Saturday, June 30, 2012

Overnight Blueberry French Toast

Sometimes I get focused on the bad things about living in Houston (the serious lack of mountains, or even hills, for that matter; the ridiculous heat; the snakes; the giant bugs . . .) but there are two amazing things about living in Houston.  The first is that we found our Tina-dog here (which is entirely unrelated to this post, but she's laying next to me while I write this and she got a bath this morning and smells good and she is just so sweet).  The second is blueberry picking.  About twenty minutes away there is this fabulous blueberry farm where you can go pick blueberries to your hearts content for an outrageously cheep price.  We went a few weekends ago with Geoff's parents.  It made for a wonderful morning and delicious eating.  We made this french toast a few weeks ago and it was heavenly in a blueberry sort of way.

1 loaf day-old bread, cut into 1 inch cubes (I used about 3/4 of a loaf of French bread)
1 8 oz packages cream cheese, cut into cubes
1/2 C fresh blueberries (or a bit more becasue they are so tasty)
6 eggs, beaten
1 C milk
1 tsp vanilla
5 Tbsp maple syrup

Grease a 9x9 baking dish.  Place bread cubes in the dish until the bottom is covered.  Top with cream cheese cubes and blueberries.  Top with remaining bread cubes (or as many bread cubes as it takes to fill the pan. 

In a bowl, combine the eggs, milk, vanilla, and syrup.  Pour over the bread cubes.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Remove the bread cubes from the refrigerated 30 minutes before baking.  Cover with foil and bake 30 minutes at 350.  Uncover and continue baking an additional 25-30 minutes until lightly browned and center is firm.

Blueberry Sauce:

1/2 C sugar
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1/2 C water
1/2 C blueberries
1/2 Tbsp butter

Mix  sugar, cornstarch, and water in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil.  Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly.  Mix in the blueberries.  Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes.  Stir in the butter and pour over the baked French toast.  Enjoy!

Isaac tried to help but he mostly just pulled leaves off the bushes and shook blueberries loose to the ground.

Little boy came to pick blueberries with us.  After a little bit, though, he went and sat with his grandpa in the shade next to the fans to cool off a little bit (Houston is hot!).  Once again, though, I am a mean mom and didn't let little boy have any blueberries.  I know there are lots of baby food recipes out there with blueberries but my doctor recommended no berries for 1 year, so that's what we're going with (though, on an odd note, she also said milk is fine after 6 months IF the baby was breastfed exclusively for the first 6 months, which is different from what many pediatricians say).

So the Little Wiggle Boy ate avocado instead.  I mashed it with a spoon but he wasn't terribly impressed, so I added some onion powder and a splash of lime juice and he liked that much better.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


I can't believe lasagna isn't on my blog yet.  This is my moms recipe because as we all know, nobody's lasagna is as good as moms.  Ever.  So I understand if this is the recipe on my blog that you never try because it just isn't your moms lasagna.  But if your mom didn't ever make lasagna and you therefore don't have a "moms lasagna" that is your favorite, step into my mom's kitchen, into my childhood, and sample some of her lasagna. 

1 lb ground turkey (or lean ground beef)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp basil
1 tsp salt
1 1-lb can tomatoes
2 6-oz cans tomato paste
10 oz lasagna noodles (buy the pre-boiled noodles to save yourself time)
1 egg, beaten
3 C dry cottage cheese or Ricotta
1/2 C grated Parmesan or Romano
2 Tbsp parsley
1/2 tsp pepper
1 lb mozzarella cheese, grated

Brown meat.  Spoon off any extra grease.  Add garlic.  Cook for 30 seconds.  Add basil, salt, tomatoes, and tomato paste.  Simmer with lid ajar for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Cook noodles (unless you bought the pre-boiled noodles).

Combine egg, cottage cheese/ricotta, Parmesan, parsley, pepper, and mozzarella.

Layer half the noodles in a grased 9x13 dish.  Spread half the cheese filling followed by half the meat sauce.  Repeat (noodles, cheese, sauce).  Bake at 375 for 30 minutes.  Let stand 10 minutes before serving.  

Note:  If you assemble it early and refrigerate before baking, increase the cook time to 45 minutes.

A funny story (or maybe I should say a yucky, awful story):  While I was cutting up the basil and stirring it into the tomatoes, Geoff asks, "Did you wash that basil really well?"  Yeah, why?  "Well," he says, "I might have sprayed it with insecticide yesterday when I was spraying the nearby rose bushes."

WHAT!?  Might have sprayed it?  What do you mean might have sprayed it?  Did you spray it or not, now is the time to remember.  He couldn't remember.  So I didn't add the other leaves of basil I was planning on, though it was too late for what I had already added to the tomatoes.  Hope I washed them well enough.  I appreciate his help in the garden and, after throwing away the remaining basil I had cut, informed him that we have some organic sprays that are for the herbs so we don't have to worry about poisoning ourselves.

Little Boy is, as always, enjoying his food.  He recently had his first Mangoes.  He often gets these with plain yogurt and it looks so good, I'm tempted to eat some, too.

For Mangoes, peel the fruit and cut the flesh away from the center stone.  Puree fruit (no cooking necessary).  Add water if necessary to reach desired consistency. Freeze in ice cube trays or muffin tins.

This is Isaac's "feed me" face.  "Can't you see that my mouth is open?  Why is there not food in my mouth yet?  Faster Mom, faster."

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

A few years ago when visiting Colorado, my dad and I decided to go on the search for the best chocolate chip cookie recipe.  All cookies were judged in comparison to those found at Paradise Bakery (that elusive, delicious cookie) and were tested both warm out of the oven and fully cooled.  During that five day trip to Colorado we tried at least 3 different recipes but to no avail.  Since then I have continued to try new recipes, searching for The Recipe.  But finally, the long awaited cookie-recipe-so-good-it-will-knock-your-socks-off is here. (Unless you are a fox.  As we all know, Fox in socks and Knox in box.)  My mother found this recipe.  I never asked her where she got it.  I was too distracted by my socks having just been knocked off.  Read this post.  And then immediately go pull out some butter and start making cookies because these really are the best cookies ever. 

1 C. butter, unsalted, softened (no substitutes)
1 C. margarine, softened
2 C. brown Sugar
2 C. white sugar
4 eggs
2 Tbs. real vanilla
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
4 1/2 C. all-purpose flour
1 C. old-fashioned oatmeal ground into a flour (I put this in the blender and let it go until it is very fine)
2-3 C semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 C. chopped pecans (optional)

Cream butter and margarine for 1 minute.  Add sugars and vanilla.  Beat for another 3 minutes.  Add eggs.  Beat for another 2 minutes.  Add the dry ingredients (everything but the chocolate chips and the nuts).  Do not over-beat!  In fact, as soon as it starts looking even partially mixed together, I add the chocolate chips and nuts gently by hand. If needed, you can add a tiny bit more flour.  But it's ok if its a little sticky (stick it in the fridge for 15 minutes and it will become more manageable).

Scoop out balls.  Slightly flatten.  Bake for 10-12 minutes at 350.

Options:  I once made this recipe with chocolate chips, chopped pecans, and coconut.  It was amazing.  Also, the recipe is huge.  I always cut it in half and even then we still have plenty of dough to keep in the freezer for those late night cookie cravings. 

Weren't those good?  With that said, I still have my eyes on 3 more recipes I want to try.  Why haven't I tried them yet?  Because they all require refrigerating the dough for 24-48 hours.  And when were talking cookies, patience isn't a virtue of mine.  Whenever I look at those recipes, I decide I want cookies NOW and choose a different recipe.  I know I could use those recipes and not wait the 24-48 hours, but I feel like I need to give them a real try, following the directions, before I judge them.  Maybe one day I'll get to them.

Once again, I am a mean parent.  I didn't let Little Boy eat any cookies.  Instead he eats Green Beans.  Not his favorite.  In fact, probably his least favorite but when mixed with carrots or sweet potatoes, he doesn't even know he's eating them.

How to cook Green Beans?  Wash and snap off the ends of fresh green beans.  Steam or boil in a little water for 8-10 minutes.  Puree beans and cooking water.  Add more water to reach desired consistency if necessary.  Freeze in ice cube trays or muffin tins.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Black Bean Pepper Jack Pizza

You must think we eat pizza all the time.  And wouldn't that be great if we did?  It's been a little bit since we got groceries and that means we're low on produce.  Which means what in the world to have for dinner?  The obvious answer: pizza.  We didn't have much cheese (but when has that ever stopped me from making pizza?) so here is the improvised pizza based on what we had in the fridge.  And it was delicious.  I would have this every day.

Ok, so the avocado isn't the prettiest in this picture, but I promise you it was delicious.

Top a pizza crust with:

Tomato sauce (we used some leftover pasta sauce)
Cheddar cheese, grated (barely any, we used up our last little sliver on this)
Pepper Jack cheese, grated
Spiced black beans (These were black beans I had in the fridge that were mixed with chili powder, cumin, coriander, and a bit of lemon juice.  See exact ratios here)
Diced bell pepper

Bake at 375 for 12-15 min

Garnish with diced avocado


Our little Bub-o is still eating away.  He loves food.  Wonder where he gets that from?  His latest favorite is mashed bananas.  How, you may ask, do you make mashed bananas?  Well, take a banana (or half of a banana) and mash it with a fork.  Why do people buy mashed bananas from Gerber?  We all own forks.