Teddy Bear Pancakes

We’re out of bread, and I haven’t gotten around to baking in a couple of days, so I’ve been forced to make the boys pancakes for breakfast two days in a row now.  Poor kids!  They’re favorite is chocolate chip pancakes, but I try to keep those just for birthdays and special occasions.  So to make a “plain old boring pancake” a little more inciting (can we say picky kids?!?) the boys get Teddy Bear pancakes!


 I have a terrific whole wheat pancake recipe that gives light and fluffy pancakes that aren’t too sweet with just a hint of tang from the yogurt. It takes seconds to whip up, and only a few minutes to cook them. If I’m feeling ambitious I’ll triple the recipe and freeze the leftovers. They are great for popping into the toaster oven to reheat for a quick breakfast.


These grains are not soaked. I’ve been pretty lazy in that department for a little while. However, the recipe uses yogurt or buttermilk, and I’ve successfully used kefir, so I think it would adapt to soaking very well. Just combine the yogurt and flour the night before, and in the morning add the rest of the ingredients and cook up like normal. And yes, that is a Teflon griddle. I hate it, and the Teflon is starting to flake. It’s the only Teflon pan left in my kitchen and I can’t wait to get rid of it, but for now it will have to do. I do not have room for a cast iron griddle (and how heavy are those anyway?) and it takes twice as long to cook up the pancakes one at a time on my small cast iron fry pan. If anyone has another solution for me, I’m all ears. Until then, we eat pancakes pretty rarely and I’ll just have to deal with it.

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Happy Birthday Owen, and Toxin Free Cake

Owen’s birthday was yesterday. My big boy is 5 years old. In the spirit of keeping birthdays simple, we followed the same party plans that have worked so well for us in the past few years. 2:00 party, just family. Open presents, eat some cake, be done in time for a good dinner and plenty of time to play with new toys before having to go to bed.

This time I tried something a little different with the cake though. The more I read about artificial food coloring, the more it bothers me. That stuff is truely nasty, and it’s found in everything. When facing down Owens cake this week, I just couldn’t bring myself to purposfully add those convenient little drops to the icing. So I started brainstorming some other options. Owen had asked for flowers on his cake, so I was mostly looking for pinks or purples, and green for the leaves. I decided to try liquid chlorophyll for the green, and I had on hand Black Elderberry Syrup, cherries, and blueberries for pinks and purples. After a brief consultation with Rachel of Hounds in the Kitchen, I also tried beets. Thanks for the beet, Rachel! Here were my icing results.

Liquid Chlorophyll
(This is kind of washed out, the green was a little deeper, and very pretty)

Black Elderberry Syrup

Beet Puree

Blueberry Puree

Cherry Puree

Several of the colors turned out fairly similar. For the purees I defrosted and blended the cherries and blueberries, then cooked them down on the stove top and put them through a strainer. I boiled the beet, boiled off most of the cooking water, blended, put through a strainer and then cooked down a little farther. I used the black elderberry syrup and the liquid chlorophyll straight out of the bottles. I ended up using the beet colored icing as the trim and writing, and the elderberry icing for the flowers. One thing I failed to consider was that you add a good deal more liquid with this method than with the tiny drops of food coloring, so my icing was a little soft for piping roses. Next time I’ll be sure to firm up my icing before putting it into the piping bag.

Finished Product

With the cake ordeal over, let the party begin! I love when the kids recieve books that I loved as a child, and Owen got some Dr. Seuss. He also got some Hulk Hogan wrestling figures who are mostly naked, and very muscular, but he seems to like them. A remote control Hummer and a new stuffed puppy rounded out the birthday gifts.

And making the Birthday Wish! Happy Birthday Owen! You made me a mommy, and I can never thank you enough for that. You’re growing up to be such a gentleman. I am so proud of you, and so happy to be your mother.

Sourdough = Fail; Yeast = Win

Several years ago I had a sourdough starter that I raised from scratch. It was a very good starter and I baked most of our sandwich and dinner bread with this starter. This was also before I discovered Traditional Foods, and was baking with white flour. Things got busy as they often do, and I stopped baking so often and failed to maintain my starter. As I started learning about the importance of whole grains, and more importantly the need to soak those grains in an acidic medium before cooking with them to neutralize the phytates I turned back to sourdough, which accomplishes the soaking step with the long rising time and acidic starter. I tried for months to raise a whole wheat sourdough starter. I baked loaf after loaf of super sour doorstops. I finally waved the ‘white’ flag, and went back to my plain white bread baking, assuring myself that at least it was better for my family then store bought white bread. Always seeking new information, I continued on my journey into nutrition and discovered the evils of white flour. So now I can’t feed my family white bread, and I can’t feed my family unsoaked whole wheat bread, and I can’t bake a loaf of sourdough to save my life. This most recent attempt to raise a starter has met with similar frustration and equally inedible results. However every door in my home is now securely propped open. In all of my reading about sourdough baking, I’ve decided to quit trying to raise my own starter. I plan to send off to the Friends of Carl for his Oregon Trail Sourdough Starter.

Last week I turned to my tried and true trusty yeast for our sandwich bread needs. Not ideal by any means, but I enjoy baking, and it really has got to be better than store bought. Owen had been begging for swirly bread (cinnamon swirl bread) and I obliged. This loaf not only used commercial yeast, but white flour and a good deal of sugar too. But it turned out wonderfully, and my confidence in myself as a baker has been restored.

I also undertook a whole wheat sandwich loaf, and whole wheat hamburger buns. Both of which rose to my expectations.

I’m not posting recipes today because they are not recipes that I actually condone. I’m looking into some recipes for soaked whole wheat that doesn’t utilize a sourdough starter and I’ve found a few that I want to play with. When I find one that works I will share. And I will also share my experience with Carl’s Sourdough Starter when I recieve it, althoug that can take up to 6 weeks, so I’ll have to be patient.

Homemade Convenience

I am constantly trying to phase packaged convenience foods out of our home. Let me tell you it is HARD to do. The boys need snacks for school. Brad needs lunches for work. Sometimes I need something to munch that doesn’t require cooking or creating dishes to wash. Sometimes dinner time sneaks up on me and I haven’t given it the slightest bit of thought earlier in the day. Convenience foods are, well, convenient. So as I go about my journey to get the junk out of our diets, I’ve had some success in finding homemade versions of some of our favorites that have the benefits of not only being free from chemicals, preservatives, and excess packaging, but also much, much cheaper. Today I’m going to share with you 3 of our favorites: Fruit leather, cheese crackers, and mini fritattas.

Fruit Leather:
My boys love the apricot Stretch Island fruit leather. But at $1 a pop, those things are crazy expensive! We would get them occasionally as a treat in the checkout line at Whole Foods for being helpful shoppers. But now that I have an Excalibur Food Dehydrator, making our own is a snap. Since the boys love the apricot flavor, I start with dried apricots. You can use any type of fresh or dried fruit. If starting with fresh, just omit the soaking step.

Cover dried apricots in water, and leave to rehydrate for several hours. Cover the bowl so nasties don’t fall in.

Once the apricots are nice and juicy again, pour your apricots and a good bit of soaking water into your blender. I love my Blendtec , it makes short work of just about anything. Use just enough water to get things blending smoothly.

Next, spread apricot goop in a thin even layer on a piece of parchment paper on your dehydrator tray. The Excalibur comes with some teflex sheets, but I prefer the parchment paper because when it’s dry I can roll the whole thing up and cut into strips so the boys have fruit roll-ups.

This batch made four trays worth of fruit leather. I put it in the dehydrator at about 145* for around 6 hours. See how easily the fruit leather lifts off the parchment paper? It’s done when the thickest spots are dry to the touch.

Cheese Crackers:
These cheese crackers are the closest to Cheez-Its I’ve found. They are really yummy, and since I do the whole process in my food processor it’s super easy and they come together lickety split. I have made the recipe with whole wheat flour before and they turn out ok, but they really just taste better with white. Since these are a once in a while treat, it doesn’t bother me too much.

1/2 lb grated extra sharp cheddar
1/4 C butter, softened
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 1/2 C flour
1/2 tsp kosher salt

Cream together first 4 ingredients. Slowly add flour to make a stiff dough. It’s important to use sharp cheddar in these, even if it’s not the kind you like for eating. I like to use extra sharp. Otherwise the crackers don’t have a lot of cheese flavor. Also, you can decrease or omit the cayenne pepper if you think your kids won’t like it. With the full 1/8 tsp the crackers have a little bit of a kick. My kids don’t seem to mind, and I like it that way. 1/16 would probably be fine if you have kids with a picky palette. If you leave it out completely the crackers will be kind of bland, but hey, some kids like it that way.

Divide the dough int 3 portions and roll into logs. Wrap the logs in waxed paper and place in the fridge overnight, or the freezer for 1 hour. I’m always in a hurry so I always use the freezer method and it works great. The idea is just to get the dough chilled enough that you can slice it with out smushing it.

Slice thinly and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. These do not expand very much when baked so you can place them fairly close together, but not touching. Sprinkle lightly with kosher salt.

Bake at 350* for about 12 minutes. Remove from pan and cool on a wire rack. Once completely cool you can store them in a ziplock baggie or a glass jar. I really have no idea how long these keep, even if I make a double batch they are gone in less than a week.

Mini Fritattas:
Here’s my newest toy; a 24 ct mini muffin pan. Oh the possibilities! Today it was fritattas.

Bacon, spinach, cheese into every muffin cup. Then I mixed 6 eggs with 1/2 cup of cream, and topped off the fritattas. This made just enough egg mixture to do all 24, not a drop left over.

After 30 minutes in the oven at 350*, I had cheesey, bacon-y, egg-y goodness.
Yum! I meant to put half into the freezer for later, but for some reason they mysteriously disappeared before I got around to it.

Finding homemade versions of some of your favorite packaged foods is a great first step in the direction of phasing junk out of your diet and home. The kids love these snacks, and I feel good about feeding them something healthier than what comes out of a box. What are some of your favorite homemade convenience recipes?

Fish Tacos with Baja Sauce

This is my mom’s recipe. My mom is a wonderful cook, and I’m thrilled any time I can re-create a dinner of hers.

1/2 C plain yogurt or buttermilk
1/2 C flour seasoned with salt and pepper to taste
1 lb tilapia fillets
vegetable oil

1/2 C sour cream
1/2 C mayonnaise
1 Tbsp lime juice
1 tsp lime zest (optional – I never have actual limes so I usually skip this and it still tastes great. But the lime zest adds a lot of depth so use it if you have it)

Start by heating about 1/4 inch of oil in a cast iron pan. Pat dry your Tilapia fillets. Dip in yogurt and then dredge in flour. Place in oil and fry until golden brown. Use a fork and a spatula to gently flip the fish and brown on the other side. Be very careful not to splash oil when you flip the fish, nothing ruins a perfectly good dinner faster than a trip to the ER for 3rd degree burns.

Place on paper towels to drain excess oil. For the Baja sauce, mix sour cream, mayonaise, lime juice and lime zest.


Of course my favorite tortillas are home made, but with three kids underfoot that is often not realistic. Second best is Chi-Chi’s Whole Wheat tortillas. They’re nice and soft, and don’t brake when you fold them. I serve them ‘build your own taco’ style with all the condiments in bowls ready for the topping. Serve with Baja sauce, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, and of course Frank’s Hot Sauce. Everything is better with Frank’s.

Meal Plan 9/27-10/3

Time for another meal plan. Seems like I have to do this every week. It’s amazing how much I dislike a task that makes the rest of the week so much easier, but there you have it.

Leftovers to use: I did a pretty good job using up leftovers last week, and we ate most of what we made, so very little needs used up this week. Meat in the fridge/freezer = 1 5lb package of chicken breasts, 2 pot roasts, 1 pkg tillapia.

Monday: We had pasta and shrimp. The shrimp had been in the freezer and needed using, and I always have tons of pasta and sauce because I buy it when it’s on sale.

Tuesday: Fish Tacos using the tillapia, salad

Wednesday: Pot Roast with onions and potatos, salad

Thursday: Crock Pot Chicken, rice, stir fry veggies

Friday: Stew w/left over pot roast, potatoes, barley

Saturday: Pulled chicken sandwiches, chips

Sunday: Chicken and rice casserole

Crock Pot Chicken

Some times I feel like I spend all day feeding everyone but myself. Between meeting the needs of a preschooler and a toddler, and nursing a constantly hungry newborn, I’m finding less and less time to cook. Add to that the fact that I’m not working this month (unpaid maternity leave) and both Brad and I are trying to start losing the baby weight, ordering in or going out is not really a good option either. Let me introduce you to one of my favorite kitchen appliances: my Crock Pot.


My crock pot is not glamorous. It is not new. It has definitely seen better days, and the lid used to have a handle. This is not due to lack of respect or a history of abuse. No, my crock pot is just showing wear much the same way my 4 year old’s beloved teddy bear is starting to look a little ragged around the edges. But a few trips through the washing machine have done little to lessen the attachment of my son to his bear, and the lack of a lid handle simply lends character to my hard working crock pot.

When the baby is crying and the kids are screaming and the cat has puked on the carpet again, it’s a comforting thought that dinner is cooking away with little to no effort on my part and when Brad gets home from work all that needs done is to dish it up. I also make my crock pot work double duty by cooking up large batches of dinners at a time and either freezing for a no-brainer dinner later, or keeping in the fridge for easy lunches and snacks.

Today I started with about a 5 lb package of boneless skinless chicken breast. I only buy these when they go on sale for less than $1.99/lb. Otherwise I get whole chickens to roast and make broth. I trimmed all of the fat from the whole package of chicken, placed them in the crock pot and generously seasoned with salt and pepper.


Some times I use a little poultry seasoning or rubbed thyme, but mostly I keep it simple since I’ll be using this chicken in all sorts of different recipes. I add about an inch of broth to the crock pot so it doesn’t dry out, and set it on high for about 4 hours. If you need it to cook longer, you can set it on low for 6-8 hours, and it should be done when you get home from work.

After 4 hours, you end up with this:

Fall apart tender, fork shreddable, juicy, tasty chicken!


This chicken now has the possibility to become: soup, burritos, stir fry, sandwiches, salad, lunches for Brad to take to work, cashew chicken, quesadillas, just about anything. Being already cooked, it makes dinner come together in a matter of minutes. Which is some times all the time I have between marathon nursing sessions that the baby likes to start right around 4:00 and continue up until bedtime. Hey, at least she sleeps at night!