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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Pears and Pumpkins

It's been hard to get this fall spirit with temperatures soaring over the last few weeks.  But, this weekend we got a break so I got did my best -- at least in the kitchen.  I made my favorite lentil soup, pear sauce and pumpkin-cranberry muffins.  

I've bought a lot of pears the last few weeks and while delicious, they haven't lasted long.   Last weekend I turned my extra's into a delicious pear crisp.  My changes to this recipe were very minor.  I left out the lemon juice and corn starch (because I didn't have any!) and used a glass baking dish.   This was excellent.  I can't think of any possible way to improve it.  I could have kept eating it all day.

This weekend found me with more pears to deal with.  I had 6-8 pears and decided I would to turn it into pear sauce for Oliver's lunches this week.   This was SO easy I don't really have much of a recipe for you just some general guidance.  You could use also use apples instead. 

Pear Sauce

6-8 pears
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons honey (Optional)
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Core and slice the pears (no need to peel) and place in slow cooker with cinnamon and orange juice.   Mix well.   Set crockpot for four hours (or at high heat).   Pears will produce a good deal of liquid.   After about 3 hours add the vanilla and the honey, again mixing well.   After four hours turn off the slow cooker and allow pears to cool.   Once cooled, emulsify.    I transferred mine to the container I planned to store the sauce in and use my hand held mixer to emulsify.   You could also use a blender or food processor.  

I thought this was perfect.  Justin found it a little too sweet.  Oliver's only complaint was that it wasn't in a squeeze packet.  I may need to break down and buy some reusable ones.

I also decided it was time for some pumpkin cranberry muffins.  I previously used a recipe that I liked.   But, it was a little high fat and still lacking in moisture.  So, I wanted to experiment with it a little.  This is what I cam up with.  

Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins

1 can pumpkin
1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon pumpkin spice
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.    Mix together all ingredients well.   Scoop into muffin cups (I use silicone cups in a metal pan).  Bake for 25-28 minutes.

These will make about 1 1/2 dozen.  Again, this is a very sweet recipe.  I think they are perfect with my morning (decaf) coffee and Oliver is more than happy to eat them with his lunch and for snacks.

Happy Eating!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Broccoli Cheese Casseole Cupcakes

I don't usually update the blog twice in one week but in case anyone is looking for something different for school lunches next week I thought I would pass this one along.

Oliver loves broccoli bites. It is the only way to get him to eat broccoli.    But, I wanted to change them up a bit and saw a recipe with rice online.   I didn't want to use the recipe I found.  It didn't seem very healthy, so I opted to change it up.  So, this is what I came up with:

Broccoli Cheese Casserole Cupcakes

2 cups cooked brown rice
8 ounces chopped broccoli
3 ounces sharp cheddar cheese
1 egg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.   Mix rice, broccoli, cheese (reserving about two tablespoons), and egg together in a small bowl.  Divide between twelve prepared muffin cups.  Sprinkle remaining cheese on top.  Bake 30 minutes. 

These are the perfect size!  I put two in Oliver's lunch box.   Here is a pic of one of his lunches this week.  Along with the bites I put in green grapes and ants on a log.   -- I find that I often somehow accidentally end up sending foods that are all the same color!   I've made his lunches healthier with more diverse foods -- but I probably need to start working on presentation!

Nah, I probably won't.   This article sums up perfectly  my feelings on decorative lunch boxes! Thanks to Sherri for sharing!

Oliver does, however, love a good note!   I keep most of mine pretty basic, -- although, I have made some reusable ones, thrown a few jokes in, and drew some pictures.  Oliver tends to favor puns -- so some of his favorites have been:  "Have a Whale of a Good Day", "Lego to the park after school", and the one below.  Please don't judge me for my art. 

For some more ideas click here.

Monday, September 15, 2014

It's been a while but school is back in session and I'm still rolling!

I know its been a while since I updated the blog.   There have been a lot of changes happening around our house lately.   More news on that to come some time in the future.   Sufficient to say, I have been super busy!   I also spent the two weeks that Oliver was off school just hanging out with him.   We had a super fun time.  We also took a couple of quick trips, first to Legoland and then to Joshua Tree.

Last week Oliver headed back to school.   Although, the weather here shows absolutely no signs of cooling.   It topped 100 yesterday at our house so we headed to the beach.  The rest of the week is set to be just as miserable.    The heat makes cooking anything in the oven really tough.   I made lemon-berry muffins last weekend, but the heat made the house unbearable so I gave up on preparing the broccoli bites I had planned to make.    So, last weeks lunches were kind of a hodgepodge.  Tuesday, leftover homemade mac & cheese; Wednesday, hummus, pita and veggies, Thursday, Tofu, and Friday PB&J.   Each day I sent oranges, carrots/celery, and a muffin.

I was recently asked for my "go to" mac & cheese recipe.  I actually have four different mac & cheese recipes that I use on a semi-regular basis.    Two of them are pretty fancy and require some special cheeses.  The other is a stove top recipe that is as easy as the box for school lunches.  This, however, is my favorite for an everyday weeknight meal.   It comes from the Moosewood Low-Fat Cookbooks.    The Moosewood Cookbooks are some of my favorite.  The recipes are easy and flavorful.    So, I give all credit for this too Moosewood.  

I've provided the recipe with my modifications noted below in blue.  Happy Eating!

Moosewood's Mac & Cheese

    1 1/2 cups cottage cheese
    1 1/2 cups buttermilk or skim milk
    1 tsp dry mustard or dijon mustard
    1/2 tsp salt
    1/4 tsp pepper
    1 pinch cayenne
    1/4 tsp nutmeg
    1/2 pound dry whole wheat macaroni
    1 cup shredded extra sharp cheddar
    1/4 cup grated onion
    1/4 cup breadcrumbs (optional)
    2 T grated parmesan (or more -- 1/4 cup)

    Preheat oven to 400. Spray 9 or 10 inch pan with cooking spray.

    In blender (or food processor), whirl cottage cheese, buttermilk and spices until smooth. Combine in a bowl with DRY macaroni, cheddar and grated onion.

    Scrape into pan and top with breadcrumbs, parmesan and a few sprays of the cooking spray. Bake 45 minutes or until macaroni is fully cooked.

    Serve with green vegetables and/or salad.

    Number of Servings: 6