Thursday, October 27, 2011

Walnut Pesto Crostini (Oil Free!)

Who would have thought that you have your pesto and eat it too... guilt free!?! There is absolutely no reason why a half cup of a typical pesto sauce should contain a whopping 620 calories and 57g of fat. Pair that with some crispy bread or mix with your favorite pasta and you are easily at 1000 calories.

My walnut-pesto is a refreshing, low-calorie alternative to the oil & cheese laden original, but tastes just as good (if not better!). With less than half the calories and fat per 1/2 cup (295 cal / 23g fat), you can guilelessly sink your teeth into creamy, mouth-watering pesto.


Ingredients

1 cup firmly packed fresh basil (you can also use half basil/half arugula or spinach)
1/3 cup walnuts
1 small lemon, juiced
1 1/2 TB light miso
1 small garlic clove, crushed
2 TB water

Directions
Place all ingredients into a food processor and puree until smooth and creamy. If pesto seems too thin, feel free to add more walnuts and basil. If it is too thick, add more lemon juice or water.

Toddler Note: Thin out the pesto even more with some pasta water (water you used to cook your pasta in) and use as a healthy sauce for your child.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Rustic Red Lentils with Potatoes, Carrots & Apple

YUM... Hence the adult fork next to the toddler spork.

Note: This dish can simply be turned into baby food (9 mos +) by pureeing in a food processor before serving.

This little rustic creation is perfect for a chilly, overcast day. The combination of silky red lentils, creamy red potatoes, carrots, sweet apple and a hint of maple syrup and cinnamon might have you diving in before your little one gets a bite. Who says "toddler food" can't feed us too?

Ingredients
1 cup red lentils
4 cups water
1 large red potato, chopped (or 2 small ones)
1 large carrot, peeled & chopped
1 apple, peeled & chopped
1 TB maple syrup
1 tsp cinnamon

Directions
Combine water, potatoes and carrot together in your pot and bring to a boil. Add red lentils and reduce heat to simmer (med-low to low), cover and cook for about 10 minutes. Add chopped apple and cook for about 5 minutes more or until soft. Turn off heat and add maple syrup and cinnamon and stir to combine. If you still have water left in your pot (I did), simply pour into a strainer to remove excess water.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Maple-Dijon Roasted Brussels Sprouts

These little gems were a HIT at the Vegan Comfort Food cooking class! In a matter of seconds, these delicious roasted brussels sprouts turned haters into brussel lovers! You may think that you don't like them, but I dare you to try this recipe and then tell me how you feel. Now that brussels sprouts are in season, there's no better time than to put this on your menu tonight.

If you can find them still on the stalk, buy it! Your kids will enjoy pulling them off and helping you out in the kitchen. Or buy them already picked. You'll love them either way.

Ingredients
2 pounds brussels sprouts
2 TB extra virgin olive oil
2 TB balsamic vinegar
3 TB maple syrup
3 TB dijon mustard
2 garlic cloves, minced
juice of 1 lemon
salt & pepper to taste
Garnish option: 1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted

Directions

Preheat oven to 400.
Wash brussel sprouts, cut off browned bottoms and remove loose outer leaves. Cut in half and put in a medium sized mixing bowl. Toss with olive oil to coat.

In a separate bowl combine balsamic, maple syrup, dijon mustard, garlic, lemon, salt and pepper and whisk to combine. Pour over brussels sprouts and coat well. Transfer to a glass baking dish and roast for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown around the edges. Toss with optional toasted slivered almonds and serve immediately.



Friday, October 21, 2011

Green Quinoa

Quinoa is one of my absolute favorite high protein grains to make. Not only is it a complete protein, containing all 9 essential amino acids, but it is high in fiber and a great source of iron. More importantly, it does not contain any saturated fat or cholesterol! Quinoa is super easy to make and is a very versatile grain. I tend to make a big batch at the beginning of the week and use it for all sorts of recipes; from breakfast to dinner!

Today I'm featuring one of Kaden's favorite ways to eat it and I'm sure your toddler will love it too! Quinoa with broccoli and avocado is a perfectly balanced lunch. Serve with a side of halved or quartered red grapes and I promise this will be a new go-to meal from now on!

Ingredients
2 cups water
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
5 frozen broccoli florets
1/4 avocado, mashed or chopped into little pieces
1/4 tsp Braggs liquid aminos (or low sodium soy sauce)

Directions
Bring 2 cups water to boil in a medium sized sauce pan. Add 1 cup quinoa. Bring back to a boil, lower heat to a simmer (low), cover pan with lid and cook for about 15 minutes (or until all water is absorbed). Allow to cool.

Put your frozen broccoli in a microwave safe dish and drizzle with 1 tsp water. Microwave for 1 minute. Drain water and finely chop cooked broccoli.

Add 1/2 cup cooked quinoa to your child's bowl and mix with broccoli and avocado. Add Braggs liquid aminos or soy sauce and combine well.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Oaty Banana Walnut Pancakes

I have been wanting to experiment with different types of flours for a while now. Although I love my whole wheat pastry flour, my eyes kept drifting to all the other options while strolling down the baking asile at Whole Foods. There's quinoa flour, spelt flour, garbanzo flour, barley flour, and oat flour (to name a few!). Last week I finally bought a small package of oat flour and was determined to use it. I also happened to have some over-ripe bananas sitting on my counter and a brand new container of Oat Milk that I have had my eyes on as well. I couldn't think of a better way to use my oat flour than with my toddler's favorite breakfast: Pancakes!

What's the deal with oat flour & oat milk? Oat flour is simply made from ground oats. It is gluten free for those with allergies or simply want to avoid gluten, and is a great source of protein and fiber. Oat milk has more calories and protein than my standard almond milk that I tend to use for pancakes. It doesn't have quite as much calcium as the almond milk I buy, but I thought it would be a perfect addition to my oat flour!

Ingredients
1 cup oat flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
dash salt
1 medium sized over-ripe banana, mashed
3/4 cup oat milk
1 TB grade B maple syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
water (if needed to thin out batter)

Directions
Combine oat flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a medium sized mixing bowl. Form a well in the center and add your banana, oat milk, maple syrup and vanilla. Whisk or stir to combine until smooth (some lumps are okay). If batter seems too thick, add a little water until desired consistency is reached.

Preheat a pan over medium heat for at least 2 minutes. Melt 1 tsp of vegan butter (Earth Balance) or spray with cooking spray. Add 1/4 cup of batter per pancake. Cook for 3-4 minutes on one side, flip and cook an additional 2.

They were delicious and Kaden ate 3! Score for Mommy!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Spaghetti Squash for Tots!

Ever tried spaghetti squash? If not, this recipe needs to go on your dinner menu this week. Even if you've had it in the past, I hope this is a nice reminder to make it again. Spaghetti squash is low in calories (only 40 calories per cup!), very nutritious and fun for kids to eat. Just keep in mind one very important thing: It does not taste like spaghetti! Although it looks like angel hair after its prepared, it really does taste like delicate strands of sweet roasted squash. It is a welcomed change in our home and I know it will be at yours too!

Since most kids like to keep it simple, serve with a simple tomato sauce blended with white cannellini beans for protein and sprinkled with faux parmesan (recipe below!).

How to Cook a Spaghetti Squash
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Using a sharpened chef's knife, carefully cut the squash in half, lengthwise. Or, you can always use my secret trick and ask the produce department to cut it in half for you!! Scrape away the seeds from each half using a spoon and place cut side down on a baking sheet. Cook for 1 hour or until fork pierces through the skin.

Turn squash over and allow to cool for a few minutes. Now the fun part! Take a fork and scrape the sides of the squash. It should easily fall apart and naturally form into "spaghetti."

Faux Parmesean
Courtesy of The Chef & The Dietitian

1 cup raw, unsalted cashews
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1 TB salt-free seasoning

Put all ingredients into a blender or food processor and blend! YUM YUM!

Baby Superfoods

If I had to pick my all-time favorite food for a baby, it might have to be banana! I know that most of you are shocked since not only is it not green, but it is such a sweet fruit. Here's the catch, I never actually gave Kaden banana by itself (well, I actually did give him frozen banana a few times), I used it (and still do) to cut down on the some of the bitterness of my REAL favorite food of all time... Kale!

I'm almost positive that kale was Kaden's 5th food (after green beans, peas, carrots & broccoli) and even though I know you're not supposed to give two new foods at the same time, I did blend a half a banana for every 1 large bunch of steamed kale. Looking back, I probably should have mixed some banana with a food he already had, like green beans, but considering I practically ate my weight in bananas daily when I was pregnant, I just assummed it would be fine. And I don't know or have ever heard of anyone with a banana allergy.



Kale & Banana Puree
To prepare you kale, wash and cut each piece from rough center stem. You will need 1 large bunch. Steam for about 5 minutes, or until wilted.

Transfer cooked kale to your food processor along with 1/4 cup of steaming water and puree until you just have tiny little flakes of kale. Add your banana and blend until creamy. Add more water if you want the consistency to be thinner. Now try it...you might just be surprised!

Other Top Contenders

Pumpkin (1 sugar pumpkin, water, cinnamon)
Preheat oven to 400. Cut your sugar pumpkin in half and remove seeds but don't throw them away! Pumpkin seeds are also a super food and a great snack! Place both halves cut side down on a baking pan sprayed with a little cooking spray. Bake for 40 minutes to 1 hour depending on the size of your pumpkin. Scrape out cooked pumpkin and puree with a little water to thin out and a little cinnamon (yes, babies can eat cinnamon!).

Avocado
The great thing about avocado is that it is raw! Just mush and serve!

Apple

Wash, peel, chop and steam until soft (about 7 minutes). Puree & only add steaming liquid if necessary. Apple naturally contains a lot of water.

Butternut Squash
I just love love love all things squash and butternut is no exception! Preheat your oven to 400. Wash and cut your squash in half, lengthwise, and scoop out all seeds. Bake cut side down for about 45 minutes. Allow to cool. Scoop out squash from skin and transfer to a food processor. You will need to add some water here until your desired consistency is reached.

Sweet Potato
Because sweet potato doesn't have a hard skin like squash, you can elect to either steam or bake it. I prefer to bake in the oven as you will reserve more of the nutrients and enhance its flavor.
To bake: Preheat oven to 400. Wash & dry your potato and poke several holes with a fork. Wrap with foil and bake for approx 45 minutes. When cooled, cut potato in half and scoop out potato away from skins. Puree with water in a food processor until smooth.
To steam: Peel sweet potato and cut into small chunks. Place chunks into a small pan with just enough water to cover the potatoes. Cook potatoes until tender (about 10 minutes). Reserve cooking liquid to use for pureeing.

Don't forget about Baby's First Bites: Make it Green! This is where you'll find my favorite green first foods!

Chocolate Pumpkin Souffle

It's Monday night and the baby is finally in bed. So after a long day I open my fridge to see what I can muster up for dinner. My eyes go directly to the remaining pumpkin pie mix I used for pumpkin pie pancakes last Saturday morning. I quickly talk myself into toast for dinner in order to come up with a fun new pumpkin dessert! Not quite sure what my plan is, I take out the food processor and look around the kitchen.

Sitting on my counter was a bunch of cashews that I had soaked in water earlier today. (I always like to have soaked cashews in stock for recipes like kale chips or cashew cheese). What else do I have... unsweetened cocoa powder, vanilla, vegan cream cheese, almond milk... yep that all sounds yummy!! Into the food processor goes:

Ingredients
3/4 cup raw unsalted cashews, soaked for at least 4 hours
1/2 cup almond milk
1 cup canned pumpkin pie mix
1 tsp vanilla
1 heaping TB unsweetened cocoa powder
8 oz vegan cream cheese
1 TB lemon juice

Puree all ingredients until super creamy and smooth. Now for the taste test... it was delicate, sweet, slightly chocolaty, but it wasn't hitting the "texture" spot. Should I put it in the fridge overnight and see what happens the next day? No. Should I bake it? A pie would be yummy, but I don't have a pie crust and don't really want to make one. Okay, so pie filling, no crust. Perfect! Out comes these perfect souffle cups and that's when it hit me... Chocolate Pumpkin Souffle.

Directions
Pour batter into individual souffle cups sprayed with baking spray. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes. Let cool for at least 5 minutes.

Orange is the New Blue... Boxed Mac n "Chreese" that is!

Forget about the blue boxed mac n cheese that we all grew up on. There's a new "cheese" in town and its called Roads End 123'z & Chreese! I have been on the hunt for a good convenience mac-product for a while now and I finally hit the jackpot!

Just a box of organic noodles in the shape of numbers and a packet of what Roads End has termed, "chreese." Mix with some non-dairy milk (I have used both soy & almond) and you've got yourself a rich and creamy, and dare I say, maybe even better than I remember from old blue friend!

Love the ingredients, too! A very short list with all things I can pronounce and know what they are! The whole box makes about 4 "Kaden" sized servings, contains 26g protein, 14g of fiber and 50% of the daily value for B12!

To boost the nutrition even more, I added 1 1/2 cups chopped broccoli and 1 cup tofu-ham from the restaurant Vinh Loi Tofu. If you live near Reseda, Ca and have a chance to pick up some fresh, house-made tofu, I highly recommend it! In fact, I will be using it in the breakfast cooking class coming soon!

The only problem with making Road's End 123'z & Chreese, is that after Kaden gets his portion, I tend to devour the rest throughout the day. I really have no control.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Over-the-Top Black Bean Brownies

OH. MY. GOOOOOODNESS!! These brownies are seriously out of this world, delicious!! Slightly adapted from the book, Idiots Guide to Plant Based Nutrition by my great friend Julieanna Hever MS RD, I am hoping my husband doesn't devour them all by tomorrow morning.

And yes, they contain an entire can of black beans! Once you make these chewy, moist, super chocolaty pieces of heaven, they will become a staple in your house.



Ingredients

1 15oz can no salt added black beans, drained & rinsed
3/4 cup grade b maple syrup
1/2 cup agave nectar
2 TB ground flaxseeds
1 TB vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 TB instant coffee
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 and prepare an 8x8 pyrex dish with cooking spray. Combine black beans, maple syrup and agave into a food processor and pulse for about 45 seconds or until very smooth. Add flaxseeds, vanilla, baking powder, baking soda, instant coffee and cocoa powder and process for another 30 seconds. Add whole wheat pastry flour and pulse for another 10 seconds until just combined

Transfer mix into a bowl and stir in the chocolate chips and walnuts. Pour batter into your prepared baking dish (try not to eat it all on the way in) and bake for 30 minutes.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

What's for Lunch?

I'm answering a question today from a fellow Mommy: "What do you feed Kaden for lunch? I've been trying to come up with lunch ideas for my toddler..."

Great question! I'm sure you are not alone. I hope these suggestions help you out as well as other Mom's who stress out when that twelve o'clock hour strikes!

Option 1
Green-Apple Baby's Green Smoothie + 1 slice whole grain bread with smeared avocado
Option 2
Natural, unsalted peanut butter & jelly sandwich bites, frozen peas (thawed), sliced red grapes

Option 3

Brown rice, vegetarian refried pinto beans, chopped tomatoes, and watermelon

Option 4

Almond butter on zucchini bread, blueberries & blackberries, frozen corn (thawed)

Option 5

2 meatless meatballs, whole grain couscous, steamed green beans & steamed pears

Option 6

Quinoa mixed with tofu & avocado, chopped tomato with olive oil & basil, strawberries

I really hope that one of these lunch options helps you out or at least provides a platform for other ideas. Keep your questions coming!!

Pumpkin Pie Pancakes

I woke up this morning realizing that I have gone through half the month of October without making one single pumpkin recipe! Good morning Saturday, hello pumpkin pie pancakes!

I've come to realize that pancakes are one of those "intimidating" recipes to make from scratch, so many of us resort to boxed mixes. You have to add ingredients to those mixes anyways, so with just a few more you can make perfect pancakes of you own.

Que the pumpkin, please...

I love Farmers Market Organic Pumpkin Pie Mix! It contains pure organic pumpkin, all the right spices and just a little bit of sugar. You can also use plain organic pumpkin with some pumpkin pie spice mix and a little maple syrup or agave nectar to sweeten it up.

I hope you haven't had breakfast yet because this one is Toddler Approved and Husband Approved!

Ingredients
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 TB ground walnuts or pecans (omit if you don't have a food processor)
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup canned pumpkin pie mix
3/4 cup milk substitute (almond, soy, coconut, etc.)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions
Start preheating a large saute pan over medium heat (or at least 3-5 minutes before you start cooking).

In a medium sized bowl, add flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and ground nuts and stir well. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Add pumpkin, milk and vanilla and combine until smooth (a few lumps are fine).

Add 1/4 cup of pancake batter to your pan for as many will fit at one time. Cook 4 minutes, flip and cook an additional 2-3.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Baby's First Bite: Make it Green!

It's only fitting that my baby's first food was green, right?! In fact, my mother-in-law would always laugh when I would take out the baby food from the fridge because no matter what it was, it always seemed to end up green!

This will be the only time in your child's life that you will be working with a clean palate, so why not take full advantage by introducing vegetables first. I certainly don't have proof, but it only made sense to me that if a baby develops a taste for sweet foods from the beginning, then why would they want green beans, broccoli or zucchini later?

There will be plenty of time to introduce fruits and starchy vegetables. Remember when starting your baby on a new food, wait 3-4 days before introducing another.

Green Apple Baby's First Greens

Green Beans
Wash, cut off ends and chop into one-inch pieces. Steam for 12-15 minutes or until a fork easily pierces through. Reserve liquid from the steamer. Transfer to your blender or food processor along with 1/4 cup of steaming liquid and puree until smooth.

Zucchini Squash
Wash and peel the squash and cut the zucchini into small pieces. Steam for 6-8 minutes or until soft. Reserve liquid from the steamer. Transfer cooked zucchini to your blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Because zucchini naturally contains a lot of water, do not add your steaming liquid unless you need more to blend.

Broccoli
Wash broccoli and cut florets from stalks into one inch pieces. Steam 8-10 minutes or until soft. Reserve steaming liquid. Transfer to blender or food processor with 1/4 cup of steaming liquid and puree until smooth.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Green Apple Baby Food Basics

What better way to begin this blog than to start with the basics of wholesome baby food. If you have a little one at home between 4-6 months of age and are eager (or at least exploring the idea) to make your own baby food, you've come to the right place! Chances are you also have questions on what foods to introduce first, what kitchen equipment you'll need, storage suggestions and reheating tips. Every recipe should answer the above questions but feel free to leave a comment if you're still unsure or just want to say hi!

Organic vs. Conventional
Simply stated, organic fruits and vegetables are grown without the use of pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. If you have easy access to organic produce and it fits within your budget, it's best to go organic to limit your baby's exposure to unnecessary chemicals. At the very least, if it's not so easy to find organic produce, there are 12 fruits and vegetables known as the "Dirty Dozen" that you should buy organic as they have tested positive for an average of 55 different chemicals!


















Essential Equipment

Steamer: You will use a steamer frequently. If you don't already own one, you can buy a nice universal steamer for everyday use, or you can opt to buy a baby food maker, such as a Beaba Babycook. It steams, purees, warms and defrosts all in one. Just keep in mind that you only make purees for such a short period of time (in the grand scheme of things), so your money is probably better spent on a nice steamer for your kitchen.

Food Processor or Blender: If you opt out of the Beaba Babycook, it is essential that you invest in either a food processor or blender. Or if you're like me, I simply cannot choose between them as I use both for so many different things. Trust me, you will too!

Glass Baking Dishes (Pyrex):
These are great for baking rough-skinned vegetables like butternut squash, sweet potato and pumpkin.

Storage & Reheating
Storage:
The general rule of thumb is 3-4 days in the fridge if opened, 7 days if unopened, and 4-6 weeks in the freezer. Just in case you are wondering, you would only have "unopened" baby food in the fridge if you stored each individual serving in its own little glass jar/container. That was a little too "Martha Stewart" for me, so I just stored it all in one container and removed the amount I needed for each feeding. Also, I did start out buying those cute colorful, flexible storage containers for the freezer, but eventually I realized that I was making food every 3-4 days anyways. Why freeze when you don't have to?

Reheating:

I'm sure you know that those little "micro-waves" going through the food probably isn't the best for our little ones, however, I am also realistic and know that when your baby is hungry, they want food NOW! If you can plan ahead, use low heat on the stove top. If not, take advantage of technology and get that baby some food!

For a complete list of all the products recommended above, click HERE!