Elements of Baby, Elements of Food, Fix & Freeze

Béaba Babycook: Puréed Sweet Potatoes

When I first found out we were expecting, one of things I was most excited about (besides becoming a new mama!) was the opportunity I was going to have to make my own homemade baby food. The first item I registered for was a Beaba Babycook baby food maker. I had done my research and this was the one that everyone raved about. Steamed foods retain the most nutrients. There are so many benefits to making your own baby food if you have the time. One, you can control exactly what is going in to your baby’s food. Two, you can eat organically without the cost of prepackaged organic baby food. Three, it’s really quite simple and with the right equipment, it doesn’t take much time at all.  Baby’s first solid foods are single ingredient foods such as sweet potatoes, sweet peas and rice cereal. If baby isn’t interested in the taste of the puree, try mixing a little breastmilk or formula into the puree when serving for a more familiar taste.

Marielle has already mastered organic rice cereal, so the next step was to introduce sweet potatoes. I used one large, organic jewel sweet potato. Make sure you are using the types that are orange. They have more vitamins than the white/yellow sweet potatoes. But, you can use both.

This is a huge money saver as well. My organic sweet potato cost about a dollar and I made several meals out of it. If you were to buy a jar of organic sweet potato baby food, it would cost you over a dollar PER jar!


Step One: Wash and peel the potato and cut into cubes. I did half inch to one inch cubes and it worked perfectly.


Step Two: Place cubed sweet potatoes into the steaming basket of the Beaba. Fill the water reservoir using water level three.


Step Three: Press the steam button on your Beaba, and leave it! It’s that easy. Water level 3 foods take 15 minutes. When the timer dings, it’s done!


Step Four: Remove the steaming basket using the provided spatula. I tasted the potato to make sure it was done…not going to lie, it was delicious! Pour the cooking liquid into a separate container. Place the sweet potatoes back into the Beaba to puree. Turn the button to pulse the machine, pureeing your food to the desired consistency. Use the cooking water to thin out the puree if you wish.


Step Five: Let the puree sit at room temp for an hour or so before refrigerating or freezing. Spoon puree into your freezing containers of choice. You can use covered ice cube trays or containers specifically for storing baby food. I personally like the OXO Tot Baby Blocks freezer storage system.



Make sure you label your foods with the type and dates. Homemade baby food can be frozen for up to 3 months for optimal quality and nutrient retention.


Elements of Food

Sea Salt Caramel Shortbread

I guess you could say it’s been awhile since I posted anything on my blog…okay, it’s been at least 3 months. Truthfully, I haven’t exactly done anything terribly exciting that would be worth posting. The last trimester of my pregnancy has made it a little bit more difficult to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, not to mention my cravings still consist of cold cereal and pasta. I would be happy to post photos of my 18 boxes of cereal that sit in my cupboard if you really wanted me to! 🙂

I have two weeks left before Baby Girl makes her way into the world and we could not be more excited. The past week or so I have gone into full nesting mode, making me a little more motivated to cook and bake. My mom and I bake Christmas cookies every year and this year we tried 3 new recipes instead of old ones. Gasp! That’s right, we tried NEW things! And they were delicious. These sea salt caramel shortbread bites are amazing…I originally found a recipe on a blog, but the caramel recipe didn’t set correctly, and it turns out she had us cooking the caramel 15 degrees less than my mom’s recipe. So, I decided to redo the recipe using my mom’s caramel recipe and a couple tweaks to the shortbread and it turned out perfectly. These make great hostess gifts or a sweet and salty addition to any dessert table.

For the Shortbread

  • 10 Tablespoons of unsalted butter at room temperature (1 stick and 2 additional tablespoons)
  • 1/2 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 2/3 cups of flour
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Prepare an 8×8 glass baking dish by lining it with parchment paper. Leave enough parchment paper hanging over the edge so that the shortbread caramel bites are easy to remove. If you don’t have parchment paper, you can also grease the dish, but the caramel is more likely to stick.
  3. In a large bowl or standing mixer, combine butter, sugar and salt together until well combined. Add in the egg yolk and continue mixing.
  4. Add in the flour and mix using a fork or standing mixer with a paddle attachment until a coarse crumb develops. Press the mixture into the baking dish and refrigerate for 25 minutes.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Edges will be a slight golden brown. Set aside to cool.

For the Caramel

  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 cup corn syrup
  • 1 cup half and half
  • ¾ cup (1-1/2 sticks) butter
  1. Combine ingredients in a heavy saucepan. Boil, stirring constantly until it reaches 240 degrees on candy thermometer.  Immediately remove from heat and pour directly on top of the shortbread.
  2. 5-10 minutes after you have poured the caramel layer on the shortbread, sprinkle the top of the caramel with sea salt.
  3. Allow to set in the refrigerator for 3-4 hours until set

Salted Caramel Shortbread Bites

Salted Caramel Shortbread

Elements of Food, Fix & Freeze

Homemade Pasty

I can’t help it…but once August rolls around, I’m just about ready for Fall. By August, the flowers are starting to stop blooming, the nights get just a bit cooler, and I start seeing cute Fall clothes in the stores. Along with that, I start getting ready for delicious fall foods! One of my most favorite meals growing up were homemade pasties (pronounced past-ee). My grandmother is the original recipe holder, and we use the same recipe today. What exactly is a Pasty? It’s essentially a meat and vegetable handheld pie. Although I eat mine with a fork, the point was that you could have a satisfying meal wherever you went. My husband LOVES these…and what guy wouldn’t? It’s meat, potatoes, onion and carrots bundled together in an English pastry crust. The best part about these, is that the recipe makes 4 pasties, just enough for dinner and two frozen pasties for later! This is also a great Fix and Freeze recipe.

homemade pasties 3


English Pastry

  • 2 cups unbleached flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice


  1. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt until well combined. With a fork, combine the flour mixture with the vegetable shortening and egg yolk.
  2. Add the hot water and lemon juice and mix until a soft dough forms.
  3. Chill for at least 2-3 hours



  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped carrot
  • 1.5 cups chopped russet potato
  • Butter


  1. In a large skillet, brown the ground beef and onion together until cooked through.
  2. Add the carrots and potatoes to the ground beef and onion and mix to combine.
  3. You can fancy this recipe up if you like…adding fresh herbs such as thyme or rosemary, but our family recipe is basic, and I love it for that.
  4. Cut your pastry dough into 4 equal sections, and roll into balls.
  5. On a floured surface, roll out each ball into a 7-8 inch diameter circle.
  6. Place the ground beef filling, as much as you can fit on one side, into the pastry leaving an edge to seal the pasty.
  7. Add a couple small pats of butter on top of the filling and fold the other side of the dough over to create a half moon.
  8. Fold the edges up around the pasty to seal in the filling and use a fork to seal the edge. Pierce the top of each pasty four times with a fork to vent.
  9. Place the pasties on a baking sheet and bake for 1 hours at 350 degrees.
  10. After the hour of baking, pull out the pasties and place a dish towel over the top. Let the pasties steam for 15 minutes before serving.
  11. We like to put ketchup all over ours, but you can eat it plain as well.


homemade pasties

homemade pasties 2

Elements of Food

Healthy, Crunchy Dijon Chicken Tenders

Hi! I’m back, I promise I haven’t left forever. I haven’t exactly been eating or cooking anything the past few months that is new or exciting…being pregnant doesn’t exactly make you want to try out anything adventurous, especially in those first couple months! Unless you really want that recipe for Annie’s Macaroni and Cheese 🙂 My wonderful husband has been cooking me whatever I feel for, or picking up whatever take out I can stomach at the time, which is usually pasta (or cereal) in various forms. Poor guy, his once gourmet wife has been slacking off! But let’s be honest, now that there’s a baby on the way, my recipe repertoire is going to be changing anyway. It’s going to be quick and easy, 10 (maybe 5) ingredients or less since this girl is ready for bed by 8, the recipes that require 2 hours of my time after work may be put on hold for awhile. It seems like you go through phases in life. College is quick and easy, not always healthy food, early adulthood is fancier food, dinner parties, look mom I can cook! And now, with work being so busy, a baby on the way and no time for fancy foods, it’s goodbye Giada hello 30 Minute Meals!  Don’t worry though, I’m not resorting back to college microwave pasta. Having limited time doesn’t mean you can’t eat delicious, healthy things! One night I was craving mustard and chicken, and put them both together to create these delicious, crunchy Dijon chicken tenders using Panko bread crumbs. Ever since discovering Panko, I haven’t used regular bread crumbs ever again. These were so delicious, a great twist on traditional Chicken Dijon.


  • 4 chicken breasts, cut into strips or chunks, your choice
  • Dijon Mustard
  • 2 cups of Panko Bread Crumbs
  • 2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil
  • Salt & Pepper


  1. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees
  2. Take your boneless chicken breasts, and cut them into strips lengthwise, or into small nugget like chunks
  3. Place your bread crumbs into a large bowl and mix in a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of pepper, and 2 tablespoons of Olive Oil.
  4. Spoon a few tablespoons of Dijon mustard into a small bowl. Using a pastry or marinating brush, brush on a thick coating of Dijon mustard (more or less, depending on your liking…we like mustard in our family!)
  5. Press the chicken pieces into the bread crumbs, coating each side until fully breaded.
  6. Place your finished chicken pieces onto a metal cookie sheet and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes depending on your oven (and the size of your chicken pieces)
  7. Turn over half way through cooking to make sure each side is crispy.
  8. Serve with a side of honey mustard sauce or BBQ sauce for dipping. We also had a spinach and romaine salad and apple sauce as our sides. Super easy and healthy, because they are baked, not fried.

chicken tenders panko bread crumbs dijon

Elements of Food, Real Life Pins

Egg Roll Apple Pies with Nutmeg Whip Cream

Apple Pie Egg Rolls

I realize I’m a little late in finally posting this…and the reason it’s so late is because I thought I already did! But there it was in my draft folder, just waiting to take its place on my blog. I made these little delights last fall and apparently never got around to sharing it with the rest of you, and now, they are all over Pinterest. Oh well.

I’m sure by now, you’re aware of the fact that you can put pretty much anything in an egg roll wrapper…from spinach and feta, to marinara, mozzarella and pepperoni. Just mix up your favorite combination, roll it up and bake it in the oven. Since one of my most favorite treats in the whole world is apple pie, why not make little dunkable apple pies in an egg roll? It’s as easy as it looks and it tastes delicious. You can do the same with cherry pie filling, pumpkin pie filling, peach cobbler…you name it, you can roll it up in an egg roll!

I’m pretty picky when it comes to apple pie however. Most of them are too gooey, too sugary and too cinnamony. My mom’s apple pie recipe is in my opinion, the best, but I know I’m probably biased. So feel free to add as much sugar and cinnamon to your apples as you please.


  • Egg Roll Wrappers (The number needed depends on how full you fill your wrappers) But, about 12-14 should do.
  • 6-7 Apples (Granny Smith, Haralson, anything tart and crisp) peeled, cored and chopped into mini cubes
  • 1 T flour
  • 1/4 cup of sugar
  • 1-2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 t ground nutmeg
  • 1-2 T cold butter cut into tiny pieces
  • Milk
  • 1/2 pint of heavy whipping cream
  • Powdered sugar
  • Dash of nutmeg


  1. Core and chop your apples into mini cubes and place into a medium sized bowl.
  2. Combine the flour, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in a small bowl and combine with the apples. Mix until well combined. Here is where you can adjust your spices because also depending on the size of your apples you may need more or less.
  3. Lay out your egg roll wrapper onto your counter or cutting board. Brush all sides of the wrapper with milk. Place 3-4 tablespoons of the apple filling in the middle of the bottom section of the wrapper. Place a couple dabs of butter on top of the apples.
  4. Fold the left side and the right side over the apple mixture as shown in the photo, and then fold the bottom section over next. Then roll up until completely sealed.
  5. Brush the tops of the egg roll pie with milk and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar
  6. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 20-25 minutes. Keep an eye on them so they don’t burn. You may need to adjust your baking time depending on the size of your rolls.
  7. In a medium bowl, beat a half pint of heavy whipping cream with a dash of powdered sugar and nutmeg until firm. Serve with the warm apple pie egg rolls.

apple pie egg rolls 1apple pie egg roll 2apple pie egg rolls baking sheetDSC00272

Elements of Food, Favorite Things

Favorite Things: Porketta

If you’re not Italian, or, you didn’t grow up in my family, you probably have no idea what Porketta is. Well, I will tell you! In Italy, Porchetta is a whole pig that is deboned, stuffed with herbs, and then slow-roasted until it simply falls apart. Porketta, prepared the Northern Minnesota way,  is simply a rolled pork roast drenched, and I mean, absolutely COVERED in incredible herbs, spices and garlic, slow cooked for 10 hours, pulled apart and eaten on soft rolls. My parents both grew up in Northern Minnesota, and moved to Minneapolis after they graduated from college. A few things came with them…Porketta, Pasties and Potica and some day, when I have enough time…and enough skill, I will show you how to make Potica.

Want to know more about Iron Range cuisine? Yes. cuisine. The Iron Range is home to a few of my favorite things including Pasties and Potica. This is amazing stuff…don’t believe me? I’m pretty sure Cooks Illustrated & Cooks Country wouldn’t be writing about it if it wasn’t!

Sunday is typically slow cooker day for me and my husband, and today is no exception…I’ve got a fabulous Porketta slow cooking away in my kitchen, making our whole house fragrant with the scent of fennel and garlic. No, I don’t make this one myself. I had it made at Village Meats in Wayzata. The second I walked in and ordered a Porketta he asked, “are you Diane’s daughter?” I guess our family is the only family to special order these roasts 🙂 It’s one of the easiest meals to prepare…simply place the Porketta in the slow cooker on high for 5 hours and then on low for 4-5 additional hours. No need to add any liquid while cooking. Once the roast easily falls apart, shred the pork and mix in the juices from the slow cooker. We serve it on rolls or hamburger buns. My husband likes to put LOTS of BBQ sauce on his, but it has enough flavor on its own too!

Slow Cooked Porketta

Elements of Food

Sauteed Summer Squash and Zucchini with Chevre and Thyme

Let’s keep the veggie side dishes coming! One of the best parts about spring are the vibrant, fresh veggies available at the grocery store. It makes prepping a dinner side easy, and healthy! And let’s be honest…anything with Chevre on top is fabulous. You can also use Feta cheese if you prefer a saltier, firmer cheese. A quick way to turn this into a whole meal? Throw in some whole wheat pasta, a little more olive oil and some lemon. Yum! Don’t mind my extremely bright out of focus photo on this one…my kitchen is quite dark and we just installed some under cabinet lighting…that gives off a not so photo friendly light!

Recipe adapted from Gluten Free in the City http://www.gfinthecity.com A fantastic blog full of wonderful gluten free recipes.


  • 3-4 Zucchini Squash and Summer Squash, sliced
  • 3 sprigs of fresh Thyme, minced
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 2 ounces of Chevre or Feta, crumbled


In a medium bowl, toss the sliced squash, thyme, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper together, making sure all of the squash slices are coated.

Heat a medium saute pan and saute the squash on medium high, stirring occasionally until tender, about 10 minutes. You want them to still have a little crunch.

Remove from the heat, and plate. Top with crumbled cheese.


zucchini and squash with chevre

Elements of Food

Brussels Sprouts Gratin with Bacon

I love Brussels Sprouts and I don’t need them to be covered in a cheese sauce to entice me…I am, however, certainly not opposed to it! As a side to my lemon, thyme and garlic roasted pork tenderloin, I served these delectable little sprouts and we just loved them…It’s hard to beat the cheesey, gooey goodness and the tender, crunchy little sprouts. The sprouts roast in the oven for about 30 minutes and you would think after this long they would be soft…but they remained crunchy and delicious and the sauce soaked into all the leaf layers of the sprouts. These didn’t last long…

brussels sprouts gratin


  • 1 pound of Brussels Sprouts, outer leaves taken off and cut in half
  • 1 Tablespoon of butter
  • 1 Tablespoon of flour
  • 3/4 cup of milk
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan or Gruyere cheese, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 2 tablespoons of light mayonnaise
  • 4 slices of bacon, cooked and chopped
  • Freshly Ground Pepper


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

In a medium sauce pan, bring water to a boil and add in the sprouts. Blanch for one minute, they should turn bright green. Do not “cook” the sprouts, you do not want them to be soft.

Remove the sprouts from the water, place in a bowl and set aside.

In the same sauce pan, melt the butter and whisk in the flour. Stir until blended. Do not let the flour burn. Add in the milk, mayo, cheese, bacon and pepper. Whisk until the cheese is melted and all ingredients are combined.

Combine the sprouts and the cheese sauce and mix until combined. Place the mixture into a baking dish and bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes or until the sprouts are tender. During the last 5 minutes of baking, add additional cheese on top and allow to brown slightly in the oven.

Elements of Food, Simple Tips

Simple Dinners: Salmon, French Green Beans and Heirloom Fingerling Potatoes

One of the tricky parts about being married to an entrepreneur, is the ever changing, unpredictable schedule. I can’t even count the number of times I have prepped a meal, only to get a phone call an hour after the original agreed upon dinner time informing me he’s not quite on his way home yet 🙂

I have learned to stop cooking dinner prior to his arrival, unless I get a phone call assuring me he’s 25 minutes away. Instead, on evenings like tonight where I knew he was probably not going to be home on time due to his busy time at work, I sifted through the fridge to find something quick, easy and healthy for my way too hard working hubby. It’s amazing how easy it is to put together a healthy meal in 30-45 minutes or less using delicious, whole foods. And, you don’t need double ovens…Although I do keep hinting to my husband how I would LOVE the new freestanding LG double oven…Maybe someday! Anyway, you just need to alter the temperatures a bit. Here’s how I did it.

  • I preheated my oven to 400 degrees. Sliced a bag of heirloom fingerling potatoes in half, added some fresh chopped garlic, drizzled them with olive oil, salt and pepper and tossed them in a baking dish. These went in the oven 15 minutes prior to my salmon. If you are using thinner sliced potatoes, you can simply put them in the oven with the salmon for the same amount of time. I used much thicker cut fingerlings.
  • Next, I drizzled my salmon with olive oil, added sliced lemons, salt and pepper, and put it right along side of my roasting potatoes.  I turned down the oven to 375 and baked the salmon and potatoes for 25 minutes. I tossed some fresh Parsley in with the potatoes before serving.
  • In a saute pan, I tossed some fresh French green beans in olive oil and sauteed until bright green and still slightly crisp.
  • I quickly mixed together an easy salmon sauce consisting of sour cream, Dijon mustard, fresh dill and lemon juice.

Voila! A healthy, vitamin rich, colorful dinner ready in no time!

Simple Salmon Dinner

Elements of Food, Real Life Pins

Meyer Lemon Cheesecake Layer Cake

It’s springtime (well, kind of…) here in Minneapolis. The sun is bright, the sky is blue, and it’s a balmy 45 degrees 🙂 The funny thing about Minnesotans is that when it’s 45 degrees in the fall, we turn up the heat, get out the sweaters and start hibernating for the winter. When it’s 45 degrees in the spring, we open the windows, put down the convertible top, and start thinking about planting our gardens. I love spring. I’m ready to put away my recipes for heavy soups and comfort foods, and bring out the fresh veggies, citrus fruits and bright, fresh flavors. This year for Easter, I made an incredibly decadent, fresh, lemony layer cake, constructed of two layers of Meyer lemon cake and one layer of creamy cheesecake, covered in Meyer Lemon cream cheese frosting. Where did I find this recipe? Pinterest of course!

This dessert is made with Meyer Lemons. What exactly are Meyer Lemons? They are a soft skinned cross between a regular lemon and a mandarin orange. The hint of orange gives these delicate lemons a mild flavor, perfect for flavoring this dessert. They look pretty too. I almost missed them at my grocery store because they had taken on a beautiful light orange hue instead of bright yellow.

The recipe is long, and pretty involved, but worth every minute spent! Out of courtesy to the original recipe developer, I’m going to link to the original recipe on Recipe Girl’s blog here: Meyer Lemon Cheesecake Layer Cake. Thank you Recipe Girl for the AMAZING recipe! Tiffany took photos as I baked this amazing cake. It was definitely a favorite and I will be making it again in the future!

Using the cheesecake and cake layer theme, there are so many variations to this particular cake.


  • Raspberry puree as the filling in between the layers as opposed to frosting
  • Lemon cheesecake and chocolate cake layers
  • Plain cheesecake and red velvet cake layers
  • Plain cheesecake, yellow cake layers with lemon curd filling
  • Chocolate chip cheesecake with chocolate cake layers and dark chocolate ganache, raspberry garnish
Meyer Lemon Cake 1
Mixing up the dry ingredients
Zesting the Meyer Lemons
Zesting the Meyer Lemons
Fresh Meyer Lemon Juice
Fresh Meyer Lemon Juice
The recipe uses Sprite...pretty sure this is a secret key ingredient!
The recipe uses Sprite…pretty sure this is a secret key ingredient!
I use a kitchen scale to make sure my cake layers are perfectly even.
I use a kitchen scale to make sure my cake layers are perfectly even.
Cutting the cheesecake layer so that it will sit even with the other two layers.
Cutting the cheesecake layer so that it will sit even with the other two layers.
Assembling the cake!
Assembling the cake!

Meyer Lemon Cake

The Finished Product!
The Finished Product!
I found this cute little mini bunting cake decoration on Zulily...cute huh :)
I found this cute little mini bunting cake decoration on Zulily…cute huh?
I decorated the cake using blueberries around the bottom, and raspberry almond silver flowers and slivered Meyer Lemon peels.
I decorated the cake using blueberries around the bottom, and raspberry almond silver flowers and slivered Meyer Lemon peels.