Prune and Pumpkin Puree’ (for the little ones)

Prune and Pumpkin Puree'

This recipe was sort of a spur of the moment, last ditch effort to get my twinkies to eat prunes. The smallest has been holding it all in with a stubbornness to match my own and is now in serious pain, poor thing. I just want to get her to eat something (happily) that will encourage things along… perhaps even compel her body past a force of will that is Gibraltar-like.

I thought initially to stew the prunes and puree’ them. Then my husband noticed the leftover canned pumpkin from my Chocolate Surprise Cake, and inspiration hit. I was transported back to baby food land where my desire to make simple, tasty and healthy food began.

Now that I have been reminded, I will attempt to share more homemade baby food gems on occasion. It is so easy to make food for infants at home that will awaken their pallets and prime them for a life of healthy food enjoyment, and so very worth it – monetarily and emotionally.

The NUTS and BOLTS

  • 16 Prunes
  • 1/2 cup Water
  • 3/4 cup Canned Pumpkin

WHAT TO DO WITH IT ALL

Easy is the word for this puree’. Simply place the prunes and water in a microwave safe bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Microwave on high for 3 to 4 minutes.

Pour the hot prunes and liquid into a food processor or blender and blend until nearly smooth. Add the canned pumpkin and puree’ again until smooth.

Depending on the age of your baby, you may need to add water to thin the mixture. For under 1 year, this will make probably 6-8 servings. When really trying to get results, more can be used. I got 4 servings out of this for my stopped up 2 year olds.

MONKEY METER

The twinkies love this! Begged for more “treats”. 5 of 5

The eldest even begged to try it, liked it, and whined at me when I wouldn’t let her have it. 5 of 5

The adults thought it was tasty too. My husband though maybe freezer pops?

Posted in 10 Ingredients or Less, Baby Food, Simple, Sneaky, Vegetarian | Leave a comment

Chocolate Surprise Cake

The grown up plating of Chocolate Cake Surprise, with Whipped Cream and Berries

Dessert is a true weakness of mine. I could eat it after every meal, every day. I am always trying to find ways to make desserts that are wicked in flavor and high in satisfaction but low in fat and calories. Fruit can be tasty, but it doesn’t feel sinful, you know?

I am so excited about this chocolate cake!!! I confess, when I first concocted this recipe, it was supposed to be brownies. That didn’t happen. Maybe it was all the baking powder, but it rose and became cake-like instead of fudgy.

Luckily, there was no loss! This cake is sinful! Moist, decadent and extremely chocolaty. I think the combination of dark chocolate cocoa powder and milk chocolate chunks is perfect. Let us all have a moment of silence for the 5 oz solid milk chocolate easter bunny that gave its life for my dream of a healthy but tasty cake.

…..

Chocolate Bunny that bravely gave her life!

…..

Thank you Bunny!

“Chocolate Cake Surprise” is a two-fold name. “Surprise” it has black beans, pumpkin and zucchini masked inside, and “Surprise”, yes, kids, you can have another piece! No one will expect either one, once they taste it. A second bonus is that all of that fiber really satisfies. Meaning, you will have your dessert, eat it too, and not be left craving more of that empty sugar fix. A cake that can sit out on the counter and tempt you and the kids because you can have a slice whenever you want!

I served it this time with a choice of whipped cream or frozen yogurt and fresh berries. It was a huge hit. Everyone who tried it thought it was delicious. I hope you do too.

The NUTS and BOLTS

Dry

  • 1 cup All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 cup Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1 tsp  Baking Powder
  • 1 tsp  Baking Soda

Wet

  • (1) 15 oz Can Black Beans, Drained and Rinsed
  • 1 cup Organic Cane Sugar
  • 1 cup Canned Pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup (Special Dark) Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • 2 large Eggs
  • 2 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1/4 cup Skim Milk

Mix-ins

  • 1 Small (6″) Zucchini
  • 5 oz Milk Chocolate, Chopped
  • Nuts (optional)

Topping

  • 1 tsp Coarse Sea Salt

WHAT TO DO WITH IT ALL

Add all of your dry ingredients to a large mixing bowl. Take a whisk and stir thoroughly  until fluffed and well combined or sift all together. Set your bowl aside.

Drain and rinse well one can of black beans and dump into the work bowl of your food processor with 1/8 cup of water. Blend beans, adding one tablespoon of water at a time, until smooth. Add your cup of cane sugar and process again for 30 – 60 seconds. Finally, add the canned pumpkin and process until totally smooth.

Remove this puree from your food processor and pour into your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Crack two eggs right into the bowl and also add your milk and vanilla. Mix on medium until well blended. Now you can add your cocoa powder. Turn the mixer back on medium and as soon as the cocoa is well incorporated, begin adding the dry ingredients a bit at a time. Turn off your mixer once everything is well mixed.

Stir the grated zucchini and milk chocolate chunks into the batter. Pour your batter into an 11″ x 9″ baking dish coated with cooking spray and spread it out with a spatula (it will be fairly thick). Sprinkle up to a teaspoon of coarse sea salt over the top before baking.

Bake in an oven pre-heated to 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes, until an inserted toothpick comes out mostly clean. Let cool. Cut and serve.

Chocolate Surprise Cake, Just Out of the Oven

Here is the Chocolate Surprise Cake just out of the oven (minus a few slivers - we couldn't wait). You can see the crystals of the sea salt on top.

I have not yet tried to bake a round cake and turn it out of the pan, but if you do, let me know how it turns out. I am going to experiment with a frosting made from silken tofu and raspberry. I think it will pair wonderfully with this cake… When I have it perfected, I will be sure to share it!

MONKEY METER

The eldest knew the vegetables were in the cake and was a touch suspicious. Once she tried it, she was SOLD. 5 of 5

My eldest's plating of Chocolate Surprise Cake, with Frozen Yogurt and Berries

My eldest's plating of Chocolate Surprise Cake, with Frozen Yogurt and Berries

The Twinkies ate every bit I would let them have. They kept saying it was “‘liscious!”. 5 of 5

All the grown-ups loved it, even knowing about the veggies.  5 of 5

Posted in 15 Ingredients or Less, Dessert, Low Fat, Simple, Sneaky, Vegetarian | 5 Comments

Broccoli Bacon Stirfry with Maple and Tamari

Broccoli Bacon Stirfry with Maple and Tamari

In my endless search for ways to get my daughter to eat broccoli, I turned to a universal favorite. BACON. Also, CANDY. Kids eat all kinds of sweet items, why not candied broccoli or cauliflower?

This recipe is adapted from Broccoli Fried Rice with Candied Bacon on hopeinthekitchen’s blog. It sounded great, so I changed it up a bit and present you with my edited version below. The key here was to chop the broccoli and cauliflower so tiny as to be nearly unrecognizable. In all fairness, I did tell my eldest ahead of time that I was making broccoli she would like and she agreed to try it. She obviously did not believe me and was rather grumpy. She was very excited about the bacon, though. Whatever gets ’em there, I say!

There is a fair amount of sugar in this dish, but also a pound and a half of broccoli and cauliflower – in my mind, the nutrition balances out unless you or your children are highly sensitive to glucose. I myself am hypoglycemic and it didn’t cause an issue for me.  Good luck, and I hope you love it as much as we did!

The NUTS and BOLTS

  • 1 tsp Veggie Oil
  • 6 oz Bacon, Cut Into 1/4-inch Pieces
  • 1 3/4 tsp Cane Sugar
  • 1 1/4 tsp Tamari **
  • 3 Cloves Garlic, Thinly Sliced Or 1 Tbsp Minced From Jar
  • 12 oz Broccoli, Florets And Stalks Cut Into 1/4-inch Pieces
  • 12 oz Cauliflower Florets And Stalks Cut Into 1/4-inch Pieces
  • 2 Tbsp Pure Maple Syrup

**What is Tamari??

Tamari is made with more soybeans than ordinary soy sauce, resulting in a smoother, more balanced, and complex flavor. You can substitute Soy sauce, but you will be missing out on a bit of nuance. Who am I to ask you to run to the store, tho? Use whichever you have on hand but let me tell you, it is worth the trip. You’ll thank me!

WHAT TO DO WITH IT ALL

First, place a wok or large skillet over medium high heat. Add the vegetable oil and sliced bacon to the pan and stir-fry until golden and crisp, about 2 minutes. This will be a bit messy, you might want to use a splatter guard.

Sprinkle the sugar over the bacon and toss. Immediately and carefully add 1/4 teaspoon tamari (watch out-the oil will bubble up) and continue to stir-fry until the bacon is glazed, about 30 seconds. Transfer the bacon to a bowl with a slotted spoon. Something that happened to me was that the bacon stuck together with the candying, so try to break it back up before you need to add it back into the pan. I waited, and it was difficult to do in the skillet with all the other ingredients.

Add the garlic and a pinch of salt to the drippings in the pan and stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Then, add the cauliflower and broccoli pieces and cook until tender and crisp on the edges, perhaps 2 to 3 minutes.

Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of sugar over the vegetables and toss to coat. Add 1 more tablespoon tamari and the candied bacon to the pot and stir thoroughly.

When the pan starts to look dry, reduce the heat to a simmer and finish off by stirring in the 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup. Cook for approximately 1 minute and serve the masses.

For the grown-ups we added crushed red pepper flake and it was just the touch this recipe needed.

I think this would make an excellent stuffing for lettuce wraps, egg rolls, wanton wrappers… be creative. Let me know how you used it and what your family thought!

MONKEY METER

The eldest complained about having to try it, but once we convinced (ok, bribed) her to put it in her mouth, she ate 2 servings! Maybe I shouldn’t have told her about the vegetables? 4 of 5

The Twinkies ate a couple bites, said it was yummy, but ditched it as soon as they saw the tilapia. Maybe the texture was weird with the bacon? 3.5 of 5

All the grown-ups loved it, even cold. Perhaps it was a touch greasy – next time we’ll add brown rice or drain off half of the bacon fat.  4.5 of 5

Posted in 10 Ingredients or Less, Lunch, Pork, Side Dish, Simple, Sneaky | Leave a comment

Whole Grain Cinnamon Pancakes

Whole Grain Cinnamon Pancakes

Who loves pancakes? I don’t – not usually, anyway. If I am going to eat a pancake, it would have to be interesting. If I am going to make pancakes, they would have to be worth it.

They would have to freeze well and reheat well because I don’t have the energy (or time) to make from-scratch breakfast every morning. Don’t get me wrong, I love a sunrise, but most of the ones I have truly enjoyed happened before I went to bed (I am a night owl and insomniac).

I think with this recipe I have done it! I love these pancakes and my girls did too. Packed with Omega-3’s and fiber from the flax seeds and wheat germ and whole grain flour, I can feel good about the 4 (!) stack my 7 year old ate and the twins gobbling them up. I used to buy commercial freezer pancakes, but they were full of refined sugar and nothing of nutritive value and gave me mommy-guilt bad. I couldn’t wait to share this recipe. Now you can deliver a quick toaster-oven treat to your own monkeys in the morning that puts a smile on all of your faces! Just make a double batch, cool and freeze in zip top bags and you’ll have a pancake a day for the next 4 weeks.

The NUTS and BOLTS

Dry

  • 1 c Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1 c Unbleached All Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 c Flax Seeds
  • 1/2 Wheat Germ
  • 2tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1/3 c Sugar in the Raw (or other raw cane sugar)
  • 1/2 tsp Granulated Sea Salt
  • 1/2 – 3/4 Tbsp Good Cinnamon

Wet

  • 2.5 c Low Fat Buttermilk (or soured milk – recipe follows)
  • 2 Large Eggs, Lightly Beaten
  • 2 Tbs Melted Butter

WHAT TO DO WITH IT ALL

Add all of your dry ingredients to a large mixing bowl.Take a whisk and stir thoroughly  until fluffed and well combined. Set your bowl aside and get a second small bowl in which to melt your butter. Microwave your butter for 10 – 15 seconds until just melted. Go ahead and pour it into the dry mix and crack 2 eggs into the empty butter bowl. Beat your eggs lightly to combine the yolks and whites and add to your batter. Follow with the buttermilk. Stir well to just combine – there may be lumps and the batter will appear loose. Let stand on the counter for at least 5 minutes and it will bubble and thicken slightly.

Heat a griddle sprayed with non-stick spray or butter to medium low. Use a 1/3 cup measure to dose out the batter onto the hot griddle. If you have made homemade pancakes before, you will know what to do. Look for the bubbles to rise and mostly pop before attempting to flip. These did take a little while longer to cook than I expected, but so worth the wait. A bonus: they held their heat very well.

We tried them with maple syrup – delicious. Blueberries and powdered sugar – also delicious. Two toppings I plan to make recipes for soon are coffee syrup and roasted apples. I’m salivating just thinking about it!

DONT HAVE BUTTERMILK?

How To Substitute: Per 1 cup buttermilk, use 1 Tbsp lemon juice or white vinegar and enough milk to equal a cup. Let stand 5 minutes. Use in place of buttermilk.

MONKEY METER

The eldest ate 4 (!) of them. Then she said that the flax seeds were a touch chewy. Next time I may grind them up before mixing in. 4 of 5

The Twinkies ate a whole pancake each plus a ton of blueberries, then asked for more pancakes. They asked for pancakes for dinner too. I think they were a hit. 5 of 5

All the grown-ups loved them, even trying them cold. Again, some people wont like the seeds whole. If your family is that way, grind the flax in a food processor till smooth before adding to the batter.  4.5 of 5

Posted in 15 Ingredients or Less, Breakfast, Main Dishes, Simple, Sneaky, Vegetarian | Leave a comment

Caramelized Onion, Mushroom and Goat Cheese Pizza

This recipe was initially developed last year as we tried to come up with pizza ideas that did not require huge amounts of cheese and utilized some of the beautiful vegetables from our farm share. The heavy black pepper makes for a pleasant spiciness but restricts it’s usage a bit more – I would designate this pizza for the older child or adult pallet. While not difficult, people are always impressed with this dish and it makes a great impression at a party. No one needs to know it is so healthy!

The NUTS and BOLTS

  • Pre-made super thin wheat pizza crust
  • 1 Med. Yellow or Red Onion
  • 5 Lg. White Button Mushrooms
  • 10-20 Grape Tomatoes, squished
  • 2 oz Goat Cheese
  • Dried Rosemary
  • Dried Oregano
  • Granulated Garlic
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • Fresh Basil Chiffonade or Pistou Basil
  • Sweet White Wine
  • Balsamic Vinegar (preferably well aged)
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 tsp Butter or Margarine

WHAT TO DO WITH IT ALL

Thinly Sliced Onions

My first step was to slice the onions. The goal here is to make super-skinny long strips, so the onion needs to be cut in half lengthwise, then lain on the flat side and sliced 1/8″ thick.

Place your butter in a non-stick skillet over low heat. Once it melts and begins to sizzle, add the sliced onions and stir to coat in the butter. Sprinkle liberally with salt. Also, shake on some oregano, garlic, rosemary and pepper. I don’t measure my seasonings all of the time, so I took a photograph for you to compare.Balsamic Carmelized Onions

Allow the onions to cook slowly over low heat and stir occasionally so they don’t burn. When they are translucent and starting to dry out, add 2 Tbsp sweet white wine to skillet and cook until absorbed. Add a long drizzle (two times around the pan) of aged balsamic to finish. Turn up the heat to medium and stir constantly until lightly browned and remove from heat.

Thinly Sliced Organic Button MushroomsNow you can clean and slice your mushrooms. I remove the stems with a quick twist and discard them. I think it makes for a prettier presentation as there will be no cheese to cover up inconsistencies in the slices.

The Mushrooms will placed raw onto the pizza so they need to be quite thin in order to cook in the oven. As you can see here, I sliced mine only about 1/8″ thick. If you turn them flat side down and you’ll be able to have much more control while you make your cuts.

If you have your own monkeys wash their hands at this point, (and you don’t mind a bit of mess) they can jump in to squish those grape tomatoes. I used 10 on my test pizza, but I think it could handle as many as you want. I will probably double the number the next time I prepare this dish. Another thing I will try is to roast them before placing them on the pizza. To do this, place squished tomatoes on a pan covered in foil, salt and pepper them, and broil for a couple of minutes until browned and delicious. I think this concentrated flavor would really add an extra pop to the pizza.

Put your pre-made crust on a baking sheet or pan and spread approximately 2 Tbsp Olive Oil over the crust with a basting brush. Sprinkle all seasonings directly onto oiled crust to taste, Salt, Rosemary, Oregano, Garlic and Cracked or Fresh Ground Pepper. Spread out your fresh basil and layer your other ingredients as you wish. TIP: The goat cheese is much easier to work with if you break it up before you attempt to scatter it on the pizza. We found that stirring it roughly with a butter knife was most effective at breaking it up into small chunks. Once all your ingredients are in place, salt and pepper the whole thing again.

Bake on the middle rack for about 15 minutes – until all the mushrooms are cooked and the goat cheese has slightly browned on the edges.

Slice and enjoy! I know we can’t get enough!

MONKEY METER

The eldest said that it was a touch spicy, but kept eating it and just drank milk. She LOVED the goat cheese. 4 of 5

All the grown-ups loved it and thought it was very fancy. Everyone said I could make it for them anytime. Glad they liked it!  5 of 5

Posted in 15 Ingredients or Less, Appetizer, Lunch, Main Dishes, Vegetarian | Leave a comment

My Mommy Loves Me!

Let me start out by saying my mother is a thoughtful person. She is always thinking about me and my family when she goes places. So, I was on her mind when she went to a plant sale today at The Morton Arboretum.

She called and asked to come by (not abnormal – we are great friends and she is always visiting with my girls and helping out here) while I was starting work on my Caramelized Onion, Mushroom and Goat Cheese Pizza recipe today. When she walked in I was lamenting how I had forgotten basil at the store. What luck I have! She handed me the most interesting and fragrant little plant – Pistou Basila Pisou Basil! I’ve told you before how I love basil, right? Even better, it’s tiny leaves will never need to be chopped or sliced. As a quadriplegic, it is truly a pain to slice herbs. I just have no leverage for cutting delicate items.

This was not the only gift she carried. In celebration of my new blog she got me 3 new tiny cookbooks. It was like a birthday…  I can’t wait to dive into these beautiful gems.

Thank you Mom, for knowing me so well, truly caring about my interests and being a lovely friend.

You inspire me to be a better mother and strive to see and celebrate my own daughters, each for who they are, and respect what inspires them.

Posted in Personal | 1 Comment

Garlic and Herb Crostini

I have a confession to make. I am addicted to garlic. Garlic and salt. If you do not share my passion, cut all my garlic measurements in half. I said I wanted happy dinners where we all enjoy the same food… maybe my ulterior motive is to keep from being the only one who stinks?

This is the garlic bread that everyone INSISTS I make whenever I have a party (or any day of the week that they can convince me)… It is not low fat or low carb, but it is soul satisfying. I still count that as a type of health.

Extremely garlicy, salty and boasting a depth of flavor you just don’t get in typical garlic bread applications, this recipe serves well as an appetizer, side dish or base to many dips and salads.

The NUTS and BOLTS:

  • 1/4 C Butter, Softened
  • 1/4 C Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1.5 tsp Granulated Garlic
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Dried Oregano
  • 1/2 tsp Dried Parsley
  • 1 tsp Dried Basil
  • Pepper to taste
  • Loaf of Bread (baguettes work well. I love multigrain bread for this. Also feel free to try it on whatever size or thickness you like depending on its final destination)

WHAT TO DO WITH IT ALL:

What you will need is a mini-prep food processor or a regular size one with its small bowl attachment inside. Alternatively, you could melt the butter and combine it that way. However, that does make it a touch harder to apply.

Combine your butter and oil in the processor and blend until smooth. Add all of your spices and blend again to whip. If using the melting method, you can place everything in one bowl and stir to combine. This is a great job for your kitchen helpers! My eldest loves to stir and, of course, taste for seasoning; over and over and over. At least until I rip away the spoon.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees for crunchier crostini or broil for lightly crispy, more tender outcome.

Slice your desired loaf of bread on the bias according to your application:

  • Cracker-Like – 1/8″
  • For Topping – 1/4″ – 1/2″
  • As a Stand-Alone Item – 1/2″ to 1″

Using a knife or offset spatula (or spoon if melted – don’t forget to dig down and collect the sunken treasure spices), spread a thin layer over the surface of each slice. Place on a cookie sheet and bake for 10 – 12 minutes. If broiling, watch your bread like a hawk as it can turn into charcoal at a moments notice. I have had this happen to me on numerous occasions. It should be nicely browned in just 2 or 3 minutes. Despite the peril, I prefer using this method because I like how gently crispy and tender to the tooth it comes out. Just succulent!

MONKEY METER:

This is a crowd pleaser. I have never had anyone turn it down and just about everyone comes back over and over for more. It never fails, whatever we have left gets eaten before we can clean it up that night. Pretty universal 5 of 5

Posted in 10 Ingredients or Less, Appetizer, Bread, Vegetarian | Leave a comment