Archive for June, 2010

A Few Green Items of Late…

Monday, June 28th, 2010

Green Item #1

My children have a subscription to National Geographic Kids magazine.  It’s full of stories, facts and games about animals, people and places.  There’s also a recipe in each.  My daughter kept asking about a St. Patrick’s shake in the March issue.  There were many things in the recipe I don’t usually buy or make such as lime yogurt and limeade.  But today I said we were going to make our own green smoothie.  We used some of the ingredients as suggested and added and subtracted a few to make it more healthy and less complex.  When my son saw the spinach leaves going in, he was certainly suspect.  However he was first to drink it up and ask for another glass.  Here’s what I did…

Green Snoothie

1 frozen organic banana, cut into 3 – 4 pieces

2 organic kiwis, peeled and cut into chunks

1/2 cup plain organic yogurt

1 teaspoon maple syrup

1 handful (about 1/2 cup) spinach leaves

1/2 cup organic orange juice

Blend all ingredients together in a blender until smooth.  

(My kids commented on the kiwi seeds.  If you add more juice you’ll be able to strain seeds.)

Green Item #2

The Avocado Pit

I finally got an avocado pit to successfully split and sprout.  I remembered doing it as a kid and saw it recently in my daughter’s preschool class.  However until now, I hadn’t been able to sprout one on my own.  I found out the water needs to be changed and I think that made the difference.  So now, I need to know what to do next.  Replant?  When and in what?  Can someone out there advise please?

Green Item #3

 

Obscene (looking) fava bean

I just had to share this.  There’s actually a more obscene image that I’m too embarassed to post.  Many things in my deck garden have not grown to potential this year, such as our tomatoes.  However we planted a few fava beans and we now have 3 huge stalks, over 5 feet tall.  We’re starting to get beans too.  Now we’re just waiting for Jack to come up or a giant to come down.

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Vegetarian Cookbook Review with Cheese Fondue Recipe

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

When I was offered a look at the new cookbook, The Vegetarian Slow Cooker: Over 200 Delicious Recipes by Judith Finlayson, I was intrigued.  As you may know I’ve been toying with the idea of purchasing a slow cooker.  Read about my hesitations in my blog.  My family is also doing Meatless Mondays and I am always looking for new vegetarian dishes.  And my sister is vegan and while many of the recipes use dairy, there are some which note how to make them vegan, which I find helpful.  Anyways the cookbook arrived and the recipes looked great.  I wanted of course to make something, but still am not sure I want another appliance (especially to store).  The great thing is, I can and have made some of these recipes without a slow cooker with great results.  Of course some dishes (those with beans) need extra work (soaking) not required of the slow cooker, but it can be done.  Also some of the dishes can be cooked in a braising pot for a few hours (which I already have) – but no I wouldn’t leave the house.  The convenience isn’t there without the slow cooker.   The author does give info about various slow cookers and use, which is helpful if I do buy.

So while I didn’t buy a slow cooker I did buy a retro 70’s fondue pot.  Why?  Because it is lovely and orange.  Seriously my friend put a photo of this fondue pot on her blog and I immediately bought it on Etsy.  Who knew Etsy had kitchenware?  I’m in trouble now.  I’ve had it over a month and it’s only been a display item on the open shelf in the kitchen.  The slow cooker wouldn’t have such a prominent place.  Not sure what I was waiting for to use it.  However the perfect opportunity came with the arrival of the The Vegetarian Slow Cooker.  There are some inspiring dishes that are from all kinds of food flavors and origins and then I saw the section on fondues.  One in particular is a new favorite at my house… Kid’s Fondue.  This is like a bowl full of rich gooey pizza.  I am not kidding.  So while the recipe said to cook in the slow cooker for 1 hour, I simply heated and cooked low on the stove and then poured it into my fondue pot.  Super simple.  My family loved it.  My son was quite skeptical at first.  He likes fondue and is not a huge tomato lover.  When he saw it he said he wasn’t going to eat it.  However after dipping a piece of baguette and red pepper he exclaimed “This is the best fondue I’ve ever had!” 

And really I think the whole book is straight forward and pretty simple.  It may end up putting me over the top to buy a slow cooker…  But for now I’m enjoying the book without it.  I think making a recipe your own is what cooking is all about, and me wanting to use the book not as intended means the book is interesting.  So whether you are vegetarian or not, or have a slow cooker or not you can make this book yours too.  Here’s the recipe…

Kid’s Favorite Fondue

(page 108, The Vegetarian Slow Cooker)

Need: small (max 1/2 quart slow cooker)

fondue forks

1 can 28 ounces tomatoes (I used Pomi)

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. black pepper

3 cups shredded cheddar cheese

sliced baguette, celery sticks andsliced red pepper to serve and dip

Process tomatoes with juice.  Transfer to cooker.  Add spices and cook on high for 1 hour, until hot and bubbly. (I used a pan on the stovepot on low for about 30 minutes)

Add cheese in handfuls, stirring to combine.

Reduce heat to low and serve.  Dip bread and/or veggies into fondue.

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Lead in Juice Boxes and Baby Foods

Monday, June 14th, 2010

Here’s another reason to make your own juice and baby foods at home, and package in glass or stainless food and drink containers…

On June 9, 2010 the Environmental Law Foundation filed Notices of Violation of California Proposition 65 Toxics Right to Know law, alleging the toxic chemical lead was found in a variety of children’s and baby foods.  The specific food categories included apple juice, grape juice, packaged pears and peaches (includine baby food), and fruit cocktail. 

Read the entire store here.

Products are made by a large range of manufacturers, including:  Del Monte, Trader Joe’s, Kikkerland, Beech Nut, Gerber, Hanssen’s, S&W, Kroger, Santa Cruz, O Organics and others.  To see the entire list by the Environmental Law Foundation click here.

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Spring Peas Please

Sunday, June 13th, 2010

I love peas.  Really, any peas….snap, spring, petit, snow.  There’s something about the shape and color that is very happy and reminds me of hot days as a kid.  Spring, also known as English peas have a pretty short season.  English peas are unlike snap peas in that you don’t eat the pod, just the sweet peas inside.  My kids love popping them open, then unzipping them to see how big and how many they got.  Actually when choosing spring peas, you want to stay away from those that are too fat and bulging as they’re full of starch and not as sweet as the smaller pods.

At the beginning of spring pea season I hit the farmer’s market and bought about 8 pounds from Iocopa Farms.  (Unfortunately we weren’t very lucky growing our own peas this year.  The vines are growing, but no peas.)  My kids and I shelled for days.  They really got into it.  My daughter eating them faster than we can shell them.  Really you should shell them quickly after buying and cook or eat them within a few days.  If cooking the English peas, figure that 1 pound will yield 1 cup of shelled peas.   

Besides eating them raw we also made pea puree, spring pea soup, orzo with peas and mint, and curry, herb peas.  The good thing about peas is you can buy them organic and frozen all year long.  This certainly cuts down the time to make a pea dish if you don’t have the time or the willing mini sous chefs to shell with you.  It also allows you to enjoy them year round – in or out of season.  We were able to grow the fresh cilantro and mint that I think pair so well with peas.

Here’s a few pea recipes if you’re heading to the farmer’s market or picking in your own garden now.  Or keep these recipes for the Fall, when you hit the frozen aisle and need a reminder of spring.  Oddly enough some kids like icey, frozen vegetables.  My son loved a bowl of frozen peas right out of the freezer when he was 3 and 4 years old.  I sometimes suggest frozen veggies to parents who say their kids won’t eat veggies.  Try them raw, cooked, and even frozen.  You never know…

Sweet Pea Puree (from The Petit Appetit Cookbook)

Give peas a chance!   Many children’s first foray into green vegetables is peas, because of their sweet flavor.  Just be careful not to overcook.  They should be bright green, not drab and gray, like the jarred version.

 1 package (10 ounces) frozen organic peas, or 10 ounces shelled fresh peas

 Steamer Method:

Place frozen or fresh peas in steamer basket set in a pot filled with a small amount (about 1to 2 inches, but not to touch fruit) of lightly boiling water.  Cover tightly for best nutrient retention and steam for 2 to 3 minutes or until peas and tender and bright green.  Rinse peas in cold water to stop cooking.  Add tablespoons of reserved cooking liquid to puree to make smoother and adjust consistency.

Curry & Herb Peas (from The Petit Appetit Cookbook)

 The cumin and curry makes this dish an aromatic, but not spicy for those just trying spices.  These peas make a great accompaniment to grilled fish and meats for all ages.   

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon curry powder

½ teaspoon ground cumin

1/3 cup water

16 ounces fresh or 1 package (16 ounces) frozen, organic peas, thawed

½ cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

 Heat butter in large saucepan over moderate heat.  When foam subsides, add garlic to pan and quickly sauté until light brown.  Stir in curry, cumin, water and peas and simmer until peas are tender and heated throughout, approximately 5 minutes.  Stir in cilantro, if desired.

 Mind your peas!  They will cook quickly.  If they are overcooked, they can become mushy, and lose their bright color and sweet flavor.

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Cadmium to Go With That Soda?

Friday, June 4th, 2010

Here’s another reason to avoid the toy give-away and promo prizes at the fast food chains. Maybe some other cities will follow Santa Clara County and band the prizes.  Remember that?

“According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, Cadmium has been discovered in the painted design on “Shrek”-themed drinking glasses being sold nationwide at McDonald’s, forcing them to recall 12 million of the cheap U.S.-made collectibles.”   Check out the recall details and Full story here.

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The Dish on …Dish (restaurant review)

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

When my husband and I lived in San Francisco we loved going to all the restaurant hot spots.  I still like to read about what’s new and up and coming, but we get to those places later and less often (not as many date nights as a family of four).

Now when I hear about a new restaurant or food spot closer to home that may be kid friendly, my radar is peaked.  I felt so current this weekend.  I had seen signs for a new local eatery in Mill Valley called Dish, which was opening to serve breakfast, lunch and dinner.  I was thinking of where to go before the Memorial Day Parade and thought we’d check out the new place.  I even went online and saw the menu.  I was excited about the local, sustainable, organic ingredients and the reasonable prices.  However it was by complete accident that we were the first paying customers to order and sit down.

When we walked in we noticed the chic, yet comfotable urban decor, yummy looking baked goods and bottles of wine above the bar/counter.  My husband and I thought this looked promising and asked how long they’d been open.  The answer was “about 2 hours.  People have been in for coffee and muffins to go, but you are the first to order and sit”.  Wow.  We scooped everyone! 

The menu was limited for the first day, but we all found favorites and sat down to wait for our order with a berry, bran scone.  It was funny how much it tasted like the ones I make at home (perhaps the use of butermilk?).  The kids loved the look of my cappucino with foam “feather”.  Yes, with each bite and look around the room, we were more and more pleased.  Dish is built and operates quite green too.  As we waited for our food and played “eye spy” we noticed reclaimed wood and recycled items everywhere.  So the kids got a bit impatient, but I had to explain this was the first time (well almost) people were cooking in the kitchen, taking orders and bringing food in this space.  I equated it to the first day of school where everyone and everything is new and you have to get used to things.  They understood.  They thought it was pretty cool they were the first people to sit at our table.  I also explained that we liked everything so far and that this could be a favorite spot for us, so we needed to give it a chance and wait.

When we did get our order (with big apologies from the owner), the food was just as we’d hoped – great.  Homemade granola and yogurt with berries for my daughter (notice she got her’s before her brother).  French toast with fruit for my son.  Huevos Rancheros for my husband.  And a leek tart for me.  So while I’m happy to spread the word, and did to all our friends at the parade that day;  I fear my next meal at Dish will begin with waiting in line to get in and I’ll have to explain to my children that someone else is sitting at “our table”.

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