Remembering Memorial Day…Forgetting the Carnival Food

This memorial day weekend was filled with activity…some related to remembering those who fought for our country (parade and discussion with our kids), but mostly gatherings of friends and community (parade again, carnival, San Francisco Bridge celebration, sleepover, BBQ and some I’m sure I can’t remember).

 

With all the events there was a wide variety of food, of course.  We enjoyed everything from a mexican fiesta at friends (complete with margarita machine), to BBQ (chicken and tofu), the freshest fish in Marin (Fish Restaurant) and too many pancake breakfasts.

 

Thankfully one event we did not try food was the carnival.  First of all the dizzying rides were hard enough for me, if my kids would’ve asked for a corn dog or cotton candy I would’ve died.  I think both the rides and concessions looked like the same ones I had as a kid.  No updating here.  Actually when we got home from the carnival my daughter asked “How come all the people working at the carnival had brown and yucky teeth?”  This was quite an observation.  My husband and I were thinking the carnival workers seemed more tidy than those we remembered from carnivals when we were a kids.  Anyways my answer to her was “Maybe it’s because they work all day and have to eat the carnival food all the time”.  O.K. I’m not sure that’s true, but it stands to reason right? (I was too tired and nauseous to tackle the possibility of smoking too).

 

Unfortunately the weekend ended on a personal memorial as my son’s hermit crab, “Hermit” died tonight.  I told my son I’d post a photo of happier days with Hermit to share of his beloved pet.

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International Potluck with Falafel Recipe

Growing up I remember visiting my grandmother in Rhode Island and she would spend all day in the kitchen making Syrian food.  Everything from grapeleaves (she even grew and picked her own leaves), lamb kibbeh, tabouli, stuffed squash, etc.  She never followed a recipe.  Just did it from memory of watching her mother and grandmother.  I’ve made her recipes (from an old cookbook my aunt gave me), but they’re so labor intensive I usually only make one item at a meal.

My son has been making a family tree and studying hertitage at school.  The studies culminated in an International Potlcuk at the school.  Each family was supposed to bring a dish from your family heritage.  Originally my son asked me to make grapeleaves, but I just didn’t have the time to do that mid-week.   Instead we selected falafel.  Funny I don’t remember a lot of falafel at my grandmothers, but my family likes them and it’s quick.  It also serves my vegetarian daughter well.  This recipe is from Real Simple (I’m sure my grandmother would never use canned chickpeas).  I did make her cucumber yogurt dip though.  It too works with lamb or grapeleaves.

The event was really fun and I was amazed by the variety of foods.  Everything from pot pies from England, samosas from Africa, pasta from Italy, sushi from Japan, to sausages from Germany and more.   It would be a fun theme for any large gathering.  And it was great to see kids, and adults trying foods they’ve never seen before.

Crispy Falafel

2, 15 ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1 shallot, finely diced

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground pepper flakes

2 garlic cloves

1 teaspoons kosher salt

3 tablespoons fresh parseley, chopped

1 1/2 cups panko or dried breadcrumbs

2 eggs, whisked

1/4 cup canola oil

Yogurt Sauce

1 1/2 cup plain yogurt

1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped

1 – 2 cloves garlic, minced

1/8 teaspoon ground pepper

1/8 teaspoon salt

(add a pinch of brown sugar if too sour)

 

In a food processor, processor chickpeas, lemon juice, 1/4 cup water until almost smooth.

Add the shallot, cumin, red pepper, garlic, salt and parsley and 1/2 cup breadcrumbs.  Pulse to add together.

Remove from processor.  Roll unto 2 inch diameter balls and flatten slightly to form patties.

Place remaining breadcrumbs on a flat dish.  Dip patties in eggs then roll in breadcrumbs to coat

For cucumber yogurt sauce combine all ingredients.  Cover and let sit in refrigerator at lease 30 minutes.

Heat half the oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Cook half patties (do not crowd) until golden brown, about 3 – 4 minutes per side.  Drain on paper towels.

Add remaining oil if necessary and cook remaining patties.

Serve with yogurt cucumber dip, pita bread and spinach.

 

 

 

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Happy New Year with Resolution and Half Birthday

Happy New Year to all.  I, like many have a resolution for 2012.  It’s not earth shattering and no one may even notice, but here it is…to blog more consistently.  It may not bother you that I’ve been enjoying my holiday and not sharing my recipes, tips and photos with you the past few weeks, but it bothers me.  It has to do with commitment.  I make one and feel guilty if I miss my own “deadline” (twice per week).  I’ll write and I hope you’ll in turn read and share.

This is the first day of 2012.  But even more than that it’s my dauther’s half birthday.  And if you’re under 10 you know that’s a big deal.  My kids birthdays, and thus half birthdays, are less than three weeks apart.  So at the half I get away with making one batch of cupcakes (or one cake) for my daughter and freezing the other half for my son.  No, I couldn’t get away with that at the “real” birthday.  So we celebrated with a half a cupcake and half a scoop of ice cream.  I usually wrap and give one of something that comes in a pair (one shoe, one sock, one miten) – which of course they get the second too.  Once my son was mad and thought he had to wait for his real birthday for the other shoe.  I thought that was cute, but not practical as the pair would be outgrown.

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Peas and Thank You – New Family Meatless Cookbook Review and Give Away

Sarah Matheny, author of the popular blog, Peas and Thank You has written a new cookbook, Peas and Thank You: Simple Meatless Meals the Whole Family Will Love, after changing her family’s diet to one without meat products.  She has an easy and witty style about her writing and this book is peppered with food photos as well as her little “peas” (aka girls) enjoying her recipes.  This book has stories, tips and recipes from a mainstream family that takes on a not-so mainstream diet.

 

This book is a good one for those looking to make a diet switch and eat less animal products, as well as someone just looking for new meatless ideas.  I know I am.  Sarah has recipes from morning to night.  There are fruit smoothies for breakfast, sandwiches and salads (Hugh Jass Salad is just for mom) for lunch and hot meals (curry, jambalaya) for dinner.  Plus a few retooled desserts without the use of dairy (carrot cupakes).

 

My family made the homestyle chocolate chips cookies with sea salt, the thai veggie burgers and the homestyle spaghetti sauce.  While the cookies were good, I did notice they were missing something…butter.  But good to have a vegan recipe for such a popular treat.  Also the veggie burgers were good, but needed some sauce to lend moisture.  Luckily Sarah has a versatile almond ginger recipes that did the trick for me.  The spaghetti sauce was rich and easy (see below).  We used it on pasta as well as sauce for homemade pizza.

Review

Pros: good variety of meatless dishes, some simple and quick, fun writing style, good photos, nutritional info on each recipe, pea points on each recipe give helpful hints

Cons: some dishes require special ingredients (tempeh, non dairy cream cheese) that may be hard for some to find, some recipes are time consuming and need many ingredients

Give Away!

If you would like a chance to win a copy of Sarah’s new cookbook, Peas and Thank You, please send a comment on this post, with the name of your family’s favorite meatless recipe.  One winner will be chosen at random on Thurs. November 10, 2011 and notified via email.

 

Homestyle Spaghetti Sauce, pg. 142 from Peas and Thank You

It’s almost as easy as opening a jar, both with the added joy, if you wish, of letting it simmer for hours, rubbing garlic behind your ears, smearing a few splatters on your apron and bringing your thumb and teo fingers together to emphasize, “Now attsa some tasty sauce!”  You’d be right.

2 14.5 ounce cans organic diced tomatoes

1 6 ounce can tomato paste

1/3 cup onion, diced

1/2 cup fresh basil

2 teaspoons oregano

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a high speed blender ot food porcessor and blend until smooth.  Pour sauce into a large saucepan and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occassionally.

 

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The Cupcake Caper

This time every year I am faced with lots of stress over cakes and cupcakes.  This year has been no exception and there’s only been one birthday so far.  You see the summer is full of birthdays in my family.  This year we added a preschool graduation into the mix too.  I’m not sure what got into me, but I thought I was going to make cake for my daughter’s graduation when I first signed up.  Until I was told there would be 150 cupcakes needed or two half sheet cakes.  Oops!

So I bought them at the suggested bakery near the school.  They are quite popular (and $$) and use fresh ingredients, but somehow I wasn’t impressed.  Though most of the 125+ people were happy and the cakes were eaten.  They were somehow bland and dense.  They were super cute though right?  And was I going to bake cake for that many people?  Nope.

 

However I spent two days (and more time and agony) perfecting 24 cupcakes for my daughter’s birthday party the following day.  Months ago my daughter picked out a cupcake photo she wanted me to make for her birthday.  It was an adorable cupcake decorated with sugar jewels out of our favorite cupcake cookbook (see previous review).  Turns out these are not so easy to find except for online and quite expensive ($1 per jewel).

Edible Diamonds

I went to CakeArt, an amazing cake decorating and baking supply store (they also have classes) in San Rafael for help on the jewels.  I thought if I can’t buy them, I can make them with molds.  Turns out they had a few “diamonds”, but the owner warned me they are made from isomalt and not good on many people’s stomache’s if eaten (and you know kids would try them).  Well, my daughter quickly understood this was not a good idea.  Luckily there were so many other lovely decorations she moved on and chose others.  This was still a few weeks before her party.

 

She still couldn’t decide on cupcake flavor.  One day she carried the cupcake book everywhere and reviewed it all during my son’s baseball game.  First she wanted lavender vanilla and I bought lavender.  Then it was strawberry milkshake, and I shopped for strawberry extract (couldn’t find).  It was too overwhelming that she could choose any flavor cupcake and frosting and mix and match with her chosen decoration.  Three days before she decided chocolate cake and vanilla buttercream frosting.  Hooray, I thought the hard part was over.

test batch

Since she had been so indecisive, yet so obsessive, I made a few test cupcakes for her reviewa few days before the party.  Then she says “Of course I’m going to like any of them…it’s a cupcake.”  Oh glad I wasn’t worried.  But glad I did the test.  I learned two valuable things from this recipe.  Do not spray with cooking oil as directed.  See above how the papers fall away?  And next, filling 1/2 to 2/3 full wasn’t enough.  I was also able to convince my daughter that the white frosting looked the best (her ideas of striped and colors were tried above).

test #2

Filling 3/4 cull and skipping the spray worked much better.

looking good and practicing my piping

Making the buttercream ahead for the test, I thought I’d just re-whip the next day when it was time to make a whole batch.  Well, this didn’t turn out so well.  The morning of the party, I frosted half of them and realized the butter cream was separating and kind of melting after a bit.  Yikes!

buttercream starting to separate

I quickly made another fresh batch of frosting and the second dozen looked far superior.  My daughter came in and said “Are these a diffrent kind?”  Having about one hour (still needing to shower and get dressed myself and pack the car with other food and ice chest) I scraped the frosting off the first dozen and refrosted them.  I felt much better.  O.K. first she was obsessed, and now I was.  As you can see, it all turned out fine…we made it to the party (at a gymnastics studio), everyone had fun, and the cupcakes were a hit.  Big kudos to the cupcake carrier too.  (Purchased at Target)  Great invention to protect your creations when on the go.

scraping off the melting frosting
fresh frosting fixed everything
the birthday girl adding the finishing touches
off to the party!
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Come to the Table! At Least 3x’s Per Week…

A study in the journal Pediatrics finds that children and adolescents who share meals with their families at least three times per week are less likely to be overweight, eat unhealthy foods or be at risk for eating disorders.  Three times a week isn’t much.  It doesn’t have to be dinner.  What about breakfast or lunch?  If you make it a priority and fit your family’s lifestyle and schedule there are big benefits.

The researchers found that three or more family meals per week were associated with a 12% reduction in the odds for being overweight, a 20% drop in the odds of eating unhealthy foods regularly and a 35% reduction in disordered eating- including purging, the use of diet pills, skipping meals or the use of smoking cigarettes as a way to control weight.

Not too hard right?  Read the whole story here. And please blog here to share how you and your family make time to eat meals togehter.

 

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Fun Find: Hungry Bunny Store and Website

I love discovering new things…restaurants, books, hotels, foods, activities, shops.  So when I walked into a new (new to me, it’s been there about 6 months) store in San Francisco called Hungrybunny, I fell in love.  This store has unique and fun gifts and products all having to do with food.  Everything from stationery, toys, books, gadgets, crafts, aprons and games.  Want to play a game about food?  Get Wasabi! or Food Fight.  Need a fun baby gift?  I couldn’t resist a soft , plush roast chicken with removable drumsticks.(see above – hysterical right?)  Then there’s felt food sandwich and sushi making kits for toddlers.  Aprons and cooking sets for helpers in your kitchen.  And food craft kits for older kids who want to create their own cupcake pillow.  And even well designed kitchen tools, funny notecards (below)and interesting reusable water bottles and food carryers for yourself.

 

This is my new go to place for gifts for people of all ages.  There’s also a carefully chosen selection of local condiments, confections, teas and spices – great for housewarming presents.  If you’re not in the Bay Area, luckily you can shop Hungrybunny online.

 

 

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FDA to Study Food Coloring Additives…Finally!

Where has the FDA been?  There have been concerns over food additives, especially coloring for years.  Studies in other parts of the world and even banning of certain dyes as far back as the 1950’s (red 32, orange 2, etc).  I even wrote a blog in 2007 that cited a NY Times article and study by Britain’s Food Standard Agency, about the link of ADHD to additives.

So finally this week in response to a 2008 letter, an FDA advisory panel will decide whether available data links artificial food dyes and ADHD.  The results could lead to new warning labels on many colored foods.  The article lists Jello, sugared cereals, and macaroni and cheese (what color would fake food be without coloring? – that’s the real question).  But what about a ban?  Wouldn’t that be safer for consumers and children?  According to an npr.org article, “Food dyes are added simply for their color to make foods fun. They serve no health purpose whatsoever,” says Michael Jacobson, director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.  CSPI wants the FDA to ban eight artificial food dyes. Jacobson is particularly concerned with Red No. 40, Yellow No. 5 and Yellow No. 6, which make up 90 percent of the food dyes on the market.  Their use has gone up fivefold in the past 50 years. “That’s a good indication of how much junk food we’re consuming,” he says.

According to this week’s CBS news article, the government previously ruled that there is no proven relationship between food dyes and hyperactivity in most children. And the panel is unlikely to ban the petroleum-based dyes in question, such as Yellow 5, Red 40 and six others.  But consumer advocates and a growing body of scientists say evidence is mounting that processed foods – including those with artificial dyes – may play a role in the inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsivity that characterize attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

I guess we’ll just have to cross our fingers and wait and see what the panel says.  However, no matter what they decide, I’ll continue to read labels and limit additivesand colorings whenever possible…and make my own macaroni and cheese (real, please!)

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day

the green grub

My kids have been talking about wearing green and catching lephrechans all week.  My daughter is thrilled with fool’s gold (or anything shiny for that matter).  My son’s school has many a spirited child with green clothes, hats and even hair.  Who doesn’t wish for a little luck and belief in a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?  It’s just too cute to resist.

I always make corned beef and cabbage.  However we’re postponing our St. Pat’s meal, until the weekend when we have more time to make and more guests at the table to share it.  Here’s last year’s post for what I’ll be making. 

But I had to do a little something today.  So this morning I surprised my kids with a green breakfast.  I remember my grandfather making green pancakes and serving it to us with green milk.  Today was green yogurt (just plain with maple syrup, cinnamon and nutmeg), green milk (almond for my daughter and cow for my son) and sliced kiwi.  I wasn’t sure it looked too appetizing but the kids were surprised and amazed (and ate it, along with some non-green bagels and granola).  Who knew food coloring could give such a smile?  I think it was a novelty today because I rarely it. 

1. It kind of gives me the willies.  Very processed and nothing natural about it.

2.  It’s messy and I’m not well practiced. (see below).

note the shamrock sticker on cheek
a bit leary of the green stuff, at first
my green stained fingers
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King Cake, Take 2 …Cupcakes

I was searching through more king cake recipes and found one for cupcakes on the king Arthur Flour website.  This was immediately exciting to my kids because they both realized everyone could get their own “baby” (walnut) and luck for the year.   

Since I haven’t tasted anyone else’s king cake version, I still can’t compare.   This cake had a few of the elements of the crescent version – including the cream cheese frosting and the decorative colors.  However these may be my new go to vanilla cupcakes.  The cake was moist and the cream cheese frosting very versatile.  The few unique ingredients that are in a classic brioch like king cake and not in a classic vanilla cupcake are the addition of Fiori di Sicilia (a combo citrus and vanilla flavor) and nutmeg.  I made a few tweaks to the recipe I found online, as there was too much sugar in the frosting, which was plenty sweet enough.  I used a mixture of lemon oil and vanilla extract as I did not have Fiori di Sicilia.

These are great for a mardi gras party with kids, so no one gets left out of the luck.  Just be sure of any potential nut allergies if you use the walnut “baby”.Also good for a small goup or family, rather than making a whole cake.  You can even freeze cooked, unfrosted cupcakes to enjoy another day.  Here’s how to make them…

  Mardi Gras King Cupcakes

Yield: 12 cupcakes.

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 2/3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons soft butter
  • 2/3 cup milk, at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia; OR 1 teaspoon vanilla + 1/8 teaspoon lemon oil
  • 2 large eggs

Icing

  • 3 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon lemon oil
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • colored sugars, preferably purple, yellow, and green
1) Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line the muffin tins with papers, and spray the insides of the papers.
2)In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, baking powder, nutmeg, and salt.
3) Cut butter into pieces and beat in with an electric mixer at low speed, until the mixture looks sandy.
4) Combine the milk and vanilla in a small bowl.  Add milk to butter mixture, all at once. Mix at low speed for 30 seconds, then increase the speed to medium and beat for 30 seconds. Scrape the bottom and sides of the mixing bowl.
5) With the mixer running at low speed, add 1 egg. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 30 seconds. Add the second egg, again beating for 30 seconds.
6) Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl, and beat briefly, just till smooth.
7) Scoop the batter by heaping 1/4-cupfuls into the prepared muffin tin. A muffin scoop works well here.
8) Bake the cupcakes for 23 to 25 minutes, until they’ve domed, and are a light golden brown around the edges. They’ll spring back when pressed gently on top, and a toothpick inserted in the center will come out clean.
9) Remove the cupcakes from the oven, and place on a rack to cool completely before icing.
10) To make the icing: Combine the butter, cream cheese, vanilla, and lemon oil in a medium-sized bowl, and beat them together until light and fluffy.
11) Add the sugar gradually, beating well.
12)optional – you can 1 – 2 tsp. add milk if frosting is too thick.
13) Spread each cake with icing, and immediately dip in gold, purple, and green sparkling sugars, covering about 1/3 of the cupcake with each color sugar.
14) Store at room temperature for several days. For longer storage, wrap well and freeze.
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