Friday, November 28, 2008

Dish of the Day: Breakfast Porridge

Here's another timesaver for those who like warm porridge on an autumn morning. Take last night's leftover starch and cook it on the stove with some cinnamon and milk. Now that's instant hot cereal that's healthy and good.

I made quinoa for dinner last night and this morning I put about a cup of it in a saucepan with 1/2 a cup of milk and water. This simmered away for about 15 minutes to soak up most of the liquid and then I added cinnamon, raisin and cardamom and let it cook for 2 more minutes. Into the bowl it went along with a squeeze of honey, a pat of butter and a bit more milk to make it soupy. I like some crunch in the morning so I added a few pieces of walnut.

Other suggestions:
Brown rice with dried blueberries and pecans
White rice with raisins and cinnamon
Couscous with cranberries and sliced almonds

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Dish of the Day: Rice Porridge

Today at a parent drop-in I met Shirley who graciously invited me and the Bug back to her house for baby lunch. She's from mainland China and makes her daughter rice porridge every morning. She makes her own stock with beef bones and a chicken and then very slowly simmers the rice in this broth until it is very soft. Then she adds dried Chinese cabbage and chicken meat.

Shirley's porridge is absolutely delicious and I can't think of anything more nutritious for a baby, except maybe using brown rice instead of white. At first I thought "here's an example of someone from the Old World who does things the traditional way" and that made me envious and appreciative of what she's doing for her baby. But when I probed further about the ingredients of the porridge I realised that this was a true Superfood created by a discriminating cook with a true knowledge of how to nourish someone.

Shirley uses organic whole chicken bought directly from a farmer and the marrow and concentrated chicken give the stock a huge amount of vitamins and minerals. But even the addition of vegetables is a nutrient-rich decision because Shirley's cabbage is picked in China and hung upside down to dry, and then sent to Canada by her mother. When rehydrated, it still contains a decent percentage of vitamins and minerals. She spends 4 hours each day making this nutritious dish!

Shirley's baby is a lucky girl. And Shirley herself is an inspiration and a reminder of a fading tradition of homemakers who don't just feed their family but who take the time to nourish them. I wonder how much time many of us spend on tasks that are less important than nourishing ourselves, and what do we really get for our labours?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Dish of the Day: Roasted Brussels Sprouts

The days of hating and fearing Brussels sprouts are officially over. Now everyone is giving them a try and that's largely because cooks have stopped the horrible practice of boiling the poor things. This cruciferous vegetable is packed with amazing phytochemicals and roasting at lower temperatures helps to preserve them. As opposed to boiling them to death so they turn that nasty shade of dead-frog green.

As a lazy cook, I now cook these exclusively by slicing these babies in half, placing them cut-side down on an oiled baking pan, basting with a bit more oil and then placing them in the oven for about 20 minutes at 375F. They don't even need to be turned over - they're so simple.

I'm using my silicone basting brush daily as it's such a good way to lightly coat foods in oil. This came in handy with the Brussels sprouts to ensure that the bottom of the glass baking pan was evenly coated with oil. I topped them with some nutmeg, salt and pepper and a drizzle of walnut oil when they came out of the oven.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Dish of the Day: Sweet Potato Fries

Everybody loves fries, right? But nobody wants trans fats, so homemade oven fries are a good way to have your fries and eat them too. I only seem to make them with yams or sweet potatoes and this time of year I make them fairly often.

One large yam is enough to make side dishes for three people.
- Clean the yam with soap and water
- Using a large chef's knife, cut the yam into pinky-finger sized slices, leaving the skin on
- Generously brush your baking sheet with olive oil and throw the fries on
- Shake on your favourite spices: paprika, onion powder, rosemary, ground sage, salt, pepper
- Bake at 375F for about 12 minutes then flip over (when browned)
- 10 more minutes on the other side should do it

Seasoned properly, there's no need for sugary ketchup, as these yam fries will be very savoury and yummy. If you're giving the fries to babies, watch the salt, and cut off the skin or any crunchy parts as they may present a choking hazard. They make a great finger food for kids of all ages.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Dish of the Day: Cauliflower Soup

Nothing says "Mmm fall weather" like a hearty homemade soup. Because I am a super lazy cook, I love to whip up cauliflower soup because it's fast, easy, creamy and good. This is also a great way to introduce members of your family who do not like cauliflower, to its subtle yumminess. As a teen, I ate cauliflower soup at home several times before I caught on that I'd been sneakily served a vegetable I despised! I soon became a convert.

- In a large saucepan, saute onions and garlic (lots of you like 'em, a handful if you're not so keen) in an olive oil/butter combo until translucent (5 minutes or more)
- Chop a whole cauliflower into 2 inch florets and place in pot
- Add milk to just cover florets
- Add in bay leaf, salt and pepper
- Cook at a low boil for 25 minutes until florets are very tender
- Remove bay leaf, then puree in blender putting in florets first and then liquid to ensure your soup has the right consistency
- Adjust seasonings to taste. I usually put in 2 more tablespoons of butter before serving. You can also add sage, cumin, thyme if you like more, or different, flavour.

Everybody in our family loves this soup, and you will too!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Dish of the Day: French Toast

Some weekends we like to have a special breakfast and this morning it was french toast. Of course, I wanted the baby to be able to partake so I made her a version which included soaking whole wheat bread in egg yolk and a bit of breast milk. Then I pan-fried it in butter, just like I did with our own. I also had some frozen blueberries I wanted to use up so I boiled them for 15 minutes on the stove to make them more digestible for baby's tummy. The Bug has had no problems with berries, although some babies can find them a lot to digest.

She enjoyed her french toast and didn't even know she was missing out on maple syrup. More for us!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Dish of the Day: Yogen Fruz

Even though the weather has turned cooler, we still love frozen yogurt. It's a treat that feels a bit forbidden and yet isn't such a bad thing after all. And throw in some fruit and it's got some nutrition to boot. In Canada we don't have Pinkberry or its imitators, but we have the original frozen yogurt purveyor of the 1980s, the very Canadian Yogen Fruz. They revamped their menu this year to try and compete with the Pinkberry franchise, perhaps in case they had designs on expanding into lil' ole Canada.

We went there yesterday and I got the Top It option which is fat free and has no Splenda. Children should not eat sugar substitutes, so I had to make do with a little sugar. I topped it with fresh mango. The Bug was very excited but in the end it was not to her liking. A bit too cold, although she has enjoyed fro-yo in the past. In the summer, the yogurt melts faster and I gave her the warmer, soupy parts. Maybe the fact that she just sat - terrifyingly - on Santa's knee made her feel a bit chilled. But mommy sure enjoyed her share.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Dish of the Day: Sweet Potato Risotto

What's in a name? Po-TAY-to, po-TA-to.....yam? I'm talking about Ipomoea batatas not that other sweet potato as we call the long, dry yellow potatoes here in Canada. Of course here in Canada we call "Ipomoea" a "yam", but in fact a yam is something else altogether.

Anyway, those orange sweet things, as in my photo above, are yummy treats this time of year. I decided to try out a recipe from Real Simple mag that was a traditional risotto recipe involving good old wine and cheese. This was very easy to follow and had great results. Note to parents: risotto is not a quick dish to make. You must stand at the stove and stir and stir and stir. Try it out when children are away, or sleeping, or have left home to go to college and the house is nice and quiet.

Of course, the baby made me give her most of mine. With the alcohol burned off during the cooking process, all she gets is the sweet flavour of the dry wine, without the effects. I guess we're teaching her about drinking responsibly from an early age.

My Kind of Fast Food

Forget Slow Food. I'm not slow; I'm fast. I want to get the most done in the shortest period of time so I can enjoy. My latest trick is to cook more food. Sounds like an oxymoron for someone in a hurry, but I'm talking about cooking more quantity of food to make enough for two meals or more.

I can't tell you how frustrated I get at lunchtime to realise that I have no vegetables ready to go for lunch. The lunch hour is usually a rushed time for us, especially when I'm trying to get my lunch and the baby's ready to go. I'm planning now to always make extra at dinner and save the vegetables for the next day's lunch. Last night was Brussels sprouts roasted in the oven with a bit of olive oil and chopped pecans. My sprouts will make you beg for more, believe it!

It's worth mentioning that you will lose some vitamins (B's and C) when you save food until the next day which is why it's always important to eat as much fresh food as possible. But at least I'm getting my veggies, and fast.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Dish of the Day: Sauteed Zucchini with Cumin

At this time of year I get very bored with my vegetable options because I don't eat raw vegetable during cooler weather. Sometimes I find root vegetables too heavy, so fall finds me cycling through leafy green veggies and try to find different ways to serve them. But this week I spotted some perky organic zucchini squash and decided to give them another try.

I love zucchini in baking, but unless it's grilled, zucchini can be a bit too mushy for my tastes. This time I decided to sautee the squash in an olive oil/butter combination so it would brown and still stay firm. I placed the 1/3 inch rounds flat on the bottom of the pan and sprinkled them with a pinch of salt, ground pepper and two pinches of ground cumin. They cooked for 3-4 minutes per side.

When I brought the zucchini to the table for my lunch, naturally my Bug started squealing for some of my food. I fed her the vegetable turkey mix I'd prepared for her but she kept wanting my zucchini. I really doubted that she'd enjoy the cumin, but once I'd peeled a softer round for her and popped it in her mouth she was very happy. She got about four more pieces before I decided that the rest was for me.

I fear that one day, Bug is going to decide to be picky about her food, but I know that feeding her different flavours and textures now is an important experience for her. There's been very little she has refused and I look forward to seeing her enjoy so many different tastes.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Do As I Do

Now that my Bug is getting to the toddler stage, she can eat more than just mush. So the good news is that she wants to eat what I'm eating. Right off my plate. Yay! I don't have to concoct special meals for her! But also: Boo! I have to share my food. The most important thing to me, though, is ensuring she's getting very high quality food and this has caused me to take a good look at what I'm putting on my fork each night.

On the weekend we went to Whole Foods and I lazily bought some prepared food. Sesame Tofu was good but a bit too chewy for her. I had to cut off the outside bits. And hey....was it cooked in oil? Hmm. I thought I always read the ingredients on foods I purchased but I am a serious label-reader now. Also I had Broccoli Bites on our lunch menu. These are breaded broccoli and cheese nuggets. I had to admit they're a bit processed after all. And finally, my favourite Amy's Soups which I've now discovered contain tons of salt. I just thought they were naturally yummy, but before doling some out to Bug, I noticed the too-high sodium levels on the label and added water and some plain veggie puree to hers. Thankfully, today I discovered that Amy's offers low-sodium versions of some of their soups.

Having and raising a baby has forced me to be even healthier than usual but now that we are eating together I'm really challenged to walk the talk. It's a bit more work but I'm thankful for this excuse and happy to know I'm giving my little one the best foundation from which to grow. And I've resolved to eat my cheat foods in the closet, out of sight!