Well, hello! It’s Monday and in this house, it’s laundry day for our diapers. I don’t have many to wash and I’m hoping this is the beginning of the end of 2 kiddos in diapers. We’ve already had a potty victory today and also a defeat. Oh well. Sometimes, the learning curve is just that: a curve. Do you have any potty learning advice for me?
I wrote this post today about how our life is changing. Parenting was something I always wanted to do. I love being a parent and I really love having a little boy, but life doesn’t always fit into the neat little cubbies we plan for the moments. In light of that, it’s going to be an interesting journey to see what we learn along the way.
In between countless trips to the potty today, I made these banana cream cheese muffins. Wow. Just Wow. I am using all my willpower right now to not go back into the kitchen and eat… more. This week, I think I’m going to make this Chicken Florentine Pasta from The Pioneer Woman. Haven’t been able to get it out of my mind since I saw it this afternoon. Yum.
Supper tonight was Taco soup. Our house shook from the strong winds blowing all day today and soup was all we needed! Taco soup is one of the easiest meals I make. 1 pound of ground beef, 1 pint of my home canned corn, 1 pint of my home canned diced tomatoes, 1 quart of my home canned tomato puree and 1 recipe of taco spice.
Homemade Taco Seasoning:
- 1 Tbsp. Chili Powder
- 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
- 1/4 tsp. oregano
- 1/2 tsp. paprika
- 1 tsp. cumin
- 1 tsp. kosher or sea salt
Even though it’s only a pound of meat, one pot of soup stretches very nicely for the week. And, it freezes great! I’ve been slacking on my freezer cooking lately, so it’s nice to have something extra on hand again. I made a double batch of the banana cupcakes with the plan to freeze half… although the number to freeze is dwindling. :)
I’ve been having a rough time coming up with a good lunch plan for me and the kids. Liam is on a peanut butter and jelly only diet and I’m not quite ok letting Sylvi eat that day in and day out. And me? Well, I’m keeping an eye on my caloric intake. Not in the sense that I’m cutting hundreds of calories, but in the sense that I want what I eat to count. I hate eating a healthy meal and then being hungry 30 minutes later. That being said, I’ve spent a great deal of time scouring Pinterest looking for inspiration.
I happened upon a recipe that I thought would be excellent but when I tried it out, it was awful. So I scrapped it and started it again. This result was amazing. Sylvi and I ate it right up, but Liam turned up his nose. There wasn’t any jelly involved so I let it go. I can’t say that this recipe is the quickest to put together, but the time was worth it. This recipe makes enough to serve 4 as a main dish or 8 as a side. I would omit the chicken if I were to make this as a side dish. But that’s just me. I’d also eat this straight out of the pan…
Creamy quinoa and vegetables
- 1 1/2 cups uncooked quinoa
- 1 cup vegetable or chicken broth
- 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
- 1 Tbsp. fresh chives, chopped
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 2-3 cloves garlic, smashed
- 1 crown broccoli, cut into small pieces
- 2 carrots, shredded
- 1/2 onion, diced
- 1 red pepper, diced
- 1 small zuchinni, shredded
Rinse the quinoa and then add it to a medium saucepan with 3 cups of water. (I add 1/2 tsp. sea salt to the quinoa and then don’t add any later since the base ingredient is already seasoned.) Bring the quinoa to a boil and then turn the heat down to a simmer. While the quinoa cooks, heat a skillet over a medium burner and add the olive oil. Place all the vegetables and garlic in the skillet and cook until the broccoli is a crisp tender and still brightly colored. Stir frequently. Add the yogurt, chives and a few cracks of pepper and mix well. Finally add in the broth and the cooked quinoa and stir so that the vegetables are spread evenly throughout the quinoa. If you are using chicken, add it now. As an added bit of flavor when you serve, grate some Parmesan over the top.
I know it will sound odd, but my most important personal change this year is to start eating breakfast. It’s shameful that I really don’t eat well until the weekend when my husband is home and I can actually finish chewing a bite before I swallow. However, I also don’t really care for breakfast foods. Except for scrambled eggs, but those get boring after a week or so straight. I’d been looking through several vegetarian and vegan cookbooks for ideas for our Meatless Mondays when it occurred to me that I could just use some of the whole grain side dishes ideas, add in the seeds or nuts I like and have a healthy, protein packed meal without having to eat cereal from a box.
This isn’t a recipe so much as it’s a guideline. I bring to boiling 1 1/4 cup water and 1/4 tsp. salt and then add in 1 cup of couscous. Cover the pan, and remove from the heat. Allow to set for 5 minutes. Remove the lid and using a fork, fluff up the couscous. At this point, I add in 1 Tbsp real butter, flax or coconut oil, 1/2 cup each of dried cranberries and pumpkin seeds. Then a generous 2 Tbsp. of local honey, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. nutmeg, and stir to combine. These are the flavors I like, but you could easily change out the cranberries for raisins and the pumpkin seeds for slivered almonds. Don’t like couscous? Try this with brown rice or Quinoa.
I make a large batch and then reheat in the mornings. I rediscovered grapefruit and often will have one with a scoop of the couscous. The point is that by eating a whole grain first thing in the morning, I’m getting a number of nutritional benefits not the least of which is fiber which helps to break down starches into glucose and lower cholesterol. Nutritional benefits aside, I feel like a new person eating a real breakfast. I’m not pounding cups of coffee all morning, no matter how sleepless my night was and I feel better focused.
I’ve been looking for some new recipes that can be made in advance and have some options built in. As I’ve mentioned in practically ever post that includes beef, this is the easiest ingredient to ensure Liam will eat supper. Soooo… back to the drawing board with that. I came up with a mini-meatball recipe that was inspired by a fantastic Remoulade sauce that Matt brought home from the store last weekend. We shaped them with a small ice cream scoop
and then fried them like you normally would. These mini-meatballs were then turned into 2 recipes: Spicy meatballs over rice and Cajun meatball subs. I loved them both ways and so did Liam! I think what really made these fun was the addition of Adobo paste to the meat mixture for an added flavor and kick. I made the full recipe and then froze half for use this week. I must say… I’m really beginning to love batch cooking!
Spicy Meatball Recipe:
- 2 lbs. ground beef
- 1 small onion, diced
- 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 Tbsp. dried parsley
- 1 tsp. dried mustard
- 1 egg
- salt and pepper
- 3 Tbsp. Adobo Paste
- 1/4-1/3 cup flour (used to bind the meatballs together)
Mix all the ingredients together and then shape into whatever size you’d like. I chose a mini size to add to the novelty, but that was just for me. Fry them in a pan with hot oil until they are cooked through and a brown crust as formed on the outside. Serve in either of the 2 suggestions below.
Spicy Meatballs over Rice:
- half a recipe of meatballs
- 2 cups cooked rice
- 2 cups tomato puree
- 1 Tbsp Adobo paste
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
Mix together the puree, Adobo paste, garlic and onion powders and pepper flakes. Heat through. Serve the meatballs over the rice with the sauce and garnish with cilantro.
Cajun Meatball Subs
- Half a recipe of meatballs
- 4 Hoagie buns, sliced lengthwise
- Remoulade Sauce
- Shredded cheese
- shredded lettuce, tomato slices and diced onions (optional)
Warm the meatballs thoroughly and toss with the cheese. Remove a small amount of bread from the inside of the buns to form a small indentation. Place the meatballs and cheese in this space. Generously spread the remoulade on the bun. Top with lettuce or tomatoes or onions if desired (or just make a salad on the side).
Oh goodness, it’s been a week and a half since I last posted. I have a long list of topics/recipes to share, but between the heat, my undone to-do list and life with 2 little kids, I haven’t had the time to settle down and think clearly. In addition to life itself, I’d have to guess that the fact that I haven’t done well with my own personal nutrition lately would probably be a reason for my fatigue and lack of focus. Breakfast has been at the bottom of my daily routine. I make it, but as in today’s case, I only got a few bites in before Sylvia woke up and needed fed, once she was done, I had a toddler meltdown to diffuse. Once that was done, there were visitors and cookies in the oven and suddenly, it was lunchtime and my breakfast plate was sitting on the counter, cold and sad.
This bar “cookie” is my current solution. I tripled the amount of oats in the original recipe and used whole wheat flour. Instead of raisins, I used cranberries and then threw in some dark chocolate chips. This recipe makes a 9×13 pan that can be sliced and wrapped individually. You can then freeze these bars as well if you choose to make a double batch.
Mama needs a grab-n-go breakfast bar
- 1/2 c. melted butter
- 1/2 c. applesauce
- 1 c. brown sugar
- 1 (scant) c. white sugar
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
- 2 -2 1/2 cup. flour
- 3 cups whole oats
- 1 1/2 cup mix ins (cranberries, chocolate chips, peanut butter chunks, raisins, dried apricots, etc.)
Melt the butter completely and then stir in the sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla and salt. Add in the applesauce. Once the butter isn’t scalding hot (adding the applesauce will bring the temperature down), whisk the 2 eggs and add them to the mix. Stir in the baking soda and powder, oats and 2 cups of flour. Add more flour if needed to make the batter slightly stiff in texture. Stir in your mix-ins and then spread across the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish (well greased). Bake in a 350 degree oven for 25 minutes.
**You could certainly feed this bar to your cheflets as long as they are comfortable with chewing and have tried whatever extra fruit you decide to mix in. If you are nursing, oats are known for helping your milk supply, however, from personal experience, I’d suggest not eating these every day… lots of fiber can lead to lots of gas in the little ones!
Did you grow up eating Hamburger Helper? Or Tuna Helper? Or anything along those lines? I hadn’t had anything like that until I went to college and while I thought it was a nifty concept, I couldn’t ever get that odd chemically altered taste out of my mouth. I’ve tried the “natural” versions of these meal helpers and had much the same opinion. So really, I don’t do meals like this… until one day I was online and noticed that one of the moms had posted that she had found the solution to this problem on another blog. I was anxious to try the variations out since a meal that cooks as quickly as this one could be beneficial post baby, right? I’ve tried a few of the recipes and my husband, who grew up eating the “real” Hamburger Helper said that the flavors were spot on. In light of that, this woman really spent some time working on the measurements and recipes and I’m impressed. In fact, I liked the concept so much, that when I went to the butcher to stock up on meats and things a few weeks ago, I had them package up 1lb portions of ground beef so that I could make freezer bags that included the meat, pasta, cheese and spice mixes. Everything is together and supper is so fast!
In addition to being able to use all my own spices, real cheese and good pasta, I have been adding shredded vegetables into the meat as it cooks. Just like with my taco recipe
, I’ve added carrots on a regular basis. This weekend, after a long day working outside, my aunt stopped over right at supper time, so I asked her stay. I made the meal when she wasn’t inside with me, so she had no idea what was going into the pan. I added a heaping cup of shredded carrots and about a cup of shredded zucchini and didn’t say a word to anyone at the table. Not only were plates cleared, every one had seconds. So while I totally neglected to take a photo of any of the times I’ve made this meal, I’ve learned that I can add in even more good stuff and walk away feeling like I really did a good job with supper. (Note: if you are going to add in the vegetables, you’ll need to add an additional 1/2 cup of water to the recipe to keep the consistency right.)
For the original recipe, head on over to Chickens in the Road and check it out! Have fun making this recipe (and all the variations!) for the die-hard processed food lovers in your family and watching their faces light up when they realize that fast doesn’t have to have a bunch of unpronounceable ingredients in the recipe.
Taco night is met with great enthusiam in our house. My little boy loves the ground beef, the cheese and the shells. He throws his hands in the air and exclaims “Cheeese!” Thankfully, this is a meal that doesn’t have to been eaten neatly, because he can’t stuff handfuls of his supper into his mouth fast enough.
Because of his love for taco meat, I decided that I could probably amp up the nutritional value with a few simple changes. First of all, I thought it might be beneficial to try adding carrots to the mix. I shredded up a few carrots and mixed them in with the cheese. It sure was pretty, but both Matt and Liam were skeptical. So I tried again. The next time, I added the carrots to the ground beef when I sauteed the onions. To ensure that there were no complaints, I not only shredded up the carrots, but I went through and minced the shreds. I didn’t want anyone to notice or push away their plates. After a few tries like this when no one noticed, I stopped mincing so finely. Then, I added a pint of my home-canned salsa straight into the meat. This way, I’m getting a full cup of carrots, plus 2 cups of tomatoes and peppers into the meat and it’s wonderful!
Another change I made, was to start making my own taco seasoning. It’s not hard, but you do need a lot of spices, so you may want to make several batches of this to keep on hand.
Homemade Taco Seasoning:
- 1 Tbsp. Chili Powder
- 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
- 1/4 tsp. oregano
- 1/2 tsp. paprika
- 1 tsp. cumin
- 1 tsp. kosher or sea salt
Mix all the ingredients together and add to 1 pound of ground beef, turkey, chicken or tofu. Adjust spice level to taste.
My husband brings up this meal on a regular basis. He loved it the first time I made it. The only problem is that neither of us can remember where I got the recipe or how it was served. The only thing that sticks in our minds after the last few years since I made it is that it had ground pork and ground beef and I didn’t like it. That’s why we haven’t had it since… I don’t cook what I don’t like. But what am I supposed to do? It was his birthday wish to have this dish! I thought it might have been a Tyler Florence recipe so I looked through a bunch of his and came to the realization that Tyler seems to use a basic mirepoix (carrots, celery and onions) with a combination of meats, wine and tomatoes when he makes a sauce. So that’s what I did. I played around with the flavor combinations and came up with a meal that satisfied Matt, but one that I also liked.
- 4 slices bacon
- 1 lb. ground pork
- 1 lb. ground beef
- 1 medium onion, chopped finely
- 2 carrots, diced
- 2 stalks celery. diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 pints canned tomatoes
- 1/4 cup port wine
- 2 Tbsp. Cream cheese
- freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Begin by chopping up the bacon into small strips and placing them into a dutch oven over medium/high heat. Add in the meats and start the browning. When the meat has let off enough fat, add in the onions and carrots to saute. When the meat is almost done and the carrots and onions are becoming tender, add in the celery and garlic. Deglaze the pan with the port and scrape all the little bits up. Add in the tomatoes and juice and stir. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the vegetables are tender and the tomato juices are almost gone. Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the cream cheese. Serve over cooked pasta and garnish with grated Parmesan.
Do you ever taste a meal someone else made and have to have the recipe? I do. And I ask for that recipe and 9 times out of 10, I never get around to making it. I hate that about myself. I have so many recipes and so many ideas, that I just don’t often wind up doing the “plan”. This week for instance, I made so much food last week and over the weekend, I’ve just really been heating things up. I do feel badly for my husband and child, but I’ve entered the 3rd trimester and sometimes my energy flags. Now this meal I had every intention of making just like it was served to me. However, when it came down to making it, I realized that I didn’t have all the ingredients and things that I assumed were in it, were not. Therefore, I tried. I really did, but in the end, it’s not too much like what I had originally craved. Now, I will tell you that the original recipe does not call for meat, but my midwife is concerned that I haven’t been eating as heartily as I should be at this stage in the game, so I added the ground beef. It could easily be left out and the dish would be just a wonderful!
Greek Pasta Casserole
- 1 lb. pasta (I used mini ziti, but you could use any shape you desire)
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 lb. ground beef
- 1 roasted red pepper, diced
- 1/2 cup water
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 4 oz can olives (I used the chopped up ones, because I thought my son would eat them better, but you could also serve this with sliced olives or green olives.)
- 1 pint diced tomatoes (I used some from the stash I canned this summer… love popping open those jars!)
- 8 oz. Cheddar Cheese, shredded
- 1 can cream of mushroom soup (or you could use this recipe and make your own! It’s really simple and doesn’t take much more time than it would to boil your pasta for this recipe.)
- 1/4 cup milk (use only if you are using the canned soup, if not omit)
In a large saute pan, cook up your ground beef. I used the fat from the meat to saute the onions, garlic and peppers as well so there was no waste and it cooked together. Yum! Add the water as you need to keep things from sticking to the pan. Then, stir in the olives and tomatoes and reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer for about 15 minutes. In the meantime, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and boil your pasta. I also used this time to shred my cheese since I only buy it in blocks and not preshredded. When everything is ready, pour half of pasta into a buttered 9 by 13 inch baking dish. Spread half the meat mixture and half the cheese over the top and then do a final layer of the pasta, meat mixture and cheese. If you are using a can of soup, mix it together with the milk and then spread it over the top. If you made your own soup, just pour it over the casserole and spread as necessary. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Makes enough to serve 6-8 people, but this does make excellent leftovers and freezes well.
When Matt and I got married, Jack Johnson was just gaining popularity in the music world. We bought his cd
while we were on our honeymoon and I must tell you that every time I hear those songs, I am suddenly in the front seat of our rented Pontiac Grand Prix, driving around Georgia. When Liam was a tiny baby, I would often play the cd for him to wind down to and eventually, we discovered that he would last for the hour-long drive to visit his grandparents much better if Jack was singing. For years, Matt has asked me to come up with a version of banana pancakes that we could use to pretend it was the weekend. Recently, I combined 2 recipes and Liam ate 4 pancakes the first time I introduced them!
This recipe is the perfect blend of comfort and convenience. I tweaked the recipe for a pancake mix I found online keep a batch in my cupboard all the time. When I want to make plain pancakes, I do, but when the mood strikes for a flavored option, it’s easy to change. What’s even better is that these pancakes freeze very well and will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days. Since Liam and I are the only ones eating breakfast in the house right now, it works out for us!
- 4 cups whole wheat flour
- 1 cup wheat germ
- 3 1/2 cups ground whole oats
- 3 Tbsp. sugar
- 4 Tbsp. baking powder
- 1 Tbsp. salt
Mix all the ingredients together thoroughly. Sift if you’d like. Store in an airtight container in the freezer indefinitely or on the counter/in your cabinet for up to 3 weeks. When you are ready to prepare the pancakes, all you have to do is take 1 cup of the mix, 1 cup of water/milk/buttermilk and 1 whole egg. Beat them together and cook them on an ungreased griddle until golden brown on both sides.
For the monkeys: Replace the 1 egg with a whole banana, smashed as smoothly as you like. I mash mine into a puree so I’m certain that the cake cooks the whole way through. Add 1/2 tsp. cinnamon and 1/4 tsp. nutmeg to the mix, banana and milk. Beat together and cook as above. It’s like having dessert for breakfast!
* For the cheflets: This is a perfect way to introduce a wholesome breakfast to your budding foodie! As long as you are certain your little one has no reactions to wheat, tear a cooled pancake into little strips and let your son/daughter go to town! This is an excellent way to encourage self-feeding and also a good method to make sure there is a variety of nutrients in that meal!