Friday, May 31, 2013

Homemade Baby Food Combos for 8-12 months

Now that GiGi has hit the 8 month mark, she can try a much bigger variety of foods so I experimented and tried out a few things. Check out some of her favorite concoctions (or my previous post on making baby food!). Some things so good even mom and dad could give them a try!

Sweet Potatoes & Lentils
Steam up two sweet potatoes to a soft consistency. Boil 1/2 cup of dried lentils according to package directions. Blend the sweet potatoes to a relatively smooth consistency. Mash up the lentils with a fork. Stir to combine. Chicken or beef also go great with this. (Poach the chicken or beef and toss it in a blender with some water just like you would vegetables.) Once babe is ready for finger foods, just mash up the sweet potatoes with the lentils to keep it chunky for those little fingers.

Broccoli & Green Apple
Steam up two cups of broccoli and one medium green apple. The apple just needs to be softened so if you are steaming them together, steam the broccoli for a few minutes before you add the apple. Blend them together to a smooth consistency.

Avocado & Cream Cheese
Super simple! Just mash up half of an avocado and mix with two tablespoons of cream cheese.

yum! yum!
all gone!

Apple & Carrot Turkey Meatloafs
original recipe from momtastic

This was one of my favorites from when curly girl was little. 

1 lb ground turkey
1 whole egg or two egg yolks, beaten (yolks if you're nervous about egg allergies)
1/4 cup applesauce
1/4 cup carrot puree 
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup wheat or oat bran
pinch of basil
pinch of garlic powder

Combine all ingredients. Add more bread crumbs or carrot/apple puree if it seems too wet or too dry. You can bake it in a regular loaf pan at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Slice and crumble for the little one. I like to use a muffin pan and put about a 1/2 cup of mixture in each tin. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes. I'll make a double-batch and freeze extras for quick meals (or maybe when you finally treat yourself out to a dinner out and need something easy for a babysitter to serve.)

little turkey meatloaf muffins

clearly staged for a picture. it looked nothing like this two seconds after serving it to miss gigi

Banana Teething Biscuits
original recipe from easy banana recipes

1 cup flour
1 cup of dry baby cereal
1 medium banana, mashed (1/3 cup)
2 TB vegetable oil
3 TB water

Combine flour and cereal. Mix in banana, oil and water until it forms a non-sticky dough. Pat out on a floured surface to a 1/2" thick. Cut into bars and smooth out the edges. Bake at 425 degrees for 10-12 minutes on a greased or parchment papered cookie sheet. Allow to cool and harden. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Pinspired: Kale, Strawberry, Avocado Salad

I've decided to take a break from my Make-Ahead Mondays series for the summer. As much as I love a make-ahead meal, there's just something about summer and desiring nothing but simple, fresh meals. 

Confession... We have been itching to go on a health kick and after having a few conversations about vegetarianism, juicing, raw foods, etc. with some folks we know, we decided to buy in. We watched the documentary Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. Great stuff! convincing that we went out and got ourselves a juicer and made the great attempt for a 10 day juice fast. Epic. Fail. We made it for two days but were too drained to continue so I decided to stick with the juicing for breakfast and lunch but make mostly raw vegetarian dinners to supplement. (Sorry, Joe Cross!) It's been a neat change and I think juicing is something I might try for a while. 

I came across this awesome pin from Two Peas & Their Pod for 20 of their favorite summer salads. I was so inspired looking at their awesome colorful pictures. I had the kale and strawberries so this was my first pick. 

Kale, Strawberry & Avocado Salad
original recipe by Two Peas & Their Pod
yields 4 small salads or 2 dinner salads

4 cups chopped kale, stems removed
1 cup sliced strawberries
1 avocado, chopped
1/3 cup nuts (whatever you like. I happened to have pecans)
1/4 cup feta cheese

Lemon Poppyseed Dressing:
2 TB extra virgin olive oil (grape seed oil is also AWESOME for salad dressings)
2 TB fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon poppyseeds
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper

Pile up your plate with kale. (We found this awesome bag of mixed baby kale at Costco.) Sprinkle the strawberries, avocado, nuts and feta cheese on top. Sprinkle with a little sea salt and fresh cracked pepper. 

To make the dressing, combine the ingredients in a small container with a tight lid and shake it like crazy. I used my handy, dandy Magic Bullet (but failed to think about adding my poppyseeds after the fact so they got a little crushed. Oops.)

Drizzle a little more than a tablespoon of dressing over your salad. 

What a great treat for a quick weeknight dinner!


Lemon Poppyseed Dressing
What an awesome salad dressing from fresh ingredients!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Super Simple Strawberry Cake

My curly girl LOVES strawberries. Really. Loves. Strawberries. ... so we almost always have them in stock. Of course when you buy some strawberries that quickly go beyond their prime, you need to find something to do with them so this Martha Stewart recipe became a big winner in our house. It comes together so easily for a from-scratch cake recipe.

i made this for a social so i added an extra half to the recipe and it worked perfectly in an 8x13 cake pan
Strawberry Cake
original recipe by Martha Stewart


6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pie plate
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 pound strawberries, hulled and halved (I couldn't fit this many on my cake so if you're a little low, no worries!)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 10-inch pie plate. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together into a medium bowl. 
Put butter and 1 cup sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium-low; mix in egg, milk, and vanilla.  
Reduce speed to low; gradually mix in flour mixture. Transfer batter to buttered pie plate. Arrange strawberries on top of batter, cut sides down, and as close together as possible. Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons sugar over berries. 
Bake cake 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Bake until cake is golden brown and firm to the touch, about 1 hour. Let cool in pie plate on a wire rack. Cut into wedges. Cake can be stored at room temperature, loosely covered, up to 2 days.

BONUS! I just had to make it my own so I also made a lemon glaze to put on the side. To make a simple lemon glaze, simply mix together a few tablespoons of lemon juice (fresh squeezed preferred always) with about a 1/2 cup of powdered sugar. You can play with the ratio of lemon juice to powdered sugar until you get a nice drizzly texture and the sweetness that you like. 


Monday, May 20, 2013

Make Ahead Monday: Homemade Chicken Pot Pie

Summer is quickly approaching so I’m trying to empty out our freezer to get ready to freeze some veggies from our wonderful CSA. One of my {least?} favorite summer activities is chopping up vegetables from our CSA or the farmer’s market and freezing them in small packages for meals or cooking. When I opened our freezer, I saw that we had onions, peas, carrots and some leftover pearl onions from an earlier recipe and some frozen corn so I thought… hmm… sounds like a pretty good set of veggies for a chicken pot pie!

Writing my blog has inspired me to try a few things from scratch and BYOC (Be Your Own Chef) instead of always reaching for recipes so here goes! Something I made up from memory and turned out pretty awesome!

click above for an easy print copy


Chicken and veggie filling:
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 stalks of celery, chopped
1 medium onion, diced
½ TB olive oil
3 TB butter
3 TB flour
2 cups milk (I used skim but whatever you have is fine!)
4 cloves roasted garlic (TOTALLY optional but amazing)
2-3 cups chicken stock
½ cup frozen peas
½ cup frozen corn
1 cup frozen pearl onions
2 cups cooked chicken, chopped (a store-bought roaster chicken works great for this)

Biscuit top:
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
2 ½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt (or a little less regular table salt)
6 TB cold butter, plus additional melted to brush the tops
¾ cup milk


Heat the ½ tablespoon of olive oil in large pot over medium heat. Add in the diced carrots, celery and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally until the vegetables soften, about five minutes. Add the butter and stir until melted. Add the flour and stir to combine until a paste forms over the vegetables. Slowly begin adding the milk stirring as you go to absorb the butter and flour mixture. What you’re doing here is creating a roux to thicken the sauce. Adding milk creates a basic white sauce. Once you’ve added all of the milk, let it come to a low boil to thicken until it can coat the back of a spoon (about five minutes). This is where I added a few cloves of roasted garlic, some salt and pepper to flavor the sauce. (Maybe this makes me a bit of a nut but I always have some roasted garlic on hand in the freezer for just this sort of thing. If you’ve got regular fresh garlic, you could add a few cloves in with the carrot, celery, onion at the beginning. You can also just leave it plain or add whatever seasonings you like.)

Once the white sauce has thickened a bit, begin adding chicken stock a little at a time. Start with two cups and add a little more if you want the pot pie soupier or you are using a few more veggies than my recipe. Toss in the frozen veggies—peas, corn and pearl onions (or whatever variety you prefer! Remember BYOC.) Stir in the chicken.

Pour the chicken and sauce in a 9x13 pan sprayed with some cooking spray.

To top the pot pie, I just made some basic biscuit dough. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. With a pastry blender or a fork, smash the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles a course meal. Stir in the milk a few tablespoons at a time until the dough comes together but isn’t too wet to handle. Turn the dough onto a floured surface, roll out and use a biscuit cutter or drinking glass to cut out a dozen biscuits. Place the biscuits on top of the pot pie. Brush with a bit of melted butter.

Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 40 minutes or until the pot pie is bubbling and the biscuits are browned.

There you go! A simple way to use up some frozen veggies and a homemade way to skip those nasty frozen pot pies. It makes for a perfect make ahead since the sauce will continue to thicken up once it cools and is reheated.

Now I happened to have family over on Sunday so we ate up every bite but if I hadn't had company, I would have split the recipe between two aluminum square pans, baked one and froze the other for a future meal. 


 chopped up veggies right out of the freezer

softened and butter added 

 flour added to form a paste around the veggies

milk added to a soft boil to thicken the sauce

 some yummy roasted garlic all squished up to flavor the sauce

 all poured into the pan waiting for the biscuit top

 the flour mixture combined with the butter to create a course meal texture

 ready to roll!

 biscuits cutted and topping the pot pie

an awesome serving of homemade chicken pot pie

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Great Idea: a Stay-Put Picnic Table Cover

One of my college friends posted this great idea of making a DIY custom tablecoth using a standard tablecloth and sewing some elastic around the fabric to gather the ends under the table. I loved this idea and was just waiting for the right project to pop up to use it. 

When I recovered our outdoor patio chairs (post to come soon!), I miscalculated how much fabric I would need and ended up with four extra yards (... um, yeah. WAY over-calculated but it was 50% off so I wasn't being too careful.) This project came to mind and I realized what a perfect fit it would be for a picnic table cover. 

The idea is simple (assuming you can sew!) 

Here's how: Stay-Put Picnic Table Cover

Supplies needed:
Fabric or a store bought tablecloth
A few yards of elastic (1/8 to 1/4 inch in width)
Your trusty sewing machine

Step 1: Measure your table

Yup, that's pretty much it. No worry about being too exact. If you're doing a circular table, you may want to lay your fabric on top of your table like my friend Patricia and trace out the edge of the table with a fabric marker.

Step 2: Cut out your fabric

Add five inches on each side of your above measurements and cut out your fabric.

Step 3: Sew your elastic on

If you are using a fabric that frays a lot, you may want to take the time to zig-zag stitch around the edges to limit fraying. Remember that this is going to be under the table so you won't see much of it so it doesn't have to be pretty.

To sew the elastic on, pick a starting point and line up your elastic on your fabric and put your needle down into the elastic and fabric. Back-stitch a few stitches to secure and sew on! As you sew, stretch your elastic tight.

I made a rectangular tablecloth so I back-stitched and cut my elastic at the end of each side. For a round table you can just keep on going.

Step 4: Enjoy your stay-put table cover!

When you're done sewing, pull it off your machine and try it out! 

What a great idea! No need for annoying clips or picnic table weights. 

Coming soon... DIY cushion covers!

Make Ahead Monday: Beer, Ginger, and Garlic Braised Beef

It was Mother’s Day this weekend so we decided to do something a little special for our make-ahead meal this week and make a beef roast! A big, ‘ol pot roast is a perfect make-ahead meal. It’s slow cooked and delicious and whatever you don’t get to in a few days you can shred up and throw in the freezer for sandwiches on another day when life has gotten the better of you and you need a quick easy dinner.

We’ve made a ton (I mean it, a ton!) of beef roast recipes but our one of our all time favorites is from Aarti Sequeira. She uses a beef brisket for her recipe but we’ve tried a few different beef cuts and they all seem to work pretty well. The recipe is a little different with the use of ginger, cloves, cardamom and cinnamon. They add a touch of sweet spice to the onion sauce. Yum!

Beer, Ginger, and Garlic Braised Beef

original recipe by Aarti Sequeira


2 tablespoons canola oil
1 (3-pound) beef brisket, trimmed of excess fat and silver skin
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (2-inch) stick cinnamon
10 whole cloves
1 tablespoon ground cardamom (or 4 pods crushed… but who can find those?)
2 pounds white onions, sliced 1/2-inch thick (about 3 medium)
3 tablespoons Ginger-Garlic Paste, recipe follows
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 (22-ounce) lager beer (recommended: Sapporo)
1 cup beef or chicken broth
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Warm the oil in a large, ovenproof Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Season the brisket with salt and pepper on both sides, and then add the meat to the pot. Brown on all sides, about 10 minutes total. Remove from the pot and set aside on a plate.

Turn the heat down to medium and add the cinnamon stick, cloves, and cardamom pods; they should sizzle upon contact with the oil in the pot. Once they start releasing their aroma (less than 1 minute), add the onions and Ginger-Garlic paste. Sprinkle with a touch of salt to help them release some moisture. Saute until they soften and turn golden, about 10 minutes.

Stir in the sugar and beer to the pot, scraping up any bits that may have stuck to the bottom. Carefully, using a pair of tongs, return the brisket to the pot. Then add enough broth to bring the liquid halfway up the brisket, about 1 cup. Bring the liquid to a boil, shut off the heat, cover, and transfer to the oven where it will cook away for 3 hours until it's very tender. Remove the lid in the last half hour of cooking to reduce the liquid.

When you're ready to serve, check the gravy. Stir in the cider vinegar. If it's too thick, don't be afraid to add a little water to thin it out. If it's too thin, reduce it on the stovetop. Taste for seasoning; depending on the brand of broth you used, you may want to add a little more salt.

When slicing the brisket, remember to slice across the grain, that way you'll get the most tender pieces of meat. Spoon a little gravy over the top and enjoy a slice of brisket heaven!

Ginger-Garlic Paste:

1/2 cup cloves garlic
1/2 cup (1/2-inch slices) fresh ginger
1/4 cup canola oil

Throw the garlic, ginger, and canola oil in a mini-food processor or blender and let it go until it forms a semi-smooth paste. There will still be tiny little pieces in there, but overall, it should resemble a paste. 

 seasoned and ready to be browned

 a pile of ginger and garlic for the paste

 ginger garlic paste (... Bath & Body Works should bottle this up! It smells heavenly!)

 browning the onions with the yummy spices

 beer added and ready for the beef

taking a bath... for three hours


Friday, May 10, 2013

"Copy Cat" Soft Batch Cookies

I've been looking forever for just that perfect basic chocolate chip cookie recipe. I've tried a bunch--some too much butter, some too cakey, some not enough chocolate chips. My husband found this one on allrecipes and it's been a winner ever since! 

My husband is a Keebler Soft Batch addict! I've never been able to get over the chemical taste so I'm not a fan but I love that these cookies come out perfect every time and taste just like how "soft batch" cookies should be. Soft but not in an underbaked way. Check 'em out!

Copy Cat Soft Batch Cookies
click above for an easy print copy
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons hot water (I think this is the secret!)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups chocolate chips (I'm a milk chocolate gal... but whatever you like!)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cream together the butter, white sugar, and brown sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Stir in the vanilla. Dissolve baking soda in hot water. Add to batter along with the salt. Stir in flour. Finally mix in the chocolate chips. 

I like to make these kinda small so I use just about a tablespoon of batter, roll into a ball and drop onto a parchment paper covered cookie sheet.

Bake for exactly 10 minutes in a preheated oven. The edges and top should be just getting a little golden. 


Monday, May 6, 2013

Make-Ahead Monday: Chicken & Dumplings

So here in Minnesota we’ve had an insanely long winter leading to being cooped up inside much longer than usual and one final bout of a cold running house-wide.

There’s no better cure for a nasty cold than a warm bowl of chicken and dumplings. We are huge lovers of Tyler Florence and have found this recipe of his to be a go-to make-ahead and a definite favorite when you need a little comfort food.

Sure to cure your ills: Chicken & Dumplings
Original recipe from Tyler Florence

Buttermilk-Chive Dumplings:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/4 cup chopped chives
3/4 to 1 cup buttermilk

Chicken & Sauce:

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons oil
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
6 cups chicken stock
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup frozen pearl onions
1/4 cup heavy cream (whipping cream is fine too if you have trouble finding heavy cream)
about 3 cups poached, shredded chicken (rotisserie chickens are an easy go-to if you don’t have time to poach one)
Freshly ground black pepper, for garnish
Chopped chives, for garnish

To make the dumplings, sift the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. In a small bowl, using a whisk, lightly beat the eggs, chives and buttermilk together; pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and gently fold. Mix just until the dough comes together; the batter should be thick and cake-like.

To prepare sauce, in a Dutch oven, over medium heat, add the butter and oil. Add the carrot, celery, garlic, and bay leaves and saute until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the flour to make a roux. Continue to stir and cook for 2 minutes to coat the flour and remove the starchy taste. Slowly pour in the chicken stock, 1 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition. Add frozen peas and pearl onions.

Let sauce simmer until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 15 minutes. Stir in cream.

Fold the shredded chicken into the sauce and bring up to a simmer. Using 2 spoons, carefully drop heaping tablespoonfuls of the dumpling batter into the hot mixture. Tyler writes that “the dumplings should cover the top of the sauce, but should not be touching or crowded” but I say, yeah, right! Unless you have a huge dutch oven, they’ll probably crowd the top. Mine always turn out fine anyway. Let the dumplings poach for 10 to 15 minutes until they are firm and puffy. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Season with freshly cracked black pepper and garnish with chopped chives before serving.

see? told you we always crowd the pot!


Want to take it to the next level?

Make your own chicken stock! 

Yum! Seriously, Carl and I make a bulk of chicken stock a few times a year so that we're always using homemade stuff. I'll be sure to do a full post on this sometime soon but if you want to give it a shot, I think Ina Garten has got it right. Check it out!