Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Chilly Morning Antecdote

We've gone from capris and sandals to long pants and sleeves in the past week. Need a warm breakfast to take off the morning chill? These individual french toast "cupcakes"(R's description) could be the perfect thing.

Full of whole grains, fruit and lean protein, these mini-french toasts are "oh-my-goodness" yummy. R, G, and I made these a recent weekend morning. I am still dreaming about them. They are a perfect way to use up old bread, and the most beautiful thing is they can be prepared the night before and baked the next morning.

I used peaches, but I am guessing pears, berries, thinly sliced apple or dried fruit would work too. We made a quick blueberry compote (compote--a word that makes it sound hard to make, when in fact, it couldn't be easier), but simple maple syrup would work too.

Individual Peach French Toasts with Blueberry Compote

4 egg whites
2 eggs
1/2 cup skim milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
8 slices whole wheat bread, cut into very small cubes
2 medium peaches, diced (no need to peel)

Blueberry compote:
1 pint blueberries, rinsed
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoon maple syrup

Prepare the french toast mixture:

Combine the first seven ingredients in a large bowl, whisking very well to ensure complete incorporation of the eggs to the other ingredients.

Add the bread and peach, and stir to combine. Let the mixture sit for 5-7 minutes, to allow the bread to fully soak up the egg mixture. Stir again and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

If using immediately, line a muffin tin pan with 12 liners. (Side note: I love using these). Spoon the french toast mixture amongst all 12 holes evenly.

Bake 20-25 minutes, or until the top begins to brown a bit.

Serve with maple syrup or blueberry compote (to make the blueberry compote, combine the blueberries, water and maple syrup in a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil and then let simmer about 10 minutes).

Note: If you want to make the mixture ahead, simply leave it a bowl covered with plastic wrap overnight. Fill the muffin tins in the morning, and add 5-10 minutes to your baking time.

Serves 4-6.

These "cupcakes" make me all warm inside on a cool fall morning.


Friday, September 25, 2009

Slow Cooker Maple Cinnamon Applesauce

Okay, raise your hand if you have ever been apple-picking or have wanted to go? Yeah, me too.

I remember one year before we had children, SPH and I, along with a big group of friends drove out to the country to go apple picking. It was the quintessential autumn day, and we left with lots of tasty apples, way more than we needed.

Enter this year my friend Camille. Camille is an amazing cook and gardener. Her recipes and kitchen creations are amazing, and each time I see her it seems she has finished some sort of neat kitchen project like canning homemade blackberry jam, creating homemade apple butter or the like.

Camille is not only a kitchen whiz, she is extraordinarily giving. When G was in the hospital a year ago February, she called to say, "I am bringing you dinner." Imagine how good the homemade chicken noodle soup tasted (with whole wheat noodles--you go, Camille!) when we came home from the hospital on that cold snowy night.

Well, Camille's latest act of generosity was to share a load of McIntosh Apples she picked from her very own tree:(I just had to share this picture...I love that there were still leaves on many of the apple stems!)

This week was busy, so instead of making something more elaborate, I made the slow cooker. It turned out A-MAZ-ING. I am not sure my jar of store-bought applesauce will be eaten any time soon since the taste pales in comparison.

I read that using the slow cooker for applesauce is perfect because it cooks apples low and slow. I did a twist on traditional applesauce and used maple syrup instead of regular sugar. This recipe turned out great, the boys helped me pour all the ingredients in the slow cooker and they cooked overnight. What a great warm addition to our breakfast this morning!

Maple Cinnamon Applesauce

12 McIntosh Apples (you can use any variety you like, but if you use a more tart variety, you may need to add a bit more sugar at the end)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup real maple syrup
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Peel and core the apples, and then cut into quarters. As you prepare each apple, place it in the slow cooker with the lemon juice and stir to coat each apple in the juice.

Add the remaining ingredients: water, maple syrup, and cinnamon.

Cook on low for 6-8 hours, high 4-5 hours.

While the apples are still warm, use a potato masher or pastry blender to mash:

If you prefer a smoother applesauce, you can use a food processor or food mill instead. But we opted for the chunkier version which was divine.

The best part? Well, the way it tastes. Second best? Our whole house smells of autumn, apples and cinnamon.

Happy Weekend All-

Monday, September 21, 2009

Adieu Summer

Every kid knows that summer really ends when the school bell rings and it is time to go back to school, but on this last day of official summer, I am already thinking autumn. Did you check out the recipe for Braised Red Cabbage last week on Hint, it would make a fabulous side to your Oktoberfest dinner next month:

We've been busy at chez Sweet Pea, but settling into our busy autumn, er laaaaate summer nicely. Poor G though, almost every day I have to wake him up from his afternoon nap to pick R up from kindergarten. I mean, could he look more sleepy without actually being asleep?

Ah, the hardships of being a second child.

With autumn and the cooler weather arriving soon, I am ready to crack out my slow cooker more often. I am on the hunt for some good slow cooker recipes, so if you have a winner, be sure to leave it in the comments.

Oh, and our meals for the week:

Fish tacos, avocado, homemade salsa and mango
Pasta Carbonara and broccoli
Chicken Tandoori, roasted Indian eggplant and chickpeas
Slow Cooker Italian Bean and Artichoke Soup
Indian Calzones

Happy Fall All-

Monday, September 14, 2009

"I had fun at school today Mommy!"

Phew. G loves school. Not that he didn't enjoy his "Mom's Morning Out" last year, but this year is more grown-up and yes, while it is still preschool, it feels like a big jump.

But he came out of class this AM with a huge smile on his face and uttered the words of this blog post's title. Then, as I was leaving, Miss Jill told me, "G gave me and Miss Jennie a big hug today!" Go G! Way to get in with the ladies...

With our new schedule in full swing, this has been my morning thus far:

Wake up
Get fed, dressed, cleaned, etc.
Drive G to school
Go to music class with R
Go home, eat lunch with R, make lunch for G so he can eat in the car
Drive R to school
Pick up G from school
Give G his lunch in car so he can eat and be ready for nap by the time we get home
Put G down for nap
Do a little blogging, etc.

And soon our day will continue:

Wake up G
Pick up R from school
Go to Jeni's to get ceremonial "First Day of School" ice cream
Go to the grocery
Come home, play
Make dinner
Eat dinner

And sometimes I think about having a third child? How on earth would that work? :)

Regardless, I am learning to love (even more) the idea of planning ahead. Without thinking ahead, I am sure I would be bald from pulling out all of my hair by week's end, since we haven't even thrown in MOPS, soccer practice, tumbling, and more...

So to plan ahead, here are our meals for the week:

Shrimp and Parmesan Grits*, Antipasto, Watermelon
Corn Chowder*, Spinach Salad, Pumpkin Bread
Taco Night
Grilled Chicken Sausages, Braised Red Cabbage, German Potato Salad

*Recipe in the virtual cookbook (yes, I used to direct link the recipes, but did you see how busy my day is today?)

And for all of you out there with 3+ kids, how in the world do you juggle it all?


Saturday, September 12, 2009

Zucchini Alfredo

I saw an idea similiar to this on another blog, so forgive me if you are reading this and thinking, "hey, that's my idea!" Please comment, and I will give credit where credit is due.

With zucchini crops peaking, here's another outside-the-box way to use up some of your zucchini. While I try not to do too many recipes that require a specific gadget or doo-dad, this recipe is infinitely easier if you happen to have a mandolin in your kitchen.

Zucchini Alfredo

2 medium zucchini, julienned finely
1 jar alfredo sauce (or make your own)
3 slices of ham, diced
salt and pepper to taste.

Take your zucchini and julienne:

In a large skillet or wok, cook the zucchini over medium high heat, for about 6-8 minutes, or until the zucchini is al dente. Salt and pepper the zucchini and cook another minute.

Take your alfredo sauce:

Pour over the zucchini (depending on the size of your zucchini, you may not use the whole jar). Cook for another couple of minutes or until the sauce is heated through.

In a separate pan, quickly saute the diced ham so it gets a bit brown. Sprinkle on top of the zucchini alfredo:

**Here's a hint: If your sweet peas are adverse to anything green, simply peel the zucchini before you julienne it.

I wasn't sure what R and G would make of this dish, but they both ate it with vigor. I was quite suprised since zucchini is not on either of their "favorites" list.

Have a great rest of the weekend all and I would be remiss if I didn't say:


Friday, September 11, 2009


I've never blogged about 9/11 before, despite it being one of the most terrifying days of my life.

You see, I was working on Capitol Hill the day the terrorists struck, and like thousands of others, had to flee a building we thought may be attacked. I'll never forget my easygoing, unflappable Chief of Staff running into a meeting I was having and saying, "grab your purse and get the hell out of here." His fiancee had witnessed the Pentagon attack, quickly called him and remarkably, my office was able to get out before there was traffic gridlock. In fact, as I drove down 395 that morning, the fire trucks and emergency vehicles were still arriving on the scene at the Pentagon.

I still remember the weather that day. It was absolutely beautiful. And as I type this from my back porch, the weather is hauntingly similar. Blue skies. Low humidity. Temperature in the 70s, absolutely gorgeous. Quite the juxtaposition to events of the day.

So forgive me for abandoning my prepared post on Zucchini Alfredo...I will post that tomorrow. But for today, I am very, very, very thankful for those who protect our freedom, and pray for continued peace for those families who experienced tragic loss 8 years ago today.


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A Routine Post

Did you all have a good Labor Day weekend? We had another wonderful trip to see Grandma and Papa, with some special surprises:

Meet: Ben, Bob, Carter, Softie and Forest, Grandma and Papa's new ducklings, named by the grandkids and Papa. Despite being told that all the ducklings were females, G insisted the moment he met his duckling that it's name was "Bob." R slept on his name selection and then declared, "mine is named 'Ben.'"

After coming down from the duckling glee, we headed out to the Irvington Stomp, a big ole' party in the middle of a vineyard with lots of fun:

R and his cousins channel their inner Lucille Ball:

So we're back, unpacked and ready for a new week. And since this time of year is all about getting back into routines, I am back with our meals for this (shortened) week:

Tuna Baguettes, Lentil Salad
Strip Steaks with Chimichurri, Rice and Bean Salad, Cantaloupe
Grilled Greek Chicken Burgers in Pita, Tzatziki, Cucumber Salsa and Hummus
Grilled Pizza, Citrus/Fennel Salad

Have a great four day week all-

Thursday, September 3, 2009

On the Road Again

As I type this I am getting ready to pack up my white pants and all the usual traveling gear to head back East for a long weekend. Here's hoping that drive will go smooth and the weather will be great.

We're going to see Grandma and Papa in southern Virginia, so a late summer boat ride and some fishing will no doubt be in order. Each time we go to visit Grandma Sheri she has a new recipe I need to try, so I'll be sure to share.

In the meantime, if you haven't checked out my posts this week on, it has been all about:
Easy quick breads to make for a healthy on-the-go snack. I shared two vegetable, two fruit breads, all super tasty treats that the boys love.

Have a wonderful Labor Day weekend All-