December 15, 2013

A Control Freak's Holiday Baking Woes

The problem with being a control freak is that you want to control everything. Even when you think you don't, and you try to do something that will allow others to provide input, you become all angst-y because you quickly realize you aren't in control.

Last year we instituted an annual family holiday fun day. The goal was to have a lazy day when we'd do wintery, holiday things, like make cookies, watch holiday movies, craft garland, and make snowman pizzas. I decided last year that it would be fun for everyone in the house to pick a cookie that we'd bake.

Well, last year it ended up working. I approved of everyone's choices.

This year, I didn't like what Lola and Zach picked.

In my head, after everyone had picked their special cookie, we'd have a fabulous assortment of holiday treats. It'd be perfect. In my head, I had already picked out what I had hoped they would pick out.

Guess what? They didn't pick out what I had hoped they would pick out.

Lola really can't pick out a special cookie yet. I chose for her. But I knew hers had to be chocolate chip. because she loves chocolate chips and chocolate chip cookies.

Zach chose Hello Dolly Bars, a super sweet, kitchen sink type bar. Are they good? Sure.

But are they holiday-y? No. And that ended up being what I was bummed about. We had 2 of 3 cookies that just didn't feel very festive. And we were clearly over-indexing on chocolate chips. Un-festive and lacking variety. Tragic.

So, for a few days, I tried to figure out whether I was going to ask Zach to pick something else. I wanted to. I really did. But I just couldn't bring myself to do it. After all, the goal was for everyone to get to pick out a cookie that they wanted.

So, I stuck with everyone's requests. I made their cookies yesterday during our annual fun day. They (and I) happily ate them.

Today, I finally got around to mine (because making 3 types of cookies and snowman pizza and watching holiday movies and going out to brunch is too much to do in one day when you have a toddler).

And I'm happy to report that I think MINE are holiday-ish. A sugar cookie studded with anise seeds and topped with a smear of sugary frosting. In shapes, no less. Totally delicious, too.

I feel like these cookies gave me back my holiday spirit (that I temporarily lost while fretting over our apparently-very-important-to-me holiday cookie assortment).

Awareness is the first step, right? Next year I'll do better. I have a whole year to prepare myself mentally for next  year's assortment. And a whole year to control every single other meal we eat. :)

Happy holidays!


Aunt Clara's Anise Seed Cookies (Recipe from Food 52, found here.)

(Note: I took a shortcut and didn't let my frosting butter come to room temp. I rushed the process and ended up having issues. As written, my frosting appeared to be too dry. But then I added too much milk to try to fix it and ended up adding another half stick of butter and a lot more powdered sugar. So, I can't vouch for the frosting. But if you know how to make a simple frosting, you'll figure it out as you go.)

September 21, 2013


I have a lot to say about snackies.

First, this is one of probably a few too many "baby words" that I say to Lola. Snackies instead of snacks, tubby instead of bath, night-night instead of bed. They say you shouldn't do this. But I do it. I'm working on stopping.

Second, I'm a little obsessed with snacks for Lola. I find myself much more interested in brainstorming the snacks I feed her than the meals I feed her sometimes. I'm not sure why exactly this is but I have a feeling it's because I had some solid snacks growing up. My mom almost always had a special snack waiting for us when we got home from school. This time of the year, it was often ginger snaps with hot cocoa. I would sit at the counter with my snack and tell her all about my day.

A few weeks ago I was joking to her via text about how my brother always seemed to be available to come over if there was a free meal on the table. She texted me back and said "Food is the great seducer. Remember this when Lola comes home from school and you want to hear about her day." She's wise, my mom. Snacks can be very important.

Third, we have hit some sort of major growth spurt around here because Lola can not get enough to eat. She signs that she is hungry all of the time and polishes off big snacks multiple times a day. I can't seem to keep the house stocked with enough snacks for this child.

So, this week when my mom was here, we brainstormed some new snack ideas for Lola (thank god).

One of the ideas I got most excited about was these ham and cheese crepes. As most of you know, my mom is French. And a purist. So, she had a little bit of heartburn over putting ham and cheese in them, but knowing the appetite L is sporting lately, she turned a blind eye.

These puppies were a joint effort. Mimi lovingly made the crepes. I lovingly stuffed them and prepped them for the freezer. I can't wait to dig into them this week.

Here is the list of other ideas we came up with for anyone else that is in need of some new ones. (Caveat: we aren't doing nuts yet with Lola, so you'll see nut butters are not included...lord knows there are a thousand more ideas involving nut butters.)

Ham & cheese crepes (obvi)
Dips (nectarine butter, eggplant yogurt dip, hummus, veggie ricotta)
Crackers (this is our favorite homemade cracker recipe right now...our favorite store-bought are Bunnies)
Muffins (so many, many options)
Mini quiches, mini frittatas
Pancakes (whole wheat, cornmeal blueberry, pumpkin, apple cinnamon oat, veggie, corn)
Smoothies (with fruit, a veggie, yogurt, milk, and wheat germ)
Tea sandwiches
Graham crackers with honey sweetened cream cheese
Cheese & crackers
Rice pudding
Salsas (apple cinnamon, cucumber, pineapple)
Pizzas (on English muffins, pitas, crackers), calzones
Toasts with spreads
Deli meat & cheese with brown rice cakes
Spinach ricotta bites (from Weelicious)
Baked oatmeal
Zucchini coconut chocolate chip cookies
Fruity gelatin
Hard-boiled eggs
Cheddar & apple tartine
Avocado toast
Apple oat scones
Loaded baked potatoes
Chicken salad & crackers
Banana "splits"
Soft pretzels with dipping sauces
Pears baked in cream
Cheesy cornbread

September 5, 2013

One Last Hurrah

I never realized how much I love summer vegetables until this year. Maybe it's because I'm cooking at home more. Maybe it's because I know where my summer veggies are coming from. Maybe I've just hit the jackpot in picking recipes to use them in. But, I'm smitten. And sad that they are quickly coming to a close.

My favorites? The tomatoes. The eggplant. The corn.

My mom has an orchard a few miles away from her in Lancaster where she has been going almost daily to stock up on peaches and corn. I have been making fun of her because it's seriously ridiculous, the amount of peaches and corn they have been eating.

But I get it. And that's why I've been quick to accept offers from my farmer friends and my friends with farmer friends. The second I get a text asking if I could use x, y, or z, I quickly say "Yes! I actually have been wishing I had more of x, y, and z." I've become a summer vegetable hoarder.

These are a few of the recipes that have made me a vegetable hoarder. I thought I'd share. We probably have a couple more weeks? Make these recipes. Repeatedly. That's what we're doing.

Grilled Eggplant, Corn, and Bread Salad with Tomato-Basil Vinaigrette from Williams-Sonoma

Tomato Crostata with Honey-Thyme Glaze from The New York Times

Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce with Butter and Onion from Food52

Eggplant Dip with Yogurt from Food52

September 2, 2013

At Long Last: A Local Pizza Farm

We did something pretty cool last weekend. We drove out to Long Lake (just the two of us!) and ate pizzas on a farm with some of our friends (and my brother and his gf).

The pizza farm in Stockholm has been on my radar for a while, but it's only on Tuesdays, and we just can't seem to get it together enough to go.

So I got excited when this one in Long Lake popped up--Two Pony Gardens.

Let me warn you: you have to sort of be on your a-game to have a good pizza farm experience. First, you have to make a reservation. No biggie.

Then, you have to plan what you're going to bring. Wine? Beer? Watermelon palomas?  What about dessert? (Not to mention, plates, bug spray, cups, napkins, a bottle opener...)

Third, if you want to eat in a timely manner (and score a cookie from the totally tempting piles displayed), you have to get there early. There seemed to be a jump from a 20 minute pizza wait to a 90 minute pizza wait within a five minute time span. If you're rolling w/o kids, I guess who cares, but still.

Let's have to watch out for poison ivy, too. Despite multiple emails beforehand warning us of the stuff, our group ended up sitting right on top of a nice thick patch of it. But, luckily for us, the woman who runs the pizza farm came to warn us right away and give us extra blankets. Have no fear, I think most of us escaped unscathed.

So, if you can handle all of that, you'll be set for a solid pizza farm night out.

Two Pony Gardens offer two pizzas each night: one margarita-style and one more adventurous pie with seasonal ingredients (last weekend, it included beets, walnuts, and roquefort). They were both good, maybe mostly because they had just been handmade, had come from a wood-burning oven, and were eaten in the middle of a beautiful farm.

I was particularly smitten with the stunning flower garden. There were horse drawn rides for kids we learned as we were trying to leave, squeezing past one in the narrow driveway. Next time, we must explore more.

The next morning, I quickly reserved 8 spots for the first weekend in October. I think October could be particularly pizza-farm-perfect. The weather will be cooler, it'll get darker and cozier earlier, we can make the switch from rose to red, and maybe the poison ivy will be dead? I'll let you know.

P.S. Thanks to my bro for most of the pics. Somehow I got too beside myself to take any photos.

August 10, 2013

Thursday Meal Planning

Thursdays have become one of my favorite days of the week. For starters, it's this close to being the weekend (which I surprisingly still look forward to even though I'm not working anymore). And Thursday afternoons, Lola and I trek over to St. Louis Park to pick up our weekly crop share delivery. And then Thursday nights I happily sit down with a pile of cookbooks and magazines and do our meal planning for the next week.

I love meal planning. Although it sometimes takes on a life of its own. As I've told you a zillion times before, I get completely overwhelmed with all of the recipes floating around out there. The cookbooks. Pinterest. Random tweets I try to remember. Things I've heard people talk about. Things my mom has been making. There are a lot of possibilities.

I get on major tangents. Like this week, I grabbed a piece of paper and started jotting down Fall recipes that I came across and didn't want to forget. I have multiple pieces of paper like this that honestly I lose track of: random foods particularly good for Lola, toddler snack ideas, Summer-esque recipes, things that I think would be particularly blog-worthy, things to make for certain friends. I really must come up with a better system. The former 9-to-5-er in me tells me I should create a spreadsheet but...that doesn't feel inspiring. So for now I'll pretend that I'll actually keep track of my random pieces of paper and use them.

But this week, the menu was really crafted around the veggies that came in our share: zucchini, eggplant, summer squash, basil, peppers, cucumbers, carrots, potatoes, dill, cilantro, watermelon, and a couple of tomatoes.

It's like a game, menu planning. Strategizing how you'll use what you have or what's in season. Working with a budget, so being smart about making things that utilize at least some similar ingredients. Figuring out what we want to eat and making sure most of it is Lola-friendly (particularly that she can chew it with her two little bottom chompers and two barely-there-incoming uppers). Making sure that the week looks balanced for Lola nutritionally.

Meal planning is working for us big time. There are no questions about what to make early in the am when she's demanding her first square. We have what we need in the house to make lunch (a big challenge I learned since being home all day). We have enough snacks in the house. We all each much better because of it.

It's all good.

This week, I'm most excited for the chicken salad I'm making for our lunches with yogurt and tons of fresh herbs, the fish tacos with homemade tortillas and salsa, and Thursday's tomato toasts (thick grilled slices of Rustica bread rubbed with garlic, ripe tomato, and topped with serrano ham and manchego). Oh, and the brown rice pudding that I'm going to make for snack time. And the cheese crackers.

This week is going to be a good week.

August 8, 2013

Can't Be Beat Beets

One of the things that I'm loving about our crop share this summer is that I get to make vegetables that Zach doesn't like without feeling guilty about it.

Take beets, for example. Zach hates beets. He thinks they taste like the earth (um, yes, they do, but in a great way). So, I never made them much before even though I loved them. I just felt like a jerk serving them for dinner when I knew he hated them.

But because we get beets fresh from the farm and I have no control over getting them, I'm loving it.

So I made sure I got the most out of the latest bunch of beets. I went through my cookbooks, my Pinterest boards, my mental list of beet recipes and landed on this Martha Stewart one: Roasted Beets with Mint Yogurt Sauce. It's a perfect summer veggie recipe. The vegetables are roasted and adorned with a light, healthy, super flavorful sauce. It feels kind of special, but it's so easy. And so healthy.

I never had much luck roasting beets before. I mean, they turned out fine, but they were never stellar. They always seemed to get dry and chewy on the edges. The method MS outlines worked perfectly. The beets got roasted in a baking dish in the oven with foil covering them. And then after they cooled a bit, I easily wiped the skins off with a paper towel and cut them in big chunks, leaving tender, beautiful jewel-like pieces.

And then the yogurt sauce: yogurt, lemon juice, cumin, and mint. Four of my favorite ingredients.

For a while, I was actually hopeful that Zach would actually like them. But no.

And Lola? Another no. But hers got rinsed off and blended into her smoothie the next day. So, ha.

And hey, there were more for me. So there was that.

July 28, 2013

The People I Love Most in This Town

If you follow me on Twitter, you saw me gushing Friday night over our dinner at Parka.

I've been wanting to go to Parka for a while just because of its credentials (V44 + Rustica + Dogwood). But we kept picking other places to go to because, frankly, Parka's menu never spoke to me.

We should have gone earlier.

Similar to V44, it's a little out of the way for us, especially on a Friday night during rush hour. And Friday night, as I listened to Lola whine in her carseat for 30 minutes, I was regretting the decision and wishing we had stayed closer to home.

But then we walked in and my mood instantly turned around.

Parka has a cool vibe. It's casual and cute. And at exactly 5pm it was empty (yes!). We were greeted by a super friendly server who seated us right under the kids shelves with hip (and clean!) toys. He gave us a children's menu right away and told us he could put in an order for Lola as soon as we wanted. He brought her milk in a straw cup. He asked us if we wanted him to grab us the last ginger cookie that came with her kids meal. (And after we told him we'd pass b/c our girl doesn't like sweets, he got it for us anyway and wrapped it up for us to take home.)

In went Lola's order for the english muffin pizza with tomato pineapple soffrito.

I sipped my glass of malbec, started decompressing, and we watched Lola love the Rubix cube and wooden figurines from the kids' shelves.

We had a slight setback when the complimentary curry popcorn arrived to tide us over and a certain someone not yet old enough for popcorn decided she needed to have it. But alas, we distracted her and took turns hiding the popcorn on the chairs next to us, sneaking bites when she wasn't looking. (It was good.)

So, the menu is heavy on comfort foods. That's what's deterred me in the past. But oh, stupid me. I narrowed my choices down to the meatloaf sandwich, the crayfish "tuna casserole," and the fried chicken, and ultimately decided on the meatloaf sandwich because I had a hankering for French fries. It was so good. I need to seriously consider where I'd put this on my list of favorite sandwiches in town because it would be up there for sure. The meatloaf was fall apart tender and delicious; it was topped with good cheddar, homemade tomato relish, and onions. And maybe a smear of mayo on the bottom bun? I didn't have it on my plate long enough to really look as I had two other people helping me eat it.

But let's be honest. The real reason we came was because their cookie and milk flight has been on my bucket list for a while. So out that came, at about the same time that Lola lost interest in her food, her straw, and the Rubix cube. I'll just show you a picture.

I won't even bother describing it. It was good. You can see that. We took turns scarfing the bars and cookies down while the other walked around with Lola. We asked that the rest (it would be impossible to finish in one sitting) be boxed, and we each made sure we kept our piles separate in the box for fear that the other would snatch our saved goodies.

So, let's see where we're at: the space is great, the food is great, the attention to kids is great. The malbec was maybe my favorite I've ever had. Parka was perfect on Friday night.

We have a lot of places in town that nail the vibe, service, and food. But not as many nail it with kids. Hopefully that continues to change.

Another kid-friendly favorite right now is The Lynn. I love the Hodgepodge on their kids menu--a 6 cup muffin tin that comes filled with cubed cheese, chicken drummies, mini croques, fruit, and veggies. The price? $1 for every year the kiddo is. For parents of a 1 year old, that is a major steal. Something you actually feel somewhat guilty about. But what I loved even more than the price was the quality of the ingredients. The chicken drummies were cooked in a honey sauce and so delicious--and are made just for the Hodgepodge. The cheese was the good stuff, not the usual American / processed cheddar / etc. Instead of a grilled cheese, it was a mini croque monsieur. The peas were freshly shelled peas. I mean, seriously. (They also have really enticing other options on their kids menu, but for now, while Lola doesn't care, we're going the $1 route).

I love the food people we have in this city that are catering to kids as much as their parents. You allow me to have a civilized dinner out and you help me expand my kids' culinary horizons and expose my kid to the great food I love.

July 13, 2013

A $9 Bottle of Juice

Not so long ago, I was a brand marketer. I am a sucker for good branding.

Case in point: Truce, the new-ish juice bar in Uptown. From the moment I saw their store front in progress, on the corner of 32nd and Hennepin, I was hooked. It was full of windows. It looked airy, clean, and modern inside.

Then I saw their logo and their website, a few tweets, a few photos of all of the pretty, colorful filled juice bottles lined up in their case, and I was salivating and excited about this new addition in town. The whole thing just looked so fresh, so vibrant, and so delicious. And because it is only a couple of blocks from the lake, I had visions of picking up a juice and strolling around the lake with Lola once a week or so.

And THEN I learned one day that the day-old juice was on sale for $8, which begged the question, "Um, how much for the freshest stuff?"

$9. For a single-serving bottle of juice.


It's a gripe I'm sure they get a lot. They've addressed it on their website, and I think I saw them tweet about it. They explain why it's so expensive to make their high quality stuff. I can believe it.

But it doesn't make me (or I'm guessing many) super willing to pay for it.

I worked on lots of new products in my brand marketing days that had the potential to be great products, but they were just too expensive to make, and tested out to be too expensive for consumers to pay for. And we had to say goodbye, which was at times a total bummer.

$9 is a lot of money for a bottle of juice. I can get behind a lot of things. $4.50 for one slice of pizza. $3 for a pretty small (pretty delicious) doughnut.

But $9 kept me from trying out Truce for a good month or so.

Today, because I was driving around picking up all sorts of other fun food items, I caved.

Yes, my juice was delicious. I chose the Restart (cucumber, watermelon, and mint). And it was light and refreshing and flavorful. I felt healthy just drinking it. And the neon straw made me pretty delighted.

But ugh, come on, Truce. Most of us can not justify $9 for a bottle of juice. For a single serving bottle of juice.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I'm just not their target consumer. Maybe there really are enough people in town who will be willing to pay $9 for a bottle of juice on a regular basis. I hope so because I'll happily file Truce away in my special occasion foodie purchase file. Heck, I will probably ask for one of their juice cleanses as an upcoming gift.

You kill me, Truce. I want to love you. I do love you. But I can't buy you (often).

June 13, 2013

A No-Compromise Family Dinner

I've followed all of the advice out there about feeding your kid what you eat. Yea yea, okay. Done. And the advice about feeding them things that will stretch their horizons. Check. My kid wanted (or so I guessed) tikka masala for her first birthday dinner.

But sometimes there are just practical limitations. I'm obviously going to be careful about how spicy something is before I give it to my 12 month old. And some things are just too hard, crunchy, chewy, or skin-y for this 2-teether. It's actually a little bit harder than everyone pretends it is.

So, bottom line: I don't always feel like I'm making things that I would have made for dinner pre-Lola. For example, I'm using my Weelicious book a lot more than I ever thought I would. Are the recipes good? Yes, most are a solid good. But are they amazing? No. Do they feel special and inspired? Definitely not. 

But once in a while, we come upon a meal that is Lola-approved and mom-approved. And then I get excited. And I start to see a glimmer of hope that we'll move past the toddler-friendly-ish fare that I feel like we eat most days.

Last night's meal was one of these perfect moments. Sweet Potato Cakes from Plenty and Curd Rice from Canal House Cooks Everyday.

The Curd Rice has become a favorite in our house. It's pretty simple. So simple in fact, that it leaves you wondering why you hadn't thought of it before. It's just cooked jasmine rice mixed with a good dose of plain yogurt, a splash of milk, lots of fresh ginger and cilantro. Lola almost loses her mind over it. Yogurt in rice, Mama?! YES! Bonus that it helps the rice stick together and is easier for her to pick up. 

The Sweet Potato Cakes were a new recipe for us, and they were delicious. Even Zach, who has grown weary of all of the sweet potatoes we eat instead of white potatoes these days, loved them. I got a little sad when Lola put a cut-up piece of one in her mouth and spit it out to go back to the curd rice. But after she polished off two helpings of the rice, she started picking up the sweet potato cakes whole and loved them.


The roasted tomatoes I served on the side? Not so much for Lola. But I'll take a solid two of three. Vegetables (and fruits) in their plain state can remain her nemesis for now. She won't break my spirit yet.

Curd Rice, adapted very slightly from Canal House Cooks Everyday

1 c jasmine rice
1 tsp salt
2 c water
1/4 c milk
3/4 c whole milk yogurt
1 1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 tbsp chopped cilantro

Combine rice, water, and salt in medium saucepan. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and let simmer until cooked, about 20 minutes. Fluff rice and let cool to room temp.

Add the rest of the ingredients and stir until combined. Add more salt to taste if necessary. Serve at room temp.

Serves 4.

Sweet Potato Cakes, adapted very slightly from Plenty

2 1/4 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
2 tsp reduced salt soy sauce
3/4 c flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
3 tbsp chopped scallions
Butter for frying

3 tbsp whole milk yogurt
3 tbsp sour cream
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp chopped cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the sweet potatoes in boiling water until soft. Drain and let hang out in colander for about an hour to remove any excess water.

Mix together the sweet potatoes with the rest of the cake ingredients, using your hands to break up the sweet potatoes and mash them up.

Heat up a non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Add about 1 tbsp butter to coat the pan. Add rounded dinner tablespoons of the mixture into the pan and flatten with the back of the spoon. I could fit about 6 in the pan at a time. Cook until browned on the first side, then flip, and cook until browned on other side.

Repeat with remaining batches, adding 1 tbsp butter for each batch. If the left over butter starts to get dark, just take a paper towel and wipe it out between batches.

(This process took me 3 batches. I drained each batch of cakes on paper towels for a few minutes to remove excess grease and then placed in warm (170 degree) oven to keep them warm.)

To make sauce, combine all sauce ingredients.

Serve cakes warm or at room temp.

Makes about 18 cakes.

May 10, 2013

Feeding Lola

I've had a few people ask for food ideas for their babies lately. And lord knows I'm always looking for ideas (so please share!). So, I thought I'd share where we're at and what's working for us.

I'll preface this all by saying, this is what we've been doing since 9 months. Until that point, solids were a major struggle. Lola was picking at purees but was very inconsistent and generally eating very little of them. After her 9 month appointment, when we were given the almost all-clear (still no shellfish, nuts, honey) on table foods and we started giving her more "real people food," life changed around here big time. Guess she just wasn't into baby food. She now happily eats what we eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (most of the time).

This is what's working:

Meal planning: I spend Friday nights mapping out each meal for the next week. It gets written down and put on the fridge. This way, I know Lola is getting a balanced diet (as are Zach and I!), we have what we need in the house to make the stuff, and I don't get woken up on my days to sleep in by someone asking me, "What's Lola eating for breakfast??"

Making things ahead of time: I know this won't be popular with everyone, but once in a while, I'll spend a night after dinner making foods for lunches or breakfasts because we get sick of quesadillas, grilled cheese, and pancakes. If I'm going to carve out time to make something during the evening for a breakfast or lunch, I make sure it's gonna last for multiple meals.

Adding, adding, adding: I'm always adding as much nutritious stuff as I can into things. It's surprisingly easy, and it's a good way to use up leftovers. I throw in handfuls of oats and lots of diced fruit into pancakes, swap in whole wheat flour for half of the flour in recipes, add shredded veggies and cheese to scrambled eggs, tuck bell peppers into quesadillas, add tablespoons of wheat germ to spinach ricotta bites, and smear smashed fruit onto pancakes and waffles.

Arsenals of frozen fruits and veggies: I have never been huge on frozen produce--until now. Now I keep a ton of it on hand. It doesn't go bad quickly, and I can keep a good variety of stuff around for Lola that might not be in season otherwise. It's an easy go-to when I realize I forgot to make a side with dinner or if I'm trying to get an extra serving of fruits and veggies into her at lunch.

Waste no more: I try not to throw anything away anymore and save it for us to eat later instead. I used to be the person that would make batter for pancakes, make what we ate for breakfast, and toss the rest of the batter. But now, I make all of the pancakes, and freeze what we don't eat. Saves time and $. I always save what we don't eat for dinner, even the last few veggies because they end up coming in handy for lunch the next day.

Division of responsibility: I've had multiple people steer me towards Ellyn Satter's books when I've had feeding questions. Her approach is that the parent is responsible for establishing mealtime and the foods that are offered. The baby is responsible for what gets eaten and how much gets eaten. Now, this all sounds great when your kid eats well. It gets a little scary for me when Lola goes through a few days when all she eats is protein (the kid LOVES any kind of protein). But for the most part, I try to adhere to this, and she seems to generally eat a well-balanced diet. We started getting into a bad habit of me scurrying around offering up all sorts of things at breakfast and lunch until Lola would eat something, but I have stopped doing that. Now, I offer a few things to her (that I'm also eating). I try to make sure there is at least something she likes in the mix. If she eats, great. If she doesn't, I try not to stress (and hope that she'll eat more at the next meal).

Breakfast foods that Lola likes: scrambled eggs with herbs or shredded veggies and cheese, sausage and veggie egg bake with sweet potato crust, baked oatmeal with bananas and blueberries, frozen whole grain waffles smeared with smashed fruit, whole wheat pancakes with diced fruit, Parsnip Muffins with Cream Cheese Filling (Weelicious), yogurt, ricotta with pureed fruit on top, frozen wild blueberries, frozen cherries, banana spears.

Lunch foods that Lola likes: Brown Rice and Veggie Casserole (Weelicious), open-faced quesadillas on whole wheat tortillas, smashed down grilled cheese sandwiches on whole wheat bread, Spinach Ricotta Bites (Weelicious), Clancey's shaved roast turkey, avocado spears, orange slices, watermelon, diced cheese, shredded cheese, black beans, diced tofu, whatever we had for dinner the night before.

Dinner foods that Lola likes: Chicken Tikka Masala (Bon Appetit), Ina Garten's Weeknight Bolognese, quiche, peas, green beans, sweet potatoes mashed with coconut milk and cinnamon, brown rice with shredded cheese mixed in to help it stick together, cheesy mini meatloaves, homemade mac and cheese, homemade fish sticks (suprisingly quick to make), carnitas, taco meat with pintos mixed in, pizza, hummus and ground lamb with naan.

Books: When I'm stuck, I page through Weelicious. I feel like the recipes are dumbed down a bit to "kid food" but when I get low on ideas, I look through there. There have been some winners and her stuff tends to be nutritious. Her stuff usually needs additional seasoning and substitutes for icky stuff like garlic powder and onion powder. Tyler Florence's Fresh Start is better and feels more like food that the whole family will really like; it's not so kid food-ish. Pioneer Woman's stuff is generally pretty family-friendly if you watch the spice level. I liked the Williams-Sonoma baby cookbooks when Lola was just starting out on solids. Ellyn Satter is a good resource for feeding issues and approaches. She had a lot of great tips in her book that I think are not necessarily obvious (i.e. not praising baby / tot for eating b/c they may keep eating just to get a reaction...things like that).

That's what works for us. This is what's a struggle:

Fruit: I have a hard time getting Lola to eat fruit in diced or spear form despite offering it to her with almost every meal and trying every single fruit I can get my hands on. There have been some exceptions (like the frozen blueberries, frozen cherries, bananas, watermelon, pears), but she's not consistent about those either. And even though she LOVES yogurt, she won't eat smoothies! So, for now, I buy all sorts of applesauce (the good stuff with no added sugar)...peach applesauce, apricot applesauce, strawberry applesauce, and also have been resorting to giving her a couple pouches of fruit a week. And I dice it up and put it in everything I can think of. I still offer fruit in regular form because I don't want the dear girl to be eating fruit pouches when she's going off to college, but for now, these sneakier approaches allow me to sleep at night.

The mess: I struggle with this. Lola is a great self-feeder. But man, when she self-feeds yogurt and applesauce, it makes a flipping mess. I hate cleaning out bib pockets (gross). I find myself stifling sighs when she drops stuff on the floor that I just mopped. And she is constantly testing us by throwing her food. But I keep telling myself these are good problems to have. My girl is eating.

So, there it is. Nothing earth-shattering. But, hopefully an idea or two for my mama friends.

February 26, 2013

Chocolate Chip Cookies for the Rushed Mama

This is the only photo I have to document these cookies.

I have a lot of one-offs on my camera these days. I start making something and decide I'm going to capture it and write about it. So, I take a picture, maybe two if I'm really on a roll. And then before I know it, the whatever I'm making has made its way to my plate and I'm halfway through eating it before I remember that I was going to capture it.

Cooking with an 8 month old isn't relaxing. It's hard. There isn't a whole lot of time for photo snapping. This is how it generally goes:

I place her in her high chair and pray that she doesn't start whining the second I put her in it. Sometimes I use an excited tone of voice to make it sound like we're doing something fun. Sometimes I act normal and hope she'll accept this as a normal daily task. I haven't seen big differences in the response.

I frantically scoop up some things I hope will keep her occupied and place them on her tray before she gets bored.

I watch her pick one up with interest and immediately / quickly go about my prepping and making.

I look over and realize that all of her toys have made their way to the floor. I tell her she's silly for throwing her toys on the floor in hopes that if I talk to her and distract her, I can finish the step I'm on in the recipe.

I put the recipe on hold to collect the items from the floor and place them back on her high chair tray.

I watch her reach for me as I put the items back on her tray; she thinks I'm going to pick her up. I give her a kiss on the head and hope that it will be an acceptable substitute for me picking her up (ha).

I quickly start moving on to next step in recipe. I simultaneously start to sweat that the high chair isn't gonna work for much longer.

I hear her start grunting and whining, see her start arching her back and looking around at all of the places she'd rather be.

I feel her eyes staring me down, wondering when I'm going to save her from her high chair.

I start narrating every single step of whatever it is I'm doing, again hoping and praying that maybe she'll find it interesting. "Now we're going to measure out a half cup of whole wheat flour because whole wheat flour is healthier than plain all-purpose flour. You have to make sure it's level like this, so that we get good results. See? Like this? Isn't this fun?!"

I see that she doesn't care and doesn't think it's fun.

I hear the whining and grunting intensify.

I give her some different objects to play with, which buys me about two extra minutes.

I hear them land on the floor and see her start staring me down again.

I hear more whining and grunting, which sometimes turns into crying at this point.

I then repeat a few of the steps, mix them up a bit...

You get the point. I'm always in a hurry when I'm cooking or baking these days.

So.........this weekend when I wanted to make chocolate chip cookies, I wanted a recipe I could whip together quickly. My go-to chocolate chip cookie recipe requires that you make the dough a day or two in advance and let it hang out in the fridge--that wasn't going to happen this weekend.

So, I decided to try this recipe from Canal House Cooks Every Day. This book, which I bought on a whim a month or so ago, is amazing. I know I've been singing the praises of a lot of books lately, but this one takes the cake. I've been cooking out of it a lot. More to come on why this book rocks in an upcoming post.

Back to my cookies. These cookies are simple but perfect and delicious. Lots of butter, lots of chocolate chips. The standard flour, baking soda, brown sugar, granulated sugar, vanilla...

They get super thin (they aren't the prettiest cookie) and just a little bit crisp. And they taste all buttery, sweet, salty, and chocolatey. They're wonderful.

I have a feeling for the foreseeable future, this recipe will become my go-to chocolate chip cookie recipe. I'm not quite organized enough right now for recipes that require planning and prep days in advance. One day...

Thin & Crisp Chocolate Chip Cookies, adapted very slightly from Canal House Cooks Every Day

2 1/2 sticks unsalted room temp butter
1 1/4 c light brown sugar
3/4 c granulated sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
2 tsp kosher salt
2 eggs
1 3/4 c plus 2 tbsp flour
1 tsp baking soda
8 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375.

Beat butter, sugars, vanilla, and salt with electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment until light (about 3 minutes). Add eggs and mix on medium speed until blended (about 2 minutes).

Whisk the flour and baking soda together and add to butter mixture. Mix on medium speed for a couple minutes. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Drop batter by small ice cream scoop onto trays lined with parchment. Make sure to leave adequate space between (about 4 inches)--these cookies spread a lot. Bake until golden brown, about 11 minutes. Let cool on baking sheet 5 minutes; then transfer to wire cooling rack.

February 10, 2013

Le Chocolat Chaud

There are so many times when the simplest things are best. Recipes that include just a few good ingredients.

Radishes with butter and sea salt. Pasta with pecorino and black pepper. Bread smeared with Nutella.

This recipe is another example.

I've always remembered the thick, uber-rich, super chocolatey hot chocolate served at Angelina's in Paris. It is literally like drinking melted chocolate bars. Today, with my mom in town and the snow coming down, it seemed like the perfect day to try to replicate it.

I looked at a few different takes on Parisian hot chocolate and decided that David Lebovitz's recipe sounded the best. The base was 2 ingredients: whole milk and really good bittersweet chocolate.

You heat up the milk in a saucepan and whisk in the chopped chocolate shards until they are melted. You can drink it right away as is, or you can continue to cook it for a few minutes to get it thick like it would be in Paris. It's amazing how much the consistency changes in just a few minutes on the stove.

Because he said he loves to add a little bit of sea salt (and because I love love love a little bit of salt with my sweet), I added a pinch of that too. And whipped up some fresh whipped cream to plop on top.

We all swooned. And we all declared it the best hot chocolate we had ever had.

The kicker was, I served it in little espresso cups, and it ended up being the perfect amount. It is so rich and so delicious that you really only need a few sips to be satisfied.

This recipe makes enough for 4 regular servings or 8 espresso-cup-sized servings. You can also keep the mixture in the fridge if you don't use it all. Lebovitz claims it gets even better as it sits. We don't have any left over so I can't vouch for this right now, but I think this will have to take residence in our fridge as a staple for the rest of the winter.

Le Chocolat Chaud, adapted slightly from David Lebovitz

2 c whole milk
5 oz good quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
Pinch of sea salt
Whipping cream
Pinch of sugar

Beat whipping cream until it's at desired consistency. Add a pinch or two of sugar, and give one last whip. Set aside.

Heat milk in small saucepan. When milk is warmed, add chocolate and whisk until completely combined. For thicker hot chocolate, continue to cook over moderate heat, for about 3-5 minutes, until it thickens. Don't let it boil.

Add a pinch of sea salt.

Pour hot chocolate into cups. Serve with whipped cream.

February 1, 2013

Lactation Cookies & Ensuing Hilarity

Now, boys, this may be too much for you to handle. I'm sorry. I'll get back to gender-neutral content soon.

But until then, this post is for you, ladies. Particularly those of you who are breastfeeding or have in the past.

Let me start off by saying it totally figures that the one thing I am convinced can increase my milk supply is cookies. I've tried insane amounts of water, tons of capsules that taste like...hay (or what I'm assuming hay tastes like), beer before bed, oats added to everything, a general well-balanced diet. No major changes.

But my friend gave me a container of some lactation cookies earlier this week. You know how I feel about baked goods. I've been cooped up in the house sick, with my sick baby all week. I ate more cookies than I should have.

And I swear I saw results. Awesome. This creates a challenging dilemma. If I eat 5 cookies a day, I will  increase my milk supply.

If I eat 5 cookies a day, I will also get fat.

But if I eat 5 cookies a day, I will be able to give my baby more milk. And probably be happier because I get to indulge in cookies every day. 

I haven't decided what to do yet. 

In the meantime, I'll leave you with a couple off funny exchanges between Zach and I regarding lactation cookies. 

A few months ago, when I mentioned the idea of lactation cookies:

(Insert totally horrified look here.) 
Z: Is there breast milk in them?
S: No, Zach, no breast milk in them. Come on.

Fast forward to this week. Clearly Zach had forgotten any explanations I had given him a few months ago about lactation cookies.

(Insert totally delighted look of surprise after coming across cookies in the cabinet.) 
Z: Where did these come from?!
S: They're lactation cookies. You can't have any. (I was jokingly going to let him believe he couldn't eat them because he might end up lactating. Because seriously, how can you resist?)
Z: Oh, come on. They aren't lactation cookies. 
S: No, seriously, they are.
Z: No, stop.
S: Zach, they are lactation cookies. P gave them to me.
Z: You're just saying that. I bet all cookies are lactation cookies.
S: No, these are really lactation cookies. They have ingredients in them that promote lactation.
Z: Well, can I have one?
S: I don't know if I would. I mean, do you really want to risk making milk?
Z: Ugh, stop. I'm going to ask R. (P's husband)
(Zach texts R to ask him about this cookie situation.)
Z: He says he has had one and isn't making milk yet.
(Zach eats 1 cookie.)
(Hours later, I get a text from P.)
P: Is Zach making milk yet? ;)
S: Zach, P wants to know if you're making milk yet.
Z: Tell her yes and that I'm wearing pad protectors.

Oh boy. :)

January 31, 2013

First Dabblings in Jerusalem

I finally put Smitten Kitchen back on the shelf and moved on to some other new cookbooks that I've been anxious to tackle.

My mom and I had both been pining for the new Jerusalem book before the holidays. Every year for Christmas, it's inevitable that we both end up with the same cookbook as a gift. This year, this was that book.

A few weeks ago, we realized that we were both making the same pasta dish from the book: the Conchiglie with Yogurt, Peas & Chile. So, we did a bit of a cook along that night via text message. Well, let me rephrase. She sent me some bits of info as she made it an hour earlier. I tried to manage entertaining a seven month old in her high chair while I cooked.

"Putting peas into pot of pasta right before draining to save a pot / time."

"My oil is not turning red...probably cuz different chili flakes."

She was right on about the peas cooking with the pasta. I'm not sure why the recipe isn't written as such. The recipes in the book are certainly not hard, but I have noticed they are perhaps a tad fussy, a tad more complicated than you would think they need to be.

But this pasta dish is fabulous.

It was the perfect thing to eat coming off of the holidays. The sauce is simply thick and tangy Greek yogurt pureed with some green peas, garlic, and olive oil. It is the prettiest green color and feels fresh and hopeful of Spring.

The pasta and some additional peas get mixed with the sauce along with lots of fresh basil and feta (I actually don't think the feta adds anything and would skip it next time).

And then.

You fry up some pine nuts in olive oil with chile flakes (I used red pepper flakes) and scatter the nuts and oil on top of pasta.

The sauce makes it refreshing; the pasta makes it comforting and substantial; the pine nuts and their oil add spice. It's so delightful, really.

And it was also great as leftovers--cold or hot. (I had it cold for lunch the next day and hot for dinner that night.)

We have both had great success with a handful of other recipes that we've made from the book too. I loved Na'ama's Fattoush--a fresh and tangy salad of chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, torn pieces of stale pita, lots of fresh herbs, yogurt, lemon, and sumac. I know this salad will be even more amazing this summer with super fresh vegetables.

I also loved the Hummus Kawarma (Lamb) with Lemon Sauce--a pool of hummus topped with spiced ground lamb and a lemon sauce.

The Red Pepper and Baked Egg Galettes were also good, a great weeknight staple, although not quite as fantastic as some of the other recipes.

The book itself is beautiful. It's full of delicious recipes that feel healthier but don't sacrifice on taste. It's a fabulous break from the norm.

Conchiglie with Yogurt, Peas & Chile, Adapted slightly from Jerusalem

2 1/2 c Greek Yogurt
2/3 c olive oil
4 cloves of garlic
1 lb frozen peas, defrosted
1 lb conchiglie pasta
1/2 c pine nuts
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 2/3 c torn basil leaves
Salt and white pepper

In food processor, blend together the yogurt, 6 tbsp olive oil, the garlic, and 2/3 c peas until smooth and creamy. Transfer to large mixing bowl.

Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box. Add the remaining peas for the last couple of minutes of pasta cook time.

In the meantime, heat the remaining olive oil in a small frying pan over medium heat. Add the pine nuts and red pepper flakes and cook for about 4 minutes, until the pine nuts are light golden brown.

Drain the pasta and peas and gradually add them to the sauce (the book says it's important to add the hot pasta gradually so as not to make the sauce separate). Toss in the basil, 1 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper.

Serve in individual bowls with some of the pine nuts and oil drizzled over the top.