Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Slow Simmer Vegetable Spaghetti Sauce

Toddlers are trixy, fickle minxes. 

One second, they are all sweet spun sugar with their "Mommy, you my sunshine!"s {I mean, can you even?!}, and the next, they're smacking you in the face. 

Yesterday, L actually walked right up to me after I'd put the kibosh on some unsavory behavior and slapped me right in the thigh with much angsty gusto. When I looked down on her, eyebrows raised, "oh no you didn't" face primed, she beamed up at me and said "I high-five leg!" 

Points for creativity and quick thinking, kid. 

Then, of course, there's the ever-changing wardrobe preferences, the running hot and cold for particular playthings, and the bi-polar tendencies toward food...

Sweet Baby Cheesus, the food!  The Child Who Ate Everything still eats everything... or nothing... or just peanut butter and fruit... or no fruit ever, at all, WHYWOULDYOUDAREGIVEMEFRUIT.  Taco meat is the best... or the worst... or it's just okay, but only if slathered with avocado... actually, wait, is that avocado on my plate? ZOMGIHATEAVOCADOWTFMOM. 

Basically, Baby Led Weaning lied* and, shocker, I am now the proud owner of my very own Picky Toddler. 

*I still love me some BLW, don't get me wrong.  I think it makes an incredible amount of sense, and, let's face, it's the lazy badass parent's way to introduce solids.  I just don't think it guarantees your little gourmand will skip the traditional GIMME A QUESADILLA AND ONLY A QUESADILLA stage. 

In particular, vegetables are a challenge for us recently. She'll {usually} do sweet potatoes, avocado, and {raw} carrots, but everything else is a toss up. We do a lot of green {spinach} smoothies, but I'm always looking for new ways to get sneaky with produce. 

L has been making a lot of "veggie spaghetti" in her play kitchen lately {thank you once again, Daniel Tiger, for all your co-parenting}, so I decided to make the real deal last week.  I took a bunch of liberties with an IGE recipe that is actually intended for the crock pot.  I've made the original in the slow cooker, and I love the seasoning combination, but... crock pots; meh.  I think I must need a smaller one as everything I pop in mine comes out dry as hell.  

ANYHOO... Slow simmer!  So much tastier.  And make-your-home-delicious-smelling-ier.  This one was a clear winner, y'all... with both those over and under the height requirements for carny rollercoasters.  And, it just so happens to pack a punch in the veggie department! 

Slow Simmer Vegetable Spaghetti Sauce
modified from Iowa Girl Eats

- 2 T. butter
- 1 T. EVOO
- 1 large sweet onion, diced
- 4 cups julienned veggies {I used carrots, zucchini, and squash}
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 T. tomato paste
- 1/2 c. good red wine {I used a cabernet}
- 28 oz. diced tomatoes {I used fire roasted}
- 8 oz. tomato sauce
- 1 T. brown sugar
- 2 t. dried oregano
- 2 t. dried basil
- 3/4 t. salt
- 1/2 t. dried thyme
- red chili flakes {we like a full tablespoon, but modify if your family doesn't do spicy}
- 1 large bay leaf

In a large Dutch oven or stock pot, heat butter and EVOO over medium-high heat.  Add onion, sauteing until translucent -- about 5 minutes.  Add veggies and saute until soft -- another 5 minutes or so.  Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant.  Stir in tomato paste and red wine, stirring for another 2-3 minutes.   

Stir in the rest of the ingredient list, and bring to a boil.  Turn heat all the way down to your lowest stove-top setting {sauce should be barely simmering}.  Cover tightly and simmer for several hours, stirring every so often.  Note: I simmered for a total of 6 hours, just because I happened to throw everything together at naptime, and we didn't end up leaving the house that afternoon.  I think 2-3 hours would do juuuuuuuust fiiiiiiiine, if you don't have all day.  Halfway through your simmer time, remove the bay leaf and pulse sauce in your blender / food processor, or with your  immersion blender.  I like smoother sauces {plus pulverizing everything hides those veggies even better}, but you could leave things chunkier if you'd prefer. Add the bay leaf back to the sauce for the rest of your simmer time. 

Serve over whole wheat spaghetti... whilst jazz-handing and belting out "you gotta try new foods 'cause they might taste gooooood!" if childhood nutrition renders you shameless like me some folks I know.  

{Makes 6-8 servings}


  1. Great recipe! We have done carrots in our spaghetti but hadn't thought of squash and zucchini. Definitely giving this a try!

  2. Amen! I am making this next week. My son turned 2 in January, and I was laughing out loud at your description of toddlerdom. It was so on point. With the exception of roasted asparagus and steamed broccoli, there isn't a vegetable he will touch with a 10 foot pole, so hopefully this will help sneak in a few more veggies.

  3. Good lord, the bi-polar nature of toddlers is enough to drive a mother to drink. (You know, more than she usually does.) My eat-everything baby was also replaced with a picky, picky toddler. There's absolutely no predicting what she'll eat from one day to the next. "Noodles" (spaghetti) is almost always a yes so this is going on our menu immediately. Love a dinner everyone will eat.

  4. Yeah my toddler is in the same place. Most days it's "I hate anything green", the next it's "OMG Mom why didn't you give me any collard greens now I must eat all of yours and half of daddy's". Or "I'm not hungry, I'm not eating" and as soon as dinner is put away and washed up, "I'm so hungry, I need a snack, can I please just have some cheese never mind it's 10 minutes passed bedtime and my teeth are brushed".

    However, my pediatrician assures me that BLW children that ate everything once will return to that place after a 1-2 year picky toddler stint. Meanwhile I guess I should start pureeing kale and hiding it in apple raisin muffins since that's all we're eating this week:)

  5. Love you and your Daniel Tiger commentary. We parent by Daniel Tiger too :) If our single/childless friends could only hear us sing a jingle...

  6. I totally feel you on this post. This morning, I told Ava that she couldn't put any more lotion on her baby doll, and she replied with a forcefull "Mama, go to work." Thanks, kid. P.S. This looks delicious!

  7. We sing that song daily in our house! Anything potty, food, or sick related I keep on our DVR for gentle reminding of what we should do. It is always better when it doesn't come from mom, right?

    I am going to try this. The red wine in mine makes it so tasty...never thought about adding other veggies than mushrooms in this house. Score! Thanks.

  8. People who say that (all) picky are eaters are raised not born can go to hell. One of my kids eats whatever we put on the table. (Why, yes, hummus is an entree.) The other wants waffles, peanut butter sandwiches, BBQ chips, and rice krispies. I love how you captured the caprice of the toddler food likes and dislikes. How can they love something today and hate it in 48 hours?


happy little comments!