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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. ūüôā 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. ūüôā

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. ūüôā  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. ūüôā

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! ūüôā

 

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 Рsaves 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. ūüôā¬† 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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I may have mentioned this before, but just in case you don’t know, I greatly dislike onions.¬† I can handle them if they’re cooked in a dish of some sort, but raw?¬† Forget it!¬†¬† So, you might be surprised that I’m sharing a recipe for onion rings.¬† I’ll admit, I’m a little surprised myself!¬† However, I made these for the hubs and decided to taste one… SURPRISE!¬† They were good!¬† (Of course, I made sure to pick the ones with the thinnest onion slices.)

This is not my own recipe.  I got it from Chef John on his blog, Food Wishes.  He has a cool little video to follow and everything, so if you would like to watch it, you can find it here!

So, even if you’re not a huge onion ring fan, you just might enjoy these.¬† And if you love them, well, then I suggest trying these because I’m sure you’ll like them!¬† There are a few surprising ingredients… or at least, I thought they were surprising.¬† I had never made onion rings before though, so maybe its not as odd as I think?¬† I’ll let you decide.

1/2 cup flour

1/4 cup cornstarch

2 tbsp of instant mashed potatoe

pinch of cayenne (optional, but I like it)

1 cup cold club soda

2-3 cups Panko (those Japanese style breadcrumbs РI used more than 3 cups.  But that is just me.)

seasoned salt to taste (Chef John used regular salt, but I really liked them with seasoned salt)

vegetable oil for frying

1-2 medium yellow onions, cut into rings

Whisk together the flour, cornstarch, and mashed potatoes (and cayenne if you choose).  Now, add the club soda and whisk together until combined.  

The batter will be very runny at first, but will thicken after a few minutes.  While waiting for the batter to set a little, cut the onions, add the Panko to a shallow dish, and heat the oil to about 350 degrees.  

After about ¬†5 or 10 minutes, dip the rings into the batter.¬† Once they’re covered in batter, fish them out with a fork and drop them into the dish of Panko.¬† (Using two different forks will make your life easier at this point.)¬† With the second fork, make sure the Panko crumbs stick to all sides of the rings.¬† Lift out the rings and (carefully) drop them into the hot oil.¬† Let them cook about 3 minutes, then remove them from the oil and sprinkle liberally¬†with salt.¬† I let the onion rings drain on top of a paper towel over a wire rack.

Enjoy!!  Mmmm!  I can taste them now!

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My husband likes ribs.¬† I think they’re ok–they taste fine, but they’re just too much trouble… all that picking and stuff… not my thing.¬† Well, I had some ribs in the freezer and this week has been very tight on time, so I thought I’d experiment and make them in the crock pot!¬† Turns out, that was the best idea ever!¬† The meat came right off the bone – no need for picking and poking and all that mess.¬†

I didn’t have a recipe, so I just kinda did what I thought might taste good.¬† I’ll give it to you in recipe format though, since I always like to read food directions that way.¬† I just assume everyone else likes it that way too!

Thawed pork ribs

BBQ sauce of choice

ground black pepper

seasoned salt

blackening seasoning (cajun style)

about 2-3 Tbsp of water

Sound easy enough?¬† Now, keep in mind, all the recipes I share here are shared because they are easy or¬†quick,¬†not so much because they are comparable to the taste of a 5-star restaurant.¬†¬†So if you’re expecting gourmet cooking, you might be a little disappointed.¬†¬†But then again, people who want gourmet cooking don’t normally opt for ribs…

¬†Then I poured a little water in the crock pot so the meat wouldn’t stick to the bottom of the pot. The water also keeps the meat¬†moist and tender.¬† I would say I used about 2 tablespoons or so.¬† As I said before, I didn’t follow a recipe, so I can’t tell you exactly how much pepper or seasoning to use, but I was generous.¬† I rubbed the pepper and both seasoning salts into the meat, front and back.¬†¬†Next, I rubbed a little of the BBQ sauce on the bottom side of the ribs, and then set them in the¬†pot.¬† I added¬†half the bottle of sauce to the top of the¬†ribs, making sure I covered the whole surface, but not smothering¬†it.¬† I cooked it on high for¬†4 hours, and it was perfect!¬†¬†

I actually had a little trouble serving these because every time I picked it up, it fell apart! 

I would like to point out that, if you want ribs, this is, of course,¬†waaaaaay cheaper than going out to eat.¬†¬†(And not much more trouble since it cooked while I was at work!) My hubby went grocery shopping with me, so he knew that the ribs, broccoli and corn had all been on sale.¬† Half way through dinner,¬†he looked at me and observed, “Hon, just think, we’re both eating for less than $5… to get a¬†meal like this¬†anywhere else it would be more than that for just one of us.”¬† It made me laugh that he was thinking about this during dinner, but it did make me feel good that I was able to impress him with my money-saving skills.¬† Haha!¬†

I know most people don’t eat veggies with ribs, but I try to have¬†a little something healthy even with meals like this.¬†¬†From what I hear, corn doesn’t count as healthy.¬†¬†Isn’t that sad?¬† Oh, and don’t you think that the¬†checkered plate is the perfect way to serve this meal?¬† My hubby says that it doesn’t really matter¬†that the plate looks good, but I¬†think it definitely makes a good meal better!¬†¬†I’m silly, what can I¬†say?¬†To top it off, we had watermelon as “dessert”.¬† Mmmm… love me some watermelon!¬† The whole thing¬†felt very summery! =)¬†

One more random comment:¬†¬†Remember that old nursery rhyme¬†“… some like it hot, some like it cold, some like it in the pot nine days old.”¬† Well, when I wrote the title of this post, my brain kept saying,¬†“ribs in the crock pot, nine days old.”¬†¬†…ICK!!!¬† I don’t suggest eating ribs that sat in a pot for nine days.

That said, have you tried¬†a new crock pot recipe¬†lately? ¬†I’d love to¬†hear about it!¬† (And if it sat there for nine days… well, bless your heart!)

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