Archive for October, 2008

Sesame Beef Stir-Fry

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

The weather here has suddenly plunged from 80 degrees two weeks ago to practically freezing. The first frost means the last of many vegetables at local farms, and last week we got the final batch of fresh green beans in our CSA bag. I discovered during our sushi experiment that my toddler loves sesame seeds, so that was the inspiration for this fast and easy Sesame Beef Stir-Fry. Perfect served with leftover sushi rice, or any rice or grain you have on hand.

Recipe: Sesame Beef Stir-Fry


1 1/2 – 2 lb. flank steak, sliced into 1/2 inch thick slices


  • 2 T honey
  • 1 T rice wine vinegar
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 t dried ginger
  • 1/4 t black pepper
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/4 c low-sodium soy sauce


  • 1 T canola oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 lb. green beans, ends trimmed
  • 6 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 t chili garlic sauce (more to taste)
  • 1 t toasted sesame oil
  • 1 T sesame seeds

Instructions: Whisk together marinade ingredients and pour over flank steak in shallow baking dish. Cover and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes. Heat wok or large saute pan over medium high heat. Add oil, then cook beef slices until beginning to brown, about 3 minutes. Remove to a plate or bowl and cover to keep warm. Add garlic and radishes, cook 2 minutes, until radishes soften. Add green beans and cook 2 minutes more. Return beef to pan and stir in chili sauce, sesame oil and sesame seeds and remove from heat. NOTE: For heat sensitive younger eaters, you may wish to separate their portion before adding the chili sauce. Makes 4 servings. Enjoy!

A Greener Jack o’ Lantern

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

There are many ways to have a green Halloween, from making your own eco-friendly decorations to handing out fair-trade Endangered Species chocolates to your neighborhood trick-or-treaters. Here are three steps to greening your Halloween Jack o’ Lantern.

3 Steps to a Green Jack o’ Lantern

1. Buy a locally-grown pumpkin. Just like with the food we eat, buying locally-grown pumpkins supports the local economy and the environment, especially if you can find an organic pumpkin patch. Many small family farmers depend on their Halloween pumpkin patch festivities to supplement their normal farm income. Some farms have rather over-the-top festivals with rides, bouncy pumpkins, corn mazes and more, which are of course great for entertaining your kids, too. Remember to buy extra, smaller pumpkins for eating (see step 3).

2. Use non-toxic soy or beeswax candles. Parrafin wax, which most candles are now made from, is derived from petroleum and emits carcinogens when burned — producing some of the same toxins as burning diesel fuel (contributing to indoor air pollution), while the artificial fragrances can irritate asthma and allergies. Soy candles are cleaner burning and often use natural fragrances if any, while old-fashioned beeswax candles are the purist choice and are also clean-burning and drip-free. I found beeswax votives and tea lights at a local home goods store, Bungalow. The Big Green Purse has links to a few other places to find soy or beeswax candles.

3. Eat your pumpkins! Many farmers sell smaller sugar pumpkins, or other varieties, which are ideal for cooking. The green pumpkin pictured above is a Cushaw pumpkin, a traditional pie variety. Large carving pumpkins have rather tough meat, but of course you can still roast the seeds. To make your own pumpkin puree, bake the whole pumpkin at 350 degrees for 90 minutes. Allow it to cool, then peel, remove the goop (reserving the seeds for roasting), and mash or blend the pulp until smooth. You can freeze the pulp for later use, and simply use it in your favorite recipes in place of canned pumpkin. (Avoiding that BPA-lining in canned foods.)

For more ideas, visit Green Halloween, Nature MomsEco-Friendly Halloween, or Green Me’s list of HFCS-free Halloween treats. And if you really want to shock your friends, check out these anti-environment costume ideas.

Countdown to Thanksgiving

Monday, October 27th, 2008

I have been feeling a little Scrooge-like thinking of Thanksgiving this year (mixed holiday metaphors, I know) as it will be the third year in a row that I won’t be cooking my favorite holiday meal. The first year, when my son was just three months old, I caved and agreed to go out for dinner. Last year, my brother got married Thanksgiving weekend, and we spent Thanksgiving flying cross-country. (My sister-in-law’s family cooked a Thanksgiving feast for the rehearsal dinner the next day, though, so it’s not like we didn’t get turkey at all.) And this year, we’re taking the toddler to meet his only cousin on my husband’s side of the family. For someone who really loves to cook, it’s hard to let go of (control over) the food even though it means more time with family.

As I brace myself for November’s arrival, I am reminding myself to be grateful that we can celebrate the harvest feast in our own way throughout the month. My three favorite green “things,” in the context of Thanksgiving, are the wonderful farmers and producers who provide the real food that graces our table. We bought gorgeous pumpkins this weekend from our CSA farm, including some that are soon to be baked and will be transformed into pumpkin cookies, bread and cheesecake bars over the next few weeks. I am grateful that our Del Ray Farmers Market continues through the month, providing us easy access to apples, cider, mushrooms, greens and Tom our Cheese Guy’s fresh yogurt, cheese and Amish treats. And I’m thankful that we can squeeze a local, all-natural, free-range turkey from Smith Meadows into our freezer to cook once we return from our travels — when we’ll truly be thankful to be enjoying a home-cooked dinner.

This is my first submission to the Green Moms Carnival, hosted by Best of Mother Earth. This month’s theme is gratitude; be sure to visit her blog next Monday for the round-up.

Cooking with Toddlers, Sushi Night

Friday, October 24th, 2008

Something I have been wanting to start for a while is a Cooking with Toddlers series. I firmly believe that involving kids as much as possible in choosing and preparing their foods helps them develop a healthy and curious attitude towards eating. For our first installment, I wanted to kick it off with something fun and sure to please. A word of advice, though — don’t attempt this when your toddler is overly tired and hungry. He was doing just fine until I had the nerve to try and roll up his sushi roll. Oy. So he had a truly free-form sushi, uh, salad.

Sushi Night: The toddler definitely inherited my love of sushi. It was his first dining experience, both sleeping in the car seat at 3 days old and the first eating-on-his-own (avocado rolls) at 9 months. Sadly, our sushi place has since changed management and our beloved server left, quality declined and prices increased. Throw in the new sustainable sushi guides which confirm that my favorite fish are both contaminated and unsustainable, and the time was definitely right to try sushi making at home. The toddler was gifted a lovely wood sushi set for his play kitchen on his birthday (thanks Aunt J!), and has been assembling and serving us sushi regularly with his great little velcro chopsticks.

Recipe: Sesame Veggie Rolls (vegetarian)

Preparation: The key to cooking with toddlers or young kids is prepping as much as possible before they join you at the counter. The last thing you want to do is leave a toddler with a measuring cup and container of sugar while you’re digging around for a forgotten seasoning … trust me! Sushi rice should be made ahead anyway to allow it to cool for easy handling. The tofu and vegetables were sliced and refrigerated until it was time to begin. Of course you can use any combination of vegetables, so make sure to include your kids’ favorites. While you can find sushi kits in many kitchen stores, the only thing you really need is a rolling mat. But even that you could do without if needed, just use a piece of parchment paper folded in half. We ate these as a side along stir-fry, but you could double the amount of vegetables and make several variations to make a full meal.


for the rice

  • 2 cups sushi rice, cooked according to package instructions
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon and 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt

for the tofu

  • 1/2 block firm Silken tofu, chilled
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon rice vinegar


  • 1 large carrot, peeled
  • 1 avocado, pitted
  • sesame seeds
  • 4 Nori seaweed sheets
  • additional tablespoon of rice wine vinegar in a small bowl

Instructions: Cook the sushi rice – I used Lundberg’s organic sushi rice – according to the package instructions. At the end of the rice’s cooking time, put vinegar, sugar and salt into a small saucepan and heat over low until salt and sugar dissolve. Remove from heat and mix gently with the cooked rice in a non-metal bowl; allow to cool to room temperature. Thinly slice the tofu and sprinkle with garlic powder, sesame oil and 1 t vinegar. Cut the carrot and avocado into thin matchstick-sized slices. Sprinkle a little lemon juice over the avocado to keep it from browning.

When you’re ready to assemble, line up all the ingredients above your cutting board in the order you’re going to add them (rice, vegetables, tofu, sesame seeds and vinegar). Place a sheet of Nori on your rolling mat and help your toddler spread a layer of rice along the bottom inch, making sure it reaches to the side edges. Allow toddler to arrange toppings in the center of the rice, helping fill in any gaps. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, then carefully roll it up pressing gently to mold it together. Dip your finger in the vinegar and moisten the edge of the Nori to seal it closed. Use a sharp, serrated knife to cut it into 1″ pieces and let your child help arrange them on the platter. Will make 4 6-piece rolls, with plenty of extra rice. Serve with (reduced sodium) soy sauce, pickled ginger and (diluted) wasabi if your child’s brave enough, and enjoy!

Turkey Sweet Potato Chili

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

Our CSA farm has produced some wonderful sweet potatoes this year. I like to add them to turkey chili to add sweetness and a nice boost of vitamin A. I used cannellini beans in this version, but was thinking of swapping in black beans for an orange and black Halloween dinner. I ate mine over wilted kale, while the toddler and husband had it over leftover macaroni and cheese. This is also great for early self-feeding toddlers, especially if you cut the sweet potatoes just big enough for little fingers.

Recipe: Turkey Sweet Potato Chili


  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced small
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 14 ounces crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can cannellini beans*, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup water
  • shredded cheddar cheese and/or sour cream
  • fresh parsley or cilantro, optional

Instructions: Heat dutch oven over medium heat. Add olive oil, onion and garlic and cook 3-4 minutes until translucent. Add turkey and cook until no trace of pink remains. Stir in sweet potato and seasonings and cook 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, beans, broth and water and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes, until sweet potatoes are tender and most liquid is absorbed. Top with shredded cheese and/or sour cream and fresh herbs. Makes 6 servings. Enjoy!