Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Rainy Day Smores

So, I happen to love smores, like most of America. However, I don't often have a big fire burning in my backyard to cook them on, so I had to get creative! Here is a very easy method for making smores indoors. You can be so creative with them. Try different fillings, like marshmallows, butterscotch chips and pecans, marshmallows, Nutella and bananas, marshmallows, peanut butter, white or milk chocolate and bananas or marshmallows, strawberries and chocolate- yum!

Mini marshmellows
Chocolate chips, dark chocolate or milk chocolate bar (whatever chocolate you have!)
Graham crackers
Slice bananas

Preheat the broiler on your oven or toaster oven. Top graham crackers with chocolate and then marshmallows. Place the marshmallow and chocolate covered graham crackers on a baking sheet. Broil for 3-5 minutes or until the marshmallows are toasted to your liking. Top with sliced bananas and another marshmallow. Imagine you're sitting outside in front of a warm fire and enjoy!

Creamy Vegetable Lasagna

This recipe was based on a recipe I saw for lasagna with sausage and mushrooms. I decided to leave out the sausage and substitute roasted red bell pepper and roasted zucchini. It was delicious! Eli literally ate his entire bowl (this rarely happens). The secret to building a lot of flavor into this lasagna is to brown the mushrooms and onions in the butter (don't rush this step) and to broil the zucchini until the edges are golden brown. You could add italian sausage or left over cooked chicken if you'd like. I served it with a large helping of sauteed broccoli with olive oil and garlic and a piece of my
french bread toasted with olive oil, garlic and parmesan.

6 medium zucchini, sliced lengthwise into four strips each
2 red bell peppers, cut in half stem and seeds removed or 1 jar roasted red bell peppers in water (NOT vinegar!)
1/2 to 1 tsp salt
3 tbsp olive oil, divided
2 tbsp butter
4 tbsp flour
1 package white mushrooms, rinsed and sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups diced onion
1/2 tsp salt (taste sauce for seasoning once it's finished. If your chicken broth is low sodium, you'll probably want to add more)
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups milk
12 whole wheat lasagna noodles, cooked according to package directions (or use the regular oven-ready lasagna)
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Preheat your oven on broil. Place the bell peppers and sliced zucchini on a baking sheet. Brush both sides of zucchini with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Broil 5-10 minutes, until the skin of the bell peppers turns black and the zucchini are golden brown around the edges. Remove from oven. Cover bell peppers in foil to allow time to steam, in order to remove the skin (approx. 5 minutes). Chop the zucchini into bite-size pieces. Set aside. Remove skin from bell peppers and dice. Mix with the zucchini.

In a large saucepan, on medium-high heat, melt 2 tbsp butter with 2 tbsp olive oil. Add the mushrooms. Sautee 5-7 minutes, or until golden brown. Add the onions and garlic. Season with pepper and 1/2 tsp salt. Sautee until the onions are tender and light brown. Add the 4 tbsp flour, stirring to coat all of the mushrooms. Add the broth and milk, stirring well. Simmer about 5 more minutes on medium-high heat, until thickened.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. To assemble lasagna, spoon 2/3 cup of the sauce on the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Layer three noodles. Top with 1/3 of the zucchini/bell pepper mixture. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup mozzarella. Repeat layers two more times, ending with a final layer of noodles. Pour the rest of the sauce over the top and sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and the 1/4 parmesan. Bake, covered with foil, for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake 15 more minutes, or until very bubbly and cheese begins to brown. Allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

No-Fry Cinnamon Sugar Potato Doughnuts

Okay, I must admit that I LOVE doughnuts! Who doesn't? But, I would never make them at home because we don't eat fried food at home and I wouldn't want a whole dozen doughnuts sitting around my house. So, you can imagine how excited I was when I found this recipe! It was in an old Taste of Home magazine that my mom handed down to me when I got married 7 years ago. Mundo and I really enjoyed munching on these for breakfast. I served them with fruit salad and scrambled eggs with bell peppers and potatoes. It was a great breakfast! I halved the recipe and it made a little over a dozen. They only had 2 tbsp of butter in the whole batch, so I felt pretty good about eating them. They would also be yummy with a chocolate glaze or dipped in powdered sugar (or any other creative topping!) If you experiment with different toppings, let me know. I'd love to try them!

1 cup cooked, mashed potato (completely plain. I peeled and diced it, then cooked it in water in the microwave for about 5 minutes)
1/4 cup cooking liquid from the potatoes
1 cup warm milk
2 eggs, well beaten
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
4 1/2 cups bread flour or 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour and 3 cups bread or unbleached white flour
1 envelope (2 1/4 tsp) fast rise, active dry, yeast

3/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
4 tbsp melted butter

Kitchenaid Mixer Method:
Dissolve yeast in mixer bowl in reserved 1/4 cup potato cooking liquid. Add a few tbsp of the warm milk to the eggs to temper them, then add eggs and milk to the mixer bowl. Add sugar, salt and flour. Beat on speed 2 until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and a ball forms. Allow to knead on speed 2 for 2 more minutes. Grease bowl with cooking spray. Warm oven for 1 minute on 200 degrees F. Turn off. Place bowl with dough in the oven and cover with plastic wrap and a towel. Allow to rise 30 minutes.*

Hand Mix Method:
Dissolve yeast in large mixing bowl in reserved 1/4 cup potato cooking liquid. Add a few tbsp of the warm milk to the eggs to temper them, then add eggs and milk to the bowl. Add sugar, salt and flour. Mix by hand until a ball of dough forms. Knead about 10 minutes on a floured surface until dough is nice and smooth. Grease bowl with cooking spray. Warm oven for 1 minute on 200 degrees F. Turn off. Place bowl with dough in the oven and cover with plastic wrap and a towel. Allow to rise 30 minutes.*

*Roll dough out on a flour service into a 1/2 inch thick disk. Cut, using a doughnut cutter, into approximately 30 doughnuts. Place on greased baking pans. Cover with a towel. Warm the oven for 1 minute at 200 degrees and turn off. Place baking pan with doughnuts in oven. Allow to rise 25 minutes. Remove from oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned. Immediately brush both sides with melted butter and dip in cinnamon/sugar mixture. Serve warm. Yield 2 1/2 dozen.

My Minestrone

I've been trying really hard to stick to my grocery budget. One of my secrets is to plan 2 meatless meals a week. I usually make soup and salad or soup and panini sandwiches for one of those meals. Today, it was minestrone soup with my homemade french bread topped with oilve oil, mozzarella, tomato and basil and broiled until bubbly. I had the hardest time finding just the right minestrone soup recipe, so I decided to combine a few of them to make my own. It came out so good! I think my secret is the can of beef broth. It gave the soup a rich flavor that probably would be missing if only chicken broth or vegetable broth was used. I used orzo pasta that I had on hand, but you can really use any type of pasta that you have left over in your pantry. Spaghetti can be broken into little pieces and works great in a soup like this. This is a healthy, satisfying fall or winter soup that your family will love (even my 1 1/2 year old loved it!)

2 tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 c. carrots, diced
1 c. celery, diced (2 stalks)
2 zucchini, diced
3 small yellow squash, diced
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 1/2 tsp salt (use less if your broth isn't reduced sodium)
dash of red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp black pepper
3 c. kale, pulled off the stem and chopped
1 can great northern beans rinsed and drained
1 can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 28 oz can whole tomatos, crushed between your fingers when adding to the pot
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 14 oz can beef broth
1 box reduced sodium chicken broth
1/2 c. uncooked orzo, ditalini tube pasta, elbow macaron, vermicelli or spaghetti broken spaghetti (whatever you have on hand!)
Parmesan cheese for topping

Heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and sautee until just beginning to brown. Add the celery, carrots and garlic. Sautee until celery is tender. Add the squash and zucchini and the herbs, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Sautee about 5 minutes, until tender. Add the rest of the ingredients, except the pasta. Simmer 20 minutes. Add the pasta and simmer about 10 more minutes, or until the pasta is al dente. Serve with parmesan cheese and my multi-grain french bread. Yummy!!

Multi-Grain French Bread

I was looking for a french bread recipe similar to the multi-grain bread I buy at our grocery store, but I had a hard time finding one. I decided to adapt a regular french bread recipe and make it my own. The results yielded two loaves of whole wheat french bread with nutty notes and a really great crunchy crust. It tastes the best straight from the oven with butter.

2 envelopes fast-rise (active dry) yeast
1 tbsp plus 2 teaspoons sugar
2 cups warm water
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
2 tbsp sesame seeds
2 tbsp raw sunflower seeds
2 tbsp millet
2 tbsp flax seed
4 tbsp cornmeal
2 tbsp half and half. milk, or one egg yolk mixed with 1 tbsp water

Kitchenaid Mixer Method:
Combine the yeast, warm water and sugar in the mixer bowl. Stir to dissolve the yeast. Attach the dough hook. Add the salt, flour, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, millet, and flax seed. Turn mixer on speed 2 and mix until a ball of dough forms. Mix 2 more minutes to allow the dough time to knead. Remove bowl from mixer and grease the sides of the bowl with olive oil, so the dough won't stick once it rises.*

Hand Mix Method:
Combine the yeast, water and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Stir to dissolve the yeast. Add the salt, flour, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, millet, and flax seed. Stir or use hands to combine. Dough should form into a nice ball. Turn out onto a floured surface. Knead about 10 minutes, or until a smooth dough is formed. Grease the inside of the mixing bowl with olive oil. Place dough in bowl.*

*Cover bowl with plastic wrap and a towel. Turn oven on warm (170-200 degrees) for one minute, then turn off. Place bowl in oven. Allow to rise for 25-30 minutes or until doubled in size. Divide dough into two portions. Sprinkle cornmeal on a baking sheet. Shape each dough portion into a long baguette (I do them side-by-side on one tray and they fit nicely). Cover with a towel and place back in the warm oven (you might need to turn it back on to 200 degrees for one minute to warm it up again). Allow dough to rise 30 more minutes. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Using a sharp knife, make diagonal slices about 1 inch apart along the top of each loaf. Brush with half and half or egg yolk. Using a spray water bottle, spray the top of the loaves with water and the inside of the oven. Place a dish of hot water on the rack next to the bread tray. Bake bread for 35-45 minutes, until nicely browned on the bottom and on top.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Flan (just like my Abuelita's!)

I LOVE flan!! I could eat it all day long and be quite happy! My husband, Mundo, who is Nicaraguan, gave me the idea of baking it in individual servings instead of one big dish (the way his mom used to do it :) ). It worked great! It was easy to eat and looked really pretty when served. If you've never made caramel before, this recipe is a great place to start! The trick is to make sure you don't walk away from it and to read the directions carefully before you start making it. You'll be SO proud of yourself!

3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water

5 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/8 tsp salt
3 cups whole or low-fat milk
3/4 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. For the caramel: pour 3/4 cup sugar into a saucepan. Drizzle with the 1/4 cup water. Don't stir! Place the pan over medium heat and, without stirring, very gently swirl the pan by the handle until the sugar dissolves and the syrup is clear. It should take about 5 minutes. It's important to make sure the syrup is clear before it starts boiling so don't allow it to boil yet! Once clear, increase the heat to high and bring the syrup up to a boil. Cover and boil for exactly 2 minutes. Uncover and cook the syrup until it begins to darken into a caramel color- about 2 minutes (still don't stir it!) Gently swirl the pan by the handle once again and cook until the syrup turns a deep caramel color. Quickly pour the caramel into 8 6-ounce bowls/ramekins or a 2 to 2 1/2 quart baking dish (about 2 tbsp per bowl). It will harden immediately once poured.

For the custard: Microwave the milk for 2 minutes, or until steaming. Combine the eggs, sugar and salt and whisk until smooth. Slowly stir in the milk. Add the vanilla. Pour into the caramel-lined bowls or baking dish. Place custard-filled bowls/baking dish into a large baking pan and place in the oven. Fill the baking pan halfway with boiling water, creating a water bath. (it's always easier to pour the water into the baking dish once it's in the oven). Bake for 40-60 minutes for individual bowls or 1 to 1 1/2 hours for a baking dish (jiggle the bowl to see if it's done. If the center seems to still have a liquid consistency, bake a little longer). Refrigerate for at least 4-6 hours before serving. Run a knife around the edge of the bowl and dip in hot water to release the custard. Flip over onto a plate to serve. It's SO yummy!!

Granola bars with Apricots and Cranberries

I saw this recipe on Barefoot Contessa (0ne of my favorite Food Network shows). The only changes I made was to leave out the dates called for in the original recipe. I used what I had in my pantry- dried apricots, cranberries and raisins.When individually wrapped and stored in an air-tight container, these granola bars will taste great for a month!

2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup shredded coconut, loosely packed (I used unsweetened)
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2/3 cup honey
1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots*
1/2 cup dried cranberries*
1/2 cup raisins
cooking spray
*or any dried fruit you have on hand, such as raisins, apples, etc.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour the almonds, coconut and oatmeal onto a baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the almonds and coconut are lightly toasted. Remove from oven. Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees. Combine the butter, honey, sugar, vanilla and salt in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for one minute and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Pour coconut/oatmeal mixture into the bowl. Stir in the wheat germ and dried fruit. Spread into a greased 8 x 12 inch baking dish lined with foil (make sure it hangs over each side of the tray to make "handles" so you can pick up the large bar and pull it out to cut it easily into individual granola bars). With wet fingers, press the mixture into a flat bar. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until browned and allow to cool 2-3 hours before cutting (if they're too warm, they'll fall apart). Using the foil handles, pull out the baked granola bar and cut into individual pieces. Wrap each bar in foil and place in an air-tight container. It should make 16 rectangle shaped bars.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Amazing Lightened Up Fudge Brownies

You will NEVER believe that any of the fat has been lessened in these brownies. They are so moist and chocolaty. We eat them warm with a scoop of low fat vanilla ice cream.

3 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp canola oil
4 oz semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 tbsp cold brewed coffee
1/4 c. cocoa powder
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease an 8 x 8 inch baking dish with cooking spray. In a microwave safe bowl, combine the chocolate chips, butter and canola oil. Microwave for one minute, or until chocolate is melted. Stir in the sugars, vanilla, salt, eggs and coffee. Combine the cocoa powder, flours and baking soda. Stir into wet ingredients, until just combined. Fold in the nuts. Bake for 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Sneaky Whole Wheat Mac and Cheese with Teriyaki Chicken and Sauteed Carrots and Green Beans

I call the mac and cheese "sneaky" because it is lower in fat and contains one 10 oz package of butternut squash. You will NEVER be able to tell it's in there! It came out so creamy and delicious, yet it was lightened up from a traditional mac and cheese and made with whole wheat pasta. The chicken and veggies are so easy to make. This is a great meal that any kid would love! For my toddler, I placed the chicken and veggies in my mini food processor and pulsed it just until it was chopped (still quite chunky). Then, I stirred in a generous spoonful of the mac and cheese and it became chicken and veggie mac and cheese. He loved it!

4 FROZEN chicken breasts (or one breast per person)
bottled Veri Veri Teriyaki marinade, found in the asian food section of most grocery stores. It's a very simple, natural marinade that tastes AMAZING on salmon and chicken.
3 large organic carrots, peeled and sliced into sticks
2 cups whole green beans, rinsed and snipped of any stems
1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 12 oz box whole wheat elbow macaroni
1/3 cup flour
3 tbsp unsalted butter
2 1/4 cup skim milk or 1 % (I only buy skim, so sometimes I add a little half and half to bump up the fat content if needed for a sauce)
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp dried mustard powder
1 10 oz bag of frozen butternut squash, thawed and mashed with a fork
4 oz shredded swiss cheese
6 oz 2% milk reduced fat cheddar (3/4 of a bar of cheese)
2 oz 2% milk reduced fat cheddar, reserved for topping
1/2 cup freshly toasted breadcrumbs, or store bought

For the chicken:
Place frozen chicken in a baking pan. Drizzle with olive oil. Pour a generous amount of the marinade over the chicken, turning it over to coat both sides. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Flip over the chicken breasts. Bake 20 minutes longer. Turn on the broiler setting in the oven. Broil chicken for 5 minutes, or until nicely browned on the top side.

For the veggies:
Place carrots in a 10 inch frying pan. Add the water. Simmer for 6 minutes. Add the green beans and cover. Simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove lid and allow the rest of the water to evaporate. Sprinkle with 1/2 tsp salt and add 1 tbsp butter. Sautee until the carrots just begin to brown. Serves 4

For the mac and cheese:
Cook pasta according to package directions. Melt butter in a saucepan. Add the flour. Stir to form a smooth paste and cook about 1 minute. Add the milk, 3/4 tsp salt, pepper and mustard. Cook until thickened. Stir in the swiss cheese, 6 oz shredded lowfat cheddar cheese and squash. Stir until the cheese melts. Remove from the heat. Drain cooked pasta and place back into the pot you cooked it in. Pour the sauce over the pasta. Stir well. Pour into a greased 13 by 9 inch baking dish. Cover with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake 5 minutes longer. Serves 8

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Broiled Cilantro Lime Chicken with Mexican Style Brown Rice, Fresh Avocado Salsa and Baked Plantain Chips

This is a meal I put together for dinner this week. The chicken is full of flavor, but it's not spicy. So, it's a meal that kids should love! Growing up with a Cuban dad, I've learned to love plantains. They are usually fried, but this method makes them much lighter by baking them. They make great chips to serve with the rest of the salsa.

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
juice and zest of 1 lime
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
2 fresh garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 ripe avocados, diced
1 ripe tomato (1 cup)
Juice and zest of 1 lime
1/4 cup diced red or green onion
1/8 cup minced fresh cilantro
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
sprinkle of black pepper

1 cup brown rice
1 can Rotel tomatoes
1 small onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 of one cube Caldo de Pollo mexican chicken boullion cube (found in the mexican section of the grocery store)
water to make 2 cups when combined with the tomatoes

Baked Plantain chips:
1 green plantain, sliced into thin slices lengthwise into strips or into rings
1 tbsp canola oil
kosher salt

For the chicken, combine all of the ingredients. Place in a Ziploc bag and marinate for one hour or overnight.

For the salsa, combine all of the salsa ingredients. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

For the rice, heat the olive oil in a saucepan. Add the onion and sautee about 4 minutes, until tender and translucent. Add the rice. Cook 4 more minutes, stirring every minute. Add the garlic clove. Sautee one minute. Combine the tomatoes and boullion cube in a measuring cup. Add water to make 2 cups. Pour over the rice. Stir once. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low and cook 50 minutes.

For the plantain chips, drizzle with one tbsp canola oil. Toss to coat. Place in an even layer on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt. Bake at 450 degrees for 5 minutes. Flip over the pieces and bake about 5 minutes more, until golden on the second side. Place in a serving bowl or on a serving tray.

When the rice has 20 minutes left, cook the chicken. Preheat the broiler in the oven. Spray a baking sheet or broiler pan with cooking spray. Broil the chicken for 6 minutes, then flip over and broil for 6 minutes on the other side, or until completely cooked through. Serve chicken topped with a spoonful of the avocado salsa, a handful of plantain chips and a side of rice. Serves 4.

Baked Eggplant Parmesan

I LOVE eggplant parmesan, but the traditional method involves browning the eggplant in oil, so it's very fattening and time consuming. In this recipe I created, the eggplant is breaded in whole wheat bread crumbs and baked on a cooling rack to make it extra crunchy. You can use the same recipe for chicken to make chicken parmesan. I've also used it for sliced zucchini. They are like little zucchini chips that you can dip in marinara sauce or ketchup. Even my one-year-old baby, Eli, LOVES these!

3 slices of whole wheat bread (the end pieces work great!)
3 tbsp olive oil, divided
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1 handful of fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 tsp kosher salt, divided
freshly ground pepper
1 large eggplant, peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch slices
1 egg white, beaten with 1/4 cup fat free milk
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
Additional kosher salt and pepper
Shredded mozzarella
Cooked whole wheat spaghetti
1 jar marinara sauce

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the bread into a food processor. Pulse until small crumbs form. Pour crumbs onto a baking sheet. Drizzle one tbsp of olive oil over the bread crumbs. Toss to coat. Spread into an even layer. Bake for about 6-8 minutes, until bread crumbs are nicely toasted. They will smell fragrant. Watch them closely-they burn easily!! Pour toasted crumbs into a bowl. Turn the heat up to 450 degrees. Add the Parmesan, chopped parsley, 1/4 tsp kosher salt and sprinkle with fresh black pepper. Toss together. Combine the flour, 1/4 tsp kosher salt and a sprinkle of freshly ground pepper. Place a cooling rack (used to cool off cookies after they bake) inside a baking sheet. Spray it with cooking spray. Season the eggplant pieces with the additional salt and pepper. Place in the flour, tossing them around to coat. Shake off excess flour. Place in the egg and milk mixture, then directly into the bread crumb mixture. Press the crumbs onto the eggplant pieces, making sure they stick well. Place eggplant on the cooling rack, inside the baking sheet. Bake at 450 degrees for about 10 minutes, until they are nice and crispy and tender when poked with a fork. Sprinkle mozzarella over the cooked eggplant. Return to the oven for 1-2 minutes, until cheese melts and is lightly browned. Serve with whole wheat spaghetti and bottled marinara sauce.

Whole Wheat Penne with Roasted Spring Veggies

I based this dish on a recipe I found online. Mundo loved it! It's a great way to take advantage of the veggies that are available this spring. The pasta is simple, yet it tastes like it took a long time to make. I made it in under 30 minutes from start to finish.

1 large red bell pepper, halved and pressed down with your hand to flatten it
1 zucchini, sliced length wise into 1/4 inch strips
2 portobello mushroom caps
1/2 a bunch of asparagus, ends snapped off
4 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar, divided
3/4 tsp kosher salt, divided
1/2 tsp ground pepper
8 oz whole wheat penne, cooked according to package directions- reserve 1/2 cup of cooking liquid
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
Zest of 1/2 a lemon
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan (pre-shredded is available with the rest of the shredded cheese)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lay prepped veggies on a cooking sheet (bell pepper, zucchini, mushrooms, asparagas). Drizzle with 2 tbsp olive oil, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Toss to coat and then lay them flat on the cookie sheet. Place the mushrooms gill side up and drizzle the inside of each with 1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar. Bake for 8 minutes, then remove the asparagus. Flip over the rest of the veggies and cook about 4 minutes longer, until the zucchini begins to caramelize on the second side. Slice the bell peppers into strips about one inch wide. Cut into squares. Slice the zucchini strips into one inch pieces. Cut the mushrooms into 1/4 inch slices and then cut down the middle, halving the slices. Cut each piece of asparagus into three pieces. Place all of the veggies in a large bowl. Add the freshly cooked pasta with the reserved cooking liquid. Heat the garlic in a small frying pan in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Pour over the pasta. Add the lemon zest, basil, 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper and 1/4 teaspon kosher salt (more if needed) and the parmesan cheese. Toss together and serve. Serves 6.

Lightened Up Butterscotch Praline Bars

I found this recipe in my Cooking Light April issue (2009, pg. 150). I added my own twist by sprinkling unsweetened coconut on top. They are rich and delicious. Your family will love to snack on these! They contain about 5 grams of fat per serving.

1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 1/2 tbsp melted butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups quick-cooking oats
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
cooking spray
1/3 cup fat-free sweetened condensed milk
3/4 cup butterscotch morsels (found in the baking section with the chocolate chips)
dash of salt
1/2 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
unsweetened coconut for sprinkling on top

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine the sugar, butter, vanilla and egg in a large bowl. On top, spoon in the flour, outs, 1/4 tsp salt and baking soda. Combine until a crumbly mixture forms (it helps to use a fork or your hands). Place 1/2 of the mixture in the bottom of a greased 8 x 8 inch square baking pan. Press to form a crust. In another bowl, combine the chips, sweetened condensed milk and dash of salt. Microwave for 1 minute, stirring once, or until chips are melted. Stir in walnuts. Pour mixture over the crust and spread to form an even layer. Sprinkle the remaining crumb mixture on top, gently pressing it into the melted chips. Sprinkle coconut on top. Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Cut into 18 bars. Serves 18.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Salmonwiches with Baked Sweet Potato Fries

I created this recipe in a desperate search for a fresh recipe for fish night. Mundo doesn't usually get very excited about our weekly fish nights, because I'm still a rookie at perfecting dishes made with fish. He really enjoyed this sandwich made with marinated roasted salmon and a lemony dill mayo. The sweet potato fries are so easy to make and can be served with so many different meals- and they're really good for you!

4 center cut salmon filets (or a large enough piece of salmon to generously feed 4 people)
3 cloves of fresh garlic, minced
Juice and zest of 2 lemons
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 tsp dried dill
2 tbsp chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
2 tbsp olive oil
4 ciabatta rolls or sour dough rolls (I bought a sour dough baggette and cut it into segments)
packaged spring mix salad or other lettuce of your choice

1/4 cup real mayo (you can use lowfat)
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp dried dill
freshly ground pepper
1/4 tsp salt

Combine the garlic, zest and juice of 2 lemons, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, 2 tsp dried dill, 2 tbsp flat leaf parsley and 2 tbsp olive oil in a small bowl. Place salmon in a ziploc bag. Pour marinade over salmon. Marinate for about an hour. Meanwhile, combine all of the ingredients for the mayo, adding pepper to taste. Set aside. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Bake the salmon for 10-15 minutes, until it flakes easily with a fork and the color is no longer opaque pink. To serve, toaste each roll. Spread with 1-2 tsp mayo, depending on how much mayo you like. Top with one of the salmon filets and a handful of spring lettuce mix. Serve with sweet potato fries.

Sweet Potato Fries:
4 large sweet potatoes (I make one per person), peeled and cut into spears
olive oil
kosher salt

Place sliced and peeled sweet potatoes on a jelly roll pan (cookie sheet). Drizzle generously with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes, flipping the fries over halfway through baking. They are finished cooking when they are brown on both sides and tender when poked with a fork.

Low Fat Pumpkin Muffins with Cranberries and Walnuts

This original recipe was made with pepitas (pumpkin seeds), but I didn't have any in my pantry. So, I decided to substitute walnuts. I also don't keep buttermilk or pastry flour on hand, so I used regular milk and whole wheat flour. Then, I saw my dried cranberries and thought they would taste awesome in this muffin. I was pleasantly surprised with the result! These are moist and delicious. They are great for snacking (Eli LOVES them too!)

1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup wheat germ
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cloves
1/8 tsp nutmeg
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
3 tbsp molasses
1/4 cup canola oil
2 eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup lowfat milk
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup dried cranberries (tossed in a little flour before adding, so they won't sink to the bottom)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners.

Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl, whisking together (through the nutmeg). Combine the sugar, molasses, canola oil, eggs, pumpkin, vanilla and milk. Whisk together. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, stirring until just combined. Stir in the walnuts and cranberries (don't overmix!). Spoon 2 tbsp of batter into each muffin cup. Bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees. Remove from muffin tin and cool on a wire rack. Makes 12 muffins.

Fish Tacos with Green Rice

I created this recipe one evening, trying to come up with a flavorful version of a fish taco that was easy to make without a grill (since it's the middle of February). These tacos are packed with layers of flavor. They will melt in your mouth! If you have little kiddos, just leave out the jalapeno (although they actually aren't too spicy even with it in the recipe). The green rice is easy to make and tastes great with the tacos. I used flounder because it's really affordable and it's not "fishy" tasting- it's really mild.

Yield: 4 servings (2 tacos each)

1 lb flounder filets or other mild white fish
1/2 jalapeno, seeded and finely minced
3 tbsp canola oil
Juice and zest of 1 lime
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp chipotle chili powder
1 tsp fajita seasoning

2 1/2 cups packaged shredded cabbage for coleslaw
1/2 jalepeno, seeded and finely minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Juice and zest of 1 lime
2 tsp red wine vinegar
1 green onion, chopped
1/4 cup red onion, thinly sliced
1 /2 tsp salt
freshly ground pepper to taste

8 corn tortillas, warmed in the microwave (cover the stack with a wet paper towel and microwave for 25 seconds)
1 avocado sliced, drizzled with lime and seasoned with salt
Cholula Mexican hot sauce or other hot sauce, if desired
sour cream

Combine all of the marinade ingredients for the fish (through fajita seasoning). Marinade for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, combine all of the ingredients for the slaw, through ground pepper. This can be made ahead of time- it actually tastes better if it sits for a while. Preheat broiler in your oven. Line a cookie sheet (jelly roll pan) with foil. Place fish on foil. Broil about 5 minutes, until cooked through and flakes easily with a fork. Flake the fish into large pieces and place in a bowl. To assemble a taco, place a spoonful of fish in a corn tortilla. Top with a spoonful of slaw, a slice of avocado, a drizzle of Cholula and sour cream. Enjoy!

Green Rice:
1 1/2 cups jasmine rice
1 tbsp canola oil
2 1/4 cups water
1 cube caldo de pollo (Mexican chicken bouillon cubes found in the Mexican section of the grocery store)
1/2 cup fresh spinach
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
1 tsp canola oil
1 tbsp water

Heat canola oil in a saucepan. Add the rice and sautee until just beginning to turn chalky white. Pour in the water and add the boullion cube, breaking it apart with your spoon and stirring well to make sure it's dissolved. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the spinach, cilantro, 1 tsp oil and 1 tbsp water in a food processor. Puree until pretty smooth. Stir the puree into the cooked rice. Serve.

Lemony Shrimp and Spinach Linguine

This is SO easy to make. I literally made it from start to finish in 15 minutes. I served it with the
Simple Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette. There is no butter in it, so it's low in saturated fat and the leftovers were awesome! The original recipe was called Linguine with Shrimp and Lemon Oil. I found that it really wasn't necessary to make the lemon oil and I substituted spinach for the arugula, since I always have it on hand. You can also leave the shrimp out and add in roasted red bell peppers for a vegetarian version.

1 box linguini pasta (you can use whole wheat, but I actually prefer white in this recipe)
1/3 cup plus 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
1/2 cup red onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 16 oz bag frozen cleaned and peeled shrimp
1/4 cup lemon juice (2 lemons)
2 lemons, zested
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
3 handfuls of baby spinach
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese (you can buy it in a bag in the shredded cheese section) plus more for topping each individual serving

Heat the 2 tbsp of olive oil in a skillet. Sautee the red onion and garlic until tender and translucent. Add the shrimp, salt and pepper. Cook until the shrimp are thawed and just turning pink. Add the lemon juice, lemon zest, 1/3 cup olive oil, spinach and parsley. Mix well. Toss in the pasta and the 1/2 cup parmesan cheese. Top each indivdual serving with more parmesan and freshly grated pepper, if desired.

Lowfat Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

I'm always looking for ways to make my baked goodies a little leaner, since I tend to eat too many of them and make them too often! I found this recipe in my Nestle Toll House Best Ever Cookies cookbook. They taste great. You really don't miss all of the butter and the applesauce gives them a little taste of something different. I omitted the cinnamon, because I don't care for cinnamon in my chocolate chip cookies and I substituted whole wheat flour for some of the white. I halved the recipe for Mundo and me. They will yield about 4 dozen cookies.

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 c. packed dark brown sugar
1/4 c. granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 egg whites
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups quick or old fashioned oats
2 cups chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg whites, vanilla and applesauce. Beat until smooth. Turn off the mixer. Pour in the flours, salt, baking soda and oats. Mix until just combined. Add the nuts and chocolate chips. Bake 10-12 minutes.
Cool on a wire rack.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

You'll Never Believe It's Lowfat Carrot Cake

Mundo's favorite cake is carrot cake, so I love to make it for him as a treat every once in a while. I found this recipe on Cooking Light and loved it. I can't take any credit for it, but I had to share it. I found the icing recipe online, but can't remember where it was from. You seriously won't know that it's lowfat. It's super moist and fantastic tasting. You have to try it!! When I make it for Mundo and I, I halve the recipe and bake it in an 8 x 8 inch square baking dish.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/3 sugar
1/2 cup coconut
1/3 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
3 tbsp canola oil
2 eggs
2 cups grated carrot
1 1/2 c. crushed pineapple or applesauce
cooking spray

1/2 c fat free cream cheese
4 tbsp butter
2 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp salt
2 3/4 c. powdered sugar

For the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine the oil and eggs. Add the pineapple or applesauce and carrots. Combine the flour, sugar, coconut, pecans, baking soda and cinnamon. Stir into the wet ingredients. Pour into a 13 x 9 inch baking dish. Bake for approximately 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

For icing: Beat together the butter and cream cheese until fluffy. Add the powdered sugar, vanilla and salt. Continue to beat until smooth and creamy. Spread on the cooled cake.

We actually like to eat our pieces warmed in the microwave for about 20 seconds. It tastes SO good!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

My New Favorite Snack- Flatbread Crackers with Dill/Chive Cream Cheese and Cucumbers

I got this idea from a vegetarian cooking show I saw on PBS. Although, she didn't season her cream cheese and she used soy cream cheese (I'm not that daring). So, I decided to make up my own version. There are so many different varieties of flatbread crackers in your cracker section in the grocery store. I've also seen them sold at Cosco and Sams. I bought Chicago Flatbreads everything on it crackers with sesame seeds, salt, caraway seeds and poppy seeds. They are awesome! You could also use Wasa brand whole wheat crisp breads. The show I watched actually suggested eating these for breakfast. It's a good way to get your veggies!

For one serving:
1 oz low fat or fat free cream cheese
1 tsp minced green onions
1/8 tsp dried dill
3 flat bread crackers (or more depending on how thick you spread your cream cheese!)
9 thin slices of cucumber (3/cracker) or thin slices of radishes
salt and pepper

Combine the cream cheese, onions, and dill. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Spread on the crackers. Top with thin slices of cucumber. Sprinkle cucumbers with a touch of salt and pepper.

Another version:
Instead of dill, add 1 tsp minced fresh basil. Spread cream cheese on crackers. Top with sliced of bottled roasted red bell peppers or sundried tomatoes packed in olive oil.

Chicken Rice a Roni

When I was in high school, one of my favorite snacks was a bowl full of store bought Rice a Roni. My sisters and I would make a box and munch on it. This recipe is my version of a made from scratch Rice A Roni that is definitely more nutritious and isn't full of ingredients that you can't pronounce! It also reminds me of a recipe my best friend of 20 years, Dawn Stamp, gave me about 10 years ago for a rice pilaf that her mom often made for dinner. It required toasting pasta and rice in butter and then adding chicken broth. It's so tasty and the butter gives it so much flavor. This is definitely one recipe your family will love!I served it with a salad made with fresh spring mix and strawberries topped with balsalmic vinaigrette and my sauteed Brussels sprouts (recipe below).

4 Boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs
salt, pepper and garlic powder
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small package baby portabella mushrooms or button mushrooms, diced
1 small onion, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 1/2 tbsp butter
1/4 of a package of thin spaghetti broken into little pieces
1 cup white rice
1/4 cup red cooking wine or red wine
3 3/4 cups low sodium chicken broth or stock
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp pepper
Minced fresh flat leaf parsley
Options for adding extra veggies: stir in 1 cup thawed frozen peas before serving, add 1 large broccoli crown cut into small florets (about 2 cups of broccoli) when adding the chicken back to the pot before baking

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Season chicken on both sides with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Heat the olive oil in a large sautee pan or dutch oven (oven proof). Brown chicken on both sides over medium heat. Remove from pan. Add the shrooms. Sautee until they begin to caramelize, about 7 minutes. Add the onions, the 1 tsp salt and pepper. Sautee 3 minutes, until tender. Add the garlic and sautee 1 minute. Remove from the pan. Melt the butter. Add the pasta and turn the heat up to medium-high. Sautee until light brown and toaste, about 2-3 minutes. Add the rice. Sautee for one minute. Stir in the sauteed veggies. Pour in the wine and deglaze the pan, scraping to incorporate all of the browned bits off the bottom. Pour in the chicken broth. Add the chicken breasts back to the pan. Bring to a boil, cover and bake in a 375 degree oven for 30 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley.

Sauteed Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Parmesan

I know, Brussels sprouts are one of those veggies that your parents used to force you to eat. (Mine wouldn't let me leave the table until I finished them. I remember shedding tears over them.) But, they are SO good for us and I think they can be quite tasty when they're cooked the right way. Some veggies are good steamed and plain, but Brussels sprouts need a little help to make them tasty. This recipe is so quick and easy, and really yummy! You might actually realize that you like Brussels sprouts! It was a perfect side dish served along with my Chicken Rice A Roni.

2 cups of Brussels sprouts, trimmed of the little end piece and thinly sliced
1 tsp olive oil
2 sliced of turkey bacon, diced (or more if you're being a little naughty :) )
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 of a small onion or shallot, finely diced
1/8 cup of water
1/4 tsp kosher salt (or more- taste it to check)
Dash of freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan. Add the turkey bacon and cook until crispy. Remove the bacon from the pan, leaving the oil. Drain on a paper towel and set aside. Add the onion to the pan and sautee over medium until tender, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and sautee one minute. Add the sliced, trimmed brussels sprouts. Sautee until they begin to brown and caramelize. Pour in the water and season with salt and pepper. Cover and allow to simmer about 5 minutes, until they are tender and bright green. Stir in the parmesan and the bacon pieces.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Philly Cheese Steak Pizza and Simple Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

I made this meal for dinner tonight and it was so yummy! The cool thing is that the pizza is loaded with veggies and made with a wheat crust, but you really don't even notice! The onions and peppers are nice and sweet and the provolone tastes awesome with the roast beef. I added spinach for extra nutrition. The salad was based on a recipe I saw on the show Everyday Italian. Mundo and I both love this salad and I now make it regularly.

Philly Cheese Steak Pizza
1 tbsp olive oil
2 large onions, sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced
3 cups of spinach, stems removed
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 lb thinly sliced roast beef from the deli
1 package sliced provolone, cut into thin strips
1 cup mozzarella
Parmesan cheese
1 recipe whole wheat pizza dough (or two rolls of store bought raw pizza dough- found near the crescent rolls in the grocery store)

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions. Allow onions to sautee until caramelized, about 30 minutes. Add the bell pepper. Sautee until tender; about 5-10 minutes. Stir in the spinach. Season with salt and pepper. Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Press pizza dough into a jelly roll pan or extra large pizza pan (you could also make 2 medium pizzas), making sure to press dough up the sides of the pan to create a crust. Drizzle with olive oil and spread with your fingers to evenly coat the dough. Spread the cooked veggies over the dough. Sprinkle with 1 cup of mozzarella. Tear the roast beef into 1 inch size pieces. Place evenly over veggies. Top with the sliced provolone and sprinkle lightly with parmesan. Bake at 475 for about 15 minutes- until cheese is light brown on top and crust is light brown.

Simple Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette
4 cups sliced romaine lettuce
1 14 oz can white cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 small can whole, pitted black olives
1/4 cup very thinly sliced red onion
1/4 cup shredded parmesan
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
1/4 cup olive oil
dash of fresh pepper
1/2 tsp kosher salt

Combine lettuce, beans, olives, red onion and parmesan. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, mustard, oil, pepper and salt. Taste and adjust seasonings accordingly. Pour over salad and toss to coat.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

My Favorite Baby Food Recipes

I get so many great questions about my homemade baby food. I decided it was time to go ahead and share them on my website, so they could be easily accessed when people ask me what I make for Eli. He is a great eater and I've found that he will really eat any fruit or veggie I give him, if it's prepared with great flavor. I taste all of the food I make for him and I've often found myself saying, "Man, I would eat this!" I think that's how it should be. His food should taste just as great as the food that Mundo and I eat. My favorite baby food book is called Top 100 Baby Purees by Annabel Karmel. It is fantastic for getting your creative juices flowing! She breaks the purees into age groups, so you know what to feed your baby at each stage (6-7 months, 7-9 months and 9-12). As with anything, you experiment as you go. Eli has only had one reaction and that was to a puree I made with butter that I gave him at 7 months (she recommended it for that age). So, I waited 3-4 weeks and tried again and he did great. The trick is to make sure you've already introduced the veggies (as stage one purees with just water and pureed in the blender) one at a time before combining them to make the more involved purees. To be honest, I haven't always waited 3 days between trying new foods, because when he did have the reaction it was within 24 hours of eating that food.

How do I save my purees? I freeze them in ice cube trays. Then, I empty the cubes into ziploc bags and label them so I remember what they were. When it's meal time, I thaw them out in a pot on the stove or in the microwave.

6-7 Months:
When Eli was just beginning to eat solid food, I bought a bag of organic frozen veggies and fruits(we started with peas, then green beans and peaches and blueberries) and I poured the whole bag into a pot on the stove. I added about 1 cup of water and then put the lid on and let them steam until just thawed (if you over cook the peas and green beans they turn greenish gray and taste yucky!). Then, I poured the whole batch into the blender and pureed until smooth, adding more water as needed to make a smooth, somewhat liquified consistency. Then, I poured the mixture through a sieve and then into the ice cube trays. I also put whole sweet potatoes in the oven (washed and poked all over with a fork so they don't explode) and baked them until tender and juices visibly were running out of them. I did the same thing with butternut squash. When they were completely cooked, I scooped out the flesh and pureed it in the blender with a little water until it was the right consistency (no need to sieve because it will be smooth enough). For applesauce and pears, I peeled the fruit (make sure your pears are ripe and your apples are sweet) and cut it into chunks. Then, I put them in a saucepan with a little water and covered it. I allowed them to cook until really tender. I often seasoned them with cinnamon. Then, puree in the blender, adding water as necessary. You don't need to sieve it because it makes a very smooth puree.

7-9 months:
I began to add flavor to his food. Here was the first recipe I made with onions and butter from the baby puree book(the one he had a reaction to at 7 months, but did great and loved it at 8 months- you never know until you try!):

Carrot and Onion Puree
1 small onion, diced
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 pound organic carrots (very important in this case because carrots tend to really soak up chemicals in the soil and these can cause anemia in infants)
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock* recipe to follow
1/4 c. orange juice
Saute the onion in the butter until nice and tender. Add the carrots and saute 3-4 minutes. Pour in the stock, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes until the carrots are tender. Add the juice and puree in a blender.

Vegetable Broth - to use to flavor purees (pg. 124 of Top 100 Baby Purees)
1 onion
1 clove garlic
2 large carrots, peeled
1 large leek, washed
1 stalk celery, trimmed
1 tbsp olive oil
3 1/2 cups cold water
1 tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf
4 black peppercorns

Heat oil over medium-high heat. Chop veggies. Sautee the onion and garlic until tender, then add the rest of the veggies and cook over low heat for 5 minutes to soften. Pour in the water and add teh rest of the ingredients. Simmer for 1 hour. Allow to cool (2 hours would be great to really bring out the flavor, but you don't have to wait this long). Strain the liquid and then mash the veggies over the broth to get out any remaining flavor (I pull out the carrots before this step and save them to mash and feed to Eli). This can also be frozen in ice cube trays for easy measuring.

Eli's First Chicken Puree
2 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts
Olive oil
Garlic powder and pepper
1/2 cup sliced and washed white part of a leek
1 tbsp unsalted butter
5 organic baby carrots, chopped
1 large sweet potato peeled and chopped
1 1/4 cups veggie broth

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Pour a small amount of oil over each chicken breast. Season the chicken breasts with garlic powder and pepper. Roast, uncovered, in the oven for about 30-45 minutes, until the juices run clear.

In a saucepan, melt the butter. Saute the leeks in the butter until tender. Add the carrots and sweet potatoes and broth. Simmer until the beggies are tender, about 20-30 minutes. Pull the chicken off the bones and dice. Add to the veggies. Puree in a food processor. *At 10 months, I added about 1/2 cup of chopped broccoli florets to the vegges toward the end of the cooking time.

Garlicky Puree of Peas and Spinach
1/3 cup diced onion
1/2 clove garlic, chopped
1 tbsp unsalted butter
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup frozen organic peas
1/2 cup fresh organic spinach, washed and stems removed

Saute the onion and garlic in butter until very tender. Add the potatoes and stock. Bring to a boil and cook potatoes until tender, about 10 minutes. Add the peas and spinach and cook until the peas are thawed and the spinach is wilted. Puree in a food processor.

Baby's First Ministrone (pg. 69 of Top 100 Baby Purees)
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup diced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 c. diced organic carrot
1/4 c. diced celery
1/4 c. frozen organic green beans (or broccoli or both!)
1/2 c. diced potato
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 c. vegetable stock
1 cup cooked whole wheat rotini, chopped if not pureeing
1/4 c. frozen peas
1 tbsp grated parmesan cheese

Saute the onion and garlic in the oil for one minute. Add the carrot and celery and cook for 5 minutes. Add the beans, potato, and tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes. Pour in the stock, bring to a boil, and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the peas and pasta and cook until the peas are thawed. If not pureeing and simply mashing, chop the pasta into small pieces (or try to find whole wheat pasta starts- I couldn't find them anywhere!) Stir in the cheese. Puree in a food processor for smaller babies or leave chunky for older babies.

Cheese Sauce for Adding to Any Pureed Veggie (especially broccoli, spinach, cauliflower and peas) (pg. 126 of Top 100 Baby Purees):
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp flour
2 cups milk
2/3 cup grated Cheddar cheese

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the flour and make a smooth paste. Cook for 1 minute. Gradually stir in the milk, bring to a boil, and cook over low heat until thickened and smooth. Stir in the cheese until melted.

9-12 Months:
All of the above veggie and fruit purees are still a hit, so he eats them regularly. I've also been feeding him finger foods such as pieces of whole wheat bread, cheddar cheese, cheerios, thawed mixed veggies (peas, corn, and carrots), diced pieces of ripe pears or bananas and his new favorite teething biscuits.

Spiced Teething Biscuits (adapted from a recipe I found online):
*Please watch your baby as he or she eats these. They will love these "cookies", but there is always a chance that a piece will break off and pose a choking hazard. These are very hard biscuits, so the chance is slim that this will happen. But, it's always best to watch them as they eat!
2/3 c. milk
4 tbsp butter
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 cup wheat germ
1 cup, approximately, whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp ginger

Combine the milk and butter and microwave until the butter milks. Cool until lukewarm. Beat together the milk, butter and sugar. Stir in the wheat germ and enough flour to make a dough. It will be the consistency of playdough. Kneed until smooth and satiny, about 8-10 minutes (I made it with my mixer and used the dough hook for about 2 minutes). Roll out dough until about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Use a rectangular shaped cookie cutter to cut out the biscuits. Bake on a greased cookie sheet at 350 degrees for about 30 to 40 minutes, until browned and hard. I cut out all of the biscuits and only baked half (it made about 30 with my cookie cutter). I froze the raw biscuts on a cookie sheet and put them in a ziploc bag to bake when I run out.

Baked Apples

I developed this recipe the other night (following our veggie quesidilla dinner :) ) and thought I would share it. It's rather light for a dessert, and so tasty! We were watching The Biggest Loser as we ate our apples, and feeling pretty good about our dessert!

2 large apples, cut in half and cored
4 heaping tablespoons of brown sugar
2 tbsp butter
4 tbsp raisins
1 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup water
lowfat or fat free vanilla ice cream

Place apples in a square baking dish. Pour water in the dish. Stuff the center of each apple half with brown sugar, sprinkling some over the entire half of the apple and into the baking dish. Top with raisins, then with half of a tablespoon of butter. Sprinkle each apple generously with cinnamon. Cover the dish tightly with foil. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Uncover. Baste each apple with the juices from the dish. Continue to bake for 10 minutes, basting one more time after 5 minutes. Remove from oven. If the juices are still pretty thin, remove the apples from the dish and place the dish back into the oven until the juices thicken into a light syrup. To serve, place apples in a bowl and spoon some of the syrup from the baking dish over the apple. Top with one scoop of lowfat or fat free vanilla ice cream. Sprinkle with granola.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Weeknight Fajita Veggie Quesadillas

I make these often, since they are so easy and quick to make. They are also really good for you! I serve them with a fresh salad.

2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 can of black beans, rinsed and drained
1 tsp fajita seasoning
1/4 tsp salt
Whole Wheat tortillas (or regular if you're not up to the wheat :) )
1 package lowfat shredded cheddar cheese
Cooking spray
Avocado, sliced and drizzled with lime juice and salt
lowfat sour cream
bottled salsa

Sautee the onions and peppers in olive oil over medium-high heat until tender and caramelized. Stir in the black beans. Season with the fajita seasoning, salt, and freshly ground pepper. Set aside. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Spray with cooking spray. Sprinkle half of a tortilla with a small amount of cheese. Spread with a spoonful of filling (don't overfill or it will all fall out!). Sprinkle another small handful of cheese over the filling. Fold over the other half of the tortilla. Place in pan and cook until light brown on both sides and cheese melts. Serve with avocado, sour cream and salsa.

Monday, January 5, 2009

My Favorite Blueberry Muffins

I love to make these muffins whenever I'm craving a sweet snack. You can use fresh or frozen blueberries. To lighten up the recipe, use lowfat butter. If you like cornbread, you'll really love these muffins! I saw this recipe on Martha Stewart's Everyday Baking show. It can be found on her website.

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
2 large eggs
2 cups fresh blueberries (two 1/2-pint containers), rinsed and dried or 2 cups frozen
1 lemon zest, finely grated (about 1 tablespoon)
1 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well. Add the milk and the lemon zest. Combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. Add to the batter. Stir in the dry ingredients. Spoon into 12 muffin tins (or possibly more, depending on the size of your berries). Bake for 25 minutes, or until the tops are firm to the touch.