Monday, February 28, 2011

Book Review - I Love You Through and Through

I Love You Through and Through by Bernadette Rossetti Shustak is a favorite read in our house.

 This children's book has adorable pictures and a precious story that depicts the love parents have for their children.

It is simple, sweet with such lines as "I love your inside...and outside."

or "your giggles... and cries"

But the ultimate message to our little ones is that we love them "through and through" regardless of their appearance, their health, their mood, their attitude, their mistakes ... or you fill in the blank.

As Ezra's mom, I have learned so much about God's unconditional love for us. Though I love Ezra when he is happy or sad, clean or dirty, I am not perfect and I can still get annoyed when we are all ready to leave the house and then suddenly I need to clean baby puke out of my hair or when we have the occasional day with no naps. It can be rough, but I still love that little peanut.

 Now, my love for Ezra is far from unconditional, I am human and can be just as horrible as anyone else. But I am learning each day through my growing love for my little one how much greater the Father's love is for me. For His love is without measure. God in fact is the only one who can love "through and through" all the time. 

I love this story. It is excellent bridge to share with your little ones the great love you have for them, but that God, their heavenly father, is able to and does love them far more than you can even imagine.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Same Old Block...Different Colors

These blocks follow the same pattern as my previous "Homemade Baby Block" post....just a different color for a different baby!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Spice it Up!

It is recommended to wait till babies are about 8-10 months before adding spices to their diet. I am eagerly awaiting the day that I can spice up Ezra's food. I am hoping that the early introduction to spices will help my little one appreciate good flavor and widen his palate at a young age. I have been reading in various sources that spices should be added to a baby's diet just like new foods, meaning that parents should wait 3-4 days between the introduction of each new spice once it is clear that there is no reaction, then feel free to add another spice or herb. Do not be a afraid to add a little spice, but there is no need to add salt or sugar.

Here is a list of possible spices to add to your 8-10 month old's food:
pepper, vanilla, garlic powder, basil, rosemary, dill, oregano, lemon zest, ginger, cinnamon, mint, nutmeg,anise. curry powder
Suggestions to Spice it Up!  (from

Apple(Sauce): use cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, vanilla, ginger
Pears: use ginger, cinnamon, a drip of vanilla or even mint
Bananas: use cinnamon, ginger, allspice, vanilla 

Plain Yogurt : use with mint, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, ginger, allspice, cardamom

Sweet potato: use with nutmeg, cinnamon and/or cardamom
Pumpkin: use with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and dash of vanilla
Carrots: use with basil & garlic - baked cinnamon carrots are yummy too.
Green beans: use with garlic powder
Mashed potatoes(white) : use with dill weed or garlic
Winter Squash (acorn, hubbard, butternut etc.): use with cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger

Pasta: use oregano, garlic, basil
Oatmeal or other cereals: use fruits, cinnamon & nutmeg, dash of vanilla
Rice (sweet) with cinnamon, nutmeg, dash of vanilla, cardamom, ginger
Quinoa (sweet): use cinnamon, nutmeg, dash of vanilla, cardamom, ginger for sweet
Quinoa (savory): use garlic powder, pepper, onion powder, basil, oregano and others

Chicken/Turkey with cinnamon and/or coriander
Chicken/Turkey with garlic powder and basil
Chicken/Turkey with lemon zest and pepper
Chicken/Turkey with basil & oregano
Chicken/Turkey with garlic and pepper
Chicken/Turkey with sage, rosemary and thyme
Beef with garlic and pepper
Beef with onion powder and pepper
Beef with Orange Zest

Quinoa and Black Bean Salad

Whether you are looking for gluten-free, vegan or just delicious then quinoa is great menu option. Quinoa is usually considered a grain, but it really is a seed in the spinach and Swiss chard family. When cooked this delicious seed has a fluffy texture similar to cooked couscous with a slight crunch.

Besides quinoa's nutty, delicious taste it also has many health benefits. Quinoa is a complete protein which means it contains all nine amino acids. Not only is quinoa a great protein source, but also a good source of magnesium, iron, copper and phosphorous. Quinoa is becoming much more common and can often be found in grocery stores, health food stores and various cooperatives.

Quinoa and Black Bean Salad

1 cup quinoa
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon paprika
1 large onion, finely chopped (2 cups)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 or 2 red bell peppers, diced
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper flakes
1 tablespoon dried cilantro leaves or 1/2 cup fresh
1 can (12 oz) kernel corn, drained
1 can (14 oz) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 large tomato, diced
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled (optional)
1 small can black olives (optional)
1/2 cup pine nuts toasted (optional)
1/4 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed (juice of one lemon)
Salt and pepper to taste

1) In a sieve, rinse the quinoa under running water and drain.
2) Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a saucepan.  Add paprika and stir constantly for 1 minute.  Add quinoa and water.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Lower heat and simmer 15 to 20 minutes, or until the water is absorbed and quinoa is tender, yet a bit chewy.  If you prefer quinoa with a firmer textures, use 1 cup of water.
3) Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a frying pan.  Sauté onion, garlic, cumin and coriander until onions are translucent.  Stir in red bell peppers, hot pepper flakes and cilantro.  Sauté another 5 minutes.
4) Add cooked quinoa to sautéed vegetables.  Stir in the corn, black beans, tomato, feta, olives, pine nuts, lemon juice, salt and pepper.  Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate until ready to serve

Monday, February 21, 2011

Winter Storm + Chocolate + Milk = Hot Cocoa and Fun

It was a blustery night in February. Red noses and cold fingers from shoveling. A pot of warm milk, milk chocolate and a Chocolatiere....take a look at our photo story to see how our evening turned out.

I think we should say....Winter Storm + Chocolate + Milk = Hot Cocoa and Fun

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Whole Wheat Fig-Walnut Scones

Soy Free, Egg Free

Whole Wheat Fig-Walnut scones are one of my all-time favorites. For that matter, I truly enjoy most recipes including figs...maybe figs are one of my favorite foods. Though I have never had "Figgy Pudding."

I love that this recipe is a great "basic" whole wheat scone recipe. If you don't care for figs or are allergic to walnuts, you can make your scones "Cranberry Almond," "Raisin Walnut," or "Cherry Hazelnut," or whatever you want depending on the extra ingredients you add.

3 cups whole wheat flour (freshly ground if possible)
1/3 cup sugar (use cane juice crystals or sucanut if you want a less-processed sweetener)
1 Tb baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks of butter)
3/4 cup chopped dried figs (cranberries, craisins, dried cherries, dates...ect.)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (almonds, hazelnuts...or leave out the nuts if you prefer)
1 cup cold water (possibly a little bit more.)

optional Granted zest of one orange, cinnamon sugar for topping

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease or parchment-line a baking sheet. In a medium bowl using a whisk, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and zest. Using a fork, pastry blender or electric mixer cut in the butter. The mixture will resemble coarse crumbs. Stir in fruit and nuts. Add water to dry mixture, stirring just until shaggy sticky dough is formed. If the dough is crumbly, add a Tb of water at a time till dough is moist and sticky.

2.  Spoon dough onto baking sheet in  clumps. (I prefer spooning out my dough into clumps instead of rolling it out and making wedges. It simply saves time. But if you have more time and prefer to roll out your dough and cut it into wedges, please do so.)

3. If desired sprinkle the stops with cinnamon sugar. Bake 15-20 minutes, or until crusty and golden brown. Serve immediately for a delicious breakfast or coffee time treat.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Heart-Shaped Cinnamon Rolls

It seems fitting to make all things heart-shaped for Valentines. This afternoon I used a favorite bread recipe and added some sweet goodness to make heart shaped cinnamon rolls.
The best thing about cinnamon rolls is that you can use your favorite bread dough recipe and then just add the goodies to transform simple bread dough into delicious cinnamon rolls!

Below is one of my favorite bread recipes adapted for making bread in the Bosch Universal Mixer.

Italian Whole-Wheat Bread / Adapted for making in Bosch Universal Plus Mixer(from: The Bread Bible: Beth Hensperger's 300 Favorite Recipes)

2 1/2 cups warm water (105 - 115 degrees F.)
2 Tb SAF instant yeast
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup honey
1 Tb salt
about 6 cups whole wheat flour

Additional Ingredient/Supplies for Cinnamon Rolls
Sugar (Sucanut, Cane Juice Crystals or Brown Sugar)
Dental Floss

1.  Pour warm water, honey, olive oil and yeast into the Bosch mixing bowl.
2.  Pour 3 cups of freshly ground whole wheat flour over wet ingredients. (Nutrimill Home Grain Mill is an excellent grain mill if you are interested in grinding your own grain.)
3.  Cover and mix on level 1 in the Bosch mixer for 1 minute
4.  Add salt and continue mixing on level 1
5. Add flour about 1/2 cup at a time until the dough does not stick to the sides of the bowl and looks like the right texture
6. Once the right amount of flour has been added, cover and turn the Bosch mixer to level 2 and mix for 6 minutes
7. When the 6 minutes is up, pour a small puddle of canola or olive oil on your work surface, remove the dough from the mixer and knead dough 3-4 times on the oiled surface. Do not add additional flour when kneading.
8.  Then spread the dough out into a rectangle about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. (Like pictured below)
9.  Sprinkle cinnamon, sugar, raisins, and walnuts onto the dough
10. Roll up the dough from opposite sides (Like pictured below)

11. Roll opposite sides till they meet in the middle. Cut a piece of dental floss (about 10-12 inches). Use the dental floss to cut the cinnamon roll tube into individual rolls. Each roll should be about 1 to 2 inches thick. (Like pictured below)
12. Place the cut pieces onto a greased cookie sheet and shape into hearts. (Like pictured below.)

13.  Allow cinnamon rolls to rise for about 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
14.  Bake cinnamon rolls for 20-30 minutes.
15.  Allow rolls to cool and frost them if desired. Enjoy!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Sweet Mama Zog's Bread of the Month Club

Whole Wheat Rolls baked yesterday for our Care Group tonight...they will be delish with Italian Beef Sandwiches

I have made quite a bit of bread over the last 5 years. It has been a growing experience for sure. I have shed many tears over loaves of bread that resembled bricks more than bread. If you don't believe me, just ask my husband. However, I have found like most things in life a little practice and perseverance does in fact pay off.

I still have days where my bread is flat, dense, crackly or just does not look right, but I would have to say that I love making bread. I also love sharing my bread with others who enjoy it. This year for Christmas I got creative and created the "Sweet Mama Zog Bread of the Month Club." 

Where did the name "Sweet Mama Zog come from? When we lived in Chicago, every Sunday evening I combined the the dry ingredients for pancake mix to be used for the early morning men's group of our church in Chicago. A couple cups of freshly ground whole wheat flour, ground flax seed, baking powder, salt, sugar and cinnamon made up the mix. My baking guesture soon became named "Sweet Mama Zog's Down Home Flapjacks" or "Sweet Mama Zog's Good Cookin....something or other...Pancakes." The name was quite long, cumbersome and hard to remember exactly, since I think it did often change, but it always started with "Sweet Mama Zog." So, there you have it, the history behind the name.

 A select few family members received this "Bread of the Month Club" coupon and are now reaping the delicious breads of the month for the year of 2011. In January I made Italian Walnut Raisin Bread that is one of my favorite recipes from: The Bread Bible: Beth Hensperger's 300 Favorite Recipes. I plan to make the February bread this weekend, I am thinking that heart shaped cinnamon rolls might be fun for Valentine's Day. 

Friday, February 4, 2011

Slow Coffee

I really do appreciate the slow things in life. I often feel that speed is mistaken for quality, when in fact slow sometimes can be best. Our Mr. Coffee coffee pot recently died. So while we patiently wait for our new Cuisinart Grind-and-Brew to be delivered from, our household is exploring our "slower coffee" options. I enjoyed French Press coffee many days this week, until the glass cracked yesterday. 

But, I still have my stove top espresso pot. Thankfully I feel that this pot is indestructible. 

Ezra and I are enjoying slow coffee mornings. Ezra bounces away in his chair, eating his oatmeal and bananas and the coffee percolates on the stove. These mornings have been great times of slowing down and enjoying the simple pleasures of slow coffee and time with my babe.

Cuisinart DGB-900BC Grind-and-Brew Thermal 12-Cup Automatic Coffeemaker, Brushed Chrome/Black