, load it full of fresh ingredients and veggies, and steer clear of excessive butter and cheese (which again, kids seem to prefer) it can be a family-friendly healthy option.
On the way home from the beach last weekend, during our drive through rural corn fields and family-owned farms, I insisted we stop at one of the dozens of produce stands. There truly is nothing like fresh off the farm produce. Tomatoes and peaches are never juicier, strawberries never sweeter, zucchini never as crisp and green than when you buy from a produce stand.
Getting your children involved in the pick and preparation of the food they are supposed to eat is a great way to actually get them excited about eating said food.
Alexis was a pro picking out our veggies.
(We also got a few lemons)
We got home fairly late, it was Sunday so the girls needed to eat something other than snacks from a car trip, and we needed to get them bathed and in bed, ready for Monday. I diced up those tomatoes and we had a fresh, healthy dinner on the table in UNDER 30 MINUTES.
Produce Stand Tomato Pasta
6-8 servings cooked whole-wheat pasta
2 extra LARGE fresh tomatoes
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1-2 teaspoons (cloves) minced garlic (use fresh cloves, or the pre-minced variety)
Chopped fresh basil to taste (use dried if you don't have fresh on hand)
Add 2 Tablespoons olive oil to a medium-high heat pan.
Begin to cook pasta. An very wise Italian once told me that the water you cook your pasta in should be "as salty as the sea." While I don't want to overload my children with sodium, I do salt my water with natural sea salt (like the sea, right?) and it makes a big difference in the flavor of your pasta.
Dice tomatoes to 1/4" segments. Make sure to keep the juice on your cutting board or in a bowl. You should have 3-4 cups of diced tomatoes. If you don't have enough or you want to take a little short cut, you can use 1 small can of diced tomatoes with your fresh tomatoes.
Add diced tomatoes (with their juice), garlic (I like a lot of garlic, but 1 teaspoon is a mild amount) to the pan with olive oil. Turn heat down to medium, allow all ingredients to simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add basil after 10 minutes. Allow to simmer for another 5-10 minutes until everything begins to break down and combine. It's not going to look like jarred sauce, the tomatoes should still be big and chunky.
When your pasta is done, drain it, return to the pot (no heat) and mix with the remaining 1 Tablespoon olive oil. Pour sauce over pasta and mix. Serve & Enjoy!
This is a good, basic, mild sauce. My children ate multiple servings. The great thing about this sauce is it can be altered to taste. For example, if you like onions...add some diced onions. If you like peppers, add some diced peppers. If you love cheese, sprinkle some on top after serving.
What are your family's favorite fresh pasta recipes?