Tuesday, September 27, 2011

CSA Supper: Zucchini & Tomato Pie

For the last month our kitchen has been overrun with tomatoes and zucchini. I've frozen I don't know how many loaves of zucchini bread, and we've canned at least three dozen jars of tomatoes, pasta sauce, etc. But those darned zucchinis and tomatoes just keep coming via our weekly farm share and our own garden. In the spirit of 'waste not, want not', I'm trying my best to use them up...but my enthusiasm and creativity are waning.

This zucchini and tomato pie is always my end-of-summer savior. It's dead easy (as Jamie O. would say) and super-fast to throw together. Plus, it always yields leftovers. I even baked this one over the weekend, then just reheated it (which was extra nice since I've been waist-deep in baby food and laundry for the last three days...CANNOT get caught up on either). Throw in a simple salad and frosty beer, and my day just got a whole lot better.

Zucchini and Tomato Pie
Serves 6

2 cups zucchini, diced
1 cup tomato, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 1/2 cups milk
3/4 organic baking mix (or Bisquick)
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/3 cup Parmesan
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees; grease a 10" pie plate.
  2. Spread diced zucchini, tomato, and onion in the bottom of the pie plate.
  3. Beat remaining ingredients until smooth, then pour into pie plate.
  4. Bake until knife comes out clean (about 30 minutes), then remove from oven and top pie with the two cheeses.
  5. Turn on the broiler; place pie under the broiler until cheese is melted and golden brown.
  6. Cool 5 minutes before serving.
(Recipe adapted from an ancient Bisquick recipe book that my mom probably pulled out of the Good Housekeeping back in the '80s. If you can get your hands on one, it's a treasure trove of deliciousness!)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Reading List

I haven't really read at all for the last six weeks. Now that I'm "working" (ha!ha!) again, the little bit of free time I previously had to read is now spent on Stella & Dot stuff. But when I'm not reading I get cranky. I feel like it's so important to continue to make time for the things that are really, really important to me--that really define who I am (cooking, reading)--despite how crazy it gets around here so that I don't lose myself. So my goal is to finish this stack of books by then end of October:

  • On my Kindle...I must finish Misguided Angel, the fifth installment of the Blue Bloods series by Melissa de la Cruz, because the sixth, and final book, comes out TOMORROW! If you haven't read this series, but dig the vampire/YA genre like I do, I highly recommend it. It's really the smartest, most well-written of the bunch (more on that to come).
  • Hardy Boys #1...I'm in the mood for a serial mystery, and I've read all my Nancy Drews. Now that I'm collecting HB for G/Q, I figure I may as check them out.
  • The Poe Shadow, by Matthew Pearl...set around the suspicious demise of Edgar Allen Poe, this book seems like a perfect Halloween-y read.
  • Birth Matters, by Ina May Gaskin...no, I'm not pregnant again--just chronically interested in the subject. My neighbor lent me this book last week after a convo about her upcoming book of poetry segued into me telling her about my birth experience (it made sense at the time, trust me). I know this book will only fuel the murderous fire of rage I already feel about the maternity system in this country, but c'est la vie.
What's on your nightstand?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Pumpkins Pretties

The lads and I went to pick out some pumpkins yesterday, so I thought
I'd share a few snaps of the gorgeous options we had to chose from...

I took me about an hour to decide which ones to bring home.

The funkier they looked, the more I like them!

This might be the fall I get brave enough to make a real pumpkin pie.

I loved these giant white pumpkins, but they were $50 each.

Zits on your face = awful. Zits on pumpkins = awesome.

Pumpkin preciousness!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Operation Retro Rec Room: Storage

We’re planning to roughly finish off part of our basement this fall to make a playroom for G/Q. Of course—me being me—I’m having visions of midcentury rec room awesomeness. Here’s my inspiration room:

Sorry for the crappy screenshot, but the owner of this Flicker set has turned off the download feature (booooo!). You can see the room better here. Brick red + olive + touches of yellow? Swoon.

We want to keep lots of open space for romping, but also make it functional with lots of storage and room for us to hang out, too. As usual, our budget is pretty minimal for this project (S—do we even have a budget?). I’ve been dreaming of having it tricked out with some Ikea Expedit storage units, but I know by the time we order them/drive to Philly or NJ to pick one up (sadly, we have no Ikea in Upstate NY), it wouldn’t financially make sense.

Then, lo and behold, on a random trip to see what was left at our Kmart (it’s closing), I find this fixture on sale for $80!

I like the light woodgrain finish on the outside, but will probably paint the inside with a pop of color, then finish it off with some baskets/bins for toy storage.

Have you bought store fixtures before? We had great luck buying some shelving/slat wall for our garage when our Steve and Barry’s closed a few years back.

Stay tuned for more updates on Operation Retro Rec Room!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Whiskey and Sage Cream Sauce

Usually this time of year we head to our favorite restaurant, Hazelnut Kitchen, for their sublime butternut squash ravioli…but, you know, the kiddos make it a wee bit harder to just pop out to dinner. My taste buds, however, don’t understand that. They sense fall in the air, and they want creamy/buttery/squashy/sagey. And they want it RIGHT NOW. So that leaves me with one choice: Make the ravioli at home.

But here’s the problem…dough terrifies me. I’ve failed miserably at all previous dough-making attempts. I know every fall magazine/cooking show for the last several years has had a piece on how e-a-s-y it is to make your own squash ravioli, but the thought strikes mortal fear into my heart. And using wonton wrappers? Something about that just seems not right.

So what’s a squash-craving, dough-fearing girl like me to do? Buy frozen butternut squash ravioli and dress it up with an amazing sauce, that’s what. Thank you, Rosetti ravioli for saving me from another dough-FAIL-induced meltdown.

Whiskey and Sage Cream Sauce

2 tablespoons of butter

1 medium onion, finely diced

½ teaspoon dried sage (I wanted to use fresh, but I forgot it and no way was I running back to Wegmans on a Sunday afternoon!)

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

1 cup organic half-and-half

1 teaspoon whiskey (I used Maker’s Mark)

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons toasted, chopped pecans

  1. Melt butter in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add diced onions, a pinch of s&p, then cover to let onions sweat about 3 minutes. Uncover, reduce heat to medium-low and sautee until onions are lightly caramelized (about 10 minutes).
  2. While onions are caramelizing, add pecans to a skillet over low heat. Toast the nuts until they are browned and fragrant (about 5 minutes…watch them because they will go from perfect to burned very quickly).
  3. Add sage and garlic powder to caramelized onions. Let cook about 2 minutes until spices are incorporated into onion mixture.
  4. Stir in the whisky and half-and-half. Add another pinch of s&p. Bring to a slow simmer, then let cook about 10 minutes or until sauce is slightly thickened and coats the back of a spoon.
  5. Add the cooked ravioli to the sauce and toss.
  6. Sprinkle ravioli with toasted pecans (and some parmesan shavings if you’re so inclined…we didn’t think it was needed) to serve.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Finger Foods

For the last month or so, the lads are wanting to feed themselves more and more, which is so sweet, but it makes it harder to ensure they are getting balanced, full meals. I liked the consistency of seeing an empty bowl at the end of every mealtime versus a semi-empty tray that gives no indication whether the food went into their tummies or Zelda's.

I've been trying to think out of the box about fingers foods, so I thought I'd share some of our current favorites (FYI...we're still having super porridge for breakfast and a yogurt-based lunch, so these items are used as add-ons, snacks, or sometimes even dinner):
  • Pieces of Applegate Farms yogurt cheese slices or Wegman's/Applegate Farms organic chicken and turkey
  • Roasted broccoli (1 bag frozen organic broccoli florets, tossed with 1 T. sunflower oil and pinch of sea salt and pepper, roasted at 425 degrees for approximately 20 minutes or until really fork-tender)
  • Ricotta spelt pancakes and pumpkin spelt waffles
  • Dollops of Dr. Weil's white bean spread (I halve the amount of salt and use dried basil instead of pesto)
  • Raisins or diced dried apricots
  • Toasted Ezekiel bread with a light schmear of almond butter
  • Carrot cream cheese sandwiches (Shred 3 medium carrots, then blend with one 8 oz package of organic cream cheese, 1/2 cup chopped golden raisins, and 2 T. sprouted sunflower seeds)
  • Diced tomato, peaches, plum, kiwi, sweet potato, or sliced grapes or berries
  • Hard-boiled egg (chopped)
  • GoRaw Live Pumpkin bar (finely chopped)
  • Wild Wood SpouTofu veggie burger
  • And, of course, lots and lots Happy Baby puffs, munchies and MumMums (when in doubt, they are always a hit, right?)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Super Porridge

Starting solids was one part of parenting that I was the most excited/nervous about. Food is such a central part of our lives that I wanted give the boys an introduction that would make them love mealtimes as much as S and I do. Plus I had all this guilt about my low milk supply/milk drying up at 5 months/blah, blah, blah that I wanted to start G and Q off with as diverse a diet as possible to help make up for the nutrition (I felt) they weren't getting from me.

Enter Super Baby Food. My bff M recommended I check it out, and since her word is always gospel for me, I immediately ran out to buy it. The concept behind the book is feeding your baby whole, natural, homemade foods from the start to help maximize their nutritional intake and use food to build a robust immune system. The basis of the diet is a whole grain cereal, dubbed 'super porridge'. (By the way, I love the phrase 'super porridge'. It takes something so mundane--hot cereal--and elevates it. It's not just 'oatmeal' or 'Cream of Wheat' any longer; it's SUPER PORRIDGE. Who doesn't want to eat something that sounds like the breakfast of a superhero?)

But I'll admit it: I was a bit apprehensive about embarking on milling and mixing my own grains. I kept putting it off, opting instead to feed the boys a mix of Earth's Best rice and Happy Baby oatmeal cereals until they were 7 months old. And then one day I intrepidly entered the bulk foods at Wegmans and starting scooping organic grains and seeds into bags.

I brought them home convinced that my pathetic little blender would never be able to grind them up; but to my amazement, it whizzed them up with aplomb. "Take that!" the blender seemed to growl as it dug into the steel cut oats.

Less then 10 minutes later, I had a 1/2 gallon jar full of gorgeous, nutritious baby cereal. But the question remained: would G and Q actually eat it...?

The next morning I nervously cooked up my first batch, mixing in some nutritional yeast and a little pureed sweet potato as the book suggested. I apprehensively sat before G (he always eats first...no reason why) and very warily approached his lips with the porridge. He opened his sweet little mouth, closed his lips around the spoon, and his eyes widened. "MMMMMmmmmmmm! MMMMMMMMMMMMmmmmmmmmmm!!!" He liked it! He really liked it! And Q liked it, too!

In fact, S and I even liked it. We're now a family of super porridge devotees. The boys eat it (almost) every morning, while S and I have it a few days a week. It's incredibly versatile, filling, and easy. I love that I can cook a big batch and just reheat individual portions*, which means each family member can customize their cereal with the toppings they like best. Probably the most super thing about it? It's ridiculously cheap. I fill that enormous 1/2 gallon jar for approximately the same cost as one 7 oz. can of Happy Baby cereal (I've included some cost information below based on what I pay for organic bulk grains at Wegmans), and it lasts almost twice as long as store-bought cereal.

G/Q's Favorite Super Porridge**
1/2 lb ground steel cut oats, $1.00
1/2 lb pearled barley, $1.25
1/2 lb mulled millet, $1.21
1/3 lb oat bran, $.66
Total: $4.12

1/2 lb nutritional yeast, $3.03
1/4 lb pumpkin seeds, $1.20
1/4 lb flax seeds, $.57

1. Using a blender, grind each grain separately using the 'Grind' or 'Mill' setting. For babies just beginning cereal, grind grain(s) until they are a soft, powdery texture; for more advanced babies, grind just until grains reach a coarse, sandy texture (as seen in the photo above).
2. After each grain is ground, pour into a mixing bowl. Once all grains have been added, add the oat bran and stir until well mixed. Pour the mixture into an air-tight container (preferably glass) and store in a cool, dark location since bugs love organic grains (I keep mine in the fridge).
3. Bring 1 cup of water to boil in a medium saucepan. Slowly whisk in 1/3 cup of porridge mixture. Reduce heat to medium low, stirring often and cooking porridge for 10 minutes.***
4. For beginning eaters, serve cereal plain or with one food serving and a 1/4 teaspoon of nutritional yeast. For advanced eaters, combine one fruit serving and one vegetable serving along with a 1/2 teaspoon of nutritional yeast and some ground seeds. Every other day, serve super porridge with a hard-boiled egg yolk.

*I reheat the porridge in the microwave for about 45 seconds.
**Once you have the grinding/cooking technique down, it's really easy to vary your porridge. For example, I've also made one with brown rice, lentils and quinoa. For beginning eaters, you'll want to stick with just one grain, most likely brown rice or oatmeal.
***This was the quantity I made when the boys were 7 months old and were eating a tablespoon or two of cereal per morning. This batch lasted 3 or 4 days in the fridge. I now double this amount, since they each eat 1/4 cup per morning and it still lasts 3 or 4 days.
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