Thursday, August 25, 2011

Banana Scones with Chocolate Chips

I got on a scone kick a couple of weeks ago.  I stumbled across this recipe for strawberry scones, and they were so good, I decided to try them again with bananas and chocolate chips.  Well, let me tell you, they were yummy!  Next time, I want to try shredded apples and cinammon chips...doesn't that sound good too?  The possibilities are endless! 

However you decide to make your scones, the basic recipe I found is now my "go-to" favorite.  I honestly don't think I will ever stray away from it.  Scones are best eaten the day they are made, but they will keep for 2-3 days on the counter.  Take my advise...make a batch, eat some, and freeze the rest.  Reheat in the oven, toaster oven, or microwave, and they will taste freshly-baked. 

Banana Scones with Chocolate Chips

3 tablespoons sugar (granulated)
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into cubes
2/3 cup half-and-half or cream or cold buttermilk
1 medium, lightly speckled banana, not too soft, not too firm
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips.

Additional sugar to toss fruit and sprinkle on top

Dice the banana and toss with 1/2 tablespoon of sugar.  Set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Use a pastry cutter or your hands to work in the butter until it is evenly distributed into the flour mixture, with a few small, pea sized bits of butter visible. 

Make a well in the middle of the mixture, and add the buttermilk all at once.  Gently stir dough together (the hands are the best tool for this job!), until everything is moist.  Add in the bananas and chocolate chips, and again, very gently knead the dough just until it comes together.

Dump the dough out onto a floured work surface.  Use just enough flour to keep the mixture from sticking but try not to overdo it...too much flour makes tough scones. 

I learned that lesson when I accidently sprinkled one batch too liberally with flour...they baked up beautifully, but the scones were slightly tough and chewy, instead of soft and flaky. 

Pat dough out carefully into a circle, about 3/4" thick.  You can sprinkle the top with a bit more flour if it's too sticky. 

Cut into 8 can make 2 discs of dough, and cut them to make mini-scones if you'd like. 

Carefully transfer to a lightly greased baking sheet, keeping them about 1/2" apart.  If any chocolate chips or banana bits are peeking out, gently push them back in so they don't fall out during baking.
Bake at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes.  Pull the sheet out, and sprinkle each scone with a bit of makes a nice, crunchy topping. 
Continue to bake for another 10-15 minutes or until the scones spring back when touches, and are lightly brown on top.   Watch them carefully...they will overbake easily, and dry scones are not good! 
When they're done, wait a couple of minutes before moving to a rack to cool completely.  Serve the same day, or freeze and reheat as needed. 

Of course, my Rebecca LOVED these scones, as did Gabriel and my hubby.  Oh, and I did too. ;-)

And in case you're's a pic of the strawberry scones I made first.  I'm tellin' ya...they were good.  So good, they disappeared in less than 2 days.  I'm not going to tell you how many I had.  Nope...not gonna tell! :-)

Scones take no time to make, and it's fun to try different fruits. Blueberries, diced peaches, raisins, are some other ingredients I'd like to try. And you don't have to stick to sweet scones. How about some savory combinations, like ham and cheese, rosemary and garlic, or blue cheese and walnuts? If you try something different, let me know...I'd love to hear from you. I knowI'll be on a scone kick again soon!

God Bless your table tonight! 

Monday, August 15, 2011

White Chicken Enchiladas with Sour Cream Sauce

We went to a potluck dinner a couple of weeks ago.  David took one look at the food table, and didn't think there was enough, so he took a quick trip to the closest grocery store.  He came back with 2 rotisserie chickens, a bag of rolls, and a package of cookies.  Turns out there was plenty of food, after some latecomers dropped off their dishes.  So the 2 chickens he bought came home with us. 

Now, having 2 whole chickens already cooked makes for a lot of possibilities in the kitchen, right?  I love this soup that uses cooked chicken but it's really too hot for soup right now.  I could also make one of my favorite chicken casseroles, and Rebecca requested quesadillas, but ultimately, I decided to make enchiladas.  I'd been researching white chicken enchilada recipes for a few days, and wanted to try at least one out.

Well, this recipe ended up making two full, 9x13 pans!  I divided the 2nd pan into 2 smaller pans so David could take one to work and heat it up for lunch.  There's a full kitchen where he works, so all he had to do was put the aluminum pan in the oven.  The smell generated comments from 2 of his coworkers, and they got samples as well.  One person liked it so much, she requested the recipe and I emailed it the next day.  So I guess they were pretty good. ;-) 

White Chicken Enchiladas with Sour Cream Sauce
Serves 10-12
1 package white corn tortillas (30 count)
1 whole chicken, boiled until tender, meat picked free of skin and bones (or use 1 whole rotisserie chicken, meat picked free of skin and bones). You will have around 4-5 cups of shredded meat
4 cans mild green enchilada sauce
2 cans mild diced green chilies (I used roasted chopped Hatch chilies, but either one is fine)
1 yellow or green bell pepper, diced
1 large onion, diced
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salsa seasoning mix (I used Penzey's, taco seasoning mix is fine too)
4 ounces light cream cheese
1 cup light sour cream
4 cups Monterey Jack cheese
Additional sour cream, chopped fresh cilantro, and green salsa for serving, if desired

Saute the bell pepper and onion in 1 tablespoon oil until tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Stir in the cumin and salsa/taco seasoning. Add the green chilies and stir to combine. 

Add the cream cheese and stir until melted.

Pour in one can of enchilada sauce, then add the shredded chicken, and stir to combine. If the mixture is too thick, drizzle in a little more enchilada sauce. Set aside.

I originally wanted to make this a "lighter" enchilada dish, but while I stirred the veggies, I read the back of the can of enchilada sauce.  It had a recipe for enchiladas, and one ingredient was cream cheese.  I just happened to have exactly the right amount in the needed to be used up, and it was not "light" cream cheese.  Oh well. :-)
In a separate pot, combine the remaining 3 cans of enchilada sauce and 1 cup of sour cream over low heat. Stir until the sour cream is well incorporated. Add in 1 ½ cups of the Monterey Jack cheese, and stir again until the cheese has melted. Don’t do this over medium or high heat, or you’ll curdle the sour cream in the sauce. Keep warm.

Warm the tortillas in the microwave or on a griddle. 

I liked using my grill pan (it's grooved on one side, flat on the other), because then I can put one tortilla on the pan to warm while I'm assembling an enchilada.  Once the first enchilada is done, the second tortilla is warm and ready to go. 

Place ¼ cup of the chicken mixture in each tortilla, top with 1-2 tablespoons of Monterey Jack cheese. Roll up and place seam side down in a lightly greased 9x13 baking dish.

Continue until you’ve used all the chicken mixture. Pour the sour cream sauce over the enchiladas.

At this point, you can freeze the enchiladas.  Thaw overnight in the fridge before baking.  Otherwise, bake right away!

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  I don't have to tell you how good these smell coming out of the oven!

Garnish with sour cream, green salsa, and chopped fresh cilantro if desired.  I made black meals and mexican rice on the side (Nothing fancy, out of a can, and out of a box!  Something's gotta give when you have a baby and 4 other kids to take care of). 

*This makes approximately 24 enchiladas, enough to fill two 9x13 pans. Half the recipe if you don’t need to feed an army. ;-)  If you do need to feed an army, this is the recipe for you!  David's pan was enough to feed him for 3 days at work...which he really appreciated and enjoyed.  He's never been one for cold lunches. 

Hope you make these soon.  God bless your table tonight! 

Friday, August 5, 2011

Homemade Baby Food

Over the past few weeks, I've been making homemade baby food for Theresa.  She's 6 months old now, (which I simply cannot believe) and and has already been on some solids for about a month.  So I wanted to make and stockpile a variety of fruits and veggies for her to feast on.  I hadn't made baby food since our oldest was a baby...because I had nothing but time on my hands, ha ha.  With the next 3 babies, I just didn't seem to have the time or the energy to make anything. 

My main motivation for making my own baby food this time around was to save money.  Now, I'm not good at math, but I calculated that 5 ounces of store bought baby food costs around $1.50, give or take a little.  However, I can make 16 ounces of homemade puree for around 88 cents.  Of course, it depends on what you're making.  But here's an example.

1 small bag of frozen peas is around 90 cents (on sale) at my grocery store.  I can turn that into 16 ounces of puree.  So my final cost is about 6 cents per ounce.  If I bought it already prepared, it would cost me about 30 cents per ounce.  I can potentially save around 25 cents per ounce if I make it at home.  Right now, most of the great berries and summer vegetables are in season.  I definitely wouldn't want to make zucchini in the winter (when it's out of season), or blueberries in the fall (again, out of season), so it made sense to me to buy what was currently in the grocery store in season, especially if it was on sale. 

Before I got started, I knew I needed just a few tools.  I used to have ice cube trays, but they went to charity a long time ago.  So I went to Walmart and bought some...they were only $1.78 for a set of three. 

I also bought a fine mesh strainer.  This comes in handy for straining out the skins/seeds of some fruits, like strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries.  This one is also from Walmart, and cost just 97 cents. 

Once I had those items, I was ready to go.  You also need a good food processor.  I've had this one for about 10 years...and it works just fine.  You can use your blender, but you'll probably have to add some water to make it a nice, smooth puree. 

You can either steam your vegetables until tender and puree, or roast them in the oven.  I haven't tried that yet...but I plan to with sweet potatoes, squash, broccoli, and cauliflower. 

Here's what I've made so far.  I referred to Momtastic for all the recipes as needed.  (Momtastic was a great, comprehensive website, and it has information on just about any kind of food you might want to make for a baby). 
I don't have pictures for everything...but I'll put up additional pictures as I go!

Carrots--I used fresh, baby carrots, steamed them until tender, and pureed until smooth, thinning it out with some of the cooking liquid as above.

Peas--Frozen peas work great.  Steam until tender, and process to the consistency you want.  Mine came out out a bit chunky, but overall soft enough for Theresa to eat. 

Green Beans--I tried using frozen, french cut green beans, steamed until soft, and then pureed.  It came out very chunky and the smallest bits were really chewy.  I strained the mixture, and essentially got green colored water.  So I bought canned green beans (I know, I know...not ideal), with no added salt, and pureed was much better (still a tad chunky, but the bites were soft).  I really wanted Theresa to taste green beans on a spoon until she can pick them up as finger food.  We get so many green beans from our garden, it would be a shame if she didn't like them!

Zucchini--I used the last big one we got from the garden.
 I did peel it because I knew the skin would be tough.  I scooped out all the seeds, steamed it until tender.  It came out really well.
Pumpkin--this is not in season yet, but I wanted Theresa to try it.  So I bought canned pumpkin puree...according to this website, canned pumpkin is fine to use, as long as it's NOT canned pumpkin pie puree, which has added sugar.  You can bake pumpkin, acorn or butternut squash and puree that too. 

Spinach--Blanch and shock fresh baby spinach leaves.  Spinach shrinks down to will go through 4 bags easily of prewashed, ready to eat spinach leaves to make a decent amount of puree.  Spinach is a strong flavor for babies...I've mixed it with a fruit in the past.  Our oldest loved pureed spinach with strawberries.  I haven't made any yet, but it's in the works. 

On to the fruits!  Here's what I've made: 

Peaches--Blanch for a few minutes to loosen skins.  Puree fresh if your baby is ready for a more chunky texture, or steam for about 6-8 minutes to soften the fruit and make a nice, smooth puree.
Pears--Peal, and puree fresh (for chunky texture) or steam for a smoother consistency.
Plums--Blanch and steam, and puree.  My plums were a bit tart so I blended them with some strawberry puree, and it turned out great.  So it really is plum-strawberry puree. 
Raspberries--Puree fresh berries, and strain out the seeds.
Strawberries--Puree and strain out seeds if desired.  I thinkt they're so tiny, it may not be a problem unless your child needs their first foods very smooth. 
Blueberries-Puree and strain out skins and seeds for a younger baby.
Mango--Peel, remove pit, cut into cubes, and then puree. 
I decided not to make any pureed apples.  We buy big jars of plain, unsweetened applesauce for the older kids, which is essentially the same as cooked, pureed apples.  So I'm feeding that to Theresa. 

I also made a batch of lentils.  I had about 1/2 cup of dried lentils...not enough to serve to the family, so I cooked them according to the package directions until they were completely soft, and pureed them.  I followed this recipe to make some homemade baby oatmeal cereal. 

With all of the above fruits and vegetables, once you've made your puree, spoon into the ice cube trays and freeze until firm (about 3-4 hours).  Pop out the cubes and transfer to food storage bags.  Be sure to label them (peaches and mangos look a lot alike, as do peas and green beans).   Some of the berry purees are very thin...I'll probably mix them into Theresa's oatmeal, or combine them with a vegetable or another fruit, just to make it easier to spoon into her mouth. 

One frozen ice cube of puree is about an ounce.  So it's easy to know how much your little one ate.  If he/she eats one cube, then you know they ate one ounce.  Simple, right? :-)

I feel a real sense of accomplishment that I have all these different foods ready to go now.  It didn't take much time at all...I could get a batch done in 15 minutes (minus the freezing time).  I will say the plums were a PAIN.  After I blanched and shocked them in ice water, the peels still refused to come off, and pitting them was no fun either.  I must admit, I probably will not make plums again!

So far, Theresa has tried the plum-strawberry puree, the mangos, peaches, blueberries, pears, peas, green beans, carrots, and sweet potato.  I had her try the veggies first, and mixed the fruits with the oatmeal cereal.  She has love it all!  Unfortunately, the cereal is backing up her poor little digestive tract, if you know what I mean!  So I will have to try an alternative grain once I consult with our pediatrician.  I did wait about 2 days in between foods.  Most experts recommend 3 days or more.  I say go with your instincts.  We have no food allergies in our family, but if there are allergies your family, then proceed with caution.  Obviously we haven't tried anything with eggs, dairy, citrus fruits, seafood/shellfish, or peanuts.  I won't introduce anything in those catagories until Theresa is a year old. 

Hope you have fun, and save money making baby food for your little one.  Once you get started, you'll see how simple and quick it is to make a batch and freeze it for later. 

God bless your table tonight!

Update:  After talking to my pediatrician, I thinned out the oatmeal cereal with more water, and mixed it with pureed pears or apples for one week.  I also gave her just a vegetable instead of fruit for some of those days.  Now Theresa seems fine.  I guess the homemade oatmeal was either too thick or too concentrated for her, poor babe.