Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Vegetables in Parchment - Lots of Flavor, No Dirty Dishes

You can mix up the vegetables, herbs and aromatics to match your preferences. Cook time will vary based on that as well. Root vegetables (like carrots, potatoes, etc.) require a longer cook time).

Thursday, February 16, 2012

DYI Baby Food

With recent reports about arsenic in formula and baby food snacks, I decided to do a post on making baby food instead of grown up food.

Not only does it save money, but it allows parents to control what their baby eats, and it really is not time consuming like many people think, especially if you have a food processor or even a blender (you don't need a special baby food maker, though I'm sure those are nice).

All this baby food, which will take awhile for him
to get through, was just recipe #3 below -
1 squash and 1 very small apple.

The great reference site I use for making baby food (or getting ideas) and for checking when to introduce certain foods is http://wholesomebabyfood.momtastic.com/.

Here's 4 recipes and 4 tips:

1. Mashed banana -- so easy and quick. I usually break it up with my hands first, into a bowl, and then mash it up with a fork. If you have pumped breast milk, it's nice to add that in a bit, but you don't have to. (Often grocery stores have really ripe bananas on sale for 29 cents/pound - great for baby food and muffins for mom and dad). You can also add in baby cereal, which takes me to #2.

2. Baby oat cereal -- with my first son, I bought a box of rice cereal, but it didn't really work for him, so I bought a box of oat cereal, which he ate a bit more of. Basically, though, I spent about $8 on organic baby cereal and ended up with two almost full boxes. Even if your baby likes the stuff, a little goes a long way. For baby #2, I make it myself by taking 1 cup of rolled oats (I get 3 pounds for $3, organic) and grinding them up in a food processor.

To turn the ground oats into baby oat "cereal" or oatmeal, put 1/4 cup ground oats in 1-1 1/4 cup boiling water and simmer until it reaches the correct consistency (or cook it in a rice cooker with the same water/oat ratio). Super simple, super cost-effective.

Oatmeal on the left, apple-squash puree on the right.

3. Squash/Apple Puree -- Cut your squash in half (I used acorn squash) and scoop out the seeds, fill the inside with diced (peeled) apple (organic is best). Place in a roasting pan filled with about 1/2 inch of water and roast in the oven for about 40-60 minutes (at 400 degrees), basically until the squash is soft and the skin will come off easily. (You can also just roast the squash, no apple). Peel the squash and puree the squash and apple together. You can add a dash of cinnamon if you like (and can also add a little breast milk or water to make it thinner, if you need to).

4. Applesauce -- This is more work, but I like making homemade applesauce, and this is a food item that everyone in the family can enjoy. I recommend getting (or borrowing an apple peeler). I also recommend pink lady apples. (A smart way to get organic apples for applesauce at a great price is to talk to the apple vendor at your local farmer's market and ask for apples that are typically considered "ugly" and thus don't do as well in the marketplace. I recently got 10 pounds of organic apples for $3 from my farmshare because the apples looked ugly. They tasted great and just needed to be peeled and produced wonderful applesauce).

Peel, core, and slice the apples (you'll need 5-8 if they are big apples, 12-15 if they are small -- this will make you about 4-6 adult servings of applesauce). Put the apples in a big pot filled with about 1 cup of water (almost covering the apples, but not quite) and simmer for 30-45 minutes (until apples are really soft). I recommend adding lemon juice and cinnamon to the pot. (Some people like to add nutmeg.) Mash with a potato masher or puree if for baby. I like to mix some oatmeal and applesauce together in the food processor for my little guy.


1. Since even one squash can make a large batch of baby food, I like to sometimes double the recipe - using two squash and then use about 1/4-1/3 of the pureed vegetable for the baby and then spice up the rest for an adult vegetable side dish or soup (sometimes adding vegetable stock, herbs, etc.)

2. If you are worried about the big portions of baby food you make and the small amount the baby eats, simply freeze the baby food (in muffin tins makes it easy for later).

3. I know there are differing opinions about eggs and babies, but my first son was very underweight even though he breastfed often. I did not want to supplement with formula, and he was developmentally doing well, so our pediatrician recommended giving my son a hard boiled egg yolk. I had to mix it in with his mashed bananas to get him to eat it, but I appreciated this protein alternative. My son never had any reactions or problems with the egg and has grown and developed quite well. (He's now 2). I would ut se the hard-boiled egg white to make myself a healthier egg salad.

4. The ground oats you use for the baby's oat cereal also provide you with oat flour, which I like to use in a lot of recipes (pancakes, cookies, etc.) because it is gluten-free and has more nutrients than traditional flour. So much more affordable to make it yourself then to spend more $$ on fancy glutem-free flour.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Seasonal Produce Menu Planning (Chard, Brussel Sprouts, Cabbage, Carrots, Potatoes, Leeks, Rutabaga, Oranges, Bay Leaves, Parsley, Baby Bok Choy.)

I love Community Supported Agriculture. I get great organic produce for my family at an affordable price and increases the variety of produce that I eat. This week's box includes: Chard, Brussel Sprouts, Cabbage, Carrots, Potatoes, Leeks, Rutabaga, Oranges, Bay Leaves, Parsley, Baby Bok Choy. Plus, I added 10 pounds of apples for $3.

Here's the menu items I'm planning.

1. Stir-fried Bok Choy & Chard (half of the chard) - I stir fry it with a little bit of ginger, garlic and a dash of soy sauce. It's so yummy (one of the few green things the toddler eats with me).

2. Lemon-marinated brussel sprouts (probably to pair with a roasted chicken which I will roast with herbs, lemon, garlic and bay leaf stuffed inside). This is the biggest question mark for me, but I'm excited to try this recipe. I will be using red onion instead of shallots and will be adding some pancetta. (Here's another brussel sprout recipe that looks good.)

3. Mayo-free slaw. I usually do this with shredded carrots, cabbage and cilantro using lemon juice and vinegar for the dressing. This will be served alongside the popular grilled turkey burgers with mushrooms that are such a hit at our house.

4. Swiss chard frittata - I made this last time we had chard and it was yummy. I referenced this recipe, but did not have any mushrooms, so I made it without and didn't miss them at all.

5. Potato Leek Soup - I've featured my potato leek soup in a past blog. It's really good. I think I'll be adding the rutabaga to it this time.

6. Carrot & Squash Soup - I love trying out different carrot soups. With this one, I'm going to use an acorn squash that I have instead of the summer squash.

7. With the carrots, I also plan on making carrot muffins or bread and carrot-oatmeal cookies. (Recipes will be posted soon).

8. White bean dip with parley and quinoa tabbouleh. (Will serve both with pita bread or pita chips and quinoa burgers, in place of falafel). I love making white bean dip using dried white beans. After simmering them in veggie broth until they are soft, I puree them in the food processor with olive oil and add the herb of choice, in this case the chopped parsley. It's simple, but really yummy. (Here's a good quinoa tabbouleh recipe - given that really good tomatoes can be hard to find this time of year, I might just not include tomatoes or might use sun-dried tomatoes instead.)

9. Finally, with my 10 pounds of apples, I shall try my hand at applesauce, apple butter and different apple baby food items. (Plus, my toddler will eat several of them as well as the oranges, so no menu planning needed for those).

So, as I make different items on the list, I'll post updates on the recipes and how they went, but thought I would share these plans in the spirit of posting ideas for seasonal produce.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Gluten-Free Sausage Mushroom Quiche with Hashbrown Crust

I've decided to stop doing ingredient lists and to just cut to the chase with instructions, putting ingredients in bold. This recipe does not use many ingredients (though, of course, you can add as much meat or veggies as you want to the egg mixture).

Here's the How-To:

1. Preheat oven to 450.

2. Shred/grate potatoes, enough to line a pie pan. I had small red potatoes, so I needed about 10. If you had big Idaho or Russet potatoes, you probably just need 2, maybe 3. I don't like to peel my potatoes, so I didn't but you certainly could.

3. Mix potatoes with 2-3 tablespoons melted better and line pie-pan with hashbrowns. (You could also use frozen hashbrowns, just make sure you thaw them first).

4. Put in oven and crisp the hashbrown crust (probably about 25 minutes).

5. While hashbrown crust is in the oven, cook breakfast sausage
(I cooked one roll of sausage and probably put 1/2-3/4 of it in with my egg mixture later). In a separate pan, cook sliced mushrooms (1 package).

6. Beat 6 eggs. Add freshly ground pepper (a few twists), a dash of milk (if you prefer, probably 1/4 cup) and cheese (I put in shredded parmesan, probably 1/4 cup - I just finished off what I had left in the fridge). I recommend using a decent parmesan, not the grated Kraft stuff that does not need to be refrigerated.

7. Mix eggs, sausage and mushrooms together and pour over hashbrown crust (once crust is crisp, but not overdone).

8. Reduce oven to 350 and cook for 30-45 minutes (use a toothpick to check for the eggs to be done).

Of course, you can use whatever veggies or meats (or no meat) or cheeses (or no cheese) with your egg filling. Sausage and mushroom just happens to be one of my favorite combos for omelettes, so I thought they would be good in the quiche, and they were. I think this would be a great recipe for using up veggies you have in the fridge.

My husband and I both really loved this quiche.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Baked Onion Rings - All the Goodness, None of the Guilt

I made Baked Onion Rings last night, and they were really yummy!! Much better than I expected. I got the recipe from Everyday Food Light and made a few adjustments.

With a new year, many of us are trying to eat better. These are a great item to feel like you are indulging without frying and grease.

1. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.

2. In a food processor (or blender) combine 1 1/2 cups cornflakes and 1/2 cup dried breadcrumbs (plain or Italian). Transfer to a bowl.

3. Mix the wet ingredients in another bowl: 1 egg, 1/2 cup buttermilk (I used milk with a dash of vinegar in it, since I didn't have buttermilk. I never buy buttermilk. I just add the vinegar to regular milk), 1/4 flour and seasonings (salt, pepper and then whatever you like: cayenne, grill spice, creole seasoning. I used grill spice to compliment the grilled chicken sausages I was making).

4. Slice 1 medium onion (preferably Vidalia or brown) - discard inner small rings (I put them in my freezer bag that I put veggie scraps in to make veggie broth).

5. Dredge onion slices in egg mixture first (letting excess drip off), then dredge in cornflake mixture.

6. Put on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Once all of the rings are on the cookie sheet - spray them with cooking spray, both sides. This helps them stay crispy.

7. Cook for about 15 minutes (eyeball it), flipping them in the middle.


The book said they have 241 cals per serving, 9 g of fat, 7 g of protein, 33 carbs, and 2.4 fiber --

The recipe I posted should have less fat and calories because I used cooking spray rather than the 2 tablespoons of olive oil that was suggested.

By using the cooking spray, I estimate it drops to about: 180 cals per serving and 3-4 g of fat, a big improvement.

Also, if you used an egg substitute and fat-free milk, you could make them even lower in calories and fat without missing much.

Wish I had a picture, but we ate them way too fast to get a photo.

Most onion rings are around 300 g per serving (at least) with 16 g of fat. Same with a small order of fries typically - and how many of us ever eats a small order of fries? So, skip the fries and make onion rings at home.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Five Ingredients or Less (Not Counting S&P)

1. Oats and Eggs (rolled oats, runny egg, avocado, shredded parmesan, pepper)

This recipe is for a single serving, so you can always make more. I am a person who loves oats, but does not like oatmeal. I keep rolled oats on hand for granola, granola bars, pancakes, breads, muffins and cookies. But, the exception is a savory egg-y oatmeal that I really, really love.

It's simple - cook 1/4 cup of oats in about 1 cup of water (I don't feel my cup all the way because I like mine really thick). Bring to a boil and simmer for about 10 minutes (or less) until oatmeal is done.

When you're oatmeal is almost done, heat a pan with cooking spray and drop one egg in it. When the white starts to get cooked, flip over and cook for a little longer (only a 1-2 minutes more because this is best with a runny egg).

Put the oatmeal in a bowl, top with the egg and some shredded parmesan, fresh cracked pepper and diced avocado (1/2 of an avocado is all I use). It is so good!!

2. Banana Nut Muffins (bananas, sesame seeds, sugar, flour, butter - NO EGGS!! So, this could be vegan if you used margarine instead of butter and is a great muffin recipe for people with egg allergies).

I had 2 very ripe bananas and no eggs, so I cruised the web, read some recipes and then made these muffins. This recipe makes 4-6 muffins, depending on size.

Preheat oven to 350.

Mash two ripe bananas and combine in a bowl with 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 tsp baking soda and 1-2 tbs melted butter. Mix well and add sunflower seeds, per your discretion.

Put in muffin tins and bake for 12-15 minutes (or until toothpick comes out clean).

3. Brown Rice Mushroom Pilaf
(brown rice, baby bella mushrooms, parmesan, chicken or veggie stock, grill spice)

This rice turned out really well on Christmas and complimented the steaks we made. I always cook my rice (1 cup) in a rice cooker - so much easier. To have the rice really stand up to the steak, I cooked it in chicken stock instead of water. (You could always use veggie stock, if you prefer or are vegetarian).

When your rice is almost done, begin to sautee the already sliced mushrooms (1 package) in your oil of choice. I added the same grill spice that we're using on the steaks. It's really nice to add the spices you are using for your main dish to the mushrooms to tie it together.

I think baby bella are the best mushroom for this recipe. When they are almost done, break them up into smaller pieces (I just do this right in the pan with the wooden spatula I'm cooking with), then add the rice. Toss together really well and add the shredded parmesan.

4. Herbed Mashed Potatoes

Chop 4 idaho potatoes (peel or no peel is up to you. I like skins in mine, so I rarely peel them). Cover with water and bring to boil (you can use vegetable or chicken broth in place of water).

While you're potatoes are boiling, prep your herbs. I wanted to do a Southwest style mashed potatoes, so I was using cilantro and used about half of the bundle from the store. I pulled the leaves off of the stems and then threw the cilantro in the food processor to save me the chopping hassle.

Once the potatoes are soft (typically 20-25 minutes), reserve about 1/2-3/4 cup of the starchy water (especially if used broth) and drain the rest. Mash the potatoes (in the pot you cooked in, now that the water is drained off) and add the chopped up herbs and the reserved water. I also recommended adding the cheese of your choice. I added about 1/2 a bag of a shredded colby/pepper jack cheese blend because I thought it would go nicely with the cilantro. I also added about 1/2 cup of plain yogurt (since I didn't have any sour cream) to make the potatoes more creamy and couple of pats of margarine. Mix it all up and enjoy. (I prefer to mash my potatoes by hand with a potato masher, but I know a lot of people use a mixer, which is great too. (Heavy cream or milk could be used to make the potatoes creamy as well, just add in small amounts because you don't want soupy potatoes - yikes).

You can mix up your herb and cheese combinations based on what you have. I had cilantro left from a different recipe, so I went in the direction of Mexican/Southwestern for these potatoes, but basil with parmesan cheese would be great too -- that is actually the herbs and cheese the Ina Garten recipe that inspired these potatoes called for.

5. Pita Pizza (Pita, Cheese, Radicchio-or whatever other veggie you choose, Mushroom, Oil)

When I have pita leftover, I often use it to make easy pizzas. A really, great and simple option is to use the pita for pizzas when you have veggies to use up. I always love mushrooms on pizza, so that tends to be always in the mix. This time, I added radicchio - the two veggies balanced well, but I also recommend spinach or wilted arugula (a good idea when you have either of those greens that are about to go bad).

How I assembled my radicchio-mushroom pita pizza. I tossed the radicchio in olive oil and salt and pepper and broiled it for about 7 minutes.

While that was broiling, I sauteed the mushroom (in olive oil - you can add balsamic vinegar as well, if you want). I don't like to have the mushrooms cook only on the pizza, but like to sautee them ahead. If you are doing spinach or arugula, you just add them in with the mushrooms (after the mushrooms have been going for a few minutes).

Once the radicchio was done, I put my pitas in the oven. I spray my pitas with whatever oil spray I have, then put the shredded mozzarella on it. Put it in the oven (I just used the end of the broil cycle on my oven) and watch them -- only put them in long enough to melt the cheese.

Remove from oven, top with warm veggies and enjoy. Simple, but good. (You can always load on more veggies if you want).

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Festive Culinary Plans for the Last of 2011

I find myself enjoying my culinary adventures more and more and am excited to go out with a bang as the final days of 2011 play out.

For Christmas Eve, I'm making an Indian feast, so the recipes are all things I've never tried before. The tandoori chicken is marinating right now. To go with it, I'm making spiced potatoes and onions, cauliflower in masala sauce, garlic naan (okay, the naan is store bought) and cucumber raita.

For Christmas Day, we're doing surf and turf (Steak and Scallops) along with a baby bella rice pilaf, garlic bread and Jamie Oliver's carrot ribbon salad with carrot cake (my husband's favorite) for dessert. It will be my first time making carrot cake, so I hope it turns out well.

What I'm most excited about is the festive popcorn I'm making for a friend's movie night on the day after Christmas. I've decided to make standard popcorn (I love making popcorn on the stovetop), but also want to make a white chocolate popcorn with pistachios and dried cranberries (think a fancy, Christmas version of cracker jack). We'll see how it turns out. I was inspired by Chef Faulkner's popcorn she made on an Iron Chef America battle that I recently watched.

Finally, I'm doing an Asian meal with a friend to close out 2011. Details on my first ever attempt to make tempura and panko prawns will be provided.

Don't worry. I'll report back and post recipes and photos.