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  • Oatmeal Cookies with Carrots, Cranberries & Raisins

    This is my favorite healthy cookie recipe – it incorporates whole wheat, oats, carrots, cranberries and raisins. It also calls for canola oil instead of butter, so it’s bit more heart-healthy too.

    Oatmeal Cookies with Carrots, Cranberries & Raisins
    Makes about 16 cookies

    Adapted from Parents April 2012

    1 cup white whole-wheat flour
    1 cup rolled oats
    1/2 teaspoon baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
    pinch of cloves
    pinch of allspice
    1/2 cup brown sugar
    1/4 cup granulated sugar
    1/2 cup canola oil
    1 egg
    1 cup finely shredded carrot
    1/4 cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped
    1/4 cup raisins

    1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the first 9 ingredients (flour through granulated sugar). Stir to combine well. Add the oil egg, carrot, cranberries and raisins, and mix thoroughly. Cover and chill for at least two hours.

    2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Drop rounded tablespoons of dough about 2 inches apart on cookie sheets. Press down to form a flat, round disk. Bake cookies for 10 to 12 minutes, or until slightly browned. Let stand one minute, then cool on a wire rack. If freezing cookies, put them in a container rather than a zip-top bag, as they are a bit delicate.

    Optional: If desired, whisk together 8 ounces of reduced fat cream cheese with 2 1/2 tablespoons of Grade B maple syrup until smooth. Spread filling on flat side of one cookie and top with flat side of second cookie to make a sandwich. Wrap and chill for up to 3 days.

    Blueberry-Lemon Muffins

    My kids are reluctant produce eaters, and I’ve become a pretty avid label reader which makes me want to avoid processed foods. Those two things together have me searching for recipes that taste delicious while incorporating a fruit and/or vegetable. I’ve been looking for a really good blueberry muffin recipe that didn’t have a glaze to worry about, and this one fits the bill. I adapted the recipe to use the ingredients I had on hand, and to make better use of paper muffin liners (I’ve found that I lose half the muffin stuck to the paper if I use all whole wheat flour).

    Blueberry-Lemon Muffins
    Makes 12 muffins

    Adapted from Gourmet

    1 cup + 2 teaspoons white whole-wheat flour
    3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
    1/2 cup + 2 teaspoons sugar
    2 teaspoons baking powder
    3/4 teaspoon salt
    zest of one small lemon
    5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
    3/4 cup 1% milk
    1 large egg
    1 1/2 cups frozen blueberries (keep frozen; do not thaw)
    1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

    1. Line a muffin tin with paper cups (or butter a non-stick muffin tin). Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

    2. In a medium bowl, combine 1 cup white whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest. Whisk to combine. Make a well in the middle.

    3. In a small bowl, whisk together the butter, milk and egg. Add the butter mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until just moistened (may still be a bit lumpy).

    4. In a small bowl, toss the blueberries and remaining two teaspoons of flour to coat the blueberries. (This will help prevent them from sinking and turning the batter purple.) Stir the blueberries into the batter. Distribute the batter among muffin cups.

    5. Combine the remaining 2 teaspoons sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon in a small bowl, and sprinkle the mixture over the muffin batter. Bake the muffins for 20 to 25 minutes, turning the pan halfway through, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. The batter will be very lightly browned.

    Homemade Spreadable Butter

    After reading the ingredients list on store-bought spreadable butter and seeing a few posts, I resolved to start making my own spreadable butter. It turns out to be a super easy thing to do:

    Homemade Spreadable Butter
    Makes approx. 1 1/2 cups

    1/2 cup room temperature butter (1 stick)
    1/2 cup vegetable, canola, or olive oil
    3 tablespoons water
    1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

    Combine all ingredients in a medium mixing bowl, and blend together until smooth. (I use the whisk attachment on my hand mixer, and it takes about 3 minutes.) The mixture will appear lumpy at first, but keep it going and it will come together.

    Pour the butter into a sealable container and refrigerate until firm.

    The butter may “weep” a little after refrigeration. If that bothers you, omit the water from the recipe. (I like to add it to reduce the calorie count a little.) If you prefer saltier butter, add more salt to taste.

    Pumpkin Puree: Homemade vs. Store Bought (with recipes)

    I bought some sugar pumpkins at Trader Joe’s and roasted them to make puree yesterday, so I thought I’d do a price comparison on homemade pumpkin puree vs. canned pumpkin.

    One can of organic pumpkin puree at Trader Joe’s is $1.99, and contains approximately 3.5 1/2 cup servings, or about 1.75 cups.

    Sugar pumpkins are $1.99 each at Trader Joe’s – they’re fairly small, which I think makes for better flavor. I tried to pick pumpkins that were heavy for their weight, so the flesh would be moist and dense. Three pumpkins yielded about 6 cups. That works out to $1.74 per 1.75 cups, and I also got about two cups of roasted pumpkin seeds out of my pumpkins. But the price per unit doesn’t factor in the time or energy costs it took to make the puree.

    So I’ll call it about even. After all, making pumpkin puree requires a fair amount of effort, while canned pumpkin has a huge convenience factor in its favor.

    Actually, because the pumpkins I bought weren’t organic, the canned pumpkin probably costs less. But as far as I know, pumpkins are pretty low risk when it comes to pesticide and fertilizer residue. Plus, fresh pumpkin tastes phenomenal and canned pumpkin raises BPA concerns for me.

    Want to try it for yourself? Here’s how I made my pumpkin puree:

    Homemade Pumpkin Puree
    Makes about 2 cups per pumpkin

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut a small sugar pumpkin in half. Scoop out the seeds and strings, saving the seeds if desired. Place the pumpkin cut side down on a lined baking sheet and bake for 45 to 60 minutes, or until you can easily insert a knife through the pumpkin.

    Remove the pumpkin from the oven and let cool on the pan for about 30 minutes.

    Place a food mill fitted with the smallest blade over a large bowl. Scoop the pumpkin flesh out of the shell and transfer to food mill. Pass the pumpkin through the food mill, scraping down the side but not pushing the pumpkin through the holes. Use the puree as you would canned pumpkin.

    Note: I have a food mill from my homemade baby food days, so that’s what I used. It makes for a nice puree that still has a bit of texture, but if you don’t have a food mill, I *think* you should be okay with a food processor. Speaking of baby food, you could mix the puree with some applesauce, or add in a little cinnamon to give your baby a new taste.

    Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

    Separate the pumpkin seeds from the strings but do not wash them (they have a lot more flavor this way). Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil per cup of seeds and sprinkle with fine sea salt to taste. Spread the seeds out in a single layer on a lined baking sheet and bake at 300 degrees for approximately two hours or until golden brown, stirring every half hour.

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    Three Ways to Make Zankou Chicken Garlic Spread

    I’m a huge fan of Zankou Chicken‘s roasted chicken, which is served with pita bread and their famous garlic spread. The garlic spread is white, thick, and just a tad lumpy. It’s super garlicky, and is just the perfect match for the chicken.

    As I mentioned earlier this week, I want us to eat out less. And a full dinner from Zankou runs our family $15 to $20, plus the cost of veggie sides. So I recreated a meal from Zankou for dinner last night using a whole chicken from the freezer, and Jennifer B. asked for the recipe of their garlic spread since I confessed to breaking the emulsion yesterday.

    I’ve made the garlic spread several times, and I’ve tried a few different ways. The one thing you need is a blender, because I don’t think a whisk is going to get the job done.

    So the first version I tried, via Chowhound, involved 3 small russet potatoes, 14 cloves of garlic minced (1 head), 1/3 cup of fresh lemon juice, 1/2 tablespoon salt, and 1/2 cup canola oil (tip: “mince” the garlic using a microplane). I made mashed potatoes, then pureed the rest of the ingredients, and then added the potatoes. It tasted okay, but more like garlicky-lemony mashed potatoes than garlic spread.

    So the next version I made eliminated the potatoes. When you add the oil slowly to the garlic, lemon juice and salt, it emulsifies and turns into this glorious, thick mayonnaise type consistency. What I learned the hard way is that you need to let it mellow for a few hours at least. The sauce was way too intense at dinner, but the next morning it was delicious.

    That second version is what I was going for yesterday. Unfortunately, I didn’t add the oil slowly enough and my emulsion broke. It was no longer thick and glossy but liquidy. I tried starting over but for some reason I couldn’t get the second emulsion to form either, so I was feeling a little desperate. I’ve served roasted chicken with my white bean dip, so it occurred to me to add about 1/2 cup of cannellini beans to my non-emulsified liquid. It did the trick, and I had a spreadable sauce that was still garlicky and lemony and went nicely with the chicken.

    I’m not sure which version I prefer – the second or the third. In the future, I’ll probably try making the second version, and resorting to the third if my emulsion breaks again.

    Be warned – it’s a lot of garlic and it’s intense! But delicious 🙂