Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Hummus, plus 3 tips for getting kids to eat healthy


If you're a mother to picky eaters, you develop your own set of rules about healthy eating. White potatoes don't count as a vegetable; sweet potatoes do. Pickles are junk food but olives are healthy. Canned vegetables are off limits, unless, of course the vegetable drawer is bare because Mommy didn't have time to shop, in which case they are a-okay. Celery and baby carrots, regardless of what they are dipped in (don't ask) are great. And, even if you smother it in parmesan cheese and alphabet noodles, vegetable soup is still a super food.


Here are three strategies I've developed for getting my kids to eat healthy. What are yours? Please share them in the comments section below!

  1. Hummus. See recipe below. My kids love vegetables cut up pretty dipped in hummus. 
  2. Soups. My kids will eat pretty much any vegetable if it's pureed in a soup. My current favorites: Parsnip Soup, Roast Vegetable Soup, and Butternut Squash Soup.  
  3. Get 'em while they're hungry. When my kids get home from school, they'll eat just about anything. If I welcome them home with a platter of cut up fruit, they'll devour it in minutes. It's an amazing thing that warms any mommy's heart. 





Hummus from scratch
I prefer to make my own tahini rather than buying the store bought paste. I hate how the store bought stuff settles and needs to be remixed. The homemade tahini is  just SO much fresher, and really no extra effort once you're pulling out (and washing) the food processor anyway. This recipe calls for 1 cup of sesame seeds even though you only need about half that amount. Less than a cup just doesn't puree well in my food processor. So I make a cup and put away half for another use.  It lasts for about a week in the fridge. 

1 cup sesame seeds
1/3 cup olive or canola oil
3 cans chickpeas, drained, but reserve 1 cup of the liquid
1/2 teaspoon salt
Aleppo pepper or cayenne pepper
juice of 2 lemons
1/2 teaspoon cumin

Combine the sesame seeds and olive oil in the food processor. Process for a good 5 minutes, scraping down the sides from time to time, until all the seeds are smooth.

Remove about half the tahini paste from the machine and put it away for another use. (I just add lemon juice, a bit of water, and spices for a wonderful homemade tahini that's great on salads.) Add the chickpeas, salt, pepper, lemon juice and cumin to the food processor. Add the reserved chickpea liquid a bit of a time, till the hummus reaches the desired consistency.

Refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Linking this post up to Weekend Bloggy ReadingKOAB Recipe Exchange and Ultimate Recipe Swap 

Monday, February 21, 2011

Minestrone


This soup is not glamorous. It's humble, hearty, and not very spectacular looking. But it sure is good. I can't help but share this recipe with my dear readers. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Oh, and don't be tempted to make this pareve or to use water instead of stock. The stock is essential for a rich flavor, and the salty, briny parmesan is a really important finishing touch. In case you don't know my trick for fresh stock every week, here it is: All week long, whenever I peel a fruit or vegetable, I put the peels/cores/leftovers into a ziploc bag in the door of the freezer. I save onion and garlic skins; celery scraps; peels from carrots, potatoes, turnips and sweet potatoes; and apple and pear cores and peels. When the bag is totally full, I rinse the scraps really well in a colander and then I cook it up with a splash of soy sauce and some dried mushrooms for a rich pareve stock.

Minestrone Soup
I know, it seems like a lot of work, but the stock prepares itself while you're making the soup. It's such an easy way to get in more nutrients and flavors.  


STOCK
about 4 cups of vegetable scraps, such as onion and garlic skins; celery scraps; peels from carrots, potatoes, turnips and sweet potatoes; and apple and pear cores and peels
a handful of dried mushrooms
a splash of soy sauce 
8 cups water
3 bay leaves


SOUP
1 tablespoon canola oil

1 onion, chopped coarse
2-3 carrots, peeled and chopped coarse
3 stalks of celery, chopped coarse
1 parsnip, peeled and chopped coarse
1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped coarse
1 large or 2 small zucchini, washed (not peeled), and chopped coarse

1 potato, peeled and chopped coarse
a handful of frozen spinach

1 head of garlic, unpeeled and left whole
1 teaspoon salt
1 can cannellini beans or chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/4 box of your favorite large noodles, like rigatoni or shells, cooked and drained

grated parmesan for garnish
chopped parsley (optional) for garnish


First, start the stock. Wash the vegetable scraps very well in a colander. Combine them with the remaining ingredients in a very large pot. Bring to a boil and skim off any scum that rises to the top. Reduce to a simmer and let cook for about an hour. (Less is okay, but the flavor does get richer as it cooks.)

While the stock is simmering, prepare the vegetables for the soup. Heat the oil in a large soup pot  and saute the onion for a few minutes. Add the carrots and celery and cook for 10-15 minutes, till soft. Add the remaining vegetables and cook a few minutes longer.

When the stock is finished cooking, strain the stock - discarding the vegetables and reserving the liquid. (I simply put the colander over the stock pot with the cooking grated vegetables. I pour the stock right through the colander, leaving the vegetables behind and putting the stock right in with the grated vegetables.)

Add the stock to the cooking vegetables, along with the beans and salt, and cook for another 1/2 hour or so.

Stir the noodles into the individual bowls before serving, garnished with parmesan and/or parsley.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

My Signature Chocolate Chip Cookies (a.k.a. Rum CCC's)


Every homemaker should have a signature chocolate chip cookie. A signature cookie defines you as a cook. As a homemaker. Perhaps even as a person.


Your signature cookie should be uniquely you. When your friends and family taste it, they should think happy thoughts about you.


I came across this recipe about five years ago in Marcel Desaulnier's Death by Chocolate Chip Cookies. The first time I made it, I knew I had found it. My signature cookie. Wow.

This cookie is dense and thick. None of that light crispy business. None of that chewy mushy business. (Please don't take this personally if you like your cookies light and crispy or chewy and mushy. I have nothing against you - not much, anyway - but I am Very Particular about my cookies.) It is positively LOADED with chocolate chips. And it has a wonderful boozy flavor. Again, Wow.

Rum CCC's  (from Death by Chocolate)
These are called "Mrs. D's Chocolate Chip Cookies" in the original recipe. In case you haven't figured it out yet, Rum CCC's stands for Rum Chocolate Chip Cookies.  I have made just a couple of small tweaks over the years. First, I use light brown sugar instead of dark. And, when time allows, I refrigerate the dough for a few hours before shaping and baking. 

4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound butter or margarine
2 cups brown sugar (I use light)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons dark rum
24 ounces chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 300*. Line two baking sheets with foil lightly sprayed with Pam, or with Silpat or parchment.

Place the margarine and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on medium for 4 minutes.

Scrape the sides of the bowl and add the eggs, rum and vanilla. Beat on medium for 2 minutes, scraping halfway through if needed.

Add the baking soda and salt, and then the flour. Mix on low speed just till combined.

Add the chocolate chips and mix briefly, till combined. If time allows, refrigerate the dough for a few hours (or as long as overnight). Don't sweat it if you don't have time for this step. The original recipe omits it but I think it enhances the flavor of these cookies.

Use an ice cream scoop or tablespoon to make 24 mounds of batters, 12 on each tray. (Each mound should have about 2 tablespoons of dough.) You'll get 24 cookies.

Bake for 30 minutes, rotating the trays halfway through to ensure even baking. Cool on racks.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Fried Rice with Vegetables

If you are reading this post in the hopes of finding a beautiful photo of Fried Rice, you are going to be disappointed.

You'll find a pretty picture of raw rice.


A picture of cooked rice.

And, if I do say so myself, some pretty appealing photos of veggies being chopped and then sauteed.


But you will not find a single picture of the finished dish. Nope. Not a one. And I'll be honest with you. I didn't even photograph this dish, because it just wasn't attractive.


It looked oh-so-pretty in the prep stages. All those pretty colors and shapes. Peppers. Celery. Mushrooms. But when it was done, it just didn't look oh-so-pretty anymore.

The saving grace was that it was scrumptious, and we scraped every last bit out of the pan. (Come to think of it, I should have photographed the empty pan. That was a pretty sight.) So, I'm sharing the recipe here. I hope you'll make it. Preferably not on a night when you're having company. Or planning to take photos for your food blog.

Fried Rice with Vegetables
Vary the vegetables if you like. Bok choy, water chestnuts, and baby corn would make a truly Chinese dish. Frozen or fresh corn and peas or red/yellow/orange bell peppers would be really pretty too. If you don't have any leftover rice, make some fresh, but plan in advance so it has a chance to refrigerate for at least a few hours or even overnight. You don't want to start with warm fresh rice for this recipe. 


3 tablespoons canola oil
1 onion, sliced in rings
1 bell pepper, sliced
4 scallions, white and light green parts only, sliced thin
a few button mushrooms, sliced
3-4 stalks celery, sliced
4 cups of leftover brown rice (start with about 1 1/2 cups raw)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil


Heat the canola oil in a large skillet or wok. Add the onion and saute for about 10 minutes on medium heat, till soft. Add the remaining vegetables and cook for another 10 minutes or so, till warmed through and softened. 

Add the rice and mix well (or break it up with your hands). Cook, stirring from time to time, for about 10 minutes or until the rice is warmed through. 

Remove the rice from the heat and stir in the soy sauce and sesame oil. Serve immediately.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Alphabet Vegetable Soup (and my secret to rich stock every week)


Be honest here. When you eat alphabet soup, do you check your letters before you eat them? Do you eat them one at a time? Try finding words on your spoon (extra bonus points for your name)? Saving all the vowels for last?



It doesn't matter how old you are or how many bowls of soup you've eaten in your lifetime. Alphabet soup is ageless. It brings out the kid in all of us.

Here's a recipe for a super doubly nutritious soup made with a nutrient- and flavor-rich stock. Yes, the stock is an extra step. But it is so worth it. You get double the nutrients and double the taste.


If you don't usually make stock, try it. You'll thank me. Here's my technique: All week long, whenever I peel a fruit or vegetable, I put the peels/cores/leftovers into a large ziploc bag that I keep in the door of the freezer. I save onion and garlic skins; celery scraps; peels from carrots, potatoes, turnips and sweet potatoes; and apple and pear cores and peels. I make sure not to put in anything too strongly flavored (think broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage), and I also try not to put in too much of any one vegetable.  (I use a pareve knife so I'm not 'committing' to dairy or meat.) When the bag is totally full, I rinse the scraps really well in a colander and then I cook it up with some chicken bones, for meat stock, or on its own for a pareve stock. (I add a splash of soy sauce and some dried mushrooms for the pareve version.) For tonight's soup, I added chicken bones that were on sale for less than $2. The soup was so richly flavored. Each of us had THREE bowls and we still have some left for tomorrow!



Alphabet Vegetable Soup
You can make this soup with water instead of stock, but it's worth trying it with stock if you can. I know it takes just a bit more effort, but you'll love the rich taste. Stir the pasta into the individual bowls before serving, rather than into the pot. This way you can serve it again the next night, if you have any left, and the pasta will still be firm and tasty.


SOUP
1 onion
2-3 carrots peeled or scrubbed
3 stalks of celery
1-2 parsnips peeled or scrubbed
1 turnip peeled or scrubbed
1 large or 2 small zucchini, washed (not peeled)
1 tablespoon canola oil
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
paprika and/or black pepper, to taste
alphabet noodles

STOCK
about 4 cups of vegetable scraps, such as onion and garlic skins; celery scraps; peels from carrots, potatoes, turnips and sweet potatoes; and apple and pear cores and peels
about 2 pounds of chicken bones or necks
8 cups water
3 bay leaves

First, start the stock. Wash the vegetable scraps very well in a colander. Combine the vegetable scraps, chicken, water and bay leaves in a very large pot. Bring to a boil and skim off any scum that rises to the top. Reduce to a simmer and let cook for about 2 hours. (Less is okay, but the flavor does get richer as it cooks.)

While the stock is simmering, prepare the vegetables for the soup. Use the shredding disc of your food processor to grate the the onion, carrots, celery, parsnips, turnip, and zucchini. Heat the oil in a large soup pot (I use a Le Creuset) and warm the garlic for a minute or two, just till fragrant.  Add the grated vegetables and cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

When the stock is finished cooking, strain the stock - discarding the vegetables and reserving the liquid. (I simply put the colander over the stock pot with the cooking grated vegetables. I pour the stock right through the colander, leaving the vegetables behind and putting the stock right in with the grated vegetables.)

Add the stock to the cooking grated vegetables and cook for another hour or so.

Stir the alphabet noodles into the individual bowls before serving.

Come join Soup-a-Palooza at TidyMom and Dine and Dish sponsored by Bush’s BeansHip HostessPillsbury and Westminster Crackers


Linking this up to Kitchen Tip Tuesday. 

Monday, February 7, 2011

Green Salad with Roasted Vegetables


It's happened at last. The winter has gotten to me. 


I'm tired of snow. I'm tired of cold. I'm tired of my warm winter clothes and the ugly landscape out the window.


I want summer tomatoes. Basil and thyme. Strawberries and blueberries. Lemon balm. Local parsley and cucumbers. I want my herb garden!!!


This salad makes the most of winter produce. Roasting the vegetables brings out their sweetness. The balsamic vinegar and olives give it a pungency, a welcome saltiness. If I can't have summer back, this is a pretty good way to make the most of the winter. Pretty, pretty good.

(Linking this up to Pennywise Platter Thursday and Real Food Wednesday.)

Green Salad with Roasted Vegetables
I really prefer this recipe with baby spinach instead of Romaine, but it works well with Romaine or any dark lettuce. This recipe feeds one as a main dish for lunch, or 2-4 people as a side dish. (Me, I eat the entire salad and will not share.) 

2 parsnips
1 carrot
1 onion
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 baby peppers left whole, or 1 bell pepper sliced in thick wedges
salt and pepper to taste
a handful of green or black olives

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
2 cups baby spinach, Romaine, or other dark lettuce, cleaned and chopped coarse

Preheat the oven to 425*. Peel the parsnips, carrot, and onion. Cut them in even slices, about 1/8 inch thick.

Pour the olive oil onto a large aluminum baking sheet. Add the sliced vegetables plus the peppers. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and mix well. 

Roast in the oven for about 15 minutes, stirring a few times to be sure the vegetables brown evenly. When they look ready, turn off the oven and let them rest in the oven for a few minutes to be sure they are fully roasted. (Sample one if you like, just to be sure.) 

Add the olives to the vegetables and then toss it with vinegar. (At this point, the salad can sit for a few hours at room temperature.) 

Right before serving, add the greens and toss once again. 





Linking this up to KOAB Recipe Exchange!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Mission Chulent: Week 9

We're on the ninth week of our chulent (a.k.a. cholent) experiment (I'm trying a new recipe every week, as long as my friends keep providing!). This week's chulent was a concession to my son, Yaakov Yosef, who will eat as much marrow as I will allow him to. He spreads it on challah, sprinkles it lightly with salt, and savors every bite. (For the uninitiated, marrow has the texture and fattiness of butter, with a rich meaty flavor. Click here to read more about cooking with and eating bone marrow.) 

This chulent is a variation on my mother's meat chulent, but it's heavier and even more richly flavored than the original. Not for the faint of heart (or stomach), this chulent is just the thing for hungry kids and husbands who want a really rich Shabbos lunch experience. (Click here for the original, lighter version.) 

Here are links to all of the other recipes we've tried so far. 


Richest Meat Chulent
1/2 bag mixed chulent beans
1 cup pearl barley
3 Idaho potatoes, cubed
1-2 pounds of flanken
4-6 marrow bones
1 onion, chopped
15 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon hot paprika
2 teaspoons salt

Soak the beans overnight. Drain and combine with the remaining ingredients. Add water to cover. Bring to a boil and then reduce to low. Leave the chulent simmering on low until Shabbos morning, or until you're ready to eat, at least 24 hours if possible. Serve hot.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Extraordinary Cookies


I know what you're thinking. Ordinary people don't have homemade cookies like these. Ordinary people buy store bought seven-layer-cake. If they are feeling ambitious, they bake chocolate chip cookies. Or banana muffins. Or simple chocolate cupcakes. Definitely not cookies such as these.


But ordinary people who have extraordinary eleven-year-old twin daughters just might. They just might convince their super talented daughters to bake and roll out sugar cookies. They just might convince their super helpful husband to take their daughters to the store for fondant and icing tips. They just might convince their super cooperative daughters to decorate said cookies with said fondant and icing tips.


So, there you have it. That's the story of how the very ordinary Locker family got such glamorous cookies to grace our Shabbos table this week. And the story of how this here Ordinary Blogger was reminded (once again) of how good it is to be a mother of two such wonderful eleven-year-old daughters.

Our Favorite Sugar Cookies
Because I am very ordinary, I'm posting the sugar cookie recipe here and leaving it to you to figure out how to decorate them so they look like the spectacular cookies in this post. (If you want to check out this site, you might find it helpful.)

1 lb. margarine
2 cups sugar
7 egg yellows
1/4 cup good white wine
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons lemon juice (preferably fresh squeezed)
2 teaspoons baking powder
8 cups flour (you may need more)

Using an electric mixer, cream the margarine till soft. Add the sugar and cream till light.

Slowly add the eggs and beat until light. Add the remaining ingredients, in the order listed, using as much flour as you need to form a smooth soft dough that doesn't stick to your fingers or to the side of the bowl.

Roll out and shape with cookie cutters. Bake on cookie sheets at 350* for about 15 minutes (more or less, depending on the thickness of your cookies). The cookies should be a very pale golden color.

(If you're ambitious, let the cookies cool thoroughly before using fondant or royal icing to decorate. Sarah - one of the wonderful daughters mentioned above - warns that if you use fondant, you should be prepared for an experience almost as nauseating as eating spoiled yogurt (guess what she had for lunch today). But they sure do look pretty!)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Chai Oatmeal


This dish combines two of my very favorite breakfast foods: Chai Tea and Oatmeal. 


Because I drink Chai tea only on the very rare occasion that I have the time to make it and drink it in peace, to me, Chai means peace, quiet, serenity. It is calming and luxurious. 



Chai Oatmeal, for 1
1/2 cup water
1 cup milk (I use skim)
1 1-inch knob of ginger, peeled and sliced thin
5 cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
4 black peppercorns
2/3 cup oatmeal
1 teaspoon maple syrup, agave, or honey (optional)

Combine the water, milk, ginger and spices in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over a medium flame and then immediately remove from the heat. Cover the saucepan and let the milk sit for about 1/2 hour.

After the milk has been steeping for about 1/2 hour, drain it, discarding the ginger and spices and putting the flavored milk back in the saucepan.

Add the oatmeal to the saucepan and bring to a boil over low heat. Simmer for about 15 minutes, until the oatmeal is as soft as you like it.

Sweeten, if desired. Serve hot.