I have been attempting to get B to sleep in his crib during naptime, which is also a new thing. I've been attempting to put him down for an official late nap around 2 or 3 each day. It's mostly to get him used to the idea and get him comfortable sleeping in the crib on his back. He couldn't hate laying on his back more... but we're breaking him of it, I think. He's not one of those kids I'm going to brag about sleeping through the night, because he's not. We average about 4-5 hours straight and then the rest of the night is sort of a mess. Our longest stint was 7 hours and I woke up worried because it was such a weird occurrence. However, during his naps, I'm sometimes able to get creative in the kitchen before dinner. Here are a few of those instances.
I bought a bag of Bob's Red Mill Polenta and really wanted to find a fun way to make it. That, and I love Mexican food and thought it would be a fun alternative to tortillas and pretty darn healthy. I typed polenta into the search bar on Pinterest and viola. Dinner was all figured out.
Black Bean and Polenta Casserole
- 1/2 cup black beans
- 1 cup organic polenta
- 3 cups water
- 4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated (about 1 cup)
- 1 1/2 cups of your favorite salsa
- The kitchen sink: whatever else you want to add-- I added chicken for Ray's, diced bell pepper, olives, diced green chiles & cilantro and guac to the top.
1. Bring 3 cups salted water to a boil in a heavy-duty sauce pan. With water boiling, pour polenta in a steady stream, stirring constantly to avoid lumps. Turn down the heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until smooth. You should barely see individual grains of cornmeal.
2. Spread half the cooked polenta into a 9×9 baking dish (I used two small casserole dishes I bought at Crate & Barrel which are great for cooking one meatless and one with meat). Add anything you want to the center (black beans, chicken, peppers, salsa, cheese), then add polenta to cover the top.
3. Bake in a 350°F oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until cheese is melted.
Next up is a simple one... popcorn. No chemicals added in a compostable brown paper bag even! It wasn't much effort, but I was interested in a snack and being on this no-sugar self-induced diet of sorts, I wanted something healthy. I even emailed Brooke later to tell her it was a success (being the avid popcorn lover that she is) and she told me popcorn is high in fiber. Even better!
Here's the recipe:
Measure popcorn and pour into a paper bag (I used 1/8 cup but for a decent serving, I'd do 1/4 cup per person. Fold the bag twice. Pop in the microwave for about 3 minutes. I then added a dash of cayenne and some sea salt because that's how I like it.
For dinner last night, I made something that's been on the list for a long time. Here's a saving money tip for you all: buy reduced cost yogurt that hasn't yet expired but will in the next few days and freeze it. It can be used in smoothies (which I drink almost everyday: OJ, yogurt, banana, strawberry) no matter the expiration and you got a deal on it, of course! This is a great way to get cheap Greek yogurt when paying $1/container isn't something that excites you. My Safeway affiliate market always has yogurts on clearance that are a week from expiration.
Anyway, I'm fabulous at tangents. I bought a small container of Greek yogurt yesterday for 50 cents and knew I was committing to this recipe. Greek yogurt is not only high in protein and all kinds of good stuff, but it's low in fat-- or in this case, fat free. I'm not a cream sauce fan because of the high fat content. While this didn't add tons of flavor (it is plain yogurt, after all), it made a very healthy alternative to a creamy tomato sauce with hidden nutrients to boot!
Penne Pasta with Tomato Cream Sauce, Spinach, and Whatever Else You Want (because let's be honest... I never follow a recipe entirely)
- 1 package whole wheat penne
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 medium tomatoes (about 1/2 lb.) chopped
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 4 cups fresh spinach
- 1/2 cup marinara sauce
- 1/3 cup 0% plain Greek yogurt
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
- Cook penne according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain and set aside.
- In a large skillet with a lid, heat olive oil over medium-low heat. Add in garlic and red pepper flakes, cook for 2 minutes or until garlic begins to soften.
- Add in tomatoes, salt and pepper. Cook for a few minutes.
- Remove from heat, add in spinach and cover skillet. Let spinach wilt for 2 minutes.
- Remove lid and place skillet back over low heat. Add the penne, Greek yogurt and pasta sauce. Stir until sauce is mixed well and all pasta and veggies are coated. Heat until just warmed through. Divide into pasta bowls and serve topped with parmesan cheese.
And because B decided his nap would be a long one yesterday, I had time to be even more creative. I wanted to serve some kind of bread (because double carbs rock! And we all know my obsession with bread lately) but didn't have any worthy. To Pinterest I went! I typed in breadsticks and searched three different recipes until this one seemed right. And OH WAS IT! This is officially my go-to recipe for pizza dough and breadsticks from here on out.
Breadsticks (I recommend visiting the website because he has step-by-step picture instructions)
1 1/2 c. warm (105-115 degrees) water
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. yeast
1/2 tsp. salt
3-4 1/2 c. flour
1. In your KitchenAid mixer (with pastry dough fork), combine water, sugar, and yeast. Let stand for 10 minutes or until yeast is bubbly.
2. Add salt and stir. Add 1 1/2 c. flour and mix well. Gradually add more flour (usually between 3-4 cups, depending on your elevation and your humidity) until dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl and it barely sticks to your finger.
3. Spray a glass or metal bowl with cooking spray and place dough in the bowl. Cover and allow to rise for 45 minutes or until doubled in bulk.
4. Remove from bowl and place on a lightly-floured surface. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Roll into a rectangle and cut into 12 strips with a pizza cutter.
5. Twist the dough. Place on baking sheet and repeat with remaining 11 pieces of dough. Try to space them evenly, but it’s okay if they’re close.
6. Cover pan and allow dough to rise for another 30 minutes.
7. When there’s about 15 minutes to go, preheat your oven to 425. When done rising, bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Rub some butter on top of the breadsticks (just put a Ziploc bag on your hand, grab some softened butter, and have at it) and sprinkle with garlic bread seasoning or whatever you want. That garlic bread seasoning is awesome. I used it and loved it.
Just like the pretzels, Ray insisted we have these again tomorrow. Lucky for him, there are 5 left over since it does make 12 breadsticks. I may have eaten 4 myself last night. So much for that self-induced diet, right?
Finally, I'm going to be posting this at the bottom of my posts for awhile because I'm just so dang distraught about this family losing their sweet daughter after losing their son last year. I placed a donation to help cover some of the medical costs and because they are looking into surrogacy since not only did her uterine rupture take the life of her daughter, but she was told that getting pregnant again would be too risky. They desperately want a family like we all do. If you'd like to visit Becky's blog, go here. And for the donation page (also linked through the blog) go here.