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!

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Savory Vegetable Souffles – Meatless Mondays Never Tasted So Good

Brussels Sprout and Cheddar Souffle Brussels Sprouts and Cheddar Souffle
Happy Monday After Daylight Savings Time!  This will be a hard week for many, getting used to the time change.  I love it once the adjustment takes place because I LOVE that it stays light outside till nearly 8:30 in the spring and nearly 10 in the summer.  We get to play later (it seems) and it’s important to not feel so closed in after months of the cold, dark evenings of winter.

I’ve been in a new, happy rut, lately.  On most Mondays lately, I’ve been making a vegetable souffle.  I hardly ever have my act together for dinner on Monday and I usually haven’t been to the store for the week (like today), but I nearly always have some sort of leftover veg in the fridge and (usually) four eggs.  Voila – this beautiful souffle, big enough for all of us to eat more than a big portion.  I’d say it would serve 4 as a side dish or 2.5 (like us) as a main. And it’s so versatile!Brussels Sprouts Souffle
The pics above were made with Brussels sprouts and cheddar and the pics below were spinach and gruyere.  I’ve done leftover broccoli with white cheddar, leek, and asparagus, too!  If you have eggs, cheese and some leftover vegetables, you have a meal!  And a really good one.  Every time I have made this, Olive has said, “this is a good meal, Mama.” Good enough for me!  It’s a wonderful vehicle for getting more vegetables into your little people, as well.
Spinach and Parmesan Souffle

Savory Vegetable Souffles

  • Servings: 4-6 as a side
  • Print

1/3 cup grated parmesan or fine bread crumbs
2 cups cooked vegetables, finely chopped.  Use boiled brussels sprouts, spinach, leeks, asparagus, kale, whatever floats your boat!
5 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper
1/4 cup flour
1 cup milk
4 eggs, room temp and separated
1/2 cup grated hard cheese – cheddar, gruyere, gouda, romano, parm, etc

Heat the oven to 375F. Butter a 6-cup souffle dish or 6 one cup ramekins, if you want everyone to have a nice, neat side dish of their very own.  Coat the sides of the dish with cheese or breadcrumbs. Cook your vegetable in salted boiling water until tender.  Drain and squeeze out as much moisture as you can.  Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

In a large saucepan, melt the 1/4 cup butter over medium heat, stir in the flour and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes.  Whisk in the milk and cook until the sauce has thickened, whisking the entire time.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and add a splash more milk if it gets too thick (you want a thick gravy consistency).  Set aside off the heat.  Into your egg yolks, whisk in about 1/2 cup of the hot cream sauce to warm them and then return them to the rest of the sauce and whisk to incorporate.  Stir in the cheese and when it’s melted, fold in the vegetables.

With a mixer, beat the egg whites until stiff.  Stir a quarter of them into the souffle base and then fold in the remainder until no white streaks show.  Bake souffles on a rimmed baking sheet in the middle of the oven until risen and golden, 30-35 minutes.  The middle will be slightly wobbly if you’ve made it in one large dish.  Serve immediately!

*recipe adapted from The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone cookbook, which is completely fantastic so far.  Hasn’t steered us wrong, yet!

 

 

 

Spinach and Parmesan Souffles

Creamy Roasted Carrot Soup

roasted carrot soup with cayenne and ginger
Fall means soup.  Soup means it’s cold enough outside to not want to die at the thought of eating soup for dinner.  And it being cold enough outside seems to make everything around here better.  I sleep better, we can play outside longer without my redhead overheating and everything just feels fresh.  And I’m a bit of a broken record when it comes to hailing soups as a surefire way to get your kids to eat their vegetables, but I’m going to say it, again.  Cooking just about any vegetable and pureeing it into a soup is the easiest way to get a baby, toddler, picky adult to eat a vegetable otherwise sneered at due to its texture or appearance.  Olive used to eat asparagus.  But then, she turned two and decided she was no longer interested.  But the other day I made a batch of asparagus soup and she drank it down.  Same flavor, different delivery vehicle.  And when you add a piece of crusty, buttery bread on the side, the soup suddenly seems like a complete meal.

My go-to soup in the fall is usually butternut squash.  But I nearly always have a half-used bag of carrots in the fridge, waiting to become something more exciting than diced up for chicken pot pie.  The other day I made this soup and I loved it.  We ate on it for several days – always a good side dish or starter, and good for dunking toasted bread.  I don’t need to say it, again, but this batch of soup would fill up about 12 baby food jars.  Can you lend 30 minutes to making a vegetable soup?  How about $3 for a 2lb bag of carrots?  How much is a jar of baby food, again?  You get the point.

Yay, soup!

roasted carrot soup
Roasted Carrot Soup
serves 6-8

1 sweet onion, diced
3 TBS olive oil
2 lbs carrots, peeled and chopped
6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt and Pepper to taste
ground ginger and paprika for garnish

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium high heat until it shimmers.  Toss in the onion and saute until tender but not browned, about 5-6 minutes.  Add in the carrots and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring to coat in the oil.  Add the stock and let the pot come to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the carrots are tender.  Puree directly in the pot with an immersion blender, or take in batches to a standard blender and puree until smooth.  If you used a standard blender, return the soup to the pot and add the heavy cream.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and then ladle into bowls and sprinkle with ground ginger, paprika and a splash of cream or sour cream.

Basil Risotto – Herbs are Vegetables, Too

Basil Risotto
Leafy greens.  For most Americans, this isn’t the most appealing set of words.  However, most of us might just think LETTUCE or  SPINACH or KALE and think, “How on earth am I supposed to eat several cups of that a week?!  Lettuce not forget about herbs (please forgive that pun, I really had no other choice.)  They are brimming with nutrients! It’s such an easy and flavorful way to add more vitamins and fiber to your diet and your recipes.  I always tend to forget that things like basil, thyme, oregano, mint – these are quite leafy and quite green, too!  Sure, you can’t eat as much of them as you can kale in one sitting, but a mild basil goes amazingly well with spinach and can really add a lot of interest to a dish.  Basil is full of beta-carotene, Vitamin A, K and its leaves are rich with essential oils known for being anti-inflammatory.  And lucky you, the summertime is a time when basil grows like a weed!  

I realize that lettuces, spinach, cabbages, etc, are sometimes challenging for little ones (and me) to eat.  But I’ve fully gotten Olive acclimated to the flavors of pesto and I consider that a small victory.  It’s green, so it opens the door for other vegetables to eventually be accepted as well.  For this creamy, bright risotto, I made a pureed basil (not really pesto as I didn’t have Parmesan or pine nuts on hand) with just basil, garlic and garlic oil and stirred it into my risotto in the last minute of cooking.  Garnished with a chiffonade of fresh basil and we had lunch!  Olive loved it and I loved that while it seemed like comfort food, it was actually quite healthy and nutritious for us both.  Not a lot of butter and oil – just good chicken stock (which is amazing for your health on its own), basil, onion and rice!

I encourage you to think of herbs as a choice for getting more vegetables into your diet.  And what better herb to start with than basil?

Pesto Risotto
Basil Risotto

serves 6-8 as a meal

2 cups arborio rice
2 TBS butter
5-6 cups good chicken stock (low sodium if store-bought or just use water and season later)
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 large garlic clove
2 cups packed basil leaves
4 TBS olive oil (I used garlic oil)
2 garlic cloves
salt and pepper to taste

In a large cup with an immersion blender or in a food processor, blend the basil leaves, olive oil, garlic and about a half tsp salt and pepper.  Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking.  You can full out make a regular pesto if you want, but this is what I had on hand and it worked great.  If you make a full batch of pesto, only stir in about 1/4th of a cup into your risotto.

In a large saucepan, heat the chicken stock to a simmer.

In a large, deep skillet over medium heat, melt the butter until it starts to bubble and then saute the onion and garlic until soft, stirring to not let the garlic burn.  Stir in the rice and stir to fully coat in the butter and onion.  Begin adding 1/2 cups of stock to the pan, stirring pretty regularly to ensure the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.  When the liquid cooks off, add another 1/2 cup and keep this process up until you’re down to about a cup of stock and have been cooking it for at least 20 minutes.  Near the end, taste the rice – you don’t want it crunchy, but you don’t want it mushy either.  Think of it like pasta – a nice bite to it is key.  Stir in another half cup of stock if you think it could use it and then add in the basil paste.  Remove pan from the heat and serve immediately.  Garnish with fresh basil or a grating of fresh Parmesan and cracked pepper.

Chilled Strawberry Soup

Chilled Strawberry Soup
I ran across this interesting recipe last week and wanted desperately to try it.  A chilled strawberry soup!  What could be more summery or fun?

The original recipe called for Riesling and a garnish of black pepper and olive oil and next time I do it, I really want to try that version.  Since I would be serving it to Olive and wouldn’t be cooking the alcohol out, I decided to alter the 1/2 cup of Riesling for lime juice and I think the results were so refreshing.  Some might call this a smoothie, and it basically is, but it’s thinner and if you go the adult version route, it would certainly be more elevated than a smoothie.  Olive loved this different snack and I loved it for breakfast this morning!  I garnished the soup with a bit of chocolate mint from my plant out back.  Did you know there was such a thing as chocolate mint?!  I didn’t but was intrigued and I think there is a subtle smooth difference between it and basic sweet mint (which has the quintessential “gum” flavor).  I thought mint and hints of chocolate would be great on a strawberry soup and it was – next time I may even add some dark chocolate shavings as a garnish!

Enjoy!  It’s a hot one out there, today!

Chilled Strawberry Soup
makes about 3 cups

3 cups strawberries, hulled
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
Juice from two large limes (about 1/2 cup)
1/3 cup raw honey
Garnish: mint, chocolate, cracked pepper

Put all ingredients except the garnish in a blender or food processor and blend for about a minute, scraping down the sides.  If you want to go the extra mile, strain the soup through a fine mesh sieve to remove the seeds. Chill for at least an hour and garnish as you wish!  (I didn’t chill ours at all and it was great).

Ginger Ale Poached Apricots over Warm Cinnamon Rice Pudding

Apricots Poached in Ginger Ale Poached Apricots with Cinnamon and Vanilla Bean
Simplicity.  I crave it, lately.  Maybe because I’m in a world filled with a bouncing-off-the-wall toddler and red-headed drama, or maybe it’s because the summer is heating up and I’m busy shooting weddings, all the while wondering who this little baby growing inside me will turn out to be.  I forget I’m pregnant most days.  Other than my sudden urge to rearrange all the furniture and the hair tie holding my pants together, it’s easy to forget while dealing with everything else.  That’s why I love cooking so much – it forces you to slow down and spend some time in thought.  Even if for just five minutes – there will be some point in meal prep where you must wait.  And in that waiting usually comes contemplation (if you can keep your phone out of reach).

Last week when I stood over my stove and smelled the tart sweetness of apricots stewing, I was transported back to the very first time I made jam.  It was about this time four years ago and the (now gone) huge, old apricot tree in our front yard decided to dump about 10 lbs of fruit on our lawn for a week straight.  I didn’t know what to do with all that fruit and I’d never made jam before, but I just started to create.  Took a base recipe and made all kinds of flavors: Vietnamese Cinnamon, Vanilla Bean, Red Pepper, Bourbon, Chinese 5 Spice – they were all amazing and I felt so good about not letting any of that fruit go to waste.  I also learned the simplicity of jamming.  The joy of tasting that fruit completely come ALIVE with just the addition of some sugar and a squeeze of lemon.  I never cared about apricots before that year, but since then, they’ve become one of my favorite fruits.
Poached Apricots in Ginger Syrup
I didn’t make jam with these store-bought apricots, but I did let them poach in some leftover ginger ale and a stick of cinnamon and vanilla bean.  The scent in my kitchen was as bright as the summer sun.  When the apricots were done poaching, I removed them from the liquid and let the ginger ale reduce until it was a syrup.  The apricots are sitting in that syrup in my fridge, now.  Waiting to be poured over ice cream or spooned over a warm biscuit with butter.  Or maybe just eaten straight out of the jar. Last week I made a cinnamon vanilla bean rice pudding for Olive’s snack time and added some poached apricots on top.  The combination was so comforting and for a few minutes, we both just ate and smiled at each other.

Coconut Milk Rice Pudding with Poached Apricots

Ginger Ale Poached Apricots with Cinnamon Rice Pudding

2 lbs of apricots, halved, pits removed
1 liter of ginger ale
two cinnamon sticks (or a tsp of ground cinnamon)
1 vanilla bean, split
1/4 cup sugar

Place the apricot halves in a large, non-reactive pot over medium-high heat.  Add the ginger ale, cinnamon, vanilla bean and sugar and let the mixture come to a boil.  After 10 minutes, remove the apricots with a slotted spoon and set them in a large bowl.  Allow the liquid to reduce to about 1-2 cups of liquid and pour over the apricots in the bowl.  Spoon apricots and syrup over rice pudding, ice cream, waffles, whatever you want!

Cinnamon Rice Pudding*
makes about 2 cups

1 cup coconut milk
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/3 cup arborio rice (short grain rice)
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
pinch of salt
1 egg

In a medium saucepan, heat the milks, rice and salt until the mixture boils.  Reduce heat and let the mixture cook about 20-25 minutes, stirring often, until the rice absorbs most of the liquid.  Remove from heat and in a smaller bowl, add the brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla bean paste and egg and whip until smooth.  Add 1-2 tablespoons of the hot rice mixture to the egg mixture, stirring quickly to temper the egg.  Then, while whisking, add the egg/sugar mixture back into the pot of rice and let it cook over low heat until slightly thickened, about 10 more minutes.

Serve with poached apricots!

*adapted from this lovely recipe off Simply Recipes

Zucchini Basil Soup with Stove Top Fritters

Zucchini Basil Soup
I’m happy to have resurrected this soup!  Matt and I made it a long time ago when we were still doing the 800 sq ft apartment thing and then again when a friend of ours invited her dad over and we needed to fix low sodium, low fat recipes since he had recently had heart surgery.   Matt’s father also has heart troubles, so it’s always refreshing to find healthy recipes to share that taste as decadent as a full-fat option.  This soup is so perfect for the coming zucchini-overload we all will have soon (as it’s the only vegetable that seems to have no trouble in our awful climate) and basil, the herb that’s also hard to kill.  It’s got all the depth of flavor of a soup that has been slowly cooked with butter and cream only – it has neither!  It isn’t even made with stock – just water!  So the sodium is only what you add for taste.  I bet in one batch, I added a little over a teaspoon of salt.  And it serves six!  Can you tell I’m excited about this soup?!
zucchini basil soup and stuffing fritters
One other merit of soups from a mother of a toddler’s perspective, is that they are a perfect way to get more variety of vegetables and flavors into our newly opinionated children.  Olive has eaten zucchini, pesto, fresh basil from the garden, etc, before, but suddenly, she’s on a suspicious, won’t-try-anything-green bender.  Drives me batty because I KNOW she would like most things if she’d just try them.  Sound familiar?  What does NOT work is forcing, tricking, cajoling, pleading, prodding or manipulating your kids to eat.  They can smell your tricks a mile away and they’ve come prepared with an iron will.  This is pretty natural and resistance is futile.  But soups.  Olive has willingly eaten this soup twice in the past 4 days.  It’s green!  It’s got darker green chunks in it!  Why will she try it?  My guess is texture.  No chunks – pureed and easy to sip from a cup so she has full control.  When Olive doesn’t want to try something, I ask her to just smell it.  If she smells it, 99% of the time she’ll try a bite.  And I’ve learned to be happy with One Happy Bite, as much as it flies against my need to control the situation.

So.  If you have a child who is resisting new textures/colors/flavors, try soups.  I know it seems like a regression back to the baby food days, but if that’s what it takes to keep the flavors and colors changing on your child’s plate, I say it’s worth it.  Children get used to variety if variety is the norm.

Without further babbling, here’s the recipe!  Also, I paired the soup with a not-so-saintly fritter made from leftover Stove Top Stuffing.  No kidding.  They were FABULOUS as a little crispy soup-companion!  I topped them with herbed goat cheese and they tasted downright fancy.  Happy Meatless Monday!

Zucchini Basil Soup with Stove Top Fritters
Zucchini Basil Soup with Stove Top Fritters*

serves 4-6

2 lbs zucchini, peeled, trimmed and cut crosswise into 2″ pieces
1 small onion, chopped (about 3/4 cup)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cups of water
1/3 cup packed basil leaves

Cook the onion and garlic in the olive oil over medium heat in a 3-4 quart stock pot until the onion starts to soften.  Add chopped zucchini and about a teaspoon of kosher salt and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring.  Cover with the water and let it come to a boil and cook for 15 minutes, until the zucchini is soft and easily pierced with a fork.

Add the basil and puree in two batches in a blender (watch out blending hot liquids and make sure it has a vent or you’ve got your hand firmly on that lid!) or, blend directly in the pot with an immersion blender, which is what I do.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve with fritters, toast, or as a starter for your three-course fancy-schmancy dinner! 🙂

*taken from Epicurious.com

Stuffing Fritters
Stove-Top Stuffing Fritters

2 cups leftover cornbread stuffing
1/4 cup water
1 large egg
olive oil for frying

In a medium bowl, combine the stuffing, water and egg and if the mixture won’t come together after a bit of stirring, add a little more water until you can form the stuffing into small patties.  I used a medium sized cookie scoop and it worked well.  Heat about 4 tablespoons of olive oil (or any vegetable oil) over medium-high heat and fry the fritters about 3-5 minutes per side until golden brown.  Drain on paper towels and keep the cooked fritters in a 250 degree oven until the rest are done and you’re ready to serve.  This will keep them crispy and warm!

 

The Amazing Pea Puree

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This recipe is one of the most delicious things we’ve ever made in our kitchen.  I’m serious.  How can a pea puree be that good and be something adults want to eat, instead of just babies?  Because yes, I agree, it looks like baby food.  But let’s be honest with ourselves: any high-end restaurant is selling you baby food under the name “puree” and you LOVE it.  This stuff is creamy and almost like a really soft whipped mashed potato consistency.  I know I’m fighting an uphill battle trying to make this sound appealing, so I’ll stop.  Just make it.  Especially if you want something different in your week night repertoire.  You certainly have some frozen peas in your freezer.  You certainly have a head of garlic.  The only thing you may not have on hand is heavy cream.  This puree has been a simple accompaniment to our meals, the base sauce and flavor for seared scallops (as pictured) and every time Olive basically licks her bowl.  Heck, we all do.  Seriously, it’s that good.  And we have Nigella Lawson and her awesome book, How to Eat to thank for this gem.  In her book, this recipe didn’t even get it’s own title or section, but it was sandwiched in alongside a fish recipe and we felt so lucky to find it.  We’ve made it at least four or five times since!

If you’re looking for a great baby food, toddler-friendly food or high class side dish for a dinner party, this is it!

Pea Puree*
serves 4 as a side dish

2 1/2 cups frozen peas
6 cloves garlic, left whole
4 TBS butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper

In a medium pot, bring salted water to boil with the garlic cloves.  Boil for about 5 minutes and then add the peas.  Boil the peas till they are very tender and then transfer the peas and garlic cloves to a food processor.  Add the butter and a sprinkle of salt and pepper to the peas and garlic and pulse until smooth.  Drizzle in the heavy cream while the processor is running.  Taste to see if it needs more salt and then serve immediately!  Easy peasy!  Har har.

*adapted from How to Eat

Peachy Rice – a warming breakfast

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This lovely little bowl of sunshine was a great switch-up in our regular oatmeal routine last week.  Out of Tyler Florence’s wonderful book, Start Fresh, this was in the 9-12 month section as a breakfast or snack option. This is simply an amazing cookbook.  Given to me by my dear friend and fellow foodie, Becky, I have made several recipes from the book and will post a few more favorites before the week is over! This one was an easy and delicious start – Roasted peaches, apple juice, coconut milk, rice and brown sugar?!  Okay, okay, maybe a bit too much sugar to start every day, but for sure a wonderful afternoon snack and really, not THAT much sugar if you leave out the apple juice and substitute water!  We loved it, Olive loved it, and even my dad, who was stopping through on his way to a doctor’s appointment, loved it!  I’d highly recommend it as a new option for the mornings!  If you use brown or basmati rice, it’d be even healthier!

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Peachy Rice*
serves 4 adults or 6-8 baby portions

1 tbs unsalted butter
3 ripe peaches, cut into chunks
1 cup long-grain white rice (I used Asian sticky rice)
2 cups apple juice or water ( I used half water, half juice)
1/2 cup whole milk
1 cup coconut milk
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons brown sugar

In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat until bubbling.  Add the peaches and cook until they have released some of their juices, about 5 minutes.

Add the rice and stir until well coated.  Add the apple juice, milk, coconut milk, cinnamon stick, vanilla and salt and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium, cover, and cook until the rice is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, about 20 minutes.

Fold in the sugar, and stir until well blended.  Serve warm!

*adapted from Start Fresh

Butternut Squash and Celery Root Soup and trying something new

Butternut Squash Soup
This is one of the best soups I’ve made all winter.  Previously, butternut squash soups were borderline too sweet for me – I could never finish an entire batch and would guiltily throw the leftovers down the sink.  I’ve made this version three times, now, and each time, we eat it all!  It doesn’t get boring – the flavors are so complex and balanced, thanks to that crazy looking celery root.  It’s perfect!  It’s also incredibly filling and very low fat, so I think it’s quite possibly the most wonderful food to have when you’re watching what you eat, but don’t want to feel deprived.  It’s also perfect as a baby food!  With just two simple vegetables, it’s a great way to introduce flavors to a little one just starting out on solids, or a toddler who might eat soup better than they would eat a new vegetable.  For toddlers, I think the best way to serve soup is in a small, handled cup.  Fill it half way and let them sip at their own pace.  They love feeling in control and YOU will feel better with limited soup-spills as would occur most certainly if you handed them a spoon 🙂  This soup is also a great way to introduce YOU to a new vegetable!  Who here has bought and prepared celery root?  (also called celeriac)  If you haven’t, you don’t have to be afraid – it tastes like celery with the consistency of a sweet potato!

I’m happy to announce a little cooking segment I’ll be doing this year on my friend, Paul’s PBS show, 24 Frames!  (this soup makes an appearance!)  It’s very exciting to be a part of something creative and I’m deeply flattered that he included me in his show. I love talking about food more than anything, so once I get over the mortal fear of seeing myself talk on camera, I’ll finally start to enjoy watching my own segment.  Please tune in to 24 Frames every Saturday night at 9 p.m. Central on PBS!  The show should be available online very soon for those who don’t live in this area, and when it is, I’ll post a link!

Thank you all for watching and for reading my blog.  It’s very humbling and I hope you can feel a little more confident in the kitchen with every new recipe you try!

Butternut Squash and Celery Root Soup

Butternut Squash and Celery Root Soup
serves 6-8

 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 – 2lb butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced
1 celery root, peeled, rinsed and diced
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons dried rosemary
4 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable stock, hot
black pepper and cream for garnish
1. Peel and chop the onion, celery root and butternut squash.
2. Heat the oil in a large stock pot.
3. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes.
4. Stir the squash, celery root and salt into the pot and cook for about 10 minutes until the squash begins to soften.
5. Add the rosemary and chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and let simmer over medium heat, partially covered, for 20 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.
6. Using a blender in batches, or an immersion blender, puree the soup until completely smooth.  Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper and thin out with cream or extra stock as desired.  Ladle into bowls and add a swirl of cream and a few dashes of fresh cracked pepper and serve!