Smoothie Creations

September 23rd, 2016

attheblendersmoothie

smoothiepop
My kids have been crazy lately for smoothies.  It may be that I’m helping at the local juice, smoothie cafe in Mill Valley, Juice Girl.  Or it may be that it’s still sunny out.  Or it may be that it’s easy and creative and each one turns out to be a surprise, if just following your imagination and what’s in the fridge.  Even at Juice Girl I’ve learned there’s lots of variations in the same smoothie.  There’s even a bit of adjustments to get the right consistency throughout the day.  The frozen fruit in the morning is more frozen and hard than in the afternoon (after doors have been opened and closed all day).  Not likely an issue at your house.  Also the sizes of fruits certainly vary.  A large banana will make your smoothie thicker than a small banana.  There’s the color as well.  Not every homemade creation is a lovely color.  My kids have made a few that look quite poo-like.  Not suitable for a smoothie shop, but still tasty (and funny) at home.

 

My kids have been crazy lately for smoothies.  It may be that I’m helping at the local juice, smoothie cafe in Mill Valley, Juice Girl.  Or it may be that it’s still sunny out.  Or it may be that it’s easy and creative and each one turns out to be a surprise, if just following your imagination and what’s in the fridge.  Even at Juice Girl I’ve learned there’s lots of variations in the same smoothie.  There’s even a bit of adjustments to get the right consistency throughout the day.  The frozen fruit in the morning is more frozen and hard than in the afternoon (after doors have been opened and closed all day).  Not likely an issue at your house.  Also the sizes of fruits certainly vary.  A large banana will make your smoothie thicker than a small banana.  There’s the color as well.  Not every homemade creation is a lovely color.  My kids have made a few that look quite poo-like.  Not suitable for a smoothie shop, but still tasty (and funny) at home.

 

My son likes to put in everything in a smoothie – yogurt, juice, fruit, even spices such as ginger.  My daughter is more of a fruit purist and coconut milk.  Although they’re both becoming open to more greens and nut butters (can’t all be sugar) in there too.  Thanks JG!  Using the blender is a good appliance that’s relatively kids safe as well.  Note, I didn’t saw mess proof.  Be sure those lids are on tight.  If your kids are inspired here are a few to get started from my new book, Cook This Book!, and then let them have the blender to create whatever they’ll drink.  That’s kind of the rule at my house.  Don’t create something just to experiment, and then not eat it.  Just keep adding until it’s edible.  And speaking of waste…UKonserve has some crazy statistics about plastic straws.  Check out their stainless steel ones to cut down on plastic when making at home.  (They have a special thru the end of September). I also have paper straws.  But these can prove difficult depending on the smoothie texture.  Remember to freeze any smoothie left-overs in popsicle molds to enjoy frozen.

Here’s two from page 96 of Cook This Book!

Tropical Fruit Frappe

The taste of the tropics in a cold and frozen treat.

Makes 1¼ cups

  • ¼ cup canned light coconut milk
  • ½ cup frozen pineapple chunks
  • 1 cup frozen mango chunks

Put all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

PB&B

Everyone likes the combination of peanut butter and banana. Here’s a simple shake recipe; you can substitute any milk or milk alternative, as well as nut butter for peanut. Having frozen ripe bananas in the freezer make this fast and convenient for a breakfast or afterschool snack.

Makes about 2 cups

  • 1 frozen banana, quartered
  • 1 tablespoon organic all-natural peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • ¾ cups organic nonfat milk

Put all ingredients together in a blender. Blend until smooth, and honey and peanut butter are incorporated, about 1 minute.

 

 

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Perfect for Snacking and Packing – Banana Apple Flax Muffins

August 30th, 2016

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Kids are back in school and the activities and sports are starting.  I decided to make a batch of muffins for my kids to pack and have for snacks.  I was going to make the usual Banana Apple Bran Muffins from The Petit Appetit Cookbook (page 105), however I realized I was out of bran.  I decided to substitute flax meal, which made them even better.  Now they also have more protein too.  Here’s the recipe:

 

Banana Apple Flax Muffins

Makes regular muffins

1 cup organic wheat flour

½ cup organic flax meal

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup sweet cream butter, (1 stick)

¾ cup applesauce or apple puree

1 medium banana, mashed

½ cup organic light brown sugar

2 cage-free, organic eggs

 

Preheat oven to 375F. With a fork, combine flour, flax, soda and salt in a small mixing bowl. Melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Or melt butter in microwave for 25 seconds on high. In a large bowl combine melted butter, applesauce, mashed banana, sugar and eggs. Mix together with a rubber spatula. Add flour mixture to applesauce mixture and stir until just blended. Batter will be lumpy and very moist. Spoon batter into greased mini muffin tin cups 2/3 full and place banana slice on top of each muffin. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown and set*. Remove pan from oven and cool on a rack 5 minutes, before turning out muffins.

 

*Note. Because these muffins are so moist with the mashed bananas and applesauce, the wooden pick test is difficult. The center may not come out clean if you hit a chunk of banana. If you’re not sure if they’re done, you can always pop one out and cut in half.

 

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Back-to-School Lunch Help – Nut Allergy Friendly Ideas

August 23rd, 2016

Tomorrow will be exciting but it will also be tough.  Tough to wake up and get it all done in time for school.  Luckily here are some quick and allergy friendly ideas from PositiveHealthWellness to get you and your kids excited to make lunch tomorrow and all the school days ahead.  Click the link at the bottom for a slide show of some great lunch options that are nut free.

10 Delicious Nut Allergy Friendly Recipes For Your Child’s Lunchbox

BY  

Finding child-friendly recipes for lunch that are exciting, delicious and nutritious can be difficult. But what if you throw a nut allergy into the equation? It can make it so much harder since nuts have always been considered the go-to for something quick and easy.

Don’t panic. You can put together the perfect menu for your child’s lunchbox. Their friends will be jealous, and you’ll have the mums and dads at school wondering what you do differently and asking you for your secrets.

All you need is a few recipe ideas to get you started. Here are 10 delicious recipes that are nut allergy friendly to try today. Many of these you can make with the kids and encourage them to try something new.

https://www.positivehealthwellness.com/diet-nutrition/10-delicious-nut-allergy-friendly-recipes-childs-lunchbox/

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It’s Finally Available – Cook This Book!

August 2nd, 2016

cookthisbookamazon

I have been working on a new book for quite some time.  Not everyone was excited about it.  By “everyone” I mean my publisher.  Rather than toss aside my idea and manuscipt, I decided to self publish with CreateSpace.  I had big help at home with illustrations.  While looking for a graphic artist, I discovered my own kids were able to draw my ideas.  (Thankfully they were less expensive too!).  I also discovered going overseas to hire freelancers is a great way to find expertise, meet deadlines and stay within budget.  Thank you to Dragan in Croatia!

 

To be fair to my publisher, Cook This Book! is a big departure from my other Petit Appetit titles for sure.  Rather than teaching parents, this book turns over the kitchen and foodie activities to kids.  Many of my clients’ children, (as well as my own kids) love being involved in the kitchen and take food and cooking seriously.  They are not alone, as we now have many kid contestant cooking television shows such as Chopped Jr. and Kids Baking Championship. There are even some pop up restaurants with kid chef’s under 18.

 

Cook This Book! Over 100 Ways to Imagine, Create, Cook, Eat, Share Dare and Play With Food, encourage kids’ love of food and cooking by giving readers over one hundred activities, games, quizzes, and challenges that kids can do with food. There are no rules and no right answers. Each kid will experience the book in a unique and interactive way. Have a fast speed scavenger hunt in the supermarket. Create your own recipe using only five ingredients. Challenge your brother to a chili pepper taste off. Kids can skip around or do the same challenge over and over with different friends and family members and new ingredients.  They can also post photos of their fun (#cookthisbook) to share and compare with other readers.

 

This book empowers kids to create, cook, eat, dare, and share their foodie fun, knowledge, and experiences. Those just starting in the kitchen will find recipes for some favorites such as spaghetti, pancakes, and brownies. With helpful tips for knife skills, restaurant etiquette, and more! By experimenting with food they just might become the next big chef, a food critic, or at least help you make dinner.

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Good Day Sacramento!

June 2nd, 2016

I had a great morning spending time with Julissa on Good Day Sacramento’s Mommy Moment segment.  I brought a lot of items and ideas for healthy and quick toddler and preschooler snacks for on-the-go.  It was a fun 3 1/2 minute segment.  The funny thing is all hours and energy for that 3 minutes.  All totally worth it.  Perhaps the best part is after spending a day shopping and prepping for the food and driving to and from Sacramento, my kids will have their own snacks and lunches ready for the next few days.  I think we’ll even have a “Make Yourself Anything” night for dinner.  So much in the refrigerator – everyone can create their own dinner with all the prepped veggies, meats, dips and spreads.  There’s even breakfast for dinner possibilities with eggs and pancakes.  Decisions, decisions…..

Here are some photos from the shoot and the video.

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http://gooddaysacramento.cbslocal.com/show/live-video/video-3409423-mommy-moment-quick-snacks/

 

 

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Flashing Back and Looking Forward

May 5th, 2016

erin schrode

Last evening I went to a lovely event to hear from a young woman name Erin Schrode who is running for U.S. Congress.  She is inspiring, dynamic and passionate about the environment, human rights, gender equity, education, workforce development and the need to lead a younger generation to become involved and get excited about politics and legislature.  So why am I sharing about Erin?

 

Because of a post I wrote here, 6 years ago.  I was inspired by a group of teenagers who founded a non-profit called Teens Turning Green.   They hosted a summit where scientists, entrepreneurs and activists spoke on a myriad of issues from women’s health and nutrition, to products and fashions that were green and sustainable.  So turns out Erin was one of the founding members of that group.  The group started by educating teens and all ages about the harmful effects of cosmetics and hygiene products, and potential link to cancer.  I was certainly in my element for the advocacy of fresh, organic foods but there I also learned about other ways to make my family and lifestyle more healthy for me and the planet.  In addition to learning about effects of factory farming and learning greener alternatives to many popular home and healthcare products, I also met the founders of UKonserv and PlanetBox.  Two of the companies I still support and promote for reusable, safe food storage. When I went home from the summit, I immediately starting researching and replacing all my cleaning products and cosmetics, with healthier, greener alternatives.

 

Erin and her friends inspired me with her enthusiasm and activism then and Erin continues to inspire as a activist and politician, 6 years later.  Teens Turning Green, now Turning Green has gone beyond cosmetics and is now a student led global movement devoted to education and advocacy around environmentally sustainable and socially responsible choices for individuals, schools, and communities. They  created the Conscious Kitchen, a non GMO, organic school lunch program in Marin City.  There’s is curriculum and town hall discussions that travel to U.S. high school and university campuses to teach greener lifestyle choices to students.  Erin has gone beyond local endeavors and has travelled the world, besides attending NYU.  After visiting earthquake torn Haiti,  she founded The Schoolbag, a youth education project to provide tools and materials for students in need, She continues to work for global stewardship and environmental curriculum with Palestinian, Israeli, and Jordanian youth, urban recycling infrastructure in Ghana, and recently with Syrian, Iraqi, and Afghan refugees in Greece and Macedonia.  She’s only 25, but has made the most of those years.  Please click on these links to learn more about Turning Green and Erin.

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Pickle Power

March 22nd, 2016

pickle ingredients pickling

 

 

 

 

 

 

My family has been experimenting lately with pickling.  Pickling cucumbers, green beans and carrots.  It started because of our affection for banh mi sandwiches.  Somehow homemade pickles just taste better for these sandwiches.  Not too tart or spicy.  Plus I needed to find a reason to use all the old sauce and pickle jars I’ve collected.  This recipe makes 3 large (about 18 – 24 oz.) jars of pickled veggies.  I usually do one of each veggie.  They’ll last about a week in the refrigerator, but ours usually don’t last that long, between sandwich toppings and lunchbox additions.

 

When choosing cucumbers to pickle I like the small Persian or kirby cucumbers.  These have less seeds and a more mild flavor than garden or American slicing cucumbers. You can buy glass jars online or at the hardware store. Even better clean out glass sauce and pickle jars to recycle and make your own. These make great gifts too.   As long as they have a tight fitting lid, they’ll work well. Happy pickling!

Homemade Pickles

3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

1 ½ cups distilled white vinegar

¼ cup sugar

4 teaspoons pickling or kosher salt

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1 teaspoon peppercorns (black, pink or variety)

¾ teaspoon dill seeds

2 cups hot water

2 pounds (about 6) Persian cucumbers, quartered lengthwise (or combination carrots, green beans and cucumbers)

6 sprigs fresh dill

In a medium saucepan, bring 4 cups water to a boil, reduce the heat so the water simmers and add the garlic. Cook for 5 minutes. Add the vinegar, sugar and salt. Raise the heat and bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar and salt dissolves. Remove from the heat.

 

In 3 clear 1-quart jars, place two sprigs of dill. Divide the seeds and peppercorns between the jars. Using a slotted spoon, remove the garlic from the brine. Place a few cloves in each jar. Then pack the jars full of cucumbers. (You can also slip in some carrots, scallions or green beans, cauliflower and chilies). You want them to be tightly stuffed.

 

Bring the brine back to a boil. Remove from heat and carefully transfer liquid into a glass pitcher or large measuring cup with spout.  You may have to do in batches but this makes it easier to pour in jars.  Pour hot liquid over the vegetables to cover completely. Let cool, then screw on jar lids and refrigerate. The pickles will taste good in just a few hours, and even better after a day or two.

 

 

 

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Half and Half – Birthday Cupcakes for Kids and Dogs

January 18th, 2016

half

Both my kids birthdays are in July, thus there their half birthdays are in January.  Just when you make a plan to ease off the sweets and decadent foods from the holidays…here comes the halves.  As my kids are getting older (9 1/2 and 12 1/2) the half cupcake just doesn’t cut it (see  reaction above).  So the tradition of half the cupcake, and half the candle lives on.  But the second halves are off camera to be eaten as well.  We still sing half the birthday song  which sounds like this…”Happy Birthday to You, Happy Birthday to You”.  It’s a bit abrupt, but it works.  You also get a birthday card cut in half.  And there’s a present that consists of a single item of a pair.  Such as one wrapped sock, one shoe, one ski glove.  Yes, the other is given as well, but not wrapped.

cupcakes

This year my daughter and her friend made lovely cupcakes together. Not only did they look great but also tasted really good.  They chose a combination of chocolate cupcakes and wedding cake frosting.  What is wedding cake frosting?  Well here’s the recipe from Southern Living Big Book of Cupcakes on Amazon, by Jan Moon.  It’s a very versatile white frosting that can be used for any occassion.

Wedding Cake Frosting, page 31.

Makes 3 cups

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/4 cup whipping cream

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 (16 oz) package powdered sugar

Beat first 4 ingredients at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy.

Gradually add powdered sugar, beating at low speed until blended.  Beat at high speed 2 minutes or until creamy.

 

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In addition to the January halves, now we also have a dog anniversary.  We adopted our dog Ally McBeagle 1 year ago, January 15th.  So of course that deserved a celebration and more cupcakes.  These were peanut butter dog cakes.  A generous neighbor gave us a special puppy cake mix.  We added water and voila, doggie cupcakes.  Of course Ally is not as picky as the kids, but the kids loved creating her birthday cake and also bagged up doggie cupcakes for a few of her doggie friends to enjoy.  My daughter suggested a doggie birthday and that’s where I drew the line.  I even cringe as children’s birthday parties. I can’t imagine the chaos of a dog celebration.  Ally loved her cake.  Considering she’ll eat just about anything she finds on a walk outside, it wasn’t a big compliment to our baking.

 

 

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Apps to Help Against Food Waste

November 23rd, 2015

While the holidays are a time to bring family and friends together over big celebrations and meals we also need to be aware of food waste and those that go without.  Unfortunately, 40 percent of all food in the U.S. goes to waste because of excessive portion sizes at restaurants, misinterpretation of expiration dates on packaged foods, and overstocking. Thankfully, food waste can be reduced using what many people already carry in their pockets—their smartphones.

Numerous food waste apps have been created to help consumers throw away less food in their homes with date trackers, educational platforms, and recipe generators. Additionally, restaurants, grocery stores, and other food businesses can use the apps to donate food they can no longer sell.

This Thanksgiving, consider trying a new smartphone app to help your family reduce food waste. Here are 14 notable apps worth trying, courtesy of FoodTank (focused on building a global community for safe, healthy, nourished eaters):

1. AmpleHarvest: AmpleHarvest.org now allows farmers and gardeners to connect with food pantries through an iPhone app. The platform allows users to donate the abundance of their harvest to those in need.

2. Green Egg Shopper: In addition to tracking expiration dates on purchased food items,Green Egg Shopper also provides a tracker for coupons, vouchers, and overall food expenditures.

3. Feeding Forward: Californian businesses and farms can donate their excess product with Feeding Forward, which allows individuals to donate surplus food from their homes. Anyone wishing to give excess food can post the donation on the app or on the online website, and then allow a driver to pick up and deliver the food to a nearby shelter in need. Feeding Forward even allows users to track their impact by viewing profiles of the organizations and individuals who receive their donations.

4. Flash Food: In Arizona, FlashFood connects food service institutions to food recovery organizations and local community centers with a network of volunteers.

5. Food Cowboy: Food Cowboy works at the distribution level to redistribute rejected deliveries from wholesalers and restaurants to food banks and soup kitchens. Event hosts and caterers can use the app to request pickup of leftovers, and charities can use the platform to source larger donations.

6. FoodKeeper: The USDA voice-controlled FoodKeeper app provides storage method tips to extend shelf life, cooking tips for meat and seafood products, and sends expiration reminders to consumers. Additionally, the app contains a feature called Ask Karen that allows users to submit questions to its 24/7 virtual representative that can answer questions about cooking, storage, and food-borne illnesses.

7. FridgePal: Oftentimes, consumers throw away their groceries due to expiration dates. But FridgePal tracks the expiration dates of food items and offers consumer shopping lists, recipes searchable by lists of ingredients, and a meal planner. The app visually separates food contained in refrigerators, freezers, and pantries. It also gives cooks the option of viewing items by type, such as dairy, meals and leftovers, or sauces.

8. LeftoverSwap: Users of LeftoverSwap can snap a picture of their uneaten food and arrange for pickup with other community members who are interested in their leftovers.

9. PareUp: PareUp allows consumers in New York City to purchase unsold food at a discount from a number of various retailers, who in turn increase their revenues by selling food that normally would have been thrown away at the end of the business day.

10. Reta: Reta sends users timely reminders on their phones, allowing them to see all of their food at home from any location to plan their meals at any time. The feature is also useful while shopping for groceries to avoid overbuying. And Reta tracks how much users eat, allowing them to see lifetime statistics of what percentage of food goes uneaten.

11. Spoiler Alert: Spoiler Alert allows food distributors to donate surplus product to charities in Boston, MA. “We offer a secondary market for discounted food sales, which enables new revenue streams, and streamline and simplify the documentation for tax benefits, which are quite sizable,” says co-founder Emily Malina.

12. Still Tasty: Knowing how to store various food items can help anyone keep their food fresh longer. Still Tasty will also provide expiration date reminders while also giving users access to a detailed database containing hundreds of food items. The resource takes many variables into account, such as if the item’s store-bought or homemade, open or unopened, and packaging type, giving storage tips accordingly.

13. Waste No Food: Waste No Food is a nonprofit platform created by Kiran Sridhar, a high school student in the San Francisco Bay Area. The app connects farms, restaurants, cafeterias, and grocery stores with local groups that need donations, and has helped to save over 10,000 pounds of food.

14. Zero Percent: Chicago’s retailers with excess food can use the Zero Percent app to post available donations in real time. “Zero Percent is a food rescue platform, not just an app, that solves the problem of matching and moving excess prepared and perishable food between businesses and local nonprofits in a reliable and safe way,” says Raj Karmani, founder. “The platform coordinates the rescue of nearly 2,500 pounds a day without owning any vehicle or warehouse. Zero Percent will hit its millionth pound this holiday season.”

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Tis the Season – Eat More Pumpkin with Banana Pumpkin Muffins

October 26th, 2015

pumpkins

My family loves all the seasonal food this time of year.  We buy enough pumpkin butter, canned pumpkin, nutmeg, cinnamon and molasses to keep us going throughout the fall and then some.   Halloween may seem to be all about candy, but for me it’s all about pumpkin and the various ways we can incorporate it into our fall meals.  And why not?  According to this article in the Huffington Post pumpkin is healthy and helps our eyesight, mood and waistlines, while also protecting our hearts, immune system and skin.

 

I noticed some too ripe bananas on my counter and immediately thought of making banana bread or muffins, but how about banana pumpkin?  I switched the applesauce in my banana apple muffins with pumpkin and it was a big hit.  Banana and pumpkin is a great combo.  It was perfect for the kids’  weekend sleep over as well as snack after a soccer game.  Here’s the recipe.

 

Banana Pumpkin Muffins

(Makes 12)

1 1/2 cup organic wheat pastry flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup sweet cream butter, (1 stick)

¾ cup canned pumpkin

2 medium ripe bananas

½ cup organic light brown sugar

2 cage-free, organic eggs

sprinkle of cinnamon

 

Preheat oven to 375F. With a fork, combine flour, soda and salt in a small mixing bowl.

Melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Or melt butter in microwave for 25 seconds on high.

In a large bowl combine melted butter, pumpkin, mashed banana, sugar and eggs. Mix together with a rubber spatula. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture and stir until just blended. Batter will be lumpy and very moist.

Spoon batter into greased muffin tin cups 2/3 full and sprinkle with cinnamon if desired. Bake for 10 – 12 minutes or until golden brown and set. Remove pan from oven and cool on a rack 5 minutes, before turning out muffins.

 

 

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