I threw this together to use up the leftovers from our Christmas spiral ham. Any time you have leftover ham, just pick up a box of farfalle (aka bowtie) pasta, a bag of frozen peas and ricotta, and you’ve got a meal.
BOWTIE PASTA WITH HAM, PEAS & RICOTTA
Leftover spiral ham slices, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 bag of frozen peas
1 container of ricotta cheese, preferably low fat/part skim
Milk, cream or water to taste for loosening the sauce
salt and pepper to taste
Optional: a dash of brown mustard
Set the pasta on to boil. Halfway through cooking, add in the entire bag of frozen peas.
Drain pasta and peas, reserving a bit of the cooking water. The starches will help make a sauce when you add the ricotta.
In the original pot over the lowest heat setting, add the ham pieces to the pasta and peas; add the entire container of ricotta. Stirring, add the reserved pasta water back in (1-2 cups should do it) plus a splash of any kind of milk, cream or water to loosen the sauce.
Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve warm.
I also added a squirt of brown mustard to the sauce to add a different flavor, and it really tasted good!
Makes great leftovers, just add a pat of butter and/or some water to re-loosen the sauce before microwaving.
This could be made vegetarian very easily by using Morningstar (or similar) “meats,” which I’ve tried and liked.
Just to be festive, I threw in half a cup of leftover eggnog to make this an extra creamy sauce. We ate it for dinner on New Year’s Day as a snowstorm starting swirling into New England. Cozy and delicious!
Sending a care package a new mom’s way, or putting together a gift for a new arrival this holiday season? Here are my fave picks for the eco-conscious, non-toxic and environmentally friendly baby and mama. These are all companies and products we use and love for our family. But first, Georgia’s first visit to Santa!
This company makes one of Georgia’s favorite loveys, the pink baby buddy. All of their products are organic, from apparel to toys, and they also use PVC-free dyes. None of their products include flame retardants, Formaldehyde or other chemical fabric finishings.
We love their kimono style outfits. This green clothing line is made from sustainable and organic soybean fiber, making them soft on baby and low impact on the planet. The kimono line is their signature, and makes for cozy sleepwear with easy diaper access and convenient fold-over sleeve mittens to prevent overnight face scratches from flailing little hands. We also love their soft, knotted hats, especially for sleep.
This is where we got Georgia’s mattress (and mattress pad). It is certified organic and Greenguard certified (meaning it’s been tested for chemical emissions) and free of allergens. It meets all crib regulations, also fits a toddler bed, and is made in the USA. Best of all, it’s comfortable and firm and she loves sleeping on it. A mattress and mattress pad weren’t things I was willing to compromise on, since she spends more than half her living hours breathing them in.
Creators of shatterproof glass baby bottles with colorful silicone sleeves, LifeFactory designs their products to grow with your child, so you can add a sippy cup top for toddlers and eventually a regular flat cap. There are tons of colors to choose from.
I love, love, LOVE their products. I started out using their laundry detergent because I’m sensitive to fragrances and other ingredients in commercial soap, and now that I’ve had a baby I use nothing else. We tried and loved their diapers & wipes, and now I purchase my household cleaning products from them, too. That way, I don’t have to worry about fumes or residue affecting Georgia (or me, as a breastfeeding mom) when I clean our counters, toilets and windows. In fact, their stain remover is so amazing that I was able to get a HUGE smear of black ink — from a dropped mascara wand — out of our white nursery carpet(!) Find their “welcome baby” gift package here. I also use their antibacterial hand gel at Georgia’s changing table and in my diaper bag, and at bath time their baby wash and body oil is all we use. I even use those two products on my own body so that I don’t put any toxic chemicals near her little mouth while nursing!
Teas that are usually recommended for nursing moms are, in a word, nasty. Not these. With organic blends for preconception, childbirth recovery, nursing and weaning, there’s an option for every stage of pre- and postpartum life.
The “mindful gifts” offered at this site are free of lead paint, heavy metals, and Formaldehyde, and are hand-picked for any age range you’re looking to buy for. Parents of school-aged children can even donate a portion of their purchase to their own district’s classrooms.
Sophie the Giraffe
Georgia can’t get enough of this teether. She loved cuddling and nuzzling it before she was teething, and now it provides a safe, soothing surface to gnaw on when her gums are sore. Free of phthalates and BPA, Sophie features natural rubber and food-based paint that naturally wears away over time. Each one is hand-painted so they are all unique! Available at most baby stores, including Babies R’ Us and on Amazon.
Their organic crib sheets, changing pad covers and easy swaddlers have a trusted place in our nursery. They are available at Babies R’ Us and Amazon. Read more about why I like them in this post about newborn essentials.
We use their calming natural and organic products, especially the diaper rash cream, on G before she does her overnights. It prevents rash from wetness when she’s sleeping the longest. It has a lovely peppermint scent that really is soothing. All their products are certified organic, made in the US, allergen tested and free of peanuts, soy and dairy, with no animal testing. You can find their products at Target or Amazon.
Georgia has two of these: an elephant and a bear, both pink. (See her cuddling one of them in this post). This San Francisco-based company is committed to organic fibers and their products are luxuriously soft to the touch. I wish I had gotten G a curved pillow to match her blankies, because I think it would have come in so handy with tummy time!
This awesome site, dedicated to matching parents with empowering, educational and fun toys for girls, has lots to choose from — but I particularly think it’s cool that they have an entire guide to children’s books about the environment. Check it out.
Baby Gap Organics
We have a new baby coming into our extended family this year right after Christmas, and I’m loving some of Baby Gap’s organic cotton gift sets for the little guy or gal (it’s going to be a surprise). This collection takes gender-neutral baby clothing beyond the realm of green and yellow, which is one reason I love it!
What are your favorite products and brands? Did I miss any?
I am not affiliated with or endorsed by any of these companies. In some cases, clicking specific product links will earn me a small commission. I never recommend any brand or item I don’t believe in and personally use.
This year, I decided to finally make a Christmas list on Amazon, and in keeping with my new life philosophy, it’s what I would call carefully edited. Most of the items are designed to help me organize myself or get back into fighting shape after having this (beautiful) baby. Such as:
These are designed to look like real jewelry, but they give teething babies something appropriate to put in their mouths, instead of your expensive diamond necklace (or your hair, which you should probably cut above shoulder length).
A novel, because some day I’d like to read for pleasure again
Jhumpa Lahiri is seriously one of my favorite authors. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve read her other books, especially Interpreter of Maladies, which made me love short stories again.
Two cookbooks that I think look awesome
Button-down pajamas for easy night nursing
I know, I’m the last person on the planet to buy a tablet. (My Nook Simple Touch doesn’t count, but I do love it). I should never have tried this one at the Apple store…but Mark insisted! And now I can’t stop thinking about it! (PS what do you all think of Mark’s new website design? I’m still tweaking it, but that was one of the few non-baby things I got done during my maternity leave. That and selling a bunch of old furniture on Craigslist).
Of course, what I really need this year is a LOT of new clothes.
My wardrobe wish list includes slimming & stretchy jeggings and leggings, long sweaters that won’t ride up on love handles, feminine blouses that can be tucked in to hide a post-preggo pooch, comfortable yet pretty cotton underwear, low boots that add a bit of height without making me unstable while carting around Georgia, and plenty of skirts and dresses for work, because (ahem) I still haven’t reunited with most of my pants yet. I’m employing the same sartorial tactics I used to conceal my morning sickness (read: diversion) to distract from my as-yet-undefined post-baby body. Where I once used scarves, earrings and patterned tights to draw attention away from my sickly pallor and bloated mid-section in early pregnancy, I’m now making sure that I look my best even when I feel like a whole different person by keeping my hair trimmed, getting my nails manicured, and having fun with the bold lip colors and chunky necklaces. Oh, and I’m buying lots of flats. Lots and lots…and lots…of flats.
I also decided to buy a couple of my favorite jeans in a size larger on consignment to save some money until I lost the baby weight, and I found TWO pairs in my size on the site ThredUp. Each pair was like 10 or 15 bucks, so for less than $20 including shipping I was able to replace two pairs of pre-pregnancy pants that cost $70 new at The Gap! You can also send things TO this site by pre-ordering a free “clean out” bag from them, and I plan to do this for the clothes that just don’t work for me post-baby.
But back to Christmas shopping.
Here are a few other fun finds from Etsy that I’d love to get for myself or someone else on my shopping list this year:
I actually made my mother-in-law a chunky cowl like that for Christmas two years ago. It’s a super easy pattern — maybe I’ll post about it in the future! I love making Christmas gifts. This year, I designed a few ornaments and photo books on Shutterfly, and I should really solicit them for a commission with all the mentions I’ve posted on here lately 🙂
How about you — what are you asking for, and giving, this holiday season?
What’s the best thing about mashed potatoes? How fluffy, buttery and delicious they are, right? But there’s a dark side — all that peeling, chopping, boiling and mashing by hand the morning of a big meal, which almost makes you dread having them. Well, not anymore.
As I mentioned in my Christmas Dinner post, I used a new recipe (new to me, anyway) from the Pioneer Woman, which calls for baking the potatoes the day before (I KNOW) and then popping them in the oven just half an hour before you eat. I had to try it. I love, love, LOVE buttery mashed potatoes, and yet they are such a pain when you’re trying to time the rest of a big meal to be ready all at once. Well, this make-ahead tip 100% worked for me, so I am posting it here in the hopes it’ll save you some time down the line. Enjoy!
Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes
5-lb. bag of Russet or Yukon Gold Potatoes
2 sticks butter
8-oz. container of plain cream cheese
1 cup half-and-half or heavy cream
Salt & pepper to taste
Peel and cut the potatoes evenly into halves or quarters. Set a large pot of water on to boil, and when the water is simmering rapidly, add the potatoes. Cook for at least 30 minutes.
Once the potatoes are fork-tender, drain them in a large colander. When they are done draining, place them back into the dry cooking pot on the stove over low heat. Mash by hand with a potato masher over low heat, allowing all the steam to escape.
Turn off the stove and add the softened butter, starting with one stick and adding more to your taste. Then add the cream cheese and half a cup of the half-and-half or heavy cream, again adding more to your taste. Mash until there are no more lumps.
Taste and season with salt and pepper, taking care not to under-salt.
Stir well and add to a medium sized baking dish. Top with a few pats of butter and put it in the fridge, covered, until you’re ready to bake it.
If you’re eating it right away, just bake at 350 until the butter on top is melted and the potatoes are warmed through. If you’re making ahead of time, take it out of the fridge an hour or two before your meal and heat for 25 to 30 minutes at the same temperature.
Chopping the potatoes into smaller pieces hastens the cooking time. Half or at the most quartered should do it, otherwise they’ll fall apart in the water.
Using a hand-held potato masher is the only way to go. An electric mixer sometimes makes the potatoes glue-y.
Make sure you’ve set the butter out to soften for a bit before mixing it into the potatoes. I also like to leave the half-and-half and cream cheese out for a few minutes to come closer to room temperature before using.
Make sure you taste before putting the potatoes into your baking dish to make sure they’ve been salted enough!
Looking for the perfect festive, filling thing to serve your house guests on Christmas morning? Look no further than the German Apple Pancake.
This is a recipe my aunt gave me a few years ago, after we had it for breakfast on Christmas morning at her house in Florida. Health food it ain’t — but you can’t do better by your house guests on a holiday morning!
German Apple Pancake
4-5 large apples, cored and sliced
2 stick of butter
1 Cup flour
1 Cup milk
1/4 tsp salt
Cinnamon-Sugar (make it with 1 TBSP sugar & 1 tsp cinnamon)
Melt the stick of butter in a small saucepan on the stove top, then pour directly into the bottom of a 9×13 glass pan.
Mix the pancake batter by hand: blend the flour, milk, eggs and salt in a medium sized mixing bowl, and set aside.
Arrange your sliced apples (I find big, tart Granny Smith apples work very well) to cover the melted butter in the bottom of the pan.
Pour the batter over the top of the apples, then sprinkle with the cinnamon-sugar, which will create a nice crust.
Bake at 400 for 25 minutes. Serve with warmed, real maple syrup. Goes great with bacon (real or fake!)
Tips: This is best served warm, the same day you make it. It just doesn’t reheat as well. You can add more apples along the bottom layer if you like, and of course you can add more cinnamon-sugar on top. It’s also delicious without the maple syrup.
Looking for more brunch food ideas?
I also love these two recipes by Ina Garten for one-pan baked berry blintzes & apricot butter. I saw them on her show last year when she did a brunch special, and tried both immediately. I hope you enjoy them!
These are great for feeding a crowd, and they make excellent leftovers the next day, when the last thing you want to think about is cooking. I make them meat-free and will often throw in different veggies to vary the sauce — think spinach or kale, sauteed in the pan with the onion and garlic — before I mix in the tomato sauce. You can also add sauteed mushrooms, or crumbled cooked veggie-burger patties, to mimic the feeling of ground meat. If you decide to add beef or sausage, you’ll need about half a pound, and you want to go lean or it gets too greasy. The possibilities with these are endless!
1/2 a package jumbo shells (one package = 12 oz. They only sell this size, so you’ll either need to make a double batch and freeze one pan, or count out about 20 shells to fill one 9×13 glass baking dish).
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 jar of pasta sauce (honestly, I seldom make my own sauce for this dish — it just turns an easy recipe into something time-consuming. My preferred sauce for stuffed shells is Classico, the Florentine variety).
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (I grate myself — one of my kitchen rules is to never use packaged parm. There’s a huge taste difference).
Preheat the oven to 350 F.
Set a large pot of water on to boil. I find it’s easier to use a large stock pot for this, even though the shells with probably fit into a saucepan, because in a bigger pot they don’t stick inside of each other. Plus, you can easily fish them out of the bigger pot with a slotted spoon, which prevents them from breaking apart like they do when you drain them in a colander.
In a small skillet, combine the chopped onion & garlic with some butter and olive oil (because using a little bit of both, as I always say on this blog, helps prevent the other from burning). I add the garlic after the onion has softened for a minute or two by itself, so the garlic doesn’t scorch.
If you are adding meat, this would be the place to add it — use a bigger skillet than the one I have here, and make sure you drain the fat once it’s browned.
Pour your jarred tomato sauce into a mixing bowl, and add the cooked onion and garlic. Stir. If you are making the meat version, it makes more sense to add the tomato sauce directly into the larger skillet instead of dirtying a bowl.
Next, you want to mix your cheeses.
In a large bowl, combine the ricotta, half the mozzarella, (1 cup), the Parmesan and the egg and mix well.
By now, your shells should be done cooking. One by one, remove them from the water with a slotted spoon; place them on a paper towel, face up, so they fall open. You only need to let them cool for a couple minutes, so you can handle them.
Now comes the fun part: stuffing the shells!
Before you stuff the shells, pour half your tomato sauce mixture into the bottom of your baking pan and spread evenly. To start stuffing the shells, use a spoon to scoop up about a tablespoon of the ricotta mixture. Line them up in the pan:
Aren’t they beautiful?
Next, pour the remaining sauce over the top, cover, and bake in the oven for 30 minutes, or until hot and bubbling. Uncover; top with remaining 1 cup of mozzarella and bake for another 5 minutes.
This makes at least six servings. Serve with a nice salad and you’ve got a delicious Italian dinner! This is a potluck favorite of mine, and added to any holiday spread it gives a tasty option for vegetarians who won’t be having the ham or turkey that’s typically the focus of the meal.
I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday! As promised, I’m posting a few recipes from our Christmas Dinner. First up: Corn Casserole, which was a huge hit with the family this year. Props to my aunt’s friend Elsie for passing along this recipe a few years ago!
2 cans of whole kernel corn, drained
2 cans of cream-style corn
4 heaping TBSP flour
1 1/2 TSP vanilla
1 1/2 C milk
4 eggs, beaten
1 stick butter or margarine, softened
1/2 C sugar
Dash of pepper
Pinch of salt
Combine all ingredients and pour into a buttered glass 9×13 dish. Bake, uncovered, at 400 for at least an hour. Let sit for about 10 minutes after it comes out of the oven so the middle sets. This tends to do really well being cooked the night before and reheated to save you hassle on the holiday!
How amazing does this look! Chai is one of my FAVORITE beverages, and if there’s a classy way to add booze (and cinnamon sticks), I’ll do it. Check this out, courtesy of the My Life as a Mrs. blog. It’ll be showing up at my Christmas Day celebration, that’s for sure.
6 oz. strong Chai Tea (I used 1 tea bag for 6 oz. water)
2 oz. vanilla vodka
¾ oz. amaretto liqueur
½ oz. simple sugar
½ oz. half n half
Bring 3 cups of water to a boil and steep 4 tea bags for 2 to 4 minutes (following the tea directions on the box). Allow to cool and refrigerate until time of use (3 cups tea will yield 4 drinks).
In a cocktail shaker or tall glass, combine ingredients and shake or stir generously (shaking will froth up the half n half and help release the infused flavor in the spirits). Fill glass with ice and pour drink over ice. Garnish with a cinnamon stick or two.
Visit CuisineofIndia.com for Indian Food Expert Madhu Gadia’s authentic spiced chai latte (masala-chai) recipe, if you’re interested in making the real thing from scratch!
No, I don’t have any little ones of my own (yet), but I do have a niece and nephew to buy for! This blog, Mama Natural, is a great resource for moms and moms-to-be. Even though I’m not a Natural Mama myself yet, this blog is all about the same things that mine focuses on — unprocessed, natural living in a consumption-focused world! So check out Mama Natural’s Christmas gift ideas for babies and toddlers, and perhaps you’ll get a “natural” gift idea for the little ones in your life.
She also has some pretty cool gift ideas for Natural Women on the blog