Monday, June 29, 2009

Eggs Over Barley

In conjunction with Penny Pinching Parent, we're trying out a new series on Itty Bitty Bistro: Itty Bitty Budget! I'm working up some recipes that are kid-friendly and achieve maximum nutrition on minimum budget. Check out the post at Penny Pinching Parent to see the pricing breakdown!

Eggs are a great, cheap protein - and my favorite way to stretch any protein is by combining it with a whole grain. For kids who like rice, barley is a nice change of pace - and it provides a good source of fiber, B-vitamins, and minerals. The onion is too often overlooked as a veggie - it's full of antioxidants, fiber, folate, and even vitamin C!

Eggs Over Barley
(sigh... that really doesn't photograph well!)

1 cup pearled barley, rinsed
4 cups water
1 large Vidalia onion, chopped
2 tsp olive oil
salt and pepper
6 eggs

In a medium pot, bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Stir in the barley and bring back to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, covered, for about 45 minutes - until barley is tender. Drain excess water.

While the barley is cooking, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and season with salt and pepper. Lower the heat to low-medium and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15-20 minutes, until onions are soft and slightly caramelized. Whisk eggs in a small bowl; add to hot skillet. Cook, stirring to scramble, until eggs are cooked, about 5 minutes.

Serve barley topped with the eggs, accompanied by a crisp green salad.

If you like the combination of eggs and caramelized onion, try Cheese, Egg, and Caramelized Onion Quesadillas - they have become one of our go-to quick and easy dinners!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Maple Banana Oat Muffins

Life as MOM has launched a new blog: Good (& Cheap) Eats. When she posted these Maple Banana Oat Muffins the other day, I knew I had to try them. For one, I am a sucker for streusel topping. For another, I'm a sucker for muffins - they are my favorite snack to have on hand for the girls. They're portable, they hide fruit (or veggies) easily, and the girls never turn them down. I had one very ripe banana, so I only made a half batch - but these are delicious!

The maple flavoring combines with something, I'm not sure what, but they have this wonderful buttery flavor, and frankly taste like I'm eating a pancake loaded with butter and syrup. And that is a very good thing!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Apricot-Strawberry Cobbler

I have just spent the last two weeks gorging myself on cake for Lizzy's various birthday parties... I am practically bleeding buttercream frosting. Now it's time for me to start making some real food and blogging about it again! Celeste is on vacation for a few weeks, so bear with me as I fly solo!

After an onslaught of naughty desserts, it's time for us to have some healthier treats in the house again. I'm digging apricots right now, so I made up these little cobblers!

Apricot-Strawberry Cobblers

8 apricots, pitted and chopped
1-2 cups strawberries, hulled and chopped
1/4 cup pomegranate juice (or, water)
2 Tbsp agave nectar
2 tsp corn starch

1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 Tbsp demerera sugar (like Sugar in the Raw)
1 Tbsp ground flax seed
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/3 cup plain fat-free (or low-fat) yogurt (tip: the yogurt part of a fruit on the bottom yogurt cup should be just about 1/3 cup!)
2 egg whites

Preheat oven to 400F. In a large saucepan, whisk together the pom juice, agave nectar, and cornstarch. Add the fruit, stirring to coat. Cook over low-medium heat for 15 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened and bubbly and the fruit is softened. Keep warm.

Meanwhile, whisk together the flours, baking powder, sugar, and flax meal. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender. Stir in the yogurt and egg whites until just moistened.

Divide the hot fruit between 6 ramekins. Divide the topping between the 6 ramekins. Bake on a baking sheet for about 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the biscuit topping comes out clean. Best served with a scoop of ice cream!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Frozen Prosciutto Pizza

Last week I had some leftovers from the Toddler Gourmet dinner date so I decided to put them to good use for another toddler creation.

Frozen Prosciutto Pizza
(makes 4 pizzas)

Super Easy Pizza Dough
1 large tomato, diced
1-1/2c. fresh broccoli, steamed and chopped
3 slices prosciutto, fried to crispy and chopped
1c. shredded mozzarella
1/2c. shredded parmesan

1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
2. Shape dough into toddler sized individual pizza crusts.
3. Parbake the crusts for 5 minutes on a cookie sheet. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
4. Top each crust evenly with the remaining ingredients.
5. Wrap each pizza in plastic wrap and then put in a freezer safe bag or wrap in aluminum foil. Freeze until ready to use.

To reheat: Unwrap pizza and place directly on oven rack or on pizza stone. Bake at 500 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

"Catching a Rainbow" Dinner Date

Back when the 5-a-Day program was still in vogue, one of its themes was to "Catch a Rainbow Every Day". So cute! A few weeks ago, I bought an erasable whiteboard and a rainbow of dry erase markers, and now every day Abby and I draw our fruits and vegetables as we eat them. I tell Abby that we want to try to eat a rainbow every day to help us be big and strong. The motivation to draw works really well, and Abby has eaten a rainbow most days since!

Now, I'm not too picky about having both a blue and a purple, and I'll let yellow slide if we have plenty of orange, but we always aim for a red, an orange, a green, a blue or purple, and a white. Here's how the board looks at the end of a typical day (clearly, I let Abby draw her own foods on this!) (and if you're laughing at my random red-green blob... it's supposed to be a mango.)

I found some other cute ideas on encouraging children to "eat a rainbow" at They have a lot of other fun stuff in their nutrition section, so poke around! And of course, the 5-a-Day program is outdated now, but the Fruits and Veggies Matter site has some useful information and tips, too.

Hidden Rainbow Pizza
(this is probably the worst "food" picture I've ever taken. It tasted way better than this looks)

Super-Easy Pizza Dough (I made a double batch and then froze half of the pizzas for future yum!)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 zucchini, chopped
1 yellow squash, chopped
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 cup baby carrots, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
oregano, salt, and pepper
1-2 handfuls of baby spinach
1 jar of your favorite marinara (or 2-3 cups of homemade marinara)
Cheddar cheese

Prepare the pizza dough. Prepare the sauce during the second rise (when the dough balls are resting for 30 minutes):

In a large saute pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add all vegetables and garlic to the pan. Season with dried oregano, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes - until the carrots and onions are tender, but before the zucchini and yellow squash get too squishy. Remove from heat and stir in the baby spinach.

Dump vegetables into a blender. Add about 2 cups of marinara sauce and blend until smooth, adding more marinara as needed to achieve a smooth texture.

Preheat oven to 450F. Form the dough balls into pizza rounds. Top each round with some sauce and ample cheddar cheese. Bake for about 10 minutes, until the pizza crust is golden and the cheese is melted.

This pizza is all about the hidden vegetables - I am a fan of hiding vegetables for a picky eater, but alongside the pizza, we also served some cut-up, colorful, raw veggies. Abby only ate the carrots, and Neko stuck to just the carrots and tomatoes, but at least the veggies were offered!

Fruity Brownie Pizza
I could eat this entire thing by myself. And I almost did.

1/2 cup unsalted butter
4 oz white chocolate
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 banana
1/2 packet of acai pulp (available in the freezer section - leave it out if you can't find it, but I wanted a purple!)
a rainbow of chopped up fruit (we used cherries, strawberries, mango, and blueberries - I wish I had bought some kiwi or green grapes!)

Preheat the oven to 350F. Generously coat a 9-inch round cake pan with non-stick spray.

In a small bowl, combine butter and white chocolate. Microwave in 30 second intervals, whisking well in between, until melted. Set aside to cool.

In a small bowl, whisk together wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar. Whisk in the vanilla extract and the melted chocolate-butter mixture. With a spoon, stir in the flour until just combined.

Smooth the batter into the cake pan. Bake for about 25 minutes, until set in the center. Let cool.

When cool, mash the banana well with a fork. Stir in the acai pulp (only as much as you need to make it smooth and not too runny). Spread the banana-acai mixture on as the "sauce". Top with chopped fruit. If you're feeling nice, serve it to your family. Otherwise, go hide in a closet with a fork and the brownie cake!

Here's the board for the girls' dinners - a whole rainbow, tucked in their tummies!

... and I have no idea what an acai berry looks like.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Toddler Gourmet Dinner Date!!

After my MomDonalds flop my ego needed a dinner that was CERTAIN to produce "Mmmms" and "Yummy!'s" I decided to take some classic toddler favorites-mac and cheese, peas and jello and fancy them up a bit. Everything DID go over well but honestly I got the same sort of "Mmmms" and "Yummy!'s" than mac and cheese normally produce so...whatever... ;o)

4 Cheese Macaroni and Cheese Cupcakes
(serves many...honestly maybe 10...great leftovers though!)

1 package whole wheat elbow macaroni
4 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp flour
2c. milk
1c. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2c. mozzarella, shredded
1/2c. gruyere, shredded
1c. italian bread crumbs
3/4 c. parmesan cheese, shredded
cupcake liners (I only had Halloween ones)

1. Prepare macaroni according to package directions. Rinse and drain.
2. In a large saute pan melt the butter over med. heat.
3. When melted, add flour, stirring constantly for about 1 minute creating a roux.
4. Whisk in milk, cook for 3 minutes (stirring constantly).
5. Add the cheeses and stir until smooth.
6. Add the macaroni and gently stir until the pasta is well coated with the cheese.
7. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
8. Line a muffin pan with the cupcake liners. Spray the liners with a non-stick cooking spray.
9. Fill each liner 3/4 full with macaroni and cheese.
10. In a small bowl combine the bread crumbs and pamesan cheese.
11. Top each "cupcake" with the bread crumb/cheese mixture.
12. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the topping is golden brown. Serve!

Prosciutto Peas
(serves 4)

1 package frozen peas
2 slices prosciutto

1. Prepare peas according to package directions.
2. In a med. saute pan cook the prosciutto over med-high heat until crispy.
3. Remove the prosciutto from the pan and cut into small pieces.
4. Return the prosciutto to the pan (leave the drippings in) and add the peas. Gently toss to get the prosciutto goodness all over the peas. Serve! Mmmm.

Juice Box Jello
(serves 4)

I only called this "juice box" jello because I didn't but enough juice to make it and had to use juice box juice instead!

2 envelopes of unflavored gelatin
1/2c. room temperature fruit juice
3c. hot fruit juice (I used Acai berry and apple/pear)
1c. diced fruit (I used bananas, strawberries and blueberries)
1/2c. mini marshmallows (Whole Foods sells a non-HFC variety and they are GOOD)

1. In a medium sized mixing bowl sprinkle the gelatin over the room temperature juice. Let rest for 10 minutes.
2. Add the hot fruit juice and stir until the gelatin crystals are well dissolved.
3. Refridgerate for 45 minutes and then add the fruit and marshmallows.
4. Refridgerate for an additional hour and a half. Serve!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Homemade Food Dyes

In two weeks, my baby will turn one year old (sniff!). We already have three (maybe four) different little parties planned for her - meaning three (maybe four) different cakes for me to make. This presents a small problem for me: my aesthetic desire to make cute cakes for my daughter is bumping against my vehement refusal to use any artificial dyes.

We cut artificial dyes out of our diet a few months ago, to see if it would help with Abby's behavior. The difference has been dramatic - she still has her moods and her tantrums (she is 3 1/2, after all!), but the tantrums are not endless, she can find her way out of them, and she engages more with other people. Frankly, I even notice a difference in myself - the last time I had something with dye in it, I was so irritable and crabby the rest of the day and could not get out of my funk. It took me until that night to make the connection - I threw out the rest of the dyed stuff in the house that day.

So with two weeks to go, I decided to try out some natural alternatives today. I've bought the India Tree dyes, but dang, they are expensive - $19 for three small bottles of dye! Sometimes they will be necessary, but I wanted to try a home-brewed alternative. I was fairly pleased with the result:

Clockwise from the top, the food I used to dye was: turmeric + beet juice, turmeric, pomegranate juice, paprika, blueberry juice, beet juice, and avocado in the middle.

I made a big batch of my favorite buttercream frosting (the Cook's Illustrated recipe - 2 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar, 2 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter, 2 Tbsp of heavy cream, a splash of vanilla, and a pinch of salt) and added some dyes. My thoughts:

The spices (turmeric, paprika) added the most easily, but leave a hint of their flavor behind. Not as badly as I thought they would, and I would definitely not hesitate to make yellow or light orange this way.

The juices (blueberry juice, beet juice, pomegranate juice) yield the best tasting frosting, but their sheer liquidity is a problem. I had to stir in a lot of extra sugar to compensate for the liquid, and they are still separating a little. For a "real" cake, I would probably try my hand blender to really emulsify the liquid in.

The avocado actually works well, but tastes avocado-y. I should have pureed the avocado better before adding it in. It is a nice green, and I would probably just stick to using it for accents, like flower petals, rather than trying a whole green cake/cupcake.

No blue - I thought the blueberry juice would be closer to blue or purple, but it's really just magenta. I Googled and found some people use red cabbage or onion skins, but... ew. I can't imagine frosting my cake with water that cabbage was boiled in. If I'm desperate to make something blue, I'll use my India Tree dye.

Forewarned is forearmed, and now I have some better ideas for cakes for Lizzy - clearly, nothing bright red is going to happen, but I think some beautiful sunflowers (piped around chocolate cookies) may be in our future.

(Interested in the controversy around red dye #40? Red Dye Free has a great list of links along the side bar. If you suspect your child may react to dye, try cutting it out. It's made a big difference for us.)