Archive for December, 2007

Happy New Year! Lobster vs. Pizza – Don’t Ask (with Kid’s Organic Pizza Dough Recipe)

Monday, December 31st, 2007

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From Lisa Barnes

Here’s a photo from last year’s New Year’s Eve at my house. My son was 3½ and my daughter 6 months and yes, we dressed up in silly hats and rang in the New Year at 9 p.m. (East Coast time) with confetti and streamers. I’ve discovered this is what you do as parents with young children, instead of going out to glamorous parties and expensive dinners on New Year’s.

Actually my plan was to do a little celebration with the kids early, and have a nice romantic meal with my husband once the children were asleep. Maybe even rent a movie and stay up and see midnight. This did not happen. I thought I’d make whatever my son wanted for dinner. He loved making pizza dough so I thought he would naturally say “pizza”. Well he replied “lobster”. I’m not kidding. I wondered if I mentioned lobster as a possibility for the later adult meal, but couldn’t figure out how he came up with lobster. O.K. the meal would now be a romantic lobster dinner for 3. Except I wasn’t able to get to the store until 4 p.m. that evening. Note to others (and self) – do not go grocery shopping at 4 p.m. the day of a holiday. Not only was the store mobbed but it was slim pickings. Plus I didn’t want to cook live lobsters. So we supplemented with steaks and called it surf and turf.

We sat down to a lovely dinner, and even had candles and china. My son was thrilled. Of course, my daughter woke up just as the plates hit the table (they always know dinnertime) and I was off to feed and comfort her. So the dinner was enjoyed by a two-some (my son and husband).

I made lobster again this year, as my son is a creature of habit and requested it again. Who can argue? Anyone can bake lobster and melt butter. But here’s a recipe for pizza dough so you can resolve to make your own instead of ordering out in 2008.

Presto Organic Pizza Dough Recipe

There’s no other kitchen activity that’s more fun for kids than creating their own personal pizzas. Kids love to knead dough and choose their own toppings. It is not necessary to have perfect pies, so get your hands in there instead of a rolling pin.

This dough makes pizza, breadsticks and teething biscuits.

1 tablespoon powdered yeast (1 ounce package)
½ cup, plus 2 tablespoons warm water
¾ cups organic whole wheat flour
¾ cups organic unbleached flour
¼ cup olive oil
½ teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add remaining ingredients to yeast and water. Mix together and knead by hand for about 3 minutes, until dough is smooth. Make dough into a ball and return to bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled – about 30 minutes.

For pizza: place dough on a greased baking or pizza pan and press fingers to spread into desired shape. Add desired sauce and toppings and bake in a 425 degree preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until crust is brown on the edges. Makes one 12 to 14 inch pizza.

For bread sticks: Divide dough into 12 portions and roll with hands into stick shapes of desired width – fatter for soft and thinner for hard. Place sticks on a greased baking pan and bake in a 425 degree preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are golden. Makes 12 breadsticks.

For teething biscuits: Make above breadstick recipe and place in freezer to harden, or a cool soothing treat. Be sure to carefully monitor baby while chewing on biscuits.

Double Time: Double all ingredients to make a thick crust pizza. Or simply make one pizza now and save the second dough ball in the freezer for the next time your little ones ask for pizza.
~~
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler and lives in Sausalito, California.
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Sugar, Nuts, Spice and Everything Nice… (Organic Spiced Raisin Nut Mix Recipe)

Thursday, December 27th, 2007

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From Lisa Barnes

Sugar, nuts, spice and everything nice… that’s what holidays are made of. Well you could probably add a few more ingredients like butter, gravy and chocolate. But this Spiced Raisin Nut Mix recipe is a quick and easy one for snacking and sharing during the season.

Happy New Year to you and yours!

Spiced Raisin Nut Mix

There are many variations of spiced nuts. This one is special because of the raisins which give an added crunch, sweetness and chew to the mix.

Makes 2 1/2 cups.

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon organic evaporated cane juice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1 organic egg white
1 1/2 cups organic pecan halves
1 cup organic golden raisins

Line a baking sheet with foil and lightly grease with cooking oil.

Heat oven to 375°F. In a small bowl combine sugar, salt, cinnamon and cloves.

In a seprate small bowl beat egg white until frothy. About 30 seconds with electric mixer.

Add spice mixture to egg and stir with rubber spatula to combine. Stir in pecans and toss until evenly coated.

Spread nuts on baking sheet in a single layer. Bake in 5 minute increments, rotating pan 1/4 turn and gently stirring pecans (so they do not stick).

Bake 15 – 18 minutes total or until nuts and raisins are browned, but not burned. Remove from oven and cool completely before eating.
~~
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddlerand lives in Sausalito, California.
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Easy, Creative Organic Dips for Kids Recipes

Thursday, December 20th, 2007

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From Lisa Barnes

Sometimes it’s hard to think of creative dips and spreads to excite your children. Don’t worry; whether you have an arsenal of dips or none at all, your child will use his imagination and come up with the craziest combinations.

Here are a few fun and easy suggestions that require no measuring or recipes.

Single Item Dips

Cream Cheese. Dip raw organic vegetables such as carrots and celery as well as fruit slices of apples and pears. Also a versatile spread on sandwiches, wraps, and crackers.

Fruit purees, such as apple, peach, and pear. Use for dunking chunks of fruits, pancakes, waffles, and chicken bites.

Mustards. These are very versatile. Honey mustard (do not give honey to babies under 1 year) is of course a favorite for chicken, meatloaf, broccoli, and cauliflower trees. For an Asian flair your child may enjoy mustard with soy sauce for dipping noodles, vegetables, and tofu sticks.

Naturally brewed soy sauce (tamari). Little ones can dunk meats and vegetable chips or pour the sauce over soba and rice dishes.

Organic ketchup. Have on hand for meats, fish sticks, polenta, potato fries, and vegetable chips.

Organic natural nut butters (peanuts are not recommended for children under 2 years). This is pure peanut taste without the trans fats and sugars. Use for dunking cheese sticks, apple slices, graham crackers, and bites of banana.

Vegetable purees, such as avocado, edamame, or spinach. Use as spreads on pitas, tortilla chips, and for dipping vegetable spears.

Yogurt. Serve with angel food cake pieces, toast points, waffles and pancakes, fruits, and vegetables.

Combination Dips

Classic oil and vinegar dressing. Use for dipping pieces of bread or steamed vegetables.

Cottage or ricotta cheese plus any fruit or vegetable puree. Dunk fruit and vegetable pieces, noodles, pancakes, and French toast.

Plain yogurt or cream cheese mixed with spices or herbs. Try yogurt with cinnamon or cream cheese with fresh rosemary or thyme.

Plain yogurt plus any fruit or vegetable puree. Create your own flavors by adding fruit and vegetable purees. Fruit blends work with fruit chunks, vegetable spears, toast points, and waffle pieces. Veggie combos are good for dipping vegetable slices and chicken pieces.

Ideas from Kids

Dip grapes in ketchup.

Dip fingers in mustard.

Dip all food in glass of milk or water.
~~
Lisa Barnes
is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler and lives in Sausalito, California.

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I met Alice Waters… (with Toasted Breadcrumbs Recipe)

Thursday, December 13th, 2007

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From Lisa Barnes

I was surprised to see Alice Waters was going to be signing her new book The Art of Simple Food, in Corte Madera at Cost Plus. First, authors usually do signings in San Francisco vs. Marin. Second, Cost Plus isn’t my first choice when buying a cookbook. None the less, I was curious and wanted in. I certainly think of myself as a fan. Not just for her revolution in bringing awareness to fresh, organic foods and of course delicious restaurant menu offerings. But more for her passion for seasonal food, fostering community, educating children, and overall environmental stewardship.

A few years ago I visited Martin Luther King Middle School where the birth of the Edible Schoolyard began. I was so impressed that this author and chef, along with a school principal cared enough to create this amazing garden and kitchen classroom. I wished I were back in middle school, or at least could have my own children experience this unique program. Kids were doing it all: composting, digging, picking, weeding, watching, cooking, prepping, smelling, touching, tasting. But mostly enjoying and learning.

For the book signing, I wasn’t sure how early to show up. I remember lining up for over an hour to see Jamie Oliver (he was really late) at Sur La Table in S.F. a few years ago. Unfortunately I finally had to give up, since my new baby woke up and didn’t want to be in a cooking store. Another time I was hoping to buy a cake pan in Williams-Sonoma and found a line around the block in Corte Madera. I wondered about all the fuss and discovered Rachel Ray was there signing her latest book. What a crowd! Mostly women trying to get a glimpse, signature and photo.

I decided to arrive at the Cost Plus store 30 minutes prior to the signing time and was surprised to see I was 3rd in line. Where was everyone? As the time grew near more people came, but I still thought there should be more. I overheard some saying they didn’t cook, but thought the book would make a good Christmas gift for a friend/reletive that did enjoy cooking. I wasn’t there for a gift, I was treating myself. In addition to buying her book and wanting to meet her, I also gave her my book. I just wanted to share with her that I too was a believer in healthy and fresh children’s food, and thank her for leading the way.

She was very kind and even interested in my writings and classes and asked “Has it been difficult?” The answer was “Yes, at first (7 years ago when I started). But now the practices of organic and sustainable foods (and lifestyle) are much more mainstream and thankfully there’s not as much of a need to convince parents of the value of making such choices when feeding children.” I think Alice Waters and others such as Jamie Oliver, have and continue to bring awareness to parents and schools about the state of cafeteria offerings, childhood obesity and diseases – and I thank them for that. You’ll see I couldn’t stop myself from handing my camera to a shopper and asking her to get a photo (above).

Ms. Water’s new book would be welcome in anyone’s kitchen library. I will refer to it many times, I’m sure. More interesting than the recipes I think are the thoughtful comments and information about ingredients as well as cooking techniques. I’ve included her recipe for toasted bread crumbs below. On the page facing this recipe is an entire page about breadcrumbs and why and how to choose the bread, various uses for breadcrumbs and texture differences. It’s informative, yet simple to do and that’s the point. “From scratch” doesn’t need to be intimidating or complicated.

Toasted Breadcrumbs
(from The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters, pg. 63)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Pare away all the crust from:
Levain or other country-style bread

Cut the bread into cubes and process in a blender or food processor until the crumbs reach the fineness you want.

Toss with:
A pinch of salt
1 tablespoon olive oil for every cup of breadcrumbs

Spread the crumbs on a baking sheet in a thin layer. Bake until golden brown, stirring the crumbs every few minutes for even browning.

Variations

Fry a handful of herbs in hot olive oil over medium heat until crisp. Drain well and toss together with the toasted crumbs and a pinch of salt, if needed.

A few dried chile flakes can be mixed into the crumbs for spice.
~~
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler and lives in Sausalito, California.
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Mom to Mom – Six Tips on How to Shop Wisely and Save Money when Buying Organic

Wednesday, December 5th, 2007

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From Lisa Barnes

Some moms I’ve spoken with say they don’t or can’t buy organic foods due to cost and availability. Here are a few ways to make organics more affordable and easy to purchase:

1. Do not always assume organic is more expensive. Look at the prices of conventional and organic products and compare. You may be surprised that on some items, there is little or no difference in price, depending on where and when you buy.

2. Buy in season. These items will be the lowest priced, whether you’re shopping at a specialty market or local farmers’ market.

3. Grow your own. Even a small window box can yield some organic herbs or tomatoes. Larger areas can accommodate lettuce, strawberries, broccoli, carrots, and more. A garden is also a great classroom and hobby for children and adults alike.

4. Shop at one of the more than twenty-five hundred farmers’ markets in the United States. The produce here is as fresh as possible, because the food is usually picked within twenty-four hours of your purchase. This is a great place to check prices with little effort. Becoming a regular shopper and getting to know growers personally is a good way to get the best selection and price.

5. Join a food cooperative. A food co-op is a kind of buyers’ club for affordable, fresh, local organic and natural products. It is an actual store where members buy shares of the business to provide the capital necessary to run the store efficiently. You as a member directly influence the kind and variety of products and foods available and also receive a discount in the store. Many co-ops allow you to buy shares by volunteering several hours per week or month.

6. Visit a farm and pick your own produce. Children love to experience something new, especially when it involves dirt and food. According to Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), “Parents had reported that their children started to eat more vegetables after visiting a farm on a school field trip, having experienced for the first time the process of gardening.”

Justifying Expense

Eating is an agricultural and political act, as well as a way to educate your senses. ~Alice Waters

Even though you’ve shopped wisely and used the tips above, sometimes organic is more expensive. The cost of converting land, growing methods, and raising practices from conventional to organic is expensive. Consider the cost of health and well-being, as well as a decision to support the environment, preserving water resources and preventing agriculture-related problems. The extra cost may outweigh the worry and concern you have of the possibility of harming your family and the environment.

I can’t be sure that organic foods are better for my family’s health. But to me the organic practices just make sense. Why wouldn’t I do my best to avoid feeding my son chemicals and pollutants? ~Two-Year-Old Derek’s mom

Reducing Health Risks

Buying organic reduces health risks that can be attributed to commercial pesticides and herbicides. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers 60 percent of all herbicides, 90 percent of all fungicides, and 30 percent of all insecticides as potentially cancer causing. No matter how well you wash certain fruits and vegetables there are still remaining traces of potentially harmful chemicals. A report released by the Environmental Working Group entitled Pesticides in Children’s Food concluded that the greatest contribution to a person’s lifetime risk of cancer from pesticide residues occurs during childhood. Babies’ bodies are much more vulnerable to pesticides because their brains and immune systems are still in a state of development. Also, pound for pound, babies eat two to four times more fruits and vegetables than adults, and thus are exposed to a higher percentage of possible contaminants if eating conventionally grown produce.

Increasing Health Benefits

A study at the University of California, Davis (my alma mater) shows that organically grown strawberries, corn, and blackberries are richer in cancer fighting antioxidants, sometimes 60 percent more, than the same conventionally grown crops. Other studies have proven the same for organically grown peaches and pears, too.

Researchers theorize that organically grown plants may produce more antioxidants because they have to work harder to fight off pests and disease otherwise killed by pesticides and chemicals.

Reducing Nitrites

Some fruits and vegetables you’ll want to introduce to your child have high levels of nitrites, due to the fertilized soils in which they grow. The nitrite levels also increase when these food items are stored in your refrigerator. Nitrites are difficult on a baby’s system because their stomach acidity is too low to properly break them down. Overexposure can cause anemia or encourage oxygen to be displaced into bloodstreams, resulting in rapid breathing and lethargy. High nitrite produce includes beets, cantaloupe, carrots, green beans, mustard, spinach, strawberries, and turnips. Buying these items grown organically and eaten fresh, without storing, will lessen exposure. If you choose to buy these foods commercially grown, wait until your baby is over eight months old so they can better process the nitrites. Or you can buy these foods in commercially prepared jars, since baby food companies can screen their produce for nitrites.
~~
Lisa Barnes
is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler and lives in Sausalito, California.

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