It was a game of chicken. Literally. I served them chicken and they refused to eat it. Instead, they just sat there and stared me down.
That's when my husband, without a second thought, dunked the untouched chicken in ketchup. When the kids started eating it up, I was horrified.
I was red-faced in shame. They may as well have thrown tomatoes at me. In my mind, ketchup is the ultimate insult. It doesn't simply mask flavor. It is used to drown food, to change it from its original state. Personally, I can't stand the stuff. So to think that my little munchkins would like the taste of ketchup better than food that I lovingly prepare (or, um, sometimes, heat up), is beyond my comprehension.
That night, I couldn't sleep. I was bound and determined to think of something I could make them that would be full of flavor, vegetables, and protein, and, most importantly, would not require ketchup.
About a month ago, a triplet mom friend sent me a recipe for a dip that her kids love. It's made with spinach and white beans, the all important veggie-protein combo. She adds cream cheese, and her triplets can't get enough of it.
I initially chose not to make it, though it sounded really good, because my trio hasn't quite graduated to dipping yet.
But, it occurred to me that night, as I fumed over my lost game of chicken, that they really liked the refried bean and cheese quesadillas I made for them. All of them. On three different occasions. So I started to think… What if I spread the spinach-white bean mixture on a tortilla, topped it with mozzarella cheese, and made an Italian-influenced quesadilla?
So, when the trips went down for their morning nap, I went to work in the kitchen. Ten minutes later, I was done. The dip was yummy—a bit garlicky, but chips do cut the bite. Then my husband took a taste and gave it two thumbs up (even at 10:30 in the morning, when he was still drinking his morning coffee). The quesa-dip-a-dillas turned out perfectly. The mozzarella toned down the garlic, and they were just gooey enough without being oozy.
Emboldened and ready for another showdown with the kids, I crossed my fingers, and served them up.
Bitty devoured them. Dude needed a minute or two to check them out and, after some coaxing (and some banana on the tray), he went to town on his. Zeke, however, cried at the very sight of them. So what did my husband do? He got out the ketchup.
Spinach and White Bean Quesa-dip-a-dillas:
Tortillas (flour or corn)
Spinach and Cannellini Bean Dip (recipe below)
Butter for pan
Spread a thin layer of Spinach and Cannellini Bean Dip on one tortilla. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese, just a few tablespoons.
Heat ½ tablespoon of butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Place the dip and cheese tortilla in the skillet and cover with a plain tortilla. (Or, spread the dip and cheese on one half of one tortilla and fold.) Cook, turning once, until cheese is melted and both sides are lightly browned.
Repeat as desired for additional quesa-dip-a-dillas.
Spinach and Cannellini Bean Dip:
Source: Giada De Laurentiis
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 (6-ounce bags) baby spinach
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 Tbsp of the oil, over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add ½ of the spinach and cook for 2 minutes until wilted. Repeat with the remaining spinach. Let the mixture cook for a few minutes.
Place the remaining olive oil, spinach mixture, cannellini beans, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper in the bowl of a food processor.
Blend until the mixture is smooth. Transfer to a small serving bowl. Serve with endive spears, crostini, or pita chips.
You can, as my friend suggested, add cream cheese to the dip recipe.
For the quesa-dip-a-dilla, if you use a nonstick skillet and want to cut fat, you can omit the butter.