Archive for August, 2012

American Trail Exhibit Opens at National Zoo

Friday, August 31st, 2012

The newest exhibit at our National Zoo opens to the public at noon tomorrow, Saturday, September 1. After lengthy renovations, the American Trail, home to North American river otters, beavers, the bald eagle, wolves and the beloved seal and sea lions, reopens with additional viewing areas, environmentally-friendly site design and water conservation features.

sea lion national zoo

Of course, my interests in the new exhibit tend to the fishy side… specifically, the new Seal Rock Cafe and its sustainable seafood options. I visited this week for a preview and chatted with chef Tom Ramsey. With new food provider Sodexo, the Zoo has significantly upgraded its food offerings this summer. The American Trail’s cafe offers local and certified sustainable seafood, including a lobster roll, shrimp roll, or Hawaiian poke salad. The fish in the poke salad will change according to what’s available. (And tofu can be substituted in any dish.) It’s fresh, tasty and all served in stylish bamboo dishes.

seal rock cafe sustainable seafood

The exhibit leads you down a quiet, shady canyon towards the seal and sea lion pools. The new viewing area gives you above and below water viewing opportunities. Lastly, the new exhibit features a tide pool splash pad — so the kids can splash around while you’re chowing down on that lobster roll. Fun!

splash pad tide pool

Quick Stewed Summer Squash and Sweet Corn

Friday, August 24th, 2012

It’s the home stretch of summer, when markets are teeming with fresh sweet corn, peppers, peaches, squash, tomatoes and melons. I’m pretty sure my kids would happily live on corn and watermelon, but the other veggies are too tasty to pass up. On a recent market trip, the foodie boy was particularly smitten with this curly-q eggplant.

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To make use of as many veggies in one dish as possible, I recreated the Oyamel dish the foodie tot loved at Union Market’s summer picnic. Squash and tomatoes are diced nearly as small as corn kernels and the dish is quickly sautéed so that the tomatoes release their juices, creating a warm stew that is a perfect summer side — and the ultimate summer dish for finger-eating toddlers, too. Get the recipe below.

And speaking of market trips … our busy summer weekends have made us especially grateful to have two Sunday markets to choose from, the West End Alexandria Farmers Market (9am to 1pm) and the new Westover Farmers Market (8am to noon) in Arlington.

We paid a long overdue to our favorite Amish cheese/yogurt seller, Mr. Tom, at West End recently. Papa’s Orchard peaches were spectacular, and the kids’ eggplant/pepper/tomato binge took place under the F.J. Medina & Sons tent. We followed up our cheese snack with a Westmoreland berry and Vera’s pastries picnic in the park. (Then, turtle watching!)

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At Westover, Black Rock Orchard and Bigg Riggs are is the must-visits for stone fruit — and early season apples (yes, already!). Smith Family Farm offers grass-fed meats, Blue Ridge Dairy provides mozzarella, ricotta and more, and always-popular Atwater’s Bakery and Baguette Republic have your bread needs covered.

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Recipe: Quick Stewed Summer Squash and Corn

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
2 zucchini, diced
2 ears corn, shucked and kernels cut from cob
2 large tomatoes, diced
handful fresh epazote or basil
Kosher salt
pepper
optional: crumbled goat cheese or feta or queso blanco

Instructions:
1. Prep and cut all vegetables before you begin cooking. Zucchini should be diced nearly as small as corn kernels.
2. Heat olive oil in sauté pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until soft, about 4 minutes.
3. Add zucchini to pan and cook until just beginning to soften, about 2-3 minutes.
4. Add tomatoes to pan and cook until juices are released.
5. Add corn and simmer just until warmed, about 2 minutes.
6. Remove from heat and season with salt, pepper, and fresh herbs. Optional: top with crumbled feta or goat cheese. Serve immediately.

Sweet Caramel Mango Nachos {and Giveaway!}

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

I know some of you are back to school already — we have a few more weeks, here, but it’s never too soon to start filing away new, fast and healthy breakfast, lunch, and after-school snack ideas. The National Mango Board helped get our creative juices flowing with a box of ripe mangos and a cookbook full of ideas. Mangos are high in vitamin C, which is important to keep our little ones healthy throughout the school year.

My soon-to-be first-grader laughed out loud when we came across the mango nacho recipe, so I knew we had to make that first. I made a few tweaks to the recipe, including adding mango puree to the caramel sauce to boost the fruit content and reduce the added sugar. (Plus, the mango makes the caramel sauce more orange — closer to “real” nacho cheese.) We’ll definitely make this again for an after-school treat.

Recipe: Sweet Caramel Mango Nachos
source: Mango Eats & Treats by Mango.org
makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 6 flour tortillas
  • nonstick cooking spray
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup caramel sauce
  • 2 mangoes, peeled and diced

Instructions:

To prepare cinnamon cream, beat cream, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon in a medium bowl with a mixer until stiff peaks form; transfer to a bowl and refrigerate while preparing nachos.

To prepare the nachos, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut each tortilla into 6 wedges. Working in batches, line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper and spray both sides with nonstick cooking spray. Bake tortillas for 10 minutes until browned, turning halfway through until crisp. Stir together sugar and cinnamon in a medium bowl; add tortillas and toss well to coat. Pile onto a decorative platter (or individual plates for kids to assemble their own).

Process half of the mango in a blender or food processor until smooth. In a medium bowl, pour caramel sauce and heat for 20 to 30 seconds in the microwave. Stir in mango puree. Drizzle mango-caramel sauce over tortilla chips, sprinkle with diced mango and top with cinnamon whipped cream.

Check out the foodie boy explaining how simple this recipe is. The foodie tot tried to get in on the action, too (her job was whipping the cream — she loves to work the buttons on the mixer).

You can get some fresh ideas for cooking with mangos by visiting Mango.org.

The National Mango Board challenged me to spend a week creating healthier eating and snacking habits for my family. Join the conversation and one of my readers will receive a cookbook and a chance to win a shipment of mangos and $200 gift card to Williams-Sonoma.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of National Mango Board. The opinions and text are all mine. Official Sweepstakes Rules.