Dark Chocolate Mousse Parfaits with Cherry Almond Syrup

Chocolate Cherry Almond Parfaits
Last week I bought lots and lots of cherries. Whenever I see that they are $2 pound, I get a little crazy. Olive loves them and will stand at the kitchen sink eating them until…well I don’t know how long she’d stand there because I’ve always intervened.  I should wait and see how long it goes on next time just for fun.

But the new wears off (slightly) and I need to use up the forgotten ones at the bottom of the colander for something.  Enter: cherry almond syrup. I layered dark chocolate mousse with the fresh made, chunky cherry almond syrup and it was so perfect. I also used the syrup on sourdough waffles and I’m still thinking about those perfect, crispy little things. It’s fun to make a “loose jam” like this syrup out of any fruit you find yourself needing to use up. It’s about to be apricot season and I can’t wait to make this with those! Or plums! Ah, stone-fruits.  You have my heart.  Dark Chocolate Cherry Parfaits

Cherry Almond Syrup

I used this recipe for the chocolate mousse and used 80% Lindt instead of semi-sweet chips.  Totally intense chocolate, but so perfect (for me.)

2 cups pitted cherries, chopped
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 TBS water
1/8th teaspoon almond extract

In a medium saucepan, bring the cherries, sugar and water to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and let it cook for about 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the almond extract.  Serve on top of ice cream, on waffles, pancakes, or in this tasty little layered parfait with dark chocolate mousse like I did.

Dark Chocolate Mousse with Cherry Almond Syrup

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Homemade Baby Food – but you’ll sneak a few tastes, too!

Parsnip and Golden Beets
I’ve worked this past week on compiling a baby food post for anyone seeking out ideas for making baby food at home. I don’t make baby food at home because I’m a store-bought skeptic. In fact, the last time I was at Target and looked at all the baby food options, I was a little bit blown away. It’s completely dizzying how much variety there is in stores these days. So I’m totally for buying baby food. But at .99 cents a pouch, I’ve still got the price beat by making it at home. With a two dollar butternut squash, I can make almost a dozen jars! I also love cooking and tasting and seasoning food for my girls. I find myself sneaking a few bites of their food and I love knowing exactly what goes into the stuff they eat.

Making baby food gets me into a zen-like state in the kitchen as well. I’m not exactly sure why, but I love the process. I love choosing ingredients, maybe even ingredients I don’t use very often, and making something tasty for my babies. I also love the complete blank slate that a six month old baby is in that high chair. They have never tried a single food and I get to show them everything I’ve ever tasted! Hey baby, this is guacamole – you can thank me later.

In this post I have a couple of techniques for you to apply to literally any fruit or vegetable you can find in the freezer aisle. Then I have a couple recipes from my favorite baby food book, Tyler Florence’s, Start Fresh, and then I have a couple original recipes based on what sounded good to me and what was on sale at the grocery store. You’ll soon see that I don’t exactly follow the “rules” of baby-feeding. I find the rules restrictive, paranoid and somewhat unnecessary. You do not need to only introduce your baby to one food a week.  If they have a reaction, it will most likely occur within 24 hours.  It also makes no sense to me to start babies off on something that could be mistaken for wet cardboard in flavor and texture (rice cereal – have you tasted that stuff?!)  It’s no wonder kids are expected to eat “kid food” when they are started off on bland carbs and not challenged very much in the variety category thereafter. I started both my babies off with fruits and vegetables and have alternated and given them something new nearly every day after we hit the solids stage.  If you get in the habit of changing up what your baby eats from the very beginning, then variety will become the norm in your house and they’ll never know that most other kids only eat brown food.  That’s another rant for another day.

Here’s some recipes for you new moms out there – send me any ideas you have, too!  I love new ideas that help me get out of my cooking ruts!

Apricots and Maple

Roasted Maple Apricots with Mint
Roasted Apricots with Maple Syrup and Mint

8 apricots, split in half
3-4 TBS pure maple syrup (avoid honey until a year old!)
2 sprigs mint (I have a fun chocolate mint plant in my backyard that I used)

Preheat your oven to 350F. Arrange the split apricots on a foil lined baking sheet and drizzle with maple syrup.  Sprinkle with cinnamon (if you wish) and roast for 20 minutes.  Transfer to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.  Add the mint leaves and pulse till combined.  Thin out with water if it’s too chunky.  I like to freeze baby food in muffin tins or ice cube trays and then once frozen, I store the cubes in a freezer bag for easy access.  I just label the bags with what’s inside and when I made it!

Avocado Pineapple and Yogurt

Banana Avocado Pineapple Yogurt
Banana Avocado and Pineapple Yogurt*

1/2 avocado
1 small banana (or half a large)
1 cup fresh pineapple chunks
1/4 cup whole fat, plain yogurt

Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth.  This doesn’t keep well the next day (it discolors – still tastes fine, but it turns a weird gray from the avocado) so best to keep the portions small.  I cut this recipe in half and Ellie ate it over the course of two days.

*from Start Fresh

Carrot Apple and Mango Puree
Carrot, Mango and Apple Puree

I made this and loved the flavors!  I think it needs longer than 25 minutes roasting – maybe because my oven is on the cool side.  But I think roasting mango alongside carrots doesn’t quite work because carrots and apple take way longer than a mango to roast and then your mango loses a lot of its water.  So, in my opinion, I would roast the carrots and apples together and then add in the mango at the end, or just when you blend.  Make sure you line your pan with foil.  The sugars in the mango will glue themselves to your pan if you don’t! – from Start Fresh

Frozen Peach
Frozen Fruit Baby Food

I love making baby food from frozen fruits and vegetables! There’s always an organic option if that’s important to you, and fruits and veggies are often flash frozen at the peak of freshness.  The only fruit I’ve encountered that isn’t so great frozen is mango. Everything else seems really ripe and awesome.  Here’s what I do:

1 bag frozen fruit – 8 oz (in the pic above it was a bag of peaches)
1 TBS unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla or cinnamon or any spice you want to experiment with!

In a large saucepan, add the frozen fruit and butter and a splash of water.  Cook over medium heat until it starts to bubble and the fruit thaws.  Stir in your vanilla or cinnamon and let it simmer for a bit longer, smashing up chunks of the fruit.  Transfer to a blender and puree until smooth!

Frozen Spinach
Frozen Vegetable Baby Food

8 oz frozen vegetables – in the pic above, I used frozen spinach
2 TBS butter
a pinch of salt
a splash (1/4 cup) of water)

In a large pan, add the vegetables and a splash of water and bring to a simmer. If you’re using spinach, you won’t need that water. Most other veggies could use a little moisture, and if you’re using peas, add enough to where they boil in the water because you’ll just strain the peas out when you puree and add water to thin out the consistency. Add the butter and salt and stir until melted and then blend until smooth.

Parsnip and Golden Beets
Parsnip and Golden Beet Mash

3 parsnips, peeled and chopped
4 small golden beets, peeled and chopped
2 TBS olive oil
1 TBS butter
1/2 cup low sodium chicken or vegetable stock

Heat your oven to 375 and toss the beets and parsnips with oil and roast until softened and slightly browned, about 25 minutes.  Transfer to a food processor and add a tablespoon of butter and the chicken or vegetable stock and process until smooth.  You may need to add a bit more stock to get a smoother texture, but if you’re baby can handle chunky stuff, go for it.  This has a FABULOUS flavor.  There’s something magical about parsnips and butter, so I definitely don’t skip out on adding the butter.  Fat is good for baby’s brain development.  Don’t hold back! This is the puree you’ll want to eat, too.  It’d be a great substitute for mashed potatoes at a family dinner!

There you are, my friends.  I hope some of these recipes help you explore and try new things in your own kitchen!  Most all of these recipes can be altered to fit any combination of ingredients, so be creative! Add fresh herbs and onion or experiment with various seasonings like curry.  Have fun! That’s the whole point!

Turkey Sliders

Turkey Burgers with Cucumber Radish
We’ve been plugging away in the Palmer house, keeping ourselves alive and enjoying our lady babies. It’s shocking how little time I have to do extra things like take pictures of the food we eat so that I can write about it. I’m doing good most days to just get things on the table before someone needs a nap or a diaper change or to be held, all of which are pretty difficult while cooking or taking photographs. I say this to excuse myself for not writing for a month and to tell you that not everything is perfect all the time and I can’t and am not even trying to keep all the balls in the air that I used to. Looking back, having just one kid was a dadgum BREEZE. In fact, that’s when I started this blog – when Olive was just seven months old! My days are filled with super baby joy and crazy games of pretend and doing lots of laundry (Eleanor is a super spitter-upper) and cooking and reading endless Olivia books and knitting and sometimes working on my “real” job of editing photographs. It’s a whirlwind and I know that it will slow down soon and these babies won’t need me every five minutes.  But in the meantime, the meals coming out of here are going to be pretty basic, pretty tasty and pretty easy.

If you are in the stage of life where a little person is needing YOU every five minutes, you’ll appreciate this recipe.  It was mega easy. Super tasty. Didn’t miss the beef, AND it is covered in SriRancha.  That’s right, Sriracha sauce and ranch dressing.  Sriracha mixed with most things is wonderful, but mayo or ranch is especially awesome.  I topped them with super crunchy cucumber slices and icicle radish (hadn’t ever tried those before – they were a fun supermarket find and we loved them!) Try these tonight – you won’t be sorry!

Turkey Burgers

Turkey Sliders

1 lb ground turkey
1 shallot, diced (about 1/4 cup – you can use any kind of onion)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Slider hamburger buns

Toppings:
1/2 a cucumber, sliced thin
Any kind of radish, sliced
Slices of American cheese (although you could use any, but I like the traditional taste of American and how it melts)
Sriracha sauce and Ranch dressing, mixed.  Use a ratio of 3 parts Ranch to one part Sriracha

In a large bowl, combine the turkey, shallot, garlic, salt, pepper and cheese until well mixed.  Form into about 1/4 cup size patties and cook in a skillet until a thermometer inserted reads at least 160F. If you don’t have an instant read thermometer, you should invest in one, and if you don’t want to invest in one, I would guess I cooked these for about 10 minutes per side on a medium-level heated cast iron skillet.

Turn on your oven’s broiler to high and place patties on a serving plate and top with slices of cheese (I used a quarter of a slice on each) and melt under the broiler.  Serve with generous amounts of SriRancha, cucumber and radish.