Archive for May, 2011

Frosting for the Cause: Mango Lassi Cupcakes

Monday, May 30th, 2011

Today I’m honored to be posting on Frosting for the Cause — a 365-day baking project launched by Paula of Vanilla Bean Baker to raise funds for cancer research to honor the women in our lives who’ve been affected by cancer. I don’t think I know anyone who hasn’t had cancer touch someone in their family, so I liked that Paula’s project is about raising funds for cancer research, not just “awareness.”

My aunt, Donora, passed away a little over a year ago. Please visit my post on Frosting for the Cause to read about the Mango Lassi Cupcakes I created in her honor (and get the recipe).

frosting for the cause

I made my donation to Breast Cancer Action, which “is committed to reducing our involuntary exposures to toxins in the environment that are linked with breast cancer.” Moreover, BCA does not accept funds “from any organization that profits from or contributes to cancer.” Read more about BCA here — and of course, please consider making a donation to a cancer organization of your choice if you’re so moved. Thank you.

Worm Wednesday: Celebrating Strawberries

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

I’ve lived in Virginia for more than a decade (gulp), and yet I still have trouble thinking of May as strawberry season. Growing up, the grange down the road from our house hosted an enormous strawberry shortcake festival every Father’s Day weekend. On the bright side, Virginia’s accelerated berry season means I get to enjoy my favorite dessert for Mother’s Day — but I still feel a tightening in my chest as Memorial Day approaches and I realize it’s already time to think about preserving strawberries for winter. (My plans? More freezer jam — easy and so heavenly to open up a jar mid-winter and enjoy the scent of fresh berries again.)

strawberries from the garden

We’ve enjoyed a handful of fresh berries from our own garden — the first batch went directly into the boy’s mouth, the second time around there were enough to share one with the baby, too. We still are a long way off from meeting our strawberry consumption demand with entirely home-grown berries, though, so we’ll be back to market and perhaps a farm over the weekend to stock up.

home-grown strawberries

I loved the pictures Fun Mama shared of her adorable toddlers picking berries at Wegmeyer Farms in Loudoun County. (They helpfully advise parents to dress children in red or other stain-appropriate clothes for the outing.) Great Country Farms in Bluemont, Va., hosts their annual Strawberry Jubilee this weekend — but check their website first and get there EARLY as they sell out of berries. (Really!) You can find a pick-your-own farm near you at the PickYourOwn website. Have you gone berry picking with your kids yet this year?

We eat most of our berries straight out of hand before I can do much else with them, but here are some foodie tots-approved strawberry recipes we’ve enjoyed in years past:

(PS I do realize it’s not Wednesday, but yesterday just got away from me. You know how that goes, I’m sure. If you’d like to share a photo of your kids in the garden for a future “Worm Wednesday” post, please e-mail it to foodietots@gmail.com, or leave a link to a recent gardening post in the comments.)

Mostly Not Potato Salad

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

As a long-time fan of Heidi Swanson’s 101 Cookbooks blog, I was eager to get my hands on her newest cookbook, Simply Natural Every Day. This lovely book features the recipes Heidi makes often at home, and they are all straight-forward and approachable. While going through and trying to narrow down the recipes to make first, the “Mostly Not Potato Salad” jumped out at me. Unlike the usual bland, mayo-laden potato salads that are ubiquitous at summer picnics, this verdant salad uses potatoes as a background ingredient to crisp green vegetables. In Heidi’s version, celery and green beans star. As it is just asparagus season here (I told you I was hung up on asparagus), and green beans won’t be at market till later in the summer, I used it instead. I swapped the dill with parsley, as that’s what I had on hand. The original also calls for tofu, in which case you could even serve this as the entree on a summer Meatless Monday — I was serving it as a side to chicken, so I skipped the tofu.

The salad is dressed with caramelized leeks and a light vinaigrette. Let it stand for a while before serving, at room temperature. A warning to anyone who comes over, or invites us, for a cookout this summer: expect to see this on the menu. I can’t wait to try it with the yellow and purple beans from the market later in the season.

potato asparagus celery salad

Recipe: Mostly Not Potato Salad (with Asparagus & Celery)
slightly adapted from Simply Natural Every Day/via Whole Living, May 2011

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound red-skinned potatoes, unpeeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 pound asparagus, trimmed and sliced into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
  • 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon natural cane sugar
  • sea salt
  • 1 leek, white and tender green parts, trimmed and chopped
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 6 small stalks celery, trimmed and diced

Instructions:
1. Bring a medium pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add potatoes and cook until tender but not falling apart, about 9 minutes. Just before potatoes are done, add asparagus to the pot for 1 minute. Drain and set aside.
2. Whisk mustard, vinegar, 2 teaspoons oil, sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a bowl.
3. Heat remaining oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add leek and saute, stirring occasionally, until golden and slightly crispy, 4 to 5 minutes.
4. Gently toss potatoes and asparagus, celery, parsley, and leeks with the mustard dressing in a bowl. Adjust salt if necessary. Serve at room temperature.

I’ve also made Heidi’s Oat Cakes from the book — my first time baking with coconut oil. Loved them. If you have the book, let me know what recipes you’ve enjoyed.

Worm Wednesday: Egglings from Mossy

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

If you’re still on the fence about planting a garden this spring, here’s a super fun idea: seeds planted in empty eggshells. Even if you’ve already started a garden, this is a quick project to do with kids on a rainy day (if you don’t mind a little mess indoors) — or file it away for next spring.

Marcie of the delightful blog Mossy shares today’s “egglings.” Marcie gardens in Irvington, NY, with her 8- and 10-year-old daughters. She’s been gardening for 8 years and helped establish a vegetable garden at their local grade school. (Read about that project, too.)

mossy eggshell seedlings

You’ve probably seen or tried starting seeds in an empty egg carton. Using the eggshells themselves is über eco-friendly and good for the plants — and the best part is you can plant the whole thing when the sprouts are ready. Click on over to Mossy for the how-to, complete with a science lesson on seed germination.

Marcie’s words of wisdom:

“When you grow vegetables, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to know everything there is to know about gardening right this very minute.  Just become familiar with one or two plants you plan to grow this year, and then next year, etc.  Harvesting family-grown vegetables can be empowering stuff.  Involve the kids in the research, the soil preparation, the planting, the watering.  Make wide garden pathways for the kids to walk on, look for butterfly eggs, dig for worms and grubs, prepare yourself for messy kids.  Anyway, little people live close to the ground.  They should be getting dirty.”

Love that philosophy! Thanks, Marcie, for sharing your egglings with us!

Your turn! Show us something you and your kids have done in your garden — just send a picture and description or story of your garden to foodietots@gmail.com, and you could see your garden here on a future installment of “Worm Wednesday” !

At Market: Two Minute Asparagus (and West End Market Opening Day)

Saturday, May 14th, 2011

Yes, I’m still harping on asparagus. For a moment at the market this morning I hesitated, knowing we won’t be in town for the whole week and thinking I might not get to cooking it. And then I caved and bought just one little bunch of perfectly tender little stalks from Black Rock Orchard. What can I say, I’m addicted. And I made a critical discovery to convert the boy from his “I hate asparagus!” conviction one day to, “Actually, I *love* asparagus!” two days later. I recently came across an article suggesting that kids prefer their veggies closer to their natural state — i.e., still crisp. This is certainly true for my son with peas, who still prefers frozen peas over cooked. And we all know that over-cooked mush they call vegetables in school cafeterias are hardly appetizing.

As for my discovery, I was making a potato salad and decided to add asparagus. I didn’t want to use it raw, so I blanched it quickly. The bright green stalks had barely hit my cutting board when the boy snatched one. “Yum!” he exclaimed. I wound up blanching a second batch and serving it straight up for him — and he ate half the plate.

The recipe is below, but first a few highlights from opening weekend at the Alexandria West End Farmers Market:

foodie tots family at the market

Click here to view photos — West End Farmers Market, May ’11

Recipe: Kid-Approved Two-Minute Asparagus

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound asparagus, ends trimmed
  • water
  • pinch of sea salt

Instructions: Fill a medium-sized pot about 2/3 full of cold water and bring to a boil over high heat. When boiling, add a pinch of salt and then drop in the asparagus. Cook thicker stalks for just 2 minutes, skinny stalks need just 1 minute. Drain and quickly plunge into a bowl of ice water to ensure stalks stay crisp-tender. Drain again, and serve as is, with an extra pinch of salt and pepper — or refrigerate to add to salads.

Preserving Asparagus

Blanching is also the method I use to hoard, er, save asparagus for later in the year. I blanch it for just one minute, then chop into 1-inch pieces. Let them dry, then freeze in a ziploc freezer bag or other freezer container. They won’t be quite the same as fresh asparagus, but work just fine for soup or stir-fry.

Cathy, aka Mrs. Wheelbarrow, recently shared a recipe for pickled asparagus. I may have to make a batch of these for the fridge, too.

Just call me Mrs. Asparagus.

This week I shared some of my favorite family-friendly Washington, DC-area farmers markets on the Washington Post‘s new On Parenting blog. What do your kids like about your local market?