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Garlicky gnocchi with butternut squash puree and kale.

Winter is here. It took its sweet time, but I’ve already cursed while scraping my windshield, so it’s official. I can’t think of any new ways to stay warm other than my basic standbys: red wine or chocolate stouts, bubble baths, fleece-lined leggings under everything, and comfort food.

Except I ate about 600 holiday cookies too many and am a little concerned about my starch and dairy intake—less because of gaining weight, more because I don’t want to (re)introduce myself or my eating-machine 3yo to crappy habits.

I always say I wish this was a food blog. I could blog about food every day. Maybe I should just change the name to “Dinner dates with Jax” (or the food blog name I’ve carried in my head for years: Unsophisti-kitchen).

Here are a couple new dishes I’ve done that were kid-friendly, waist-friendly, palate-friendly, consciousness-friendly, earth-friendly, winter-friendly…the kind I’d make if friends were coming over. 

Gnocchi with butternut squash and kale

Ok so gnocchi is starchy. But when you don’t pair that starch with cream sauces and, you know, more starch (why do we love bread with pasta so much? Or cheesy bread, dipped in sauce, with pizza, which is also cheesy bread and sauce?), it’s not so bad. In fact, it’s a downright wholesome meal if you add superfood kale and spin “cream sauce” into “pureed butternut squash with a little parm and olive oil.”

Roast squash. When it’s nearly done, fry chopped kale with fresh garlic and boil water for gnocchi. Cool squash when it comes out of the oven. Drain gnocchi, add olive oil so they don’t stick together. In the gnocchi pan, add more olive oil and scoop squash right from the now-mushy rind. Whisk whisk whisk. Veg broth or water to thin, if you want. Add hot gnocchi and fried kale, stir stir stir. Parm cheese, salt, and pepper to taste.

It’s lovely–creamy and rich but not fatty, and slightly sweet in a way that can be played up with the garlic or salted down into a more savory helping.

Fancy beans and rice

I love Mexican. Even bad tex mex. For a veggie, that means mostly that things will be covered in cheese.

I also have a hard time with most beans (contrary to two of these three dishes). I like black beans. Black beans fried in cold-pressed canola oil and seasoned just right, even with some quality soy chorizo? Yes, please. But what to put them on?

Quinoa, prepared with a little garlic. Added to that: a blend of sweet pepper, onion, and corn, roasted to near-char. Little more garlic. Chives.

What to put over it? Avocado and spicy salsa, of course.

And a little sharp white cheddar didn’t hurt it…

Essentially chana masala but with spinach

As George Clooney once said on Friends, “God bless the chickpea.” I eat myFullSizeRender (2) weight in hummus regularly, but I don’t overlook chickpeas/garbanzos to protein-up a one-pot dish.

This time, I sautéed garlic, onion, jalapeno, spinach, and a can of diced tomatoes with juice (if not enough liquid, add a little veg broth or water before the blender step). Added chili and curry powders. Would’ve added ginger but didn’t have any (Indian food purists/snobs will stop reading here). Added beans. Scooped half the mix out into the blender, pureed, added it back. Little S&P.

Look. This was fantastic. I made buttery naan with which to scoop and sop it up. Jax ate half his first bowl before I got myself situated to start in on mine. He asked for seconds, then thirds. He ignored the naan. There was just enough burn that it satisfied me but not so much that a kid wouldn’t like it.

And there was not one. “bad.” ingredient. in. it.

That is all. Please share your warm-up foods! And if you want official recipes (wait, you guys measure stuff…?) for anything here, let me know and I’ll happily share.