All posts by simplyjojosmommy

Now what do I do with all of these apples and pumpkins?

It’s fall and  time for all of those outdoor fall activities that my family and I love! If you are a Northeast girl like me, than you know that September and October bring fall festivals, apple picking, pumpkin picking and the most perfect sweatshirt weather imaginable. My lil’ Jojo shares my love for the outdoors, so naturally as soon as we welcomed the fall season, we were out and about picking apples at a local farm with friends and family, and driving out east to pick the next great pumpkin with Jojo’s BFF :).

There are few better ways to spend time as a family, than outdoors watching your energetic, almost-two year old run, jump, roll and apple/pumpkin pick himself into a “nap-coma”. You will undoubtedly experience a meltdown or two,  but trust me its worth it.  The trip is sure to always be filled with wonderful memories and laughs. (*A Few trip tips- bring lots of food and visit places that are no more than an hour away from home to avoid lengthy car trips that only increase the chances of a meltdown as soon as you arrive.)

When the day trip is over, you’ve unpacked the car, brought all of your goodies into the house, and successfully transfered your sleeping child to his/her crib for an extended nap time (fingers crossed – I realize that this is quite idyllic), you may find yourself thinking… now what do I do with all of these apples and pumpkins? While the experience of apple picking is certainly one of a kind, you may also ask yourself why on earth you decided to pick two 12lb bags full. Were you really thinking that you could eat 24lbs of apples?…And what about all of those apples you already ate while walking though the orchard? …You know who you are MWL!!  Did you really see yourself snacking on apples for the next month? Did “all you can carry pumpkins for 50 cents a pound ” really mean you had to try to carry the whole farm home with you?… Of course not!!! But you did, and now you’re saying, “HELP ME! My house is turning into a farmer’s market!!!”

So what can you do with all of those apples? Well, my first suggestion is have a game plan BEFORE  you leave the house. But for those of you  who didn’t, no worries, I’m here to help! It is important to think about what you want to make or bake, so that you are not overwhelmed when you walk in the door with pecks of produce. …Yes, I said pecks! You know, approximately 10.5 lb bags of apples … doesn’t everyone know that?  (…OK, I didn’t either. Thank you apple farmers for teaching me a new measurement!) You need to understand that certain dishes are more laborious than others, but that you can cut down on the work and get to the enjoyment of your tasty, homemade treats faster by having the right tools and recipes handy.

When I went apple and pumpkin picking I had the following dishes in mind:

For Jojo:

  • Applesauce
  • Apple pancakes
  • Apple muffins
  • Baked apples
  • Pumpkin pancakes

 For us:

  • Apple Crisp
  • Pumpkin pie
  • Pumpkin bread

To make these dishes I needed:

  • Apple Peeler – I think I have the best one on earth…(props to my hubby)Picture 19
  • Large pot with a steamer basket
  • Food processor/ blender
  • Large glass 9×9 baking dish or casserole dish
  • Sharp knife & cutting board (one that does not slip on the counter)

Here are few of my favorite recipes. They are all family tested and approved. For a sweet apple treat, make sure you try the apple crisp. I know that it is not my usual health conscious recipe, but you deserve a little indulgence every now and then. Pair it with Vanilla ice cream and you have a real crowd pleaser. The recipe doubles and even triples quite nicely for a large group…Thanksgiving dessert anyone?

Apple Crisp: Courtesy of Better Homes & Gardensphoto-10

Makes: 6 servings/ Prep 30mins/ Bake 375°F

Ingredients

            5 
 cups  sliced, peeled apples

            2 – 4 
 tablespoons  granulated sugar

            1/2
 cup  regular rolled oats

            1/2
 cup  packed brown sugar

            1/4
 cup  all-purpose flour

            1/4
 teaspoon  ground nutmeg, ginger, or cinnamon

            1/4
 cup  butter

            1/4
 cup  chopped nuts or coconut

            
 Vanilla ice cream or light cream (optional)

Directions

  1. For filling, thaw fruit, if frozen. Do not drain. Place fruit in an ungreased 2-quart square baking dish.
  2. Stir in the granulated sugar.
    For topping, in a mixing bowl combine oats; brown sugar; flour; and nutmeg, ginger, or cinnamon. With a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in nuts or coconut.
  3. Sprinkle topping over filling.
  4. Bake in a 375 degree F oven for 30 to 35 minutes (40 minutes for thawed fruit) or until fruit is tender and topping is golden. If desired, serve warm with ice cream or light cream.

Natural Apple Sauce– 6 large apples will make a typical 8 oz jar of applesauce.

  1. Peel core and slice 6 large apples.
  2. Place apple slices in a large steamer basket in a large pot filled to the bottom of the steamer basket with water.
  3. Steam apples until they are tender.
  4. Place the steamed apples in the food processor or blender and puree.
  5. Allow too cool before placing in containers and storing in the refrigerator.

Apple Applesauce Muffins: Courtesy of Weelicious.com

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

1/2 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup honey

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cups peeled and chopped apples (about 2 medium apples)

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the applesauce, buttermilk, honey, egg, and vanilla.
  4. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix until just combined. Fold in the apples.
  1. Pour batter into greased muffin cups, about 3/4 full and bake 20 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in the center
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The Magic of “GG”

Growing up, my grandmother’s kitchen was always a magical place filled with culinary wonder and the delicious aroma of gravy (not sauce) simmering to perfection. Stepping into her kitchen,and peeking through her cabinets (and sometimes front coat closet) always gave me that anxious feeling of surprise.  You never knew what kind of goodies you were going to stumble upon. Whether it was frozen, individual slices of homemade pizza in the freezer, or “Royal Dansk” tins filled to the brim with rock biscotti, anisette cookies or a dozen other varieties of Italian deliciousness, Grandma’s home-cooking always brought a smile to my face (and it still does!!).

Grandma has the cooking “gift”, that instinctive cooking know-how of a little bit of this and a little bit of that, that somehow always yields happy faces and full bellies. She has the magic to take a semi-empty “I’m an on-the-go grandma’s fridge” and turn it into a meal fit for kings… and toddlers!! Grandma how do you do it?

I witnessed this magic a couple of weeks ago when my mother and I decided to take lil’ Jojo in to see his GG (Great Grandma) on a Friday evening. The decision was very last minute,  and of course we decided to stay for a meal because you really don’t ever want to leave. But as you know when you have a toddler, sometimes unexpected changes in plans lead to bigger problems (tantrums, meltdowns …you get the picture).So naturally , I began to panic a little because I hadn’t planned on what Jojo would eat for dinner ( he was also going through quite the picky spell…thank you going back-to-school). Silly me should’ve known that GG was on it. Before I could even put the pieces of my brain back together to think about dinner, she was already at work in the kitchen cooking up a dish that was so simple and delicious it made me laugh at how much I stress out about what he will eat. In no time, GG whipped up a delicious acini pasta dish with peas & corn that Jojo devoured. GG knows her stuff!

This recipe is very simple, but we need those simple and delicious meals in our lives for those unplanned dinner days when we would rather spend more time laughing and enjoying the company of our families than slave over an involved meal in the kitchen!

Ingredients:

  • 1 Box of Acini Pasta
  • Frozen vegetable mix (GG used peas with corn)-1/2c-1c
  • 1-3 tbsp of milk (sorry for the range, but it you know… it’s a little of this and a little of that!)
  • 1-2 tbsp butter

Preparation:

  1. Cook 1/4 of the box of Acini Pasta according to the instructions on the box. Cook the pasta  1 minute less than the suggested cook time.
  2. Drain pasta and return to pot. Turn off burner.
  3. Add 1/2c – 1c of thawed frozen vegetables, milk and butter. Stir until combined and creamy. (You could also add cut -up chicken or beans for protein)

*Jojo loved this quick and easy meal, and I must admit I devoured it too. Yummy! Thank you GG! You can also add parmesan cheese to this dish to give it more of a cheesy “grits” type taste.

Veggie Wars…

No matter how good of an eater Jojo is, I am constantly fighting to get him to eat more vegetables without having to hide them in pastas, muffins, pancakes etc. I’m sure all you cooking moms and dads out there feel my pain! Nothing is more frustrating than watching that piece of broccoli get flung across your clean kitchen …well… maybe lunging for the rest of the plate so that it doesn’t end up on the floor with the broccoli is. (Yes LH, it has happened to me too 🙂 !)

At times offering a vegetable to your toddler with dinner can feel like your setting yourself up for failure (believe me I know), but as I’ve learned through my little kitchen experiments,  it doesn’t always have to be. I was watching an episode of Dr Oz one afternoon, when he discussed encouraging young children to eat more vegetables. Now granted, nothing Dr Oz said was revolutionary advice, but somehow his magical Ozness made simple advice seem life-changing. In short, he suggested offering young children vegetables that taste good and said that preparing vegetables in a tasty way will encourage youngsters to enjoy them because they actually are delicious!  Simple idea right? But somehow for me this was an Ahh haaa moment. I realized that I needed to change my Veggie War “game plan” and get my cook on. Here are a few ideas for simple but tasty veggies that are Jojo approved.

Roasted Cauliflower – Yes that’s right … cauliflower. Jojo loves it. There is something popcorn-esque about this preparation and everyone in my family loves it. The best part is it is ridiculously easy!

Ingredients: Cauliflower, salt, pepper, extra virgin olive oil

  1. Cut the head of cauliflower in half and cut out the hard core.
  2. Break apart the small cauliflower trees into small tree pieces.
  3. Place cauliflower pieces on a cookie sheet.
  4. Toss with olive oil, and salt & pepper to taste (*Do not over salt)
  5. Roast in a 425 degree oven for 20-25 minutes until the cauliflower is slightly golden brown on the tops of the trees.

This recipe is great for fresh broccoli as well. You may have to adjust the cook time depending on the size of the pieces. Jojo loves how sweet and caramelized the pieces get. The roasted flavor is a big hit!

Cinnamon Carrot Sticks– This veggie is even easier than roasting and very popular with lunch and dinner.

Ingredients: Baby carrots, cinnamon, honey

  1. Steam the desired amount of baby carrots on the stove or in the microwave. Then let carrots cool.
  2. Take cooled carrots and cut them in half long ways and then cut them in half long ways again.
  3. Sprinkle cut carrots with cinnamon and drizzle them with honey.
  4. Serve at room temperature or heat them in a skillet to caramelize them.

Told you it was easy! What’s even better is the reaction. It’s got the right amount of sweetness and spice to make it interesting and the stick shape makes it fun and very french fry like.

Enjoy the recipes. Let me know how they work out.

Live, Laugh, Love …and Cook!

If you think it’s been a while since you’ve heard from me…you’re right! It has been! This summer I took time to relax, recharge and reconnect with my son. I took full advantage of my summer off to spend time doing all of those mommy and me activities with lil’ Jojo that I miss out on during the school year. From Gymboree, to Mother Goose Rhyme Time at the public library, to weekly trips to the local beach,  Jojo and I lived the life of Riley for a couple of months 🙂 ! I was blessed.

Of course, with the extra time home I also found plenty of opportunities to experiment in the kitchen, which I LOVED! ( I will be sharing all of my delish- toddler approved recipes with you -no worries!!). I focused on finding and creating meals that would appeal to the whole family since Jojo hit many food milestones: learning to use a fork & spoon, developing a willingness to try new foods and expressing an interest in mommy and daddy’s food…which ultimately led to a newly found love for chicken … finally!!!  Of course I take full credit for Jojo’s new love for chicken :)… and lord knows I spent a lot of time making numerous chicken dishes until I had success. So today, I figured I share a quick chicken dish that Jojo screams “yum” for!

Honey-Chili Chicken Nuggets

Ingredients

  • 2 Boneless chicken breasts (Thick cut-not thin sliced)
  • Flour
  • 2 Eggs
  • 2 Cups Cheerios – processed into crumb or Bread crumb
  • ½ Cup Parmesan cheese
  • ½ tsp chili powder
  • Honey
  • Pepper
  • Olive oil

Preparation

  1. Set up a chicken dredging station with one plate of flour, one plate of breadcrumb and a plate for the eggs.
  2. Mix 2 cups of cheerio crumb/ breadcrumb with a ½ cup of Parmesan cheese, ½ tsp of chili powder and pepper to taste.
  3. Slice the boneless chicken breasts into nuggets.
  4. Dredge the nuggets in flour. Be sure to shake them to remove excess flour.
  5. In a separate bowl beat two eggs. Dredge the floured chicken nuggets in the egg mixture and then dredge the chicken nuggets in the crumb mixture.
  6. Place the chicken nuggets on a baking sheet that is greased with olive oil or sprayed with cooking spray.
  7. Drizzle the top of each nugget with olive oil and then drizzle the top of each nugget with honey.
  8. Bake in a 400-degree oven for 15-25 minutes depending on the thickness of the nuggets. Check that the chicken is fully cooked before removing from the oven. The key to cooking juicy chicken is not to over cook it, so monitor it closely.

**BTW, my hubby loves this too, so this is a great FAMILY dinner! Pair it with your favorite vegetables and you have a meal!

A Sweet Graham Treat

I have a sweet tooth! How could I not? I grew up in a family full of bakers,  in a house where there was always a fresh-baked batch of chocolate chip cookies on the kitchen counter. Some of my best childhood memories are baking and eating various types of cookies with my mom, grandma, aunts and cousins! So naturally, I want my lil Jojo to share those same types of experiences with me. After all, its all about the food memories!

Jojo loves graham crackers, so I figured they would be the best cookies for his first baking experience (especially since the dough is egg-free and very playdough like). We prepared it together. I let him dump the measured flour into the bowl and help with the cookie cutters (we used ginger breadman cookie cutters since they looked fun.) He handled these tasks very well and even enjoyed watching me mix and roll out the dough. It was definitely a fun and easy activity to do together, and the end results were delicious!! Yum!

Here is the recipe. I found it on Weelicious (of course). Read the tips that follow for MY recommendations.

Graham Crackers  (Makes A LOT, depending on the shape you cut them in) Prep Time:10 minutes, Cook Time: 15 minutes, Total Time: 25minutesIt’s not that I make everything our family eats from scratch, but I do try to make as many of the sweet treats my kids eat as possible. I recently realized that Kenya had never eaten a graham cracker before. How is that possible?! Graham crackers are…

Ingredients

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup butter, chilled & cubed

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup water

Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a food processor or mixer combine the first 6 ingredients.

3. Add cubed and chilled butter to the mix and pulse/mix until it resembles coarse meal.

4. Add honey and water and continue to mix until it all combines.

5. Remove and shape the dough into a flat disk and place between two pieces of parchment paper.

6. Roll dough out until 1/4 inch thick. Cut into crackers or shapes.

7. Place cookies on a Silpat or parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes.

8. Cool and serve.

To Freeze: After step 6, place the cut out cookie shapes on a baking sheet and freeze for 20 minutes. Remove, place in a Ziploc bag, label and freeze for up to 4 months. When ready to bake, follow steps 7-8, adding an additional 1-2 minutes baking time.

** If you have no Whole Wheat, you can use 1 Cup Oat Bran to 2 Cups AP Flour instead of what the recipe calls for and it works

 Jojo’s Mommy’s Tips:

If you bake the cookies for 15 minutes, they will come out hard like true graham crackers. If you want these cookies to be soft and chewy, then cook it for less time. I cooked mine for 7-8 minutes and they were perfect!

If you want to add a professional touch to the look of your cookies you can use a toothpick to poke a design around the edges of your grahams before you cook them .You can also add a frosting glaze using confectioners sugar and a splash water or milk to jazz these delicious cookies up!

Sandwich “Sushi”?

O yes! Like many, I am a sushi-holic. It is my go-to take-out food and a “guilt-free” guilty pleasure. Is that possible? I love everything about it, the delicious taste created by the fresh ingredients (crispy cucumber, buttery avocado etc.), and of course how beautiful it is. Each tiny piece of sushi is like its own miniature piece of art, which for me, makes it that much more delicious. YUM! To my surprise there are many foodies and mommy chefs out there using sushi as inspiration for their toddler lunches. No, they are not suggesting we all run and take our toddlers out for a sushi lunch (I do NOT feed my Jojo any type of raw fish or raw protein), but what they are doing is taking inspiration from these scrumptious pieces of food art and creating yummy spins on the sandwich.

It makes sense, I mean I said it myself, part of what makes sushi so delicious is the way it looks and how it is presented. So if you take that simple principle and apply it to making a sushi sandwich, your toddler will find it just as fun and delicious as you do!

Inspired by a picture I saw on the cover of the new Weelicious Lunches book last week online, and stumped about how to get my lil Jojo to eat chicken in other forms besides the pot-pie and pasta methods (there is something about plain chicken that is simply unappealing to him), I thought why not make it into a fun sandwich sushi roll where the whole grain bread acts as the rice and the filling is whatever fresh produce and/ or protein that is on the menu for the day. What an easy idea! So I did, and yes I got a “ummmmmm” on the first bite which means this was a complete success. What’s even better is that I can make sandwich “sushi” for all different types of fresh vegetables, fruits and cooked proteins.

JoJo’s Carrot, Cucumber and Cooked Chicken Sandwich Sushi

 Ingredients:

1 slice multigrain bread (edges trimmed)

2 tbsp cream cheese

5 thin slices of cucumber

2 tbsp steamed shredded carrot

pieces of diced cooked chicken breast

Preparation:

Cut off the edges to your slice of bread and then take a rolling pin and roll the bread flat. Spread the cream cheese over the flattened piece of bread. Top with the thin slices of cucumber, carrots and chicken. Roll the bread up into a sushi roll shape. Squeeze cylinder to set ingredients.  Cut into small pieces with a sharp knife.

*Prepartion Tips: You will need to experiment with the placement of your ingredients to get a perfect roll. The thinner the slices, the easier it is to form the bread into a roll.

* Dairy Free: For all my dairy-free moms out there, I know it can be difficult to find recipes that fit your needs. A good substitute for cream cheese in this recipe is hummus (any variety just be sure to use a nut-free variety and watch the salt content- I recommend making your own).

Other Variations:

  • Sweet: Cream cheese and berries
  • Savory: Black bean hummus, avocado, steamed shredded carrots, diced chicken breast cooked with cumin, thinly sliced fresh tomato and shredded cheddar.

Make It Exciting: For my Jojo nothing amps up a meal more than adding a dipping sauce. Jazz up your rolls by creating your own spectacular sauce- yogurt, sour cream, and applesauce are all great accompaniments. Pick what best fits the flavor profile of your rolls.

Like my blog? Follow me or leave a comment. I would love to be the answer to your mommy cooking woes!

Peas & Pasta…

I am the mother of a 17-month-old toddler who loves to be fickle at mealtime. He is a GREAT eater, loves his fruits and veggies, but there is no rhyme or reason to what he is willing to eat on any given day.  What he liked yesterday, he hates today. What he ate for lunch, is what he is throwing off of his plate at dinner. Can you feel my frustration? There is no telling how he will react when the food hits the tray…OY!

How do I deal with my lil’ Jojo’s unpredictability? Well, I have to stick with the foods I know he likes and create new meals that incorporate these key ingredients. Jojo LOVES PEAS & PASTA.  He will request them as soon as his cute little bottom hits the highchair. I don’t know what it is about these two foods, but he loves them and they are my go to foods. I am constantly creating and/ or seeking out new recipes that incorporate them so Jojo will be happy, healthy &FED!

Peas and pasta are my vehicle for introducing Jojo to the deliciousness of other veggies. During a spare moment I had the other day (while Jojo was in for his afternoon nap), I decided to curl up on the couch and see if I could find inspiration for a new meal in one of the 25 episodes of The Chew that lay idle on my DVR.  I scanned the episode titles as I scrolled through every episode from the month of May and June until, EUREKA! the Bite N’ Blog episode tweaked my interest (I wonder why?).  It just so happened that one of my favorite mommy food bloggers, Catherine McCord (from Weelicious.com) was a guest sharing a great Green Macaroni and Cheese recipe. Her recipe included pasta, peas (awesome), cheese and other veggies. PERFECT!

I made this recipe for Jojo that night and the first words out of his mouth (other than peas and pasta) were “mmmmmmmm” and “more”. I give this recipe and A+. Thank you Catherine McCord!

Here is the Weelicious recipe and a link to the Bite N’ Blog episode on the chew.

http://weelicious.com/2013/03/06/green-mac-and-cheese/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qnaQ7I_u3tI

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yjKr3f3CCyQ

 Green Mac and Cheese  (serves 8 )

Prep Time:10 minutes, Cook Time: 30 minutes, Total Time: 40 minutes,

Ingredients

1 pound elbow macaroni (you can also use campanelle, cavatappi or shells)

3 cups whole milk

1 cups packed fresh spinach

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons flour

4 cups grated white cheddar cheese

2 cups chopped broccoli florets

1 cup peas

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  1. Cook pasta in salted water for about 3 minutes less than package directions call for, until al dente. Reserve half a cup of the pasta water and strain.
  2. While the pasta is cooking. Place the milk and spinach in a blender and blend on high speed until smooth.
  3. In a large pot melt the butter and then add the flour, whisking continuously over low-medium heat for 2-3 minutes to make a roux. Slowly whisk in the milk mixture and bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, 3 to 4 minutes, or until sauce is gently bubbling and starting to thicken.
  5. Add reserved pasta water and cheese and whisk until melted. Stir in the pasta, broccoli and peas.
  1. Transfer to a greased 13″ x 9″ baking dish and bake for 20 minutes, or until

My Modifications:

Of course I always tweak the recipes I cook to fit the needs of my family. When I searched through my fridge and pantry to collect the items necessary to prepare this recipe, I realized that I did not have elbow pasta or a pound of any of the same type of pasta. I decided I would go with an eclectic mix of the leftover pastas I had. I made 1 lb mixture of shells and rigatoni since I had a half a box of each lying around. Then I realized that we were out of fresh spinach, so I quickly substituted a box of frozen chopped spinach instead (defrosted and drained). NOTE- if you decide to use the frozen spinach your Mac and Cheese will be EXTRA green and it will yield more sauce because of the water in the spinach. Since I love sneaking in extra veggies, I also added 1 zucchini peeled and grated (I mixed it into the pasta before adding the sauce) and topped the dish with breadcrumbs mixed with parmesan cheese. It was delish!! Oh and I may have over measured a bit on the cheese…I mean who doesn’t love cheese :).  Prepare it however you like it!

Photo: Courtesy of Weelicious.com

I made a delicious roast chicken and my toddler won’t eat it… now what?

Like I mentioned in my last post, making a roast chicken is a great way to start the week. The problem is that sometimes our loving lil’ ones won’t just eat plain pieces of chicken with a side of vegetables.. (if yours does you, you are one of the lucky ones). It’s moments like these when we have to use our mommy “cooking-ingenuity” to re-invent the meal in a way that is interesting, delicious and enticing. For my Jojo, that means that it has to be an interesting shape, include some type of carb and be served with his favorite vegetables or fruits.

Roast chicken is my favorite thing to cook because it can be magically re-invented in a variety of ways. Recently I have used it to create homemade chicken patties and homemade “hot pockets”.  I created these meals myself and tailored them to Jojo’s likes, so experiment with them and change them to fit your lil’ one’s tastes.

Chicken Patty

Ingredients:

  • 2 celery stalks diced
  • ¼ c shredded carrots
  • ¼ c diced red onion
  • dash of garlic powder
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 slice multigrain bread Broken into small pieces
  • ½ c diced or shredded chicken
  • 1 tsp mayonnaise
  • 1 egg
  • breadcrumbs

In a frying pan sauté the celery, carrots and red onions until onions and celery are translucent. Remove from frying pan and allow to cool.  In a food processor/ blender combine bread pieces, chicken, mayonnaise, egg and garlic powder and process until mixture is combined. Add sautéed vegetables to mixture. Mix with fork to combine. For smoother consistency, process vegetables with bread mixture.  The chicken patty picture will be wet. Poor bread crumbs onto a plate. Scoop chicken mixture into a ball and roll it in the breadcrumb (like you are rolling a sticky meatball). Then press the patty flat in your hand and allow to rest on a plate before frying (approx 5 minutes). Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a frying pan on medium high heat. When the oil is hot place the chicken patties in the oil and cook until both sides are golden brown. You can also bake these in a 400-degree oven (drizzle a little oil on each to allow them to get golden brown).

Quick & Easy Chicken Hot Pockets- I literally came up with this idea because I was craving a hot pocket and knew that Jojo would love it.

  • Bisquick
  • Milk
  • ¼ c mixed vegetables -cooked
  • ½ c diced cooked chicken
  • ¼ shredded cheddar
  • 3 tbsp chicken stock
  • dash of garlic powder

Filling- In a food processor combine bread, half the cooked vegetables, cooked chicken, chicken stock and garlic powder and blend. Add remaining frozen vegetables and ¼ of shredded cheddar to mixture. Stir with a fork.

Prepare Bisquick biscuit dough according to recipe on the box. (I use the Heart- healthy variety). Sprinkle 2 tbsp of Bisquick mix on the counter and roll out the biscuit dough. Roll dough into a large rectangle. With a biscuit cutter cut-out circles. TO make 1 hotpocket you will need to circles (make sure that the dough is thin, approx 1/4″ thick). Place a dollop of filling in a circle and then lay another circle on top. Use the fork to seal the edges like a ravioli. Place the “hot pocket” on a baking pan and cook for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.

A Quick Start to a Work Week

I’m a teacher,  planning is second nature to me, so it should be no surprise that I plan out almost of my meals for the week ahead of time (I’m a nerd, I know). My preparation for the following week’s meals begins with my weekend  trip to the grocery store. Yes, the idea of even stepping foot into the grocery store on my day off makes me cringe too, but a successful trip can actually make the rest of my week quite pleasant.

This week I went to the store on Sunday afternoon (not only the worst day to go, but the worst time of day) and picked up a few items that have actually helped to start my

week off on the right foot by giving me “cook ahead” and “repurposing” options for meals for the rest of the week.

Menu for the Beginning of the Week:

  • Sunday – Baked Chicken with sauteed snap peas & shredded carrots and sweet potato fries – Family Dinner
  • Monday- Arugula, Cashew, Pumpkin Seed, Pomegranate Salad topped with Baked Chicken for mommy& daddy/ Chicken Patties with peas and sweet potato fries for Jojo (recipe for homemade chicken patties will follow next week)
  • Tuesday– Chicken salad sandwiches & Quiche

Grocery List –

  1. 1 whole chicken
  2. 1 package frozen broccoli
  3. 1 package shredded cheddar
  4. 2 lemons
  5. Fresh garlic
  6. Celery
  7. Pears
  8. 1 loaf multi-grain bread
  9. Eggs
  10. Whole milk
  11. Heart Healthy Bisquick
  12. Bread Crumbs
  13. 1 onion
  14. Arugula
  15. Feta Cheese
  16. Strawberries
  17. Raspberries
  18. Kiwi
  19. Avocados
  20. Shredded Carrots
  21. Pumpkin seeds
  22. Raw Cashews
  23. Pomegranate
  24. Sweet potatoes
  25. Ground beef
  26. Boneless Chicken thighs
  27. Snap peas
  28. Mushrooms

My cook ahead option for the week was the roast chicken. I like making a roasted chicken at the beginning of the week because it can transform itself into a variety of different meals and it’s something I can cook while spending time chasing around lil’ Jojo.   Chicken salad, chicken quesadillas,  arugula salad topped with chicken and homemade chicken patties are all great ways to “repurpose” Sunday’s chicken dinner for another lunch or dinner during the week.  My favorite roast chicken recipe comes from the Barefoot Contessa-Ina Gartnen. It is the best roast chicken recipe not only because it’s obviously delicious, but because it is quick and easy. I posted the recipe below, but also wanted to give you a fe

w quick tips.  Don’t worry if you don’t tie the chicken’s legs together. I have prepared this recipe both ways and when I do not “tie the bird up”, I make sure that the chicken is closer to the bottom rack in the oven (it still turns out juicy). Oh, and I almost never make the stock. Once the chicken is done, we let it rest then dig in.

Ina Garten’ s Engagement Roast Chicken

Ingredients
1 (4 to 5 pound) roasting chicken
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 lemons
1 whole head garlic, cut in 1/2 crosswise
Good olive oil
2 Spanish onions, peeled and thickly sliced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
Directions
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Remove and discard the chicken giblets. Pat the outside dry. Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the chicken. Cut the lemons in quarters, place 2 quarters in the chicken along with the garlic and reserve the rest of the lemons. Brush the outside of the chicken with olive oil and sprinkle the chicken liberally with salt and pepper. Tie the legs together with kitchen string and tuck the wing tips under the body of the chicken. Place the chicken in a small (11 by 14-inch) roasting pan. (If the pan is too large, the onions will burn.) Place the reserved lemons and the sliced onions in a large bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Pour the mixture around the chicken in the pan.

Roast the chicken for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and a thigh. Remove the chicken to a platter, cover with aluminum foil, and allow to rest for 10 minutes while you prepare the sauce, leaving the lemons and onions in the pan.

Place the pan on top of the stove and turn the heat to medium-high. Add the wine and stir with a wooden spoon to scrape up the brown bits. Add the stock and sprinkle on the flour, stirring constantly for a minute, until the sauce thickens. Add any juices that collect under the chicken. Carve the chicken onto a platter and serve with the lemons, onions, and warm sauce.

So, with the cook ahead option in the oven, I decided to prepare two additional items to “get ahead” – baked sweet potato fries (super delicious and again EASY) and a Bisquick quiche. Jojo’s favorite vegetable is the sweet potato and I make sweet potato fries at least once a week. The Bisquick quiche is a staple from my childhood. Mom used to make it with all different types of fillings, and I loved every version- thanks for the inspiration mom! Here are my go-to recipes for both:

Dr Oz Guidelines For a Perfect Sweet Potato

Making the perfect sweet potato can be difficult but if you follow the guidelines below, they will come out perfect every time.

  1. Peel and cut the sweet potatoes into wedges and bake on a rack on a baking shsweet potatoeet at 325 degrees for 30 minutes.
  2. Remove the potatoes from the rack and allow to cool.
  3. Heat the oven to 475 degrees while keeping the baking pan in the oven.
  4. Season the sweet potatoes with salt and a small amount of sugar and spices and return to the oven for 15 to 20 minutes.

Bisquick Quiche

Batter :

  • 1/2 c Bisquick
  • 1.5 c Milk
  • 4 eggs

Filling (can change to fit your taste)

  • 3/4 bag of frozen broccoli cooked
  • 1.5 c shredded cheddar
  • dash of salt & pepper
  • 1 small onion sauteed

Mix the Bisquick, milk and eggs in a blender. In a greased 8” pie plate spread the cooked broccoli, sauteed onions and cheese. Pour the batter over the fillings. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Other versions are made with Bacon & Swiss – Yummy!!

I hope these ideas help to get your week going. Please leave any comments or questions you may have and stay tuned for more!

Have you discovered your muffin pan?

I LOVE TO COOK and when I am not cooking, I am searching for recipes and planning my next kitchen-creation. Sometimes I draw my inspiration from the ingredients in my refrigerator, but most of the time inspiration comes from the recipes that I find in a magazine,  the Internet, or a meal that is prepared on one of my favorite shows (I love you Michael Symon and the CHEW Crew!!)

One Saturday morning, while sitting at the kitchen table watching lil’ Jojo eat daddy’s homemade blueberry pancakes, I decided to scour the Internet for toddler friendly recipes. Since I was planning on going to the grocery store later in the day, it was imperative that I figure out what I was going to cook Jojo for the week . Yes, the art of planning is vital to my survival!! What would I make for his lunch? What would I make for his dinner? Will what I make be freezable? Will it be delicious, but still be filled with the right amount of fruits, veggies, grains and proteins? Will I have to stand in front of it while it cooks? Can I just let it bake? Is there a lot of prep? Will there be a mess? Is it something I can prepare even if I have to leave him whining in the highchair while I cook it? All are questions that a working & health-conscious mom needs to consider before committing to a recipe. Ya gotta have a game plan!

Considering these types of questions combined with the ridiculous amount of related/non-related information that comes up when you search “toddler friendly recipes” was enough to make me want to grab my coffee, sit on the couch and give up, when EUREKA! The perfect article from “parenting.com” appeared in the search results  that highlighted 5-Mini Meals (click this link to visit the recipes) that could be made using a muffin pan. The recipes seemed simple enough and delicious enough, and the idea of 5 Mini Mealsusing the muffin pan to cook was very alluring. I figured any recipe that  calls for quick prep time, one pan and oven baking was definitely one worth trying. And I am happy I did! Not only were the recipes yummy, but using the muffin pan completely revolutionized the way I think of preparing meals for Jojo.

I highly recommend visiting the site and preparing the Pot Pies, Broccoli & Ziti Cups and Chili Corn Muffins. Both Jojo and I loved them and they were sooo easy to prepare! Read below to see how I tweaked each recipe to meet Jojo’s yummy level (good enough that he’ll say yummmm when he eats it).

Of the 5 Mini Meals I recommend the Pot Pie, Ziti & Broccoli Cup and the Chili Corn Muffin. They are very basic and can easily be modified for your toddler’s tastes. Think of them as blank canvases.

Pot Pie – I added additional chicken, frozen vegetables and 1 tbsp of wheat germ.

Ziti & Broccoli Cups – I added a 1/4 cup of peas, 1/4 cup of chicken, 1/4 cup of whole milk yogurt, two additional tbsp of parmesan cheese and  used whole milk instead of heavy cream. (Just remember that whole milk will be more watery than heavy cream so you may have to adjust the cook time in the recipe).

Chili Corn Muffins – Instead of chili, I filled each corn muffin with taco. If you want the muffin to surround the meat you have to  only fill the cups half full and make sure that the muffin mix surrounds it. Also, since cornbread can tend do be a little dry you can either decide to take it out a few minutes early or be sure to top with a sauce to moisten the bread. Jojo liked a dollop of plain greek yogurt, diced tomatoes and a sprinkl of cheese.

If you plan on trying the mini calzones, make sure that you let your pizza dough cool otherwise you will be fighting to stretch the dough into the form.

I hope you enjoy these recipes as much as Jojo and I do.  I make them regularly and have them frozen for when I need a quick, healthy and delicious meal.

Tips for the Hubby: If you are planning on making this meal for your entire family, I would suggest that you make a side of gravy for dunking. Remember these are muffin size portions so I would also consider cooking a protein on the side. They make a great accompaniment to a baked chicken or even a chicken cutlet. You can roast sweet potatoes or carrots while baking the muffin cups and have a delicious no fuss meal.