Foodie Friday: Make-Ahead Baked Oatmeal Casserole

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I pinned this recipe for baked oatmeal months ago, and I’ve been meaning to try it for ages now.  I am a big fan of cold cereal (the cold crunch wakes me up in the morning…or so I tell myself!).  My husband likes warm cereal, especially in the winter, and the girls usually alternate between oatmeal and cream of wheat.

Sadly, I'm no food photographer!  Click the original recipe link for a yummier picture.  :)
Sadly, I’m no food photographer! Click the original recipe link for a yummier picture. :)

I liked the idea of mixing things up a bit on the weekdays.   (On weekends, I usually make at least one big family breakfast.)  I also liked the idea of making something ahead that I could just heat up for the next few mornings.

The verdict at our house?  The girls love this!  Hubby wasn’t a big fan.  Truth be told, he probably eats too much sugar in his regular oatmeal, so I’m guessing this felt a bit too healthy for him.

The girls have said the past two mornings, “This looks like a dessert!  And we get to eat it for breakfast!”  (This makes me laugh a bit, too…we don’t eat a lot of sweets at our house, so I guess it’s all relative.)

The original recipe is gluten-free, and it has a little more sugar and chocolate chips in it.  (I’m sure that would be delish!)  Here’s the recipe, as I made it.  I think this is probably one of those that you can tweak, depending on what you have in your pantry, and how “dessert-like” you want it to be.

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I believe you could use any kind of berries, and any kind of nuts.  Raisins or dried cranberries might be good, too.  I might try mixing in some sunflower seeds or flaxseed next time, as well.

I made this one evening, and stored it in the refrigerator.  I’ve cut pieces for my girls the last couple of days, and heated them in the microwave.

I hope you enjoy this “breakfast dessert” as my girls call it!

MandyE is mom to five-year old fraternal twin girls.  She blogs about their adventures, and her journey through motherhood, at Twin Trials and Triumphs.

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Foodie Friday: Baked Chicken and Vegetables…and Then Chicken Noodle Soup!

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Categories Feeding, Feeding Older Children, Foodie Fridays, Lifestyle, Parenting, Solid FoodsTags 1 Comment

I’m sharing a recipe that I made a couple of times a month when my girls were smaller…juicy, flavorful chicken and tender, yummy veggies, all from scratch…what’s a toddler (and her mommy and daddy) not to love???  Almost five years later, this recipe is still a favorite.

This recipe uses all REAL ingredients, which is something I strive for.  And it makes enough for my family to eat two meals…plus extra veggies…PLUS stock for a small batch of chicken noodle soup.  That’s a home run for time-crunched mamas in my book!

DSC_0613Grease a LARGE baking dish (I use a big lasagna pan), and place 10 or 12 chicken legs with the skin on.  Around the chicken legs, place baby carrots (I buy the petite ones so they cook a little quicker), potatoes that have been peeled and sliced into wedges, peeled garlic cloves, and quartered mushrooms.

Finely slice an onion and arrange it over the chicken and veggies.  Then arrange pats of butter on top of the dish.  The recipe I referenced from originally called for 4 Tbsp. of butter, but I only use about half that.  I cut the butter into very thin slices and arrange it evenly.

DSC_0615Then sprinkle spices over the dish — I use a tablespoon of dried parsley, 1/2 a tablespoon of garlic powder, and fresh-ground salt and pepper, to taste.  Then pour water over everything, to about 1/2″ of the rim of the dish.  Cover the dish tightly in foil and bake in a 350 degree oven for an hour.  Uncover and bake for another 20-30 minutes, until veggies are tender and juices in chicken run clear.

I forgot to take a picture as I pulled this out of the oven (as my crew was clamoring!).  Here is the pan after the four of us ate supper.  You can see we had about half the recipe remaining!

DSC_0625This dish heats really well.  I separate the meat and veggies into one bowl, and then I strain the stock into another…and this is the dish that keeps on giving!

Refrigerate the stock, if you’d like, and it will congeal.  Skim the fat from the top of the dish and discard.

DSC_0677DSC_0680Heat the stock in a saucepan, along with finely sliced carrots (1 or 2), finely sliced celery (1 or 2 stalks) and finely sliced cloves of garlic, if desired.  If you have left-over chicken, you can shred it and add to the soup, too.  Bring the stock to a boil and add some egg noodles.  Cook at a slow boil 8 minutes, or according to the directions on the package of egg noodles.

Viola!  Super easy chicken noodle soup!

DSC_0682I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as my family does!

MandyE is mom to soon-to-be five year old fraternal twin girls.  She blogs about their adventures, and her journey through motherhood, at Twin Trials and Triumphs.

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Foodie Friday: Homemade Hot Chocolate

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I’ll admit that growing up, I’m not sure I knew that “homemade” hot chocolate existed.  I was a big fan of the powdered stuff in the packets.  We made it with milk, instead of water, for a special treat.

Last holiday, when my girls were close to four, I wanted to introduce them to the romantic notion of hot cocoa.  Instead of perpetuating my family’s “tradition”, though, I took to the internet, and I lucked into this great recipe.

It’s quick and easy, and oh-so-good.  And while it’s not exactly health food, I feel comfortable making it for my girls as a very special treat.

From allrecipes.com, as written:

[amd-zlrecipe-recipe:5]

(I’ve found that half a recipe is just perfect for the three of us.)

For the grand introduction to the girls, I found the cutest espresso mugs that are just their size.  I love seeing their eyes alight, their little hands grasping their mugs, and a marshmallow mustache when they’re all done.

DSC_0939Hope you might enjoy this with your littles, too!

MandyE is mom to fraternal twin girls, soon-to-be five years old.  She blogs about their adventures, and her journey through motherhood, at Twin Trials and Triumphs.

 

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Foodie Friday: Summer Rotini and Cheese

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After years of reviling the stuff, my 7-year-old daughters have discovered a love of macaroni and cheese. I’ll confess that the boxed stuff is sinfully easy for this single working mother. I try to assuage my feelings of guilt by using our grocery store’s (HEB) whole wheat store brand.

One day, we ran out of the boxed stuff, but M was adamant that she wanted mac and cheese for dinner. I do make a divine mac and cheese from scratch, but the recipe is long and involved and, of course, the kids hate it. There was no way I was going to make anything involving the oven in our Texas summer heat. The air conditioner was working hard enough as it was.

It was a Friday and the end of a long week, and I just wanted to get dinner on the table. I offered to boil some pasta and sprinkle cheese on top, with apples on the side. M refused. Preparing myself to do battle, I asked M if she’d let me try to invent my own version of mac and cheese on the fly. To my shock, she agreed. To my greater shock, both the girls loved it. J has never deigned to touch any mac and cheese that wasn’t processed to death, but she was right alongside her sister in licking her bowl clean. I’m being literal here. Their fingers were scraping the bottom of their bowls, trying to get every last speck of cheese.

This is a thick, thick sauce–more glop than sauce–that sticks in the crevices of the rotini.

Sadia’s 15-Minute Rotini and Cheese

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 squirt ketchup
  • 1 pinch pepper
  • 3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese (or more)
  • 5 oz (1/3 box) whole grain rotini pasta

Instructions

  1. In a large pot, set salted water to boil for your pasta.
  2. In a saucepan, melt the butter.
  3. As soon as the butter has melted, whisk in the flour. Keep whisking, for at least a minute after it’s well combined.
  4. Continuing to whisk, slowly pour in the milk.
  5. Continue to whisk until the mixture is smooth. If you must take a break to get the baby to stop chewing on the cat, it’ll be okay. Just don’t let the sauce burn.
  6. At this point, your water is probably boiling. Pour your pasta into the water and set the timer. The brand I use boils for 12 minutes.
  7. Get back to whisking. You can afford to take a break or two to get your kids to stop fighting.
  8. Squirt the ketchup in and whisk some more.
  9. When the milk mixture begins to bubble, sprinkle in the cheese and pepper and whisk it smooth. Resort to Mean Mommy Voice if you must, but spend the 30 seconds it takes to do this. It’s worth it.
  10. Turn the heat off for the cheese sauce.
  11. When the pasta is cooked, drain it and add it to the cheese sauce.
  12. Stir and serve.
  13. Pat yourself on the back and pray that your kids will eat it.
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Foodie Friday: Favorite holiday recipes

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 As always, if you have a topic in mind that you’d like to see discussed on Foodie Fridays, or have a tip or some advice you’d like to pass on, just write it in the comments? We’d love to hear from you.

I think that one of the best parts of the December holiday season is the holiday cooking. Last year, I was too tired to do much but an obligatory batch of Christmas cookies, and I don’t even remember what I made. I was still recovering from months of sleep deprivation, and busy introducing solids and finger foods to 8 month old babies. I paid much more attention to rice krispies and shredded cheese (my favorite finger foods!) than to holiday food. This year, however, I am back in the swing of things! Ok, mostly back in the swing of things—let’s not get crazy, I do have two toddlers destroying running around my house. Yesterday, they tried to unwrap the lights from tree. It’s a small miracle we didn’t have a tree topple in the living room.  

Anyway, I know I talked about cookies a few weeks ago, but I thought I’d share a few more of our holiday favorites.

Panettone Bread Pudding
I really don’t like Rachel Ray as much as my recipe collection suggests I do, but occasionally she has a really great recipe. And, as a bonus for parents of two toddlers, they don’t take too long to make. We’ll leave the complex, multi-step fabulous recipes for a different stage in our life. Anyway,  these are delicious. You can leave out the rum and they are still tasty, but they are even better with it.  This is a great use for stale panettone, when someone forgets to close the bag.

Christmas wreath bread
This bread was so popular at my family’s house one Christmas morning that they’ve insisted it become a holiday tradition. Two babies? Who care?—they want the bread! We try not to anger family on Christmas morning, so bread it is. 

Roasted butternut squash with herbs de provence
This is an old Cooking Light recipe that has become a favorite around here. It’s especially useful since we tend to be given butternut squash by family that grows them—-I guess it’s hard to just grow a few? This is a great use for them. And, the best part is that it tastes like it’s covered with butter. Not so much!

One of our favorite things to do is cook with the kiddos, so there are often two kiddos at the bar “helping” us cook. All of these recipes are good for kiddos helping. Lots of dumping of ingredients and mixing and such. 

Do you have favorite holiday recipes? Share them with us! And, to everyone who is traveling for the holidays—-have a safe (quiet?) trip! If you see two frazzled parents chasing 20 month old twins through the Manchester airport, that’s us! Wish us luck…..

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Recipe: Spinach-Rice Balls

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When I did my post on packing lunches for toddlers to take to daycare, I mentioned that one of the things I often pack is Spinach-Rice Balls. The recipe was requested, and now, a mere 2+ weeks later, here it is! Enjoy! It’s vegetarian, and vegan if you leave out the cheese (which is actually an optional ingredient in the original recipe).

 

The recipe comes from the fantastic cookbook Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites. Like every vegetarian, I’m a fan of all of the Moosewood books, but I particularly enjoy this one.

 

My notes are in [square brackets]

 

INGREDIENTS

2 lbs. fresh spinach, washed and large stems removed [or use 1 10 oz. box frozen spinach, thawed, with liquid squeezed out]

1 c. chopped scallions

2 t. olive oil

2 c. cooked brown rice [I use a medium- or short-grained rice, which is stickier, so that the balls are easier to form]

2 T. finely chopped fresh dill (2 t. dried)

1 1/2 T. lemon juice

[1 c. or so of cheese (crumbled feta is most fitting with the Greek theme, but I’ve also used shredded cheddar or mozzarella, or whatever other cheese we have around)]

salt and pepper

1 c. bread crumbs [or cracker crumbs]

 

Steam spinach; drain and chop.

Saute scallions in olive oil until slightly browned.

Combine spinach, scallions, rice, dill, lemon juice, cheese, and salt and pepper in a large bowl. Mix thoroughly, breaking up the rice grains by mashing them against the sides of the bowl with your mixing spoon. Combine until mixture holds together.

Using damp hands, roll spoonfuls of mixture into bite-sized balls. [Original recipe calls for 1/4 cup-sized balls, but Maddie and Riley found those overwhelming. I go for something larger than a marble, but smaller than a golf ball.] Roll balls in bread crumbs and place on baking sheet–they can be placed very close together.

Bake at 350°F for 20–25 minutes, until lightly golden brown.

These freeze really well.

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Foodie Friday: Toddler snack

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In our house, one of our constant struggles is what to eat. What should we feed the kids, age 15 months? We need something that’s healthy, well-balanced, not to messy, easy and we have ingredients for in the house. What should we feed us? What to feed us is something we haven’t figured out yet, at least not completely, although

Enjoying a snack in the stroller
Enjoying a snack in the stroller.

having me work fewer hours certainly helps, but we have found an easy, non-messy, travel-friendly snack for the kids. And, as a bonus, they love them! We take them as snacks in the car, in the stroller, or in a bag in my purse to pull out in hunger emergencies. We make a batch on the weekend and use them throughout the week as an alternative to any of the processed snacks. (Note photo of the kiddos happily munching their snacks at the zoo). Keeping them in the fridge helps them stay fresh all week.

Fruit and Oatmeal bars
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 8-oz. container vanilla or plain low-fat yogurt
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 Tbsp. fat-free milk
2 tsp. vanilla
11/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt (optional)
3 cups oatmeal
1 cup diced dried mixed fruit, such as raisins or dried cranberries 

You don't have a better snack than I do, do you?
You don't have a better snack than I do, do you?

Heat oven to 350F. In large bowl, combine sugars, yogurt, egg whites, oil, milk, and vanilla. Mix well.
In medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt; mix well. Add to yogurt mixture; mix well. Stir in oats and fruit (and nuts and chips if you choose to use them).
Spread dough onto bottom of ungreased 13×9-inch baking pan.
Bake 28-32 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool completely on wire rack. Cut into bars. Store tightly covered.

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