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!"