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Grown-Up Mac and Cheese

gourmet mac and cheeseAs a kid, J and I both loved macaroni and cheese. How were we to know that it wasn’t made with real cheese? Thankfully, we’ve come to see how much more amazing this childhood favorite can be. I’ve made a number of takes off macaroni and cheese before, but this is probably my favorite. We don’t plan to feed Eli the box mac and cheese, so we’re hoping something like this will be his favorite go-to childhood meal. Give it a try – I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Grown-up Mac and Cheese

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1  medium red onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups 1% or skim milk
  • 5 ounces (1/2 package) of frozen spinach thawed or 1 bag of fresh spinach cooked down
  • 8 ounces gruyere cheese
  • 1.5 cups elbow macaroni (preferably whole grain)
  • 1 pound cooked chicken, diced

gourmet  (2)Directions

  1. Prepare pasta as directed on package; set aside to cool.
  2. Heat olive oil in a skillet. Add onion, salt, and garlic. Cook down until soft. Add vinegar and cook for 1 more minute. Set aside.
  3. Prepare the white sauce (slurry version)
    1. Pour 1/2 cup milk into a measuring cup. While whisking, slowly add flour, making sure none sticks to the bottom. Once fully incorporated, add remaining milk and whisk well.
    2. Spray a skillet with cooking spray and pour milk mixture into the room-temperature pan.
    3. Heat pan over medium-low heat, stirring continuously to prevent sticking.  Continue to heat until the mixture begins to bubble. Once slightly bubbling, allow to bubble while stirring for 3 minutes (this is the thickening stage) and then lower heat to low.
  4. Add cheese to the white sauce and stir until fully melted. Add onion, chicken, spinach, and pasta; mix well until well incorporated.
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Posted by on May 3, 2015 in Nutrition

 

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Chocolate Avocado Pudding

Chocolate Avocado Pudding

It seems like one of the latest food makeovers is chocolate avocado pudding. I keep seeing it everyone I go online when I’m searching for recipes. Avocados have TONS of health benefits and they just happened to be on sale at Aldi’s this week for $0.68 each – basically a steal. I went early Sunday morning before the crowds, so I had a nice selection of ripe and unripe to choose from. I wasn’t sure how the pudding would turn out, but if it was tasty, we’d have a nice stockpile of avocados to choose from 🙂

I couldn’t find a recipe that was quite what I wanted, but made my own after looking at a few. The results – a.m.a.z.i.n.g. It doesn’t taste a thing like avocado (if you can say avocado really has a taste). Just like straight-up whole milk, dark chocolate pudding. It was so rich and creamy! Since there isn’t added sugar, I didn’t feel bad letting Eli lick the bowl with me. He was begging for more when we finished up.

2015-03-30 12.52.57

Chocolate Avocado Pudding

2015-03-30 12.57.16Ingredients

  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup dates or dried fruit puree (I used sunsweet lighter bake)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup – 1/2 cup water (based on your desired consistency)
  • Slivered almonds, crushed peanuts, or fresh berries for toppings

Directions

  1. Peel avocados and remove pits. Place in food processor.
  2. Add remaining ingredients to food processor, except water. Process until smooth (about 2 minutes)
  3. Add water to thin to desired consistency. Remember it will thicken a bit when chilled.
  4. Pour into a large glass bowl for storage or individual serving bowls. Chill for at least an hour.
 
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Posted by on March 31, 2015 in Nutrition

 

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Infant Iron Muffins

Eli enjoying his iron muffins with grapefruit (citrus increases iron absorption!)

Eli enjoying his iron muffins with grapefruit (citrus increases iron absorption!)

As I’ve mentioned before, I started Eli on a hybrid of BLW. I have a little issue with messes, so baby cereal wasn’t really on my radar for a BLW item. While he was getting some red meat and spinach, his iron intake was pretty minimal. I am breastfeeding, so by 6 months he really needed an iron supplement. I did introduce some spoon-fed iron-fortified cereal, but there were so many other real foods I wanted to give him, that I decided to get him an iron supplement. Well, until he tried the supplement – and proceeded to vomit it everywhere (and stain his cute PJs). So, back to the iron cereal, right? Wrong. Turns out I can’t make it thick enough for him anymore – if it’s thin, he gets mad he can’t chew it and just plays with it in his mouth, spitting out most of it. And he’s started to grab the spoon to feed himself. Which works great when something solid is on the spoon, but not so great when it’s a runny mess. But then it hit me – make infant cereal muffins. I did a little search and there are a few people out there who have done it already, but none of them put iron supplement in theirs. I asked an RD friend who confirmed I could cook with the supplement, so I was set. The end result – nothing you’d buy in the store, but perfect for Eli. It was bland (which is what you want for infants) and had a strange greenish-brown color, but it didn’t taste much like iron and he loves them. I put them in mini muffin tins, so he is able to handle the whole muffin all by himself. Each one has about 75% of his daily iron needs, so I’m satisfied with not having to force feed him any other iron supplements. I kept 5 out for the week and froze the rest, with the plan of just taking them out when I need them.

 iron muffins (4)Baby Iron Muffins
Makes about 30 mini muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 cup baby cereal (I used happy bellies multigrain)
  • 3/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 15oz-can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1/2 cup butter or coconut oil
  • 15ml liquid iron supplement

Directions

  1. iron muffins (3)Preheat oven to 375F. Spray a mini muffin tin with cooking spray
  2. Mix cereal oats, baking soda, and cinnamon together in a medium bowl.
  3. Cream butter and eggs in a large bowl. Mix in pumpkin, applesauce  and iron supplement together. Fold in dry ingredients.
  4. Spoon batter into each muffin cup. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean and the edges are pulling away.

Notes
– I noticed that these took awhile for the center to be completely done. Be sure the tooth pick comes out clean! If you used instant oats instead of old fashioned you might have better luck – let me know if you try this!

– Technically babies aren’t supposed to have eggs until 1 year – use at your own risk.

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2015 in Nutrition

 

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Veggie Burgers

While I’m not a vegetarian, I really enjoy vegetarian foods. Veggie burgers are one of my favorites because they often highlight delicious vegetarian flavors and are so versatile. In addition to eating them as a burger you can put them on top of salads or crumble them in egg scrambles. Store-bought veggie burgers often are full of salt and additives, so I prefer to make my own. They can be a little time consuming, so I prefer to make a bunch of them and freeze them for use later. I had a.m.a.z.i.n.g. walnut veggie burger at Jac’s in Madison and decided it was time I tried a few few new recipes. These burgers turned out great. J and Eli love them too!

These burgers can be prepped and frozen to be cooked fully from frozen when you are ready. Another option that saves a lot of time later is to prepare them fully, let them cool, and them freeze them individually. The latter option allows you to just warm them up in the microwave, on a GF grill, or in a skillet when you are in the mood. It saves a lot of time and is less messy since they are fully cooked already.

The key to freezing these is to line a baking sheet with wax paper and place the burgers on the paper individually. Be sure they are not touching. Put this in the freezer for about 2 hours, or until the burgers are hard. At this point you can remove them from the paper and place them in a freezer bag. It is critical that you do it this way so the burgers are individually frozen. If you don’t the burgers will freeze stuck together. This isn’t a huge deal if you plan to thaw them all at once, but it makes it impossible to remove individual burgers from the freezer. It is also a problem if they aren’t pre-cooked, because they will need to be thawed and then they will just a be a big pile of mush. This approach of freezing individually has been a live saver and can be used for anything you are freezing. We use it all the time in the summer when berries are in season!

 

veggie burgers-blackbeanSpicy Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burgers
Recipe from Ambitious Kitchen

 

 

veggie burgers-chickpea walnutChickpea-Walnut Burger
Recipe Adapted from Big Mike Eats

veggie burgers3veggie burgers2

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on March 24, 2015 in Nutrition

 

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The 50 Healthiest Foods of All Time (With Recipes)

The 50 Healthiest Foods of All Time (With Recipes)

TIME

Eating healthy shouldn’t be complicated. To make it simple, TIME has curated a list of the 50 healthiest foods you should be eating now.

We asked registered dietitian Tina Ruggiero, author of the The Truly Healthy Family Cookbook, to break down why each of these foods is a powerhouse. We also pulled in the nutritional information and asked our friends at Cooking Light to hook us up with some creative recipes to make sure eating these on a regular basis is no-excuses easy.

Many of these foods are grocery store staples, like tomatoes, salmon, onions and oranges, but it’s important to remember why each of these foods are so healthy, and be reminded that they’re easy to make. For example, you can chop a tomato and toss it into a salad, or you can slice up thick wedges and drizzle them with olive oil, salt, and balsamic vinegar…

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Posted by on March 18, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Banana Oatmeal Cookies

banana choc chip cookies (4)These cookies are a.m.a.z.i.n.g.

banana choc chip cookiesThey are basically an oatmeal banana bread baked into cookie form. The original recipe is from Two Peas and Their Pod, who also just welcomed a new little man into their life. I made the first batch last night, following the original recipe except for adding 1 cup of chopped walnuts as well. They turned out delicious and I have eaten more than I’ll ever admit (I’m telling myself that Eli needs them for healthy breast milk).

However, once they cooled off and sat in the storage container they got super soft. The texture reminded me of banana bread, not a cookie. I decided to make a few changes to the recipe. First I wanted to make them healthier – so healthy they could pass as a breakfast cookie. Second, I wanted to see if I could improve the texture for storage purposes. The original recipe’s texture is still great, just not something that should be kept in the pantry for more than a day or two to since mold could start growing pretty quickly (yes, they are that moist).

The modified recipe was a success! The cookies are a little darker and the center was much more crumbly, but not too dry. The taste is great. The whole wheat flour adds some nuttiness and the coconut oil adds just a hint of coconut. I think it is safe to say that these will please anyone looking for a tasty treat while also being healthy enough to eat at breakfast.

 

banana coconut choc chip cookies2Banana Bread Breakfast Cookies
adapted from two peas and their pod

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp coconut oil (room temp)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 large ripe banana (or 1 1/2 small bananas), mashed
  • 2 cups old fashion rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips or raisins
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper (not necessary, but helpful)
  2. In a small bowl, combined flour, salt, and baking soda. Mix well and sent aside.
  3. In a large bowl, cream the coconut oil and sugars by beating well on high. Add vanilla and egg and mix well. Lastly, add mashed banana and beat well.
  4. Add flour mixture to the banana mixture and mix well with a wooden spoon or spatula until just combined. Stir in oats and mix well. Add remaining ingredients and stir until well-distributed.
  5. Spray two large spoons with cooking spray and use them to scoop out 1.5 tbsp size drops of dough. Place about 1-2″ apart on the prepared baking sheets.
  6. Bake at 350F for 12-15 minutes, or until edges are lightly browned.
  7. Let cookies cool for 2-3 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely before storing. Store in an air-tight container or freeze for later.
 
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Posted by on August 26, 2014 in Nutrition

 

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Butternut Squash Pasta Bake

butternut squash pasta bake3

Oh, butternut squash – how I love you. As a kid I never was served butternut squash. While I became more adventurous the older I got, something about squash didn’t appeal to me (probably the texture – I hate mushy food). After hearing my dietetic friends rave about butternut squash this and butternut squash that, I figured I had to break down and give it a chance. How had I been missing out on this heavenly food for so long?!? I was in love instantly. Then I added sage to it and I was in heaven. Ever since I have been making squash dishes a regular occurrence in our house. Since I don’t like mushy foods, I usually use the squash as a sauce or a component of the meal, but don’t often eat it plain. Since I’ve fallen in love with squash, our garden is always full of winter squash and sage plants.

This dish is a simple way to throw together a delicious casserole. Using squash as the sauce cuts out the sodium and sugar often added to other pasta sauces. You don’t need to bake it in the oven unless you choose to put the cheese on to (and who doesn’t love cheese, right?).

butternut squash pasta bake2

Butternut Squash Pasta Bake

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried whole grain pasta (8 ounces), prepare
  • 1 medium red onion, diced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 4 cups cooked butternut squash*, cubed
  • Milk (amount needed will vary)
  • 1/8 cup dried sage or 1/4 cup fresh sage, diced
  • 1 package frozen spinach (10 ounces), thawed
  • 1/4 cup pepitas or other seeds
  • 4 ounces part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a 9×13 pan with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. Saute the onion in olive oil. Add the vinegar and mix well. Continue to cook down to desired consistency. Set aside.
  3. In a food processor, place all of the squash. Pulse/process until desired consistency. Add milk to think the mixture if needed.
  4. Add the sage and pulse to mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Add the spinach and pulse until combined. Add the onions and pulse until combined.
  6. Pour the sauce mixture over the pasta and mix well. Transfer to a the prepared dish.
  7. Top the dish with seeds and then shredded cheese.
  8. Bake at 350F for 25 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.

*Tip – preparing winter squash can be a pain. To save time, I dedicate 1 weekend day in the fall to prepare cups of squash. After they are cooked, I portion them into quart freezer bags, so they are ready to go when I need them. I usually portion 1/2 of the squash cubed and 1/2 of the squash already pureed or mashed up.

 
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Posted by on March 15, 2014 in Nutrition

 

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