Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thanksgiving Leftovers: Spicy Shepherd's Pie with Turkey

So, since I hosted Thanksgiving this year, obviously I had plenty of leftovers. Especially turkey since I thought it was a good idea to get a 17.7 lb bird for 6 people (at least it was free from Shop Rite!).  But, no worries- I love leftovers! I made some yummy stuff with them, and here’s the first one!

Spicy Turkey Shepherd’s Pie


2 cups shredded roast turkey
2 cups mashed poatatoes
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
3 stalks celery, sliced
1 cup turkey stock
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, diced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp flour
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp thyme
1 bay leaf
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
¾ cup grated shredded cheese
Chopped fresh parsley for topping

Preheat oven to 400. Saute the carrot, onion and celery in olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat until carrot is softened. Add the garlic and other seasonings and cook for about 1 minute more. Add the turkey and then flour until well mixed. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Cook over medium-low heat until mixture thickens for about 5-7 minutes more. Adjust seasonings to taste. Add half of the amount of seasoning suggested above if you do not like it to be too spicy. 


About to go into the oven

Once mixture is ready, grease casserole dish and cover the bottom with the turkey mixture. Layer the top with the mashed potatoes, followed by the shredded cheese and parsley (or you could add the parsley after it’s out of the oven). Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until cheese starts to bubble. Let stand for at least 5 minutes before serving. Went great with leftover green bean casserole!

Fresh out the oven


This was extremely tasty, I liked it even better than the traditional shepherd’s pie with beef. Using turkey makes it much healthier since it’s a lean meat (unless you use mostly dark meat, but it’s still better for you than beef!). The mixture of seasonings is super aromatic and your taste buds will be dancing! The day after once the seasonings had settled even more, it tasted even better!

Lily found this a bit too spicy for her taste, although she dug the mashed potatoes with cheese. She opted for the leftover beets with broccoli and queso blanco (a new favorite) instead. If you have children who do like spicy food, try this! They will love it! Otherwise, just make it less spicy by starting with a ¼ tsp of the cayenne and go from there according to taste.

Enjoying her beets with broccoli (and actually offering me a bite with the hand you don't see extended towards the camera)

You could also use chicken stock if you did not think to make stock out of the leftover turkey bones. If you happen to still have some bones left, here’s a super simple recipe for turkey stock:


A pot full of turkey bones with some meat left on them
6-8 cups water (depending on how many bones there are)
1 tbsp olive oil (optional)
1 tbsp thyme
1 tbsp parsley
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper

Throw everything in a large pot and boil for 30 minutes. Cook for an additional 1-2 hours over a simmer, enough so that it is still a bit bubbly. Drain broth and store in fridge for later use.

Check back tomorrow for an other leftover turkey recipe using the stock (can you guess what that might be?). Next week I should be back to my normally scheduled programming, including Meatless Monday, featured blog of the month, and a Friday Family Favorite! Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

How My First Time Hosting Thanksgiving Went

Well, my first time cooking and hosting Thanksgiving dinner turned out to be a success. Everything came out tasting good, nothing got burned, I made (almost) everything I wanted to make, and absolutely no one left my house hungry! We had my parents and our friends and their son over and everyone contributed something. My dad made the gravy, my friends made sautéed beets and rice and beans with turkey, my mom made candied yams, pumpkin pie, apple pie, and brought a pecan pie, and I made the turkey, mashed potatoes, rolls, green bean casserole, stuffing, and pumpkin cheesecake. Paul cleaned up :)

For starters we had a platter with spicy cold cuts like carrots and cauliflower, mozzarella with proscuitto, olives and cheese, accompanied- of course -by crackers. I also finally got to make these delightful-looking mini apple and brie quiches I'd been wanting to make ever since I saw the recipe in Eating Well last year. They came out very yummy and everyone enjoyed them!

So delicate and easy to make!

Handling a cold, sticky, strange-feeling, very dead and hairless turkey for the first time was an eerie experience indeed, at least at first. After I got over having to pull the neck out from inside the carved-out bird (I’m embarrassed to say I did not find the gizzard bag until after the turkey was cooked!) and got past a mini meltdown, things were pretty smooth sailing from there. I had expected my parents to arrive a bit early so they could assist me with preparing the turkey since I felt a bit clueless, but suffice to say, they did not arrive when I thought they would, so I had to “wing it” (Haha, get it? Get it??). I stuffed the bird with crumbled cornbread, chopped gala apple, fresh cranberries, turkey sausage, celery and a variety of herbs; I smothered it with canola oil, orange juice, lemon juice, and mixed herbs including oregano, rosemary, and sage; then, I let it sit in a trough of water with added orange and lemon slices and fresh sprigs of tarragon, rosemary and marjoram. 

The bird after 2 hours. Here's the recipe used

It didn’t take as long to cook as I thought it would, and when it was done it was beautiful! I never thought I could be so proud of something I cooked. The squeals of delight and mouths singing “mmm” around the table was enough to let me know I’d done it right. Honestly, I thought it could have been juicier, but for my first time, it turned out even better than I had imagined.

The stuffing was my “bold” dish, as it was inherently fruity and contained an interesting blend of herbs and spices. The one thing I was disappointed in about it was (and this was my error) I felt I added too much lemon juice, although everyone else said they thought it was just fine. I really liked having the gala apples in it though, I must say.

The stuffing was based on this recipe

The green bean casserole was the traditional Campbell’s recipe, so no surprises there. The rolls were…as much as I hate to admit…Pillsbury, only because I wanted to keep that simple due to lack of oven space. The mashed potatoes I also kept classic and simple, making them with Idaho potatoes, butter, chives, garlic, salt and pepper. The gravy was light (in a good way), but very tasty and disappeared quickly. The beets were Lily’s favorite and very tender, and the turkey with rice and beans my friends brought was quite a treat since I don’t normally have that type of dish on T Day (I was glad they left the leftovers with us!). 

This was always my favorite growing up

You can't go wrong with mashed potatoes

Basic buttermilk rolls

I believe- other than the turkey –the candied yams were the star of the show; everyone loved them (except Lily, who was in a picky mood and decided to eat only fruits, rice and yams throughout the day) and they went quickly as well. Half of what Paul ate consisted of the yams. They were really buttery and sweet and topped with lots of marshmallows!

Yummmm...I wish I'd gotten a shot of the bright orange sweet potatoes underneath

For dessert, I only had the pumpkin cheesecake I made and I was mostly pleased with that. It tasted very good, albeit a little dryer than I wanted since I think I let it bake a little longer than I should’ve, but the other pies looked great too. The apple pie seemed to be the most popular; it had the most delicious golden crust and cranberries which made it extra sweet and tangy. We truly ate like kings and queens for this blessed day.

Mom's cranberry apple pie glistening in the sunlight

We enjoyed red Carter wine chilled with sliced oranges, a sweet white Qualitatswein, and a heavy red Italian wine my friends brought that made quite sleepy after only a few sips. I had four glasses and somehow managed to not even get tipsy (if only a bit tired).

The Qualitatswein- MERROW!

It was quite a day with Gozilla vs Mothra and Elmo in Grouchland on the tube to entertain the guests, gorgeous sunny weather, and lots of good people. Lily and my friend’s son, Louis, looked adorable in their holiday clothes! (Sorry to say i did not get single decent shot of them together!) I have so much to be thankful for, and I just wanted to share my gratitude with my readers and my experience in cooking Thanksgiving dinner for the first time. Thanks for stopping by! Hopefully I will get back on my A Game and start regularly posting again, so check back soon!

P.S. If you wrote an awesome post about how your Turkey Day went, please post a link in the comments! I would love to read all about it!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Meatless WEDNESDAY: Curried Acorn Squash Soup

Here is the recipe I had wanted to post for Meatless Monday this week, but due to a currently very busy schedule, here it is today.

Curried Acorn Squash Soup


3 medium or 2 large acorn squash, halved and seeded
1/2 cup chopped onion
3 to 4 teaspoons curry powder
2 tablespoons butter
3 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 cup half-and-half cream
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 350 degrees and put acorn squash to roast on trays or shallow baking dishes for 35-40 minutes. Once squash is nice and tender- enough so you can slide a fork into it –take out to cool. Meanwhile, sauté the onion and curry powder in butter in a medium or large pot for about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat, then scoop the squash out of the rinds and add to pot. Gradually add broth, mixing and mashing the squash as you go. Cook over medium heat for about 15-20 minutes, or until the squash is very soft. Allow to cool for a few minutes, then put into a blender and puree, or blend with an immersion blender until smooth. Stir in the cream, nutmeg, salt and pepper until well mixed and serve.

Cooking and mashing the squash

I added some crumbled apple chips as garnish along with an extra sprinkling of nutmeg. Some other garnish options are:

  • Bacon bits
  • Swirl of sour cream or plain yogurt
  • Fresh chives
  • Fresh sweet parsley
  • Fresh apple slices

Lovely squash, pre-slicing and mashing and pureeing
These babies are hard to cut! Just look at the marks the knife left on my hand! Use the sharpest and sturdiest one you got when cutting these guys!
Lily playing with Bert and Ernie while I work my kitchen magic
As you can see, I did not have much success in cutting the squash up into perfectly halved slices, so don't worry if you have trouble too; they roasted just fine this way

This soup was amazing!!! I never had acorn squash before (usually butternut), but it tasted pretty much exactly the same as butternut. Acorn squash is full of vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, and lots of fiber. It also offers antioxidant and anti-inflammatory support andeven may help lower blood sugar. Squash in general is very diverse; you can roast it, sauté it, puree it, candy it, bake it….so many options!

For baby:

Mash up about 1/4 cup of roasted squash with a fork or in a food processor with a few tbspns of breast milk or formula. Voila! Kids and tots should enjoy some roasted squash with butter; sweeten it up with a little agave syrup if they have sweet teeth!

The lovely end result

What Lily had: mashed squash (which I'm sorry to say she did not enjoy) and left over chicken noodle soup
"I'm thirsty, Mama!"

Have a happy Thanksgiving! Let me know if you decide to use this recipe and tell me how it goes!!!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Meatless Monday will post tomorrow!

Hello, fellow meat-free Mondayers! I am feeling a little under the weather today and had quite a full weekend, so I did not get to write a post for today and don't plan to today since I want to rest and focus on work and taking care of Lily. I will try to post something tomorrow (since I have a really delicious acorn squash soup recipe that will make a great first course this Thanksgiving!) or some day this week so please check back! Please look at past Meatless Monday options for your animal-friendly meal tonight!

Friday, November 18, 2011

November Cookies: White Chocolate Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies

I used to work at a Crabtree & Evelyn a few years ago and they sold cookies like the ones in the recipe below; they were my favorite! I figured I could try and make them myself, so here is a version that uses whole wheat flour and less sugar than most cookie recipes. The tartness of the cranberries with the delicate white chocolate makes them sweet enough, and the whole wheat flour and oats add the whole grain goodness that make these cookies guilt-free.

White Chocolate Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies


    ½ cup sugar
    ½ cup packed brown sugar
    1 cup butter, softened
    2 large eggs
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    ½  teaspoon salt
    1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
    1 ½ cups rolled oats
    1 cup dried cranberries
    1 cup white chocolate chips

Combine the flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl and set aside. In a separate bowl, mix the sugars, butter and vanilla together until smooth, then add the eggs one at a time. Bit by bit, add the dry ingredients to the wet, beating until well blended. Once the flour has been added, add the oats and then lastly add the white chocolate chips and cranberries.

Preheat the oven to 350. Drop rounded spoonfuls of cookie dough onto ungreased baking sheets in rows, at least 2 inches apart. Bake for 10-15 minutes in oven on center rack until golden brown. Allow to cool before serving and then enjoy.

Once again I did not have an image of them readily available, but this picture courtesy looks a lot like how mine turned out the last time I made them

Cranberries are a well-known diuretic that help prevent urinary track infection, and help your bladder in general. Because of this, they are great for helping flush out your system if there are toxins in your body you want to eliminate; I suggest giving some to your baby or child after they’ve had vaccines to help remove toxic preservative chemicals left over from the initial shot (apples and lemon juice are also verygood to help draw out the aluminum found in most vaccines). Cranberriesalso contain a fair amount of anti-oxidants, vitamin C, manganese andfiber. They’re also in season now, and these cookies would even make a great treat for after your big Thanksgiving meal this year.

These cookies are great for little ones the same way the Honey, Flax ‘n Almond Cookies are since they use whole wheat flour; honey can also be used in place of sugar if you want, just use about 25% less (3/4 cup).

Here is a bonus recipe since it’s flu season now and my little Lily has a little cold right now, giving her the runniest nose I have ever seen. Since she hasn’t quite mastered soup yet, I made her some chicken broth-infused pasta for dinner yesterday which she gobbled up, and it genuinely seemed to make her feel a lot better. Here it is below:

Lily-style Chicken Noodle Soup

1 cup chicken broth (preferably organic)
¼ cup small-shaped pasta (I used alphabet shapes)
1 clove garlic, diced
1 tsp olive oil

Sauté the garlic in the olive oil in a small pot for about 3 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil, then add the pasta and cook until fairly soft, or to your child’s preference. Serve the pasta strained from the broth, but still very wet. Add a little grated cheese like Parmesan (Lily’s favorite) to entice your tike even more, but just a little as the dairy could make their phlegm thicker. You can also add chopped veggies, like peas and carrots, to this soup; I would’ve, but not only was I out of any ready-to-use frozen veggies, but Lily has also been quite picky due to her little cold. You can keep the broth for other uses, or just drink it yourself (I gave it to Paul since he’s been sick too, hence why Lily now is and why I most likely will be by the weekend d%@%it!). 

Num-num pasta

My little sickface. She likes to take her bibs off now as you can see

Do you have any sick-busting recipes you’re kids enjoy that you’d like to share? Tell me about them in the comments! Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Learning to Share

So, here’s an issue I’ve been dealing with concerning Lily lately…she’s not much of a sharer. Many people have told me she’s still very young and that she will learn to share eventually, and to just keep teaching her when the appropriate moment arises. Yet, others seem to think this could be an issue and that I should be firmer in teaching her this valuable skill. Case in point:

Monday I took Lily to one of our local parks and we had a few sharing “incidents.” First, she has gotten into the habit of carrying her beloved Bert and Ernie dolls with her wherever she goes now, and her travel companions caught the eye of another toddler playing at the park named, Nora. Nora pointed right at the dolls and started to head right for them, but her mom stopped her as soon as Lily started to tense up and cry. It’s really that easy to set her over the edge- one only needs to imply that they may want to check out the toy she’s holding or even simply looking at

Running around at the park with her best buddies
  Little Nora went on and on about Bert and Ernie, but her dear mom did a good job of keeping her cub away from Little Miss Crankypants Lily. Lily went about her business, but then another little girl who was probably around 2 ½ came over to us and started throwing a green ball around. It seemed that she was definitely trying to get Lily’s attention so they could play. Lily, on the other hand, was interested in nothing but getting that ball from the little girl. The little girl would throw the ball, then Lily would go after it, and then the little girl would go after it too, always getting to the ball first. This upset Lily, although it was clear to me the tot was merely trying to play a game with her.

She went back over to her mom in a confused state, and her mom in turn coaxed her into trying to play with Lily again by rolling the ball to her to she could roll it back. What a sweet lady, such good intentions…too bad she doesn’t know my daughter. Lily instead only wanted to obtain the ball for herself and run away with it, but the little girl’s mom persisted in trying to get them to play together, so I decided to use this time as a learning experience for Lily. It took about ten tried before I finally got Lily to let go of the ball for the little girl to chase and then return to Lily again, and it looked as if Lily was finally starting to understand the simple game of catch and toss. It was pure bliss for me, the Worrisome Mom, when that moment came where Lily looked at the ball in her hand, then looked at the little girl waiting for her to send it back, then let go of the ball and let it roll over to her without crying. I cheered her on and so did the little girl and her mom. What a breakthrough! We had forgotten about little Nora at this time…

It was when the little girl had sent the ball back to Lily again that Nora came out of nowhere exclaiming, “Ball!” and ran right up to Lily and snatched the ball from her hands. This resulted in an eruption of tears from both the ball players, Nora’s mom scurrying up to her telling her “No!” and each little crying girl running to their mother’s arms.

Nora’s mom looked so embarrassed, as I had when Lily kept trying to take the ball for herself. She got Nora to return the ball without much fuss and things quieted back down, but not for Lily. She appeared to be more confused than ever, so I tried to get her to go on the swings with the little girl she’d been playing with, but she was just too upset and indicated to me she wanted to leave. So, leave we did, but not before I said goodbye to the fellow moms and thanked the ball-owner’s mom for the encouragement. Unfortunately, I did not catch her or her darling daughter’s name, so I hope to see them playing at the park again sometime.

This is just a particularly amusing example of Lily’s sharing trials and tribulations; there have been many more where she just screamed and cried and one time she even poked the poor little girl admiring the same pumpkin in the patch as she right in the eye! (The little girl was fine, thank goodness!). So, now, Dear Readers, I am once again asking for fellow moms with toddlers- or with kids who once were toddlers -to weigh in on this and offer up any advice they may have. Is this “normal”? Is Lily still too young to really understand sharing? Should I continue to be patient and just let things evolve? Is there a helpful way you taught yours how to share?

Thanks a lot, and check back Friday for another yummy cookie recipe!

Bonus cutie :)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Meatless Monday: Mini Quiches

I got these mini phillo tarts for Thanksgiving the year before to make delicious-sounding apple-brie tarts, but when I gave the recipe a test-spin, they didn’t turn out quite right…as in the mixture seeped through the tarts. I did not have the time nor the patience to give the recipe a try again before Turkey Day, so I just had these phillo tarts laying around and finally decided to use them when Lily and I started getting that rumble in our tummies for dinner one night.

Mini Quiches


1 dozen mini phillo tarts
2 large eggs
½ cup chopped spinach
¼ cup diced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp milk
2 tbsp grated cheddar cheese
2 tbsp crumbled feta
1 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
¼ tsp cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 350. Sauté the onion and garlic in olive oil until fragrant, about 3-5 minutes over low heat, then add the spinach and sauté for about 1 minute more. Remove from heat and set aside. Meanwhile, in a somewhat large bowl, beat the eggs with the milk, salt, pepper and cayenne. Add in the feta and mix, then add the sautéed spinach, garlic and onion. Set the mini phillo tarts onto baking sheets about 1 inch apart from each other. Gently pour or spoon egg mixture into each cup. Sprinkle a little bit of black pepper and shredded cheddar on top and bake for about 10 minutes or until lightly browned on top. Serve with a spring mix salad or a light soup.

She doesn't look too sure about it here, but I promise she did like it!

"Here let me help you with that..."
 Lily really liked these quiches, and so did Paul and I. They’re super easy to make and you can obviously mix up the ingredients you put in the egg mixture to your liking. Kids will dig these too as they are cute and compact and fun to eat.

Normally I write a longer post and add some nutrition info, but as I said in my last post I have a lot of big projects to work on right now, so this is just a quickie Meatless Monday recipe I wanted to throw up. I hope you aren’t too disappointed! Happy Monday and I’ll catch you again on Wednesday (I hope!).

Saturday, November 12, 2011

November Cookies: Honey, Flax 'n Almond Cookies

Life is starting to get very full again (for example, I meant to post this yesterday, but didn’t seem to find the time). I recently took on a couple of new “big” projects for work, and since I work in retail, this just reminds me all the more that the holidays are upon us. I have most of my shopping done (kept it very minimal this year, only shopping for the little ones in my life at Etsy and local shops!) and baking recipes are brewing in my head daily. Hence, why I made this month “baking month” so I could test out new recipes and perfect older ones and make my final decisions on what to give as gifts this year. At this time, I’m thinking: Flax ‘n Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies, White Chocolate Coconut Cookies, Vegan Sugar Cookies (for the friends and family in my life with allergies), Honey ‘n Flax Whole-wheat bread, and Banana bread. Is that too much coconut and flax? I figure, they’re healthy and tasty and I have been using them in cooking and baking a lot lately, so why not? What do you think?

The recipe I chose to share with you today could be a contender as well, although they cost a bit more to make since they use so much honey to make them sweet. They are AWESOME though! They have gone over really well with friends and family interested in healthy eating, although I will be honest and say that the sweet-tooths in my life thought they needed to be sweeter! If you try this recipe and want to sweeten it up more without sugar or more honey, I’d recommend adding about ½ cup chopped dates. I like them just the way they are, and I hope you will too! Once again I have adapted this recipe from my favorite magazine, Eating Well.

Honey, Flax ‘n Almond Cookies

1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 cup unbleached flour
¾ cup sliced almonds
¼ cup flax flour
2/3 cup + ¼ cup honey, divided
1/3 cup coconut oil
¼ cup whole flax seeds
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
4 tbsp unsalted butter at room temp
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
Extra flax seeds or sliced almonds for garnish (about ¼ cup combined)

Mix the flours, almonds, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl and set aside. Beat the 2/3 cup honey, oil and 3 tbsp of butter in a separate bowl until well combined. Add the egg and vanilla until well blended with the rest of the mixture, then combine the wet ingredients with the dry. Refrigerate the dough for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat cookie sheets with a little coconut oil or butter, (unless they are non-stick, which I don’t recommend due to carcinogens). Mix the rest of the butter and honey together until well combined. Roll dough into small balls (about 1 tbsp each) then line on cookie sheets about 2 inches apart. Press the back of a very shallow spoon (I use a tablespoon) or your thumb into the balls so it makes a shallow indentation, enough to fill with some of the honey-butter mixture. Spoon a small amount of the honey-butter mixture into each indentation. Top with a couple slices of almonds and/or a sprinkling of flax seeds. Place on center rack in oven and bake for 12-15 minutes, until golden brown. 

I think I could use some new baking sheets, what do you think?

Alternatively, you could fill the cookies with jam instead, or as well. That’s what I did when I first made these cookies and was experimenting with things as you can see.

With honey-butter, with honey-butter with flax seeds, and with blackberry jam

In the original recipe from Eating Well, it says to add the honey mixture after the cookies have baked. When I did this, the honey didn’t set right and got all runny. Putting the honey-butter mixture in before baking will help it set without getting too tough. The jam, however, may get a little tough, so you may want to wait for about 5 minutes into baking before you add jam to the cookies. I found that depending on the type of jam you use, it could come out a little rubbery and separate from the cookie when you bite into it. The less runny the jam, the less likely it will get rubbery.

There is so much awesomeness in these cookies, I just love them! They’re healthy and taste really good, so healthy in fact that you could even eat them for breakfast without feeling guilty about it. One of the best things about these cookies is the amount of wonderfully rich and delicious honey in them, which I think is like the nectar of the Gods! I adore honeybees for so many reasons- they really are what make the world go around if you ask me. If it weren’t for honeybees, we’d have no one to pollinate the plants, and the world as we know it would completely change for the worse! You may have heard various things about the dwindling honeybee population and the reasons for it, such as pesticides, global warming, and even cell phone usage. I’m not here to talk about that plight today, as there is still so little concrete evidence for any single reason why the bees are disappearing (all I know about that is that it really stinks!). Instead, I’ll focus on the benefits of honey and hope that that will draw enough attention to how amazing bees really are. If you want to learn more about the disappearing bees, click here.

Honey is first and foremost incredibly healing when it comes to viruses and infections. Have a sore throat? Take a spoonful of honey and if it doesn’t go away in minutes, keep taking it once an hour until you feel better. Got a nasty cough? Try taking some buckwheat honey to beat the infection and sooth the chest pain. Weak immune system? Take a spoonful of honey everyday and you will boost it by at least 50%! So, skip the sugar in your tea and add honey instead, because as you’ll learn if you make these cookies, honey is probably the best sugar replacement available! Do note though that honey is sweeter than sugar, so use about 25% less when using it to replace sugar in recipes. Add more if desired. 

These are also ideal cookies to give your little one who is at least over 1 year old. Lily really likes them and I don't feel bad about giving her sweets this way! Infants under 1 should not eat any honey though because of Clostridium botulinum spores and toxins that can cause infant botulism, a life-threatening paralytic disease. Weird, right?  Before I had Lily I never thought honey ever posed any risk. It's okay to use products like Burt's Bees on infants though, just make sure they don't eat it! Older kids will love these cookies too, and you can use the dough as a base for a variety of healthier versions of cookie classics. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

First Featured Up-and-Coming Blog of the Month!

As I wrote in my Liebster blog post last week, I will now be featuring a different blog each month to spotlight as an up-and-coming blog with less than 200 followers that is worth a read! This month's blog is "And Then There Were Three" by Stephanie May and her husband, Tom. It's the perfect blog to browse when you just need a good chuckle that you (as a fellow mom) can relate to. It's a fun read for anyone though, I'd say, with or without child.

Stephanie writes such humorous and aptly named posts like "Poop or Chocolate?"- you can just guess what that one's about- and "Vacation + Baby = Regrets" which tells the tale of these first-time parents' vacation nightmare with baby and the lessons learned when it comes to attempting to get a little "R&R" with a crawler around. Tom's writing is even more satirical and to the point when it comes to the trials and tribulations of parenting, with posts like "Demon Baby" (we've all been there!) and "Karate Chops" which starts off as a rant on how annoying it can be when people endlessly question you about how much sleep you're getting with a new baby around, yet takes a self-help turn at the end.

Any which way you read it, Stephanie and Tom's blog is full of quick, funny, and clever musings that will leave you wanting more. Please feel free to nominate another deserving blog in the comments below! The only requirements are that the blog have less than 200 followers to be nominated, and preferably have something to do with parenting, family, health, cooking, or creativity. Thanks!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Meatless Monday: Crockpot Tomato Sauce

I had quite the busy last four days, which is why this post is a little late. Lily and I went to the zoo with her Aunt Kim and cousin Rhys on Thursday, caught up on chores and work on Friday, went to NYC with the grandparents on Saturday, then Lily slept over the grandparents’ house Saturday night and got back late Sunday afternoon then went grocery shopping with Mom and Dad. In between, I caught up on chores I normally have trouble doing with Lily around, like giving Ogum a desperately needed trim and FINALLY finishing painting Lily’s room (see pics below). By Sunday night I was spent!

It was Paul's idea to do the split colors like this

Lily loves ducks (and Elmo as you can see by the book she insisted on carrying around with her)

"I'm walking in the spiderwebs..."

"Honk, honk!"

Today’s Meatless Monday recipe is pretty easy, the only really active part being peeling, seeding and chopping up the tomatoes. When I first made this in my Crockpot, it was because I had recently acquired a huge batch of organic, farm-raised and picked tomatoes from Paul’s dad who works on a farm (part of the way he spends his “retirement”). I got bright red, yellow, orange and green tomatoes, more than enough to make the sauce with, the rest went into salads. The yellow and orange were so sweet (“Like candy!” according to Paul’s dad), and the red were perfect for this sauce! I just threw the green ones into the sauce as well because I am not a big fan of them alone (although I know many people enjoy fried green tomatoes). To be honest, I rarely eat fresh tomatoes because the acidity bothers my stomach. I usually will only eat plum or cherry tomatoes very thinly sliced on sandwiches or mixed up in a salad or with fresh mozzarella. But, when it comes to sauces, soups and beans, tomatoes really make them amazing!

Some of the lovely organic tomatoes from the farm
Crockpot Tomato Sauce


1 lb ripe tomatoes, preferably plum
6 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
1 medium onion, diced
½ cup olive oil
½ cup fresh basil
1 tbsp white sugar
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper

First, peel the skin off the tomatoes with a small, sharp knife; then seed the tomatoes and if they’re soft enough mash up into chunks, otherwise dice. Set aside. In a small frying pan, sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil with the salt and pepper for about 3-5 minutes, or until fragrant. Remove from heat then add contents of the pan along with all the other ingredients to your slow cooker. Set to low and cook for up to 12 hours, minimum 6 hours. The longer you cook it the better it will taste, but in my experience, 6 hours of cooking will still taste great if you can’t wait that long!

Taste the sauce once an hour as it cooks and add more seasonings according to taste as you go. If it’s too acidic, add more sugar. Some other seasonings you can add are red pepper flake to spice it up, thyme to soften it, and cinnamon to warm it up and make it a bit less traditional if that’s what you’re into. This recipe is a basic, classic tomato sauce recipe, perfect for anything you need sauce for, but I think it tastes best smothering spaghetti!!!

Lily loves tomato sauce. Most kids do, I think. I actually was not a big fan as a kid, and now I know it’s because of the acidity. My parents just thought I was being picky and made me eat it anyway, or else cave and give me my fuselli with butter and cheese. The picky eater in my house is my husband, but even he can appreciate a homemade, slow-cooked pasta sauce.

For babies 9-12 months, puree ½ cup pasta with a little olive oil and a few spoonfuls of sauce then top with grated Parmesan.

Tomatoes- despite their acidity that my stomach disagrees with –are quite good for you. For one thing, they are loaded with the antioxidant lycopene and vitamins A, C and K with are strongly present in all red or orange-colored produce. They provide cardio-vascular support, strengthen bones and some studies show they are beneficial in protecting against cancer, especially prostate cancer.

So, next time you have time to spend at home and get a hankering for some home-style Italian pasta, give this recipe a try if you have a slow cooker or big pot and bring Italy to the dinner table. (This would be a great recipe to bookmark for a snowy day when you’re stuck inside!)
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