Monday, March 22, 2010

Favorite Warm Weather Snacks

In Arizona, we have already seemed to bypass spring and headed directly into summer! Due to the recent warm up, it really got me thinking about delicious, cool you off snacks that will hit the spot, but also help fulfill some daily nutritional requirements. Here are some of my family's favorites.

1. Frozen Fruit: Grapes and Blueberries are our favorites! Just wash and pop into the freezer for a yummy and healthy treat. I am surprised my 4 year old isn't blue from all of the frozen blueberries he eats!
*If you have very young children, these can be a choking hazard. Please take the proper precautions.

2. Healthy Popsicles: These can really be anything you dream up from a simple frozen orange juice to more elaborate concoctions like Apple-Beet-Carrot! Yum!
Go here for some ideas.

3. Stonyfield Farms Organic YoKids Squeezers. It is organic yogurt in a tube that has less sugar and icky stuff kids don't need than your average brands. At only 60 calories, kids will get a sweet treat with 10% of their calcium and Vitamin D needs! These are yummy just as they are or you can freeze them for an extra special treat.

4. All Fruit Smoothies: These are fun and easy to make at home, not to mention so much cheaper than buying at the specialty smoothie stores. Even better than saving money? You know exactly what's in it! Here's a link to one of our faves!

5. Cool dips: When the kids want something a little less sweet and more substantial, try serving homemade salsa and whole grain baked chips. Or try my white bean dip with homemade pita chips and a plateful of fresh cut veggies. It's full of flavor and fiber!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Changes and Unexpected Blessings

Hi All! I have gotten many emails wondering where in the world I have been and if I am coming back. The short answer is that I have been entangled in lots of life changes and yes, I will be returning soon.

I recently became a card carrying member of the working moms club, so there has been many adjustments that come along with that considering my 4 year old has only ever known a stay at home mommy. Nannies, new schools, crazy schedule and a brand new pregnancy. Yes, ladies, I am officially 3 months pregnant. In fact, life has been so crazy lately, that I didn't even notice until I was really late. Explains alot about being so tired I can sleep standing up, feeling like my insides are trying to turn themselves inside out and why tears seem to be my standard response to simple daily challenges. Nevermind that I have been home doing the mommy thing for 4 years and now is when my next little blessing is deciding to grace our presence! Oh the irony...

Now that I am starting to get a better handle on life's new realities, I am ready to get back to sharing my tips in the kitchen and would LOVE to hear yours! We all know that all moms work super hard to take care of their families, but working mothers have a major time constraint in the kitchen(at least I am finding that is a big challenge for me). I can use all the help I can get(and I am sure their are others like me), so please, please, please, comment and tell me what your tips and tricks are to delivering healthy meals to your family even when you barely have time for sandwiches between laundry and checking homework!

I will start: I cut up produce when it get it and store it into containers in the refrigerator. At mealtime(or when I pack my son's lunch for school)I can just grab what I need to make a salad or a side of fruit and know that my family is still getting the nutrition they need, even if I am gone 10 hours a day!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Blackberry Cream Cheese French Toast Casserole

So what does my family eat for breakfast on Christmas morning you ask? Well, we start off with a spinach smoothie, add to that some delicious egg white omelets and nitrate free turkey bacon. Delish, right? Just kidding! I usually make some variation of a french toast casserole and good old fashioned, thick cut Tuscan bacon from my favorite butcher shop ever, The Pork Shop in Queen Creek, Arizona. While I advocate eating healthy all year long, it doesn't do any harm to indulge a bit for special occasions and my Blackberry Cream Cheese French Toast Casserole is just the way to do it! The best part is that it can be made ahead and refrigerated the night before to bake off in the morning while all of Santa's treasures are being discovered. So if you are ready to indulge your family's taste buds with sweet juicy blackberries, creamy cheese, rich vanilla and refreshingly bright essence of orange...take a peak at my recipe below. Merry Christmas!

1 day old baguette cut into 1" chunks
6 large eggs*
1 1/2 cups milk(do not use skim, use 2% or whole)*
3 TBS. melted unsalted butter
1/4 C. sugar +1 tsp.
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. vanilla
Zest of one orange(or not if you don't like it)
1 pint blackberries
6 oz. cream cheese

*occasionally, the baguette will seem a little more dry than usual. You can add an additional egg and 1/2 cup of milk if necessary.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray an 8X11 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray and fill with bread cubes. In a bowl, whisk together milk, eggs, vanilla, sugar, cinnamon and orange zest. Pour over top of the bread and lightly press down to make sure it soaks into all of the pieces. Top with berries and chunks of cream cheese. Pour melted butter over the top and sprinkle with the remaining sugar. Bake uncovered for about an hour or until set. Let rest 10-15 minutes before serving(unless you really don't like who you are eating with!) Serve with warm real maple syrup and enjoy!

Serves many.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Amy's Nana's Spiced Pecans

These are, in a word, scrumptious! My friend, Amy, shared her recipe with me and I loved them so much I wanted to share them with all of you. Crunchy, sweet, salty, roasted, nutty goodness ready for the holiday season. Perfect to give as gifts to friends, family, teachers and anyone else you think is extra special. Just be sure to keep a batch for yourself at home. With only a 1/4 cup of sugar per 3 cup batch, the kids can have a special snack without blowing their daily sugar budget. These are delicious alone or as a topping for pumpkin pancakes(just add 1/2 C. canned pumpkin puree and 1-2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice to your favorite pancake batter) or Greek yogurt. Happy holidays from my kitchen to yours!

1 egg white
1 TBS. water
3 C. Pecan halves
1/4 C. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cloves*
1/2 tsp. nutmeg*
1/2 tsp. cinnamon*

*I used 2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice which also has ground ginger. Delicious! You could also add 1/4 tsp(or more) cayenne pepper to add a little spice to the season.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Lightly coat a cookie sheet with non-stick spray or with aluminum foil. Combine spices and sugar in a small bowl and set aside. In a bowl, lightly beat egg white and water together. Add in nuts to coat. Then pour spiced sugar over the top and toss to coat evenly. Spread on the cookie sheet in an even layer and bake for 30 minutes. Stir once or twice while cooking to dry evenly. While warm, spread roasted nuts on a sheet of wax paper to cool.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Mommy's Secret Weapon--Revealed!

As a parent, you can't leave the house without being fully prepared for anything to come your way, even if it is just for a quick trip to the grocery store. I remember the days when I would check and recheck Jack's diaper bag to make sure I could handle ANY emergency. Diapers and wipes, check. Change of clothes, clean bib and burp cloth, check. Bottles, teethers, rattles-check, check and check. When he was old enough to eat snacks on the go, things got a little trickier. I have always been super careful about what I feed him and being in a hurry didn't qualify as an excuse to give him something less than healthful, but let's face it. It is hard to find a huge array of nutritious items that will keep well in your diaper bag without refrigeration(which doesn't last long in AZ) that will also satisfy your child without making a HUGE mess! Well, the answer to this is Just Tomatoes freeze dried fruits and veggies! I have been giving these to Jack since he was about a year old and now we are coming up on his 4th birthday and I am still never without these snacks for days on the go. Our favorites are the strawberries and bananas. These fruit and veggie snacks are sweet and crunchy and have absolutely no salt, sugar, or preservatives of any kind. They make it easy to make sure your child gets all the nutrition they need even when you can't be at home at snack or meal time. Just Tomatoes now offers conventionally grown or organic versions of their products. I purchase mine at Sprouts locally, but most health food stores stock them regularly. WARNING: Highly Addictive!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Shrek Soup

When I was a little girl, my mother used to make this soup. She called it Spinach and Broccoli Soup, but since my little boy doesn't want anything to do with broccoli, I had to give it a new name and puree it to hide the evidence. It worked and the soup was a hit! This soup is a nutritional powerhouse full of fiber and antioxidants that will keep your sweet little ogres healthy during cold and flu season. I like to serve it with grilled ham and cheese or on salad night in little coffee cups.

3 green onions, chopped
3 Tbs. butter
10 oz. frozen chopped spinach, defrosted
10 oz. frozen broccoli spears, defrosted
24 oz. chicken stock
3 Tbs. flour
1 chicken bouillon cube
Pinch red pepper flakes
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg(or more to taste)
1/2 C. half and half
salt and pepper to taste

Saute green onion in butter until soft, but not browned. Add a bit of salt and pepper and mix well. Add other veggies, stock and bouillon cube. Cover and simmer for 5-8 minutes until heated through. Sprinkle with flour and stir well. Add half and half, nutmeg, pepper flakes and salt and pepper to taste. Allow to simmer 3-5 more minutes. Add to blender or food processor and blend until fairly smooth. Serves 6.

You can even serve with a little parmigiano reggiano or other cheese to suit your taste.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

A Thanksgiving Classic

While this isn't a typical Mommy Chef recipe, I wanted to share my closely guarded Sweet Potato Casserole recipe with all of you for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. It is a sweet and lightly spiced concoction of heavenly sweet potatoes and toasted pecans in lieu of your typical burned marshmallows. When it bakes up, it puffs slightly giving it a souffle-life appearance and texture. Seriously, this is so good, you can skip the pie and offer it as dessert! Just remember to cool for several minutes after it comes out of the oven so you don't light your guests up...literally! Happy Thanksgiving from my family to yours.

Sweet Potato Casserole
3 C. mashed sweet potato(bake, cool and then peel)
1 C. brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 C. milk
1/2 C. melted butter
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 freshly grated nutmeg seed
OR 1 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

1/2 C. brown sugar
1/3 C. all purpose flour
1/3 C. melted butter
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 C. chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350. In a small bowl, combine the topping ingredients and set aside. Then in a large bowl, combine all of the casserole ingredients and beat until smooth. Pour into a greased casserole dish and top with the nut mixture. Bake for 35-45 minutes until puffed and set and nuts are lightly toastedd. Serves many.