happy pumpkins day

October 31, 2007 at 7:06 pm | Posted in essay | 4 Comments

It’s Halloween. I’m the daughter of Christian parents and the granddaughter of a dentist, so growing up this holiday was never much of anything. One of my earliest memories of Halloween involves wearing a “clown” costume. My let’s-not-make-a-big-deal-or-spend-too-much-money parents convinced me that my costume would be fine. Well, being a clown in my family meant three big colorful buttons pinned to a white shirt and a red painted nose. That was it. I actually remember being embarrassed by this costume.

In the school parade the other students would be dressed in real costumes and I would have to march around in my (pretend you’re a clown) clown costume. I even remember one parent standing on the side and saying, “oh, look at the cute clown”. I felt so undeserving of the praise. I thought that she was just saying that to be nice and that I really looked poor and pathetic. To top it off, my brother, sister and I would go Trick-or-Treating only to have to surrender the candy to my mom, and she would pass it out to the neighborhood kids. Pitiful, I know.

But six years ago, on October 30, 2001, I found out I was pregnant with the help of a successful IVF with a day two rescue ICSI. A couple of weeks later during an ultrasound, my doctor said, “well Karen, when you are lucky, you are doubly lucky…there’s your first baby. And there’s your second baby.”

My little pumpkins are now five years old. Tonight they will wear real costumes (but not too expensive), go trick-or-treating (to just a few houses) and enjoy some candy (just a few pieces).

Wishing you and your little pumpkins a safe and fun Halloween! Karen

carrots carrots carrots

October 29, 2007 at 11:29 pm | Posted in carrot puree, how to puree | 1 Comment

First, inspiration came when I saw Megan’s recipe, “The Monkey Bread Goes Wild For Garlic”, I sat up and took notice. Come on now, this looks sooo good!

And Sara Moulton’s recipe for Old-Fashioned Chicken Noodle Soup would be oh-so-good with the bread (I just omit the mushrooms).

So I headed off this morning to my local Trader Joes and picked up the necessary ingredients for this great make ahead soup.

There, I picked up this big bag of baby carrots. Hmmm…some for the soup, some for carrot puree, and some for cruidites before dinner tonight.

Here’s how my 24 oz bag of carrots was divided into these three recipes:First is easy, just take a sandwich size ziploc bag and put in enough baby carrots for a vegetable plate, about 1/3 of the bag.

Then, take out the second 1/ 3 of carrots out of the bag and cut them up for the Old-Fashioned Chicken Noodle Soup. Finally, take the last 1/3 of carrots, microwave cook for about 4 minutes, puree, and then package them into 1/2 cup amounts in snack-size ziplock bags. Don’t forget to label the carrot puree bag with the date, contents and amount packaged.

Not My Grandmother’s Bran Muffins

October 29, 2007 at 10:02 pm | Posted in breakfast, carrot puree, flaxseed meal, sweet potato puree | 1 Comment

My grandmother is the picture of health. At 86 years she amazes me. Not only can she keep up, she usually sets the pace. And what is she eating? Bran muffins for breakfast. Trouble is, I don’t remember her bran muffins tasting any good. Hmmmmm.

Today I’m in a baking kind-of-mood so I made the recipe for bran muffins again (apple cinnamon muffins), this time omitting the apples. Thing is, my daughter didn’t like these. She thought they were too plain because they didn’t have the apples, go figure. I guess I’ll be noshing on these myself for the next couple of weeks.

Tip: Store these in the freezer, and defrost as needed in the microwave for an easy breakfast.

Turkey Burgers

October 27, 2007 at 1:39 am | Posted in carrot puree, Family Meals | 1 Comment

Turkey Burgers for All! I love a meal that we can all enjoy. Here’s what I did:

  1. Mix a pound of ground turkey with 1/2 cup carrot puree, 1/3 cup Italian bread crumbs, garlic powder, seasoned salt, salt and pepper, to taste.
  2. Heat a pan with some olive oil or just spray with non-stick cooking spray.
  3. Form small patties for the kids (cook 5 minutes one side, flip and cook another 5 minutes on the other side, check for doneness by cutting one open with a knife).
  4. While the turkey burgers cooked, I took some whole wheat sandwich bread and cut out Halloween shapes with cookie cutters.
  5. I had my kids assemble their own burgers.

Mom tip: For the adults, just make a couple of bigger burgers, garnish with spinach, tomatoes, cheese and red bell peppers.

And yes, my hubby liked them too (even had a second)!

No. 3

October 25, 2007 at 7:21 pm | Posted in butternut squash puree, Family Meals | Leave a comment

As a long time fan of the hit show Friends, I happily watched Monica count down Chandler’s favorite meals, and No.3 was one of my favorites…Macaroni and Cheese with cut-up Hot Dogs. You remember the episode, “The one with the Unagi”.

Anyways, my son loves his mac’n cheese with hot dogs. And I found a way to get Butternut Squash into it…Here’s all that you need: 1 box of Trader Joe’s Wisconsin Cheddar Macaroni and Cheese, 2 Trader Joe’s All Natural Uncured All Beef Hot Dogs, 1/2 cup Butternut Squash Puree.

These hot dogs…I know, I was very skeptical of them too, but they are good, seriously good.

Just boil the noodles according to the directions. While the noodles are cooking, mix the cheese sauce packet into the squash puree. Drain the noodles and return them to the pan, add the cut up hot dogs, stir in the cheese sauce, and you’re done. Just keep it on long enough to heat the hot dogs through.

And the verdict, did my son eat this? Yes, Yes, Yes! Chandler’s No. 3 favorite meal lives on in our kitchen on a weekly basis, and now with the butternut squash puree, it’s a meal I can feel good about.

Peanut Butter Cookies

October 24, 2007 at 7:56 pm | Posted in Dessert, sweet potato puree | 3 Comments

My friend Mary says that veggies don’t belong in desserts. “Why mess with a perfectly good brownie?”, she says. And that traditional side of me, that side that believes in the “everything in moderation” credo, agrees. But not willing to give up on the idea that we can have it all, I started searching for ideas of getting vegetables into my desserts.

I turned to Missy Chase Lapine, aka The Sneaky Chef, and read that sweet potatoes are a good pairing with peanut butter. Better yet, according to her blog, sweet potatoes stabilize blood sugar levels preventing the classic crash and burn our kids (and us) experience when eating sugary foods.

So, I set out to create a classic Peanut Butter Cookie with some sweet potato puree to boost.

1/2 cup unsalted butter softened to room temp
1/2 cup sweet potato puree
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter (I use Skippy)
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 t vanilla

First beat the butter, puree and peanut butter and combine until smooth and fluffy. Add 1 cup of the flour, the sugars, egg, baking soda, baking powder, vanilla and the remaining 3/4 cup flour. Blend until combined.

Scoop out a tablespoon of dough, roll into a ball, put on baking tray, and flatten with fork.

Bake 350 degrees for about 8 minutes. Makes about 36 cookies.

Tip: I’ve found that when I store these baked goods with puree in the freezer, they stay better longer. So, I’ll keep some cookies out for dessert tonight, and the rest will be stored in the freezer to enjoy later.

Chicken Nugget Rewind

October 24, 2007 at 2:22 am | Posted in broccoli puree, Family Meals, flaxseed meal, spaghetti squash puree | Leave a comment

I had faith that my son, the white eater, would eat the chicken nuggets if made with the right ingredients. With my broccoli and spaghetti squash purees ready to go, I made this dinner again, with the hopes that he would not protest.

Following the same recipe, this time I dipped half of our chicken in the broccoli puree and the other half in the spaghetti squash puree. The spaghetti squash was undetectable…

Not only did he eat these Spaghetti Squash Chicken Nuggets, he asked for more (careful not to choose one made with broccoli). Served with fresh baby carrots and some fruit, this meal was easy. My hubby and I took the chicken and put it over a spinach salad. Yummy for the entire family.

Pumpkin Parade

October 23, 2007 at 1:58 am | Posted in Family Meals, pumpkin puree | 3 Comments

Since our Pea Party was such a success, I tried a Pumpkin Parade tonight for dinner. And it was, literally, a parade. I didn’t plan out roasting my pumpkin too well, so we sat down to the Pasta with Pumpkin Sauce and roasted pumpkin seeds, then had Smashed Pumpkin, and then Pumpkin Pie.

Pasta with Pumpkin Sauce
recipe adapted from Rachel Ray at Food Network

  • 1 lb bulk sweet Italian Turkey Sausage
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4-6 sprigs sage leaves
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/8 t cinnamon
  • 1/4 t nutmeg
  1. Heat a large, deep nonstick skillet and brown the sausage. Drain on paper towels and return pan to the stove.
  2. Add the garlic and onion, saute 3-5 minutes.
  3. Add bay leaf, sage, and 1 cup of the chicken stock, reduce about 2 minutes
  4. Add remaining cup of chicken stock and pumpkin, stir and allow sauce to come to a bubble.
  5. Return sausage to pan and stir in milk. Season with cinnamon and nutmeg, salt and pepper.
  6. Allow sauce to simmer and thicken.
  7. Pour sauce over pasta

In an effort for my kids to see how a pumpkin turns into Smashed Pumpkin, I first had to find a sugar pumpkin at the grocery store. It looks just like a pumpkin, is in the produce section, but it has a special sticker, mine said “Pie Pumpkin” and it was with all the squashes.

When I brought the pumpkin home, I showed my kids the pumpkin, they watched me cut it open and then helped get the seeds and fibers out. After the pumpkin is clean, here is how to cook it:

  1. Preheat oven 325° F
  2. Wash the pumpkin
  3. Oil a baking dish/roasting pan
  4. Quarter the pumpkin
  5. Scoop out the seeds and fibrous tissue
  6. Cut the pumpkin into 4 inch segments; place the segments skin-side up in the oiled pan
  7. Cover pan with aluminum foil and roast 1.5 hours

While the pumpkin was roasting, I had my kids help me separate the seeds from the fibers. I then rinsed the seeds, sprinkled them with kosher salt, cooked them at high heat in the toaster oven for about 15 minutes. My kids ate them! Ate them all in fact.

After the pumpkin finally finished cooking, I scooped out the flesh and with my kids watching, I mashed it with a fork, dolloped on butter and sprinkled on brown sugar. My kids ate the Smashed Pumpkin! And had seconds!

Puffy Eggs

October 21, 2007 at 4:10 am | Posted in breakfast, butternut squash puree, Family Meals | 1 Comment

I think it’s residual excitement from the Puffy Pancake, but my kids love Baked Egg Cups. Known as “Puffy Eggs’ in the Downing household, these little egg cups are packed with protein and veggies.
So, I knew my kids liked these little eggs, but would their friends? I tested the recipe on Sunday, when we invited some family friends over for brunch. On the menu; Puffy Eggs, Fruit & Yogurt Parfaits, and Pumpkin Bread.

Out of the oven, the eggs looked great. My kids were so excited to see them again that they said, “ooo, these puffy eggs are sooo good” to their little friends. I guess the enthusiasm helped, because all of the kids enjoyed their eggs made with butternut squash. Brunch was a hit, and I felt great about serving food that not only tasted good, but was good for them.

Mom Tip: Care should be taken because the little ramekins are HOT out of the oven and there is a lot of steam trapped in the eggs. The best thing to do is let the kids see their own ramekin and then have an adult scoop out the eggs onto a plate, allowing the steam to release and the eggs to cool.

Puffy Eggs

  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup butternut squash puree
  • 2 T shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 T all purpose flour
  • 1/2 t baking powder
  • 1/4 t salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat 4 ramekins with cooking spray and set on a baking sheet.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, egg whites, butternut squash puree, cheese, flour, baking powder, and salt. Divide the mixture among the ramekins and bake until the tops are puffed up and the eggs are no longer runny. Serve Immediately.
From Deceptively Delicious

Sweet Potato Crumb Cake

October 20, 2007 at 3:37 pm | Posted in breakfast, Dessert, Family Meals, flaxseed meal, sweet potato puree | 3 Comments

This is so easy, practical, and yummy…but it starts with a box mix. Yes, a faithful Krusteaz Cinnamon Crumb Cake mix. I want to see how a puree will affect the traditional cake box mix. And this Cinnamon Crumb Cake is calling for sweet potato puree.

I pulled my sweet potato puree out of the freezer last night and let it thaw in the refrigerator overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare your 8×8 inch pan with non-stick cooking spray.

  • 1 box Krusteaz Cinnamon Crumb Cake
  • 1/2 cup sweet potato puree
  • 2 T flaxseed meal
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup water (you may need less depending on how thick your puree is)
  1. Place cake mix, puree and flaxseed meal in a bowl. Mix well with two knives.
  2. Add egg, water and mix until moistened. Batter will be lumpy.
  3. Spoon half of the batter evenly into pan.
  4. Sprinkle half of the cinnamon topping (included in cake mix box) onto the batter in pan.
  5. Drop remaining batter in small spoonfuls over cinnamon topping layer.
  6. Sprinkle with remaining cinnamon topping.
  7. Swirl batter with a knife up and down in the pan.
  8. Bake 40 minutes

Well, of course my 5 year-olds loved this for breakfast. The nice thing was, with the addition of the sweet potato and flaxseed meal, this crumb cake sustained my kids for a long period of time. They were not clambering for a snack at 10:30am or even 11am. We had breakfast at 8:45am and they didn’t have lunch until 12:30 pm, not bad.

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