Monday, October 20, 2014

day 20: E's autumn oatmeal

This post is part of the 31 Days of Delicious Fall series. Click here for the whole list!

Why are kids so picky? Even my baby-led solids kid isn't a fan of vegetables. And Big E... oh goodness. His tastes change daily, sometimes mid-meal. Drives me crazy. Back when we were spoon-feeding him, it was always a challenge to get him to eat what felt like a nutritionally complete meal. But he LOVED oatmeal. So we were always brainstorming what we could add to his morning cereal that would be baby-approved and get a variety of food groups into him. For the life of me, I can't recall how we came up with this combination... but he ate it almost daily for the better part of a year, maybe more. We even used to mix plain yogurt in during his failure-to-thrive scare, and he loved it. It's still a frequent request from him, so I present it here to you: our favorite, kid-approved, easy breakfast.

I could spell out the "recipe" for you, but it really isn't like that. Just prepare the oatmeal, however you usually do, and then add applesauce and pumpkin puree to taste. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Drizzle in some milk or cream if it's still too hot. Other add-ins we've enjoyed are brown sugar, raisins, dried apples, and chopped nuts. It's warm and comforting and oh-so-good for you!!

Also: oatmeal is a galactagogue.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

day 19: black bean & sweet potato enchiladas

This post is part of the 31 Days of Delicious Fall series. Click here for the whole list!

Every month or two, I get together with my friends at Hy-Vee (a local grocery store) to assemble a bunch of freezer meals in the store's club room. The store provides all the food (meat is pre-portioned and cut appropriately for each meal), ovens, utensils, etc.... and then the store employees clean up when we've gone. We each select a meal or two beforehand, make those meals for the entire group, and take home 10-15 meals apiece. It's been a HUGE blessing since Baby G was born. I love to cook and experiment in the kitchen, but there are plenty of days when a decent dinner just wouldn't happen if it weren't for the freezer meals. Besides that, I get to spend an evening in a kitchen (that I don't have to clean up!) with my friends. It's a very productive way to get out of the house for a few hours, recharge my mommy battery, and go home feeling very accomplished.

Additionally, I've added some great recipes from the Hy-Vee database to my everyday repertoire. Today, I'm modifying one that Husband and I LOVE: butternut squash enchiladas. I haven't replicated at home before because butternut squash is such a chore to prepare -- and, oddly enough, although I can eat it all day long with no problem, handling it makes my hands feel leathery, like I've added another layer to my skin. SO weird, and no lotion or scrub makes it go away. When we grew butternut squash in our garden a few years back, I processed a bunch of it to freeze for the winter, and my hands felt awful all night. So I'm done with that, but it hit me: cheaper than butternut squash and not a skin allergen to me... sweet potatoes!

I know some of you will turn up your noses at the very idea of the ingredient combination, but we love it. I promise, it doesn't taste like sweet potato. The filling is just creamy and slightly sweet against a backdrop of spicy enchilada sauce. I've modified the recipe quite a bit, but original credit goes to the chefs at Hy-Vee who have created a wonderful range of freezer-safe meals. Next time I make this, I'm certainly going to freeze a batch. There's nothing better than having a pan of enchiladas ready to pop into the oven!

gather these...
  • 1 pound sweet potatoes (give or take -- my potatoes totaled 1.25 pounds)
  • 1 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 t. minced garlic (2 cloves)
  • half of a 7-oz. can chipotle sauce (save the other half for Day 25's recipe!!)
  • 8 oz. cream cheese or Neufchatel
  • 1 t. cumin
  • ½ t. ground nutmeg
  • 3 stalks of green onions, diced
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 large (16-oz.) can or 2 small (10-oz.) cans enchilada sauce
  • 10 whole wheat tortillas
  • 1 cup shredded cheese, your choice (we always have Colby Jack in the house, but cheddar or a Mexican blend would also be fine)

do this...
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Prick sweet potatoes with a fork, then microwave on high 8-10 minutes, or until cooked through, turning once or twice. Allow to cool enough to handle (or protect your hands with an Ove Glove), then remove the skin and mash in a large bowl.
  3. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat, then add onions and saute until soft. Add garlic several minutes in so it doesn't burn.
  4. Combine cooked onion and garlic in bowl with potato flesh, chipotle sauce, cream cheese, spices, and green onions. Mix well. After mixing, I like to use my rubber spatula to make indentations in the mixture (shown below) so my enchiladas are filled evenly.
  5. Spread about 1 cup enchilada sauce on the bottom of a 9x13 pan.
  6. Fill tortillas, then roll up and place in pan, seam side down.
  7. Top with remainder of enchilada sauce and sprinkle with cheese.
  8. Bake 30-40 minutes, until sauce is bubbling, then broil 2-3 minutes to brown cheese.
  9. ENJOY!!

day 18: honey salted caramel Greek yogurt

This post is part of the 31 Days of Delicious Fall series. Click here for the whole list!

There have been a lot of heavy, rich, indulgent foods on the blog this month. So I'm taking a quick break to bring you another grocery store find.

Aldi is really the only place where I allow myself occasional impulse buys, usually because they are so inexpensive that it's a lot easier to talk myself into deviating from the list. This was one of those occasions. I'm a sucker for pretty much everything on this label: I make my yogurt as thick as possible, I think honey alone is the best yogurt sweetener there is, and I was in love with salted caramel -- and salted chocolate, and salted whatever-dessert-you-have -- long before it exploded all over Pinterest. So when I saw this on the Aldi "special buy" shelf for $2.99, I had to pick it up.

It's velvety and smooth, not too sweet, and much better for you than the salted caramel mocha you can get at your favorite coffee shop (520 calories?!). But it feels decadent, and of course it's packed with protein. It's really the perfect fall snack when you've eaten too many goodies (read: most of what I've been blogging about this month). Big E likes to stir in some cinnamon, and I think it's best with just a few more grains of fine sea salt sprinkled over the top. If you see it on your Aldi shelf, give it a try!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

day 17: oatmeal scotchies

This post is part of the 31 Days of Delicious Fall series. Click here for the whole list!

Back when Husband and I were facilitating Financial Peace University in our home, I provided snacks for our class every week. Some may have found this to be burdensome, but I viewed it as a delightful excuse to try out new recipes. One week, I found myself pressed for time and without a plan. Enter Pinterest! I needed something fairly simple that I could make with ingredients I had on hand*. And I was, as I often am (if I'm honest), craving cookies.

I couldn't have been more happy with what I made that afternoon. These cookies are so thin they're almost lace-like -- you can actually see through them in places -- and despite what you might expect from that description, they're chewy. But there are crisp edges, and the butterscotch chips provide little bits of crunch throughout. They're everything I love in a cookie, rolled into one.

Wait. Not everything. There is no chocolate. Oddly enough, in these, I don't miss it. And while you can of course enjoy any cookie at any time of year (no one has ever said, "But it's March! This isn't peanut butter cookie season!"), I find butterscotch to be decidedly fall-like. Enjoy these with a glass of milk if you must, but believe me when I say that the classic coffee-and-a-donut combination has nothing on an oatmeal scotchie with homemade spiced hot cocoa. Ahh, there's the chocolate.

gather these...
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 t. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • ½ t. salt
  • 1 t. cinnamon
  • 2½-3 cups oatmeal
  • 8-12 oz. butterscotch chips

Note: the original recipe calls for 3 cups oatmeal and 12 oz. (1 package) butterscotch chips. But I was running low on some ingredients and am not crazy enough to interrupt baby naptime to go to the store... so in case you're in the same boat, I can tell you that using less of each will not kill the recipe.

do this...
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. and grease two cookie sheets (or use silicon mats, preferred).
  2. Soften butter. For some reason, when I'm making this recipe in particular, I always get absentminded and let the butter go for too long in the microwave, and half of it ends up melting. No biggie. It'll be fine.
  3. Cream together butter and sugars. Someone recently asked me what that meant, so here it is: beat on high speed until you've incorporated enough air that the fats and sugars lighten and become fluffy, as shown below. Creaming takes a minute or two; don't just beat for 20 seconds and call it good.
  4. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well.
  5. Stir flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon together in a separate bowl, then gradually mix into the dough.
  6. Incorporate oats by stirring or beating at lower mixer speed. Stir in butterscotch chips.
  7. At this point, you can either refrigerate the dough or bake cookies immediately. I prefer to give it some refrigeration time, but that's just because it's less messy that way. The end results are exactly the same regardless.
  8. Roll dough into balls or drop by spoonfuls onto your cookie sheet, pressing down slightly. These cookies will spread a lot!!! so be sure not to crowd your baking area. Bake 9-11 minutes or just until edges start to brown. (Personally, I'd rather these be a bit overdone than underdone. I love the contrast of a crispy edge against the chewy middle, and something about the way the oats soak up the butter means that I've never had one taste burned -- just caramely. It's lovely. And underdone scotchies are really hard to handle; they fall apart so easily if they're not adequately baked.)
  9. After removing from the oven, allow cookies to cool on the sheet until they have "fallen"(they'll look a bit puffy immediately after baking) and had a chance to firm up. If you try to transfer them to a cooling rack immediately, they are so soft that you'll just have a bunch of scotchie pieces oozing through the rack. Still tasty... not so pretty. This is why I specify to prepare two pans. You'll want to give one sheet almost an entire baking time to cool before moving the cookies to the cooling rack.

*I know not everyone has butterscotch chips on hand all the time... but I try to.

Friday, October 17, 2014

day 16: spiced hot cocoa mix

This post is part of the 31 Days of Delicious Fall series. Click here for the whole list!

I hadn't planned to share my hot cocoa mix recipe with you until later in the fall, but I realized that tomorrow's recipe just begs to be accompanied by a mug of cocoa. Besides that, I awoke to a very chilly house this morning... so I'm changing things up. Cocoa isn't just for winter, although I do love a warm mug with Christmas cookies. Today, it's definitely for fall.

In my days of working in an office, I used to be a cocoa packet junkie. I hadn't fallen in love with coffee (truth be told, very few offices provide coffee of a quality that would encourage one to fall in love with it), so if I wanted something warm and satisfying, I went for the cocoa. But once I tried making my own mix, I was done with the fake stuff for good.

This recipe marries Brown Eyed Baker's with Alton Brown's: I like less heat than Alton but more depth of flavor than BEB's provides, and I think my recipe is that wonderful middle ground with a rich, creamy result. I did finally end up buying Dutch-process cocoa today because that's what Costco carries, and I cannot tell you how excited I was about that! I'd only tried Dutch-process once before (my mother-in-law gave me a few tablespoons to taste), and although it made an amazing difference, it's so expensive that I've been resigned to using plain old cocoa powder -- and still with good results! So if you can't get your hands on Dutch-process cocoa for any reason, don't worry: it's still worth making your own mix, even if you're just using the cheap stuff from Aldi.

gather these...
  • 1 1/2 cups cocoa powder (Dutch-process if you can swing it)
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 cups dry milk powder
  • 1 t. kosher salt
  • 2 t. cornstarch
  • 1 shake cayenne pepper
  • 1 t. cinnamon
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips

do this...
  1. Stir all ingredients together in a large bowl. You can use more cayenne or none, but start with just a small shake and see how you like it! Unless you use an excessive amount, you're really just adding another layer of warmth with the spices. One note on the salt: if you're using table salt, use less. Kosher salt has larger crystals, so it's actually not as... salty.
  2. Process the mixture well in a food processor in 2-3 batches until the white chocolate is finely ground. If your chips end up being significantly larger than the other ingredients, you'll end up with a sludge at the bottom of your mug when you drink this. A tasty sludge, sure, but the point is to have everything incorporated into one homogenous beverage.
  3. Store in an airtight container. Mix should be good until the expiration date of the powdered milk, but mine never lasts that long!
To make your mug of steamy chocolate goodness, I recommend starting with a mug 2/3 full of hot milk. You can also use hot water; using milk yields an incredibly rich cocoa. I often use half water and half milk. Then add the cocoa mix to your mug; a good starting point might be 1/4 cup, adding more to taste. The end result depends on how big your mug is and how rich you like your cocoa! Top with marshmallows, stir in a drizzle of coffee creamer... or enjoy with your favorite cookie.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

day 15: breakfast-approved apple crisp

This post is part of the 31 Days of Delicious Fall series. Click here for the whole list!

At this point, it should not surprise you that I'm going to write about apples. APPLES APPLES APPLES. That tree of mine still has hundreds of them waiting to be consumed. So today, I'm sharing with you a recipe that's remained a favorite with my family for three apple harvest seasons now.

I love apple pie, apple crisp, apple cobbler... and dessert for breakfast the next morning with a good cup of coffee is perhaps the Best Thing Ever. But ohhhhhhhhh so much butter... so much sugar... so much NO compared to my usual reasonable, protein-packed, healthy breakfast options. So when I found Smitten Kitchen's recipe, which actually includes the word "breakfast" in the title, I was sold.

Big E loves this, and so does Husband. I'm sure Baby G will when I make a nut-free version. It's a dish I feel good about serving to my family. Alongside some cheesy scrambled eggs, it's a perfect weekend breakfast and makes for great leftovers. The source recipe calls for 3 pounds of apples, stating that 4 pounds felt like too much, but I've always felt like 3 pounds was a bit stingy. I'm all for a generous crumb topping, but when I make apple crisp, I want that filling to be the star! (Besides, since I'm using my peeler, it's a negligible amount of time and work to prep a few more.)

When I made this, I took one big batch to a MOPS meeting and kept one small pan here at home. So, lucky you, I'm including an ingredient list for a 9x13 pan as well as one for an 8x8 pan. You're welcome, math haters.

gather these (9x13 pan)...
  • 4 pounds apples, a mix or your favorite all-purpose apple (my Jonagolds seem to do well flying solo)
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 rounded T. cornstarch
  • 1 T. cinnamon
  • 1 t. salt
  • 8 T. (1 stick) butter, may substitute coconut oil for 2-3 T. if desired
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ½ cup flour
  • 2 cups oats
  • ½ cup sliced almonds
  • ½ cup shredded coconut
gather these (8x8 pan)...
  • 2 pounds apples, a mix or your favorite all-purpose apple (my Jonagolds seem to do well flying solo)
  • 2 T. lemon juice
  • 2 T. sugar
  • 1 rounded T. cornstarch
  • 2 t. cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 T. (½ stick) butter, may substitute coconut oil for 1 T. if desired
  • 2 T. honey
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 1 cup oats
  • ¼ cup sliced almonds
  • ¼ cup shredded coconut
Again with the no ingredient photo. I made this on a pretty big baking day. Want to see a photo of why I was slacking on my food photography?
do this...
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Peel and core apples. Slice or chop into medium-sized chunks. (If using a multi-functional peeler like in this video, cut the final product in quarters.)
  3. Mix apples with lemon juice, sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, and salt. Some people will tell you to coat the apples in lemon juice as you slice them to prevent browning, but I figure... they're going to turn nice and brown when I bake them anyway. You can mix straight in your baking pan, or use a large bowl if you tend to get a bit overzealous in your attempts to fully coat the mixture.
  4. Melt the butter and honey together, then stir in flour, oats, almonds, coconut, and another pinch of salt. Combine well until mixture starts to form clumps.
  5. Sprinkle granola mixture evenly over the apples in the pan, then bake 40-50 minutes, or until apples are tender and bubbling. If, like me, you wish to assemble this the night before so you can get up on Saturday morning, stick it in the oven, and go back to bed, then cover the dish with foil before baking to prevent over-browning. (If you're keeping an eye on it, only put foil on if you see that the granola is getting done too quickly.) Be sure to remove the foil in the last few minutes of baking so the granola gets nice and crisp. I highly recommend topping your bowl with a bit of whipped cream or just a drizzle of coffee creamer.
Don't like coconut? Nut allergies in the house? I've omitted the almonds before with no problem, but I've never left out the coconut, and it doesn't bother my coconut-hating husband.It's just so perfect in a granola! But if I had to leave it out, I'd probably up the oats just a bit -- not by the entire measure of coconut, because moisture content is quite different, but just a bit.