Thursday, November 15, 2012

Spaghetti with Butternut Leek Sauce

Although I may not be skinny, I frequent the Skinny Taste blog in hopes of being inspired by her delicious and healthy recipes.  This pasta was no exception with it's creamy and rich sauce - you'd swear it was loaded with heavy cream when in fact that ingredient doesn't even come near this plate of yummy pasta.

My meat loving husband even approved but did say he'd prefer if we added some grilled chicken to it next time - fair enough ;)


Spaghetti with Butternut Leek Sauce
(adapted from Skinny Taste)

1 lb butternut squash, peeled and diced
1 tbsp butter
1 lb spaghetti
1 large leek (white part only)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup grated shaved parmesan cheese
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add butternut squash and cook until soft. Remove squash with a slotted spoon and place in a food processor and puree until smooth.

Add pasta to the boiling water and cook according to package directions for al dente, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water before draining.

Meanwhile, in a large deep non-stick skillet, melt the butter, sauté the leeks and garlic over medium-low heat until soft and golden, about 5 - 6 minutes. Add pureed butternut squash, season with with salt and fresh cracked pepper and add a little of the reserved pasta water to thin out to your liking. Stir in parmesan cheese and mix in pasta until well coated.

Mexican Stuffed Shells

I'm a sucker for all things Mexican/ Tex-Mex so instead of tacos or enchiladas every night, I've been trying to spice it up (pun intended) with my Mexican inspired meals.

These stuffed shells were relatively easy to put together and it made two pans of 12 shells each which means we have a freezer meal waiting in the wings for us.  Yay!

I topped my shells with sour cream and green onions but my less adventurous husband ate them as is and he really enjoyed them.  Next time I might try these with either ground turkey or shredded chicken and maybe add a can of diced green chilies.


Mexican Stuffed Shells
(adapted from The Adventures of Mini Martha)

1 lb ground beef
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 package taco seasoning
8 oz. cream cheese cut into small blocks
1 box of jumbo pasta shells
1 ½ cups salsa (I used medium-heat)
1 cup taco sauce (I used medium-heat)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Green onions- optional
Sour cream- optional

Preheat the oven to 350°. Spray 2 baking pans with Pam and set aside.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the ground beef and green pepper and cook until beef is cooked through and pepper has softened. Add drained beans and taco seasoning and prepare according to package directions (most taco seasoning packets have you add 3/4-1 cup of water). Add the cream cheese and simmer until cheese is melted and the mixture has thickened slightly, stirring occasionally to help the cream cheese melt. Set aside and cool.

While the ground beef is cooking, cook the pasta shells according to directions; drain. Place shells on a cutting board so that they don’t stick together.

Pour salsa into the bottom of the prepared baking dishes. Stuff each shell with the filling mixture. Place shells baking dish open-side facing up. Cover shells evenly with the taco sauce.

If you're going to cook, cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.  At the end of 30 minutes, remove foil and cover with cheddar cheese.  Return to oven for 10 minutes until cheese is melted. Top with green onions and sour cream (optional).

If you're going to freeze, cover with foil and freeze. When it comes time to bake them, thaw in refrigerator overnight then bake for 30 minutes with foil on.  At the end of 30 minutes, remove foil and cover with cheddar cheese.  Return to oven for 10 minutes until cheese is melted. Top with green onions and sour cream (optional).

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Homemade Baby Food

So as some of you may have deduced, we welcomed a baby into our lives earlier this year.  P will be 6 months old tomorrow (OMG!) and we're having the time of our lives with our little princess.

At P's 4 month appointment, her pediatrician said we could start solids if we wanted.  I knew from the moment of conception (ha!) that I'd make my own baby food.  Then when breast feeding didn't work out, I was even more determined to do so so that I cold control exactly what good, nutritious foods my daughter was eating.  It also doesn't hurt that I clearly love to cook and am a total foodie so it felt natural for me to do so.

Let me be honest - making baby food is my newest obsession.  I get so excited when I think of a fruit or veggie I haven't made yet for P and CAN make for her.  Watching her try new foods is so very much fun as the husband and I try to guess "is that her 'I like this!' face?"

We started with avocados, which were a hit and from then we've been full steam ahead.  Girlfriend eats better than her daddy and I do most nights ;) By her 6 month appointment P will have tried:

green beans
sweet potatoes
butternut squash
acorn squash
yellow squash

I'm proud of what I've provided her with - nutritious food in a range of colors, textures, and flavors.  By making her food, I've been able to combine her food for interesting and new combinations and I can't wait to add yogurt, meat, spices and legumes into the fold.

Lots of moms and moms to be ask me how I've make the food and really, it's much, much more simple than most think.  I either bake or steam the flesh of the food (the exception to this being avocados, bananas, and kiwis - they can be eaten raw at this age) and then throw it into the food processor.  I don't thin any of my purees before freezing because sometimes freezing can change the consistency of the puree ever so slightly.  I have more control over the texture when it's thawed if it's not thinned out.

Seriously - it is THAT easy. And, as she gets older, we'll do less purees and more finger foods - chunks of baked sweet potatoes, slices of avocado.  The goal here is to keep it as easy and healthy as possible.

As far as which foods I've baked... my sweet potatoes, butternut squash, acorn squash, and pumpkin have all been baked before pureeing   I just slice these down the middle, scoop out the seeds, rub a tiny bit of oil onto the flesh, and bake cut side down for roughly 60 mins.  After cooling, I scoop the flesh into the bowl of the food processor and let it do it's thing.

The majority of her food (pears, apples, peas, mangos, carrots, beets, zucchini, broccoli, plums, asparagus, peaches, yellow squash, eggplant, green beans) have been steamed after it's been rid of it's peel and any core that may exist.  I use a steamer basket and a pot of boiling water - steam until tender and puree.

As far as the homemade oatmeal is concerned, it is a little more labor intensive than opening a box of baby cereal but I figured if I was going to DIY the rest of the food, why not the cereal too?! For this, I dump some (not measured) traditional oats (NOT quick cooking) into the food processor.  Turn it on and let it run until it makes a fine powder.  Then I measure out 1/4 cup of oat powder and dump it into 1 cup of boiling water.  Whisk it continuously for 10 mins over low heat until a thick, porridge consistency is formed.

As for storage, I measure out the puree into 1 oz portioned cubes.  To do this, I freeze in ice cube trays then once the cubes are hardened (note - prunes will not solidify into a cube - weird, right?) I dump them into quart sized freezer bags that are labeled with what it is and the date.  As a general rule of thumb, purees are good for roughly 3 months before the nutritional value begins to break down.

If you could't tell, I really love making P's food (I just dedicated a whole post to it... yet again :) Check out P's blog for more of the same: and I'm hoping that by exposing her to lots of delicious flavors, we'll have a little foodie on our hands in no time!