Sunday, February 28, 2010

Dip/Spread to keep on hand: Edamame Hummus

If you have been reading the Full Plate blog for a while, you know that I enjoy making healthful foods for my family. But as a busy mom, I am also short on time. Lolling around in the kitchen, chopping things perfectly isn’t happening these days. I mean, I could do that. But given the minimal amount of "free time" I have in a day that would mean missing a yoga class, a volunteer meeting, or spending time with a friend. So, to keep things running smoothly at home, but to also make sure I get a little time to myself each day, I rely on a couple of quick and easy recipes that I can make ahead and have stored in the fridge and freezer. This way, I can whip up healthy snacks and meals for my family quickly and easily. Here’s a protein-packed spread/dip that everyone likes. It’s great as a dip served alongside chopped veggies or pita chips. And it also does double duty as a sandwich spread, packed into a whole wheat pita with some cucumber or bell pepper slices, for a nice quick lunch or snack.

Edamame Hummus

2 cups of edamame, cooked and shelled*
½ block of silken tofu, drained
3-4 cloves of garlic
¼ cup on olive oil
½ cup lemon juice (add slowly until it’s the taste you like)
1 teaspoon cumin
Optional: fresh cilantro and/or fresh parsley

Combine all ingredients in a Cuisinart. Blend until smooth. Feel free to add more garlic, lemon juice, cumin or cilantro to get it to the taste you and your family will like. Store in fridge, in a covered dish, until ready to serve.

*As a time saver, many markets sell them this way in the produce section.

The Recipe for Truly Simple Homemade Bread

I have to laugh that I am trying out baking bread. As a child, my mom baked bread. I don’t remember specifics about the bread, but I do remember jealousy at lunch time when my friends would whip out Ding Dongs and fluffer nutter sandwiches (on perfect, crust less white bread). And here I am baking bread for my children. Hmmm. But neither child is complaining. Yet.

Anyway, for those of you who would like to whip up a quick, healthy loaf for your family, as promised, here is Mark Bittman’s recipe. I personally thought the loaf I made last week with sunflower seeds (which we then smothered in veggie cream cheese) was best. But the kids happily snacked on this loaf all day yesterday. This go round, we added ½ cup of pecans and ½ cup of dried cranberries.

Almost No-Work Whole Grain Bread
Recipe from
Food Matters by Mark Bittman (pages 156-7)
Makes 1 hearty loaf

3 cups whole wheat flour
½ teaspoon instant yeast
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
Optional: up to 1 cup chopped nuts, seeds, dried fruit or proofed whole grains

Combine the flour, yeast and salt in a mixing bowl. Add 1 ½ cups warm water and stir until blended. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rest in a warm place for at least 12 hours. The dough is ready when it is dotted with bubbles.

Use some of the oil to grease the loaf pan. If you are adding nuts, raisins, cranberries, etc, fold them into the dough with your hands. Transfer the dough to the loaf pan, and let it settle in evenly. Cover with a moist towel and let it rise until doubled, an hour or so. When it is almost ready, preheat the oven to 350.

Bake the bread about 45 minutes, or until deep golden in color and it sounds hollow when you tap it. (If you have an instant read thermometer, usually kicking around since Thanksgiving, it should read 200 degrees when inserted into the center of the loaf.) Turn it out of the baking pan and let it cool before slicing.

Here are photos of the bread recipe in action for those who find them helpful:

The photo at the top of this post shows the bread the morning after, when it has risen. Hopefully the photo is clear enough that you can see it's more airy and there are tiny little bubbles dotting the top, compared to the dough I prepared the night before. So ideally, that's what you should wake up to. Then I simply tossed in 1/2 cup of pecans and 1/2 cup of dried cranberries;

and (lightly) kneaded them into the dough with my hands, until the pecans and cranberries were incorporated.

Next, I popped the dough into a lightly oiled loaf pan. You'll see that the dough didn't fill the pan, so I just centered it as best I could by shaking the pan a bit.

When I left the dough out to rise for the night, I just left it on the kitchen counter in the bowl covered with Saran wrap, as the recipe says to do. But, our home is really old, and really drafty, so the warmest place to do the second rise is in the oven. (This also guarantees that the second rising would only take an hour, since I knew the space would be warm and condusive to rising.) To do this, I turned our oven onto 200, let the heating process start, then turned the oven off after a couple of minutes. I didn't want the oven hot, just warm. Then I put the loaf into this warm oven and closed the door for the hour. As you'll see above, I also wanted the space to be slightly moist, so I covered the loaf with a damp (ran it under warm water then rung it out) kitchen towel.

And here's what the loaf looked like after rising for 1 hour in the warm oven, covered in the damp towel. Nice!

So, then it was ready to go into our second oven, which I had preheated to 350.

And here it is after baking for 45 minutes. Hollow sound when I tapped the top. Couldn't find our kitchen thermometer, so had to assume it was ready to come out. Bittman's recipe says to turn it out of the pan right away, then let it cool before slicing.

Here it is, ready to offer up as a snack on a snowy filled day!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Truly Simple Homemade Bread

I just put dough out up to rise. Yes, you read that right. I’ve never been a baker. Baking requires precise measurements, and usually having the right ingredients on hand…two things which often aren’t the case over here. I much prefer cooking, and relying on my sense of taste, texture as I create a dinner for my family with whatever we have in our fridge, freezer and pantry. But, there was a bread recipe in Mark Bittman’s book “Food Matters” that caught my eye. Maybe it was just the title that wooed me: Almost No-Work Whole Grain Bread. Whole Grain: super. Almost No-Work: I’ll give it a try. I first made this bread last week when I was meeting some friends for coffee. They are good friends, so I didn’t worry that I’d never made bread before. The verdict? Not only is this bread super easy, but it’s delicious. If baking bread is this easy, then I just might say I like baking too.

Because the dough needs to rise for at least 12 hours, this is a perfect recipe to throw together before you go to bed, letting it rise while you sleep. In the morning, add in the extras (raisins, walnuts, etc.) by kneading them into the dough with your hands, and then let it rise again for 1 hour while you workout, read the paper, shower, etc. The first time I made this bread, I added sunflower seeds. This time, I’ll let the kids choose what they want to add from our pantry stash.

Tomorrow I will jot down the recipe and share photos of it after it has risen so you have a visual in case you feel like making your own super easy loaf this weekend.

(Effortless) pancakes and frittatas on a snowy morning

It’s a snow day today! So, with a little luck, I can pull out the Play Doh, sticker mosaics, pipe cleaners, felt, markers, glue and popsicle sticks and catch up on posts. This morning was another reminder that on the busiest-- or laziest-- of days, it’s so great to have meals made ahead. In today’s case, the boys wanted pancakes so I heated up some protein pancakes with vanilla yogurt and organic (frozen) strawberries on top. And I enjoyed a wedge of the frittata I’d made earlier in the week. Now, if only my children could have slept in, it would have been the perfect, cozy morning! Here are the recipes for the Protein Pancakes and frittatas, or you can always click here for the original post:

Canyon School’s “Cosmic Cookery for Kids” Protein Pancakes

1 lb cottage cheese (1 tub)
6-8 eggs
1/2 cup flour
2 t vanilla (or more)
dash of cinnamon
lemon zest (optional)
butter (optional, for fry pan)

Blend everything in the blender until the batter is smooth with a consistency of sour cream. Bake small pancakes on hot griddle, turning once. Serve warm. These pancakes may be made ahead, cooled, and stored in a Tupperware in the fridge for several days. They reheat beautifully.

Veggie Frittata

About 2 cups of your choice of vegetables
9 eggs
½ cup of milk
½ cup any type of shredded or finely chopped cheese
+ another ½ cup of shredded cheese to go on top

Preheat the oven to 350.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, and cheese. Set aside. Sauté the vegetables in a bit of olive oil in an oven-proof medium-sized skillet, until tender. Spread this veggie/meat mixture evenly on bottom of skillet. Pour egg mixture over it, and lightly stir with a spoonula or spatula so the egg mixture is evenly distributed underneath.

When the egg & veggie mixture is about half set, sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top of the frittata and put the skillet in the oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until frittata is puffy and golden. Remove from oven and let cool on the counter for several minutes. You may serve it directly out of the skillet, or invert it onto a plate. If doing the latter, be sure to use oven mitts as the handle will still be very hot!! I recommend making frittatas on the weekend (or a lazy snow day!), and enjoying it that morning. Then let the remainder cool completely and slice it into individual servings, which can easily be heated in the microwave later in the week.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Oven-Baked Meatballs I always come back to...

A couple of years back, a now defunct (but very cool) local kid’s store lured the gals from Kitchen Cabinet up to Fairfield County. I forget the topic they were speaking on…I think it was “healthy kids meals” or something timely like that. I’d closed my personal chef business, and was keeping busy cooking for my family and friends so I went, excited to learn from these foodie parents and entrepreneurs. I remember leaving the presentation with some localvore knowledge, and some paranoia about dairy (or was it meat, or was it produce…I can’t remember). Anyway, in my mind, the most helpful thing that came out of that meeting was their recipe for Oven-Baked Meatballs. Meatballs are easy to make. I make meatballs several times a year because I can make them in a big batch and freeze them. And depending upon what I have on hand, I’ll add grated veggies or some soaked whole grains which makes them even more moist and healthy. But I always come back to this recipe. There’s something about the addition of lemon and cinnamon that makes them special…

Oven-Baked Meatballs from Kitchen Cabinet
Makes about 20 Meatballs

Olive oil
1 lb ground beef
1 or 2 garlic cloves, pressed
½ cup bread crumbs*
1 egg
1/3 cup whole milk
Zest of 1 lemon
¼ teaspoon of cinnamon
½ cup shredded Parmesan
Dash of salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 375. Pour a drizzle of olive oil on rimmed baking sheets. Set aside.

Put the rest of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl, and combine with your hands until blended. Form into ping pong-size balls, and then place them on the cookie sheet.

Bake the meatballs for 25 minutes, flipping them halfway through the cook time. The meatballs with be nicely browned when done…but light and fluffy, with the slightest crispy edge, when eaten! These meatballs freeze beautifully, so go on and make a double batch. These are perfect to have on hand for busy nights, eaten as is or served with spaghetti.

* I usually use whole wheat breadcrumbs in recipes, but today I was yakking away with my dear friend, Leslie, when I realized I didn’t have any in the house. The kids were playing quietly (truth be told: one was watching a National Geograhpic show about the moon and the other was napping for the first time this week), so a trip to the market was the last thing I wanted to do at 4pm. “Just throw some crackers in the Cuisinart” Leslie suggested. And so, I ground up equal amounts of Saltines and Ak-Mak. Perfect substitution!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Just call me Martha: Valentine-inspired rainbow plate

I know. I know. But it was so exciting for my children and their playdate: peanut butter & jelly sandwich, blueberries, apple "bows and arrows", dried cranberries, (drum roll) those my friends are red peppers cut into hearts, and the ShaSha cookies I told you about in the last post. Trust me, this rainbow plate was a major lunchtime hit. Well worth busting out the cookie cutters.

Look what's local!!

Look what’s local! In addition to being thrilled to see (my now beloved) Rico M. Panada’s carried at Walter Stewart’s Market right here in New Canaan, I stumbled upon these wonderful heart shaped gingersnaps (perfect for this Valentine’s weekend!) when I went in to stock up on (those fabulous) Sonoma Tortillas in anticipation of some fish tacos and black bean breakfast burritos this weekend.

The ShaSha gingersnaps were a big hit with my two little ones and their friend who’d come over to play. According to the package, they contain “no refined sugar, trans fat or dairy”. I’m a fan of everything in moderation, but still it’s nice to find a store-bought cookie that’s on the healthy side. (If you’re there looking for them, I found them in the end aisle display by the Valentine’s candies…which is good because I wasn’t trolling the cookie aisle. Oh, and they’re on sale today too—probably in recognition of their timely heart shape.)

As for the empanadas, race over to pick some up before they sell out! Stewart’s is carrying: the Beef, Chicken Pot Pie, Black Bean & Beet, Sweet Corn and Cheese, and Red Beans & Rice varieties. My children’s favorites are the Sweet Corn and Cheese and the Chicken Pot Pie ones. My husband and I are partial to the Beef and Black Bean & Beet ones. The only reason we're not fans of the Red Bean & Rice one is because we haven't tried them yet! I stocked up because they’re such a perfect healthy dinner, paired with a salad or some fruit, on a busy night.

Rainbow plates: Three EASY ones to whip up

Sometimes the idea of making healthful food for our families is daunting. "There aren't enough hours in the day for me to cook"..."My kids are so picky"..."I don't know if they'll like it, so why waste my time making it?". These are some of the questions/concerns fielded by my friends as they get into a rut preparing certain meals they know their kids will eat...over and over again.

So, I've photographed three recent rainbow plates to give my friends a couple of ideas for easy, quick, relatively healthful meals that include one of their children's go-to foods (mac & cheese, pizza, fruit) along with some other (maybe new) choices to try. It's nice to make a homemade meal, when you have the time. But for busy days, these may be more realistic. Each of these meals requires little to no cooking (unless you count heating up a frozen pizza cooking).

Above: 100% apple sauce, red pepper "swords", wheat-free tamari almonds, and Trader Joe's (frozen, in the red box) mac & cheese mixed with organic frozen peas (= "polka dot pasta").

Odwalla berry smoothie, roasted broccoli (from the veggies I roasted one day to have on hand), chunks of carrot, more almonds, dried cranberries, banana "pennies" and a slice of Amy's organic cheese pizza.

Snappea Crisps, Fuji apple spices, a clementine, tahini dip (that came alongside the falafel) and baked falafel (that I picked up in the refrigerated section of Whole Foods).
For more photo ideas of rainbow plates, simply click here.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Let the glitter fly!

Reminder as you launch into homemade Valentines: rimmed baking sheets work equally well for both sprinkles and for glitter. Now you can loosen up and make their day when you bust out the glitter.

Making Something Special: Chocolate Pots de Creme

I’m not sure about you, but I am not really one for a bouquet of red roses and a prix fixe dinner with a glass of champagne and chocolate covered strawberries for dessert. I’d much rather go out to dinner with my husband any night but Valentine’s Day. So, I try to come up with a meal that’s simple to prepare-- but also special-- for that night we always stay in. Here’s a fabulous dessert for Valentine's Day, or any time you want to woo and impress your guests.

Chocolate Pots de Crème
This recipe, modified slightly from In Style magazine's February 2007 issue, will make 4 generous ramekins. Double the recipe if you’re having a dinner party. Even if there are only two of you, make it as is…because this Monday’s a holiday and it’s just as good on day 2.

1 ¼ cups heavy cream
2 cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips
¼ cup coffee liqueur (or Cointreau or your favorite liquer)
3 egg yolks
1 ½ tablespoons sugar
Whipped cream for garnish

Preheat oven to 325. If you don’t have a double boiler, simply rig one by filling a saucepan with some water and then putting a metal bowl, that fits snugly at the rim, inside of the saucepan. (That’s what you’ll melt the chocolate in, so it melts but does not burn.) In the “double boiler”, over medium heat, whisk the heavy cream, chocolate and liqueur until the chocolate has melted. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until combined. Slowly whisk the chocolate into the eggs. Then divide the mixture evenly among 4 ramekins, and place the ramekins in a roasting pan. Now you’ll be making a water bath. Carefully pour hot water into the roasting pan (around the ramekins—not onto them!!). Water should reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake custards until just set around the edges, about 25 minutes. Remove the ramekins from the water and put them in the fridge for about 3 hours or until completely chilled. Serve with whip cream…and a glass of champagne.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Kick-Off of the Let's Move campaign

Here's a thoughtful piece on Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" campaign, written by Jenna at Food with Kid Appeal. I am a tad bit behind, having not turned on the TV, logged on to my computer, listened to NPR, or glanced at a newpaper while I was away last week. It felt good to be 'unplugged', but I'm glad to be in the loop now of this fabulous initiative that was kicked off. Here's to rainbow plates in many, many more homes as parents embrace the importance of varied, healthful foods for their families.

Cooking with Little Ones: Homemade Granola

I blew into town last night, just before the heavy snow. In case you hadn’t noticed, it was very quiet over here the past week, as I was enjoying a decadent week away with my mom where the only thing we had to worry about was which yoga class to take, whether to hike or take a breathing workshop, and whether to have dinner at 6:30, 7:30 or 8:00. Bliss I tell you.

Anyhow, local schools were cancelled today, which was nice because I hadn’t spent quality time with my children in a week. On my flights home, I had earmarked all sorts of recipes from Mark Bittman’s book, Food Matters, and jotted down this elaborate shopping list, excited to launch back into cooking after being cooked for for the past fifteen meals.

After the novelty of making Valentines wore off, my littlest one wanted to cook together. Truth be told, he wanted cookies, and I think he figured asking to cook together just might make a couple dozen appear. No such luck on Day 1 back from the spa. But close, since oats/butter/sugar/flour were some of the only things on hand. I’d left the home stocked with plentiful frozen meals and enough fruits and veggies to last the week, intending to do a major marketing run upon my return. But the snow was keeping us in, so I honed in on a recipe that we could whip up together with what we did have on hand…and this recipe happens to also be perfect for little hands because it involves dumping and stirring, that’s it. Today I tried Mark Bittman’s granola recipe, which is very similar to the one I posted a couple of months back, minus the olive oil and his has a higher proportion of oats to nuts/coconut.

Anything Goes Granola from Food Matters by Mark Bittman
Makes a lot of granola!

5 cups of rolled oats
3 cups of mixed nuts (we used walnuts, pecans, and slivered almonds)
1 cup of shredded, unsweetened coconut
Cinnamon, to taste
½ - 1 cup of agave or honey (we used half of each and probably put ¾ cup in)
Sea salt, dash of
Vanilla (but we didn’t have any on hand)
1 cup of raisins (which we also didn’t have, so we used cranberries)

Preheat oven to 350. Mix rolled oats, nuts, coconut, cinnamon, honey, sea salt in a big bowl. Spread the mixture on a rimmed cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes, stirring once or twice during the cook time. Once it comes out of the oven, stir in the raisins (or cranberries). Cool and then store in an airtight container.

Mark says that it will “keep indefinitely in the fridge” but I think we’ll blow through this batch in the next few days. Excellent eaten plain for a snack (if you have a vacuum nearby), eaten like cereal, or made into yogurt parfaits.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Cooking up a storm...for the freezer.

I have been busy cooking up a storm, so our fridge and freezer are stocked. This way, when meal time rolls around it's as simple as popping a baking dish in the oven, then sitting down to a homemade meal. This is what I used to do for my personal chef clients. Now I do it to keep our own home running smoothly. Here are some ideas of recipes that reheat beautifully when made ahead:

There is a big batch of homemade oatmeal and a double batch of Protein Pancakes in the fridge, which can simply be popped in the microwave on busy mornings. Then this week, our freezer is stocked with Chicken Enchiladas, Beef & Bulgur Meatballs, Turkey Chili, and Moroccan Beef Stew. In the fresh department, there are plenty of fruits and veggies washed and ready to go, for easy snacks and sides. Sure you have to set aside some time to cook. But it's so worth it to get several days "off", and still get to enjoy delicious, homemade meals on the busiest of days.