Lessons in Toddlerhood #1

Toddlers love to open and shut things repeatedly. Doors, cabinets, etc. But especially doors. If you find yourself simply taking the dog outside, be sure to turn that tiny lock on the door knob so that it doesn’t automatically lock once shut by said toddler. Think about making a fashion statement by wearing a house key around your neck. I’m kidding. Kinda. Or, make sure you have lightening fast reflexes that allow you to run at warp speed towards the door as you see it swinging shut in slow motion yelling “nooooooo!” like a bad action flick. Your toddler thinks this is hilarious. I learned I have those reflexes today. Thank goodness. Also make sure your sister who lives 4 blocks away has your house key and carry your cell phone at all times.

Berry Oat Buttermilk Toddler Muffins

Berry Oat Buttermilk Toddler MuffinsI think we can all agree that the majority of muffins are essentially just cupcakes that are acceptable to eat in the morning. Although I don’t see what’s wrong with eating a cupcake in the morning…? πŸ™‚ There is the same amount of sugar in a muffin as as most cupcakes, minus the frosting. Although I’m fine feeding these to myself, I would rather my daughter not ingest that much sugar. Toddler muffins are made with limited ingredients and usually include lots of fruit as the sweetener. I have made a few recipes that Marielle has loved and my most recent one features strawberries. Now, if your toddler can’t eat strawberries, you can certainly use any berry you like! I just happen to have a whole container of strawberries that were pretty much out of season, so baking them brought out their juicy flavor. Most recipes for toddler muffins call for no sugar, or very little. The cinnamon banana muffins I call for 2 Tablespoons total and make 24 mini muffins and my berry oat buttermilk muffins call for 1/4 of a cup of sugar and make 48 mini muffins. You can alter this amount as much as you like. If the berries are already sweet, or you throw in a little banana to the mix, you may not need much at all. Here’s the thing…my daughter eats these “cookies” made with buckwheat and practically no sugar and you’d think they were Oreos with the way she puts them down! Most kids, especially toddlers, don’t notice the lack of sugar.

Oats are always a great way to add texture and nutrition. The make the muffin chewy and hearty. I recommend using buttermilk as a substitution for regular milk, but if you don’t have buttermilk, whole milk works great as well. If you really want to pack these full of nutrients, use whole wheat flour.
Berry Oat Buttermilk Toddler Muffins

Makes 48 mini muffins

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs, room temperature (quick tip: crack the eggs into a bowl while you prep the strawberries, they will warm up quicker)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • ΒΌ cup of vegetable oil
  • ΒΎ cup of buttermilk or whole milk
  • 2 cups of old fashioned oats (don’t use instant)
  • 1 cup of all purpose or whole wheat
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup of finely chopped strawberries or other berry of your choice. Raspberries and blueberries don’t need to be chopped.

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray mini muffin tins with cooking spray or use mini muffin liners
  2. In a medium bowl, combine eggs, sugar, oil and buttermilk and mix well to combine
  3. Add in the oats and mix
  4. Add in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon (optional)
  5. Carefully fold in the chopped strawberries until just combined
  6. Fill each mini muffin well 3/4 of the way full
  7. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until the muffin bounces back up when pressed

You can freeze these muffins in an airtight container or freezer zip lock and take them out as you need. Perfect for breakfasts, snacks and play date treats!

Berry Oat Toddler MuffinsIMG_7314 IMG_7316

Holiday Window Box

Holiday Window Box

My holiday window box. My favorite Christmas decor so far!

Superbowl Sunday = Fix and Freeze Extravaganza

My husband and I look forward to Super Bowl Sunday as a day spent with amazing food, a few friends and the big game. (mostly food for me…!) However, this year was a little bit different. Life has been slightly crazy, my husband has been working around the clock and Super Bowl Sunday was no exception. We decided that this year we’d hibernate in our house with some simple snacks and the game in the background, allowing B to continue his work day from home. Now, i’m not really a football fan (REALLY!?) But, I do enjoy the star studded commercials and the always interesting half time show. I decided this was a perfect opportunity to stock the freezer with some goodies. I’m not sure what possessed me to make 4 different entrees, spending a total of 7 hours in the kitchen…but I did, and the outcome was several tasty items to last us several weeks if not months. I’ll be posting the recipes throughout the next couple weeks.

So, what’s in the freezer now?

  • Pesto Chicken Stuffed Jumbo Shells (Savory)
  • Swiss Macaroni and Cheese (Comfort)
  • Spinach Soup (So easy and healthy)
  • Chicken with garlic & herb marinade and spring veggies (Super healthy and tasty!)

I’ve come across a few blogs with make ahead ideas, serving as the inspiration for all of my fix and freeze adventures. Now, Pinterest has caught on. And if Pinterest thinks it’s a good idea…it MUST be πŸ™‚ Lots to learn I tell you…! But really, you can take any of your favorite recipes and tweak them to be freezer safe and oven friendly and I’ll show you how.

We love mac and cheese in this house…and we’re not picky about which kind…it’s a lovely comfort food I like to have on hand for those nights when you just want to curl up on the couch with a How I Met Your Mother marathon and a glass of wine (or beer for my hubby) and a big bowl of cheesy mac. The best part about mac and cheese is that you can literally take any type of cheese, create a sauce and smother your favorite pasta and call it a day. The recipe I’m posting is inspired by the Swiss cheese fondue recipe my mother makes…and let me tell you, it’s fantastic. The only issue with her recipe is the 3 types of cheeses you need to make it. Let’s call this the budget version. I’m scrapping the fancy Gruyere, Appenzeller and Emmentaler and sticking with the basic Swiss. I buy a Swiss cheese from Lunds by Minnesota Creamery and it melts like a dream and has great flavor. In my opinion, if you use the right spices and herbs, you can get away with downgrading your cheese selection. No need to break the bank on mac and cheese πŸ™‚

Swiss Mac & Cheese

  • 1.5 pounds shredded Swiss Cheese
  • 2 Tablespoons of corn starch
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1.5 cups of dry white wine (I use a Pinot Grigio for this)
  • 1 Tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
  • A few gratings of fresh nutmeg
  • 1.5 Teaspoons of dry mustard
  • 1 pound of shells or elbow macaroni

*You will also need 2 8×8 Ovenware containers.

Directions

  1. In a large sauce pan, bring water to a boil for the pasta. Boil pasta for 3 minutes and remove from heat. You don’t want the pasta to be completely cooked. It will finish cooking in the oven. Spread the pasta onto a cookie sheet with sides to cool.
  2. Add the 2 tablespoons of corn starch to the shredded Swiss cheese and mix well. This prevents the cheese from clumping.
  3. In a large heavy bottomed (think Le Creuset) sauce pan, rub the bottom of the pan with the garlic clove. Add the white wine and lemon juice, and bring to a soft simmer.
  4. With a whisk, gradually add the cheese in small amounts, whisking until smooth. Continue until all the cheese is added and melted. Do not boil.
  5. Add in the fresh nutmeg and dry mustard. In a large bowl, combine the pasta and cheese sauce until well incorporated and divide between two 8×8 Ovenware or freezer/ovensafe containers and freeze.

Cooking Instructions

  • Defrost the mac and cheese in the microwave on low until defrosted, but not cooked. Preheat the oven to 375. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until hot and melted.
  • Top with breadcrumbs, chopped, cooked bacon or parsley. Enjoy!

Once a Week Fix and Freeze Cooking

And so my adventure begins! The chest freezer arrived this past Tuesday as did my bulk pack of Glad Ovenware containers. All 18 of them. I guess I should have read that it was 6 packs of 3…not a total of 6. Gotta love Amazon. I guess I know what I’m doing this weekend! I’ve decided on 3 entree dishes to start out with, as well as a soup. The plan is to cook one day out of the week, probably Saturday or Sunday. But this first round may require some extra time…say, the entire weekend πŸ™‚ So, what’s on the menu?

Creamy Cheddar Mac & Cheese

Chicken & Wild Rice Bake

Butternut Squash, Spinach & Chard Lasagna

Soup TBD…so many options, where do I even begin. Maybe a past favorite…Smoky Corn Chowder, Split Pea & Ham, Creamy Potato…all favorites of my hubby.

I’ll be starting these adventures tomorrow as well as explaining the process for make ahead cooking which requires more liquids, half cooked pastas, etc. as well as proper freezing methods and containers.

Stay Tuned…

January 2012. Now What?

Well, it’s official. The holidays are over and January has arrived. As we wrapped up a fantastic New Year’s weekend at the cabin, sitting by a big fire, soaking in the hot tub and sipping Prosecco and over indulging on cheese and crab cakes (a recipe I will obviously be posting later), I was dreading the fact that I was going to come home and take down all the holiday decor, and put our tree out on the curb to be taken away. I can definitely see why people fall into a post holiday slump. It really is sad…especially for me when our house looks so much better all decorated for the holidays. I think I need to keep the holiday scented candles out for a couple more weeks to get me through January πŸ™‚

I decided that while the holidays are over…that just means I have even more time to devote to the Elements. What does that mean for you? A recap of all the holiday goodies that I made this season as well as other little tidbits about how to keep busy during the worst months in Minnesota. My yoga studio just added a 9:30am Vinyasa Flow class which I would normally take on Tuesday evenings…I can’t think of a better New Year’s resolution than to get up on Saturdays to start my weekend out right. Yes, 9:30 on the weekend is early for me, ok?
It’s going to be a wonderful year. I have friends & family getting married, having babies, traveling the world and doing new and exciting things with their lives. Can’t wait to see what else 2012 brings!

Happy New Year!

 

Simple Tip: Pizza

Instead of throwing leftover pizza in the microwave, reheat it in a frying pan over medium heat. It keeps the crust crispy. No more soggy microwave pizza! Throw in a little olive oil or PAM olive oil spray if you wish.