...Growing, Building, Cooking, Preserving, Crafting...

2006 began our urban homestead when I broke ground on a garden, which now includes perennial fruits, flowers, & many vegetable varieties. We dream of solar panels, keeping bees and hens. Until then we'll continue growing and preserving our own fruits and vegetables, building what we can for our home, cooking from scratch, and crafting most days.



I mentioned that I didn't set any official New Year's Resolutions, meaning I didn't formally write something down in stone.  Though I've made a short mental list.  One of those notes was to perk things up a bit with feeding my daughter as I feel that we get stuck in a lot of ruts--especially at lunch time when I'm trying to prepare something quickly as she's melting down.  When we were traveling here, there, and everywhere during the holidays we had the pleasure of couch surfing for a night with some friends in Chicagoland.  They have a little guy just about the same age as Vera.  Our lovely hostess put out some appetizers including a tray of vegetables and dip.  I was so impressed by how well their son gobbled up the raw veggies, especially the bell peppers.  Being a culinary professional for a living does has it's drawbacks when you have kids.  I have felt a mild amount of pressure (probably mostly self-induced) because I feel like some people expect my child to eat any food--no matter how "exotic"--that you put in front of her.  Such is not the case; she's just like the average toddler when it comes to "picky" eating--getting hung up on single foods and immediately turning her nose up at green veggies.  We've done the best that we know how to get her to branch out, but it's just something that happens with toddler's whether it's a textural issue or a simple attempt at asserting oneself.  As CG powered down on the fresh veggies I realized at least one "mistake" I might be making with how we feed Vera.  We've been dedicated to eating locally and seasonally for several years.  I don't buy tomatoes out of season, I try to change our menus to incorporate cooling versus warming foods as the temperature rises or drops, and the vast majority of the fruit we consume in the winter is what I've canned or frozen.  So with toddlers who sometimes need to taste a food at least 15 times before deciding whether they like it or not, I'm wondering if our pattern of fleeting vegetables--once they're gone with the seasons, we don't see them for another many months--isn't allowing her the chance to really get into some of these colorful, nutrient-packed foods.  I will still focus on buying what's fresh and in season, but I've decided that at least maybe until she seems to have settled into her true likes and dislikes (which could certainly be ever-evolving) I will give myself a break and buy the occasional fresh bell peppers, cucumbers, fresh broccoli, etc. to encourage her.  (Though I still don't think I could bring myself to purchase tomatoes in winter--they just don't taste like ANYTHING to me.)

On this note, I'm also giving myself a break when it comes to serving some of those comfort foods kids almost always like...with some tweaks.  I always said I'd never be the mom who routinely feeds my kids hot dogs and goldfish crackers and ordered the standard deep-fried offerings on most restaurant's kids' menus.  People will tell you "but that's what kids want," but my theory is it's only what they want if they don't know all the other great options.  Yesterday I took a step in the direction of branching out a bit at lunch.  The only other time I can remember hot dogs entering our home is via a camping trip...Vera enjoyed a couple franks while we were living out in nature for a weekend then we subsequently made "Beanie Weenie" with the rest of them upon returning home.  I went to the co-op last week and bought some all-natural, no fillers, no nitrates, casein- and gluten-free, organic dogs and came up with a "healthy" (or at least healthier) version of the classic Pigs-in-a-Blanket, which was actually one of my favorite dinners as a child.

Pigs-in-a-Green-Blanket (Gluten-Free)
Makes 8 dogs

I was originally trying to find some pre-made organic, gluten-free crescent roll dough at the store, but had no luck.  This biscuit dough worked, but was flakier than crescent rolls and therefore didn't exactly stay on the "pig" very well for dipping.  This was good for my child though because she was most interested in just eating the piggies anyway.  Note: even though these are all-natural, doesn't mean one should eat three in a single day as I was tempted to do yesterday.  

Biscuit "Blanket": (you will have plenty of leftover dough to cut out a batch of biscuits or freeze for later use)
Ready for the oven
4 c. all-purpose gluten-free flour
2 t. baking powder
2 t. salt
1 1/2 t. baking soda
2 t. xanthan gum
1 stick butter, chilled (cut into small pieces or grated)
1/4 c. unsweetened rice milk (or milk of your choice)
1/4 c. water
1 T. cider vinegar
1 large egg (or the equiv. of your favorite egg replacer)
Extra gluten-free flour for dusting

8 super-natural hot dogs (pre-cooked, which I think most hot dogs are???)
8 large leaves of spinach
8 small slices of muenster cheese (or other good, unprocessed melting cheese)
4 T. butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375F.  In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, and xanthan gum.  Cut the butter into the flour until there are no large pieces left.  Combine the milk, water, vinegar, and egg; whisk well.  Add the wet ingredients to the flour-butter mixture and gently mix until combined.  On a floured surface, gently roll out the dough to about 1/4-inch thickness.  Cut into eight isosceles triangles (remember you will likely have lots of dough remaining.)  Lay a triangle with the short flat end toward you.  Cover with spinach (either one big leaf or several smaller leaves) and a slice of cheese.  Place the hot dog at the flat end and roll up.  Put on a lined baking sheet with the triangle's tip secured on the underside.  Repeat with remaining triangles, brush with melted butter, then bake for 10-15 min. or until golden brown.  Serve with good ol' ketchup and mustard and enjoy without guilt.

To counter even the slightest guilt that might have arisen from the previous recipe, Vera and I mixed up an ultra-healthy batch of muffins yesterday.  And she actually declared them "delicious!" so maybe I'm getting somewhere.

Powerhouse Carrot-Beet-Coconut Muffins (Gluten-Free)
Makes 1 dozen

Adapted from Smart Muffins by Jane Kinderlehrer.  These are exceptionally high in protein, fiber, and beta-carotene.  Even though these sound over-the-top nutritious, they end up looking and tasting very normal.  And I love being reminded that true "muffins" are not supposed to be super-sweet like processors and chain bakeries want you to believe.  I used some beet and carrot purees leftover from my recent Pasta Making class (see story below.)

3/4 c. hot water
1/2 c. prunes
2 carrots, grated (about 1 c.)...or a combo of beets/carrot
2 large eggs
2 T. olive oil
2 T. sorghum syrup
1 T. honey
5 T. oat bran
1 1/4 c. all-purpose gluten-free flour (I prefer Bob's Red Mill)
1/4 c. rice flour (brown or white)
1/4 c. lecithin granules (available at health food stores)
1/4 c. dry milk powder (or dairy-free protein powder)
3 T. sesame seeds
1 T. nutritional yeast
1 t. ground seaweed (I used arame and whizzed it in a spice grinder until ground)
1 t. baking soda
4 t. baking powder
1/2 t. xanthan gum
1 1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1/4 t. ground nutmeg
1/4 t. allspice
1 T. dried lemon rind (available in the spice aisle at most grocery stores)
1/2 c. ground pecans
1/4 c. flaked coconut

Preheat oven to 400F.  In small bowl, soak prunes in hot water and set aside.  In mixing bowl or food processor, blend carrots, eggs, oil, sorghum, honey.  Mix in oat bran and water the prunes were soaked in.  In another bowl, mix together flours, lecithin granules, milk/protein powder, sesame seeds, nutritional yeast, ground seaweed, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and lemon rind.  Combine wet and dry mixtures, mix just until combined.  Fold in prunes, pecans, and coconut.  Spoon into muffin cups and bake for about 20 min. or until toothpick/skewer inserted in center comes out clean.

It wasn't easy for me to hit the ground running last week after being gone for nearly two.  The next time I try to schedule a cooking class the week after a vacation I should remind myself how crazy it can be to prepare.  But I had fun teaching an enthusiastic group of adults how to make fresh pasta last Thursday at the Bay View Community Center.  I demonstrated how to make Potato Gnocchi, Carrot Linguine, Beet Ravioli, and Herb Papardelle.  Vera had fun helping me crank out the demo dough and ever so kindly let me use her Learning Tower as a drying rack.  I was reminded how easy, fast, and fun it can be to make homemade pasta.  It's like the Play-Doh Fun Factory for adults.  I look forward to perfecting a gluten-free variety of homemade noodles this year.

Vera helping load the pasta roller w/ dough
Potato Gnocchi

Carrot "Linguine" Drying
Sheet of Beet Pasta for Ravioli
Placing the Herbs Before rolling into Papardelle
Herb Papardelle
Drying Papardelle
With two cooking classes already down in 2012 I have a few days to breathe to until the next one.  Somehow this week I've found time to "play" a bit and use some of my new fabric.  We've created an indoor swimming pool in the (insulated) basement so V is entertained in the tub while I sew a bit.  It's been a good balance of new projects and upcycled ones, which puts one of my other mental resolutions into motion--to make more creative time for myself.

Indoor Swimming Pool to beat the winter blahs
Flannel "Rock 'n Roll" jumper
Hand-me-down fabric from my mom (I guess this is my
counter to princess culture)
Spinning with excitement!
Women's top to be transformed into leggings to go
with V's new jumper
Are those sleeves on your legs?
The whole outfit
The embroidery is came with
And what I chose to replace that with--an appliqued black star using
more fabric scraps 

1 comment:

  1. Ok the dress and leggings were super fantastic in real life. I forget what we called it, ironic whimsy? It made me want to do the same. And thank you for the bloody mary box - the most glorious pickles and drink for someone like me. I can't wait!