Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Morningstar Chik'n Nuggets

The theme of Spring Break week was...drum roll....chicken nuggets.
I was trying to get week of red, or week of orange, but H shouted out "Week for chicken at McDonald's!" E modified this to week of chicken nuggets after logically explaining to H that the only good chicken came in nugget form. Great, nothing like the older sibling influencing the younger who has eaten many forms of chicken that were neither breaded nor fried. I would like to add here that the only reason my kids want to goto McDonald's is for the play structure. And we went once over Spring Break. And they had chicken nuggets and rejected the french fries (yay for that!). I took a nibble of one for the first time. I had to see what makes them so appealing. I didn't get it. It was salty, definitely crispier than my oven baked ones have been. And they were gobbled up faster than homemade ever was too. Would I have to throw in the towel? Maybe try a frozen brand? Ugh. Two things that I didn't want to do.

I took them to the grocery store with me the next day because I wanted them involved in every part of this endeavor. I splurged and we got the frozen nuggets shaped like dinosaurs & Morningstar Chik'n nuggets. I didn't think the vegetarian version would win but it did. Nutritionally these have about the same number of calories and a slightly less amount of sodium than the McDonald's nugget. The two things they have going are they are much lower in saturated fat, and have a 4 g fiber. The protein is also about the same.
I am still going to encourage E to eat homemade nuggets, but I know that she takes many more tries than the average kid to accept a new food, and for those evenings when we've had the mad rush and everyone is banging on the table for food, these are preferred over the McDonald's drive-thru. 

Friday, March 25, 2011

Homemade jello jigglers (from Week of Green)

Jigglers served at snack time
Yes, I know that the jigglers are a reddish color, but I put green kiwis in there. So it counts. E LOVES these. I have to give initial credit to my friend Stephanie for making homemade jigglers for a playgroup ages ago. It was E's first try of 'jello' but since I have zero memory retention and did not write down the recipe Steph told me, my hazy memory lost its grip on it by the time we got home. Luckily for me, there ws a recipe in one of my cookbooks and I gave it a try but added frozen kiwi to it. (To freeze kiwi simply peel, slice and place on baking sheet in freezer for about 30 minutes.)


Juicy Strawberry Jigglers (adapted from No Whine with Dinner)
Makes 24 Jiggler Squares

1 1/2 cups strawberry kiwi juice, divided
1 cup frozen strawberries (or 1/2 cup each frozen strawberries, frozen kiwi slices)

2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
1 tablespoon sugar

In a blender, blend together 1 cup of juice and the frozen fruit until smooth. Pour into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir occasionally to break up any frothy bubbles. Meanwhile, place the remaining 1/2 cup juice in a large bowl. Sprinkle the gelatine over the juice and let stand 1 minute. Add the hot juice and stir until the gelatine completely dissolves, about 5 minutes. Stir in the sugar. Pour the mixture through a strainer (to remove seeds) into an 8 x 8-inch pan. Refrigerate until firm, about 3 hours. To serve, cut into squares (use an off-set spatula).

Nutrition Information per Serving: 10 calories, 0g fat, 0mg sodium, 2g carbohydrate, 2g sugar, 1g protein, 10% vitamin C

Thursday, March 24, 2011

St Patrick's Week aka Week of Green

Last week, E asked me why she had to wear a green shirt for St Patrick's Day. I said she didn't have to but it was a tradition for that day. I also told her that some people who don't wear green get pinched, so she chose the green shirt over pinching. The conversation gave an idea for a food theme - green foods. I decided to start with St Patrick's day itself - we will have green food today in honor of St Patrick's Day. This is a big thing for me since I am usually anti-holidays that aren't really holidays. The more I thought about the reason though - exposure to some new and green foods - and the more both kids seemed excited about it, the more I repressed my inner grump.
Pistachio nuts
First up was something simple that was already liked - pistachios. They are yummy nuts with just a hint of green to them. Both my kids eat nuts like they are about to hibernate if I let them. (As an aside, try not to let your child eat too many. It can cause constipation.) We made smiley faces and other shapes with them. I read recently that allowing a child to play with their food a little can encourage better eating habits. These were a perfect little food to play with, and relatively mess free.

Kiwi fruit 'salad'
E having the kiwi.
Next I tried some kiwi fruit. Although the California season for kiwis is Nov to May, they taste best (to me) from February through April. I enlisted their help in making kiwi fruit salad. Hesitation. I expected it. A kiwi is brown & fuzzy, and not visually appealing. We performed our magic on it while I cut it - "ABRACADABRA!" - and there it was, green. They were mightily impressed. I spooned a little out to each birdie mouth, and they asked for more. So we had it with lunch. E ate a few pieces and said she could only eat pieces with no seeds. H only ate it if I fed it to her.

H dipping a chip in the "guacmoleeeee"
Last for that day was guacamole. After the kiwi fruit salad, H wanted to stay in the kitchen and make more "good stuff". So I did my mise en place, and she got to pour the "miz-ahn-pas" into the blender and push the button. She managed to scoop quite a bit into her mouth before I rescued some for the rest of us. E looked at it and said "I don't think so". Oh well, 2 out of 3 is good enough for me.

I tried a couple other foods that I'll post separately with recipes. I was able to do the green food theme across a few days until E told me she didn't think it was St Patrick's Day anymore. I think it's a fun idea for me to try again in the future but doing other colours.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Best Gluten Free Pizza Crust Ever!

Gluten Free Goddess's GF Pizza Crust
If you have ever tried to make or buy GF pizza crust, you find out quickly that the results are often disappointing. Until now. Thanks to Karina, Gluten free Goddess, I made an awesome tasting GF pizza crust last night. And even better, was that it reheated and tasted great again tonight. Recipe can be found here. This is my honorable mention to her, and a resource to any who might be starting new on the gluten free, dairy free, or vegan path. Her recipes are amazing!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Quinoa Breakfast Brownies

Quinoa Chocolate Chip Breakfast Brownies
Every morning this week, E has been a ball of anxiety over there being no school on Friday. I sometimes believe she craves school because of the sameness of each day. The class routine rarely changes and she enjoys the teacher and learning specialist she has. She always frets when there is a holiday or a break.

Whenever there is a higher level of anxiety, I ease up on serving new foods, but this week I came up with the idea of breakfast brownies. And perhaps by divine intervention, the Gluten Free Goddess posted a quinoa based pizza crust, which had a link to quinoa breakfast bars. She uses quinoa flour and flakes. Since I didn't have the flakes, I adapted by using gluten free oatmeal instead. They were an instant hit and allowed for a calming of E's stress. After all, who wouldn't love brownies for breakfast?


QUINOA CHOCOLATE CHIP BREAKFAST BROWNIES 
(adapted from: glutenfreegoddess.blogspot.com)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 11x13-inch baking pan with lightly greased parchment.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients:


1 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup quinoa flour
1/2 cup potato starch
1 cup old fashioned rolled oats (I used gluten free)
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 2/3 cups organic light brown sugar

In a large measuring cup blend:

2/3 cup canola oil
3 tablespoons real maple syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla (I use homemade vanilla extract which is a little 'weaker' in flavor than commercial, so reduce the amount of store bought by half or more)

Combine the wet and dry ingredients with a sturdy wooden spoon until you get a sticky batter.

2 eggs, well beaten

Add the eggs to the batter and combine well. The dough should be thick and rather sticky.

Add:
2 to 4 tablespoons of warm water, as needed to achieve a dough that sticks together when you pinch it- much like cookie dough.

Now add:

2/3 cup 
dairy free chocolate chips or chopped nuts or chopped dried fruit


Stir to combine. Spread the batter into the prepared baking pan, and using wet hands, smooth the surface evenly. Place the pan into the center of a pre-heated oven and bake until golden and set - about 22 to 30 minutes until the top is golden brown and the center if firm. Insert a thin knife to check if you are unsure to make certain the center has baked thoroughly. Cool on a wire rack. Using a thin sharp knife, cut into squares; wrap them in foil; bag in a freezer storage bag. Freeze (keep out what you will eat right then). 

Makes 30 2-inch brownies.


Nutrition per brownie (using choc chips): 176 cals, 7 g fat, 27 g carb, 1.5 g fiber, 15 g sugar, 2.4 g protein. 

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Great Chocolate Avocado Pudding Experiment


The runner up - adapted from Have a Namaste blog
Most people do not put avocado and dessert together in a cohesive yummy thought. I once saw Alton Brown do Avocado Icecream on Good Eats. I personally prefer my avocado sliced and sprinkled with a little salt, but he had me convinced it was the best thing one could do to an avocado outside of guacamole. Well, he was wrong in my opinion. I didn't like it, and there was an odd rotten banana taste and smell after it was frozen. Recently someone brought in pudding as a birthday treat at school so E tried it and wanted it that night. No doubt the one tried at school had cow's milk. That same month our favorite alternative milk beverage posted about chocolate avocado icecream. A sign? Maybe so. A Google of chocolate avocado pudding turns up a multitude of recipes. Narrowing those down to dairy free options wasn't too difficult, and I decided on 3 different approaches. The first included silken tofu, chocolate chips, & avocado puree. The result was bleh. I didn't even try it on E.

Lyle's Golden Syrup is my favorite liquid sweetener
The second was simpler. Puree an avocado, add 1/4 to 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa to taste, then add a liquid sweetener or choice (agave, honey, maple syrup, cane syrup) to sweeten to taste. I also added 2 to 3 tablespoons of So Delicious coconut milk to try to soften it and get a pudding texture. The taste was okay according to my taster, who at least was willing for this experiment. "It's chocolate and it's pudding, so I'll eat it, Mom", she said. She ate about 1/4 cup and did not ask for seconds.

The winning recipe - adapted from a recipe on Dr Oz
We were down to our final recipe, which was left until last because it is a little labor intensive - melting chocolate, beating egg whites, folding gently. It was adapted from a recipe posted on the Dr Oz Show website. It was the hands down winner. It had a rich chocolate taste, a silky texture, and adding in some of that coconut milk beverage converted it from a mousse to more of a pudding. E ate her whole 1/2 cup and asked for seconds. Although the website stated this was healthy and guilt free, I noticed they didn't post any nutrition info for it. Calculating it myself (Living Cookbook 2011), I found out why. If you use the guideline of 6 servings from this recipe, you get per cup of mousse a whopping 432 calories. I think this is fine if all you eat is chocolate pudding. Otherwise, I think it is more prudent to say it has 12 1/2-cup servings.


CHOCOLATE AVOCADO PUDDING (12 1/2-cup servings)
  • 12 oz bittersweet chocolate (I used Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate)
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 large Haas avocado (or 2 smaller ones)
  • 1/2 light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons honey (or other syrup)
  • 1/4 cup So Delicious Coconut Milk beverage (or preferred milk)
  • 6 egg whites
1. Melt the chocolate with the cinnamon in a double boiler over hot water and set aside. You can also melt in the microwave in 15 second increments, stirring between each.
2. Puree the avocado, brown sugar, honey, and milk in a food processor until smooth. With the machine running, pour in the chocolate mixture. (Or if your machine doesn't run with the lid off, pour a third of the chocolate mixture in and incorporate. Repeat until all chocolate is added).
3. Using a stand mixer or whisk, beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Stir about 1/2 cup egg white into the chocolate mixture until thoroughly blended.
4. Now, gently fold the chocolate mixture into the remaining egg whites. Pour the mousse into 12 small serving bowls and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or covered overnight. (Alternatively, put the whole thing in one giant bowl, and take out 1/2 cup serving when you crave chocolate pudding).

Nutrition per 1/2-cup:  216 cals, 10.7 g fat, 31.7 g carb, 1.2 g fiber, 12 g sugar, 3.33g protein

Yes, I balked at the fat content, but it is chocolate and avocado. There's going to be fat. The advantage is that it has way more potassium (219 mg), fiber, and other nutrients than a similar amount of store bought pudding.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Chicken nuggets - the rematch

Sometimes I think that E's reluctance to different foods is more due to stubbornness inherited from her parents than a sensory issue. Both my spouse and I have our moments, and it wouldn't surprise me if it genetically passed along to H and E. Still, being stubborn has an advantage when it comes to picking yourself up, dusting off, and trying again. Recently, a friend sent a recipe for baked chicken nuggets. It was soon after the last attempt so I let the recipe sit until today. This time I did it as is. No attempt to simulate McD by grinding the meat first. I decided  it might be better to get E used to the true texture of chicken. My thought is that it will make transition to other types of chicken recipes more realistic. She tried a bite and her face immediately went into complete dislike mode. I thought she might gag but she chewed and swallowed. She then looked at me with a mix of uncertainty and lost puppy dog. I said "Thank you for trying a bite. You did great." Then I ignored her. This approach has worked with allowing her to assume control of whether she eats more of the food. Sometimes she does; this time she didn't. At this point I don't know if I should keep pushing the chicken, or wait and try again later. 

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Toast

I found this recipe on Parenting.com's 10 Sandwiches for Picky Eaters. Now usually Parenting's picky eater articles don't really impress me. Neither did this one since most of it seemed like a raging ad for The Deen Bros. Take It Easy: Quick and Affordable Meals the Whole Family Will Love. That feeling aside, there are a few sandwich recipes that I will try since E already eats the ingredients involved. I wanted to try this one because of the cream cheese on the toast. My goal lately for her breakfast is to have it contain the same amount of protein as an egg, about 6 grams. Since she won't eat eggs, I have my work cut out. This toast almost meets that as long as you use bread that has about 4 to 5 g protein per slice. This is adapted from the recipe from the Deen Bros cookbook mentioned above.

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Toast (4 servings)

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 4 slices whole wheat bread (the Deen recipe uses white bread)
  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces) cream cheese (I used Philly Light)
1. Preheat your broiler.
2. Mix sugar and cinnamon thoroughly. Spread a tablespoon of cream cheese on bread. Sprinkle with sugar-cinnamon mixture (I used roughly 2 teaspoons per slice and there was some leftover cinnamon sugar).
3. Place on baking sheet. Heat 4 inches from broiler for 1 to 2 minutes.

Nutrition per slice (will vary slightly depending on type of bread used, and on how much cinnamon sugar is sprinkled on. This breakdown assumes whole wheat bread, and 1 tablespoon of the cinnamon sugar mix, and light cream cheese):  132 cal, 1 g fat, 25 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 14 g sugar, 5.8 g protein

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Peanut Butter Soup

Initially, I think it sounds disgusting. I read off the title and was about to say "Gross" when E pipes in and says "I love peanut butter." I explained that this was peanut butter melted into soup not spread in a sandwich. The next day she asked if I could make it because she wanted to try some. When there is a direct request like that, who am I to deny? The recipe is simple enough - it is just a tomato based soup with some vegetables and peanut butter added. I creamed everything with my stick blender to make it creamy and smooth. She eyed it suspiciously the whole meal. She eyed me suspiciously the whole meal. I repeated that the peanut butter was in there. I went so far to simply describe it as peanut butter mixed with tomato sauce. "You like both those things, so you might like them mixed together." Then I ignored her. She sat there for a good 20  minutes after the rest of us slurped up our second helping of soup. (No, it was not gross). Tentative spoonful number one. Tentative spoonful number two. The verdict?  "I think I'll just have peanut butter in my sandwiches, not in soup."

This is another one of those double sided reactions for me. I am disappointed that there is nothing new to add to E's meal plan items; then again, she took two sips and did it politely, showing a vast continuing improvement in her willingness to at least try a different food. It's hopefully a tiny glimmer of what will someday turn into her telling me of some culinary adventure she's had and that I just have to try it.

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