July 30, 2009

Mango-banana "ice-cream"

Well, it has definitely been too hot to cook around here! We've been camping out in our basement, eating picnic food on a towel spread out on the blow-up mattress that we've also been sleeping on. It's times like this I'm glad I finally broke down and bought an ice-cream maker this year! I wanted to make my own frozen yogurts (with my own home-made yogurt) that are lower in sugar and have fewer ingredients than store-bought. Of course, you don't really need an ice-cream maker to make your own frozen yogurt or ice-cream - but it does simplify things, and makes a nice creamy blend (in much less time). If you want something firm enough for cones, however, you have to take the dessert out of your maker and put it into a container and the freezer for a bit, to firm it up. It comes out of the maker looking more like soft-serve - perfect in a bowl with a little granola sprinkled on top!
This recipe is great - and you could easily
use it for smoothies or smoothie pops as well, although it makes a larger amount than I would normally make for that - perhaps for a brunch or a preschool snack. I got this from Kids' fun & healthy cookbook by Nicola Graimes:

  • 2 medium ripe mangoes (I used about 2 cups of frozen cubed mango)
  • 2 medium bananas
  • 2 cups yogurt (thick works best, but it doesn't have to be Greek style)
  • 3 Tbsp powdered sugar
  • squeeze of lemon
Cut the bananas and mangoes into chunks and mix with the other ingredients. You could blend it together in a blender, or use an imersion blender, until it is a thick and creamy mixture (if you have a child like mine, you may want to be sure there are no chunks...). If you have an ice-cream maker, you can proceed according to the directions on your machine: I poured the mixture into the spout and watched until it looked like soft-serve (5-10 minutes), and then I transferred it into a container and put it in the freezer to firm up - although that didn't last long, and we ended up scooping the semi-soft mixture into our ice cream cones anyway. If you don't have an ice cream machine, put the mixture in a shallow container with a lid and freeze it. After 2-3 hours, whisk the mixture with a fork and put it back in the freezer for another 3 hours and mix it again. Yummy!

July 28, 2009

apricot yogurt swirl

Well, we had another food success last night - Picky tried and loved the turkey bolognese with spaghetti that I made! This is one of daddy's favorite dishes, and I make it mostly for him, as Picky hasn't tried it up to this point - I was thrilled to see her enjoy it! I will post a recipe as soon as I figure out exactly what I put in it - I'm thinking of adding in some kidney beans and see how that goes over as well. Anyway, I'm glad that I have the memory of Picky slurping up pasta last night (she usually only eats Asian style noodles, very rarely the Italian kind...) because this morning she was back to her usual antics. Picky wanted some iced tea with breakfast, which is fine. She wanted sugar, and so I got out a little container with simple syrup in it, which is a sugar and water mixture that we use to sweeten iced drinks, so that they won't be grainy. I explained this to her as I scooped a bit into her cup. Somehow she decided that the simple syrup made her tea "taste funny", and she wanted "regular sugar". Taste funny? It's the same thing!! It's even made from the same sugar!! Of course, explaining this does no good, so I let her put "regular sugar" into her cup instead. After all this tea business, she decided she was now no longer hungry for the cheese omelet that I made...sigh. Well, maybe it's the heat - it is quite hot already today, and promising to be sweltering. It's so hard to eat, or cook, in this heat. So here's an idea for something that requires little heat to make and is soothing and cool to eat - apricot puree swirled into yogurt!
I like to make my own yogurt - I have a large maker from yogourmet, and we go through the yogurt within a week or two. Home-made yogurt is, like most things home-made, better than store bought. For one thing, you can control the tang and the consistency. I like tangy yogurt, but Picky likes it a bit sweeter, so I usually make it somewhere in between. I also like quite thick yogurt, so I add a bit of nonfat milk powder into the milk when I make it, and that thickens it up a bit. All of this yogurt doesn't mean that I never buy those little tubes of pre-sweetened yogurt for Picky - although I have managed to convince her so far that these are a treat! I found this apricot yogurt swirl recipe in Kids' Fun & Healthy Cookbook, and since Picky has been on a bit of an apricot kick, I decided to give it a try. Ok, I admit, she tried but then ultimately rejected it based on texture (it wasn't smooth enough). I, however, thought it was lovely, and so I have it here anyway - I have a feeling that Picky will come around eventually:


3/4 cup chopped dried apricots (I prefer Turkish)
1 cup water
3 Tbsp fresh apple juice

Put the apricots and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to low. Cover, and cook for 15-20 minutes, until soft. Let the apricots cool for about 30 minutes, then stir in the apple juice. Blend the mixture in a blender or in the pan with an immersion blender (my preferred method). Now you can put this in the fridge, and it's ready to stir into yogurt - I also enjoy a little sprinkling of granola on top (home-made, of course - I'll post the recipe eventually...)


July 22, 2009

The Science of Picky Eaters...

This program on picky eating is interesting, linking picky eating with genetics. I already know where Picky got her super taste buds - I never could get used to the bitter taste of Kale or some other greens. I do like broccoli, as long as it's young and not too bitter. It does not explain, however, why picky will not eat most fruit unless it is pureed (same goes for most vegetables). And spinach is probably her favorite and most eaten vegetable (but only in something and with feta cheese - I know she got that combo from me...). Anyway, I think with Picky it is a combination of things - she is super sensitive to stimuli in general (like smells and texture), and she is also very slow to try new things (everything, not just food). I think we're doing ok with her diet at this point, just adding new foods on very slowly, and getting her involved in cooking, etc - this video is worth watching just to take a little pressure off of yourself (so that you can ignore the incredulous looks on other parents of non-picky eaters when they hear cries of disgust coming from your child at the potluck...). ;)

July 21, 2009

Apricot bars!!

Picky has finally discovered dried apricots! I've been trying to get her to taste one for awhile, but it finally took eating a cookie with daddy that had pureed dried apricots for her to decide that she liked them. (go figures it was a cookie - oh well!) And I was surprised when she then decided she could eat them plain! Of course, this gives me reason to make this apricot bar recipe (which I love). I've made it before, and she's tried it before, but she's never shown much interest. Now, all of a sudden, she loves them! Not only that, but she's decided to also love dried cranberries (which are in there too), and she's been eating them plain as well!! Well, I feel like I won the lottery - that's two fruits just in the last week! I know fresh fruit would be better, but dried is still pretty darn good for you, as long as you brush your teeth regularly...
These bars travel really well - I made them last week to take camping with us, and they were all gone by the end of the first day - they are that good! I modified this recipe from a cookbook that I found in Canada called Whining & Dining by Emma Waverman and Eshun Mott:
  • 1 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tbsp sugar (optional)
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups oatmeal (not instant or quick-cooking)
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (all-purpose would work fine too)
  • 1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
Place apricots, water and sugar in a small saucepan; bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to medium and simmer until the water has been absorbed. (5-10 min) Set aside to cool. (if the apricots are really hard and/or tart, put in 3/4 cups water and simmer for 20 min - then drain)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Line the base of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, and spray lightly with spray oil. (I don't think I actually have a pan this size, so I've improvised in several different sized pans - I think the one I used here is 9 by 9, which seems to work fine...)

Combine brown sugar, eggs, canola oil and vanilla in a large bowl. Mix in oatmeal. Set aside.

Combine flour, wheat germ, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a small bowl; stir with a fork to blend. Add to oatmeal mixture, stirring to combine. Stir in reserved apricots, dried cranberries, and chocolate chips.

Spread mixture in prepared pan. Bake for 35 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool completely before cutting into squares. (really wait until it's all-the-way cool - I can never seem to do this, and they tend to fall apart really easily...)

Makes 16 2-inch bars.

On a different note - Picky told me today that she hopes her children will love to cook with her! How sweet is that! I told her that if she loved to cook, and shared that with them, they would love it too! :)

Tip: I've offered dried cranberries to Picky on numerous occasions, but it took buying a different brand for her to really enjoy them! I guess the ones I was getting at Trader Joe's were a little too chewy for her - I bought Ocean Spray "craisens" at Costco, and she loves them - they are much softer, and are even a brighter color. I try to stay away from the major brands when I can, and I try to buy organic as well, but if she prefers the softer ones, then that's what I will get!

The Wheat Germ I use is called "Mother's toasted wheat germ", and it's found in health food stores, and probably in regular grocery stores as well with the hot cereals. The apricots I prefer are the Turkish ones (the California ones are much chewier and have a tarter flavor); I buy mine at Trader Joe's.

July 11, 2009

Cheese Custards

This has been one of Picky's favorite meals for a long time - I made it last night and took pictures, and perhaps because I made it into a big deal, she wouldn't touch it! She ate toast with butter instead, which is the only thing I will make for her if she doesn't want anything on the table. Anyway, savory custards are perfect for kids - they are mild and creamy, and much less fussy to make than quiche. I can whip this up pretty quickly, but you have to give it a good 10 minutes to cool after, which doesn't make it a great breakfast - I usually serve it for lunch or dinner. If you are serving it for dinner (like I did last night), serve it with a nice big salad (for the adults, unless your child will eat salad - mine won't), it makes a nice light meal. My family is rather small (Picky is an only child), so the portion here is perfect for us, but it might be a bit small for a larger family. I tried out my new 1 cup ramekins for this one, and it made two of those, plus one small (1/2 cup) ramekin for Picky. I usually use five small ramekins, and the adults just eat one or two (dh usually eats two or three). The recipe specifies four 1 cup ramekins - it doesn't really matter what size you use, but it does affect the timing a bit. I like my custards a bit firm, so I cook it longer than the original recipe specifies. This recipe is adapted from one in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison (one of my favorite vegetarian books...). I've simplified it a bit here:

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 3/4 tsp salt (optional pepper to taste)
  • 3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese (I use a nice sharp cheddar, you could go mild if your child prefers it)
  • paprika for the tops
Preheat oven to 350. Spray four 1 cup ramekins with spray canola oil. Arrange the ramekins in a larger baking pan without touching the sides.(like a lasagna pan) Beat the eggs and milk with the salt in a bowl or 4 cup measure. Stir in the cheese. Using a 1/4 measuring cup, scoop the mixture into the ramekins, trying to distribute the cheese evenly. Sprinkle each one with plenty of paprika. Pour hot water into the baking pan, until it comes half way up the ramekins. Carefully place them in the oven, and bake until golden on top and set, between 20-30 minutes, depending on the size of the ramekins. (give them a wiggle - they should be somewhat firm, and they tend to puff up a bit). Take them out of the water bath with tongs to cool - be sure to let them cool at least 10 minutes (possibly a bit longer) before serving it to your little one - can be served room temp, just like quiche.

July 9, 2009

Chocolate Banana Muffins

These muffins are a bit sweet, but wonderful, and they freeze well too! Picky had one for breakfast this morning - she really feels like she's getting away with something when I let her have something sweet so early!

Tip: when your bananas are getting brown, peel them and break them into 3 chunks, put them in a freezer bag and stick them in the freezer. For smoothie or muffin recipes that call for bananas, take out 3 chunks for each banana, and you're set! I used to freeze them whole, but it's really hard to peel a frozen banana unless you warm it in the microwave, and then it's really messy!

This recipe is from a book called Great Food For Families by Fran Warde:

Prep time 20 min
Cooking time 20-40 min (depending on size)
Makes 6-24 (depending on size)

1 2/3 cups whole wheat flour (I like to use whole wheat pastry flour, which is finer)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup cane sugar
1/2 cup chocolate chips
2 eggs, beaten
6 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 bananas

Preheat the oven to 350, spray muffin pan with nonstick spray (the recipe is supposed to make 6 very large muffins - my muffin tins are small-ish, and it makes 12 of those...you could do minis, in which case it would make 24...)

Put the flour, baking powder, sugar, and chocolate chips in a bowl and mix well. Beat together the eggs and oil, and pour into the bowl. Mash the bananas with a fork, add to the bowl, and mix together quickly: the mixture will be quite stiff. Take care not to over mix or the muffins will be heavy. Spoon the mixture into the muffin pan and bake in the middle of the oven for 40 minutes. (30-35 minutes if you have smallish muffin tins like mine, maybe 20 for minis). Test for readiness by inserting a knife: the blade should come out clean. Eat warm or cold. (I let them cool in the tins for a few minutes and then pop them onto a rack. If you need to, run the back of a spoon around each muffin before you pop it out.)

Comic relief...

I think a sense of humor is important in anything, but especially when dealing with children. Right now I have two favorite outlets when Picky is turning up her nose at a carefully prepared meal, or going two days without eating more than a few bites: One is humming "Eat It" by Weird Al under my breath (or singing it loudly - Picky even knows the words...there's irony...), and the other is a new cookbook my mom recently got for me called One Bite Won't Kill You by Ann Hodgman. Ok, I haven't tried any of the recipes yet, and if I do I'll probably have to modify the heck out of them (I've never eaten Velveeta, and I'm not gonna start now...), but the book is worth it just for the humor in it. I think as parents we get caught up in the little things sometimes, and it's good to be reminded in a fun way that we are taking ourselves a bit too seriously. With recipes like "Dump-and-Do" Chicken, and Pasta alla Pizza, and funny commentary and quotes from parents whose children are waaaay pickier than yours, this book is a must-have for parents out there with children who - ahem - won't always enjoy what you put in front of them. Even if it took you all afternoon to make. And you were sure they would like it. And maybe I will try making Cheese-ghetti one of these days - after all, Picky is bound to like it if it's smothered in cheese!

July 8, 2009

Creamy Carrot Salad

I adapted this recipe from one for Rainbow-Raisin Cole Slaw that I found in Salad People by Mollie Katzen - I'm really just using the dressing here:

6 cups peeled and shredded carrots (10-12 medium carrots)
1/2 cup raisins (I use golden)
1 mango, cubed

1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup plain yogurt

Nonstick spray for the honey spoon
1 tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon cider vinegar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1) Combine the carrots, raisins, and mango in a large bowl.
2) In a second container, combine the mayonnaise, yogurt, honey, vinegar, and salt. Use a fork or small whisk to mix until uniform.
3) Pour the dressing into the salad, mix well, and then eat!

Maybe someday dd will try this, but for now, more for me!

Sneaky Chef - beans in your tuna?

We did ok yesterday - dd ate mostly tuna and pita chips, which has become a favorite lunch lately, and since we had a picnic for dinner, she had that twice. She didn't try the creamy carrot salad that I made (which she swore up and down not only that she would try, but that she knew already she would love...), but maybe next time...at least she didn't say "Yuck! I HATE it!!". Lately I've been adding pureed white beans to her tuna, which is something I found on the Sneaky Chef website, and that's been working great! The beans do not really add a flavor at all to the tuna, just a creaminess, and I'm finding I can get away with adding 1-2 Tbsp per can, along with the mayo and mustard (just a touch) that I usually have in there. So, between her tuna and the black bean enchiladas she's been eating on a regular basis, I figure we're doing pretty well for beans at the moment. Now if only I could figure out a way to work in lentils...

July 6, 2009

Yogurt Smoothie Pops!

My recipe for yogurt smoothie pops is pretty flexible. I usually put in a banana, a generous seving of some kind of fruit, either fresh or frozen, several scoops of yogurt, a spoonful of frozen orange juice, a splash of maple syrup, and some milk or juice to get it to the right consistancy. I love my imersion blender for this task - it really makes the job easy and gives you less to clean than a traditional blender. Plus it's great for soups, too! The latest fruit combo that my dd is enjoying: banana, mango, and avacado! I know you wouldn't normally think to put avacado in a smoothie, but it works great here - it gives a nice creamy consistancy and doesn't have a strong flavor. Plus, it's super healthy! Ok, it does give it a weird color, but my dd drinks it with Yoda (who likes anything green - you do what you gotta do), and they think it's great, weird greenish color and all. And feel free to drink this as a smoothie (frozen bananas and/or fruit work best for this) rather than freezing it into a pop - or do both! Right now with the hot weather, either way is refreshing, and it's almost the only way to get dd to eat fruit, so I'm blending all the time!
Also, if you can get away with it, add a bit of wheat germ - it does make it just a little grainy - dd used to be fine with this, but she seems to eat more without it at the moment, so I'm leaving it out.
Oh, and I almost forgot - pour the mix into pop molds to freeze - I know there is another way to do this with little paper cups and stir sticks, but I'm sure you can figure it out. It takes at least a few hours to freeze properly.