Tuesday, July 31, 2012

It's Pie Season (Blueberry-Peach Pie Recipe)

Several years ago when we were both still in college, Michael, his oldest brother, Josh, and I took a trip out to Arizona over Spring Break to visit his other brother, Brian, and his wife, Shannon. We left Indiana on a snowy March morning, and arrived in Arizona on a beautiful 80-something degree day.  The next day was just as gorgeous, so we all decided to walk across the street (so jealous!) to the grocery store to buy some fresh produce to make dinner.  The jealousy continued... there was fresh produce in early March!  Even the fruit looked and smelled amazing.  Fueled by the longing for Summer that was still months away from the Midwest, Josh asked Shannon if she would make one of her awesome fruit pies.  At the time her response perplexed me, "It's not pie season." 

Saguaro National Park in Tuscon, AZ

Still new to this pie-making business, I had no clue that pie had a season.  I knew football and baseball had a season, and obviously Christmas cookies had one, but pie?  I shrugged it off and hadn't given it much thought other than a funny memory from a great trip.  But as I was making this pie for our neighborhood block party, it hit me.  It's pie season.  Like my sister-in-law, I was raised in the Midwest where most fruit is only good a few months out of the year.  Sure, I associated fruit pie with Summer, but that's just because that's when Mom gave it to us.  Like pumpkin pie in November.  Finally, I understood what she meant.  Pie season isn't just about having good fruit available to make the pie, it's about the memories and tradition associated with eating it. (Think gingham tableclothes and lemon shake-ups.)  Add this to the list of things to teach Annalyn... everything has a season, including pie.
The first time I saw the Grand Canyon

This is one of Michael and my favorite Summer pie recipes.  From the Betty Crocker cookbook (p.130). 
Blueberry-Peach Pie.

Peanut's Green Grinchy Goo (Banana, Avocado, and Green Bean Puree)

As I've mentioned before, one of my biggest motives for making my own baby food is to give Annalyn the opportunity to try lots of different flavors so that she's not a picky eater as she gets older.  Obviously, I understand that this isn't a sure-fire way to guarantee that my future toddler will be an adventurous eater, but a mama can hope!  So far, this girl will try anything and usually eat it until it's gone or her little belly is full.  The only food she ever refused to eat was a pouch of store-boughten baby pears (no idea why, she normally loves pears). 
I can't remember exactly how we got to this combination, but her latest favorite food baffles me.  Green beans mixed with avocado and banana.  I know, sounds disgusting, but to my little Peanut, it's heaven on a rubber-coated spoon.  I think it started because homemade green beans are a little gritty, so I added some mashed banana I had in the fridge to make it easier for her to eat.  Also, I often add avocado to her food because it's so nutritious for growing babies and makes a beautiful, creamy mixture.  It also turns out a really nice shade of green, which happens to be her favorite color.  How does a 5 month old have a favorite color?  Beats me, but she absolutely prefers green when given the choice. 

We named this "dish" after Annalyn's favorite green toy, her stuffed Grinch.  Here is how Mama makes it:

Peanut's Green Grinchy Goo
(Banana, Avocado, and Green Bean Puree)

it's sooo yummy!

-green beans (I used frozen)
-ripe banana (some brown spots on the peel)
-ripe avocado (should be pretty soft)
-water/formula/breast milk to adjust consistency

Monday, July 30, 2012

Low-fat Greek Chicken Salad Recipe

This recipe is my variation on a curry chicken salad recipe (I'll post that eventually, too!) Shawna gave me shortly after I started Weight Watchers. It's super filling and surprisingly low in fat compared to traditional chicken salad.

Low-fat Greek Chicken Salad Recipe


-3 c. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cooked and shredded
-2 c. non-fat Greek yogurt
-1/4 c. low-fat mayo
-3/4 c. non-fat or reduced-fat feta cheese
-1 c. celery, chopped
-1 c. red grapes, halved
-1/2 medium red onion, chopped
-1/4 c. kalamata olives, roughly chopped
-1 c. dry peanuts, crushed (optional)
-1 T. dill weed (I usually add a little extra, too)
-salt and pepper to taste
-serve in whole wheat pita or on crackers

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Losing the Baby Weight (& Baked Dijon Dill Chicken Recipe)

One of my maternity pics, 34 weeks

I never worried too much about my weight when I was pregnant with Annalyn.  My doctor was happy with my weight gain and until the very end when I started retaining water, I felt really good about how I looked.  Funny how that changes after giving birth.... But thanks to my lovely sister-by-marriage (formerly Mike's little sis, but I claim her as my own now), I had a very definite deadline for losing the baby weight after Annalyn was born.  Not only had Emily asked me to be her Matron of Honor in her upcoming wedding (almost exactly 5 months after Peanut was born), but she'd also picked out bridesmaids dresses that only came in junior's sizes.  Wow, talk about pressure.  I hadn't worn junior's sizes since high school, and I couldn't even get in my own pre-baby dresses yet.  Needless to say, I had a lot of work to do. 
Annalyn's baptism, 6 weeks after she was born

After some much needed and always appreciated encouragement from my friend, Shawna, I decided to give Weight Watchers Online a try to lose the last 15-20 lbs leftover from pregnancy.  After almost 3 months now, I can honestly tell you that I LOVE IT!!!  There are tons of great tools, including apps for the iPhone that help me track what I'm eating and how much weight I'm losing.  The recipe builder is a personal favorite since I can type in my own recipe and the program tells me how many points per serving it is. 
Baked Dijon Dill Chicken Recipe

This is my version of a 5-ingredient WW recipe (but 5 just wasn't enough for me!). I like to serve it with this baked parmesan asparagus or green beans with a little basil.

Mama's little helper, patiently awaiting her own dinner


-1/3 c. Dijon mustard
-1/3 c. nonfat plain yogurt
-juice of 1/2 of a lime
-1/2-1 t. garlic salt, (start with 1/2 and adjust to taste)
-1 T. dill weed, dried (I like more, some people like less)
-1/4 t. cayenne pepper
-1/4 t. cumin
-black pepper, to taste
-1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts (cut into about 4 oz. pieces. Note: most packages of chicken breasts come with 2+ pounds, so may need to double the rest of the recipe)
-4 to 6 sheets aluminum foil (not exactly an ingredient, but nice to have a heads up when you're shopping and just glance at the ingredient list beforehand!)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Made by Mama: Basic Homemade Baby Foods

Making homemade baby food has been so much more rewarding and fun then I ever would have imagined.  I know what you're thinking... really, are you kidding me?  Isn't it a million times easier to just buy the little jars?.... I'm pretty sure I actually said something along those lines when my friend, Shawna, told me that she planned to make her own baby food.  But then I talked to a couple more people that had made their own baby purees and insisted that there was nothing magical about it - it's just a matter of pureeing what you already eat.  Hmmm buffalo chicken pita pizza puree?  Maybe not exactly what they meant... better look into this some more.

So I started doing some research and somewhere along the way I got really REALLY excited to try it.  Suddenly, the thought of cooking for my baby made me really sentimental (combine that with end-of-pregnancy hormones and I was weeping at the sight of little baby spoons and ice cube trays).  Not only would I know exactly what I was feeding my baby, but I would have more control over the flavors and combinations she would be experiencing.  My hope is that by feeding her what we eat, she will be less picky about trying food as she gets older (fingers crossed!)
this girl loves her sweet potatoes!

To get me started, I bought and borrowed a few good books (see list at the end of this post) and did lots of research on the cute little baby food makers (yes, you absolutely can do the same thing with your blender/food processor/etc., but 1.) I LOVE gadgets! and 2.) these make the whole process simpler).  I decided on the Baby Brezza One Step Baby Food Maker because it is small enough to leave out on the counter and it has a steam+blend function that I'm obsessed with.  Basically, I tell it how long to steam (based on a nice little chart in the instruction manual) and it steams the chopped ingredients then automatically blends it while I walk away!  So smart and simple.  I use these food storage trays to freeze the purees overnight, then transfer them to labeled/dated ziplock bags to store for later use.  I also found these baby food containers that I use to store food in the fridge to be used in the next couple days, or for things like prunes that don't freeze into nice little hard ice cubes.  All in all, there was a little bit of a start-up cost (especially since I didn't register any of this), but I was able to use giftcards, shop sales online, etc.  Plus, I figure I will recoup the cost in the money I'll be saving by making my own food.

Now on to the good stuff... let's start cooking!  These are a few of the simple baby food purees I have made for Annalyn.  We've only been doing food for about a month now (we decided with our doctor to start some solids at 4 months, but every baby is different, so be sure to talk it over with your pediatrician before starting solid foods), so we are still focusing on the basics, no curry for this baby....yet! 

I love this ingredient list... frest fruit, veggies, and water.  THAT'S IT!!


1.  Dice the fruit/vegetable of your choice into 1/4" - 1/2" pieces.

2.  Steam in baby food maker, microwave, or on the stove (using minimal amount of water so you don't lose all the nutrients!).
3.  Puree, adding small amounts of formula, breastmilk, or water to achieve desired consistency (start with thinner purees for young babies new to eating solids).
4.  Store in refrigerator for 2-3 days, or freeze.  To reheat frozen cubes, use defrost setting on microwave until desired temperature is reached.
homemade applesauce, ready to freeze
my freezer stash
So far, I've just made basic 1-2 ingredient purees (such as applesauce, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, pears, prunes, green beans, and combinations of these), but I have lots of exciting combination recipes to try as Annalyn gets older.  I'll be sure to post some of her favorites as we go!

Baby food references and cookbooks
1.  Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Why We Love Our Neighborhood (& My BBQ Sauce Recipe)

Looking at the pictures, you'd think we lived in Pleasantville.  Maybe there is some sort of time warp that sends us back to the 1950's when we enter our neighborhood, I'll have to look into that. This past weekend, we had our 2nd annual neighborhood block party.  Same as last year, we blocked off the four middle houses on our street, lined them with tiki torches, set up tables and lawn games, and a super long buffet filled with everyone's favorite potluck dishes. 
It's always so nice to spend this time getting to know the people that make up our wonderful little neighborhood.  This year, I really enjoyed getting to know some more families in the neighborhood with small children and babies.  Annalyn will have so many little friends to play with in a year or two!

Highlights of the party included: amazing food (which I could actually enjoy this year sans morning sickness!), snow cones, glow sticks, lots of kiddos, and a beautiful July Saturday night.           (future babysitter? I think yes!)

I made my blueberry-peach pie, and a french silk pie (by request).  Michael made 18 lbs (yes, pounds not ounces) of pulled pork in his smoker and my homemade BBQ sauce to serve with it.  He tells me his methods are top secret, so for now, I'll just share my BBQ sauce recipe (adapted from the Deen Brothers' BBQ sauce recipe).

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Buffalo Chicken Pita Pizzas

A lighter way to eat pizza, these personal sized pita pizzas are great as appetizers or along with a salad for dinner. They are fun to make, personalize, and eat.  And at only 7 WW pts per pita, you don't have to feel bad about eating the whole pizza!  Here's how Mama makes it:

Buffalo Chicken Pita Pizzas


-4 round flatbread pitas
-1 c. grilled chicken breast, chopped (I'm using the Perdue Shortcuts grilled chicken)
-1 c. low-fat shredded cheese
-1/4 c. low-fat bleu cheese or ranch dressing (have you tried the Bolthouse Farms Yogurt Dressings?  Their low-fat cream dressings are so much better than the normal lite varieties.  They are kept cold and usually can be found in the produce section by the veggie dips.)
-buffalo sauce, to taste

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Welcome to my kitchen

My oh my, how my kitchen has changed in the past few years!  When I started my previous food blog, Visit Ashley's Kitchen, my kitchen consisted of a sink, an oven, a refrigerator, and about 3 square feet of counter space in our tiny little apartment.  I still remember having to get out a card table to make enough space to roll out Christmas cookie dough.  But I was young, a newlywed, and in desperate need of a distraction from pharmacy school.
(our apartment kitchen, just after getting married)