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Black Pepper, Lemon , Tart Cherry

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Tart cherries. Preserved in vodka. Flavored with black pepper, lemon.

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A friend posted a picture to facebook, a jar of deep red brandied cherries. so of course I ran right out to the local farmers market to grab a bushel of the sour little gems. I didn’t have any brandy, and I’m not a huge brandy drinker anyway, so I started kicking around some ideas to spice up vodka and make a cordial worthy of these little seasonal treats.

I love black pepper infused simple syrup for an unexpected flavor in summer cocktails. Lemon juice and rind to bring added depth. Vodka to preserve, will also turn into a lovely cordial that will taste great on the rocks or with soda water after the cherries and lemon infuse the vodka.

Recipe:
1-2 pounds tart cherries, pitted
3/4 c sugar
3/4 cup water
1 Tbsp black peppercorns
Rind of one lemon, no pith
Juice of one lemon
2 c Vodka

Directions:
Bring sugar, water, peppercorns, and lemon rind to a boil, boil for several minutes until sugar is completely dissolved.
Let simple syrup seep 1 hour to overnight to infuse syrup with flavor, strain the mixture and add syrup, cherries, and lemon rind, lemon juice, and vodka to large glass jar.
Let sit, agitating periodically, for 6 weeks.

Dairy/Soy Free Norwegian Waffles

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We’ve had to make a lot of changes to our diets to accommodate Cop’s food allergies and intolerances. One of the things I’ve really been missing was our Sunday morning waffles. I love yeasted waffles, but for a dairy free alternative these sweet Norwegian waffles are a big hit with toddler and parents alike.

We serve the syrup on the side for dipping- Henry loves dipping.

Serves 4

2 eggs
3 tablespoons coconut oil
2 Tbsp. sugar (optional, I leave it out if I’m using an alternative milk with lots of added sugar, like coconut milk)
1 3/4 cups coconut milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1. Preheat a waffle iron.

3. warm coconut milk, melt coconut oil and combine

2.Beat together eggs and sugar, pour in coconut oil/milk mixture, salt, and vanilla; mix until well blended.

3. Combine flour and baking powder. Mix dry ingredients into wet ingredients.

3. Spoon 1/2 cup of batter onto the preheated waffle iron at a time. Close the iron and cook until steam no is no longer coming out and waffle is browned.

Baby Led Parenting

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Baby led weaning has been a long road for us.

We started back in October of last year when Hen was just over seven months old.

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For the most part “eating” was still just a matter of picking things up, maybe (maybe!) putting it in his mouth and then spitting it out.

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And slowly but surely we moved onto bigger and better things.

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Flash forward nine months and I worried that Henry was getting bored with what we were feeding him. He had done great and was now eating 3 meals a day, but he had started getting tired of the tiny, cut up pieces of pork and vegetables we’d give to him; I’d make things into small, bite size pieces and he’d casually wipe them to the side, pushing them off his high chair and demanding something else.

And then the other day I had an idea, and I gave him a whole apple. Not the sliced and de-peeled pieces I’d been giving him and that he’d slowly grown bored with, but a whole apple. And he loved it. Granted, he didn’t eat the whole thing (it looked more like a hamster had taken a few chunks out of it at best), but he loved holding the whole apple and taking bites out of wherever he wanted.

A few days later, when he was pushing aside the corn pieces I was giving him I decided to try the “whole food” idea again.

And waddayaknow, suddenly he loved it.

Beyond that I’ve done the same thing with chicken, giving him a big piece for him to hold with two hands and take bites out of, and it’s renewed his love for poultry.

So it turns out he wasn’t getting fussy after all, he just wanted to be a little more in control of handling his food and taking better advantage of his teeth. And just like that Henry reminded me that as soon as I get used to one thing with him, he goes out and grows and evolves and I’m going to need to do that right along with him. Go figure.

Kids LiveWell

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One of the things I love about blogging is the opportunity to learn about something new that wouldn’t otherwise be on my radar.

As you know we are big time into healthy living- to me this is more important than ever now that we have a kid. We reasearch everything before we decide on something for Henry; extended breastfeeding, cloth diapering, baby led weaning, sippy cups vs. straws, you name it. We grow our own food and try to make everything we can at home to avoid processed foods, but we aren’t Superparents. One thing Josh and I have always enjoyed is eating out. Whether it’s because we want to try a new restaurant or cuisine or just because on Friday nights we are downright exhausted and just don’t feel like cooking, we still eat out regularly.

Last weekend I had the incredible opportunity to participate in an event put on by Kids LiveWell from The National Restaurant Association.

The Kids LiveWell program is a collaboration with Healthy Dining to help parents and children select healthful menu options when dining out. Restaurants that participate in the voluntary program commit to offering healthful meal items for children, with a particular focus on increasing consumption of fruit and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and low-fat dairy, and limiting unhealthy fats, sugars and sodium.

Kid’s nutrition has been in the news recently, and stories like this one about congress proposing that pizza count as a vegetable in school lunch programs and this one about the Senate stepping in to prevent the Obama Administration from limiting the abount of potatoes and starcy foods served to kids at school honestly have me worried.   That’s why when Kids LiveWell approached me regarding spreading the word about their initiative I agreed. It’s not a perfect program, but it is a great start and I am excited about and impressed with the tools they are launching to give parents access to better options and more information.

Kids LiveWell launched a mobile app that lets you enter your zip code and find menu items available in your area that meet the following nutritional guidelines (taken from the Kids LiveWell website)

Kids LiveWell Nutrition Criteria for Full Kids’ Meals (entrée, side option and beverage):

  • 600 calories or less
  • ≤ 35% of calories from total fat
  • ≤ 10% of calories from saturated fat
  • < 0.5 grams trans fat (artificial trans fat only)
  • ≤ 35% of calories from total sugars (added and naturally occurring)
  • ≤ 770 mg of sodium
  • 2 or more food groups (see below)

Kids LiveWell Nutrition Criteria for Side Items:

  • 200 calories or less
  • ≤ 35% of calories from total fat
  • ≤ 10% of calories from saturated fat
  • < 0.5 grams trans fat (artificial trans fat only)
  • ≤ 35% of calories from total sugars (added and naturally occurring)
  • ≤ 250 mg of sodium
  • 1 food group (see below)

Full meals must include two sources & sides must include one source of the following:

  • Fruit: > ½ cup = 1 star (includes 100% juice)
  • Vegetable: > ½ cup = 1 star
  • Whole grains:  contains whole grains = 1 star
  • Lean protein (skinless white meat poultry, fish/seafood, beef, pork, tofu, beans, egg):  > 2 ounces meat, 1 egg or egg equivalent, 1 oz nuts/seeds/dry bean/peas = 1 star (lean as defined by USDA)
  • Lower-fat dairy (1% or skim milk and dairy):  > ½ cup = 1 star (while not considered low-fat, 2% milk is allowed if included in the meal and the meal still fits the full meal criteria)

Healthy Dining Finder is a website (and mobile app!) that allows you to enter your zip code and find healthful dining otions in your area.

There are currently 96 restautants voluntarily participating in the Kids LiveWell program.  My conscience requires me to point out that there are a few restaurants that I cannot, for moral, ethical and political reasons give my money to, however there are plenty of restaurants on the list I’m happy to patronize.  I believe in voting with my dollars, and I’m happy to use my hard earned money to tell these participating restaurants that I support what they are doing to make healthful foods available and appealing to children.

Disclosure: I received compensation from the National Restaurant Association’s Kids LiveWell program for my time reviewing and writing about their program.  The opinions expressed are solely my own.

Meatless

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For the past month we’ve been cooking only vegetarian meals for dinner. It’s not some kind of grand and symbolic stand against the meat industry and all that it stands for. It’s more that we’re just trying to save a few bucks and eat a tad healthier. We still grill the occasional burger and order bacon when we go out for breakfast, but we’ve gone vegetarian for our nightly dinners.

The most difficult part of this deal is finding interesting stuff to cook. More than half of the recipes out there are just pasta, and that gets old (and unhealthy) fast. I also try to keep the “let’s just top a lot of veggies on a pizza” pizza to a minimum too.

So after all my scouring for good, tasty, healthy vegetarian meals I thought I’d share some with you so that you don’t have to slog through all the bad recipes I did to find these. Or, if this isn’t your thing at all, move along.

The highlight of last week’s recipes was the gruyere and tomato grilled sandwich. “A grilled cheese?” you may ask. Kind of. But much more.

Yield: Serves 4 (serving size: 1 sandwich)

Total: 20 Minutes

 

Ingredients

1 (8.5-ounce) jar oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes

24 pitted kalamata olives

3 garlic cloves

8 slices sourdough bread

1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

12 thin slices of large tomato

4 ounces Gruyère cheese, shaved

Butter

 

Preparation

1. Remove 8 sun-dried tomatoes and 2 tablespoons oil from jar. Combine tomatoes, oil, olives, and garlic in a mini food processor; process until mostly smooth, scraping sides of bowl once.

2. Brush one side of each bread slice with butter. Spread 1 1/2 tablespoons olive mixture on each of 4 bread slices, butter side down. Top each bread slice with some of the parmesan, 3 tomato slices, and some of the Gruyère. Top each with remaining 4 bread slices, butter side up.

3. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add sandwiches to pan. Place a cast-iron or other heavy skillet on top of sandwiches; press gently to flatten sandwiches (leave cast-iron skillet on sandwiches while they cook). Cook 2 minutes on each side or until cheese melts and bread is toasted.

 

A cop out for my first vegetarian recipe share? Maybe. But I know that you’d rather be reading about this than some quinoa and kale dish.

14 Days

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Today my maternity leave starts.  It feels… weird not to be heading into work, I feel indulgent and a little bit guilty.  I’m taking the next few days super easy, my big goal is to get my back in good shape so that I am at my best when it is time to have this baby.

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I don’t think I’ll complain though.  I woke up in this hazy early morning light, surrounded by my sweet buddies.

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Started my day off with a hot shower- something I almost never do- it just makes more sense to shower when you leave a steel mill, not before you head in to one.

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I am marveling at the size and shape of this belly.

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I found Ernie snuggling with Josh’s pajama pants.

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And I started my day with homemade biscuits and gravy.

If you knew how easy it was to make your own biscuits and gravy, you might never go out for breakfast again.  Here is my recipe, try it this weekend.

Biscuits:

preheat oven to 450

In a food processor, mix

2 c. flour

4 tsp. baking poweder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1 tsp kosher salt

add

2 tbsp butter and 2 tbsp lard

and pulse until it looks like crumbs

add

1 c. buttermilk

pulse until dough just comes together.  Turn out onto a floured surface and fold over on itself about six times.  Don’t over work the dough or your biscuits will be tough.  Cut with a biscuit cutter- or just a knife and arrange so they are *almost* touching, bake 15 to 20 minute until tall and golden brown.

The biscuits cook just long enough to make this gravy:

Cook one pound of sausage in a deep pan.

add 1/2 c. flour and a little lard or bacon fat, cook until flour is no longer raw

Add 4 c. milk and cook until thick and bubbly, add salt to taste and fresh ground pepper until your arm is tired of twisting the grinder.

Daring Cooks Challenge March 2011

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Kathlyn of Bake Like a Ninja was our Daring Cooks’ March 2011 hostess. Kathlyn challenges us to make two classic Peruvian dishes: Ceviche de Pescado from “Peruvian Cooking – Basic Recipes” by Annik Franco Barreau. And Papas Rellenas adapted from a home recipe by Kathlyn’s Spanish teacher, Mayra.

It has been a little while since I completed one of the daring cooks challenges because I’ve been so sick, but this month I felt pretty good and I was excited to get back in the kitchen.  I’m so glad I did!  This is probably my favorite of the challenges so far- these Papas Rellenas are delicious.  I’m so glad I made a big batch and froze plenty for later.

My Recipe for a Perfect Thanksgiving

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I have been cooking Thanksgiving for only a few years, and every year is a little bit of trial and error.  Some recipes I’ve tried in years past have made it into permanent rotation, and some just didn’t make the cut.

 First, let’s talk Turkey.  There are dozens of ways to cook a turkey; in fact, I use a combination of two techniques.  First I use Alton Brown’s turkey brine recipe; I bring the brine to a boil Tuesday night and get the turkey in it as soon as I get home from work Wednesday so it has a full 8-16 hours to work its magic.  I brine my turkey in an empty crisper drawer.  Makes for a packed fridge the day before Thanksgiving, but this way I know the refrigeration is constant.  It works great, just make sure to wash your crisper drawer well with soap and hot water when you are finished.

 After I brine my turkey I part ways with Alton.  I think Martha Stewart’s Perfect Roast Turkey is… perfect.  The recipe may seem a little fiddly, with the cheese cloth and the basting (I use a squirt bottle, instead of a brush for the butter/wine mixture) but this technique made the moistest and juiciest turkey I’ve ever tasted, and I don’t think I’ll make a thanksgiving turkey any other way.

 For me, the turkey is really only a vessel, an excuse to stuff my face with Perfect Gravy.  I love gravy, and ever since I made this gravy for the first time, I boast that I make the worlds best gravy (well, me and every other Relisrelish.com subscriber.)  Perfect Gravy from the Relish! 2008 Thanksgiving Menu. It is amazing.  The ingredient list sounds weird, but I could eat just a big bowl of this gravy for dinner and consider Thanksgiving a success.

 OK- Sweet Potatoes– another regular in my Thanksgiving Day spread is Stephanie Izard’s Sweet Potato Puree with Blue Cheese and Brown Sugar Walnuts.  I found this recipe in an article about her after her Top Chef win and bookmarked it to try that Thanksgiving.  I’m not a fan of sticky sweet candied yams, but I do love sweet potatoes with a savory twist.  The blue cheese combined with the sweet potato and the crunchy walnuts make this side dish absolutely addicting.  

 Green Bean casserole is an American classic that absolutely turns my stomach.  But with all the starchy rich foods on the Thanksgiving table my palate cries out for something green, crisp and acidic.  Green Beans with Lemon Zest is a prefect bright accompaniment to all the rich and creamy dishes .  

 This year I’m going to mix it up on the Mashed Potato front.  I’m going to give Pioneer Woman’s Delicious Creamy Mashed Potatoes a shot.   My regular mashed potatoes are fine and dandy (and quite tasty too!) but on what other day can I justify trying out a mashed potato recipe that calls for a stick and a half of butter AND a package of cream cheese?  

 The one thing that I’ve never managed to nail is the Dressing.  I used to love sourdough and sausage dressing, but Josh hates sausage.  The no sausage thing eliminates about 50% of the dressing recipes out there.  I don’t care for cornbread dressing, so that takes care of the other 50%!  I exaggerate of course, but I’ve yet to make a dressing that both Josh and I like at all, let alone consider a keeper.  This year I’m going to try Bobby Flay’s Sourdough, Wild Mushroom and Bacon Dressing from last weeks Thanksgiving Throwdown with Pioneer Woman. I am going to substitute caramelized onions for the bacon (because the baby apparently hates bacon!) and hope for the best.  If it’s not so great, well, at least I’ll have an excuse to experiment some more next year.

Soufflé au Fromage

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Dave and Linda from Monkeyshines in the Kitchen chose Soufflés as our November 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge! Dave and Linda provided two of their own delicious recipes plus a sinfully decadent chocolate soufflé recipe adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s recipe found at the BBC Good Food website.

I used Julia Child’s recipe for Souffle au Fromage from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I always figure that is a good place to start for a classic recipe like this one.

My souffle didn’t rise as much as I’d hoped, but it was on of the most delicious things I’ve ever made. If you’ve never made one, I definitely suggest giving it a try.

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Daring Cooks Challenge September 2010

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The September 2010 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by John of Eat4Fun. John chose to challenge The Daring Cooks to learn about food preservation, mainly in the form of canning and freezing. He challenged everyone to make a recipe and preserve it. John’s source for food preservation information was from The National Center for Home Food Preservation.

I chose to make marinated roasted red peppers and a whole bunch of canned tomatoes in tomato sauce because we planted lots (and lots and lots) of peppers and tomatoes in our garden for just this purpose. I used the Ball Blue book for the tomatoes and found this recipe for the peppers:

http://simplyrecipes.com/recipes/marinated_roasted_red_bell_peppers/