This ain’t no crap out of a blue box…

This is my Mamma’s mac’n’cheese!

Will you believe it when I tell you that I never had Kraft mac’n’cheese at home growing up? And I mean never. Ever.  Never ever.  My mom was a firm believer in the “none of that crap out of the box” philosophy, which I also adhere to (generally).

I won’t say I didn’t eat my fair share of EZ Mac in college, I practically lived off of the stuff!  But there is just sooooo little good and sooooo much absolute crap in it, I can’t bring myself to make it for Simon.  If I eat a box of it for dinner, with nothing else, I’m awake at 3am starving because there is so little nutritional value it literally can’t get me through the night.

On the other hand, we make baked mac’n’cheese on a regular basis.  This stuff will get you through the night. This stuff will get you through a marathon.  This stuff is not low fat in any way shape or form, so if you’re watching the calories…save it for a special evening.  This stuff is not for the lactose intolerant or anyone who avoids dairy.  This stuff is a calorie packed, high fiber, high fat bomb of cheesy goodness that never fails to make my husband grin.


1 box whole wheat penne pasta
5 tbsp butter
3 tbsp all purpose flour
3 cups milk (we use 2%)
1 clove garlic, smashed
~2-3 cups grated cheddar (we used some fontina as well because it was on hand) + and additional 1/2 cup for topping
1/2 c panko bread crumbs
Tony Sacherie’s seasoning
salt and pepper to taste

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Cook pasta according to package instructions, but slightly undercook (just shy of al dente).  It will finish cooking in the oven.

2.  Warm milk in a saucepan on the stove with garlic clove. Remove garlic clove.

3. Meanwhile, melt 3 tbsp butter in a saucepan (or in your small dutch oven like mine that also serves as a baking dish)

4. Whisk in flour and cook briefly to get rid of flour flavor.

5. Whisk in heated milk a few ladle’s full at a time , whisking briskly to get rid of all the lumps.

6. REMOVE FROM HEAT once the milk has been incorporated.  It’s important not to add the cheese if the milk is almost boiling, because the cheese will separate and get all funky and grainy.  Add a handful of cheese, it should melt slowly as you stir.  Add the remainder of the cheese and stir until melted.

aaaaand….for some reason the photo isn’t uploading…sorry

7. If you made the sauce in your dutch oven then just dump in the pasta and stir to combine.

8. For the topping, melt remaining 2tbsp of butter in a bowl and add panko and a generous shaking of Tony’s to taste.   Sprinkle cheese evenly on top of pasta and then sprinkle the bread crumbs.

9. Bake at 400F for 20 minutes or so, or until it’s all bubbly on the edges and the panko is browned.

10. Enjoy!


Recipes I wish I’d written

Just thought I’d drop a quick line here before we head off to Houston for the weekend.

I found three recipes on the internet that I tried to great success with Simon, so I thought I’d share.

First, on a quest to make arancini last Friday night, I had to start with risotto.  I used Giada’s recipe, but left out the mushrooms and peas.  Simon loved it.  I froze it in cubes and mix in diced chicken, peas, carrots, etc. It looked really boring, so I took a photo of the arancini instead!  It was da bomb!!!

And why the hell have I never made black beans in a slow cooker before?  This was pretty much the easiest damn thing ever.  It easily took 10 hours to cook, as she says in the recipe. This is definitely a recipe for the whole family.  I made black bean tacos out of it.  Did you know that black beans and corn are a complete protein? Simon likes it in his grilled cheese.

Lastly, this morning I made blueberry and cream cheese french toast, and it was AWESOME…albeit a bit dry. I think next time if I press the aluminum foil right up against it while it’s baking and then seal in the edges it will be perfect.  I also made it with challah bread, since I had it on hand.  It worked out wonderfully!

Holla!  Or should I say, Challah!

God I’m cheesy…..

Speaking of which, I made homemade mac’n’cheese last night!  Blog post coming soon!

CURSE YOU TEETH!! (shakes fist at sky)

We have two teeth coming in this week.  They’ve been lurking for a while but I think they’re going to cut this week.  What’s that mean? It means that Simon has put himself on a steady diet of Cheerios and yogurt for the last 48 hours.  Maaaaaybe he’ll eat a smoothie if I use a straw and put it in his mouth, dropper style. Even his favorite plain grilled cheese is POISON!  Poison! Mommy is trying to poison me!

Oh, and sleep has gone to shit.  Not that it’s great anyways, but it’s especially shitty right now.

Someday.  Someday I will sleep through the night again (at this point it’s all about ME! not about HIM! Mommy is TIRED!). Ibuprofen seemed to help last night though, so we’ll do that again tonight.



The end of an era and a newfound love

About two weeks ago we were shocked when Simon started to inexplicably eat just about anything we offered him off of our own plates. Since then it’s been a whirlwind trip down food highway, destination big people food.  I don’t know what changed, but all of a sudden he wants seasoned food, without a hint of pear in sight.  Here’s just a sample of the foods he’s eaten:

  • cheese enchiladas with beef chili gravy and spanish rice
  • pepperoni pizza
  • saag paneer
  • gourmet grilled cheese
  • hamburger
  • my quinoa, parsley, asparagus salad dressed with lemon juice and olive oil


I guess my little boy is growing up.  He still gets his breakfast cereal and smoothies in the morning, but the rest of the day he gets a whole variety of whatever we’ve got going on that day.  He still rejects things (hummus and spaghetti…we’ll try again soon), but on the whole it’s been really exciting! I can’t tell you how proud of him I am.  Every day when Simon’s dad gets home from work I have to give him the full update on what Simon ate that day.  It’s been a daily pleasure, and I’m hoping it’s not a phase, I’m hoping it lasts.  But we shall see…but for now I’m saying that the era of “baby food” is coming to an end.

I’ve also said to hell with the four day intro rule.  He gets what he gets and if he has a reaction, then we’ll deal with it.

One of his favorite new foods is grilled cheese.  I know, classic kid!  This was one of the first items I tried making after he started eating finger foods.  I wanted him to feed himself something a bit more nutritious than Cheerios.  Now he eats some form of grilled cheese every day for lunch. I tried quesadillas, but the tortilla just didn’t seem to dissolve easily in his mouth.  Since he only has four teeth he can’t do much in the form of chewing, he basically works food around his mouth until it softens enough for him to swallow. For this reason he still has trouble with chunks of vegetables and meat, so those always get super finely chopped and incorporated into his sandwich.

I can pretty much put whatever I want into his grilled cheese and he’ll eat it without blinking.  So here we go…

Sharp cheddar, cilantro and green onion quesadilla

Grilled cheese and diced chicken on homemade whole wheat pita

Classic grilled cheese washed down by a banana/yogurt smoothie

And for those of you who don’t know how to make a grilled cheese…

I take one slice of whole wheat bread and cover one half of it with sliced or grated cheddar.

Sprinkle with any other finely diced food item I want to include (chicken, herbs, veggies, etc).

Fold bread in half and press down firmly.

Toast both sides of bread til browned in a frying pan over medium heat.

Allow to cool and dice into baby sized bites.

Stay tuned because next up we’re making risotto and black bean soup!

Tricks of the trade

Simon hits ten months next week.  TEN MONTHS!!!  Which means he has officially been eating solids for six months! In those six months my baby food making skills have definitely come a loooong way! Some of my techniques have stayed the same, and some have changed.  I thought that today I would share with you a few of the more important things I have learned.

The Magic Bullet

First and foremost, I have to tell you that the Magic Bullet (henceforth referred to as the MB) should really be called “THE GREATEST KITCHEN APPLIANCE EVER INVENTED” . Seriously, can someone who knows someone who knows someone who works for the MB company please tell them to give me a call so that I can come on their infomercials and sell this thing for them because I would KILL at that job! I use my MB for EVERYTHING.  On any given day I use it at least three times.  The blade is always drying in the sink, because I immediately wash it after each use (none of this sitting in the dishwasher waiting for me to turn it on).  I’m glad it comes with like, 8 different cup attachments because I’m always using every single one.

What do I use this wonderful appliance for? Well….

  • I grind my coffee each morning for my French press coffee maker.
  • I make Simon fresh fruit smoothies, like this peach, yogurt and flax seed smoothie:
  • I grind the flax seed for his smoothies every few days (it goes bad if you leave it out too long). It also goes in our morning smoothies..
  • So…I make my morning smoothie in it.
  • And it serves as a general demolisher of any lumps, because we still have a bit of a “lump rejection problem” that randomly manifests itself.  Oatmeal too lumpy? Toss it in the MB!

Fortified Cereal

Since Simon isn’t such a champ at eating meat yet (we’re working on it) I make sure he gets a nice big portion of fortified cereal at least every two days.  His iron levels at his 9 month checkup were very healthy, so I guess I’m doing the right thing.

His favorites are Cream of Wheat (wheat)  and Malt-o-Meal (wheat and barley), but there are a lot of others out there.  I make these in individual servings in the microwave.  Measurements be damned, I pour a few tablespoons in a bowl and cover it with some water and cook it til it’s ready, stirring occasionally and watching carefully or else I will have boiled over cereal in the microwave to clean up.  My best trick for serving this to a hungry baby is to pull a few frozen fruit cubes out of the freezer and use them to cool the hot cereal. Below is this morning’s breakfast, Cream of Wheat with pear and raspberry cubes.

Another trick is to stew dried fruit while cooking the cereal.  I throw some prunes, apricots, raisins, dried peaches, or whatever I have on hand right in the bowl with the cereal and water.  Add a tad more water than usual and cook away.  Then I cool it down with a few frozen fruit cubes and maybe some yogurt and puree it all in the MB.  It’s essential to cool the cereal first or else steam pressure builds up in the MB and I’ll have a bit of an explosion when you twist it open….this is pretty critical, I have a lovely white t-shirt with prune/blueberry stains all over it.

Cooked fruit is for babies, not for big boys!

I stopped cooking most fruit for Simon a while ago.  He’s tested all of the fruits, so now that his little tummy is capable of handling the fiber I stopped cooking it down.  These days I usually keep a bowl of fruit on the counter with whatever looked good at the store.  Peaches, pears, plums, bananas, mangos etc, will just stay on the counter until I’m ready to peel them and toss them in the MB for a smoothie.  Fruits that go bad quickly such as blueberries, raspberries and Bartlett pears go straight into the blender (larger quantities go into the actual blender, not the MB) and then into freezer trays.

On the other hand, apples are just too hard for him to eat unless made into a sauce. I have found that the best way to make apple sauce is not by steaming, it’s by baking.  I take the apples and just slice the meat off the cores, put them in a baking pan with some butter and leave them in the oven at 400F for an hour or so.  When I take them out and let them cool the apple meat slips right off of the skin and can be pureed.  Super easy! I freeze it in cubes and toss it in his oatmeal with some cinnamon.

Last but not least…sweet potatoes:

This is a small detail, but keeping sweet potatoes around is the easiest.  I just run out and buy a few, wash them up, stick some holes in them with a fork, and shove them in the top rack of a 400F oven for an hour or so until those black bubbles start coming out of the holes.  That’s how I know it’s well cooked.  Also, I make sure I put a silicone mat on the bottom rack so that those black bubbles don’t hit the bottom of the oven and smoke up the house.  I pull the potatoes out and set them on the counter and forget about them for a few hours.  Once they’re cool I just store them whole in a baggie in the fridge.  The skin will have almost completely separated from the meat and I just have to scoop it out with a spoon and have my way with it.  My favorite thing to make is my “sweet potato pie smoothie”, but I think I’ll save that recipe for Thanksgiving!

So there you have it.  Not so exciting, but stuff I do pretty much ALL THE TIME.


The other day I was consumed by a sudden burning desire to learn more about French food.  It didn’t just spring on me out of the blue, I was watching “Julie and Julia” and just fell in love with the concept of the food she was cooking.  I get that way sometimes, when reading a book or watching a movie with graphic food imagery.  I get “the itch”.  So I headed to Half Price Books with Simon on my hip in search of :

1) Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”, because just out of curiosity I would like to read it (and by that I mean thumb through it) in all of it’s glory, and I also wanted to see if there was any glimmer of a chance of my actually cooking any of the recipes.

2) If said MtAoFC turned out to be, as expected, absolutely ridiculous and impractical, find another French cookbook with recipes that could actually be cooked without dismembering a lobster, making homemade puff pastry, or boiling a calves foot for five hours, etc.

But the beauty of a trip to HPB is that you just never know what you’re going to walk out of the store with, so I bought this:

Yep.  Curries.  Absolutely nothing to do with French food because they didn’t have MtAoFC nor any other decent looking alternatives.  But since I got into making Indian food after I was hit with a similar “itch” last year, this looked perfect for me; quick, spicy recipes and pretty pictures.  So I made the Chicken Tikka Masala, albeit a heavily edited version because I WANT IT THE WAY I WANT IT, damnit!

And it was da bomb, thankyouverymuch.

And here we are, finally getting to the point of this post; discussing the beauty of that which a fine cookbook can present; POSSIBILITIES.

Cookbooks are my own personal version of porn (in case you hadn’t picked up on the sexually charged first paragraph).  When I look through a good cookbook (and I mean a good one with well written intros and professional photographs, not the typewriter written, spiral bound church cookbook with pot pie and brownie recipes)it’s the same concept as when a man looks at a nudie magazine.  It presents the possibility.  Yes, dude, that beautiful woman actually exists somewhere in the world, and just IMAGINE what you can do to her (or what she can do to you)! To me, I stare at that gorgeous casserole dish I would just love to own, filled with the perfectly baked mac ‘n’ cheese covered in crispy browned and buttery bread crumbs with just a bit of crumbled bacon on top and I can see that little bit of browned cheese juuuuust falling off the edge of the dish that I would just looooove snatch up and devour because noooooobody would know, and it’s probably going to fall off anyways when I move the dish……mmmmmmmmm…hmmmmmmmmm..

….um….where was I?

Oh yeah, possibilities.  Despite my admitted love of cookbooks I actually own very few.  I don’t bring a book home just for viewing pleasure, I only buy books for a purpose.  Because that’s what I do, I cook food with PURPOSE.  Cultural, sentimental, seasonal, whatever it may be, I like to make food you can feel; food with a story.  I bring home books that present me with the possibility of achieving this purpose.  And then I make them my own by rarely actually following the recipes perfectly.  Hence the adjustments to the Tikka Masala.

Unfortunately possible does not always mean probable.  I bought “Cooking for Baby” after having fallen in love with the idea of the book in the store.


Yes, I can possibly get Simon to eat all of these lovely foods…

…but it’s not very probable. Because thus far Simon has rejected anything that:

1) Isn’t sweet

2) Isn’t sweet….wait, I already said that.

3) Isn’t sweet….dammit!

All of these enticing recipes and he won’t touch any of them unless I mix them 1:2 with pear puree. Shit, I could probably get the kid to eat dirt if it was mixed in with pear.  It’s his nectar.  His ambrosia.  Pear = love for Simon.


But I keep holding onto the possibility of him suddenly and inexplicably starting to eat the food I cook for him.  I keep thumbing through my cookbooks, coming up with ideas. And I keep cooking for him, despite the endless rejections. Because it’s just 18 more years until he leaves for college. I have time.  But for now I just cook for two.  For now.

And by the way, I ordered Ina Garten’s “Barefoot in Paris” online after a heart thumping encounter with it at Barnes and Noble.  Gorgeous book, but shiiiiit, Ina, $35? Thanks Amazon used books! $16.99! I’ll let you know how it goes…

Self feeding 101

Hi everyone, it’s Simon, here to present my introductory course in self feeding.

So listen up…or else!

Step 1: Let Mommy know you’re ready to start feeding yourself!

When you’re in your high chair, try to pick up any bit of dropped food from the tray.  Things will get a little messy because you’ll be smearing purees everywhere, but it’s worth the mess! Look REALLY intense and ignore everything else around you (including the food Mommy is trying to feed you). This might seem simple, but Mommy can be a little dense.  Be persistent and eventually she’ll clue in.

Step 2: Pick up finger foods

OK guys, this part is really hard.  Nine month old babies have a tough time grabbing little things. So once Mommy has clued in and gone out and bought you some Cheerios, she’ll dump a bunch on your tray. You’ll need to somehow get those tiny Cheerios in your hand!  I know, I know, this is really tough stuff, but it helps if your hands are already covered in yogurt because the Cheerios will just stick to your fingers!

It’s ok, take your time…

Nice job!!

Step 3: Get the Cheerio from your hand and into your mouth.

The challenges are never ending! Once you’ve gotten it into your hand it’s STILL not in your mouth! Sometimes it get’s stuck between two fingers that aren’t even CLOSE to your mouth (see above photo).  But stay with it, my friends.  Smash that hand into your mouth!

If you get frustrated, you can take a break and let Mommy feed you one…

Or just take a few moments and wipe your hands…

Because eventually you will succeed!

Great job!