Japanese Vegetable Dumplings with Ponzu Dipping Sauce (Yasai Gyoza)

The popularity of the dumpling spans the globe with nearly every cuisine stuffing various ingredients into pockets of dough then steaming, frying, boiling or baking them.  While I have yet to find a dumpling that I didn’t like, I am particularly fond of East Asian dumpling variations.  Wontons, mandu, pot stickers, momos, shumai, gyoza— from region to region, Asian dumplings vary even more in ingredients than they do in name.Dumplings--Tofu & Veggie

Because they can be time-consuming to make, take advantage of the economy of scale and prepare a bunch at once.  It may take you 50 minutes to assemble them all, but if you make enough for 2 or 3 servings, well then, you actually saved time, didn’t you?  My heart is filled with an unmatched feeling of self-satisfaction when I pull a homemade meal out of the freezer and have it on the table in less than 15 minutes.  “Yes, I am Supermom.  Oh, please, stop. It’s nothing.”

Cooking with Kids:

I do a lot of culinary art project with my kids instead of crafty ones that usually end up in the trash the week or sometimes the day they were made.  I can’t help it. Besides hating clutter, I have a bit of an obsession with usefulness and efficiency. Cooking with kids kills a couple of birds with one stone—fun together time, creative exploration and a nourishing meal to boot. So put down that empty toilet paper roll you were crafting into a bunny and get in the kitchen with your kids and start folding dumplings. Making dumplings exercises their small motor skills while fostering  their creativity.  Use scissors to snip and cut ingredients down to tiny bits.  Vary how you fold the dumpling to be even more creative.   I thought this video “How To Fold Gyoza” from Not Just Rice showed a couple of good variations. Our particular favorite is one we call “paper hat.”

Japanese Vegetable Dumplings with Ponzu Dipping Sauce (Yasai Gyoza)
Author: 
Recipe type: Appetizer or side dish
Cuisine: Japanese
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 30 dumplings
 
The shitake mushrooms add umami (meaty flavor) to this delightful dumpling. Even devout carnivores will find it difficult to stop eating these.
Ingredients
  • ½ lb. firm or extra firm tofu
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 small red bell pepper, finely chopped (¼ cup)
  • 1 small carrot, finely chopped (¼ cup)
  • 2 green onions, minced (2 T)
  • 4 small rehydrated or fresh shitake mushrooms, finely chopped (¼ cup)
  • 2 T finely chopped cilantro
  • 1 small clove garlic, grated
  • ½ t ginger, grated
  • 2 t sugar
  • 1 T soy sauce
  • ½ t salt
  • ¼ t white pepper
  • 1 t sesame seed oil
  • 2 t corn or potato starch
  • 30 wonton wrappers, any shape
  • ½ cup of stock or water
  • Oil
  • PONZU DIPPING SAUCE
  • Rice wine vinegar or fresh squeezed lemon or citron juice
  • Soy sauce
Instructions
  1. MAKING THE FILLING
  2. Rinse the tofu. Next drain the tofu by wrapping it in a tea towel and placing it between 2 boards or plates. Allow it to stand like this for 20 minutes. The pressure from the top plate will press out excess water.
  3. Meanwhile, prep and mix the next 14 ingredients (stop at corn starch; don't include the wonton wrappers or beyond).
  4. Crumble the drained tofu and gently mix with the other ingredients.
  5. WRAPPING THE WONTONS
  6. Place 1 – 2 teaspoons of filling into the center of a wrapper.
  7. Dip your finger in a small bowl of water and moisten the edge of half the wrapper.
  8. Join the corners to form a triangle.
  9. Gather both sides of the wonton and press edges to seal.
  10. Freeze or cook immediately.
  11. COOKING INSTRUCTIONS
  12. Heat a non-stick pan under a medium-high flame and brush with oil.
  13. Once hot place a few dumplings (do not crowd) in the pan and fry for 1 - 2 minutes, until the edges start to turn golden.
  14. Next add 2 tablespoons of stock or water to the hot pan and cover with a lid; reduce heat to medium and cook another 2 minutes. (This steams them.)
  15. Remove from pan and continue the process until all of the dumplings are served.
  16. To make this simplified version of ponzu, combine equal parts citron juice, lemon juice or rice wine vinegar to soy sauce. Garnish and flavor the ponzu with minced green onion, grated ginger, pepper flakes or sesame seed oil.
Notes
You can substitute the carrot and bell pepper with finely chopped Napa or green cabbage. Be sure to squeeze out as much water from the veggies as possible.

Dumpling--Crumbling Tofu

My little one likes using her large motor skills to squish the tofu.

Storage:

Place the dumplings that you plan to freeze on cookie sheets covered with waxed paper.  Once frozen, transfer the dumplings to freezer-safe boxes or bags.  Be sure to label and date and contents clearly.  They should keep in the freezer for 3 – 6 months.  Dumplings--prepared

 

Whole Wheat Maple Carrot Bread

From sweet to savory, quick bread recipes—those that use quick-rise leavening agents like baking soda instead of slow-rising yeast—abound. The most popular lean to the sweet side and contain some fruit or veggie along with other goodies like chopped nuts, chocolate chips or spices.  Think zucchini or banana bread.Whole Wheat Maple Carrot Quick Bread--the ingredients

Because March can be a challenge for the Midwestern locavore, this quick bread recipe takes advantage of what fresh produce remains at the Milwaukee County Winter Farmers Market in these dwindling days of winter.  Behold the miracle of the March carrot, which retains its sweet flavor and crisp texture  five months after its harvest.

In my opinion, carrots, walnuts and maple create a perfect trifecta of flavor.  And while whole wheat flour is used, the texture remains light and tender. (If you have reservations  about using  whole grains in a sweet treat, click here for motivation.)   The whole food ingredients make this bread nutrient dense so serve it for a quick, healthy breakfast or an after-school snack.  Beware, however, that it is still calorie dense so don’t eat the whole loaf as you may be tempted to do. (Or is it just me that finds the flavor of maple syrup irresistible?)Whole Wheat Maple Carrot Quick Bread 2

Maple Carrot Bread
Author: 
Recipe type: Baking, Breakfast
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 2 loaf pans
 
These make great muffins too; just reduce the bake time to about 15 minutes.
Ingredients
  • DRY INGREDIENTS
  • 3 cups of all-purpose or pastry whole wheat flour
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 3 t baking powder
  • 1 t *cinnamon--optional
  • WET INGREDIENTS
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup oil
  • 1 cup brown *sugar, packed
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • 2 t vanilla extract
  • 3 cups grated carrot
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • GLAZE TOPPING
  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • 1 t vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. Grease two loaf pans. Place parchment or waxed paper at the bottom for easiest release. Preheat oven to 350◦ F.
  2. In a large bowl combine the “Dry Ingredients” using a whisk to make sure they are thoroughly combined.
  3. Next, beat the “Wet Ingredients” together in a mixing bowl.
  4. Add the dry to the wet ingredients and stir until combined—DO NOT OVER-STIR!
  5. Pour into prepared pans and bake at 350◦ F for about an hour. Insert a skewer in the center to check that the interior is done before removing from the oven. The loaf is baked if the skewer comes out clean or with few crumbs.
  6. Once baked, remove from oven and cool on a rack for 10-20 minutes. Next, remove bread from the pan and cool further on a rack.
  7. Whisk the confectioner's sugar,maple and vanilla until completely smooth. Drizzle maple glaze over the warm bread. It will set once cooled.
Notes
*Cinnamon can sometimes over-power the subtle flavor of maple. For greater maple flavor, leave out the cinnamon altogether and drizzle or sprinkle maple syrup or maple sugar on top of the unbaked loafs. Once baked, follow with the maple glaze.
**This recipe is very flexible, I have left out the sugar altogether and reduced it by half with still great, fluffy less-sweet muffins.

Storage Tip:

Because whole wheat flours include the germ, they contain oils. These oils can go rancid easily and cause a bitter, unpleasant flavor. According to the Whole Grains Council, whole grain flours kept in an air-tight containers should last for 3 months in the pantry and 6-12 months in the fridge or freezer.Whole Wheat Maple Carrot Quick Bread--greasing the pansWhole Wheat Maple Carrot Quick Bread-cracking eggsWhole Wheat Maple Carrot Quick Bread--Mixing

Cooking with Kids:

Because baking requires little-to-no knife work, I always include the kids.  It allows them greater autonomy and participation in the cooking process as I’m not hovering over them making sure they don’t cut their finger. We’ve baked together so often, that the girls know how to properly measure flours by spooning them into the dry measuring cups and leveling them. They know how to crack eggs.  They can essentially do everything…except read, but we’re working on that.  My goal in including them is to not only create healthier eaters but also contributing members of the family that can make me a quick bread sometime in the near future while I relax.Whole Wheat Maple Carrot Quick Bread--eating glazeWhole Wheat Maple Carrot Quick Bread 1

 

Onion Chutney

From cooked to raw, smooth to course, and sour to sweet, Indian cuisine abounds with condiments made from veggies and spices known as chutneys. If you frequent Indian restaurants, you probably have sampled at least three of these: mint, tamarind and onion.  For unknown reasons, these chutneys have become the ubiquitous accompaniment to most Indian buffets.

Onion Chutney 2While I find them all delicious along with countless other chutneys, onion remains my favorite. Essentially a pickle (you may have noticed my fondness for all things pickled), onion chutney adds tantalizing zing and bite to any meal. This recipe forgoes the preternatural red dye that most restaurants add.  I made up the recipe based on taste; the Man tweaked it adding tempered mustard seeds.  He couldn’t help himself—Keralite Indians believe mustard seeds make everything better.  I say it works either way.

Onion Chutney IngredientsOnion chutney along with dal is a part of our basic Sunday night Indian meal.  I use this chutney in non-Indian meals too.  I particularly like it with eggs or smoked meats.

Onion Chutney
Author: 
Recipe type: Condiment
Cuisine: Indian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 1 cup
 
Ingredients
  • 1 T oil--mustard, vegetable or canola (optional)
  • 1 T black mustard seeds (optional)
  • I large onion, finely chopped (about a cup)
  • ½ t salt
  • ½ t sweet paprika
  • 1 pinch cayenne powder
  • 3 T cider vinegar
Instructions
  1. If adding the mustard seeds, first heat the oil in a small pan over a medium-high flame.
  2. Once hot, add mustard seeds and cook until they "pop" and release their flavor (30 seconds), then immediately remove from heat.
  3. Mix all the ingredients, store in a glass jar, refrigerate, and serve the next day. The chutney should last several weeks if kept refrigerated.
Notes
Cooking spices in oil to release their flavor is called tempering spices and is a technique used in many Indian dishes.

Tip: 

If you live in a town or city with even a small Indian population, you undoubtedly have access to an Indian grocery.  I can think of five in Milwaukee alone and every time I drive to an unfamiliar part of the city or suburbs, I see another one.  Find one near you and go.  The Indian grocery sells spices and other whole foods like rice, legumes and nuts at a fraction of the cost you find in the supermarket.

Going to a small mom & pop shop where YOU are the foreigner can seem intimidating sometimes, but they do want you and your business.  Be brave  Just think of it as an adventure—a cheap, quick, international-travel experience.  Go; take your time; explore the aisles; it’s fun to discover new foods.  Think about it as visiting an ethnic museum with a food theme.  Not only will you have fun, but you will also support a local family business while you save money.  I can’t think of a better masala than that!

Split Red Lentil Dal

Split Red Lentils--Dal & RiceIf you’ve ever wanted to try making Indian food at home, start with dal. Think of it as the stepping-stone Indian dish.  Next to rice, nothing could be easier or more essential.  Dal refers to both legumes (peas, lentils or beans) which have been hulled and split and to the stew-like dishes created from these legumes. You can find many types of dal in the Indian grocery store:  toor dal is made from yellow pigeon peas; mung dal is made from mung beans and so forth.  In addition to varying pulses, dal recipes vary even more from region to region and family to family.

kerala_mapMy husband is from the spice coast of southern India, Kerala.  This is his recipe, which of course now makes it our family’s recipe. Because he misses food from his homeland and because I have purposefully avoided learning how to make anything from there, he has developed a talent for cooking it.  Any small whim or memory can set him off on recreating a meal from his youth.  The task brings him a satisfaction that I wouldn’t dream of stealing.  He owns this corner of the culinary map, which has saved me from having to feed everyone night after night—a daily imperative that could easily steal my joy for cooking.

So our family has established a tradition of dedicating Sundays to Indian cuisine.  The Man is the executive chef; we help out as occasional kitchen grunts. The weekly curries change, but dal and rice—the foundation foods of our Indian feast— remain constant.  The Man’s main recipe uses masoor dal, split red lentils.  He has taught me to cook it, and I have, but of course his always tastes better.

5.0 from 2 reviews
Split Red Lentil Dal
Author: 
Recipe type: Side Dish
Cuisine: Indian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 4-6 servings
 
Serve with basmati rice and yogurt for a quick week-night meal.
Ingredients
  • 1 cup split red lentils (masoor dal)
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 T oil
  • 1 t cumin seeds
  • ½ t kosher salt
  • 3 + ½ cups stock or water
  • 2 paste tomatoes, cored and chopped
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro
Instructions
  1. In medium sauce pan, heat oil over a medium-high flame until hot. Add cumin seeds and cook until the aroma is released–-about 30 seconds.
  2. Quickly add the chopped onion and salt. Sauté until the onion is golden—about 6 -8 minutes.
  3. Next add the lentils, 3 cups of water or stock, and stir. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and cook uncovered for about 10 minutes stirring occasionally. (The lentils should be nearly cooked).
  4. Add chopped tomatoes and cook another 3 minutes. Add more liquid if it appears too thick.
  5. Remove from heat, stir in cilantro, and adjust seasoning. Serve with rice.
Notes
This is the basic recipe.

Add a green chili or dried red chili if you like a bit of heat. Add a cup of chopped tender greens like spinach or cabbage at the end and cook for a minute or 2 if you want an even heartier dal.

For the stock:water ratio, the Man usually uses 2½ cups stock and the rest water.

Split Red Lentil Dal--prepped ingredientsIf you’ve never before tried red lentils, please do.  Not only do they take little time to prepare (an exceptional trait among legumes) they have a unique flavor—rich, peppery, and satisfying with little additional flavorings or spices.  Moreover, they are a nutritional powerhouse. A grain (rice) and a legume (red lentil) eaten together give us all the essential protein we need, eliminating the need for animal proteins.  Many Indian families, including ours, eat just this combination of rice and dal with a bit of yogurt and a chutney or veggie for a complete meal.

Cooking with Kids:

This is less about cooking with kids than eating with kids.   If your kids are anything like mine, the first time they see anything new on their plate they scream, and yes, sometimes even cry, which inspires fantasies of sending them off as volunteers to a distant refugee camp where they might learn some gratitude for the food on their plates and roof over their heads!  That is how I know that some of you are thinking right now that your kids will never eat something like Indian food.   But this dish is pretty tame.  Once they get past the initial fit and put it in their mouth, I bet they will like dal, perhaps not immediately but soon. Remember, it may take up to 18 exposures to a new food before you can safely say that you don’t like it; that goes for kids and adults. So try serving it at least a few times before you give up…for awhile.  My kids (like the nearly 1 billion kids in India) have grown to love dal.  And once they like the dal and rice, well then we can start making some really tantalizing South Indian curries to go with them.

 

 

Whole Grain Apple Crisp

Apple Crisp--ServedI easily succumb to the temptation of sweet treats particularly baked goods.  My daughters share this weakness, though they naturally gravitate to candy.   My husband is the exception, and despite his relentless admonishments, we eat a sweet treat nearly every night after dinner—not a lot but something.  The meal just doesn’t feel complete without it.

Though I love bakery treats, I have limited talent for the art of baking, and that is purposeful. As a limited resource, I have only so much time to dedicate to cooking.  If I’m doing my best to create whole-food, plant-based meals every day that are not only healthy but enjoyable to eat, well then sweet treats have to take a backseat. Moreover, let’s say that I did regularly bake.  Who would eat it?  Not my children.  I am a responsible parent, and would limit their intake.  Not my sweet-toothless husband.  That leaves me, standing alone in my pantry, quietly cramming cookies in my mouth while my children call out, “What are you doing in there, Mama?”  I’ve been down that road to Weight Watchers more than once.

When I do find the time to make desserts, I incorporate the foods we need for good health too—fruits, legumes and whole grains.  I don’t delude myself.  Even though they they are made with whole foods, they remain desserts—hard-to-resist, calorie-dense, goodies made with butter and sugar.  Eating a lot of them will make you fat.

Some of you may poo-poo my sweet treat philosophy.  You’re thinking, “Just let cake be cake, and healthy foods be damned at dessert-time.”  But cake is too easy to come by, and I eat enough of it without going out of my way.   My own cooking efforts have to go toward the goal of including at least 8 – 12 serving of fruits and vegetables in our diet every day. This adds a challenging new dimension to the art of creating sweet treats. While I want them to be healthy, taste is essential. Nothing leaves me feeling more cheated than eating a grainy, tasteless food masquerading as a sweet treat.

Fruit is a natural solution.  It’s nature’s candy. I make apple crisp a lot and have for years.  The prep work takes only a few minutes with the right tools, it’s chock full of apples, and no-one feels cheated when served a warm, fresh from-the-oven helping of apple crisp topped with a dollop of ice cream or whipped cream.

Apple Crisp
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 8
 
Pears, peaches, and cherries also work nicely in this recipe. Serve it with a bit of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
Ingredients
  • 3 ½ pounds apples, cored and peeled
  • 1 T lemon juice (optional)
  • ½ cup raisins or other dried fruit (optional)
  • 6 T unsalted butter, cold
  • ½ cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • ½ cup quick oats
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
Instructions
  1. Lightly butter an 11” x 7” (8 cup) baking dish and preheat oven to 375◦ F.
  2. Core and peel the apples; toss with lemon juice and dried fruit; and place in the baking dish.
  3. Cut the butter into small chunks.
  4. Using a food processor or fork or hands, cut the butter into the rest of the dry ingredients until it is just combined. (It should look lumpy and crumbly).
  5. Sprinkle the crumble mixture over the apples and bake until the apples are tender and the crisp is crisp—about 50 minutes.

Cooking with Kids:

Apple Crisp Prep--Pealing Apples

This may be one of the easiest, no-fuss, no-danger recipes to make with your kids.  Invest in an apple peeler if you don’t have one.  Kids never tire of using that gadget.

Officially, to make the crumble, you should not use your hands to cut the butter into the dry ingredients as the heat from your hands will melt the butter. I ignore this rule as the kids love to use their hands. Just don’t let them do it for too long and start with ice cold butter. I haven’t noticed any difference in crisp mixed with a fork or hands.

Apple Crisp Ingredients--All   Apple Crisp Ingredients--ButterApple Crisp Prep--Nutmeg2

The girls made this recipe with me just supervising and setting up.

Apple Crisp Prep--Making Topping

Apple Crisp--Before Baking

The crisp before placing it in the oven.

 

 

 

Perfect Popcorn–Herb Buttered & Beyond

As I wander down the snack aisle of the supermarket, I marvel at the ingenuity of the food industry.  They have managed to take popcorn–a healthy, cheap, easily accessible, easily stored whole grain snack food—and transform it into a highly processed, expensive, unhealthy food.   Not long ago, Americans made popcorn from scratch on their stove tops for all sorts of occasions—family movie night, holiday treats, slumber parties and after school snacks.  Making and eating popcorn represented togetherness and celebration.  Now we buy popcorn that we nuke in the microwave to eat in bags while we watch TV alone.

Let’s reclaim the American popcorn tradition. Consider the following:  Popcorn kernels cost anywhere from $0.08 to $0.15 an ounce compared to microwave popcorn which starts at about $0.30 an ounce.  It takes 1 minute of prep time and 4 minutes of cook time to make about 2 quarts of popcorn on the stovetop.  The average microwave popcorn bag take approximately 3 minutes of cook-time.  Popcorn from scratch tastes better. Do a taste comparison with your family if you don’t believe me.  Moreover, if you buy popcorn from a local farmer or from the bulk food section, your packaging can be nil compared to bagged, wrapped and boxed microwave brands.  Lastly, only 3 ingredients are required to make stovetop popcorn. On the other hand, even the most “natural” of microwave brands contain preservatives and ingredients like “palm oil” whose production is destroying the rainforest.  (My big girl told me that rainforests are cut down to make room for palm oil plantations).

So at the end of the comparison we find that microwave popcorn saves us 2 minutes of time and a pan to wash.  True, you must give your full attention to the 5-minute cooking process while making stovetop popcorn, but I don’t consider this a disadvantage because it’s fun especially with the kids. So if you value good flavor, your health, orangutans (whose numbers are diminishing due to the devastation of the rainforest), your money, your family, then make popcorn  from scratch and make the world a better place.  Who knew popcorn could do all of that?!

Perfect Popcorn with Herb Buttered Topping
Author: 
Recipe type: Appetizer or Snack
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 8 - 10 cups
 
Perfect Popcorn is the basic popcorn recipe and delicious all on it's own. This isn't a fussy recipe. Using a wok concentrates the heat and reduces cooking time but it is not essential. The main thing is to keep shaking and have a pan with a lid that allows steam to escape.
Ingredients
  • ½ cups popcorn kernels
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 Tablespoons canola oil or any oil with a high smoking point--vegetable, corn, coconut, peanut, etc.
Instructions
  1. Use a large pan of wok with a relatively lose fitting lid so the steam can escape. (If you don't have a lid, you can cover the pan with tinfoil and poke a few holes in it).
  2. Add the popcorn, salt, and oil to the pan or wok, cover with a lid, and cook over a high flame shaking the pan back and forth constantly.
  3. Continue shaking until the popcorn slows in popping—about 3-5 minutes depending on the type of pan.
  4. Remove from heat and carefully stir in any salt that has accumulated on the side. Eat as is or top with favorite topping.
Notes
HERB BUTTER TOPPING: 2 Tablespoons melted butter; ¼ cup chopped dill or other herbs; Drizzle melted butter over popcorn and toss. Sprinkle chopped herbs over popcorn and toss again. (TIP: Don't melt the butter with the herbs or they will clump). MORETOPPING IDEAS: - Parmesan cheese - Cayenne pepper and sugar - Soy sauce - Garlic powder - Balsamic vinegar - Cinnamon and Powdered Sugar - Garlic powder and Paprika - Melted butter or margarine - Garlic powder and paprika - Chopped fresh herbs - Powdered Sugar and Cocoa - Tabasco - Brewers yeast (a Milwaukee favorite)

Cooking With Kids:

The girls made this entire recipe.  I just supervised or rather, refereed.

My big girl chopped the dill with kid scissors, chopping and measuring enough to fill ¼ cup.  Meanwhile the little one measured the popcorn, oil and salt into the wok.

 

One melted the butter while the other made the popcorn.

Finally, enjoying the fruits of their labor.

Tips:

Popcorn needs between 13.5-14% moisture to pop. So if your popcorn won’t pop maybe it’s too dry.  Try filling a quart jar 3/4 full of popcorn.  Add 1 tablespoon of water and shake until it is absorbed.  Store in a cool place.  A few days later, the popcorn should pop.

Potato Leek Soup

If you have never made potato leek soup, you are missing out on the culinary equivalent to a warm and fuzzy pair of slippers. The unpretentious leek and the lowly potato combined, create a soup whose flavor is greater than the sum of its parts.  Serve it with warm, whole wheat bread and a simple green salad and you have a great weeknight meal. Your only regret will be that you did not make this sooner.  If you didn’t stock up before the end of regular market season, locally grown potatoes and leeks can be found now through early spring at the Winter Farmers Market.


Potato Leek Soup
Author: 
Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 5 servings
 
This recipe is very flexible and easy to double or half. In general, just use a 2:1 ratio of leeks to potatoes. Add more or less cream as desired.
Ingredients
  • 3 T unsalted butter
  • 3 medium all purpose potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped (1.5 lbs)
  • 5 - 6 large leeks (about 6 cups chopped)
  • 1½ t kosher salt
  • 5 cups chicken stock
  • ½ t white pepper
  • 1 cup half and half (optional)
  • Chives for garnish (optional)
Instructions
  1. Cut off the root-ends and green stems of the leeks. Slice the white portion vertically and separate the layers. Swish the layers in a cold-water bath so that grit falls to the bottom. Roughly chop the cleaned leeks into ¼ inch bits.
  2. In a large pot, melt butter on medium heat.
  3. Add the leeks with salt to the pot and sweat them until they become soft--about 6-8 minutes. Be careful not to brown the leeks.
  4. Next add stock, chopped potatoes, and white pepper. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Simmer covered for 15 minutes or more until the potatoes are soft.
  5. Turn off heat and add half & half if desired. Blend to desired texture with an immersion blender. Season to taste. Serve warm in bowls and garnish with chopped chives.

Cooking with Kids:

If you have a fussy eater on your hands, just call it potato soup.  Potatoes are an easy sell, even to the most vegetable adverse child.   My purely anecdotal data suggests that you have an 85% chance of them loving this soup at first slurp even if they fall into the category of extreme food neophobe.  Have them eat it a few times before you subtly introduce the whole name and the show them the leek.

If you want them to cook with you, have them do the prep work.  I don’t know about you, but that’s why I had kids. (Well, not really, but it’s a perk).  Kids can peel the potatoes and cut them it into chunks. This isn’t precision work; give them a steak knife and directions for keeping the knife away from fingers.  My children also enjoy washing the leeks.  Once clean, they use scissors instead of a knife to cut the leeks into ¼ inch bits.

Sesame Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Canned “yams” smothered in marshmallows—the mention of the dish sends a chill up my spine.  They were a staple of my childhood Thanksgivings and for years I was convinced that I hated sweet potatoes.  I know many Americans especially Midwesterners who share this experience, and consequently  despise the sweet potato rejecting it in all forms.

But this dish with its complex sweet, spicy, and nutty flavor and creamy, crunchy texture convinced me to re-examine my opinion of the orange tuber.  In fact,  I have insisted on cooking these for family and friends on a single-woman crusade to change the minds of the many Midwesterners who share a sad and checkered past with those “candied yams.”  Just like Sam-I-Am I feel such joy when their eyes open wide in surprise and delight to at last discover that “They do! They do like sweet potatoes.  And they would eat them on a boat.  And they would eat them with a goat…”

 

Sesame Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Author: 
Recipe type: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 6
 
Ingredients
  • 2 lbs. sweet potatoes
  • 3 T neutral oil, canola or grapeseed
  • 1 t salt
  • 2 t chilli powder
  • 1 T honey
  • 1 T sesame seeds
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into even 1-inch cubes.
  3. In a bowl, toss all the ingredients together until the potatoes are evenly coated with oil and spices.
  4. Lay potatoes on a cookie sheet in a single layer and roast for 15 minutes.
  5. Turn the potatoes and roast another 15 minutes or until done.
  6. Serve immediately.

Cooking with Kids:

Have the kids mix and measure.  I also have the kids peel the potatoes…supervised of course.

Homemade Applesauce for Canning—Rich, Rustic, Caramelize Sweetness in a Jar

Every year just as growing season comes to an end, I make at least 10 quarts of applesauce and can it.  It takes a lot of energy to make 2½ gallons of applesauce, and truthfully, I don’t always feel joy in my heart as I go through the process.  However, the taste and flavor of homemade applesauce overshadows the toil and labor of the processing.  Store-bought simply cannot compare to the homemade product.  Besides, the children rave about it, request it, nay, demand it, and how can you say “no” to that sort of praise especially over such a healthy, wholesome food.

To lighten the load and put the joy back into canning, I usually enlist the help of a friend or two and dedicate an afternoon.  I also process smaller portions here and there throughout November and December, and at these times, I use the help of the kids.

In addition to helping hands, the right tool for the job can make all the difference.  Get an apple peeler/corer gadget.  It makes peeling and coring manageable; some would even say—particularly the kids—fun! I bought mine at a big box store 5 years ago for $13.00 and it still works like a charm.

My recipe consists of one ingredient—apples.  Any sort of apple will do, even the less flavorful varieties like red delicious. Any sort of condition will suffice.  Why transform crunchy, pristine beauties into mush when so many sweet and homely ones are looking for a place to shine. I generally buy seconds (apples with flaws sold at a discount) from my farmer, and cut away any bad parts.

Some may want to add spices like cinnamon or nutmeg.  I am a bit of a purest about my applesauce preferring to enjoy the unsullied flavor of caramelized apples.  Not everyone shares my opinion; I respect that.  Add spices if you wish. It will not impact the safety of the canned product.

Useful Weights and Measures

  • 4 pounds of apples makes 1 quart of applesauce
  • 1 peck of apples is about 12.5 pounds
  • ½ bushel of apples is about 25 pounds
  • 1 bushel of apples is about 50 pounds

Homemade Apple Sauce

Ingredients

  • Apples

Steps

  1. Gather and prepare your jars and canning equipment. See How to Can Pickles and Fruits if you need a canning tutorial
  2. Begin peeling and coring your apples. After peeling and coring a few, toss them into a large, heavy-bottomed stock pot or Dutch oven with a tight fitting lid.
  3. Cook the apples on a medium-low heat with the lid on.
  4. Continue peeling, coring and tossing apples into the pot as you go.
  5. With a masher, mix and crush the cooking apples every 3 – 5 minutes.  Be certain to return the lid to the pot after each time you add more apples.
  6. If the apples seem to be cooking too slowly, increase the heat a little at a time.  If they begin scorching add a bit of water and reduce the heat.  The goal is to cook them slowly in their own juices without added water.  This makes for a rich flavorful applesauce.  Time and heat should soften them with minimal mashing.
  7. After the last apple is added cook at least 10 more minutes.
  8. Once the desired golden color is reached and the apples are thoroughly cooked, you may smooth out the texture further with an emersion blender.
  9. Keep the sauce simmering as you add it to canning jars.  Leave ½ inch head space and process both pints and quarts for 20 minutes in a boiling water canner.
  10. Once processed and cooled completely, remove screw bands and wipe the jars thoroughly. (The applesauce leaches out during canning and creates a sticky mess on the outside of the jar.)  Label and date.

Cooking with Kids:  The little one gives a tutorial on using the apple peeler/corer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cauliflower Soup

Warm meal in one bowl

What could be better than soup

                                                   On cold autumn nights

I wrote a haiku about soup.  Need I say more about my affection for the dish?  And really, can anyone dispute the perfection of a soup meal—satisfying, simple, flavorful, full-o-veggies, and cheap to boot.  Each year from November to April, I unilaterally declare Wednesdays “Soup Night” but no-one here complains about this particular dictatorial edict.  They love soup too.

I suspect some of you are thinking that you too love soup, but are not the biggest fan of cauliflower. To confess, I never feel enthusiastic about cauliflower either. That is, until I cook it, taste it, and remember that the bland, white color belies its actual sweet and nutty flavor which is sweeter yet as we have experienced a few light frosts. This recipe showcases that subtle sweetness if you are careful not to over-cook it.  Remember, cauliflower belongs to the cabbage family and will smell unappetizingly sulfurous if cooked to mush.  Past experiences with stinky cauliflower may be the origin of your hesitation.  Hestitate no more and try it.  You can thank me later.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Cauliflower Soup
Author: 
Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 10 cups
 
Potatoes and a roux give this soup a thich rich texture without the fat. No need to bother with cream or cheese.
Ingredients
  • 3 T butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (1 cup chopped)
  • 1 medium carrot, finely chopped (1/2 cup)
  • 1 stalk of celery with leaves, finely chopped (1/3 cup)
  • 1 t kosher salt
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 2 T all-purpose flour
  • ¼ t white pepper
  • 3 cups stock
  • 3 cups milk
  • 2 T sake or dry white wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 medium potato, peeled and finely diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 small head of cauliflower cut into small florets (about 8 cups or 2.5 lbs)
  • 1 T mince fresh parsely
  • ¼ t mince fresh thyme or tarragon
Instructions
  1. In a large sauce pan, melt the butter slowly over medium heat.
  2. Add onions, carrot, celery and salt; sweat the veggies slowly (about 5 minutes)stirring occassionally until they are soft and transparent. Reduce the heat if the veggies begin to brown.
  3. When veggies are nearly done, add the minced garlic and cook another minute until fragrant.
  4. Next, add 2 T of flour; stir continuously for another minute creating a roux--a flour-butter paste coating the veggies.
  5. Next add the stock, milk, and all remaining ingredients except the parsely and thyme. Bring to a boil and reduce heat.
  6. Simmer for 15 minutes or until florets are cooked but firm.
  7. Turn off heat, stir in herbs, and partially purree with a masher of immersion blender.
  8. Serve with warm, buttered bread.

In our house, soup night comes with a side of rustic, whole grain bread bought from the bakery and warmed in the oven. (This is a weeknight meal and I am certainly not about to start baking bread.) Spread with butter, warm bread completes the meal and serves as the perfect medium for sopping up every last drop of soupy goodness.

Preserve it:  Cauliflower is in season. Buy a few extra heads and freeze it for soup. Cut it into florets, soak in salted water to clean and remove insects, then blanch in a large pot of boiling water a pound at a time for 3 minutes—place florets in the boiling water, return the lid to the pot, and start timing immediately.  If you add more than a pound at a time, the temperature will drop too low.  After 3 minutes, promptly remove and place in ice water. Drain and arrange florets on cookie sheets and place in the freezer. Once frozen, place florets in freezer-safe bags and date. I prefer this method so that the florets are individually frozen, and I can take from the bag the quantity I need.

Cooking with Kids: This recipe lends itself to all sorts of activities for kids, but then it won’t be a quick meal. Never include your kids in the cooking process if you are pressed for time–everyone will become angry and frustrated. I know this from experience. So if you have ample time, have the kids do the weighing and measuring—an excellent, hands-on math application. I always have my girls harvest the herbs and mince them with their tiny kid-scissors. I also have them peal the garlic clove with their nimble little fingers and then pushing it through a garlic press. My little assistants jump at the chance to use any gadgetry.