Monday, March 23, 2015

Smoothie Cubes

So I have a child who doesn't like milk. It's always been this way...when she was a year old and stopped nursing, I would literally follow her around with a four ounce bottle of whole milk, trying to get her to drink it. Other children would suck down 24 ounces of the stuff a day; on a good day she'd drink six.

At age 11, she still needs a lot of calcium, so we've found some workarounds. Every morning I save a splash of coffee to add to her morning beverage and she finds that flavor much more appealing. She adores cheese, so that helps, but hates yogurt. Luckily, we finally found a lasting solution that makes everyone happy: Smoothie Cubes!

About every two weeks, my daughter and I gather 'round the blender and toss in whatever floats her boat. We always include some yogurt, a frozen banana, and milk, and beyond that it varies. (Ironically she hates bananas too, but doesn't mind them in a smoothie, and they add the best texture.)

So far we've tried:

  • peanut butter & banana
  • strawberry, banana and honey
  • pumpkin pie (we use this recipe as inspiration but do not follow exactly)
  • mango, banana and raspberry
  • and today's flavor, blueberry, pear and banana

After blending we pour the mixture into ice cube trays, cover with wax paper and freeze. The next day I pop the cubes into a ziploc. This process is much like the one I did when making baby food a million years ago and it still works.

In the morning, I put three or four cubes into a small drink container and add a couple ounces of milk. By the time lunchtime rolls around, the cubes have melted enough that when shaken, she has a smoothie ready to enjoy.

Milk, yogurt, lots of fruit and no fighting? I'll take it!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Post-vacation coffee cake

We just returned from five days’ vacation, where a pickle was the closest approximation to produce on my kids’ plates. While I can make myself choose salad over a burrito to detox, my kids are a harder sell. 
When I got home from work yesterday I had the urge to whip up something they could grab before the bus while saving myself a battle to get nutrients into their growing bodies. A transition was needed - a bowl of cereal with fresh fruit is something of a let-down after freshly made donuts or french toast casserole for breakfast. 
I paged through my recipe binder while doing a mental inventory of my freezer and settled on this wonderful coffee cake, which is my son’s favorite. I love it because in addition to being delicious, it is relatively low in fat as well as sugar, and it includes fruit. This time around, though, sneaky mom made some modifications. (Insert evil laugh here.)
Was the difference noticeable? A bit. Was it still special and yummy? Absolutely. And it took all of ten minutes to assemble.
Very Berry Coffee Cake, from The Lodge in Vail, CO
Original recipe found here
    • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar – I used 1/4 cup
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
    • 1 egg, beaten
    • 1/2 cup milk
    • 1/2 cup plain yogurt – had strawberry in the house, so used that and cut back on sugar
    • 1/4 cup vegetable oil – I used applesauce
    • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 2 cups all-purpose flour – I used 1 cup whole wheat flour, 1 cup all-purpose, and added 3 t flaxmeal
    • 1/2 cup sugar – I used 1/4 cup
    • 2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 1 1/2 cups mixed berries – you can use anything you have on hand. I had frozen blackberries and raspberries and they were great.
  1. In a small bowl, add the first 3 ingredients; stir to combine and set aside.
  2. In a mixing bowl, add the egg, milk, yogurt, oil, and vanilla; stir until blended.
  3. In another bowl, add in the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt; stir to mix.
  4. Pour the egg mixture over the flour mixture and stir just until dry ingredients are moistened.
  5. Fold in berries and pour into a greased 8x8 inch baking pan.
  6. Sprinkle with reserved brown sugar-pecan topping and lightly press into the batter.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until a pick comes out clean.
  8. Let cool for 5 minutes, cut into squares and serve.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

365 reasons to eat something yummy

For Hanukkah, I ordered my daughter a subscription to Girls' World magazine. This gift was a huge hit! She stops everything when it arrives and reads it cover to cover. I am very happy she is enjoying this gift so much...for one, because although it's no War and Peace, it is in fact reading, and for two, I think the articles are valuable. They focus on things like body image, friendships, bullying, and other important tween issues, but since they are voiced by Disney tween TV stars (and not ME), she actually pays attention.

The other perk of the magazine is that in every issue they include a calendar of lesser-known holidays, such as National Send A Letter to a Friend Day. I've never been one to get on board with all of that, but in the middle of winter some of these are a nice little pick-me-up.

A couple of weeks ago it was National Chocolate Cake Day. Now, how could I let that pass me by? I am an avowed chocoholic, and luckily I have a GREAT recipe that I can make with little notice.

This cake recipe is a real keeper for several reasons: one, it's low in fat. I also love baking with oil instead of butter because it blends up so easily.

Two, it calls for buttermilk, which I use all the time in baking. I don't keep actual buttermilk on hand, but pour a scant cup of my regular 1% into a cup, add a tablespoon of lemon juice and let stand 5-10 minutes. So we are all getting a bit of calcium as well.

And third, it uses cocoa powder for its chocolate flavor, which I always have and which lasts a while, unlike those baking chocolate squares which I never seem to have.

You can bake this in rounds or cupcakes, and frost if you like, or serve with a scoop of ice cream.

One Bowl Chocolate Cake from Martha Stewart

  • Unsalted butter, softened, for pans (I used cooking spray)
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch cocoa powder, plus more for pans
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 3 tablespoons safflower oil
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 8-inch round cake pans (2 inches deep); dust with cocoa. Sift cocoa, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of a mixer. Beat on low speed until just combined. Raise speed to medium, and add eggs, buttermilk, water, oil, and vanilla. Beat until smooth, about 3 minutes.
  2. Divide batter between pans. Bake until set and a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes. Turn out from pans. Transfer, faceup, to wire racks. Let cool completely.
  3. Spread 2 cups chocolate frosting onto top of 1 cooled layer. Top with remaining layer; frost top and sides with remaining 2 cups frosting.
Sadly we missed National Carrot Cake Day last week, but once I got the idea in my head it just wouldn't budge. So yesterday I used my well-loved copy of Martha's Good Food Fast (all the other recipes I find online) and whipped up these heavenly babies.

  • Carrot Cake Cupcakes
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded carrots
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut, plus more for garnish
  • 8 ounces bar cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil a standard 12-cup muffin tin or line with paper liners. In a bowl, combine sugar, vegetable oil, orange juice, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, and eggs.
  2. Stir in baking powder, baking soda, allspice, and salt. Add flour; mix. Stir in carrots, walnuts, and coconut.
  3. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. Bake until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean, 25 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting.
  4. Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, confectioners' sugar, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. Whisk until smooth.
  5. Frost cupcakes, and garnish with shredded coconut.
I will definitely make these again, but next time I around I will make my usual tweaks and see if anyone notices a difference: I will use half whole wheat flour in lieu of all-purpose, and applesauce in place of oil. I may cut back on the granulated sugar as well. You can't do this with cookies or bars, but muffin-like cakes adapt really well, so it's worth a shot.

Not all of the holidays are dessert-related. Friday is National Tortellini Day, which is one of my daughter's favorite foods. It is officially on the menu for Friday night dinner.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Wednesday night = slow cooker night

Wednesdays we are out through early evening, so by the time we get home everyone is starving. I have a short window of time around 2:30 or 3pm, so that's when I get dinner into my slow cooker. Most of the recipes in my repertoire seem to only need three to four hours, so this works out well.

Tonight I wanted to make a healthy and yummy soup that is usually made stovetop, but I realized how ridiculous it would be to rush to make it, let it cool, put in the fridge, and then reheat a few hours later. So I decided to see if it would adapt to the slow cooker. And good news, it did!

Here is my modified version of
Garlic-Infused Broccoli Soup with Ditalini, from the Washington Post

one small onion
one medium carrot, or a handful of baby carrots
two large broccoli crowns
a few cloves of garlic (I use a jar and just scoop some out)

Throw all of this into your slow cooker, and stir in 6 c of chicken or veggie stock.

Set to cook on high for three hours.

In the meantime, cook up 6 oz of ditalini. Put this in the fridge.

When you get home, use an immersion blender to puree the soup about halfway so it is still chunky. Stir in the pasta; add salt and pepper and enjoy!

This soup is delicious with grated Parmesan on top. This evening, we skipped that because I set out some sliced pumpernickel and a cheese plate, along with some melon.

Monday, January 26, 2015

I haven't posted in a while because honestly, I have grown weary of scrubbing my muffin tins. Especially when I've made anything savory involving eggs or cheese...I confess I am tempted to throw the pan away rather than spend twenty minutes sweating over the sink.

But that doesn't mean I haven't been baking or cooking. Au contraire, food seems to be my sole creative outlet these days, so I do pour myself into making (and eating!) it. So while I do not expect anyone to follow this blog, I will start using it as a food journal for my own purposes, a way to document projects that are successful enough to make again.

Here is what I am cooking this week.

Many moons ago, my mom clipped and sent me a recipe from Cooking Light. This was so long ago that I cannot even dredge up the recipe from their online database, but I am fortunate enough to have it in my beloved recipe binder.

The recipe sat untested for years, until a few months ago, when looking for different ways to use the CSA veggies I picked up each week, I gave it a try.

Why did I wait so long?? This casserole is just delicious. It's not the quickest fix, but it will last you a few days and reheats well. I made it again yesterday to bring to dinner at a friend's home. Even my daughter's best friend pronounced it "actually pretty good!" - high praise coming from a ten year old.

Yellow Squash Gratin, from Cooking Light
makes 8 servings

cooking spray
2 c chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
12 c yellow squash, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4" slices (about 3 lbs)  - I didn't use this much; recipe is very forgiving.
1/2 c chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 1/2 t salt
1/2 t thyme
1/2 t black pepper
3 c cooked long-grain rice
3/4 c grated Gruyere or Swiss cheese
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 slice white bread
1/4 c grated Parmesan cheese
1 T butter, melted

Heat a dutch oven coated with cooking spray or a bit of oil over med hi heat. Sauté onion for five minutes or till tender. Add garlic, sauté 30 seconds. Add squash, sauté 7 minutes or just till tender.

Remove from heat; stir in parsley, salt, thyme and pepper. Add rice, Gruyere, and eggs, stirring until combined.

Spoon mixture into 13x9" baking dish coated with cooking spray.

Place bread in food processor and pulse till you have fine crumbs. Combine with Parmesan and melted butter. Sprinkle over casserole.

Bake at 375 for 30 minutes or till lightly browned. Let stand five minutes before serving.

Super Easy French Onion Soup

I don't eat red meat, but as my family loves it I try to accommodate their cravings without ruining the meal with my lack of expertise. Over the weekend, I sliced up a bagful of onions, tossed them in the slow cooker with a drizzle of olive oil, some salt and a splash of balsamic vinegar, and let the whole thing sit on low overnight. We woke to the delicious smell of caramelized onions with very little effort. Over the course of the weekend, my husband and daughter enjoyed bowl after bowl of French Onion Soup.

Scoop some of the slow-cooked onions into a broiler-safe bowl. Pour beef broth over. At this point I heated the soup in the microwave for about 30 seconds, just to ensure that it would be heated all the way through.

Tear up a slice of bakery bread, add to the bowl, and top with a generous sprinkle of shredded Swiss and/or Gruyere cheeses. Place under the broiler for five minutes and enjoy!

Side note: I did squirrel away a portion of onions for this evening's steak sandwich dinner. Hopefully I won't overcook the meat for those, and my carnivores will enjoy the onions again, along with marinara and provolone on subs rolls. (I will have an eggplant sub!)