Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christmas Morning Food

This year the Sweet Pea family will be spending Christmas morning just the four of us. I am really looking forward to it. I love my family and in-laws, but I have this special anticipation of having the morning we are finally a complete family unit.

If there were a national "Most Sentimental" search, I would be a shoo-in for the finals. I have a hard time if (most) family traditions don't continue. For ump-teen years, we always spent Christmas Eve at my aunt and uncles house after church, eating ourselves way-too-full with wonderful food. When they moved away 7 years ago, Christmas Eve just wasn't the same.

So I am looking forward to starting some new Sweet Pea family traditions for Christmas morning. We already have some long-standing traditions that we will continue, but I am on the hunt for something special for Christmas only stipulation is that it is not an egg casserole.

I am looking for something, savory or sweet that I can cook or at least fully prepare on Christmas Eve.

Any ideas?

Monday, December 17, 2007

Christmas Cookies, 3.0

These are my absolute all-time favorite cookies. This year I tried using Dark Chocolate (trying to find something redeeming for them) Kisses, and it didn't work so well. The one on the left is traditional, and well, you can see what happened to the dark chocolate one.
The Best Peanut Butter Kisses Ever

Cream together:
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c butter
1/2 c peanut butter (I used Skippy Natural this year, and it worked just fine)
1 egg
1 t vanilla

1 3/4 c flour
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. After ingredients are all well mixed, shape into 1 inch balls, and place on a cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, remove and place a Hershey Kiss in the center of each cookie and bake another 3 minutes.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Friday Night Bites on the Side

This is an easy, super healthy and yummy side dish that is good any time of the year. The marinade adds a bit of a sweet/tart taste to the vegetables that may help your little one want to eat more. Our older sweet pea gobbles up the kidney beans in this recipe.

For a festive, Christmas-y look, use red peppers and kidney beans, to make this red and green.

3 (or 4...or 5...or) Bean Salad

1 15 oz can each of green beans, wax beans and kidney beans (you can use up to 5 or 6 cans though and black beans, canellini beans, chick peas and butter beans all work just great), rinsed and drained
1/4 c chopped green onions
1/2 c chopped bell pepper
1/3 c cider vinegar
1/2 c water
1/2 c sugar
1 T olive oil
1/2 t salt
1/4 t pepper

Mix the beans, onion and bell pepper in a large bowl. In a separate bowl mix the remaining ingredients. Pour the liquid over the vegetables, tossing several times. Place in the refrigerator for 3-4 hours before serving, to all the vegetables to marinate.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Christmas Cookies, 2.0

My friend E emailed me about a good sugar cookie recipe. This one is as close to perfection as I have found. The secret ingredient? Sour cream. Also, be sure to make these cookies thick and under cook a bit, if you like them soft.

Soft Sugar Cookies
4 c flour
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1/4 t ground nutmeg
1 c butter, softened
1 1/2 c sugar
1 egg
1 t vanilla
1/2 c sour cream (can use light, but at this point, does it really make a difference?)

1. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar, add the egg, vanilla and sour cream and beat well.
3. Add the dry ingredients to the butter, etc.
4. Wrap dough in 2-3 packets and chill for a couple hours or overnight
5. Preheat oven to 375. Roll out dough to 1/4+ inch thickness. Cut and place on cookie sheets.
6. Bake for 8 minutes, cool slightly and remove to a cooling rack.
7. Put on your inner Picasso and create some Christmas masterpieces, and then make sure to leave some out for Santa on Christmas Eve.

Santa loves these cookies:

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Christmas Cookies

I have a few Christmas cookie recipes that we make almost every year. This recipe is the newest one on our "must bake" list, but they are so good and so guiltless.

Mini Kiss Meringues
2 egg whites
1/2 c sugar
1/8 salt
1/8 t cream of tartar
1 cup mini chocolate chips

Place egg whites and cream of tartar in a bowl and mix with an electric mixer at a high speed until the whites are fluffy and form peaks when you take the mixer paddle(s) out of the bowl. Slowly beat in sugar and salt until it is just incorporated. Fold in the chips gently.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Meanwhile, take 1-2 teaspoons of the mixture and dollop on a cookie sheet, pulling the spoon straight up to make a peak (should look a little bit like a kiss candy). You may want to use parchment paper or a Silpat liner on your cookie sheet, but it is not required. Cook at 300 degrees for 30 minutes.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Two Quick Baby Feeding Ideas

Two things I had forgotten from feeding the Older Sweet Pea at this age (10 months) that I remembered recently and thought I would pass on to you:

1. Feed vegetable finger foods, especially ones for which your little one may not yet have developed a taste, first. Baby Sweet Pea hadn't been that into broccoli for weeks. Then I fed it to him first (and checked the consistency to make sure it was very well steamed) and bingo! he gobbled it up.

Think of it this way--if someone gave you a plate of your favorite pasta and a plate of plain steamed vegetables, if you didn't know the nutritional importance of the vegetables (or maybe even if you did!), you would probably would stick with the pasta. But if the vegetables were given to you when you were hungriest and you had no other options, you would probably eat them!

2. If you are still feeding baby lots of pureed food, alternate bite between less- and more- favorable foods. If I try to give Baby Sweet Pea nothing but pureed green beans, after about 3-4 bites, he refuses any additional beans. But if I alternate a few bites and then a few bites of any fruit puree, he tolerates the green beans.

I am sure you might be going, "duh!" But for this busy mom, I had forgotten these two tricks and they have made a world of difference.

I welcome any other tips, as I am always learning...

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Hot Chocolate for a Crowd

It is still cold outside today. We may get another couple inches of snow tonight. Time to pull out the hot chocolate!

Hot Chocolate for a Crowd (can be halved, quartered, etc)

12 cups skim milk
1 - 12oz bag of chocolate chips (can use milk, semi-sweet, white or dark)

Combine the milk and chocolate chips in a heavy sauce pan.  Heat over medium low heat and stir occasionally until everything is melted.

Alternatively, can be done in a slow cooker on LOW for and sit for 4-8 hours...just remember to stir occasionally.

Serve with unbroken candy canes as a stirrer, or marshmallows on top.

Serves 12-16.

Life is sweet,

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Making Meals Exciting

I think nothing can stir up a child's desire to try new things than making something fun or exciting. Tonight we are throwing some things on the grill. This is my husband's idea because we are celebrating his finishing the fall quarter of his second year of B school.

I have no doubt that using the grill tonight for our dinner will be exciting for Older Sweet Pea. Why?

Just check out this photo taken of him one hour ago in our backyard, near the grill area...

"Grilling in the snow? That is so exciting!"

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Christmas Cookie Ideas

I am trying to come up with a new cookie or two to make this year with our Older Sweet Pea. Our favorites are Peanut Butter Kisses, Gingerbread and some meringue ones I will post sometime soon.

Anyone have a favorite tried-and-true that they are willing to share?