Monday, October 31, 2011

Baby Food Made Easy

For some reason people have this idea that making your own baby food is complicated.  I say, if you can make mashed potatoes, or even a smoothie, you can make baby food.  Its as simple as 1, 2, 3...

1. Steam or roast the item.  In this example, I am making sweet potatoes, so I steamed them in about an inch of water for approximately 15 minutes (it may have been longer because Ellie decided she wanted a bottle).

When I made butternut squash I roasted it with about a teaspoon of oil (to keep from sticking) and it worked great!  Boiling is not the best option because you lose a lot of valuable nutrients.

2. Puree!  I usually have to add some water (leftover cooking liquid when steamed). 

3. This is two medium sized sweet potatoes.  It makes a ton of food, which is the whole idea, so the best way to store it is to freeze it.  I use ice cube trays.

Once these are frozen, I transfer them to a labeled freezer bag.

This is the butternut squash from last week, as you can see there are several perfect little cubes in there!

I realize this isn't for everyone.  I happen to love cooking, so it just made sense that I would enjoy making Ellie's food.  We buy groceries once a week and I spend a little time prepping produce and its the perfect opportunity, while I'm chopping, to go ahead and make baby food.  I have so much baby food in my freezer.  One batch lasts for months!  ...except the sweet potatoes, she LOVES them!

At this point Ellie is still being introduced to solid food, so we have only tried carrots, sweet potato, butternut squash, and bananas. I will have to post again when we start mixing and creating baby food recipes.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Reader Request: Chocolate Ganache

I recently had a friend request that I post about Chocolate Ganache.  I had a list of future blog post ideas and ganache actually wasn't among them so I figured, why not?

Ganache is actually really simple to make and I use it for a lot of things: truffles, frosting, glaze, sauce for ice cream, or for dipping.  The basic recipe is always two ingredients: heavy cream and chocolate, but what you intend to do with the finished product is what determines the ratio of those two ingredients.  For example, if you want to make frosting or a sauce, you would use equal parts chocolate to cream (this ratio also stays closest to a liquid when chilled).  To make truffles you would increase it to two parts chocolate to cream (for a thicker, "fudgier" consistency).  For chocolate covered strawberries, or for coating those truffles you just made, you would need three parts chocolate to cream because this ratio will harden the most (people often add a tablespoon of corn syrup or a dash of vegetable oil to keep the final product shiny).

The Chocolate

You will want to use a bittersweet chocolate.  I usually go with Ghiradelli 60% cacao.  You will not get the same result with milk or white chocolate as they have a higher cocoa butter content.  I tend to use chocolate chips, but if you get it in bar form just be sure to chop it into small pieces.  You can do this with a very sharp knife, or by banging the crap out of it with a rolling pin (also a good stress reliever).

The Cream

Yes, I said heavy cream.  This is not low fat or fat free and any substitutions will result in a completely different (and probably disappointing) final product.  This is indulgent chocolatey goodness.  Just go with it.

The easiest way to make ganache:

People assume anything with melted chocolate is fussy and difficult, but ganache is quite simple.  If you can heat liquid in a pan, you can make ganache.

-Place desired amount of heavy cream in a sauce pan on medium/low heat.  You might want to stir it occasionally.  Do not walk away from it as you do not want it to boil at any point.

-Heat until tiny bubbles just barely begin to form around the edges of the pan.

-In the meantime, place desired amount of chocolate in a bowl (metal or glass is preferable).  Chocolate should be room temperature.

-Pour hot cream over chocolate and walk away for a few minutes.
-Then very slowly stir the two to combine.  You can use a whisk, but I always use a wooden spoon because it means the chocolate will get on the wooden spoon and I can lick it off.  Its much harder to lick a whisk.

Things to Make With Your Ganache:

-Dress up the flavor: add orange zest, or a tablespoon or two of a flavored liquor, bourbon, or espresso.
-To make truffles: use the 2:1 ratio, pour into a shallow dish and cool in frig, use a small ice cream scoop and roll into 1 inch balls.  Roll in powdered sugar, cocoa powder, nuts, anything!
-Frosting: use the 1:1 ratio, let cool on counter, transfer to mixing bowl and whisk to desired frosting texture.
-Chocolate covered strawberries: use the 3:1 ratio, while still warm dip strawberries* and place them on a sheet of wax paper.
-If you need the strawberries to cool quickly you can place them in the frig, but just know they might sweat.

I hope you find all this chocolate talk informative and helpful.  If you're not salivating by now I have not done my job.  Do you have any dessert ideas that you have questions about?  Feel free to post them below and they will be featured in future Reader Request posts!  That's all for now, I need some dessert.

*For extra flavor, immediately after dipping strawberries in chocolate, roll them in other coatings such as coconut or crushed nuts.  You can also try this with bananas.


The leaves are changing and there is already a thick layer on the ground waiting to be raked.  I'm putting it off because I really want to dress Ellie up and take her picture in them before they're all gone.  Anything for a cute photo op, right?

I love fall.  I love getting cozy in a comfy chair and reading a book, or just watching the leaves float down from the trees.  I love the way it smells outside, the crisp cool air first thing in the morning and bonfires in the evening.  And the best accompaniment to it all is a steamy cup of hot cider, or, to kick it up a notch, Spiked Cider.  All the fall flavors with just a little extra kick.  It's also great for holiday parties.

Spiked Cider

1/2 gallon of apple cider
1 orange, sliced
1/2 tbsp pumpkin spice mix
spiced rum, to taste

-Pour half gallon of apple cider into a crock pot and turn heat to low.*
-Add orange and pumpkin spice mix.  Stir to combine.  (I use pumpkin spice mix because it has all the flavors I want in one container.)
-Allow mixture to come to desired temperature.
-Add spiced rum.  I used approximately two shots, but you can add as much or as little as you want depending on how strong you like it.
 -At this point you can turn the setting on your crockpot to "warm" and keep the cider toasty warm for hours.
-Ladle into mugs for you and your family and friends to enjoy!**

*You can also do this in a large pot on the stove with the heat on low.
**A fun party addition: Place a cinnamon stick in the each mug as a garnish/stirrer.