Food on the Hill: Recipes From ‘The Messy Hands Cookbook’

Food on the Hill
This Week’s Recipes from ‘The Messy Hands Cookbook – Grown-up Tested and Kiddo Approved’
Copy of ‘The Messy Hands Cookbook/ Courtesy Felicia Orth

Los Alamos Family Strengths Network, a local non-profit organization, improves the quality of family life in our community through educational and fun activities provided to families, parents, teens and children. Susan Mack is FSN’s gracious and energetic executive director. Chit Chat and Change Diapers is a local group of parents and caregivers to small children, joined to create a community of support. 

FSN and Chit Chat recently published an irresistible cookbook, The Messy Hands Cookbook, edited by Lissie Ham, Kelly Dolejsi, Erin Tatge, Lisa Euler and Lauren Coupland. I purchased one ($12) and found myself smiling on every other page. The recipes are interspersed with photographs of local children “helping” in the kitchen, enjoying treats, conquering a bowl of spaghetti, or beaming through sauce-covered faces.

The recipes are well-varied, and organized into several parts: desserts, nibbles, healthy choices, dinner, sauces, and breakfast. Charmingly, desserts are printed in the first section, “Life is Short – Always Eat Dessert.”

I chose two recipes to try: Cauliflower Sauce with Pasta, submitted by Lauren Coupland, and Avocado White Bean Dip, submitted by Erin Tatge. The recipes below are printed with permission.

If you’d like your own copy of the book, check out the FSN webpage, or go to the Townsite Los Alamos National Bank lobby Friday between 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., where you will find baked goods and books for sale.

First Recipe: Avocado White Bean Dip

Photo by Felicia Orth

The dip was easy to make and delicious with vegetable chips. I am always seeking healthful dip recipes, particularly non-dairy dips, and will be adding this one to my party appetizer roster.


1 15-oz can cannellini beans
2 avocados
1 -2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
1/8 cup cilantro or parsley
½ lime, juiced


Drain and rinse the beans. Place all ingredients in a food processor and puree until smooth. Adjust seasoning to taste.

Cauliflower Sauce with Pasta

Photo by Felicia Orth

I tried this recipe because I love cauliflower, and I hope it replaces kale as the next “It” vegetable soon. This recipe uses cauliflower effectively to replace a lot of what would otherwise be rich dairy items (cream and cheese) to make a pasta sauce. It is not entirely dairy-free, insofar as a smaller amount of cheese is added at the end, but it can be made gluten-free with quinoa or brown rice pasta. The finished dish was tasty and would appeal to adults and children alike.


1 lb whole wheat short-cut pasta [I wanted a gluten-free dish, so I used brown rice pasta]
2-3 carrots, chopped
1 can chickpeas, drained
Olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced, or garlic powder [I increased the garlic]
Spinach, chard, or greens (optional) [I used fresh spinach]

Sauce Ingredients

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 red onion, chopped
1 head cauliflower, stem removed and chopped
2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
4 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves stripped and finely chopped (or use dried)
Several handfuls Parmesan or Romano cheese [shredded or grated]
Salt and black pepper


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Chop carrots and place in baking dish with olive oil, garlic, a pinch of rosemary and chickpeas. Bake for 20 minutes.

To make sauce, heat a deep skillet over medium heat with olive oil. Add onion and garlic and cook 7 minutes. Add cauliflower, stock and rosemary, cover the pan and cook 15 minutes.

Photo by Felicia Orth

While the sauce is cooking, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt and pasta and cook to al dente.

Uncover the sauce and blend in a blender. Add cheese to the sauce and stir to combine, then add pasta, roasted veggies and greens if using. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

[Note on blending the hot cauliflower mixture-use an immersion blender in the pot, or a Vita-Mix if you have one. Otherwise, allow the mixture to cool before blending, because steam can cause a regular blender to expel its contents explosively otherwise. Yes, I learned this the hard way.]


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