Gingerbread Applesauce + @OXOTot Product Review #Sponsored

I don't know about you, but once the weather hits freezing I'm ready to hibernate. Even my son, who is usually a little ball of energy sleeps in later and wants to spend more time cuddled in bed where it's warm. Today he got up at 8, realized how chilly the tile floor was, then came straight back to my room toting his handmade blanket from grandma and three of his most favorite stuffed animals—we didn't get up again until after 11.

Saturday is the day I normally dedicate to getting things done, be it house cleaning or blogging, but today I shoved it all aside to spend a few precious hours cuddling with my son. He's 4 now, in a very short while he'll decide he's too old to spend his days cuddled up in bed giving me big hugs and sloppy puppy kisses, so I try to drop whatever I'm doing and take advantage of this time while I can.

I think it's important for all parents to remember that these precious moments are the ones we can never get back. From time-to-time we need to slow down, forget about the laundry list of things we "need" to do and focus on what's truly important—creating lasting memories with our children. Take a minute to read a book, draw in the condensation on the windows, make snow angels, decorate cookies, or make some applesauce. Memories like these will last a lifetime and five-ten-twenty or more years from now you won't remember that the house looked like a tornado went through it because you took the day off from cleaning.

Today's post was sponsored by OXO as part of the OXO Tot Big Kids, Big Appetites blogger outreach campaign. They have provided me with a set of tools from their OXO Tot line, but no other compensation was given for this post. 

Today's post was sponsored by OXO as part of the OXO Tot Big Kids, Big Appetites blogger outreach campaign. They have provided me with a set of tools from their OXO Tot line, but no other compensation was given for this post. 

Gingerbread Applesauce
makes 2 - 3 pints

Ingredients

3lbs apples, any variety (I used Aurora Golden Gala)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground all spice
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsulfured molasses 

Directions

  • Peel and slice apples, add spices, vanilla extract, and molasses, then cook on high in a crock-pot for 3 - 4 hours. The applesauce is done when it can easily be mashed with a fork or potato masher.

Notes

I prefer to serve my applesauce chunky, but you can puree it with a food mill, immersion blender, or food processor for a finer sauce. You'll want to let it cool down a little first to avoid any chance of burns.

I include canning instructions with most of my applesauce recipes, but because this recipe contains molasses I'm not positive that it's safe for water bath canning. That doesn't mean you can't can this recipe, but you'll want to leave out the molasses until you're ready to serve it. For water bath canning instructions check out our previous applesauce posts: Easy Crock-Pot ApplesauceStrawberry ApplesauceSpiced Blueberry Applesauce and Peach Applesauce.
 

Make sure to keep reading for our OXO Tot product review!

No shirt, no shoes, no service is clearly not a rule in our house! 

No shirt, no shoes, no service is clearly not a rule in our house! 

We've gone through quite a few plates in the past four years, but the divided plate from OXO is one of my favorites. The smaller size makes it easy for a child to grip while eating and the divided sections keep food mostly separated. I especially love the center dipping section, it's the perfect size for ketchup, syrup, or a dab of sour cream. The only thing this plate is missing is a lid, I'd love to have one so I can easily store leftovers.

Where to Purchase: Amazon or OXO

If you like this design, but prefer something with a lid there is a similar plate in the OXO Tot line, although it only has two sections. You can find it on Amazon.

Fork and Spoon Set

OXO sent me this set once before when my son was much smaller and it was all we used until he graduated to "big people" silverware. The large handles make the utensils easier for small hands to grip and the fork is slightly rounded to make scooping like a spoon possible as well. Now that my little man is older the blunt tines of the fork frustrate him, it makes stabbing larger pieces of meat difficult, but they're much safer for small ones just starting out with silverware.

Where to Purchase: Amazon or OXO

Perch Booster Seat

Because I travel so much I decided to purchase a booster seat for my son instead of a high chair, it made life so much easier when eating out at restaurants or while visiting homes not accustomed to hosting small children. The Perch Booster Seat wasn't available back then, so I ended up with one from Fisher-Price instead.

There are pros and cons to both models, but I like that the OXO Tot Perch Booster Seat weighs a mere 3lbs and has a slim profile—it makes traveling with it much more convenient. The Fisher-Price booster weighs a full pound more, which is a lot if you're already loaded down with a diaper bag and other odds and ends. Both models clean up easily, but you can actually remove the seat from the Perch Booster to get at any nooks and crannies food may have slipped into.

My son outgrew his last booster seat around age 2, so this is a great choice for older kids who are still too small to comfortably sit at the table. It's considered safe for children up to 70lbs, so should fit your needs though early elementary school.

Where to Purchase: Amazon or OXO

Disclosure

OXO sent me their Perch Booster Seat, Fork and Spoon Set, and Divided Plate with Removable Training Ring as part of this campaign. As always all opinions are my own.

This post contains my Amazon affiliate links. I try to keep advertising unobtrusive and to a minimum in order to provide you with the best experience possible. Purchases made through these links provide me with a small income and ensure I can continue providing you with quality content.

 

 

Honey Walnut Granola

Most days I don't put much thought into snack-time. My son doesn't really care much for fancy dips or sauces, and he isn't picky, so I pull out some yogurt, a jar of homemade applesauce, or slice up a red bell pepper and call it good. Like my son, my snack-time favorites are usually pretty simple. A handful of ripe cherry tomatoes, a spoonful of peanut butter, or some lightly salted almonds (which the dentist has officially banned me from forever.)

My husband on the other hand is very set in his ways when it comes to snacking and his tastes are nothing like mine (which was only reaffirmed during our recent trip to Arkansas.) His ultimate snack includes something sweet, crunchy, and salty— which would explain why he's huge fan of the trail mix I had been making before I broke another tooth. 

As you can tell, our snacking habits don't exactly line up, which means when we travel I have to pack separate snacks for everyone. It's a bit of a hassle, but it looks like we've finally found a snack we can all agree on. While we were shopping for vacation snacks my husband saw me looking over various healthy(ish) options (because a girl can't live off of yogurt alone) and noticed I had tossed some granola in the cart. He questioned whether one bag was enough for the entire week. Which only left me confused, it takes me weeks to finish off a bag.

Then he said the magic words... words I never thought I would hear from my non-hippy food eating, meat and potatoes loving husband. He said "well I'd like some to, you know." No husband, I did not know because you always make fun of my part-time vegetarian, healthy eating, hippy ways (he calls pretty much everything I eat hippy food.)

I've loved this man for over half my life and he still manages to surprise me sometimes.

So a second bag was added to the already overflowing cart. After he and my son finished off both bags in a matter of days he turned to me and asked me if I would make some more when we got home (because it was kinda silly to spend $10 on two bags of granola.) 

In that, at least, we are in full agreement. 

When we got home I pulled out the last of the honey my aunt and uncle gave me at Christmas and got to work. I managed to learn something new while fiddling around in the kitchen— egg whites are the key to making clumpy granola. The protein helps bind everything together. If you don't eat eggs or are allergic to them, feel free to leave them out. You'll still have tasty, albeit somewhat less clumpy granola, it will be ready in under an hour, and it will be better than anything you'll find in the store.

Honey Walnut Granola

Honey Walnut Granola
makes 8 - 10 servings

Ingredients

½ cup honey
½ cup dark brown sugar, packed
½ cup unsalted butter
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
6 cups old fashioned rolled oats (not quick oats)
2 cups walnuts, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon ceylon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 325˚F. In a saucepan, set over medium heat, combine honey, brown sugar, unsalted butter, and vanilla extract. Cook until the butter has melted, then pour over oats. Add walnuts, cinnamon, and salt.
  • In a separate bowl use a whisk to beat egg whites until foamy, then add add them to the granola mixture. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, then spread mixture in a single thin layer, making sure to press it flat with a spatula. 
  • Bake for 40 minutes, rotating the pan once halfway through. When the granola has finished baking, allow it to cool to room temperature before breaking into chunks.

Notes

Store finished granola in an air-tight container. It will remain fresh for at least two weeks, although ours never stays around that long.

If you want to add to this recipe, keep in mind that nuts and seeds should be added before baking and things like dried fruit or chocolate should be added once the granola is completely cool.

To make this snack easily portable, take a Wide-Mouth Pint Size Canning Jar, fill it half way with granola, and drop a cup of yogurt on top. Greek yogurt containers from Chobani or Oikos won't fit, but most of the smaller yogurt containers will work just fine. You can seal the jar with a Plastic Storage Caps to make things easy or use the two-piece lid and ring that come with the jar. 

Honey Walnut Granola - Mason Jar Snacks

Vanilla Bean Pear Sauce + a Giveaway from OXO Tot #FirstBites

Even though we have a wonderful bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables available at the summer farmers' market I don't typically start canning until the weather cools off. Our home is at the point where all of the appliances need repaired or preferably replaced and the air conditioner is just barely working. Most days I don't bother with it at all, well, unless the flowers are blooming and my allergies can't tolerate the fresh air (I am apparently allergic to anything green.) Thankfully allergy season has passed and we've had an unusually cool summer this year. I've been taking advantage of the chilly nights to replenish our stock of applesauce. My son can put it away like no other food and with several months to go before I typically start canning it I was surprised to find out I was down to my last case. It amazes me how much food an active two year old boy can put away, I wonder some days if he has a hollow leg like his great uncle.

Last week I shared his favorite recipe for Spiced Blueberry Applesauce and the Healthy mini-popsicles I've been making to enjoy during the hot days of summer. This week since pears were on sale I thought I would whip up a batch of my favorite vanilla bean pear sauce. If you happen to have any vanilla beans that you've waited a little too long to use or perhaps someone left the package open on the counter and didn't notice for several weeks (not that I would ever do that) you'll find the beans will quickly dry out and become impossible to work with. Rather than waste these expensive treasures I've found that the best way to rehydrate them is to toss them in the crock-pot on top of some pears or apples. After about an hour you'll find that the pods have rehydrated enough to easily cut and the whole house smells divine. Who needs air fresheners when you've got a batch of vanilla bean pear sauce to make the house smell good!

Because there are so few ingredients in this recipe it's perfect for even the tiniest of tots so in addition to canning instructions I've included small batch freezing instructions. If you've stopped by for my last few posts you may have noticed that I'm working together with OXO Tot as part of their blogger outreach program. They have sent me a wonderful assortment of tools to help make preparing food for my son just a little bit easier, but no other compensation has been given for this post. Today (Friday July 25th) is the last day to enter their giveaway for your own OXO Tots #FirstBites set and Seedling High Chair so check out the giveaway details below.

PearSauce.jpg

Crock-Pot Vanilla Bean Pear Sauce
makes roughly 8 half pints or 4 pints

Ingredients

for canning

8-10 large pears (approximately 5lbs)
1 vanilla bean

This recipe can be scaled to produce a smaller amount that can be frozen for baby

2 large pears
¼ vanilla bean

Equipment

Crock-pot
potato masher, food mill, or food processor

If freezing for baby food:

Ice cube tray or freezer containers
ziploc storage bags 

If canning for the whole family:

water-bath canner or stock pot with lifter
8 - 10 half pint canning jars with lids and rings
jar grabber
magnetic lid lifter
funnel
butter knife
ladle
clean dish towels and cloths 

Directions

  • Thoroughly wash all fruit before beginning, cut away any brown areas, then slice and peel pears. 
  • Open vanilla bean pod with a knife and scrape the insides into the applesauce. Once insides are removed, toss the entire pod in with the apples.
  • Combine all ingredients in the Crock-Pot and cook on high for 3 - 4 hours, or until pears mash easily. You can also puree the pear sauce in with a food mill, blender, or food processor for a finer sauce.If you have scaled this recipe down to freeze, check sauce after 1 hour to see if it has cooked down far enough to mash or run through a food mill. Cooking time for the smaller amount varies widely depending on the size of the crock pot, if it is not ready after 1 hour continue to check ever 30 minutes so the sauce does not overcook.

Boiling Water Canning, including instructions for canning food for baby

North Dakota State University - Fargo Extension Service has a great PDF file for home canning fruit and fruit products. It even supplies processing times for fruit-based baby foods which require a longer processing time than standard fruit sauce recipes. Keep in mind that not all fruits and vegetables are safe for canning when making purees for babies. With the exception of apple and pears sauces it is recommended you not puree the food before canning because processing times have not been determined for safe canning of these items. 

Processing times for this recipe when canning for baby

are 20 minutes for elevations of 0-1,000 ft and 25 minutes for elevations of 1,001-6,000 ft. If you are not canning this recipe with the intention of making baby food the processing times are 15 minutes for elevations of 0-2,001 and 20 minutes for elevations of 2,000 ft. 4,000 ft. These times are for half-pints and pints only.

  • While waiting for pear sauce to cook, sterilize your canning jars, rings, potato masher, and any other equipment that will come into contact with the pear sauce. You can do this easily by putting everything in the dishwasher and running it. Just don't put your equipment in with dirty dishes.
  • While your jars are sterilizing fill your stock pot with water and let it boil. It takes awhile for a large pot of water to boil, so keep this in mind. You don't want to fill your jars before your water is ready.
  • Once you're ready to fill your jars, place a sauce pan on the stove. Add your canning lids and fill pan with several inches of water. Bring the water to a simmer and allow the sealing wax on the lids to soften for several minutes.
  • Fill sterilized jars with hot pear sauce leaving 1/2 inch head space at the top. Remove air bubbles with a knife, wipe the rims with a clean damp rag, place lids on top and fasten ring until fingertip tight.
  • Place sealed jars on a rack in the canner or stock pot. Make sure jars are covered with water and that the waterline is about an inch over the top of the jars, then cover pot with lid.

You do not want the jars coming into contact with the bottom of the canner or stock pot because they will bounce around and likely break.

  • Process half pints and pints for 15 minutes, quarts for 20 minutes, adjusting for altitude. See above for processing times for baby food, they are different than standard canning processing times. Time starts once the water has come to a complete boil again. You may need to add boiling water to keep the water level up as the jars are processing.
  • Remove jars from canner, set on a clean dish towel and let them rest for several hours until cool. You should hear a popping sound as the lids seal. 
  • To check the seals of your jars press the center gently with your finger. If it moves up and down the jar is not sealed. You can either reprocess using a new lid never reuse an old lid or once the jar is cool, eat the pear sauce. You know you want to and you deserve the treat after such hard work!
  • Label with detailed contents and date, then store in a cool, dark, and dry place.

Freezing for Baby

  • Once you have pureed your pear sauce, spoon it into an ice cube tray and cover with plastic wrap then place trays into the freezer. 
  • If using ice cube trays transfer frozen cubes to a ziplock bag once they have frozen solid. This will ensure more sanitary storage and help prevent freezer burn.
  • Your frozen baby food will remain fresh for up to 3 months.

Other Notes

Make sure to experiment with the flavors different types of pears will produce. I used d'Anjou because they were on sale last week, but I've also had excellent results with Bartlett pears.

Disclosure

This post contains my Amazon affiliate links. I try to keep advertising unobtrusive and to a minimum in order to provide you with the best experience possible. Purchases made through these links provide me with a small income and ensure I can continue providing you with quality content.

Healthy Mini Popsicles Perfect for Teething Tots! #FirstBites

There really is nothing quite like an icy cold popsicle on a hot summer day; they've always been my favorite summertime treat. My son clearly takes after me because he will happily eat his way through an entire box in one sitting if I'm not watching him closely. Since I live in a household with a couple of popsicle addicts I've been searching for healthier options that won't leave me feeling guilty when I give in to his huge puppy dog eyes and begging for more treats.
 

What can I say, I'm a pushover!

Healthy commercial options are in short supply, so I went on the hunt for tot-sized popsicle molds. They're harder to find than you would think, but I eventually stumbled across these Fill and Freeze Pops from Nuk. They make the perfect size popsicles for the smallest of tots and the handles are easy for small hands to hold. One of my favorite features is the drip guard which cuts down on the amount of popsicle juice that ends up in my lap!

I've been playing around with different recipes with varying degrees of success. The Greek yogurt pops I made last week were a complete fail, but my second attempt made with homemade applesauce were a huge hit. The Spiced Blueberry Applesauce recipe that I posted on Monday has been my son's favorite or you could try my recipes for Easy Crock-Pot Applesauce and Strawberry Applesauce. All three make popsicles that are bursting with flavor without the added sugar found in store bought popsicles. If you're already making your baby's food from scratch you can mix this up and use any flavor of fruit puree you have on hand. The possibilities with these healthy treats are endless and they have the added benefit of being a great way to soothe your baby or toddler while they're teething.

Today's recipe is part of OXO Tot's #FirstBites blogger outreach campaign. They have provided me with a set of tools from OXO and OXO Tot, but no other compensation was given for this post. Don't forget OXO Tot is hosting a giveaway so see below for more information on how to enter for a chance to win your own OXO Tot #FirstBites set and a Seedling High Chair!

BabyPops.jpg

Applesauce Pops
makes 4 tot-sized pops

Ingredients

4 ounces Applesauce or other fruit sauce

Tools

NUK Fill & Freeze Popsicle Mold (discontinued)
Nuby Fruitsicle Frozen Pop Tray or Munchkin Click Lock Freezer Pop Tray

Directions

  • In a blender puree fruit sauce until smooth. Fill popsicle molds and freeze for several hours.
  • When ready to serve run warm water around the base of the molds for several seconds and the pops should easily release. 

Disclosure

This post contains my Amazon affiliate links. I try to keep advertising unobtrusive and to a minimum in order to provide you with the best experience possible. Purchases made through these links provide me with a small income and ensure I can continue providing you with quality content.