Sunday, December 30, 2012

You CAN make your own Baby Food

I first made baby food when my sister had her baby a few years ago.  Now my brother has a little one so it seems like a good time to revisit what I learned the first time around...

If you can boil water, you can make your own baby food – seriously:
  1. Boil an inch of water in a pan
  2. Throw in a steamer/strainer of peeled, chopped fruit or vegetables
  3. Steam until soft
  4. Drain and puree to desired consistency
Ta da! Baby food: it took you maybe 10 minutes, you have enough for multiple meals (little babies have little tummies), and it’s the healthiest thing you can feed your little one. You know where the food came from and what is in it. And I’m betting it didn’t cost you very much. (Incidentally, this is also how to make a very simple fruit or vegetable puree, such as apple sauce)

This little guide outlines some bare basics to start feeding your baby (or grandbaby, niece, cousin or best friend’s baby) the best food possible.
There are quite a few very thorough and helpful baby food cookbooks available. But this post is intended to help you just jump right in and make it. Healthy babies should often start eating foods around 6 months (I'm a big believer in exclusive breastfeeding is best for the first 6 months), but all babies are different so look for the signs that your baby is ready to start eating other foods:
  • baby is interested in your food
  • baby can sit up
  • baby can hold food in mouth without spitting up or choking (please let's avoid any choking)
Feeding too early can cause tummy aches, trouble sleeping, diarrhea, food allergies, and (you guessed it) choking.  It's also a good idea to learn CPR when you have a little baby.

And, of course, choose organic! Grow your own or visit your farmers market!  And if you need more convincing, read the policy of the American Academy of Pediatrics recognizing how harmful pesticides are to children's health.

Because of my background in nutrition (especially child nutrition), love of food, and love of my neices, it's very exciting to feed them! Based on my research, I put together this simple mini guide for baby foods...

here's the list of good first foods
  • iron-fortified rice cereal
  • ripe banana (but these are rare locally in season and not sustainable as an exotic import)
  • apple sauce
  • ripe avocado (always in season)
  • sweet potato
Again, make sure all fruit and vegetables are peeled, cooked, and pureed. When getting started, all foods should be mixed until very smooth (use a ricer or immersion blender) with breast milk to a thin consistency (no choking!).

Introduce one at a time, with at least 4 days between introducing a new food so you know the culprit if there is a bad reaction.

Next foods to try:
  • single grain iron-fortified cereal: barley, millet, oatmeal
  • peeled, cooked, strained fruits: apricots, nectarines, peaches, pears, plums

Best foods to Try at 6 months
  • cereals, whole grain: brown rice, millet, oat
  • pear: peeled raw pureed
  • winter squash: peeled cooked pureed
  • yogurt: goat milk, plain, unsweetened

At 7 months
  • cereals, mixed
  • egg yolk: hard cooked, mashed with liquid
  • peach: peeled,  raw, pureed
  • peeled, cooked, pureed: asparagus, carrot, squash, potato
  • diluted, strained juice: apple, apricot, grape, pear, peach prune 

From 8-10 months, slowly start increasing the thickness, then lumpiness, eventually to soft, bite-sized pieces.

At 8 months
  • cheese: goat or sheep
  • tahini
  • ground seeds
  • powdered kelp
  • fruits - peeled, mashed: apricot, apple, kiwi fruit, persimmon, plums
  • vegetables - peeled, cooked, mashed: broccoli, okra, parsley 

At 9 months
  • vegetables - peeled, cooked, mashed: beets, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, eggplant, greens, kale, parsnip, rutabaga, spinach,  turnip 

At 10 months
  • cereal: bulgar
  • cornmeal: cooked, whole grain
  • spouts, ground
  • vegetables - finely grated, raw: squash, carrot, bell pepper 

Foods Not to Try Yet & Why

honey & corn syrup - food poisoning; wait until 1 year old
cow’s milk & any cow’s milk products - lactose intolerance; wait until 1 year old
hard cooked egg white - choking; wait until 1 year old
raw eggs - food poisoning (this is probably not an issue if you have backyard chickens but better safe than sorry)

Wait Until 1 Year Old - High Risk of Allergy
  • fruits: cantaloupe, citrus juice or fruit, lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit, honeydew, mango, melon, papaya, tomato, watermelon
  • vegetables: garlic, green beans, onion, peas, dried beans & lentils
  • nut butters
  • whole wheat (germ, pasta…)

Wait Until 3 years old - Choking Hazard
  • any raw, unpeeled, hard, under ripe, stringy, seedy or leafy fruit or veggie: apple, carrot, berries, celery, cherries, corn, grapes, greens, mushroom, bell pepper, peas, squash
  • raisins & any dried fruit
  • popcorn
  • nuts
  • thick/chunky nut butter
  • marshmallows
  • ice cubes
  • olives
  • chips
  • pretzel
  • hot dog
  • meat, bacon, gristle
  • all candy & wrappers
  • gum

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Virgin Sangria

A variation on jamaica, it tastes surprisingly like sangria. Perfectly refreshing on a long, hot summer day...

3/4 oz dried hibiscus flowers (the edible herbal variety, not what you're growing in your front yard)
1/4 oz dried raspberry leaves
1 tablespoon dried rose hips
1 cup evaporated cane sugar, more or less to taste (or your favorite sweetener)
1/2 pint strawberries, chopped & a handful of blueberries (or other berries of your choice or other seasonal fruit such as stone fruit, apples, melon...)
an orange, lemon and a lime or 2, each cut into thin wedges or quartered and sliced thin

Boil 8 cups of water with the dried herbs for 10 minutes.  Let it cool for a few minutes, strain out the herbs and add sugar, stirring until dissolved.  Let cool to room temp and add fruit (you can muddle the fruit to release their juices or allow to soak overnight).  Refrigerate and serve over ice.

Makes about 3/4 gallon

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Camping Menu

We'll soon be heading up to Big Sur with most of my family (parents, siblings, in-laws, a niece and friends).  We did a lot of camping growing up so there's a big element of nostalgia here.

And while my menu planning will still reflect my local/organic leanings, some of my food "rules" will be a bit more lax (like the level of acceptable cleanliness in the outdoor kitchen) as others share in food purchases and I let go of dogma and get closer to nature and interbeing...

Mornings
fair trade coffee
fair trade hot chocolate
oatmeal
granola (made ahead of time)
backyard eggs (which do not need refrigeration if you don't wash them until you're ready to use them)
pancakes with grade B maple syrup
potatoes and fresh fruit from the bay area

Midday
assorted crackers & baguette
cheeses from the Cheese Board Collective
cheddar bunnies, yogurt covered pretzels, nuts & dried fruit
PB&J: freshly ground organic peanut butter and locally made jam on sprouted whole grain bread
fresh squeezed lemonade 

Dinner #1 – grillin' over the campfire 
hot dogs (ours will be veggie but still a very processed food)
organic sprouted whole grain buns
organic ketchup, mustard, relish
corn on cob fresh from the bay area

Dinner #2 – fajitas
sweet peppers, summer squash and red onion sliced up and sauteed in olive oil with cumin
served with salsa, avocado, sour cream, flour tortillas, refried beans and cilantro-lime rice

Dinner #3
summer vegetable stew with dumplings

Sweet Things
s'mores with fair trade chocolate & organic graham crackers 
organic popcorn with Spring Hill Butter & sea salt
chocolate chip cookies (made ahead of time)
and I'm pretty sure my spouse's mom will be making an upside-down pineapple cake in the coals in a dutch oven

mixed in with lots of hikin', river raftin', card playin' and music makin'

Make Your Own Hot Chocolate MIx

Great for camping, I make mine with a mayan flair by adding cinnamon and cayenne but you could leave them out if you prefer...

3 cup organic nonfat milk powder
1½ cup evaporated cane sugar
¾ cup organic fair trade cocoa powder
1½ tsp ground cinnamon
pinch cayenne

Stir ingredients until combined (sift if needed to remove lumps).  Makes about 12 servings.

For each serving, scoop 1/4-1/3 cup of the mix into your mug.  Add a couple tablespoons of milk and a splash of vanilla; stir well until there are no lumps. Fill with hot water and stir until thoroughly combined.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Tuscan Vegetable Soup

Basically a hearty minestrone without the pasta. All veggies found from my favorite farmers at the Little Italy Mercato...

1 tblsp olive oil
½ cup yellow onion, chopped
8 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup carrot, diced or julienned or thin sliced quarters
½ cup celery, diced
½ cup zucchini, chopped or sliced
¾ cup cooked kidney or cannellini beans, (reserve cooking liquid for broth if cooked from scratch)
¾ cup green beans, fresh, chopped into 1” pieces
1½ cups tomato, diced (fresh or canned) with juice
6 cups vegetable broth
½ cup fresh spinach, packed, destemmed, rough chop
a handful of Italian parsley leaves, fresh, chopped
sea salt, fresh ground black pepper and red pepper flakes to taste
a handful of fresh basil leaves, julienned

Sauté the onion and garlic in the oil in a pan on medium heat until they begin to soften, about 3 minutes, stirring (do not brown). Add the carrot and celery and cook until they begin to soften, about another 3 minutes. Add zucchini and cook until it begins to soften, another couple minutes.

Add the beans, tomato and stock and simmer briefly. Stir in spinach, parsley, basil and season to taste.

Serve with a crusty, toothsome bread.

Serves 6

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

DIY Granola

Granola is easy and oh-so-delicious to make. Adapt the recipe to use your favorite ingredients...

3 cup puffed rice cereal
3 cup rolled oats
1 cup raw pepitas, sunflower seeds, almonds or nut of your choice
¼ cup raw hemp seeds or chia seeds
1 cup wheat germ (optional)
1/3 cup sunflower oil
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract (optional)
1/2  - ¾ cup local honey, maple syrup, or rapadura sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon (or spice of your choice)
¼ teaspoon sea salt
grated zest of 1 orange (optional)

Stir together dry ingredients in a large bowl. Stir wet ingredients together and combine all ingredients well.  Bake on 2 oiled baking sheets at 300º for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.  It will crisp up when it cools.

After it cools you can stir in other ingredients like dried fruit (cherries, blueberries, coconut pieces...) or carob chips.

Makes about 7 cups.

Serve over seasonal fruit and yogurt (I like Straus whole milk plain), or eat it like cereal with your favorite milk.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Corn, Bean, Avo Salsa

I am very exctied that starting this summer, one of my favorite San Diego farmers, Suzie's Farm, is growing organic corn!  But I am still nostalgic for the most amazing corn I ever had (minutes from the field) from Reegers Farm, a family farm where I used to work in rural Pennsylvania.  What a gift to experience!   This farm made me real picky about my corn  - one of the farmers wouldn't eat the corn that was picked that morning for dinner that night; she could taste the difference.
I love fresh sweet corn and I'm so happy to get it fresh from the field again...

about a cup or 2 of beans of your choice (today I'm using an heirloom variety I picked up at the Hillcrest Farmers Market - anazasi is one of my favorites)
a couple ears of fresh corn, kernels cut of the cob (your chicken will love the fresh cob)
1 cup or so of mixed heirloom tomatoes - try green zebra and indigo rose (from the Schaners and Suzie's), chopped
1 avocado, chopped (from Schaner Farm)
a handfulof chopped cilantro (from Ripe North Park)
1/2 a red onion, diced (from the Schaners)
juice of 2 limes (also from the Schaners via the Little Italy farmers market)
drizzle of your favorite extra virgin olive oil (mine is from Ensenada)
2 or more cloves fresh garlic, peeled and minced (from the Schaners)
1/2 jalapeño (from Suzie's), miced or another chile or chile powder, optional for a little heat
sea salt to taste

Mix all ingredients together and serve up some summer in a bowl!

Eat with tortilla chips, as a tostada, in a burrito, on top for your favorite greens...

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Recipes from Cultivating Food Justice 2012

Thanks to all the volunteers who helped out to make so much beautiful food! We got lots of great feedback and requests for recipes.

I didn't use recipes and but i'll work on recreating them. Here's what I got so far...

Khoresian Wheat & Roasted Beet Salad
khoresian wheat (aka Kamut), available at OB People's Organic Food Co-op
sea salt
red beets, scrubbed well, 1/2" dice, gleaning from Suzie's Farm
olive oil from OB People's bulk section
red onion, thinly sliced
fresh minced garlic (and/or roasted garlic)
fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped, gleaned from Suzie's
fresh squeezed lemon juice from local backyard lemons
freshly ground black pepper

Soak khoresian wheat over night in water (1 part grain:3 parts water); bring to a boil, covered; reduce heat and simmer for 40-60 minutes (I prefer a chewy texture but you might like it softer).  Drain any remaining water.  Toss beets in olive oil and a bit of salt and roast until soft and caramelized.   Toss ingredients together to taste.

Quinoa & Roasted Squash Salad
quinoa
sea salt
summer squash gleaned from Suzie's
olive oil
yellow onion, chopped
garlic, minced
fresh oregano, minced (homegrown by our friend, Ian)

Lemon Vinaigrette with Garlic & Fresh Herbs
fresh lemon juice
olive oil
sea salt
black pepper
fresh garlic cloves
fresh herbs: thyme, oregano, chives & parsley

I usually make dressings about 1 part acid to 3 parts oil or so.  Blend with an immersion blender.



Monday, March 19, 2012

Make Your Own Barbeque Sauce

Let's put that homemade ketchup and mustard to work...

¾ cup ketchup
3 fluid ounces molasses
2½ tablespoon mustard
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne or hot sauce (or more to your taste)

Mix ingredients together until well combined.  Voila; my favorite bbq sauce!  Tangy, very sweet, just a little bit spicy.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Shepard's Pie (for the vegetarians)

Seems like an appropriate dish on this rainy Saint Patrick's Day.  This is a variation on a couple recipes: winter root vegetable stew and garlic smashed potatoes. I was lucky today and hit the Mercato early enough to miss the rain and brought home lovely ingredients from Schaner Farm, Suzie's Farm, JR Organics Farm & Spring Hill.

For Mashed Potato Topping:
4 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peels left on, well scrubbed, cut into 1” pieces
4 tablespoons butter
½ cup milk
sea salt
freshly ground pepper

In a large pot, cover potatoes with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until soft, about 15 minutes. After draining away the water (save potato water for stock), add butter, milk, and salt and pepper to taste.  Mash with a potato masher, ricer, or whip gently with an electric mixer.  Set aside...

2 tablespoons butter
¼ pound fresh mushrooms, quartered (I like cremini)
2 cups (about ½ pound) leeks, julienned
1 cup celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled & minced
1 cup carrots, chopped
1 cup parsnips, chopped
1 cup Brussels sprouts, quartered
1 cup (or more as needed) vegetable stock
1 tsp fresh parsley, stemmed & minced
1 tsp fresh thyme, stemmed & minced
sea salt & fresh ground black pepper to taste

Prep the veggies and make your stock.

In a deep, wide, oven safe skillet, melt butter on high, add the mushrooms and cook, stirring, until they give up their liquid and start to brown, about 5 minutes.  Add the leeks, celery, carrots, garlic and thyme, and cook until the leeks soften, stirring frequently.  Add the parsnips, Brussels sprouts and stock and season with a bit of salt.  Remove from heat, stir in the parsley and season with pepper.  Cover with mashed potatoes and bake at 375º until golden and bubbly, about 20 minutes (switch over to broil towards the end for browning).  Or for a prettier presentation, before topping, transfer the veggies into individual ramekins, then top with potatoes and bake.

Serves 6

And if you find the flavor needs a little zing, it is surprisingly awesome served with homemade bbq sauce. 

Variations
Use fennel instead of celery.
Substitute or add in other vegetables as the seasons change: peas, turnips, squash, corn...

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Khorasan Wheat Assignment: Part 1 - Grain Salad

A friend of mine gave me some khorasan wheat (an ancient large wheat variety, less tampered with by society than traditional wheat; so much so that they say some people with a wheat allergy might be able to eat this grain; you may know it by the brand name Kamut) and tasked me with cooking with it and coming up with some recipes.  The ultimate goal is dish (probably a grain salad) to be served to the masses at Cultivating Food Justice 2012 (a week of events April 28-May 5; more details coming soon).  No problem!  Sounds like fun!  I love being exposed to new whole, healthy foods.

This requires overnight soaking before cooking and a higher water to grain ratio (3-4:1) and longer cook time (like 40-60 minutes) so it needs some planning ahead.

I just made my first batch (I soaked about 1/3 cup of grains in about 1 cup water over night, brought it to a boil this morning and cooked it on a simmer with a pinch of sea salt for about 45 minutes. My intention was to make oatmeal-type hot breakfast cereal.

After cooking, the grains were still quite firm and chewy, which I liked but not for breakfast cereal. So I let them cool and turned them into a grain salad for lunch instead.  They cooked up to about a cup.  To this I added:

1 tablespoon chopped, fresh parsley from Suzie's Farm
1/3 cup chopped tomato (tomatoes are just starting to show up at the farmers markets and I actually have some ripe on a volunteer plant that I've mostly ignored)
1 tablespoon thinly sliced red onion from Schaner Farm
1 garlic clove, minced, also from the Schaner's
drizzled with Balsamic vinegar & Ensenada olive oil
a few pinches of sea salt
a crank of freshly ground pepper

...and tossed the ingredients together
...and enjoyed it quite a lot.


This grain is nutty and chewy, similar to a wheat berry.  Others might prefer it cooked with more water for a little longer so it is softer and less toothsome.  (I tend to like my food more al dente, less cooked, than others)

Stay tuned for more adventures in cooking with khorasan wheat...

Variations
Mix the cooked grain with your favorite salad ingredient combos.
Instead of tomato, try roasted winter squash.
Use the cooked grain instead of pasta in pasta salad or other grain salad recipes.

Or instead of khorasan wheat, try another cooked grain (wheat berries, bulgur, quinoa, millet, cous cous, rice...), chopped kale or lettuce for a green salad, pasta for a pasta salad, or croutons for a panzanella salad.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

San Diego has Seasons? YES, We Do

Spring is my favorite season; it is a time of awakening, rebirth, renewal, and while the crocuses do not emerge from the snowy ground in San Diego (they did when I lived in Pennsylvania), we still have seasonality of the foods we grow.  San Diego berries are mostly absent for a few months in fall/winter, San Diego heirloom tomatoes are at their glorious peak in the end of summer, beautiful ranunculus and anemones have recently bloomed, and good San Diego corn, especially organic, is a rarity, even when it's "in season."  But we are very fortunate: our local farmers manage to grow an abundance of beautiful, flavorful fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers year round.  If you want to learn about San Diego's seasons, the farmers markets offer an excellent education.

Why Bother Eating Local and with the Season?
I buy foods locally and in season because I want to support the people that are tirelessly building a sustainable local food shed in San Diego with their blood, sweat and tears, often without much financial profit.  These folks are my champions, heroes and rock stars.

And yes, of course, there are some challenges to supporting our local seasons:

Everything is not always available (many things cannot be grown year-round, crops fail, weather effects how fast things grow, some items are more popular than anticipated and sell out, etc) – but this can be a beautiful thing!  We can anticipate and appreciate the beautiful foods that are in season!  We increase our creativity in kitchen.  We increase our health by increasing the diversity of foods we include in our diet, instead of sticking to the same routine of meals regardless of the season.

Also, small scale, locally grown produce may look less uniform, less consistent, or less “perfect” (but, to quote Joni Mitchell, give me spots on my apples but leave me the birds and the bees, please!).  This is not to say they are less beautiful, by no means, usually quite the opposite (think purple carrots & romanesco cauliflower).  But each carrot is going to have a more unique size and shape, which makes them harder to transport and neatly stack in vast quantity on a grocery store shelf...And it may be a less familiar type of carrot.   
I relish and celebrate the diversity! But this is also a challenge for large scale prepped food operations (real world example: school cafeteria staff needed to be trained on how to prep a locally grown variety of broccoli).

Sometimes the locally grown is more expensive because small scale farming has higher labor costs (they use less mechanized harvesting, pay their workers a decent wage, less mono crops, use practices that are better for the land in the long run instead of making it easier to make a quick buck, grow varieties chosen for flavor instead of for ease of harvest, etc.).  I find it helpful to think that this is what good food SHOULD cost; think about why other food is so "cheap" (for starters - tax subsides and at the expense of our environmental and personal health).  And our country has, like, the cheapest food supply in the world (as a nation, we spend less than 10% of our disposable income on food).  Our bodies are literally made out of the food we eat.  Shouldn't it be a financial priority to build our bodies out of the best materials we can afford? (At the risk of sounding radical:) Maybe skip the cable tv and daily Starbucks?  I don't mean that as a criticism of those with cable and coffee (but you bought fair trade, right?), just to illustrate that we have a choice of where to spend our hard earned dollars.

Think of all the good we do when we spend our dollars supporting local organic produce: we help our environment by decreasing our reliance on fossil fuels and preserving our natural resources; we help create jobs for others; we keep our dollars circulating in our local community; we support a sustainable food system; we cultivate personal relationships with the people that grow our food – all while we eat the freshest, most beautiful foods available!

Think of the alternative: we buy a cheaper product that decreases our physical and spiritual health; we support businesses that poison our environment with toxic byproducts; we encourage businesses that consolidate wealth and power, pay their workers less than livable wages, use slaves, and have dangerous and toxic working conditions – we financially profit from the misery and suffering of others.

In this society we vote with every dollar we earn and every dollar we spend.  What world will you vote for?

(Or grow your own)

Monday, March 5, 2012

Arugula Salad with Seasonal Fruit & Balsamic Vinaigrette

This salad has very similar ingredients to very popular farmers market Roots wraps...

Arrange on a plate:
a handful of arugula from Suzie's Farm (or spinach or spring mix or mizuna...)
a few pieces of thinly sliced red onion from Schaner Farm
in spring or summer: a couple of strawberries from Suzie's or JR Organics Farm, sliced
in fall or winter: several slices of apple from Smit Orchards
a tablespoon of walnut from Terra Bella Farm, halves or pieces, toasted
a tablespoon of Point Reyes blue cheese (or feta), crumbled
drizzle with...

Balsamic Vinaigrette
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (try Ensenada olive oil for something very special!)
1/4 cup Balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon Dijon or whole grain mustard
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Wisk or blend ingredients together with an immersion blender.

Makes about 1 1/4 cups

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Avo Chocolate Mousse

or ganache, or pudding...this vegan dessert is rich and intense, and you'd never guess it was avocado based! Another Roots favorite:

2 cups avocados, skinned, pitted, slightly mashed (about 3) from Schaner Farm or Heritage Farm
2 tablespoons organic, fair trade coconut oil, melted
2 teaspoons organic, fair trade, pure vanilla extract (I make my own)
1 cup organic, fair trade cocoa powder, sifted
1 pinch sea salt
7 fluid ounces raw organic agave
Add avocado, coconut oil, vanilla extract, cocoa powder and salt to a food processor. Start the food processor and slowly pour in the agave. Blend until very smooth.

Makes about 4 cups. Keep refrigerated for a week or freeze for a month.

Serve with local organic fruit (blackberries or strawberries are my favorite when in season) and sprinkle with chopped & toasted local organic walnuts from Terra Bella Farm.

Variations
add a pinch of ground cinnamon and/or cayenne while blending

Friday, March 2, 2012

Strawberry Horchata

There are some amazing strawberries to be had at the farmers market, especially from Suzie's Farm and JR Organics Farm.

I first had strawberry horchata with a friend at El Mercado in East LA. She swore it would be awesome and ordered me a licuado de medio horchata y medio agua fresca de fresa. And I was hooked. I would then order it wherever I happened upon a licuado shop or fruteria. But I would always get funny looks - this was apparently a strange request. So I started making it at home. And it was very popular when I sold it as Roots.

3&1/2 cups brown rice
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
about 12 cups hot water (or milk or a mix of the 2), not boiling
1 cup agave
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2-3 pints strawberries

Put the rice and cinnamon in a gallon pitcher and fill the pitcher with the hot water.  Allow it to cool, cover and refrigerate overnight.  Blend the mixture for several minutes until the rice is a gritty, oatmeal texture.  Stain through a fine sieve, pressing on the solids to remove the liquid.  Return the liquid to the pitcher and compost the rice solids.

Remove the green top from the strawberries.  Add the agave, vanilla, and enough strawberries to mostly fill up the pitcher.  Blend with an immersion blender until smooth.

Makes about a gallon.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Simple Cream of Cauliflower Soup

...or broccoli, or a mix of the 2, whatever you picked up at the North Park farmers market today...

3 tablespoons Spring Hill butter
1 onion, chopped
2-3 pounds of Romanesco cauliflower from Suzie's Farm, chopped
1/2 - 1 cup of Strauss whole milk (cream on the top preferred)
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

In a medium pot over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of butter.  Add a large handful of chopped florets and cook, stirring, for about 10 minutes.  Transfer them to a bowl and set aside.

Melt the remaining butter in the pot.  Add the onion and the rest of the cauliflower and cook, stirring, until the onions are translucent and soft.  Add water until the veggies are barely covered, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 20 minutes.  Blend until smooth with an immersion blender.  Add milk, salt & pepper to taste.  Garnish with the cooked florets.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Bean Soup from Leftovers

We made bean and rice burritos yesterday.  And after eating beans from scratch, we end up with a bit of leftover beans in a lot of beany broth - which lends itself very well to being turned into soup on this cold and rainy day...

(amounts are approximate and will vary depending on how much leftovers you have)

a cup of cooked beans in a few cups of beany broth
1/2 cup or so of leftover cooked rice
1-2 tablespoons olive oil or Spring Hill butter
1/2 onion, chopped
1-2 carrots, quartered and thinly sliced
a celery rib, diced
a few cloves of garlic, minced
any other veggies lurking in your fridge? some roasted cauliflower? sugar snap peas? tomato? a handful of chopped greens?

In a pot, reheat the beans in their broth as you cook up the rest of the ingredients (if you have a parmesano cheese rind you've been saving, add that to the pot, too).

In a separate pan, saute the onion, garlic, carrots and celery (this is also a good time to add any dried herbs or spices you want) until just soft and add them to the beans along with the rice.  Saute any additional veggies until just soft and add them, too or add already cooked veggies straight into the pot.  Fresh greens or herbs go in last.  Gently simmer for a few minutes.  Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Family Brunch & Chile Relleno Casserole

I'm starting a new family tradition - Sunday potluck brunch at my place.  It's easy for us all to get busy and time passes quickly.  But a Sunday brunch every few weeks seems to be a good opportunity to spend time together.  And potluck makes it easy and casual.  And I get to pick up almost all my ingredients Saturdays at the Mercato. Last weekend, I made my version of my mother's recipe:

Chile Relleno Casserole
4 pint baskets of chiles (anaheim, poblano, hungarian...) from JR Organics Farm
3/4 pound of Monterey jack from Spring Hill, grated
12 eggs from backyard chickens
1 cup milk from a neighbor's goat
3 tablespoons flour from People's

Roasted the chiles on a cookie sheet in the oven at 400º, turning once, until the chiles are soft and the skins are blackened.  Allow them to cool, peel off the papery skin and remove the stems and seeds.  Slice the chiles and spread them out in a buttered, 9"x13" baking dish.  Top with with the cheese.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and flour and pour into the baking dish.  Bake at 375º for 20-30 minutes until fluffy and golden.

Serves 12.

Or for individual portions...
butter muffin tins (or use cupcake paper), add a tablespoon or 2 of the chopped chile and sprinkle some cheese in each cup, fill 3/4 full with the egg mixture and bake for about 20 minutes.

I served it with, chopped fresh tomatoes, a roasted salsa verde (ingredients from Schaner, JR and Suzie's) and avocado.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Simple Marinara Sauce (and thoughts on canning tomatoes)

I don't buy fresh tomatoes out of season (if you want to learn more about the tomato industry, Tomatoland is a great book).  But I do still crave their tomato-y goodness, so I keep a few cans of organic tomatoes around, perfect for quick sauces and soup. Tomatoes are one of those foods that when cooked, can be even healthier for you: cooking tomatoes increases the amount of lycopene (a phytochemical associated with decreased cancer risk) that our bodies can use.

When I lived in Pennsylvania, I worked on a family farm, where tomatoes - especially sauce tomatoes - were a big crop for them.  People would buy sauce tomatoes (I recommend San Marzanos) by the bushel (or peck; did you know there are 4 pecks to a bushel?) for canning.  And at the end of tomato season, I helped the family can enough tomatoes to last them through the next season (lots - an all day event).  Before this experience I thought canning your own goods wasn't worth the trouble when they come so cheap in the grocery store.  But I have a wiser perspective now.  When you grow your own food, you gain a deep connection with that food and you are intimately involved in so much of what goes into producing it.  You want to treat each tomato with the respect it deserves and allow it to express it's tomato-ness (especially on the palate!). 

But I didn't put up tomatoes last summer so I'm stuck with store-bought (organic in glass) for now.

Marinara
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 onion, cut in half again and sliced thin
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried basil
a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 1/2 cups (28 oz) canned crushed or ground tomatoes

In a large skillet, heat oil on medium heat and add the onion & spices.  Cook, stirring, until onions are soft.  Add garlic and cook a few minutes more.  Add tomato and cook, stirring, until it bubbles.  Reduce heat to low and cook to desired thickness.  Add sea salt to taste if needed (canned tomatoes usually contain enough salt that you may not need to add any more).

While the sauce is simmering, I boil up my pasta (I prefer angel hair or penne) in salted water and cook until just before tender.  Using tongs or a slotted spoon, I transfer the pasta (and the water that clings to it) into the sauce and allow it to finish cooking together.

Big Plus: this meal cooks up in about 15 minutes!

Variations
Add other chopped vegetables in with the garlic (such as summer squash)
Top with your favorite Italian cheese (such as pecorino or parmigiano reggiano)
This sauce also works well as a pizza sauce when reduced until very thick.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

How to Cook Beans from Scratch

Home-cooked beans made from scratch are sooo delicious!  They are vastly superior than canned for many reasons: texture, flavor, you get awesome bean broth, they are cheaper, you can add your own seasonings, and I find it very satisfying.

It is very easy to cook dried beans from scratch but they do require some advanced planning because they take awhile to soak and cook. (You can also cook fresh or sprouted beans super fast but I'll talk about those later...)

Other than thinking about the approximate amount of cooked beans I want to end up with...
(kitchen tip: 1/2 pound dried beans = 1 cup dried = 3 cups cooked)
...I don't really measure ingredients, but here's the method I use:
  1. Sort your dried beans: spread them out on a flat surface (like on a baking sheet) and make sure to remove any bad looking beans and anything that is not a bean (like little stones and grains).
  2. Rinse the beans with water.  This removes dirt or anything else their surface has come into contact with.
  3. Ideally: in a bowl, cover the beans with water by a couple inches (about 3 times as much water as beans), cover with a lid, and soak overnight in the fridge or for at least 4 hours. The soaking water contains the bulk of the raffinose (a bean sugar that we can't digest), so tossing this water after soaking helps eliminate gas. (If you forget to soak beans ahead of time, don't despair; you can still pull it off with a quick soak: boil beans in soaking water for a few minutes, the cover and let soak in the hot water for an hour.)
  4. Drain & rinse the beans, then cover them with fresh water plus about an inch in a pot.
  5. Boil the beans on a good hard boil for about 10 minutes and skim off any foamy scum that forms on top of the water (cuz who wants to eat bean scum? Also, it can boil over and make a terrible mess).
  6. Cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook time will depend on several things: pre-soaked beans cook faster, small beans cook faster than big ones, old beans that have been sitting in your cupboard for years may not ever get tender.  Generally, pre-soaked beans will take 45 minutes to an hour to simmer until soft and tender, with larger beans taking close to an hour and a half.  So start 'em early; beans keeping warm on the stove waiting for the rest of the meal to be ready is not a bad thing.  Also, you can cook beans in a crock pot.
  7. After you skim off the bean foam and reduce the heat, this is a good time to add any flavorings to the pot.  I always add 1/4-1/2 onion, 2 peeled whole garlic cloves and a couple sprigs of parsley, cilantro (for Mexican food), or epazote (for black beans).  If you don't have fresh herbs, you could use a teaspoon or more of dried herbs.  These additions enrich the flavor of the beans and the beany broth.
  8. While your beans are simmering, periodically check the water and add more as needed to keep the water level completely covering the beans.
  9. Periodically, scoop out a bean or 2 and taste to see how they are coming along. If they are getting close to done, this is the time to add salt to taste.  Do not add salt earlier in the cooking process or it will make your beans tough.  Some people like to cook their beans until they are super mushy but I prefer to cook them until they are a kinda soft creamy texture when I bite into them but they still hold their shape.
  10. Now they are ready to eat!  You can serve them in their broth, drain them (save the broth for soup!) or mash them (add in the broth as needed when mashing).
If you grow your own or find them at the farmers market, cook beans fresh out of their shell! You can find beautiful heirloom varieties and fresh favas (which take forever to shell but are amazing) and cannellinis. In a pot, cover fresh beans with water, bring to a boil, add your seasonings (except salt) and simmer on low heat until tender, adding salt in the last few minutes of cooking.  Fresh beans will cook up in 10-30 minutes.

Or, Suzie's Farm sells sprouted beans, which you can eat raw or simmer like I've described above.

    Friday, January 27, 2012

    Brother's Bday Brunch

    One of my brother's has a birthday this month and while I'm not big on presents, I love to get a bit of the family together and share a meal made with love.

    me and my brother, almost 30 years ago

    For me, brunch is easier and simpler than a dinner party, so I'll probably get a chance to actually sit down and eat with the family.  Here's what I'll be serving:

    muffins

    poached eggs

    roasted fingerling, yukon, & purple potatoes

    sautéed garlicky lacinato kale

    strawberries (JR Organics Farm has beautiful, delicious berries in season now!)

    fresh squeezed citrus juice from Schaner Farm

    organic, fair trade coffee & teas

    Thursday, January 26, 2012

    Pasta Salad

    I've been wanting to make pasta salad but it's been so cold I've only wanted to eat hot food.  But now it's warmed up a bit...
    3 cups dried bite-size pasta (penne, bowtie, corkscrew...), boiled up in salted water until al dente (I'm using an interesting, beautiful little pasta I picked up at the Hillcrest Farmers Market)
    1/2 cup cooked garbanzo beans
    1/2 pound 5 grain tempeh, cubed small
    olive oil
    2 tablespoons tamari (soy sauce)
    balsamic vinegar
    1/2 red onion, sliced very thin, from Schaner Farm
    4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced, from Schaner Farm
    1 small romanesco cauliflower, cut into bite-sized pieces, from Suzie's Farm
    large handful of fresh parsley leaves, chopped, from Suzie's Farm
    3 baby heads of gem romaine lettuce, chopped, from Suzie's Farm
    1 teaspoon dried oregano
    sea salt
    freshly ground black pepper

    In a loaf pan, bake the tempeh cubes tossed with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, tamari, and a tablespoon of vinegar, at 350° for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.  Toss all ingredients together in a large bowl with 1/4 cup olive oil and 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper.  Enjoy slightly warm or allow to cool (it will keep beautifully in the refrigerator; this is a good one to keep around to pack for lunches).

    Makes 6-8 servings

    Variations
    Mix it up the beans with whatever you might have on hand (kidney, cannellini...) or skip beans altogether.
    Don't have or don't like tempeh?  Skip it.
    Use whatever herbs and veggies are in season: basil, tomato, celery, summer squash, bell pepper...
    Use other greens or leave greens out.
    Use other vinegars (such as red wine).
    Try adding olives or toasted pine nuts.

    Wednesday, January 25, 2012

    Kale for Breakfast

    I eat a fair amount of kale.  I love the flavor and it's a "superfood" (very high in many nutrients especially to prevent cancer).  It's grown year-round by most of the SD farmers and it's very easy to grow at home.

    My favorite kale is lacinato or "dino" kale because the stems are soft enough that I don't need to destem it (I can eat the whole leaf - faster to prep and less waste), it's easy to cut (the leaves lay flat and I can chop the thicker stem parts real thin so they are easier to eat), the texture is less tough, it's a beautiful dark color and the flavor is wonderful - sweet, delicate, earthy and green!

    I love to cook it for breakfast as a bed for a bit of roasted fingerling, Yukon, or sweet potatoes, topped with an egg from Schaner Farm or drizzled with a touch of stoneground mustard and local honey.
    Yum yummy yuminess.
    Sautéed Kale
    For each serving:
    a large handful (a cup or so) of Suzie's Farm kale sliced about 1/4" - 1/2" ribbons (thinner on the steamy parts)
    1/2 teaspoon Springhill butter or olive oil
    a clove of Schaner Farm garlic, peeled and minced
    sea salt
    freshly ground pepper

    Melt butter over medium heat in a sauté pan. Add the kale, toss with the butter, and cook, stirring for a couple minutes. Add the garlic and cook stirring for a couple more minutes (I like my veggies just softened and still al dente but if you prefer softer greens, cook them longer). Season with a bit of sea salt and pepper.

    Variations
    Add a pinch of red pepper flakes in with the garlic.
    After cooking, add a splash of lemon juice or vinegar to brighten the flavor.
    Add other vegetables: increase the amount of oil or butter and sauté thinly sliced onions or other veggies for a few minutes before adding the kale.
    Try other greens, such as mustard, dandelion, chard, or a mix.