Thursday, April 29, 2010

Apples, Apples, Apples

I've realized recently just how much I like apples. They have so much to offer, from the nutritional benefits to versatility! And when they are in season and priced right, they are a great buy!
These are some of the ways we have found to incorporate them into our diet (especially during the sales).

fresh fruit. for a snack, especially with some cheese or popcorn
applesauce. with granola on top, by itself, homemade or store-bought
in baking recipes. very often substituted for oil or butter in our house.
in pancakes, breads, and muffins. adding moisture and nutrition to make a healthy version.
in meals. in very delicious meals like this apple and sausage pie.
baby food. a great starter for any baby learning to eat.
toddler food. as a snack, chopped up, with a side of cheese and nuts. makes a great snack.
in a grilled cheese sandwich. oh so delicious!
for breakfast, lunch, or dinner
in cooking or baking
fun to go apple picking. easy to peel with a fancy peeler. family-friendly. nutritious. it's just that simple.

This post is linked to the Ultimate Recipe Swap. Head on over to find more great recipes with fruit in them.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Some Gnarly Muffins!

I have a 16 month old son who is getting better about trying new and different foods. But it hasn't always been this way. He went through a definite picky stage. A stage where he would just look at something and refuse to eat it if it didn't look familiar. Because of this stage I worked hard at getting creative to get fruits and veggies (mostly veggies since he is really okay with most fruits) into foods that looked familiar. A great recipe I found recently has some great grains and added fruits and veggies, and until I can get more of the veggies into his diet without hiding them (who knows...that may be years!) this is what works for me!

I started with this recipe for Gnarly Muffins from Joy the Baker. I made a few alterations of my own, but the abundance of carrots and apples in mine made them nice and moist! Here is how I made them:
1 1/2 c flour
3/4 c flax seed meal
3/4 c wheat bran
1/2 c brown sugar
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 c shredded carrots
1 c shredded apple
1/2 raisins
3/4 c milk
1/2 c egg substitute
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350.
In a large bowl with a wooden spoon, mix all dry ingredients.
Add carrots, apple, and raisins.
In a small bowl, mix milk, egg and vanilla. Add to dry/fruit mix and stir just until moistened.
I filled my 12 silicone muffin cups totally full and baked them a bit longer because they were bigger. Took mine close to 30 minutes.
Eat, and enjoy. And share with your family members who don't get all their fruits and veggies!

Other foods that look familiar and I can add healthy stuff to: pancakes, dips, sauces, and yogurt, to name a few.

This is what works for me. Head on over to We Are THAT Family for more great posts.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Baby Food Galore!

I am at an in-between stage right now, with a 16 month old who is eating more in the way of table food now and an 8 week old who is definitely not eating food yet. But I made all of my own food for the first kid and am very excited for even more possibilities the second time around. My first actually would never eat the store-bought stuff. I tried with a few things that were freely given to us, but I was secretly okay with him liking my food better!
I am linking up over at 5dollardinners today and wanted to select a few posts that I wrote when I was on this adventure with my first son.
Bananas and Apples
Applesauce cost comparison
More cost comparisons here and here
I didn't have any cookbooks, didn't have any special tools, didn't even have a submersion blender at that point. Just used the food, water, pots, a blender, ice cube trays (and as he ate more I used muffin tins to make the portions bigger), baggies and a freezer. It's all quite simple and cost-effective, there are tons of combinations you can do with putting foods together (like avocado and banana or peaches and pears, etc). Can't wait for this stage and more experiments with son #2!

Menu Plan Monday - April 26

Well, last week's menu plan did not happen AT all. Oh well. We did eat, we just ate random other things, like lots of avocados since they are great right now. And lots of strawberries because they are in now too. And some pizza that my husband got from a place we like from out of town...yeah, it was an off week and I am excited to get back on the plan.

Five Grain Hot Cereal
Baked Oatmeal
Yogurt and Granola (going to make a variation of this basic recipe)

Chicken BBQ Sandwiches
Baked Chicken Fingers (a definite favorite around here)
Hopefully a salad from the garden

Leftover Pizza from the weekend
Black bean burritos (but without the tortillas, served with chips, and with avocado on top)
Macaroni and Cheese (to take to a potluck meal)
Clean out the fridge

We will be out of town Friday through Monday for work/play, so we will be eating out some next weekend and don't need to make as much this week.
For other great meal ideas, head over to Orgjunkie.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Menu Plan Monday - April 19

This Rigatoni with Chicken, Bacon and Mushrooms from last week was probably our favorite. Actually, my husband's favorite by far! An exciting moment for me though was my picky toddler son actually eating all parts of this Brown Rice Casserole we had with peas. It was another successful week of meals.
This week will be a bit off for us. We have my in-laws in town and went out to eat last night, for lunch today, and quite possibly for dinner again tonight.
I have a dish that was in the freezer, a past with ground turkey dish, that I will reheat and have available for one dinner and possibly lunches.
Other meals we will be having:
Mozzarella Chicken and Rice Skillet
Breakfast for Dinner
Spinach Lentil Soup
For other great meals and ideas, head on over to Orgjunkie today!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Quest for the perfect granola!

 I have been on a little bit of a quest lately for the perfect granola. For a long time I had no desire (or maybe I was just afraid to take the time and effort) to make my own granola. Once in a while I would buy it and enjoy it, but it was to expensive to buy on a regular basis, so I would just do without. Out of sight, out of mind.
But recently I have decided it would be good. and fun. and challenging. and cheaper to try out some recipes than to buy. I started searching for ones that looked like they had ingredients I would be able to find and I would be able to enjoy and also for ones that had good reviews and were somewhat healthy. And then I started saving them to my Evernote.
And then I started trying them out. Here are some that I have tried and my reviews (things I look for in a granola recipe: flavor, crunch!, ease of prep, and household approval):

Honey Crunch Granola (I like that this one has flax seed and wheat germ for added nutrition. i used almonds and did not have apple juice at the time. this was not my favorite so far, but was also my first, so I will give it another try)
Apple Granola (very simple and very few ingredients, but not crunchy enough for me. I added peanuts to have a little extra nutrition and flavor)
Honey Cinnamon Granola (enjoyable, but not my favorite. not as crunchy and not as much flavor as I would like...but still a good recipe and I like that it also has wheat germ in it)
Baked Granola (I've made this one twice, first time was very crunchy and with great reviews in my house...second time not so crunchy...must try again soon. I used applesauce instead of the oil and I did not have/use hazelnuts or cherries)
Mix-n-Match Applesauce Granola (I used less sugar, almonds for my nuts and cranberries/raisins for my dried fruit. very crunchy! and the ginger adds a new flavor I had not yet had with granola. A+)
More recipes I'd like to try soon:

Energizing Granola
Pumpkin Spice Granola
Peanut Butter Granola

Other endeavors? finding the best homemade oatmeal. and a bigger try at making granola bars... I've tried a couple of recipes, but these make me even more nervous than the granola for some reason...
Got a great recipe I should try? I'd love to hear about it!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

WFMW - Peeling Apples

I know apple time is generally in the fall, but there have been some good prices around here lately so I have been making recipes with apples and making applesauce. I love, love, love homemade applesauce! My biggest frustration with making applesauce is peeling them! Reasons why I don't like hand peeling? (1) I tend to cut myself with knives so I am always a little tentative about it.
(2) I feel like I lose some of the apple if I can't peel thin enough with my knife.
(3) It doesn't take forever, but it does take a while.

Back to the apples I have been buying...I recently found this apple peeler on Amazon, read some great reviews, and bought it with some birthday money. And I love it! 

It is sharp, it is fast, I don't have a fear of cutting myself, it is fast, it peels very close to the skin...and it is fast! So basically I am enjoying it thus far. And enjoying making things with apples so much more, and really looking forward to the fall and even more apple mania!

This is what is working for me. To learn more and join in the fun, head on over to We Are THAT Family today.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Amazing Apple Bread with Thanks to Joy the Baker!

I didn't have this in my meal plan for last week, but had all the ingredients and just got the urge to make it one day, and boy am I glad that I did. The worst part? It only lasted 2.5 days with 3 of us in the house thoroughly enjoying it's goodness. The best part? It was SO moist!
Apple Walnut Flax Seed Bread.
Forgot to take my own pictures of the process, but it was easy, pretty fast, and oh SO good!
The only changes I made were using unsweetened applesauce instead of the melted butter (I try to make these simple substitutions for healthier items whenever possible) and egg substitute instead of the two eggs (use the sub a lot in baking and the real deal mostly when actually eating eggs).
I think I might have to make another loaf real soon!

Menu Plan Monday - April 12

Last week was a good week for food! The smothered chicken was really good. My husband raved about it, and he doesn't normally like cooked carrots, so this was a double positive. And my son ate some of the chicken and bacon with us! This omelette was also amazing and got great reviews! We used less apple in smaller chunks with colby cheese and no walnuts. Would definitely make both of these again...easy, good, frugal! I forgot I didn't have all the ingredients for the granola I was going to try, so I made this baked granola again that we really liked. It wasn't as crunchy this time for some reason, I must have done something wrong because it was great the first time!

Slow Cooker Oatmeal (nice to wake up on Sunday and have breakfast already made! first time using steel cut oats. no sugar in it, could be a little sweeter, but I did omit the apple since my son was weird about it in the oatmeal last week. would like to try these oats again with a different recipe)
Granola and yogurt
Rigatoni with Chicken, Bacon and Mushrooms; asparagus
Brown Rice Casserole; peas
Tuna Panini; fruit
Banana Pancakes made while listening to Jack Johnson sing about it!

I am excited for this week of food too! Will report back about what exceeds our expectations!
For more great meal plans and recipe ideas head on over to Orgjunkie today!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

WFMW - Tips for Toddlers

How to get a toddler excited about house/yard work and other tasks?
I'm no expert, but at this age they want to do what we do and feel "BIG" so why not include them in on the things we have to do around the house too, to help them become a full member of the family!

Make it fun. 
Let him do it "his way." 
Do it together. 
Don't offer rewards (or they will always be expected and it will become about the reward and not about helping).
Offer praise and encouragement.

washing the car
being okay with the car not being perfect, with the toddler getting soaked, and with it taking 3 times as long as by yourself....but creating memories and bonding in the process

vacuuming the house
being okay with missing a crumb here and there, being willing to make the vacuum kid-size, being willing to let it take longer than normal....but helping your toddler learn how to be a contributing part of the family

Other ideas:

putting trash in the trash can (make it a race)
helping clean up after a meal (make it a part of each meal)
helping with younger siblings (tell them how much of a help they are)
Do you have other great ideas of things to get your kids to help with? I'd love to hear more as we are more at the beginning of this helping process. Got tips for me?

For lots of great tips and ideas, head over to We Are THAT Family today.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Menu Plan Monday - April 5

I mentioned last week how excited I was to make a special grilled cheese sandwich one day last week, and it totally lived up to all of my expectations and more. Read more about my excitement and the sandwich here.
For the past few months I have experimented with different forms of oatmeal and granola. I have found some good ones, some easy ones, some that I will try again and some that I probably won't. So far, my favorite granola by far is this Baked Granola, with one alteration of using applesauce instead of the oil. I think what I like most about this one is the crunchiness. I still love to try new things and I am going to keep experimenting, and this week I am going to try this baked oatmeal recipe and this granola recipe.
Other meals we will be eating this week:
Egg Salad sandwiches (leftover colored eggs, of course)
Hearty Tomato Soup (out of the freezer)
Smothered Chicken
Caramelized Apple and Cheddar Omelette (same site as the grilled cheese from last week!)
Balsamic Salmon Spinach Salad
I'm pretty excited about our meals this week! For some other great suggestions and meal planning ideas, head on over to Orgjunkie.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Amazing Grilled Cheese Sandwich

I was so excited about this meal that I knew I would want to document it. Usually I make a meal, love it, and then think 'I should have taken pics and shared that with others...' but then it's a little too late. Not this time.
I got my inspiration for this meal from Kevin at Closet Cooking, a Caramelized Apple Grilled Cheese Sandwich

I did make a few changes based on what I had in the house at the time, and I also made 2 sandwiches, so my recipe looked like this:

2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 apple, peeled, cored and thinly sliced (1 apple per sandwich was more than we needed, but it was
fine because we used the leftovers for dessert with cool whip on top!!)
 (I used an apple slicer, then cut each slice in half again)
sliced Colby cheese, enough for both sides of bread, to melt apples in between
4 slices of bread (we just had regular wheat bread on hand)
butter for the bread

Melt the butter in a pan. Add the sugar and cinnamon until sugar is melted. 

Add the apple slices and saute until tender, about 5-10 minutes. 

Meanwhile, butter the bread, slice the cheese (or use pre-sliced) and when apples are ready, assemble the sandwich with some cheese on each side and apples in the middle. 

Cook on medium-low (the lower the better for grilled cheese so the bread doesn't get brown before the cheese in the middle has a chance to melt) until both sides are brown and cheese is melted. 

Enjoy the goodness!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Veggie Co-op

I'm so excited about joining this co-op! Who knew?! I don't necessarily live in a place where I thought something like this would exist, but through word of mouth...
We tried our first garden last year, and we had some good meals that came from it. But it wasn't a great year for our first try. It was very wet, and we definitely did not get out of the garden what we felt we should, for the work and money that was put into making it happen. I was excited ready to try again this year, but after hearing about this frugal opportunity, I am hanging up my gloves this year and spending extra time with my boys!
I have paid a minimal amount of money to be able to go once a week for 24 weeks (from May to Oct) to get 5 lbs of veggies I choose. It also includes a bunch of corn, a big pumpkin, and a hayride at the end, plus a couple of sessions of canning! I am so excited right now because I just got my officially membership card in the mail. I'll continue to update how it actually ends up.