The week in food

pizza making CollageOnce a week I usually lay out what I plan to make for the following week with a list so I can gather all of the ingredients in one go. Then I get completely distracted by farmers markets, sales at the grocery, or the arrival of my Food and Wine mag so my plan evolves, or devolves. Either way, it’s usually delicious and generally pretty economical. Here’s what evolved this week. What’s your favorite weeknight cooking tip? [Read more...]

Baby Food Bonanza

Katie is eating people food. She’s 5 1/2 months and has finally taken to spoonfed meals. I know that’s still early for many kids, but since our son was practically eating spaghetti dinners without spilling a drop at 6 months I had expected she’d be on to hors d’oeuvres by now.

So, obviously, to each their own. But, now that she is interested, I’m going to town making her a ton of meals and freezing them in 1 ounce portions.

I really debated with her whether or not I’d make all of her food like I did for Nicholas. I loved doing it, but my situation has changed with her: we’ve got a 3 year old at home that takes a ton of energy, I’m making her food out of season so I can’t source my ingredients from the farmers market like I did with Nicholas, and chefs like Tyler Florence have come out with lines of baby food which look pretty darn good.

But, when it comes down to it, she’s my little girl and I want to make her what I think is best. Plus it really doesn’t take much time. Now and again I’ll puree something up along with whatever I’m making for the rest of us (see butternut squash risotto with pureed butternut squash).

And once every few weeks I’ll set aside some time and make 2 or 3 meals just for her. I figure it’s the least I can do.

So, here’s what I’ve made her so far and in the order that I’ve introduced it.

Pureed Sweet Potatoes completePureed Butternut Squash
Pureed Sweet Potatoes
Pureed Pears
Pureed Squash and Broccoli (mixed 2 purees together)
Kale, green bean, potatoes completePureed Kale, Green Beans, and Potatoes
Roasted Apple & Grape Oatmeal
Pureed Sweet Potatoes and Brown Rice

How do you introduce foods to your baby?

Presents Galore, and Rigatoni with Cauliflower

The morning after Christmas, everyone is playing with their new toys. It’s a beautiful sight. Nicholas is practicing becoming a rock star with his new keyboard and microphone that Santa brought him. Nicholas the rock starDan is wearing his new shoes. And I’m playing with a new look on my site thanks to Dan! What do you think of the logo? He surprised me with it, and I love it!

I’m also having total gift envy. My sister got Tyler Florence’s new book Start Fresh–baby food recipes for the first year. It looks awesome: Spinach and Banana pudding, Plum Spiced Applesauce, babies never knew they could have it so good. Katie hasn’t really taken to solids much yet, but we’ll be kicking it into high gear when we get back from holiday. So it looks like I’ll be getting one extra gift for myself this year!

That, plus my new food saver system, and we should be ready to get Katie eating just like her big brother. Who is currently eating his second breakfast. Man, that kid can eat.

So, baby food to come in the new year! But for now, how about a pasta recipe? Rigatoni with Roasted Cauliflower. So easy after our big Christmas dinner.

Cauliflower Rigatoni

Broccoli Puree

Pureed BroccoliSteam additional broccoli from Broccoli Cheddar Soup recipe for 10-15 minutes until very tender. Add a few tablespoons of water and puree in blender or food processor. Add additional water until you reach the desired consistency.

If you are using florets, this puree is never going to be completely smooth, so may not be appropriate for babies just being introduced to solids. If you are looking for a smooth consistency, use stems only reserving florets for soup.

Weekly Menu: Turkey Trot

Turkey, turkey, and more turkey. I bet you’re getting sick of talking turkey by now. But if you’ve got leftovers, your turkey days aren’t over yet! Here are some recipes for the week that will help you move on from Thanksgiving and finish up that turkey…one classic recipe, one *hopefully* new one, and one that has no turkey at all (but it uses up some of that turkey stock you made)!

 

Menu #1: Game Day

Make this on Sunday for a football fiesta!

Slow Cooker Turkey Chili
Corn Chips or Cornbread
Garden Salad

The recipe calls for ground beef or turkey. Just omit the beef or turkey, and add in 3-4 cups chopped, cooked turkey at the same time you add the beans. Delish!

 

Menu #2: Make Ahead Casserole Night (and baby food)

A great way to use up all of those leftovers…just put them in a casserole and bake. This is easy to assemble the night before. Then when you come home all you need to do is throw it in the oven and 45 min later you have dinner. For this one, you can also make a Stage 3 baby food version of Shepherd’s Pie.

Nicholas loves Turkey Shepherd's Pie!

Shepherd’s Pie
Garden Salad

Baby Food: Shepherd’s Pie

 

Menu #3: Hump Day Help

Here’s a good one for a cold, rainy midweek meal. You’re sick of cooking, sick of eating turkey, but you can come home to a warm nourishing meal nonetheless.

Sausage, Kale, and Navy Bean Soup

This recipe is for the stovetop, but making it in the slow cooker couldn’t be easier. Just dump everything in the crock pot (you don’t need to soak the beans), set on low, and 8 hours later you have dinner.

Shopping List

5-6 cups cooked, chopped turkey
polish kielbasa or other smoked sausage
kale–1 pound
onions-2
garlic
cubanelle or poblano peppers–3
lettuce
tomato
cucumber
carrots
celery
sweet potatoes
1.5 oz dried New Mexico chiles
1.5 oz dried ancho chiles
olive oil
cumin
dried thyme
bay leaf
chipotle pepper in adobo sauce
28 oz can diced tomatoes (preferably fire-roasted)
chicken or turkey stock–3 quarts
kidney beans–14oz can
pinto or black beans–14 oz can
garbanzo beans–14oz can
dried navy beans–1 pound
corn chips
1 oz dark chocolate
yogurt or sour cream
Cheddar or jack cheese
frozen green beans
frozen peas
turkey gravy
mashed potatoes

 

 

 

Weekly menu: Greens, BBQ chicken, Sloppy Joes

This week at the farmers market there were tons of fall vegetables like greens and sweet potatoes, so I embraced it. I find that it’s a bit easier and economical to get a lot of one or two things and cook those throughout the week, rather than come up with a unique side dish for every meal. Also, I’ll be making some baby food with the sweet potatoes so I needed to get a bunch.

These meals do take some prep, but everything can be done ahead so anything can be a fairly easy weeknight meal.

Dinner Menu #1:Sloppy Joe dinner finished
Sloppy Joes
Curry Sweet Potato Fries
Peas

To prep the sweet potatoes ahead, follow the recipe and bake them for only about 30 minutes. Then let them cool and refrigerate. They will still be soft. When you are preparing dinner, just pop them back in the oven for 20 minutes or so. The sloppy joes can be on the table in under 30 minutes, but you could also certainly prep the joe mixture ahead as well. I cook my peas in the microwave, covered tightly in plastic wrap, for 2 minutes, so no time at all for that either.

Dinner Menu #2:
Braised Kale over Parmesan Polenta

I love to cook one vegetarian meal per week, so this is the one. Just a good nourishing weeknight meal.

Dinner Menu #3:

Barbeque Chicken
Collard Greens
Baked Sweet Potato

This is a great one to prep ahead for a Wednesday hump day meal. It feels like a Sunday dinner, but takes very little effort when you get home from a long day. BBQ chicken greens sweet potatoSimply marinate the chicken the night before or in the morning, and throw on the grill when you get home. Set the collard greens in the crock pot in the morning so all you need to do is serve them up in the evening. Put the potatoes in the oven or on the grill when you get home and don’t touch them till dinnertime. Minimal effort, maximum comfort will get you over hump day.

Homemade Baby Food:

Pureed Sweet Potatoes
~and/or~
Sloppy Joes and Sweet Potatoes
~and/or~
Pureed Peas

Shopping List:

1 pound ground beef
1 small chicken
6 ounces bacon
3 onions
green pepper
celery
garlic
3 pounds sweet potatoes
1 pound kale
leek
2 pounds collards
thyme
cumin
curry powder
olive oil
cider vinegar
brown sugar
Worcestershire
tomato sauce–8 ounce can
barbeque sauce
coarse ground yellow corn polenta/grits
Parmigiano Reggiano
frozen peas

Fall into Fall–Butternut Squash Risotto

One of our favorite weekend activities is walking with the kids down to the local farmers market. We each have an agenda for the excursion: I shop for veggies, Dan gets some locally produced pickles for his lunches, and Nicholas pick out an apple then sits on a bench and gobbles it up. Farmers market shopping

Last weekend I grabbed one of my favorite fall veggies: butternut squash. It’s delicious just roasted as a side dish, or mixed into a pasta or risotto dish. One of my favorites is Butternut Squash Risotto with Sage and Parmesan from A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen. It’s a simple dish, with very few ingredients, but is elegant enough to serve for dinner parties or special occasions. If you roast the squash ahead of time, the risotto comes together in less than 1/2 hour. I also like that it uses roasted squash, because then I simply make some extra squash for Pureed Butternut Squash for Katie.

Butternut Squash Risotto

Homemade Baby Food Part 1: Is it worth it?

I loved making homemade baby food for Nicholas, and I’m looking forward to doing the same thing for Katie when she starts eating solids.  I find that making my own baby food is easy, cost effective, and gives me the satisfaction that my baby is eating something that I personally prepared for him or her.

But, is it really worth the effort?Homemade Baby Food

Save Money

I bought one pound of organic sweet potatoes from the farmers market the other day for $1.50. That made 24 ounces of sweet potato baby food–you have to add water to the potatoes to get them to a good baby consistency, hence the 1 pound of potatoes making more than a pound of baby food. My baby food comes in at about $0.06 per ounce. Jarred organic food is $0.30 per ounce, and conventional baby food is $0.28 per ounce. So, you’re getting an 80% discount for making your own food.

Know What Your Baby is Eating

When I bought the sweet potatoes at the farmers market I chatted with the folks selling the produce, heard about their organic farming techniques, and learned that their farm is less than 20 miles from my house. Then I went home and did all of the preparation myself, so I knew everything about what is going into that food. Of course, you don’t always have the luxury of buying food at the farmers market. In fact, Katie is going to start eating in late November, so most of her pureed food is going to come when the farmers markets aren’t even open. But even by buying grocery store fresh or frozen food, at least I know exactly what she is eating, even if I couldn’t meet the people that grew it.

It’s Really Not HardPureed Sweet Potatoes complete

When I made the sweet potatoes, I steamed them while I was cooking Curry Sweet Potato Fries. I was already in the kitchen using those ingredients, so it didn’t take much time or effort.

Your Kids Eat What You Eat

I do NOT make separate meals for my children, and I never have. Nicholas has essentially eaten what we’ve eaten since he was 4 months old. Or some variation of what we’re eating. And now at almost 3, he eats just about everything. We sit at the table and talk about our day over dinner nearly every night, and it’s a habit we got in when he was just a baby.

So yes, I think it’s worth the effort. I don’t have anything against jars of baby food and I do buy them. They are great to have around in case you run out of your own food, or to throw in the diaper bag for a meal on the run. But when I can plan for it, I prefer to serve up something homemade.

Here are my homemade baby food recipes so far:

Homemade Baby Food

And I’ll be adding more over the next few months as I stock my freezer for Katie’s introduction to solids.

Kale, Green Bean, Potato Puree

 

Kale, green bean, potatoes complete

This is adapted from Tyler Florence’s recipe from Start Fresh–Your Child’s Jump Start to Lifelong Healthy Eating. His recipe calls for chicken stock, cheese and olive oil, but I was feeding this before 6 months so just removed those. This was one of Katie’s first meals and she loved it.

 

Makes 24 1-ounce servings

Kale, green beans, potatoes

Ingredients

 

1 russet potato, peeled and sliced
4 ounces green beans
4 stems kale, washing and roughly chopped
1 cup water

Kale, green beans, potatoes in progress

Instructions

 

Place all ingredients in a saucepan, bring to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes or until potatoes and green beans are very tender.

Pour all ingredients into a blender or food processor. Puree until smooth.

 

 

Sweet Potatoes

Pureed Sweet Potatoes completeI like to make this recipe when I’m already making Curry Sweet Potato Fries, or even just baking sweet potatoes as a side dish for Barbeque Chicken and Collard Greens. I find using a food mill gives it a super smooth texture, but if your baby can handle a few lumps you can certainly use a food processor or hand mixture to puree it.

Makes 24 1-ounce servings

IngredientsPureed Sweet Potatoes Ingredients

1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled
3/4 cup water

InstructionsPureed Sweet Potatoes in progress

Cook the sweet potatoes. Most recently I steamed them for 10 minutes because I got giant potatoes that I needed to cut up to cook evenly. So if steaming just cut into equal size cubes, about an inch. But I’ve also baked them in the oven when I had smaller potatoes. 350 degrees for an hour or so. The only thing I don’t do is boil them since the water leeches out a lot of the nutrients.

Then puree the potatoes using a food mill or a food processor. Add the water to loosen up for young babies.