Monday, March 30, 2009


I'm trying to minimize our role in spreading pink eye and other nasties around Eastern Massachusetts, so the girls and I are housebound today. By 8:30 a.m., Abby is already bouncing off the walls in boredom. So to expel some energy, have fun, and maybe learn something - we made butter this morning!

I'd heard of this project, so I grabbed some heavy cream and loosely followed instructions from PBS Kids. And Abby got a-shaking:

And it worked! We ended up with some buttermilk and some butter. We'll make pancakes or bread with the buttermilk later today:

You'll need:

heavy cream
container with a screw-on lid
cup to pour off buttermilk
kid with excess energy

Pour the heavy cream into your container. Shake. Shake a lot. When you don't hear sloshing anymore, check it out - whipped cream! Keep shaking. When it begins to thud, you'll see butter solids and liquid forming. I found it helpful to pour off the liquid after every few shakes to help the butter solidify quickly.

Serve it up on some bread for your little butter-maker!

(and wow, check out the comments on the PBS Kids instructions - some kids are harsh! "went very rong I hated it". Ouch! For the record, our butter doesn't stink at all. And we didn't hate it.)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Month of Veggies - Short Hiatus

I haven't given up on my Month of Veggies project. But right now, between two daughters, I am dealing with:

2 ear infections
2 colds
1 mysterious fever-causing virus
and 2 pink eyes (surely soon to be 4 pink eyes)

So until girls are feeling better and I can get to the store for the ingredients for the next veggie dishes on the menu, we're spending some time with some good friends:

The Heavy-Hitters

The Preventers

Mommy's Best Friend

I hope to resume our project within the next few days! The next dish on the menu is Crinkly Carrot Fries, which absolutely beg the question: who owns a crinkle cutter? I consider my kitchen pretty darned well-stocked, and I don't even know what a crinkle cutter is!

Friday, March 27, 2009

MoV Day 4, Roasted Red Pepper Soup

Last night was day 4 of the Month of Veggies project, and on the menu? Roasted Red Pepper Soup. And let me just say mmmmmmmmmmmmm! This was so good, and I will be making it again and again.

Abby was too busy throwing a tantrum to sit down and eat dinner, but I loved this. Even Lizzy, who has an inborn hatred for being spoon-fed, took a few bites and smacked her lips repeatedly. This was a breeze to put together and made an excellent accompaniment to grilled cheese!

Roasted Red Pepper Soup

(adapted from Parents Magazine)

2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 24-oz jar roasted red peppers, drained (or, 3 roasted red peppers)
1 tsp honey
1 clove garlic
basil, salt, and pepper to season (optional... my jarred roasted red peppers were quite seasoned, so I just stirred in a bit of chopped fresh basil at the end)

Blend together stock, red peppers, honey, and garlic (either in a blender, or with an immersion blender in the pot. I love my immersion blender. If you don't have one, you should!). Heat the soup for 5-10 minutes over medium heat, until hot.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

MoV, Day 3: Minty Peas

Last night was day 3 of our Month of Veggies, and up on the menu was Minty Peas.

But I wouldn't recommend them. I can't tell if Parents Magazine has some sort of deal with the cooking oil industry, but we (once again) found the recipe too oily. But beyond that, the texture of the wilted mint leaves with the peas was not our thing. Abby tried some (she LOVES peas), but gagged and spit them out. I didn't really care for them either.

I have much higher hopes for the Roasted Red Pepper soup we're trying tonight!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

MoV, Day 2: Sunny Broccoli

Last night was Day 2 of the "Month of Veggies" plan. Up on the menu: Sunny Broccoli. I love broccoli and oranges - Abby has never deigned to try either (I know! I think she's the only kid in the country who turns up her nose at oranges!), so I had low hopes for the attempt.

But I was wrong! Abby tried both the broccoli and the orange slice! She ate all of her orange slice and took two bites of broccoli before saying "No thank you" to it. Lizzy ate all of the broccoli that I gave her. And most importantly, I thought this was delicious!! We will definitely be having this dish again.

Sunny Broccoli

(adapted from Parents Magazine)

1 head broccoli, chopped
2 Tbsp orange juice
1 tsp canola oil
1 clove garlic, minced
salt & pepper
1 orange, sliced

In a large pot, steam broccoli until bright green and tender, about 3-5 minutes. Whisk together orange juice, oil, and garlic. Salt and pepper to taste. Toss broccoli with orange juice mixture. Arrange orange slices on plate and top with broccoli.

Abby, giving me the classic look of "seriously, woman? Oranges and broccoli?" But at least she tried them!

Lizzy is my good eater. If only I can keep her that way!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Month of Veggies, Day 1: Cucumber Salad

Last night kicked off my attempt to follow Parents Magazine's "20 Kid-Friendly Veggies" plan: "Get your picky kid to start trying (and yes, loving) vegetables in just one month."

Hm. That's a lofty promise.

So last night was day 1: Cucumber Ribbon Salad. As it turns out, this is the recipe I had the least interest in. And honestly, it was fine, but I doubt I'll make it again. It was way too oily for my taste, so if we try it again, I'm leaving the canola oil out. It looked pretty, though.

Cucumber Ribbon Salad
(adapted from Parents Magazine)

2 cucumbers
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
1/2 tsp honey
1/2 tsp sesame oil
salt & pepper

In a large bowl, whisk together the rice vinegar, honey, and sesame oil. Season with salt and pepper. Trim the ends of the cucumber and cut it in half. Using a vegetable peeler, peel ribbons off of one side of the cucumber, until you hit the seeds. Then peel from the other side, until you hit seeds. (I chopped up the seedy center that was left over to put on salads). Toss the ribbons in the dressing and serve.

Here is pictorial proof that Abby actually tried these cucumbers - that alone is progress! She really did not like them. I can't blame her, as they came out kind of slimy. Again, I think done without the canola oil, they would be a lot better.

(and yeah... she's eating dinner in her Christmas pajamas. Anyone else have a kid who is obsessed with wearing pajamas at all hours of the day?)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Morning Glory Muffins

I don't remember how we stumbled across Tiny Morsels (probably by following various blog links), but it's a great read. I've bookmarked quite a few of her recipes to try, and when I needed a snack for playgroup, I went right for the Morning Glory Muffins.

These were a huge hit with both of my daughters, and went over very well with the playgroup mommies (they taste great with coffee!). I was hesitant to tell people what was in them, since once I said "parsnip", I got some funny looks. But the proof is in the pudding (or... muffin) on these, and they were fantastic.

I substituted a mix of whole wheat and all-purpose flours, as suggested in the notes, and I took the sugar down to 3/4 cup - and they were still quite sweet. But then, I was using canned pineapple, because... well, I had it on hand! So that may have helped sweeten them up even more.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Roasted Vegetable Lasagna (Freezer to Skillet)

Roasted Vegetable Lasagna (Freezer to Skillet)
(makes 4 servings)

4 whole wheat lasagna noodles
8 Tbsp. marinara sauce
4 tsp. heavy cream
1 summer squash, sliced lengthwise
5-6 stalks of asparagus
olive oil spray
1 c. frozen broccoli
1 c. shredded mozzarella cheese

1. Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions. Cut into bite sized pieces and arrange in a single layer on a freezer safe dish. Freeze for at least 1 hour.
2. Prepare creamy marinara for freezing: In a small bowl stir together marinara and heavy cream until combined. Divide into 8 compartments of an ice cube tray. Freeze for at least an hour or until frozen enough to pop out of tray.
3. Turn on the broiler setting of your oven. Arrange squash and asparagus on a baking sheet. Spray with olive oil spray. Broil until both sides have a slight char (turn about once every 3 minutes). Cut veggies into bite sized pieces and arrange on a freezer safe dish. Freeze for at least an hour.
4. Divide the cheese between 4 snack sized Ziploc bags.
5. Divide remaining ingredients between 4 quart sized freezer bags. (2 sauce cubes, noodles, roasted veggies and frozen broccoli). Add the cheese packets. Seal, label and freeze until ready to eat.
6. To prepare from frozen: In a small saute pan over medium heat add contents of bag (but not the cheese). Cook until sauce cubes are fully melted and veggies are cooked through. Add the cheese and cook until just melted. Serve!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

One-Month Vegetable Plan!

Parents Magazine had an article in January (um... yeah, I'm a little behind on my magazine reading) called Veg Out! The subtitle is: "Get your picky kid to start trying (and yes, loving!) vegetables in just one month." It's a 4-week plan, with 5 vegetable preparations to try each week.

Well, I'm always up for a challenge, and I have a picky kid who doesn't love veggies. I'm game. So starting next Monday, I'm going to follow their "plan" and report here with what the family thought of each dish.

Interested in trying some new vegetable dishes on your family? Why not follow along with me? You can find it at 20 Kid-Friendly Veggies at I'll be going in order, making a new veggie each week day.

Now, go read about our springtime dinner date!

Springtime Dinner Date!

Spring is in the air... well, almost. It's still quite chilly in Massachusetts most days lately, but Friday is the first day of spring, and last night happened to be deliciously warm (i.e., 60 degrees. That's warm for us). Celeste and I took the kiddos to the playground and then came to my house for a dinner date that paid tribute to spring!

Baked Veggie Sandwiches
(a.k.a. Miracle Sandwiches*)

1 recipe Super Easy Pizza Dough, prepared through the first rise
2-3 cups shredded cheddar
1 cup finely chopped asparagus
1 cup finely chopped broccoli
1 cup chopped spinach, stems removed
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp olive oil
Marinara sauce for dipping, optional

Divide the pizza dough into two portions. Set aside until puffy, about 30 minutes.

Heat the 1 Tbsp olive oil in a medium-size skillet. Add the asparagus, broccoli, spinach, and garlic. Saute over medium heat for 5-8 minutes, until spinach is wilted and the vegetables are softened. Set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 400F. Coat an 8x8" baking dish with non-stick spray. Gently stretch one half of the pizza dough to fit the bottom of the pan. Top with 1 - 1 1/2 cups of the shredded cheddar. Layer on all of the cooked vegetables. Top the vegetables with remaining cheddar. Gently stretch the other half of the pizza dough to fit over the top.

Bake for about 15 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the crust is slightly golden. Slice into bars to serve, with marinara sauce as desired.

(* why are these Miracle Sandwiches? Because Abby actually ate spinach, broccoli, and asparagus. That is a miracle!)

Oatmeal Flower Cookies

3 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
colored sugar for decorating (can be made easily by adding 1-2 drops of food coloring to a tablespoon of sugar, mix well)

Grind the oats in a food processor until finely ground. In a large bowl, stir together the ground oats, whole wheat flour, baking soda, and salt.

In a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar. Add in vanilla and eggs; beat until creamy. Stir in the oat-flour mixture until well-combined. Chill dough for 10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Gather half-teaspoons of dough and roll into balls. Dip the top of the balls in colored sugar. Arrange 6 balls together to form a flower. The flowers will spread, so keep them about 2 inches apart on the baking sheets. (Getting tired of forming all these flowers? Round out the batch by taking a tablespoon of dough, shaping it into a disk, and dipping the top in colored sugar.)

Bake for about 9 minutes, until the cookies are golden. Let cool completely before eating.

* * * * *

This dinner went over well with both big girls - and with baby Lizzy, too, who was very happy to chomp away on bits of the sandwiches! The cookies are low-sugar, but the girls didn't mind one bit. So I say, if you can "treat" your kid with a low-sugar option, why not? They didn't miss a thing, but still felt like they got dessert.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Lucky Irish Oatmeal

Lucky Baked Irish Oatmeal
(serves 4)

I'm calling this one Lucky Irish Oatmeal because I literally threw some stuff together and got lucky when it turned out, very, very delicious!

1/2 c. steel cut Irish oats
2c. milk
1/4 c. butter, melted
1/2 c. coconut
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 egg, beaten
1 small orange
1/4 walnuts, chopped
1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1. In a medium bowl, soak the oats in the milk and melted butter for 30 minutes.
2. While the oats are soaking, toast the coconut. Put the coconut on a metal baking sheet and put in a 400 degree oven. Open frequently to stir the coconut. Bake until coconut is golden brown. In my case this took about 5 minutes. Set aside.
3. Stir coconut, egg, brown sugar, juice and grated rind from orange, walnuts and nutmeg into oatmeal mixture.
4. Spray a loaf pan with baking spray. Pour mixture into pan.
5. Bake in a 375 degree oven for an hour. Serve warm!

Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Peanut Butter Chicken Fingers

Abby loves chicken nuggets, so it's not exactly a triumph that she polished off her entire plate of these. They were tasty and had a nice accent of peanut butter flavor.

Peanut Butter Chicken Fingers
Prep: 10 minutes
Bake: 15-20 minutes

2 chicken breasts
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup milk
2-3 cups fresh bread crumbs (for extra wow, make your bread crumbs from Peanut Butter Bread)

Preheat oven to 400F. Spray a wire rack with non-stick spray and set over a cookie sheet.

Cut chicken breasts into 1 inch-thick strips. In a shallow bowl, microwave the peanut butter and milk together for about 20 seconds, then whisk together. Add more milk as needed (you want the mixture to have a pudding-like consistency). Pour the bread crumbs into another shallow bowl and toss with a few dashes of salt.

Dredge chicken strips through the peanut butter mixture, and then pat in the crumbs to coat. Set strips on the wire rack and bake for 15-20 minutes, until completely cooked through.

I attempted to make a dip to go with them, but Abby and I didn't like it. She had hers with ketchup; I had mine plain. I should have made the peanut sauce from Celeste's Tofu Skewers with Peanut Sauce - that would have been perfect!

Friday, March 13, 2009

St. Patrick's Day Dinner Date!!

I realize St. Patrick's Day isn't until next week but I thought it wise to put something up this week in case you would actually like to make this FOR St. Patrick's day. ;o) This meal was scrumptious and even both toddlers devoured their meals!

Crockpot Corned Beef with Potatoes and Carrots
(serves 4)

Approx. 1-1/2 lb. corned beef brisket cut into stew meat sized chunks (I left the fat on for flavor)
4 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered
4 med/lg. carrots, peeled and cut in big chunks
1 can beef broth
2 cloves garlic, chopped

1. Don't let this confuse you. I know it sounds complicated. Add all ingredients to crockpot, cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours. Serve! ;o)

**warning** Do NOT add salt. Corned beef is salty on its own. You definitely don't need to add any.

Irish Soda Bread
(serves 8)

3/4 c. light sour cream
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 c. golden raisins
3 tsp. caraway seeds
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream and olive oil until well combined.
3. In a larger bowl combine all of the dry ingredients.
4. Stir the raisins into the dry mixture.
5. Stir in the sour cream/oil mixture until dough comes together.
6. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead for about 1 minute.
7. Shape into a 6" round loaf. Score an "X" into the top of the loaf with a sharp knife.
8. Bake on a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray for 40 minutes or until the crust starts to turn golden brown.
9. cool on a wire rack. Serve with Irish butter!

Potato Candy
(makes 12 pieces)

Are these not the cutest things you've ever seen?? These little potatoes are not potatoes at all. They are sugary balls of deliciousness! However, they are NOT very good for toddlers as it turns out. :o(

4 oz. of cream cheese, softened
1/2 stick (1/4 c.) butter, softened
2 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1-1/2 c. flaked coconut
2 tbsp. ground cinnamon

1. Using a mixer, cream together the butter and cream cheese.
2. With the mixer on med. speed, add the vanilla and powdered sugar until well combined.
3. Stir in the coconut until well combined.
4. Using your hands, shape little potato shapes out of the mixture. Mine were about 2" in length.
5. Put the cinnamon in a small bowl. One at a time, add the "potatoes" and shake the bowl to roll the potato around and coat it in the cinnamon. Repeat with remaining potatoes.
6. Using a small, blunt tipped object (I used the end of one of my daughters watercolor brushes) make"eyes" in the potatoes.
7. Chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Serve!

**Notes***The plain cinnamon was way too spicy for toddlers. I should have known. Kara had the idea of cutting the cinnamon with dry cocoa mix next time. Great idea Kara!

So since the planned dessert didn't work out I ended up throwing some refrigerated cookie dough (a gift from my FIL) into the oven. It was a toddler approved substitute!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Soft Granola Bars

For some reason, my pantry is always littered with half-empty bags of granola. I buy it thinking I will like it, but granola is just not my thing. Well, Abby is on a granola bar kick, so I decided to put all those forgotten bags to use! These are a softer, cakier version of a granola bar than what you'll get pre-packaged but Abby and I are addicted. They are also a snap to make!
Soft Granola Bars
Prep time: 5 minutes Bake time: 10-15 minutes

2 cups prepared granola (store-bought or homemade)
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup milled flax seed
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup canola oil
2 Tbsp agave nectar (or sub in maple syrup or honey)
1 Tbsp water
1 egg

Preheat oven to 325F. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl (this is a great recipe to have your child help with!) until well-combined. Press the mixture evenly into an 8x8" baking dish (either use damp hands, or spray the bottom of a glass with non-stick spray to help you pack the mixture down). Bake until the edges are turning golden, 10-15 minutes.

Score the pan into 10 bars, but do not remove from pan until completely cooled (otherwise they'll fall apart... trust me ;-).

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Pumpkin Penne with Rosemary

My husband and I are having beef stew tonight - I knew Lizzy would like to eat bits of the carrots and potato, but I also knew that Abby was unlikely to try the big hunks of beef. So I made the girls some yummy vitamin-A packed pasta, instead - Pumpkin Penne with Rosemary courtesy of The Toby Show.

(Jonah Lisa's picture is waaaay better. But here is a Lizzy bowl and an Abby bowl, waiting to be devoured.)

This was a hit, as most pasta dishes are around here. I used dried rosemary, because I'm a punk who didn't read the recipe carefully before going to the grocery store. So, I only used about a teaspoon, and I kept it in the sauce, rather than serving it as a garnish. I skipped the red pepper flakes since I was primarily serving it to the girls, but I added some to my tasting portion. This household gives the pumpkin penne a variety of baby- and toddler-sized thumbs up!

The Toby Show is part-mommy blog, part crafty-blog, part foodie-blog, and an overall good read. Right now, Jonah Lisa has posted a tortilla soup recipe that looks pretty darned delish, too! Go check it out!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Boston Baked Franks and Beans

Boston Baked Franks and Beans
(serves 6)

I thought a nod to Boston was in order after my Minnesota tribute. Nothing says Boston like Boston baked beans, right? To make them a meal I added some non-nitrate beef hot dogs and rounded the dinner out with Kara's Boston brown bread. My toddler gobbled up this sweet and salty dish!

1 package (1lb?) dry pinto beans
1 can organic tomato sauce
1/4 c. blackstrap molasses
1/2 lg. onion, chopped
1 Tbsp. dry mustard
1/4 c. maple syrup
1/4 c. dark brown sugar
5 non-nitrate beef hot dogs

1. Soak the beans overnight in a large bowl of water.
2. In the morning, drain the beans and rinse well.
3. Bring a pot of water to a boil on the stove. Add the beans. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 1 hour.
4. Drain and rinse.
5. Combine all ingredients in a crock pot. Cook on low for 8-10 hours.
6. Cut the hot dogs lengthwise and then into bite sized chunks. Add to the crockpot for the last 30 minutes of cooking time. Serve!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Tea Party!

Abby and I hosted a tea party for Neko and Celeste last night! This dinner date was a big hit, if for no other reason than the toddlers loved using the tea set. The food went over pretty well, too! We rounded this menu out with cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches, but I'm not including a recipe - they're pretty self-explanatory! (neither girl really liked them, anyway)

Scones and Finger Sandwiches

Roasted Vegetable Scones

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
4 Tbsp butter (cold and cut into pieces)
1 egg, beaten
3/4 cup milk (skim worked fine)
3/4 cup diced roasted vegetables
(I diced up some peppers, onions, carrots, and squash - tossed them in a little olive oil and roasted at 400F for about 20 minutes. What I didn't need for these scones, I scrambled into eggs for breakfast. Yum!)

Preheat oven to 425F. In a food processor, pulse together the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Sprinkle the pieces of butter on top and pulse about 20 times, until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Pour the flour-butter mixture into a large bowl. Stir in the egg, milk, and vegetables until a dough comes together. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until a smoother dough forms.

Split the dough in half; shape each half into a 6-inch disk. Cut each disk into 6 wedges and place each wedge on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for about 10-12 minutes, until scones are beginning to turn golden.

Peanut Butter Bread
(for making the ultimate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches!)

7 oz milk, slightly warmed
2 oz water, at room temperature
1 1/4 tsp rapid rise yeast
1/4 cup natural-style peanut butter
2 Tbsp brown sugar
3/4 tsp salt
3 cups bread flour

In a large bowl, stir together the milk, water, and yeast. Whisk in the peanut butter and brown sugar until the peanut butter is fully mixed in. Stir in the salt and flour with a wooden spoon until a shaggy dough comes together.

Turn the dough onto a work surface and knead until smooth and elastic, adding tiny amounts of water or flour as needed (if your dough is too sticky, knead in flour, about one teaspoon at a time. If your dough is too dry and stiff, wet the palms of your hands to knead in a tiny amount of water. A little goes a long way!).

Grease a large bowl with non-stick spray. Put the kneaded dough ball inside, rolling it around to grease the dough lightly. Set aside in a warm place to rise for about 2 hours. Punch down and shape the dough into a loaf. Set inside a loaf pan and let rise for about 40 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375F. Bake the bread for about 30 minutes, until it sounds slightly hollow when tapped and is nicely browned on top. Add peanut butter and jelly for the yummiest pb&j in town!

Banoffee Bars

(these couldn't be easier or more delicious!! No sugar needed in the crust or whipped cream - the toffee center is sweet enough!)

14 oz can condensed sweetened milk (fat free worked great!)
5 sheets of graham crackers
1/2 cup rolled oats
4 Tbsp butter, melted
1 cup heavy cream

Caramelize your condensed sweetened milk: Preheat oven to 425F. Pour the milk into an pie pan and cover tightly with foil. Set the pan inside a larger baking dish, and fill the larger dish about halfway with hot water (creating a water bath). Bake for about 45 minutes, until the milk has caramelized and turned thick. Let cool a little.

Lower the oven to 325F. In a food processor, pulse the graham crackers and oats together until finely ground. Pour crumbs into an 8-inch square baking dish. Drizzle with the melted butter and stir together, then press the crust evenly across the bottom of the pan. Bake the crust for about 5 minutes, until golden.

Pour the toffee filling over the hot crust. Top the toffee with thinly sliced bananas. Refrigerate until chilled. Whip the heavy cream and top each bar with a little whipped cream.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Guest Post at Kid Appeal!

Abby and I made turkey-rosemary meatballs in white whole wheat pitas and blogged about it for Kid Appeal. The sandwiches were tasty, but my main focus was finding ways to have Abby help me with every step of the dinner prep - even with the meatballs!

Kid Appeal is a great blog of recipes, ideas on getting kids eating, and tons of great information! If you're in the Houston, TX area, check out the information on Jenna's "Kid's Nutrition Class"!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Annie's Homegrown!

I LOVE a good bargain and am always so inspired by Mom's who are able to feed their family's on a low budget. Unfortunately (for my budget) I buy a lot of organic stuff. Its rare to find coupons or even a good deal on a lot of this stuff which means that my family of 3 regularly spends $150+ a week on groceries. I hope to find ways to get this down as much as I can.

I did, however, come across this GREAT deal online today on Annie's Homegrown organic whole wheat mac and cheese so how could I not share?

I got 12 - 6oz. boxes for $14.36! You have to sign up for Amazon's "Subscribe and Save" program but you can cancel anytime. I signed up for a "once every 6 months" subscription but plan to cancel as soon as I get my first shipment.

Subtotal of Items:
Shipping & Handling:
Shipping Discount:
Promotion Applied:
Promotion Applied:

Total for this Order:

There are other Annie's items that fall under this same promotion including cheddar bunnies! If you're an Annie's buyer go save yourself some money!

Minnesota Dinner Date!!

I grew up in northern Minnesota but am raising my daughter in Massachusetts. While MA has great local food favorites (which I'm sure we'll explore here someday), many of the foods I was raised on just don't exist in good ol' New England. If I were to make the quintessential Minnesotan meal I would make shore lunch style walleye fillets with a side of wild rice and rhubarb pie for dessert. I have yet to find any walleye here, the wild rice is exorbitantly expensive and rhubarb is very out of season. I digress.

Of course these are not the only foods that represent the land of 10,000 lakes. If you live or have lived in Minnesota you have eaten or at least been around pierogies, lefse, venison (that you or someone you know shot, killed, skinned and butchered), pickled herring and lutefisk to name a few. I hope to share recipes for a couple of these things with you soon. Don't worry, even I know that no toddler is going anywhere near herring or lutefisk.

There is, however, one Minnesotan classic that is VERY toddler friendly...the hotdish.

Wikipedia describes hotdish as: "any of a variety of baked casserole popular in the Midwestern United States, and especially in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, northern Iowa, and western Wisconsin. It consists of a starch, a meat, and a canned vegetable, mixed together with canned soup. The soup is often cream of mushroom which serves as a binding ingredient. The history of the hotdish goes back to when "budget-minded farm wives needed to feed their own families, as well as congregations in the basements of the first Minnesota churches."

Some people refer to the canned cream of mushroom soup as "lutheran binder" because it seems to show up in everything from hotdish to sloppy joes in many a church function.

The hotdish I am most familiar with is:

Tater Tot Hotdish
(serves 6)

Celeste's "Lutheran Binder" alternative (see below)
1 lb. ground turkey (or beef/chicken/meat substitute)
1 lb. frozen french style green beans
1 lb. frozen tater tots (I used the Ian's organic...I think this might go against MN code but I have to admit it here)
1 small yellow onion
1 clove garlic
salt and pepper to taste
seasoning salt (like Lawry's)

1. In a large skillet brown the ground turkey. When it is almost brown drain off any juice and then add the onions and garlic to the skillet with the turkey. Finish cooking until meat is cooked through. Season with a little salt and pepper.
2. Stir in the "lutheran binder" and green beans.
3. Pour mixture into a 9x13 baking dish (or 2 small square baking dishes like I did).
4. Top mixture with tater tots and sprinkle the tots with the seasoning salt.
5. Bake according to the package direction on your tater tots. The meat is already cooked and the beans will cook quickly so whats important is that the tater tots cook to golden brown and crispy. In general this will be approximately 400 degrees for about 20 minutes. Serve (with a little ketchup on the side for dipping the tots!)

Celeste's "Lutheran Binder" Alternative

2 Tbsp. salted butter
3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. chicken stock
1/2 c. milk (I used 1%)
2 c. white mushrooms, sliced salt and pepper to taste
1. In a large saute pan melt 1 Tbsp. of the butter. When melted, add the mushrooms and saute over medium heat until cooked. Transfer to a separate bowl and set aside.
2. In the same saute pan melt the other Tbsp. of butter.
3. Gradually add the flour stirring constantly creating a roux of sorts.
4. Whisk in the stock and milk and continue to whisk over med heat until a thickened sauce forms. You are going for the consistency of condensed cream of mushroom soup.
5. Stir in the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Voila!

I thought long and hard about what would be the most Minnesotan dessert I could make to round out this Minnesota dinner date and have to admit was a little stumped. Like I said before, if I could make the perfect MN meal the dessert would be rhubarb pie (or any rhubarb dessert really) because most people I know back home have rhubarb growing in their backyard. When I was little I used to walk outside, hack off a piece and dip in in some sugar for a treat. My Grandma does a lot of canning and one of the things she cans is "rhubarb sauce" which I guess is like apple sauce only made out of rhubarb. We eat it over ice cream. Yum!

Since I can't make anything rhubarb I decided I should probably make something with blueberries--another MN staple. My Mom and Grandma would go blueberry picking and come back with gallon sized ice cream buckets filled with wild blueberries. We always had blueberries in our freezer.

If Minnesota had a 'state dessert' it would be bars (pronounced barrrs in Minnesotan). I realize 'bars' is a category of dessert and not very specific but I cannot tell you how much Minnesotans love bars. We take the recipe off the back of toll house morsels for chocolate chip cookies and throw all the dough into a 13x9 cake pan and make them into bars. Rice Krispie treats are Rice Krispie Bars (not treats) and you can bet that they will have a half inch layer of chocolate on top. If you are asked to bring something to a potluck, chances are (if you aren't bringing hotdish) you are bringing barrrs.

I decided to make some blueberry crumble bars for dessert but at the last minute had a stroke of cleverness and threw in a handfull of frozen cranberries I had in the freezer. Since cranberries are very New England I thought this was a nice MN/MA combo and decided to call them:

Blueberry Cranberry Barrs/Bahs (nod to the Boston accent)
(makes 20ish barrrs)


3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c. softened butter
1/2 c. packed dark brown sugar

Blueberry Cranberry Filling
1/2 c. sugar (I used and reccomend turbanino sugar)
1/4 c. dark brown sugar
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1-1/2 c. blueberries
1 c. cranberries

Crumb Topping
3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 c. packed dark brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
6 Tbsp. butter, melted

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a small bowl combine the flour and salt for the crust.
3. Using a mixer, beat the butter and brown sugar until creamed together.
4. With the mixer on a low speed add the flour/salt mixture a little at a time until mixture is just crumbly.
5. Press the dough into a greased (I use Pam for baking) 9x13 pan.
6. In another small bowl, combine all of the filling ingredients and layer on top of crust.
7. In another small bowl (use the first one from the crust as this is starting to sound like a lot of dishes...ha) combine all the ingredients for the topping (except the melted butter)
8. Add the melted butter and stir until mixture is moistened. Crumble on top of blueberry/cranberry mixture
9. Bake for about 45 minutes or until the topping is golden brown.
10. Cool on a wire rack and cut into barrrs. Enjoy!

Honestly these were some of the best bars I've ever made. (Toot toot goes my own horn.) I really think only using dark sugars gave these such a nice flavor. Yummmm.

If there are any fellow Minnesota natives or Mom's out there I would love to hear your Minnesota food stories! Oh yeah, you betcha!