Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Work on the Cake


It’s been a while.  So much so this space seems foreign to me and yet like home at the same time.  Kind of like going back to sleep in your childhood bed after 30 years.  Comforting, yet too small.  Actually the “too small” part doesn’t make sense in this comparison but I’m all out of sorts so inaccurate analogies are to be expected.

In a mere 2 days my husband is off on an expedition of a life time.  He’s climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa to tick off one of his bucket list items as a means of proving that 40 is just a number.  Everyone is curious as to why I wouldn’t join him on this incredible adventure.  The allure of climbing and camping and not showering would wear off for me after about hour 24, not hour 144 as it would be for the other bucket list checker offers.

But that’s o.k.  I wouldn’t make him walk around with me for endless hours exploring Botanical Gardens, gift shops and Farmer’s Markets…or maybe I would…but I may be getting off topic.

I read a statement of perfection recently that stuck with me although the author or even the context escapes me at the moment.  “You are responsible for the cake, everything else is the icing”.  So my husband is going to work on his cake in Tanzania Africa and I’ll work on mine here.  Then we will just slather all the icing on top once we each have a nice substantial base to apply it to.
Speaking of cake...check out the birthday cake I ordered from Cake Rolls in Etobicoke, ON.


“Looks like it’s just gonna be you and me” so says my 4 year old after learning of Daddy’s big trip.  Yep, there will be lots of single mom baths to be had over the next 10 days or so.  Baths where he’s not allowed to play because the earliest I can get him in is 7 minutes before bed…and that’s if all goes to plan without an unanticipated telemarketer call taking up 2 extra minutes for me to hear the plea, then to get my gentle yet firm answer out, “I’m not interested…I don’t have any ducts to clean sir”.

Ok I think I’ve rambled enough for one day…sorry like I said, it’s been a while so I’m getting carried away.  Although I haven’t been blogging very often, I have still been working on the book and I’m happy to say that I’m at the point of the last 10%.  The dreaded last 10%.  This is what separates the finishers from the non-finishers.  I don’t want to be a non-finisher!  This is the % that is the most difficult because it’s the time to organize and finalize.  All the meat, or in keeping with our theme today, the cake, is there, now it just needs the icing…and a few more recipes for those 12 months + Solid Food Professionals.  Let’s do this!

This is a great Potato Pancake recipe to introduce some exciting new textures for babies 12 months +.  It can be cut into little pieces so they can pick up with their fingers and feed themselves.  By adding in some shredded carrot in place of some of the potato and some spinach, you can pack in extra nutrition into this little pancake package.

Ready…Set…Evolve…

Popeye’s Potato Pancakes


Age – 12 months +

Ingredients

  • 4 tbsps. Butter
  • 3 Potatoes
  • ½ Cup Baby Spinach Chopped
  • ½ Cup Shredded Carrots
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsps. flour
  • Pinch of Salt and Pepper

Baby Steps

  1. Rinse, dry and chop baby spinach and set aside.
  2. Peel carrots and potatoes and shred using the grater attachment on a food processor or mandolin slicer.
  3. Add shredded potatoes, carrots and spinach to a bowl and mix well.
  4. Add in egg and mix well.
  5. Add in flour and pinch of salt and pepper and mix until flour is combined.
  6. Add 2 tbsps. of butter to a large frying pan and melt over medium high heat.
  7. Spoon potato mixture into pan and press down to form a pancake shape.  You should be able to fit about 4 pancakes into the pan at a time.
  8. Cook until underside is brown, about 3 minutes, flip and repeat.
  9. Once cakes are done, remove from pan and place on paper towel lined plate to let cool.
  10. Add 2 more tbsps. of butter to pan and repeat process to make 4 more pancakes.
  11. To serve, cut into bite sized pieces for baby once cooled down.


Makes – Approx. 8 Pancakes

Note:  These are best to eat the day you make them rather than refrigerating or freezing them and heating them up again.  So plan to have them as a side dish for a family meal and add a bit more salt and pepper to the other family member’s portions and dip in sour cream if you so desire.


I wish my husband Carl all the best on his big Kilimanjaro climb!  Enjoy every second and come home safe and sound.  And please don’t leave your cake out in the (African) rain…I love that song.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Gentle Reminders


Do you think there will ever be a time when my calendar notes things like “Morning bike ride…Harvest Russet and Yukon Gold potatoes…Harvest apples and feed extras to the chickens and donkeys…Today Show appearance”?  This is typically what you will find on Martha Stewart’s  calendar.  Ah, Martha.  That woman knows a little bit, if not a lot, about anything and everything.  Or so it seems to the envious…I included.
Although I make mental notes to harvest my vegetables, it would be a waste of ink to actually scribe it down on a calendar.  By the time I would write it down and follow through, my bounty would have already been harvested by the wild life.

Ah, well…we all need something to aspire to.  Mine is to have a real life calendar like Martha’s.  Except maybe the parts about scrubbing porch floors, walls and ceilings.  That stuff can sort itself out.
Fall is in the air...

...and with it apples, carrots, tomatoes and pumpkins are ready for the taking.  I wouldn’t be so bold as to create a baby food puree with a combo of all of these, but I think a pairing of apples and carrots would do the trick.

I had a whole grain carrot muffin yesterday and it reminded me of how ridiculous I thought it was that carrots could be used as an ingredient in cake when I was a kid.  Why would anyone want carrots in a baked good?  Of course I now know it’s delicious, but if you tell a kid you are making carrot or zucchini cake, you might as well tell them you are whipping up some red pepper and beet cookies while you’re at it.
Luckily I’ve matured and know that the sweetness of a carrot is a great addition to confections.  Pair them with apples, and you’ll also have a puree that baby will love.

Ready…Set…Evolve…

Apple Carrot Puree


Age – 6 months +

Ingredients
  • 3 small Apples (about 2 cups sliced)
  • 1 cup of chopped carrots
  • Yes, that’s it

Baby Steps
  1. Peel and chop carrots and peel, core and slice apples.
  2. Place chopped carrots in steamer set over boiling water and cook for 15 minutes.
  3. Add in apple slices and continue to steam for 5 more minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and let stand for a few minutes.
  5. Transfer to a bowl to use hand held blender to puree.  Add in 4 tbsps. of the cooking water and puree to a smooth consistency.
  6. Transfer puree to a container to go in the fridge to use within 48 hours, or to freezer trays to keep in the freezer to use within 3 months.

Makes - Approx. – 5 Servings (1 serving = 2tbsps)
 
Note:  Feel free to double, or even triple this recipe to freeze more.  I only used 3 small apples because that’s all I had handy today.  Use a sweet variety of apple, like Gala, rather than a tart variety like Granny Smith so the puree isn’t too tart for baby.

I shall sign off now…my calendar is sending me a gentle reminder to “order pine trees for planting before the ground freezes.”

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Forget-Me-Not


 
In a blink of an eye, summer is over.  In the time it takes my toddler to tire of one activity and move on to another, he’s started school.  Like a bat out of hell, my first born is starting high school?
How can my son be old enough to venture off in to high school?  A place I remember so vividly myself as if it was yesterday.  A place I feel I would still fit in, until I drop my son off and see all the kids and think, damn I feel old.

I think the fear of time going so fast is the force behind the volume of activity we try to jam pack into each day.  I wonder if we slowed down, would time do the same?  I’ll let you know once I finish prepping my week’s meals for a 2 week detox I’m currently on, cleaning the house top to bottom, making sure the dog is walked and kids are entertained, making lunches for Monday, getting kids and dogs dropped off to school and doggy daycare, sitting in traffic for 1.25 hrs. to get to work, work, and another 1.25 hr. drive home for pick up just in time.  After I’m done all that, I’ll dig into the mystery of time.
I’ve missed writing over the harried summer.  It’s an outlet I enjoy and want to include somewhere in this spinning existence we call the day to day.  I began this blog and sharing baby food recipes with the aim of writing a baby food cook book when my baby was a baby and I was entrenched in the baby life every day.  Now my boy is 3 ½ and in kindergarten so he hardly qualifies as a taste tester, but this journey isn’t over.  Every time I catch the wonder of people who bear witness to my son’s request for veggies over pizza, it reminds me of how much of an impact feeding him homemade baby food from the start really made on his future food choices.  So I think it’s important to continue to share the recipes and press on with the book.  And so I will.

Tomatoes are ripening up beautifully in gardens far and wide right now so I thought I would share a staple Tomato & Veggie sauce recipe.  This is a great sauce to have on hand to mix with mini pasta, chicken, beef or rice.  The applications are endless and yummy.
This recipe is intended for babies 6 months +, as long as they have gone through their first solids trial period to rule out any allergic reactions to certain foods.  It makes about 4 cups so the prep is worth the fruits of your labour.

The recipe calls for peeled, seeded and chopped tomatoes, so I’ll go through a simple boiling water method to get the peeling done easily.
 
  •        Score an “X” on the bottom of each tomato with a sharp knife and place in a large bowl.
  • Cover tomatoes with boiling water and leave for 2 mins.
  • Move tomatoes from boiling water directly to a cutting board and leave for 1 min.
  • Skin should easily peel back. Start peeling from where you scored the “X” on the bottom.
Ready…Set…Evolve…
Babe-Essential Tomato & Veggie Sauce

Ingredients
  • 1 tbsp. of butter
  • 1 cup of chopped onions
  • 1 garlic clove diced
  • 1/2 cup of chopped carrots
  • 1 cup of chopped mushrooms (you can leave these out if baby is under 8 months old.  They don’t pose a high allergy risk, but they may present a digestive issue in some over sensitive tummies.)
  • 1/2 cup of chopped, peeled zucchini
  • 1/2 cup of chopped green pepper
  • 7 plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 4 fresh basil leaves chopped, or 1 tsp. dried
  • 1/4 cup of chicken broth (homemade or low sodium store bought)
Baby Steps
  1. Prep and chop all veggies, and peel and seed tomatoes using the boiling water method noted above and set aside.
  2. Melt butter in a large sauté pan over med/high heat.
  3. Add onion and garlic and cook for 3 mins. until onions become translucent.
  4. Reduce heat to medium and add all the rest of the veggies except the tomatoes and continue to cook for 7 minutes stirring often.
  5. Add tomatoes, chicken broth and basil to veggie mix, stir well and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to med/low, cover and cook stirring occasionally for approx. 30 minutes.
  6. Remove pan from heat and let cool for a few minutes.
  7. Transfer to a blender, food processor, or large bowl to use a hand blender to puree.
  8. Puree into a nice smooth sauce.
Makes- approx. 4 cups
Sauce can be kept in the fridge for 48 hrs. to use in other baby meals such as pasta or rice and chicken etc.  You can add the sauce and then freeze the new meals in freezing trays.
If you freeze the sauce alone and want to add to pasta dishes once thawed, you can do so, however, you cannot then re-freeze the new meal.  For example, if you’re making pasta or rice and chicken for the family one evening, take some of the pasta or rice and chicken and cut or puree into tiny pieces that baby can handle and add a defrosted and warmed sauce cube for an instant healthy meal.  The key rule to remember is once something has been cooked then frozen, you can’t thaw it and re-freeze it again.
It’s nice to be back in the blogging saddle, although given my “spinning day to day existence” I can’t promise you a rose garden each and every week…maybe just a sporadic smattering of forget-me-nots every now and then.
 
 
 
 


Sunday, 7 July 2013

Take Notice


We took a family day trip to The African Lion Safari last Sunday so my monkey could see the monkeys and to partake in “Canada’s Original Safari Adventure.”

 
Our expedition reaped the rewards of catching more than a glimpse of creatures you don’t typically see in the parks of Ontario, Canada.  Although they did work in a tour feature on the “duck“?  Perhaps all lions, giraffes and elephants all day would be too overwhelming?

 
While touring around I noticed the most unusual natural plant life in the park.  One wild flower in particular stood out in my mind as so pretty and altered from the usual Dandelions, Queen Ann’s Lace and Buttercups you expect to see growing in the wild.  I was anxious to figure out what it was.

The next day, I’m driving home from work on the same stretch of road that I drive on every day, 5 days a week, at precisely 5:35pm.  What do I spy with my little eye in the border of green and wild flowers?  My African Lion Safari wild flower?!


Why do I take notice of this unusual beauty while out on a pleasant day trip with my family but could care less about the wretched weed on my drive home from work?  Could it be the more happy and relaxed a mood we are in, the keener we are to seek out beauty in what surrounds us?
Turns out the flower is a Milkweed and the lifeblood of the monarch butterfly.  Without this wildflower, Monarchs wouldn’t be able to complete their life cycle and would soon become extinct.  Thanks wildflowersofontario.ca for this info. and the picture above.  You put me out of my, "what is this intriguing mystery flower" misery.

I’m sure we notice a lot more of the fun and wonder our kids have to offer us on a pleasant weekend rather than a harried week day evening.  Imagine the travesty of lost opportunity if I had been too busy to notice when my 3 year old stepped on the scale in the washroom and shouted, “come see how old I am!”
A friend sent me a link to the blog Hands Free Momma which is an inspiring take on “letting go to grasp what really matters.”  It is a touching and relatable read on how to unplug from increasing time demands in order to live in the moment with our kids.

Now here’s a quick and easy baby food recipe that won’t take you long to prepare. Then you can quickly get back to making funny faces back and forth at each other.

Ready…Set…Evolve…

Coddle Me Carrot & Rutabaga Puree



Age – 6 months +
Ingredients
  • 6 carrots (about 2 cups chopped)
  • ½ of a rutabaga (about 1 ½ cups chopped)
  • 1 tbsp. of butter
Baby Steps
  • Peel and chop carrots and set aside
  • Peel and chop rutabaga and set aside
  • Add chopped carrots and rutabaga to a steamer set over boiling water, cover and cook for approximately 23 minutes or until veggies are very tender.
  • Remove from heat and transfer veggies to a food processor, blender or bowl to use a hand blender to puree.
  • Add the butter and some of the cooking water to the veggies 1 tbsp. at a time and puree to desired consistency.  The thinner the consistency desired the more water you will want to add.
  • Let cool for a few minutes then transfer to freezing trays to be used within 3 months, or to a food storage container in the fridge to be used within 48 hours.
Makes Approx. 12 servings (1 serving = 2 tbsp.)
Let’s keep our eyes peeled for beautiful things even when we’re in a sour mood.  Today it could be Milkweed discovered; tomorrow could be a revelation…or a smile from your little one.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Kindergarten Baby


We moved into our house 5 years ago after one of the biggest snowstorms of the century and surveyed the snow covered backyard.  This stirred dreams of building as gargantuan a garden that the space could stand come spring.
We built that garden, and come fall, it was time for my tulip bulb planting extravaganza.  I must have planted over 50 bulbs back there and each and every one had fallen victim to my nemesis…SQUIRRELS!  To them, each bulb planted was a personal invitation to dinner…or play…or whatever they do with the things after they dig them up.  Needless to say I had no tulips in my garden the next spring, but there were plenty on the other side of the fence where the squirrels had decided was a much better place for the dancing beauties.

They are farther away than I would like, but they are still beautiful.

 
Time seems to be marching on at an uncontrollable pace.  How can my oldest son be starting high school and my youngest…the baby…starting kindergarten in September??  Soon they’ll be out of the house and on the other side of the fence like my tulips...or in their own houses with their own families I guess.  Which would be better than the other side of the fence because all that is there are train tracks, squirrels and tulips.

Carter, my little one, had his Kindergarten orientation this week, which I suppose is arousing all these clingy feelings in me.  He watched intently as I held out my hand to introduce myself to the principal.  He waited for our exchange to end, and then offered his own hand out to her along with a mighty, “Hi, I’m Carter Hughes”.  Where did this baby/man come from?  Wasn’t it just an hour ago I gave birth and brought him home from the hospital along with the terror of what to do with him next?  I guess we figured it out.  The principal certainly thought so.


This pic is from orientation night.  Everyone got a kids fun package to take home, and inside, along with the array of colouring activities, books and 1 lollypop, were a pair of sunglasses along with a business card from the local family optometrist.  I guess nothing says family optical target market perfection quite like the gathering of pre-schoolers at the annual kindergarten orientation trade show. Huh.
In honour of our growing kids, I’m featuring a fun and easy recipe for those Solid Food Professionals out there of 12 months +.  At 12 months, baby is ready to enjoy a wide array of foods and is eager to experience new tastes and textures closer to what their family is regularly eating.  These chicken quesadillas are a great way to introduce a new flavour into baby’s repertoire and is the perfect finger food for them to enjoy with you at the table.  It also packs a great nutritional punch with the assortment of veggies, protein and dairy incorporated.

Ready…Set…Evolve…

Arriba, Arriba, Quesadilla!

 
Age 12 Months +

Ingredients

·         1 tbsp. plus ½ tsp. of butter

·         1 small boneless skinless chicken breast

·         1 tomato

·         ¼ cup of diced onion

·         ¼ cup of diced green pepper

·         ¼ cup of corn niblets from cooked corn on the cob

·         Pinch of cumin and coriander spice

·         2 soft 12” tortillas

·         ¼ cup of grated cheddar cheese

Baby Steps

1.      Peel, seed and dice tomato using the boiling water method.  For details check out a previous blog, “Bye,Bye, Spontaneity”.

2.      Dice onion and green pepper and set aside.

3.      Boil corn on the cob in pot with lid until cooked through, approx. 12 minutes.  Set aside.

4.      Melt 1 tbsp. of butter in large sauté pan over medium/high heat.

5.      Chop chicken into small pieces and add to melted butter in pan.  Cook until brown all over, approx. 6 minutes.

6.      Remove chicken from pan and set aside.  Add diced onion and green pepper to pan and reduce heat to medium.  Sauté until tender, approx. 3 minutes.

7.      Slice corn off of cooked cob and add ¼ cup of the niblets to the sauté pan along with the veggies.  Continue to cook for 1 minute.  Save the rest of the corn from the cob for finger food for baby to have later that day if you want…or treat yourself.

8.      Add diced tomato to veggies in pan and continue to cook for another 2 minutes.

9.      Add chicken back into the pan with the veggies along with a pinch of coriander and cumin spice.  Stir together well then turn heat down to low.

10.  In another pan large enough to fit the 12” tortilla, melt ½ tsp. of butter over medium/high heat, then add 1 tortilla to pan and cook for approx. 1 minute on each side.  Remove and repeat with 2nd tortilla.

11.  Keep 1 tortilla in pan and reduce heat to medium.  Add all of the chicken and veggie mix onto tortilla plus the grated cheddar.  Place 2nd tortilla on top and continue to cook approx. 1 minute until cheese is melting and tortilla is browned.

12.  Flip quesadilla over to cook other side for 1 minute more until browned.

13.  Remove from pan and let cool.

14.  Use a pizza cutter to cut some into finger food sized pieces for baby, and triangles to share with other family members.

15.  Serve immediately.

Makes – 1 serving for baby plus 7 wedges for other family members.

Note:  This dish isn’t just for baby, it makes a great family meal.  Double the recipe and add a bit of salt and pepper and chilli powder to the chicken veggie mixture used in the rest of the family’s portions to kick up the flavour a bit.  Serve with salsa and sour cream for dipping and a side salad.  Olé!  Dinner is served!  Maracas are optional but always encouraged.

I know our kids must grow and we must grow along with them.  I just wish it didn’t happen so fast.  Eventually they may be farther away from home than I would like, but they will still be beautiful.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Island Style




My husband and I recently returned from our vacation on the magical island of Barbados.  The force in which we were shot back to reality came quick the morning after our arrival home as we woke to a blanket of snow frightening us along with all the buds and sprouts that could have sworn it was spring.  But spring in Canada vs. spring in the Caribbean are a bit different I suppose.  Where was the everyday “pure sun and 30 degrees” we had become so accustomed to in 1 short week?  I know…spoiled rotten we were.
But still, it was nice to get home to the kids, dog, friends and family.  It would have also been nice to bring the sun, ocean, sand and island hospitality with us.  I made sure to buy a Bajan cook book before I left so we could transport ourselves…if not in body, in mind…to the flavours of the island whenever the mood struck.  The staple Bajan seasoning they used on fish and chicken was amazing and I don’t think a day went by without us scarfing down a few fish cakes dipped in pepper sauce.  This is making me hungry.

We also visited St. Nicholas Abbey up on the northern side of the island which is a 350 year old plantation house surrounded by fields upon fields of sugarcane. 




We had the opportunity to watch the process by which they extract the sugar cane juice from the stalks and even taste the cane in it’s raw form.

 
I’m not sure if you have tried chewing on sugar cane before but it was interesting.  You simply chew it to release the flavour and juice but it’s too tough to actually bite a piece off.  Similar to a tough piece of celery you come across from time to time that just won’t break free from it’s stalk…only it doesn’t taste like celery, it tastes like sugar!  I was wondering if this had ever been used to give to a teething baby…you can see how appealing and healing it could be on their painful gums.  I did a search and did find instances where people were saying they keep raw sugar cane in the freezer and then give to their teething baby to help soothe them, and then they just make sure to clean the juice off any exposed teeth after the chewing session is through to make sure baby doesn’t have any teeth marinating in sugar juice.  I definitely think it could be worth a try…you can even play the song, “We’re Going to Barbados” at the same time making you and baby happy at once!

Today I think it would be fitting to reprise my recipe for the “Island Baby” puree I had posted once upon a time.  Somehow the name brings with it so much more meaning to me now than it did before our trip to a real, true beautiful island.  I was thinking the exact same thing this week when the island inspired song, “One Love” came on the radio.  I’ve probably heard the song 5000 times before and each time, sure, it brings to mind fictitious island parties, bold hibiscus flowers on cotton button down shirts and sundresses and the sun, sand and surf, but now it seems to mean much more and I’m not sure how to describe it other than to say, a warm, good life.

Ready…Set…Evolve…

Island Baby

 
Age – 6 months +

Ingredients

·         1 ripe Papaya

·         2 ripe Mangos

·         Mashed banana to add to puree just before serving

Baby Steps

·         Peel and seed mango and papaya, then chop into small pieces.  For instructions on how to do this see earlier post “Sunny Side of Grey”.

·         Add fruit to a food processor, blender or large bowl to use a hand blender to puree.

·         Puree to a smooth thin consistency.  Feel free to add a little bit of water to the mix if the puree isn’t thin enough.

·         The mango and papaya puree can be transferred to freezing trays to be used within 3 months, or to a food storage container in the fridge to be used within 48 hours.

·         When you’re ready to serve to baby, stir in a bit of freshly mashed banana to the puree for an over the top tropical experience…or maybe just a bit of added sweetness.

Makes - Approx. 11 Servings (1 serving = 2 tbsps.)

So now here we are back to reality.  But what if with each trip we take we bring back little pieces of what we’ve learned, who we met and what we experienced and apply them to our everyday reality?  All of a sudden would our reality become a vacation? Let’s try!  Fish cakes anyone?

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Persuasive Universe


The universe has an uncanny knack of persuading us to appreciate things.
-          Monday night I seared the palm of my hand on a fresh out of the oven pan handle which made the rest of the evening challenging as an icepack became an additional appendage. 

-          We are going on vacation next week so I’ve been trying to fit in 2 weeks’ worth of work into 1 week less the time it takes to leave early to get to the daycare on time to circumvent the dear five dollar a minute charge of tardiness.  Hubby has been traveling for a couple of days so I’m playing Mr. Mom…or just mom I guess.

-          And today was Thursday and I had to commute through what the fear mongers on the news have been building up to be the ice storm of the century…in April.  You know what they say, “April ice storms stunt May flowers”…or something to that affect.  My usual stressors seemed acutely bothersome this week so when the trustworthy newscasters of the greater Toronto area told me my drive was going to be treacherous, I had no choice but to believe them and stress further more.  Will this week ever end? 
Ok universe…you got me.  I appreciate that I’m going to Barbados on Saturday.  You can stop trying to force the issue.


I have to apologize, but due to my challenging week I must say I don’t have any baby food recipes to share with you.  Actually that is a lie.  Here is one.
Ready…Set…Evolve…

Banana
Age - 6 months +

Ingredients

-          1 banana

Baby Steps

1.      Peel the banana.

2.      Mash the banana.

3.      Serve the banana.

Even I would have time to make this for baby during my hectic week…would you?
I don’t need the universe to force me to appreciate you for reading; because I do…I really do…appreciate you. 

Now Bon Voyage!  Actually, you should be saying that to me because I’m not sure if you caught it earlier but I’M GOING TO BARBADOS ON SATURDAY!