Thursday, August 25, 2016

Quick Berry Oatmeal

Lately I have been feeling that I ought to step up our breakfast routine. Henry used to eat a lot of baby oatmeal, but we've moved away from that in favor of scrambled eggs with the occasional pancake thrown in. That's all good, but variety is the spice of life, so when I spied this straightforward oatmeal recipe, I was all over it!

Here is a confession: prior to this, I had never actually made breakfast oatmeal from scratch. I've used oats in plenty of cookies and baked breakfast recipes, but if I was just having oatmeal for breakfast, it was always from a packet. Luckily, this recipe truly is as simple as it gets! You can definitely make this happen even on a weekday morning, plus it is easy to remember the ratios, and it stores in the fridge and reheats well for another day.

I used frozen berries that I happened to have on hand, which was extremely convenient. Mixing the still-frozen berries directly into the cooked oatmeal warms the berries and cools the oatmeal, so everything is almost immediately a toddler-friendly temperature. Of course you could also use fresh berries in any combination available to you: raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, etc. We are fortunate here in Belgium to have abundant, luscious fresh berries during the summer, but those will pretty much disappear come winter. I'm glad to have a berry-laden breakfast we can devour all winter long!

Quick Berry Oatmeal

1 cup water
1 cup milk (any kind)
1 cup old-fashioned oats
drizzle of honey*, maple syrup, agave syrup, or other sweetener
1/2 cup fresh or frozen berries (any combination)

Bring the water and milk to a boil together in a medium saucepan. Add the oats, stir, and reduce to medium heat. Cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until mixture is thick and creamy.

Stir in the honey, maple, or agave syrup, then gently fold in the berries. Allow to cook 1 minute more to warm the berries, then serve.

*If serving to a baby under one-year old, do not use honey.  

Source: Weelicious

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Classic Hummus

Hummus, to me, is a wonder food, in that it can make a heaping plate of veggies go from rather bland to an absolutely delicious and satisfying snack, without taking away really any of the nutritional value. In fact, chickpeas, which form the base of a classic hummus, are a very good source of protein in their own right, so in some ways you are actually increasing the nutritional heft of your snack with each little dip. Now that is good news!

This recipe produces a creamy hummus with just a slight tang from the lemon juice. It's very easy with the help of a food processor, and would adapt well to many variations according to your taste--a bit of lemon zest, roasted garlic, an extra dash of red pepper or roasted pepper, so on and so forth. It makes me want to make another batch and experiment just thinking about it! Of course, it also pairs extremely well with pita, which might be slightly less healthy than a plate of veggies, but all things in moderation, right? Hmm, we might need to make chicken gyros or lamb burgers in the near future.. and whole wheat pita bread. Aaah, so many things to cook, so little time! :) Well, at least the hummus is quick, easy, nutritious, and very fulfilling! What's not to like about that!?

Classic Hummus

1/4 cup water
3 tbsp. lemon juice (from 1-2 lemons) 
6 tbsp. tahini, stirred well
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, plus a bit extra for drizzling
1 14 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 small garlic clove, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp. table salt
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
pinch of cayenne pepper
1 tbsp. fresh cilantro or parsley, minced

Measure water in a small liquid measuring cup, and add lemon juice to combine. In a separate measuring cup or small bowl, whisk together tahini and 2 tbsp. olive oil. Set aside approximately 2 tbsp. of the chickpeas for use as a garnish. 

Add remaining chickpeas, garlic, salt, cumin, and cayenne pepper to the bowl of a food processor and process until almost fully ground, about 15 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. With the machine running again, add the water and lemon juice mixture in a steady stream through the feed tube. Continue to process for 1 minute, then, with the machine still running, add the olive oil and tahini mixture through the feed tube. Continue to process until the hummus is smooth and creamy, scraping down the sides of the bowl if needed.

Transfer hummus to a serving bowl and sprinkle with reserved chickpeas and cilantro or parsley. This can be served immediately, but will taste best if it has at least 30 minutes for the flavors to meld, and will keep well in the fridge in an airtight container for at least 3 days. When ready to eat, drizzle the top with olive oil and serve.

Source: Annie's Eats, originally from Cook's Illustrated

Monday, August 8, 2016

Mustard-Crusted Salmon

Salmon is one of my favorite foods, not least because there are many delicious and very easy ways to prepare it! This recipe has become a go-to. It takes about 10 minutes of prep work, uses mainly ingredients you're likely to have on hand, and gets along admirably with any number of different side dishes. Oh, and did I mention, it is super reliable? I have made this dozens of times, and can't remember a single fail, even recently in our questionable European oven. :)

Most recently I paired this with couscous and a simple salad of arugula, cherry tomatoes, and pine nuts (what I had on hand..). It also goes really well with asparagus, green beans, roasted potatoes, wild rice or rice pilaf.. you name it! Roasted potatoes are especially nice with this because you can bake them on the same sheet you use for the salmon. Just toss the quartered potatoes with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and put them in the oven about 10 minutes before you add the salmon filets. Easy! Next time you need a quick weeknight meal, this has you covered.

Mustard-Crusted Salmon
Serves 4

1/4 cup dijon mustard
2 tbsp. dry mustard
4 salmon fillets (about 1.5 lbs. total weight), skin removed
4 tbsp. panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped

Preheat the oven to 375 F. In a small bowl, combine the dijon and dry mustards; stir well. Coat one side of the salmon fillets with the mustard mixture, then sprinkle evenly with the panko, pressing gently to adhere.

Arrange the fillets on a roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet, breaded side up. Bake 15-18 minutes, until the fillets are barely opaque and the breaded topping is golden brown. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Source: Williams-Sonoma Food Made Fast: One Pot

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Toddler Treats: Roasted Carrot Coins

At nearly every stage of Henry's eating so far, I've been apprehensive about the next transition. Of course, breastfeeding itself was crazy difficult at first, and led to lots of tears in the early weeks. When we finally got that down and he was only drinking milk, I couldn't wrap my mind around the notion that he would eventually eat "real" food. For one thing, I couldn't for the life of me imagine how I would find time to prepare it! Henry was quite late to get even one tooth, so we relied heavily on purees for months, and I happily found it wasn't so hard to make big batches of pureed sweet potato, squash, chicken, apple, and many other things to feed what turned out to be his ravenous appetite. 

By the time we adjusted to the puree phase, I was again a little puzzled about how to make the next transition. Getting him the same calories and nutrition with finger foods!? That seemed overwhelming. I had no clue what to make! Fortunately Pinterest has been a great resource, along with this site. It helps enormously that he is adventurous and usually has a big appetite, which makes it fun and enjoyable to prepare him new foods.

Around one year we got to the wonderful point where he eats almost everything we eat, and at nearly 15 months we are going strong with that approach. If anything, this has made my own eating habits healthier, because I'm much more aware of eating veggies on the regular, and more inclined to make a big batch of them that we eat all week long. Henry loves orange vegetables (green veggies, not so much), so sweet potato, squash, and carrots are all standbys here! 

This recipe for roasted carrot coins is my absolute favorite because it is incredibly easy, doesn't require adding a lot of salt or other extras... and they taste delicious! Henry will gobble these up by the fistful if I let him stuff that many in his mouth all at once. A pretty good problem to have, if you ask me! ;-) I am sure they would also be delicious with cumin or another spice, if you prefer something other than paprika.

What are your favorite finger foods for toddlers? Any tips on keeping them adventurous at mealtime? We are lucky to have a champion eater so far, but I'm aware that these habits (like everything else) can change in a heartbeat during these toddler years! 

Roasted Carrot Coins

8 medium carrots
1/4 tsp. sweet paprika
1 tbsp. olive oil 
1/4 tsp. kosher salt

Preheat oven to 400 F. Peel carrots and cut into coins of consistent thickness, to ensure even roasting.

In a medium mixing bowl, toss carrots with paprika, olive oil, and kosher salt. Spread in an even layer on a baking sheet prepared with parchment paper or a silicone liner. 

Roast for 30 minutes, or until coins are slightly crinkly and can be pierced easily with a fork. Serve warm. 

Source: Barely adapted from Weelicious

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Blissful Corn Torte

As I've mentioned, Mexican food is one area where I've really tried to up my game since we moved to Brussels last year. Quality Mexican is usually one of the more difficult cuisines to find in restaurants in Europe, at least in my experience, but is definitely something I don't want to go more than a few weeks without, let alone three-plus years!

In addition to making my own tortillas, pico de gallo, and trying out several new Mexican mains, I've also been looking for new side dishes to expand beyond guacamole and refried beans. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against refried beans, and you can never have too much guacamole! It's just fun to have some additional options.

Enter this corn torte. Cook and author Pati Jinich describes it as something between corn souffle and corn bread. She is right that it's too good to be only a side dish. It's equally delicious with fresh berries for dessert, as pictured here, or for breakfast! I made it for dinner guests recently, and thought the sweetness provided a fantastic contrast to our carnitas and spicy black beans. I can't wait to make it again and serve it topped with Creamy Poblano Rajas, as Pati recommends, because that sounds incredible!

One note on cooking time: don't hesitate to let the torte bake a little longer than the recommended 40-45 minutes. The first time I made this, I took it out right at 45 minutes. It seemed underdone, but I overrode my own instincts and hoped it would set as it cooled. No such luck, and I had a mess on my hands! This could just be my oven (which is small, crummy, and generally unreliable) so I hesitate to recommend changing the baking time, per se. I would recommend checking the torte frequently after the 45-minute mark, being sure the top is browned, and using a cake tester or toothpick to be sure it is not wet in the middle before removing it from the oven. Above all, trust your gut!

Now go use some of the beautiful summer corn and make this right away!

Blissful Corn Torte
Yields one 9x13" pan, about 12 servings

1/2 lb. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus a bit for the baking dish
3/4 cup sugar
8 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
3/4 cup rice flour*
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 cups corn kernels, fresh or thawed frozen
1 cup whole milk
1 tsp. kosher or coarse sea salt
powdered sugar for sprinkling

*Rice flour, made from finely milled raw rice, can be found at health food stores and large supermarkets. I found it at BioPlanet, a well stocked organic grocer in Brussels.

Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 F. Butter a 9x13" baking dish.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the 2 sticks of butter on high speed until creamy. Add the sugar and continue to beat on high speed until thoroughly mixed and fluffy. Reduce the speed to low and add the egg yolks one by one, beating until they are well incorporated.

In a small bowl, combine the rice flour and baking powder. Add a small amount of the dry ingredients to the butter mixture, followed by a small amount of the cream, continuing to alternate until all are incorporated and the mixture is well combined.

In a food processor, pulse the corn kernels with the milk until roughly pureed. Add this to the butter mixture and beat until well combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Pour the butter-corn mixture into a large bowl and clean the bowl of the stand mixer.

Fit the stand mixer with the whisk attachment and beat the egg whites and salt until stiff peaks form. Fold about one-fifth of the beaten egg whites into the butter-corn mixture until well blended. Gently fold in the remaining egg whites, taking care not to deflate them. It's OK if the batter looks streaky.

Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the torte is springy to the touch, lightly browned, and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out mostly clean. Cool slightly.

The torte can be served warm, at room temperature, or cold. Cut into squares and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Cover and store any leftovers (lucky you!) in the fridge.

Source: Pati's Mexican Table by Pati Jinich