Friday, December 12, 2014

How do you like your apples?

Apples, not cooler days or back-to-school time, are my first sign that I know fall is coming. Even while there are tomatoes and peppers and summer bounty at the farmers' market, when I see the first of the apples I know the season is changing. At the end of October and last two markets in early November, I buy all the apples for our Thanksgiving meals, because it's not just apple pie on our table. The menu includes Cranberry-apple Sauce, Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Shallot and Apple, Kale and Apple Salad, and we even use an apple and apple cider in my husband's turkey brine.

When the Thanksgiving cooking is done, I freeze extra applesauce for winter. We have a bit of an obsession with applesauce variations. We make a different version every year for Thanksgiving.

For holidays, we pair apples with fine cheeses for holiday parties and just eat them plain. Because, how many snacks come in their own individual servings, have an edible wrapper, and the bits left make compost and even provide seeds to make more food?

I just realized today this blog is in its tenth anniversary! What a great experience it's been sharing a decade of food with everyone kind enough to come visit here. Over the decade, I've written a few recipes! I even forget how many until I look back in the pages.

Here's nine apple recipes from the past decade of blogging, plus a new one to make ten:

Bourbon Molasses Applesauce:
8 Gala or Granny Smith Apples, cored, peeled and sliced thin
Juice of one lemon
1 cup apple cider
1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 oz. good bourbon
1/4 cup honey
Seeds of 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, discard pod or put in sugar bowl to make vanilla sugar
pinch salt

Place the apples and cider and lemon juice in a large pot, cover and heat to a simmer to cook apples. Add the molasses, boron and honey. Simmer for about 20 minutes or until apples are soft. Add the vanilla bean and salt.

Stir the apples to break them up into a chunky "home style" applesauce.


Sunday, October 05, 2014

Sweet Potato and Quinoa Cakes with Chipotle Aioli and Micro Greens

I pretty much hate "veggie burgers." It's not for a lack of trying. My taste buds have endured one too many "chikn" patties that taste worse than the box they come in. My heart goes out to vegetarians and vegans everywhere. You people have had to endure a lot of lousy stuff for the sake of your choices.

These kind of mock versions of meat-type dishes may be the reason why more people don't try a vegetarian meal now and again. Or even venture to a "healthy" option. 

The best approach to vegetarian cooking, for me at least, is when I just focus on how to make the vegetables taste good instead of creating any veggie version of a meat item. You're not fooling anyone, right? So why not just make something that tastes good.

I seriously considered NOT stating that this recipe is vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free. There's just too much "cardboard" flavor associations with those terms. Let's just say it's good. It's easy. It's healthy.

And leave it like that.

Sweet Potato and Quinoa Cakes with Chipotle Aioli and Micro Greens

2 cups cooked sweet potatoes (about 1 and a quarter lbs. raw), mashed well
2 cups cooked quinoa
4 oz. (half can) canned black beans
1 clove garlic, chopped fine
1/2 small red onion diced finely
1 small or 1/2 large red pepper diced finely
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. smoked paprika
Canola (non-GMO) for pan searing

Chipotle Aioli
Mix together:
1/4 cup Vegan mayo, or regular mayo
2 Tbs. Chipotle sauce, get a good one for this

3 cups micro greens or baby lettuces

Heat 1 tsp. canola in a saute pan. Saute the pepper, onion and garlic until lightly browned. The cakes are not cooked for a long time, so you want to sauté these now and not have that raw onion and pepper hard edge. Add the sautéed items to a mixing bowl.

Add the other ingredients. (You can peel, cube and steam the sweet potatoes, cook in peel in microwave or oven and scrape out flesh. Whichever you have time for.) Mix these well to incorporate.

Shape into cakes. I like making two smaller ones because they stack nice on the plate. The recipe makes 12 servings or 24 appetizer-sized single cake courses. Did I mention these make good appetizers?

Heat more canola in the pan (you can wipe the pan out from before, no need to wash it and do that extra work). Sear the cakes about 2 minutes per side. 

To serve: Place a cake (or two small) on a plate. Add a tsp. of the chipotle aioli (fancy word for mayo), and top with micro greens.

Don't call it a burger or vegan, or healthy prior to serving.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Chilled Spinach with Carrot Ginger Dressing

I'm a bit behind. Over on The Cleaner Plate Club and Edible KC, the resolution series is still going. But, I've not posted much for recipes or updates here. Life's busy, I do this for free. Even the book has cost more to promote and create than it has in sales.

I do believe in getting kids to eat real food still. My real life is just getting in the way of posting!

Here is a recipe from spring I tossed in a drawer to post and it's August and I am posting it. Give me some time, I'll catch up. 

The pink specks are a pink sea salt, you can use any coarse salt, I just liked the color. Swap sesame seeds for the sunflower seeds as well if you like. This is based on a Japanese cold spinach salad I love called Goma Ae. The dressing happened because of my odd habit of trying to put vegetables in the salad dressing, not just in the salad. (It works really well).

For the spinach: 
12 oz, or one bunch spinach, cleaned, large stems removed and chopped
2 spring onions, sliced thin.
1 tsp. olive oil

Heat the olive oil and sauté the onions until translucent. 

Add the spinach and sauté just until wilted. Allow to cool, then squeeze out the water. Shape the spinach into 4-6 mounds. You will be shocked at how little spinach there seems to be. Spinach loses most of it's volume in water. Chill the mounds.

4 medium carrots, peeled and steamed to tender
1 small clove garlic
2 Tbs. white vinegar 
1 Tbs. lemon juice
1 Tbs. soy sauce
1 Tbs. grated ginger (a jar variety is easy and works well)
1/2 cup canola and coconut oil blend (or just one or the other oil)
pinch of salt (1/8 tsp.)
2 Tbs. honey

Blend the dressing ingredients in the blender until smooth. You will want to serve this room temperature. It's a very thick dressing when chilled. Spoon dressing into 6 small bowls, about 1/4 cup per each. Add a mound of spinach in each dish. Top with sesame seeds or sunflower seeds and coarse sea salt.

Friday, January 03, 2014

January Get Real Resolution Questions

If you are joining us for the Get Real Resolution, great! If not, you can join the fun any time, even next December! But, you may not want to miss the activities and information during the resolution year. It's designed to be low-stress and family fun time. You can even pick and choose the activities you like and just do those. No judgments here.

January's activity is an easy one. It's answering a few questions for each family member and then saving those answers to return to at the end of the resolution year. I thought I would go ahead and post mine in case it gives anyone thought-starters.

Here goes:

1. What do you hope your family gains by taking this challenge?
It sounds crazy given the book and all I do around healthy food, but I forget sometimes to make things FUN. With this blog, book and writing work, a full time job, kid, housework, gardening, cooking, activities going … my "fun level" can dip and I get into a rut of going through the motions to get by. I need a spark to regain the my energy and the fun aspect of a healthy food and lifestyle for our family.

2. What worries you most about the foods your kids will or won't eat and why?
The growing influence of school foods, other kids, foods at events and activities, after-school programs are a tough competitor for my kid's food choices. It's like slaying a many-headed dragon. At times, I feel like we are losing ground that we worked so hard to gain with our kid's diet.

3. What's the biggest issue in our food system?
That's a tough question. The whole system is broken and there are politics in place that are bigger than anyone imagines. What I can tackle is building a better path for my family and doing my part to help my local food system. I can advocate for change at that bigger level, and do, but I have to remember my daily choices count. What's on my mind right now is my growing angst over "The Kid's Menu" that same set of 5 options kids get with crayons and a coloring page at every single restaurant nearly. Apparently chicken nuggets are an international cuisine since they show up on menus from Mexican to Mediterranean. I see that menu as a symbol of the food marketing and targeting of our kids that comprises root cause of our childhood obesity epidemic.

4. When you were a kid, did your parents ever make you eat a food you hated? What was the food and what happened? Do you eat that food now?
Yes! I was ten and was served a plate full of beef liver and onions. I was told to not leave the table until I ate it. I sat at the table for three hours. Long after the whole family was gone. I never ate it and chose to go to bed hungry. I eat a lot of "tip to tail" foods now, even beef heart tartare, braised tongue, pig ears and snout, etc. But I never have found a way I like beef liver. Chicken, duck and goose liver are good if they are cooked the right way.

5. What is your favorite food memory from when you were a kid?
I loved the weekends when we would go to the strawberry patch and pick quart after quart of fresh berries. Together as a family, we made jam and preserves. We would do this with apples and peaches as well. Because we were new to life in a rural community, having moved there when I was ten, the experience was remarkably different and memorable. My best food memories are the times when we were gardening or living the farm-to-table thing decades before it was cool. I can even recall crabbing with bacon on a string and fishing with my grandfather who lived on the Gulf of Mexico. It's always been about sourcing food directly for me, I guess. Other than that? My grandmother's homemade mashed potatoes she made with everything, of course!

I'd love to hear your answers and your kids' answers to the January challenge! Please share here, or at The Cleaner Plate Club blog, our Facebook page, or on Edible Kansas City.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Get Real Resolution

Happy New Year, everyone!

This year, today in fact, marks a 12-month project I am working on with Edible Kansas City and all of you. It's called the "Get Real Resolution." I hope you'll join us in this no-fight, no-diet New Year journey to understand the why behind healthy food.

Face it, we nag and our kids shut down. I had to implement a whole point and job card system to establish rules for chores and behaviors around here just to get past the day-to-day nagging! Kids just seem to need to figure things out hands-on for themselves. From this "learning" moment, the plan for the Get Real Resolution was born.

I'll still post recipes as usual, often ones that support the activities in the resolution. But, the resolution is less about preparing a meal than it is about preparing our kids to make good food choices for the rest of their lives. Each month will offer a family fun project that explores a facet of healthy eating in a hands-on way. The projects cover some great topics:
  • understanding food labels
  • exploring the contradiction of food waste and hunger in our food system
  • learning about nutrition
  • discovering the wide variety of edible plants 
  • tasting foods from other cultures
  • taking "field trips" and food adventures
I hope you'll join us for the fun!