Monthly Archives: April 2013

Chickpea and Quinoa Salad with Cashew Chutney

Chickpea and Quinoa Salad with Cashew Chutney

Well, it’s been a little while!  I’ve been busy, busy, busy.  This past weekend I had a Dinner With Aura booth at the Grand Rapids Public Library’s Green Market Expo.  It was so much fun!  I sold some granola and biscotti, raffled off Super Natural Everyday, and met so many awesome people who were interested in eating healthier.  Several folks mentioned that they were simply trying to reduce the amount of meat they ate, replacing a few meals a week with vegetarian options.  That got me so excited.  I truly believe that small changes add up.  It can be really intimidating to be expected to change everything about your eating habits.  Eating is such a personal and habitual experience so I believe that tackling one change at a time is the key to long-lasting change.  I met a lovely woman who wanted to start by eating vegan three days a week.  I’m so excited to hear how that goes for her and excited to see what new foods she will discover in the process.

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I’ve also been busy moving my honey into my house.  Having lived alone for three and a half years, this has been a big change!  We are in the process of merging our things and getting into a routine.  I’m excited to see what the future holds for us.

This weekend was so busy that I just ate really simple dishes.  I was cooking for myself this weekend so things were back to my usual one person meals, quinoa with sauteed kale, zucchini, carrots, etc.  I really don’t mind eating like that most of the time but it is fun to have someone to cook for and I tend to make more substantial meals when I’m not on my own.

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Today, I was so happy that at about 7:00 I finally had time to cook up the recipe for the Food Matters Project.  I was even more happy that it is finally spring and we have daylight at 7:00!  This dish was so easy to put together and so tasty.  All I can say is thank you for the awesome pick, Jess!  Once again, I had a hard time imagining what this salad would end up looking and tasting like.  The result was such a pleasant surprise.  It had so many flavors I love all in one bowl.  I modified the dish somewhat, adding quinoa, radishes, and peanut to the mix.  The chickpeas and quinoa provide protein and the nuts provide healthy fats.  This salad is a great main dish meal.  If you are looking for something a little different and very, very easy, try this!  You won’t be disappointed.  If you want the original recipe, head over to Jess’s site.  And to see the variations everyone came up with, head over to the FMP website.

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Chickpea and Quinoa Salad with Cashew Chutney;adapted from Mark Bittman’s The Food Matters Project

  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 small dried hot red chile or ¼ tsp of red chili flakes
  • 1/3 cup cashews (raw are fine)
  • ¼ cup peanuts
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 3 cups cooked or canned chickpeas, drained
  • 1 and ½ cups quinoa
  • 1 cup chopped fresh mangoes (can also use apricots)
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Olive oil as needed
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3 radishes, cut into matchsticks
  1. To make chutney:  In a small, dry skillet, combine cumin seeds, chili, cashews, and peanuts. Heat over medium heat, shaking pan frequently for 3 to 5 minutes or until everything colors slightly and becomes fragrant.
  2. Transfer to blender or food processor. Add garlic and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Process, stopping machine to scrape down sides if necessary, until finely ground but not as smooth as peanut butter.
  3. To assemble salad: In a salad bowl, toss chickpeas, quinoa, and fruit with chutney. Add lime juice and a little oil if needed to help bring everything together. Stir in cilantro and radishes. Taste. Adjust seasoning. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day.  Enjoy!!!

Lubia Chalow–Afghan Lemony Kidney Beans

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I’m happy to be hosting the Food Matters Project this week.  This was the perfect dish to make this Saturday on what was yet another rainy, cold April day in Michigan.  I have become accustomed over the last two months to the shared misery of a cold and rainy spring here (I have to remind myself that I am not alone in hoping for spring, lamenting every snow flake that falls–yup, we even got snow yesterday on April 14).  There is a sense of solidarity here in Michigan–we are in this together!  Because of this shared empathy about the weather, I kind of forgot that a lot of other areas of the country are having splendid spring weather, almost summery in fact.  So, here is to hoping that this dish is as satisfying in the warmer regions as it was here in the land of rain and snow.

I chose this dish for this week’s Food Matters Project because it is something that I normally might not make and I was really curious about it.  Bittman called it “Super Lemony Kidney Beans” and it sounded like it could either be really bad or really good.  Thank goodness it is the latter because this one, although requiring little hands-on time, takes a good chunk of time in the oven.  One thing that is really interesting about The Food Matters Project cookbook is that there are no photos so every recipe is kind of a surprise.  While I can usually imagine what the dish will taste like, I have a hard time imagining what it will look like.  This dish is based on an Afghan dish called lubia chalow and the best way to describe it is a bean stew with preserved lemons and plenty of spices (spicy-flavorful, not spicy-hot).  Having never cooked anything from Afghan cuisine, I was excited to try.  It used a lot of the same spices that I love to use in my cooking…cardamom, mustard seeds (I could write a blog post on how many ways I use mustard seeds in my cooking!), cumin seeds, cinnamon, chile, and garlic.

Spices for Lubia Chalow

It resembles a big pot of chili with the exception that rather than simmering slowly on the stove, it spends a couple of hours in the oven.  You’ll need a nice, heavy pot or Dutch oven–I used a Martha Stewart enameled cast iron Dutch oven.  A thinner pot might burn the food on the bottom in the oven.

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I am staying at my friend, June’s, beautiful little house in the country.  It is so cozy in her house and, having been a little damp and cold after running through pouring rain into the house, I decided to plant my chair right by the oven and work on my computer in the warmth.  I also took some breaks to take some photos of the birds (through the window, of course)! 

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After smelling cardamom, cumin, and cinnamon wafting through the air for the better part of two hours I could hardly wait to try this.  It was satisfying and very unique with the preserved lemons.  Oh, one thing I should note is that the recipe for the lemons makes a ton of preserved lemons (about 3 cups or so).  You can easily halve the recipe for the lemons and have enough for this dish with a little leftover.  Oh, and be sure to stop on by and see what everyone else on the Food Matters Project ended up creating here.

And just so you don’t think it’s all gloom and doom here, the sun finally came out Sunday (after the snow, sleet, and rain had made their point during the morning and early afternoon).  I finally got out for a walk with the pup.  It felt wonderful to get outside, breath in the fresh air, pick some daffodils, and stretch our legs.  I think my dog sums up perfectly how I felt yesterday–no words needed.

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Enjoy this dish and enjoy the springtime, wherever you are.

Lubia Chalow--Afghan Kidney Bean Stew

Lubia Chalow (Super-Lemony Kidney Beans); from Mark Bittman’s The Food Matters Project Cookbook

Serves 6 to 8; Takes about 3 hours, largely unattended

Based on an Afghan dish called lubia chalow, this soupy bean stew begins with quick preserved lemons, a staple of Middle Eastern cooking.  Usually the lemons are left whole or halved, heavily salted, and set aside to cure in a mixture of spices and their own juice.  Chopping the fruit helps speed the process considerably with delicious (if not entirely authentic) results.  Six lemons are enough so that you can use some of the mixture for the beans and store the rest in a jar in the fridge for later.  (They get better and better with age.)  These beans are good served over Basmati or jasmine rice with a dollop of yogurt.

  • 6 lemons
  • Salt
  • 1/3 cup olive oil (I reduced to about 2 tablespoons)
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
  • 4 cardamom pods (I did not have cardamom pods so I added 1 tablespoon cardamom–I love cardamom though–if you aren’t sure, you may want to add a teaspoon, then adjust at the end of cooking)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 dried mild chile (I used ancho)
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 pound dried kidney beans, rinsed and picked over; don’t bother to soak them (I used cranberry beans, which are very similar)
  • Black pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh mint, for garnish (I used cilantro)
  1. Heat the oven to 325°.  Trim the ends from 4 of the lemons; quarter them, remove the seeds, and put them (rind included) in a food processor.  Add the juice of the remaining 2 lemos to the food processor (again, without the seeds) along with 2 teaspoons salt.  Pulse several times to chop the lemons into bits but don’t puree.  Put the mixture in a jar and leave it on the counter while you cook the beans; shake it every once in a while.
  2. Put the oil in a large ovenproof pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  When the oil is hot, add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 3 to 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for about a minute more. Stir in the cumin, mustard seeds, cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, and dried chile; cook, stirring, for 30 seconds or so.  Stir in the tomato paste.
  3. Add the kidney beans and water to cover by about 3 inches.  Bring to a boil, cover the pot, and bake for 90 minutes (you can ignore the beans this whole time).  After 90 minutes, stir the beans and check to see if they are tender.  If they are, add water if necessary to keep the beans covered by about 1 inch and stir in 1/2 cup of the pickled lemons. Cover and continue baking for another 30 minutes.  If the beans are not yet tender, make sure they are covered by about 2 inches water and don’t add the lemons yet.  Cover the pot and check again in 30 minutes; repeat this step as necessary until the beans are tender enough to add the lemons.
  4. When the beans are completely tender and the liquid has thickened, fish out the cinnamon stick and chile if you like (and the cardamom pods if you can find them easily).  Then taste and adjust the seasonings, adding pepper and some more of the lemons if you like.  Serve, garnished with the mint (you can make the beans ahead and refrigerate them for up to several days; gently reheat before serving.

Tropical Fajitas With Jicama and Pineapple-Lime Glaze

Seitan Jicama and Pineapple Tacos

I don’t know what the weather is like in your part of the world but here it is the Winter-That-Never-Ends or the Spring-That-Never-Comes (there are still 3 feet of snow where my poor mom lives in the Upper Peninsula so I’ll hush now).  Today was dark and rainy, so dark that I had to turn on the lights in my house as though it was nighttime.  I needed a pick-me-up.  Pronto.  So I made this lively and lovely fajita recipe, courtesy of Mark Bittman.  Thanks to the darling Margarita at Let’s Cook and Be Friends for choosing this recipe as the Food Matters Project recipe of the week.  The original recipe is called “Not Your Usual Steak Fajitas” and can be found on Margarita’s blog by clicking here.  This being a vegetarian blog, I ended up making mine with seitan (seasoned wheat gluten) instead of steak.  But if you prefer, you can substitute meat or any meat substitute in this recipe and it will still be delicious.  If you want to check out what the other FMP bloggers came up with, head to the Food Matters Project website for more.

Browned Seitan

Browned Seitan

This recipe uses jicama, an often forgotten vegetable in my cooking repertoire.  Jicama tastes a little bit like a green apple when it is uncooked.  Cooked, it retains a pleasant crunch and light sweetness.  The pineapple and limes in this recipe really bring out the tropical flavors of this dish.

Radishes, Jicama, Onions, Bell Peppers, and Limes ready to go in the skillet.

Radishes, Jicama, Onions, Bell Peppers, and Limes ready to go in the skillet.

I tried these in taco-form initially but really ended up coming to the conclusion that this is just as good as a stand-alone or served over a bed of rice.

Deconstructed Fajitas

Deconstructed Fajitas

Each bite is a reminder of the summer that I know will eventually come.  It was a great pick-me-up today and along with my chaser of hot yoga, by the end of the day I was sitting pretty.  I hope you enjoy this as much as I did!

Tropical Fajitas With Jicama and Pineapple-Lime Glaze
Adapted from “Not Your Usual Steak Fajitas”; Mark Bittman, The Food Matters Cookbook
Makes: 4 servings        Time: 40 minutes

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 8 ounces of seitan, thinly sliced (don’t feel limited by this–if you prefer you can use steak, chicken, tofu, or any other protein you want–this dish would also be great with veggies alone if you don’t have protein on hand)
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
  • 1 or 2 fresh hot chiles (like jalapeno or Thai), seeded and minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 8 ounces jicama, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • 3 radishes, cut into matchsticks
  • 2 large carrots, cut into matchsticks
  • 1 cup cubed fresh pineapple
  • ¼ cup lime juice
  • ½ cup water
  • Chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish
  • Warm corn or whole wheat tortillas, for serving, optional
  1. Put a large skillet over high heat until it smokes, 3 to 4 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil and, a few seconds later, the seitan/protein. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and stir immediately. Cook, stirring every 20 seconds or so for just a minute or 2 until it has some nice charring on it. Transfer to a plate.
  2. Add 1 tablespoon of the remaining oil to the skillet and reduce the heat to medium-high. Add the onion, bell peppers, chile, and garlic and cook, stirring, until soft and golden brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to the plate with the seitan/protein.
  3. Raise the heat to high again and add the jicama, radishes, and carrots. Stir immediately, then cook, stirring every 30 seconds or so, until the vegetables soften and begin to char slightly, 3-5 minutes. Transfer everything to the plate with the seitan/protein.
  4. Add the pineapple, lime juice, and water to the skillet. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring to scrape any brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan, until the glaze thickens a little. Return all the vegetables and seitan/protein to the pan and toss to coat with the lime and pineapple mixture. Garnish with cilantro and serve with warm tortillas.

Lentil “Sloppy Joes” and Food Bloggers Against Hunger

Welcome to a very special Monday!  Today 200 food bloggers will dedicate their posts to raising awareness about hunger.  I am so happy to be participating in this great cause.  In addition to providing some information about hunger and links for more information, we will all post budget friendly recipes on our blogs today.

Hunger is a close personal issue to me.  My family was very low income and had to scrape to get by many weeks.  We had a very large vegetable garden that helped a great deal (and 5 kids to provide all the labor!).  If we ran out of groceries before the next paycheck came, we would eat big bowls of popcorn for dinner.  Us kids didn’t care–popcorn nights were the best!  But as an adult, I can now see and understand the worry my mom and stepdad faced week to week, paycheck to paycheck.  I still remember the embarrassment on my moms face when I blurted out that we sold our horses so we could buy winter boots.  My mom had to be pretty savvy about cooking on a limited budget.  One of her go-to recipes was lentil sloppy joes.  With this recipe, you can feed a family of four for less than $1.50 per person (this amount figures in pantry staples as well as fresh ingredients)!  Not only is it budget-friendly, this recipe is very healthy to boot and is comprised primarily of pantry staples.

I call attention to the amount spent per person for the lentil sloppy joe recipe because this figure is very important to many families, especially those who participate in SNAP, the nation’s food stamp program.  The Giving Table (organizer of the Food Bloggers Against Hunger) states that SNAP recipients are limited to an average of $3-$4 per person each day to supplement their food budget.  Additionally, the government subsidizes products like soy beans, wheat, and corn instead of fresh produce, so the most affordable food is often the unhealthiest.  Furthermore, 1 in 4 families are skipping healthy food purchases often or always due to price (click here for more info).  Overall, more than 50 million Americans face food insecurity.  In a nation of such abundance, this sad fact is difficult to believe and even more difficult to ignore.

The issue of hunger among children is especially heartwrenching.  Children who do not get the proper nutrition are not as healthy as other children (see here) and have lower academic performance.  When you are thinking about how hungry you are, it is difficult to focus on school work.  Much has been done in schools to ease this issue.  Free lunches are provided to children who qualify based on income.  Our family received free school lunches, which we took advantage of several days a week.  Despite measures being taken to provide school lunches to all children in need, this does not address the issue of children showing up to school hungry or going home to a house with limited food.  3 out of 5 teachers say they have children in their classrooms who regularly come to school hungry (from the Hunger In Our Schools Study).  Many teachers bring food to school to help children who arrive hungry to school in order to help them concentrate through the morning.  If you want to help protect funding for federal nutrition programs, click here.

Fresh foods are often more expensive than processed foods, preventing some families from buying fresh produce.  Organic produce is even more expensive.  I have hope that this issue can be eased.  In fact, in Grand Rapids, MI, where I live, I’ve seen progress toward this issue.  The Fulton Street Farmer’s Market is one place of progressive change.  They offer the Double Up Food Bucks program.  When a person eligible for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) uses his or her SNAP Bridge Card to shop for food at a farmers’ market, the amount of money that he or she spends is matched with Double Up Food Bucks bonus tokens. The tokens can then be exchanged for Michigan-grown fruits and vegetables.  For more information on this wonderful program, click here.

Shoppers who do not have a farmer’s market or a program like Double Up Food Bucks, can still take advantage of lower-cost produce.  With some tasty recipes, a home cook can transform inexpensive produce and pantry staples into fabulous meals.  There are several budget-friendly dishes that you can find on my blog; several can be made for $4!  For example, for just $4, a family can dig into this silky, gingery cabbage dish.  For just $4, you can also make these lentil-rice stuffed collard greens.  This red lentil dal is another quick and inexpensive recipe, relying primarily on pantry ingredients.  Finally, my favorite!  Polenta is a cheap, filling, and healthy meal base.  Serve with oven roasted vegetables and you have an inexpensive, healthy, and filling meal.  Click here for my polenta with roasted vegetables en papillote recipe.

So what can you do?  

  1. Please join the No Kid Hungry campaign in standing up for kids in need. Urge your members of Congress to protect federal nutrition programs that feed our nation’s hungry kids.  Just click here to get started.  It only takes a minute at most.
  2. Head over to the No Kid Hungry website to donate or to find local and national organizations in your area.  These organizations are always looking for helping hands.
  3. Watch A Place At The Table to understand more about our nations food crisis.
  4. Try to live off of $4 for one day to put yourself in the shoes of a food insecure person.
  5. Make the lentil sloppy joe recipe below!  I think it is way better than “real” sloppy joes.  I promise–you won’t miss the meat.

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Lentil “Sloppy Joes”

  • 1 cup lentils, rinsed
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/2 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 15 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 4 oz tomato paste
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon mustard powder
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 3 tablespoons molasses
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar (white or apple cider is best)
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 4 hamburger buns, split (preferably whole wheat)
  1. Put lentils and water in a small pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until tender.  This will take about 30 minutes.  
  2. While lentils are cooking, heat olive oil in a large skilled over medium heat.  When hot, add onions and green pepper and cook until the onions have softened somewhat, about 4 minutes.  Add tomatoes, garlic, tomato paste, ketchup, mustard powder, chili powder, molasses, and vinegar.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Turn heat to lowest setting and simmer 10 minutes until thickened.
  3. Stir cooked lentils into sauce mixture.  Serve on toasted buns.  This recipe is vegan as-is but you can add a slice of cheese to the top of the mixture on the bun and melt it under the broiler if you are not vegan.
  4. Serves 4.

How To Make Homemade Croutons

Simple Herbed Croutons

You know the saying “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime?”  Well, this week I’m going to show you how to make your own croutons.  You’ll never want to buy a box of croutons again once you know how easy this is and how much better homemade croutons taste!

This is one of those very non-fussy cooking projects, where just about anything goes.  All you will need is some bread, olive oil, salt, pepper, and herbs.

Ingredients for croutons

A note about the bread:  you can use just about any bread that you like to make these.  I prefer a whole wheat bread but the preferences end there.  You can start with a rustic loaf with, a light loaf, a dense loaf.  Even stale bread works beautifully here.  You should never have to throw stale bread out again–this is a perfect use for it.  Although I prefer whole wheat for everyday croutons, you can also use a rustic white bread, roughly torn into pieces.  It will make for a slightly less-healthy but really tasty version, great for panzanella (a bread salads).  For this batch, I used Stone House Bread’s Honey Wheat Sandwich Bread.  You can pick it up at Meijer for $3.39, a steal!  And this bread is what bread should be, made simply and locally with a few, high quality organic ingredients.

Bread for croutons

Just cut the bread into strips, turn the other way, and cube it!  You can also roughly tear it into pieces.  Either way the results will be great.

Strips of bread

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For the herbs, I prefer fresh parsley or basil but in a pinch, you can use dried if need be.  You will mix the herbs with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Mix:

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Put the bread cubes into a large bowl and pour the olive oil, herb, salt, and pepper mixture over the croutons.  Spread onto a large baking sheet, making sure to avoid overcrowding:

Bake in a 300° oven for about 15 minutes.  Check to see if they are browned and crispy.  If not, bake for another 5 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let sit until cool.  This will also harden the croutons further so they are nice and crispy.  Once they are completely cool, place in an airtight container.  They will keep for a couple of weeks at room temperature.

Simple Herbed Croutons

Simple Homemade Croutons

  • 6 slices of whole wheat bread
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced parsley, basil, or other fresh herb
  • generous pinch of salt
  • generous pinch of pepper
  • Optional:  1 minced clove of garlic or 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • Optional:  2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 300°
  2. Cube bread or tear into pieces.  Place into a large bowl.
  3. Mix together the olive oil, herbs, salt, and pepper, and garlic or cheese if you are using them.
  4. Pour the olive oil mixture over the bread and stir to coat well.
  5. Scatter the coated bread pieces onto a large baking sheet.
  6. Bake for 15-20 minutes and check for browning and crispness.  If needed, put back into the oven until done.  Mine usually take about 20 minutes.
  7. Let cool completely, then store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.
  8. Enjoy on salads, soups, or right out of the jar!

Blueberry Buckwheat Pancakes with Michigan Maple Syrup and a Lovely Easter Weekend

Blueberry Buckwheat Pancakes

This weekend we finally got a taste of spring for one day before it got cold again. My sweetie and I seized the opportunity to get outside after a long winter and opted to head to the Blandford Nature Center to celebrate just being outside without freezing our nose hairs off.  Michiganders are funny creatures.  You know you are in Michigan when it’s the first 40 degree day and you see a convertible with the top down.  True story.

Anyway…I want to tell you about this great place.  The Blandford Nature Center is just outside of Grand Rapids and has almost 150 acres to explore.  It is also home to an amazing environmental school that any kid would be lucky to attend.  I love the perspective they take:  Blandford Nature Center believes children and adults learn best through personal experience. Our job, and our passion, is to invite our community to get their hands dirty in nature – whether that be standing knee-high in water to learn about stream ecology or planting squash seeds to start a garden.

We walked the trails for a couple of hours, visited all of the injured animals (mostly birds–the owls were adorable!) that have found a permanent home at Blandford, and took a ton of photos.  The trails were great and I was THRILLED to be walking around outside in the sunshine.  Can you tell?

Walking through the woods--and just so happy to be outside!

Walking through the woods–and just so happy to be outside!

The best part, though, was visiting the sugar shack to watch maple sap boil down into maple syrup.

The sugar shack at Blandford Nature Center

The sugar shack at Blandford Nature Center

 Every 6th grader at the three environmental schools in Grand Rapids gets their own tree to tap at the nature center.  What a cool learning experience.  We saw both the modern method of making maple syrup and the native way of making maple syrup.

Native Americans used wooden spiles to tap their trees.

Native Americans used wooden spiles to tap their trees.

Native Americans boiled their sap in cauldrons over fire.

Native Americans boiled their sap in cauldrons over fire.

When I was a kid my family tapped all of the trees lining our property, which gave us enough maple syrup to get through the year.  Did you know it takes forty gallons of maple sap to make one gallon of maple syrup?  As you can imagine, that take a lot of time and a lot of boiling.  I very fondly remember standing outside in the snow around the barrel stove fitted with a stainless steel pan, waiting as the sap boiled down.  The aroma of the boiling sap is a scent memory I will never forget and one that I am at a loss for words to describe.  When we walked into the sugar shack and smelled that amazing aroma, I was on cloud nine, transported back to the U.P. in early spring.

Inside the Sugar Shack watching sap boil into maple syrup.

Inside the Sugar Shack watching sap boil into maple syrup.

As you can imagine, we simply had to buy a quart of this syrup after watching it being made.  We couldn’t wait to try some and decided that Easter morning we would make buckwheat blueberry pancakes and douse them in this liquid gold.  And we sure did.  It was everything a Sunday should be.  Sleeping in, eating pancakes after noon, listening to the Archers Omnibus (the longest running radio drama, aired in the U.K.–I am hooked!), and making a Ukranian egg.  Although Easter was decidedly un-Eastery I must say it was still a lovely, lovely day and truly a beautiful weekend.

Psanky Easter Egg I made on Sunday.  I grew up with this great tradition.

Psanky Easter Egg I made on Sunday. I grew up with this great tradition.

For the pancakes, I just pulled a recipe from the Food Network website.  The only difference was that I used frozen wild blueberries instead of fresh (fresh taste so icky to me out of season).

Blueberry Buckwheat Pancakes

Blueberry Buckwheat Pancakes adapted ever so slightly from The Food Network

  • 3/4 cup buckwheat flour
  • 3/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup nonfat milk
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries, divided
  • 1/2 cup real maple syrup
  1. In a large bowl whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  2. In another bowl, beat together the buttermilk, non-fat milk, honey, eggs, and oil.
  3. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, mixing only enough to combine them. Stir in 1 cup of fresh or still-frozen berries (if you are using frozen berries, thaw the other cup of berries at this time so they are thawed for serving but make sure the blueberries you add to the batter are still frozen otherwise they will turn your batter blue!).
  4. Preheat a large nonstick griddle or skillet over a medium flame. Ladle the batter onto the skillet with a 1/4-cup measure. Flip the pancake when it is golden brown on the bottom and bubbles are forming on top, about 1 1/2 minutes. Cook the other side until golden brown, about 1 1/2 minutes.
  5. Serve topped with more blueberries and the maple syrup, your favorite book, and your coziest PJs.

Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ellie-krieger/blueberry-buckwheat-pancakes-recipe/index.html?oc=linkback

Roasted Vegetables with Cheese Sauce and Toasts

Roasted vegetables with cheese sauce and toasts

Welcome to another Meatless Monday with the Food Matters project!  I say that half-joking because everything on my blog is meatless, Monday or not.  This week Lexi from Lexi’s Kitchen chose “Reverse Fondue” for the Food Matters pick of the week.  If you have a minute, check out Lexi’s blog.  She grows her own vegetables and has tons of tasty recipes.  I have been meaning to try her baby spinach salad with dates and almonds for a couple of weeks.  It looks amazing and I can’t wait to try it.

I had such a busy, busy day today and had about 30 minutes to whip together lunch (and exactly 7 minutes to eat it!).  This no-fuss recipe was easily done in that span of time.  All I had to do was rough-chop some veggies, drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper and roast for a short time.  While that was happening, I mixed together the cheese sauce, which was a five-minute-max project and pretty impossible to screw up.  Slice up a few pieces of bread from a baguette and toast a moment, and voila!  Roasted Vegetables with Cheese Sauce and Toasts.

Veggies Read to Roast

Feel free to experiment.  This recipe is hard to go wrong with.  Use any veggies good for roasting, use any cheese you want, any kind of bread you want (or skip the bread if you want).  Piece of cake.  I couldn’t help thinking when I made this that this trick is how parents get their kids to eat veggies (broccoli with cheese sauce, anyone?).  I felt a little childlike digging into this dish myself.  Not a bad thing in the middle of a hectic workday.

Roasted Vegetables with Cheese Sauce and Toasts

Roasted Veggies With Cheese Sauce and Toasts, adapted from Mark Bittman’s The Food Matters Project Cookbook

  • 1 cup broccoli florets
  • Stem of broccoli, shaved then sliced on the diagonal
  • 2 carrots, sliced diagonally in about ½ inch pieces
  • 1 turnip, cut into wedges
  • ½ medium onion, cut into wedges
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 oz vegetable broth or chicken broth if you aren’t vegetarian
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 4 oz cheese (I used a combination of Swiss and goat cheese)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Heat oven to 450°.  Cut all of the veggies roughly—they don’t need to be perfect.  Spread on a large, rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil.  Sprinkle with some salt and pepper and toss to coat.  Roast in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until crisp-tender and beginning to brown. 
  2. Meanwhile, cut a few ½ inch thick slices of baguette and place in the oven on another sheet or move the veggies over to make room for the bread if you only have a few slices.  Toast until browned but still soft in the middle.  This should take less time than the veggies, about 10 minutes. 
  3. While the veggies and bread are in the oven, mix cornstarch with broth in a small saucepan.  Bring to a soft boil and add cheeses.  Stir continuously until all of the cheese has melted.  Pour into a small bowl and put a pinch of pepper on the top if you like. 
  4. Serve the cheese sauce with the roasted veggies and the bread on the side. 
  5. Dip away to your heart’s content!