Friday, December 30, 2011

Baby food - Butternut Squash

Now that my baby is 6 months old (and growing too fast), I am very excited to christen my new Baby Bullet I got for Christmas this year! With too much excitement I've purchased bananas, several types of squash, and more. Who would have thought I'd be so excited to make puree foods?! I made pumpkin puree once with my blender but it didn't puree it as much as I'd have liked. The Baby Bullet has worked 10 times better! Side note: Camden did not like the pumpkin .. at all. I am so excited for all the milestones and great times that 2012 is sure to bring us and our new, bigger family! I hope you and yours have a great New Years.

Also, I wanted to note that I saved at least $3 by pureeing the squash myself, compared to $.50 per jar. I purchased one squash at $2 (out of season) and pureed it into several servings!

Puree Butternut Squash
Adapted from: Kelly's Kitch original
Yields: 1 ice cube tray (approximately 14-16 "ice" cubes)

1 medium butternut squash
1/4 cup water, plus more for baking

Preheat oven to 350°F. Cut the top stem off of the squash. Slice squash lengthwise in half and place flesh-side down into an 8x8 baking dish. Add enough water to cover the sides of the squash about 1/4-inch up. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until flesh is easily pierced with a fork.

Allow squash to cool enough to handle and peel the skin off. Place the cooked flesh into a blender and add the 1/4 cup of water. Puree until smooth, adding more water if necessary. Freeze in an ice cube tray for long-term storage (up to 3 months) or store in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Chocolate Covered Bananas

Pinterest is my new obsession! I got an idea to make something similar to these from one of the pins on there. I totally ignored the recipe when I made these because it was really a spur-of-the-moment kind of thing. I was making buckeyes and had a ton of leftover chocolate so I was searching for things to dip in it. Think chocolate fountain! I didn't want to use my apples since I was saving them for another recipe. I had some banana's so I dipped them into the chocoalte and froze them. I tasted them 1 hour after freezing (they weren't too frozen) and after overnight (they were rock solid). I definitely prefer and would suggest the 1-hour freezing because you still could taste the banana really well. This is a very easy dessert and a great way to use up all that extra chocolate!!

Chocolate Covered Bananas
Adapted from: Kelly's Kitch original

1/2 bag chocolate chips (6 oz)
1/4 bar paraffin wax
4-5 large bananas, cut into 1-inch segments
Parchment paper

Melt the chocolate and paraffin in a double boiler on the stove. While that is melting, prepare 1-2 baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Continue to mix the chocolate until all the wax is melted and there are no more chunks in the mixture. Dip the bananas with the toothpick into the chocolate, completely submerging it. Place onto the prepared baking sheet(s) and allow to freeze for at least 1 hour before serving.

If you plan to freeze overnight, I'd suggest letting them sit out for 20-30 minutes before serving.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Ants on a Log

Yes, I'm trying to make up for lost time. I know I'm not exactly posting the most amazing holiday food you've ever seen, but let's be real. We aren't going to eat ham, sugar cookies, and peppermint bark 7 days a week. I hope, anyways. Well this is a great little snack for your child or even the fun-seeking adult. I know there are the traditional ants on a log, but I had a lot of other leftover ingredients and I absolutely loved the result so I had to share!

Ants on a Log
Adapted from: Kelly's Kitch original
Yields: about 9 "logs", or 3-4 servings

4 long celery stalks
Creamy honey peanut butter (splurge, it's so good)
1/4 cup craisins

Start by chopping the celery into 3-inch long segments and filling them with the creamy peanut butter (this usually works best if you have an outside stalk so there is room to fill). Place the craisins on the peanut butter and press into it to make it stick. Voila! Easy as .. pie?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Pasta alla Vodka

Are you needing an easy week night dinner that tastes like you've been slaving for hours? Look no further! This amazing dish has by far the absolute best sauce I've ever made! I made it twice, but it was still too involved and, per my husband, required too many dirty dishes for clean-up. The second try I think was the better of the two recipes! This is so creamy and delicious that I am thinking it might be on our weekly menu. I'm sure the liquor store will think we have really taken a liking Vodka when we keep coming back for it.

Pasta alla Vodka
Adapted from: Annie's Eats, originally Cooks Illustrated
Yields: 5 servings

16 oz dried pasta shapes
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup minced onion
1 Tbsp tomato paste
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 can crushed tomatoes (15 oz)
1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp table salt
1/4 cup vodka
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup reserved pasta water, if needed
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh basil leaves
freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for topping

Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente and drain, reserving 1/4 cup pasta water. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onion and tomato paste and cook until onion is softened, about 3 minutes. Mix in garlic and red pepper flakes until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Pour the crushed tomatoes into a 2-cup liquid measuring cup and add enough water to make it 2 cups (about 1/4 cup of water is necessary). Add this and the salt to the pan with the onion mixture. Remove pan from heat and add the vodka. Return pan to heat and simmer briskly on medium heat until alcohol cooks off, about 10 minutes. Reduce the heat if simmer becomes too brisk.

Stir in the cream and cook an additional 1 minute, being sure to not cook too long or else the sauce will separate. Add the pasta to the pan with the sauce and toss well. Cook on medium-low heat for about 3 minutes to allow the sauce to be absorbed by the pasta. If the pasta seems to thick, add some of the reserved pasta water. Both times I used all of the 1/4 cup and it made the dish much more creamy! Add the basil and top with Parmesan cheese when serving.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Mashed Potatoes

I've never really had a go-to mashed potato recipe, unless you call a box a "recipe." I was so sick and tired of taking the time to make instant mashed potatoes (that by the way are disgusting anyways), when I could have made them fresh in the same amount of time. My motivation to find the perfect recipe was jump-started by my mother bringing over bags of potatoes. What else could I do but make mashed potatoes and potato salad (recipe to come soon-ish.. hey, I'm being honest). These are so quick and the only time-consuming part is chopping the potatoes, but what else are you going to do while the water starts to boil?!

Mashed Potatoes
Adapted from: Kelly's Kitch original
Yields: 4-6 servings

6-8 medium-large russet potatoes, peeled and diced
1/4 cup shredded cheese, cheddar
2 Tbsp sour cream
2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 cup milk
4-6 Tbsp butter, depending on taste, at room temperature

Bring a large pot of water (1/3 of the way full) to a boil and add potato dices. Boil on medium-high until softened and a fork can easily pierce the potato all the way through. When potatoes are done cooking, drain in a strainer and return to the pot. Add cheese, sour cream, and garlic powder. Beat with hand beaters on low speed until cheese is melted and potatoes are the right consistency.

While beating, slowly add the milk a little at a time until potatoes are at the consistency of your preference. Do NOT over-beat the potatoes to get every single chunk out because they will become too starchy. Add the butter one tablespoon at a time with the beater and taste after each addition. Add more or less depending on your taste. Serve immediately.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Lattice Pie Crust

Pictured above is an apple pie. Directions below were made with a cran-blueberry pie.

First, start by placing the bottom pie crust into a 9-inch (or whatever size the recipe calls for), greased pie pan. Fill the pan with filling; in this case, cranberry blueberry pie (YUM).

If you feel inclined, take some of that extra pie crust and dip it right into the filling. Insert into mouth. Go ahead, you know you want to.

Next, roll out the second pie crust into at least a 12-inch round. Using a pizza cutter or this thingamajigger (yeah, it's a word ..), cut the crust into 1/2-inch sized strips. No need to measure or be precise.

Place half of the strips vertically on top of the pie spaced apart.

Fold back every other strip to the halfway point on the pie.

Place a new strip of crust onto the pie perpendicular to the strips you have just placed on there.

Fold the vertical strips back flat again Then, fold back the other vertical strips (not the ones you just did) and place another strip horizontally across the pie, being sure to space it however far apart from the previous strip that you'd like it to be.

And you guessed it, fold the vertical strips down again. Repeat this process until you get to the end of the pie and repeat for the other half of the pie.

The easiest way I remember (once you get that first horizontal piece down) is to always fold the strips that are underneath the previous strip. If that didn't make much sense, my husband will attest to the fact that I tend to give  way too much detail and information whether it be baking or directions. Psshh.


When you are finished, a little trick my mom taught me with any pie crust is to trim the excess off. Kitchen scissors work great for this.

Then, fold over the top and bottom pie crusts and pinch together with your fingers.

To make the beautiful fluted pattern on the edge, take your fingers as seen in the picture and form the edges. I don't really know how to explain that better, but you've made a pie before, right!? Well, if not, it doesn't take much to do this.

As with almost all pies, cover the crust with foil either the full baking time or at least the first half. Less browning, crunchy crust and more doughy, golden deliciousness.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Baby food - Steel cut oatmeal

It's that time. Puree time. Messy floors, fingers and faces. Who knew time would fly so quickly?! I'm thoroughly enjoying motherhood (as you can tell since I've almost abandoned this blog, sorry). This was the first puree food my son had that wasn't rice cereal. Once we start introducing fruits, not until next year, I will start adding more flavors in the form of puree fruits, too!

I didn't grind up the steel cut oats before making this recipe so I had to puree them quite a bit when I was done cooking them. My son is just starting to eat puree foods so it was a bit too chunky of a texture for him, but a friend told me to simply grind up the oats in a coffee grinder until they are a powder. Hopefully when I do that next time, it will take less time to make.

Baby food - Steel cut oatmeal
Adapted from: Kelly's Kitch original
Yields: 3/4-1 cup oatmeal

1/4 cup steel cut oats, ground into a powder
1 cup water

Boil water stove top in a small saucepan and add the ground oats, whisking constantly. Reduce heat and simmer until softened, about 15-20 minutes, whisking occasionally. Add water and puree as needed for your baby's texture preferences. Be sure to test the temperature of the oatmeal before serving to your baby! When making stove top, I had to place it in the fridge for 20 minutes+ before it cooled enough.

If you want to make this in bigger batches, feel free to do so and you can simply freeze in ice cube trays and when frozen, dump into a labeled freezer bag. This way, the food is in perfectly sized portions for your little one and nothing goes to waste!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Caramel Pumpkin Cheesecake

There isn't much I can say about this cheesecake that isn't already plainly obvious in the pictures. Other than my cracks, but I kinda like my cheesecake cracks. This cheesecake was so delicious and the pumpkin flavor really wasn't all that overbearing, which is fantastic since (confession time) I don't like pumpkin. I made this for Thanksgiving and I was in charge of something pumpkin for dessert. Pumpkin pie is too strong and bland for that matter so I decided to do something rich, creamy, and that would "wow" my husband's family. Wow, it did.

Next time I think I'll try it without the caramel topping (at least on top) since it stuck to everything and I think it would have been a tad bit less rich that way. I'm all for sweets, but I think Ree has a seriously unnatural sweet tooth. ;) Not that that's a bad thing...

Caramel Pumpkin Cheesecake
Adapted from: Pioneer Woman
Yields: 1 large cheesecake (12")

For Crust

12 ounces, weight store-bought gingersnaps
½ cup chopped pecans
6 Tablespoons butter, melted
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 dash salt


4 x 8 oz packages cream cheese
1 ½ cup sugar
1 can pumpkin puree (15oz) or 1 cup homemade
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon nutmeg
4 eggs
2 Tablespoons heavy whipping cream
1 jar (about 12 oz) caramel topping, optional
Extra chopped pecans
Extra crushed gingersnaps

Crush gingersnaps in food processor or a Ziploc bag with a mallet. Add chopped pecans, melted butter, brown sugar, salt and pulse (or mix) until combined well. Mixture should stick together, but barely. Be sure it’s not too soggy. Press into bottom and sides of a greased 12-inch springform pan. Chill in fridge for 20-30 minutes.

While crust is chilling, make the filling by beating cream cheese and sugar in a bowl until light and fluffy (this is where a stand mixer is really helpful). Add pumpkin, spices, and mix again. Add the eggs one at a time, allowing each one to mix with cream cheese mixture for at least 20 seconds. Add cream and mix until just combined.

Remove crust from fridge and pour ½ jar of caramel topping on crust, if using. NOTE: Reviews on PW website indicate the caramel can harden sometimes, however I used the same brand she did and mine turned out great. Sprinkle caramel with extra chopped pecans. Gently pour the cheesecake mixture into the pan. Even out the top with a spatula.

Bake at 350°F for no less than 1 hour 15 minutes, or until no longer soupy. It should still be somewhat jiggly in the middle though. I baked mine quite a bit longer, but then again the recipe called for a 10-inch pan and mine overflowed.

Cool on the counter for 30 minutes and pour the rest of the caramel topping on top of cheesecake, if using. Smooth out with spatula and chill for at least 4 hours, or overnight. It said to cover the cheesecake, but be careful because the caramel sticks to EVERYTHING.

When ready to serve, remove the rim from the pan and slice. Sprinkle with extra crushed gingersnaps, if desired. The best way to slice a cheesecake is with a knife that has been run under hot water for a few seconds on each side. After each slice, clean the knife off with the hot water and slice again. Sounds tedious, but it makes the best (and most beautiful) slices!

Friday, December 2, 2011

A sign of things to come

I apologize sincerely that I haven't updated this blog (or my other one for that matter) in a very long time. I'm still in the midst of trying to balance baby, sleep, chores, and cooking on a daily basis. It's been quite the learning process for me.

Some of the upcoming recipes include:

Pumpkin Cheesecake (pictured above)
M&M cookies
Chewy, soft chocolate chip cookies (Brad's favorite)
Green beans
Steel cut oatmeal
Baby food puree (so excited to start this!)

If you would like the link to them, I can send that out to you should you need it before I happen to post the recipe. Just email me!! There should be a link on this blog somewhere.. ;) .. but I'm too tired to check.