Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Pear & Sweet Potato Gratin



I thought of Easter when dreaming this recipe up. Potlucks too. It would be a great dish to make for a special dinner. My sister and I have been making a version of this recipe for years now.  Laying in bed last night (one of the best places food ideas manifest for me) I wondered if pears would be a good substitute for apples that I regularly use. Seemed a bit more exotic somehow. I though pear might give it a wonderful sweetness and complexity that apples cannot. I sauteed the onions too, which I usually don't do, and topped with chevre before serving. The pears melted into flavor and the gouda added an earthiness I enjoyed. I drizzled a very small bit of truffle oil on top....and then promptly ate two plates.
 
To make this a quick recipe, I used my food processor to slice the sweet potatoes and onions, and then shred the cheese. I sliced the pears by hand, sauteed the onions and baked it in a square glass baking dish. You could add cinnamon or lemon zest to add another dimension of flavor as well. I let mine sit on the counter covered for 5 minutes after taking it out of the oven to reabsorb some of the juices. I mixed chevre with a small bit of milk to soften it up. This is optional. I know truffle is just so overdone. I am waiting for myself to be over the trend. So far no luck.

Pear and Sweet Potato Gratin:
makes a 9 inch square pan (6 servings)

1 very large or 2 small sweet potato (5 cups sliced)
2 med. onions (2 cups sauteed)
2 pears  (I used bartlett pears) (about 2 cups)
1 clove garlic
1 tbls. olive oil
Gouda (2 heaping cups shredded)
pinch salt
1/2 cup chevre
truffle oil to drizzle

Slice sweet potatoes in food processor. Set aside in bowl. Slice onions, then set aside in bowl. Shred cheese, then set aside in bowl. Mince clove of garlic and add along with a pinch of salt into sweet potato bowl.

Add 1 tbls. olive oil to sautee pan and cook onions on high heat (but not so hot to burn onions) until edges get crispy and start to burn; about 7 minutes.

Slice pears thinly by hand, removing the centers, and set aside.

Pour about a tsp. of olive oil in bottom of baking pan, and then add 2 cups of sweet potatoes. (press down with fingers after each layer to fit it all in) Then add layer of pears, then onions and finally cheese. Repeat all the layers again,  and press down with fingers one last time. Cover with tinfoil and bake at 375 for first 30 minutes, then turn oven down to 350 for another 15 minutes. Then remove tinfoil and cook another 10 minutes to brown the top. Remove and let sit 5-10 minutes with the tinfoil loosely covering gratin.

In a bowl, add a bit of milk to chevre and mix with spoon. Top each piece with a spoonful of chevre, then top with a small drizzle of truffle oil.

I did not add a lot of oil to this dish. The cheese adds enough oil I thought. I also used goat gouda because it was organic and somewhat local. I like the taste of goat gouda, but it does have a goat flavor if you are sensitive to that. Enjoy!


Monday, March 29, 2010

Spring!
















It has been a jam packed week.
Friday night was the kids talent show at our local cultural center. We have a kids art camp at our cultural center every August, and Friday night was the art auction and talent show to raise money for this event. The money goes towards scholarships for local children to attend the art camp who may not otherwise be able to afford the tuition. Local artists run the camp and it has been wildly successful. It is a diamond in the rough to have our beloved one room schoolhouse run as a local venue for culture, classes and fun. So my little show stopper daughter decided to join in the fun and sing the song,  'My Favorite Things', while her dad played guitar. Her kindergarten teacher even came to watch her and a fellow classmate, who is a serious guitar prodigy. I thought it was really touching he came to support them both!
The weekend was a birthday party and a trip to the river on the way home. Spring is buzzing, people are out and about, flowers are blooming. Our river is smack in the middle of everything here, and our world somewhat revolves around it in the summer time. Even though the water was freezing cold, M could not help jumping in about 20 times. She screamed with excitement upon discovering the tadpoles, climbed rocks, followed lizards, brought me a heart-shaped rock she found and throughly examined the dead mouse we saw on the trail. She had a long conversation with her dad about all the reasons why she loves both the city and the country life, noting she was happy she gets a hefty dose of both. "I get to climb on rocks instead of a playground and swim in a river instead of a pool" referring to the country and about the city,  "I get to hear all the sounds of the city that are like music".


Monday, March 22, 2010

Spring Stew Deconstructed



This weekend we went to Marine World near San Francisco. My five year old daredevil wanted to test her theory that she was tall enough to ride roller coasters. She was tall enough for some, and she took full advantage. She is really fearless that way. Good thing she had her dad with her for all the whirly rides; I cannot take spinning! Those kinds of trips always put things into perspective for me. For me, it is a glimpse into how the rest of this country eats and how disconnected  I am from that. I noticed this walking past the snack carts and the dilemma we faced trying to eat lunch. I appreciate my reality checks. I appreciate how we are able to bring locally grown food into our home. I value the time I am afforded to cook meals that nourish my family. I am very lucky indeed.
To celebrate this, I made a meatless spring "stew" that went over really well at the dinner table. Still needing a bit of hearty to counter cool nights, but ready for a bit of spring, I wondered if deconstructing a heavier dish would work to lighten it a bit. At dinnertime, little M walked up to the table, stared at this dish for a good half minute and announced "I will not be having dinner tonight." What she did not know, was that dish she was scoffing at had food she normally really loves. I wondered if my experiment had gone terribly wrong! D and I started eating and knew immediately it was a winner. The deconstructed flavors intensified the dish. The olive oil pulled it all together. M sat and watched us for a while and decided to take a bite. She liked it. "I like the bean juice" were her exact words. Ok, I'll take it. Darn! My harsh critic is a pint sized flavor queen. Love it!



Spring Stew!
Serves 4


Beans:
1 cup dried small white navy beans
1 large bay leaf
pinch salt
1 1/2 cups water or stock
In pressure cooker or pot cover beans with water making sure water or stock is at least 1 inch over top of beans. Cook for 45 min by pressure cooker or 90 min. by regular cooking. After beans are cooked, scoop extra cooking water out of the pots. You are looking for slightly juicy looking beans. Take a potato masher or a fork and mash half of the beans. This will allow the extra cooking water to be absorbed by the bean starch and not be runny in your serving dish.

Leeks:
1 cup thinly sliced leeks
1 tlbs. olive oil
pinch salt
In a heavy bottomed pan (I used a cast iron skillet) heat olive oil and sautee leeks on med-high heat until starting to brown; about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool

Sun Dried Tomatoes
1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes
1 cup water
In a sauce pan, warm tomatoes and water until simmering. Turn off heat, cover and let stand for 15 minutes. Remove from water, drain, and chop finely. Set aside

Vegetables:
3 small-medium beets
3 medium carrots
1 tlbs olive oil
pinch salt
Steam both carrots and beets in a pot with a steamer basket.  Make sure to check on the water level, adding more as needed so the bottom of the pot does not burn. I steamed mine for about 20-25 minutes. Check for doneness by piercing with a sharp knife. Vegetables should be very soft. Remove from steamer basket and toss with olive oil and a pinch of salt.

To plate dishes, scoop about 1/2 cup of beans into a plate or bowl. Add 1/4 of vegetables mixture, tomatoes and leeks last. Drizzle a small spoonful of olive oil at the end.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Photo Collage

I have been thinking about custard all day today. Asparagus custard with crispy shitakes.
What do you think about that idea? I need to pick up eggs and cream on the way home then. Don't let me forget. Because I do, a lot,  and it is the family joke. I used to remember everything, no lists required. I forgot coffee from the grocery store a couple weeks ago. My husband woke up on Saturday, realized my error. Can you imagine no coffee on a Saturday morning? Oh boy did I feel bad. Because you know from my last post I can't just run to the store to get some. I used the old coffee grinds from the previous day. That is slightly embarrassing to admit, but it worked and I drank a mediocre cup of coffee which is better than none. I think he chose green tea that morning. No second rate cup of coffee for him. He is a bit of a purist. See how well we go together? The purist and the worrier. Match made in heaven.
David Lebovitz had an interesting link on his blog today to a new website called Food Blog Forum which is very beautiful and quite full of resources. I especially loved their link to Photovisi for making photo collages. I do not have Photoshop (tragic, I know!) and made a photo collage of this past year using their free website. I think you will like it too. So, here is the collage of randoms from this past year....and I will post the custard if it turns out.


Monday, March 15, 2010

Country Mouse City Mouse

My twin sister (identical, three minutes apart) and I live very different lives. She lives in San Francisco, and has a high powered job. I have my part-time nutrition practice and the other half of my life is as a stay at home mother. My twin sister does not get home until 7pm some days, and fits in going to the gym around her crazy work schedule. The paradox to this is that she loves to cook. She has some signature dishes that have become family legend. Onion Souffle for example. She does very well for herself, and has shortcuts to help her cope with such little time in the kitchen. When we visit her we usually go out to eat. My country life does not afford much in the way of great restaurants. Only two worth eating at in my small town. I go kinda crazy when I visit her. Really. A bit crazy. She deals well with my enthusiasm. I almost do cartwheels when I walk one block (Only One Block!!!) down to her local grocery store. For me at home, a "little trip to the grocery store" is either 20 minutes to the little country grocery store or 45 minutes to the big store in town. I have adjusted to this. When my friends come visit me and drive the three miles down the dirt road to my house they are usually impressed we can live in such a rural environment and startled that there is just nothing else around. That includes no power. We live in a 100% solar powered house. This is good for my doomsday fears, of which I have a few. I am lucky that my dear husband has worked in the solar industry for ten years now and has tricked out our house to be just as functional as a city house. For instance, I have a dishwasher,  and this is a novelty in our community where many people still use outhouses. We used to have an outhouse too, but that is a story for another blog post.
Back to the food.
I wanted to let you know the brands of canned foods that are BPA free. Turns out that Eden Foods has been making BPA-free cans for a decade now. Canned tomatoes are the exception however due to the acidity. I am putting a link to a Tree Hugger article that lists brands that do not use BPA in their canned food. Turns out that Trader Joes has a selection to BPA-free canned food too!



Here is my sister (on the left) and I.  (last summer in Paris)...We jokingly refer to ourselves as the country mouse and city mouse. I highly recommend being a twin. We switched classes in high school....tricked the teachers. I was the trouble maker though. My dad can attest to that. Got my mouth washed out with soap when I was 5 for spitting at the bad guy on tv. That is a story I won't be telling my daughter. Don't want her to get any bad ideas from her mother!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Sweet Potato and Mung Bean Stuffed Cabbage








                                                                                                                                                                                             

Cabbage came in my winter farm share box this week. It has been a bit rainy and cold so I did not want to make a salad or slaw with it. Instead I made a warm, spicy, sweet savory dish that was wonderful and easy. I mentioned a couple of posts back that I have phased out canned beans and am only using dried beans. I phased out all canned foods actually. Two reasons for this. First, dried beans are less expensive and there is a lot less waste of resources and energy associated with them. Second is the BPA associated with the liners in canned food. Many companies however, are using "BPA-free" liners in cans now which is fantastic.
Mung beans are a small bean in the kidney bean family that require no pre-soaking and cooks in about 50-60 minutes. According to Paul Pitchford in his amazing book Healing With Whole Foods mung beans are beneficial to gall bladder, liver and eliminates damp heat. Great for high blood pressure, skin inflammation, heat symptoms and detoxification. Mung beans are also easy to digest which is sometimes not the case with beans! Healing With Whole Foods is a book I highly recommend for recipes and nutrition information related to eastern traditions. It was a textbook in one of my classes way back when while I attended Bastyr, and has since become one of the most referenced nutrition books in my collection.
I cooked 1/2 cup of dried mung beans in the pressure cooker, mixed it with a cup of sweet potato I had from the previous day, and mixed in some lovely spices. I blanched the cabbage leaves for about 90 seconds each and topped the cabbage pockets with the last can of tomato sauce I had in my pantry. I pondered making a bechamel sauce with the cabbage instead of tomato, but liked how the acid paired with the sweet potato and cinnamon. I used a spice mixture you may have heard of called ras el hanout. I bought mine in San Francisco at Real Food Company. The Spice House sells it too if you are interested in buying it online. The spices really made this dish. The coriander and mustard seeds popped with flavor in my mouth. The cinnamon and sweet potato had a wonderful pumpkin pie taste. Paired with the cabbage, it made a great combination. Enjoy!!

Cabbage leaves with Sweet Potato and Mung Beans

6-8 large cabbage leaves
1 1/2 cup cooked mung beans
1 cup cooked sweet potato
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. crushed fennel seeds
1/2 tsp. ras el hanout
2 pinches salt
1 tsp. mustard seeds
1 tsp. coriander seeds
1 cup tomato sauce

In pressure cooker or pot add 1/2 cup mung beans and 1 cup water. Cook for 20 minutes in pressure cooker or 60 min. on stovetop. They will be very soft when cooked. After they are cooked, add sweet potato and all the spices along with salt. Mix until combined.
Blanch cabbage leaves for 90 seconds in boiling water. Remove and shake off excess water.
Spoon a heaping tablespoon of sweet potato and bean mixture onto  the middle top of cabbage leaf. Roll up like a burrito. Set into a lighlty oiled dish. Top with a tablespoon each of chunky tomato sauce. Cook at 350 degrees covered for 30 minutes.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Miso Glazed Fennel



Fennel. Oh how I love fennel. The longer it cooks the more tender and sweet it becomes. Yesterday I baked fennel glazed with miso and orange zest. Today I used it again to add to a frisee salad. Frisee is curly endive from the chicory family. Frisee is bitter, and because it is so bitter, it is sometimes found mixed with other greens.  Our local coop started to carry Frisee a couple of weeks back from a local farm.  I have been pining for frisee for years now.  I am always drawn to bitter because when paired with a sweet element it becomes a match made in heaven. I am going to be making miso glazed fennel in a cooking class next month and wanted to refine the recipe I have had floating around in my head.


I think I paid $15 for this miso. I have been buying South River Miso for a couple of years now. It has a rich, complex flavor. I washed the frisse and tossed it with a small bit of olive oil and balsamic. The orange zest with the fennel and miso created a soft, rich, buttery consistency that paired well with the bitter frisee.


Miso Glazed Fennel

2 med/small fennel root or 1 large root
1 heaping tablespoon miso
zest of an orange
1 tsp. butter

Wash and slice fennel into medium thickness slices. Toss with the miso in a bowl and transfer to baking dish. Scatter butter on top of fennel and sprinkle with orange zest. Bake covered at 375 for 40 minutes.
Toss frisee with a very small bit of olive oil and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Top with 3 or 4 warm pieces of roasted fennel.

Tomorrow I am going post a dish I made last night I am really excited about...Cabbage leaves stuffed with sweet potatoes and mung beans!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Waiting for the Pox

Chicken Pox is sweeping through our kindergarten classes. Our county is one of the lowest for vaccine compliance in the state of California. I have noticed there are a lot of strong feelings and opinions about choosing to vaccinate children or not. I have selectively vaccinated M since she turned a year old. Chicken Pox however, is not a vaccine I chose to give her. We have been careful to keep her away from parties and large groups since being exposed out of courtesy to adults that may not have immunity. Based on our recent school outbreak however, I am not alone in the decision to skip the Varicella vaccine. I have done due diligence and am prepared if she comes home sick with them. If you are interested, there are very useful homeopathic remedies to help treat the symptoms of chicken pox. Here is what I am keeping on hand...

Note: I am not a homeopath. I am a nutritionist. But, I do use homeopathy for our family with great success. Homeopathy is a passion of mine.  I encourage you to consult a homeopath to build your own collection of remedies. 

1. Pulsatilla: weepy, clingy, sad, hard to console
2. Rhus toxicodendron: extremely itchy rash, relief from warm baths
3. Bryonia: dry cough with pox, thirsty
4. Apis: pox are puffy, red and swollen
5. Mercurius solubilis: remedy if pox look like they are getting infected
6. Belladonna: red hot flushed face, high fever
7. Antimonium tartaricum: congested cough develops, white coated tongue, may be nauseated

I am expecting that she might go through two or three remedies. I also have some organic juice to make her popsicles. The only treatment I have not bought is colloidal oatmeal. We have a wooden soaking tub instead of a standard bathtub, and it is supposed to be kept clean of soap, shampoo, etc. I think I may just buy some and carefully scrub the tub afterwards. Of course if she gets the chicken pox I will let you all know the remedies that worked best!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Sunday Walk


We took a walk today to Bald Mountain. It was an absolutely beautiful day.  Bald Mountain is a cultural landmark for our community that happens to be a short walk from our house. I went into labor walking to Bald Mountain as a matter of fact! The smell of baking pine needles, the roar of the river in the winter, the sound of wind in the canyon, many things make it a beautiful, unique place. Above is a picture of the view from Bald Mountain. A view no one from here forgets. Our special place...

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Mission Accomplished!


Check out that fantastic outfit. Today striped socks went with pink tie-dye pants that are two sizes too small. The perfect 'learning to bike ride' outfit, because today was the big day she learned how to ride her bike! Because we live at the end of a three mile dirt road, riding a bike is something we must travel to town to do.  It got put on the back burner a bit, but this day we were all ready.
It started out with some tears, but we got past it and she soared. A day we will never forget!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Spaghetti Squash with Crispy Sage and Feta



What do you think about Spaghetti Squash? I spied one last week at our local coop, and put it in my basket. Honestly I usually pass it up because I have found it to be a tad bit dull. Dull is not in my food vocabulary. It has been sitting on my counter waiting to be born into a delicious steamy plate of dinner. Today, while in Bikram yoga, I found myself mentally escaping while sweat was dripping in my eyes trying to hold triangle pose for what seemed like eternity.  I started thinking about something more enjoyable; recipes. The other night our friends were over for dinner and they brought some raw feta cheese for our salad. Then sage popped into my mind. Then came Spaghetti Squash with Crispy Sage and Feta. Somewhere after eagle pose but before camel it was decided.
By the way, I use a Nikon D3000. I have only used it for 2 months. Before that was a Canon point and shoot. I have no training at all taking pictures, and you most likely would find me swearing under my breath while trying to shoot plates of food.



Spaghetti Squash with Crispy Sage and Feta
 
4 servings

1 med. spaghetti squash
2-3 tbls. olive oil
pinch salt
20 fresh sage leaves
1 cup feta (I used sheep feta)

Very carefully, slice spaghetti squash longways. Scoop out seeds, and place flesh down on a lightly oiled cookie sheet. Bake at 375 for 40 minutes or until tender when you stick it with a knife.

To make the sage leaves, remove leaves from the stems. Put 2 tbls of olive oil in a bowl and drag each sage leaf through the olive oil, then using your fingers to remove excess oil. Arrange on a cookie sheet and sprinkle with a bit of salt. Bake in 375 degree oven for about 8 minutes. Start checking on them after 5 minutes because they crisp fast and burn easily. Their color will turn more grey and if you test one, it will be a bit crispy. They crisp up more after you remove them from the oven.
Drain sage leaves on a paper bag or a paper towel and let cool.

Take a fork and loosen the flesh which will resemble noodles. Scoop into mixing bowl and crumble feta on top. Mix with a fork just until blended.  Spoon onto a plate and top 4-5 sage leaves

Monday, March 1, 2010

Roasted Broccoli with Saffron Lime Butter




I think having a child who really, really loves vegetables is the exception to the rule. Our brains are wired to be satiated from sugar and carbohydrates. That said, I am constantly creating new vegetable dishes that I hope my child and our friends children will eat and perhaps enjoy. One of my dream jobs would to be a natural foods lunch lady (sans the hair net). I get deep satisfaction when children will eat my food and deeper satisfaction knowing it is feeding their bodies well. My good friend told me that her pediatrician's office did a study and 75% of their patients are obese. They are performing cardiac profiles on high risk children and finding high cholesterol in three year olds.  Not an easy fix. I have an urge to invite the world over to my house for a broccoli sit-down. Just us, conversation and some very tasty, well prepared broccoli to change their minds about how children are destined to eat. I have very high hopes as you can see.

I have the pictures to prove it may very well work....

I had a plate newly roasted broccoli with saffron butter in the kitchen today.  They found it and ate the whole thing. Actually fought over the last pieces.  That is our friend there on the left. He is a good buddy of ours since he was born. These two like to make big messes in my house and laugh a lot together. They both really like to eat, which is a good scenario for me.
Well this is a very easy recipe and dare I say it is kid approved too?




Roasted Broccoli with Saffron Lime Butter

2 med. bunches broccoli stems cut off
1 tsp. olive oil
1 small pinch saffron
1 pinch salt
1 tbls butter
1 tbls olive oil
zest of a lime

Place broccoli on a cookie sheet. Toss with a tsp. of olive oil, or use a Misto sprayer and coat with olive oil. Roast in a 375 degree oven for about 15 minutes, or until the edges are starting to brown. Remove from oven, transfer to a bowl and sprinkle with a pinch of salt.
In a saucepan add saffron, olive oil and butter. After melting the  butter, add half of the lime's zest.  Let sit for about 10 minutes so the saffron can flavor the oils. Pour over the broccoli and toss. Taste for more salt. Zest the rest of the lime on top before serving.

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