Baby & Toddler · Recipes · Tips and Tricks

Why we’re going nuts about almonds

Last week, Georgia had her (very belated) 18-month checkup. In addition to hearing that my baby who once wouldn’t gain weight is now in the 65th percentile (!), I was thrilled to get the green light on introducing almond milk and other nut products to her diet. Why? Because, pre-Georgia, that was all we used! We were not dairy consumers, and buying three cartons of cow’s milk every week has honestly been a weird adjustments for me to make when grocery shopping. We always follow G’s pediatrician directions on food, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been excited about the prospect of one day trying things like sushi, tofu, smoothies, natural nut butters and almond milk together, which I always loved before having her.

she's a growing girl who needs her protein!
she’s a growing girl with an appetite to match!

New evidence, which our pediatrician pointed to, shows that children who are exposed to peanut products earlier in life may have a lowered risk of developing allergies later on. That, in combination with their nutritional value, is why our doctor encouraged us to offer Georgia all varieties of nut butters, flours, milks and crackers at home, now that she’s at an age where she can tolerate it. And I’m always excited to offer her new things to expand her palate.

Not quite what I had in mind...
Not quite what I had in mind…

When we gave her almond butter on apples and bananas, and made her a berry shake by pureeing frozen fruit with almond milk this week, she loved it! Now there’s so much more I can’t wait to try. And there are great reasons we use almond products beyond just the taste and the fact that I, like so many people, can’t digest lactose, or that eliminating cow’s milk (while adding exercise) has helped Mark control his once-serious (and hereditary) acid reflux.

another new food buddy?
making new food buddies every day!

Nut products are a great source of protein, which is important if you or your child eat little to no meat, and they are loaded with healthy fats, fiber, fewer calories than cow’s milk, and powerful antioxidants. By including plenty of calcium from sources like organic, low-sugar yogurt and real cheddar cheese in your toddler’s diet, you can confidently replace some of their cow’s milk with almond milk.

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What are some of the ways we use almonds, almond butter, almond milk, and almond flour in our home?

  • A post-workout shake that I created for Mark
  • A creamy, green, fruit smoothie for breakfast
  • An afternoon pick-me-up while at work: I keep raw almonds and walnuts in my drawer at all times!
  • This pasta dish with kale
  • These tasty breakfast Muffins
  • This better-for-you baked Mac n’ Cheese
  • As a substitute for pricey pine nuts in Classic Pesto
  • To make gluten-free treats for friends with dietary restrictions, since almond flour is naturally free of gluten and can seamlessly sub for wheat flour in baking recipes
  • In lieu of cow’s milk as a drink or in almost any recipe. I blend almond milk with one banana and a dash of cinnamon for Georgia, and she loves it!
Pioneer Woman’s Apple-Nut Butter Delights: click photo for recipe

We also love Martha Stewart’s Five-Ingredient Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe, which uses 1 cup almond butter, 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, 1/2 cup packed brown sugar, 2 large eggs and 1/2 tsp coarse salt. You mix together the almond butter, chocolate chips, sugar, eggs and salt until a dough forms, preheat the oven to 350, drop tablespoon-sized dollops of dough about an inch apart onto a parchment lined baking sheet, and bake for 10 minutes or until the cookies puff up and the tops are set. After cooling on a wire rack, you can store these in an airtight container for up to three days!

I’m so glad Georgia been an adventurous eater so far, and I can’t wait to keep discovering new foods together.

Nuts.com gave me the opportunity to share this infographic on the health benefits of almonds here on OrganicGlory. As with all such posts, opinions are my own, and I never endorse anything my family doesn’t already love. Please check with your doctor or pediatrician to make sure you follow their guidelines on when and how to introduce nuts to your family diet.

mac n' cheese and apples: still our two favorites.
mac n’ cheese and apples: still our two favorites.

How about you — how do you cook, bake and snack with Almonds or other nuts? Do your kiddos like them? 

Recipes

Creamy Pesto Linguine tossed with Crispy Balsamic Chickpeas

Hello! Easy healthy recipe for your New Year’s resolution to eat better and cook more. I made this on a night Mark was working and I could eat whatever I wanted, which usually results in Indian food, something with mushrooms, or something spicy. Or soup, because the man just does not consider soup a meal, even if it’s hearty and homemade. Well, except for this one.

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Pesto Linguine with Crispy Balsamic Chickpeas

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 15 oz. can chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans), rinsed, drained and patted dry
  • 1 pound linguine (can be gluten-free, brown rice, etc. if desired)
  • About 1/2 cup prepared (or jarred) pesto, quantity to your preference
  • 2 TBSP balsamic vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • olive oil, about 2 TBSP
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • parmesan cheese, shaved or grated, for the top
  • optional: a dash of light cream to make more decadent

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DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 400F and set a large pot of water to boil. If you are making pesto fresh, be sure to do this ahead of time and set aside.

In a large cast iron skillet or Dutch oven (you know the kind I like), heat olive oil over medium. Any large pan is fine, as long as it’s oven-proof.

Add beans and garlic and cook, adding salt and pepper to taste. Toss well to make sure beans get coated well with seasonings.

Transfer to the oven and bake until beans are browned and crispy, roughly 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, once water boils, cook the pasta until al dente. Once fully cooked, about 10 minutes, drain and return to the pot, off the heat. Toss with preferred amount of pesto until coated.

Remove chickpeas from oven and pour in balsamic; stir until chickpeas are well coated and the vinegar has thickened slightly.

Optional: add dash of light cream to the linguine for a creamier sauce.

Serve one of two ways — combine the balsamic chickpeas with linguine and toss, or plate the pasta and top with the chickpeas. Grate fresh parmesan cheese over the top and enjoy!

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I got three lunches out of this, and it was very tasty reheated. I just love the crunch of the chickpeas against the sweet-tangy balsamic sauce, and the satisfyingly filling pasta! It makes me feel like I’m indulging more than I am, and if you omit the light cream, it’s even healthier. Sometimes it’s good to have a more luxurious version of your everyday recipes in your back pocket, so I like to test recipes both ways. In fact, Mark helped me do just that for our go-to spaghetti carbonara, and I’ll be blogging about version 2.0 of that recipe soon.

I really hope you enjoy this. You might also like this Mulitgrain Spaghetti with Spinach and Chickpeas, or my Harvest Vegetable Pasta. It’s been a while since I made both of those, so I think it’s time to add them back into the rotation! I hope you have a nice long weekend. Stay warm:)

This recipe was inspired by TheLiveInKitchen.

Recipes

Trader Joe’s Tag: Tortellini Roasted Red Pepper Soup

The pictures for this came out terrible, but it’s a hearty soup that comes together really quickly. We picked up all the ingredients at Trader Joe’s but you could easily make this from any store with comparable products! This isn’t soup from scratch, but it is fast, creamy and satisfying, and uses up leftover prepared pesto that you may have made yourself or bought for another recipe. Plus, it’s vegetarian and filling without being bad for you.

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Tortellini Roasted Red Pepper Soup

INGREDIENTS (all Trader Joe’s)

  • 1 bag dried tortellini, with cheese filling (pesto filling is also OK)
  • 1 carton creamy Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper Soup
  • 1 package frozen Melange a Trois (tri-color bell peppers)
  • 1/2 jar pesto (adjust amount to taste)
  • optional: grated cheese for topping

DIRECTIONS

Set a medium pot of water to boil. Boil the tortellini until they are just cooked (usually when they float to the top). Set aside.

In another large pot — I used a cast iron Le Creuset dutch oven — heat the entire package of soup over medium until simmering. Add in the whole package of frozen bell peppers and pesto, then stir in the tortellini. Once it’s all heated, it’s ready to serve!

Top with grated parmesan or pecorino and enjoy warm.

(This makes a thick soup; if you’d rather it be a bit thinner, use half to 2/3 bag of cooked tortellini instead).

The great thing about this recipe is that you can adjust it however you like. Don’t want to use frozen bell peppers? Go for frozen peas, or string beans. I threw in half a can of corn that was lying around from my Shepherd’s Pie a few days before! Love pesto? Add the whole darn jar. Not a fan? Scale it back or omit entirely. You can use any brand of creamy tomato soup, but I really like how the roasted red pepper element adds flavor here. It’s relatively healthy and will also leave you with a few tasty lunches for the week. Plus, even though I love that it’s vegetarian, you can always change that by throwing in some chicken sausage, kielbasa, ground beef or leftover rotisserie chicken. The possibilities are endless.

Dig in and enjoy!

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kid-friendly · Recipes

Pesto Flatbread

Anyone who has kids (and relatives who watch them) knows that it’s handy to have lots of food in the house for everyone to snack on. I’ve gone from being the type of person who never kept junk food around as a way of watching my weight to buying crackers, cheese, salsa, soda, fruit juice, granola bars and cookies in bulk so the grandparents have something to nibble while babysitting! Boy do I know how that goes: you only have one hand to eat with while chasing after the baby, and the fruit bowl can only get you so full when you’re entertaining a crazy toddler.

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The thing is, I love providing food and drinks that our babysitters and relatives enjoy, because they are doing us a huge favor … but it’s hard not to start snacking on the stuff yourself after a long day at work. Diet coke, wheat thins, tortilla chips and pastries suddenly have a standing place on my shopping list, taking me into aisles I never even would have entered before, and tempting both Mark and I when we are home. Lately, I’ve realized that we also seem to order takeout a lot more often than we intend to, because we get home late and then suddenly it’s Georgia’s bedtime and we are starving on the other side of it, with no energy left to cook. So, I am starting to try out recipes that come together really quickly with extremely few ingredients, ideally the kind you can keep on hand.  It’s a way to avoid the pizza delivery guy and have fresher options than processed foods on hand. That’s how I came to this recipe:

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I love that it has just a few ingredients, and that they are the kind of thing you can keep on hand easily. Plus, it comes together in 10 minutes. I served it with a salad and lime seltzer for lunch when my mom and brother were over, and then we finished it off with some homemade zucchini bread!

Pesto Flatbread

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 packaged pizza round or one large tortilla (any flavor/variety)
  • 1 small refrigerated jar of prepared pesto (I used Trader Joe’s)
  • pecorino or parmesan cheese, shaved
  • optional: fresh basil (I had some lying around from this)
  • extra virgin olive oil

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven per the dough or crust directions. You can also use something like Pillsbury dough and lay it out flat and square). On a pizza stone, cookie sheet or round non-stick pizza pan, assemble the flatbread by layering olive oil on the crust (or tortilla), then spread the pesto in an even layer, then top with as much cheese as you’d like, grating as you go. If you have fresh basil, add it on top, tearing off small pieces and adding to your taste. Cook until the edges of the crust are browned, or about 10 minutes. Slice into individual pieces and serve warm.

We decided to call this a “flatbread” since it’s so thin and snackable, even though you make it like a pizza. Calling it a pesto pizza didn’t seem to capture the experience of eating it, since it’s so light and uncomplicated. One of these easily fed three people the afternoon I made it.

I’ll be on vacation next week, but I will share some photos of our trip to Myrtle Beach and Charleston as soon as I’m back! I can’t believe it’s Labor Day weekend already. At least we all got over the stomach bug just in time to take our trip. 

Grow Your Own Way · Recipes · Tips and Tricks

Classic Pesto

Mmmm, Pesto…it’s so savory and versatile. With more basil than I can handle in my garden right now, how could I not make some pesto to put up this past weekend? I usually double this recipe and freeze it.

I like to throw in parsley as well. It adds a bit of freshness and complexity to the flavor!

Classic Pesto

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 cups packed fresh basil leaves
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts (optional)

DIRECTIONS

Blend olive oil, basil, garlic, parmesan and pine nuts (if using) in a blender or food processor. I’ve used both; I find a food processor to be much easier, but it can be done in a blender.

If I don’t have pine nuts on hand, or if I’m feeling too cheap to buy them, I might substitute almonds, which I almost always have in the house. Toasted and blended into pesto, they add a nice flavor. You can also leave the pine nuts out completely if you have guests with an allergy to nuts.

Variations on Pesto:

  • Throw an avocado into the blender for a very creamy pesto
  • Experiment with different varieties of nuts, like walnuts, pine nuts or almonds (just remember to toast them first, which prevents bitterness)
  • Add in arugula for a zippier taste
  • Switch some of the parmesan for pecorino cheese
  • Add in parsley and/or cilantro

How to use Pesto:

  • Put it on a pizza, topped with the veggies & cheese of your choice
  • Toss it with tortellini and chunky tomatoes and fresh basil
  • Slather in a sandwich with mozzarella and tomato
  • Use it as a dip for sliced veggies like peppers and carrots
  • In this awesome recipe for grilled pesto potatoes
Most importantly, enjoy your pesto, however you serve it.
Recipes

‘Creamy’ vegan pesto with edamame & roasted zucchini

This recipe is inspired by one of my favorite vegan chefs, Chloe Coscarelli of Cupcake Wars fame. I made it my own by adding sauteed soybeans and mini zucchini, and by using lime juice in the pesto. Yum!


Ingredients

  • 1 lb. pasta (I love Trader Joe’s garlic-basil linguine, but I’ve also made this with egg noodles!)
  • 1 package frozen edamame (soybeans), cooked and shelled
  • 1 zucchini, chopped, or 1 package baby zucchini, chopped
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • Fresh basil
  • Olive Oil
  • salt & pepper

Directions

Set a pot of water on to boil for the pasta. (I never salt water for pasta, but you certainly can.)

Meanwhile, chop the zucchini and set aside, and boil the frozen edamame according to package directions, either on the stove top or in the microwave. Set aside.

While waiting for the pasta to boil, make the pesto! In a blender or large food processor, combine 2 pitted & peeled avocados, juice of 1 lime, most of the basil (reserve some for garnish), garlic cloves, half a cup of olive oil, and a generous dash of salt and pepper. Process until smooth.

While the pasta is boiling, sautee the shelled soybeans and chopped zucchini in a non-stick skillet over medium heat until browned and fragrant. Salt lightly. Remove from heat.

Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water, and toss with the pesto in a large stainless steel bowl. Add a bit of the reserved pasta water to loosen the pesto and help it grip to the linguine. (Note: If you use the Trader Joe’s Garlic Basil Linguine, you’ll need two packages).

Serve the pasta topped with the zucchini and edamame. Garnish with fresh basil. Voila!

You’d never know by the taste of this creamy dish that there’s no dairy in the sauce. It tastes rich, silky and indulgent.

Side note: If you do have leftovers, don’t be alarmed that the sauce will turn darker because of the avocados.

Avocado makes an amazing substitute for heavy cream and other thickening dairy products like sour cream or cream cheese. I use them in smoothies, pasta sauces, muffins and more. They’re not only a great vegan option for baking, they are packed with dozens of essential nutrients, including fiber, potassium and folic acid, as well as the kind of heart-healthy “good” fats you want to boost in your diet. They also provide a concentrated source of energy for the body, so if you’re a distance cyclist like me, or any other type of endurance athlete, avocados are excellent fuel.

Need more evidence in favor of avocados? Check out this great recipe for an Avocado Lime Cheesecake Tart.

Recipe & Photo: FragrantVanillaCake.blogspot.com