Thank You Foodie Friends!
Sadly, I’m a basil killer. And zucchini. And tomatoes. And nearly every other plant that people are apt to say, “Oh, but they’re so easy to grow.” My friend, Kate Kutnick, has a gift when it comes to greens. She’s always making fresh meals after picking through her luscious garden for inspiration.
For ideas about how to use your extra garden greens:
A few years ago, I installed 6 raised garden beds in my backyard. To this day, the smörgåsbord of fruits and veggies just feet from my kitchen never ceases to amaze me! I will also admit that the blessing of such a leafy buffet is also a double-edged sword. Sometimes I feel inundated by radicchio leaves and pole beans. Just the thought of yet another salad or plate of steamed beans can be nauseating!
This year, however, I have finally figured out how to keep the same ingredient fresh and palatable day after day. Per the Beastie Boys advice, I got crafty. Here are some ideas of how I’ve been successful at using all my homegrown produce and enjoying every bite.
Soups and smoothies- ‘nuff said! I’ve tapped into Organic Gardening’s recipe collection for this amazing soup. I was intrigued by the thought of salad in liquid form, but hey, I was pretty desperate.
As for the smoothies, I really wanted a way to get the tougher leafy greens into my diet in a raw format, and this method came through! Viewer discretion advised: this will be a very green in color drink, but uber delish and nutrish!
1.5 cups plain, non-fat yogurt
a few large ice cubes
handful of hemp seeds
5-8 whole, seedless dates
4-6 tablespoons honey
2 large carrots
dash of vanilla
4 large leafy green leaves of your choice (kale, collard greens, etc)
Dump all these ingredients in your blender and blend until pureed.
Sauces: Sauces can make such a huge difference at any meal. I’ve been really into making flavored butters lately. Last week I made a bowl of garlic, chive, & lemon butter to drizzle over some grilled veggies (from the garden, of course). I’m thinking my next butter adventures will involve lavender and other earthy herbs from the yard. These are super easy to mix together before any meal.
The Gardener and The Grill also has an amazing section of heavenly sauces for your garden bounty.
Preparing your crops in these ways admittedly takes a bit of time planning & researching, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll start thinking about and more importantly, enjoying your food in a totally new way.
Just in time for Easter, Brette Sember, shares some recipe ideas for making much more than sweets and sides in your muffin tins–you can make your whole meal! Thanks Brette, and make sure to check out her newly released The Muffin Tin Cookbook for more recipes.
Easter in a Muffin Tin
After the baskets have been found, eggs have been hunted, and chocolate has been consumed (or at least the ears bitten off), it’s time for Easter brunch. By the time I get through the festivities of the morning, I want something simple and delicious, and I’m thrilled if it’s a dish my kids want to help make. This Easter, I’m going to be cooking brunch in muffin tins. Muffin tins are my new go-to kitchen cooking item. Your muffin tins can do much more than just cupcakes and muffins! This versatile pan can be used to make entrees, appetizers, breakfasts, sides, breads, desserts, and much more.
One at a Time
Muffin tins are a handy way to cook a variety of dishes easily, but are also a great way to manage portion control. You can’t fool yourself by saying you’ll just have a little more—one “muffin” cup is one portion. Muffin tin cooking is easy to serve too. You can bring the whole tin to the table (cute if you have a blue stoneware muffin tin), or arrange the cups on a plate. Perfect for Easter brunch are the pretty cupcake “trees” you can buy; display your brunch delectables this way.
Muffin tin cooking is a great way to get your kids interested in cooking and eating healthy foods. They love choosing the liners, arranging food in the cups, and seeing the transformation when it comes out of the oven. There’s something about food that is round, small, and perfectly shaped that appeals to kids. They’ve been conditioned to believe that anything served in a cupcake liner is fun and delicious, so they’ll be willing to try many new foods this way. Since Easter is already a day filled with surprises and the unexpected, build on this excitement by serving up brunch gorgeous muffin tin cups.
Variety Makes Muffin Tin Cooking Fun
There are so many types of muffin tins available now. Not only can you buy cast iron, nonstick, and silicone tins, but they come in so many sizes: regular, jumbo, mini, and even in squares now. Everyone grew up with paper muffin cup liners, but today there are many choices in that realm as well. You can buy colored or patterned paper liners, foil-lined paper liners, and reusable silicone liners. The reusables are my favorite because not only are they nonstick, colorful, and green, but you can even use them by themselves on a baking sheet without a muffin tin pan. You can even use things like slices of ham, tortillas, and pie crust as your cup liners, for tasty results.
Ham and Egg Cups
Makes 1 (make 1-2 cups per person at your table)
1 slice round or oval deli ham
Salt and pepper, to taste
½ tablespoon shaved Parmesan cheese
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Prepare 1 regular muffin cup by spraying it or using a muffin cup liner.
- Place the center of the ham into the middle of the cup, and arrange the edges along the inside of the cup. If it sticks up a bit above the cup, that’s fine.
- Crack the egg, and place it inside the ham.
- Season with salt and pepper, and add the cheese.
- Bake for 15 minutes, until the white of the egg is set.
Buckwheat Pear Muffins with Glaze
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons skim milk
¼ cup vegetable oil
½ cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup buckwheat flour
½ cup flour
1 pear, peeled, cored and chopped (about 1 cup)
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
Glaze (recipe below)
- Preheat oven to 400°F, and prepare 12 regular muffin cups by spraying with cooking spray.
- Mix egg, milk, oil and sugar, then add dry ingredients.
- Stir in pear and spices.
- Divide among muffin cups and bake for about 16 minutes. Drizzle with glaze if desired.
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon milk
- Completely combine in a bowl, then drizzle over the tops of the muffins. Serve.
Along with The Muffin Tin Cookbook, Brette is also the author of The Parchment Paper Cookbook and The Organized Kitchen. Her web site is BretteSember.com and she blogs at MarthaAndMe.net and NoPotCooking.com.
No, no, I’m not knocking Jeff Potter, after all, his book is called Cooking for Geeks.
I heard him interviewed on NPR’s Science Friday and I must admit, anyone who’s taken a piece of a rocket to refashion his oven so that it can reach temperatures hot enough to mimic a wood-fired stove, well, I want to know/read more.
So far, I’m only a few pages in, but flipping through the book is like having science experiment after delicious science experiment all centered around one of my favorite things–cooking. There are few recipes in the book, which I like. Instead of giving an ingredient list and directions, as a cookbook would, Potter explains the whys and hows of certain food techniques. Do you know why you use baking soda for some recipes and baking powder at other times–sometimes both? Nope, neither did I.
The section on flavor is not to be missed (and there’s an explanation of how to make your own Lego ice cream maker tucked in those pages–who knew?!). When my middle daughter spied me looking through the book, she asked what it was about. I happened to be on the page explaining the primary tastes–bitter, salty, sour, sweet, umami–so I gave her a quick lesson. She seemed disappointed that chocolate hadn’t earned its own category. (I’m with her on that.)
We’ve already had one success pulled from the pages–orange brownies. Get this, you hollow out oranges and pour brownie batter inside and bake. Easy, easy. Potter used one orange and trimmed it from the top. Instead I cut the oranges in half before filling. The kids could not wait to eat these. Okay, now back to reading…
Normally I shun getting too obsessed with the spices that go into a dish. I tend to keep a small herb arsenal of potent seasonings like cumin, basil, cayenne pepper, nutmeg and other easy-to-find spices on hand. Sure, I have a couple novelties, like ground ancho chiles and tamarind paste, but I don’t think of myself as a ‘spice enthusiast.’ That’s beginning to change thanks in large part to a spice shop a ten-minute drive from my house in Colorado, called Savory.
The shop made aromatic waves in Denver when it opened its first shop in 2004—three more locations soon followed. Now, when I say spice shop, I don’t blame you if you might yawn a bit. But this spice haven begs customers to try out each and every variety they offer. The fresh-ground spices are divided into logical sections like barbecue rubs, curries, Mexican chiles, baking spices. As you venture through the store there are large canisters of each spice, along with small, glass-bottled varieties for purchase. You can buy the standard spice jars or just a couple ounces in a baggy if you’re looking to try out something new. You can also bring in your old glass bottles for a refill. One bottle is marked ‘tester’ so that you can sniff and taste each spice. Although I will caution that the last time I was in my daughter urged me to take a whiff of the mole blend and I inhaled a little too deeply and felt like I was breathing in chiles for the rest of the day (actually, wasn’t too bad).
I meant to pick up only a few standards when I was in last, but I couldn’t resist picking out a few extra things. Since my kids were with me I ended up buying even more. My kids loved being able to try out new flavor combinations. The staff encouraged my kids’ curiosity and even told them if they tried out something and didn’t like it to just brush it off their hands and onto the floor.
Savory Spice Shop isn’t just a favorite destination of Coloradoans, though. The Food Network has noticed too. Janet Johnston, who co-owns Savory with her husband Mike, premiered her show “Spice & Easy” a couple weeks ago. The time slot seems dismissive—7:30am on Saturdays, but with our DVR we’ve been able to watch each episode. I was skeptical that a ‘spice’ show could hold my attention, but I was quickly won over (granted I already loved Savory spices).
What I liked about the show was first that you don’t have to be using Savory spices to make the recipe—Johnston imitates some of Savory’s best combos with dried and fresh herbs. For example, on last week’s episode she made an herb-infused popcorn. The popcorn was topped with a mix of grated Romano cheese, dried dill, salt, fresh chives and tarragon. Now, if you go into Savory, you can just buy the Paris Cheese Sprinkle that this recipe is based on, but it’s nice to have a few hints about how I can recreate some of the blends at home. (And I must admit that I also thought myself privileged that I could cheat my way through some of her on-air recipes because I could just buy the mixes at the store.) Johnston’s style also caught my attention. She seemed easy-going and approachable, her hair wasn’t plastered in place, it was like you were in the kitchen cooking with your sister.
What really sells me on Savory is finding fresh spices that I haven’t found anywhere else (not even Penzey’s, which opened its own shop a couple doors down about a year ago). From their eclectic, creative blends to the store’s down-to-earth style, which makes spices…cool…I’m a fan. So here are my favorites—
Black onyx powder: It’s like cocoa powder on steroids. Dark, rich. I add it in every chocolate recipe I make (and our homemade mole). The powder intensifies the depth of the chocolate flavor—and enhances it. I’ve never bothered with buying a jar, I just go for the large baggies.
Lodo Red Adobo: With a mix of paprika, Mexican oregano, cumin, Chile powder and more, this is the one spice blend I’ll reach for when I don’t have time to make my red enchilada sauce from scratch. You can whip up a sauce using a little apple cider vinegar and chicken broth to create a spicy, soothing, satisfying sauce. I also mix it with sour cream to top quesadillas, nachos.
Peruvian Chile Lime Seasoning: Start with cumin, add hints of tumeric, chiles, lime, cilantro and a few other spices and you have the complex flavors behind this blend. I use it as a rub on barbecued chicken or fish. (Sometimes, I just sprinkle it on plain rice—it’s that good).
Thanks to the folks in hairnets my kids have tried all sorts of new-to-them foods while walking the aisles at Costco. Lobster bisque, buffalo sausage, chocolate truffles (well, they really didn’t need much encouragement to try chocolate, but my thanks all the same).
A few weeks back we happened on a sample of yogurt topped with ground flax seed next to the cereal aisle. Already a flax fan—the nutty flavor packs a healthy double punch of fiber and omega-3 fats—I mix it into cookies, bread, waffles, pretty much any baked good. I’d never thought of offering it straight to my kiddos. They loved it.
Now, I put a tupperware container of flax in the fridge right next to the 32-ounce tub of yogurt (Mountain High strawberry is my favorite; I’ll choose it over ice cream any day). My middle child dishes out a few scoops of yogurt then tops it with flax as a snack just about every day after school.
Have the samples at Costco driven your kids to try something new…and like it?
Honestly, I wasn’t expecting this recipe to turn out, but as I was flipping through bakery goddess, Zoe Francois’s book Healthy Breads in 5 Minutes a Day, I kept coming back to the recipe for Chocolate Expresso Whole Wheat Bread (p. 301). I couldn’t resist. Dark chocolate and whole wheat. Good for you dessertesque bread, I had to try it.
A foodie blogger buddy of mine, Stephanie Stiavetti, first introduced me to Zoe Francois (and I should mention her co-author Jeff Hertzberg) through a post on gluten-free brioche. The idea of good-for-you, easy-to-make breads got my hands itching for some flour.
Making the bread was even easier than I expected. Your food processor will do most of the work. I opted for some rich, dark Ghirardelli hot chocolate instead of Expresso, but I also added in a bit of Black Onyx Powder, a super-concentrated bit of chocolate magic I get at Savory Spice Shop. You literally pour the dough from the food processor into a bowl for it to rise. I let my dough marinate in the fridge for awhile–per Zoe’s suggestion. On day two (I couldn’t wait any longer!) I baked up the loaf. The dense, flavorful bread was an immediate favorite with my kids. My oldest topped hers with raspberry jam. I kept it simple with a little butter. Next time, I’d try adding dried tart cherries and or walnuts into the dough too (I think Zoe would approve). I also skimped on the raw sugar on top for some reason. I’d definitely be more generous with the sugar when I make the bread again (soon). If you’re looking to combine some serious chocolate with whole wheat thrown in (so you can technically call it a healthy snack), I’d recommend this recipe. As far as I can tell, the recipe isn’t available at Zoe’s blog, but I found an excerpt at TalkFood.