Friday, November 30, 2007

Friday Night Bites--Corn Chowder

My cousin M is a fantastic cook (no surprise since her parents are amazing--she had good teachers!). This is her mom's corn chowder recipe that she then lightened. It is a great way to sneak in some vegetables and tastes delicious.

Seriously, you have to try this recipe. I promise you won't be disappointed.

M's Corn Chowder--Serves 4 but easily doubles and freezes well

Combine in saucepan:
1/2 cup of water
2 cups diced potatoes
1 cup pre-shredded carrots
1 cup chopped celery
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper

Cover and simmer 20-30 minutes


1 cup creamed corn
1 cup canned corn, drained

Simmer 5 minutes

1 1/2 c skim milk
1 1/2 c 2% shredded cheddar

Stir until cheese melts but do not boil.

I am sure you could add crumbled bacon on top, or other garnishes. Sweet Pea Husband wants to try it with some crabmeat too.

Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Sweet Pea Carbonara Pasta

I love bacon. I mean, I llllooooooovvve it. My older sweet pea is following in his mommy's footsteps. So in this lightened recipe I use the allure of (turkey) bacon to entice him into eating more peas. Enjoy!

Sweet Pea Pasta Carbonara

8 oz turkey bacon, sliced very thin
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1# of pasta (spaghetti or linguine work best)
1/2 shredded parmesan cheese
1/4 t pepper
1 cup milk
1 egg
2 egg whites
1-15 oz can of sweet peas, drained
Parsley to garnish (for us grown ups!)
Extra cheese for topping

In a large pan, cook the bacon until very crisp, adding the garlic at the end to partially cook it. While the bacon and garlic are cooking, cook the pasta. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine cheese, pepper, milk, egg and egg whites. Whisk until frothy. Once the pasta is cooked, drain it and add it into the pan with the bacon and garlic (this helps pick up all yummy bacon flavor). Take some of the hot pasta and mix into the egg mixture (to bring the eggs up in temperature) before pouring all of the egg mixture into the bacon pan. Mix well over low heat, until the sauce binds to the pasta. Add sweet peas, and fold gently.

Just as a note: This pasta's sauce is lightened, so it isn't that creamy. If you are after a more creamy carbonara, may I suggest this recipe from Epicurious, complete with cream, egg yolks, butter and tons of cheese!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

"Turkey Dinner, Turkey Dinner, Pumpkin Pie!"

Last year my older Sweet Pea learned a song to the tune of "Frere Jacques:"

"Turkey Dinner, Turkey Dinner!
Pumpkin Pie, Pumpkin Pie!
We ate so much dinner, we ate so much dinner,
Me-oh-my! Me-oh-my!"

He was singing this on the way home from preschool and stopped after the first "Pumpkin Pie" and asked, "What else does the turkey have for dinner besides the pumpkin pie?" Umm...

I guess this was the beginning of his fascination with pumpkin pie. So this year we are making a Streusel-Topped Pumpkin Pie together. We are making it the night before, because, gulp, we are having about 20 family members at our house this Thanksgiving. Needless to say I may not be on the computer much these next couple of


Friday, November 16, 2007

Fabu-less-mess Friday Night Bite

I have always loved Sloppy Joes, but the canned mix conjures up images of lunch lines and lunch ladies. Remember that Adam Sandler song about the lunch lady, “Sloppy Joe, slop, Sloppy Joe…?”

Below is a recipe that I adapted from Rachael Ray that is super easy, healthier, all natural and uses less sugar. I even noted an alteration that uses cooked sweet potato to further pump up the nutrition.

As I was preparing to make this recently, I was shopping at Trader Joe’s for hamburger buns and they only had hotdog buns. Then I had a “why didn’t I think of this before?” moment, and bought the hotdog buns. Voila! The mix stays in the bun: healthier, tastier and less messy Joes. Everyone is happy. What a great way to start the weekend.

Less-Sloppy Joe’s (or as my brother used to call them Not-Neat-Josephs)
1 pound 92% lean ground beef, or ground turkey
1 medium onion, chopped
1 red pepper, roasted, peeled and diced
1 t chili powder
½ t garlic powder
¼ t cayenne pepper
¼ t salt and pepper
3 T brown sugar –OR- ¼ - ½ c pureed sweet potato and 1 T brown sugar
1 T worcestershire sauce
1T red wine vinegar
2- 8oz cans tomato sauce –OR- 1 15oz can diced tomatoes with chilis, pureed
Whole wheat hot dog buns

Roast the red pepper (cut in half, remove seeds and veins, flatten and place under broiler until skin is blackened) and wrap in foil. In a medium sauce pan, brown the beef or turkey with the onion. Once cooked, drain any excess fat. Peel and dice the red pepper. Add all remaining ingredients to the sauce pan *except* the buns. Bring to a simmer and let simmer for about 15-20 minutes. Serve in hot dog buns.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

New Baby Meals

Chances are if you are reading this blog you may be in the stage of life where many of your friends are having babies. When we had sweet pea #2 earlier this year, someone brought us this recipe as a meal. It was incredible, healthy and original. Note that this recipe makes enough for 4 meals, so you can make a big batch, freeze and then take them to friends as they need meals. I would half this recipe if you were making it just for your family:

Minestrone-Stuffed Shells

48 uncooked jumbo pasta shells
2 lb. lean ground beef
2 cups chopped any color bell peppers (3-4 medium)
1 cup chopped onions
1 teaspoon salt
¾ cup refrigerated basil pesto
8 oz part skim shredded mozzarella
2 (15 oz) cans kidney or Great Northern beans, drained, rinsed
2 (26 oz) jars thick and hearty tomato pasta sauce
4 oz shredded fresh parmesan

Cook pasta shells per package. Drain. Rinse with cold water to cool. Drain well.

  1. Meanwhile, in a 5 to 6 quart Dutch oven, break up ground beef. Add bell peppers and onions; sprinkle with salt. Cook over medium high heat until beef is thoroughly cooked, stirring frequently. Drain. Stir in pesto, mozzarella cheese and beans.
  2. Fill each cooked pasta shell with scant ¼ cup beef mixture. Place 12 filled shells in each of 4 large (9 ½ cup) rectangular freezer/microwave-safe containers. Spoon ½ jar (about 1 ½ cups) of the pasta sauce over each to cover. Sprinkle each with ¼ cup parmesan. Cover; refrigerate up to 3 days or freeze up to 2 months.
  3. Thaw 1 container of stuffed shells in refrigerator or 24 hours or uncover and thaw in microwave on Defrost for 15-20 minutes.
  4. To reheat refrigerated or thawed stuffed shells, cover loosely and microwave on High for 6 to 8 minutes or until thoroughly heated.
  5. 16 servings (4 meals).

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Longest Journey Starts with a Single Step

Does this sound familiar?

It is lunch time. The sweet peas are hungry. So I start a peanut butter sandwich for the older sweet pea while thinking of what we have on hand that I can throw together for me. I hand the baby sweet pea some Os to nibble on while I make the rest of lunch...I finally get the older sweet pea's lunch ready, and I start putting together the finger food/baby food assortment to feed the baby sweet pea. Meanwhile I am still hungry, so it is time for me to figure out what I will eat.

I often feel as though I am choreographing a ballet of helping each kid eat, making my lunch and getting things each sweet pea requests mid-meal ("more milk mom!," "I need a napkin," "waaaaa."). Very often, I finally sit down to eat my meal, and just as I exhale and take a bite, I realize the steamed carrots are still in the microwave and the milk I poured for my 3 year old is still on the counter. Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth I go from the kitchen table to the counter.

Exhibit A: Pedometer before we start the lunch balletExhibit B: Pedometer after the meal is complete

663 steps! At least I am burning some of the calories from my meal...

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Kitchen as a Classroom

I heard someone speak yesterday about using cooking as a great learning tool. Here are some ideas:

* For infants: Let them watch you cook from their highchair. Give them small amounts of safe and appropriate things you use while cooking. Examples: small amounts of flour, baking soda, baking powder to touch and explore.

* For toddlers: Same as above, but some can start to help pour things into batter, salad mixes, etc. Explain simple concepts like, "The water is in the cup. Now mommy is pouring the water out of the cup and into the bowl." Start to explain relational concepts such as a cup is more than a tablespoon.

* For preschoolers: Same as above, but this is where it can get fun! Help them understand numbers (ie, "we need three eggs in this bowl. We already have one, how many more do we need?") and math, and perhaps more fun (or messy!) let them stir, measure and do appropriate helping. Let them see how things change when you bake or cook them. Also, allow them to start to help prepare their own lunch and simple parts of dinner.

* For school age children: Let them choose simple recipes that you can help them cook. Pizza is a great options. Help them learn to roll the dough, place the toppings and prepare for the oven.

As children get older, who know you may just have a budding Julia Child or Bobby Flay on your hands.

Of course, things don't always go as is a picture of my older sweet pea when he was 2 1/2, when I turned my back...

The options are really endless...any other great creative ideas out there for involving and interesting children in cooking?

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Go-to Taco Mix

The air is cool and crisp and I have a lot of afternoon errands to run. Not the least of which is to go and vote. So here is my two second PSA...

Exercise your freedom and vote. If not for the pride and sense of accomplishment, do it for the snazzy sticker!

But I digress...

I have my absolute favorite soup simmering in the slow cooker, the Chicken Taco Soup from an old post. The recipe calls for taco seasoning, and I realized that I was short one of those handy-dandy (and pricey, for what you get) packages of taco seasoning. So here is an easy recipe for homemade taco seasoning. I have used it before and honestly can not tell the difference:

Go-to Taco Mix (easily doubled or tripled, so you can keep extra on hand for the next time)

1 T chili powder
1/4 t garlic powder
1/4 t onion powder
1/2 t cayenne pepper or hot chili powder
1/4 t oregano
1 t paprika
1 1/2 t ground cumin
1 t salt
1/2 t black pepper

Now go and create your fiesta!

Friday, November 2, 2007

First Frost Friday Night Bite

Alas, the growing season has passed us the older sweet pea and I pulled all of our remaining vegetables yesterday afternoon.
I was glad we did, for when we woke up, the roof over our porch was frosty and white.

We grew poblano peppers this summer and we have quite a few left over to use tonight. This recipe is like many of mine--easily adapted to suit any taste. We do ours with poblanos since we all love peppers. But if you or your kids don't like spicy food, you can easily omit them. Like most many Tex Mex recipes, this one uses lots of "hidden" vegetables.

A bonus: if your kid is not so sure of this meal, the chips on top should help convince them to try a "no thank you" bite!

Poblano Chicken
4-5 poblano chili peppers
2 cups cooked chicken, cut into cubes (or use canned chicken if you are under a time crunch)
1 cup shredded reduced fat cheddar cheese
1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
1/2 cup chopped onion
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 15oz can beans (we use black, but can use chili, kidney or white)
1/2 cup diced zucchini
1/4-1/2 cup salsa
3 T minced cilantro
1/2 t salt
1/2 t pepper
1/2 t ground cumin
1/2 t paprika
1/4 t oregano
1 c baked tortilla chips, crushed

First, slice poblanos in half, seed and place skin side up under a broiler for about 10 minutes. Once skin is blackened, wrap in foil, seal and let sit for 15 minutes. Peel and place in the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish.

Turn oven to 375 degrees. Mix all remaining ingredients except for chips in a large bowl. Layer the chicken mixture over the poblanos, top with crushed chips. Lightly spray chips with cooking spray. Bake for 20 minutes or until cheese bubbles.

When serving, if you don't like spicy food, leave the poblanos in the pan for someone who does!