December 29, 2013

Crispy "Old Bay" Edamame

Kiddo's nap time, if it happens at all these days, usually begins with a drive: the white-noise roar of high heat, and someone's steady, lulling voice on NPR. The voice today is Carl Sagan's. We circle a little longer than we need to, listening. Home, I cut the engine and go into the house, leaving Darwin in his car seat, draped in a blanket printed with white bats, sleeping in the cave of leftover heat.

I cook until the windows steam up: soups, stews, quiches, sandwiches, greens, chicken, sweet potatoes, whatever I can make to get ahead. I think of Darwin's voice, sometimes so serious and aware: "I'm very hungry, Mama." It fills me with... what? Dread, joy, annoyance, love, purpose...

There is always more to do. The work finds me late at night, baking banana-nut muffins for tomorrow's breakfast. It finds me mincing onions for a dinner curry, then bringing my oniony hands to the floor to read Darwin a book among peels and scraps that need sweeping. And it finds me here, shaking a sizzling pan of roasting edamame pods while he naps in the car. Every five minutes, I trot out the kitchen door and cup my hands against the window to see his lax mouth and thin blue eyelids, still closed.

When he wakes up, there will be good food to eat...

...and to play with! This is one of those beautiful snacks that doubles as an activity:

Crispy "Old Bay" Edamame
Serves 3

1 package organic frozen edamame beans in the pod (14-16oz)
3 Tbls. extra virgin olive oil
Old Bay spice mix, to taste

Preheat oven to 400.

In a large bowl, drizzle olive oil over the pods. Toss to coat.

Sprinkle Old Bay generously on the pods. Toss to coat.

Spread pods on a large cookie sheet and bake 10 minutes. Flip the pods, then bake 10 minutes more.

Taste the beans, then season with sea salt and/or extra Old Bay to taste.

December 22, 2013

Beef Tagine with Cinnamon and Carrots

Slush and spindly-fingered trees herald the official start to the season of long-simmered soups and stews. Here is one we keep returning to, a tagine that transports us across the world, then calls us back home with its cozy cinnamon; rich broth; ultra-tender beef; and carrots in bright, familiar coins...

Tagine, a Moroccan stew named after the conical vessel it's traditionally cooked in, is pronounced "ta-zhine," the way you imagine the French would say it. Here in our little house in New York, we spent a good long time calling it "ta-GEEN," nailing that G like a dropped hunk of frozen beef. Woops. Sorry, generations of North African cooks.

We've since amended our pronunciation, but Darwin still likes saying it the old way, only now it's funny. He especially likes to proclaim, through giggles, that we are having "Pea-Ta-Geen," (say it!) and in fact I credit him with the tender and colorful addition of spring peas to this otherwise deeply-spiced and wintery stew.

I used to give him a little dish of frozen peas to stir into his bowl at the table, because he liked to eat it that way; then I tasted his leftovers, and understood the wisdom of this extra ingredient. Now as serving time approaches, I hoist his ever-lengthening frame up to the stovetop, and, with a flash-reminder of what's-hot-up-here (everything except the handle of the wooden spoon), I let him dump the peas into the pot and give them a jerky stir.

Once again, a bit of kitchen wisdom comes back around with the spoon: what's good for one of us is good for all of us.

Beef Tagine with Cinnamon and Carrots
Serves 4

1 pound cubed stew beef
1 medium-large onion, quartered and thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 carrots, sliced into coins (I used multicolored carrots)
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 tsp. turmeric powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 cup raisins
3 Tbls. minced fresh parsley
1/2 tsp. fine-grained sea salt
2 Tbls. extra virgin olive oil

In a med-large stew pot over medium heat, heat butter or olive oil and fry onions until soft and translucent, about 7 minutes.

Add the beef and fry, stirring frequently, another 5 minutes or until it's browned on all sides.

Add garlic and fry a minute or two more.

Add carrots, turmeric, cinnamon, cumin, salt, and two cups of water. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to barely a simmer.

Cover the pot, and leave it to simmer 45 minutes to an hour. Toss the raisins in about halfway through cooking, and give the pot a stir once in a while.

Add peas just before serving; the heat of the stew will defrost them, but they'll stay fresh and tender.

Serve in bowls with a scattering of parsley.

December 15, 2013

Healthy Holiday Jam Stack Cookies

I've spent about the last seventeen holiday seasons jaded about Christmas in that hunched, adolescent sort of way. I'd grown up, mostly, and could pass on presents and trees and lights. One year in my early twenties, I didn't even make it back to my native Massachusetts during the month of December. I strolled the warm beaches of San Diego, where I lived: the always-blooming land that Christmas forgot, but that advertisers, with their billboards of mittens and snowflakes, did not. See what I mean? Jaded.

This year, things have been different. As suddenly as a two-year-old boy hits a growth spurt, I shrugged off my Christmas apathy. The poppy tambourines of Pandora's Christmas Channel pipe from our speakers. Crafts of red and green construction paper, pom poms, and glitter plaster our refrigerator. And our living room glows with the twinkle lights on our first family Christmas tree--colorful lights, I insisted, because they're more fun.

So you see, there's a thing happening here. He's about three feet tall and he believes in Santa, and that's pretty much the whole story.

In the throes of my enthusiasm, holiday cookies became necessary. I spent weeks mulling over and testing this recipe, because I wanted it to be just right: rich, sweet, colorful, and nourishing, too. For the dough, I put a whole-food spin on the recipe for traditionally sugar-free Polish kolache cookies; then I filled the cookies with dollops of simple but magnificent raspberry-date jam. You probably won't use all the jam in the cookies, which is a good thing: leftovers are great in a PBJ sandwich or stirred into a batch of oat bars.

Thanks for sharing in my (alarmingly meteoric!) holiday spirit, and enjoy.


Healthy Holiday Jam Stack Cookies
Makes about 2 dozen cookies

1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup butter, softened
3oz (or 1/4 cup + 2 Tbls.) cream cheese, softened
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

2 cups frozen raspberries
1/2 cup packed mashed dates

For the jam:
In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, simmer raspberries, stirring often, until they're melted and broken down, five or fewer minutes.

Break up mashed dates into small gobs and sprinkle them into the still-simmering raspberries. Stir well and simmer a few minutes more, until the jam is thick and all lumps are incorporated.

Let cool and transfer to glass for storage.

For the cookies:
Cream together butter, cream cheese and vanilla, then add flour and stir well. Use your hands to form the dough into a homogenous ball.

Roll the dough into two logs about two inches in diameter, wrap them in parchment paper, and chill until firm (30 minutes in the freezer, or 2+ hours in the fridge)

Preheat oven to 350 and line a cookie tray with parchment paper. Remove the logs of dough from the fridge/freezer and slice them into very thin rounds.

Arrange half the rounds on the cookie sheet and bake until firm, 12-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, use a small cookie cutter (I used the cap to a vodka bottle!) to punch holes in the middle of the remaining rounds. Save the punched-out dough in a ball to make more cookies.

Transfer the baked "solid" halves onto a plate to cool, and arrange the "O" halves on the cookie sheet. Bake for 7-10 minutes, or until firm.

When both cookie halves are completely cool, spread jam on the "solid" halves and gently press the "O" halves on top. The cookies will be somewhat delicate in their first hour or so out of the oven, but they become sturdier--and achieve their best, flaky texture--after a couple of hours of rest.

December 8, 2013

Savory Quinoa-Veggie Cakes (Gluten Free)

Lately, when it's cooking time, I plunk a bunch of mixing bowls, baking dishes, and measuring cups onto the kitchen floor, and bring the ingredients down to Darwin's level. I show him how to knock the eggs gently against the side of the bowl and poke his thumbs into the slippery centers to pull the shells apart. I let him do all the dumping and most of the stirring. In between tasks, he earnestly asks, "NOW what do we need?" I treasure this sweet and important time spent with my little one:

Our latest team effort yielded these cute, handheld quinoa cakes. We packed them with as many veggies as we could so they are brightly-colored and delicious. So delicious! We like them with a side of fruit.

Quinoa-Veggie Cakes (Gluten Free)
Makes about 10 cakes

1 cup cooked and cooled quinoa
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
2/3 cup minced raw broccoli
1/2 cup minced raw onion
1/4 cup frozen peas
1 medium carrot, grated
1 egg
extra virgin olive oil, for cooking

Preheat oven to 375, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Saute veggies in olive oil over medium heat, starting with the onions for two minutes, then adding the carrots for two minutes more, the broccoli for two minutes more, and finally the peas for the last two minutes. Salt and pepper the veggies to taste, and let cool slightly.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk an egg and fold in grated cheese, veggie mixture, and cooked quinoa. Stir well and add a bit more salt, if you like.

Pack the mixture into a quarter cup measuring cup or other small mold, then knock out the cakes onto the cookie sheet.

Bake 10 minutes, flip, then bake 5 minutes more. Cool slightly and serve or freeze.

This post shared on Real Food Wednesdays.

December 2, 2013

Braised Kale with Caramelized Onions

In the beginning of her newest cookbook, Wild About Greens, Nava Atlas writes, "My passion for greens is constant and never wanes. I used to say that when we ran out of broccoli, it was time to go food shopping. Now that sentiment refers to all kinds of leafy greens. In my opinion, it's a barren fridge that holds no kale, collards, or spinach [...]"

I have loved Nava Atlas since I was a recent college graduate, splattering bottled salad dressings on the pages of The Vegetarian 5-Ingredient Gourmet in my tiny sun-drenched kitchen in San Diego. There, I worked tirelessly to master the alchemy of cooking for myself, something that my ivy league education (shockingly!) had not prepared me for at all.

I suffered a lot of mishaps, and I named them, wryly: Cigarette Soup. Hot Dog Soup. Mustard Noodles. I remember making a beef stew that turned out terrifically, but that I could not duplicate for my life. Almost a decade later, and now that cooking is second-nature, I often forget that it was a long road to even moderate proficiency in the kitchen.

Back to Nava. I already knew her to be an extraordinary force, but when I read her words about greens, I felt like I'd found a soul mate. I read the passage aloud to Scott. "It's us," I said. "She's US!" I had come a long way in my habits and preferences from where I once was.

And a good thing, too. Really loving and savoring greens is like opening a magic box of perfect nutrition and sultry flavors. Like learning to cook, I think learning to appreciate greens is a thing we must all accomplish, no matter our age or eating background.

Wherever you or your kids are on the path to loving greens, I hope you'll pause here, and try this fabulous braised kale with caramelized onions. Sweet and tender and spicy, it's my very favorite preparation, and it goes well with almost anything. Darwin likes when I roll it into little balls that he can pluck and eat with his fingers, which is a little annoying to do at the table, but well worth the trouble if it gets some kale into his belly.


Braised Kale with Caramelized Onions
20 minutes
Serves 2-4

1 bunch kale, washed and chopped
1/2 large sweet onion, sliced thinly*
2 Tbls. extra virgin olive oil (a generous swirl)
dash red pepper flakes (optional)

Heat oil and onions in a large pan over medium heat, until onions sizzle.

Cook, stirring frequently, until onions become soft, brown, and sticky, at least ten minutes.

Add kale, and stir to coat with the oil and onions. Fry 30 seconds or so and sprinkle with a little sea salt.

Add a few tablespoons of water, then cover the pan and continue to cook, removing the lid every couple of minutes to stir and turn over the kale. Taste it as it starts to become tender: it's ready when you are, and when the water has completely cooked off (you may want to remove the lid for the final minute or so of cooking.)

Remove from heat, sprinkle with red pepper flakes, and serve.

*When the onions are very thinly sliced, caramelizing happens quickly. Really.

This recipe has been shared on Real Food Wednesdays.

November 26, 2013

Ezekial Bread Stuffing Cups

Every year at Thanksgiving, far-flung from the little Massachusetts town where I grew up, I think of my dad's momentous stuffing, brimming from both ends of the turkey, so moist you can slice it like meatloaf. I'm pretty sure it takes two days to make, and that no stuffing on earth has ever been so breathtakingly good.

Still, for the first time this year I've tried my hand at stuffing, and I've learned a couple of good lessons along the way. First, I learned that good stuffing is really, really easy to make and no one should be intimidated by all those Braque-esque cubes of bread and lamb-soft sage leaves that, don't worry, nobody buys on a regular basis. (Except maybe my dad. Actually, I think he grows the stuff. He's that kind of guy.)

Second, I learned that traditions are a lot like family itself: part remembrance, part reinvention. These stuffing cups borrow the best of my dad's tricks, like baking the chunks of bread slow and low for the ultimate "stale" loaf, and pulsing some of the bread into crumbs for a denser, moister stuffing. But they're also a style all my own, made from sprouted whole grain bread for a nutty and healthful stuffing, and baked into fun, freezable muffin form.

Note: the stuffing works just as well in a bird or a pan, like this...

I hope you enjoy the recipe, and that you have a beautiful Thanksgiving filled with nourishing food, gratitude, and the people you love most. Cheers!

Ezekial Bread Stuffing Cups
Time: 2 hours
Makes: 18-24 cups

1 loaf Ezekial sprouted grain bread
1 large sweet onion, diced
5 stalks celery, diced
3/4 cup butter (1.5 sticks)
1 packed Tbls. fresh thyme leaves, minced
1 packed Tbls. fresh sage leaves, minced
1/4 packed cup fresh parsley, minced
2 eggs
2 cups chicken or turkey stock (homemade if possible)
1 tsp. fine grained sea salt (less if using store-bought broth)

Arrange sliced bread on two cookie trays and bake at 250 degrees 45 minutes, or until bread is completely dry and crisp. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Preheat the oven to 350.

Chop half the bread roughly into cubes, and pulse the rest in a food processor into medium-fine crumbs.

Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat and saute onions and celery, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about ten minutes.

Remove pot from heat and stir in parsley, thyme, and sage. Fold all the bread crumbs and bits into the vegetables.

While the bread mixture is cooling and in a separate bowl, whisk together eggs with broth and salt. Carefully pour the liquid into the bread and combine well.

Spoon into lined muffin tin and bake at 350 for 20 minutes, or until stuffing cups are nicely browned, but still moist inside. Alternately, you can spoon the whole mixture into a large baking dish, and bake 25 minutes covered, then 15 minutes uncovered. Alternately, you can stuff it in a turkey.

November 21, 2013

Lemony Chickpea Soup with Parsley and Cumin

Eating this soup forever reminds me of one of my favorite things about home cooking, the throw-together masterpiece. Most days, I plan for dinner a little in the morning, soaking beans, grating ginger, or chopping an onion to stash in the fridge. I like the rhythm of it, but I also face my share of oh-crap-I-forgot-to-even-think-about-dinner days. I take a deep breath and start hacking at vegetables at 6pm, not exactly sure what will appear on the table, but sure that it has to appear there soon.

This soup began as one of those harried improvisations. I had some cooked chickpeas in the fridge, and skinny frozen green beans that I was curious to try in a soup. I started tossing veggies in my pot, then decided on a whim to conjure up a Middle Eastern flavor with smoky cumin, bright lemon, and fresh parsley I snipped from the garden. I simmered and stirred and read a few picture books with Darwin, and when I returned to my soup pot for a taste off the wooden spoon, my (frenzied!) efforts were richly rewarded.

We've enjoyed this soup at family dinners many times since I took that first, delightful sip, and now I'm happy to share the recipe with you. Enjoy it just like this, or with a dollop of plain yogurt on top.

Lemony Chickpea Soup with Parsley and Cumin
30 minutes
Serves 6

1 onion, chopped
3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
1 red potato, scrubbed and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup red lentils, rinsed and drained
2.5 cups cooked chickpeas
2/3 cup chopped fresh or frozen French green beans
2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. sweet paprika
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, loosely packed
juice from half a lemon
1 tsp. sea salt, or to taste

Sweat the onion, carrots, and celery in a few swirls of olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat, about five minutes.

Add the garlic, fry for one minute, then add red lentils, chickpeas, potato, dried spices, salt, and four cups of water.

Bring to a boil over high heat, then immediately reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes, or until lentils are completely softened and breaking apart like a thick stew.

Add the green beans and parsley and simmer only a minute or two more, until green beans are just tender.

Remove from heat, add lemon juice, and ladle into serving bowls.

November 13, 2013

Activity: Grow Microgreens with Kids!

Darwin stoops in the chilly November air, reaching past his coat sleeves to clutch a handful of soil, which he drops carefully into a recycled plastic mushroom container. I help him level and pat it down, then a few moments later, he's sprinkling radish seeds onto the new surface, swirling his hand like a chef salting a pot of stew. How did my little bundle become so big, such a determined student of everything I show him?

Kids and microgreens are a natural pairing. They both start small and seem to grow before our eyes, brimming with zest and vitality. And they both love dirt! Today's post shares my little tutorial on growing your own microgreens, indoors or out, to captivate and nourish the people you love.

The tiny leaf vegetables we call microgreens grow from seeds and are ready for harvest when their first true leaves appear, usually only a week or two after planting. You can grow almost any leaf vegetable as a microgreen, from broccoli, kale, and radishes to lettuces and herbs.

Planting and tending a crop of these little veggies with kids is so much fun, and it earns you super-parenting points, because everybody in the family gets to:
-learn how seeds sprout and plants grow
-welcome a burst of fresh color into the home (especially as the weather cools)
-choose responsibility for some of the family's food 
-garden using almost no money or space
-enjoy spicy new flavors
-benefit from great nutrition, with vitamins 4-6 times more concentrated than in mature plants

I hope you'll give it a try! Check out the instructions below, and have fun!

Grow Your Own Microgreens
If you're new to microgreens, try a first crop of radishes or mixed lettuces. These are fast to germinate, easy to grow, and they taste delicious.


-one or more small plastic food containers, such as those mushrooms or baby spinach are sold in
-a small bag of organic potting soil or seed starting mix
-one or more packets of seeds, such as radish, mixed lettuces, kale, broccoli, peas, etc.
-a sunny window
-a plate for drainage
-a paper towel
-a clean water bottle spritzer (optional, but helpful)


1. Have a grownup use a sharp knife to carefully pierce several small holes in the bottom of your plastic container(s).

2. Fill your container(s) almost to the top with potting soil, pressing it down gently.

3. Water the soil until it is very wet.

4. Sprinkle seeds thickly and evenly across the top of the soil, leaving only a few millimeters between each seed. (Some overlap is OK.)

5. Press the seeds gently into the soil. (They will nestle in a little, but will still be visible.)

6. Drape a damp paper towel across the top.

 7. Place the container on a plate for drainage, and put it in a sunny window.

Tending and Harvesting:
Note: this schedule is approximate, and different conditions and seed varieties could require different numbers of days in each step.

Days 1-3: Once or twice a day, remove the paper towel, mist the seeds, then replace the paper towel (the seeds like darkness and moisture to germinate, but are easily dislodged. If you don't have a mister, try gently drizzling water from your hands.)

Days 3-5: After seeds have germinated, remove the paper towel. Continue misting the seeds once or twice daily.

Days 6+: Now that the seeds are beginning to take root and leaf out, switch to watering only once a day, but increase the volume of your watering. Try using a small watering can, or bottom-watering by pouring a cup of water into the drainage plate for the roots to soak up. (Bottom-watering is a good strategy to prevent crowded leaves from growing mold, but I usually water from the top, and rarely have a problem.)

Day 14+, Harvest Day! When the greens have sprouted their first one or two true leaves (or the third and fourth leaves, if you count the cotyledons), harvest them! Hold your container(s) mostly upright over a large plate or bowl, and use clean scissors to snip the greens off at the stem. Rinse and enjoy the flavor and beauty of your tiny veggies!

November 8, 2013

Naked Gyoza

Let's agree: the filling is the best part. A couple of weeks ago I bit into an Asian dumpling from our farmer's market, and fell in love again with that little bundle of simple, seasoned vegetables that someone painstakingly (trust me, I know) crimped inside. Can't we just eat it by the bowlful? Can't we please?

This naked gyoza recipe serves up delicately cut veggies in a tangy-sweet brown sauce flavored with scallions and sesame. We don't miss the doughy dumplings at all, especially because there are so many other fresh and healthy ways to serve this stuff: stir-fried into brown rice, tossed with buckwheat or whole wheat noodles as in yaki soba, folded into your own whole wheat gyoza wrappers, or just piled high in a bowl with a side of scrambled eggs (my favorite.)

Naked gyoza is an easy sell on the kid-front, too, because the veggies are so finely minced, and they're a little sweet. Darwin calls this, simply, "filling," although he's tickled by my naked-talk at the dinner table. Enjoy it!

Naked Gyoza
Time: 20 minutes

Serves 2-4

For the stir-fry:
3 cups finely shredded cabbage
3/4 cup shredded carrots
1/4 cup frozen peas
1 green onion, chopped (about 1/4 cup)
2 Tbls. butter

For the sauce:
1 Tbls. soy sauce
1 Tbls. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbls. unseasoned rice vinegar
1 tsp. honey
1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
1/4 tsp. freshly grated ginger (optional)

Whisk all sauce ingredients together in a bowl and set aside.

Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat, and add shredded cabbage. Fry until mostly tender, stirring often, about five minutes.

Add carrots, and fry until softened, 3-5 minutes.

Remove pot from heat and add scallions, peas, and sauce. (The peas will defrost fully in the hot veggies.) Stir until well-combined, then serve as is, or use inside homemade goyza, fried rice, or other Asian recipes.

November 1, 2013

Cozy Cauliflower Pizza-Bake

Thumbs up to the the cauliflower-crust pizza craze. I love the idea of replacing a nutrient-poor ingredient like white flour with a vegetable, and still getting to eat pizza for dinner! And doesn't it look tasty?

And yet I haven't made it. And I have no plans to make it. Because as good as I'm sure it is, it strikes me as just a little fussy, for pizza. (I love to make pizza from scratch, but homemade whole wheat dough is a little fussy, too. I guess it was always meant to be a special occasion food at our house.)

My other little gripe about this Pinterest rock star recipe is the part where you wring the water out of the cauliflower. It's true that food processing you do in your own kitchen, cauliflower-strangling included, is generally far better than eating foods processed in a factory. But if your goal is great nutrition, it's worth remembering that the way you prepare good ingredients matters. A quick search uncovered a whole bunch of water-soluble vitamins in cauliflower that I'm guessing go down the drain during the cauliflower death-grip.  These include B-vitamins, folate, Vitamin C, and choline.

When I set out to re-create the yummy flavors in cauliflower-crust pizza, I wanted to make it fast and easy enough for a weekday lunch, and I wanted to keep my cauliflower whole and wonderful. Here's the result: a tasty, cozy, pizza casserole!

There's no official recipe for this meal, but here's what I did: first I chopped cauliflower into florets, and steamed it for about five minutes (I suspect leftover roasted cauliflower would also be delicious.) Then I tossed the florets with some marinara sauce and freshly-shredded Mozzarella cheese, and scooped the mixture into an 8oz ramekin. I sprinkled a little extra cheese on top, and slid it into the toaster oven to bake at 400 degrees for about ten minutes.

Darwin and I shared one little casserole dish of this cheesy cauliflower, and it was delicious! Enjoy it, fellow lazy-bones!

October 22, 2013

Basic Butter Banana Cookies

I get a major kick out of serving cookies for breakfast (broccoli too, but that's a post for another day.) I think it's partly because I'm a mom who says, "no, thank you" when someone offers my kid ice cream or cheese puffs or cupcakes or a supposedly-edible neon worm. As Darwin gets a little older and starts finding his way into wider social circles, we find ourselves turning down more and more snack offerings.

I'm mostly OK playing food-goalie to keep us healthy. It's important! But at home, I like to balance out my refusals with complete indulgence. I like to say yes, and I like to say it with whole, nourishing ingredients like stone-ground whole wheat flour, sweet bananas, and luxurious butter.

I especially like to slip a couple of still-warm, golden cookies onto Darwin's morning plate, and then pretend to be shocked at my own judgment: "cookies for breakfast?!"


Enjoy them!

Basic Butter Banana Cookies 
30 minutes or less
makes 15 cookies

1 cup 100% whole wheat flour
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1 egg, whisked
5 Tbls. butter, softened
1/4 cup raisins or chopped dates
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. baking soda

Preheat oven to 375, and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, combine flour and baking soda. Set aside.

In a large bowl, smash together the soft butter and bananas, then add vanilla, egg, raisins/dates, and nuts.

Gently incorporate the flour mixture into the wet ingredients until all the floury crumbles are gone. Be careful not to overmix.

Drop batter by spoonfuls onto parchment-paper-lined cookie sheet and bake 10-13 minutes, or until tops are just beginning to brown.

Cool and enjoy!

October 9, 2013

Grassfed Meatloaf with Roasted Tomato Topping

"Meatloaf?" Scott peered into the mixing bowl as I squashed and kneaded its contents.

It was clear that he thought I had taken a culinary wrong turn. How could that brown, ketchup-slathered, stale-crumb mountain of 1950s dinnertime infamy be, you know, good food? Food especially that I would make, with my reverence of real, whole, unprocessed foods?

I'm not sure where the spark of inspiration came from. Maybe I was seduced by the childhood memory of piling up the red, eggy loaf on a pan in my mom's kitchen. Maybe serving hundreds of plates of meatloaf to old men at the diner when I was sixteen inoculated me against the disdain people seem to have for this all-American dish.

Either way, I really wanted to make it. Of course, I wanted to make it a new way. An upgrade.

So here are my substitutions: grass-fed beef; 100% whole grain, home-toasted breadcrumbs; organic tomato sauce; and freshly roasted tomato topping. Earthy sage and oregano add depth, and a splash of balsamic vinegar barely hints at the tang you remember from this meatloaf's ketchupy cousins. And oh is it delicious.

This is meatloaf made whole and nourishing. This is meatloaf good enough for a dinner party.

"This is the best meatloaf I have every had," Scott said as we ate. "I feel like I could eat that whole loaf."

Great! (But don't do that! Then you won't have leftovers.) Enjoy it with your family!

Grassfed Meatloaf with Roasted Tomato Topping
Hands-on time: 20 minutes
Total time: 90 minutes
Serves 6

1 lb grassfed beef
1 fresh egg
2 slices 100% whole grain bread, like Ezekial brand
1/2 sweet onion, chopped small
1/2 cup tomato sauce (I used Muir Glen organic, which is BPA-free)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp. dried sage
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 medium tomato, chopped

Preheat oven to 350, and rub a little olive oil into the sides and bottom of a standard-sized loaf pan.

Toast bread until it's nice and dry, and add the slices to a large mixing bowl. Use your fingers to grind and break it into crumbs, as finely as you can, within reason.

Add all other ingredients except fresh tomato to the mixing bowl (I give the egg a quick whisk right in the bowl). Season with salt and pepper, then use your hands to mix everything well.

Pack the mixture into the loaf pan. Flatten that puppy out (mountainous loaves just dry out at the edges).

Sprinkle the chopped tomato evenly across the top of the loaf.

Bake for just over an hour, using a kitchen thermometer to make sure the loaf is over 160 degrees in the middle. (One hour and ten minutes has been the sweet spot for me.)

Slice and enjoy! We love ours topped with sauteed garlicky mushrooms.

September 23, 2013

Buttery Carrots and Zucchini Moons

I wish I could restore the reputation of steamed vegetables. Forget awesome nutrition for a second (pshaw!), when steaming is done right, veggies taste delightful, as bold or simple as you wish: think lemon juice and olive oil, soy sauce/sesame oil, hot sauce, honey-mustard glaze, balsamic vinaigrette, Mexican salsa, cheesy sauces... endless options! At our house, the steam basket is such an important gadget that it never even leaves the stove, except for washing.

This particular combination of veggies is so tasty. The last of summer's bright, al dente zucchini pair with the deep, extra-tender sweetness of fall carrots. Add warm butter and a bright splash of scallions and you have a delicious, super-fast side dish.

You've probably steamed something or other before, but I want to remind you of the importance of timing, just in case it's been a while since you rinsed the cobwebs off the old steam basket.
The trick to a successful steam is to use fresh vegetables and pull them out long before they turn to colorless mush. With a mixed steam like this one, that means adding the veggies at different times. Give the carrots a good five-minute head start under the lid (a perfect interval for chopping the zucchini.) Spear and taste your carrots once or twice, waiting to add the zucchini moons until the carrots are nearly tender. Both of the vegetables should need only two or three minutes after that. Then they can go straight into a serving bowl with a big pat of butter, a few grounds of sea salt and black pepper, and a handful of scallions.

Picky kids who are still learning to enjoy vegetables will like the mild sweetness of this combination (it's no wonder both these veggies have found their way into breads and sweets.)

Now go show your steam basket some love, and enjoy!

Buttery Carrots and Zucchini Moons
Total Time: 15
Serves: 4

4-5 whole fresh carrots
1-2 whole fresh zucchinis
1/4 cup chopped fresh scallions, more or less
1 Tbls. grass-fed butter, more or less
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Fill a pot with 2 inches water, place a steam basket inside, and set it to boil.

Meanwhile, peel and slice carrots into small chunks or coins. Add them to the steam basket and cover.

Rinse and slice zucchini into half-moons.

Taste the carrots once or twice mid-steam. (Be careful not to check too often, because lifting the lid lets steam escape.) When carrots are close to tender (at least five minutes), add the zucchini moons.

Steam three more minutes, or until zucchini are bright and tender-crisp. Remove from heat immediately and add butter, scallions, salt and pepper.

Serve and enjoy! It's a delicious compliment to curries and cold chicken dishes.

September 18, 2013

Ultimate Chewy Oat Bars (Fruit-Sweetened, Gluten-free, 100% Whole Grain)

Here's our best-tested, tastiest breakfast bar. If you've never made a Kid Can Eat recipe, and you have hungry people living in your house, you must try these sweet, chewy, trail-mix-y bars.

They're fun to make, because you and your kids can indulge your maddest scientists swapping in dried fruits, nuts, and seeds to suit your mood. Darwin loves to scoop and dump the ingredients on the kitchen floor.

These bars are minimally processed, featuring only whole grains, only whole fruit as sweetener, and only raw nuts, seeds, and virgin coconut oil for richness.

Wherever these bars go, I'm following behind, scribbling the recipe onto note cards; everyone who has tried them demands the recipe (Really. Everyone.) They're completely portable, mostly crumb-free, and they freeze beautifully.

so many treats in these bars
into the pan

just sliced
Ultimate Chewy Oat Bars (Fruit-Sweetened, Gluten-free, 100% Whole Grain)
Total Time: 40 minutes. Hands-on Time: 20 minutes.
Makes 8 bars

2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup raw nuts, chopped (walnuts, pecans, almonds, cashews, peanuts etc.)
1/2 cup dried fruit, chopped (dates, raisins, apricots, cherries, prunes, blueberries, etc.)
1/4 cup dried unsweetened coconut
2 Tbls. raw seeds (flaxseeds, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, etc.)
big pinch cinnamon

3 ripe bananas, peeled and mashed until smooth
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup virgin coconut oil, heated just to liquid state

Preheat oven to 350. Line a 7" x 11" baking dish with parchment paper.

In a large mixing bowl, toss together all dry ingredients.

In a second mixing bowl, whisk together all wet ingredients.

Pour oat mixture into banana mixture and stir until well-combined. (Since these aren't going to rise, you don't have to worry about over-mixing.)

Spread batter into lined baking dish, using the back of a spoon to mash the batter into the corners and smooth out the top. Try to make the thickness of the batter even throughout.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until edges of the bars are just beginning to brown. (If you're cautious like me, you'll stick a thermometer in the middle to make sure the egg is cooked through. 20 minutes always does it.)

Cool for ten minutes in the pan before lifting out and slicing into eight bars. Now you may eat, refrigerate, or freeze.

September 16, 2013

A Travelogue in Food

mama in jammies, packing the pod.
We’re back! Oh, what adventures we've had! On June 30th, two parents, one toddler, and two displeased cats jigsawed into a Toyota Matrix for a voyage north through all manner of sun and storms, traffic jams and open roads.

This is our travel story told by way of the food that nourished us.

kid lunch on a busy packing day: no cooking required
The night before we left Florida,  our wonderful friend Karen invited us over (out of our own, then-desolate kitchen) for a feast of local-pork tacos with guacamole, cilantro, and pickled Bermuda onions. Thank you, Karen!

The next morning we set off due north for what turned out to be a ten-hour drive. As we hurtled down the highway, we snacked on popcorn with extra virgin olive oil, baby carrots, and frozen peas straight from the bag. We sliced open pears and avocados ripened in our car’s console and ate them with enjoyment and gratitude. When we finally stopped to rest for the night at La Quinta Inn in Charlotte, we microwaved a can of lentil soup from Trader Joe’s, and split it among paper bowls.

On day two, we drove for seven hours, and yes, that was us--did you see us?—stretching our limbs on a cool, misty roadside in the Appalachian mountains, refueling on baked sweet potatoes and boiled eggs. We stopped that evening at my uncle Mark’s farm in rural Pennsylvania, where Darwin played on grassy hills and sat across the table from his great-grandmother to a feast of grilled chicken, fresh corn, roasted vegetables, and Mark’s homemade pickles.

Great-Grandmother and Great-Grandson watching PBS cartoons
The morning of the third day, Scott bought a stick of homemade beef jerky from the countertop of a tiny gas station in Pennsylvania, and gnawed on it with dedication almost all the way to New York. We  ate a tupperware of kidney beans, more raw veggies, and there was also, I confess, a key-lime pie donut on this day, split between Scott and I. (My verdict: gluey and overly sweet.)

Then lo, we arrived! It would still be a few weeks before our house on Long Island was ready for move-in, so after two day’s rest at the family home, we ventured further north to Massachusetts to visit my parents. My parents are supremely devoted gardeners and grandparents, and Darwin ran happily through their big yard (my old big yard!) chasing bubbles and eating fresh food straight off the plant: cucumbers, a few early tomatoes, snap peas, blueberries, raspberries, black raspberries, and parsley. (He liked to linger in front of the parsley plants, which Grandma alluringly called “healing parsley,” snipping the leaves off with his fingers and eating them one after another.)

Darwin, Grandma, and the famous "bubble dog"
We returned to Long Island in late July and spent a few restful weeks with Scott’s parents. While we were there, Darwin's Grandma and JiJi graciously allowed my near-total takeover of their kitchen for a series of quiches, curries, bean soups, muffins and too many other dishes to name. Finally, in mid-August, we moved into our new house. One of our first tasks, even before unpacking, was to put in a small vegetable garden:

still growing: kale, bok choy, radishes, snap peas, bell peppers, lettuces, herbs, and spinach.
We also bought a simple kitchen table—our first! What a pleasure it is to finally eat together around a table. The heart of the house is here.

a chair for each
lunch in our new kitchen
Now we are finally settled down, more or less unpacked, and establishing a kind of routine. The endless work and pleasure of cooking marches on…

sauerkraut season is here
sweet potatoes, whole wheat banana pancake, nectarines, spinach

breakfast bar preview
And I have some amazing recipes to share! Coming up in the next post: the ultimate whole-food breakfast bars. Thank you for reading my story, and here's to a season of real food and healthy families. "Grapes cheers!"