Hermione Voyage: Celebrating France in Alexandria

The Hermione, a replica of the tall ship that carried the Marquis de Lafayette and aid from France to assist General Washington in the waning days of the American Revolution, docked in Alexandria last night at midnight. If the boy wasn’t still in school, I’d have taken the kids down to watch its arrival; but alas, we had to settle for heading to the waterfront this afternoon. We didn’t have tickets to board (very limited tickets are available each day at 8:30am), but there were activities and re-enacters on the dock and you can walk right up to the ship for a close-up view.

Hermione Voyage in Alexandria VA | foodietots.com

The Hermione sailed from Rochefort, France in April and arrived at Yorktown on June 5. Washingtonians can visit her in Alexandria tomorrow and Friday before she continues on to Annapolis (June 16-17), Baltimore (June 19-21) and on up the Eastern seaboard to spend July 4 in New York (and beyond). Find full voyage details at hermione2015.com.

maritime education on the docks | foodietots.com

Dockside entertainment includes live music performances and a very informative tent on marine navigation that captured the foodie tots’ interest for quite a lengthy chat. There are also boat-building demos and an interpretive tent to quickly brush up on Lafayette’s significance to the American Revolution.

period entertainers on the dock | foodietots.com

Tip: Get a birds-eye view of the ship from the third floor of the Torpedo Factory — and stop by the Alexandria Archeology Museum for some more hands-on education.

Hermione as seen from the Torpedo Factory | foodietots.com

Hungry? 3 French-Inspired Eateries in Alexandria

After visiting the ship, you may be in the mood for some French cuisine. One of our long-time Old Town favorites is Fontaine Caffe & Creperie, which serves authentic sweet and savory crepes and cidres in its cozy Royal Street location. It’s also where the foodie tot ate her first anchovy, on one of our ladies’ lunches.

Further up King Street is the French-inspired La Fromagerie, an artisan cheese and wine bistro, and for something a little fancier, Bastille has recently reopened in its new Fayette Street location.

Hermione reflection in Old Town | foodietots.com

Of course, you could also pack a picnic and eat in view of the ship down at Founders Park. Just hurry, Hermione sets sail again on the 12th!

Cheesy Crab Stuffed Peppers #SundaySupper

This post is sponsored by the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board in conjunction with a social media campaign through Sunday Supper LLC. All opinions are my own.

cheesy crab stuffed peppers | foodietots.com

It’s no secret that cheese is a favorite ingredient in the foodie tots kitchen. Whether we’re enjoying a comfort food mac-and-cheese night or a nutritious after school snack of apples and cheddar, you can bet that our cheese drawer is rarely found empty. And here’s a little secret: cheese is often an easy way I can encourage the kids to try a new or previously unpopular vegetable. The boy was first turned on to salad by the introduction of Caesar salad. It’s hard to turn down lettuce topped with parmesan, croutons and a creamy dressing, right? A grating of parmesan also improves the taste of asparagus, and we’ve been known to dip broccoli and cauliflower into hot cheese fondue.

corn, crab and peppers | foodietots.com

As the temperature is heating up and our farmers markets are kicking into high gear for the summer, I wanted to come up with something new for our family dinner table that incorporated fresh seasonal produce. The tot has recently discovered that she loves red peppers, as long as we call them “sweet peppers” and not “bell peppers.” (It’s all about the marketing, sometimes!) One of our favorite vendors will soon have sweet peppers in nearly every color in the rainbow; the mild yellow and purple ones are particular favorites. Until we can get those, we’re making do with these sweet mini peppers at the supermarket. Stuffed peppers -– especially these kid-sized ones — make for a fun and kid-friendly dinner entrée or an appetizer for a summer dinner party. The filling for these cheesy stuffed peppers was inspired by another favorite summer treat at market, crab-and-corn dip. We’re not far from the Chesapeake Bay and its famed blue crabs, and the region is also known for summer sweet corn. The two make a lovely pairing even before you add cheese into the mix. Or three cheeses, to be precise — the crab mixture starts with a creamy mascarpone base, then I added equal parts of Asiago and Colby cheeses to compliment the sweet corn and crab.

wisconsin cheese recipe | foodietots.com

There are several steps the kids can help with — scraping seeds out of the halved peppers, grating cheese, and scooping and pressing the filling into each pepper half (as long as you’re prepared for things to get a little messy.) After stuffing the pepper halves with a generous scoop of the cheesy corn and crab mixture, I topped each with parsley and breadcrumbs and then another sprinkle of Asiago cheese. The peppers go into the oven for about 25 minutes, until the cheese is melted and golden. I like to serve them with rice and a big side salad to round out our dinner.

asiago cheese topped stuffed peppers | foodietots.com

When it comes to cheese, we do choose Wisconsin Cheese often. I had the chance to visit Wisconsin cheesemakers two years ago, and the kids often ask, “Is that Wisconsin cheese?” when I’m pulling a wedge out of the fridge for snack time. The state has a long and storied history of cheesemaking, and today makes over 600 varieties of American, international-style and original cheeses. What’s your favorite?

cheesy crab stuffed peppers #sundaysupper | foodietots.com

Cheesy Crab Stuffed Peppers

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 8 smaller peppers (2 to 3-inches tall) or 4 regular sized (4-inches)
  • 1/4 cup mascarpone, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons Asiago cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 cup Colby cheese, shredded
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 ear sweet corn, kernels removed
  • 8 ounces lump crab meat
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Prepare peppers by cutting in half lengthwise (stem to bottom) and scraping out seeds. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet.
  3. In a small bowl, combine breadcrumbs and parsley. Set aside.
  4. In a mixing bowl, whisk together garlic and mascarpone. Gently fold in Colby cheese,1/4 cup Asiago cheese, crab meat and corn. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Divide crab mixture evenly among the peppers. Cover filling with a spoonful of breadcrumbs and sprinkle the remaining Asiago cheese over top. Drizzle peppers with olive oil.
  6. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Hungry for more? Find Wisconsin Cheese inspiration on Pinterest, and check out the below recipes from fellow Sunday Supper bloggers!

Cheese Appetizers:

Cheese Bread:

Main Dishes with Cheese:

Cheese Side Dishes:

Desserts:

10 Ideas for Cheese Dip Dippers by Sunday Supper Movement

Love to cook with cheese? Wisconsin Cheese is also sponsoring a recipe contest to send one lucky winner to the Food and Wine Conference in Orlando, Florida, this summer. Check out the details.

Connect with Wisconsin Cheese on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

Sunday Supper MovementJoin the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter on Sunday! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm ET. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. To get more great Sunday Supper Recipes, visit our website or check out our Pinterest board.

Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It’s easy. You can sign up by clicking here: Sunday Supper Movement.

Best Berry Picking Farms & Festivals

Memorial Day weekend is traditionally the pinnacle of strawberry season here in the DC area, and the foodie tots tend to eat through our weekly market haul of berries well before I get a chance to cook with them. So a trip to the pick-your-own farm is essential for stocking up!

Here are a few favorite places to get out and pick your own berries in Northern Virginia:

strawberry patch at wegmeyer farms

  1. Great Country Farms: Bluemont, Va. (note: GCF charges admission, but is basically a farm adventure land for the kids. Check the website to see about special events.)
  2. Hollin Farms: Delaplane, Va.
  3. Wegmeyer Farms: Hamilton, Va. (see comments below)
  4. Butler’s Orchard: Germantown, Md.
  5. Shlagel Farms: Waldorf, Md.
  6. Westmoreland Berry Farms Oak Grove, Va. (on the Northern Neck, they serve barbecue fare and ice cream/strawberry shortcake in season)

foodie tots at Wegmeyer Farms, Va.

A few things to note for a successful berry picking trip:

  • Go early and ALWAYS call ahead to check picking conditions. The farms around here tend to get picked out quickly on nice summer days, and this weekend is sure to be busy.
  • Dress the kids in dark colors (or red) to avoid stains and wear appropriate footwear (e.g., not the flip flops my toddler refused to change out of. They were new, after all, and a girl can’t be separated from her new shoes.).
  • Bug spray and sunscreen/sun hats are a must.
  • You can’t plop a toddler down in a field of the freshest berries she’s ever seen and not expect her to nibble — so be courteous and round up your tab at check-out to cover any excessive in-field consumption.* And if you hope to have enough leftover for jam, you might want to buy twice what you think you’ll need.

Wegmeyer Farms is an easy under-60-minute drive from Arlington, and we love it for the younger kids in particular. The berry patch is a manageable size (and easy walking distance from parking) for younger kids. There are a couple picnic tables but unlike some of the larger farms (Great Country and Westmoreland have full-service concessions) you’ll have to pack your own lunch. {Update: Wegmeyer has three separate locations this year — Hamilton, Gilberts Corner and at Oaklands Plantation — visit their website for details.}

Hollin Farms is also an easy drive, off of I-66 at exit 23, and grows a variety of crops from berries to peaches, greens and even peanuts. They also practice Integrated Pest Management (IPM) — while I’m not aware of any truly organic local pick-your-own farms, IPM farms typically use more natural/less synthetic pest control methods.

foodietots at delaplane strawberry festival

For more than just picking, two popular festivals take place this weekend, May 23 & 24 –

Delaplane Strawberry Festival at Sky Meadows State Park, 10am to 5pm each day. Take a hay-ride, listen to live music, enjoy food and crafts, pony rides, games and more. Find our recap here.

& Great Country Farms Strawberry Jubilee, 9am to 6pm (but strawberry picking only from 9-11am) and next weekend, May 30-31. Features a Diaper Derby for crawling tots, a Strawberry Princess, strawberry shortcake and much more!

If my kids leave any, we’ll be making strawberry shortcake this weekend. You?

virginia grown strawberries

*The foodie tot heard the farmer say, “Go ahead and taste ‘em,” and promptly shoveled three in her mouth.

5 Local Taco Joints for Cinco de Mayo

As one-time Californians, the husband and I take our taco eating very seriously. Fortunately, we’ve staked out a number of acceptable local places over the years, and they’ve become favorites of the foodie tots as well. It’s hard to go wrong at any restaurant that provides free chips and salsa to satiate the can’t-possibly-wait-another-second-before-eating needs of toddlers and kids and tasty margaritas for mom and dad, but these in particular are our family favorites.

A photo posted by Colleen Levine (@foodietots) on Jul 15, 2014 at 4:26pm PDT

Los Tios, Del Ray: We’ve been eating here my kids’ entire lifetimes, and even though we no longer live in the neighborhood, we still get a warm welcome each time we return. It’s always loud, no need to worry about noisy kids, and a great place to celebrate birthdays — complementary ice cream for birthday kids or flan for adults. Get there early for a patio seat and then let the kids burn off energy on the playground across the street after you eat. Oh, and we always order the Tacos al Carbon, side of fried plaintains for the kids, though once in a blue moon we branch out and order something off the Salvadorean side of the menu.

District Taco, Arlington, Alexandria & DC: We have the original Arlington location of this beloved local chain conveniently located between home and the kids’ tae kwon do studio, so you’ll find us here often. The kids take their quesadillas with guacamole, rice and beans, while mom appreciates fish tacos (Tuesdays and Fridays) and the Boylan’s cane-sugar sodas (or bottled Jarritos sodas) for a treat.

Taqueria Poblano, Del Ray & Arlington: These popular taco spots make a fantastic margarita and have LA-style deep-fried tacos. The duck tacos are my favorite, and we always get a side order of jicama to share. Best to plan to eat early, though, especially at the smaller Del Ray location. (Look for the special spicy chocolate sorbet for dessert!)

Tacos de Jaiba Azul! #softshells @tacobamba A photo posted by Colleen Levine (@foodietots) on Jun 1, 2014 at 4:15pm PDT

Taco Bamba, Falls Church: When we’re craving something more authentic/unique, Taco Bamba fits the bill. Located in an out-of-the-way spot behind the Tyson’s Whole Foods, chef/owner Victor Albisu turns out classic and seasonal special tacos. My personal favorites are El Beso (yes, tongue) and soft shell crab, while the tots stick with flautas and El Gringo. Bonus: house-made horchata or agua frescas and elote. (Note: this is primarily a take-out spot with limited counter seating.)

Chaia, farmers markets, DC: Currently only available at farmers markets and occasional street festivals, Chaia’s fabulous vegetarian tacos will soon be available at their first retail spot in Georgetown. The flavors vary with the season but are always served on their homemade corn tortillas. For now, seek them out at FreshFarm Dupont Circle (Sundays) or White House (Thursdays) markets.

What’s your family’s favorite taco spot?

Asparagus and Egg Pizzas

An updated take on pizza for spring … fresh from the farmers market!

My kids, no surprise to anyone who knows my husband and I, are true night owls. The boy has suddenly become a voracious reader, thanks in great part to the Spirit Animal series he devoured over the past couple months. We’d just concluded our year in Hogwarts, reading the Harry Potter series aloud each night, and this was the first series he really got into reading on his own. Now, we have to pry the books out of his hand at least twice each night to get him to turn off the light and go to sleep. The upside of their pushing the limits on bedtime is that they tend to sleep in later, and we’ve reached that sweet spot of parenting where they don’t need our attention the second they wake up — at least on the weekends. On the downside, it means we were late getting to the market this past Sunday and my good mood at getting to sleep in was quickly turning sour at missing asparagus for the second week. After we made our other purchases and were walking out, I saw the vendor at the end had a huge cooler labeled “asparagus.” I leaned over to confirm it was, in fact, empty — only to have the vendor announce, “Oh, we still have some if you need it.” Hallelujah!

asparagus ramp and egg pizza | foodietots.com

I’ve written before about the fickleness with which the foodie tots approach asparagus each year, alternately loving and hating it. A few weeks ago, we’d gotten some (non-local) asparagus in a veggie delivery from our dairy farm and the boy declared it one of his top favorite vegetables. The girl, however, is on an off-year with it. Likely thanks to Instagram, I had pizza on the mind and decided to make asparagus and egg pizzas. Not wanting to go back out just for pizza dough, I had the revolutionary idea to make it from scratch. I followed Mark Bittman’s Basic Pizza Dough recipe and am now completely embarrassed that I’ve never made it before. It came out perfectly, after just an hour to rise, and handled beautifully — so much better than store bought. (If you’ve already mastered this simple bit of kitchen alchemy, indulge me.) The dough comes together quickly in a food processor, no kneading necessary. It can be frozen, so I plan to make another batch ASAP to keep on hand and ready to pull out the next time a pizza craving strikes.

homemade pizza dough | foodietots.com

Now about the eggs. We only buy cage-free eggs from free-range chickens from local farmers. I’ve done the side-by-side comparison of grocery store eggs and local eggs, and the yolks are visibly, shockingly bright orange next to the bland yellow of grocery store eggs. Pastured eggs have nutrition benefits too — “2 1/2 times more omega-3s and twice the vitamin E in the eggs of pasture-raised hens,” according to a Pennsylvania State University study. And I will never believe that confined chickens are happier than chickens with access to fresh air, no matter what the Big Chicken industry would have your believe.

But when it comes to eating eggs, the male half of our family doesn’t like runny yolks, only scrambled. Thankfully the girl is coming around to my side, although that often means she’s swiping the yolk off my plate if I’m not careful.

making asparagus and scrambled egg pizza | foodietots.com

Most of the egg-topped pizzas you see have the whole egg with runny yolk, but I knew that wouldn’t go over well. I was afraid the scrambled eggs would dry out in the oven, so I cooked them on the stove only until just beginning to set. For the kids’ pizzas, I put the eggs on the pizza before cooking — they came out well done but not dry. (The brown crust is from the parmiggiano on top.) For my and the husband’s pizza, I cooked it half-dressed (oil, cheese, asparagus, ramps and radish) for 10 minutes, then added his scrambled eggs and my whole egg to the already hot crust. After another 6 minutes, his eggs were still soft and my white was set.

asparagus and scrambled egg pizza | foodietots.com

And yes, the girl swiped a piece of my runny yolk pie.

asparagus egg and ramp pizza recipe | foodietots.com

For the recipe below, I’ve written it as prepared with scrambled eggs. If you want runny eggs, see the note at the end. I also added ramps, but I’ve omitted them from the recipe due to their fleeting availability. Thin slices of garlic or green onions will lend a similar flavor, if desired. (I plan to make this again with garlic scapes, when they’re available.) I also added a few thin slices of an early radish from our garden.

Recipe: Asparagus and Egg Pizza

Makes: 3 personal-sized pizzas, or 2 regular

Ingredients:

  • 1 batch pizza dough (“Basic Pizza Dough” recipe)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup half and half (or whole milk)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 pound asparagus
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • sea salt and pepper

Instructions:

1. Prepare pizza crust as instructed. Divide dough into 2 or 3 balls and set aside to rest while preparing toppings.
2. Preheat oven (and pizza stone, if using) to 450 degrees.
3. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Wash asparagus and trim ends. Cut into about 2-inch pieces. Prepare a separate bowl half full with ice and water. When water boils, add 1/2 teaspoon salt and asparagus and cook for 2 minutes. Immediately remove asparagus and place into ice water for a minute, then drain and set aside.
4. Melt butter in a frying pan over medium low heat. Add eggs and half and half (or milk) and whisk together. Cook, stirring frequently, until eggs just begin to thicken. Turn off heat.
5. Roll out pizza crusts and place on baking sheet or parchment paper. Brush each with 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with a base layer of parmigiano cheese. Spoon scrambled eggs around the pizza, then arrange asparagus over. Sprinkle with another generous dose of cheese and a pinch of salt and pepper.
6. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until crust is golden and eggs are thoroughly cooked (will be firm to the touch.)

Note: To make with whole, runny eggs, skip step 4. Prepare pizzas and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and carefully crack eggs onto the pizza (it helps contain the whites if you push asparagus to make a border on two sides). Return to oven and bake another 5 to 6 minutes, until eggs are white and mostly firm.