Archive for February, 2011

Gone Bananas with DC Cupcakes

Friday, February 25th, 2011

Do you watch cooking shows with your kids? I’ve managed to get the 4-year-old hooked on “DC Cupcakes,” so much so that his birthday morning we skipped our usual bakery (sorry, Buzz) to surprise him with a trip to the flagship store. Insider’s tip: the cupcakery’s real name is Georgetown Cupcake, but don’t try to tell that to the boy.

dc cupcakes birthday

When I heard they’d be supplying cupcakes for a gorilla birthday party at the National Zoo, I knew we had to go. We met up with one of his best friends and waited patiently for our free cupcakes — or as patiently as two 4-year-olds can, that is. There didn’t seem to be much of a plan (it is a “reality” show, after all), just a bunch of hungry people waiting for free grub. Eventually, a truck pulled up in front of the Great Ape House, trailed by a camera crew and, wait — two women in their signature pink aprons and rain boots!

dc cupcakes gorilla

They proceeded to unload the gorilla cupcake masterpiece and carry it right past us into the party. Needless to say, the boy was thrilled.

We then joined the mad swarm into the Ape House, and got to witness Kwame and Kojo’s surprise party — complete with presents and their own primate-friendly cupcakes. After the gorillas opened their gifts, we made our way to the cupcake table for our own goodies. (If you’re curious, the gorillas’ cupcakes were made of bananas, primate biscuits, unflavored gelatin and water, reports the Zoo. I think we got the better deal.)

gorilla dc cupcakes episode

Later, we came back to the building to take a closer look at the cupcake gorilla. We were surprised to see the show’s stars, Katherine and Sophie, still sitting inside — but the boy was too shy to say hello. (Next time!)

gone bananas cupcakesDC Cupcakes” season two premiere is tonight at 10pm Eastern on TLC — The gorilla episode airs at 10:30. We’re DVRing it for the boy’s cupcake premiere party on Sunday — check back for pictures next week!

And local peeps: head to either location of Georgetown Cupcake to purchase the “Gone Bananas” honey banana cupcake, and proceeds will benefit the National Zoo’s conservation programs. (Now through March 4.) Visit their website for locations and hours.

(Bottom photo courtesy National Zoo, all others (c) FoodieTots.com.)

Meatless Monday: Warm Red Quinoa Salad

Monday, February 14th, 2011

Okay, so quinoa may not be the first thing to come to mind for a romantic Valentine’s dinner, but what better day to think about heart health? This warm and hearty salad is loaded with super foods — broccoli for vitamins A & K (and lowering cholesterol), dried cranberries for antioxidants, walnuts for healthy omega-3s, and the aforementioned quinoa, a source of protein. And, it’s naturally red. To go totally vegan, substitute sauteed tofu for the feta. This would also make a nice side dish to some wild salmon. Happy *Heart* Day!

Recipe: Warm Red Quinoa Salad with Broccoli, Cranberries & Walnuts

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup red quinoa (rinsed*)
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup walnut halves
  • 1 pound broccoli, cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese, cubed (optional)

Vinaigrette:

  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • pinch black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate balsamic vinegar
  • squirt of lemon juice

Instructions: In saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add quinoa, stirring to coat with the oil and cook for 1 minute, continuing to stir. Add water, increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes, or until water is absorbed.

While the quinoa cooks, whisk together vinaigrette ingredients and set aside. Heat dry skillet over medium low heat and toast walnuts, stirring frequently, for about 4 minutes. Remove walnuts from pan and set aside. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and shallot to pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until shallots begin to brown. Add broccoli and water, cover and cook until broccoli is tender — about 5 minutes. Uncover, add cranberries and remove from heat.

Combine quinoa, broccoli, walnuts and vinaigrette and toss gently to combine. Add feta, if using, and serve. Makes 4-6 servings.

* Note: I used pre-rinsed quinoa in this recipe. If your quinoa is not pre-rinsed, rinse it in a fine mesh colander and let drain for several minutes before cooking.

quinoa broccoli feta cranberries

Feeding Baby: Broccoli’s not recommended until baby is well established on solid foods as it is harder to digest. For babies 8+ months, pull out a few pieces of the cooked broccoli, a spoonful of quinoa and puree with a little water as needed to reach the desired consistency. (The boy is in a no-mingling-of-flavors phase, so the above is his salad, deconstructed. This is also ideal for serving finger-feeding toddlers.)

(And just so you don’t think I’m a total Valentine’s scrooge — here’s our dessert: black and pink cookies …

black and pinks

CSA Sign Up Season is Here

Saturday, February 12th, 2011

farm stand at PVFRegardless of whether you believe the groundhog’s prediction of an early spring, your local farmers are gearing up for spring plantings. And you can help by signing up for a farm share, or “CSA.” (CSA = community supported agriculture.) If you’ve incorporated a weekly (or more) farmers market trip into your routine, joining a CSA lets you take your relationship with your local farmers to the next level — signing up up front to share in the farm’s produce for the season.

Of course, CSA membership is not for everyone — if you like to have total control over your weekly menu and don’t deal well with surprises, or just can’t bear the thought of getting kale or chard seemingly every single week, you may not be the best candidate for a CSA membership. (Personally, I split the difference — a half share to replenish the produce crisper midweek, but still shop the markets on most weekends.)

If you live in the DC/Northern Virginia area, here are a few well-regarded CSAs you may wish to check out:

  • Potomac Vegetable Farms — Our CSA, they grow “eco-ganic” produce on the last remaining working farm in Fairfax County, just minutes from Tysons Corner, as well as on a larger farm in Loudoun County. They also have an arrangement with Next Step Produce and another local farm to supplement their offerings during the season. (Registration for new members opens Feb. 15, and fills up quickly so act fast!)
  • Food Matters CSA — If you’ve eaten at Food Matters in Alexandria’s West End, you’ve already sampled the producers who supply the restaurant’s CSA. This CSA is technically a buying group, as the restaurant sources the products from a variety of well-vetted local sources. This means more variety for you, including local honey and cheeses. They do not deliver; you’ll need to pick up your share at the restaurant each Saturday.
  • Bull Run Mountain Vegetable Farm — a chemical/pesticide-free farm in The Plains, delivers to Alexandria, Falls Church and DC.
  • Great Country Farms — Great Country offers u-pick and many weekend festivals throughout the year, and a number of options for CSA pickup/delivery (including a monthly payment plan).

inspecting the week's haul

Most of these CSAs require sign-up by the end of February, so if you’re thinking about taking the plunge this year, please act quickly! And if you’re outside the area, check out Local Harvest to find a CSA farm near you.

Any CSA veterans out there? What did you love, or not, about your experience?