One Sauce Fits All

So when I first came up with the Red Enchilada Sauce, it was for, well, enchiladas.  However, I’m discovering that this sauce has become my go to sauce for pretty much everything.  I made a huge batch of it in bulk recently and canned it and I’m flying through it.  So far, I’ve used it for Enchiladas, Enchilada Casserole (Technically, the same as the Enchiladas but with everything just in layers since I didn’t feel like rolling up the enchiladas), Chili Rellenos, and even added it to just plain ole rice to give it some real flavor.  I’m sure I’ll keep coming up with more uses.  After all, I’m marking this one down as one sauce fits all.

Rosemary: My new favorite herb

If there is one herb that I think is underappreciated, it is rosemary.  To be perfectly honest, I never really cooked much with it until recently.  I’m not sure why.  I always had it in my kitchen cabinet.  I just never really knew what to do with it.  Lately, I’ve been experimenting with adding it to different things and am finding that I absolutely love this herb.  A little bit will go a long way to making a bland dish pop with flavor and pizazz.

Rosemary is good for more than just cooking, though.  It smells fantastic and can be both invigorating and calming at the same time.  It also happens to be beautiful and great as a very low maintenance bush to help fill in a flower bed.  Of course, the best part about using it as a bush is that it is a very hearty plant that is hard to kill.  If you do get tired of it, just take the stems and use them to make a wreath or some decoration around the house.

Of course, if you run out of ideas, just try one of the following recipes:

Crispy Baked Chicken

Lemon Rosemary Chicken

Rosemary Risotto

Rosemary Sweet Potato Fries

Risotto: fast and easy comfort food

When I was growing up, I hated waiting for rice to cook.  The idea of putting the lid on the pot and just leaving it alone until it was done just absolutely drove me bonkers.  I wanted to stir it, to taste it, to do something with it.  Cooking is an action, after all, not an absence of action.  Then, I found risotto.  It’s the perfect solution: rice with lots of stirring.  Plus, it has tons of flavor and a creamy texture that makes it wonderful comfort food.

Today was a great day for comfort food because my husband and both kids have all been sick.  Like most people who are sick, they weren’t really interested in most of our standard meals.  Risotto, on the other hand was everything they wanted and needed.  It had chicken broth (so kind of like sneaking chicken soup into them without them noticing it). It’s warm, creamy, and soothing to the throat while possessing enough flavor to make it rich while being subtle enough to keep it in the comfort food range.

I generally experiment with different kinds of herbs, vegetables, and flavors when I make risotto.  Like anything, some experiments work and some don’t.  Today’s risotto was a Rosemary Risotto and I was really happy with it and the hubby and the kids all gobbled it up.  My husband also noted that it goes very well with Earl Grey Tea. In any case, it definitely made the repeat list.

 

The land of MILK and honey

I’ve been really struggling with whether to wean my son or continue to nurse him.  As much as I would have loved to be able to nurse him until 18 months when the allergies peak and things start getting easier, my body has been putting on the brakes for a while now, especially after we had to eliminate oatmeal from my diet.  After a lot of thought and a heartfelt discussion with my husband, we decided that it was time to wean.  It was a very difficult decision to make but has a definite silver lining in that I am now free to actually eat out (date nights, here we come!!!), and eat dairy after almost three years away from it.

Logistically, we still will have to keep a number of the allergens (eggs, peanuts, etc . . .) completely out of our house because of our son so I’ll still be doing mostly allergy-friendly cooking.  We will probably continue to use milk substitutes but I will again be able to partake in cheese with my husband.  Tonight, to celebrate eating cheese again, I went all out with dinner.  I made a Spinach Salad with a Creamy Raspberry Vinaigrette, steaks, a baked potato bar (though still with the dairy-free margarine instead of butter), and sauteed mushrooms.

I’ve made the Spinach Salad many times over the past few years but always had to omit the feta.  It is a standard for our family but since I personally think that feta is one of the best foods on the planet, I was thrilled to be able to include it again.  I made the vinaigrette different than I have in the past and am very excited about the new version.  In the past, I combined olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and the raspberry syrup that you buy at a liquor store for fruit margaritas.  It was good but nothing compared to making it with fresh raspberries and not nearly as healthy.  Plus, it most likely had corn in it and I wanted my son to be able to have the dressing.  I don’t think I’ll ever go back to the old way.

All in all, what began as bittersweet is revealing itself to be more sweet than bitter as we embark on the next leg of our journey.

Hurray!

In the midst of the holidays, our allergist has been out of town so our weekly check-in with her has been a little off and we wound up checking in today instead of our usual Friday check-in.

The latest is that we have to avoid all citrus and all seeds (not just flax).  I was over the top excited to hear, though, that the Chickpeas that I thought were off limits, because of the prohibition of peas, are actually fair game!!!! Hello, hummus. Okay, I’ll have to do a substitute for the lemon juice and the Tahini, which is made from sesame seeds.  I’ve seen some recipes that don’t have Tahini in them, though, so I think I can get something reasonably close to hummus.  It may not be authentic and may not taste the exact same but it should still give us a protein packed, veggie crunching, toddler loving, MomMom approved snack.

I don’t really  know why I love hummus so much.  It’s just different.  It’s not sweet and doesn’t make me super thirsty.  It’s just hummus. It’s tasty but it’s not overwhelming.  It’s simple and it’s versatile.  From carrots to bell peppers to whatever, it makes a great substitute for ranch on a veggie tray, and much nicer to MomMom’s hips.

I know what I’m going to be making early tomorrow morning.  If it comes out okay, I’ll post a recipe.

Birthday Extravaganza

My son turned 2 today! I absolutely cannot believe how fast he is growing up.  It seems like just yesterday, he was that little 6 lb, 9 oz baby that we brought home from the birth center.  Today, though, he is running, talking up a storm, helping me cook, clean, wash dishes, color, play with play doh, etc . . . You name it, he does it.

Today was also the first time that I have made a cake with all of our current allergens.  It was some trial and error, some flops, and I came very close to giving up but eight hours later, I came managed to have a cake that was completely free of all milk, eggs, peanuts, corn, oatmeal, flax, and peas and which tasted fairly good.  I still want to experiment with the icing (which was by far the hardest part) so won’t be posting a recipe yet.  I am determined to get that part right before my next son’s birthday in February, though.

In the meantime, here is the picture of the cake for my puppy loving son.

Puppy cake

Kids in the Kitchen

If there’s a meme floating around Facebook that Moms can relate to, it’s the one asking where the cooking show is with the kid clinging to his mother’s legs while she cooks.  Most moms re-share it saying, “Now, that’s a cooking show I would watch!”  I’ll admit I shared it as well but here’s the thing.  Cooking when you have kids doesn’t have to be that way.  When you have kids, you have two choices when it comes to cooking: (1) fight an endless battle  which leaves you and the kids frustrated and frazzled; or (2)  accept, nay, embrace, the presence of kids in the kitchen and involve them.  The latter leaves everyone happier, teaches the kids to cook (which can come in really handy later on), and creates wonderful memories.

Here are some of my tips for cooking with kids.

1) Have your kids take ownership.  Let them pick the vegetables you make.  I let my son pick out a vegetable when we went to the grocery store and he chose broccoli and put it in the bag while I held it open.  He hadn’t been a huge broccoli eater in the past but he was over the top excited when we went to cook “his broccoli” for dinner that night.

2)  Set up shop.  Get them aprons and stools and make sure that they know that it is their stuff for cooking time.   My son didn’t understand the concept of either at first but now, pulling out his apron or his cooking stool can take him from a meltdown to mirth, from exasperation to jubilation.

Note: If your kids are very young, you will need to be very vigilant with a stool.  I started putting my son on a two-step step stool when he was about 18 months old but never left his side in case he fell.  He’s an old pro now but it was months before I was comfortable leaving his side.

3) Make sure they can see what’s going on and participate.  This one is very important and works for babies as well as toddlers and older kids.  Kids like to see what’s going on.  When they can’t see, they get very frustrated.  When I cook, I find it best to put the baby in the highchair facing me so he can see everything I do.  Ultimately, he plays with the toys I put on his tray but being able to see me and everything I do keeps him happy.  The same thing goes for the toddler.  He can be just standing there watching me but if he’s on his stool at eye level, he is involved and engaged, even if only emotionally.

4) Get them involved physically as much as they are able.  One of the first things I would have my son do was throw bananas into the mixer (while it was turned off) when I was making banana bread.  He loved bananas in general and it made him excited to do something with bananas.  Now, every time I measure out something, I hand him the measuring spoon or measuring cup and he does the physical dumping into the bowl.  Tonight, he even stirred the sauce for the Orange Chicken we made for dinner.  When we make tortillas, I give him one of the balls of dough and his miniature rolling pin and he rolled it out like play doh, poked at it, played with it, etc . . . while I made the rest of the tortillas.  I didn’t actually cook his (he sneezed into it) but the important thing for him was that he was side by side with Mom, contributing what he could and it kept him so busy that I was able to make dinner fairly quickly.

5) Keep the routine consistent and follow their lead.  If they are too tuckered out to help, there is probably little you can do to avoid a crying fit (and the kids might cry, too).  In this case, prevention is golden.  Start cooking before you know that point will hit.  If it does hit, pick the absolute fastest thing you can get on the table.  Here is where those backup meals in the freezer come in very handy.

6)  Thank them for cooking with you and exaggerate the role they play in making dinner.  They will feel valued and respected and will learn to cook much faster.

7) Have fun and make memories.  My kids and I absolutely love the time we spend cooking together and we are making memories that will last a lifetime!

Here’s to kids in the kitchen, with all the tears and laughter that come with them!

Kid-friendly Snacktime

I think of all the cooking I do, I’m coming to enjoy making snacks the best.  If you do it right, they can be fast, easy, and a lot of fun.  You have to be really careful, though, because the wrong kind of snacks can make Mommy look like the girl who turned into a blueberry in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  One thing I’m learning, though, is that my kids really do prefer healthy snacks over not so healthy snacks.  Don’t get me wrong.  They’ll eat the junk.  They just have a strong preference for the good snacks.  Here are some of our favorites.

1.  Anything that crunches or makes a funny sound.  Okay, maybe this is a boy thing but I have boys.  I will never forget one of the first times I gave my son a sugar snap pea for a snack.  He took one bite and started laughing at the sound.  He couldn’t get enough after that.  Some great noisemakers are sugarsnap peas, snow peas, carrots (if the kids are old enough), and celery.

2.  Nuts.  Okay, this one only works for kids without nut allergies. If you don’t have a nut allergy, though, this one is great.  They taste delicious, and they’re packed with protein and all kinds of other good things which is great for kids.

3.  Anything with a dip.  Who doesn’t look a good dip.  This one requires a little more thought, though, since it’s easy to start the slippery slope into unhealthy snacks.  We don’t do store bought ranch because of the dairy allergy and, frankly, because I hate giving my kids anything with msg.  It’s really easy to make homemade ranch dressing/dip, though, using a few basic seasonings like basil, oregano, garlic salt, etc . . . and mixing it with some mayo or vegenaise and your milk of choice.   Some other great dips are veggies with hummus, and apples with caramel or peanut butter.

4.  Fruit.  I’m pretty sure this one is my kids’ all-time favorite.  Dice up an apple, a peach, a banana, or throw them some berries.  Not only is it sweet and tasty, it packs them full of anti-oxidants which will keep them strong and healthy.

Another great thing about some of these snacks, too, is that they can be prepared ahead of time and kept in a snack bin in the fridge.  That way, if you’re rushing out the door to get somewhere and didn’t have time to eat, there’s a healthy snack already made and ready to eat. :-)

I’d love to hear other ideas for great snacks so please share your favorite snacks.

 

Good eats

Mexican food is always a huge hit with my family.  In fact, even my 9 month old (technically almost 10 month old) gobbles down tacos and enchiladas with great gusto, polishing off 1 1/2 enchiladas and 2 plates of spanish rice at dinner tonight.

On top of the general tastiness of the food, it’s just plain fun to cook.  Even my 2 year old had a blast using his new miniature rolling pin that St. Nicholas brought him yesterday to help me roll out the tortillas for the Turkey Enchiladas.  To him, it was like play doh but better and to Mommy, it was bonding time mixed with distraction-free cooking. Overall, it was a win-win situation.

Dinner went so well that I even some carob chip bars (or allergen-friendly chocolate chip bars if you prefer).  Carob Chip Bars

Taco Tilapia

One of the best things about making taco seasoning in bulk is that it is readily available to use in other ways than just tacos.  Tonight was a perfect example.  To be perfectly honest, I took a gamble with tonight’s dinner and didn’t really expect it to work out.  I try to make fish at least once a week and usually make it on Friday.  I went to the store to find a fish that looked good and picked up Tilapia – mostly because it was pretty much the cheapest.  I drizzled some olive oil in a glass baking dish, slapped the fish down, drizzled some more olive oil on top and sprinkled taco seasoning over it kind of like a Mexican version of blackened seasoning.  I then popped it in a 400 degree oven where I promptly forgot about it (by which I mean I forgot to set a timer and had no clue what time I actually put it in the oven).  For the record, I don’t encourage this method.  My nose saved dinner tonight but following this particular method is a great way to burn dinner.  Anyway, the gamble turned out well.  My husband actually went back for thirds and kept commenting on how flavorful the fish was which was a much better turnout than the flop I half-anticipated.  Best part of it all was that it was so easy.