Wednesday, June 29, 2011


I love hummus and it's so easy to make at home! I found this great recipe that I've been using with a few minor adjustments. The biggest difference is I rinse and cook the chickpeas first. I've found that it makes the finished hummus taste much better. I also cook the garlic in my toaster oven. No point in heating up the whole kitchen for 3 little cloves!


3 large garlic cloves, peeled
1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 15 oz. can chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans), drained & rinsed
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 tablespoons tahini paste
3 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon paprika

  • Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place garlic cloves on a small piece of foil and drizzle with 1 teaspoon olive oil. Seal foil to form a pouch, and roast garlic in oven until soft, about 20 minutes.
  2. Pour chickpeas into a microwavable container. Cover and cook on high 2-3 minutes. Let cool slightly and transfer to the bowl of a food processor.
  3. Add the garlic, lemon juice, tahini paste, water, salt, cayenne pepper, paprika, and 1 tablespoon olive oil, and process until the texture is light and fluffy but not entirely smooth, about 2 minutes. 

I generally serve hummus with tortilla chips or crackers, but it's also great with sliced vegetables and pita bread.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The one that got away...

Last weekend we headed up north for a quiet weekend at the cabin. The craziest things seem to happen when we go up there alone... Last time a bear crossed the road right in front of us while we were driving home! I spent much of my young life staring out the window, on our long drives to my grandparents house and back, squinting into the woods in search of bears.

Anyways, so Noah, Abe, and I were at the cabin. Noah went down to the dock to fish while Abe and I played on the lower deck. It didn't take Noah long to hook a small fish (about 6 inches long), but the hook was stuck in it's throat, so I offered to hold the pole to keep the fish in the water while Noah ran up to the cabin to get some pliers.
Abe and I were sitting on the dock watching the fish swim in a small circle when a bigger fish swam up and then disappeared under the dock. A few minutes later it returned, took a little nip at the small fish's tail and swam off. I yelled to Noah joking that he'd better "hurry up before this fish gets eaten!" when all of a sudden the big fish came back, opened it's mouth wide, and half swallowed the little fish!
Just then Noah stepped on the dock and the big fish spit out the smaller one and swam away. I pulled the stunned little fish out of the water and we could clearly see bite marks on either side where his scales had been stripped off.
Noah spent the next hour trying to catch the "big one" with no luck, but as I was packing up Abe's stuff and getting ready to go, I noticed his pole was bent and he was reeling something in. I picked up Abe and we went down to the shore to watch. Noah turned to tell us it was just a log, when a huge fish surfaced, rolled, and spit out his lure. The line snapped back and the lure flew about 20 feet to land on the pontoon behind Noah!

Next time we go up there we're bringing bigger hooks...and a net.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Five Little Ducks

Abe loves to read books (although washing labels on his stuffed animals will do in a pinch). Before we even brought him home from the hospital his 10-year-old bookworm cousin, Chloe, told me, "make sure you read to him every day. Even babies like books." So I've read to him since he was a newborn baby. 
Now at 9 1/2 months old, he'll sit on the floor with a stack of books and look through them much longer than he'll play with any of his toys. I'm glad he developed that love of books early on. Whether he's admiring the pictures, trying out new words, or just bonding with mommy and daddy, I feel like books are already playing an important role in his development. 
We have an extensive collection of books - mostly purchased back when I was teaching. As a child, my favorite authors/illustrators were Syd Hoff, Richard Scarry, and of course, Dr. Seuss. When I was teaching I was introduced to other illustrators that I immediately fell in love with, including Eric Carle, Felicia Bond, and Nadine Bernard Wescott. As a result, the small collection of books that I'd saved from my childhood grew and grew and GREW! 
It's been fun sharing these stories with Abe and seeing which ones he's drawn to. I bought him Five Little Ducks as a Christmas gift, and it's been a favorite ever since.

Five Little Ducks by Dan Yaccarino

It's a classic children's song about five little ducks that go out into the world, and each time their mother calls them back, one duck is missing. This song is considered public domain so there are a million different versions of this book to choose from. I never considered buying one until I found this copy by one of my new favorite illustrators, Dan Yaccarino.
Not only are his illustrations surreal and amazing, but he's changed the song slightly, so instead of just going over the hills and far away, these little ducks go to exciting new places each time they go out. This book is perfectly readable, but if you prefer to sing it, he rewrote the story in such a way that it still works with the original tune. 
Unfortunately, this gorgeous board book is out of print, but used copies are usually cheap and easy to find online. 

Do you have a favorite children's book, author, or illustrator? I'll be reviewing more of our favorites in the weeks to come, but I'm always looking for more great books to check out!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Homemade Baby Food

I decided long before Abe was born that he would be getting homemade baby food once he started on solids. When I planted my garden I made sure to include carrots, corn, green beans, and other vegetables I thought a baby might enjoy. It turned out to be much easier than I expected and the finished purees taste like fresh fruits and vegetables! Definitely better than the overcooked, over-processed mush I remember...and did I mention, cheaper?

So here are my basic tips and instructions for making baby food from scratch:

1. Clean, peel, and chop your fruits or vegetables. It's fine to leave the skins on for added vitamins and fiber, but I peeled anything in the Dirty Dozen unless it was organic or came from my own garden.

2. There are a few different cooking methods to choose from. For the most part I simmered fruits, steamed vegetables, and roasted sweet potatoes and squash.

To simmer: Place chopped fruit into a small pot or saucepan and add just enough water to cover the bottom of the pan. (You can simmer juicy fruits like pears and plums without water.) Cover and cook over low heat until soft (less than 5 minutes for most fruits). Reserve juice to thin puree if needed.

To steam: Place vegetables in a steamer set over boiling water. Cook for 10-15 minutes or until tender. Reserve cooking water to thin puree if needed.

To roast: Preheat oven to 400° F. Spread the chopped vegetables on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil. Roast until the vegetables are very tender when pierced with a fork, about 20 minutes. 

3. Transfer the cooked fruits or vegetables to a small pot and, using a stick blender, puree until smooth. (You can also use a regular blender or food processor for this step.) 

4. If needed, push the puree through a sieve with a rubber spatula, then add reserved juice or water to thin the puree to the desired consistency. 

5. Spoon puree into ice cube trays (I used these ones from Oxo) and freeze immediately.

6. Once frozen, transfer cubes to freezer-safe storage bags, label, and return to the freezer.

7. Thaw individual portions in the refrigerator overnight, or heat in the microwave on high for about 30 seconds. Let cool completely before serving.

A few additional tips:

Avocados & Bananas - it's probably easier to just mash up a fresh avocado or banana but, if you have some that are overripe or leftover, they do freeze well. Thaw in the refrigerator and stir before serving. They will be a bit discolored but are still fine to eat.

Berries - Skip the prep work by using frozen berries! 

Meats - Cook meat however you would normally make it, then grind with blender or food processor adding water to make a thick paste. My son wasn't crazy about meat on it's own, but when I mixed it with vegetables he loved it.

Prunes - I used Sunsweet's new D'Noir Prunes which are preservative free. Absolutely amazing. (Yes, even I ate this puree!) Completely cover with water before simmering. The cooked prunes are super thick when blended, so you'll probably end up adding most of the water back into this puree.

I had fun picking out different fruits and vegetables for Abe to try, and he really seemed to like them all. Once he had tried them each on their own I started mixing them with other purees and new ingredients. A few that went over really well: sweet potato + plums, apples + squash, corn + potatoes + turkey, carrots + peas + corn, apples + cinnamon, broccoli + cheese, avocado + yogurt, and potatoes + cheese + beef. I also mixed rice or multi grain cereal with the vegetable purees, and usually served him oatmeal mixed with fruit or berries for breakfast. 

Most babies get to a point where they don't want to be spoon fed anymore, and it's pretty hard to eat purees with your fingers. Try mixing leftover pureed vegetables with pasta, putting a spoonful on soft crackers, or serving as a dip with finger foods. Fruits and berries are a great addition to oatmeal, yogurt, or mixed with sparking water for a healthy soda!