Baby & Toddler · Grow Your Own Way · Recipes

Sneaking veggies into food (with toddler-friendly risotto recipe)

Well, I suppose it was inevitable: the day where my toddler figured out junk food exists in the world, and that she’d prefer to eat cookies, fruit juice and Kraft Macaroni & Cheese than mom’s home cooking. Hoping it’s just a short-lived phase, I’ve adapted by sneaking in greens where I can and holding a firm line on her requests to snack the day away. “More?” “Cookie!” and “Mine” are her new favorite words, especially when pointing to mom’s coffee, a bag of fruit snacks or (cringe) the drive-through menu.

There are a couple key things I’ve done to get through this temporary eating issue.

One is to make smoothies with greens like celery and lettuce blended in, since they add nutrients without turning the flavor detectably non-fruity.

Secondly, we’ve gone back to sending fruit & veggie pouches to daycare for snack time. She sucks them down as readily as her applesauce pouches without realizing there are greens mixed in with those pears and apples.

Since she loves mac n’ cheese so much, I’ve tried to make my own more often, and to buy better boxed versions from Trader Joe’s and Annie’s — as well as to mix in peas, diced green beans or broccoli, since covering them with cheese seems to get her to accept more veggies. 

I also shredded carrots into my homemade marinara, and she was none the wiser.

Finally, last week I realized I had a very adaptable recipe in my arsenal: risotto. By finely dicing carrots, onions, celery and celery greens with cut up sweet chicken-apple sausage, and swirling in a spoon full of low-fat cream cheese right at the end, I made a toddler-friendly version of one of our favorite dishes.

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She not only finished some off of our plates, she ate it by herself for lunch the next day, and even scooped a handful out of my bag while I was packing up leftovers to take to work! So we know it’s a keeper.

Here are my other two favorite risotto recipes:

An important note: I do choose to leave in the step with white wine, even while cooking for Georgia, because it’s a critical component to the final texture of the arborio rice. However, omitting it won’t ruin the dish completely, if that’s what you’d prefer to do.

In other news, Mark and Georgia planted our garden this weekend! This year, we are having strawberries, peas, tomatoes and basil:

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This is a kid who loves getting her hands dirty! I went online pretty much right away and ordered her this gardening play set from Green Toys, and already it’s a huge hit. She loves to help daddy with the soil, seeds and plants!

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Have a great week everyone and get out there to enjoy some nice weather now that it’s here to stay 🙂

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? 

Drinks & Smoothies · Tips and Tricks

How to Make a Green Smoothie Delicious

I found this awesome blog post on Vegetarian Times the other day. Have you wanted to get on board with the green smoothie trend, but feel skeptical that anyone would really want to drink that? Or you’ve tried to make one, but weren’t really sure how to make it taste more sweet, and less…well…green?

Courtesy: Vegetarian Times

Consider the mystery solved. I loved reading this great blog piece about ways to make a green smoothie more delicious, since they’re already a nutritional powerhouse. I’m going to try these myself:

KNOW YOUR GREENS If you want to create a delicious green smoothie, it’s important to choose the right greens. You can’t go wrong with spinach, kale, collards, chard (rib removed), beet greens, and romaine. If you’re new to green smoothies, start with the milder tasting greens like spinach and romaine. Some herbs are also delicious in smoothies. Try cilantro, mint, basil, or parsley blended in with other greens. Though they are incredibly nutritious, mustard greens, dandelion greens, arugula, and other spicy leaves aren’t the best addition smoothies. Save them for salads, or for your favorite cooked dishes including soups and sautées.

ADD THE RIGHT FRUIT To add natural sweetness to a green smoothie, incorporate some in-season fruit. In summer, mango, peaches, pineapple, and berries make their way into my blends. For the perfect smooth texture, always use a creamy fruit like mango, banana, or avocado. Frozen fruit makes it even creamier.

LOVE YOUR LIQUIDS I like fruity smoothies, so my liquid base is usually a very juicy fruit like pineapple or orange. When blended, these fruits become the only liquid I need. For thinner smoothies, try coconut water, fruit juice, or almond milk; each makes for a unique smoothie.

BULK IT UP For added protein, fiber, and flavor, try bulking up your smoothie to make it a complete meal. Chia, flax, and hemp seeds can be blended into smoothies to add healthy protein plus omega-3 fat. You can also try a spoonful or two of your favorite nut butter such as almond, cashew, or peanut.

BLEND IT SMOOTH A great high-speed blender such as a Vitamix will take you to smoothie heaven in no time. If you don’t have one of the more expensive machines, that’s okay: try blending your smoothie longer for the perfect texture. Using frozen fruits will help prevent the smoothie from warming up during the blending process.

I don’t have a fancy blender — just a nice, sturdy Cuisinart — and it works fine for even green smoothies. I always blend until it’s smooth, and keep tons of frozen fruit on hand so I don’t have to use ice or deal with a lukewarm result.

Want more smoothie recipes? Here’s my collection, including this tasty banana-spinach smoothie that’s just the right balance of sweet & green!

This and this are the two smoothies I make most often for myself, and Mark (whose birthday is today!) loves this one for post-workout recovery.

Drinks & Smoothies · Recipes

Cran-Raspberry Smoothie

New favorite alert! As promised in my post from last week, I’m sharing a new smoothie recipe. I made this when Mark accidentally bought cranberry juice concentrate instead of cocktail, and I love how it makes the smoothie just tart enough. I added bananas to sweeten it, fresh juice from two delicious Florida oranges I still have hanging around from our shipment in late January, and almond milk for creaminess. yumyumyum.

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Cran-Raspberry Smoothie

Ingredients

  • 1 bag (12 oz.) frozen raspberries
  • 1 -2 frozen bananas
  • juice of two oranges
  • 1/2 cup cranberry juice concentrate (not juice cocktail)
  • 1/2 cup almond milk

Directions

Blend ingredients until smooth, making sure you add liquids to the blender first. It will be very tart if you use just one banana; two will make it sweeter. I used 1.5 (I always keep frozen ripe bananas, cut in half, in a baggie in the freezer so they are ready for smoothies). Add more almond milk to make the smoothie less thick.

SO refreshing!

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Recipes · Uncategorized

Tropical Smoothie

This is so SIMPLE, and so refreshing, I’m going to be making it a lot.  All you need is a can of light coconut milk, a bag of frozen pineapple chunks and a splash of orange juice, and you’re in summertime heaven any time of year!

I made this on Smoothie Saturday, and boy was it a lifesaver when I came down with a nasty cold and just wanted something cold to soothe my throat this past week. It tastes like a virgin pina colada and with only 50 calories in the light version of coconut milk, it’s diet-friendly and delicious. Coconut milk is good for those who are lactose-intolerant, like me, and pineapple is loaded with vitamin C and manganese. Like all fruits, it’s packed with sugar but is low in fat and protein, and is cholesterol-free. The orange juice adds a hint of complexity to the flavor; I had oranges on hand, so I squeezed a few fresh, but you could use bottled OJ if that’s all you have handy. It’ll just mean there’s added sugars which are nice to avoid if you can.

Tropical Smoothie

Makes two servings

Time: 5-10 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 can of light coconut milk
  • 1 package frozen pineapple chunks
  • 1/2 to 1 cup of fresh squeezed OJ, tasting as you go (if you use bottled instead, add bit by bit so the concentrated taste of the store-bought juice doesn’t overwhelm the smoothie).
  • water and/or ice depending on the texture you desire

Blend all ingredients until smooth and enjoy!

Photo May 05, 1 19 14 PM

Drinks & Smoothies · Recipes

Two Green Smoothies

I have a new routine: “Smoothie Saturdays,” when I bust out the blender after I get home from grocery shopping to whip up some breakfast smoothies for the week. This week, I made three varieties: a tropical smoothie, which I’ll cover in another post; a spinach-banana smoothie, which is simple and refreshing; and an adaptation of Kimberly Snyder’s Glowing Green Smoothie, which is super energizing and can help you kick your early-morning caffeine habit while sweeping toxins from your system.

I am in the process of trying to cut back on how much caffeine I drink — both for the benefit of my stomach, since coffee in particular is such an irritant, and because I don’t want to be so dependent on a stimulant to get alert in the morning. It starts to feel lame when you NEED coffee to function, or when you get a debilitating headache from lack of having it! In the past when I’ve needed to cut back, instead of going cold turkey I just reduce the number of cups per day and then eventually the size of my morning order. I’m down to one small coffee in the morning and no soda or tea for the rest of the day. Next, I’ll replace coffee with a green smoothie every other day until I can phase out caffeine as a kick-start altogether. Green Smoothies give you so much natural energy it’s actually amazing.

Spinach Banana Smoothie

Total time 5-7 minutes.

Makes enough for two large on-the-go beverages.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 bunch spinach, chopped
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 chopped bananas, ideally frozen
  • a couple ice cubes (use more if your bananas aren’t frozen)

Blend all ingredients together, taking care to add liquids first so you don’t jam your blender. Keeps well in the fridge for up to a week. Or, freeze for up to one month and thaw overnight in the refrigerator the morning before you plan to drink it.

Glowing Green Smoothie

This is a simplified version of Kimberly Snyder’s classic green smoothie, because I didn’t have pears on hand. If you read her book, the Beauty Detox Solution, you’ll see that almost any greens will do — so feel free to throw in kale, romaine, or spinach like I did ~ you name it!

Total time: 5-7 minutes

Makes 3-4 cups

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 bunch greens (I used spinach since I had it on hand)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 organic apple, chopped
  • 2-3 frozen chopped bananas
  • juice of 1 lemon

Blend all ingredients together until smooth, adding liquids first so the blender doesn’t jam. Enjoy!

All set to go for the week ~ just thaw and sip!

CSA 2011 · Recipes · Tips and Tricks

HOW-TO: Roast pumpkin & make pumpkin bread from scratch

Maybe, like me, you still have a few pumpkins left from a CSA that ended at Thanksgiving. Intimidated by cooking them? Don’t be. I’ll show you step-by-step how to cut and cook pumpkins, preserve the puree, toast the seeds, and make fresh pumpkin bread that blows away anything you’ve made using canned pumpkin pie filling.

How to Roast Fresh Pumpkin

Frozen puree will last several months, so it should get you through the winter packed into freezer-safe containers or even Ziploc bags with the air pressed out.

You can also put up pumpkin puree for long-term storage, but it requires a pressure canner, not a hot water bath for safety reasons. The same goes for winter squash. Both MUST be cubed & cooked before being canned. Here are some great instructions.

But first things first. Before you can make pumpkin bread, you need to make pumpkin puree … and to do that, you need to learn how to cut & hull a pumpkin.The easiest way to slice a pumpkin is to make sure you have a sharp knife and a sturdy surface to work on. A serrated knife, like this one, works best — if you use a very sharp knife and slip, you could really hurt yourself. Cut the pumpkin in half using a sawing motion, then set aside the two halves.

Using a melon baller, scoop out the seeds into a small bowl. Save these, because you’re going to use them later to make savory roasted pumpkin seeds.

I used to think that cooking pumpkins always involved the oven, but turns out that’s not true at all — in fact, it uses less energy to fire up your microwave. (I also used to think you had to peel pumpkins and winter squash to cook them, but thankfully, you DON’T!) Place the pumpkin halves face up in a glass dish and fill with a couple inches of water. Cover and heat on high for 10 minutes; repeat until soft and mushy, usually two or three times depending on the strength of your microwave. You can usually get a good couple of cups of puree out of a small pumpkin.

Once the pumpkins are done, let cool briefly and then simply use a spoon to scoop the flesh away from the soft skins. You can either discard the skins or — like I do — eat them right off the bat!

If you are freezing your pumpkin, just scoop it into freezer-safe containers (you don’t need to mash it), then label and store. Whenever you want to use it, simply defrost in the fridge or warm in the microwave.

Note: If you prefer not to use a microwave or don’t have one, you can cook pumpkin on the stove top or in the oven. Just cook the pumpkin halves in a steamer on the stove top for about 10 minutes, or bake in the oven (this takes the longest) by placing the pumpkin plus several cups of water in a covered oven-proof dish. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour at 350, until a fork-poke shows they’re soft. With both of these methods, the skins should fall right away when they’re done.

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SAVORY ROASTED PUMPKIN SEEDS

Now that your pumpkin is cooked and stored, it’s time to turn those seeds into a healthful snack. Pumpkins (and their seeds) are considered super foods, packed with antioxidants and high in fiber and protein, making them a powerhouse for vegetarians especially.

First, wash the seeds well, separating the stringy material and guck from the seeds. I used my hands at first and then gave them a thorough final rinse in a colander before setting them out on paper towels to dry (you can speed this along with a hair dryer if you want!) It’s critical that they’re not soggy when they go into the oven.

Preheat the oven to 275 and spread the seeds out on a cookie sheet. To season, toss with vegetable oil or butter and any combination of seasonings you like: classic sea salt, something spicy like cayenne & thyme, or sweet such as cinnamon, nutmeg or allspice, or ginger for a kick, or garlic powder & Worcestershire sauce … or my favorite, good old Trader Joe’s 21-Seasoning Salute, which is a salt-free spice blend.

Heat for 10 to 20 minutes, watching them, and stirring here and there. You can eat them hot or cold and they’ll make a great snack on the go for a few days.

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Pumpkin Bread Recipe

Dry Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 cups of flour
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda

Wet Ingredients

  • 1 cup oil
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups pumpkin (or 1 can pumpkin pie filling)

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Sift flour and mix in remaining dry ingredients.
  • Combine wet ingredients.
  • Add dry mixture to wet mixture.
  • Grease/spray loaf pans.
  • Bake for 1 hour; it may need an hour and 15.
  • Loaves are done when a toothpick into the center comes out clean.
Courtesy: Simply Recipes. I literally forgot to take a picture of mine before it was gone. Oops!

Other fun uses for pureed pumpkin:

  • Stir 1/2 cup of into pancake batter; add walnuts for pumpkin-nut pancakes
  • Using the recipe above, turn pumpkin batter into waffles instead; or, use the finished bread to make pumpkin french toast
  • Blend 1/4 cup pumpkin puree with cream cheese and cinnamon; spread on a bagel
  • Stir pumpkin puree into your morning oatmeal; top with brown sugar
  • Make homemade pumpkin gnocchi
  • Make vegan pumpkin tiramisu a la Chef Chloe
  • Stir pumpkin puree into risotto just before it’s done cooking
  • Freeze the puree in an ice tray to make cubes ready for smoothies, like this one

Do you have other ideas? Send them my way in the comments!