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Archive for the ‘In the Kitchen’ Category

I’ve managed to try a few new recipes the past few weeks. Well, not entirely new, really. More like new twists on my favorite go-to recipes. But we’ll pretend they’re new, because that sounds so much better!

Anyway, I don’t do a whole lot of seafood stuff because I’m not all that great at it, and it smells and can be expensive. Oh, who am I kidding? It’s mostly because I’m not good at it. 🙂 I usually stick to shrimp and tilapia… and tilapia much more than shrimp. Ah, I’m so adventurous! Ha! One good thing about cooking tilapia over and over is that I have discovered that tilapia is pretty good any way you cook it! But this recipe happens to be a favorite.

Now, to be completely honest, I don’t measure for this recipe. So, all the measurements I list are approximate. 🙂

3-4 Tilapia fillets
1/4 cup of milk
1 cup corn flakes
1/2 tbsp season salt
1 tsp old bay seasoning
3-4 strawberries
1 mango
cookie sheet or shallow baking pan
cooking rack

Pre-heat the oven to 375.
Pulverize the corn flakes in a blender, and put in a shallow dish. Add the seasonings and mix.
Pour milk into another shallow dish.
Place the rack on top of the cookie sheet/baking pan.
Dredge the fillets in the milk, and then in the cornflake mixture. Sometimes I use a fork to scoop more breading and move the fillet around the dish. (Helps to keep my fingers a bit less nasty.)
Shake of a bit of the excess crust, and then place the fillets on the rack.
Bake for about 20 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.

While it’s baking, cut up the mango and strawberries. You can add a bit of cilantro or oregano if you like it.

I like to serve this on a bed of brown rice with a lemon wedge, and some veggies on the side.

mango strawberry with fish

Mangos are not always easy to find and can be expensive especially if you don’t live in a tropical climate. So, if that is the case, or if you just don’t like mango, you could use pineapple instead.

I have also made this fried on the stove, if you prefer that method. I just try to bake more than fry – rumor has it that it’s a healthier option. 🙂

Also, I have used raw oats in place of bread crumbs or corn flakes in a pinch. Just grind those oats up real well in the blender and you’re set! The flavor is a bit different of course, but I promise it doesn’t taste like oatmeal! My husband said he thought it tasted a bit like corn meal batter… I don’t know if I agree, but I do know that I liked it!

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I don’t know where you live, but here in Florida we are getting drenched! It’s been several years since we’ve had such consistent rain. I have a kiddo who likes to be outside, and we don’t have a yard, so it’s a challenge! The nice thing is that the rains keep the temperatures down.

Well, as I have mentioned before, I work full time. So, when I started on the baby food train, I immediately set out to come up with a streamlined process and method for storing it. After all, what would be the point of making it if I couldn’t manage it? In my last post I gave you a run-down of my method for making the food, so I figured it would only make sense to follow up with an explanation of how I stored it all.

I tried several different options, trying to figure out what worked the best for me. In the end, I used three different methods for storing it.

I ususally made large batches of food on the weekends, saved a couple of meals worth in the fridge, and froze the rest to prevent spoiling. I know some mommies who make their baby’s food fresh each day, and others who use a food mill and simply give their baby whatever the rest of the family was eating. I don't think there is any one best way to do this – you just have to figure out what works best for you and your lifestyle.

Here are the three storage methods I used:

Ice cube trays and freezer bags: Once the baby food was made, I kept a few meals worth in the fridge, and the rest I poured into ice cube trays. I didn’t measure it out – I just poured it into the little pockets and made them as even as I could. Once they were frozen solid, I stored them in ziplock freezer bags. Obviously, I didn’t bother with trying to make them pretty!

frozen baby food

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One tip here – always label your bags! I know it seems like you’d have no trouble telling them apart, but I promise you, once you have squash and sweet potato side by side, it can be really hard to tell! The same goes for those peas and green beans. They are different shades, but after a while, in your sleep-deprived state, you’ll get them all confused.

Storage containers:
I found these at BabiesRUs, and they really are nice becasue they have a rubber seal, which makes them virtually spill-proof. They also come with a little tray, which is nice, but not always convenient.

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They were a little bit expensive, but they are a nice option. I have two sizes – the tiny 2-oz containers (pictured), and the larger 4-oz onces. They were nice for sending to daycare or when we stayed at someone else’s home and I wanted to take already made frozen food. I packed them in a an insulated bag and even though they thawed a little on longer road trips, they never spilled. I did use these for freezing food, but in general I used them more as take-along containers.

Pouches:
You know those handy little pouches of fruit you can buy for about $1 each? I love those things, but they are a little pricey. So, when I discovered the Infantino Squeeze Station, I was intrigued. This little treasure allowed me to make my own, which opened up the variety and also made it a little cheaper in the long run. I didn’t use these until A was a little older (almost a year), but ended up loving them. I try to keep a few of these pouches in the freezer at all times so I have a ready-to-go, healthy snack for A when we’re out and about. They are especially nice for when we are in the car, as it eliminates the need for a spoon. And let’s face it – that’s a big deal! I’ve put all kinds of stuff in these little pouches, including yogurt.

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I have the squeeze station tool that makes them super easy to fill,

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but I’ve read that the puree can be poured in with a regular thin-spouted funnel. Personally, I never tried it that way and it sounds like a messy chore, but it might be worth a shot? I’ve found the whole kit and kaboodle at BabiesRUs, and Amazon. (You’re probably thinking those are the only two places I shop!) Extra pouches can be ordered online, and I’ve seen them in a couple of stores.
The biggest drawback to these is that they are not re-usable, so if you consider yourself “green” at all, you’ll want to look into something else. There are some different ones out there that are reusable, (click here and here for some examples). To be completely honest, I’m just too lazy busy, to bother washing them out!

Like I said, these are just the options I used and liked. You might find another method that works better for you. But until you figure it out, hopefully this will help to get you started.

Hope you all have a wonderful July 4th tomorrow! We’ve having a cookout – yum!!

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Hard? No.
Time consuming? A little.
Worth it? In my opinion, absolutely!

I made 95% of A’s baby food. At first I wondered if it would be complicated. I saw so many mommy blogs that had “recipes” for baby food which had multiple ingredients. They made it sound more complicated than it really is!

I never followed a single recipe. I didn’t do anything fancy either, and if you have access to some kind of blender (in some cases, a potato masher or a fork will work just fine), and a container to store the puree in, you’re ready to go! Seriously.

I always started with fresh fruit or veggies. Frozen will work, too, but I never did it that way. We have a farmer’s market close by, so that was my cheapest option.

I washed everything well, and peeled, chopped, de-seeded, trimmed stems, or whatever needed to be done.

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Next I decided how to cook my choice of produce. Since it was all going to be pureed, I usually stuck to boiling or steaming. Although I prefer baking butternut squash… don’t know why! I normally cut or dice the produce into bite size pieces so it cooks quicker than popping things in whole.

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Once the produce was thoroughly cooked and soft (could easily be squished with my fingers), I let it cool. I tried to blend it up once while it was still pretty hot, and that was a disaster! Don’t do it! (Just in case you’re curious, the heat/steam builds up like crazy in the blender, and ends up exploding all over when you remove the lid!) So, as I said, let it cool until pretty close to room temperature, and then blend with the same water you boiled the produce in. This way you don’t “water down” any of the flavor, and supposedly you don’t lose all the nutrients that are lost while boiling. You’d have to research how all that works if you want to know. I’m no nutritionist!

At first you’ll want to make it pretty soupy. Little babies just starting on solids can’t really handle anything that is much thicker than a creamy potato soup. 🙂 As your child gets older you can add less water, and leave more lumps if your child likes it that way. My kiddo has always liked his stuff completely smooth – no lumps! So, even when I started making it thicker, I always blended it really well.

Peas were never a success when I tried to puree them. For some reason they always seemed gritty. Maybe I just never cooked them long enough to be thoroughly mushy? If you have an answer for this, please let me know! I did have good success with the following:

Apples (boiled or steamed)
Pears (boiled or steamed)
Peaches (boiled or steamed)

(Generally I boiled the veggies – seemed to cook faster that way.)
Green beans
Sweet potatos
“Regular” potatos
Carrots
Summer squash
Butternut squash
Zucchini

A loved all of these… green beans were the most problematic, but I would just mix it up with something else that he did like, and he was happy.

I never pureed meat for A. He isn’t a fan of meat, and the thought of blending it up was revolting, so I didn’t! I also avoided pureeing legumes, because he had gas all the time! I figured I would try to help him out by not making the problem worse. 🙂

At the beginning, there is no need to make large batches since they eat so little. But once they start eating more, you can make multiple large batches at once, and freeze it. I got into the habit of making some every weekend while I cleaned the house, and I never felt like it was taking up a lot of time.

If you’re on the fence about making your own baby food, I definitely recommend at least giving it a try. It might be surprised how easy it is, and I promise you that your wallet will thank you! Not to mention it tastes so much better than the jarred kind.

P.S. I did keep a jar or two of store-bought puree in the pantry as back-up just in case, but I stuck to just the fruit ones because the others are so gross that my little guy refused to eat them!

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I’ve been doing a bit more experimenting in the kitchen lately.  Mostly easy side dishes and things that require little prep work and minimal attention while cooking.

As all you fellow working moms know, once you get home at the “end” of the day, it’s like you step into an alternate reality, and in that alternate reality, the day has just begun!  But, you’re still running on energy left over from the first reality…
(Not to say that stay-at-home moms don’t get exhausted – I know you do, too! I’m just sharing from my current position.)

Anyway, back to my main thought.  Easy, quick food.  Well, if you like bananas, this is a winner!  I saw this idea floating around the web for a little while, but did not give it a try until recently.  Ready for the ingredient list?  It’s a doozey!

1 large, ripe banana

1 egg

That’s it.  Two ingredients. And it makes about 4 medium pancakes. Now, you can always add extras like I did.  Like chocolate chips, or strawberries, blueberries, or nuts… you get he picture.  I did blueberries and chocolate chips.

Anyway, you basically just mix up the banana and egg really well. I mashed the banana and then used a whisk to combine it with the egg. Then proceed to cook like any other pancake!  (Just in case you’ve never made pancakes: Pour some batter onto a medium-hot skillet, and when little bubbles start to pop on the top of the pancake, flip it over and cook for just a little while longer so both sides are a nice, golden-brown.)

I was expecting something heavy and not-pancake-y in the least, but these actually were not too different in texture from a normal pancake.  They are definitely more moist, and obviously, taste of banana, which is different. 🙂  But not bad, if you like banana!

And they look absolutely delicious, don’t you agree?

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I highly reccomend having a side of bacon or sausage with these, so it counter-balances the sweetness of the pancakes.

If you try it, please let me know what your opinion is!

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Baked oatmeal (new recipe!)

Ladies and Gents, I am alive! Hassled, a bit stressed, sleep-deprived, and just plain exhausted. Even bordering on delirious perhaps, but definitely alive!
And to prove it, I am going to share a new baked oatmeal recipe that I found and love! I found it on Pinterest, of course (After all, where else would someone like me find these things nowadays!). The original link is here:

http://alwaysamrsforeverakidd.blogspot.com/2012/01/gluten-free-baked-oatmeal-casserole.html

But, as usual, I did a little bit of tweaking… not a lot, but enough that I thought I would share my own version:

3 cups old-fashioned oats
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup almond slices
1 cup strawberries (cut into small pieces)
1/4 cup mini dark chocolate chips
2-1/4 cups milk
1 large egg
1/3 cup applesauce (I used unsweetened, but you could use sweetened if you like)
1-1/4 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 banana, cut into 1/2-inch slices

I combined the oats, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, chocolate chips, and half of the almonds and strawberries in a medium bowl. I mixed well using a spatula, and then divided the mixture between two smaller, glass casserole dishes. I wanted to freeze half of it, or I would have done one, 9×12 dish. (Remember to use butter or non-stick spray on the dish first!)

Then, I used the same bowl to combine the milk, egg, applesauce, and vanilla. I whisked it together well, and ended up with a bit of foam on top… not sure if that was good or bad, but it ended up tasting ok in the end, so maybe it doesn’t matter either way?
I poured the liquid mixture over the oats, and then arranged the banana and remaining almonds and strawberries on top. I baked it at 375 for about 45-50 minutes. (Until the oats were golden-brown on top and no longer gooey.)

It was delicious!

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I’m thinking I’d like to make this for dessert one time and serve warm with vanilla ice cream!

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When it comes to sushi’s extended family, California Rolls are my comfort zone. The real stuff – the stuff with raw fish – is way, way off the beaten bath of my comfort zone.  I’ll eat lots of things, but raw meat of any kind is just disgusting!   OK, so now that you know how I feel about raw meat, we can move on. 🙂

Sometimes I pick up a pack of California Rolls at Publix. J and I both like them, but a few weeks ago it dawned on me that I could totally make them myself!  I had half of the ingredients in the house anyway, so why not?!  It was sort of an impulsive decision, but I’m glad I went for it. Here is what you’ll need:

Sticky rice (suhi rice is the best for this)

Rice vinegar

Nori (dried seaweed sheets)

Ingredients for the center (crab, sesame seeds, avocado, cream cheese, cucumber, etc.  Basically whatever you prefer)

Small bowl of water

Sharp knife (to cut the roll)

Rolling mat (optional, but it sure makes it easier!)

The process is actually a lot easier than I expected.  It is important to let the rice cool completely before doing anything with it.  I have a Japanese rice cooker, but you can just make the rice in a pot.  I used sushi rice, but it might work ok with another kind of rice as long as it’s really sticky.  I would advise you to consult an expert, though.  Do not rely on my un-founded suggestion! 🙂

 

Once it is cool, you cut in the rice vinegar with a spatula.  By cutting it in, you avoid mashing the rice. (I made my own rice vinegar by just adding a pinch of sugar to Apple Cider Vinegar. Might not be exactly the same, but it is close enough for our non-foodie taste buds.)

[Note: When it comes to rolling the sushi, I have a little bamboo mat thingy that works wonderfully.  My Japanese friend gave me mine, but I think you can find them in some grocery stores.  I slide it inside a large zip-lock bag before using it.  It makes clean-up so much easier!]

Spread the rice in a thin layer on the rough side of the nori (seaweed).  It will take a little work because the rice is all sticky, but try not to squash your rice into mush.  You can make it thick if you prefer it that way, but the thicker the layer, the fatter the roll will be and the harder (potentially) it can be to cut.  Leave about an inch of plain nori at the “top”.

Now, you add whatever ingredients you prefer across the “bottom”.  In this case I just used imitation crab, avocado, and sesame seeds.  I like them with a little bit of thinly sliced cucumber, but I discovered my cucumber wasn’t very good when I made this batch of sushi, so I left it out.  Cream cheese is also a nice filler if you like it.

Once you have all your ingredients lined up at the bottom end of the nori, start rolling it tightly from the bottom end toward the top.  Take your time, and make sure it sticks together well or you’ll end up with a mess!

Once you have rolled it all the way to the end of the rice, dip your finger in a bit of water and run your finger across the nori.  This will make it sticky and allow you to “seal” the roll.

All set!  Now, just cut it up into sections and let it chill in the fridge for a few hours!

One tip for cutting: get your knife wet at least once every two cuts.  It will keep the knife from sticking to the rice and smooshing your nice little roll.

If you’re making them to eat later, a nice way to package it is to line a container with lettuce leaves and place the rolls in there.  Not only does it look nice, but it also keeps the rolls from sticking to the container.

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I’ve had quite a few people ask me for the recipe for the baked oatmeal I mentioned in my post about make-ahead breakfasts. I found a recipe online someplace, (Pinterest, maybe?  I really don’t know.) and tweaked it to suit my tastes. It’s pretty easy, and one batch makes roughly 16-18 “muffins” (depending on how much you like to fill each cup). I like that it makes so much since I can make one batch and it will last me about two weeks even though I normally eat at least two at a time.

2 eggs

1-1/2 cups applesauce

1 mashed banana

5 cups old fashioned oats

2-3/4 cups milk

1/4 cup oat bran

3 teaspoons sugar

1 Tbsp ground cinnamon

3 tsp baking powder

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp salt

Plus any add-ins/toppings of your choice (a few ideas: chocolate chips, raisins, chopped apples, blueberries, nuts, granola)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl mix together the eggs, applesauce, banana, vanilla, and sugar.

Next, add the oats, salt, baking powder, cinnamon and oat bran. Mix everything together really well; lastly, add the milk and combine.

You can use cupcake liners or spray the muffin tin with cooking spray.  I use cooking spray if I am going to freeze them – saves a little mess and frustration when you thaw/reheat them.

Now, I like to make several different “flavors” at once, so, before pouring the oat mixture into the muffin tin, I scoop out some into a smaller bowl and mix it with one of my add-ins.   Then I pour that smaller bowl of mixture evenly into 5-6 of the muffin cups.  I repeat the process with a different add-in until I use up all the batter.  Keep in mind that if you add something like nuts or granola, you may want to sprinkle them on the top instead of mixing it into the oatmeal.  Totally up to you.  So far my favorite add-ins have been blueberries and chocolate chips.  Although, I do like to make some with just a little brown sugar sprinkled on the top.  Mmmm…

They all smell delicious by the way.

My least favorite were the strawberry ones.  But only because the strawberries don’t hold up well after baking, freezing, and re-heating.  They look funky too.  But, they taste ok, so if you’re set strawberry, go for it!

Once they’re done and have cooled to room temperature, I wrap each individual muffin with plastic wrap, (foil would work too, but I find it rather bulky) I use a sharpie to mark the plastic wrap so I know which flavor it is. I just use the first letter of the add-in. For example: R – raisins / B – blueberries / S – strawberry / C – choc chip. You get the idea. 🙂  Then place them all in a large zip-lock bag in the freezer.

Enjoy!  And if you come up with any brilliant ideas for add-ins, please let me know!

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