Monday, July 26, 2010

Puree Monday - Italian Eggplant



     It’s “Puree Monday” again!!  This recipe was one of Bebe B’s absolute favorites when she was about 8 or 9 months old.  It makes a great mix in for rice or grain cereal.  I will admit it is probably one of the only recipes I made at my First Foods class that didn’t exactly hit a home run when taste testing.  I discovered after that class that my oven cooks much fast then the one in the classroom so a tip for this recipe is to make sure the eggplant is fully cooked even if your oven takes longer then recipe calls for.  This recipe tastes a bit to tangy if the eggplant is undercooked, plus it will be very difficult to puree.

Eggplant Italiano Puree - 6 Month+
Ingredients:
1 large eggplant
1-2 tbsp Italian herbs finely minced (I like oregano and rosemary)
1 tsp Nutmeg (optional)

     Wash the eggplant and slice in half lengthwise.  Lay the 2 halves on a lightly oiled (to prevent sticking) pan inside facing up.  Roast in a 375F degree oven for about 50 minutes.  Allow eggplant to cool to about room temperature.  Scoop the inside mush from the skins, seeds and all.  Puree the stringy mush with with your choice of Italian herbs, nutmeg and breast milk or formula if needed.  Puree will be a rich brown color and a bit chunky.  Another delicious and healthy variation to this recipe is to add in ½ cup of whole milk ricotta cheese. This recipe will keep up to 3 days in the fridge or 3 months in the freezer.  Will fill about 1-2 ice cube tray (10-20 servings).  I hope you give this one a try!

Some of the Awesome Health Benefits:
-Eggplants contain fiber, a great amount of Vitamin A and Folate. Eggplant also contains a wonderful amount of calcium and even some Vitamin K.


This recipe is vegan, dairy-free and gluten-free.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Sweet Potato Puffs



This is a recipe I created about a year ago when Bebe B was just starting to get into finger foods.  I admit I hadn’t made them in awhile but pulled out the recipe this week when I was looking for something to make for Bebe B’s last toddler music class.  Some of the bebes in class were under one or had egg allergies so this recipe was the perfect fit.  The “puffs” were a huge hit and I promised the other parents I would post the recipe here!   So here it is, enjoy!  And remember no raw honey for bebes under 1 year, cooked into a recipe is okay.

Sweet Potato Puffs 
1 cup whole wheat or unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup oat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 pinch of salt
1/2 cup agave syrup or honey (honey is sweeter so 
you may want to add a bit less if using)
1/2 cup milk (soy milk or almond milk will work too)
4 tbsp unsalted butter or earth balance (melted)
1/4 cup plain greek yogurt
1 ripe banana well mashed
3/4 cup sweet potato puree (recipe below) 
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp pure vanilla
pumpkin seeds (optional)

Preheat oven to 375F degrees and lightly grease mini muffin tins with olive oil.  Sift the dry ingredients together through a sifter or mesh strainer (if you do not have either  lightly whisk them for a few minutes.  In a separate bowl whisk together milk and melted butter.  Then whisk in yogurt, agave, banana, sweet potato, spices and vanilla until well combined (mixture will still be a little lumpy).  Fold the wet mixture into the dry until combined (batter should still be a little lumpy).  Using a spoon fill the mini muffin cups about 3/4 full.  Sprinkle with pumpkin seeds if desired.  Bake for about 15-20 mins.  These muffins have a puffy, soft texture that you and your bebes will love!

Sweet Potato Puree
Roast a large sweet potato on a lightly oiled (to prevent sticking) pan in a 350F degree oven for about 50-65 minutes.  Make sure you poke a few holes in the potato with a fork before roasting.  Cut in to the potato to ensure it is soft inside.  Allow it to cool for about 15 minutes then scoop the insides out of the skin and puree in a food processor or in the Beaba babycook until smooth. This recipe will fill about 2 ice cube trays. This recipe will keep up to 3 days in the fridge or 3 months in the freezer.


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Chipotle, top of the chain: Restaurant Review



This week’s restaurant review is a Bebe Meals first:  a national restaurant chain.  Normally reviewing a chain isn’t something I would consider because quite often it would defeat my purpose of helping parents find healthy ways to feed their bebes (and themselves).  Yet recently I was contacted by a representative of Chipotle Mexican Grill, informing me that “they were the first national restaurant company to commit to serving naturally raised meat, local and organically grown produce, and the first to serve dairy (cheese and sour cream) made with milk from cows that are not treated with the synthetic hormone rBGH. ...and Chipotle is introducing a kids menu as well!”  Those are all things I like to hear so I decided that Dee, Bebe B and I would check it out.  

We went to the Chipotle located on the East Side of Madison, Wisconsin one quiet Saturday afternoon.  First of all we were pleased to see that in fact their meat, dairy and produce were sourced from organic and local sources as much as possible...this was even stated on their menu.  The kid’s menu while basic was very well priced at $2.99 which included, rice, beans, chips and a drink.  We choose the chicken and cheese quesadilla for Bebe B (anyone notice a quesadilla trend in Bebe B’s restaurant diet?) and an Organic Valley Chocolate Milk for a drink, they had Organic Valley 2% milk as well.  It was the first time she had ever chocolate milk and she adored it!  She gobbled up the rice but wasn’t too crazy about the beans.  But then part of being an almost two year old is loving a food one day and hating it the next.  She wasn’t too interested in the chips but I had fruit with me as well that she ate.  The quesadilla went over well also and so I would absolutely count this as a successful lunch out.  As for Dee and I we had veggie burritos which were very good although we could not finish them.  Some other things of note, I love that they have recycling in their restaurants and that the little tray Bebe B’s meal came on was made of recycled paper.  The location we went to was very clean as well as the restrooms, but it would have been nice if they had a changing station/ table.  

I will admit when we go out, my first choice is not going to be a chain restaurant but sometimes it’s nice to have something affordable and fast that you can feel good about eating and feeding the little ones.  I can honestly say Chipotle is going in my mental restaurant file as a good option for us when we want to go out to eat.  



Footnote:  This is a completely unbiased review, I received no compensation for this review.  We paid for our meals ourselves.



I would also like to include some information shared with me by Chipotle regarding a fundraiser they have going currently benefiting a very worthy cause:

“CHIPOTLE’S INVITATION: SEND US EVEN MORE JUNK

 Chipotle’s “No Junk” campaign, which encourages Americans to forward their junk e-mails to nojunk@chipotlejunk.com, has been so successful that Chipotle has increased its possible donation from $50,000 to $100,000 if its new goal is reached by August. As previously announced, each forwarded piece of e-mail will help provide nutritious cafeteria meals for school children around the country through a partnership with the nonprofit organization, The Lunch Box

The more junk e-mail received the more money Chipotle will donate. For every 100,000 junk e-mails Chipotle receives, the company will donate $10,000 to The Lunch Box, which will help to give approximately 32 million school children at 100,000 schools nationwide access to 100 school tested, junk-free recipes created by Chef Ann Cooper, the Renegade Lunch Lady. The “No Junk” campaign launched on June 25 and is slated to run through August, or until Chipotle reaches its new goal of 1,000,000 junk e-mails received, which releases its maximum contribution to The Lunch Box of $100,000.

“Clearly, Chipotle has many like-minded fans when it comes to making sure the nation’s schools have access to better, more sustainably raised food,” said Steve Ells, founder, chairman and co-CEO of Chipotle. “The immediate response which got us to 500,000 pieces of junk e-mail inspired us to increase our donation to The Lunch Box, an organization that shares many of our beliefs when it comes to sustainable food.” 

As in the first wave of this simple but effective campaign, no e-mail addresses will be automatically captured when junk e-mail is submitted through its no junk campaign, and the content of e-mails will not be read. People who participate in the program will have the opportunity to opt in to Chipotle’s e-mail list, learn more about Chipotle and its commitment to serving “Food with Integrity” on the company’s website, or link to TheLunchBox.org to learn more about that organization and its programs. 

Chipotle is committed to using premium quality ingredients from more sustainable sources in its nearly 1,000 restaurants nationwide. That includes more naturally raised meat (from animals that are raised in a humane way, never given antibiotics or added hormones, and fed a pure vegetarian diet) than any other national restaurant company, increasing amounts of local and organically grown produce, and dairy products made with milk from cows that are not treated with the synthetic hormone rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone).  Chipotle calls this commitment “Food with Integrity” and it is one of the ways the company is changing the way people think about and eat fast food
  
Founded by Chef Ann Cooper, the Food, Family, Farming Foundation (F3) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization created to change the food system in the U.S. to an ecologically sound, sustainable model. By empowering schools, families, farms and producers to operate sustainably, F3 enables schools to serve nutritious whole food to all students. F3 educates through training programs, direct services, a Web portal and collateral resources. The foundation's founders are the Chez Panisse Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Orfalea Foundations, the Colorado Health Foundation, the Compton Foundation and Whole Foods Market Inc.”

Monday, July 19, 2010

Puree Monday - Green Goodness

  
    This is a wonderful puree recipe that’s easy to make and a real bebe pleaser!  In fact it’s an adult pleaser too.  This recipe is usually the favorite when it comes time for taste testing in my First Foods: Adventures in Baby Food Making Class!  One attendee even stated she was never going to serve dip at a party again just this puree with some pita chips!

Green Goodness
Ingredients:
2 cups fresh or frozen peas
1 cup fresh or frozen green beans
1-2 ripe avocado(s)
   This is an awesome recipe packed full of nutritional goodness!  Clean the fresh veggies.  If using whole green beans rough chop them (this will speed up the steaming process).  Steam the peas and green beans separately in either a steaming basket on the stove or in the Beaba babycook.  If using the babycook fill water to the 2 mark for a full basket of veggies.  If steaming on the stove use about 2 inches of water and steam for about 10 minutes, checking with a knife every so often to see if the veggies are tender enough. They should be very soft but still bright green.  If using frozen veggies the steaming time may vary so watch them closely.  Reserve the cooking liquid.  Puree the peas first as they will take the longest to puree for a smooth texture.  Add in the green beans and puree together.  Slice the avocado(s) in half and twist apart, remove the seed and scoop the green goodness from the skin, it should be pretty soft but not brown.  Add in the avocado and puree all together with a touch of the cooking liquid if needed to reach desired consistency.  Purees can be as chunky as your baby is ready for- it’s up to you. This recipe will keep up to 2 days in the fridge or 3 months in the freezer.  This is a perfect one to freeze because it prevents the avocado from browning. As you feel comfortable adding herbs to your baby’s diet both sage and rosemary make a wonderful addition to this recipe.  Also this makes the perfect addition to toddler meals –wonderful with noodles or scrambled with eggs.  This recipe will fill about 3 ice cube trays (15-30 servings). 


This recipe is vegan, dairy-free and gluten-free.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Mango Cutting 101 - Video



The other day my baby sister babysat for Bebe B and I realized I was making a big assumption...that people just know how to cut mangos.  I left my sister instructions and Bebe’s food which included a whole mango which I had simply instructed: cut into bite size cubes.  My poor sister had never cut a mango before and did her best but when I returned I realized the error of my ways.  I showed my sister how to cut a mango and decided I should show others the easiest way that I have found to take on a mango!  So here you go. 

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Patriotic Pie


   
This summer is flying by at lightening speed!  It is hard to believe the 4th of July has come and gone already.  We had a low key holiday this year, as we were still in vacation recovery mode.  I did manage to create an easy pie recipe to celebrate with.  Of corse the blueberries and strawberries making a flag pattern has been around for a long time but I took a crack at making a slightly healthier version of this summer treat.  Dee adored it which is saying a lot since he usually turns his nose up at sweets and Bebe B...well let’s just say one of her new favorite words is “pie”

Patriotic Pie - 12 Months+
3/4 cup graham crackers 
1/4 cup whole grain pretzels
4 tbsp organic butter or Earth Balance (melted)
1 box of organic cook & serve pudding (I used Dr. Oetker’s vanilla)
1 cup Tru Whip
1/2 cup strawberries sliced
1/4 cup blueberries

Put the graham crackers and pretzels into a large sealable plastic bag.  Roll the bag with a rolling pin until well crushed into crumbs, this is the part the little ones will love helping with.  Mix together crumbs and melted butter in a small bowl, until well combined.  Press firmly into the bottom of a glass pie plate.  Bake the crust in a 400 degree F oven or toaster oven for about 8-10 minutes.  The crust should darken slightly while baking and will firm up as it cools.  Meanwhile cook the putting according to the package directions.  Allow to cool for a few minutes before pouring into pie plate  (don’t wait too long or you will get that pudding skin forming).  Put pie plate with crust, topped with pudding  into the fridge and chill for at least 2 or 3 hours.  Once the pie is chilled top with Tru Whip and then decorate with strawberries and blueberries.  Store pie in fridge, it should keep for a few days (if it lasts that long since I’m positive everyone in your home will gobble it up fast).  Remember that while I do try to create every recipe with healthy ingredients and do NOT use refined sugar, this is a dessert and is meant as a treat.  Enjoy!!


This recipe is vegetarian.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Puree Monday - Carrot Bliss



This puree is perfect for bebes just starting out with solid food.  It’s mild, easy to digest and packed full of nutrition!!  A sweet and savory blend for tiny palates.  When first starting out Bebe B wasn’t crazy about this one unless the texture was very smooth but gradually it became a favorite.

Carrot Bliss Puree - 6 Months+
About 10-12 fresh carrots
1 apple (gala or fuji)
1/2 tsp nutmeg (optional) 
Water for steaming


Clean, core and slice the apples leaving the skins on during steaming (this helps lock in more nutrients).  Steam the apples in either a steaming basket on the stove or in the Beaba babycook.  If using the babycook fill water to the 2 mark for a full basket of apple slices.  If steaming on the stove use about 2 inches of water and steam for about 10 minutes. reserve apple cooking liquid.  Allow apples to cool a bit while you prepare the carrots (this makes it a bit easier to remove the skins). 

Clean, peel and chop the carrots (large chunks is fine).  Steam the carrots in either a steaming basket on the stove or in the Beaba babycook.  If using the babycook fill water to the 3 mark for a full basket of chopped carrots (you will mostly likely need to steam two batches for all the carrots) If steaming on the stove use about 2-3 inches of water and steam for about 10-15 minutes, checking with a knife every so often to see if the carrots are tender enough.  Discard carrot cooking liquid.  

Next remove the apple skins.  The skins should come off fairly easy with either your fingers or a small spoon.  Puree the apples, carrots, cooking liquid from apples and nutmeg together until a smooth texture is reached.  You may need/ want to add a little addition water as you puree. As your bebe grows and develops you will be able make this puree chunkier and with more texture. This recipe will keep for about 3 days in the fridge or 3 months in the freezer, making around 20-30 cubes.  Another fun variation is to add veggie stock and rosemary giving the puree a bit more of a savory feel.  And I haven’t forgot about toddlers...this puree also makes a great spread for toast, dip for pretzels or topping for pancakes!


This recipe is vegan, dairy-free and gluten-free.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Eldorado Grill: Restaurant Review



One of the things that has been difficult for me to find since becoming a parent is restaurants where Dee and I can get a nice dinner but still bring Bebe B.  Often going out for dinner with children means your are banished to “kid” restaurants which quite often aren’t too healthy for kids or adults.  And I think for many of us a babysitter is a bit of a luxury so that nixes tons of places that would pitch you, your diaper bag and potentially mood-killing child out the door.  I’m not saying there is anything wrong with those places as when we do have a babysitter it’s nice to go to a place just for “grown-ups”.  But one thing I think we could use more of is upscale places that serve good food, drinks and still make it comfortable to bring your child/ children.  

Eldorado Grill fits that bill perfectly! A southwestern style restaurant with a fun and eclectic menu. I had heard many good things and perused the menu online before Dee, Bebe B and I gave it a try on this past Saturday evening.  I was even more pleased than I expected to be.  To start the restaurant is located in a converted historic candy factory that also houses the Ground Zero cafe as well.  The atmosphere is warm and comfortable with an upscale twist.  It’s the type of place you can dress up for but won’t leave red-faced if your little one throws food all over the floor.  They have highchairs, which is always a plus. The staff was friendly and our waiter was fabulous.  I asked right away if they had a kid’s menu, assuming they didn’t but I like to ask even though many times we share our meals with Bebe B.  They don’t have a kids’s menu but the waiter told us that they have a cheese quesadilla with one side for $2.99 or a chicken and cheese quesadilla with one side for $4.99.  We decided to get Bebe B the chicken and cheese quesadilla and see how she would do.  Then the waiter blew my socks off (okay I was wearing sandals but your get the idea) by asking if we would like to get that order in right away while Dee and I decided so it could come out for Bebe B first.  “Why YES we would”, I practically screamed!!  To recognize that kids often get antsy and just cannot wait for their food as long as adults, well that was a major plus in my book.  Bebe B loved the quesadilla and gobbled up the mashed potatoes (which were amazing).  I also had grapes with me for her which worked out well as they didn’t really have fresh fruit as an option on the menu, although fruit was included in many of the dishes.  I forgot to bring her bib though (hello! that’s restaurant 101) but I managed to MacGyver her a bib out of a cloth napkin and the clip to her “nuk”.  

  

 


Dee had the Chicken Tacos Mexicano and I had the Grilled Chicken Breast with Mango BBQ (JenEhr Family Farm free-range chicken breast marinated in olive oil, lemon juice and fresh jalapeƱo. Grilled and served with mango bbq sauce and garnished with pineapple chutney, garlic mashed potatoes, seared collard greens and a corn cake.)  This meal was amazing!!!  I was happy to see they use local free-range chicken and since I have purchased chicken from the JenEhr Farm at the Farmer’s Market I felt great about my choice.  I had never had collared greens before and was really unsure what they would be like...well I loved them.  I am all about raw veggies but the flavor and taste of these was fabulous and I had expected them to be soggy but they were crisp and warm.  



The meal was a bit huge, I ended up taking home my leftovers which made a nice lunch for Dee and I on Sunday.  I chopped the leftover chicken in to salads and we split the sides.  Bebe B had potatoes and part of her quesadilla left that she was able to have for lunch the next day as well.  So overall I rate this place as “Completely Rocks”!!  We were there around 6:00 pm on a Saturday night and it was not very busy at all but it began to get a little busy around the time we left.  Dee was also overjoyed that they had a parking lot because many restaurants downtown do not.  It is a bit pricy and for dinner there really is only the quesadilla meals for smaller portion options, also there wasn’t really an option of fresh fruit.  But for a place you can have nice dinner, a nice glass of wine, fancy drink or beer and take your child/ children and everyone will be happy this place scores high!!  I am excited to go back again soon and maybe try out their brunch which looks amazing as well! Eldorado Grill, in the words of Bebe B, gets a giant “MMMMMMMM”!



Eldorado Grill is located at 744 Williamson Street in Madison, WI.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Home Sweet Home



There is nothing like a vacation with a toddler to make you appreciate home.  It’s so funny how even the little things can make such a difference in our health, well-being and attitude.  Dee, Bebe B and I have just returned from a week long visit to the East coast and I can tell you we are hugging our comfy pillows tighter and gobbling up all the fresh food we can get.  It seems like no matter how hard we try to find healthy options for food on vacation it just isn’t quite the same.  It’s fun and exciting to try new things, tastes and flavors but there is truly no place like home.  Our first night home I made celery and dill chicken burgers and all three of us scarfed them down like we hadn’t tasted real food in months.  We did have some amazing food on our trip (I found many inspirations for new recipes) yet it’s nice to be back to the daily “grind”.  I’m pretty lucky my daily “grind” rocks.

Coming soon: “Patriotic Pie” and  “Puree Monday” plus I have some fabulous new restaurant reviews.

*Photograph taken of Bebe B and I at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, MD.