Monday, September 28, 2015

An Apple A Day (and a few great books!)

Apple picking season is in full swing, and we (like everyone else and their mamas) went to the orchard this weekend. We brought home two pecks of apples, a half dozen cider donuts, and a bunch of gorgeous pumpkins in all shades, shapes and sizes. Fall is one of my favorite times of year, not just for the weather, foliage, and food, but for the projects. September is such an awesome time to be home crafting, reading and cooking with littles, and we do lots of it. Since we have so many apples on hand (as I'm sure some of you do), it's time for some baking, reading, and science(ing?).

Today we did the obvious apple sauce, since all the littlers were sleeping and it was just Jude and I. He's grown to be a great kitchen helper, so apple sauce only takes about half an hour. He got his own set of kitchen knives for his birthday this past year, and they are awesome. I do the peeling and coring, he did the chopping all by himself. The nice thing about apple sauce is that the size of the apples makes no difference,unlike with a pie, so messy chopping is all good! I highly recommend these knives if you have a toddler who wants to help in the kitchen!
Curious Chef Knives via Amazon
We make our favorite apple sauce every year, and it's so simple it's hardly a recipe. We fill a Dutch oven with the peeled chopped apples (I used a full peck of apples), the rind of one lemon (try to keep the peel in one piece so it's easy to remove later), 1 tsp. of cinnamon and a 1/4 tsp. of nutmeg. Squeeze the lemon juice over and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally until apples are softened and break down easily. You can mash it with the back of a spoon or puree with an immersion blender if you wish. This yields about a quart and a pint of applesauce, which goes really fast around here! 

While we make our apple sauce we always talk a little about irreversible change, observe the differences in our apples from start to finish, and review kitchen safety, too. There's a cute episode of Sid the Science kid that uses apple sauce as a science experiment, just in case you have Netflix! 

We also read a few new appley books today, and there are so many out there! I grabbed a few at the library yesterday, and was so happy that they turned out to be great ones! We started with Apple Pie ABC by Allison Murray, which is a quick board book with adorable illustrations and some great new vocab. Jude now knows "ogle," "pine." and "determined!" It follows a little dog through the alphabet while he tries to get a slice of the apple pie his owner has baked and not shared with her little pup.

The next book was Rain Makes Applesauce which I chose by the cover (shame on the teacher in me). It's lovely, just lovely. The illustrations are beautiful, the story is so clever and creative, and Jude loved the silly parts. It's like it came straight from a child's imagination. I'm ordering a copy!

Rain Makes Applesauce via Amazon

The last book is not apple themed, but it's a cookbook and it has a great Apple Charlotte recipe in it! If you love Mary Poppins or quirky stories like I do, the book Mary Poppins in the Kitchen will be a favorite. It's definitely for the older set, but I read the first chapter aloud to Jude today and he loved it. We will likely do a chapter a day and try to bake as many of the recipes as we can. We're going to make the Apple Charlotte for tonight's dessert!
Mary Poppins in the Kitchen via Amazon
What are some of your favorite books to read this time of year? 
Please let me know so I can add them to our book list!

We have yet to do a new apple craft project, but we did a ton of apple stamping last year. We did mini tote bags, lunch bags and pencil cases for party favors, and they are so cute and easy! It's a "hardly any prep" craft, so I'm sure we'll do it again this year! 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

One Last Hoorah and a Crazy Cannoli Cake

My next 5 Day Clean Eating Challenge begins tomorrow, and how did I spend my weekend? Making this cake of course. This mouth watering, over the top, totally swoon worthy cake. My neighbor turns 30 today (BABY! I feel like 30 was so long ago) and his lovely wife asked me to bake him a cake. Cannoli are his favorite, but of course, I have never made or eaten a cannoli cake. As with all new things, I had to go overboard. I looked at a bunch of recipes and pictures for ideas, and then put together a bunch of my own favorite family recipes to put together this cake. My grandmother's cannoli cream, my mom's vanilla cake, and my aunt's chocolate cake were added to a frosting I made up on the fly and Bakerella's ganache (it's better than Martha's!).

My issue with cannoli has always been that they are too sweet! This cannoli cream isn't overly sweet, and the frosting isn't either, even with all of that sugar. The cinnamon and lemon zest really help cut the sweetness, and the ganache adds a richness that is decadent, but not toothache inducing. While this cake does take time to put together, I promise you that it's worth it. When you need a showstopper for a special event, this is the cake. Trust.

One recipe vanilla cake baked in 8 inch round cake pans and cooled. 

Chocolate Cake (it's vegan!)
1 2/3 cups flour1/4 cup cocoa
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt1/2 tsp. vanilla1 cup water1/3 cup vegetable oil1 tsp. white vinegar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray an 8 inch round cake pan with cooking spray. Line the bottom with parchment. Whisk all dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Add wet ingredients and whisk until combined. Pour  into prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes or until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan before inverting. Dust with powdered sugar and serve warm.

Cannoli Cream Filling
4 cups whole milk ricotta cheese
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 cup heavy cream
zest of one lemon
1/2 cup mini semi sweet chocolate chips

Beat ricotta in a large bowl until fluffy and smooth. Sift in sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg and beat to combine. In a second bowl, beat cream until fairly stiff. Fold cream into ricotta mixture. Fold in lemon zest and chips.

Ganache (from Bakerella)
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup butter
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels

Heat cream and butter in a saucepan over medium high heat until melted and remove before it starts to boil. Place chocolate morsels in a small bowl and pour cream on top. Let sit for a two minutes before whisking by hand until completely smooth. Let cool until thick and pourable, more like fudge sauce than chocolate syrup (you can put it into the fridge to speed this up). Just use a whisk to stir it occasionally!

Cannoli Frosting
2 cups vegetable shortening
2 lbs. powdered sugar
1/2 -1/3 c. milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
zest of a lemon

In a large bowl, beat shortening until fluffy. Sift in half of the powdered sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add 1/4 c. of milk and beat to combine. Gradually add more sugar and/or milk until you reach the desired consistency. I prefer a stiffer frosting when piping roses, but a fluffier frosting for crumb coating, so it is up to you! Fold in lemon zest at the end.

Slice your chocolate and vanilla cake rounds into two layers. Place one vanilla layer on your plate and pipe a thick circle of frosting around the outside edge. This will keep your cannoli cream from sneaking out!

 Fill the circle with cannoli cream and lay a chocolate cake layer on top. 

Repeat for each desired layer (the cake pictured had lots of travel to do, so it was only three layers!). Crumb coat the cake and refrigerate for at least an hour. Remove the cake and cover with a smooth layer of frosting. Whisk ganache to be sure it is smooth and pour slowly from the center of the cake to allow a small amount to drip over the sides. You won't need it all! If you choose to decorate with a cannoli, just fill with extra cannoli cream, pipe a few frosting roses or stars in the center and top with your cannoli.

Got extras? Little cannoli cream filled cupcakes are amaaazzziiing:) 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

My Shakeology Top 15!

After Eden was born and Jude started pre school, I found myself in a funk. Scrambling to get out the door with a newbie and a pre schooler oftentimes ended in a hot mess. I would grab a banana on my way out, inhale it at drop off, and then run home to get the baby to bed. Queue the mad mama nap rush of trying to vacuum floors, fold clothes, pick up messes and every other thing that you can think of doing before the baby wakes up. You know the drill. Then suddently I had to pick up Jude. And I forgot to eat. So now I'm crazed, hangry mama at the Dunin Donuts drive thru. Large iced cookie dough extra extra and a bagel with cream cheese? Yes, please. Aaaand here comes the crash by lunchtime where I clean my kids' plates of leftover macaroni and cheese. Something had to giiiive.

For me the answer came in the form of my adorbs little friend Allison, a Texan whom we befriended in Michigan before we moved to the Jerz. She introduced me to Shakeology, and BOOM. This chick was hooked. No more hangry morning rush, no more Dunkin runs in desperation, no more day long bingeing and shitty food choices. 

I started with vanilla and quickly branched out. I love variety, and I love food, so I needed to have an arsenal of options. Almost a year of drinking Shakeology has led me to a handful of favorites, and I'm constantly coming up with new things. Inspiration is all over, like the Australian Nutella Bella Milkshake that exploded the internet a few weeks back. Yeah, I had to have that. And now you can, too, but with the added benefits of super foods and protein and zero guilt. You're welcome.

So here they are! My top 5 favorite Shakeology recipes for each of my three favorite flavors:) No pudding powders, no added sugars, no added fats. Like any recipe, you may want to play with measurements, since I generally eyeball it. You may like your shake thicker, or colder, so add whatever amount of liquid or ice ou need to fit your taste.

Have some favorites of your own? I'd love to see them!

Black Forest
Scoop of chocolate shakeology
1 c. pitted cherries
8 oz. almond milk

Almond Joy
Scoop of chocolate shakeology
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1/4 c almonds
8 oz. coconut milk
1/4 c. flaked unsweetened coconut

Sea Salt Caramel
Scoop of chocolate shakeology
1/8 tsp. caramel extract
8 oz. almond milk
dash of sea salt

Instead of THIS!
Scoop of chocolate shakeology
8 oz coconut milk
1/4 c. flaked, unsweetened coconut
1/2 tsp caramel extract

Nutella Donut Shakeology
Scoop of vanilla shakeology1 tsp Drostes Cocoa

1/2 whole wheat graham cracker6 oz. almond milk 6 oz. cold water
1/2 c. hazelnuts
1/2 tsp each cinnamon and vanilla extractIce 

The Elvis
Scoop of vanilla shakeology
8 oz. almond milk
1 frozen banana
1 Tbls peanut butter
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Scoop of vanilla shakeology
1 cup coffee ice cubes
8 oz vanilla almond milk
1/2 tsp. chai spice

Pumpkin Spice
Scoop of vanilla shakeology
1/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 tsp. cinnamon
dash of nutmeg
drizzle of raw honey
8 oz. almond milk

Vanilla Berry
Scoop of vanilla shakeology
1 cup frozen berries and kale (Waldman's makes a great mix!)
8 oz. vanilla almond milk
dash of cinnamon

Vacation Mode
Scoop of strawberry shakeology
8 oz. coconut water (fresh is awesome!)
1/2 frozen banana
1/2 c. pineapple

Citrus Burst
Scoop of strawberry shakeology
1 clementine
1/2 cup pineapple
8 oz. cold water 

Strawberry Mojito
Scoop of strawberry shakeology
1/4 cup mint leaves
8 oz water

Strawberry Cheesecake
Scoop of strawberry shakeology
1/2 c. cottage cheese
8 oz. vanilla almond milk
dash of cinnamon

Dark Chocolate Covered Strawberry
Scoop of strawberry shakeology
1 tsp. dark cocoa powder
8 oz. almond milk
1 cup coffee ice cubes

Monday, August 03, 2015

Clean Grillin'

Today is the first day of my 5 Day Clean Eating Challenge! I can't believe it, but over 100 people have joined the group, and so far we are off to a great start. This dish above is the lip smackin' first dinner, and it's a keeper. Grilled Chicken and Eggplant Parmesan, fresh grilled tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella. Drooool. I kept the pasta (whole wheat here, but you can do quinoa, garbanzo, rice, whatever) because my kids, heck, most kids, love pasta, and I didn't want to overwhelm anyone with a super strict meal plan the first go-round! Yes, I know pasta is processed, as is cheese, cooked oats, whatever. For this challenge the focus is more about limiting the processed foods and making healthier choices, not banning them entirely, You just have to decide where to draw the line for yourself, and start there! I'd start with this dish. 
It is so good, you won't miss that greasy breaded crust at all, Not one bit.

Grilled Chicken and Eggplant Parmesan
4 chicken breasts, sliced in half lengthwise
1 large eggplant, peeled and sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
4 large tomatoes, sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
Extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing
Salt, Pepper, Cayenne Pepper
1 clove minced garlic
1/4 cup finely shredded basil
6 ounces mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
WW Pasta of your choice
Fire roasted tomatoes, 1 can
Optional seasonings: dried oregano, red pepper flakes, thyme

Heat up your grill and set oven temperature to 450 degrees. Brush the chicken, eggplant and tomato slices with olive oil and season lightly with cayenne, salt and pepper. Grill the chicken until cooked through, about 5-6 minutes. Grill eggplant over moderately high heat, turning once, until softened and lightly charred, about 4 minutes. Grill the tomatoes, turning once, until lightly charred but still intact, about 2 minutes.
Line a large baking dish with parchment paper or grease with a little oil. In the center, arrange half of the eggplant and chicken, overlapping the slices slightly. Top with half of the grilled tomatoes, sprinkle with half the basil and mozzarella. Repeat with the remaining ingredients, ending with the cheese. Bake in the center of the oven for about 10 minutes, until bubbling and golden. Boil pasta while eggplant bakes. Drain and toss with canned tomatoes, garlic, additional seasonings of your choice and reserved basil.

NOTE – Do you have a cast iron pan? If so you can skip the oven! Layer your ingredients in the cast iron pan after grilling and put it back on the grill over low heat. Lower the lid and let bake for about 8-10 minutes. You can even put the pasta and tomato in the bottom of the pan and then layer your ingredients on top!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Yeah, I know. I've been lax again. Kids. Life. Work, y'know? Nooooot gonna beat myself up about it.

We are in full summer swing, which around here means hanging at the lake, driving up to Rhody beaches and eating everything in sight. I mean it. I've been eating everything in sight. We recently did our annual beach rental and I can't even believe how off the rockers we went with food. We hosted BBQs and went out often. Clam cakes and New England clam chowder, beer, Allie's donuts, pizza strips, potato salad, ice cream from Aunt Carrie's, beer, hotdogs, Cheese Balls, and did I mention the beer? I came home feeling like a depressed slug. The entire next week I was exhausted. I couldn't keep up with my toddler and I was snappy with everyone. It sucked. I knew it was time for a quick reset. I joined a girlfriend's challenge group to get back into my regular eating and exercising plan and I felt better in just a few days. 7 days in and I have even lost a couple of inches (probably inches of beer).

In talking with a few friends I realized they were all in the same shame filled boat, too. Since I'm a planner and a bit food obsessed (duh), I thought it would be fun to do a challenge group of my own! I would make a meal plan, shopping list and recipe file! Fun! 5 days, clean foods, kid friendly. Easy right? I opened a group, invited some pals on Facebook, and within a few days 60 people had joined. 60. Fuck. I began to get performance anxiety and to freak out about pleasing 60 people. Then I thought, "Shoot. I don't give a shit. If these 60 people throw out one gross food item and find 1 new thing they like eating this week, great. Goal accomplished." So the more the merrier!

Want in? Here's what is involved:
- Pledge to eat clean for 5 days, August 3-7th
- Follow the provided meal plan for the 5 days (to the best of your ability)
- Complete the daily check-ins to enter yourself for prizes!

Click on this link to add yo'self: August Clean Eating Challenge

I'll be posting the recipes here too, so if you aren't a joiner, you can still eat like one.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Milk Maid

It's all about the boobs once again in the Bean household. 

Nursing Jude was an amazing journey, one that I am still immensely proud of, but one that wasn't always simple. We had our early struggles, but finding Boobie Group was my saving grace. Those 12 ladies are my Jersey fam, and without them I would certainly not be where I am now. Nursing Eden has been smooth sailing so far, so I only popped into a group meeting once for the Valentine's Day party, and then only because my badass doula would be there. That woman is the BOMB. Anywho, I started off on the right foot nursing partly because I never had any supply issues this time around. One of the main reasons is that I knew how much extra water I had to drink, knew what foods to avoid and increase, and also (and best!) because I had Boobie Cookies. My friend Amy makes the. best. lactation cookies, and she brought a dozen over when we brought Eden home. One a day and I was good to go. Little lady is a satisfied babe. However. a cookie a day, no matter how much it supports milk production, is still a cookie a day. Full of butter, sugar, and chocolate, those bad boys weren't going to get me into skinny jeans any quicker.

I needed to find a substitute and fast. I stumbled upon a delicious looking oatmeal muffin recipe from Vintage Kids, Modern World, and got to baking. I wanted to add in the go to ingredients for milk production (brewer's yeast, flax seed, and fenugreek) and take it another step. I added carrots and walnuts for an an extra boost, used honey for sweetness and swapped in coconut oil for a healthier fat (visit Healthful Mama for explanations about this list!). The result is a hearty, healthy muffin that is lightly sweet and super effective for increasing your supply. With no guilt. Promise.

Carrot Cake Oatmeal Boobie Muffins (to promote healthy lactation)
makes 1 dozen muffins

1 c. rolled oats
1 c. whole wheat flour
4 Tbls. flax seed meal
4 Tbls. Brewers yeast
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. coconut oil, melted
1 egg
1 c. buttermilk
1 c. shredded carrot (about two medium carrots)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 c. golden raisins
1/2 c. dried pineapple, chopped

Whisk flour and oats together in a medium bowl and pour buttermilk over. Refrigerate at least 4 hours, preferably overnight. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease or line muffin tin. Add all ingredients except carrot, nuts, and raisins and blend until well combined. Fold in carrots, nuts, and raisins. Divide evenly among muffin tins and bake 12 -15 minutes or until just golden. Cool on a wire rack. Freeze any muffins you will not consume in a day or two!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Lucky Treats

Yikes. So you remember that cereal milk buttercream frosting I made for E's birthday cake? Well, as big as the cake was, I still had at least a full cup of sticky goodness left over after frosting it. You know how much I hate to waste things. I just couldn't throw it away, and while I'm not above putting frosting on... oh, maybe a waffle at breakfast, or even (gasp!) stirring a spoonful into a hot cup of coffee, enough was enough. It had to go. Of course, there was also an almost full box of Lucky Charms sitting waiting for someone to liberate it. See, as much as E loved them as a kid, after his birthday breakfast was over they went into the cabinet of shame next to the Oreos. I've been doing a 40 Bags in 40 Days challenge for Lent, and the kitchen pantry is one of the areas that needed unloading. Any half boxes of anything, any past expiration date cans, anything I bought thinking it would be useful (or worse, because it was on sale!) went out! I donated a bag to the food pantry at church and a bunch went straight into the trash. That big box of marshmallow ick? Into cookies. Where else? I used my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe for the base and went from there. And even if these cookies are the size of my hand, I just had to sandwich them together with a big shmear of cereal milk buttercream. And then I gave them all away. 

Lucky Charms Sandwich Cookies
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup raw sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
2 cups Bob's Red Mill White Whole Wheat Flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp. vanilla extract 
2 cups Lucky Charms cereal

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter and sugar until fluffy and pale. Add egg and almond extract and beat until just combined. Sift flour, baking soda, and salt and add to the mixer at low speed. Scrape the bowl and mix until just combined. Fold in cereal. Drop dough by rounded spoonfuls onto prepared baking sheets and bake for 12-14 minutes or until golden. Allow to cool for five minutes on the sheet before transferring to wire racks. Smear cookies with a generous tablespoon (or two!) of buttercream and sandwich together.