Recipe Without a Recipe: PB&J Yogurt

So what is a Recipe Without a Recipe?  Well, I’m always looking at what we have in the pantry and fridge to come up with quick and easy breakfasts, lunches, and snacks for The Bug.  I want to make his meals and snacks as nutritious as possible, focusing on “real foods”, plus the same-old-same-old gets boring.  I mean, how many times can you give a toddler apple slices or grapes or carrot sticks or cheese or raisins before it gets totally boring?  So I’ve tried to come up with some alternatives to packaged crackers, cereal, and mac & cheese, but that still require little effort.  These are my Recipes Without a Recipe, and I will share them with you from time to time.

The Bug has pretty much been eating yogurt almost everyday since I first gave it to him when he was, oh, about 9 months old.  Other than the occasional treat of going out for or making pancakes or waffles with syrup, I try to avoid giving him a dose of added sugar for breakfast, which you usually find in those little yogurt cups.  Even the ones made for kids have 12 or more grams of sugar.  And they are teeny-tiny – The Bug could probably polish off two or three at breakfast.  Plus, for little ones, at least until they are 2 or 3, full fat dairy is what they need.  Those prepackaged yogurts are usually low fat, and the Day-glo colors that some of them come in freak me out a little.  Plus the extra cost and extra trash kinda bugs me, too.  So unless we are traveling and need the convenience of pre-packaged yogurt cups, I tend to buy a big container of Stonyfield Farms Organic Whole Milk Yogurt, and mix in fresh or thawed, frozen fruit.  But since he does eat A LOT of yogurt, I try to at least keep in interesting by coming up with some different combinations.  Plus it is a way to sneak in some other good-for-you ingredients to increase the protein, fiber, and flavor.  Here is one of his faves…

PB&J Yogurt

1.  Spoon some plain yogurt into a bowl.  I pretty much always give The Bug Stonyfield Farms Organic Whole Milk Yogurt.

Put yogurt in bowl

2.  Add a spoonful of your favorite nut (or non-nut, a.k.a. sunflower seed) butter.  This is almond butter, but I usually use peanut butter.

Add nut butter

3.  Add some finely chopped fruit.  I usually go with strawberries or grapes – kind of a classic PB&J combo.

Put fruit in bowl

4.  If you like, top with your “nutrition booster” of choice, such as wheat germ, ground flax seeds, chia seeds (I haven’t tried these yet, but I want to), granola, chopped nuts, etc.  This is wheat germ here.

Add wheat germ

5.  Stir it all up.  Then smell it.  I always do.  Smells so yummy!

Stir it up

6.  Enjoy!

The Bug eating yogurt

Clearly this is Bug-approved!

Empty bowl

What do you usually eat for breakfast?  Is there something that you eat pretty much everyday?

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Chocolate Almond Banana Oatmeal and “Gateway Foods”

So I had planned a completely different post to go up today – a nice, healthy snack/breakfast for you or your kids, no measuring involved.  Well, that will go up tomorrow.  I just had to share what I had for breakfast today.  If you have been following the March Foodie Photo a Day on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, started by The Purple Carrot, then you may have already seen a preview.  But here it is in all of it’s chocolaty, nutty goodness.

Chocolate Banana Almond Oatmeal, garnished

My new bloggie friend, Nescett, at Bananaoats eats oatmeal with bananas cooked into it pretty much everyday (hence, the name of her blog).  Before even finding her blog, I tried this, just with bananas in plain oatmeal.  I was not a fan.  Typically I like my oatmeal plain, cooked with a little milk, a pinch of salt, and some sort of sweetener – used to be Splenda, but I am trying to get away from artificial sweeteners, so now it is usually agave nectar.  But I also do like occasionally treating myself to a nice chocolaty breakfast by stirring in some cocoa powder.  But then yesterday I saw this Nutella Banana Oatmeal.  Sumptuous Spoonfuls has been inspiring a few of my meals lately, and when I saw this, I knew I had to try it.

The problem.  No, it wasn’t that I don’t have Nutella.  It’s that Nutella is like a gateway drug for my.  I open the jar to take out a tablespoon, and somehow the jar would magically be empty, and I would be curled in the corner with chocolate all of my fingers, denying any involvement.  And then I would be moving on to the bag of Ghirardelli chocolate chips in the pantry. So I thought I would go with a version that utilizes jars that are already open, and won’t lead me down a  path of consumption followed by self-loathing.  Plus, she uses quick oats, and I typically only have regular Quaker Old-Fashioned Oats in the cabinet.  And I am obsessed lately with Blue Diamond Almond Breezes Unsweetened Almond Coconut Milk.  But, you could definitely use plain almond milk, or regular milk (maybe with a little almond extract added).  And I am sure it would be equally as good with any other nut butter of your choosing.

Chocolate Banana Almond Oatmeal on wood

You really should try this.  It’s like dessert…  at breakfast…  but with no guilt in the form of added sugars or artificial sweeteners.  Or an empty jar of Nutella.

Shared with:

Real Food Wednesday at Kelly the Kitchen Kop

Pennywise Platter Thursday 3/14 at The Nourishing Gourmet


Chocolate Almond Banana Oatmeal (serves 1)

Adapted from Sumptuous Spoonful’s Quick & Easy Banana Nutella Oatmeal

Ingredients

Chocolate Banana Almond Oatmeal on OrangeHalf of an over-ripe banana, mashed up a bit

1/3 c old-fashioned oats (I use good ol’ Quaker Old-Fashioned Oats)

2/3 c milk (I used Blue Diamond Almond Breezes Unsweetened Almond Coconut Milk, but you could use any almond milk, or even regular milk, but the you may want to add a little almond extract)

1/2 t vanilla

1 T almond butter (or other nut butter of your choice)

1 T cocoa powder (or cacao, if that’s how you roll)

Pinch of salt

Slices of bananas and/or almonds, if desired

Directions

1.  Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl.

2.  Microwave on High for 2 minutes.

3.  Stir.

4.  Microwave for another 2 minutes, or to desired doneness.  If you like it really soft, you may want to add a little water and cook longer.

5.  Top with banana and almond slices, if using.

Enjoy!

Chcocolate Banana Almond Oatmeal on pink cloth

Friday Fun! #1

Lunch at Computer

Happy Friday everyone!  I know I don’t work outside the home, but I still look forward to Friday.  I love knowing that The Hubby will be home with me and The Bug for a couple days.  I usually have at least one meal planned that is a little more special than our usual Monday to Friday fare.  And hopefully we have something fun planned.  This weekend it is a Date Night!  My dad, Grandpa Yee-Haw (since that is what The Bug says every time he sees him) is coming to babysit.  So The Hubby and I get to have a meal alone that isn’t interrupted by someone spitting out food and yelling to have his hands wiped.  Unless one of us drinks too much.  Kidding!  I love my kid, but I have practically every single meal with him, and it gets old.

So in honor of Friday, I decided to start a fun series of posts showing what I am loving this week, mainly from my reading of articles and blogs on the internet.

At this moment, I am loving lunch.  Well actually I just finished my last bite.  It was a wonderful salad inspired by this Pineapple Arugula Salad from Sumptuous Spoonfuls.  I had just cut up a bunch of pineapple the day I saw this recipe, and knew it HAD to be lunch one day this week.  I switched it up a bit using what I had in the house – feta instead of goat cheese, pine nuts instead of walnuts, pineapple juice and poppy seeds in the dressing instead of lime juice and mint, and I added a couple strawberries, just because.  Yum!

Pinapple Salad from Far Away

Speaking of pineapples and things I love, I love that The Bug calls them “Bye-Bye-Apples.”  I have no idea why, but it is so cute!

I am also excited about the chance to win a $50 Visa Gift Card and PEANUT BUTTER(!!!) from Averie Cooks, and to check out her blog.  I just found it, and it looks awesome!

Clearly, even after last weekend (or maybe because of last weekend), I still have chocolate on the brain!

Well, I hope you check out some of these links, and have a great weekend.  And I’ll leave you with what will probably become my weekly questions:

What are your plans for the weekend?  Cooking up anything special?

Enjoy!

Pineapple Salad Closeup

Oscar Night Dinner for My Four Leading Men – Crockpot Beef Pot Roast with Mushrooms “Sorta-coto”

It’s the same thing every year.  I always want to watch the Oscars to see all of the fabulous dresses and hairstyles, and the incredible jewelry, and my current celebrity crush (right now, I’ll take the Ryans – Gosling and Reynolds) in a tux.   In college, actually, for pretty much any awards show, we would always get all of our friends together, maybe make a big pot of spaghetti, and just ogle over or make fun of famous people all night.  My friend and former college roomie, The Half-Baked Housewife, is a total awards show junkie.  This year, she even live blogged during the Oscars (I paid more attention to that than the actual show).

But I was never really into watching the actual awards.  I have always been more of a “movie” person than a “film” person, and, more often than not, it is the “films” that are nominated for the big awards.  So I don’t usually have much of a vested interest (except this year I did see and LOVE Moneyball, so was pulling for the movie, Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill to win). And the mediocre hosts and long speeches and boring tributes – not worth four hours of my time.  I think the best thing to happen to the Oscars was E! starting to televise the red carpet.  And even better, now I just have to watch Fashion Police, and I get the full recap of the only parts I am interested in.

So instead of a throwing an Oscar party, and making all of the fabulous dishes that I saw posted on a ton of other blogs, I thought it would be nice to make a good meal for the four leading men in my life: The Bug, The Hubby, Dad, and Grandpa.

My Four Leading Men

And when you are cooking for four generations of men, what better to make than good, old fashioned meat and potatoes.

Meat and potatoes

Let’s just say they were all quite satisfied, including The Bug.

The Bug digging in to Pot Roast with Mushrooms

My inspiration came from Giada DeLaurentiis’ cookbook “Giada’s Family Dinners”, and her recipe for Stracoto with Porcini Mushrooms.  I have made this recipe several times, and it has always been a hit.  But I wanted to change up a few things.  Giada braises her roast, and I wanted to make it in the crock pot (I used my 5 quart one).  She uses chuck roast, and I happened to have an eye round roast in the freezer (next time I would probably use a chuck or something else with a little more fat, to make it even more tender).  Also, her gravy is made from pureeing everything that is left in the pot after removing the meat.  I wanted chunks of mushrooms and a little thinner gravy.  I also wanted to cook some carrots with the roast because there is nothing like carrots soaked with all of those wonderful beef juices, and they are one of The Bug’s favorite veggies.  I did sear the meat, like she did, because I love the flavor it gives.  But I bet you could just chuck everything into your slow cooker, and it would be delicious.  Alternatively, if you don’t want to use the crock pot, you can follow Giada’s braising instructions.

Pot Roast with Mushrooms on plate

The flavors were perfect, but if I made it again, I would use a bigger piece of meat to have more leftovers (there was plenty of sauce, so no need to increase that).  However, I did manage to re-purpose what was leftover for a few lunches.  On Monday, The Bug had a repeat plate of what he had for dinner Sunday night, and devoured it just as happily.  Then today for lunch, Bill stuffed some of the leftover meat and gravy with some cheese into a pita, and I had a salad topped with the leftover mushrooms (oh, how I love mushrooms), a fried egg, parmesan cheese, and balsamic vinegar.  Yum!

Salad with leftover mushrooms from pot roast

Did you have an Oscars party?  What were some of your favorite dresses?

Crockpot Beef Pot Roast with Mushroom Sauce “Sorta-coto” (serves 4, but you can easily use a bigger piece of beef)

IngredientsPot Roast with Mushrooms in serving bowl

1 (2-pound or bigger) beef eye round roast (or another type of beef roast, such as chuck)

2 T. olive oil

1/4 cup cornstarch

1 t. salt

freshly ground black pepper

1 cup beef broth/stock

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

2T. tomato paste

1 medium or 1/2 of a large onion, quartered

3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled

1 cup dry red wine (I used a Merlot)

10 oz. cremini or white button mushrooms, quartered

1 cup baby carrots, or whole carrots, peeled and cut into “fingers”

1 large sprig of fresh rosemary

Directions

1.  Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat.Pot Roast With Mushrooms in Crock Pot before cooking

2.  Combine the corn starch, salt, and pepper in a shallow dish.

3.  Roll the meat around in the cornstarch mixture until it is coated on all sides.  Set aside the remaining cornstarch mixture.

4.  Sear the meat in the pan for 2-3 minutes on each side, until it is nice and browned.

5. While the meat is searing, add the reserved cornstarch mixture, broth, balsamic vinegar, and tomato paste to the slow cooker, and stir to dissolve.

6.  Remove the meat from the pan, and put it in the slow cooker.Pot Roast with Mushrooms in Crock Pot after cooking

7.  Reduce the heat to low and pour the wine into the pan.  Scrape up any of the brown bits with a wooden spoon, and pour everything into the crockpot.

8.  Arrange the onion, garlic, mushrooms, carrots, and rosemary around the roast.

9.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours, or until the meat is cooked through.

10.  Remove the meat, carrots, and mushrooms from the slow cooker.  Ladle out or strain the liquid from the crockpot, and serve on the side as a gravy.

11.  Enjoy!

Pot Roast with Mushrooms close up

This recipe was shared with:

BSI (Blogger Secret Ingredient) – Beef at My Bizzy Kitchen.

Real Food Wednesday 2/29/12 at Kelly the Kitchen Kop.

Salted Caramel PB Krispie Bars (& my thoughts on goody bags)

Happy Day After Valentine’s Day!  If you have kids in school, they had a party, right, and brought home cards and treats and stuff?  Yeah, mine, too.  Filled with lollipops and Twizzlers.  Here’s the thing – my son is 21 months old, in a class with 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 year olds.  Ummm, choking hazard, maybe?  And a whole lotta sugar that my already very energetic toddler does not need.

But, truthfully, I am of that “all things in moderation” school of thought.  I have seen way too many kids who are denied all access to anything containing a speck of sugar, then you put them at a birthday party or family gathering, and they go nuts, and gorge themselves to the point of sickness.  I’d rather give my kid a treat on occasion, so that it does not become the forbidden fruit that is so tempting.  So last night, he did get half of the cupcake they sent home from school.  But the lollipops and Twizzlers – well those are in the trash.

And I like to make sweet treats, and I am happier giving those to The Bug (and myself and The Hubby), when I know what went into it (even if it is lots of white flour and white sugar).  But in this case, I tried to stick with unrefined sweeteners (brown rice syrup), and pack in a little bit of nutrition in the form of Brown Rice Krispies (OK, OK, commercial, processed food, but brown rice instead of white, and gluten-free for those with celiac or wheat sensitivities, like me), natural peanut butter (protein), and chocolate (ahh, the antioxidants).  I am not saying these are a low calorie health food, but when you want a treat that you won’t feel as guilty about, then give them a try.  The Bug, The Hubby, and all of the Administrative Associates that work on his floor loved them.  Even a woman on Weight Watchers broke down.  And almost had two!

If you can’t find the Brown Rice ones, regular Rice Krispies would work fine, too, or, if you want to stick with the whole grains, I am sure you could even substitute puffed rice in this recipe.  And I am betting corn syrup could be used in place of the brown rice syrup.

And about those goody bags, since I am new to having a kid in school, and unfortunately most places seem to want packaged food now, due to all of the kids with allergies, let me know if you have any recommendations for good treats to send in for holiday parties, let me know in the comments.

Salted Caramel PB Krispie Bars (make one 8×8 square pan, I cut it into about 25 pieces)

Salted Caramel PB Krispie Bars

Ingredients

1/2 cup brown rice syrup

1 T butter

1 T heavy cream

1/4 t coarse sea salt (if you only have fine salt or kosher salt, you may want to try a little less)

3 cups Brown Rice Krispies (or regular ones or puffed rice)

3/4 cup natural peanut butter (or almond butter or cashew butter or sunflower seed butter)

6 oz dark chocolate (I used Ghirardelli 60% chocolate chips.  These are larger than regular chocolate chocolate chips, so it was about 1 cup)

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 t vanilla

1/4 t coarse sea salt for sprinkling on top

Directions

Crust & Peanut Butter Layers

  1. Line an 8 inch square pan with plastic wrap (trust me, it will be much easier to get them out)
  2. In a medium pot, heat the brown rice syrup over low to medium heat until it is bubbling.
  3. Add the butter, 1 T heavy cream, and sea salt.  Stir until the butter melts and everything is incorporated.
  4. Stir in the Rice Krispies until they are fully covered, and press into the pan.
  5. Spread peanut butter over the top of the Rice Krispie layer, and throw the pan in the fridge while you make the ganache

Chocolate Ganache Layer

  1. Chop up the chocolate into small pieces and put in a bowl.
  2. Heat the heavy cream in a small pot over low to medium heat until it comes to a simmer.
  3. Pout the hot cream over the chocolate, let sit for a few seconds, then stir until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.  If you forget to chop your chocolate, and it doesn’t melt all the way, just put it back on a low heat for a few seconds to get it all melty.
  4. Stir in the vanilla.
  5. Pull the pan out of the fridge and spread the ganache over the top.  Sprinkle with the sea salt.
  6. Put it back in the fridge until the ganache sets, then remove from the pan using the plastic wrap, and cut into squares.
  7. Enjoy!

Salted Caramel PB Krispie Bars Cut

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Tuesday Tea Party at Sweetology 101