Archive for August, 2007

“Mommie, what does a chicken say?” (Roasted Organic Herb Chicken Recipe)

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007


From Lisa Barnes

I have a difficulty talking about animals with my children when I am cooking. My son now asks questions when he sees meat. Things like, when looking at a steak “did this come from a cow?”, or when looking at a whole chicken “where would the head be?” or when looking at a whole fish at the market “is he looking at me?” Yes, I enjoy being a carnivore, as does my son, when we’re enjoying a meal at the table. However it is difficult before the animal part becomes a “meal”.

He knows not to play games about pretending to shoot or kill things (like some of his school mates). But when I start to explain a chicken’s feathers are plucked after it’s killed, he yells “you shouldn’t say kill Mom!” So I find it hard to explain. Then he asks “does the plucking hurt?” Plain and simple the chickens are killed for us to eat them. They simply don’t fall over dead from exhaustion or old age. But then he wants to know how they die. I certainly don’t want to go into details of animal killings with a 4 year old. Plus to be honest I don’t like to think about it myself. I try to tell him that organically raised animals have better lives, eat better foods and are happy – but the punchline is, they still are killed.

Not to mention my 1 year old daughter likes to make animal noises. So when I’m trying to avoid the subject with my son, she’s in the backround saying “mmmmmmooooo” or smacking her lips like a fish.

I’d love to hear any suggestions from other’s dealing with such curiosity. In the meantime here’s an easy roasted chicken recipe for the whole family. Is the correct sound “bock, bock,bock” or “cluck, cluck, cluck”?

Roasted Organic Herb Chicken
This is an easy weeknight meal, with lots of weeknight leftover possibilities. Cooking an entire chicken provides something for everyone – dark meat, white meat, sliced, or enjoyed right on the bone. You can even puree breast meat for baby.

1 organic broiler chicken, (3 to 3 ½ pounds)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh organic lemon juice
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Rinse chicken and pat dry. Be sure giblets and innards are removed. Place chicken breast-side-up on oiled rack in a shallow roasting pan. In a small bowl, whisk together oil, juice and thyme. Brush over chicken. Roast chicken, uncovered in oven for 1 ¼ – 1 ½ hours, basting halfway through cooking. Cook until flesh is no longer pink and juices run clear.
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook and lives in Sausalito, California.
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O.K. Babies… Ready, Set, Eat! (Organic Baby Food Puree Recipes)

Tuesday, August 21st, 2007


From Lisa Barnes

I have three friends that gave birth to healthy, happy babies last week. In addition our illustrious leader and blogger, Dave Smith met (and fell in love with) his first granddaughter. Congratulations to all the new parents and grandparents! In honor of the new kids on the block here are a few first food recipes that the new moms and dads can read about and maybe even practice making before the day to feed solids is upon them. Speaking of practicing, I recently got a question from a gentleman about making fresh purees now and freezing them for when his son was ready to eat solids. I thought that was a nice idea (it’s good in the freezer for about 3 months), until I asked him his son’s age. He said he was going to be born in 7 months. Now that was one excited, anxious and very prepared father-to-be. It goes by faster than you know, but let’s not serve these little one’s freezer burned puree.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed with a new baby in the house. There’s so much to do — holding, rocking, playing, diapering, bathing, feeding… Once they’ve started solids the easiest tip I tell new parents is to always have bananas and avocados on hand. Bananas are perfect since so many children love them and they’re easy to tote around (since they come in their own wrapper). Carry a small spoon and avocados can be enjoyed by baby right out of the peel. Banana and avocado even blends well together. I’m not suggesting you give these for every meal, but it’s a quick, no cook, healthy option that’s convenient to give when you’re out and about, shopping in the supermarket, on an airplane or just in your kitchen while you’re making or defrosting something else… such as these first purees….

Pear Puree

Pears are usually a pleasing first food to baby, because of the sweet and mild flavor and creamy texture. There are over 3,000 known pear varieties grown around the world, but only a handful have been cultivated into the fruit we enjoy. Luckily you don’t need to know about all 3,000! Any variety such as Anjou, Comice or Bosc, will work for steaming as long as they are ripe (but not mushy).

4 medium organic pears (3 to 4 ounces each), quartered and cored just before cooking

Steamer Method: Place prepared pears in steamer basket set in a pot filled with 1 to 2 inches of lightly boiling water Do not let water touch fruit. Cover tightly for best nutrient retention and steam for 10 to 12 minutes or until pears are tender. Pears should pierce easily with a toothpick. Set pears and cooking liquid aside to cool. Scrape flesh from skin and puree in a food processor with a steel blade. Add tablespoons of reserved cooking liquid to puree to make smoother and adjust consistency.

Microwave Method: Place prepared pear quarters in microwave safe dish. Add ¼ cup water and cover tightly, allowing a corner to vent. Microwave on high for 3 minutes, stir pears and re-cover and cook for 3 to 6 minutes or until tender. Check for doneness, cool and proceed with recipe above.

Pour puree in ice cube trays and freeze. Once frozen, pop out cubes and seal and label in freezer bags for up to 3 months.

Sweet Potato Puree

I never met a baby who didn’t love sweet potatoes. They are much sweeter in taste and higher in nutrients than the basic white potato. They pack more beta carotene (an antioxidant) than any other vegetable and are loaded with fiber and vitamin A. Baking the potatoes in the oven may take longer but the flavor is much richer than steaming in the microwave or stovetop.

2 medium (7 to 8 ounces each) organic sweet potatoes

Water, formula or milk

Oven Method: Preheat oven to 425ºF. Prick whole potatoes with a small knife, and place on baking sheet. Bake in the oven for 45 to 60 minutes or until tender, and skin is wrinkled. Potatoes should pierce easily with a toothpick. Set potatoes aside to cool before handling. Using your fingers, peel potato skin from flesh. Mash with a fork for thicker potatoes. Or puree in a food processor with a steel blade until mashed. For a smoother and less sticky texture add 1 to 2 tablespoons of water, formula or milk at a time. Add liquid and process until you’ve reached desired consistency.

Pour puree in ice cube trays and freeze. Once frozen, pop out cubes and seal and label in freezer bags for up to 3 months.

Note: The names sweet potatoes and yams are used interchangeably in the United States, although true yams are different than sweet potatoes. Only sweet potatoes can be found in the U.S. You will notice different varieties (with varying shades of orange) in the stores – most common are Jewel and Garnet.
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook and lives in Sausalito, California.
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Freeze Please! (do your kids hate eating veggies?)

Wednesday, August 15th, 2007


From Lisa Barnes

I often receive emails with questions from parents about getting their children to eat their vegetables. We all know we should eat a rainbow of colors to get the right amounts of vitamins and nutrients in our food, but somehow children stick to the orange and red side and try to avoid the green. In the parenting book The Happiest Toddler on the Block, author Harvey Karp MD describes the aversion to green foods as a way our ancestors (the cave men) avoided poisonous plants, thus ingrained in our species. Sounds reasonable. The book does describe children ages 2 – 4 as little “cave kids”.

Anyways… getting children to eat vegetables can often be an uphill battle. Every parent has tried hiding them. Here are a few stories and recipes I’ve heard or suggested:

-put spinach in brownies (I tried this and will not make it again, as it was a perfect way to wreck lovely chocolate. Plus doesn’t the child wonder why brownies are being encouraged?)

-grate small bits of red and green peppers and carrots in pizza sauce and cream cheese spreads (this works for some)

-peel zucchini and carrot strips for layering in sandwiches and on pizza (under cheese)

-cover anything looking like a vegetable in cheese sauce (I know some adults that subscribe to this)

Some of the above methods work. But like with everything concerning children, every child is unique. Here’s another suggestion that works at my house – and it wasn’t my idea…

My son is always in the kitchen, helping, tasting, talking and experimenting. He’s always been one to ask “can I eat this?” This could be for anything from uncooked pasta to an onion chunk to bark from the playground. One day (he was about 2 1/2) he asked if he could try a frozen blueberry out of the bag when I was making pancakes. I didn’t see the harm, but explained we bought the frozen because fresh were out of season and it may taste a bit different and will be very cold and hard. Not needing my explanation, he shrugged, popped it in his mouth and said “I like it. Can I have these for dessert?!” I guess because of the cold and crunch he equates them with a frozen treat. Always being one to appreciate raw veggies vs. cooked, he then asked about other frozen items. He eats corn off the cob, but he also appreciates a frozen pile of organic bagged corn in the off season. Once he discovered frozen organic peas he requested a bowl for dessert every night after dinner for at least a month. He still never wants them cooked if fresh or thawed if frozen.

Some parents appreciate this frosty tip (it certainly works for other children that like crunchy textures) and say they wouldn’t have thought of it (neither would I). However I’m sure others wonder how I can recommend frozen veggies. But hey, they are the next best thing to fresh, are always in season and are organic. Plus it may be a way to get little ones to eat some veggies without making spinach brownies.
See also: Give Peas a Chance (Fun Family Organic Snack Recipe)

Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook and lives in Sausalito, California.
Photo Credit: Wikipedia
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Organic Cupcake Chronicles – Final Chapter (with Sugar Cookies for Kids Recipe)

Friday, August 10th, 2007


From Lisa Barnes

I learned a lesson from my cupcake drama for the next birthday celebration (this time with family and friends at the beach), and made cookies. After being tired of cupcakes and second guessing myself, I went to get help from Cake Art in San Rafael. They sell fun cookies cutters, cake pans, colds, sprinkles, colorings, frostings, and every other gadget and accessory for decorating and creating lovely sweet treats. Plus they are so helpful and nice and will walk you through any project or idea. On an interesting note, the store is located right next to a diet center (which doesn’t seem fair for the diet clients).

Anyways…my kids are crabs – meaning born under the sign of cancer. So with a beach theme and venue, Cake Art helped me with crab and starfish cookie cutters, royal icing ideas and pre-made eyes, squeeze bottles and sprinkles. I used a favorite sugar cookie recipe from Better Homes and Garden Cookbook (see abbreviated and slightly altered recipe below) and baked them two days in advance. My mom came to visit for the weekend of the party and we had a fun (and competitive) time frosting the cookies (the night before of course). She did stars and I did crabs. They all came out really sweet looking and tasted great. Besides that they were easy to tote to the beach and we didn’t have to worry about getting sand in our frosting (like if we had cake or cupcakes). Of course there was one of my son’s friends that said “where’s the cake?” I just smiled and gave him a crab cookie. End of story (and birthdays).

Sugar Cookie Cutouts

This is a good basic sugar cookie recipe and one that works for all seasons. Kids can help dump the measured ingredients in the mixing bowl and turn on and off the electric mixer to help make dough. Of course the fun really begins with the help of choosing and cutting shapes and icing and decorating at the end. Enjoy!

2/3 cups unsalted organic butter softened

3/4 cup organic sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 organic egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups organic unbleached all purpose flour

In a large mixing bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium for 30 seconds. Add sugar, powder and salt and beat until combined. Beat in egg, milk and vanilla until combined. Beat in flour 1/4 cup at a time until all is incorporated.

Cover and chill dough at least 30 minutes.

On a lightly floured surface, roll dough until 1/8 inch thick. Cut into desired shapes. Place one inch apart on parchment lined cookie sheet.

Bake in oven for 7 – 9 minutes until edges are firm and bottoms are very lightly browned. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Once completely cool these can be frosted with your favorite royal or powdered sugar icing. Of course sprinkles never hurt either.
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook and lives in Sausalito, California.
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Organic Cupcake Chronicles – Part 3

Monday, August 6th, 2007


From Lisa Barnes

This is becoming the summer sequel that wouldn’t die. I am happy to announce the cupcakes for my son’s school were a hit. No they weren’t enjoyed by the students (I bought those at a bakery on the way to school).But after school my son and I decorated the homemade batch to enjoy after dinner. It meant he would overdo on cupcakes for the day, but decorating them together made me feel much better about the whole debacle.

It was always a tradition to choose your birthday meal growing up, so my son chose steaks and corn (barbecued by dad) and carrots (raw). O.K. by me. That meant I kind of had the night off (after all my baking the night before).While we were enjoying our flat, gooey but yummy little cakes that night, I asked my son about the cupcakes. “Which ones did you like better, the one’s we brought to school or the ones tonight?” I cringed as I waited for the answer…He said “These (meaning the homemade) are better. We should’ve brought these to share”. (Gee hadn’t thought of that) Happily I replied, “But they didn’t look as good and were pretty messy”. My son disagreed and said “No they’re not. You’re being silly Mom”. Just goes to show you, as a mom you can’t win. And MY expectations are not what’s important. I should’ve just asked my son from the beginning. He didn’t see the cupcakes as flat or messy. He just thought they tasted good and liked that we did them together.
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook and lives in Sausalito, California.
Photo Credit: Chicago Cup Cakes
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Nigella Bites – More about Organic Cupcakes – Part 2

Wednesday, August 1st, 2007


From Lisa Barnes

It’s 10:32 on a Monday night and I am seething about Nigella Lawson’s chocolate cupcake recipe. I am making cupcakes for my son’s birthday to share at his preschool tomorrow. When I realized the first batch did not look quite right (10 p.m.) I called a few specialty markets and bakeries to see what time they open in the morning. Even if the next pan turns out, it won’t be enough. But for some reason I still pursue the original goal, – even making the frosting. I am even contemplating making a new recipe.

The idea of buying them on the way to school, saddens me. Not just because I want to make my own son’s cupcakes, (and rarely do I do store bought) but because if I was simply going to buy them, I could’ve saved my time, energy and ingredients and planned to choose something great (not whatever happens to be in the case).

First of all cake is big for my son. If asked what he wants for his birthday he says “cake”. He never mentions a toy or an article of clothing, just “cake”. So how can I let him down? He’s sleeping right now and thinking I’m making his cupcakes. He’s even expecting to help decorate them in the morning. Plus my daughter’s cakes were so cute. I feel bad.

So about the cupcakes…maybe in England you’re not expecting fluffy cake for cupcakes. These are delicious but not even to the top of the paper liners (thus sad looking). Most cupcake recipes have you fill them halfway or two thirds full – so they have room to rise. Well these didn’t. In fact she doesn’t specify how high – just “pour batter into liners”. After the first flat batch, I tried to correct the error and salvage something. They are lovely and normal looking, because I filled the papers to the rim. Now I know, but I don’t have enough good looking ones for the whole class.

Which brings me to recipes and recipe writing. It is not fail proof. I know my recipes work, because I wrote them and tested them. However they are my instructions, I understand myself (most of the time). This is why cooking doesn’t always work for everyone. My instructions may not make sense to you and vice versa. Thus people can make the same recipe and have it come out different. There are so many variables with texture, flavor, and appearance. Unfortunately I didn’t have my own chocolate cupcake recipe and so I went to the “domestic goddess” – Nigella. So tonight she’s let me down, or I let myself down. Either way I’m bummed.

By the way my buttercream frosting is great (same recipe I’ve used for 10 plus years). I sample too much and need sleep. I’ll re-group tomorrow. I secretly hope the cupcake fairies will come and magically “puff up” my cupcakes. Maybe that’s what happens in all the lovely cupcake bakeries that have become so trendy in cities across the globe.
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook and lives in Sausalito, California.
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