Chunky Cereal Bars with Banana, Peanut Butter and Chocolate

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Hey everyone!

I made these cereal bars for the first time the other day and they are delicious! I individually wrapped them in wax paper before I put them in my Tupperware container so that I could just grab one and run. My family and I are going through a very busy season, and it seems that the first appetite that gets neglected is mine! I’m still intentional about dinners, but lunches and breakfasts kind of get thrown to the side in the midst of the chaos. I know this is the case for so many stay-at-home mamas, so here is a quick, cheap, easy recipe to help you out!

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The inspiration and basic recipe for these bars came from the Sweet Phi blog, but as always, I made a few tweaks of my own. The original recipe called for 1/2 a cup of dried cranberries and I wish I’d had them! I totally thought I did, but when I got home they were nowhere to be found. My bars are yummy without them, but man I do love dried cranberries…

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2 tbsp honey

1/2 cup of peanut butter (creamy!)

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 bananas, mashed with a fork

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 1/4 cups rolled oats

1 cup rice krispies

1/2 cup dark chocolate chunks (I just buy big bars of chocolate and chop them myself)

1/4 cup chopped pecans

– Preheat yout oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a 9×13 inch pan with wax or parchment paper.

Put your peanut butter, honey and vanilla extract in a microwaveable bowl and microwave for about 30 seconds until you can mix it together easily. Add the mashed bananas and brown sugar, and stir to combine. Then add the rest of your ingredients (oats, rice krispies, chocolate and nuts) and stir quite well. Don’t worry if the mixture is stiff and difficult to stir!

Plop this into the 9×13 inch pan and press it down so that it’s nice and evenly spread out. Bake for 25 minutes or until the edges are a toasty golden brown. Allow it to cool completely before using a sharp knife to cut it into approximately 20 bars. Store these in an airtight container in the fridge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chunky Cereal Bars with Banana, Peanut Butter and Chocolate

Creamy Chicken and Spinach Pasta Bake

The original recipe is from mylifewellloved.com but I made a few changes. This was such an easy and yummy meal! I actually made double the recipe and took one load to some friends who just had a baby – a great meal to share with others since it’s all in one dish and easy to reheat!

Chicken spinach bake

 

8oz cooked rigatoni pasta (or really any kind!)

Olive oil

Clove of garlic, minced/chopped finely

Half an onion, chopped

3 or 4 handfuls of fresh spinach, torn up

About 3 cups of cooked chicken, shredded

14oz can of diced tomatoes

8oz packet of cream cheese, softened

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Salt, Pepper

– Preheat your oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit. 

Saute the garlic and onion in olive oil until soft. In a large bowl combine the onion, garlic, pasta, spinach, cream cheese, tomatoes, seasoning and chicken. 

Transfer to an oven proof dish and sprinkle the mozzarella cheese on top. Cover with tin foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for 10-15 minutes more until cheese is golden and bubbling. 

Enjoy with some good bread!

Creamy Chicken and Spinach Pasta Bake

Homemade Chicken & Dumplings

Dumplings

Okay, so my husband Chris is a Southern boy – born and bred. He grew up on macaroni and cheese (from a box, YUCK), mashed potatoes, fried chicken, sweet tea, pulled pork…the works. I on the other hand am still not the biggest fan of Southern food; it’s mostly unhealthy, fried, greasy, processed and bland. I have been making more of an effort though, and some of the food can be made from scratch so I’ve kind of forced some of these menu items to be healthy. The other day I tried making chicken and dumplings for the first time and they were so easy – a complete success! Chris even said they were the best he’d ever had! I did add a couple seasonings that were not traditional to make it a bit more interesting, but overall I really enjoyed this meal too! I’ve actually made it twice already. So below is a pretty standard recipe for chicken and dumplings, plus a few moderations:

Homemade Chicken & Dumplings

Two or three good-sized boneless chicken breasts, cooked and chopped/shredded

8 cups chicken broth (to save money, I always buy the chicken bouillon cubes and make my own broth with boiling water)

2 cups all purpose flour (plus extra to flour your surface)

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

3 tbsp butter

3/4 cup milk

Chicken & Dumplings 2

– In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the butter – I usually just shave it into the bowl with a knife or spoon, and then rub it into the dry ingredients with my fingertips, the way you would make shortbread. Make sure the butter is well mixed in. Stir in the milk until it forms a ball of dough. Depending on how it’s looking, I usually end up adding extra flour or extra milk until I get that dough-like consistency. You definitely don’t want it to be too sticky or crumbly. 

Roll out the dough onto floured waxed paper (the waxed paper you can skip, but it helps prevent the dough sticking to my counter top) until it’s about 1/4 or 1/2 an inch thick. Then, using a pizza cutter (or a thin knife), slice the dough into squares. I would say no bigger than 2×2 inches but mine always end up various shapes and sizes! Put the cut dumplings onto a plate or more waxed paper, if you need to stack on top of each other make sure there’s enough flour in between to prevent them sticking. 

Bring the chicken broth to a good rolling boil. This is when I add my seasoning – salt, pepper, a little italian seasoning, a little ground coriander. It can really be whatever you want. The rest of the dish is pretty bland so that’s a great base to work from! Once the broth is boiling well (and that is very, very important) drop the dumplings in one by one as it boils, stirring constantly. 

Once all the dumplings are in, you can turn down the heat to medium-low and let it simmer for about 15 minutes. As it’s simmering if the broth looks a little watery (we like ours to be thicker) you can mix a little flour with a little milk and add that to the broth to thicken it up. Just do a little at a time and let the heat help, otherwise if you add too much all you’ll taste is flour. 

Add the cooked chicken to the mix, make sure that’s heated through and serve! What a comforting, cheap and easy dish to make  on a blustery day.

 

 

Homemade Chicken & Dumplings

Baby Led Weaning – An Update

I’m sorry I’ve been somewhat inactive in the last week or two, life has been crazy! Baby E cut her first top tooth (although it’s not all the way in yet) and we have been running around with a clingy baby who’s not super keen on sleeping through the night.

Lately I have been giving Eleni things off my plate, as planned, provided that they are not super salty/sugary. She has enjoyed chewing on pieces of chicken and she is still in love with chewy crusts from pizza or bread. I made homemade oven fries (more like potato wedges really) the other night and she loved chewing on those. I didn’t bake them with much salt to begin with, but before I gave one to her I still tried to rub off as much as I could. Tonight we’re having creamy chicken curry with apples in it so I’d love to see her try some curried apple chunks!

Last night we bought some salt-free adult rice cakes (I like that I can break off  longer chunks of these – the little round baby ones I can promise you would be put in whole and get stuck) and this morning when we gave her a piece of one she absolutely loved it! I was surprised, because they are super bland and so far Eleni has loved curry flavors, garlic, tomatoes etc! Maybe it’s a texture thing, who knows. I would love to try spreading something like avocado on a rice cake to see how she’d do with that. There was some gagging, but my husband was right there with her and she did well eventually. I hate the gagging. That’s been the hardest part of Baby Led Weaning for us (even though she still would gag with the purees I was trying to feed her before) – she starts shaking her hands, her eyes water and she gags – I hate it!!! Gagging aside though, I think we’re doing pretty well, I’m just at the stage where it feels like she’ll never eat enough food to be able to wean her completely off of breastmilk and while I know that’s just a stage, I feel like it’s going to last forever!

I will try and update some more when we try new foods/snacks or if we have a major breakthrough!

Baby Led Weaning – An Update

Garam Masala Crusted Chicken with Saag Aloo

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When I think of Indian food I think color, flavor and comfort. I introduced my <then> picky husband to Indian food when we first got married and he can’t get enough! We now have curry at least three times a month. Indian food has complex flavors but the dishes are usually so easy to execute – just my kind of cooking! I am a sucker for a good whole roasted chicken so when I found this recipe on Food & Wine, I just had to try it. Of course, I switched it up a bit (I can’t help but do that to every recipe!) The original recipe calls for some kind of fig jus which I didn’t fancy, and that would have made it a much more expensive dish. I added a few steps/ingredients as well.

Obviously one can’t just have chicken for dinner (although this chicken is so delicious I’m starting to doubt that fact), so I wanted to come up with a simple side- one that I already had all the ingredients for. Saag Aloo is a DELICIOUS Indian side dish that could really go with anything. The smells floating through my house yesterday….sorry that I can’t share them with you on the internet! Maybe one day…!

One thing I ABSOLUTELY LOVED about this meal was that I only actually purchased ONE THING – the chicken. Everything else are staples in my kitchen (onion, garlic, spices, spinach etc). You just can’t beat delicious, easy and cheap!

I’m going to list these two dishes separately, because you really don’t have to have the two together.

Garam Masala Crusted Chicken  A yummy, roasted chicken that is bursting with flavor, tenderness and juiciness. 

Garam Masala

1 whole chicken (mine was about 4 1/2 lbs, and even though we’re on a budget we don’t scrimp on chicken – make sure it’s good quality!)

3 tbsp olive oil

1/4 cup garam masala (I buy my spice mixes from the farmer’s markets here in the summer. You could try getting them online also, or click here for a simple recipe to make your own – I don’t know if it’s any good but worth a try!)

Salt, Pepper

1 tsp chili powder

1/2 an onion, in big chunks

5 whole cloves garlic, peeled

– Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. In a small bowl mix the oil, garam masala, chili powder and some salt & pepper. In a roasting pan, massage the oil/spice mixture over the top of the chicken, making sure to cover the skin completely. This makes the skin beautifully crispy and flavorful. Stuff the chicken with the chunks of onion and the cloves of garlic. I really think that this step makes a big difference in the juiciness of the chicken, and while the flavor is not particularly garlicky or oniony – it adds a little something. 

Roast the chicken at 45o degrees for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350 degrees and roast for another hour or so until the chicken is cooked. If the skin’s not crispy yet, increase the temperature back up to 45o and roast until crispy. Take it out and let rest for a good 10-15 minutes, then carve it up!

Saag Aloo (Indian Spinach & Potatoes)  The perfect healthy side (you could even use sweet potatoes or cauliflower as my Paleo-eating friend Mande suggested)

Saag Aloo

6 or so potatoes, peeled and quartered

Olive oil

1/2 an onion, sliced into thin, long slices

Fresh garlic, chopped (I used 2 or 3 cloves)

Salt, Pepper

About 3 tbsp Curry powder

About 2 tsp Chili powder

About 1 tsp Ground Coriander seeds

About 1 tsp cumin

About 1 tbsp tomato paste

A little water, if needed

3 or 4 big handfuls fresh spinach

– Boil the potatoes in a pot of water until cooked. Meanwhile, sautee the onion and garlic in olive oil until soft. Add all your spices (I really eyeballed these and tasted as I went along), the tomato paste, salt & pepper, and a splash or two of water if necessary. The idea is to create a thick(ish) paste of spices around the onions/garlic but if it’s sticking to the bottom of the pan or it just looks too thick, go ahead and add a tiny bit of water to loosen everything up. Add your potatoes, and cover them with the onion/garlic/spice mixture for a few minutes. 

Put a lid on your skillet, and throw it in the oven (I did this part while my chicken was resting, see end of recipe above) to roast for about 10 minutes. After 10 minutes take the skillet back out (be super careful – don’t forget that the handle will be red hot!), throw some ripped up spinach in there, wilt it gently – and you’re done! Serve and enjoy!

Garam Masala Crusted Chicken with Saag Aloo

Baby Led Weaning – Some Easy Introductory Snacks

Here are two snack items that we’ve been giving to Eleni recently, that I absolutely love. They actually taste so good that we munch on them together while I’m cooking dinner or cleaning the house!

Plums Little Yums Organic Teething Wafers – I usually break these in half length-ways (because more often than not after a few little nibbles they end up on the floor anyway)  and they come in two flavors: Pumpkin & Banana, and Spinach, Apple & Kale. These are made with organic rice flour, buckwheat and real fruits/veggies (see image below for full ingredients list and nutritional info) and they dissolve really quickly in babies’ mouths.

Gerber Lil’ Crunchies Organic White Cheddar Puffs – I just bought these a few days ago when I saw them at the grocery store. I actually love the flavor of these things, and they seem to dissolve very easily. Eleni also loves these, although the first time she tried to swallow one after chewing on it for a while, she gagged up a storm and scared the life out of me! Apparently though gagging is quite normal with BLW as the babies learn to chew and swallow and get used to something other than liquid going down their throats!

Baby Led Weaning – Some Easy Introductory Snacks

Baby Led Weaning – Our Journey So Far

When Eleni was about 5 months old, we decided to try a little bit of baby oatmeal cereal mixed in with breast milk. She wasn’t super keen. We weren’t discouraged, didn’t put pressure on her, and were definitely content with her only eating breast milk (to be honest we still are.) Our motto with Eleni’s eating is “If it’s before age one, it’s just for fun!” This has helped to keep the pressure off, and made our food journey with her less stressful and more playful.

Since the oatmeal cereal we’ve been playing around with different purees and mashed up foods but the child simply won’t be spoon-fed! She does not want it. She will clamp her mouth shut and you cannot open it! Again, we have not made this a stressful thing for us or her – I want her to enjoy food as much as I do. At this age of her life when she really doesn’t need fruit and veggie purees, I’m not going to force it.

One thing I was surprised by however was how much she absolutely loves chewing on raw baby carrots (under very close supervision of course). Not only does it feel amazing on her gums, she seems to really like the taste. I really think that she loves the independence of being able to feed herself too. This weekend as I was watching her chew away on a little carrot and then occasionally pick up one of her wafers to gnaw on I was reminded of something I had seen during my research when I was pregnant – Baby Led Weaning. (SIDE NOTE: ‘Weaning’ has a different meaning/connotation in America than it does in other parts of the world. When I talk about ‘weaning’ I am not referring to taking Eleni off of breast milk and encouraging her onto foods completely. I am talking about simply ‘adding complementary foods’ to what she’s already consuming)

EleniEggs

The general concept is to allow the baby to feed herself right from the start of the weaning process. It encourages them to develop healthy portion control habits, a healthy appetite for most foods, but also the ability to distinguish between their likes and dislikes. With pureed foods babies learn to swallow first, and then they learn how to chew later on. With Baby Led Weaning (BLW from now on) babies learn to chew and then swallow – helping them to eat safely and causing less of a disruption later on when inevitably you have to introduce your child to ‘real’ food. Very often at this stage, when breast milk (or formula, if that’s what you’re using) is still the number one source of nutrition the baby will just chew on her food and learn about textures and tastes, not even swallowing anything until she’s ready – which could take a little while! This is the stage that Eleni is in. We’re introducing the idea of feeding herself (which she loves) and she’s learning how to use her gums and her two little teeth, even though she is not really swallowing any of it. By starting her on this journey now, it really doesn’t matter whether she swallows her food or not because her main (and at the moment, her only) source of nutrition is from my milk. So the pressure is off, there is no stress or coercing her trying to get her to eat – we’re just having fun!

EleniNaan

What about choking???!!! This was really my husband’s number one concern when I approached him with this idea. And he was totally right to be worried about that – we need to constantly be checking and rechecking to make sure we’re doing the right thing for our baby! So I did a little more research, and what I found makes a world of sense. I’ve already talked about the process of babies learning to chew first and then swallow with BLW, and as with anything in life – use your common sense! It is so important to make sure that the food you’re giving your baby is not something she is likely to choke on easily and that when you give food to your baby you don’t just walk away – you need to watch her at all times because accidents do happen. Many reliable websites that I’ve looked at insist that babies are actually less likely to choke with the BLW approach because they have control over what they’re putting in their mouths and how far back it goes. As long as your baby is sitting upright while eating and is monitored closely, the risk of choking is very minimal.

So far Eleni has had hard boiled eggs (I don’t really want to get into the whole ‘allergy’ thing right now), a crust of Naan bread and a strawberry, on top of chewing on baby carrots and some organic spinach/kale/apple wafers. I am excited to keep introducing her to new foods, and to watch her love of food develop over the years. If you’re interested in taking this approach with your baby, feel free to comment on this post – I would love to answer any questions that I can and provide support!

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Some helpful links that I found:Baby Led WeaningNourished Kitchen, Momtastic’s Wholesome Baby Food, Baby Center 

Baby Led Weaning – Our Journey So Far