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Ask Kirstin: Quick Kid Friendly Meals; Using Quinoa


What are your top 3 favorite meals that are quick and kid friendly? — Andrea

Let’s say you have had a rush-rush day, everyone is cranky and you have just stepped on some Legos (again)…“Speedy Pasta In A Pan” to the rescue! It is a quick and easy lasagna without the fuss, and it will be on your table in less than 1/2 an hour. Serve with a crunchy green salad on the side, and don’t forget to light a candle.

Other nights, maybe it’s cold out there and all you need is a good bowl of soup. Try making a big pot of White Bean and Tiny Pasta Soup (cook enough for tomorrow too), and serve with parmesan cheese on the side to swirl in, a few spears of toasted bread, and perhaps a grated carrot salad with feta, walnuts and cranberries.

And on those nights when I only have time to fling open the fridge door? I start a big pot of water boiling, then salt it to taste like the sea. Grab a large head of broccoli and chop it up fine, throw in the broccoli and a pound of angel hair pasta (whole wheat is great) into the pot. Boil until the pasta is done. Drizzle with olive oil, or throw in a pat of butter, and toss with parmesan cheese. Pour into a large shallow bowl, sit down, and sigh happily.

Recipe: Speedy Pasta In A Pan
Recipe: White Bean and Tiny Pasta Soup
Recipe: Angel Hair Pasta with Broccoli


I have a vegan recipe that calls for beets in a chocolate cake. How do I make beets less “earthy” tasting when used for baked goods? I’ve also heard of beets being used as a natural dye in red velvet cake. — Susan

Dear Susan! Your beet question had me a bit worried because I love beets with cheese, but not chocolate. But after an evening researching many beet chocolate cake recipes, it turns out you might be on to something great! Here is what I found out: everyone said the beets were unnoticeable, as long as you eat the cake cold. A lot of people suggest canned beets (make sure they are not pickled) which makes sense as they don’t have much flavor. Everyone loved how moist the beets made their cakes, so now I think both you and I need to try this, and compare notes!

And as far as the beet red velvet cake recipes, there are a bunch of them. However the beets go from red to brownish once you have baked them in the batter (something to do with bad chemistry between the beets and leavening), so it is not really a bright red cake. But perhaps we don’t reeeeally need bright red cakes in this world.


Can you give me a few ways to use quinoa? — Janet

Here are a few ideas for the grain quinoa, which is not only delicious but also super healthy (it’s a complete protein, containing all 9 essential amino acids, and it’s gluten-free too):

* Put warm quinoa in a breakfast bowl with toasted walnuts, grated apples, a drizzle of maple syrup, and milk.

* Use quinoa in any dish you would make with couscous.

* Toss cold cooked quinoa in a salad to add extra crunch and protein.

* Spanish-flavored quinoa: Sauté some onions and garlic; add 1⁄2 cup salsa and a pinch of cumin. Add 1 cup quinoa and 1 1/2 cups water, and simmer for 15 minutes.

* Instead of a “pasta bar” (page 65 of The Family Dinner book), have a “quinoa bar” with sauces and toppings to drizzle and dollop.

* Make a quinoa “tabbouleh” with chopped kale, parsley, mint, and quinoa tossed with plenty of lemon juice, salt, and a drizzle of olive oil. Add feta and cucumbers to make it even better.

* Put a few tablespoons of quinoa into your soups to add some body and protein.


I am terrified of blending hot soup after it once exploded out of the blender, how do I avoid this disaster. — Emily

Fill your blender less than half full, then remove that little plastic window in the center of the lid (so steam can loosely escape). Cover the lid with a towel and start at low, gradually building speed. This will take you a bit longer but not nearly as long as washing down all your soup splattered cupboards. However when I can, I use my beloved hand immersion blender so I don’t have to blend the soup in several batches, or clean the big blender. And it is a great tool for making dressings and sauces as well.


Want to “Ask Kirstin” for help in the kitchen? Send your questions to And check out the “Ask Kirstin” Archive.


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3 Responses

  1. katy k says:

    i like this! i don’t really have something to say, but please keep these great ideas coming.

  2. Tammi Kibler says:

    I love your Angel Hair Pasta with Broccoli suggestion. I can’t imagine anything easier, and I know my kids will eat it up.

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