Ewan loves burritos, tacos, and sopes, really almost anything fairly simple that contains black or pinto beans. The other day, he asked me if we could have tacos for dinner. We didn't have any tortillas or time to make them, but we did have all of the other ingredients, and we had just made pancakes for our afternoon snack and had some leftover. So I asked him if we could use "tortilla pancakes" instead of tortillas.
Our resulting creation was delicious and much easier for a toddler to eat than actual tacos, especially if you make your pancakes fairly small. Ewan loved these and has requested them since. I also thought they were delicious.
Pancakes are another favorite food in our house. I probably have as many pancake recipes as I do granola. I took a recipe that we really like from Heidi Swanson's cookbook, Super Natural Every Day, and adjusted it so that we could use the resulting pancakes in place of tortillas for open face tacos (recipe to follow soon).
These pancakes aren't as fluffy as your everyday buttermilk pancakes, but they also don't leave you feeling like you have a lead weight in your stomach. They are made with all whole grains and have the option of adding millet for a bit of interesting texture. I'm kind of obsessed with adding millet to things these days; I love the crunch, plus it has great nutritional value.
We recently had a cool spell of weather here in southern California, although it doesn't even compare to what the rest of the country has been going through this winter. It did bring some illness with it into our house, including a several hour fever to my son, his first in probably a year. After some warm weather, the cool has returned, bringing with it some much needed rain (yay!). I thought this was the perfect time to share this soup recipe that I made during the last bout of cool weather.
There have been numerous studies done of the healing powers of chicken broths made with whole chickens to treat the common cold, and I like to use it as a first defense against them in my family, rather than turning to over-the-counter medicines right away, especially for me while I'm breastfeeding, or the kids in general.
Chicken broth is another food I like to keep in my freezer. The next time you cook or buy a whole chicken, save the carcass to use for chicken broth. You don't have to use raw chicken to make broth. Place the carcass in a big stockpot, cover it with water, and throw in any veggies you have around such as onion, carrot, celery, parsley, and kale. Simmer for a few hours, strain out all the solids, cool to allow the fat to float to the top so that it can be discarded, and voila, you have chicken stock. I freeze it in 2 cup quantities and use for the next several months.
Ewan had two jobs to help make the soup. First, he helped me harvest kale from our garden. We have four different varieties growing at the moment. Then he was in charge of ripping the kale leaves from the stems. We save the stems and add them to green juice or feed them to our worms (more on that later).
Confession: I have quite a sweet tooth. I try not to give into it often, but I go through periods (such as when I am sleep deprived like I have been for the past four months or so) when I have almost no willpower and can't keep any sweets in the house without eating them. Luckily for me, I eat pretty healthy aside from this weakness, but I sometimes think I should quit sugar completely in order to stop craving it so often.
I have been experimenting more with natural sweeteners, making occasional treats that Ewan and I can share (we only started allowing him sugar just before his third birthday, and just on special occasions). But I don't have enough experience baking things like cakes with anything other than the real thing.
We celebrated Jason's birthday earlier this month, and he requested this cake, a favorite in our house. This has been my go to chocolate cake for a number of years; I have made it too many times to count. I used to make it for co-workers' birthdays back when I was employed outside the home.
I love baking but try not to bake sweets very frequently because I can't stop myself from eating too much of the finished product (see above). Baking is such a great activity to do with toddlers and older children, but we usually stick to making things like granola, pancakes, and bread dough. Ewan was extremely excited to help me make his Papa a birthday cake.
I first discovered this recipe when searching for a dessert to make on St. Patrick's Day. Adding stout to a cake seemed like a very American way to celebrate the holiday, aside from coloring a white cake green (definitely not my style). I have never gone wrong baking a cake recipe (or really any type of recipe) from the Smitten Kitchen; Deb really know her cakes along with everything else she makes.
This chocolate cake is not as sweet as a typical chocolate cake, and the taste of the stout really comes through, so choose your beer wisely. I have also made it with porter, which is another beer that can easily be substituted here.
We started feeding our daughter, Isla, solid foods just a few days before she was seven months old using the baby led weaning approach. I was not familiar with this way of feeding babies when our son began eating solid food three years ago. When I first heard it mentioned, I actually thought people were talking about a way of letting the baby decide when to stop nursing. But baby led weaning is actually using the British definition of weaning (adding complementary foods), not the American meaning (stopping breastfeeding). Once I got the definition straight and read both the theory behind baby led weaning and some first hand accounts, including watching several youtube videos, I decided this would be a great way to start Isla on solids. I'll admit that even after nearly a month, both my husband and I still get a little nervous when we hear her "exercising" her gag reflex.
We waited until Isla was nearly seven months old to begin solids for a number of reasons. Since we were planning to use the baby led weaning method of feeding, we wanted her to be able to sit unassisted, grasp and feed the food to herself, have the support to push herself up onto straight elm=bows from lying face down, and have good head and neck control. She wasn't sitting unassisted until about a week prior to starting to feed her solids, but that was the final ability on this list that she needed.
We are so fortunate to live in Santa Barbara, California, where there is a farmer's market almost every day, year round. Some days even have two different markets. We headed to the Sunday market in Goleta, the town bordering Santa Barbara to the north, to pick out Isla's first food, spaghetti squash, and also got her a butternut squash for later.
The Goleta market is located in a shopping area and there is usually live music in the courtyard where kids dance and run around. It's definitely a very family-friendly atmosphere. Jason and the kids listened to the music for a bit while I took a few photos to document the purchase of Isla's first food and finished shopping.
We bought the small squash from the stand for Ellwood Canyon Farms, a farm located nearby in western Goleta that follows sustainable organic methods of farming. They have such a beautiful display of their fruits and vegetables at the market that it's hard not to stop and purchase something.
We have been eating a lot of carrots in our house lately. They are currently one of Ewan's favorite vegetables and the perfect teether for Isla. I usually put one on Ewan's plate with whatever he is having for lunch, and it is the first thing he eats about half of the time. They also make such an easy snack to take on an outing because they are rarely very messy. I say rarely because it seems that kids (or at least mine) can make almost anything messy. One time a good portion of his face was orange by the time he finished his carrot.
I hated carrots as a child. I really only remember being served boiled carrots, and they were one of my most disliked foods. When we had them for dinner, my parents would make me eat some decided upon amount of them before I was allowed to leave the table. I was stubborn and would sit there for quite awhile. Then, once everyone was gone and a good amount of time had lapsed, I would stuff them into my cheeks and go spit them out into a tissue in the bathroom. I'm not sure why I didn't just throw them away in the kitchen if no one was around to see me, but maybe I felt this was my best chance at not getting caught.
I have really only recently started to like eating whole raw carrots. I used to just eat them on salads but only liked them sliced very thin. I guess I'm still picky about how I eat some foods, even if I eat most things.
The carrots we've been finding at the farmer's market in Santa Barbara lately have been amazingly sweet. Even I have found myself snacking on them daily. We either buy our carrots at the market or the organic ones at Trader Joe's or Whole Foods. I never buy the bags of baby carrots. I find them to be slimy and unnecessarily processed. There really is no reason to peel carrots, and everyone in my family is willing to eat a whole carrot, so the big ones aren't inconvenient for us. Plus, it's impossible to slice the baby carrots the way I prefer for salad.
I recently saved this recipe that I saw on Chocolate & Zucchini, a food blog I follow. It sounded like something Ewan might like with a little tweaking. Then I got a bunch of these beautiful white, orange, and purple carrots, and had some ground beef in the fridge so it seemed like the perfect time to try it.
We eat a lot of granola in our house. Almost everyday our breakfast consists of yogurt, granola, and fruit. I started eating this kind of breakfast back when I was twenty while I spent a semester abroad, working in Switzerland. I traveled somewhere via train an average of probably three weekends a month and almost always stayed in youth hostels. Several of the staple breakfast items offered were yogurt, muesli, and fruit. I can't even remember what I used to eat for breakfast before then.
As most of us know, the majority of granolas available in stores have quite a lot of sugar in them. I've been making my own for years. It's really simple to make and can be easily modified to your own tastes. You can also use natural sweeteners such as honey or maple syrup rather than processed sugars.
Making granola is an afternoon project that Ewan and I do together every week and a half or so while Isla naps. It involves scooping, pouring, reading, patience, listening, and following directions. And he of course loves the one-on-one time while his sister is sleeping.
I imagine I will be sharing many more granola recipes in the future, but this is our favorite at the moment.
I started making my own yogurt probably five years ago when a friend introduced me to the idea. I never realized it could be so simple and delicious. Ewan loves plain cow's milk yogurt and first tried it when he was eight months old. I can put a big bowl of it in front of him with nothing added, and it will be gone very quickly. He also likes to eat it with a scoop of frozen blueberries mixed in because when he stirs them, they make fun purple swirls.
There are quite a few methods that can be used in order to make yogurt, and my method has definitely evolved over the years. A trick I thought of very recently was to heat the milk in the jar in which I plan to ferment! I can't believe that I never thought of this before, especially since I was already making my yogurt in mason jars. A quick google search revealed that this is not an original idea of mine, but I had never happened upon this method in all of my reading. My biggest complaint about making yogurt was the burned milk that always got stuck to the bottom of the pot. Now that problem has been completely eliminated. You can't believe how excited I was to be the hundredth (okay, maybe thousandth?) person to think of this method.
My son, Ewan, attends a cooperative preschool in town. A cooperative preschool, for those who have never heard of such a thing, is a preschool where the activities are largely parent-run. At Ewan's school in particular, the parents are required to work once a week in rotating areas. One of the areas is the kitchen, where the parent in charge that day makes the snack. It was here where I learned that young children, generally speaking, prefer not to have their foods mixed. Before Ewan attended this school, I just thought it was one of his quirks. This is not to say he doesn't like any of his foods mixed, but I had noticed that he would eat better a lot of the time if all of his foods were left separate, e.g., do not mix rice and beans together.
Ewan is now three and a half and has only just gotten to the age where he is having fun "mixing together" his food, especially if he can help and we keep it simple. We had fun making these Cucumber Quinoa bites last week as part of our lunch and have actually made them several times since.
I try to always keep some kind of cooked grain, or in the case of quinoa, seed, in the fridge these days. Ewan really likes quinoa right now, and I love throwing it on a salad. It makes healthy lunches come together a bit quicker if I make a small batch of it every few days. I cook it in vegetable broth for a bit of added flavor.
My passion for cooking, especially baking, dates back as far as I can remember. I grew up in a house where nearly everything that came out of our kitchen was made from scratch. Both of my parents are great cooks and bakers. My mom stayed home with my brother, sister, and I and did most of the cooking, but my dad also knows his way around a kitchen. There was a period of time where I didn't realize how great my siblings and I had it. I remember thinking how much of a treat it was to get a cupcake from the Hostess shop in town or have a sandwich made on purchased sandwich bread. It didn't take me too long to realize that it was actually more special to have homemade bread, desserts, and main courses made from scratch. I am trying to repeat this experience for my own children.
I was a picky eater as a child but have grown to like most foods, although there are still a few things I haven't tried and others I am trying to like. I credit my husband, Jason, for convincing me to try many new foods years ago such as sushi and other seafood, some of my most favorite meals now. Reading cookbooks and cooking blogs has also contributed to the expanded list of foods I enjoy.
Jason and I are trying to keep our children from being picky eaters. With our first child, our son Ewan, we offered exclusively whole foods when he started eating solid foods at six months, but it was all puréed. He very rarely gets processed sugar, has never eaten fast food, and eats very few processed foods. With our second child, our daughter Isla, we plan to follow the baby led weaning type of feeding where babies feed themselves.
The kitchen is my place to be creative and use my science background simultaneously. I hope to provide both knowledge and entertainment to my readers.