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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

EASY Baked French Toast!

During the holidays, we often have our hands full with parties, cooking, and visiting or hosting relatives. Chaos seems to multiply like Legos, and there is simply never enough time! We needed an easy recipe to help combat that stress, while also making the holidays feels special (though of course this one is delicious anytime!). If you’re in desperate need of a relaxing weekend brunch with the kids, or a make-ahead dish that can feed a houseful of guests, this is the one for you.

French toast feels special, and is rich and comforting while still being a nutritious and balanced breakfast. But instead of one person stuck at the griddle making stacks and stacks of French Toast, we’re baking it. And since we’re Peas of Mind, we just had to throw in a veggie! For squash puree, we kept it really simple by buying pre-cut butternut squash, steaming it in the microwave, and then just tossing it in the food processor for a minute. No chopping or peeling! Butternut squash puree (you can use pumpkin if you have it on hand) adds a nutty sweetness and tons of Vitamin A and C, Potassium and Magnesium, while the eggs and milk serve up plenty of protein to keep everyone full and fueled throughout the day.

The best part of this recipe is that it can be assembled two hours before company comes, or the night before for easier hosting. Indulge in this easy treat for the whole family.


1 large loaf thick sliced bread (day old works well here!)
2 ½ cups milk
1 cup butternut squash puree
3 tbsp cinnamon sugar
2 tbsp vanilla
1 tsp salt
6 eggs
1 cup raisins or nuts optional
1 tsp pumpkin spice


Whisk milk, eggs, puree, vanilla, salt, and spice in a bowl. Plunge each slice of bread into the bowl, then arrange in a baking dish. Pour any additional mixture over top. Sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar and raisins or nuts (we used almonds), cover with foil, and place in the fridge for 2 hours to overnight. When ready to bake, pop the entire thing, (cover on) into the oven at 350 for 30minutes, then remove the foil and continue baking until edges are golden brown, about 15-20 minutes. For an extra-rich treat, we give the whole thing a good dousing of good quality maple syrup for the last 15minutes of baking!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Holiday Prep!

There are so many reasons to love this time of year: crisp, clean weather, vibrant fall leaves, roaring fireplaces and BAKING!  Now is our favorite time here at Peas HQ to reinvent classic holiday desserts by making them healthier and more cost effective. This week we are sharing some simple recipes to make homemade baking essentials. Making your own vanilla extract, baking powder, brown sugar and vanilla sugar are fun projects you can do with the kids and also a good way to ensure that all your baking products are natural and free of any additives.

Vanilla Extract
(In order to have your vanilla extract ready for holiday baking we recommend you start this project ASAP.)
  • 1 bottle small bottle of vodka (750 ml)
  • 15 vanilla beans (cost effective hint: the best place to get inexpensive vanilla beans is at an Indian Grocery store)  
Method: Cut the vanilla beans length wise and gently open the pod. Fill vodka bottle with all of the beans. Shake and store in a cool, dry place until your holiday baking party.  For best results shake once a week. 

Baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp cream of tarter
Method: Mix cream of tarter and baking soda together thoroughly and use immediately in place of baking powder.

Brown Sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp Molasses
Measure one cup of granulated sugar and one tablespoon of molasses into a mixing bowl.

Vanilla Sugar
Simply place to vanilla beans (cut length wise and opened) in the container you store your granulated sugar in (sugar bowl, the bag the sugar came in or a sugar canister).  Let beans sit for as long as you have sugar.  This makes for delicious baked goods as well as for your morning cup of joe!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

How We Halloween!

With very little ones over here, Halloween isn't yet the big exciting holiday that it will become in their minds. And we know it's only going to get harder. But here are a few steps we're taking to try to set some healthy habits now! 

1. Healthy all week! 
We've bookmarked every listicle and Pinterest board of healthy Halloween treats. Banana ghosts, witch's fingers, apple mouths, and creepy mummy fingers! Each day of the week leading up to Halloween we've put special healthy halloween snacks and treats in their lunches and even dinners to get them excited about the holiday in smaller doses. 

2. Dinner Dinner Dinner! 
Insisting on a very special Halloween dinner before they go out is a MUST. We make sure they're well fed with healthy and filling Halloween goodies BEFORE they leave the house. We do veggie pizza slices (our own Peas of Pie is perfect for this) and plenty of protein to keep them full all evening. It may not be a sit down affair, given the chaos of putting finishing touches on costumes and finding a pillowcase that can get smeared with chocolate, so we make sure to serve a couple easy items they can eat with one hand while we rush around if need be! That way they're not starving and eating candy as dinner! 

3. Running Just as Fast as We Can! 
In order to burn off some of that sugar energy, every time they eat a piece of candy while we're out trick-or-treating, we run as fast as we can to the next house or down the block! When we lived in apartment building, there was no elevator rule so we would run up to the next floor. This helped keep the blood sugar levels more stable and ensure that they'll sleep when we get home. 

4. Sort and Switch
When the kiddos get home, we let them have their little candy feast for a while. Usually this is less eating and more sorting their haul gleefully on the floor. While they're young enough, we take the candy and ration it out for them - one piece in their lunches for a couple of days, and then here and there during the week. But we're really considering some other options we've found, like the Switch Witch idea of encouraging them to trade their candy in for a toy. There is also a local dentist that is offering cash for candy! 

We want to know - how do you keep halloween healthy?! What traditions and tactics are instituting to develop good holiday habits? 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Ingredient of the Month - Red Kuri Squash!

More than a decorative gourd!

We're all familiar with the typical squash varieties showing up at our farmers markets and grocery stores this time of year. Acorn, butternut, pumpkin, delicata, etc. are each delicious and have their own merits. But we'd like to expand our squash repertoire to include a lesser known but equally deserving variety - the red kuri! The red kuri squash looks like ridge-less and redder-colored pumpkin. 

Also known as the orange hokkaido in Japan or the potimarron in France, this squash is most remarkable for it's flavor. The bright orange flesh is sweet and tender with an incredible nutty flavor unique to the red kuri. Both the French and Japanese names for this squash use the word for chestnuts - kuri in Japanese and marron in French - to name it. 

When purchased from a trusted farmer or with the organic label, the skin is edible as well, making it an easy squash to prepare at home. Simply open it up, scoop out the seeds and usual bits, and cut into any shape that works! No need to peel! 

There are a million ways to eat squash, and your family probably has a favorite recipe, but we love it roasted simply with olive oil and plenty of black pepper, or cooked down and pureed into a delightfully rich tasting soup. When cubed up and roasted, red kuri squash is easily tossed into a warm kale salad with toasted farro and a bit of parmesan, or into a savory morning oatmeal with a poached egg. 

However you like to eat it, it's undeniably good for you! Loaded with beta-carotene, fiber, and low in calories, it's also a great source of vitamin A and vitamin C!  

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

October ReciPEA: Rice Bites!

Veggie Rice Bites

This month we’re bringing you delicious baked veggie-infused rice balls! Between packing lunches and planning dinner, this Fall has been kicking our behinds a little bit. We knew we needed a kid-friendly recipe that we could make ahead of time, and then pack for lunches, snacks at the park, or heat up for a quick dinner. What we love about this one, is that these baked rice balls are so finger-friendly, and are loaded with veggies, whole grains, AND protein! Practically a complete meal!

½ cup short grain brown rice
1 tsp salt
½ cup butternut squash puree
¼ cup grated parmesan
1/2 egg, beaten
½ cup grated  steamed cauliflower (or other vegetable)
optional 1 cup panko
optional protein (such as shredded chicken)


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Pulse the uncooked rice in a food processor or blender in short bursts until the grains are broken up and roughly half of their original size. Then add the broken rice to a small pot with 1 1/3 cups of water. Bring everything to a boil, add the salt, then turn heat down to low, cover, and cook 15 minutes. While the rice cooks, gather your other ingredients together.

Once the rice is done, transfer it to a mixing bowl and add the cauliflower (or other grated vegetable), the butternut squash puree, the parmesan cheese, any protein you choose, and the egg. Put the entire mixture into the freezer for 10 minutes. Now that it’s chilled, roll the rice into 12-15 small balls and place on a oiled baking sheet. Work quickly, and place the balls back in the freezer for a few minutes to chill again.

Meanwhile, if you decide to use the panko, pour the flakes into a shallow bowl and roll each ball in the panko before the final chilling. Once the balls are chilled, put the baking sheet into the preheated oven and bake for 8 minutes. Remove, let cool, and enjoy!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Hot and Cold Lunches!

We all face different temperature issues when packing lunches for our kiddos. Sometimes it's how to keep everything cool, other times we try to find ways for them to eat a hot, home-cooked lunch.

Hot lunches are a great way to avoid sandwich fatigue and repurpose leftovers so we aren't always making something new. Some schools, especially for the younger tots, will heat up packed lunches for them. But as our kids have gotten older, it's a bit more of a free-for-all! Our best solution so far has been using a thermos, but here are a couple of our lunch packing tips!

For keeping cold:

Freeze your bread! Freezing the sliced bread for sandwiches keeps it fresher longer, and also ensures that the sandwich filling (like chicken or egg salad) stays cooler longer. The bread will be perfectly defrosted by lunch time!

Freeze yogurt! Yogurt can last longer than you think without strong refrigeration because it's bacteria cultures fight off anything hazardous, but freezing a yogurt is an easy way to add an "ice pack" without taking up a lot of extra space in a lunch.

Freeze a water bottle! Even a small water bottle or juice pack will keep lunches nice and cool in a backpack until lunch time.

Freeze the thermos! In the morning while you're packing a lunch and mainlining coffee, fill the thermos with ice water and let it sit in the freezer for 10 minutes. Pour out the ice water, put in your cold items, and be amazed at how long they stay chilly! This is perfect for packing a smoothie or milkshake for their lunches!

For keeping warm: 

Boil the (wide mouthed) thermos! Simply boil a small pot of water and pour it directly into the empty thermos, screw on the lid, and let it sit for 10 minutes. Remove the water and put in your favorite hot lunch! We love everything from an omelet, to chili, to meatball or mac n cheese. Even potstickers or shepherds' pie make great options!

Separate! Put napkins with utensils, a pack of crackers, or a banana in between the hot thermos and any sort of cold food you might be packing.

What are your lunchbox hacks? And how in the world do you get your kids to bring home the ice packs and all the containers?! :)

Friday, September 11, 2015

Lunchbox Inspiration Snack Edition!

Lunchbox Inspiration Round 2!

We gave you some great protein ideas, and this week we’re giving you some snack options! Too often, the lunches we’re packing rely on cheese and yogurt for snacks, and while we happen to be raising omnivorous, we try to get a well rounded diet into our tots. Fruit and dairy are our default for grab-and-go, but we decided to challenge ourselves to come up with some other alternatives.

Here are a few general ideas, but you can always head over to Pinterest for more specific recipes!

  Polenta Fries
This recipe is easy to add veggies to – simply stir in some pumpkin or carrot puree for crispy fingers that will keep your tot going all afternoon.
 Corn Salad
Corn off-the-cob with some olive oil and basil or veggies makes for an easy dinner-to-lunch snack that’s great hot or cold.
Chickpea Nuggets
Also known as panisse, cooking up a big batch of chickpea flour and cooling it means you can cut it into an array of toddler-friendly shapes and bake them. Not to mention its another recipe into which veggies can be easily added.
 Carrot and Pepper Dippers
Sliced red pepper sticks or coins make carrot sticks a little more exciting, and add a bevy of nutrients.
Zucchini or Cucumber roll-ups
Sliced thin the long way into wide ribbons, spread with anything from hummus to pureed black beans, and roll them into pinwheels. Toothpick them in place if they get unruly.
Carrot Coins
Roasting carrot coins, either in with a little honey or a more savory olive oil version make this super healthy vegetable easier to eat for tots with fewer fully developed teeth, and provide a kick of sweetness in the afternoon.
 Mini Veggie Frittatas
It’s easy to skip the cheese in these, and cubes of sweet potato make them a little heartier so that the drive home isn’t a meltdown.
Sweet Potato Pancakes
There are a million recipes for these using everything from quinoa to banana, so use what you’ve got, make batch and freeze them for a grab-and-go snack that will defrost by the time they’re ready for a snack.
Crunchy Cauliflower
Dredge your florets in any kind of batter or panko or chopped up nut, roast ‘til crunchy, and pack them in a lunch with some tasty dip for kids who have mastered the dunk. 
Taquito Rollups
Fill a few small tortillas with some smashed beans and avocado and corn, roll ‘em tight, and bake.
No-Bake Carrot Balls
Figs or dates hold these together, loaded with shredded carrot (or parsnip or beet) and tossed in some unsweetened coconut for a tasty afternoon snack.
Veggie Skewers
Cubed up veggies like cucumber or naturally small ones like cherry tomatoes make vegetables fun! 
Roasted Veggie Chips
Zucchini, sweet potato, and beets all work well for crispy yummy veggie chips.
Spinach and Artichoke Dip 
Blend this up with a little avocado and real egg mayo instead of cream cheese for a savory spread on whole-wheat English muffins or cucumber slices.
Bumps on a Log
A classic for a reason!
Avocado Chocolate Mousse
Most recipes for this are little more than some mashed avocado, cocoa powder, and a little sweetener! A great alternative to pudding for the tiny choco-feinds!
Roasted Tomato
Cherry or grape tomatoes go under the broiler for a few minutes to get them extra sweet and concentrated, then straight into a lunchbox.