Warm Apple and Butternut Squash Salad with Sugared Pecans

This salad, while sounding very fancy and healthy, is my middle-of-the-road answer to those cravings. It is loaded with good-for-you fats and antioxidants, but also has a bit of that naughty sweetness to keep you coming back for more. 

Café Recap: Homemade Baby Food

Our chefs: Melissa Kan, Kerissa Williams, and Laura Walker, and our moderator: Erica Wolfe.

Today's cafe is a "discovery" format, with hands-on participation from the audience. In this instance, we'll be taste-testing! Erica will provide some background information on feeding babies and toddlers, and recipes will be included for the foods available today. Baby food recommendations seem to be constantly evolving as our understanding of nutrition changes, and so we remind you to always check with your pediatrician before making decisions about your child's diet.

The AAP's current Infant Feeding Tips are as follows:

  • Breastfeeding: Exclusive breastfeeding for the first year (see specific language from “Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk”)
  • Bottle Feeding: Avoid bottle propping; Only breastmilk or formula in bottle unless otherwise directed by physician
  • Food Introduction: Introduce solid foods around 6 months of age; Expose baby to a wide variety of healthy foods; Also offer a variety of textures
  • Healthy Snacking: After 9 months, offer 2-3 healthy and nutritious snacks per day; Maintain fruit and vegetable consumption after finger foods are introduced
  • Foster Self-feeding: Babies are encouraged to use spoons and fingers to feed themselves; Babies are encouraged to drink from a cup starting at 6 months of age; Parents recognize hunger and satiety cues
  • Healthy Drinks: Babies should drink breastmilk or formula for the first year of life; Try to avoid introducing juice until child is a toddler. If juice is introduced, wait until 6-9 months and limit consumption to 4-6 ounces; Avoid introduction of sugar-sweetened beverages

The website Wholesome Baby Food is a great resource for new parents. There are suggestions for when and how to introduce new foods, as well as recipes and advice. When making homemade baby food, they recommend the following:

  • ALWAYS consult your pediatrician prior to beginning any new food for your infant. Discuss making homemade baby food with your pediatrician. Learn more about infant feeding at the World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics websites.
  • THINK about following the 4 day wait rule when introducing a new food to baby - offer your baby the same new food for 4 days to test for allergies to that food. This applies even when you are making homemade baby food. Never introduce more than 1 new food at a time when first beginning solid foods.
  • ALWAYS use clean hands, clean cooking utensils, preparation surface(s), pots/pans etc when making and and preparing homemade baby food. Cleanliness and Food Safety is a MUST when making homemade baby food.
  • REMEMBER that all babies are different and will not like/tolerate the same foods or food textures. DO NOT DESPAIR! You should be willing to experiment with baby solid food for your baby. Offer your baby different foods, use different ways of preparing those baby foods and be willing to have a huge store of patience.

As we begin introducing babies to solid foods, it can be difficult to know how much to feed them. Remember that breastmilk or formula should still be the main source of nutrients. The purpose of introducing solid foods before one year of age is to get baby used to new tastes, textures and consistencies of food, which will later help them develop a healthy and balanced diet.

How Much Food Should My Baby Eat?

Remember the catchy phrase, "Food Before One is Just for Fun".

It is most important to ensure that your baby is still receiving proper amounts of breast milk and/or formula. Early solid foods are meant more for practice than nutrition.

4-6 Months: Always offer solids after bottle or breast. Baby may eat anywhere from 1-3 tablespoons of food at 1 or 2 "meals"

6-8 Months: Formula and/or Breast Milk is still most important at this age and stage. Babies in this range may be just starting solids so the above for 4-6 Months would apply. Some babies may be eating up to 8 ounces of solid foods between 2-3 "meals" during a day.

8 Months and on: Many babies will be eating 3 "meals" per day at this stage; including a grain, fruit, veggie and a meat or protein source such as eggs.

-Pay attention to your baby's cues as your baby's feeding patterns will change daily and may be affected by the goings-on around him. Your baby will eat just the right amount for YOUR baby. Watch his signs for being both hungry and full.

-Pay attention to diaper output and have your child weighed regularly if you are concerned about weight gain.

How Do I Prepare Early Foods?

Mash It: Many foods can be mashed with a fork or potato masher. Foods such as ripe bananas, avocados and soft cooked foods such as sweet potato, apples or squash can all be made with a fork or potato masher. Using a fork or masher will depend on what type of texture your baby requires.

Use a Food Mill: Cut the food into pieces. Put the cooked food through the food mill. (The skin and seeds will stay in the mill.)

Chop or Grate Baby’s Food: Foods can be finely chopped or grated (with a cheese grater), then mixed with liquid. This is great for babies who are self-feeding.

Food Grinder: A food grinder can be used to grind up foods for your baby. This is a simple way to prepare meats and more textured foods. The food grinder is also great to take on vacation or when dining out with baby. You can quickly and easily grind up fresh baby food in your hotel or at the restaurant.

Blender or Food Processor: Add your cooked food to your blender or food processor and blend to the consistency your baby requires. If needed, add liquids such as breast milk, formula, water or the cooking water from the food you cooked to thin out the baby food.

Sieve or Strainer to Finish Homemade Baby Food: Many parents like to use a sieve or strainer to further thin homemade baby food. These gadgets may be particularly useful for foods that have stubborn skins, such as peas and green beans. Put the food into the sieve or strainer and push it through into a clean bowl. Repeat the process as many times as you need.

**The preferred method for cooking baby foods are steaming, baking, roasting and pressure cooking because these methods all have the least amount of nutrient loss after cooking.

Rice Cereal

You CAN skip cereals altogether if you want to. Many sources now recommend beginning a baby with fruits or an orange veggie like sweet potato as first food(s). Studies are now revealing that grains may not be good starter foods for baby to digest. Starting with a fruit like avocado or banana or a veggie like sweet potato is a great alternative to cereal(s).

There is no medical need to start baby out with cereals; unless your pediatrician has indicated your baby may need extra iron due to less than overall good health or due to being pre-term. In this instance, you should use a fortified commercial infant cereal and consult with your pediatrician on the best foods to offer as "first" foods; you may be surprised to hear your pediatrician recommend adding meat to baby's diet!

Dr. Frank Greer, from the Committee on Nutrition, American Academy of Pediatrics recently noted in an interview that "Rice cereal has traditionally been the first complementary food given to American infants, but “Complementary foods introduced to infants should be based on their nutrient requirements and the nutrient density of foods, not on traditional practices that have no scientific basis."

"Rice cereal is a less than perfect choice for the first complementary food given to infants. Rice cereal is low in protein and high in carbohydrates. It is often mixed with varying amounts of breast milk or formula. Although most brands of formula now have added iron, zinc, and vitamins, iron is poorly absorbed—only about 7.8% of intake is incorporated into red blood cells." - Read Rice Cereal Can Wait to learn about the new thinking from the AAP.

"For most babies it does not matter what the first solid foods are. By tradition, single-grain cereals are usually introduced first. However, there is no medical evidence that introducing solid foods in any particular order has an advantage for your baby." Source: 09/2008 - Starting Solid Foods (Copyright © 2008 American Academy of Pediatrics)

Always use brown rice when making homemade cereals, it's just more nutritious!

Baby Led Weaning (BLW)

Baby Led Weaning means letting your child feed themselves from the very start of weaning. The term was originally coined by Gill Rapley, a former health visitor and midwife.

**Language clarification: “Weaning” is meant in the British sense, not the American. In the UK, ‘weaning’ means ‘adding complementary foods’, whereas in the States it means ‘giving up breastfeeding’.

According to the most recent research most babies reach for food at around six months, which is also the time that mothers are being encouraged to wean* by their pediatricians, in accordance with the WHO guidelines. Baby Led Weaning (BLW) is skipping thin and runny purées and not feeding your baby with a spoon.

Baby Led Weaning means offering your baby (age appropriate) foods that are soft-cooked and cut or mashed into small easily manageable pieces. You may choose to offer your baby a large hunk of apple that she can easily hold and gnaw on or a bowl full of soft cooked mashed apples; the choice is yours. The foods are then given to your baby to eat without being pureed and without being spoonfed. You do the cooking, the cutting or mashing and the offering of the foods and your baby does the rest. It is important to note that your baby should be in control of what he is eating and you should never actually feed him by putting the foods into his mouth!


With that advice, Erica reminds us that baby food does not have to be homemade. Give it a try, and find the balance that works for your family. Finally, recipes! Below are links to the recipes we sampled this morning.

 "Nod to Cincinnati Chili"

When I was growing up, one of my favorite dinners was "Three-Way Chili" otherwise known as "Cincinnati Chili."

Did you know that Cincinnati Ohio has their OWN chili? They even have restaurants dedicated to this chili, called "Skyline Chili." I wish I could recommend that you go eat at one of these little diners the next time you are in Ohio but...from my experience, nothing beats homemade "Three-Way/ Cincinnati/ Skyline" Chili.

The reason is is called "Three-Way" is that you eat this chili on top of spaghetti and topped with cheese (Three components). There is also Four-Way (add beans) and Five-Way (add raw, diced onions). But the Arpke family always loved "Three-Way" the best.

My dad makes the best Three-Way ever. In fact, I used to say that I wanted to eat this chili at my wedding. Considering my nick-name was "Slop-Slop" while growing up, it is a good thing that I chose NOT to eat this in my wedding dress when I got married.

The thing is, my current Meng family doesn't LIKE "Three-Way." It was too spicy for them and the spaghetti was just weird to my husband (Psh, husband!).

So this recipe is a "Nod"to Cincinnati Chili. There are a few secret spices that make me think of my dad's chili but otherwise, it is just an absolutely delicious (non-spicy!) meat, beans, and tomato chili.

Or, as I have been told at a potluck I took this chili to: "This is the best chili I have ever eaten!"


So here it is: My "Nod to Cincinnati Chili"

Ingredients: 1 large or 2 medium onions, diced 1 lb ground beef 1 lb sausage (breakfast? Sage? spicy Italian? your choice!) 3-4 cloves of garlic (minced) (or a heaping tablespoon from a jar of minced garlic) 3 cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed 2 cans petite diced tomatoes, not drained 2 (8 oz) cans of tomato sauce 1 (6 oz) can tomato paste 5 cups water

Spices: (here's where it gets special)

Magic Spices (not pictured: Brown Sugar).

3 TB Chili powder 3 TB brown sugar 2 tsp unsweetened cocoa power* 1 tsp cinnamon* 1 tsp ground cumin 1 tsp dried oregano 1 tsp seasoning salt 1-2 bay leaves

See those stars above? It's the cinnamon and cocoa powder that give this chili the Cincinnati kick! If you want to make this chili with a packet of Chili seasoning from the store, go ahead! But don't forget the cinnamon and cocoa powder (and a bit of brown sugar!)

Make it! (start early in the afternoon so your chili can simmer away for a few hours)

Brown meat and onions in a large skillet over medium/high heat (or you can use your soup pot. I just find that it is easier to cook the meat in skillet). Drain fat and dump into a large soup pot. Key word: large.

Over medium heat, add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Add beans, tomato products, and water. Stir.

Add spices in a small bowl and mix until combined. Or just dump them in the pot. I just like the step of stirring all the spices together and then pouring such a delightful mixture into the pot.

This is where the magic happens. Your chili will turn from a tomato-red to a deep, dark, delicious, chili red. The cocoa powder is the key here to such a rich, dark color.

Bring your chili to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cock a lid over the chili, allowing a vent and simmer that baby for 2-4 hours, stirring occasionally. Your chili should get nice and thick. Before serving taste and adjust salt if needed.

My chili is simmering away on the stove. See that deep color? Mmm!

(I have made this in a crock pot too (cook meat and onions first, then dump everything in) but it doesn't get as thick as simmering it on the stove. Still yummy though!).

Enjoy the way your house smells all afternoon as you breathe in the heavenly scents.

Serve your chili plain or, the way I like it:  topped with sour cream, shredded cheddar-jack cheese, and a handful of fritos.


Recipe of the week: cheesy orzo with pancetta and peas

I don't know where he got his inspiration, but hubby had a stroke of genius last week when he suggested a yummy updated to one of our usual side dishes - cheesy orzo.  I present to you cheesy orzo with pancetta and peas (and yes, it could use a catchier title, but oh man, it's tasty!). The dish is quick and easy and only needs orzo, cream, cheddar, pancetta, and peas (chicken stock is optional).  I don't use measurements for these kinds of dishes, so it's a taste-and-adjust-as-you-go kind of meal.

Start by cooking however much orzo you want - this can be done in just plain water, or half water/half chicken stock.

While the orzo is humming along, you will want to cook your diced (not finely diced, but not too big either - I know, not scientific, but just roll with it) pancetta (thick cut bacon would probably also work, though I haven't tried that yet).  Cook the pancetta a little longer than you would usually cook bacon - the crunchy pieces will be a nice texture addition to the dish (be careful, though - I set off our smoke detectors this first time I made this).  You will also want to grate your cheddar cheese and cook your peas (canned peas can also be used, but I tend to prefer the consistency of frozen peas).

Once the orzo is cooked (slightly al dente, but very close to fully cooked), drain it, return it to the pot, and add some heavy cream.  Then start adding the cheddar, stirring it in as you add it.  Once you are happy with the cheesiness of the orzo, just add the cooked peas and pancetta.

This is a super simple side dish that is a wonderful addition to baked chicken, meatloaf, or fish, and can be adapted in so many ways to fit your preferences. Let me know what you think, if you give it a try!  I'd love to hear what some others choose to add to the base of cheese & orzo.

Recipe of the Week: Breakfast Puffs

Have you ever made Yorkshire pudding? I hadn't even heard of it until I was watching Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives on Food Network a few weeks ago. A Yorkshire pudding is a savory bread-like dish that is simultaneously crispy, chewy, and all around delicious!
I decided to make a sweet, breakfast version so here is my recipe for Breakfast Puffs!  They are a cross between a muffin, doughnut, and a pancake.
They are so easy that my son (who calls them "Hush Puppies"…go figure?) asked me to make them on a school morning and I easily agreed (granted, school starts at 8:35 for us so…we had a bit of time).
1 cup milk
3 eggs
dash of salt
2 TBS sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
Vegetable oil
Sliced strawberries
powdered sugar
Make it!
Preheat oven to 425 (key step!).
Warm milk in microwave for 60 seconds. This helps bring all the ingredients (including the cold eggs) to room temperature for optimum PUFF while baking.
In a blender, add milk, eggs, salt, sugar, vanilla, and then flour on top. Blend until smooth. Scrape down sides to incorporate all the flour and blend again if necessary.
Carefully pour one teaspoon of oil into 10 cups of a regular muffin tin. Put the muffin on a sheet pan (to  catch any overflow while the puffs cook) and put the tin in the oven while it is preheating. You want the oil to get nice and hot (but not smoke! so keep an eye on it. I usually put the tin in when the oven is half way heated and the oil does just fine).
Slice the strawberries and add a little sugar so they will make their own syrup. Set aside.
When the oven is preheated, pull the muffin tin out and carefully pour the batter into the cups, filling 2/3 of the way full. This recipe makes 10 puffs.
Put the tin back in the oven and set the timer for 25 minutes.
This recipe is very entertaining to watch bake! The puffs start out as a really thin, unimpressive batter and then they quickly puff up as they cook. It is really exciting. (if you get excited about food. I do!) I have actually put a chair in front of my oven and watched them bake the entire time! (can you say "food nerd"?) This morning, though, I took a shower while they baked. Hey, it was a school morning, after all.
When they are done, the puffs should be huge, (3+ inches above the tin) and golden brown. Loosen the puffs with a small knife and place them on a paper towel lined plate upside down to drain off some of the oil.
Note: The ONLY downside to these puffs is that they are hard to get out of the pan. I have tired cooking spray + oil, butter, more oil, etc. and every method sticks. So…just be prepared. But they are worth it, I promise!
Sprinkle puffs with powdered sugar and top with strawberries. Serve to your hungry kiddos!
Serves 4-6.
Yum! They are filling and delicious: crispy, chewy, and slightly sweet. Mmmm!

Recipe of the Week - Creamy Shrimp Pasta


I love to cook and I enjoy improvising from recipes I find online (or watch on Food Network or the Cooking Channel) to make dishes my own.  One of the super-easy recipes I make almost weekly is for Creamy Shrimp Pasta.  Now, I don't have specific measurements - I tend to cook to taste, so all of these directions should be amended to whatever size meal you are making and to your specific preferences.

Start some pasta cooking.  Hubby likes fettuccini, so that I what I use most often, but this dish would be yummy with any kind of pasta.

I use whatever size shrimp I have in the freezer (and that just depends on what I find on sale) and thaw and peel it.  I then sauté some chopped garlic (I like a lot of garlic, but, again, make this to taste!) in olive oil to start cooking.  Before the garlic is fully cooked, I add the thawed & peeled shrimp to cook up until they are just pink (it really only takes 3-4 minutes, depending the size of the shrimp).

Once the shrimp are cooked, I add some white wine and let that cook to burn off a little of the alcohol (this step can absolutely be left out if you prefer!).  To finish the dish, I add some heavy cream, salt, pepper and some cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes for a little heat.

Then toss the sauce with the fettuccini (or your pasta of choice), perhaps grate some parmesan cheese over it (if you are cheese lovers like we are) and serve!




Recipe of the Week - Chicken Parmesan

When asked to contribute a Recipe of the Week blog, I was thrilled! But while I have a ton of recipes (ask me about my homemade deodorant), I'm not the best writer. So let's see how this goes! I've been thinking about what kind of meals most moms I know really cook and I think it comes down to a couple of things.

  • Quick - there's a kid screaming somewhere.
  • Not a ton of ingredients.  It takes too long to get them together!
  • Nothing that requires unusual items.  After all, you don't want to buy something you're only going to use once.

I know we want to be super mom and do everything...AND do it perfectly!  But I think sometimes super mom is the mom who says, "Dinner is a ham sandwich and I have a child that needs me more."

I've got a few recipes to share that shouldn't take too long, but look and taste awesome.  And they are mostly healthy. What can I say, I'm Southern and I like butter! So here's my first contribution:

I'm not a huge Italian food fan, but this was really good! I made a few tweaks because I believe recipes are better when tailored to your family. In this case, I used Italian bread crumbs (no, I didn't make my own.  That seemed way too time consuming with that screaming child.), basil and oregano diced tomatoes.  Also, I skipped the fresh herbs because I didn't have them on hand.

Even with the changes, it was awesome!

Quick Chicken Parmesan

Quick Chicken Parmesan Recipe


  • 2, 8-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, divided
  • 1/2 cup coarse dry breadcrumbs, preferably whole-wheat
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1, 28-ounce can no-salt-added crushed tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil or parsley
  1. Cut each chicken breast in half on the diagonal to make 4 roughly equal portions. Place between pieces of plastic wrap and pound with the smooth side of a meat mallet or a heavy saucepan to an even 1/4-inch thickness. Sprinkle the chicken with 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Combine breadcrumbs and 1 tablespoon oil in a small bowl; set aside.
  2. Position rack in upper third of oven; preheat broiler to high.
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large, ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add half the chicken and cook until golden, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate. Reduce the heat to medium and repeat with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and chicken. Transfer the chicken to the plate.
  4. Add onion and garlic to the pan and cook, stirring, until beginning to soften, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Pour in crushed tomatoes; add Italian seasoning and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Return the pan to medium heat and cook, stirring, until the onions are tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Return the chicken and any accumulated juices to the pan. Turn to coat with the sauce.
  5. Sprinkle about 1/4 cup of cheese over each piece of chicken, then top with the reserved breadcrumb mixture. Broil until the cheese is melted, about 1 minute. (Watch carefully to prevent burning.) Serve the chicken with the sauce, sprinkled with basil (or parsley).

Original recipe found here.

Recipe of the Week - Deliciously Addictive Snack Crackers

I have yet to meet a person--adult or child--who did not like, no, LOVE these snack crackers. You will too. They are the perfect easy snack for holiday parties…and everyday too! There is no way to describe this snack other than it is delicious and addictive.

Oh, and easy too.


12-14 oz package of oyster crackers (sometimes called "soup crackers"), large or small

1 oz package of dry ranch dressing mix

1 tsp garlic powder (not garlic salt)

1/2 tsp dill weed

1/2 cup veg. oil

Make it!

In a large bowl, whisk together oil, ranch mix, and seasonings. Add crackers and stir well. Stir every 15 minutes for an hour to ensure thorough coating and all the seasoning soaks into the crackers. Store in an air tight container.



Seriously…Enjoy. I dare you to eat just one.

Recipe of the Week - Cranberry Treasure Cookies

Now, now, I know it's the new year and everyone has started their diet resolutions, but here's a cookie recipe you'll want to try anyway.  It's one that several of my family members have been baking for years, but I only just tried it myself.   It's super easy, very delicious and by golly, it calls for real fruit.  A diet win-win!

 Photo courtesy of www.goldmedalflour.com

Cranberry Treasure Cookies 1 2/3 cup flour 1 tsp baking soda 1/2 tsp salt 1/2 c butter, softened (Melted butter works, too.) 3/4 c packed brown sugar 1 egg 1 c fresh cranberries 1 tsp orange rind (My sister suggests using more.  I just used what I grated from one orange.  It was probably closer to a tablespoon.  Very orange-y = very yummy!) 1 1/2 white chocolate chips 1/2 c pecans, coursely chopped (Totally optional - I didn't use these.)

Preheat your oven to 375.  Use a mixer to combine the ingredients well.  Drop spoonfuls of dough on a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 12-14 minutes until lightly brown.

Yields 3-4 dozen if you make small cookies.

Recipe of the Week: French Pumpkin Soup

Jamie's Autumn Potage a Variation on a Variation of French Pumpkin Soup I got the recipe for this delicious soup at the farmer's market in Carrboro, North Carolina. The C'est si Bon! cooking school was advertising and had samples of the soup with the recipe to take home. The original recipe had some slightly exotic and/or expensive ingredients like leeks and baby fennel, so I've adapted it to ingredients that are more available and affordable. I absolutely love the flavor of this soup and if you puree it, it makes very nutritious baby food!

3 T of fat, olive oil, butter, duck, chicken or goose fat 2 large onions, chopped 1 celery heart, chopped 2 sprigs of fresh thyme (or a couple pinches of dried) 2 bay leaves 3 pounds of fresh pumpkin or other hard squash (I like butternut better than pumpkin), cut in 1" cubes 1 pound of carrots, chopped 8 cups of chicken stock salt and pepper heavy cream or plain yogurt, optional

Heat the fat in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions and celery, stir well, cover, and cook over LOW for 15 minutes. Do not brown them. (I add a little salt here to help sweat the veg.) Add the carrot and cook, covered, for another 10 minutes. Add the cubed squash to the pot, then the stock. Season with salt and pepper (go easy on the salt if using store-bought stock) and add the bay leaves and thyme. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer, partially covered for 45 minutes or until the squash is very tender. At this point you can either mash the soup with a potato masher or puree it with a stick blender. (I prefer to puree it.) If pureeing it in a blender or food processor, let it cool a bit first. If the soup is too thick for your liking, add more stock. Check seasoning and add more salt if needed. DSC_0401When serving you can drizzle a bit of cream or yogurt on the top.

I can't tell you how delicious and warming this is! Serve with some bread and cheese to fill out the meal.

Recipe of the Week - Mulligatawny Soup

I originally had this soup on a special lunch date with a friend. It has become a family staple, and my go-to meal for new mamas.
Original recipe from Joy of Cooking

Sauté lightly, but do not brown:
	1 cup diced onion
	6 diced carrots
	3 diced ribs celery
	¼ cup butter

Stir in:
	3 Tablespoons flour
	3 Tablespoons curry powder
Stir and cook them about 3 minutes.

Pour in and simmer 15 minutes:
	6 cups chicken or lamb broth
	2 bay leafs

Add and simmer 15 minutes longer:
	1 cup boiled rice
	2 cups diced cooked lamb
	1 teaspoon salt
	1 teaspoon pepper
	1/2 teaspoon thyme
	1 teaspoon grated lemon rind

Immediately before serving, stir in:
	½ cup hot cream or coconut milk
            1 cup diced tart apples

Serve & enjoy! Even better when prepared the day before and reheated. 

Recipe of the Week - Cranberry Ginger Smoothie

I am not even a "smoothie person".
I am a "I want to try my hardest to stay healthy this winter" person.
This is incredible.  Absolutely incredible.
Cranberry Ginger Smoothie 

Cranberry Ginger Smoothie


  • 8 oz fresh cranberries
  • 1/2 of an orange
  • 1/2 inch knob of fresh ginger- grated
  • 1 frozen banana- if your banana isn't frozen, just add 1 cup of ice
  • 3 tbsp raw honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup kefir. If you don't have kefir, you can use coconut milk or yogurt.


  • Chuck everything in your high speed blender and blend until smooth and creamy.
  • If the pulp from the orange bothers you go ahead and run the smoothie through a strainer. I leave it in.
  • Enjoy!


If you want to find out why this smoothie is so good for you, visit: http://ahappyhealthnut.com/2013/11/08/cranberry-ginger-smoothie/


Recipe of the Week: Butternut Squash Mac ‘n Cheeze

Husband approved. Cook approved. Vegan approved. Omnivore approved. ‘Nough said. Butternut Squash Mac n Cheese


This recipe is Vegan with Gluten-free & Nut-Free options

Yield: 4 servings or 1.5 cups of cheeze sauce


1 fresh butternut squash* (peeled and chopped) OR 1 cup canned butternut squash OR canned pumpkin Extra virgin olive oil, S & P 1 tbsp Earth Balance (or other non-dairy butter replacer) 3/4 cup unsweetened & unflavoured almond milk (revised from 1 cup) 1 tbsp arrowroot powder (or cornstarch) 6 tbsp nutritional yeast, or more to taste 2 tsp Dijon mustard 1/4-3/4 tsp garlic powder 1/2 tsp onion powder 1/2-1 tbsp fresh lemon juice 1/2-1 tsp kosher salt (to taste) & ground black pepper, to taste 4 servings brown rice macaroni (8oz or half a 16oz package) makes 3 1/4 cup cooked Mix-ins of choice (e.g., kale, spinach, broccoli, peas, pumpkin seeds, etc)

1. Preheat oven to 425F. Line a casserole dish with tin foil. Mix chopped squash with EVOO, S & P. Roast for about 40 minutes, uncovered, or until tender.

2. Meanwhile, prepare the cheeze sauce in a pot on the stove top. Add Earth balance over low-medium heat. In a bowl, whisk together milk and arrowroot powder (or cornstarch or flour) until clumps are gone. Add into pot and whisk. Stir in remaining ingredients (nutritional yeast, Dijon, garlic, lemon, S & P) and whisk over low heat until thickened (about 5-7 minutes or so).

3. Cook your pasta according to package directions. The sauce makes enough to cover 4 servings of pasta.

4. In a blender, blend the sauce with 1 cup of roasted squash (or if using canned, simply stir 1 cup into the pot).

5. Add cooked, drained, and rinsed macaroni into pot, along with cheeze sauce & mix-ins. Heat and serve.

Lauren's Notes: 1) My 3.5 pound squash made 5 cups cooked squash, so I had about 4 cups leftover. 2) The sauce does not cut in half well (the blender has a hard time blending it up) 3) I tried this recipe with canned pumpkin and it was awesome!

Read more: http://ohsheglows.com/2011/10/03/butternut-squash-mac-n-cheeze/#ixzz2gUMpfiPb

Recipe of the Week: Potato Soup

It's fall and that means soup season! Hooray! Not long ago, I was searching for something easy to make for dinner. Okay, I admit it, I'm not a good menu planner. My dinners are too often thrown together very last minute. And since I had two napping children and no time for a grocery run, it needed to be something that I could make entirely with household staples. I remembered someone mentioning potato soup earlier that week and thought it might fit the bill.

So I turned to the internet and found The Pioneer Woman's Perfect Potato Soup.

Oh Friends, it is perfect. The best part? It's fast. Really fast. Potato Soup

Basic Info: Prep Time: 10 Minutes / Cook Time: 20 Minutes / Servings: 12

Ingredients 6 slices Thin Bacon, Cut Into 1-inch Pieces - I had some leftover cooked bacon from the day before. Saved a little time and worked a-okay. I've also used chopped up ham from a leftover ham steak instead of bacon. Also delicious.

1 whole Medium Onion, Diced

3 whole Carrots, Scrubbed Clean And Diced - I've snuck broccoli in, too. Hey, I'm a mama of a toddler. Veggies get thrown in EVERYTHING.

3 stalks Celery, Diced

6 whole Small Russet Potatoes, Peeled And Diced - Confession: I don't like Russet Potatoes. I used red-skinned potatoes and didn't peel them, because I never do. Saves a step and doesn't matter one bit in the recipe.

8 cups Low Sodium Chicken Or Vegetable Broth - I make a lot of my own broth and freeze it. I've used chicken, lamb and ham broth. They all work great in this recipe.

3 Tablespoons All-purpose Flour

1 cup Milk

1/2 cup Heavy Cream - I use half and half because we always have it. And depending on how creamy you like the soup, you may opt to skip this ingredient completely.

1/2 teaspoon Salt, More To Taste

Black Pepper To Taste

1/2 teaspoon Cajun Spice Mix - I used a spicy BBQ seasoning I had on hand. You could try a little chile pepper or cayenne if you like spicy. Or leave this out. It's your soup, after all.

1 teaspoon Minced Fresh Parsley - Yes, dried is fine. Just adjust it to your liking.

1 cup Grated Cheese Of Your Choice - Cheddar is king in this house.

Preparation Instructions Add bacon pieces to a soup pot over medium heat and cook bacon until crisp and fat is rendered. Remove the bacon from the pot and set it aside. Pour off most of the grease, but do not clean the pot. (If you're using leftover bacon or ham, just heat a little olive oil in the pot so that you can start with the next step.)

Return the pot to medium-high heat and add the onions, carrots, and celery. Stir and cook for 2 minutes or so, then add the diced potatoes. Cook for 5 minutes, seasoning with salt, pepper, and Cajun spice.

Pour in the broth and bring it to a gentle boil. Cook for 10 minutes, or until the potatoes are starting to get tender. Whisk together the flour and the milk, then pour into the soup and allow the soup to cook for another 5 minutes.

Remove half to 2/3 the soup and blend in a blender/food process until completely smooth. Pour it back into the soup pot and stir to combine. **Now this is where I did things differently. I have a stick immersion blender. It is my new favorite kitchen tool. You don't need to transfer any hot liquid and blend in batches. Rather, you just stick it in your pot and blend. Total timesaver and makes a perfectly smooth soup. I find reasons to use it. Ree likes some chunks left in her soup, but I prefer it completely smooth.**

Once you've blended up the soup, taste it and adjust your seasonings. Then, stir in cream (if you want) and parsley. Save some parsley if you want to use it for a garnish.

Serve in bowls garnished with parsley, grated cheese and crisp bacon pieces.

So, so good. I serve this with some hot crusty bread. Yum!

Recipe of the Week - Amazing Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Our family has been on a grain free journey and sadly the ONE thing I had not been able to create without good-ole-fashioned FLOUR was a solid chocolate chip cookie. Until now. These cookies from Amee's Savory Dish were incredibly simple to throw together (even toddler helper friendly). And the taste is incredible. Incredible. They are not chalky, since there is no flour substitute at all, just the nut butter and shredded coconut working magic.

Make them. You will thank me. Well, maybe not after you have eaten all two dozen...

Chocolate Chip Cookies

  Almond Butter Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies from Amee's Savory Dish Adapted From Fast Paleo


  • 1 cup almond butter (love Barney Butter smooth!)
  • 1/3 cup honey (can sub real maple syrup)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 Tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 Tbsp. almond extract (or can use all vanilla extract) - (Lauren note: I would use all vanilla next time)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt (*only add the salt if you are using unsalted almond butter)
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 2/3 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (such as Enjoy Life brand)


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 2. Oil baking sheets or line with parchment paper. 3. Stir together first 7 ingredients. Mix well. Make sure honey is fully incorporated. 4. Add coconut and chocolate chips and mix until well combined. 5. Scoop with a cookie scoop onto cookie sheets. Bake 9-12 minutes or until lightly browned.
Yield: about 20 cookies with a level 2 Tbsp. cookie scoop (Lauren note: I got 24!)

Recipe of the Week - Kale with Garlicky-Lime Tahini Dressing

Kale with Garlicky-Lime Tahini Dressing Serves 1 (main course) Serves 2 (side dish)

Prep. time – 15 minutes

1/2 head of kale ¼ c. tahini ¼ c. EVOO Juice from 1 lime 3-4 large cloves garlic, minced/pressed ¼ t. coarse ground black pepper ½ t. anchovy paste

This recipe is to taste. Add more tahini, add less garlic, etc. to make it your own.

Rip kale leaves from stem, rinse and tear into bite size pieces. Place in serving bowl.

Place remaining ingredients in small mixing bowl and whisk for approximately one minute or until well blended and thick. Pour over kale.

Massage dressing WELL into kale with hands. Paying attention to the color and texture of the leaves. They should be bright green and soft.

Serve immediately as a side, or as a main with your choice of protein.

Refrigerate for up to a week.

Recipe of the Week - One Skillet Cowboy Breakfast

This month we took our annual vacation as a family. We decided to try something new and go camping - in a tent - with a 9 month old - and a 5 year old. It was - interesting! We did have fun, but I was beyond proud of myself for being extra prepared and for opting in to do a little extra work at home to eat well when we were there. Instead of the usual burnt hamburgers over the open flame, I did what my mother calls “hobo dinners”. Basically it was meat, veggies, olive oil, and seasonings in a foil packet. They were wonderful! You really can cook most anything over a campfire like that. I had something else in mind for our Sunday breakfast and I could not wait to try making a big cowboy breakfast in one skillet. Well, rain rain rain changed that plan. We did not get to cook that Sunday morning meal, so I used the same idea for a lower effort meal at home the next evening. Heck, half the prep was done!

I made a few minor changes to make things easier for me and boy was I glad that I did. I will include the original suggestions with a strikeout so you can see what I changed and add the variations. And since I had already prepared the “at home” ingredients, so the first part of this recipe was a snap!

Ingredients: 2 medium potatoes 4 small red potatoes 2 Tablespoons cooking oil 1 clove of garlic 1/2 small onion 1/3 lb. ground sausage 1 can of SPAM 5 eggs 1/2 cup cheddar cheese Salt & Pepper to Taste

Instructions: At Home: 1.  Dice the potatoes and onion into small, bite-size pieces. Store them in separate airtight containers. 2. Mince the garlic and place them in a separate container. 3. Shred the cheddar cheese. Pack them in a separate container.


At the Campground: 1. Add the oil to a large skillet and heat it on a stove (if you're camping with an RV) or over the campfire (if you're tent camping). 2. Fry the potatoes until golden. 3.  Add the onions and garlic and fry them until they start to change color. 4. Fry the sausage diced SPAM until they are brown heated all the way through, breaking it up as you cook it. 5. Add the eggs into the skillet, breaking the yolks and mixing them through the entire pan. Cook until the eggs have set. 6. Add the shredded cheddar cheese. Cover the pan for a few minutes to allow the cheese to melt. *I didn’t need to cover the pan…everything was hot enough to melt the cheese with a little mixing.

We absolutely loved this recipe. I loved that it was only one pan to clean up and that the entire family was salivating for more! Of course, you can use other veggies instead of potatoes and organic meat. (I could hear some of you cringing at the very mention of SPAM, but I’m not ashamed to say that I love it on occasion!!)


Recipe courtesy of : http://www.campingroadtrip.com/outdoor-living-newsletter-february-2012/ten-easy-breakfast-camping-meals

Recipe of the Week - Sweet Potato Brownies


This yummy recipe has been sweeping the internet lately. Who doesn't love a guilt-free brownie?!

Sweet Potato Brownies Prep time: 35 mins Cook time: 30 mins Total time: 1 hour 5 mins Serves: 5-8

Ingredients 1 sweet potato 3 eggs, whisked 1/4 cup Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil, melted 1/3 cup raw honey 1/2 cup Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips 3 tablespoons Coconut Flour 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder 1/4 teaspoon baking powder 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon pinch of salt

Instructions Time to bake that sweet potato. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees, use a fork to puncture holes all around it, then throw in the oven for 25-30 minutes. Once your sweet potato is soft and cooked through, peel off the skin and mash it up in a bowl. And turn your oven down to 350 degrees. Now add your wet ingredients: coconut oil, honey, vanilla, and whisked eggs to the bowl and mix together. Then add your dry ingredients: coconut flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and chocolate chips. Mix well to incorporate. Pour into an 8×8 glass baking dish Bake for 30-35 minutes. Let rest to cool a bit.

Recipe originally posted at: http://paleomg.com/sweet-potato-brownies/

Recipe of the Week - Mom's Fresh Mint Tea

Mint Tea

So, it's "Mama Confession Time" here at the Motherhood Collective. Ready? *Deep breath.*

I didn't plant my  garden this year.

Yikes, well there it is.  I know you all are just shocked.

I've got lovely garden boxes full of weeds because tending the babies won over tending veggies.  However, last year I planted mint.  Mint is a wonderfully easy herb to grow and once you plant it, it keeps coming back.

So I have tons of completely "free range" mint and I thought I'd share my mother's recipe for homemade mint tea. You can serve it unsweetened, lightly sweetened, or SUPER DUPER (aka Southern style) sweetened.

Photo courtesy of http://foodgirl-sweet.blogspot.comIngredients: A handful of mint - (Clearly cooking isn't always an exact science.) 7-9 black tea bags 1 gallon of water Your "sweetening" preference - sugar, honey, pixie sticks, etc.

To make a gallon, cut a big handful of mint, rinse it off and put it in a container with 7-9 black tea bags. Boil 2 quarts of the water. Pour the boiling water over the mint and tea bags. Cover it and let it steep about 10 minutes or until the next 2 quarts of water comes to a boil. Pour off the first batch into a gallon pitcher. Now, pour the second 2 quarts onto the same mint and tea bags. Steep another 10 minutes and add to the first batch. My mother adds about 3/4 cup of sugar, so that's what I do...because you should ALWAYS do what your mother tells you!

If you find that this makes your tea too strong, use fewer tea bags next time. If it's not sweet enough...well, add more sugar.

So as we reach the end of this summer, see if you can find a little remaining mint, and try this recipe.  And keep it in mind come spring.  If you plant a little mint, it will truly take care of itself and you'll be able to enjoy homemade mint tea all summer long!


Recipe of the Week - Garden Veggie Linguine with Cilantro Pesto

I may or may not have a secret love life with Pesto.  I love everything about him from his dairy free, herby, nutty, personality to his beautiful color and versatility.  And I love to just eat him up with a spoon. Every now and then, pesto and I go out on the town.  We normally meet up with pasta and veggies.  We have a grand ol’ time.

I thought I’d share this pairing with you.  This version of pesto is good for many reasons—summery, inexpensive, and easy.

So enough about my love life.  On to the ingredients to create your own affair.

Image sourced from: http://www.bhg.com/recipe/pasta/garden-veggie-linguine-with-cilantro-pesto/


8 oz. dry linguine or fettuccine (I use half whole wheat and half white)

8 oz. zucchini, sliced

8 oz. pkg. peeled fresh baby carrots, halved

2 oranges

½ cup olive oil

1 cup fresh cilantro leaves

1 tsp. dry mustard (I prefer to use a little Dijon mustard instead)

1 tsp. minced garlic

½ tsp. crushed red pepper

Cilantro and/or finely shredded orange peel and/or orange juice (optional)

Meat or Cannellini Beans for protein (optional; we LOVE cannellini beans in any Italian recipe.  We normally sauté them with onions.  YUM!).

Note:  the veggie listings are easily substituted with whatever you have on hand and whatever sounds good.  I’ve used snap peas, cabbage, spinach, and they’ve all tasted great.


  1. Cook pasta according to package, adding zucchini and carrots (and any other veggies) during the last five minutes.  Drain, reserving ¼ cup pasta water.
  2. For pesto, peel and quarter one orange.  You could also take some zest from the peel and add it to the pesto.  In a processor or blender combine orange, olive oil, cilantro, 1 tsp. salt (I don’t add this much), mustard, garlic, and red pepper.  Add pasta water or orange juice until you get the consistency you want.
  3. Peel and chop remaining orange.  Toss orange, pasta and veggies, and pesto all together.  Top with more cilantro and orange peel.  Makes 4 servings

Recipe adapted from Better Homes and Gardens.  You can view it here:  http://www.bhg.com/recipe/pasta/garden-veggie-linguine-with-cilantro-pesto/