For Kids – Mixed Greens Blog Living Sustainably in the Pacific Northwest Thu, 14 Sep 2017 22:20:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Cookie Kisses Wed, 04 Feb 2015 16:22:55 +0000 Orange-Cornmeal Sandies. My friend Linda gave me these cookies for Christmas, a tin full of delicate, crunchy, melt-in-your-mouth morsels. That these cookies came to me in the form of pigs should have been a hint. But no.

To say that I liked them is an understatement. My husband now swears he never had a single one, he implies that I might have kept them secret, which I would probably never do. I say I tried my best to share them and that they sat on the kitchen table for a week, or maybe it wasn’t quite a week. Anyway, I’m pretty sure he had a shot.

Valentines Day is around the corner and I plan to redeem myself. Different celebration, a different cookie cutter, same recipe and with a touch of chocolate if you like. A mouthful of buttery, orangey, crunchy, delicious love, cookie kisses, a fine indulgence for my Valentine. He’ll have his own private stash this time.

Mexican Orange-Cornmeal Sandies (Cookies) Recipe

I cook dinner almost every night. I’m efficient, but not a finicky cook, weeknights especially. I almost never follow recipes exactly, but for these cookies I toe the line, an act of love, or redemption. So worth the effort. Thank you to my friend Linda who introduced me to these. She found the recipe in The Oregonian in December of 2006.

Ingredients: Stir dry ingredients together in a separate bowl: 2 C flour, 1/4 C cornmeal, 1 t salt, 1/4 t baking powder/ Put 1 C sugar and 1 C unsalted butter in the mixer/ Set aside 2 egg yolks, 1 T orange zest, 1 t orange extract (or 1 t vanilla), 1/4 C finely ground walnuts (optional).

Directions: In a mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light in color and thoroughly mixed/ Add egg yolks and mix until creamy/ Add dry ingredients, mix/ Add zest, extract and walnuts if using/ Mix just until everything is well blended/ Remove from bowl and divide in two/ Make two flattened disks, wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Form cookies: Remove one disk from the refrigerator/ Prepare an area for rolling the dough sprinkled with a little flour and a little extra/ Place disk on floured surface, turn over so that there is flour on both sides/ Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out, turning frequently and adding more flour as needed, until dough is 1/4″ thick.

With a cookie cutter cut out shapes and place them on a cookie sheet/Use all the leftover pieces, form smaller disks, refrigerate again if needed, and use every last bit of dough!/ Cutout cookies can be placed closely together for baking, but not touching as cookies will expand a little/ Bake for 8 – 10 minutes, until edges begin to brown/ Mine took 8 minutes.

Remove from the oven and after a couple of minutes transfer baked cookies onto wire racks for cooling/ After they have cooled dip a corner of some of the cookies in melted chocolate if you like, though my friend Linda warned, rightly so I think, that chocolate can overwhelm the delicate flavor of the cookie. So, take it easy. Or not./ Chocolate dipped cookies can be placed back on the wire rack until chocolate hardens.

Pack a beautiful box or a cookie tin with these babies and valentine somebody. Some of us need redemption and this could be the answer, or we just want to say I love you with a delicate cookie, like a kiss. I send one to you dear Reader.

This stone was found on the beach by my grandfather and given to my grandmother when they were newlyweds. In her nineties my grandmother gave it to me.

Valentine repost from February, 2012.


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Pumpkin Pie from Scratch Thu, 07 Nov 2013 14:20:02 +0000 Every fall my husband, who’s a decent cook and an excellent bread baker, launches into his one dessert specialty, pumpkin pie from scratch. a mix - - - Oct- 08 10 Pies made from a can of Libby’s are so good it’s hard to imagine the effort being worth it. ... For years he made the pies using the recipe on the back of the Libby’s can, but with his own freshly roasted pumpkin; he tried Macrina Bakery’s recipe for Maple Pecan Pumpkin Pie which is a winner.

Halloween pumpkins look like the king of the mountain next to diminutive pie pumpkins, which are the ones needed to make a pumpkin pie.

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Every fall my husband, who’s an accomplished bread maker, launches into his one dessert specialty, pumpkin pie from scratch. (Well, he did once make a cake for his own wedding party, but that’s another story.)

Pies made from a can of Libby’s are so good it’s hard to imagine that the effort of baking and pureeing the pumpkin will be worth it. But it is, if only for the experience of finding out what goes into that can. Using the whole food, the pumpkin itself, is a great cooking adventure with kids who might be enlightened to know that pumpkin pie begins with an actual pumpkin and the can comes later. Plus, it’s made by hand in your own kitchen, baking the pumpkin is easy, and the end result is delicious.

Pumpkin Pie Recipe

Many pumpkins are great jack-o-lanterns, but not suitable for pies. They’re too watery and bland in flavor. A pie pumpkin or any sweet squash will do, a butternut for example.

Cut in half and remove the seeds from one medium pie pumpkin or sweet squash (two pumpkins if you want two pies). I’m told these seeds are not so good for toasting. I’m experimenting anyway. Place cut side down in a shallow casserole with a little water and bake at 350º until tender, 35-45 minutes.

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When done, allow to cool, remove seeds and strings (or remove before roasting), and scoop out the pumpkin. You’ll need 1 1/2 cups per pie. Puree the pumpkin in a blender or by hand with a potato masher.

Last year it was Macrina Bakery’s recipe, this year Bob tried Alice Waters’ version from the Art of Simple Food. Both have been excellent.

Make your favorite pie dough. *Alice Water’s version is below.

Ingredients & Directions: Whisk together 1/4 cup cream and 2 teaspoons flour/ Heat this mixture over low heat until it thickens/ Then slowly whisk in 3/4 cup more cream/ Continue to whisk until it reaches a boil and remove from the heat – it will be fairly thick. Set aside/In a medium bowl whisk together 1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree and 3 eggs.

In another small bowl mix 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, or 2-3 T if you like things on the sweeter side, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon each cloves & ginger, 1/2 teaspoon salt and a pinch of black pepper.

Stir the sugar and spices into the pumpkin mixture along with the thickened cream/ Whisk together vigorously/ Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of brandy if you like.

Pour pumpkin mixture into pie pans, right to the top. Bake at 375º for 45 – 50 minutes. Test with a sharp knife or toothpick to determine if it’s done – knife should be clean when removed from center of pie.

Allow to cool. Serve with sweetened whipped cream.

 pumpkin pie from scratch

*Alice Waters’ pie dough Recipe

From the Art of Simple Food. This is enough for one double-crust or two single-crust pies. It really is simple – you’ll need butter, flour and ice water.

Ingredients & Directions: Prepare 1/2 cup ice-cold water/ Mix together 2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt if you’re using unsalted butter/ Add 1 1/2 sticks of cold butter cut into small cubes/ Work this mixture of butter and flour by hand with a pastry cutter, pulse it a few times in a food processor, or use a mixer with its paddle attachment/ Pour in most of the 1/2 cup ice water while still working the dough/ Add the rest of the water only if needed – dough should stick together when lightly pinched/ Pour into a bowl and gently form into one large piece, then divide that in two/ Gently form each piece into a ball and wrap in plastic/ Using the palm of your hand, flatten each wrapped piece into a disk shape and refrigerate for at least one hour. Roll it out and fill with something delicious when you’re ready.

It can be deceiving when using a food processor, which I’m hooked on now for crust. The mixture appears to be fine and crumbly and not yet the right consistency. Check it before processing further. Gather just a bit between fingers to see if it will easily form a small cohesive piece. If it does, it’s ready. If not, add a little more water and process only briefly. Pie dough should be handled as little as possible – it’s OK if there are small bits of butter visible, in fact that’s desirable. As previously stated, form into two disks, cover with plastic and refrigerate until ready to roll out. If dough has been refrigerated for several hours and is very chilled it helps to let it sit at room temp. for 5 minutes before rolling out.

Roll out a thin circle of pie dough large enough to fill the pie pan and the sides with a little extra hanging over. Pinch the edge all around and trim away any extra. With the tines of a fork, poke the bottom of uncooked crust in 5 or 6 places. Cover with plastic and refrigerate again until filling is ready.


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PC Fast Food @ Burgerville Sun, 13 Jun 2010 08:00:00 +0000 The concepts of political correctness and a cheeseboiga don’t seem compatible. Oxymoronish maybe. But then there’s Burgerville, a fast food joint with sustainability at its heart. Go figure. And there are quite a few to choose from along the I-5 corridor from soutwestern Washington through central/southern Oregon.a mix - - - Oct- 08 43

A quote from Burgerville’s website: “When you choose Burgerville, satisfying your craving isn’t the only good thing that happens. You’re also contributing to the health of the region by supporting the use of fresh ingredients, local ranchers and farmers and sustainable business practices.”

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If you’re traveling the I-5 corridor between Centralia, Washington and Albany, Oregon (also east on I-84) you can treat yourself to fast food that’s appropriately decadent, delicious and prepared with the environment and your body’s health in mind.

On trips to and from Oregon we, and everybody in our extended family, now eat I-5 on-the-road meals at Burgerville: cheeseburgers, sweet potato fries and espresso-mocha shakes. Food’s good and the setting fits the image of an efficient, tidy FF joint with competitive prices, fast service, and play areas for kids. The comparison with other fast food restaurants ends there.

Signs outside and inside proclaim Burgerville’s intention; straws, cups, utensils are biodegradable; meat and produce are purchased locally; fries are cooked in trans fat free canola oil; attendants whisk away trash and separate carefully for composting and recycling; tent cards on tables describe what’s on the menu that’s seasonal.

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Local/seasonal fast food is unique, but there are more and more sustainably-oriented restaurants around. We posted a piece about Elliot Bay Brew Pub and their attention to sustainable practices in their two bustling restaurants (check out their website); and more recently Mashiko’s Sushi Bar/Restaurant. If fast food, pubs and sushi restaurants can do it maybe others will follow. In the meantime, the small action we consumers can take is to spend our money there. Once in a while.

]]> 3 Whip Up Blueberry Hotcakes (& Nix the Mix) Wed, 15 Jul 2009 11:04:14 +0000 Indigenous to North America, blueberries are ripe and their compatibility with hotcakes is much appreciated. It’s time to flip a blueberry hotcake or two. Or twenty.

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Pancakes, hotcakes, flapjacks, a short stack . . whichever terminology you prefer, from scratch with fresh local blueberries they require little more effort than a boxed mix and are a delectable regional experience. I admit a slight prejudice. It’s the only hotcake I’ve known, and, the clincher, it involves food memories from childhood.

My grandmother, wrapped in a freshly starched and ironed apron, stood at the stove with her cast iron griddle fired up, a no nonsense woman who was willing to make critter hotcakes for her grandkids. Mostly rabbits, bears, Mickey Mouses, a cowboy boot. She’d say, ‘sit down and eat another hotcake before I decide to give them to the squirrels.’ We’d sit down and eat. Complicating her griddle art, my brother and I would sometimes ask for things like a bull elk, an eagle, a bucking bronco. By the time I was ten I understood that when she asked if we wanted basketballs that meant she just wanted to move on with it.

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We still make our grandmother’s hotcakes, partly by feel, and with just five basic ingredients: buttermilk, flour, eggs, baking soda, bacon drippings (or melted butter). I know these hotcakes, they taste deliciously familiar and they’re difficult to mess up. The bacon drippings might thrill or disgust you – I love either one, and substitute butter whenever I need to.

Your standard orb-shaped hotcakes are one thing, but hotcake art requires a certain cavalier attitude. My bunnies are bunny-like, as you can see, not exactly a perfect replica of the actual creature. Claim your inner Picasso and go for it, or identify the critter after it comes off the grill (as I did with this whale shark/blowfish . . . whatever). Strike out with abandon and see what happens.When they’re grown up the kids will remember. Trust me.

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Blueberries, walnuts, and whole-wheat flour are often in the mix these days – modify as you wish, but be careful. She’s watching. Actually, she’d be fine with any of it, especially the blueberries. At 99, the year before she died, she insisted on getting two blueberry bushes for our front yard: one bears fruit earlier than the other, and when it’s about finished the other has its fruit to offer. Sweet arrangement.blueberries 32

Buttermilk Hotcake Recipe

For two big or four small appetites:

A couple of tricks:  the batter should fall off the spoon in a ‘sheet’; get the grill piping hot before cooking; assume that the first batch will taste fine, but won’t look so pretty. Why is that?

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2 eggs

2 cups buttermilk

1 3/4 cups flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

4 tablespoons bacon drippings or melted butter

1 ½ cups blueberries (or whatever you have on hand)

Directions: In a large bowl, beat eggs lightly, add buttermilk and stir together. Measure and add flour, baking soda and salt a little at a time. Add drippings or butter and stir it all vigorously. Batter will drip off the spoon in ‘sheets’ when it’s about right – add a spoonful of additional flour or buttermilk if needed. The batter should not be thick and heavy. On a scale of thick and thin, this batter would settle just slightly toward the thin side. Let batter rest for a few minutes. Pour spoonfuls on a hot pan or grill, cook until bubbles thicken, flip the cake, make a stack, slather with syrup . . . you know the drill. hotcakes 45

Buy extra blueberries at the Farmers Market while they’re in season, freeze them, and have a stack of local cakes mid-winter. Native only to North America, in 2005 blueberries were designated a ‘superfruit’. And finally, read Blueberries For Sal again, Caldecott award winner in 1948, it’s still a wonderful picture book for kids, for anyone.


You might have noticed . . . it’s summer time and we’re takin’ it easy for a couple of weeks. This is a repeat post from July 2008. Now July 2009, blueberries are back again and we pick a bowlful every few days.

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Embrace Your Inner Farmer Mon, 11 May 2009 10:38:39 +0000 A nudge of encouragement to cultivate a little something, to grow food for the family plate, to harvest those beauteous fruits, and then, oh yes, to relish the bragging rights. The glory, there’s no end to that – at the dinner table you can make an acceptance speech and thank everyone who helped you.


But seriously, the impression made on children who see how food is grown is profound. That food is not a compilation of ingredients off the grocery shelf, but derived from a growing living thing first; that it begins somewhere, often in the ground; that it requires nurturing and is precious. Living on rural land and farms for generations, millennia, no one had to point this out, but things have changed and we urban dwellers now have genetic farming memories to sustain.

Gardening/sustainability expert Joan Dye Gussow writes passionately and explicitly about the importance of showing children something other than grocery store aisles as a food source in The Many Wonders of Plants (fifth paragraph). Enlivening kids’ awareness could be the primary motivation for growing some food and it would be enough; in addition there’s the kinesthetic and visual pleasures of seeing, harvesting and then tasting your own homegrown greens.


spring-planting-2-21 Maybe plant some mesclun, the wild and spicy mix of small greens that grow easily, abundantly and then continue growing through several cuttings, the Energizer Bunny type. After about four – six weeks, (a longer growing period in early spring, less in summer) harvest a big handful, dress it and in moments enjoy salad from the backyard.

An ancient inner farmer/forager is waiting to be reawakened. Keep it simple at first, not the whole nine yards, just one vegetable to start with – spring lettuce, radishes or snow peas. Visualize growing something good to eat and get to work on that acceptance speech. (Oh, and the gown.) spring-planting-2-1-1

About the dirt.

spring-planting-2-4 Our planet’s essential elements are often taken for granted: earth, fire, air, water. Gardeners contend with it all, but especially in springtime earth is a primary focus – the blanket that surrounds and nurtures plants, the food we eat. I read somewhere recently that worldwide we’re covering so-many thousands of acres with concrete daily. At least for this moment in time that soil is gone and perhaps tainted for a very long time, the very earth that allows us to produce food, to sustain life. There should be a bumper sticker: Save the Dirt! Seriously.

Soil. First, you have to have some, and then to understand that baby seeds want light, water, and minerals via that soil, their mother’s milk so to speak. Lots written about how to achieve the best soil for growing food, here’s an offering for getting started:

* You could just jump in, plant and see what happens.
* The best first addition to any soil is compost, either homemade or from a garden store.
* Next, consider slow-release organic fertilizers to amend your soil like a multi-vitamin, because plants need nutrients, especially nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, essential plant elements. Fertilizers provide a mineral boost. Some boxes/bags are specifically labeled ‘for vegetables’.
* Due to winter rains, soil in western Washington becomes slightly acidic – add lime to neutralize.
* If using compost and fertilizer, stir the fertilizer into the soil along with the compost. Packages suggest ratios – read guidelines and talk to garden store experts. You can create your own homemade mix of dirt, compost and fertilizer, but if you’re starting out and want to plant a small plot, a pot or two, you can purchase what you need at the garden store.

There are advantages to growing food in pots: you can place them for convenience and optimal sun; if they’re on wheels they can be moved around easily, in or out of more sun; they could be situated near the kitchen so that care and harvest are relatively easy. A disadvantage is that they’re heavy once filled with dirt, moisture, and plants, and become difficult to move around. With this in mind, place pots thoughtfully. spring-planting-2

Whether it’s a plot or a pot, prepare the soil, let it settle and take some time to peruse seeds that are labeled ‘hardy’ for spring planting. That would include things like mesclun (the mixed baby greens you find at the grocery store these days), certain radishes and carrots, peas.

Tilth, is a rich resource for PNW organic gardeners, including a hotline that’s truly helpful.


Territorial Seed

Call the Natural Lawn and Garden Hotline at (206) 633-0224 for a list of soil testing labs.

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A Good Egg Fri, 10 Apr 2009 03:55:58 +0000 softboiledegg26 of 30

Nothing quite speaks of spring in the same way as an egg. A creation waiting to emerge, life resting dormant until the perfect moment. Easter eggs, golden eggs, a nest of tiny bird eggs — they’re all miraculous, especially from a child’s point of view. Fix me an egg for breakfast and I’m immediately transported back to my childhood, sitting in my place at a table set for seven. On occasion, my mother fixed soft-boiled eggs for breakfast and served them in an egg cup. I always thought this was fancy and somehow put us in the ranks of British royalty.

softboiledegg16 of 30 For those not familiar with this worthy tradition, the egg is soft-boiled and placed in the small end of the cup. Hit the side of the egg with a knife to crack the top off. This takes some practice but once you do it a few times, you can devise a method that works well for you. Turn the cup over and using a spoon, scoop the egg into the large side of the cup. We always tore off pieces of toast and mixed them in with the egg. I still love it that way. Sprinkle the whole thing with salt & pepper and top with a pat of butter.

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So perfectly civilized and so easy to make. If the eggs are room temperature before cooking, they are less likely to crack. Bring a pan of water to a boil, adding a sprinkling of salt. Make sure that you have enough water to completely cover the eggs. Once the water is boiling, carefully lower the eggs in and cook for 5 minutes. Gently lift eggs out and rinse with cold water if the shells are too hot to hold. I’ve found that after 5 minutes, the whites aren’t runny but are still very soft. You might start there but experiment with timing until you get a consistency that is right for you.

Another childhood favorite, though less refined, is what we called “eggy-in-the-nest.” I’ve read there are many other names for this dish, including “toad in a hole” but that strikes me as much too crude. Tear a circle out of the center of a piece of bread. Put some butter or oil in a large skillet. When it’s hot, put the bread in, making sure that the whole surface is covered with butter. Crack the egg, dropping the yolk into the hole. The white can go on the bread or over the sides. Once one side is toasted, using a spatula, flip the egg & bread over to cook the other side. It’s like cooking an egg over-easy. You try not to break the yolk or to overcook it. I like to toast the circle, removed to create the nest, in the pan as well as an extra little treat.

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In the spirit of Miss Make-it-from-Scratch (apparently my new name), I decided to try dyeing Easter eggs using natural dyes. I found several sets of instructions on the internet. Here’s the one I tried — using enough water to completely cover the eggs, add dye material, 2t white vinegar & 1/2t alum. Put uncooked eggs in the pot with everything else and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes. I used 2 peeled and quartered beets and got yellow, not red as expected. Grape juice, full strength, gave me an interesting greenish gray. Half a red cabbage gives a nice blue while 2 tablespoons tumeric give a pale yellow. In the end, I’m not sure I can wholeheartedly recommend this method. The eggs end up over-cooked and reportedly retain some of the flavor of the dye, making them inedible. The colors are, well, as Charlie so diplomatically said, “natural.” I switched to Paas dyes for the kids, complete with stickers and wax crayons. I have to admit, they are way more fun.

eastereggs4 of 40 Have a Happy Easter!

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Going Crackers Wed, 25 Feb 2009 10:53:46 +0000 In the past I might have said you’d have to be crazy to spend time making crackers, and, as usual, whenever I make such proclamations I end up eating my words – in this case the crackers. Maybe I’ve gone crackers, but I have a hankering to make some. (The munchkins in your life will love making these too.)


I can’t say that I have a single childhood memory involving crackers.  It’s as if they came into being for me about the time I hit college and discovered wheat thins.  Rescued from the munchies many a time by wheat thins and other snacks of that ilk.

It took some doing, but I convinced myself to give cracker making a shot. There are times when irresistibly processed food will sneak in the door and I’ll be forced to enjoy it – which I do – but I’m interested in making that processed foodprint smaller, for the good of my pocketbook, the planet and my own health. I want a good cracker without all the packaging and the inevitable list of mystery ingredients required to make a delicate wafer of snappy and savory character.

And I wanted to see if crackers would be easy enough and good enough to be a practical cooking endeavor from time to time. Not hours of attention for a dozen or two delicious morsels, but a hefty amount that could be mixed quickly, baked off and the excess dough stored in the freezer for later.  And, would they store well for a couple of weeks?  Stay crunchy?crackers-2-2

Recipes for homemade crackers sounded enticing, several sounded simple enough, but still I wasn’t quite moved to actually make them. Then along came Mark Bittman.  I’m a sucker for Bittman’s cooking videos and this one on the ease of cracker making was the final nail in my cracker-making coffin. He made it look fast, easy and delicious.

And practical.  Maybe I thought that if a person had time to make crackers they might need to get a life.  Maybe so, but it doesn’t quite fit in this case.  I made and baked off a batch of crackers in under half an hour, then went on to watch the Oscars – and that’s real life, right?

Anyway . . . the crackers.  Killer cooking project with kids.  They’re quick, can be scored in all kinds of ways, free form would be fine, a range of flavorings are possible, and there’s immediate gratification.  Nibble the first cooled cracker about thirty minutes after you start mixing.

Bittman’s basic recipe:
1 C flour
4 T butter
1/2 t salt
1/2  C Parmesan cheese
1/4 C cream or milk

Variations on the basic recipe:
Bittman invites us to mess with this and reminds us that crackers can be made with just flour and water so I went for it.  I doubled the recipe so that I could freeze dough and easily bake more later; I used less butter, Beecher’s cheddar and chopped walnuts, and skipped the Parm.  I made another batch with rosemary and used olive oil instead of butter.  They weren’t nearly as rich, more like your basic cracker and something you could serve with any savory topping.  The cheesy buttery ones are tender morsels of yum – good party fare or the culinary bling that elevates a soup and salad supper.

Cheddar Walnut Crackers (doubled recipe)
2 C flour

6 T butter

1/2 – 2/3  C finely grated cheddar cheese (or any local cheese)

1/2 C chopped walnuts
1/2 t salt
1/4 t pepper
1/3  – 1/2 C milk or cream
Put everything but the milk into a food processor.  Pulse a few times until it’s all crumbly.  Gradually add milk a little at a time, pulsing in-between each addition.  When the dough is just right it comes together in a sort of ball and that’s enough liquid and pulsing. This takes a couple of minutes, honestly.  cracker-dough
Pat it all together, cut in half and freeze some if you like.  If freezing, create a 2″ roll wrapped in plastic that can easily be sliced later on.

cracker-dough-21 No need to be too careful with this dough.  Gluten develops as it gets knocked around a little bit, giving the crackers more ‘bite’ in the end.  On a board sprinkled with flour, roll out dough until it’s an approximate rectangle and is very thin.  Trim with a knife so that edges are straight and relatively even. cracker-dough-11 Drape around rolling pin and transfer to parchment-lined baking pan.  Lightly score the dough before baking, using a pastry or pizza cutter, or a dull knife.  Scoring makes it easy to snap crackers apart after baking. crackers-21 Sprinkle with salt or whatever sounds good and then bake in a 400º oven for approximately 10 minutes.  Remove when golden brown.  Cool a bit, break apart, return to 300º oven for a few more minutes for additional crisping.  Or, you could turn down oven temp after a few minutes and bake them a bit longer the first time.

I now have a stash in the freezer which I’ll slice very thinly and bake when needed; another stash in the pantry, homemade cheese and rosemary crackers tucked into individual containers .  I don’t expect they’ll stay crisp for long so we’ll eat them, or recrisp for just a few minutes in a 300º oven.

And make these your own. I think Bittman’s right that there are myriad possibilities using this basic process.  I get it that crackers might not be at the top of your to-do list, but it’s a satisfying culinary romp with good results.  No mystery ingredients, no wasteful packaging, and fast.  And for children, ordinary food like a cracker becomes real when made in the kitchen at home.

Now please excuse me, I might have the munchies. crackers-2

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A Plate of Cookies for You-Know-Who Tue, 23 Dec 2008 03:02:52 +0000 christmascookies70 of 70

Christmas Eve is almost here. It’s a great excuse to get the kids into the kitchen to bake a batch of cookies . Not a bad way to spend a snow day and a sweet cure for cabin fever. Luckily, Adrian & Lily are nearly always willing participants for any baking project. But the photo-taking — not so much — I’ll have to say they did pretty well, even worn out from sledding.

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I love homemade cookies but don’t bake them often so I went to to brush up on my skills. They have some wonderful instructional videos and I found the one on how to roll out thin cookie dough to be very helpful. Basically, you roll it out between 2 pieces of parchment paper and then put it into the freezer until just before you are ready to use it. I had to get my dough ready faster than usual to accommodate Lily’s nap time so I skipped chilling the dough by just rolling it out using parchment and giving it a brief time (10-15 minutes) in the freezer. This method worked very well for me.

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Brushing with egg white and decorating with nuts and sprinkles was undoubtedly the most fun part, except eating what you’ve baked.

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I chose Old-Fashioned Christmas Butter Cookies, a recipe first published in Gourmet in 1947 and was called the “pride of the thrifty housewife”. The ingredients are very basic, relatively inexpensive and you can use local butter and eggs. These cookies keep for a long time and in my opinion, taste even better after a day or two in an airtight container. The recipe calls for sieved hard-cooked egg yolks as well as raw egg yolks. It sounded interesting enough to give it a try.

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Old-Fashioned Christmas Butter Cookies

Put 3 hard-cooked egg yolks through a fine sieve.

Cream 1 lb sweet butter gradually adding 1 1/2 cups sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy.

Alternately add 3 hard-cooked yolks with 3 raw yolks and 6 cups sifted all-purpose flour to the butter mixture.

Add the rind of 1 lemon or 2 t brandy.

Knead the mixture until it is thoroughly blended. Form several (I made 3 ) balls of smooth dough. Chill the dough several hours, then roll as thin as possible.

Cut with cookie cutters, brush lightly with slightly beaten egg white. Sprinkle the tops with chopped nuts mixed with sugar or other sprinkles. Place on a lightly floured cookie sheet.

Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes until just starting to brown.

christmascookies43 of 70 Don’t forget to add a few extra sprinkles for Santa.

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Will a Farmer in Chief Plant Veggies in the Rose Garden? Enjoy a baked apple? Thu, 16 Oct 2008 12:53:20 +0000 I wish. While apples are baking in the oven read Michael Pollan’s article from Sunday’s New York Times. I’ll say right up front that it’s long, nine pages, but it’s a doozy, an open letter to the next president, the next Farmer in Chief. apples 1 Maybe you’ll just read part of it, or skim quickly through, or read every word. If you’re interested in food, sustainability, the politics of food, the next administration, health care, minimizing dependence on fuel, feeding the world . . . take a few minutes to read or skim this article. You’ll be moved by the depth of information and possibility that Pollan puts forth regarding global food production and security. Farmer in Chief article, NY Times Magazine, Sunday Oct. 12th (There’s a short excerpt at the end of this post.)

He says that food is about to demand our attention in a whole new way, so before you dive into the article get some apples into the oven. The wafting essence of baking apples is soothing, and when you’re done the apples will be waiting for you. You’ll have spicy baked apple to feed your body and soul, Pollen’s ideas about world food culture to feed your mind.

If it looks like my baked apples exploded, well they sort of did. I didn’t exactly follow the recipe’s recommendation for preferred apples, Gala & Golden Delicious. I know better, but decided to use what’s in my backyard and they were delicious in spite of looking a little askew on the plate. This is a new baked apple for me, inspired by a recipe at As with most baked apples, this is simple to make, with the added crunch of caramelized nuts on the side and a dollop of honeyed yogurt.

Kids love to make and eat a baked apple. It’s gooey and scrumptious, and on the dessert spectrum a pretty healthy option.

Baked Apples with Caramelized Nuts & Yogurt Recipe

Preheat oven to 450º. Cut two apples in half and remove cores. Melt ½ tablespoon butter and ½ tablespoon sugar together in an oven proof pan. Add a pinch of cinnamon or nutmeg if you like. When sugar is bubbling add the four apple halves, face down. Leave them alone and let them sizzle away on medium heat for one or two minutes, then put apples directly into the hot oven and bake for about fifteen minutes or until tender.

While apples are baking make caramelized nuts, using walnuts, filberts, pecans whatever you have on hand, whatever is local. Put ¼ cup sugar and a pinch of salt in a heavy saucepan, medium heat. Let the sugar melt. Stir only occasionally with a fork. It will begin to bubble and turn a deep amber within a couple of minutes. Watch it closely and remove before the whole things bursts into a mass of bubbling burnt sugar which produces burnt caramel. Not desirable. Guess how I know. My second attempt resulted in a proper caramel, unburned. Remove from the heat and immediately toss in ½ cup of the toasted nuts, toss to coat and then pour it all out onto a baking sheet. Caramelized nuts will cool and become crispy in about ten minutes.

Remove the fragrant softened apples from the oven, drizzle with honey, put a dollop of honeyed yogurt on top (or cream in any form), and sprinkle with the nuts. Let this baked apple ease you sweetly into contemplating the reform of global food production.

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Farmer in Chief, Dear Mr. President-Elect, . . . there are reasons to think that the old approach won’t work this time around; for one thing, it depends on cheap energy that we can no longer count on. For another, expanding production of industrial agriculture today would require you to sacrifice important values on which you did campaign. Which brings me to the deeper reason you will need not simply to address food prices but to make the reform of the entire food system one of the highest priorities of your administration: unless you do, you will not be able to make significant progress on the health care crisis, energy independence or climate change. (An excerpt from Michael Pollan’s NY Times article, “Farmer in Chief”.)

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Sweeten the Deal: Chocolate Zucchini Bread Fri, 26 Sep 2008 07:38:12 +0000 zucchinibread43 of 44 In a recent article in the NY Times, Six Food Mistakes Parents Make , the first mistake listed was not involving kids in food preparation. Researchers at Teachers College at Columbia University found that the more kids are allowed to participate in cooking, the more likely they are to try new foods. Add harvesting food from a garden or going along to the farmers market and suddenly meals take on a whole new meaning. Relationships between a child and their food can be tricky but helping them become part of the process can extend beyond sitting in the grocery cart.

zucchinibread2 of 44 When looking through old cookbooks the other day, a recipe card fell out for zucchini bread I used to make when Krista was a little girl. This recipe was useful in many ways — using up some of the prolific zucchini from the garden, introducing a new vegetable in a non-threatening way and a simple recipe that requires lots of stirring and no chopping. I tried a new version of the recipe with Lily and she was as enthralled as her mother had been.

One of the best parts of cooking with kids is letting them see and handle the whole foods. In this case, you might not even know this bread has zucchini in it without looking carefully. So I always take a few minutes to show and talk about the ingredients. In preparation, I try to get everything out and ready to go, but the measuring and in this case, pushing the button on the food processor to grate the zucchini is all part of the fun.

zucchini8 of 8 I added chocolate to my bread to appease the chocoholics in the family. Even without it, this is a wonderfully moist and wholesome quick bread. But don’t forget that dark chocolate has numerous health benefits and there are several local sources for it.

Chocolate Zucchini Bread

1 ounce melted dark chocolate

2 eggs

1 cup sugar (ouch!)

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 cup grated zucchini

1/2 t vanilla extract

1 cup flour (I used Whole Grain Hard Red Bread Flour from Bluebird Grain Farm)

1/2 t baking soda

1/2 t salt

1/2 t cinnamon

1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease loaf pan.

In a large bowl, combine eggs, sugar, oil, grated zucchini, vanilla and chocolate. Stir well. Stir in flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Fold in chocolate chips. Pour batter into loaf pan.

Bake in preheated oven for 45-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

This recipe was adapted from

zucchinibread27 of 44 Sweet.

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