Summer Days (& a power packed homemade baby food recipe.)

Summer is upon us in full force, and I can’t believe how quickly the time is going. July is almost gone, and the steamy days, and lush full beauty of summer are fully at our doorstep. (I almost just wrote lazy days of summer, but c’mon, who am I joking. I have a 4 year old and 8 month old!)

20160719_184500Our summer days are full and fun, whether spending hours on the playground and exploring all the city has to offer, or lounging at the lake, enjoying long days, cool swims and canopies of green leaves. Life is good, and I feel incredibly lucky to have so much time with these little people.

This morning I started my day off with a webinar, which was quickly interrupted with  requests for pancakes (check out the super healthy homemade pancakes here.) I figured while I was at it, I’d whip up some baby food for Bray. Now 8 months old, he’s been on the baby food for a bit, but I’ve been selective in what I was feeding him since at the start of his switch over he was dealing with a bit of baby constipation (although nothing like what Aria has as a baby).

This morning I did a simple Avocado-Spinach-Pear puree, as we’ve ventured into mixing, but are still staying away from the binding foods (think bananas and rice, and trying to include a P fruit to keep things moving. A few simple ingredients and a blender, Vitamix, Nutribullet or some other mixing machine, and you’re all set.

homemade baby foodSimple Avocado-Spinach Pear Babyfood 

1 Avocado
1 Pear  (I used Andou)
1 handful fresh baby Spinach

Directions

Boil water in a small saucepan, and add spinach for 1-2 minutes until softened.

Cut pear into quarters or even eights (lengthwise), de-core, and peel if so desired. If pear is super ripe (and soft) you can place straight into blender. If pear is hard, place pieces into boiling water with spinach for 1-2 minutes, or until slightly soft.

Cut avocado in half, de-pit and remove from skin.

Place avocado, soft pear and spinach (drain from water) into the blender, and blend for 20-30 seconds on low-medium until pureed. Let cool and serve!

For a chunkier baby food (which I made today), only use half the avocado in the first puree of avo-spinach-pear, and then add the second half to that smooth pureed mix and beat on low for 5 seconds or so (or until desired consistency). You can also blend in with a fork.

Enjoy!

baby tips

**please excuse any typos. I had about 5000 interruptions, and an 8 month old reaching for the keyboard!!!

 

 

 

Stone Barns, snow days and one super healthy (delish) cookie recipe.

We’re waiting on spring here in NYC, or getting confused by the weather gods. One day it’s warm and sunny, the next snowing.

Here are a few sweet pics from last weekend that pretty much sum up the crazy weather.

princess picking flowers stone barn

Friday, we headed to our weekend house, making a pit stop at a favorite of ours, Stone Barns. It was a warm beautiful day, and Aria (ever the princess) decided to pick a few flowers…

until we realized they weren’t wild…(oops!)

spring flowers for oma

…but not before gating a sweet bouquet for Oma.

Fast forward to the very next day, where we woke up to SNOW covering the cars and deck…

snow

…and an anxious 4 year old ready to get out and enjoy it.

snow day kids

Ah…the parental joys of kids and snow gear.

The romp in the snow was short lived, so we moved on to a warmer activity.   I found this Banana Bread Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe online (always up for a healthy treat), and Aria and I baked them up. I’d cut the cinnamon down to 1/2 the amount called for, but really they were pretty stellar (and healthy!)

chocolate chip healthy oats cookies yum

So, here’s to making the most of any weather, and hoping spring finally arrives… for good.

Homemade Granola: Insider Secrets From Someone Obsessed

OK, so lately I have been absolutely obsessed with making granola. I decided to start making my own since “crunch” is Aria’s go-to breakfast (mainly because it is also her dad’s favorite and he is up with her in the am), and so many store bought brands are loaded with unnecessary sugar. I love granola that looks like granola (yes, you can see the oats and big pieces of nuts or dried fruit), and I’m not into spending $8.99 a bag for it (hello NYC).

granolaSo, I’ve been obsessed with mixing and matching ingredients and finding the perfect combo. Here’s what I’ve found out about mixing the perfect blend.

OATS:  All granola has a base of oats. Most recipes will tell you to use old fashioned oats not the quick oats. I’ve tried all and actually found my best success with Trader Joe’s Organic Oats and also the surprising inexpensive organic oats from Mrs. Greens (in the bulk self serve bins). Quick oats will bind a bit better, but I like the texture of the real deal.

CRUNCH: So, my biggest hurdle in the first few blends was getting a little crunch out of it. In researching online I found a few secrets including switching to a quick oat, and also adding some oat flour to get it all to bind. I used ground flax instead of oat flour and this also seemed to work. Also, I read about adding a little applesauce to the mix to get some more clumps which turn into crunchy oat clusters. However the biggest secret is adding an EGG white to the recipe. SCORE!

SWEETNESS: It doesn’t take a lot to bring in a little sweetness. The popular sweeteners include maple syrup, honey, brown sugar and vanilla extract. I usually half whatever the recipe is calling for (0r nothing at all). I’ve found using a mixure of honey and brown sugar yields a best result, but also skipping it all and adding in some dried fruits works for us just fine!

COATING: You’ll need an oil or melted butter to coat the oats. I usually use coconut oil, but have also used a mild tasting safflower or olive oil. I stopped measuring and usually use enough to coat my batches. You may not need as much as some recipes call for, but it is important that there’s enough to coat and bind.

ADD IN’s: The best part!! Adding in coconut and dried fruit also kicks up the sweetness factor. I love these hence I cut down on the other sweeteners. Also, nuts and other add-in’s can add flavor and nutrition. My last batch I added some sprouted quinoa to the oat mixture before popping it in the oven (so good). I also am big into adding chia seed (packed with power) and flax seed which both give added flavor, texture and nutrition.

THE BAKING: I suggest baking a bit lower temp than the recipe suggests. Also, use a good cookie sheet. My first batch burned at the 350 temp on my not-so-great sheet. I’ve done the last few at around 250, and actually have had great success baking them in the toaster oven (on the small sheet that comes with it).

My perfect recipe to come!

A Simple Green Smoothie That Will Change Your Life

Ok, so it might not change your life, but this smoothie will indeed make your mornings a little sweeter.

Last summer I got both a Vitamix and Nutribullet (which I LOVE incidentally– read more on that here), and my go-to morning brew is now this simple smoothie. It’s filled with good stuff and the splash of apple juice and ice (surprise–who says green juices need to be room temp?) make it refreshing and oh-so-good.

Kid Tip: Sometimes, after I pour out half for me I’ll throw in some banana and a few frozen berries and blend up the rest for Aria. Totally toddler approved.

green smoothieIngredients:

1-2 Celery Stalks cut up.

1 Persian Cucumber (or about 3-4 inches or so off a regular one. I find the persians sweeter and tastier).

1-2 cups of baby kale or spinach or mixed smoothie greens (often baby kale, chard, and spinach).

1/4- 1/2 cup of Apple Juice (depending on sweetness desired)

1-2 ice cubes

*go organic on as much as you can!

Directions:

Throw it all in blender of choice and blend! Pour into a pretty glass (adds to the enjoyment) and indulge in the deliciousness.

Mini Oat Banana Bread Loafs (& muffins)

After Aria devoured the Simple Banana Oat cookies (recipe to come) I baked over the weekend, I went to make more and realized I didn’t have enough oats. I had plenty of ripe bananas though so I went for a simple banana bread recipe. I combined a few I found online– my main goal was keeping down the sugar (no need for it as ripe bananas are super sweet and the last thing kids need is more sugar). I did however throw a few semi-sweet chocolate chips in some of the batch as a special treat for her since I chucked the chocolate chip cookie the enamored diner waiter gave her yesterday.

Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 11.07.48 AM

INGREDIENTS
3 RIPE mashed banana
1/3 cup honey
1 egg
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
3/4 cup of unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or regular, soy, coconut, etc)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups whole wheat or better yet whole wheat pastry flour
1/2a rolled oats
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter or oil (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In large bowl combine mashed banana, applesauce, honey, egg, almond milk, vanilla and oil/butter (if you choose to use). I used a smidge of melted butter and a teaspoon or so of coconut oil just to ensure moistness. Combine all until wet ingredients until creamy.

In separate medium bowl whisk together whole wheat flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix until just combined (don’t overmix).

Pour into loaf pan, mini-loaf pans, muffin tins. Sprinkle oats over top (if desired), and bake until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean with a few crumbs attached.

Time for baking in a standard loaf pan is 60m but I had no time for that and found my mini-muffins and mini-loafs were good to go in about 15-20m.

Remove from oven and place on wire rack to cool completely. Keep bread/muffins tightly wrapped to maintain moisture. They will last a few days and likely be sweeter on the second day!

Whole Wheat Mixed Berry Muffin

Aria is by far a muffin queen– requesting one each and ever time we walk into a coffee shop or out to lunch. I’ve told her one can’t exist on muffins alone but she doesn’t quite seem to understand. Often we grab a Chia Muffin from Le Pan Quotidien which I feel is better than most, but unfortunately, most muffins out there are filled with sugar and fat (and have very little nutritional value).  I recently decided to bake some myself modifying a typical blueberry muffin recipe with whole wheat flour and a few other healthier alternatives. These are still moist and delicious and make me feel a whole lot better about passing them into her little muffin grabbing hands. They also freeze very well!

Very Berry Whole Wheat  Muffins

Ingredients
very berry healthy muffins wheat 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup of light brown sugar (optional)
1/3 cup vegetable oil (or 6 oz of plain greek yogurt for a healthier version)
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 pint (total) of fresh raspberries, blackberries & blueberries (frozen organic mixed berries from Trader Joe’s work great also!)

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 12 muffin cups, or line with paper liners. Whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder in a large bowl.

Whisk vegetable oil, egg, milk, and applesauce together in a separate bowl until smooth, and stir the liquid ingredients into the flour mixture until moistened. Lightly stir in the blueberries. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling them 2/3 full.

Bake muffins in the preheated oven until they rise and the tops are golden brown, about 20 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin should come out clean.

 

Quinoa Veggie Meatballs for my little meatball.

I recently came across this whole foods recipe for quinoa and beef meatballs and knew I had to try them. First of all, I love quinoa and all it’s healthy benefits, and secondly, Aria seems to be addicted to pasta and meatballs, so any way that I can make them healthier helps. These contain chopped veggies (zucchini, carrots and onion) which sneakily kick up the nutrition even more.  They turned out delicious, and it’s a recipe I will definitely go back to.

quinoa beef meatballs

Ingredients
1 pound (95-percent) lean ground beef
3/4 cup cooked quinoa (use frozen 365 Everyday Value® Organic Quinoa, or cook it from scratch*)
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup grated carrot
1/4 cup grated zucchini
2 tablespoons ketchup (I didn’t have any so just threw in a few tablespoons of crushed tomato)
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 tablespoon soy sauce (some people substitute amino acids instead)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 egg, lightly beaten

Method: 
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients until well combined. Shape into 16 balls and transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Roast until cooked through and golden brown, 15 to 17 minutes. Serve hot.

(*Note: To cook quinoa, bring 1 cup of water to a boil in a small pot. Pour in ½ cup quinoa, cover and simmer until water is absorbed, 10 to 12 minutes. Set aside off of the heat for 10 minutes then fluff with a fork. Makes about 1 1/2 cups. Use 3/4 cup in this recipe, and reserve the remaining for another use.)

Nutritional Info: 
PER SERVING:150 calories (45 from fat), 5g total fat, 2g saturated fat, 75mg cholesterol, 470mg sodium, 8g carbohydrate (1g dietary fiber, 2g sugar), 17g protein
Special Diets:
Dairy Free
Sugar Conscious

Top Photo: Whole Foods