Monday, August 15, 2011

Luc is 2!

Actually he turned two on the 6th, but we've been out of town since then without...gasp...internet access! I can't believe how big my little boy is getting. He seemed to lose his 'babyness' overnight, and what he can do and how well he can communicate now just amazes me compared to only a month ago. 


Yesterday he told me that there where "birds flying in the air" complete with flapping arms. This was his longest sentence yet and contained two words he's never said before! 



Luc had a small but very happy birthday party at home with people close to him and managed to get completely spoiled. For the party, I made these really yummy-- but not even a little bit healthy-- cupcakes. I went classic with Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Icing. I used my favorite chocolate cake recipe which I highly recommend as it's not only super quick and easy, it'll stay super moist for 3 days covered at room temperature . Also, they must've been good because Luc learned the word 'cake' solely from seeing and eating these on his party day. 


So when you're feeling indulgent, you can find the recipe here. To make it into cupcakes simple cut the cooking time to around 12 minutes, keeping an eye on them and checking with a toothpick until it comes out clean. 


I always make my own icing because not only does it take about 5 minutes but I find that the canned ones taste like plastic. I love this cake recipe iced with a Chocolate and Espresso Icing but that's not exactly kid-friendly, so I tried a Vanilla Buttercream Icing that turned out wonderfully. Next time I make these, I'm going to try subbing out the vanilla for peppermint extract and make Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Mint Buttercream Icing...YUM!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Recipe Shout-Out: Amazing Grilled Cheese

This Grilled Cheese with White Cheddar, Carmelized Onions and Sage recipe from Gaby over at Broke-ass Gourmet is super easy and insanely delicious.  Luc and I both inhaled them. It's just not the same without  white sourdough bread so don't be tempted to sub in something healthier -- sometimes it's just not worth the compromise. Next time you have a craving for some goey cheesy goodness make this super flavorful sandwich, you will not be dissapointed!


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Honey-Curry Dip

It's no secret that kids (and most adults!) like food better that they are able to dip into a tasty sauce. This is a super quick, tangy and slightly sweet dip that works beautifullly with veggies or homemade chicken nuggets for anyone over the age of one. Practically guaranteed to singlehandedly increase vegetable consumption!

Honey-Curry Dip

1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt (you can use regular but it'll be thin)
1/4 cup mayonnaise (or Veganaise)
1/4 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp white vinegar
1/2 tbsp honey

Gently whisk all ingredients in a small bowl. Enjoy!


* makes 1/2 cup
* will keep covered tightly in the refrigerator for 4-5 days.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Seeds Banned!

It's been so long since I've posted, anyone reading might have thought something horrible had happened to my hands that I couldn't cook or type. So...that isn't what happened. What has happened is a combination of lack of inspiration, busy schedules, failed cooking experiments, and one small boy with an enormous amount of energy!

My son's daycare has just informed us that we can no longer pack any seeds or seed butters in his lunches and snacks! While on the one hand I want to be respectful of children with allergies, on the other hand it's a huge pain in the ass! Nuts and seeds are so healthy and I do try to encorporate them regularly in Luc's diet. Since he started daycare, as I've posted previously on here, I've subbed Sunbutter for nut butters so that I can continue making some of his favorite snacks. Well...I guess I need work on developing a bigger repertoire of seed and nut free/ easily packed/easily eaten independently by toddlers snacks....sigh...

Monday, June 27, 2011

Strawberries in Ginger Cream

I work Saturdays, a fact that would be a major downer except that where I work just happens to also be the site of one of the best farmer's markets in the city that day. 


Last Saturday, I didn't mean to buy anything, we had our CSA box coming and we didn't really need anything, but I just couldn't help myself when I was walking through and caught the strongest whiff of strawberries imaginable that stopped me dead in my tracks. Most supermarket frankenberries shipped from California look beautiful but have almost no smell, even with your nose pressed right up on them. These fresh local strawberries by contrast smelled of sweet fields still kissed by the sun. They were irresistible and I bought two pints.

After eating them straight up, this recipe is my second favorite way to enjoy strawberries. Due to the strawberries and honey, this tasty little number is suitable for babies over age 1. 















Strawberries in Ginger Cream

- 1 cup sliced strawberries
- 2/3 cup plain yogurt
- 1 tbsp good quality honey
- 1-2 tbsp very finely chopped crystallized ginger


Mix all of the above ingredients in a medium bowl. Divide into individual serving bowls and enjoy!


Serves 4.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Where Food Comes From: Visiting the Urban Farm

If you've been following this blog, you have probably already noticed from this post's book round-up that I feel strongly about importance of kids making the connection between farm and fork. This is knowledge that has become increasingly lost as we become more urbanized. In 2008, humanity passed an important milestone that for the first time ever, globally more people now live in cities than not.

Although we should make the effort to get our kids outside of the city once in a while, many cities have urban farms of various types, from historic showcases to real working farms (even our family's CSA produce comes from within our city's limits!), to help give children a sense of where food comes from. The photos below are from our weekend visit to Riverdale Farm, a 7.5 acre slice of downtown Toronto that is a representation of a historic Ontario farm complete with cows, goats, horses, a donkey, chickens, turkeys, pigs, geese, ducks, and rabbits -- but it was the tractor that was Luc's favorite part!
Below are a few samples of other urban farms that you can visit with your family, and with a little reseach I'm sure you could find near you!

Riverdale Farm  Toronto, Canada
Maplewood Farm Vancouver, Canada
Vauxhall City Farm London, UK
Phillipsburg Manor New York, USA








The Girls





 

It is Luc's opinion that nothing runs like a Deere








Pastoral perfect in downtown Toronto

Friday, June 17, 2011

Cows Producing Human Breast Milk-- WHAT!?

I just HAD to share this super creepy news article. This just sounds like science fiction to me. I don't know that if you were one a woman that couldn't produce enough milk, if this would be a better alternative to formula?

If you get a chance, it's worth a read and the comments are also really interesting to read through.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Peachy Keen Creamsicles

It's been a really cool and insanely rainy Spring around here and I couldn't be looking foward more to the arrival of Summer. Because we don't really have the funds to go on a proper vacation this year, we're going to spend the Summer making an effort to explore our own city and surrounding area. While it's natural to be curious about new places, I think its easy to fall into ruts and routines about what's familiar. I'm actually really looking forward to pretending to be a tourist in our own town.

Now that Summer is officially just around the corner (YAY!), it's time to whip up some nice cool treats. Commercial popsicles, creamsicles, and ice pops are full of artificial colors and flavors and since its just so darned easy to make your own, why bother going to the store? This is really a great treat or dessert for the whole family.

These can also be made appropriate for munchkin's under age one and vegans by substituting agave syrup for the honey and using unsweetened rice milk instead of cow's milk.




















Peachy Keen Creamsicles

- 1 cup peach slices, fresh or frozen
- 1/4 orange juice
- 2 tbsp honey
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/4 cup yogurt
- 1/4 cup milk

Blend all of the ingredients in a blender until very smooth. Divide mixture into 6 ice pop molds (depending on the size of your mold, you may have a little left over -- that's just a little smoothie for the person doing the blending). Freeze overnight.

To unmold, just dip into a cup of warm water for a few seconds to loosen and enjoy!

* makes 6 creamsicles

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Amazing Play Kitchen and Market Stall Ikea Hack

Check out this amazing play kitchen and market stall hack over at IKEA Hacker using the RAST bedside tables! I'm currently looking for a great play kitchen for Luc and if only I had more time on my hands and were as ambitious as this DIYer I would totally make these! 

Snack Stations

This is an idea from Real Simple for creating snack stations to make grabbing snacks for your kids a snap. I'm contemplating preparing stations like this to streamline snack time...that is if I can get my organizational act together. I'm trying to decide what I would include in my snack stations, as some of the choices below wouldn't be my choices. 


So far, I would definitely include: 


- mixed dried fruit
- a healthy savory cracker
- a healthy sweet cracker or cookie
- hummus or homemade yogurt ranch dressing
- peanut butter
- cut up raw or lightly steamed veg
- cut up fresh fruit


Please share you ideas of what would you would add as a must-have to keep on hand for quick snack prep? 


Monday, June 6, 2011

Whole Grain Honey Sesame Cookies

I've been feeling stressed because our dog sustained a head injury and cost us a fortune in vet bills and when I'm stressed, cooking and baking help me to relax. I find it relaxing to not have to think too about anything for a little while besides what I'm doing with my hands and getting into a rhythm of washing, chopping, rolling, stirring... Plus, there's always a little thrill of accomplishment when things work out well.  

These cookies are one of things that I made recently and they were a big hit with my son. These uber-healthy cookies are adapted from the granola muncher's classic, Diet for a Small Planet. Full of whole grains, healthy fat, calcium, and fibre these are cookies that you don't have to feel guilty about eating or feeding them to your little ones. 

















Whole Grain Honey Sesame Cookies

- 1/2 cup honey 
- 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1/4 cup milk (cow, almond, coconut -- your choice)
- 1 1/4 cup oats, ground to a flour
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 3/4 cup sesame seeds, toasted
- 1/2 cup dried currants (or chopped raisins)


Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. In a dry skillet, toast sesame seeds over med-low heat stirring regularly until lightly toasted and nutty smelling. Meanwhile, grind the oats into a flour using either a coffee grinder or a food processor. 

In a large bowl, blend together the honey, coconut oil, and egg. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Dough should be quite stiff.


Drop batter in approximately 1 tbsp size amounts onto a greased baking sheet. Flatten each gob of batter with moist fingers and bake in your preheated oven for 12 minutes, flipping halfway through. Let cool on a wire rack before storing in an airtight container. 


*TIP: measure the oil first and add to bowl and then use the same measuring cup to measure the honey -- it will slide right out into the bowl.


* Will keep for up to 4 days in an airtight container or freeze for one month.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Blueberry Cinnamon Sauce

An easy and healthy alternative to top you and your child's morning pancakes or waffles!




















Blueberry Cinnamon Sauce

- 1 cup frozen blueberries
- 3 tbsp brown sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 1/2 tsp pure almond extract (optional)

In a small saucepan add frozen blueberries, brown sugar, 1/2 cup water, and cinnamon. Bring contents up to a simmer. As the mixture simmers, mash the blueberries with a potato masher or the back of a spoon to break them up. Simmer for 10-15 minutes. 


Mix cornstarch in 1/4 cup water and stir until smooth. Add to blueberry mixture and continue simmering while stirring continuously for about 2 minutes until it has thickened somewhat. Remove from heat and stir in almond extract, if using.

* Makes about 1 cup blueberry sauce.
* Will keep refrigerated for up to one week.
 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Of Birthday Parties and Small Victories

This weekend we attended a friend's daughter's first birthday party! Luc had a fun time playing and it was a lovely party. It was also one of the first times that he's been exposed to non-'healthified' cake and candy. I was unsure what his reaction would be to this traditional birthday fare, but I also don't want to be the 'out there' mom who packs alternative food to every occasion. 

All the kids were sitting around the kiddie table to eat cupcakes. The other kids pretty much just licked off the icing, but Luc examined it for a minute, then picked the whole thing up to eat. He didn't seem extra interested in the icing. He ate most of it, but I helped him finish it off. :) There were also Smarties on the table that some of the other kids were grabbing and so I put one in front of Luc to see what he would do and he played with it for a few moments and then disregarded it and continued to eat his cupcake. I think he didn't realize it was edible since he's never seen candy and it looks nothing like anything he's ever eaten! 

I know he won't always be so indifferent to junk food and sweets but I still took it as a small victory that he was largely uninterested this time.

What have done/or are planning to do when your little ones encounter junk food?

Friday, May 20, 2011

North African Snack Bites

I'm always trying to find new snack ideas and recipes to keep snack-time interesting. I adapted this recipe from on on Food.com. Not only is this snack full of energy, ultra easy and involves no cooking, but it's also a fun recipe to get young kids helping you out in the kitchen. They can press the 'on' button to make the food processor whiz and then help roll the mixture into balls and swirl them in the toppings. These snack bites are suitable for everyone in your family over the age of 1 and I would be shocked if they didn't disappear quickly into even the pickiest munchkin!




















North African Snack Bites

- 1/2 cup peanut butter (or sunflower butter)
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1 cup wheat germ, toasted
- 1/2 cup powdered milk (I used whole milk, but skim would be fine) 
- 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- 1/4 cup sesame seeds, toasted


In a dry skillet, toast the wheat germ over med-low heat until golden and fragrant, stirring frequently. Remove once done to the bowl of a food processor, then add the sesame seeds to the skillet and toast similarly. When toasted, remove to a plate. 


Add peanut (or sunflower butter) to food processor bowl, along with the honey and powdered milk. Whiz until well combined. 


Place the shredded coconut on another plate. 


Form the peanut mixture into balls and roll in the topping, either both or separately, your call.


Transfer to an airtight container lined in waxed paper and chill in the fridge. They will keep for up to 4 days. 

 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Bringing Up Bebe

We've been having some behavioral issues with Luc lately and just the other day I commented to my husband that I want to know the French secret for raising well-behaved children. Every time we've been in France we've been thoroughly impressed by how well behaved kids are, especially when it comes to eating habits.

When we head out to a restaurant in France and the table beside us has children seated with them we know that we don't have to worry about food flying our way, screaming, or anything else our own child does. It seems as though children never make a scene in a restaurant no matter how leisurely the meal... and this happens with no crayons, no kiddie menus, and no portable DVD players. 

I thought I would share this interesting article on the difference between French and American attitudes to feeding babies and child-rearing. So, while I admire the amazing manners that French children display, I definitely adhere more to the American style of feeding/raising children....so I guess I shouldn't expect Luc to behave like anything other than a typical North American kid!

What strikes you as interesting/surprising about this article?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Recipe Shout Out: Baked Vegetable Samosas

These Baked Vegetable Samosas from Simply Life use ready-made wonton wrappers so they are so quick to make and the fragrance of the filling makes it difficult to wait until you stuff the wrappers before digging in! I followed the recipe exactly except to cut out the chili in order to make them toddler friendly. I have also had great success with freezing these. Just freeze uncooked samosas in a single layer on a baking sheet, then transfer to a large freezer bag. There's no need to defrost before baking, just add approximately 2 minutes to the baking time. Hope you enjoy these as much as we did! Follow this link over at Simply Life for this tasty samosa recipe.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Herbed Mushroom Sandwich Spread

Happy belated Mother's Day! We went away to visit my parents and spent much of Monday afternoon sitting in a rural hospital waiting room since Luc had a terrible ear infection -- other than that it was a good weekend out of the city!  This is the second ear infection in two months so I really hope that he isn't one of those kids that constantly have them...fingers crossed.

Onto more delicious topics, this spread is really yummy. It tastes like concentrated homemade Cream of Mushroom soup. However good it tastes, I could not make this recipe look anything other than gross in a picture and so this is a picture of Luc's lunch that featured this spread. He gets a kick out of eating shapes he knows so anything shaped like a star, heart, ball, or circle goes down well these days. Also delicious served with crackers or crispbreads, both for munchkins and adults. Suitable for babies from 8 months, just cut bread spread with this mixture into a tiny dice once baby shows interest in finger foods.














Herbed Mushroom Sandwich Spread

- 1 1/2 cups sliced white button mushrooms
- 2 shallots, diced
- 1 tbsp butter
- 3 tbsp fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- 1/4 cup softened cream cheese

In a large skillet, melt the butter over med-low heat. When bubbling slightly, add the mushrooms and diced shallots and cook, stirring occassionally, until both are softened, about 8 minutes. Stir in chopped parsley.

Let mushroom mixture cool while the cream cheese is softening.


Whiz mushroom mixture with cream cheese in a food processor until fully combined and creamy.

*will keep in the fridge for 1 week



Thursday, May 5, 2011

Avocado and Apple Puree

Avocados, rich in healthy fats, antioxidants, and fibre are a great food to incorporate into your child's diet. Paired with apple, it's an easy sell.This is a quick and deliciously creamy homemade puree suitable for babies from 6 months, once they've had both individually. Also makes a great breakfast alternative for toddlers and older kids...just call it pudding! 


















Avocado and Apple Puree

- 1/2 ripe avocado
- 1 large sweet apple (I used a Gala)


Peel and coarsely chop the apple. Lightly steam using a steamer insert over a saucepan, or microwave for on high for two minutes in a loosely covered glass container. Let cool slightly. 

Scoop out avocado flesh and add along with the apple to the bowl of a food processor. Whiz until smooth, adding water to thin is necessary. (For

* Makes 4 baby servings or 2 toddler servings
* Can be refrigerated for up to 2 days with cling wrap pressed into surface, it will discolor somewhat but it'll still taste fine.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Great Tip for Feeding Toddlers Soup

I love making soups. I love eating soups. However, I do not love trying to feed my toddler soup. But, I also don't like making separate meals if I can avoid it (exceptions are made so that we can enjoy an occasional spicy meal!) . Today there was a great tip on Parent Hacks for dribble-free soup that I'm going to try!

For those of you with toddlers, how do you tackle soup?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Turkey and Mango Quesadillas

I had some frozen leftover turkey from Easter, but you could of course always use leftover cooked chicken to make these quick and fresh tasting quesadillas.I didn't include amounts for the filling because really, you can just eyeball it - just be careful not to overfill or it will come tumbling out as you try to eat. This quesadilla was completely gobbled when I put half of it in Luc's packed lunch. 

While there is nothing in this sandwich that makes it inappropriate younger babies, it's really best for older infants and toddlers fully able to eat finger foods.  You can either cut it into little squares for younger ones or cut into 4's as below for older toddlers, kids and adults.






















Turkey and Mango Quesadillas

- cooked shredded turkey meat (or chicken)
- diced ripe mango
- Monterrey Jack cheese
- black pepper, to taste
- minced cilantro
- 6 inch whole wheat tortilla


Assemble the quesadilla. Only put toppings on one half of the tortilla and then fold it over. I like to put some cheese both first and last to make sure the whole thing melds together as it melts. 

In a frying pan on med-low heat, melt a tiny pat of butter (or you can spray the the pan with cooking spray,  but it doesn't taste as good). Press the quesadilla down occasionally as it cooks to flatten to make it easier for little mouths to eat. Cook until golden, melty, and yummy. Allow to cool somewhat before cutting to keep the goodness from escaping. 


* makes 1 adult serving or 2 toddler servings

Friday, April 29, 2011

Baby's Cheesy Pasta

I haven't posted a great deal of recipes for the little munchkins lately (although I have some things in the works), so I thought I would tell you about this super simple homemade baby food recipe that was one of Luc's favorites. It was invaluable to me because I could whip it up with items I always had on hand when life became less than organized. I adapted this recipe from one on Wholesome Baby Food (an absolutely excellent website BTW). This is a great recipe to introduce baby to cheese, starting from 8 months and Luc, who is now almost two, will still gladly eat this little dish.


Baby's Cheesy Pasta

- 1 cup pastina (baby pasta)
- 1 1/2 cups salt-free chicken broth (or vegetable)
- 1/2 cup carrot puree (about 2 Baby Cubes worth)
- 3 tbsp grated cheddar cheese


Cook pastina in the broth in a medium saucepan according to the length of time on the package. Drain any unabsorbed broth and save for another purpose.


Stir in carrot puree and cheese. Serve to hungry little people.


* Makes 4-5 baby servings
* Can be frozen although better texture if it isn't. Can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Product Praise: Sunbutter

We have no food allergies in our family so I have never had to consider nut alternatives. However, I have to pack Luc's lunches and snacks for daycare and they are nut-free. For those nights when I just have NO time, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich would just be so convenient to pop in his lunch. I didn't have very high expectations for this peanut-free alternative, but I was pleasantly surprised! While this spread has a slight bit of bitterness that peanut butter doesn't have, it's still great tasting and a godsend for convenience. Peanut butter is just so versatile, that I'm so glad that I have an alternative that I can send of in Luc's lunch bag.




















If nut allergies are an issue or you are looking for nut-free alternatives for whatever reason, if you haven't already give sunflower butter a try. Use it exactly like you would peanut butter, for instance in Munch's PB & J Oatmeal Smoothie, Tofu PB & Banana Spread, or Senegalese Peanut and Tomato Soup

Also check out these awesome Sunbutter Cookies with Chocolate Sunflower Seed Drops from Maryea at Happy Healthy Mama!

What's your favorite way to enjoy 'peanut' butter?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Book Round-up: Teaching Kids Where Food Comes From

I believe that it's important for kids to make the connection of where food comes from beyond the grocery store. With the increase of the world's population that live in cities, children are losing sight of the fact that actual people grow our food. We have come far from the era where most of us lived on the family farm and the majority of us are exclusively consumers rather than producers of our food. This disconnect is important because food is something that we not only rely on for our health and well-being, but also has significant cultural value and the choices about how that food is produced have major impacts on the environment that our children will grow up in.

Many kids don't know what eggs are, that apples grow on trees, that bacon comes from pigs, that milk comes not from a jug but from a cow, or that vegetables grow in dirt. Thousands of 8 year olds in the UK think that cows lay eggs.

Beyond making the connection with books and with your kids in the kitchen, give your munchkins the opportunity to appreciate hands-on the sights and smells of food production by taking them on a visit to a farmer's market, take a trip to a local farm, go on a family u-pick trip, volunteer together in a community food garden, or start your own veggie patch and get their hands in the dirt. Children are naturally curious to explore and understand the world around them, it's up to us to offer the opportunities to develop a healthy appreciation of real food and where it comes from that will hopefully last a lifetime.


0-2 YEARS


Spot's Harvest by: Eric Hill


Very cute, simple and bright book in the beloved Spot collection. Spot and his monkey friend pick apples and pumpkins and enjoy their harvest as pie and hot apple cider.









Growing Vegetable Soup: Lap-Sized Board Book by: Lois Ehlert

Incredibly bright and graphic, this book follows a father and child as they plant, water, tend, and eventually pick vegetables. They take the vegetables home and make them into tasty vegetable soup. Even has a recipe for that soup at the end of the book! Such a good book.




3-5 YEARS


Out and About at the Dairy Farm by: Andy Murphy

Fun and concise introduction to where milk comes from. Introduces children to calves, heifers, and milking cows and is filled with facts to appeal to this age group. It even includes a recipe for homemade ice cream!











Pancakes, Pancakes! by: Eric Carle

In this super cute book, a very determined little boy wakes up hungry one morning and decides that he would like pancakes for breakfast. His mother sends him out on their farm to gather all the ingredients she needs to make them: milk from the cow, eggs from the chicken, and flour from the mill. 





4-8 YEARS





Oliver's Fruit Salad by: Vivian French

Oliver helps his grandfather grow and pick fruit from the garden, but he refuses to eat any of it. That is, until Oliver helps grandpa make a big and delicious fruit salad that proves just too much to resist. This bold and colorful  book helps encourage kids to try something new.











The Vegetables We Eat by Gail Gibbons


This book describes all the families of vegetables from how they are grown to how they get to the supermarket or farm stand. Filled with interesting facts as well as information for kids on how to take care of their own garden. A wealth of information presented in a fun kid-friendly format. 





The Milk Makers by: Gail Gibbons

Describes every possible step in the making of milk, from what the cow eats all the way to your family's breakfast table. Very detailed and accurate but also still very entertaining and easy to read.







 
 9-12 YEARS

Bread Comes to Life: A Garden of Wheat and a Loaf to Eat by: George Levenson

This book, written in rhyme covers a lot of ground, following a mystery baker growing wheat, grinding flour, mixing, shaping, and baking bread. Full of fantastic photos and includes a recipe for whole wheat bread. A perfect intro before getting your children to help you make their very own loaf.




For Parents


Kitchen Literacy:How We Lost Knowledge of Where Food Comes From by: Ann Velesis



Written by a noted historian, this book traces the path that has led people to become disassociated from the origins of their food, from the role manufacturers, to urbanization, to transportation systems. This book is fascinating fun read and a good start, but it doesn't fully delve into what we can do and issues of poverty as much as I would like. However, I would still recommend it for those who are interested in this issue.




Disclaimer: If you click through on these links and purchase these books from Amazon, I will earn a dollar or two -- which goes towards my food budget. However, that has nothing to do with why I have posted this selection of books and by all means, if you are interested in them take them out from your local library or purchase them from your favorite seller.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Better Than IKEA Swedish Meatballs

These meatballs have evolved from several recipes and over the course over quite a few remakes and adjustments. I don't pretend that they are at all authentic, but who cares, they taste good and that's what matters. 

In a flagrant display of cultural insensitivity I served these Swedish meatballs with leftover polenta, however, the more traditional accompaniment would be boiled new potatoes and lingonberry (or cranberry) preserves. You could also have fun and serve these as part of a traditional smorgasbord either for a party or have it as a weekend family meal just because toddlers and preschoolers would love having a variety of little nibbles to choose from. Herring, eggs, salads, shrimp (this shrimp recipe is really good), pickles, sausages, and cheeses are traditional, but you could start your own tradition with components that appeal to your family. Due to the milk, this recipe is suitable for for babies over age 1.






















Swedish Meatballs

- 1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
- 1 very small onion (about 1/2 cup), minced or whizzed in food processor 
   until very fine
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 egg, slightly beaten
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp ground white pepper, or to taste
- 1/2 tsp ground allspice
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup beef broth
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 1/2 cup milk


In a large bowl, combine beef, onion, salt, breadcrumbs, pepper, and allspice. Mix well (hands work best). 


Roll into meatballs about 3/4" in diameter. 


Melt butter in a large frying or saute pan over medium heat. 


Brown meatballs on all sides, working in two batches, removing them to a large plate when they are done. 


Lower heat somewhat and add the flour all at once to the drippings left in the pan, scrapping up any browned bits. Add the broth, a little at a time, and whisk until smooth. Add sour cream and milk. Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly until sauce is thick and smooth. 


Add meatballs back into the pan, gently coating in the sauce and letting them warm through. Test one for doneness (there should be no pink).


* Makes 30 meatballs
* These reheat well although the sauce won't look as appealing.
 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Staple Recipe: Creamy Crockpot Polenta

Please excuse the fact that there is no picture of this recipe, I forgot to take one, but I was so excited about it that I couldn't wait until I made it again to post about it!


I have always struggled with polenta. I dislike instant polenta's texture and I find the fact that I have to babysit and stir regular polenta for 35-40 minutes tedious in the extreme.


I have now found the perfect solution! Regular polenta cooks up creamy, smooth and amazing in a slow cooker. I've adapted this recipe from one in The Italian Slow Cooker. Made as posted, this recipe is suitable for toddlers over 1 year but you can make it with all water and serve to babies over 10  months. This is a recipe for basic polenta, but you are really hindered only by your imagination with this one -- I've posted a couple simple variations at the bottom to get you started. Polenta is a great side-dish and is especially good with a meat or mushroom ragu as is, but you can also spread it out on an oiled baking sheet, chill, and cut into diamonds or rectangles and then bake or grill them and use for snacks or as bases for appetizers.




















 Creamy Crockpot Polenta

- 1 cup coarsely ground corn meal (the old-fashioned kind NOT instant or 
  quick-cooking)
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 1/2 cup water
- 2 1/2 cups whole milk

Stir all ingredients together in a large slow cooker. 

Cook on high covered for 2 hours, stirring once halfway through. At the end or the 2 hours, give it another good stir and check if it needs more liquid -- if so add a little water or milk to thin. Let cook another 30 minutes until thick and creamy. Serve hot.


* Makes 6 adult-sized servings
* Polenta will keep in the fridge for 3 days but is best freshly made.



A COUPLE VARIATIONS: 

Add chopped fresh sage along with 1/4 cup grated asiago and 1/4 grated parmesan....YUM

For breakfast: Top with milk, cream, or yogurt, honey or maple syrup, and fresh or dried fruits

Share your favorite variations!









 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Whole Wheat Soft Italian Bread Sticks

This is a bread stick recipe that I adapted from one that I found at Food.com (recipe #104628) to make significantly healthier. These are now more nutritious, quicker to make and still flavorful. As I posted before, I LOVE my bread machine, which incidentally I got for free by redeeming Air Miles! These bread sticks are great for the whole family to round out a supper or as a snack by themselves or with a dipping sauce. We've dipped these both in Luc's Favorite Tomato Sauce as well as Catherine from Weelicious' Ranch Dip with yummy results.These homemade bread sticks are appropriate for children over 8 months.




















Whole Wheat Soft Italian Bread Sticks

- 1 1/3 cup water, lukewarm
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 3 cups whole wheat flour
- 1/2 tbsp gluten*
- 1 tsp Italian seasoning
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 2 tbsp raw cane sugar (or white sugar)
- 1 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 2 tbsp Parmesan or grana padano, grated
- 2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
 
Add ingredients to the bread pan of your bread machine in the order listed, making a well in the dry ingredients before adding the yeast. 

Select the 'dough' setting.

When the cycle is complete, remove the dough to a lightly floured surface and divide in half. Divide each half into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a 5-6" rope.

Place 2" apart on greased cookie sheets, cover, and let rise in a warm place for 20 minutes until doubled (for this part, I preheat my oven at 200 degrees Fahrenheit for 5 minutes to warm in and let them rise in there). 

Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 12 minutes, turning halfway through, until golden brown. 


* Makes 24 bread sticks
* Gluten (aka vital wheat gluten) helps the dough to rise. Can be purchased at health food stores, well-stocked grocery stores, and some bulk stores. 
* Freezes well.You can either freeze after baking, or you can freeze the dough after you remove it from the bread machine and upon thawing, just continue with the recipe. I usually freeze half the dough ball to bake later.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Activities from the Kitchen: Ball Bash

My son had so much fun with this one, as you can see from this video! This is a great activity for burning off some excess kid steam particularly on a bad weather day when stuck indoors. This activity is dead easy, inexpensive, quick to set up, and a fun way to practice hand-eye coordination. 

video



 To set up the Ball Bash you will need:

- a ball (beach balls are good for toddlers as they are large and easily batted 
           around, preschoolers might prefer a smaller and more challenging  
           ball-just make sure that there's somewhere to attach a string to)
- a wooden spoon, paper towel tube, or similar
- some kitchen twine
- a piece of duct tape

Attach the string to the loop of the beach ball nozzle, making sure it's secure. Tape other end of string to the ceiling just out of your child's reach. Hand your child the wooden spoon and let the whacking begin!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The FDA and Food Dyes

The FDA has recently decided not to ban food dyes despite growing research that ties food dyes to hyperactivity in children, a decision that is incredibly disappointing, although unfortunately, not surprising. While I am not American, this decision effects the lives of millions of children (and also, a ban would likely lead to a ban here in Canada too as our government is often largely incapable of independent thought). If you are at all interested, please read this great article from the Huffington Post.



Monday, April 4, 2011

DIY Non-Toxic Potty Cleaning Spray

What goes in must come out. So while this isn't food it is a useful recipe. It uses mostly ingredients that you will have on hand in your kitchen and you can whip up while you're in there anyway. If you're like me and are uncomfortable using toxic cleaners around your munchkins, this cleaner works great and you don't need to worry about what you are exposing yourself and your family to. This spray cleans, disinfects, and smells good while doing it. This also isn't a job for your regular all-purpose cleaner since something acidic works better with....um....protein based messes. Just dump out the dump, rinse with hot water, spray, wipe and rinse again.




















DIY Non-Toxic Potty Cleaning Spray

- 1/2 cup white vinegar
- 1 tsp liquid dish detergent
- 1/2 tsp lemon essential oil
- 1 1/2 cups warm water

Grab an empty spray bottle from your recycling (or buy one for the purpose). Measure out your ingredients in a liquid measuring cup and carefully pour in spray bottle, or alternatively, use a funnel. Shake before using.

* Will keep indefinately

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Senegalese Peanut and Tomato Soup

I have been making this soup for years and I don't know why I never thought to post it before. We make it at least once every 2 weeks since it's my husband's favorite. It's super quick, super easy, and super adaptable and uses things that I almost always have on hand. This is also a great recipe to make after poaching a whole chicken as it uses both the wonderfully flavorful broth and some of the tender chicken. You can also easily make this a vegan recipe by using vegetable broth and leaving out the chicken. Let me know if you like this soup as much as we do!


















Senegalese Peanut and Tomato Soup

- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- black pepper, to taste
- 2 tbsp canola or coconut oil
- 2 tsp Madras curry powder
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 1 14 oz can diced tomatoes, regular or fire-roasted
- 1/2 cup rice (I prefer basmati for this recipe)
- 1 cup chopped cooked chicken, shredded
- 1/4 smooth peanut butter
- 1 cup hot water
- 2 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped


1. In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, salt, and pepper and saute until softened, but not browned (about 5 minutes).


2. Add curry powder and cook stirring until very fragrant (about 2 minutes). 


3. Add the tomatoes with their juice, the broth, and the rice. Stir. Bring up to a boil. Cover and lower to a simmer and cook until rice is done (depending on the rice type you choose, white basmati = 18 minutes). 


4. Once rice is cooked, stir peanut butter into hot water until melted and smooth and add to soup along with cooked chicken. Continue to simmer for about 5 minutes until the soup returns to temperature. 


5. Stir in chopped cilantro and serve. 


* Serves 4
* Suitable for babies over 10 months.




Monday, March 21, 2011

Savory Corn and Cheese Mini Muffins

In my return to work I have realized that it is less tiring being at work than being at home with Luc! Apparently he behaves well at day care and is 'helpful'. I need to find out what their magic is. In the short time it took me to whip these muffins together he managed to eat half a crayon, eat half a dog biscuit, pull the cat's tail, throw a tantrum and defeat the child safety lock on the dining room sideboard....all while I was in the same room and in a span of about 20 minutes. 
 
Oh well...at least the muffins are mighty tasty! I've made them before but made a couple changes this time around and now they are even better. Perfect as a snack, breakfast, or served on the side with soup, these are great at home or in a packed lunch. I adapted this recipe from Top 100 Finger Foods: 100 Recipes for a Healthy, Happy Child.Suitable for munchkins 10 months and up.






















Savory Corn and Cheese Mini Muffins

- 3/4 cup drained canned corn or thawed frozen
- 2 green onions, roughly chopped
- 1/4 plain yogurt
- 1 tbsp maple syrup or honey
- 1 egg
- 2 tbsp butter, melted and cooled slightly
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tbsp corn meal
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 1/8 tsp paprika
- 1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Add corn and green onions to a good processor or blender and whiz until chopped. Add yogurt, butter, maple syrup and egg and whiz again to combine.

Mix dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Add yogurt mixture to dry ingredient and stir until just combined. Stir in the grated cheese to the mixture. 

Spoon batter into a mini muffin pan, adding about 3/4 tbsp to each cup (the picture shows the muffins with a paper liner, but having tried both, I would suggest just using a greased muffin tin without liners as the muffins stick awfully to the paper).

Bake for 12-15 minutes until risen, golden, and firm to the touch. Cool in the pan.

* Makes 10-12 mini muffins
* These keep well in an airtight bag in the freezer for up to 3 months
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