Monday, November 19, 2012

Thanksgiving: Yes, There Will Be Pie

While I mentioned that the sides are, if you love vegetables the way I do, "so good, you could skip the pie," there will be pie (or dessert "outside the crust"). Pie for everyone else at dinner, even if I am too full on salad and veggies. Leftover pie for my traditional Friday after Thanksgiving breakfast. In my jammies and as far from anything resembling a mall on Black Friday, I will have my pie and coffee. And I will rest.

Vanilla Sweet Potato Pie with Brown Sugar Pecan Crust
This one is a long-standing favorite and the original pie recipe that started my annual "create a new pie" quest. I still make this one every year.

Red-wine Caramel Apple Tart with Gorgonzola on a Walnut Crust
I cook a lot for the whole family, but once in a while, my grown-up taste buds need something complex and not too sweet for dessert. This is worth the effort.

Ginger Pear and Cranberry Tart
This is my second favorite Thanksgiving dessert (after the sweet potato pie). It's elegant and unexpected.

Roasted Fig and Pear Crumble
I've been crazy about figs since I was a kid and discovered fig newtons. Married to pears in this dish, it's a nice, easy dessert for the season if you don't have time for making pie crust!

Pumpkin Seed Brittle
Peanut brittle classic gets a spicy, fall update that makes a perfect garnish for Thanksgiving desserts, or just by itself. The full recipe uses the brittle as a topping for a poached pear and gorgonzola cheese salad with arugula. Sumptuous and amazing salad for the holiday table. If you are going potluck and just have one dish to bring, this one will impress the whole family and be a real stand out on the holiday table.

So easy, no oven is required. And no eggs, either in case you have an egg allergy in the family. Very good, quick and looks like you spent a ton of time on it.

Uses Chinese 5-spice Powder instead of the traditional pumpkin pie spice and honey for the sweetener. Subtle, but nice take on the classic pumpkin.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Root Veggies and Sauces

I'm on the fence over the mandatory mashed potatoes for the feast. There will be traditionalists among us who will expect the standard fare right down to giblets and wiggling can-shaped blog of cranberry stuff that no one eats. There will be kids, not mine, who may only eat the mashed potatoes and turkey (not touching, of course). My kid won't eat mashed potatoes. I would prefer a roasted root vegetable medley. I only have so many burners and so much oven space.

Of course, the good news is we are smoking the turkey this year, leaving my oven free for roasting things like the apples to go under our Smoked Brussels sprouts, and a few sweet potatoes, parsnips and the like. You can also make mashed potatoes the day ahead and rewarm. No one said that have to be plain old mashed potatoes, either ... let's do both.

And, let's skip the canned cranberry sauce, too, with these easy, delicious make-ahead sauces.

Roasted Garlic, Parsnip and Potato Puree
With instructions for make ahead.

Caramelized Fennel and Root Vegetables with Lemon-Ginger Sauce
Really amazing dish with a lot of complexity and texture. This one is pictured at the top of the post.

Simple Roasted Root Vegetables
based on the recipe in our book for Golden Roast Potatoes
1/2 pounds new potatoes, skin on, scrubbed, and cut into {3/4}-inch cubes
1/2 lb. carrots, peeled and diced to {3/4}-inch cubes (or sweet potatoes)
1/2 lb. parsnips, peeled and diced to {3/4}-inch cubes
1 garlic clove, minced
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
1/2 tablespoon sage, chopped
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley or chives (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
2. Place the potatoes and garlic in your 9x13 roasting pan.
3. Steam the parsnips and carrots for 10 minutes, then add to roasting pan (so all the vegetables will cook evenly. Carrots and parsnips take longer to cook than new potatoes!)
3. Pour the oil over the vegetables and stir to coat them. Spread them evenly in roasting pan. Sprinkle with the rosemary and salt. Cover with foil, and bake for 20 minutes.
4. After 20 minutes, remove the foil, stir, and continue to roast for 15 minutes longer, until the exterior of the potatoes looks brown and crispy and the insides are tender. Remove from the oven and garnish with the parsley, if desired.
Serves 6 to 8

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Thanksgiving Sides: The Not-Dreaded Green Vegetable

It's a tough job for a green vegetable to compete for a place on the plate at Thanksgiving. Mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing and the whole carb overload may not leave room for even the smallest Brussels sprout. Plus, its hard enough to get folks to eat these without all the other options.

Here's a new recipe and a few green vegetable options (scroll down)  that may convince even the most hard core starch-o-phile to try one bite. Some of them are rich, and some of them just have a whole lot of flavor.

This year, we're trying something completely different with our green vegetables. Smoked! This recipe works with both Brussel Sprouts or baby cabbages (or full size cabbage cut into wedges). If you've ever held a head of cabbage from your CSA and wondered, now what would I do with THAT besides slaw, slaw, and more slaw ... well, this one's for you. You'll need a smoker pan for this, shop around because I think you can find these cheaper.

(scroll below the recipe for links to four other great options!)

Applewood and Rosemary Smoked Cabbage with Roasted Apples
1 head of cabbage or eight small heads of cabbage, or two lbs. Brussels sprouts cleaned and halved
1 bunch green onions, or 4 shallots quartered
1 large sprig rosemary
Handful of sage leaves
Applewood chips

8 apples, cored and sliced
1/4 cup honey
1 Tbs. organic canola
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground clove

3 Tbs. coarse grain mustard
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
black pepper to taste
Smoked sea salt, or sea salt

Place the wood chips, rosemary and sage in the bottom of the smoker pan (see manufacturer instructions). Place the drip pan over that and the rack on top. On the rack, position the cabbage and onions or shallots. You may have to halve the cabbages to get the lid to close. That's okay.

Close the lid, but not all the way, leaving a half an inch. Start the gas grill (or, have spouse do this in my case. The grill is his turf.) Once you see wisps of smoke coming from the pan, then you can close the lid all the way. Turn the gas down to low. The cabbage and onion can smoke for up to an hour and a half.

In the last half an hour of smoking, preheat the oven to 400 degrees and place the sliced apples on a baking sheet. Toss with canola oil, nutmeg and cloves, and spread to a single layer. Roast the apples for about 10 minutes. Turn once, roast for another 5-10 minutes or until the edges are golden brown. Remove from oven and keep warm. Toss with the honey.

Whisk the dressing together, adding the pepper. Save the coarse sea salt for garnish. Assemble by placing the apples on the platter. Top with the cabbage and onions. Drizzle the dressing over top. Sprinkle with the sea salt. The smoked kind is nice if you can find it.

You can also make this with Brussels sprouts. Just reduce the smoking time to about 30 minutes since they are so much smaller.

If you don't want to use the mustard sauce, try a cider reduction which is more like a glaze. 1 cup cider, 2 Tbs. honey, 2 Tbs. white balsamic vinegar. Simmer on low until reduced to a thick syrup. Drizzle over top of veggies before serving.

Think hard, have you ever had this dish without the canned soup in the mix? If not, then you need to try the real thing. It's easier than you would think.

I've had people who say they hate cauliflower love this dish. Really.

Brussels sprouts are back, and bacon just goes with everything. This is the easy, easy version too.

Higher maintenance, but delicious. With the chestnuts, this one is a good option for Christmas, too.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Thanksgiving Sides: The Sweet Potato

This is our friend (and meat farmer) Marcus. He has a huuuuuuge, um, root vegetable. And really small turkeys. In fact, this sweet potato weighs in at more than our would-be Thanksgiving turkey. Another day, feather-weight fowl, the smoker awaits.

This post is all about the sweet potato.

 First, some business. I was on KCUR for Halloween, and a listener called in and we were talking about how to lighten mashed potatoes and remove the dairy (hint: use vegetable stock or chicken stock). She requested the Chipotle Sweet Potato recipe from our book. It was also printed in the Kansas City Star last year for Thanksgiving recipes. I'll post the regular version with non-dairy swaps for her especially.

Honey-Chipotle Mashed Sweet Potatoes
3 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch cubes
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Sea salt {1/4} cup half-and-half (For non-dairy: USE ORANGE JUICE)
2 tablespoons butter (For non-dairy: USE OLIVE OIL)
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, chopped (comes in a can)
1 tablespoon adobo sauce

1. Preheat the oven to 400° F.

2. Toss the potatoes with the oil, honey, salt, brown sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Transfer to a large baking dish or a baking sheet and roast for about 40 minutes, until fork-tender.

3. Mash the potatoes with the half-and-half and the butter (orange juice and olive oil for non-dairy). Add the chopped chipotle and the adobo sauce and mix well.

Serves 10

Or, there is Orange Basil as an alternate (you could use Sage for fall flavor here)

About 2.5 pounds sweet potatoes (2 large)
1/2 cup orange juice (unsweetened, no pulp)
1 tablespoon finely chopped basil or 1-1/2 tsp. dried basil
kosher salt to taste

Peel sweet potatoes and cut to a large dice (about 1-inch cubes).
Steam for about 20-30 minutes until fork tender.
Mix in other ingredients.

If you want more orange flavor, you can add 1/2 tsp. of orange flavor (natural) or orange zest to bump up the citrus. 

Both of these recipes are from my book, The Cleaner Plate Club.

Sweet Potato, Sage and Aged Gouda Gratin.
Now, if butterfat, cheese and dairy ARE your thing, this recipe is one of the two of my most requested Thanksgiving recipes ever.  You can skip the post ahead of the recipe, but its kind of funny if you have a few moments. Heaven. Really. Skip-the-pie-if-you-have-to-good. Hint: the other all-time favorite Thanksgiving recipe of mine IS the Sweet Potato Pie. You can also use "white" sweet potatoes here like these O'Henry ones pictured.

Sweet Potato, Kale and Farro Side
Speaking of good, if you must be good, there's no reason you should go without flavor. For you, let's get the kale back out and try this really good and healthy side with roasted sweet potato, cranberries and seasonal kale. Guilt-free nearly, I even posted the nutrition facts on this one so you can see for yourself.

Maple Sweet Potato Souffle
You can really mix it up, too, with this Maple Sweet Potato Souffle. Light and fluffy, the absolute opposite of that nasty marshmallow-laden dish that I despise.

Thanksgiving Sides: So Good You Could Skip the Pie

Politics are over! Let's talk turkey. Well, let's talk sides. Because our turkey — languishing in turkey paradise in a lovely cedar poultry-cabin that gets moved from fresh pasture to fresh pasture by subservient humans — has decided to stay trim and postpone his inevitable culinary demise. And I thought turkeys were relatively unintelligent animals.

This means I have had to use alternate local food sourcing methods to find a new turkey (otherwise known as Facebook). For now, we'll talk sides. Closer to December, look for a post on how to convince your spouse to go out in the snow and smoke a Christmas turkey, with a sidebar on which bourbon is required to convince him and why.

Here's the shocker most people get at my Thanksgiving table: I make a salad course. I know, it's like some kind of blasphemy, right? Leafy greens amidst all the comfort food and butter fat. It also feels like rule-breaking since delicate leafy greens are not exactly seasonal unless you know a farm with a high tunnel or a green house. Or you use kale.

The other requirement is that you can't just put some lettuce out there with ranch dressing and expect it to  go up against mashed potatoes with any success. The salad has to be a bit sexy to get any love at this holiday feast.

Here's three options for salads, all are worth a part of your plate.

Easy, easy. And make ahead. With kale, apples, pears, pumpkin seeds and a cranberry vinaigrette it is perfectly in season and a salad you can source locally.

This one has pears, apples, clementine oranges with pomegranate seeds, white stilton cheese and a lemon vinaigrette.

Roasted grapes and pears with bleu cheese and a dressing made with a Muscat wine, lemon and honey reduction. Seriously, who needs pie if you serve this.

Love this one for Thanksgiving or Christmas. It's light, fresh and stunning. The orange and fennel have a nice acidity that cuts the butter fat of other rich dishes. The color is stunning.

Next post: What to make with those sweet potatoes besides that nasty, sugary marshmallow thing.

Going Green (vegetable): From sexy Smoked Cabbage with Roasted Apples to REAL Green Bean Casserole, five ways to get green vegetables invited to your Thanksgiving dinner menu.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Happy, Healthy Halloween!

Okay, NO, I am not the ghost of spoiled Halloween fun. The candy will arrive. Probably more than its possible for the kid to eat, and some of it may become "invisible" over the few days after Halloween. But there will be candy.

I just like to try and get a few healthy snacks in before the candy. Let's call it a last defensive shield against the sugar-frenzy to come. More likely, its a band-aid on any raging gash of mom guilt I feel and the kid will be just fine. Even so, I am glad its just once a year.

You can catch me on KCUR talking about a Healthy Halloween with the following recipes for a fun dinner before the trick-or-treating begins. Using a holiday fun theme helps the healthier recipes get a bit of love from your little goblins and ghouls, too.

Spooky Soup (Pumpkin–White Cheddar with Ghosts)
Pumpkin works well in this soup, but you can substitute mashed sweet potatoes, or even use canned pumpkin if desired. If you like, serve with a dollop of sour cream or creme fraiche, or even a bit more of the shredded white cheddar instead of the “ghost croutons.”

1 10 lb. pumpkin (to make 5 cups of puree, or 2 {1/2} cans pumpkin)
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for brushing pumpkin skin
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup carrot diced small (in {1/4}-inch cubes)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage, or 1 tablespoon dried 
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme, or {1/2} teaspoon dried
{1/4} cup unbleached all-purpose flour
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup apple cider
3{1/2} cups milk
12 ounces white cheddar cheese, grated (about 3 cups)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Set an oven rack in the lowest position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Skip to step 4 if using canned pumpkin.

2. To prepare the pumpkin, cut it in half and scrape out the seeds and pulp. Lightly oil the skin and place on a baking sheet, cut side down. Bake for about 1 hour, until the sides of the pumpkin give easily when pressed. 

3. Remove from the oven and allow to cool a bit. Scrape the flesh from the skin into measuring cup, (you need 5 cups). Purée in a food processor until smooth. (Any extra pumpkin purée can be frozen for future use. Store in 1-cup amounts or in 15-ounce portions to be equal to a can of pumpkin purée.)

4. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large stockpot over medium-low heat. Add the onion, carrot, sage, and thyme. Sweat the vegetables for about 10 minutes.

5. Add the flour and stir to coat the veggies and cook the flour for a couple minutes. Add the stock and the cider and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer, stirring occasionally to let the soup thicken a bit, for 10 minutes. Add the pumpkin and stir, bringing back to a simmer. Add the milk, carefully bringing the soup back to a simmer.

Last, add the cheese in small handfuls, stirring as you go to melt it in completely. Taste and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper as needed. 

Serves 8.
Recipe courtesy of The Cleaner Plate Club, By Beth Bader and Ali Benjamin, Storey Publishing

For the Ghost Croutons
4 slices of sourdough bread
1 tsp. olive oil for drizzling
2 oz. goat cheese, softened, or extra white cheddar shredded

1. Using a small ghost cookie cutter, cut ghost shapes out from the bread. Save the crusts and extra, diced, in a plastic bag in the freezer for your Thanksgiving stuffing. Or, you can drizzle the crusts with extra olive oil and bake for salad croutons.

2. Place the bread ghosts on a cookie sheet and drizzle with the olive oil. Bake for five minutes in the 350-degree oven until crisp. Remove from oven and carefully spread each ghost with softened goat cheese, or sprinkle with extra white cheddar.

3. Bake for five more minutes until the cheese melts and you get bits of golden brown showing. Remove from oven. “Float” one ghost on each serving of soup.

Pumpkin Toasties
For the Bruscetta
12 slices of sourdough bread

2 Tbs. olive oil for drizzling

1. Using a small pumpkin cookie cutter, cut pumpkin shapes out from the bread. Save the crusts and extra, diced, in a plastic bag in the freezer for your Thanksgiving stuffing. Or, you can drizzle the crusts with extra olive oil and bake for salad croutons.

2. Place the pumpkins on a cookie sheet and drizzle with the olive oil. Bake for five minutes in the 350-degree oven until crisp. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

3. Spread each pumpkin with the hummus below, adding a parsley leaf on each “stem” for garnish.

Sweet Potato or Pumpkin Hummus
1 lb. sweet potato, diced, peeled and steamed for 30 minutes, or poke holes in skin and microwave on high for 5 minutes, then scoop out flesh when cooled
1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1 clove garlic
Juice of one lemon
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. coriander
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. mace

Pulse in food processor until smooth, adding a bit more olive oil if needed. Serve on the pumpkin bruscetta, or with pita, pita chips or vegetables.

Bio of the author:

Beth will be doing a book signing, along with another local author, Jill Silva, at the Kansas City Store on the Plaza, 314 Ward Parkway, KCMO 64112, on Saturday, November 3, 1:30 to 3:30 pm.

Beth Bader is co-author of "The Cleaner Plate Club: More Than 100 Recipes for Real Food Your Kids Will Love." Beth was raised on a farm in northern Missouri long before raising your own chickens and the u-pick local strawberry patch were “cool.”

In the book, Beth helps parents understand picky eating behaviors; where they originate, and how to deal with them creatively to get kids to eat better — without any sneaking, lying or fights. And without the judging or holier-than-thou advice that parents don’t want and don’t need.

In addition to her book, Beth writes for, Martha Stewart’s Whole Living, and Dr. Greene.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Date with the Lunch Lady: New School Food Rules

I pack my child's lunch every day. When it comes to food, yes, I am a helicopter mom. Not that I don't have good reason to worry. Even with the improved school meals, I am still concerned about the meat sourcing and continued use of heavily processed foods. So, each day I still pack my kiddo a nice little lunch box with each item all segregated just the way she likes it.

This works, except for the morning — in the 10 minutes from car to school room — the lunch got dropkicked into the cubby or at least violently shaken by an unseen force ("I don't know, it just was like that, Mom.") and my well-spaced carrots then mix with the applesauce and whole grain sandwich — and the lunch got ruined. The kid ended up in the lunch line.

I find out when I get an email at work that her lunch account has a negative balance. I keep it at zero just because I did NOT want her to buy "chocolate" milk and juice to go with her lunch. Negative balance?

I get the story at home later. "So," I asked. "What did you pick from the lunch line?"

"Well, I got a ham sandwich, apple and salad," she replied. I had a proud mom moment there. She chose salad! That doesn't mean she ate it, but she at least chose it. The choice thing is my other concern with school lunches. On any given day, kids can choose one of three hot meal items, or a sandwich, or sweet yogurt and a muffin (which somehow count as a protein when I know the diabetic exchanges count that as two carbs), or sunbutter on wheat bread and a cheese stick. You can imagine what most kids will pick, and it is generally the fried or sweet options.

The salad comes from one of our lunch room's new features, thanks to the new lunch guidelines. It's called a Harvest Bar. In theory, the bar highlights seasonal produce plus other vegetable and fruit options. In practice, canned fruits and vegetables are more of the usual suspects.

Payment Due: A Date with the Lunch Lady

"Mom, I want you to come to lunch with me one day," my little girl asks me. It's a big deal at grade school — the early years at least — to have a mom visit. Moms are like rock stars in these early years. This fades, I know. Enjoy it now. So, how can I refuse my kiddo? Plus, I owed the lunch lady some money now. I was both being called to my "red carpet" of mom stardom and being called on the carpet by the balance due for her lunch account. Time to pay my debt.

I deliberately did not pack myself a lunch. I might have eaten a bit before I left the house, however. Armed with cell phone camera and the money I owed the lunch lady, it was time to get in line.

Drinks are offered first. Flavored milks and no-sugar added juice are the top picks. The cartons are now half size of the ones I got when I was a kid. Of course, the only choice we had was lowfat, plain milk. And our milk wasn't produced with RBGH. Those were the good old days.

The hot menu items left a bit to be desired. Fried "mini corn dogs" trigged my school-mystery-meat-phobia. A pizza pocket, which like the corn dogs was a heavily processed item reheated on site. With the new guidelines, the food manufacturers now add whole grain flour and in some instances reduce the amount of cheese used to lower the fat. Still, it's a frozen lump of processed stuff reheated. The other hot option was two whole wheat tortillas with melted cheese.

For the sandwiches, the bread is now partially whole wheat. What they call "light wheat." Kids will eat this. In fact, even the most white bread-addicted kid will migrate to whole grain if the transition is gradual. At least, according to Harvard School of Public Health if not your first-grader.

I chose the sunbutter sandwich. The kid chose ham and cheese. I despise corn dogs, even real ones.

Off to the "harvest" bar. The bar is adorned with little stickers, "Must take at least a 1/2 cup of fruit and/or veggie." Um, kindergarteners and first graders don't really know fractions. Some don't read. And, if most of these kids have not cooked, they won't know what a "cup" means either. The signs need to be updated with a picture of what a serving looks like.

The "harvest" bar also features the starchy vegetables first. Corn and French fries, anyone? Obviously, these were the most popular choices. But, I did see a few kids choose the carrots. Mine got salad. I chose the broccoli and carrot salad. Which was not bad. Fruit choices were canned mangoes, canned cherries, and apple slices. We both got mango and apples. My kid LOVES cherries. But, when she saw the canned cherries on the line, she asked me, "What are those?"

"Um, cherries. I think," I replied.

Overall, it was possible to eat a healthier lunch. I would say school lunches just went from an "F" to a "C-." Still, a "D" on the hot options. For many kids, these new guidelines represent the healthiest meal they will get all day. For some, it's the only meal they will get all day. For all of our kids, there's good reason to keep working to make that meal a healthy one.

I'm ready to support my school in any step in the right direction. We all should. I'd like to see better options still — and less of those better options hitting the trash can. Better recipes, maybe? More food education at school and home? Yep, and yep. But, for now, thanks to schools for stepping up.

I understand there's some backlash to the new guidelines. For those high school athletes who are limited on calories, how about you pack some extra healthy food for those special needs? You are not the average student. Deal with it yourself. Good grief, you kids will be VOTING in a year. You can drive. You can pack a few extra food items. Did you know the healthier you eat, the better your athletic performance will be?

For the parents who have issues with the new lunches and their kids not eating them, know what? Your kids can still get those pizza pockets and corn dogs and fries. I wish they couldn't because it makes my kid's food habits worse with those options. But they can. Mine can get salad at least.

For the politicians who are ready to cut costs and go backward, I can think of a lot more savings and government waste to go after than jeopardizing the health and future of our nation's kids. Can't you? You guys just spent more on negative political ads for just the presidential election than the school lunch program costs to feed 1,438,202 kids school lunch for a year. Go ahead, check my math. I vote we give the ads up and feed the kids better. $512 million sure could buy a lot of actual cherries.

But, the broccoli salad was not bad.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Fall Kale Salad for Thanksgiving

I'll be on the television show, Better KC, on KCTV 5 November 2, at 9 am making this easy, healthy Thanksgiving salad with seasonal fruits and kale. You can find me the next day at The Kansas City Store, Kansas City Store on the Plaza, 314 Ward Parkway, KCMO 64112, Saturday, Nov. 3rd, doing a book signing from 1:30-3:30.

Fall Kale Salad

Seasonal, local, fall flavors like pears, apples and cranberries lend themselves so well to those traditional rich, savory dishes and sauces, and desserts. However, they also taste great in lighter dishes — dishes you can feast on, relatively guilt-free.

This kale dish is light, healthier, but full of seasonal goodness with kale, pears, apples, cranberry and pumpkin seeds. I hate throwing out leftover salad that wilts from the dressing. The kale here stands up to the dressing, and you can save the leftovers for the next day! By tossing the fruit with the vinaigrette, it prevents browning and you can do the chopping and prep well in advance of the meal, making it easier on you, too.

1 bunch kale, leaves torn finely, discard stems
2 apples, diced
1 pears, diced
4 figs, quartered, optional
1/2 lemon, juice
1/4 cup craisins
1/4 cup roasted pumpkin seeds

3 Tbs. cranberry sauce (yes, the canned stuff!)
3 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
3 Tbs. olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 lemon, juice

The day before Thanksgiving, wash the kale and remove the stems. Tear into small pieces, and dry in a salad spinner. Store in a plastic bag, in the vegetable crisper of the fridge, with a paper towel tucked in the bag to absorb excess moisture. Add the pumpkin seeds and dried cranberries together in a small container.

Three hours before dinner, whisk the salad dressing together. Chop the apples and pears. Squeeze half the lemon over them to help prevent browning. Folding apple and pear into the dressing also prevents browning. Store in the refrigerator.

Before dinner, place the kale on a platter, blend the dressing and fruit again in case the oil has separated. Toss the kale with the fruit and dressing. Sprinkle the pumpkin seeds and dried cranberries on top. This should just take minutes.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Applesauce Pancakes, Soft Eggs Over Polenta with Roasted Tomatoes.

The mornings are getting crisp. I love sitting on the deck in a flannel shirt and sipping coffee. After a scorching drought all summer, it just feels good to be cool. It is both my favorite time of the year, and a bittersweet time as well. There are only a few Saturdays left at the farmers market. The very last of the tomatoes are a rare sight on the market tables, most of which had to be bench ripened since the days are not warming up enough to ripen the fruit on the vines.

Apples and pumpkins have replaced the hot summer's one gift — the sweetest peaches I have ever eaten. But the crisp, tangy apples have their own appeal. Fall weekends are meant for a cup of coffee on the deck and a hearty breakfast before heading off to rake leaves or raid the pumpkin patch with the kids. Fall weekends are meant for a breakfast like this.

Applesauce Pancakes
I make batches of applesauce weekly. While it freezes well — try this Cranberry-Applesauce now and freeze for Thanksgiving — there's enough of it that I have to be "creative" to use it all. You can use whole wheat pastry flour here. The pancakes won't be quite as fluffy, but will be a bit healthier.
1.5 cups flour
1 tbs. baking powder
1/8 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup applesauce
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup half and half
3/4 cup whole milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg, beaten
2 Tbs. melted butter, cooled slightly

3 apples, diced
1 Tbs. butter
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
pinch salt

Stir the dry ingredients. Make a well, and blend in the applesauce through butter (wet) ingredients. Blend just until lumps are gone. This is a very thick batter and will make fluffy pancakes. It works great for waffles, too. Cook on a 350-degree griddle. Keep warm in the oven while you make the topping.

Heat the butter and saute the apples until they soften. Add the maple syrup, cinnamon and salt. Simmer until the syrup thickens a bit. Drizzle over pancakes. The idea here is use more fruit and less syrup on your pancakes!

Soft-cooked Egg Over Polenta with Roasted Tomatoes
1 tube polenta
2 cups chicken stock
1 Tbs. half and half, optional if you are minding fats
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
pinch salt

Break up the polenta in a sauce pan. Add the stock and heat to a simmer. Stir, breaking up the polenta more until it is heated through. Use a stick blender (carefully!) and blend the polenta and stock until creamy, keeping it over a low heat. Finish with the salt, Parmesan and half and half. Keep warm.

Roasted Tomatoes
1 pint cherry tomatoes
2 Tbs. Balsamic vinegar
1 Tbs. Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Halve the tomatoes on a greased baking sheet. Toss them with the balsamic vinegar, oil and salt and pepper. Roast on top rack of oven, turning at least once, until they are caramelized but not burned. About 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven.

Eight eggs
1 Tbs. butter

Heat butter in skillet. Gently crack eggs so as not to break the yolks. Cook to desired doneness. We like ours a bit runny. But, we also know our chickens and the farm where they came from.

To serve, add bacon, well a slice anyway, once in a while. For the eggs, 1/3 cup of polenta, place two soft eggs on top. Top with the roasted tomatoes. Garnish with basil and shavings of Parmesan. A bit of coarse sea salt make this sing, too.

Don't forget the pancakes. And the coffee. The leaves can wait. Serves four with leftover pancakes you can freeze between wax paper and reheat in the toaster for a quick weekday breakfast.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Powell Gardens Harvest Celebration

Thank you to all who came out to share some food and fun at Powell Gardens today! I enjoyed talking with all of you! Thanks for braving a cooler than normal day and supporting Powell Gardens.
As promised, here are the recipes from today's event.

Sweet Potato Hummus
1 lb. sweet potato, diced, peeled and steamed for 30 minutes
1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1 clove garlic
Juice of one lemon
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. coriander
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. mace

Pulse in food processor until smooth, adding a bit more olive oil if needed. Serve with pita, pita chips or vegetables.

Fall Kale Salad
1 bunch kale, leaves torn finely, discard stems
2 apples, diced
2 pears, diced
1/2 lemon, juice
1/4 cup craisins
1/4 cup roasted pumpkin seeds
3 Tbs. cranberry sauce
3 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
3 Tbs. olive oil
Salt and pepper
1/2 lemon, juice

Whisk the dressing together, toss with salad ingredients.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Three Hearty Soups on a Budget

It's a good time of year for soups. I love hearty soups with seasonal ingredients. They are filling, but light on the budget. They use similar ingredients, so you can make a soup with the things you have on hand.

The third recipe, Bean, Kale and Potato, has been on our table daily all week. My family is protesting a bit. But, I am loving the not having to cook nightly and the way the recipe used nearly all of our CSA bag of ingredients and stretched 12 oz. of meat into 30 meals. It's practical for all of us, but especially for those on a limited budget.

Soups are a great way to use what you have on hand. You can source beans and grains in only the amount you need from bulk bins, too. These low cost and high nutrition ingredients make for a fantastic soup with a few seasonal vegetables. Meat and stock are optional, too.

The recipes are offered here in a series for an Arvest Bank, feeding the hungry Pinterest contest. The winner gets to donate 10,000 meals to their community food bank. My local food bank is Harvesters. Please like this pin so they can win 10K meals! The food bank feeds 66,000 people weekly. Your "like" of this pin will help a lot!

Winter Vegetable Soup
The farro used in this recipe, an ancient strain of grain, is available in the bulk foods aisle for pennies a pound.

Makes 12 servings

2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped 2/3 cup chopped carrot (about 3 medium carrots) 2/3 cup chopped celery (about 3 stalks) 2 garlic cloves, minced 10 cups vegetable or chicken stock, (or water if budget is limited) 1 Tbsp dried summer savory 2 tsp dried thyme 2 bay leaves 2 small Parmesan rinds, optional 1 lb sweet potatoes, peeled and diced small (¼-inch cubes) 1 lb winter squash, peeled and diced small (¼-inch cubes) 1 cup farro, rinsed and drained or 1 cup lentils, rinsed, sorted and drained 1 bunch (about 12 oz) kale or chard greens, stemmed and chopped Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Warm the oil over medium-low heat and add the onion, carrot and celery. Sweat this combination, known as a mirepoix, until the onion is translucent.
2. Add the stock and the savory, thyme and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Add the sweet potato, squash and Parmesan rinds, and then simmer for 30 minutes.
3. Add the farro or lentils and simmer for 30 more minutes (or until the lentils, if present, are al dente).
4. Add the greens, and simmer for 5 more minutes.
5. Remove the bay leaf and Parmesan rinds. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Beans and Greens and Grains Soup

Beans and Greens is the name of a great program here locally for six farmers markets. Basically, any food stamp card purchases of fresh, healthy produce are doubled. So, five dollars will buy a food stamp recipient TEN dollars in healthy food.

As a salute to this program that makes healthy food available to folks who need it most, I decided to create a special soup, a meal in a bowl, that can be made from beans and greens as well as whole grain purchased on the cheap from the bulk bins. The chicken sausage is optional, but a nice addition if affordable. Kale and leeks are spring vegetables that should be making an appearance very soon (I hope).

2 leeks, white parts and light green, diced (or a use small onion)
4 carrots, peeled and diced small
1 tbs. olive oil
1 bunch kale, stems removed and chopped
1 cup whole grains such as whole wheat, barley, whole oats or brown rice
12 oz. cooked mild chicken sausages, sliced
1 lb. frozen black eyed peas, (see below for canned or dried options)
10 cups chicken broth, (can use water if on very limited budget)
1 large parmesan rind, optional
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large, heavy pot with a lid. Add the leeks or onion and the carrots. Place the lid on and sweat the veggies for 10-15 minutes to begin to release the flavors.

Add the whole grains and the broth. Bring to a boil. Add the kale and sausage, parmesan rinds, frozen beans. When this returns to a boil, turn the heat down to a simmer, cover and simmer for 50 minutes, or until grain is cooked al dente. Remove the rind. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

For dried beans, soak the beans overnight first. Sweat the veggies as above, add the dried beans and 12 cups of stock. Cook for 1.5 hours until beans are just becoming tender. Then proceed with the rest of the recipe. For canned beans, rinse and drain 2 cans of beans. Add these for the last 20 minutes of simmering.

Beans, Greens, and Potato Soup

This soup is similar to both of the above, but uses sweet potatoes and potatoes instead of the grains. It makes enough to feed a small army and is more hearty like a stew. The sausage is nice, but you won't miss it if its not there. Spices can sometimes be bought in bulk bins, only what you need. Or, in very small quantities to be cost efficient.

1 large onion, diced
5 carrots, diced
4 stalks celery, diced
2 tbs. olive oil
1 sprig rosemary
1 tbs. dried savory or thyme
1 lb. dried small white beans, rinsed and soaked overnight, or can use canned beans
10 cups chicken or vegetable stock, or water if necessary
1 lb. sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 lb. potatoes, diced (no need to peel)
1 bunch kale or collards, stems removed and chopped
12 oz. chicken sausage, diced, optional
salt and pepper

Heat the oil over medium heat in soup pot. Add the onion, carrot and celery to soup pot. Sweat (cook over medium low heat for about 10 minutes) the veggies until the onion is translucent. Add the stock or water, herbs, dried beans. See note below if using canned beans. Bring to a boil, then simmer, covered for about 1 hour. 1.5 hours for larger white beans. You can do this in 20 minutes if using a pressure cooker!

When the beans are just tender, add the potatoes and sweet potatoes. Bring back up to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the sausage, if using, and the greens. Bring back up to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. Goes great as a meal with a slice of bread. Freezes well and is great leftovers for the week.