February 26, 2012

Food Fails

Have any food fails recently? Love to hear about them (really!). :)

Cooking and baking are a continuous experiment as far as I'm concerned. I've learned that every time I move that I have to adjust for that particular oven and again for that particular environment (dry or humid environments make a huge impact)!

February 15, 2012

Menu Pause

It's that time again...that's right, moving time! Aka, every military family's favorite part of the lifestyle. Ha ha. Right now we're packing our stuff up and eating interesting meals in attempt to finish off most of our freezer and pantry. Menus will resume as soon as we have a place to live at our new station (anywhere from 3-6 weeks), but in the meantime I will post as I have new recipes and as I have new ideas to add to the Toddler Lunch post.

And if you haven't yet, check out my ramblings and see why you don't get more photos on here. :p

February 14, 2012

Pasta Alfredo with Shrimp, Peppers, and Broccoli

1 pound dried pasta
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup fat free half and half (or heavy cream)
1 cup grated parmesan and/or Romano cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
12 ounces uncooked shrimp (I went for medium shrimp with tails off for ease)
1 teaspoon original old bay seasoning
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 head of broccoli, cut into bite sized pieces
Fresh parsley, for garnish

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add pasta. Add in the broccoli to the cooking pasta for the last three minutes. Cook until the pasta is al dente and drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking liquid.
Meanwhile, in a separate pan place shrimp and pepper slices. Sprinkle with the old bay, crushed red pepper, and Italian seasonings. Cook on medium for several minutes, until shrimp are cooked throughly (usually 3-5 minutes). If needed, add 1 teaspoon of butter to the pan. Once the shrimp are cooked and the peppers are hot but still crisp, remove from pan.
Add to the pan the 6 tablespoons of unsalted butter. Bring temperature up to medium-high. Melt butter. Use a whisk to deglaze the pan from the shrimp and peppers if needed (yummy seasoning there!). Then add the 1 cup of half and half. Bring to a boil. Stir in the 1 cup of shredded cheese. Add the cooked pasta and broccoli and the 1/2 cup of reserved cooking water. Continue stirring. Add the shrimp and pepper. Stir more until cheese is melted and the dish is uniformly hot. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with the parsley. Serve immediately.

Don't mind the Christmas plate. It's all we've got for a few more weeks thanks to the military.

February 12, 2012

Best Ever Chicken Pot Pie

AKA:  KombatKween's Chicken Pot Pie

6 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons flour
2 cups broth
1 cup heavy cream or half and half
2 cups vegetables (I go lazy and usually use a can of corn, peas, and carrots with the liquid drained)
2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded (I like to poach them and then use the resulting broth in this recipe too)
4 small white potatoes, cooked and cubed
2 pie crusts (or see biscuit alternative below)

1) Melt butter in a pot. Stir in flour to form a thick paste. Add salt and pepper. Stir in cream and chicken broth. Cook on a simmer till thick.
2) Add vegetables, potatoes, and chicken.
3) Pour into a pie plate with pie crust. Top with other crust. Polk holds in top to vent. Cook at 375º for 35-45 minutes. Double ingredients for 2 REALLY full pot pies or 3 smaller pot pies.

Biscuit alternative:
Complete direction steps one and two from above. Make sure after adding ingredients (and before topping with biscuit dough) that mixture is HOT.

Biscuit dough:
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon table salt
7 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, sliced
3/4 cup milk

In a food processor blend together the flour, powder, sugar, and salt. Add in the butter and pulse just until the butter is smaller than pea sized. Add in the milk and pulse 2-3 times. (Can also mix dry ingredients with whisk and then cut butter using a dough cutter.)
Move dough to counter or other surface dusted with four. Very lightly kneed. Press out into a circle as big as the container you plan to bake the chicken pot pie in (at least 2 quarts, preferably a 3 quart dish). Pour mixture into baking dish. Top with biscuit dough. Using a serrated knife make openings in the dough (at least one).
Bake at 450ª for about 20 minutes or until biscuit topping is golden brown. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Chicken pot pie with biscuit dough.

February 09, 2012

Menu: February 8-14

Wednesday: Stuffed burritos (shredded chicken, rice, black beans, cheese, salsa, and spinach)
Friday: Chicken pot pie with biscuit topping (this is what happens when you don't have a pie plate and someone throws away your disposable one)
Saturday: brunch – cinnamon apple dutch baby
dinner - Stromboli with dipping sauce
Sunday: brunch – toast and eggs
dinner – pineapple pork chops, smashed sweet potatoes, and steamed broccoli
Monday: leftover night
Tuesday:  fettuccine alfredo with shrimp, red bell pepper, and broccoli; chocolate lava muffins

February 07, 2012

Toddler Lunches: Quesadillas

Quesadillas are quick to make and are a great way to sneak in veggies and fruits that toddlers might otherwise claim to dislike. There are endless variations to try. Here are a few to get you thinking!

Apple chicken quesadillas - pair down this recipe unless wanting to make enough for a family, but it's great tasting containing chicken, apples, corn, and tomatoes.

What's left in the fridge quesadillas - quesadillas are a great way to use up leftovers before they go bad! In this one I included, diced carrots, spinach, and garlic.

Black bean and sweet potato - love this idea I found on pinterest. Will be making these ourselves soon, leaving out the spicy jalapeños.

Mozzarella and veggie - Dice veggies up finely and be generous with the mozzarella cheese! In the picture below I gave my son cucumber, tomatoes, and green bell peppers. Believe it or not this was delicious!

Quesadillas can be cooked on the stove top, in the oven, in toaster ovens, or even the microwave if that's all you have! Even better? They're not bad cold if you need to store them for a child to take to daycare!

Have a unique quesadilla idea? Please share!

Toddler Lunches: Going Beyond Chicken Nuggets, Hot Dogs, and PBJ Sandwiches

I recently realized that Squish and I have gotten into a lunch rut when he gave me this awful look saying, "PBJ again?! You've got to be kidding me mom." And then tossed it over the side of the table. Time to branch out and find good healthy alternatives!

I'll be updating and expanding this list often, so check back. (last update 6/12/12)

mini calzones (make a bunch and freeze them!)
English muffin pizzas (almost whole wheat English muffin recipe)
Quesadillas (think beyond chicken and cheese!)
Hummus and pita bread (or veggies if your child will eat them)
Hot Hummus Sandwich
Roll Ups (nut butter and banana, meat and cheese, hummus and veggies)
Whole wheat macaroni and cheese
Whole wheat pancakes (freezes well)
Applesauce pancakes (freezes well)
Whole wheat waffles (freezes well)
Seasoned brown rice or wild rice
Cheese slices and crackers
Steamed veggie sticks
Soups (chicken noodle, vegetable, bean)
Grilled cheese (try different cheeses and adding things like meat slices, tomato slices, and even spinach)
Rice and beans
Whole wheat applesauce muffins
Yogurt (read the labels to avoid sugar and HFCS!)
Pasta salad with veggies
Egg and cheese burritos
Mini quiche (basic quiche recipe - bake in muffin tins instead, these do freeze well)
Pasta in butter and cheese
Pasta in tomato sauce (easy to hide other veggies in there)
Soft cooked apple slices or apple slices
Grapes (cut in half or quarters, frozen grapes are tasty too!)
Mandarin oranges
Pineapple chunks
Couscous with vegetables
Boiled eggs, sliced
Scrambled eggs
Cheese cubes or sticks
Baked sweet potato wedges or fries
Blueberry and zucchini bread
Pasta and pureed vegetables (perfect for using up old baby food!)
Freeze dried yogurt
S/mashed sweet potatoes
Zucchini chips
Toast and fruit spread
Zucchini parmesan cakes
Avocado slices
Blackberries and raspberries
Tuna salad
Egg salad
Chicken salad
Corn, cut off the cob
Fresh steamed green beans
Fresh steamed broccoli and cauliflower florets
Tomato slices
Whole grain bread or toast
Baked fish (tilapia and salmon are easy to find and not too strong tasting)
Lightly sautéed yellow summer squash and zucchini slices
Cucumber slices, skin peeled
Pumpkin bread muffins
Vol au Vent
Playgroup granola bars
Banana oat cookies
Oatmeal and apple bars (can easily cut the sugar WAY down!)
Cheese and veggie omelets
Veggie burgers

And don't forget - leftovers from last night's dinner!

Squish at 15 months enjoying whole wheat crackers, sliced cheese, and a banana.

Squish at 18 months enjoyed a grilled cheddar cheese, tomato, and chopped spinach sandwich. He picked out some of the tomato, but ate the rest!

Special thanks to the October and November 2010 moms over at pregnancy.org for sharing their lunch ideas. Love you ladies! :D

February 04, 2012

Menu: February 1-7

Bad me! Late again! I keep planning out my menu on Sunday and forgetting to post it. :p

Wednesday: Leftover southwest eggrolls from the freezer
Friday: pizza at an event
Monday: baked tilapia, zucchini with tomatoes and cheese, and rice
Tuesday: veggie nuggets, whole wheat macaroni and cheese, and green beans

February 02, 2012

Basic Cornbread

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup oil (vegetable, canola)
1 egg

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Combine dry ingredients. Add wet ingredients and stir until mixed. Okay to have some lumps.

Bake in an 8 or 9 in square pan that has been greased for 20-25 minutes.
Or bake in 12 greased muffin cups for 15-20 minutes.
Or best yet bake in a 10-12" cast iron skillet that has been preheated in the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes.