Family Heritage Homework – Pfeffernusse Cookies

pfeffernusse cookies

Much of my kids homework these days is focused on learning about family history and ancestors.  Luckily my mom has been charting and using ancestry.com to come up with some great names and family tree material.  I didn’t know my family had much German but my daughter and mother figured out that six greats back came from Germany.  Like others came to America looking for a better life.  My kids are understanding to be  grateful they were born in America and provided all the opportunities and freedom that those in other countries and even in our own history, did not have.  They also can’t imagine giving up their shorts and yoga pant style for proper clothing.

 

Last night was the culmination of my daughter’s family heritage study.  All the parents and families were invited to a feast to bring and share a dish from their heritage, and view all the family trees and country research the kids have assembled.  This was such a fun night.  The number of countries and food represented was staggering.  While it’s all exciting to see, this sample from around the world does not work well on my stomach.  The kids seems to have no problem putting sushi, next to perogie, next to spaghetti, next to baklava.  I had to be a bit more selective (and still needed Tums when I got home).  Most people made their dishes from scratch but a few were store/restaurant bought.  No judgement.  In fact I complimented a friend on her dish and she said it was frozen from the grocery store.  Apparently she perked it up  with a homemade sauce.

 

Being that my daughter picked Germany, we had a tricky time with the recipe choice.  Remember she’s a vegetarian, so bratwurst and stuffed cabbage was not going to happen.  We did a test run of some baked goods and she decided to make pfeffernuse cookies.  They are similar in flavor to a molasses or ginger cookies but with more spice, specifically pepper.  I skipped on the anise extract, as I couldn’t find.  Thankfully this made about twice as many as the 3 dozen the recipe says.  While this was an easy recipe, I had to remember to build in the 2 hour refrigeration time.  Luckily one batch, and we were on time and ready to share at school.

Pfeffernusse Cookies from allrecipes.com

makes 3 dozen

  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 1/4 cup margarine
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons anise extract
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  •  1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar for dusting

Directions

  1. Stir together the molasses, honey, shortening, and margarine in a saucepan over medium heat; cook and stir until creamy. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Stir in the eggs.
  2. Combine the flour, white sugar, brown sugar, cardamom, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, anise, cinnamon, baking soda, pepper, and salt in a large bowl. Add the molasses mixture and stir until thoroughly combines. Refrigerate at least 2 hours.
  3. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Roll the dough into acorn-sized balls. Arrange on baking sheets, spacing at least 1 inch apart.
  4. Bake in preheated oven 10 to 15 minutes. Move to a rack to cool. Dust cooled cookies with confectioners’ sugar.
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Get Your Gluten Free Baked Goods!

My kids’ school hold a big fundraiser each year for the school garden.  This year was no exception.  We all had a great time enjoying old fashioned games (bobbing for apples, scavenger hunts), arts and crafts (sewing potpourri sachets, creating art from recycled materials), a pie eating contest, raffle and bake off.   In addition there’s a large bake sale.  This alone raises over $1,000.  I was asked this year to make gluten free desserts for the sale.  I took the challenge especially since I had recently done some gluten free baking while reviewing the book, Quinoa Cuisine (see review) and I had just received another helpful cookbook entitled 150 Best Gluten Free Muffin Recipes by Camilla Saulsbury.

I was baking and testing recipe for weeks.  Not only did I test the recipes as written usuing my own mix of flours, but I also decided to try Bob’s Red Mill gluten free all pupose baking flour.  They make a great variety of gf offerings for baking.  Herein lies all the expense and trouble when people think about gluten free baking.  If you don’t have to eat gluten free it is more expensive to properly stock your pantry.  For instance the Bob’s Red Mill was $8 for a 2 pound bag.  However it was even costlier for me to buy the quinoa, teff and rice flours and mix them myself.  Plus there is the worry if you’re buying the flours bulk that can may be contaiminated by a gluten product.

I narrowed down my two favorites and baked multiple batches for the big day.

From the 150 Best Gluten Free Muffin Recipes cookbook I made Double Chocolate Banana Muffins and Cinnamon Sugar Muffins.  The double chocolate were a huge hit.  The banana gave them the right amount of moisture and the chocolate, well there was both whole and cocoa (what’s not to like?).  My son liked the Cinnamon Sugar however my daughter and her friend did not.  I think it was a texture issue, as gluten free baked goods are denser and the flour is a bit heartier tasting.  This book has helpful information about gluten and alternative ingredients.  Each recipe also has tips to make it casein-free (which can be a connection for some with other health issues).

My other choice was the Lemon Glazed Pound Cake from Quinoa Cuisine.  I made the pound cake as directed with the quinoa flour, but made it again with the Bob’s Red  Mill GF Flour and everyone preferred that one.  I would make this any occassion – for gluten free needs or not.  It was very tangy and had a good dense pound cake consistency.  We enjoyed it at home with a bit of vanilla bean ice cream on top during our taste testing.

Once I made all the muffins and pound cake for the bake sale, I decided to wrap each individually so someone who needed to stay away from wheat wouldn’t have to worry about cross contamination from the rest of the baked goods at the sale.  My daughter and I cut and wrapped each piece of pound cake and individual muffin and then tucked them in baskets with ingredient cards on top.  They looked great.  However when I went over the baked goods table during the event I realized the gluten free items weren’t selling.  The moms said not as many were requesting gluten free items, plus maybe it was too hard to see the items in the wrappers.  I quickly unwrapped them and luckily they sold.  That was an error on my part.  A child who’s checking out the baked good options needs to see it and want it, for mom to buy it.  Most don’t care if it’s gluten free or not.  I went a little overboard with my food safety.  Next time unwrap most and wrap only a few for those with celieac and gluten issues.

I took those items that didn’t sell home with me.  Yes, I could’ve given them away but not with all the time and money that went into them.  (Selfish mommy, I know).  I froze them and served them to my son’s baseball team a few days later.  It saved me some time and they loved them.

 

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The Braces and Wiggly Tooth Diet – Piece by Piece

As if my son’s expanders weren’t enough metal in his mouth now he has braces too.  He’s been a real trooper.  It takes him much more time to eat and it takes me more time to plan and cut his meals.  Take for instance his lunch.  It’s tough to bite in to a sandwich and not end up with it all stuck to his braces.  So now we cut the sandwich in small pieces.  Here’s a photo of the new lunch.

Actually eating with a spoon or fork makes things the easiest.  Although he doesn’t think lunch should need “dinner utensils”.  We’ve worked in a few extra smoothies, shakes, and creamy desserts to keep things sweet and easy when his mouth is feeling achey.  We even tried this new smoothie from What Color is Your Smoothie? (review soon) that’s made with oatmeal, banana and maple syrup.

Coincidentally my daughter now has a wiggly tooth.  So we’ve applied the same cutting rules to her food.  Here’s a photo of her pasta salad lunch.  This is such a colorful lunch, I just had to show it off.  The best part is the lunchbox came home empty.  But the tooth is still intact.  It shouldn’t be long before the toothfairy is making a visit…

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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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A Parent’s Dilemma – The Fruit Loop Necklace

My daughter greeted me at pick-up on the 100th day of school, wearing this necklace.  I tried not to look horrified as I saw her classmates eating these Fruit Loop necklaces.  Ok…I confess.  I did eat some Fruit Loops when I was a kid.  My mom and most others didn’t know the benefits of whole grains and the toxicity of red dye #5.  My dauther proudly explained how she counted out 100, and asked if she could eat some.  I said “It’s so colorful and you worked so hard.  How about if I take your picture with it and we go and get a gelato instead?”  She was happy with the offer.  She got to show the necklace to dad and brother later that night and then we said goodbye necklace.

 

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Thank You Ms. Waters

Portrait for National Gallery

As many of you know last weekend was the 40th anniversary of Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, CA.  It is consistently ranked as one of the top 50 restaurants in the world.  Of course Chez Panisse was and is more than a restaurant.  It’s a place where a true pioneer Alice Waters, discovered and shared with Berkeley, California, and America about how simple slow cooking made with fresh ingredients grown locally, right out of the garden, benefits everyone and tastes best.  It seems so easy and obvious now, but not then.  Of course during the last 40 years Chez Panisse has been a spring board for not only a healthy eating philosophy but a spring board for hundreds of chefs and new restaurants.

Then of course there’s the Edible Schoolyard Project.  Where Ms. Waters planted a garden in Martin Luther King Middle School and turned it into a classroom (and now dining hall) for kids to learn about food, growing, cooking and community.  It has become a national and international model and curriculum for schools all over the world.

I can’t say enough about what she’s done and continues to do.  Neither can the National Gallery as her portrait (see above) will go there after being on display in Berkeley.  I got to see the portrait and experience what she’s built with the Edible Schoolyard Project last Saturday with my family as we attended the OpenEducation event where the Berkeley Art Museum was transformed into an open classroom and living kitchen.  There was a variety of “school” projects to highlight to the public what goes on in garden classrooms around the country thanks to Ms. Waters programs.  My family enjoyed fudge made from goat’s milk and saw the responsible goats.  My kids made a jar of pickles and tortillas.  We brought home seed bombs and lettuces.  We saw grain being ground by a bicycle.  And saw 5,000 honey bees in action.  It was a wonderful day to celebrate food, community and the power of teaching.  I was, and am, quite inspired.  Thank you Ms. Waters and Happy Birthday Chez Panisse!

Open Education Event
the bees
the goats
grinding grain with a bicycle

 

making pickles
making tortillas
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Send ‘Em Packing – Easy, Healthy Food/Drink Container

I was going to skip the back to school lunch packing tips. So many blogs talk about it.  And I wrote about packing a healthy and waste free lunch last year.  The surprising and interesting thing is while there are many more product offerings, my favorites remain those I tested (and still use) from last year.  And I realize while this may seem old news to some, it’s brand new for others.  So take a look at what my family has been using and liking.  The added bonus is that some are local Bay Area companies.

My kids will not be getting new lunchboxes this year, as their PlanetBoxes have
held up perfectly. They are easy to pack with appropriate compartments for
everything. The bag can be washed and new magnets can be purchased if your
PlanetBox is needing something fresh.

 

We also still love and are using our Kids Konserve freezer packs (fits well in
the PlanetBox pocket). I am never without one of their stainless steel
containers for snacks in my purse. They now offer more colors and sizes than
ever. Hurry to their online sale thru August.

As far as drink bottles go, we are not as satisfied with the longevity and
rotate quite a bit. My kids have just discovered the new Thermos/Threadless
stainless bottles with spouts, which are easy to open and close tightly. (I
can’t stand the leaky straw designs of some bottles). We also use EarthLust‘s
nature inspired stainless steel designs. I’m enjoying my Lifefactory 22 oz
large glass bottle and have ordered the new lunchbox ready 9 oz size for my
kids. Note: I only pack water in these. I find it is the easiest to clean, the
bottle lasts longer and healthiest for my kids and self. (If needing help with baby bottle choices for the youngest set, check out this article/review from The Babble Out.)

Finally, our organic cotton napkins by Fabkins are holding up from school
lunches, picnics, camps and home use. They continue to introduce new patterns
to make lunch fun and less messy.

So go forth and pack a healthy lunch with reusable, responsible products that are good for you, your kids and the planet. Yes, that is a lofty statement, but every little bit countsm as your child can create more than their weight in school lunch trash each year.

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Pass the Peanut Butter

Summer means a break from the nut butter bans at my house.  We can’t pack it for school or camp, but we can for summer picnics, camping and at home playdate lunches.  Of course we check before serving, but luckily my kids’ usual friends don’t have issues.  We even got crazy and I made peanut butter cookies (recipe below).  I can’t remember the last time I did that.

 

Allery News

There have been a few articles recently about the rise in nut allergies and some pretty angry parents who are just getting into school with nut free policies.  Your child will survive at school without peanut butter, while another may not survive because of it.  Think of it that way, before you get mad at policies, schools and parents who deal with an allergic child.  Enjoy it at home and use the bans to discover something new with your kids for lunch.

 

Taste Test

We like to do taste tests at my house.  My daughter wasn’t to be fooled when we did various milks at a (see blog about our milk test for a cookie party).  She still doesn’t drink cow’s milk.  So about about finding an alternative for peanut butter when school starts?  Soy nut butter and sunflower butter are big at my house.  Or try an entirely diffrent tasting type of spread such as hummus, black bean or cream cheese.  Try it on tortiallas, bread, flatbread, bagels, crumpets, crackers, etc.  I bet you’re family will find a new favorite you can safely pack, come back to school day.

 

Enjoy these cookies before school starts, on the weekend or as an after school treat.

 

Peanut Butter Cookies

(adapted from the Ski Lodge Cookbook by Tina Andersen)

Makes 24 cookies

1 cup peanut butter

1 cup sugar

1 large egg, slightly beaten

2 tablespoons all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 350F.  Layer baking sheets with parchment paper.

 

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.

Roll rounded teaspoonfuls of dough into balls and place 2 inches apart on baking sheets.  Flatten dough balls with fork tines to make a crisscross.

Bake until puffed and light golden brown, 8 – 19 minutes.  Cool on baking sheets 2 minutes.  Transfer to baking rack to cool completely.

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Someone’s in the Salad…

This is for all those who don’t wash their produce….

My son’s school has an amazing garden with fruit trees, herbs, veggies, and even chickens.  Last week my son’s class was able to pick and bring home a bag of assorted greens.  When we got home we put the bag in the fridge.  I was quite surprised that evening, when I opened the bag to wash the lettuces and found a few hitchhikers…slugs and snails.  I thought the kids would be bothered and not eat the lettuce, but I was wrong.  We relocated the critters and washed (and washed again) the leaves to look for any other visitors.  Finally we spun it in the salad spinner.  Even in the spinner we saw one last tiny slug.

Note the round object on inside of bag
escargot anyone?

My son was proud of his lettuce and we enjoyed a tasty salad together.

Now of course if you buy your lettuce at the supermarket, it is unlikley you’ll have slugs and snails.  However it is still possible to have their feces.  So remember to wash and spin no matter if your lettuce comes right from the garden, picked at the farmer’s market or purcahsed at the grocery store.  (Yes, even that bagged salad should be washed)

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Green My Lunch Box

I want to share a wonderful campaign to raise awareness of using green food packaging products sponsored and supported by many of my favorite local companies, such as Fabkins, KidsKonserve, Wrap-n-Mat and EarthLust.
If 15,000 people join the campaign & pledge to pack a waste-free lunch, we can eliminate 1 million lbs of waste!

Simply log on to Facebook and join the campaign! Enter to WIN A WASTE-FREE LUNCH PRODUCT: Share with others how you’re greening your life to enter to win. One winner every day!

Save 10% off all orders from Green My Lunch Box participating company websites when using the coupon code “Greenit” when checking out.  Click here to learn more and start shopping.

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