September 12, 2012

Weelicious Baked Ziti and an Interview with Catherine McCord & Giveaway {Tales from the Trenches}

Weelicious Baked Ziti via The Naptime Chef

Last week a brand new copy of my friend Catherine’s beautiful new cookbook, Weelicious: 140 Fast, Fresh, and Easy Recipes landed in my mailbox. I was thrilled. Having been a longtime fan of Catherine’s blog, Weelicious, it was awesome to finally have so many of her great ideas in book form. This time next year I’ll be back in the baby puree stage and she has a whole chapter on feeding baby that has already given me tons of new ideas. I have a feeling those pages will be well worn by next fall!

Since I am not there yet, however, I decided to start with a recipe that is perfect for my current household. My daughter chose the Baked Ziti because she loves anything with pasta and cheese. I quickly agreed since I appreciate that it is made with a healthy homemade veggie-heavy tomato sauce. I also love that Catherine talks about how she once made this dish for a new mom. This really is a perfect new parent meal! (Hint: Catherine, if you want to bring this over early in the new year I’ll be eternally grateful!)

Luckily, Catherine had a little free time before she kicked off her book tour to answer some questions so you all can get to know her better:

Weelicious Book Cover

1) I love how you incorporate all the stages of food from baby purees to full-fledged solids. What is your favorite tip for parents with babies to help get them started eating right when they don’t have a ton of time to cook? If you really want to make homemade baby food purees, but don’t have a lot of time, I’m a big fan of setting aside an hour or so on a weekend to make a few different seasonal flavors. Simple ones like carrot with some spices or banana peach. Using freezing cubes is a life saver financially and for parents wanting to have a hefty supply of baby food to pull from for up to 3 months . If they had to focus on a few things and supplement with store-bought food what would you recommend making at home? I’m all about mixing and matching. On Sundays I like to make a big batch of roast vegetables, grilled chicken or salmon, cooked pasta and rice. That way for the next few days I can add a little pesto, tomato sauce, low sodium soy sauce to make a myriad of easy to prepare recipes.

2) Have you read French Kids Eat Everything? In it the author talks about strict eating schedules and recipes purposely structured to introduce young children to new flavors. Do you find that your philosophy of introducing children to food is similar to the French philosophy of building sophisticated palates? I’m a huge fan of the book! When you introduce kids to a variety of foods from an early age they get used to trying different things. I was never a big olive eater, but my father in law offered my daughter one when she was 2 years old and she ate the entire container. We never would have known how much she loved them without that experience. Now my kids (3 and 5 years old) want to try everything under the sun.

3) I envy California produce! What are the three things you come home with after every single visit to the Farmer’s Market? Avocado, persian cucumbers and figs or peaches when they’re in season. Nothing gets me more excited then our Sunday jaunts to the market. Is there anything you NEVER bring home? (Confession: I never buy fennel because nobody in my house, including me, likes the taste. 🙂 ) Fresh garbanzo beans. I’m too lazy to shell them 🙂

4) Even though my daughter is a good eater she would live on ice cream if I let her. Do you face challenges like this from your own kids sometimes? All they want is a certain food despite the fact that they know better? My kids will beg for ice cream and cake, but as soon as they get it, they take two bites and they’re done. I’ve seen both of them go through the asking/begging at birthday parties, get a piece of cake and then turn around and eat fruit, veggies or crackers off the table instead of even trying it. I think when you prohibit kids from eating junk, sometimes they want it even more.

5) Sometimes I think it is a treat for us home cooks to splurge on a great appliance or buy some pretty decorative plates or glasses. It is always nice to enjoy your surroundings when you are eating. Do ever do this? Kitchenware is better then a new pair of shoes for me! Everything from appliances to containers to plates, napkins and glasses. Any fun sources or products we should know about? I am always looking for hidden gems! I could go on and on about this subject but a few favorites would be the washable/reusable zipper bags for snacks, fruits, sandwiches (even mommies makeup) from Graze Organics or my Wean Green glass containers for freezing homemade baby food, food storage or school lunch. Both are lifesavers!

6) We are all dying to know – what is next for Weelicious?
The weelicious lunch cookbook coming out next summer. I’m school lunch obsessed!


To enter to win a copy of Weelicious – I am giving away two copies!:

1) Leave a comment sharing a new taste/flavor you’d like to introduce to your family.

2) Subscribe to The Naptime Chef newsletter (upper right hand corner)

3) Subscribe to Kelsey Banfield on Facebook.

4) Contest runs from September 12th at 7:00am ET through September 19th at 7:00am. Winner will be announced in the newsletter on Friday September 21st.


 Weelicious Baked Ziti

adapted from Weelicious


1 tablespoon olive oil
½ yellow onion, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 pinch kosher salt
1 garlic clove, minced
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes (or I use Pomi because of the BPA-free packaging)
16-ounces (1 box) ziti or penne, cooked until al dente (about 2 minutes less than usual cooking time)
2 cups grated mozzarella cheese, divided
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese


1. Preheat oven to 350F and rub a 9 x 11 baking dish with olive oil or vegetable oil.

2. In a large saute pan heat the oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and pepper, the pinch of salt and saute for about 4 to 5 minutes, or until the vegetables are softened. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute, do not let the garlic burn.

3. Pour in the diced tomatoes and cook for 15 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally and allowing the sauce to thicken while it cooks.

4. In a large bowl combined the cooked pasta, sauce, and 1 ½ cups of the mozzarella and all of the Parmesan cheese. Pour the combined mixture into the baking dish and scatter the remaining ½ cup of mozzarella on top.  Bake for 30 minutes, or until the cheese is browned on top and bubbling around the edges.

Naptime Notes

Naptime Recipe Serving ideas

This is a terrific meatless meal, but if you want meet you can stir in about a cup of cooked and drained ground beef or turkey. Alternatively, one cup of crumbled and cooked sausage would be delicious as well.

Naptime Stopwatch

20 minutes prep time, 30 minutes bake time.

Naptime Reviews

This amazing dish can easily be made and baked in advance and reheated later. Alternatively, prepare it and leave it in the fridge then bake it right before dinner.

More Naptime Recipes