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Pumpkin Apple Pancakes

Now I know what to do with leftover pumpkin puree after my annual Thanksgiving baking sprees. This super quick, delicious and of course healthy pumpkin recipe was inspired by a post in Sunset Magazine. The initial results were good, but we couldn’t help but adapt the recipe to make it turn out as delicious as their photo.I happened to have cooked apples on hand the first time I made this, which was even more appealing.

This is a perfect post-Thanksgiving  breakfast option, and would work great on a weekday morning since it is a one-bowl process.

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Easy and Delicious Homemade Yogurt

Our family is nuts about yogurt. Especially of the plain and simple variety. I’m not exactly sure how, but my kids  – who love sweets in every other context – continue to prefer their yogurt rich, creamy and unsweetened. This all means that we were going to through 3-4 32. oz tubs a week. Cost not withstanding, recycling that many yogurt containers began to feel incredibly wasteful. I tried creative reuse at first but one can only hold on to so many empties before they overtake the house. Even the preschool had politely declined donations. I knew it was time to get over my fear of culturing my own food and forge ahead toward homemade. With one caveat: the finish product had to taste just like our favorite Straus Family Creamery yogurt or else. Actually, two caveats: the kids would have to eat it without complaint.

With very little trial and error and a few months of practice, I’ve earned enough yogurt-making props from family and friends to officially go public with the technique. As you’ll see, the beneficial bacteria really do all of the work.

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Low-Sugar Apricot Jam: Taking PB+J To Another Level

I caught the canning bug a few years ago and have completely fallen in love with homemade jam. Sure, artisanal options abound these days, but they are quite pricey for such small jars. Its so worth making your own, if for no other reason than to have complete control over fruit, flavor, and sugar content (I am a big fan of low-sugar jams). Your kids will appreciate how especially delicious their peanut butter sandwiches will taste, and that morning toast ritual will be worth lingering over for a few extra minutes. Canning also gives you another great reason to go to the farmers’ market and get to know your local producers. Quality fruit is always more affordable in bulk, so buy a flat or two, save some for the fruit bowl and can the rest.

Stash those jam jars in the cupboard and you’ll have the pleasure of tasting a bit of summer in the dead of winter. Use jam in obvious ways but also explore. Who knew jam and blue cheese worked so well together? Of course, these also make great (holiday) gifts.

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Rainbow Cole Slaw with Sesame Dressing

With the exception of a garlicky aioli accessorized by french fries, I am not a mayonnaise kind of girl. So when the cabbage shows up in the summer CSA box, cole slaw is not an option. At least not in the traditional sense. But over the years, this version, made delicious thanks to soy, sesame, and ginger flavors, is a standard go to.

This salad is an easy lunch or dinner side dish designed for the lives of busy families. You won’t regret having a large batch of this dressing on hand in the fridge, as it works just as well for a green salad as for this one. Pre-chop the vegetables a few hours in advance of pulling the salad together to make things go faster at mealtime. Or, mix it all up and let the cabbage soften and soak in the flavors of the dressing for a few hours. Pair with rice and potstickers or sautéed tofu and its a quick weeknight meal.

For maximum enjoyment, make this salad as colorful as you can. Rainbow carrots, green and purple cabbage, white diakon or turnips, black sesame seeds, dark green scallions. You get the picture.

PS Happy Birthday, Mom!

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Weekend Special: Lemony Ricotta Pancakes

As I may have mentioned in the past, I am not a huge fan of traditional American pancakes. Which means I’m always trying to play with different versions that please my palette and that of the kiddos, who do love a good pancake in their weekend breakfast routine. Since I often order the Marion’s Pancake at Chow (on those weekends when breakfast is best eaten out of the house), I decided to see about making a homemade version. What resulted is this recipe, which yields delicious, light, lemony, not too sweet pancakes that go perfectly with any fruit or maple syrup of course. If you have Meyer lemons on hand, they add an even more interesting flavor. But plain old Eurekas work great too.

You’ll appreciate how quick these are to whip up, despite the special step of beating egg whites (hint: get the kids to make them!). They are also chock full of protein which makes the morning meal more effective at keeping mid-morning hunger at bay. I like mine small and stacked but you could do like Chow, and go for the large full plate version too.

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Quick Tip of the Week: Sweet Potato Fries Discovery

I accidentally bought a couple of Japanese sweet potatoes last week, along with the usual garnet yams, with sweet potato fries in mind. You know the Japanese ones – they are light yellow on the inside, darker purple on the outside and most commonly found breaded with tempura alongside sushi.

Of course I threw them into the mix, assuming it couldn’t hurt. It didn’t. In fact, I discovered that Japanese sweet potatoes are perfect for this preparation. Because of their higher starch content, they hold up better than regular sweet potatoes/yams (this reminds me to again research the difference between the two) and have a stronger resemblance to thick-cut french fries. They are also a bit less sweet, which I prefer.

Give it a try! General directions for sweet potato fries are found here. Once they are tossed in olive/peanut/safflower/grapeseed oil, salt and pepper, a quick 15-20 roast minute roast in a 425° oven is all it takes. End result? Happy, goofy kids:

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Me, Jacques and Kale Caesar Salad

I haven’t been myself in the kitchen lately. Or with food in general, really. No inspiration for cooking, no new ideas to spark our weekly routines, not even an appetite for eating. This is a sad state of affairs for a food lover like me to be in. Especially as the bounty of spring and summer approaches.

That all changed this week. Thankfully. During the past four days, I had the pleasure of spending an evening cooking and learning from the wonderful Tamar Adler, (whose new book is keeping me up at night, in a good way) AND attending a talk by my all-time culinary hero Jacques Pepin, whose KQED TV programs taught me so much about how to cook with precision, economy and love during my college years. A few new cookbooks that just arrived didn’t hurt either.

Me and Jacques, Saying Hello

I see the cook and eater in me re-emerging from the cocoon. This makes me very happy. And now, for a quick recipe to inspire your weekend cooking…. Continue reading

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Winter Greens and Leek Frittata

With spring around the corner, I’ve been craving lighter foods but ones that still retain the heartiness of winter fare. This frittata is a wonderful option for this transitional time of year. Use the recipe as a base for any combination of vegetables. Little bits and mixtures are perfect.

The rule of thumb is to create a diversity of flavors and textures, adding herbs if you have any on hand, and a representative of the allium family (onion, leek, garlic, shallot, etc). I love how these humble ingredients are elevated to a far fancier status with the addition of eggs and a little milk. This frittata is super versatile – a full proof choice for any meal and a great option for a casual brunch. Make it the night before if that is easier, and warm gently before serving.

The recipe below features a winter combo. In spring, try gently cooked fava beans, English peas, scallions and chives. In summer, a mix of sautéed summer squashes and basil or cilantro will be delicious. The possibilities are endless. Now if only I could convince the kids to love this as much as I do…

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Because All Eaters Have a Stake

All of us eaters are activists, whether we realize it or not. We have a major stake in the kind of food system we support with our food choices.

There has been a flurry of activity lately on various food issues, filling my email inbox with alerts on everything ranging from pink slime in school lunches to labeling of genetically engineered foods to ensuring that powerful Monsanto doesn’t tamper with sweet corn. Because there should always be a bit of time dedicated to voicing our support for a healthy, sustainable food system, I wanted to share these with you.

Take a moment today and support the important advocacy efforts below. I know I will!

USDA, STOP USING PINK SLIME IN SCHOOL FOOD

FDA, LABEL GENETICALLY ENGINEERED FOODS

WALMART, SAY NO TO MONSANTO’S SWEET CORN

Have a great weekend!

Quick Tip of the Week: Soup From Scratch, A Little Faster

Our family is addicted to soup, any time of the year. Yet many soups, especially bean and legume varieties, take some advance planning to prepare. Any bit of time savings helps (so does setting up the soup in a slow cooker!), especially for weekday dinners.

The format for preparing most soups is to start with base ingredients like a mirepoix of onions, celery, and carrots or other vegetables, sauteing those to soften, adding spices and herbs, then the beans/vegetables/starch, water/broth and bringing the entire thing to a boil before turning the heat down to a simmer. Lately, I’ve found myself getting impatient with that last part.

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