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Author Archive | Aleksandra Till

Crunchy Baked French Fries

Caramel Corn

The quest for crunchy baked french fries ends here! Making fries at home should be something enjoyed regularly. Sadly, most online versions disappoint. Say good-bye to limp, floppy potatoes. Say hello to fries that have a longer table-life than the standard drive-through dash.

The secret to these fries is a quick boil in a baking soda bath. The edges of the fries get roughed up nicely, so when they bake in the oven they get the crunchy outside paired with a creamy inside.

Crunchy Baked French Fries

1½ pounds russet potatoes
Salted water
½ teaspoon baking soda
Butter and/or olive oil
Salt and pepper

Prep. Preheat oven to 525° F. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Peel potatoes. Slice lengthwise, divide into two stacks, then slice again into long strips. Try to cut the potatoes into the same thickness around, the skinnier the better.

Blanch the potatoes. When the water is boiling, add baking soda, then the potatoes. Baking soda is essential to final texture, do not skip! Boil for 3-4 minutes, then drain. Toss with some butter and olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and toss again. The more roughed up they get, the crunchier they’ll be.

Bake the fries. Spread the fries onto several baking sheets lined with parchment paper, arranged into single layers. Bake for 15-20 minutes, turning occasionally, until browned.

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Vegetable Garbage Bread

Garbage Bread

There is something about food being called “garbage” that piques one’s curiosity. Well, it’s quite simple. Garbage bread is like a pizza burrito. Fill it with whatever you’d like, roll it up, then bake or grill it for a SUPER family-friendly dinner. Slice in half, dip in marinara or pesto and enjoy!

Vegetable Garbage Bread

1 ball pizza dough (about 12 ounces)
4 ounces cheese, such as shredded mozzarella
½ cup thinly sliced zucchini*
½ cup carrot, grated or chopped
½ cup broccoli, chopped
1 small shallot, minced
Olive oil
Optional: Parmesan cheese and basil, for garnish
Optional: Marinara sauce and pesto, for dipping

 
Preheat. Set a pizza stone or baking sheet on your grill or oven, and preheat to the highest setting.

Prep dough. Lightly flour a work surface. Divide the dough into two balls. Set the dough balls on the flour. Dust the tops with flour and cover with plastic. Let rest for about 15 minutes.

Prep filling. Trim the zucchini ends then slice thinly. Peel and grate or chop the carrot. Chop the broccoli finely. Mince the shallot. Grate the cheese.

Assemble. Stretch or roll the dough into two rectangles, each about the size of a sheet of paper, as thin as you can get them. Sprinkle the dough rectangles with mozzarella. Layer on the zucchini, carrots, broccoli and shallot. Roll into logs, tuck the ends under and brush with olive oil.

Bake.
OVEN: Turn the oven down to 425 degrees and bake until a crust forms, about 15 minutes. (When you can hear or see the cheese bubbling, that’s a good indication it’s done.)
GRILL: Place the garbage bread directly on the hot grill or a preheated pizza stone. Cook on each side for about 5 minutes or until toasted on all sides. If the outsides cook too quickly, turn the heat down or grill the bread on indirect heat until it’s completely cooked.

Serve. Cool for 10 minutes. Warm up the pesto and marinara sauce. Slice the logs in half, dust with parmesan cheese and basil and serve with marinara sauce and pesto.

*You can easily customize the fillings with your family’s favorites. Feel free to replace the veggies with 3/4 cup chopped pepperoni and 4 additional ounces of cheese (or to taste).

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Latin-Twist Summer Salad with Gooseberries

Gooseberry Salad.

OK, let’s get one thing straight, I have no idea what to call this salad. For me, dishes with cumin, lime and avocados just make me think of Ecuador or Argentina. The point is that the flavors play really nice with the gooseberries. The greens could be anything, literally — but a pinch of cumin and a squeeze of lime can transform the ordinary into the extraordinary, and they really bring gooseberries to life.

So when you see those tart, tangy little grape/tomato-looking balls of happiness in the farmer’s market or grocery store in late June/early July, you may wonder what the heck to do with them. They are full-flavored pops of drama, and this salad is the perfect stage.

Summer Salad with Gooseberries

1 bunch red chard
1 avocado
1 lime
1 pint gooseberries
1 teaspoon cumin
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and black pepper
Optional: 1/4 cup cotija cheese

 
Prep chard. Wash and thinly slice the chard by stacking the leaves, making lengthwise slits, then slicing every half inch down to the stalk. Add to large salad bowl.

Prep avocado. Cut the avocado in half and remove the pit. Make crosswise slices, then push against skin to release the chunks in a bowl. Slice the lime in half and juice over the avocado then toss to coat. This will help prevent the avocado from turning brown.

Prep gooseberries. Wash the gooseberries; remove any leaves or stems. Slice the gooseberries in half.

Finish salad. Combine the sliced chard, chopped avocado along with lime juice, and gooseberries in a salad bowl. Add enough olive oil to coat, the cumin, and season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat completely and serve. Optional: Sprinkle with cotija cheese before serving. The cotija is a nice salty topping, but can be difficult to find so omitting it is just fine

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Indian-Spiced Parsnip Soup with Apples and Coconut Milk

More! My turn! More!

More! My turn! More!

One of the side effects of owning a food business is bringing home loads of excess ingredients, like five pounds of delicious, organic parsnips from Driftless Organics, and extra spice mixes from Indian dinners. One cannot waste these things! I set about to turn it into a soup and thought it was really yummy. But what surprised me most of all, was my kids going ga-ga over it. Even my young sons — who pretty much only get excited about hot dogs — were begging for more. I call that a five-star recipe.

This mild vegan soup gets sweetness from the apple, and brings parsnips to life with ginger, garlic, and spice mixes from chicken tikka masala and gajar matar. Some tomato and coconut milk round out the flavor with creaminess and acidity.

Indian-Spiced Parsnip Soup

You can purchase the spices in the bulk section of most co-ops or organic grocery stores.
If you want a shortcut on the spices, substitute with 2 tablespoons of curry powder.

Indian-Spiced Parsnip Soup
with Apples and Coconut Milk

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion
1 tablespoon ginger, minced
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
2 pounds parsnips
1 small apple
3 teaspoons salt
Indian Spices (see below)
One 32-ounce vegetable broth
1 cup whole, peeled tomatoes (1/2 a 14-ounce can)
One 15-ounce can coconut milk
Extra water, as needed
Chile oil or red pepper flakes, for garnish
Indian Spices
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons ground cumin
½ teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon garam masala
2 cardamom pods

1. Prep ingredients. All the ingredients are going to be puréed, so they don’t need to be perfect.
> Onion > Cut onion in half and trim the top off; remove skin. Rough chop.
> Ginger > Use a peeler or a spoon to scrape the skin off the ginger. Rough chop.
> Garlic > Place the garlic on the cutting board and lay your knife on top of it, broadside. With the heel of your hand, smash down onto the side of the knife, then remove skin.
> Parsnips > Peel the parsnips. Trim off the top, and coarsely chop the thick parts of the parsnips.
> Apples > Wash the apple and peel (julienne peels if you want to use them for garnish). Quarter lengthwise and remove the core.

2. Soften the vegetables. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat. When hot, add the onions and cook for several minutes. Then add the ginger and garlic, cook for another couple of minutes. Add the parsnips and apple , continue cooking until the onions begin to brown and caramelize.

3. Make the soup. Stir in the salt and Indian spices, cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Pour in the broth, scrape the bottom of the pan to set any brown bits free, and add the tomatoes. The liquid level needs to be about 80-90% covering the vegetables, add water as needed. Cover, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium high and simmer for about 20 minutes, until the parsnips are tender.

4. Purée the soup. Discard the bay leaf and add the coconut milk. Working in batches, transfer the soup to a blender. Do not fill more than half full, to reduce risk of splatter. Hold the lid down with a towel, to avoid burns, and purée until smooth. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and continue with remaining soup. Mix in more hot water if it is too thick.

5. Serve. Ladle the soup into bowls. Garnish with apple peels, if desired, sprinkle with chile oil or pepper flakes, and serve.

COOK TIME: 45 minutes

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Vietnamese Fried Pumpkin and Pork

Vietnamese Fried Pumpkin and Pork

Vietnamese Fried Pumpkin and Pork (Bí Đỏ Chiên Thịt)

I used to love my CSA box — that is, until I had children. Babies and toddlers are time vampires and barely eat anything, let alone a heap of vegetables, so it didn’t make sense to continue my subscription of getting farm-fresh boxes of vegetables regularly. But I do remember the years… Especially when I got loads of fall goodies, like pumpkin and squash.

I found this recipe for Fried Pumpkin and Pork (Bí Đỏ Chiên Thịt) on the VietnameseFood: Cuisine & Attractions website. From my days of living off Eat Street and eating Vietnamese food regularly, I never came across this on a menu. Or maybe I just never noticed, because I was too obsessed with bún bò noodle salads. But the site said fried pumpkin is extremely popular in Vietnam, and any time a native calls out how popular a dish is, I’m game to try it. (If it’s good for 89 million, it must be pretty good!) I’m happy to report that it IS that good!

There is something perfect about this food that is hard to describe. The sweetness of the squash and tang of onion, the richness of pork — all bound up in a little crunchy nugget. With chili sauce and mayo on top, it’s umami. A super quick sauté of cabbage and mushrooms on the side, along with white rice, make this an excellent meal for the cold weather blues.

FYI: There are plenty of versions of this recipe without the pork, so go 100% veggie if you prefer.

So this recipe is for all you CSA holders out there, just trying to find ONE MORE squash recipe to burn through that box! The only “special” ingredients in this recipe are the panko and fish sauce, otherwise this is standard pantry material. If you don’t have fish sauce, use soy sauce instead. The sriracha chili sauce and mayo make this great, so don’t skip them.

Little fried patties of squash, pork, red onion and garlic pair perfectly with sriracha and mayo.

Little fried patties of squash, pork, red onion and garlic pair perfectly with sriracha and mayo.


While start to finish is under 45 minutes, this recipe does dirty a lot of dishes. Be prepared.

Vietnamese Fried Pumpkin and Pork

Fried Pumpkin with Ground Pork
1 pound pumpkin or squash (about 2 small acorn squash, for instance)
1 small red onion
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon fish sauce
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon flour
½ pound ground pork
1½ cups panko
¼ cup vegetable oil
Stir-Fried Cabbage and Mushrooms
1¼ pounds cabbage (half a small head)
1 cup mushrooms
1 tablespoon oil
Salt, black pepper and a pinch of sugar, to taste
Splash of fish sauce or soy sauce, optional
Rice
1 cup jasmine rice
2 cups water
½ teaspoon salt
Mayonnaise, for serving
Chili sauce, for serving

1. Prep ingredients.
> Pumpkin or squash > Cut in half, scoop out seeds with a spoon and trim off ends. Peel the pumpkin and slice into 1/2-inch pieces.
> Cabbage > Cut out the core, then shred crosswise into thin slices.
> Mushrooms > Wash and trim off stems.

2. Steam the pumpkin. Bring about 3 inches of water to boil in a medium pan with a steam rack set inside. Add to steam rack, reduce heat to medium high, cover and steam until the pumpkin is fork-tender, about 15 minutes.

3. Cook the rice. Combine the rice, water and salt in a small saucepan and set over a small burner on high heat. Bring to a boil, then partially cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 15 minutes, or until the rice is done. Fluff with fork, remove from heat and cover.

4. Mix the pumpkin and pork. Combine the cooked pumpkin, red onion, garlic, fish sauce, black pepper, and flour in a blender or food processor. Process into a purée. Transfer to mixing bowl and add in the ground pork. Mix with a wooden spoon until well combined.

5. Bread the pumpkin mix. (You can begin warming the oil, as directed in Step 6, now.) In wide mixing bowl or plate, dump the panko. Doing a couple at a time, shape pieces of the pumpkin mix into 2-inch balls. Place them in the panko, roll around, then flatten into disks. Transfer to plate and continue until all the mix is used up.

6. Fry the pumpkin. Heat a medium or large non-stick fry pan over medium high heat, add enough oil to coat the pan completely. When the oil is shimmering, add as many of the pumpkin disks will fit. Cook each side for about 3 minutes, gently pressing them down then flipping with a fork, until a crust forms and they are nicely browned. Transfer to paper towel-lined plate and continue with remaining pumpkin disks.

7. Stir fry the cabbage and mushrooms. Add a little oil to a wide sauté pan or wok and heat over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the cabbage and mushrooms and cook until both are softened, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, and add a pinch of sugar. Toss to combine then set aside.

8. Serve. Scoop rice onto each plate along with a heaping pile of the stir-fried cabbage and mushrooms. Add some of the fried pumpkin and drizzle mayonnaise and chili sauce over top. Serve immediately.

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Dinner Hacks for Wholesome Meals in Less Than 15 Minutes


The wind is a’ changin’ and with it comes new schedules to go with the weather. Seems like the perfect time to review some dinners that are done in 15 minutes or less — you know, the kind that may leverage a jarred sauce or spice mix for a super short grocery list. Serve some mixed greens or shredded cabbage on the side and your crazy fast dinner is ready.

Fish Sandwiches

You’ll Need
Skinless boneless cod (about 4 ounces per person)
Old Bay or other fish seasoning
Hamburger Buns
Remoulade or Tarter Sauce
Toppings like tomatoes and lettuce

To Make
Heat some oil in a non-stick pan. Lightly oil the fish then rub the seasoning all over it (sprinkle with salt if there isn’t any in the seasoning). When hot, add the fish and cook until it is opaque about 2/3rds up, then flip the fish and cook the other side. Meanwhile, butter the insides of the buns and toast or broil them until light brown. Layer the bottom of the bun with lettuce, tomato, and the cooked fish. Spread remoulade on the top bun and top the sandwich.

Potstickers with Sauce

You’ll Need
Frozen potstickers
Soy Sauce
Chili Sauce
Chinese Hot Mustard*

To Make
Steam the potstickers as directed on the package. Meanwhile, whisk together equal amounts of soy sauce, chili sauce and mustard together. Dip the potstickers in the sauce before eating.
*Regular mustard works, too. Chinese-style is just better.

Chinese Dumpling Soup

You’ll Need
Frozen potstickers
Chicken broth
Spinach

To Make
Boil the potstickers in the chicken broth. When the potstickers are cooked through, the soup is done. Add the spinach to the hot soup just before serving.

Mushroom & Broccoli Alfredo

You’ll Need
Jar of alfredo sauce
Linguine noodles
8 ounces sliced mushrooms and/or one crown broccoli, broken into florets
Optional: One chicken breast, sliced thinly

To Make
Warm up the alfredo sauce in a small saucepan while you are boiling the noodles. (If you are using sliced chicken, add it to the sauce to cook it.) Drain the noodles when they are done, and return to the warm pan and cover with lid. In a saucepan, heat some butter and add the veggies and cook until the mushrooms are softened and juicy. Combine with the sauce and stir, then add to pot with noodles and coat to stir.

Egg Sandwiches with Mixed Greens

You’ll Need
English muffins
Gruyère cheese, sliced
One egg per person
Mixed greens
Optional: Cooked ham

To Make
Heat some oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Meanwhile, open the English muffins and toast them in a toaster oven. Crack the eggs into the pan and fry sunny-side up until the bottoms are set. Flip the eggs, top with Gruyère cheese, sprinkle with some salt and pepper and cook for another couple of minutes until the cheese is melty. Butter the insides of the English muffin and place the egg with cheese inside. (If using ham, add under egg.) Grind some black pepper and top with lid and serve with mixed greens on the side.

Polish Sausage and Veggies

You’ll Need
Polish sausage
Veggies to your liking — like halved Brussels sprouts or thinly sliced onions and red pepper
Dinner rolls

To Make
Heat a very large fry pan over medium-high heat. Slice the Polish sausage into 1/2-inch to 2-inch slices. Add to the pan and begin to fry them. When the fat begins to render, push the sausage to one side to continue cooking and add the veggies to the pan. Cook until the veggies are bright and tender, about 5 minutes. Serve with dinner rolls or mashed potatoes.

Peanut Soba Noodles with Veggies and Egg

You’ll Need
One jar of Asian peanut sauce
Mixed veggies, like red pepper, broccoli, snap peas, etc. — cut into bite-sized pieces
Soba or rice noodles
One egg per person
Roasted peanuts (optional)
Hot sauce (optional)

To Make
Boil the noodles according to the package instructions. Meanwhile, heat some oil in a large fry pan. Add the veggies and stir fry until they are bright and tender, about 5 minutes, then remove from heat. Cook the egg how you’d like: either scrambled or sunny side up. When the noodles are drained, return them to the pot. Add the peanut sauce and veggies, and stir to combine. Add in scrambled egg, too, otherwise top the bowls with the sunny-side up egg. Serve topped with chopped peanuts and hot sauce.

Cheesy Pasta

You’ll Need
Pasta, any kind
Any cheese like cheddar, mozzarella, blue cheese, etc. (Get creative, use several!)
Mixed greens
Optional: Cooked hot dog or shrimp, chopped

To Make
Boil the noodles as directed in the recipe, in salted water. (If using hot dogs or shrimp, cook in the boiling water, then chop.) Grate any firm or semi-firm cheeses. Set a mug or measuring cup next to the colander in the sink and fill with pasta water before drain the noodles. Add the noodles back to the warm pan and add the cheese(s). Stir, adding reserved pasta water to thin the sauce, until smooth. (Fold in chopped hot dog or shrimp, if using.) Serve with mixed greens on the side.

Tomato-Mozzarella Open-Faced Bagels

You’ll Need
Bagels
Fresh Mozzarella
Basil
Tomato
Olive oil

To Make
Slice the bagels into halves. Layer each slice with mozzarella, a slice of tomato, and a leaf of basil. Place on a foil-lined pan and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with coarse salt. Toast or broil for several minutes, until the mozzarella is melting. Let cool for a minute before eating.

Spicy Ramen with Egg

You’ll Need
One package of spicy ramen*
One egg per person
Veggies to your liking — like oriental mushrooms, scallions, or spinach — chopped

To Make
Begin to cook the noodles according to package instructions. When the noodles start to soften and you can tease them apart, crack the eggs into the pot, so the noodles create a cushion for the egg. Add any vegetables and cook until the noodles are a firm al dente. Remove from heat and let the noodles continue cooking while the soup cools for about five minutes. Divide between bowls.
*I like the Shin Ramyun Hot Spicy Noodle in the large, red and black package. Available at most grocery stores with a respectable ethnic section.

Butternut Squash and Basil Gnocchi

You’ll Need
Gnocchi, frozen or dried
Butternut squash, frozen, cubed
Basil leaves, sliced thinly
Butter
Optional: Mild Italian sausage

To Make
Cook the gnocchi according to the package instructions, then drain and return to warm pan and cover with lid. In a large non-stick frying pan, heat up some butter and cook the butternut squash until it is cooked through. (If using sausage, open the casing and cook in the same pan, breaking it apart with a spoon until it is cooked through. Add the gnocchi to the pan and toss gently until the gnocchi is coated, adding olive oil if needed. Sprinkle with basil, coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper before serving.

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No-Mayo Creamy Potato Salad

No Mayo Creamy Potato Salad

I love mayonnaise on my sandwiches, but I always shy away from putting heaps of it in salads. This is a no-mayo potato salad recipe, leveraging hard-boiled eggs and olive oil as a mayo replacement. Picnic-style potato salad (aka best served cold) can be prone to dryness, so sour cream is added for creaminess, though plain yogurt would work just as well. The capers add little pops of salt which is addicting. Dill and shredded spinach is added for extra flavor, though any dark green leaf vegetable — kale, mustard greens, collard greens, etc. — would work just as well. Just mix it all together after the potatoes have cooled off.

Potato Salad

1½ pounds small potatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks
2 eggs, hard-boiled and chopped
1 cup spinach, sliced thinly
¼ cup sour cream
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons capers
1 tablespoon dill, minced
1 tablespoon minced shallots
½ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Boil the eggs. Place eggs in a small saucepan and fill with water until the eggs are covered by an inch. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat; when water is at a rolling boil turn the heat off, keeping the lid on. Let sit for 12 minutes. Fill a bowl with ice and water, and move the eggs to the ice bath. Let sit for a couple minutes then remove shell. Chop the eggs and place in a salad bowl.

2. Cook the potatoes. Fill a large saucepan with several inches of water and bring to a boil. Scrub the potatoes and cut into 1-inch chunks. When the water is boiling, add the potatoes and partially cover. Cook until potatoes are fork-tender, 15-20 minutes. Drain the potatoes and transfer them to a sheet pan to cool, then add to the salad bowl with eggs.

3. Mix the salad. Add the sliced spinach, sour cream, olive oil, capers, minced dill, minced shallots, salt and pepper to the potatoes and chopped egg. Stir gently until all of the ingredients are well combined.

4. Store and serve. You can serve this right away or, even better, make it ahead and store up to several days ahead so it is completely chilled.

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Getting Kids into the Clean Plate Club

Yes, actually, turning the food into a smiley face works sometimes!

Yes, actually, turning the food into a smiley face works sometimes!

For a little more than a year, my family has hardly eaten a dinner that wasn’t for a reason: recipe testing, retesting, testing a different cook method, finding a replacement meal for the one I originally planned, needing a photo of a dinner, needing to use up remnant ingredients, etc.

I gotta say, my kids are awesome. I am basically writing this simply to commend them. At the writing of this post, they are 14 months, 3 years and 4-1/2 years old. For the first two-thirds of this journey, I swear they were never served the same meal twice. Poor kids, all they wanted was a hot dog. Instead they were my unwitting world-travelers and culinary adventurers.

Without starting Homegrown Foods, I would have cooked dinner from scratch any way. But probably more like three meals per night and we probably would have rotated in our favorites more frequently. I’d like to style myself an expert on the topic now, here is my list of top moves:

1. Smiley face. I must admit, for my young children, turning the food on their plate into a smiley face actually does work to get them to try new foods.

2. Food equality for all. We treat all foods as equals—to be as excited about vegetables as chocolate chip cookies. Don’t make it sound like a punishment to eat vegetables, or a threat of no dessert if they don’t.

3. Bribery. When they absolutely refuse to try something new I am not above bribing them: “I’ll give you an M&M if you take a bite of this.” The goal is to get them to try new foods so they get used to the flavors. If I can avoid a dinner stand-off and get the food in their mouth for the mere price of an M&M, so be it. More often than not, they realize that there isn’t anything to be afraid of on their plate (and, if I may say so myself, they learn that their mom is a rock-star who cooks fabulous food!).

4. Grouping vs Combining. Deconstructed dinners often have more success than a fully plated dinner. (Surprise, surprise, kids will not eat something if a food they don’t like isn’t touching it.) On the opposite end of the spectrum, if there are a bunch of ingredients they are not used to they are more likely to eat it if the pieces are super tiny or puréed.

5. Give them the whole dinner. I always put everything on their plates, even when they screech that they don’t like it. I want them to get used to the look, smell, and hopefully taste of all the food we eat. They don’t have to eat it, but they have to look at it.

I don’t pretend to have the answers to kids eating wholesome foods. I try to remind myself that they probably won’t eat like we do until they are 25 years old. But I will say, I am amazed at the way my kids eat today. Last week, I tried a recipe from a new cookbook and I warned them, “Everything in this dinner is new. There is nothing on your plate you will have tasted before. You may like all of it, some of it, or none of it but I expect you to try it.” It was chicken stewed in a coconut-lime broth hotly spiced with curry paste along with a plantain-sweet potato mash seasoned with turmeric, and curried chickpea rosti (like thick, dense pancakes). My kitchen smelled like a foreign city. These were all new flavors and some new textures, and the kids were incredibly good sports and tried all of it, and each enjoyed different components of that meal.

Don’t get me wrong. My 14 month old still earnestly picks up every food from his tray that he doesn’t want to eat and deliberately drops it, watching it as it goes overboard and plunks to the floor. He is probably my pickiest eater but has no system to speak of it. One day that food is “in,” the next it hits the floor. My 3 year old periodically reminds me, “I don’t like butter!” (he actually does, he just likes to say that) if I deign to mention that butter was involved in the cooking process.

The other night I made miso-marinated black cod with seaweed salad and black rice. While delicious, none of it was a hit with the kids. Though, I was so impressed that my daughter actually grabbed a handful of the seaweed salad and popped it right into her mouth (then saying, “Mmm, this is good but I don’t really want any more.”) After a certain amount of effort, my husband and I got the kids to try everything.

They still didn’t like it so I said, “How about some hot dogs, guys?”

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Fabulous Winter Kale Salad

Winter Kale Salad

Winter Kale Salad with Cauliflower, Blood Orange and Pepita Purée

Now that I’m in the food business, I realize that many a’chef-recipe likely arises from trying to use up remnant ingredients. Such is the case with this salad. I had a small container of puréed pepitas in the fridge since the fall and I wanted my shelf space back. Even though making the pepita purée is very easy, I believe that almond or cashew butter blended with a little extra salt and olive oil would be just as tasty. Maybe even peanut butter, as long as it is all-natural and unsweetened.

This salad is fantastic! I am not, by nature, the type of person that goes bonkers for a kale salad, but this was really good! The creamy purée tempered the bitter greens and crunchy cauliflower, and the citrus gave bright pops of sweetness.

Makes 2 servings

Winter Kale Salad with Citrus, Cauliflower, and Pepito Purée

Pepita Purée*
1/2 cup raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt
1 bunch kale
2 big florets cauliflower
1 cup citrus fruit, such blood or mandarin oranges

*If you don’t want to make pepita purée, substitute with almond or cashew butter, thinned with olive oil and lightly salted.

Roast the pepitas. Preheat the oven to 375°. Spread the pumpkin seeds in a pie plate or baking dish. Bake the pumpkin seeds for 8-10 minutes, stirring once, until lightly browned and crisp; let cool completely.

Make the pepita purée. Transfer the roasted pumpkin seeds to a mini food processor. Add the olive oil and pulse until the seeds are ground to a paste. Season with salt.

Prepare the salad ingredients. Stack the kale leaves and cut them into chiffondae (thin strips crosswise). Slice the cauliflower into small bite-size pieces. If you have a small citrus, just peel and break apart the pieces. For a larger one, cut into quarters then remove the outer peel with a knife, careful not to remove too much fruit. Cut into bite-size pieces.

Mix it all together. Combine the kale and cauliflower in a mixing bowl. Pour the pepita purée over it and mix until all the vegetables are evenly coated. Top with citrus and serve.

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Perfect Rolled Sugar Cookies

‘Tis the holiday season and everyone who plans on making Christmas cookies (including me) is searching for cookie recipes that will impress. Sometimes it’s about putting a twist on a good thing, and sometimes it’s just about making a good thing better. You know, like amping up the special.

This recipe is not necessarily a twist on a classic. Rather a long pause — like making the dough on Wednesday and baking the cookies on Saturday. Or just a technical improvement — like rolling out the dough just after mixing, and letting it refrigerate in a thin sheet, which makes it easier to cut and helps keeps their shape.  What you will get is vanilla-packed flavor with easy cookie-cutter precision.

The trick to these rolled sugar cookies is to barely mix the dough to prevent spreading (no fluffing the butter and sugar!). Also, you will make your own vanilla sugar for coating the cookies and refrigerate the dough for a couple days so the vanilla bean aroma can thoroughly infuse the dough.

 

Triple Vanilla Sugar Cookies

1 cup sugar
1 cup butter (2 sticks), softened
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs
2 vanilla beans
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
3 cups flour
1 additional cup sugar*
1 container with air-tight lid

Blend butter and sugar until just mixed. On medium-low speed, mix butter and sugar until just combined, about 30 seconds.

Mix remaining ingredients. Carefully slit the vanilla beans and scrape the seeds into the mixing bowl, reserving the pods. Add the baking soda, eggs, vanilla extract and almond extract. Mix until just blended, about 3 minutes. Then, 1 cup at a time, add the flour until completely mixed.

Roll out dough and refrigerate up to 4 days. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Gather the dough into a ball and set onto a lightly floured surface. Using a floured rolling pin, roll out the dough 1/8- to 1/4-inch thick. Transfer dough to baking sheet, cover in plastic and store in refrigerator.

Make vanilla sugar. Pour about a cup of sugar into a jar or container. Add reserved vanilla beans. Seal and store until ready to use. (Shake periodically.)
*You can make colored sugar by adding a couple drops of food coloring. Or if you plan on frosting the cookies, use powdered sugar.

Preheat oven to 350° F then bake. Line another baking sheet with parchment paper. Use the cutter of your choice to make shapes. Transfer cookies to baking sheet and sprinkle with vanilla sugar. Bake for 10–12 minutes, until edges are light brown.

P.S. Make sure there isn’t anything strong-smelling in the fridge, like bowls of chopped onions.

Makes about 3 dozen standard-size cookies, or 8 dozen mini cookies.

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