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Posted in Sweets | 2 Comments

Healthy Macaroni and Cheese

Yes, I’m doing this….I’m saying that there is such a thing as Healthy Macaroni and Cheese!  What comes to mind when you hear mac and cheese?  I suddenly envision myself 5 years old, feet dangling off the edge of the chair and my Grandma serving up some of her ooey gooey cheesey macaroni and cheese!!!  I can still see the steam coming off the spoon as it dips into the big white casserole dish.  Well…..I have that recipe and if I made a regular habit of eating that, I would need to buy bigger pants and make an appointment with the cardiologist!  By the way, the same goes for you if your memories of mac and cheese include a blue box and an oddly colored orange powdered “cheese”.  Please!!

So in an effort to avoid the cardiologist and the ever dreaded pant-shopping experience, here is my healthy and wholesome version of Macaroni and Cheese.

  • 1 Butternut Squash, roasted and pureed OR 1 Frozen Package of Squash
  • 8 oz Whole Wheat Elbow Macaroni
  • 1 cup 1% Milk
  • 1 1/2 cups Cheddar Cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 cup Part Skim Ricotta Cheese
  • 1/2 tsp Dijon Mustard
  • Fresh Grated Nutmeg
  • 2 tbsp Parmesan Cheese, grated
  • 1 tbsp Pecorino Romano Cheese, grated
  • 2 tbsp Whole Wheat Panko Bread Crumbs
  • 1 tbsp Butter, melted

Cut the butternut squash in half, lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and what not.  Place cut side down in a large casserole dish in about 1 inch of water and roast at 350 degrees for about an hour.  Once cooled, scoop out the squash and puree or mash with a large fork until smooth.  If you don’t feel like going all Martha Stewart and breaking out the roasting pan, go ahead and buy the frozen pureed squash from the store.  I won’t tell anyone!  It costs a little more but it works just as well.  Allow the frozen squash to thaw first.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and lightly spray a casserole dish with cooking spray.  Combine the milk and 3/4 cup of the squash puree in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Bring the mixture just barely to a simmer, remove from heat and stir in the cheddar and ricotta cheese, mustard and nutmeg.

Meanwhile bring a large pot of water to a boil and stir in the elbow macaroni and cook according to package directions.

Toss the drained macaroni in a large bowl with the cheese mixture.  Pour into the prepared casserole dish.  Stir together the Parmesan and Romano cheese with the panko and butter.

Sprinkle the panko-parmesan topping over the casserole and bake for about 20 minutes until golden brown.

This is a great way to get your little ones to eat more veggies!

Posted in Dinner, Side Dish, Vegetarian, Veggies | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Ricotta Chocolate Cups

Chocolate, Hello Lover!

I am so excited about this recipe I can hardly stand it!  Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and that means it’s Chocolate Season!  I love chocolate!  I love looking at it, smelling it, thinking about it, cooking and baking with it…..ah and yes, eating chocolate!  On more than one occasion I have convinced myself, quite successfully, that chocolate is a vegetable and yes, I should eat it and eat it often!  After the holidays have calmed down, it seems like I go the entire month of January without my friend, Chocolate.  Well, I’ve missed you dear friend!  Here is a recipe/project that is fun, messy, easy and perfect for Valentines Day….or really any day that you want a special treat!  I have filled these adorable chocolate cups with a ricotta cheese mixture which is a great source of protein and calcium!  So there, top it with some fruit and we are pretty close to a well rounded meal!

Mini Chocolate Cups

  • 4 oz Semi Sweet Chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 tbsp Vegetable Shortening (I know, ick! but it’s just once a year!)
  • 9 Mini Paper Baking Cups

Combine the chopped chocolate and shortening and melt.  Either in a double boiler on the stove top or in the microwave.  When melting chocolate in the microwave, stop every 30 seconds to stir.

Using a small spoon or spatula, coat the inside of the mini baking cups with the melted chocolate.

Place the cups into a mini muffin tin to ensure they keep their shape.

Transfer to the fridge for at least 15 minutes and add a second coat of chocolate and return to the fridge for an additional 30 minutes.  You can probably skip this step if you pile on the chocolate thick the first time.  But I like to play with chocolate!  Once the chocolate is set, gently peel off the paper lining from the cups.

And now the fun begins!

Ricotta Cream

  • 1/2 cup Ricotta Cheese (I go for the Part Skim Ricotta)
  • 2 tsp. Sugar Substitute (OR 1 tbsp Honey or Maple Syrup)
  • 1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract (get the good stuff  here!)

Stir together to combine.  The options are limitless here….So get creative, you could add in a different flavoring like mint or almond extract.  You could sprinkle in some lemon or orange zest.  Spruce it up with some cocoa powder, cinnamon or espresso powder.

I filled a pastry bag with the ricotta cream and piped it into the chocolate cups.


At this point you can enjoy these little cuties just as they are….or top them with just about anything you like!  Chopped nuts, fresh fruit or mini chocolate chips.  Since I had some melted chocolate, I felt the need to take a strawberry for a swim and then sprinkle on some demerara sugar (aka natural brown sugar).

These are a pretty tasty treat on their own!

These would be perfect served along side this Healthy Hot Chocolate!

Posted in Sweets | Tagged , , , , , | 22 Comments

Blueberry Surprise!

The other day I was digging around in my freezer searching for a bag of edamame beans and came across a bag of blueberries.  I was so excited!!!  It was like Christmas….except for the fact that no one has ever given me a bag of frozen blueberries for Christmas, but you know what I mean!  This past Summer while at my Mom’s house we went blueberry picking in her backyard!!  My Mom, brother and I loaded up on the insect repellent and headed into the woods.  We ended up with so many blueberries I didn’t know what to do with them.  My daughter had not yet been introduced to solid food so I knew I wanted to freeze some for her……And apparently I forgot about them…..But it’s never too late for blueberries.

Here is an Un-Recipe for blueberries with cottage cheese.  It’s simple and it’s pretty, so I’m sharing it!

First, place the frozen blueberries in a small colander

Give them a little shower so they thaw quickly

Cottage Cheese Meet Blueberry, Blueberry Meet Cottage Cheese

For my 11 month old daughter, I blended the blueberries in the Magic Bullet…love that little machine!

Blueberry Puree with Cottage Cheese


I hardly had time to take another picture because my little girl loved it so much!

Jane at This Week for Dinner inspired me to post this un-recipe.

I like to wash berries before freezing them, that way I don’t have to worry about washing them later….sometimes I bake with frozen berries and there is no time for washing.  Here are the steps I took to freeze the fresh blueberries:

  • Remove all stems and wash the berries
  • Transfer to a cooling rack and allow to dry completely
  • Line a cookie sheet or large dish with a clean kitchen towel and place the berries on top
  • Move the berry party to the freezer and allow to freeze, then transfer to a zip top bag, label and done!
Posted in Breakfast, Fruit, Side Dish, Sweets, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Fish Failure!

So….do you know that chick?  You know that chick with the perfect hair that always seems to do everything just right!?!  Yes, her!  With her perfectly pressed shirts, well-behaved kids, clean car, manicured hands and she is never frazzled!  Well, everyone…..that’s NOT me!  And I’m glad that’s not me.  Alright, I wouldn’t mind having perfectly manicured hands all the time!  But still what fun is it to have everything perfect, and when do you ever learn anything if you never fail!?!  Right?  Well, here is the story of my most recent failure.  hohum…..

I don’t particularly care for fish.  I can make friends with some shrimp, crab and lobster…but who can’t be friends with those lovely little guys!  Anyway, fish….I don’t like it, I don’t like smelling it, I don’t want to talk about it, I don’t want it in my kitchen and I certainly don’t want to cook it!  BUT you see, I have this little baby now and fish is SO stinkin’ good for you and well, it’s time I put on my big girl pants and eat some fish with my baby girl!!!  I had planned to introduce fish to her when she was 10 months old but….I’m about a month behind.  Hey, I’m not perfect!

So I finally decided it was time.  Fish time!  I did all my research and determined that cod would be the best first fish for my little girl.  My only other experience with cod was in England where it was battered, deep fried and served along with classic chips, mushy peas and a tall dark ale that made everything ALL RIGHT!  Well, obviously none of those things are options for us now.  So I had this brilliant idea to marinate the fish and then bake it.  All I can say is ICK!  Seriously it was so yucky!  It was edible, my husband said it’s “okay”……I think he just didn’t want to hurt my feelings so I won’t give up on fish…..you see, he LOVES fish and he really wants me to play nice and invite fish over to our kitchen more often.

I had pumped myself up all week and was actually excited about our fish night.  But oh my, what a disappointment.  My hubby and I ended up reheating the leftovers from the night before!  BUT the good news is that my daughter loved it!!  She ate the fish finger food style and she was all about it!!!  woohoo!

So maybe the first fish experience for my little girl wasn’t a total failure.  I’m sharing this with you all so that I will force myself to make another fish dish and the next fish dish shall be a fish dish success!  I hope!  Until then, let me know if you have any happy, healthy fish stories.

Posted in Dinner | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Winter Salad

Good fruit in the winter is sometimes hard to find.  Unless you live in Florida, California or maybe Brazil.  But hey, if you live right smack in the middle of the U.S., don’t forget about the produce aisle.  Here is a delicious and ridiculously simple Pear and Grape Salad.  This salad is great with lunch, perfect for breakfast and a yummy after-dinner dessert.  Make this salad because it’s simple, because it’s cheap, make this because it looks pretty, because it’s in season, because it won’t make your butt big….make this salad just because!

Winter Grape Pear Salad

  • 1 cup Red Seedless Grapes, quartered
  • 1 Bosc (or Anjou) Pear, peeled and thinly sliced*
  • 1 tbsp. Orange Juice
  • 3-5 Fresh Mint Leaves

Combine all ingredients and enjoy.  Yes, it’s that simple!  For a little crunch and protein pow you could add a few sliced almonds on top.

*I have been sharing this salad with my 11 month old daughter, and I don’t feel like her little system is ready for the skin of a pear so I peel the pears.  You can certainly leave the skin on if you prefer.

Posted in Breakfast, Fruit, Side Dish, Sweets, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Turkey Veggie Meatballs

Spaghetti and meatballs…..can’t be healthy, surely not, it’s too good to be true!  Well, why not?  Let’s swap out the artery-clogging ground beef for some lean ground turkey, sneak in a few veggies and bring on some whole wheat pasta and, why yes….that is a plate full of wholesome goodness and look at those happy smiling faces with red sauce all over their shirts, the table and floor!

Turkey Veggie Meatballs

  • 1/2 Onion, diced
  • 1 Carrot, peeled, quartered and diced
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, diced
  • 1 lb. Lean Ground Turkey
  • 1/4 tsp. of each Salt, Pepper, Dried Basil and Dried Oregano
  • 3/4 cup Bread Crumbs
  • 1/3 cup Butternut Squash Puree (don’t freak out, you can do this*)
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 23 oz. Jar of Pasta Sauce
  • 8 oz. Tomato Sauce

Saute the onion and carrot in a drizzle of olive oil for about 8-10 minutes, until tender.  Set aside and allow to cool.

In a glass bowl combine the garlic, turkey, spices, breadcrumbs and squash.  Once the onion and carrots have cooled, add them to the mixture and stir to combine.  Do not overmix.  Form into 25-ish 1-inch-ish balls.

Heat a large skillet with about 1 tablespoon of olive oil and add the meatballs and cook until brown on all sides, about 8-10 minutes.  If your skillet is not large enough, do this step in batches so as not to overcrowd the pan.

Add pasta sauce and tomato sauce and simmer for at least 20 minutes until the meatballs are cooked through.

Serve with your favorite whole wheat pasta.  I decided to go for some angel hair pasta this time and it was delightful!


*Butternut squash puree is no big deal, simply follow these steps to roast the squash and puree.  If you don’t have the time to roast the squash you can find pureed squash in the freezer section of the grocery store.

Posted in Dinner, Veggies | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Pasta for the wee ones

Here is a simple and healthy pasta for babies and toddlers.  Okay, I ate some, too, and it’s tasty for us big kids as well.  Think along the lines of spaghetti o’s….but much healthier and not in a can, laced with BPA, and made with your own loving hands!

Star Bright Pasta

  • 1/2 Onion, diced
  • 2 Carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 Clove Garlic, diced
  • 2 Tomatoes, diced
  • 1 cup Water
  • 1/4 cup Frozen Peas
  • 1/4 cup Star Shaped Pasta

In a small sauce pan, saute the onion and carrots in a drizzle of olive oil for about five minutes.  Add garlic and cook for another minute until the smell is yummy!  Add the diced tomatoes and 1 cup of water.  Cover and simmer for approximately 15 minutes.  Add the frozen peas and cook for another 5 minutes.  Use a slotted spoon to transfer the sauce to a blender and blend until smooth (or the texture you want for your little one).  I left mine pretty thick because my little girl wants to take the spoon and try “feeding” herself….which means that we usually have a lot of food that totally misses her mouth but lands beautifully on her forehead!

Meanwhile, cook the star pasta in boiling water for 7 minutes, drain and set aside.  Note:  I used a sieve for this because the holes in my strainer were too big.

This pasta freezes well.  I poured the leftovers into individual portions to keep in the freezer and have on hand for a quick weeknight meal.

Posted in Dinner, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Moroccan Spiced Acorn Squash and Couscous

I have never been to Morocco and it’s not really high on my list of places in the World to visit.  Though I do appreciate Morocco for the couscous that is widely used in their cuisine.  Couscous is so easy to prepare and also incredibly easy to add to many different dishes. Here is a delicious, healthy and satisfying meal that is great for the whole family.  If you aren’t friends with couscous, give it a try.  Couscous is also a really fun new texture for the little ones at your dinner table!

  • 1 Acorn Squash, peeled and cubed (see below for an easy to peel acorn squash)
  • 1 tbsp Butter, melted
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, minced
  • 2 Celery Stalks, chopped
  • 2 Carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 can Garbanzo Beans
  • 1/2 cup Raisins
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Cumin
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 can Chicken Broth
  • 1 cup Couscous

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

To easily peel the squash place it in a pot of boiling water for 15 minutes, drain the boiling water and replace with cold water and let stand 5 minutes.  The skin will be much easier to slice away using a knife rather than a peeler.  And it’s easier to get in the nooks and crannies of the squash with a small spoon….it will just scrape right off.

Once the squash has been peeled, remove the seeds (don’t throw them out…toast them up for a yummy snack)  and cut the squash into equal sized cubes.  Toss with the melted butter on a roasting pan and roast in the 350 degree preheated oven for 30 minutes.  After 15 minutes, stir the squash.  Optional – at this point you could sprinkle the squash with about 2 teaspoons of brown sugar.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet saute the carrots, celery and garlic in a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil until tender about 5 minutes.

Add the garbanzo beans, raisins, cumin, salt and pepper.  Cook for about 2-5 minutes until fragrant and well combined.

Stir in the chicken broth and couscous, cover skillet and remove from heat and allow to sit for 5 minutes.  The liquid will be absorbed by the couscous and the raisins will be nice and plump.  Stir in the roasted acorn squash and stir to combine.  This is a hearty meal on its own or could be served as a side dish for a mongo sized meal!

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Roasted Pepper Hummus

Hummus is so beautifully simple and is such a staple at our house.  I remember the first time I tasted hummus was at the Jerusalem Cafe in Westport in Kansas City.  I was probably 9 years old and mostly excited about the flat bread that accompanied the hummus.  Little did I realize that just a few years later this would be a mainstay of my diet for several weeks while on a trip to Turkey with my dad.  Since neither of us speak Turkish, it was always an adventure ordering off a menu but we could always count on hummus!

Hummus isn’t really exotic at all.  We’re talking about garbanzo beans (chickpeas), sesame, garlic and lemon juice.  That’s it!  Hummus is a great source of protein and wants to be friends with all kinds of goodies in your kitchen…..like veggies, flat bread (pita), crackers and try introducing it to your favorite sandwich.  Here are two spruced up hummus recipes using roasted peppers.  The first one is not traditional BUT is baby proof, I served this to my little girl and she couldn’t get enough of it.

Roasted Pepper Hummus for the Little Ones

  • 2 cups Garbanzo Beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 Roasted Bell Pepper
  • 1/3 cup Plain Yogurt
  • 1 Clove Garlic
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil
  • Dash of Cumin

Blend all the ingredients in a food processor until smooth.

My daughter loves this by the spoonful!  I also served the hummus with steamed cauliflower and toast to make a messy, yummy finger food!

I also made several of these adorable little hummus sandwiches with mini whole wheat bread (yes, I’ll post a recipe soon).  Cut them into little pieces and she gobbled them right up!

Roasted Pepper Hummus for the Big Kids

  • 1 1/2 cups Garbanzo Beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 Roasted Bell Pepper
  • 1/3 cup Tahini (don’t be scared this is just ground sesame seeds)
  • Juice of 2 Lemons (approximately 1/3 cup)
  • 2 Cloves Garlic


Combine all ingredients in a food processor until smooth.  Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of paprika and/or parsley.

Posted in Dinner, Side Dish, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments