Thursday, July 31, 2008

Mamma Mia Mess!

I would say G liked his Sweet Pea Pizza Sauce dinner from the other night, wouldn't you? Can you see why I strip him down to his diaper for this meal? G loves it so much, he tried to wear it...apparently as clothes and a hat.

Sweet Eats,

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Great Summer Night Dinner

There are some recipes that literally cause me to salivate while reading them. Anything with a good cheese, or roasted garlic, chili peppers, bacon and of course, almost any dessert recipe.

This recipe did not cause any initial salivation. In fact, when I first read this recipe of my mom's a long time ago, I thought, "how could this be tasty?" But as a teen my mom made this regularly and it is now a Sweet Pea household favorite. It is simple, fast, vegetarian and super-tasty. Bonus: it contains two ingredients that in my mommy experience, many sweet peas will eat: pasta and broccoli.

If you have someone with a nut allergy or a little wee one that needs to steer clear, add the cashews when serving.

Lemon Dill Couscous with Cashews

3 cups boiling water
1 1/2 cups of whole wheat (or regular) couscous
2 onions, chopped
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 T olive oil
3 cups of broccoli, cut into little florets
4 t dried dill
1 t ground black pepper
2 cups tomato, chopped
2 cups celery, diced
juice from 4 lemons
1 c fresh parsley, minced
1/4 c olive oil
1/4 c water
1 cup cashew pieces
salt to taste*

Combine couscous and water, cover and set aside. In a large skillet over medium high heat, add the 1 T olive oil, onion and garlic. Cook for about 3-4 minutes. Add the broccoli, dill and black pepper and cook for about 5-6 minutes or until broccoli is tender. Remove from heat and let cool.

Place the celery and tomatoes in a large bowl. Mix in the lemon juice, parsley, olive oil and water, stirring to incorporate and coat the veggies. Add the couscous and broccoli mixture, toss and add cashews.

*If your cashews are salted, chances are they will add enough salt to the recipe. But taste and see...

Sweet Eats,

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Banana Boats

I thought up this idea for lunch for R and I:

Take a hot dog bun and place in it a banana instead of a dog. Use peanut butter as "mustard" and dried cranberries or strawberries as "ketchup."

Despite R being very excited to make his Banana Boat, he wasn't that into eating it. Hmm. I chalk it up as just a typical preschool idiosyncrasy, so I will have to try it again. But perhaps a fun idea for you to try with your sweet peas.


Monday, July 28, 2008


If you haven't had a girl's (or boy's) weekend in awhile, stop reading this blog, pick up the phone and call a friend to schedule one. Now.

S and I started our girl's staycation weekend Friday evening. We had dinner in at S's home (her hubby and kids were away), with wine, beer and lots of uninterrupted talking. Saturday we slept in, worked out, had a wonderful lunch at Aladdin's Eatery and then headed out for some pedicures.

We then checked into our hotel, the Hilton Columbus which we chose solely for its wonderful proximity to the shopping haven that is Easton Town Center. I forgot how amazing it is to shop, shop, shop without having to return home to a sitter, or watching to make sure no one runs away, trashes the store, etc. I picked up these adorable starter chopsticks from Sur La Table:
and some organizing things from the Container Store.

Saturday night for dinner we went to Bon Vie Bistro and Wine Bar. We had some great food, good drinks and chocolate fondue for dessert. After dinner we rolled ourselves over to Anthropologie and LOFT for some more shopping. I found an adorable tankini and some capris.

Now I need to figure out what I am going to make for dinners this week, do some laundry and settle into our weekly routine. But the next girl's weekend plans are already beginning to take shape...

Have a sweet week,

Friday, July 25, 2008

You can keep your brown paper packages tied up with string

Here are a few of my favorite (snack) things...

Hansen's Sodas, particularly their mandarin orange. This stuff is a splurge, but since I hardly ever drink soda, it tastes amazing for a special treat:

Peppermint Altoids, dipped in Dark Chocolate. This gives me a good chocolate fix without feeling guilty. Bonus: fresh breath!
Stonyfield Chocolate Underground Fat Free Yogurt. I can hardly believe this stuff is fat free, it tastes so good. My other favorite thing to snack on in is their Black Cherry flavor with a couple dozen dark chocolate chips mixed in too:

Kettle Chips! Almost any flavor will do, but recently I discovered their Spicy Thai flavor and they are oh-so-good:And in the category of "I buy them for my sweet peas but end up eating just as many as they do," Annie's Bunny Grahams. Yum.
Last but not least, Breyer's All Natural Double Churned Ice Cream. Simple, sweet, and perfect for the summer.

What's on your list? Please share, as I am a bona fide snack-a-holic.

Have a great weekend everyone--I am off for a girl's weekend with my friend S!!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

This one's for you, Jenn

Jenn had long ago requested a recipe for Baba Ganouj. R likes this so much he even named one of his stuffed horses Baba Ganouj (yeah, that was a tough one to explain to his older preschool teacher during "bring a stuffed friend to school day.")

If you like hummus but have never tried Baba Ganouj, I think you'll find it quite yummy.

Baba Ganouj

1 large eggplant
3-4 T chopped cilantro or parsley
juice of 1/2 lemon
2-3 T tahini
1-2 garlic cloves
1 T olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Poke the eggplant with a fork a few times and throw it into the oven in a pan for about 30 minutes or until it looks like it is deflated a bit and soft to the touch. Let stand for 30 minutes or pop it into the fridge until you are ready to make your Baba Ganouj.

Scope out the flesh of the eggplant and mix it with the remaining ingredients in a food processor. Taste...alter as needed. Serve with veggies or pita chips.

Jenn, hope this meets your need. I love making this with R because he loves using the food processor. Let me know what you think!


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Changing milk guidelines

Came across this article on the Academy of American Pediatrics' thoughts on switching from whole to 2% milk for some toddlers. It made me take notice because R was off the charts on height and weight as a toddler and our pediatrician said we could switch to a lower-fat milk at 18 months. I remember getting some mild grief from a few folks about "he needs the fat for brain development!" This makes me feel better, not that I lost any sleep.

When did you switch your child from whole to a lower-fat milk?


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Flying by the seat of my pants

I am not usually a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants type of mom. If given my druthers, I like to plan out a good part of my week, our activities, our meals, and what we need to accomplish. This isn't always easy with two little ones, so I have come to terms with my I-like-to-feel-like-I'm-in-control-of-everything-even-though-I-know-I'm-not-itis (a good life lesson for all of us, n'est pas?).

So it was with a certain amount of anticipation that I purposely went to our local Wednesday afternoon Farmer's Market with no recipe, no meal, nothing in mind. R, G and I went and bought some beautiful wax and green beans, heirloom tomatoes, and black raspberries. Coupled with our garden's zucchini and peppers, I created this meal.

Gnocchi with zucchini and roasted peppers in a goat cheese sauce, fresh beans with carmelized onions and garlic and black raspberries (these tasted so divine, it would have been a crime to mess with them).

I think I may be flying by the seat of my pants more often.

Here's the gnocchi recipe:

Gnocchi with Zucchini and Roasted Peppers in a Goat Cheese Sauce
2 pounds of fresh gnocchi
2 t olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 zucchini, diced
1 roasted red pepper, roughly chopped
4 ounces neufchatel (light cream cheese)
4 ounces goat cheese
1/2 c skim milk
salt and pepper to taste

In a large saute pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook until it become translucent and begins to brown a bit. Add the zucchini and peppers, cook for about 3-4 more minutes. Reduce heat to low.

In a separate stock pot, cook gnocchi according to directions. Drain. Add to the peppers and zucchini. Immediately add the cheeses and milk and stir to melt and incorporate, adding a bit more milk as necessary. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Delish, and an honest to goodness breeze to make.

Sweet Eats,

Monday, July 21, 2008

Age is just a number

I know age is just a number, but I feel a bit hung up.

No, not my recent birthday. Gosh, I pay so little notice to my birthday that sometimes I even forget my exact age. No, I am talking about my sweet little baby G, who is now 18 months old.
Certain numbers just "feel" different to this mom. I remember switching from "X weeks old" to "months old" with R and G. I remember the emotions of them both turning 1. And for some reason, when R turned 4, it felt monumental too. G turned 18 months old this weekend and I all too aware of how quickly he is growing up. We've been saying, "he's 1 going on 5" since as any parent of two children can attest, the younger child just seems to accelerate toward the words, actions and thoughts of their older sibling.G is quite the ham. He dances at the drop of a hat, and I mean *dance.* He loves to stand very still until you say "go!" he races around the house. He is super ticklish and has the most hearty toddler laugh I have ever heard. He is also fearless, quite outgoing and yet, at his core, a tried and true mama's boy.

Happy 1 1/2 Birthday, G!

And now, our meals for the week:

Slow Cooker Carolina Pork BBQ, Corn Casserole, Coleslaw and Baked Beans
Turkey Burgers, 3, 4 or 5 Bean Salad
Farmer's Market Pasta Salad
Grilled Fish, Veggie
Grilled Pizza, Hearts of Palm Salad

Sweet Eats,

Friday, July 18, 2008

R, R, quite elated, how does your garden grow?

...With zuchs and cukes, and peppers too,
Mom's so proud, she had to crow-

R ate an entire cucumber off the vine, in one sitting. This from a boy who "doesn't like cucumbers." Love it.

Have a sweet weekend,

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Thinking Outside the Grill, 2.0

We had this magnificent salad last week for dinner. Fresh spinach, marinated and grilled red onions, a bit of bacon (optional for your vegetarian and pescetarian (have you heard this new term?) friends), and, drum roll please...

grilled tofu.

Now stick with me here. I am not a tofu-nut, although I am quickly learning to appreciate its versatility and healthfulness. I tried grilling tofu so I could cross it off my list, as a "tried it, let's move on" cooking experience. Little did I know how tasty grilled tofu can be. It was yummy, SPH liked it (!) and the Sweet Peas ate it up. It also just looked nice:

Here's the recipe I created, I really hope you will give it a try. Look at it this way, tofu is so inexpensive, you don't have that much to lose.

Grilled Tofu Sesame Salad
1 block of extra firm tofu, drained, sliced three times lengthwise and pressed between two towel to get rid of the extra moisture
1 large red onion
10 ounces of organic baby spinach
4 slices of bacon cooked and crumbled
2 T sesame seeds

Marinade (for the onions and tofu):
1/2 c low sodium soy sauce
1 T toasted sesame oil
1 T brown sugar
1 T fresh ginger, minced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 t hot pepper flakes

Salad Dressing:
1 T sesame oil
1 T soy sauce
2 T fresh lemon juice
2 T honey

Mix the marinade together and place in a 9x13 glass pan. Marinate the tofu and onions for about 15 minutes, turning the tofu to coat about 3-4 times during the 15 minutes. In a preheated and oiled grill pan (or alternatively, on a grill), cook the onions and tofu, for about 4-5 minutes per side, or until both things have a good "browning." Mix the salad dressing and prepare the salad bowls...Toss the spinach and bacon together. Once the tofu and onions are cooked, give them a rough chop and toss them in the bowls. Top with dressing and sesame seeds.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Beyond Organic?

We've been doing organic whole milk for G (and did the same for R) since he turned 1. Then my cousin C turned me on to the idea of buying local, family-owned farm, natural milk. It is pasteurized to get rid of any germs, but it is non-homogenized (the cream separates, so a good shake is necessary before you pour the milk). It isn't "certified organic," but the farm uses no chemicals, no pesticides, no hormones and the cows are all free roaming. The idea is that it is beyond organic, as even our beloved organic dairies have become huge production facilities.

So we picked up some yesterday at our local Whole Foods:

Hartzler Family Dairy is an Ohio dairy farm not too far from here near Amish Country. They sell at some local stores, in, get this, glass bottles (I love it). You pay more upfront for the milk, but then you return the empty bottles to the store and get a refund or credit if you are buying more milk. In the long run, it is cheaper than organic, and with nothing to throw away or recycle other than the lid.

But what about the taste? I was skeptical, thinking there was no way I would be able to taste a difference, even though C had told me it was markedly better tasting.

Oh-my-goodness. The milk was incredible. I am not someone who usually drinks milk for the taste of it, rather, I do it for my bones. But now I'm a believer.

See ya later, Horizon Organic Milk, we had a good run. I'm a Hartzler girl now.


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Banana Pops

Want a simple recipe for your kiddos?

Peel a banana, cut in half crosswise and stick a popsicle stick into one end. Freeze for an hour or so, or overnight:

Melt some chocolate chips. Don't worry about "tempering" the chocolate, or trying to use a fancy double boiler contraption. Instead use this sure-fire, easy peasy way to melt chocolate:

Place chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl. Blast on high for 30 seconds. Stir. Repeat. After a few rounds, they will start to melt. Once they are fully melted, dip the frozen bananas into the chocolate and let them cool in the freezer for about 10 minutes.

Now you are ready to enjoy!

Life is Sweet,

Monday, July 14, 2008

"How Old Are You Now..."

This weekend I turned another year older, dare I say another year wiser, and celebrated the passing of another year in style. SPH fixed this amazing meal for us last night:

It was another classic recipe-free idea. He wrapped the scallops in proscuitto, grilled them and then brushed a glaze of equal parts lemon juice and honey at the last second. Divine. The grilled salad is corn off the cob that has been charred, diced grilled zucchini and fresh thyme. Amazing.

Thanks honey!

From my parents I also picked up this bottle of wine. It made me laugh out loud:

Brilliant marketing, don't you think?

Have a sweet week,

Friday, July 11, 2008

FNB Summer Rolls

I adore Summer Rolls. You may know them as Egg Rolls that haven't been given a hot bath in oil, but really, this is a shabby comparison because in my mind they are head and shoulders over a traditional Egg Roll.

Summer Rolls just taste, well, like summer. Fresh, crisp, alive... I once was intimidated by the idea of making them at home, but once I realized how simple they are, I make them with gusto. It is a classic Recipe-Free meal:

Summer Rolls

*Rice Papers (see second picture, back left)
*Rice Vermicelli Noodles
Fresh Herbs (we use a little bit of cilantro, fresh basil, chives and mint)
Thinly Sliced Vegetables (carrot sticks, bean sprouts, daikon, napa cabbage, even lettuce)
Cooked Shrimp, peeled

Take each Rice Paper and soak 10-15 seconds in a pan of hot water. I use a pie pan with very warm water. Press down gently and it will turn soft. Place on a plate, and put 3 shrimp in a row on one end of the circle, about one inch from the edge. Put some noodles, herbs and vegetables on top. Roll like a burrito, pulling the sides in and rolling up. The rice papers seal themselves.

It might take a couple practice rolls to get the hang of it but you will figure it out--it is easy peasy once you get going.

Traditionally you dip them in a peanut hoisin sauce, or you can use straight hoisin sauce.

*Rice Paper and Rice Vermicelli Noodles are available at most major supermarkets in the International Food area.

Serve them with a bit of steamed whole edamame for a fantastic summer dinner.

Have a sweet weekend,

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Make It Better

SP&P readers--I am working on a group of recipes to put together and call them "Make It Better." The recipes would be up the alley of my hummus, pizza dough, homemade soft pretzels, Super Bars and Taco Mix.

You know, things easily bought but with the right recipe, you can make it better.

I have a list of recipes in the hopper to develop for the blog, but I want your input.

Anything you want to be able to make at home with a reliable recipe?


Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A Sweet Pea Fave

I crave convenience in my cooking, but often things packaged for convenience have a whole slew of UFIs and other things we (or perhaps just I, but since I do the cooking, it turns into a "we") prefer not to eat. Other convenience things (and here I am thinking of bottled, pre-minced garlic) are such a far cry from the fresh version, I turn up my nose.

But this lovely bottle of wonderful-ness gets the SPC gold seal of approval:

Thank you, thank you Ginger People for making such an awesome product. It is just like fresh ginger, without all the peeling and grating. It keeps forever in your fridge, so go out there and buy some for your fridge.

You'll thank me for it,

Monday, July 7, 2008

A Midsummer's Day Post

The Sweet Pea Family takes in a very wet, rainy parade (but we don't let anyone rain on our parade)...

...and the Sweet Peas are happy due to the copious amounts of fire trucks.

What is it about the feeling I get the week after the 4th? I always feel as though the summer is just about half over and is quickly waning. I know, I know, anyway you slice it, the summer is still coming on strong. Perhaps it is the fact that all the swimsuits are on sale and before we know it there will be advertisements for 5 cent folders, glue sticks and other back-to-school commodities. Or perhaps it is because at this point most of our summer weekends are scheduled and already spoken for. Or perhaps it is just me and one of my quirks?

The Sweet Pea family soaked in a wonderful three day weekend. SPH was away for several days last week and it was the first significant chunk of time where I flew solo with both kiddos, unassisted. I have to say, it went very smoothly, but I was very, very glad to see SPH return.

I was even more excited about SPH's return when he made these for me Saturday morning while I "slept in," if you can call sleeping until 8:30 sleeping in. My guess is if you have kiddos, you know the luxury of sleeping past 8. Anyway, SPH used our family pancake recipe and added slices of bananas in them. Oh. my. goodness. These were fabulous:

I am not a huge banana fan, but the ultra-thin slices of banana actually caramelized as they cooked, making them taste divine.

So after an extra day of weekend time, we're ready to take on the new week. Our meals for the week:

Lemon Cashew Couscous Salad (a family favorite I will post later this week)
Layered Taco Salad
Spinach Salad
Chinese New Year Dinner Wraps
Grilled Indian Chicken (using a Trader Joe's marinade), Naan and Curried Chickpeas

Have a great week,

Friday, July 4, 2008

Red, White and Blueberry Pops

Happy Fourth of July! Our celebration started early...

Red, White and Boom was last night. SPH's former internship employer had reserved COSI downtown for a dinner and cocktail party on the river before the fireworks. It was great, the kids had a blast and we had front row seats for the parade. Here are some pictures:

G and R in part of a science exhibit

R running through a wildflower maze
G taking time to smell the black-eyed susans

Earlier in the day while the Sweet Peas were "napping," I whipped up these popsicles for the occasion. R loved them and I thought they were pretty darn good too. Of course the red, white and blue aren't as day-glo bright as the traditional bomb pops, since the blueberries turned purplely-blue in the blender. But they're still blue-ish, right? Work with me here...

Red, White and Blueberry Pops (or, "wow-these-pops-have-loads-of-good-stuff-instead-of-UFIs pops")

1/2 cup fresh blueberries
2 t sugar

1 60z container fat free organic plain yogurt
juice from half a lime or lemon
1 T sugar

8 large strawberries

Blend the blueberries and sugar, pour into popsicles molds, filling a third full, and place in popsicle sticks. Pop into the freezer for about 30 minutes. Mix yogurt, lime or lemon juice and sugar, pour onto top of the blueberries, so the molds are 2/3 full. Freeze 30 minutes. Blend strawberries and pour again. Let freeze overnight or for several hours.
R, feeling especially patriotic as he eats his popsicle. I mean, could he be any more festive? Even his eyes were red, white and blue before I fixed the red eye in the original picture.

Have a wonderful 4th,

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Quick Tip of the Week

Sometimes we end up with too much rice or pasta after a meal. It was hard for me to believe, but you can easily freeze it. The texture stays true and freezing rice or pasta can be a lifesaver for a quick-fix meal.

So now you can take your rice like this:

and whip it into a pyrex or freezer bag and keep it for a rainy, er hectic, day, rather than paying probably ten-fold for the convenience of this:

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Ice Cold Lemonade

Recently during a walk with G we passed not 1, not 2, but 3 lemonade stands. Something about being back in Ohio, I feel like lemonade stands are a summertime fixture...

I have an unwritten rule to stop at lemonade stands if at all possible. Why not support the future entrepreneurs, and their quest to quench your thirst? Plus, I have vivid memories of my own stands and the little rush I got whenever I scored a sale.

The first stand I stopped at I bought a glass and gave a 100% tip. The lemonade? Not bad, but clearly made from a mix (just an observation, not a criticism--I don't recall squeezing any lemons for my own stands). Stand #2 had some sort of lemonade-esque liquid that must have been hastily poured together. Awful, but I dutifully smiled and said, "thanks" to the two girls selling their quasi-lemon-type-liquid. Sad to say, but I artfully dodged the third stand because A. my bladder was feeling rather plump and B. I just didn't want any more sub-par lemonade.

Future lemonade stand purveyors, please, next time you see me coming, please use this recipe instead:

Simply Sublime Lemonade

1 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice (takes about 5-6 lemons, depending on their size)
1/2 cup simple syrup (recipe below)
1/2 cup iced water

To make the simple syrup, mix 1 part sugar to 1 part sugar (can make extra and keep on hand in the fridge for weeks for things like iced tea, drinks, etc) in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until all the sugar is melted, let cool.

Mix lemon juice, syrup and ice cold water together. Taste. Add more syrup or water according to your preference.

By the way, please don't make the assumption that I make homemade lemonade that often. It is a treat, not a regular event, to have the fresh-squeezed kind in the SP home. Instead, whenever this goes on sale, I stockpile:

Life is Sweet,

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


My good friend and former roommate, B, has a great blog, Songs in the Key of Kibi.

This post from last Thursday, which I just recently read, made me laugh out loud. Check out her "Ode to the Potato Chip Bag" and see if you can relate.

I certainly can.

I would try and write my own ode to chocolate, tortilla chips, cheesy poofs or one of my various other food items on my "I-shouldn't-buy-this-because-I-will-only-end-up-eating-way-too-much" list, but I am not quite that creative.

Do you have an ode you could write, and to which food item would it be written?

Happy July,