Category Archives: Healthy Recipes

Strawberry Picking and Green Strawberry Pickles

Strawberry Picking

Last weekend we celebrated Papa Bird’s birthday with a fun family day at Suzie’s Farm. They held their annual “Strawberry Jam” last Saturday and we all had so much fun, picking strawberries and eating yummy food. Little Bird loved apple picking as a tot and felt right at home with the plants and chickens.

strawberry picking

We started off picking organic strawberries. Every plant was filled with the most perfectly beautiful, sweet and flavorful berries. (At home, Little Bird tends to pick all of our strawberries while they are still green and small.) I did get some temporary hives from stinging nettles, but they went away.

strawberry picking

Next I sampled strawberry chutney, drank a strawberry and basil kombucha, and made green strawberry pickles with Austin from the San Diego Fermenter’s Club. Little Bird loves them. They are mild, slightly crunchy and have a hint of strawberry flavor. You can find the recipe for Green Strawberry Pickles here.

green strawberry pickles

Green Strawberry Pickles Recipe

After all that hard work, I was ready for a grass fed burger made with strawberry jam, and a beet and quinoa salad from Green Truck. The cold and windy weather discouraged our plans for eating ice cream from our friends’ Calexico Creamery, but we took home a pint of (what else?) Fresa and a pint of Mexican Cocoa. Little Bird and I hid out from the wind in a teepee and she gathered twigs and sticks to build a play fire.

organic strawberry jam

Check back tomorrow and I will share the best recipe for strawberry jam! It has hardly any sugar in it and no pectin. The only other ingredient is a lemon…

–> Update: Strawberry Jam now posted HERE.

The Best Meals to Freeze Before Baby Arrives

The first few weeks after a baby is born are the most wonderful, most difficult, slowest, and fastest time ever in the life of a family. Many families feel as though they struggle just to keep breathing. Cooking should be the last thing to worry about. Take out can be great. But nothing is as nourishing as a home cooked meal. Freezing precooked meals can be the best of both worlds when preparing for baby’s birth. Drawing on my experiences before and after the birth of my girls, scouring the interwebs, and picking the brains of some of the best food bloggers and recipe developers, I have created a list (or round up) of the best meals to freeze before baby arrives.

best meals to freeze before baby arrives

SOUPS TO FREEZE BEFORE BABY COMES

Both Maggie of Mama Maggie’s Kitchen and Laura of Family Spice recommend soups as freezing well.

Purple Sweet Potato Soup

1. Purple Sweet Potato Soup

Laura has a delicious (and beautiful) recipe for purple sweet potato soup.

2. Clam Chowder 

Maggie’s Clam Chowder will freeze well.

3. Beet Borscht

Borscht can be made with beef (which, along with the greens, is good for replenishing iron) or vegetarian, is affordable, and can help with losing baby weight. Enjoy it chunky or pureed, as in this photo.

Beet Borscht

For more soup recipes, click here.

SAUCES FREEZE GREAT FOR EASY MEALS AFTER BABY

4. Roasted Red Pepper Pesto

Defrost this, or a classic basil pesto sauce, frozen in convenient one-ounce ice cubes, and add some freshly boiled pasta. Step it up with a few shrimp.

red pepper pesto

5. Ragu

Lisa is a New Zealand-born food blogger, living in Italy. She shares authentic Italian recipes on the aptly named, Italian Kiwi, and this Ragu, a tomato sauce with ground meat, is no exception. She explains why you should never order Bolognese in Italy and why this recipe may not be her husband’s 95-year-old grandmother’s secret recipe, but how it holds it’s own.

CASSEROLES TO FREEZE BEFORE BABY ARRIVES

6. Salsa Verde Chicken Enchiladas

Bri shares a delicious recipe for Salsa Verde Chicken Enchiladas. This is very similar to how I make it, too.

salsa verde chicken enchilada

7. Pomegranate Lamb Moussaka

I made a double batch of this recipe before baby was born and was able to defrost and reheat the frozen one in time to bring along to the last session of our hypnobirthing class. (We also brought 7 day old Baby Bird.)

Pomegranate and Lamb Moussaka

8. Lasagna

Debbie Anderson from San Diego Momma shares, “I’m invoking The Pioneer Woman here…but this lasagna truly is the best ever and freezes well and is amazing and I love it and totally make it.”

OTHER GREAT FREEZER MEALS

9. Crock Pot Balsamic Chicken Thighs

A dear friend of mine brought us a fresh batch of this recipe after Baby Bird #2 was born. It was delicious. And according to comments from Brenda of the Sugar Free Mom, it will freeze well, too.

10. Curry

Azlin is a veritable encyclopedia of world cooking. I asked her about the best food to freeze and she recommended curries. She has several on her website, but handpicked this Massaman Curry, a mild Thai curry. She states that it is one of the milder ones, in case any new moms are worried about too much spice.

11. Beer Braised Pot Roast with Herb Dumplings

Laura reports it freezes well and it just looks delicious!

beer braised pot roast with herb dumplings

BREAKFASTS THAT ARE EASY TO DEFROST

Don’t forget the first meal of the day! A big dish, ready to go, can be a blessing, especially when extended family is in town and you don’t feel ready to face a busy, weekend restaurant. A frittata will freeze and defrost well, as well as one of these French Toast/Bread Pudding hybrids.

pumpkin french toast

12. Pumpkin French Toast Bread Pudding

13. Zucchini Bread French Toast Bread Pudding

14. Banana Brûléed Bread Pudding

(Add the Brûlée after reheating.)

15. Frittata

What else would you add to this list? Please share in the comments and feel free to share a link.

Pomegranate and Lamb Moussaka with Cardamon

Finally! This is a recipe I have been wanting to share since I first made it six months ago. I made up this variation of lamb moussaka after going to a new Middle Eastern grocery store in town and finding pomegranate concentrate.* This pomegranate and lamb moussaka with cardamon instantly became a “keeper,” a regular go-to meal in my rotation. I have since made it about ten times and my family loves it.

Pomegranate and Lamb Moussaka

Traditional Greek Moussaka layers sautéed or fried eggplant, a meat and tomato sauce, and is topped with Béchamel or white sauce (butter, flour and milk.) Some say it is analogous to lasagna for Americans, but I say it is more like a Shepard’s pie. My take on the classic Greek dish highlights tart pomegranate instead of tomato paste or sauce and flavors the meat with fragrant cardamon. I also lighten it up by making a quick egg and milk custard with Greek yogurt instead of Béchamel, and by roasting the eggplant slices instead of frying. Both changes also make the recipe a little faster. I was inspired by two of my favorite Middle Eastern restaurants, a Persian restaurant, Soltan Banoo, that serves an amazing pomegranate soup, and a Lebanese joint, Mama’s Bakery, where I love the beef shwarma, heavily scented with cardamon.

*About pomegranate molasses vs. pomegranate concentrate: Pomegranate molasses is a sweet and sour syrup used in Middle Eastern cuisine. As a “secret ingredient” in stews and sauces, it gives an amazing flavor that can be hard to place. Pomegranate concentrate tastes similar, but is made solely of reduced pomegranate juice, without the added sugar, preservatives and flavor enhancers molasses often has. If you don’t have either, substitute pomegranate juice, ideally reduced a little to make it more concentrated in flavor. Or just use the more traditional tomato paste!

Pomegranate and Lamb Moussaka

Pomegranate and Lamb Moussaka Recipe

  • 2 medium to large eggplant
  • coconut oil spray or 1 Tablespoon avocado oil, coconut oil or olive oil

For the meat layer:

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • onion, carrot, celery, garlic
  • 1 pound ground lamb and/or beef
  • 2 teaspoons cardamon
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/3 cup pomegranate concentrate, molasses or juice (find at middle Eastern stores like North Park Produce and if you can’t find it, substitute tomato paste)

For the custard layer:

  • 6-8 eggs
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon Nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Toppings:

  • Pistachios, chopped kalamata olives, crumbled feta cheese

Peel, slice and salt the eggplant. Let sit for 30 minutes to draw out excess moisture and bitterness. Then pat dry and roast in a 425°F oven with a little oil until soft, flipping the slices once. (Notes: Lately I like spraying both sides of the eggplant with a little sprayable coconut oil. It distributes a nice, fine layer. Otherwise eggplant can soak up a lot of oil. Olive oil is classic, however, I try to not to use it over 325°F. Both coconut and avocado oil have higher smoking points.)

Sautée the onion, carrots, etc. in a large pan. Add the meat and spices until the meat is just browned. Add the pomegranate concentrate or tomato and turn down to a simmer until cooked through.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, beat the eggs. Stir in the yogurt, milk and seasonings.

To assemble, put the meat layer down first in a 9″ by 13″ pan. Top with the eggplant slices, then pour the custard batter into the pan. Sprinkle on the toppings then bake 25-30 minutes at 350°F until the egg is set.

Click on any photo in the gallery below to expand and see the steps.

Pin the recipe to save for later!

Pomegranate and Lamb Moussaka

Enjoy! This dish freezes well. I made a double batch in preparation for new baby. After baking, I froze it whole. To reheat it, I let it defrost in the fridge for a day and then warmed it in the oven until the center was hot.

Farewell to Summer Fig + Feta Salad

With the fall equinox, the season finally seems to be turning in Southern California. It seems as though the rest of the country has moved past apples and onto pumpkin, but we are still picking tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. (Complaining of SoCal problems sounds like humble bragging.) I’m sharing my favorite fig and feta salad as a farewell to summer. Our tree’s fruit are in their last stages and our mint barely survived the last heat wave. I had wanted to first post my feta recipe, but at this stage of my pregnancy, I don’t have the time or focus for a long cheesemaking post, like this one on chèvre.

fig + feta salad with mint and balsamic

Little Bird thoroughly enjoyed figs straight from the tree this summer. There is something lovely about eating them slightly warm from the sun. Here she is showing one of her best buddies where to find the ripe ones:

Picking Figs

As I wrote the recipe (below), I felt a little silly typing out the ingredient list. With only the four ingredients in the title, it seemed a little pointless. This combination is so flavorful and balanced, it doesn’t even need salt and pepper!

fig + feta salad with mint and balsamic

Fig and Feta Salad with Mint and Balsamic Vinegar

  • Figs
  • Feta
  • Mint
  • Balsamic Vinegar

Gently rinse figs. Cut off stems and then cut in half. Arrange in a shallow bowl or plate. Sprinkle with crumbled feta cheese and chopped, fresh mint. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar or a balsamic reduction. Gently mix and serve.

fig + feta salad with mint and balsamic

 

Oven Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

I finally got around to processing our extra tomatoes this weekend. Out of 5 pounds of heirlooms and Roma’s, I made tomato sauce with garlic, based on Alice Water’s recipe. But my absolute favorite alchemy is what happens to cherry tomatoes when they are slow roasted in the oven. If you like the taste of sun-dried tomatoes, but could do without the leathery texture, then you will love these oven roasted cherry tomatoes. And you will be surprised how easy they are!

Oven Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

I love having the taste of summer throughout the year, and nothing speaks to the sunshine and vitamins of summer as well as these easy tomatoes. Try using them in place of sun-dried tomatoes in recipes, such as this Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Pesto.

Oven Roasted Cherry Tomatoes Recipe

  • Cherry, Grape or small Roma Tomatoes
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper

Rinse tomatoes and cut in half. Spread, cut side up, on a silicone mat or parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Drizzle, lightly with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Roast in a 225°F oven for 2-3 hours or until somewhat dried, but still a little juicy. Let cool.

Enjoy as is or pack into a clean jar, cover with more olive oil, and can or freeze. If freezing, leave a little space at the top. Tip: as awesome as garlic, shallots, and fresh herbs are with tomatoes, DO NOT put them in your jars. They contain moisture and will make it mold more quickly.

Oven Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

 Click on any picture in the gallery below to expand and see the steps.