Tuesday, February 22, 2011

I love beets!

On cozy, winter days I really like to eat soups and stews and borscht is one of my favorites, a well as my husband’s. We enjoy it all year round actually, but winter is the best season for it. It’s a very versatile soup, but I like to make it vegetarian and with the main focus on the beets.

Beets are definitely an underrated vegetable in this country, usually labeled with a reputation akin to Brussels sprouts and broccoli. But, the beet is filled with nutrients like B vitamins, beta-carotene and antioxidants. It’s also as versatile as borscht, in that it can be used in other soups, stews, and salads, and as a great side dish or even juice. Beet juice is probably the most used natural food coloring. Beets are especially good for is juicing due to their detoxifying and cleansing properties.


2 beets cubed
2 potatoes cubed
2-3 carrots chopped
8 cups of water, 2 vegetable bouillon cubes or 4 cups water, 
    4 cups vegetable broth
½ cup diced onion
2 cloves garlic chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp red cooking wine
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
1 tsp dried parsley or ¼ cup fresh chopped parsley
Sour cream for topping

Borscht cooking
Sautee onion and garlic in olive oil in large pot for about 2 minutes. Add water and/or broth and bring to a boil. Add bouillon cubes if using. Add beets and cook for about 10 minutes or until tender. Add carrot and cook for about 5 minutes, then add potatoes. Add all other ingredients except for sour cream and cook over medium heat until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Serve with a dollop of sour cream in each bowl and fresh parsley if available. Makes 6-10 servings depending on amount served to each person.

I haven’t given Lily any beets to try yet since organic are harder to come by around where we live, but next time I’m in a Whole Foods or farmer’s market I plan to pick some up for her. While I was enjoying my borscht last night, Lily had:

2 tbsp shredded Monterey jack and cheddar cheeses
2 tbsp cooked black beans
Enjoying her dinner
2 tbsp steamed mixed chopped veggies (corn, peas, carrots and green beans)
As you can see, Lily likes her finger foods. Giving her finger foods to eat also helps keep her occupied while I cook or feed myself. She makes a big mess, but that’s all part of it. She goes right into the tub after dinner anyway.

Recently she tried a new snack that has become a fast favorite- raisins. She’s had black and golden raisins and seems to enjoy them both equally. I plan to make her a carrot cake for her upcoming birthday and raisins are a main ingredient in the recipe I have. I made a test cake about a week ago and it didn’t come out to well. The dough was too wet and it ended up with the consistency of a pumpkin pie rather than birthday cake. The cream cheese frosting was delish though and Paul and I gobbled that up quick enough. It was my first try making a cake ever though, so hopefully next time will be better. I will be sure to blog about it!

For more info on beets, click here

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

lazy day pasta and the importance of using rBGH-free dairy

Yesterday we had a lazy day. Lily woke up 3 times the night before (which is rare) and I went to bed much later than I normally do. She also got up earlier than normal, therefore guaranteeing a very sore and tired mommy. It was okay though. I still managed to get some work done and do some light chores (washing the dishes, preparing simple food…that’s about it), and devoted the rest of my time to taking care of my sweetie.

She tried whole-wheat pasta for the first time for dinner that evening, and guess what- she liked it! She’s not a very picky eater luckily for me; she’s only refused avocado and tofu so far. Those are 2 of my favorite foods though, so I’d been hoping they would be something we could easily share together. Not so much luck there. Oh, well, I’m not complaining.

Whole-wheat pasta usually gets the short end of the stick when it comes to taste and texture, I myself not being a big fan of pasta’s healthier counterpart. However, the brand I used last night for Lily’s first taste was Stop & Shop’s Nature’s Promise line and it tasted pretty good. I even had some of what I’d made for Lily and it was easy to see why she was numming away with such satisfaction.

Last night for Paul and me I made this yummy chicken, pasta and spinach dish. It was one of the times when I just used what was readily available in my fridge and pantry and it worked out. I love when that happens! Here’s the recipe for what I made:

1 12oz package of tri-color pasta
1 large sized chicken breast
4 tbsp olive oil
1 cup fresh baby spinach
½ cup crumbled feta cheese
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1½ tbsp oregano
1 tsp salt, divided
1 tsp black pepper, divided
Juice of 1 large lemon or 2 small

Start boiling the water for the pasta. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in skillet over medium heat. Pound the chicken breast until it’s about half the thickness it originally was, then season it with half the salt and pepper and ½ tbsp oregano, and then place in pan. Half way through cooking, add the juice of one lemon to each side of breast. Fry until cooked through, but still tender. Add pasta to water when it boils and cook until al dente or whatever your taste is.

Chop up chicken into smaller chunks and put aside. After draining pasta, use the same pot you cooked it in to lightly sauté the garlic and add some of the salt and pepper to add flavor. Turn off heat then toss in the chicken and coat with the olive oil. Add pasta, the rest of the olive oil, seasonings and lemon juice, and then mix altogether. Add the spinach and feta and mix it until spinach is tender. 

You don't have to use tri-color pasta, but I think it adds a nice flavor and added bonus of nutrients

Makes 8-10 servings. I made a big batch so I'd have leftovers, a practice I've been implementing ever since I realized how difficult it can be to get certain things done with a baby around.

What Lily had:

2 tbsp steamed mixed chopped veggies (corn, peas, carrots and green beans)
2 tbsp shredded cheddar cheese
2 tbsp cooked whole-wheat elbow pasta

Serve as finger foods if your baby is ready.

I want to note that when providing food for my child I go as organic as possible. Everything she ate last night was organic, and most other things she eats are as well. It’s especially important to stick to the organic regimen when offering dairy for growing babies and children due to all of the hormones used on the cows at most dairy farms. There are many cases supporting the negative influence these artificial hormones can cause, such as unhealthy bacteria to grow, the risk of cancer to increase, and it is also believed that the consumption of too much dairy products from hormone-treated cows can cause children to grow at a much faster rate than normally. If you simply look at the rate most kids grow up these days- specifically girls –compared to how they used to before hormones like rBGH were developed, there is plenty of evidence supporting this theory. Just google “negative effects of hormone-treated dairy on children” and you’ll get about 500,000 results. eHow.com sums it up quite nicely though if you want to take a look.

My main concern with cows being treated with hormones is the well being of the animals, honestly. I am a huge advocate for animal rights and just thinking about the pain cattle suffer from these drugs (mastitis, which is an infection of the udder, is not pretty!) let alone all the other turmoil they go through being raised on an industrial, mass-producing farm makes my heart hurt. 

So, please, do yourself and the cows a favor and get rBGH-free products whenever possible. Moo!
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