Friday, February 13, 2015

Cookies for the Kiddos


I used to think Valentine's Day was great. My mom always gave me and my siblings little Russel Stover boxes of candy which we'd squirrel away and nibble for weeks. She'd bake a heart shaped cake and let us stuff our faves. As boyfriend-less teenager I used to host "Lonely Hearts Club" parties at my house for all my single friends. I thought it was really great when I actually had a boyfriend to spend it with, but honestly, Valentine's Day is so much more fun with a toddler. Pretty much everything is so much more fun than a toddler.

Except maybe Whole Foods. I still really like Whole Foods alone. 

Jude thinks all holidays are fun, especially the food. We just had to host a party for his buddies from class. I am all for little treats for kiddos once in a while, but I'm not about to offer up a sugar coma as a party favor to all of the kids who come to our craft classes. Jude really wanted to decorate cookies with his friends, and he was googly eyed over t

he vast selection of candies and sprinkles in the grocery store (he has a thing for sprinkles, just like his mama). To assuage a bit of my guilt about the oncoming candy head rush, I made this healthier version of my favorite rolled sugar cookie recipe. It cuts the sugar, replaces white flour with whole wheat, and the cream cheese keeps it soft and buttery. The dough is really great for detailed cut cookies since it won't spread at all, but we stuck with simple hearts. I kept them small, and whipped up a bowl of cream cheese with a little homemade strawberry syrup for frosting. The bowls of sprinkles, pink candy corn, and conversation hearts were plenty of sugar without using real frosting! Of course, I used a little royal icing for the leftover cookies later, just because I can't resist that glossy look:)

  • Healthier Whole Wheat Sugar Cookies
  • Ingredients:
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup raw cane sugar (organic if you can!)
  • 1/2 cup maple sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • Dash salt
  • 1 tsp. almond extract
  • 1 egg
  • 2-1/2 cups white whole wheat flour flour

  • Preparation:
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter
    and cream cheese with an electric mixer on medium to high speed until fluffy. Beat in almond extract and egg. Add sugars, baking powder, nutmeg, baking soda, and salt. Beat mixture until combined, scraping side of bowl occasionally.  Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Using a wooden spoon, stir in any remaining flour. Divide dough in half, press into discs, and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill for 1 to 2 hours or until dough is easy to handle.
  • On a lightly floured surface, roll half of the dough at a time to a 1/8-inch thickness. Using 3-inch cookie cutters, cut out dough.  Place cookies on prepped cookie sheets and bake for 8-10 minutes or until edges just start to brown. Keep an eye on them as they cook very quickly! Transfer cookies to a wire rack; cool before decorating.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Little Love Cakes


I'm getting into the Valentine's spirit a little early this year. Perhaps it's being cooped up in the house thanks to all of this snow, snuggling with my kiddos. Perhaps it's the hormones of a nursing mama with a cutie pie baby girl in her arms most of the day. Or perhaps it's the fact that a FULL MONTH of no sleep (damn you 4 month sleep regression. Damn you straight to hell!) has given me hallucinations that I have had to craft out of my system. Whatever it is, I am all good to go for the love fest. This little cupcake was my first attempt at baking a shape within a cake, and it was a bit of a miss. I need to cut the hearts smaller next time, but they are still cute! The recipe is a modified version of the French Yogurt Cake Jude and I bake together often. It's one of my faves, and the lemon addition makes it fresh and new. It also pairs perfectly with strawberry whipped cream frosting! This is the best little cake to make with your kiddos, since it is forgiving and they can do all the measuring themselves! Remember that a spoon in this recipe equals a teaspoon, and a scoop equals 6 ounces, or one little kid yogurt cup, which we conveniently have lying around often!


Little Lemon Love Cakes with Strawberry Whipped Cream
Ingredients:

Cake: 
3 scoops White whole wheat flour
2 scoops sugar
1 scoop plain, whole milk yogurt
1 scoop vegetable oil
1 spoon salt
3 spoons baking powder
1 spoon lemon extract
2 eggs
zest of one lemon

Frosting:
1 cup heavy cream
4 Tbls. strawberry syrup or jam

Preparation:
Grease a 9x9 round cake pan and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 

Allow your kiddo to do as much of the scooping and dumping as possible into a large bowl. Mix well with a hand mixer. Pour 1/3 of the batter into a small bowl and tint with beet powder or food coloring. Pour the pink batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 15 minutes. Allow to cool completely, then cut hearts using a small cookie cutter (or a knife and a template). Place each heart into a lined muffin tin, pour remaining batter over hearts. Bake until golden, about 12 minutes. 

Beat whipping cream until stiff peaks form, Fold in strawberry syrup. Pipe onto fully cooled cakes.



Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Hello Baby!

Yeah soooo... this is officially the longest blog break I've ever taken. But really? Can you blame me?


4 months old already and this little lady is just too much fun! I will get back to posting all the cooking and crafting (which we've been doing like crazy!), but I'm taking it slow. The boy is doing a bang up job as a big bro, and I'm super proud. We're soaking it all up, so in the meantime, here's a little photo catch-up to tide you over!





Awwww...





Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Big Freezer Stock Up - Round 2

I mentioned that I have a chest freezer almost bursting in the basement. I'm pretty excited. Pear's arrival is sneaking closer and closer, and the Girl Scout in me needs to be prepared on all fronts. Food is obviously the most important thing to prep, since everything else (nursery decor, new clothes, sleep) is really just icing on the cake. Fun icing, but not really essential in the end. Food, though? Absolutely essential. 

I am so blessed to have a crew of incredible mamas who are doing a Meal Train for us in the first weeks after Pear's birth, but after that, I still don't want to have to cook. My hope is to go a full month without having to make anything more complicated than a sandwich. To that end, I have been stockpiling, batch cooking, and freezing like mad. The last few freezer parties I had were great fun, and the lists and recipes for those are wonderful (and can be found here), but this time it was easier to just do the prep on my own. I stretched it out over a few weeks and just cooked when I had time, or when Jude took a really long nap. I also added some breakfasts to the usual dinner freezer prep, because nothing is worse than a hangry nursing mama with a newbie to deal with. 

Since I didn't actually plan a party, I don't have a full shopping list or printable labels for you at the moment. I may get around to it, I may not. Depends on this girl and her time table:) In the meantime, here is a grand list of recipes for all of the things I have stocked up for the next month! Hopefully you can find a little inspiration here to get you stocking up for September and the dreaded beginning of school!

Breakfast:

Strawberry Banana Muffins - This recipe is great, and freezes well. I did substitute whole wheat flour for white, so I increase the yogurt by 1/2 a cup.



Lunch/Dinner:
Oven Baked Fajitas - I froze these in large aluminum pans with the plastic tops. Double wrap the pan with foil, add a package of shredded cheese and a package of fajitas on top with your note for baking info, and pop the plastic top over it all. That way your full meal is ready to go when you pull it from the freezer. No hunting for ingredients!

Enchiladas - No you don't need to make your own sauce, but it is worth it if you have time!

Beef Chili - I really like this Emeril recipe. It has chocolate and beer in it. No brainer!

Meat Lovers Lasagna - I make it different every time, but here's a good recipe for it!

Honey Dijon Curried Chicken - This is a new one for me, so I don't have a review yet. I added a sliced onion and peppers to each pan with the chicken, and plan to serve it over rice. it sounds delish, so here's hoping since I prepped three pans full!

Fish Cakes with Corn and Cilantro - I made these a few weeks ago and Jude loved them! I add a handful of finely chopped cilantro and some cayenne to the mix and they froze up beautifully!

French Fried Onion Chicken Fingers - I changed this recipe up a lot as well, but the onion in the breading is key! Dip and bread your fingers, line them on a baking sheet ad freeze. Once they are frozen solid, toss them in a big ziploc bag for safekeeping and you can pull out a few at a time to bake!

BBQ Pulled Pork - I did a huge pork shoulder in the crock pot, served up half for dinner and froze the rest. This makes great fare for sandwiches, pizza, nachos, anything! It may not be a full meal in one pan, but it is still a good time saver! I love this recipe from Slow Cooker Revolution. Hands down the best slow cooker cook book ever, by the way!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Peach Pie FTW!


We have about 3 weeks until the arrival of Baby Pear, and this house is in full nesting swing. The nursery is almost completed, the freezer is almost fully stocked with meals, and we have just enough time to squeeze in some more family summer fun before she arrives. Today's adventure was the Peach Festival at our favorite summer market: Ramsey Farmer's Market.

Of course, because I'm a maniac, I decided this morning to bake a peach pie for the contest they were hosting. I've never made a peach pie before, Actually, I've never made a pie before! My grandmother makes the world's best pies, so I have never felt the need to bake my own. But there I was, a huge bag of peaches on the kitchen counter and a few hours to fill before market opening, so a pie I made. I used the crust recipe my mom swears by, and modified my peach cobbler filling a bit (since I am out of bourbon, the shame!). Of course, my peaches felt a touch under-ripe to me, so I blanched them a bit longer than usual and ended up freaking out that I had overcooked them. Then Jude started climbing on me, I spilled a bunch of cream on the floor, we had a matchbox car emergency, and in the end, the pie came out of the oven at 11:45, 15 minutes before I had to enter it in the contest. I didn't have high hopes, though it did look pretty! I had to carry the hot as lava pie plate at a full preggo clip through the crammed market, but thankfully the judges were all late. I was all nervous to see one of the judges was Produce Pete, so I assumed he'd be a tough judge and figured, whatever, at least I'll have pie to stuff in my face later. To my surprise, about half an hour later they announced the winner and it was me! Sweet! Apparently the winners from a bunch of markets have to compete in a regional contest for a big prize, but that takes place in September, a few weeks after Miss Pear's due date. Methinks I will have to pass, but you never know. If preggo hormones inspired me to bake today, nursing hormones may inspire me to do it again!


Prize Winning Brown Sugar Peach Pie
Ingredients:

Crust:
3 cups AP flour
2 Tbls granulated sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
2 sticks plus 2 Tbls. chilled butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 1/2 Tbls white vinegar
1/2 cup ice water (you likely won't need it all)

Filling:
8 cups peaches, peeled and sliced
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/8 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
1 tsp. vanilla
2 Tbls. cornstarch

Topping:
2 Tbls heavy cream
raw sugar


Preparation:
In the bowl of your food processor, pulse flour, salt and sugar to combine. Add chilled butter and pulse until coarse crumbs form. Add vinegar and 8 Tbls. of the ice water and pulse until just combined. If the dough is too dry, add more ice water by the teaspoon and pulse quickly until the dough begins to come together. This happens fast and you don't want to add too much water or overwork the dough, so be careful! Turn dough out onto your work surface and gently shape into a mound. Cut the mound into two pieces, press each into a disc and wrap with plastic wrap. Place in the fridge for at least an hour.

Prepare the peach filling. In a large bowl, toss peaches with brown sugar, nutmeg, vanilla, and cornstarch. Set aside.

Once the dough is fully chilled, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove one disc of dough and roll out on a floured surface. Place dough into a pie plate, fill the shell with foil and pie weights or dried beans and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and beans/weights and allow to cool.

Using a slotted spoon, spoon peaches into bottom crust. Discard excess juices. Remove second disc of dough from the refrigerator and roll onto a floured surface. Cut into 1/2 inch strips. The quick cheat way to make the lattice top is to simply layer 6 stripes across the pie horizontally, about 1/2 inch apart, then lay the other strips on top of them going vertically. If you'd like it to be fancy and official, you can weave them ala Martha. Press your strips gently to adhere to the bottom crust and trim any overhang. Brush lattice top with heavy cream and sprinkle with raw sugar. Place in the oven for 30 minutes. If your pie is beginning to bubble over, slide a cookie sheet underneath to catch any drips! Cover loosely with foil if the crust is beginning to over brown and bake another 20 minutes until filling is bubbling and crust is golden brown.


He wouldn't stop chewing for a second, not even to smile. I guess it was good!

Friday, June 27, 2014

So yeah, guess what?


30 weeks seems like long enough to post our official announcement... The Bean family is expecting another little sprout in September! 

To celebrate this big event, I'm hosting a little contest!

Jude immediately gave his baby sister a nickname, one that is sure to stick. If you can guess it, you will be entered to win a full set of personalized plantable note cards! Just type your guess into the comments below and I will announce a winner next Wednesday, July 2nd! You get an extra entry if you like my page and "Share" this post on Facebook, just leave a second comment saying you did so.

Hint: It's a fruity name;) And no fair entering if you already know the answer, friends!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The "It's Not Really a Cookie, But Almost" Bar


The boy and I are completely obsessed with Larabars. It all began back when I was first pregnant with Jude and I was looking for a snack that was good on the go and packed a protein punch. I discovered the Cherry Pie Larabars and was done for. It wasn't until I began making baby food for him that I realized I could make my own, and later whipped up the Baby Truffles version for his little fingers. Time went by, I got lazy, I forgot about Larabars. Then I got knocked up again and realized it is a pretty good time to start looking closely at what I'm putting in my mouth. 

Since Larabars are almost never on sale and the jumbo packs on Amazon don't have all the yummy flavors in them, I have had to go back to making my own. And you know what? I like them so much more! They take literally minutes to make, and you can use absolutely any combo of dried fruits and nuts. Jude still loves the PB&J and Pina Colada flavors, but now Oatmeal Cookie is my favorite. It's sweet, but not too sweet, and gives us both enough energy to make it through a full morning of art class, playtime, and Morrisey-esque meltdown drama (because toddlers). Keep them in the fridge for up to two weeks, but they likely won't last that long!

Oatmeal Cookie Fruit and Nut Bars
makes 8 bars
Ingredients:
10 oz. walnuts
10 oz. raisins
1 cup quick cooking oats
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preparation:
Pour raisins into a shallow bowl. Pour enough boiling water into the bowl to just cover the raisins. Set aside for 10 minutes to re-hydrate. Line a jelly roll pan or cookie sheet with a full sheet of wax paper. Drain the raisins and squeeze out any excess water (you want them plump and moist, but not drowning).

Add raisins, walnuts, oats, cinnamon and vanilla to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until combined and a ball begins to form. If the mixture looks wet and very sticky, add a bit more oats and pulse again. Turn the mixture out into one end of  the prepared pan. Fold the wax paper up and over the mixture and press it down into the ends and corners of one half of the pan, until you have a rectangle about 1/4 inch thick. Slice into bars and refrigerate up to two weeks wrapped in wax paper.