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.


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.


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. 


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 
- 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.


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 (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. 

 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 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
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