Friday, September 23, 2011

Parker's Birthday Cake

I promised I'd let you know how Parker's dairy-free birthday cake turned out. It was amazing! One of the best chocolate cakes I've had. I was a little worried to be honest. Don't cook something you've never made before for guests is practically the first rule of entertaining. Plus this cake is really different- there's whole wheat flour, prunes, and soy milk in it. My worries eased when I tasted the icing (also made with soy milk!). The icing is just about the perfect, creamy, chocolaty icing you could ever want. This will now be my go to icing.

Rather than piping "Happy Birthday Parker" on the cake and having it look amateur, I did "worms and dirt"instead- you know like that dessert you had when you were a kid with the pudding and cookie crumbs. Plus, everybody knows who the cake is for without a name on it, right?

Here's the catch- I'm not giving you the recipe. Ha! I want you to buy the book because I love it, and I don't want to infringe on copyright. The cake is from Healthy Starts Here by Mairlyn Smith. It's great because the book is organized into chapters according to the healthy ingredients in them i.e. Berries, Beans, Greens, etc. There is a lot of great information about why these things are so good for you and why the recipe calls for a tablespoon of cinnamon, for example (cinnamon slows your body's sugar absorption).

I am, however, going to share with you another recipe from the book as it is already published online. These Double Chocolate Muffins are high in fibre and made with pumpkin (which you'd never know), but most importantly are delicious. I have one for dessert or for a snack with a cup of tea during the day and feel healthier and virtuous. And my digestive system thanks me in turn the next day. Just saying.


Here's the menu for the rest of the food at the party, in case you're wondering.

Veggies and Dip
Thai Chicken Kebabs (will post recipe soon)
Caeser Salad
Potato Salad
Fresh Bread

Monday, September 19, 2011

My Father's Daughter

I can't believe it's taken me this long to write about Gwyneth Paltrow's cookbook, My Father's Daughter. I received it for my birthday - in July - and I have made probably a quarter of the recipes in it. They are all so easy but showstopping delicious, and healthy to boot.

I didn't want to like it, to be honest. There was a lot of hype when it came out, and I always thought she was a raw-food-macrobiotic-health nut. And she was. She addresses this phase and finding balance in eating in the book, and in that is one of my favorite lines; "Could I use some butter and cheese and eggs in my cooking without going down some kind of hippie shame spiral? Yes." Gwyneth Paltrow is like that girl in high school that you hated because she pretty and good at everything but you secretly wanted to be her friend. She can act, sing, cook, write. She's probably good at sports too. Ugh. However, I am now a Paltrow convert. I even loved Country Strong (I totally called the ending).
Photo from GOOP

There are so many recipes I wanted to try in this book that I developed a new system. Now when I get a new cookbook I write a list of the recipes that sound good as I read through it. Then I don't have to flip through the book all over again when it's time to decide what to cook- it's all on the list kept in the front cover. As you can see, there are a lot of recipes I need to try from My Father's Daughter, plus more on the back of that paper too. I also write on the front page of my cookbooks the recipes that are really good that I would make again with the page number. Again, saves flipping through the book- or multiple books- down the road.

 Rather than reproducing a recipe here for you, since Paltrow has been featured in a few magazines and countless other publications and websites have reviewed the book, here's a roundup of her recipes around the "Inter-web" instead. Then you should buy the book to get all the other amazing recipes that haven't been published online. I'm kind of shocked at the number of recipes that I found online... hopefully when I write my cookbook people will have to buy the book to get the recipes (LOL).

Duck Ragu
Slow Roasted Tomatoes - which she uses to make soup in the book. Yum
Spaghetti Limone Parmeggiano  I made this one and it's the best lemon pasta I've had 
Peanut Butter Cookies
Blue Cheese Dressing
Grilled Tuna Rolls
Bruce's Dip
Blueberry Pavlova
Bruce Paltrow's World Famous Pancakes These are delicious. The batter is made the night before so it gets a bit of a sourdough thing going on
Roast Chicken, Rotisserie-Style
Blythe's Blueberry Muffins
Healthier Version of Blythe's Muffins
No-Fry Fries
Classic French Fries
Fudgy Chocolate Brownies
Tuna and Ginger Burgers
Ivy Chopped Salad
Seasonal Crumble
Fried Zucchini Spaghetti Tried. Loved.
Cold Pea and Basil Soup
Fish Tacos
Playwright's Melt
Crispy Potato and Garlic Cake
Best Stir Fried Chicken It is really good
Fried Rice with Scallions Also yummy and healthy
Basic Tomato Sauce, Vinegarette, and Asian Portobello Burgers

Bon Appetit had a few recipes from Paltrow that are not in her book that look good:
Grilled Chicken with Peach BBQ Sauce
Corn Vichyssoise
Strawberry Shortcake Sliders
Peach Cooler
Grilled Halibut with Mango-Avocado Salsa
Roasted Tomato and Anchovy Oreganata Pasta

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Potato Vegetable Cakes

Parker is a year old today! We are having his birthday party on Saturday and I have a (hopefully) delicious dairy-free chocolate cake planned. I'll let you know how it turned out.

My newest discovery in the kitchen is quinoa flour. Other than in the baby food post, I haven't talked about quinoa, have I? It's very healthy and a source of protein- read all about it on Wikipedia. I only care about all that stuff if it tastes good. And it is really delicious. It's nutty, and you can use it in place of rice as a side dish, in a salad, or now as I've discovered as a flour substitute.

I read a post about zucchini bread made with quinoa flour at Goodlife Eats and I was intrigued as I am trying to find different sources of protein for Parker as he is off beef and pork for the time being as part of the dairy allergy thing. I had a recipe for these potato and vegetable pancakes sitting on my counter for the last week, but I thought I could make them healthier. First off, they used Egg Beaters and packaged hashed brown potatoes. I prefer to use non-packaged food whenever possible; cracking some eggs and shredding some potatoes isn't a big deal. I added more vegetables to the original recipe, and then experimented with quinoa flour in place of the white flour called for.

As I said above, I'm not going to use something if it doesn't taste good, BUT if it tastes just as good and is way healthier, why wouldn't you make the change? Quinoa flour is going to be a staple here. I wouldn't substitute for it in baking, as baking has to be so exact, but for things like these vegetable cakes it's a no brainer. It really easy to make. I just put some quinoa in my Magic Bullet and whirred away. You could also try a blender, spice grinder, or food processor. I wouldn't recommend a mortar and pestle, however. This was my first thought, but after three minutes of grinding and no flour to show for it, I ditched that idea. Unless you are sitting outside your hut while your husband hunts for dinner and you have nothing better to do, use an electric option.

Makes 10 servings, 1 serving = 2 cakes
These can be frozen easily by layering them between waxed paper. Parker likes these plain, but I like them with a topping- salsa, tomato sauce, pesto, or ranch dressing would all be good. The veggies can be changed up to use whatever you have lurking in the crisper, and the spices can also be swapped out to suit your taste; curried potato cakes would be good, southwest spices would work, etc. A food processor makes quick work of shredding the veggies.

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 medium potatoes, grated
  • 1/2 large zucchini, grated
  • 1/4 head cauliflower, grated
  • 2 green onions, finely chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil

To make quinoa flour, place quinoa in a Magic Bullet, blender, spice grinder, or food processor and pulse until ground to a flour consistency. 

Set a large non stick pan to preheat over medium high heat. Whisk together dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add eggs, vegetables, salt and pepper to season, mix together well, ensuring there are no dry flour streaks and all vegetables are coated.

Drizzle pan with a little olive oil. Pack batter into a 1/4 cup dry measure and drop into pan. Press lightly with back of measuring cup to spread batter- you don't want them too thick. Repeat with as many as will fit in pan without touching. Cook to golden brown on both sides. Cool on baking rack if not eating right away.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Breaded Porkchops and Creamy Orzo

Yesterday I participated in a boot camp for breast cancer. Have you ever done a fitness boot camp? This was my first time. Parker: I'm sorry Mommy can't play on the floor with you today, but I won't be able to get up again if I do. It was intense, but I had a lot of fun. I may even sign up for classes. Even though every part of my body except my face hurts today, I kind of like it. Is that sick? Next week I'm doing Zumba, which should be less painful but more hilarious as I'm "a spaz" as my brother kindly puts it.

Since I worked off so many calories yesterday morning, I felt free to use up some of the 35% cream that I have in the fridge from Friday when we had Tyler's cousin and his girlfriend over for dinner. They made the main meal, an amazing steak with brandy cream sauce (I am going to get the recipe and share with y'all, don't worry). Tyler said it was the best orzo dish I have made. Of course. For those of you, however, who have not done a boot camp lately I've noted substitutions to lighten it up below.

BREADED PORK CHOPS recipe via Bon Appetit

Makes 4 side dish servings
I've instructed to chop the vegetables small because orzo is a small pasta. It's nicer to have your vegetables about the same size as your pasta. 

To lighten it up, use half and half or low fat cream cheese + some milk. Turn down the heat to low when you add these though, high heat will cause lower fat options to separate. 

  • 1 cup orzo pasta
  • olive oil
  • 1/4 red onion, chopped finely
  • 1/2 medium zucchini, diced small
  • 1 tomato, diced small
  • 2 tbsp basil pesto
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • salt and pepper 
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta 1 minute less than package directions. Meanwhile, heat a little oil in a pan over medium heat. Add onion, saute for 2 minutes. Increase heat to medium high, add zucchini and saute for 1 minute. Add tomato, along with as much juice you can salvage from chopping it, and pesto. Add pasta and cream to the pan, stir to combine, season with salt and pepper. Turn off heat, add Parmesan cheese and stir. Serve immediately.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Baby Food Part 2: Textures

I knew when Parker was around 8 or 9 months old that I should be starting him with some finger foods. I was very nervous about this. I reviewed baby CPR online, then I gave him a quarter of a Cheerio (actually, a Nutrio- Cheerios for babies). He cried like was trying to alert the neighbours of a crime. I fished the offending food out of his mouth before he inhaled it and we tried again in a couple of days. He then worked up to half Nutrios, then whole ones.

Does this count as a finger food?
I also started leaving some larger pieces of food in his purees and giving him some soft foods to eat with his hands- banana, cooked sweet potatoes, avocado. Now, as I mentioned in the previous post, he won't eat anything off of a spoon. Except oatmeal, actually. It took me a while to figure out what to give him that he could eat with his hands but it would still be really nutritious as lots of it end up on the floor. Any fruits and veggies, raw or cooked if they are hard, are a go, cut into small pieces. Also we discovered he loves butter chicken and Thai coconut chicken. Usually now we give him small pieces of whatever we are eating, so I try to plan meals with this in mind. He also LOVES these muffins.

Below is a what he ate yesterday, for example, and then some recipes that Parker loved. Bonus: they are good for the grownups too. Hopefully this helps anybody reading this who is completely confused as to what to feed the baby.

NOTE: Parker is still waking up in the night for a bottle, although we working with a (amazing!) naturopathic doctor to wean him off of formula altogether and he slept through the night last night finally! You may notice that there is no dairy in his meals- we suspect he has a dairy sensitivity, so we have eliminated dairy for the time being.

Breakfast 9 am: 1 cup Berry Oatmeal, 1/4 peach, 1/4 banana water from sippy cup
Bottle 10:30
Lunch 2:00: Barley Risotto (offered, he only ate 2 bites) + bottle
Bottle 6:00
Dinner 8:00: 1/2 cup roasted vegetables, some canned tuna, 1/2 a tomato, handful Nutrios, water from sippy cup
Bottle 9 pm

Makes 3 baby servings
I made another double batch today and froze some in a muffin tin in 1/2 cup servings. When frozen, pop them out of the muffin tin and store in an airtight container. You could also change up the fruit to make different flavours i.e. grated apple and cinnamon, pumpkin with pumpkin pie spice, peaches, etc

  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1/3 cup rolled oats
  • 1 tsp molasses
  • 2 tsp grated ginger
  • 1/2 cup frozen berries
  • 1/4 cup ground flax
  • 2 egg yolks

Bring water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add oats, simmer until water is almost all absorbed and oats are cooked. Add molasses, ginger, flax, and berries. Stir until berries are thawed. Add egg yolks, bring back to a boil, stirring constantly. Mash berries with back of a spoon or potato masher (some oatmeal will get mashed too, that's ok). Store any uneaten portions in fridge up to 2 days, or freeze. You may need to add some water to leftovers when reheating as it will thicken.


  • 2 slices whole grain bread
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp milk or water
  • 1/4 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • butter for pan

Mix eggs, milk or water, pumpkin, and vanilla in a shallow dish. Heat a large frying pan over medium heat. Soak bread in egg mixture for 30 seconds each side. Melt a little butter in the pan, add saturated bread. Cook until golden brown, flip, and cook same on other side.

Adapted from Everyday Italian
Makes 6 side dish servings, or many more baby servings
Leftovers are good to toss into pasta. Vegetables can be changed up depending on what you have.
  • 2 medium potatoes, scrubbed clean and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 carrots, scrubbed clean and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 fennel bulb, thickly sliced
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced into large pieces
  • 4 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 large zucchini, cut in quarters and sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 4 ripe tomatoes, sliced into 1/2 inch thick sliced
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Toss both types potato, carrots, fennel, onion in a large bowl with 2 tbsp olive oil and salt and pepper to season. Spread in a 9 x 13 glass baking dish. Layer zucchini, then tomatoes over vegetables. Drizzle with remaining olive oil, season with salt and pepper. 

Mix together breadcrumbs, Parmesan, dried herbs in a small bowl. Top vegetables with this mixture. Bake 40 minutes. Let cool 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Baby Food Part 1: Purees

Parker's first solid food!
Parker will be a year old next week. As all moms say, I can hardly believe it. I didn't think I was going to write anything about baby food, but lately since Parker no longer wants to eat anything off of a spoon I have had to get more creative with making him food. Of course, I turned to the Internet and cookbooks for ideas, so I figured I'd share what worked for me and maybe it will help another mom (or dad!) who is panicking because all of a sudden their child won't eat any of the purees stashed in the freezer.

Baby food is really easy to begin with, to be honest. Start with steaming single vegetables, puree them, freeze them in ice cube trays. The hardest part, for me anyway, is getting over your fears that the kid is going to choke to death. I had to tell myself lots of times that everybody obviously goes through this, because do you know any adults who still only eat pureed food? Me neither.

These are a few books that were really helpful with baby food info and recipes. Each book has it's own merits, and I think it's good to read a few in order to get different points of view and form your own opinions on what to feed your baby. For example, the author of Sprout Right doesn't believe in giving your baby meat or wheat until after 12-18 months, but Better Baby Food (and the public health unit) recommends meat as a first food.

Better Baby Food 2nd Edition by Daina Kalnins and Joanne Saab. Endorsed by The Hospital for Sick Children. Great info on breastfeeding, lots of great recipes for toddlers, a few recipes for 6-12 months.

The Baby's Table by Brenda Bradshaw and Lauren Donaldson Bramley. Mostly recipes, tons of great recipes for 6 months and beyond.

Sprout Right by Lianne Phillipson-Webb. Good info on breastfeeding, eating well during pregnancy and while breastfeeding, choosing a baby formula, a whole chapter on baby poo (yes, really) organic and natural foods, more complex recipes.

And just in case that is not enough info for you, here are a few websites that I used as well:

Sweet Potato Chronicles
Weelicious You can see recipes by age or type (i.e. puree) on this blog
Baby Center
Cooking with My Kid Recipes for toddlers and up, but I have found some great recipes on here for just me and Tyler too
Today's Parent
How to Be a Dad Not food related, but hilarious
Distracted Daddy Also not food related but really funny. Dad blogs are funnier cause the dads aren't in the trenches 24/7 methinks.

I learned a few things in the first few weeks of starting Parker on solid food:
  •  A blender or Magic Bullet does a better job of getting things smooth than your food processor or a potato masher. 
  • Be careful not to give your baby all "binding" foods. I started Parker on rice cereal, squash, bananas, and applesauce, all of which cause constipation. Sorry little dude.  
  • When starting to transition from really smooth purees to a little chunkier textures, whole wheat couscous is a good start. It takes 5 minutes to make, its tiny, and easy to mix into any vegetable puree. 
  • Most fruits you will peel, but you can leave the skin on pears and puree them raw if they are really ripe. Also if you are cooking down apples for applesauce the skin can be left on as it will soften and puree nicely too.
  • Save the water you use to steam or boil vegetables in the fridge for up to a few days to use to thin out purees or to make baby cereal. Perhaps the extra nutrients are negligible, but every little bit counts I think.
  • Mix up flavours by adding spices from your spice cabinet rather than adding them to the whole batch while it's cooking as you would normally do, as most recipes make a ton of food (for a baby). Parker loved cinnamon, ginger, Chinese 5-spice, and curry powder. Beware of garlic powder, especially if baby spits up a lot. Garlic breath does is not becoming of a baby.
  • You know how asparagus makes your pee smell? It makes baby pee smell too. Just a warning.
  • Blending potatoes makes glue.
I have really started to think about how to get the most nutritional bang for my buck with making Parker's food, which has carried over into what I make for me and Tyler too. If the baby is only going to eat a few bites, I want to pack as much good stuff in as I can. So apart from the single ingredient purees (which you can always combine to make different dishes when you defrost them), here are a few simple recipes that Parker loved and are super healthy. These are recommended for 8 months and up.

Adapted from Sprout Right
Makes about 3 cups
Author's note: For toddles, you can serve this puree as a sauce for noodles. It's wonderful on it's own, mixed with rice, or served as a soup for mom and dad with extra lentils and stock.

  • 1 large butternut squash, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cups water or no sodium vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup red lentils, rinsed
  • 3 carrots, scrubbed and chopped small
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped small
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat. Simmer until all vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Mash or puree to desired consistency.

Adapted from Sprout Right
Makes about 3 cups

  • 1 1/2 cups water or no-sodium vegetable stock
  • 1 can (14 oz/398 ml) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat. Simmer until all vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Mash or puree to desired consistency.

 Adapted from Sprout Right
Makes about 3 cups

2 cups water
1 cup quinoa, rinsed well
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and chopped
6 spears asparagus or green beans, chopped (snap off tough ends and discard)
1 small bunch kale, chopped after removing ribs
6 pitted prunes, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat. Simmer until soft, 30-40 minutes. Add a bit more water if needed to thin out, mash or puree to desired consistency. 

1 lb stewing beef, cut into small pieces
2 carrots, chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 small head broccoli, chopped
1 small head cauliflower, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 stalk fresh rosemary
Place all ingredients in a pot and add water so that everything is just covered. Cover, bring to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer until beef is very tender and pulls apart easily with a fork. Remove rosemary stalk (all the leaves will probably have fallen off). Mash or puree to desired consistency.