Saturday, June 27, 2015

Whole Wheat Chia Seed Pancakes

I cannot get over these pancakes. I made them for the kids and me for breakfast a few days ago, and they were amazing! I froze the leftovers and had them for breakfast for the next two days! My whole family enjoys these! 

This is my first time using chia seeds. I bought a small package at Walmart to try them. I've really been craving pancakes lately, so I decided it was time to give them a try! They add a slight crunch to the pancake, similar to the crunch poppy seeds add. It was very nice! This pancake recipe is very similar to the regular fluffy pancake recipe that I have been using for quite some time, just with some healthier changes. Anyway, let's make some pancakes! 

So pancakes are all made pretty much the same way. Mix dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking power, baking soda, and salt) in one bowl. Mix wet ingredients (egg, milk, yogurt, vanilla, and oil) in another bowl. Add the wet to the dry and stir just until moistened. After that you gently add in the chia seeds and/or anything else you might want to stir into these pancakes. Just be careful not to over mix the batter. The batter will be quite thick as you can see from the picture below. 

The recipe calls for plain yogurt, but feel free to use a flavor if you have it. I have used strawberry-honey Greek yogurt, left out the chia seeds, and instead dropped raspberries onto the batter as it was cooking on the griddle. They were fantastic! My husband said they were the best pancakes I'd ever made! So think of this as a basic pancake recipe that you can adjust based on what you like and what you have on hand! 

After I make my pancake batter, I let it sit and rest while my griddle heats up. I love my electric griddle for pancakes and French toast. I usually heat it to about 325 degrees when I am making pancakes. Then you need to grease your griddle or pan. My favorite way to grease it is to take a stick of butter and wipe it across the surface. I learned it from the Pioneer Woman, and it is just brilliant! Seeing my griddle all covered with sizzling butter just makes me so happy...and so excited for breakfast! You could grease it with coconut oil if you wanted to or even cooking spray. I just love the way pancakes brown up in butter. Drop your pancake batter onto the greased griddle, making them whatever size you like. 

Look how fluffy they are!  

**Updated 11/22/15: I have recently started making pancakes for my kids using a 1 Tbsp measuring spoon. It is the perfect size for little hands to hold on to! Picture below!

Just cook them until small bubbles appear and the edges look dry. (This will take a few minutes, this is very thick batter.) Then flip them. 

I sure do love fluffy pancakes! 

I spread them with a little butter as soon as they come off of the griddle. No it's not's just how I do pancakes. This recipe makes a small batch of pancakes, perfect for the babies and myself and we had 5 leftover that I froze (and ate the next two days). I got 9 good-sized pancakes out of this batter. 

**Updated 11/22/15: And look how cute they are! I made a mix of small ones for my kids and more medium-sized pancakes for myself and my mother-in-law who was visiting. 

I would love to eat a stack this high! But that is probably not a good idea...

But seriously...look how fluffy!! This recipe has become one of my most used pancake recipes. They are easy to make and always delicious! 

My toddler likes his pancakes sprinkled with a little powdered sugar. All things in moderation is my belief. This pancake recipe only has 1 Tablespoon of added sugar in the entire batch of pancakes. So in my opinion a sprinkle of powdered sugar isn't the end of the world. It just adds a hint of sweetness. Also, my son does not use syrup. I offer maple syrup to him, but he is not interested. 

He very happily ate the entire pancake. 

In case you're wondering why I gave him a pancake without a side of fruit. Well, the reason is that my son loves fruit so much that he would eat the fruit off of his plate and probably refuse to eat the pancake and instead request more fruit. If I give him the pancake first, he will eat it and then I just fill his pancake plate up with fruit and he will eat that too. He loves strawberries and clementines. 

**Updated 11/22/15: My little prince prefers his pancakes whole now and he picks them up and bites out of them...I think he feels like he is having a cookie or something that way. It's amazing how much a child changes in 5 months! He usually eats 3 or 4 of these small pancakes at a time. 

And this is how I ate my pancakes. Covered in maple syrup and sprinkled with powdered sugar. Yum! 

Baby girl got to have a pancake too. She's 9 months old and we were given the green light to try whole eggs by our pediatrician, but definitely check with yours if your baby is under one year old. I spread hers with some homemade cherry puree. Pancakes are a great way for your independent feeder to feed herself/himself pureed foods without making as big of a mess. I usually spread her pancakes with pureed fruit, yogurt, cream cheese, cottage cheese, or any mix of all of these! 

 Sometimes I cut her pancake into halves or thirds, and other times I just give her the whole thing and she tears it up into smaller pieces herself. She eats it just as well no matter how I give them to her!  

**Updated 11/22/15: These days my big girl usually eats her pancakes spread with cream cheese or peanut butter. She is 14 months now, and she loves pancakes! She was pretty insistent on eating off of Judah's plate here. This pancake was served plain...pancakes with toppings are reserved for the high chair. :-) 

So now have I convinced you to try these pancakes? I'm going to choose to believe you said yes, so here's the recipe. Enjoy! 

Chia Seed Pancakes 
Adapted from Pancakes with Blueberries and Chia Seeds

1 and ¼ cup of white whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 teaspoon of baking powder
½ teaspoon of baking soda
½ teaspoon of salt
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/2 cup milk (I used 1%)*
3/4 cup yogurt (regular or Greek, plain or any flavor)*
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons of coconut oil, melted and cooled or canola oil
1 tablespoon of chia seeds
Butter and Maple syrup, for serving

*You can also use 1 1/4 cup buttermilk in place of the milk and yogurt, but I love the flavor of yogurt in pancakes! 

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg, milk, yogurt, vanilla, and oil together.
3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just blended.
4. Gently fold in the chia seeds. Let the batter rest while you heat your pan or griddle for 5-10 minutes.
5. Pour onto greased hot griddle or skillet and cook until small bubbles appear and the edges of the pancakes look dry. 
6. Then flip them and cook on the other side until golden brown.

Serve warm with butter and maple syrup.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Chicken and Dumplings

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As we entered my husband's birthday month, I told him, as I always do, that I will make him anything he wants for his birthday meal. I make suggestions...offering to make dishes that I do not usually make but that he loves such as chicken alfredo or even fancy special occasion meals such as Filet Mignon with Whiskey Cream Sauce. It took him a week or so to choose, and finally he decided on...(drum roll)...chicken and dumplings! Delicious, yes, but not what I would have expected for his birthday dinner. I actually consider it quite a compliment that of all the dishes he could think of, my chicken and dumplings were exactly what he wanted! 

It was actually nice that he chose such a simple meal. Here's how I made it. Start with some chicken. I used one large boneless skinless chicken breast and one large bone-in chicken thigh (I cut the skin off) because I had that in my freezer. You could do as much or as little chicken as you want, depending on how many people you are feeding. The amount I made would feed probably 4 to 5 people. I didn't post a picture of the chicken because, well, I don't particularly enjoy looking at pictures of raw chicken, so I don't take them. Take your chicken and season it on one side however you like. I sprinkled on salt, garlic powder, and lemon pepper seasoning. This is generally how I season chicken if I am simply sauteing it in a pan. Drizzle about 1 Tbsp olive oil in a Dutch oven or soup pot and heat it over medium-high heat. When it is hot, add your chicken to the pan, seasoned side down. Season the other side. Cook chicken until well browned on each side. Remove it to a plate when brown. 

While your chicken is browning, you can work on the veggies. I don't think this is traditional in chicken and dumpling recipes (from what I've seen), but I do like to put veggies in my chicken and dumplings, similar to what you will find in chicken noodle soup. I use one onion, 2 pieces of celery (I used several pieces this time because they were small. I like using the leafy tops when I cook. It has celery flavor with the texture of herbs), and 2-3 carrots (Normally, I would only use two, but I wanted to make sure I had some larger chunks for the babies.). Dice this up in small pieces. Then mince 2-4 cloves of garlic (depending on the size and how much garlic you like). 

Add an extra drizzle of oil to the pan if it is dry. Add the chopped veggies to the pan. I usually start by chopping the onion and adding it to the hot pan. 

Then I chop the celery and add it to the onions in the pan. 

Then the carrot. Like I said before I left some of the chicken in large chunks so that I could fish it out easily for my kids to eat.

Then I add in the garlic. 

I stir this around and let it cook while I get my the seasonings ready. I added in 2 bay leaves, 1 tsp poultry seasoning, 1 tsp turmeric, and 1/2 tsp sage. And I seasoned with salt and pepper, to taste. Let the veggies and spices cook together for a minute or so until it is fragrant. If you've never used turmeric, be careful of where you drip it or what it comes into contact with, it will stain! It will also give this dish a much deeper color than you might expect from chicken and dumplings. I add it because it is good for you, and I like the subtle flavor it lends. 

Then I start adding in the broth and water. Start by adding 1/2 cup or so of broth and scraping the bottom bits from the pan, then add more broth to make it as thick or thin as you like. Remember the dumplings will thicken the sauce at the end, so you do need to add enough to steam the dumplings in. Then add the rest of the broth in.  

Add the chicken and any juices that have accumulated on the plate back into the pot. Add more water if necessary to make sure the chicken is submerged. 

Cover the pot and simmer until the chicken is cooked through. When this happens, remove the chicken to a clean plate and cool. (I put the chicken in the refrigerator for a few minutes to help it cool off if I am in a hurry.) Remove the bay leaves. This is a good time to check the seasoning of your sauce and add any salt or pepper as needed. You also may want to remove some of the liquid from the pan if you prefer a thick sauce. If you leave all of the liquid it will be more like a chicken and dumpling stew, which is also delicious in my opinion. If you do remove some liquid, set it aside. You can add it back to the pan if you need to thin it out. 

While the chicken is cooling, we can make the dough for the biscuits. It is super easy to make. Start by mixing together 2 cups of all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Pay no attention to that ridiculous whisk. Isn't that pathetic? It's completely lopsided. This was the first whisk I grabbed when I opened the drawer. I was in a hurry, and I figured this was good enough...I promise I do have nicer whisks than this! 

Then I poured in 1 cup of milk. 

Then stir it all together. The mixture will be quite sticky, so I would use a spoon instead of a whisk for this part. Set this aside and go check on your chicken. 

When the chicken is cooled enough to handle, shred it up in to thick shreds. I like my chicken to retain some of it's shape and not fall completely apart in the sauce. 

Add all of the chicken back into the pan. 

Next I added in some frozen kale. I only added this because I happen to have a large bag that I am trying to use up. When you add frozen chopped kale to soups, it blends right in, almost like an herb, and you get leafy greens without really noticing they're there. I also like the little bit of green it adds to the dish. I'm sure fresh kale would be nice in this soup as well, though I'm not sure I would have added it. I like the vegetables in the chicken and dumplings, but I prefer for them to be subtle and just add flavor to the sauce. That being said, I do very much enjoy fresh kale in soups, so I imagine it would be quite good if you keep your consistency more stew-like. 

Now we are ready to add the dumplings! I make very small dough balls and drop them gently on top of the simmering liquid. These were sort of grape-sized dumplings. 

Cover the top of the pan with them. After they have been cooking for a minute or so you can gently move them around to make room for more. You really want to cover the pot with as many as you can fit. 

Then you put the lid on the pot and allow them to steam in the simmering liquid for 10 minutes or so. I left them and went to nurse the fussy baby, so it was probably a good 20 minutes or so that I left them cooking. This recipe is very forgiving. When the dumplings are finished cooking, give them a gentle stir. Mine was a little thinner than I had intended. I should have removed some water so the sauce would be thicker. Another option would have been to make extra dumplings to add into the pan. 

We were pretty hungry, so we ate it like this. 

The boy and the girl both eat this taken of the sauce rather than served in the sauce. This is my 3-year-old son's plate. I separated out the dumplings, the chicken, and the carrots. 

He gobbled up the chicken and dumplings (or "noodle balls" as we called them) but was not thrilled with the carrots. He tried one but did not want anymore. Carrots are not a favorite vegetable of his, so I had some peas on standby. (I didn't show him the peas right away because I wanted him to try the carrots.) If you like peas, you could easily add them to the chicken and dumplings. My husband and I do not care for them, but our children love them, so I served them on the side for them. 

And 9 month old baby girl is still doing baby led weaning, so she ate exactly what we did, just taken out of the broth. I set a larger chunk of the chicken thigh aside while I was shredding the chicken, and I took gave her one of the large chunks of chicken. She generally eats food as a larger piece as a while and then breaks it up into small pieces and continues to eat it. Normally I make her a separate dish of food without salt, but I just fed her from what we ate today and tried to not add too much salt to it to begin with. 

Here's the recipe if you want to give it a try sometime. Our whole family enjoyed it! 

Chicken and Dumplings


1-2 pounds of chicken (I used 1 boneless-skinless breast and 1 skinless thigh)
1-2 Tbsp olive oil (or a mix of oil and butter)
1 onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2-3 carrots, diced (Leave a couple of larger chunks to feed to small children separately if needed.)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1 tsp poultry seasoning
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp sage
Salt and pepper, to taste
6 cups broth, 
2 cups water (or less, use only if needed to cover chicken in liquid)
1/2 cup frozen chopped kale leaves (optional)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup milk 

Heat a large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium high heat. Add 1 Tbsp oil to the pan (Or 1/2 Tbsp oil and 1/2 Tbsp butter). Season chicken and when the oil is hot add it, seasoned side down into the pan. Season the other side of the chicken and cook until browned on both sides. Remove to a plate. 

Add the other 1 Tbsp of oil to the pan if the pan seems dry. Then add in onion, celery, carrot, and garlic. Cook until slightly tender. Add in seasonings and cook for a minute. Then add in broth, scraping the bottom of the pan to release any brown bits. 

Add chicken and any accumulated juices on the plate back into the pot. If your chicken is not covered add extra water if needed to submerge it. Simmer until the chicken is cooked through and veggies are soft. Remove chicken to a new plate and cool. Remove 1-2 cups of the liquid if you prefer a thicker sauce. Check for seasonings and add kale to the pot. When chicken has cooled shred the chicken and add it back into the pan. 

Mix together the flour, baking powder, salt, and milk to make the dough for the dumplings. Spoon in very small drops (I did approximately grape-sized balls or maybe even a little smaller.) on top of the simmering chicken and sauce. Cover the entire top of the liquid with dumplings. Put the lid on the pan and simmer for 10 minutes or so to steam the dumplings. Stir gently to combine the dumplings with the chicken and sauce and serve. 

Serves 4 to 6 people. 

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Quesadillas - The most delicious way to clean out your refrigerator!

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Today I am going to share one of my all-time favorite quick meals...the quesadilla! It's nothing fancy, I admit. Basically, it's a Mexican-style grilled cheese, but you can change it up and make it into so many different meals. I eat quesadillas least once a week, I'd say. They are so simple to make and the results never disappoint. They are also super kid-friendly, and both of my children love them! Here's how to do it in case you haven't made them yourself. Once you see how easy it is I'm sure this will be a go-to meal for you as well! 

All you need to make quesadillas are tortillas and cheese. Anything you add to the filling beyond that just makes them yummier. I use soft-taco sized tortillas to make quesadillas, and I usually make myself two of them. This is because I almost always have this size on hand and they fit nicely into a 10-inch skillet of which I have two. I have been known to use the smaller fajita-sized tortillas if I am out of the larger ones. The small size is what I use to make quesadillas for my children. My toddler boy can eat an entire one, and my baby girl eats half one day and the other half the next day. I usually use colby-jack cheese because I really like it on quesadillas, but any cheese that melts nicely will work. 

On this particular day I had half of a chicken andouille sausage from Trader Joe's leftover in my refrigerator, so I knew a quesadilla would be a good way to use it if I could find some other ingredients to stretch it out a bit. I chose some baby spinach leaves and some chopped up roasted red peppers since I had these in my refrigerator. Whatever you put in your quesadilla filling needs to be already cooked since it will only be in the skillet long enough to melt the cheese and get your tortilla crispy. It is a great way to use up leftovers. I have put leftover roasted kielbasa and potatoes, leftover chicken fajitas, and many others into quesadillas with delicious results! Another of my favorite fillings is refried beans! 

I have found that quesadillas stay together a little better if the filling is chopped up into small-ish pieces. So go ahead and get that ready. And if you don't have already shredded cheese, go ahead and shred some. I think freshly shredded cheese melts much better, so I always buy blocks of cheese and shred them myself. Once you have everything all prepped and ready, you're ready to make your quesadillas! 

Start with a skillet over medium to medium high heat. Then I add about a 1/2 Tablespoon of coconut oil or butter to the pan. When it melts completely and your pan is nice and hot, place your tortilla flat in the pan. Make sure the oil or butter is coating the entire bottom of your skillet before you add in the tortilla. Then put a thin layer of cheese on the bottom half of the tortilla. The cheese works as glue to hold the sides of the tortilla together around your filling, so you need a little cheese on the bottom and some on the top as well. Put as much or as little cheese as you like, but too much will just start oozing out of the tortilla while you are cooking, so that may or may not be a problem for you. After you have a thin layer of cheese, top it with your topping or toppings. Then top it with another layer of cheese and fold your tortilla over the top to make a semicircle. (**Note if you are using something that is pureed in your quesadilla, such as refried beans or applesauce, you do not need the bottom layer of cheese. Simply spread your puree on half of the tortilla, place it in the skillet and top with cheese. The puree will act as the "glue" for the bottom half of the quesadilla.) 

Once your quesadilla is sufficiently browned on the bottom, flip it over. 

When the other side is browned it is done. Remove to a plate and repeat with a second tortilla. Let them cool for a few minutes then cut into wedges. 

Then enjoy! You can eat them plain or dunk into salsa or taco sauce. I'm not much of a sour cream fan, but my husband likes sour cream on his. These were so yummy I ate them just like this! 

They also make a nice meal for kids. My son likes his only with cheese, so I serve a veggie on the side for him. 

This is a plain cheese quesadilla on a whole wheat tortilla with a side of kale chips (or "green chips" as he calls them). And yes, my toddler loves kale chips...but more on that later! Another way I like to serve this is with a side of black beans and some diced avocado. 

We recently learned that baby girl loves quesadillas as well. I made hers with colby jack cheese and applesauce, and she really enjoyed them! I think it would also work well with mashed sweet potatoes or pureed pumpkin. Yum! 

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