Sunday, March 29, 2009

Cheap Favorite Kids' T-Shirts

Today, I took my almost 3-yo daughter to Michaels for some craft supplies. We picked up 4 T-shirts for $10 (on sale) and a couple of colors of fabric paint for $.99 each. I looked online for cute cartoons of chicks, since we're all about chicks and chickens around here right now, plus Easter is right around the corner.
I think the T-shirts are a little big on her this year, but I might order more smaller ones from Dharma Trading and make this a Birthday party activity for her upcoming birthday.

She loves T-shirts with designs in the front but what's available at the stores is either very expensive or just not that cute and/or appropriate IMO.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Recipe for Baby Food

When I had my first baby and it came time to feed her food, I found that jarred baby foods don't pass muster when it comes to yumminess or affordability. So using my favorite, the immersion blender, I made my own. Today it was time to remember the recipe because my second daughter had her first meal of solid food:

Supplies needed:
Ice cube trays
Saran wrap
Immersion blender
Stainless steel pot (non-stick would get scratched by the blender)
Organic vegetable or fruit of your choice.

You boil the peeled and cubed vegetable or fruit in as little water as you can get away with. You puree with the stick blender. You pour into ice cube trays, cover with saran wrap, and freeze. Duh. Simple, huh? When frozen solid, remove from tray and put in a container of your choice, label with contents and date. Or don't, and then play baby food roulette/artistry when you pack lunch for daycare, that's what I did. One yellow, one white, one green makes a pretty lunch.

A couple of advantages come to mind. This is very cost effective, in particular since you can make organic baby food for the price of regular jarred food. VERY little work is involved if you buy frozen peas or spinach, or baby carrots (though I prefer real carrots that I have to peel). As I was peeling a sweet potato today that I then cooked and pureed I thought that it took less time than to walk to the baby food aisle in Target (or wherever).
One of the biggies is the flavor and consistency. None of this stage 1,2,3 crap that is used in marketing. You make it smooth enough that there is no danger of indigestion or choking, and that's it. Baby gets used to a little texture and a LOT of flavor in the food and that's what you want.
My daycare teachers were always playing guessing games as to what the food was, but most often the smell would be telling - have you ever smelled jar baby food? It's gross.
Another plus is that there are no secret ingredients. Pears are pears, apples are apples, veggies are veggies without secret additions of rice or corn (which to a baby is really worthless filler I would say).

I have no idea why not everybody does this. I tried to look at it from both sides to no avail.

Possible variations and hints:
I have tried to make chicken this way, but my daughter never liked it. It is impossible to not make it taste dry I find. Rice also was fairly tricky. The one thing that she gagged on was zucchini squash. It's probably genetic since I hate the stuff too. Once I cooked some dried apricots this way, the result was so sweet it didn't freeze well and my daughter didn't like it much. I thought it was yummy though. Prunes are the one thing I bought jarred after that.
One of our favorites are beans. I used to use canned but these days I would pressure cook my own. Garbanzo (hummus) and kidney beans come to mind as very healthy. They're pretty good for babies who tend to be constipated, I should add.

Why organic:
Because children have been found to have measurable levels of pesticides in their urine. That just doesn't seem right to me. The ingredients in pesticides have (if at all) only been tested one at a time, in adults (most often male adults) and at high doses. Typically, things like that don't get tested for long-term, low-dose exposure so there is really no telling what's safe and what isn't.
And you can't rely on the FDA or EPA to tell you what's safe, sadly.
When those kids in the study were switched to all organic food, the pesticides in their urine disappeared. That's reason enough for me to go the extra mile and once you know when and how to shop, the extra cost is not that staggering. Nobody says you have to eat bell pepper and Boston lettuce all the time....

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Recipe for a Sound Economy

.... I am in no shape tonight to post anything original but I read this quote today in one of my favorite books ('The Tightwad Gazette'):

“You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift. You cannot establish security on borrowed money. You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than you earn.”
-Abraham Lincoln

Seemed like a good recipe for sound economy both in the big and the small scale.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Recipe for Happiness

Get yourself a baby of some sort. Human babies are good. If you can't get your hands on one, I have a new favorite: chicken babies. Hold them. Talk to them. Notice how they make you relax and how they slow you down. Babies are good. More babies are better. Sadly, my husband cannot be convinced of the latter, so I had to settle for extending my family the chicken way. Here are some pictures for you to enjoy (Brownie, Spotty and Blackie):

Salmon and Spinach over Gnocchi

This is a very very quick weekday dinner - and it's fancy enough to hide its healthfulness. Frozen ingredients are key - I buy my frozen pesticide-free spinach and my wild-caught salmon at Trader Joe's.
1 large salmon fillet
1 bag frozen spinach
1 onion
1 cup cream or {milk and some flour}
1 clove garlic
1 package of gnocchi (little potato dumpling)
1/2 cup white wine.

Start a pot of water on the stove and proceed to cook gnocchi according to directions. Do NOT overcook them. They only take 2-3 minutes.
Sautee onion and garlic until translucent. Add frozen spinach and cream, cook until it's all hot and bubbly. You could add sour cream or cream cheese if you had any on hand. Add the wine.
Cut the salmon in 1 in cubes. Put the cubes on top of the other stuff in the pan, don't stir. Cover pan with glass lid and cook on medium heat until fish is done.

Defeat and Clafouti aux Cerises

My original plan was to post about a couple of dishes that my 'Oma' used to make. I am the proud child of a working mom, and once a week, my grandmother would cook for us. Which was a blessing for my mom, I am sure, but more so for me. Nobody can cook like my Oma when it comes to 'Schwaebische' cuisine. Alas, my foray into 'Hefeknoepfle' (yeast dumplings) was only about 80% successful, so that post will have to wait.
However, since I anticipated a suboptimal outcome, I thought I'd appease the family with a kick-ass dessert: Quick skip across the French border - Clafouti Aux Cerises.Ingredients:

3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp lemon extract
2 eggs
1 jar of Trader Joe's cherries (I am sure you could use frozen ones)
1 Tbsp butter


Stir together flour, sugar and salt. Add milk and butter, stir until smooth. Add eggs. I added them whole but if you were going out of your way to make this extremely awesome, you could beat the egg whites and then fold in just before you add the cherries.
Put the batter in a 9x9 dish that you have buttered. Put the cherries on top.
Bake for 35 or so minutes at 350F until golden and delicious.

The husband at it and loved it. Said it reminded him of something his mom would make. About 20 minutes later, he realized it reminded him of the dessert that came with the TV dinners she would put out for when she was out and his dad had to 'cook'. I thought that was funny. I cannot remember my mother ever serving convenience food. Thanks mom!!!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Not your average Tuna Noodle Casserole

Big snowstorm today. Screams for tuna noodle. Plus, the husband has been helping me build a chicken coop and so he deserves a treat. He's way stacked up on brownie points for not only letting me have chickens, but also actively helping me build! I will post a separate post about the chickens, and look for lots of egg based recipes come summer.....
This recipe will make two casseroles - one for a friend with a new baby or other distress in her life. The other for your own dinner. Notice the absence of the usual 'cream of crap' canned soup. I only know of one recipe worth cooking that uses these products and that is my husband's almost-from-scratch Mac and Cheese. Which, if you tasted it, would make you want to marry him, too. I might make him post that sometime. Anyway, here we go.
  • 1/2 cup margarine
  • 2 (8 ounce) packages uncooked medium egg noodles
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 stalk celery, finely chopped
  • 2 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 bag baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 cups water
  • salt, pepper, pasta seasoning, chicken broth concentrate to taste
  • 5 (6 ounce) cans tuna, drained and flaked
  • 2 cups frozen peas, thawed
  • 3 tablespoons of those horrid french fried onions that the husband loves
  • 2 cups shredded Goat Cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Parmiggiano or similar
How you do it:
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Butter a medium baking dish with 1 tablespoon butter and one tin foil 9x13 dish.
  2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add egg noodles, cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until al dente, and drain.
  3. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet over medium-low heat. Stir in the onion, celery, and garlic, and cook 5 minutes, until tender.
  4. Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan, and whisk in flour until smooth. Gradually whisk in wine, cream and water, and continue cooking 5 minutes, until sauce is smooth and slightly thickened. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in tuna, peas, spinach, onion mixture, and cooked noodles. Transfer to the baking dishes. Stir the cheese in - we like our cheese 'in' not 'on'.
  5. Bake covered for 25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until bubbly and lightly browned. Put the terrible onions on for the last five minutes, when you can also take the lid off.
Well, in all its glory, I forgot to photograph the endresult. Silly me. It just looked so good and we were so hungry. It looked like tuna noodle with green polka dots.