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.