You Saucy Thing!

Pesto was a recent feature in the Food and Wine section in the good old San Francisco Chronicle, which caught my eye because I’ve been sort of obsessed with sauces of late.  Babyman has always liked pesto; I read somewhere that children really enjoy garlic flavor, so I guess that makes sense.  And because basil is sold in such enormous bunches in the summertime, I usually find that I have too much to consume in one sitting, and pesto is a nice way of making use of it since it can be frozen and used later on.

Anyone who has spent time trying to sneak vegetables into children will tell you that the most common advice is to mix them into pasta sauce.  Actually, my sister, who runs a weight-loss/lifestyle program for a tony gym, encourages her clients to use pasta sauce as a means of getting vegetables into themselves, because the salty/sweet acidity of tomato sauce is so overpowering that it masks some of the bitterness of the veggies.

While Babyman has recently made allowances for carrots, broccoli puree, cauliflower puree, and sweet potato, he continues to spurn peas and corn and most other veg in its natural form.  At this point I am less concerned about his nutritional intake than I am about keeping some variety in his diet, so I’m constantly on the lookout for ways to push the limits a bit without breaking out of the mold altogether.  Pasta is always fairly safe and therefore a good medium for test-driving some new flavors.

About a week before the Chronicle piece I stumbled across a sensational corn pesto recipe in Bon Appetit.  They recommend fresh corn, but so moved was I on the Saturday morning I picked up the magazine that I couldn’t wait to go out to the market to try it out, so I made do with the frozen variety, which I always keep on hand (a girl can dream, right?).  To counter the watery flavor of frozen corn, I sauteed it on low heat in olive oil as it defrosted rather than steaming, which brought out a nice nuttiness.

The final product was rich and buttery, and made enough to freeze for at least two or three dinners.  In fact, I am going to use it tonight on penne with sundried tomatoes and broccoli for my husband and myself.

The other sauce I am obsessed with right now is peanut sauce.  I can’t use it in Babyman’s lunchbox (see previous post) but it’s great for weeknight dinners — and I use the leftovers to make a “cheater’s pad thai” for my husband simply by throwing in a bit of chicken, grated carrots or cucumber, and some fresh cilantro.  (He likes spicy food, so I give him some chili-garlic sauce on the side.  Sauce on sauce.)  I have been using traditional Thai rice noodles for both of these dishes, but my husband is encouraging me to try the same recipe with whole-wheat spaghetti, which has a little more nutritional oomph.  So that’s what I’ll do next time.

I found the recipe below on a forum…but I use organic peanut butter instead of the reduced-fat stuff (a lot more fiber and protein; the reduced-fat has way too many artificial ingredients), and I leave out the hoisin sauce…mostly because I never have it on hand and I don’t feel like going out and buying it.  Ha ha.

Peanut Sauce for Noodles
1/3 cup reduced-fat peanut butter
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil


  1. Hey! I make a broccoli slaw with a similar sauce. Although I use normal PB and I don't add the brown sugar (so they probably just cancel each other out). I also don't use any ketchup, but I add chili garlic sauce and grated ginger instead. Put this all over top some broccoli slaw, squeeze some lime on it, ad some chopped cilantro and sesame seeds – and yum!

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