Pleasing Picky Pants…Oven Baked Carrot Fries

I have an unwritten policy as regards dinner planning in my house. It’s important to remind you all that I am the mother of one VERY picky eater. When I say picky I don’t just mean that she makes faces when she eats or that she really loves the foods that all children love most.  When I say picky I mean my daughter has about 5 foods in the world that she enjoys, the rest is either nearly tolerable or yucky. We spend a LOT of time in nearly tolerable. When I plan a few days worth of meals I attempt to ensure that at least every few days I make something that Ms. Picky Pants might actually almost enjoy (even if it’s not one of the top 5). If I know the main dish isn’t anywhere near the top 5, I try to make up for it with sides she might like to ensure some level of dinner time tranquility. Which brings us to tonight.

Having backed myself into a grocery corner by running out of time yesterday, I was committed to having my beloved nutshroom burgers. I should mention that Mr. Little Sis and I both love these. My son is not enthusiastic, but is accepting. My daughter USED to love these burgers. That’s the other thing I should tell you about the top 5 foods Ms. Picky Pants enjoys. They rotate out on a daily basis. I’m not making this up. In response to “I thought you liked this dish sweetie,” my daughter will say “I DID like it before, but I DON’T like it today.” Yes, she is going to be the death of me. You can, perhaps, now also see why I don’t accommodate her preferences more than I do. I’d have to actually know what her preferences are on that day to even consider accommodating her. I digress.

 photo IMG_0670.jpgIn order to make the nutshroom burger dinner a pleasant experience I had decided to make oven fries. Many problems can be solved with my oven fries. When the time came to get started this evening, I realized that I had failed to procure the needed spuds. My own garden spuds are not quite ready for fry size, so I decided to do some creative improvising. Internet search engine to the rescue. Carrot fries coming up, thanks to William Sonoma.

In the end, these were not as fry-like as I would have liked, but if I had cooked them longer, they might have been. Regardless of the non-fry nature, these carrots were delicious. And we had a 75% approval rating, which in our house means it was a winner. And who knows, next time I make them, maybe everyone will like them. I only changed the recipe a little… I swear.

Oven Baked Carrot Fries

    •  photo IMG_0684.jpg1 1/2 pounds carrots (10 medium)
    • 2 T olive oil
    • 1/2 t sugar (I used coconut)
    • 1/2 t salt
    • Pinch of paprika

Preheat oven to 425.

Wash and peel carrots (I will not peel next time – why bother?). Cut into fry sized lengths. I cut them in half crosswise and then into vaguely fry sized pieces. I now acknowledge that the size of my fries may have been part of the non-fry result. Moving forward…

Place the cut carrots in large bowl with olive oil and seasoning. Place on large baking sheet (I used a jelly roll panand I DO love my jelly roll pans for just about everything – and no, I’ve not made a jelly roll, in fact don’t really know what a jelly roll is…) lined with tin foil. Spread out carrot fries as much as possible. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the carrots reach the right tenderness (or they seem like fries you lucky devil). Serve with world famous nutshroom burgers and a salad, or whatever you need to serve to make your picky pants okay with carrot fries. :-)
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Summer Bounty Recipe Box

We have been having a VERY strange summer here. It’s been lovely. Like really nice, pleasant, only hot every now and again, rain every few days. Sounds great, right? Definitely NOT the Mid-Atlantic summer I’m used to. Predictably my Mid-Atlantic garden is having a mixed reaction. Some plants are LOVING it (i.e. zucchini and cucumbers), others are okay, but sort of underwhelming in production (tomatoes) and still others fell to the Japanese beetles that seem to enjoy this weather very much (beans). Our garden haul is predictably unpredicted. I’ve heard lots of folks reflecting on the same problem, with the bounty varying according to their region Thought I’d do a little roundup for YOUR garden bounty.

Cukes and Zukes
 
  

1. Indian Summer Cold Sesame Noodles

2. Easy Refrigerator Dills

3. Sweet and Sour Cucumbers
  

4. Zucchini-Carrot Slaw w/Cumin and Lime

5. Raw Vegan Womanicotti

6. Half Raw Stir Fry

Tomatoes

   

1. Herbed Sweet Tomatoes and Rice

2. Dairy Free Tomatoes and Mozarella

3. Grilled Corn and Fresh Tomato Summer Crudo

 

Potatoes

 

1. Warm Potato Salad with Miso Dressing

2. Coconut Curry with Green Beans, Potatoes, and Kale

3. Pakistani Lentil Kima

 

Wow. That was fun! I am now officially out of my cooking rut – hope you are too, and that your garden or farm market continues to rock it out! Delish fresh food!

Peanut and Almond Butter Recall

FSNBHere we go again. Salmonella and nut butters recalled for salmonella. That’s enough for me. I’m going to start making my own (and maybe I’ll add chocolate to it like Big Sis does). We are too much a nut butter house to keep having these salmonella scare. My personal jar is not on this list, but that doesn’t make me feel much better about it. I’m guessing that jar is going to cool its heels in the fridge until I get sick of looking at it. Daggone it – details here. Eat well, be well friends.

Ground Beef, Oregano, Applegate Chicken Nuggets Recalled

FSNBThese have been out for a few days, but if I didn’t have Food Safety News in my FB feed, I wouldn’t have heard about two of them. Granted, I don’t buy those products, but nonetheless I thought I’d pass the info on. I have to say that I have mixed emotions about all these recalls. The optimist in me says:” Hey, it’s really good that we’re catching these problems and keeping them from potentially making more people sick.” On the other hand… insert cursing and outrage about our food industry here. Eat well, be well friends, and check the news once in a while to see if you’re at risk for something gross.

Zucchini Oat Chocolate Chip Cookies (DF)

The garden continues to produce green squash at a startling rate. What a lovely problem to have. If the plants keep up like this I will surely shred and freeze a good bit of it for use in zucchini bread and mac and cheez in the colder months, but it’s nice to have some to use right now, today, when our thoughts are turning toward books, notebooks, pencils (I love the smell of new pencils) and  LUNCHBOXES. It is time for Momma to get busy making some reasonable goodies for those lunch boxes.

 photo IMG_0658.jpgWhile I was thinking about the need to start baking for school and noticing the abundant zucchini, the internet happened and mashed them together for me. I was inspired and responded with my usual “Ooooh, that looks good. What ingredients should I change?” The result got a straight yummy thumbs up from 3 of the 4 of us and even earned a “pretty good” from Ms. Picky Pants. That is a good cooking day in my house. Because of the lower fat content, these cookies are a little more biscuity than most, but ring all the necessary cookie bells to satisfy treat eaters who are willing to overlook the little flecks of green, which I think are beautiful, BTW. And so, without further ado, I give you…

Zucchini Oat Chocolate Chip Cookies (DF) inspired by these beauties.

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  • 2 1/2 c whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1/4 c granulated sugar (I used turbinado)
  • 3 c rolled oats
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 2 eggs (I used flax)
  • 3/4 c applesauce
  • 1/4 + 1 T maple syrup
  • 4 T coconut oil
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1 1/2 c grated/shredded then chopped zucchini
  • 2 c chocolate chips of your choice (DF if that’s your thing)

Preheat oven to 350. Line baking sheets with parchment.

Before you get started with the other bits, I would suggest draining the zucchini. These squash hold a surprising amount of water that can leak out while cooking and produce a steaming effect on your food that is not always desirable. To do that, place the chopped zucchini (my little man suggested chopping it smaller after seeing the shreds – “too big for cookies Mom”) in a fine mesh sieve, adding a dash of salt, stir and let sit for at least 10 minutes. Then press with a spoon to release more water. The rest of the preparation here follows the usual cookie procedure of combining dry ingredients in one bowl, wet in another and then joining the two. Combine the flour, baking soda, sugar, oats and salt in one bowl. Whisk to integrate. Combine eggs, applesauce, maple syrup, coconut oil, and vanilla in a smaller bowl and whisk to combine (this will be considerably easier if the applesauce is NOT super cold as that tends to harden the coconut oil). Add wet to dry and stir to combine. Add zucchini and stir to distribute. Add chips and stir to distribute.

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Place dough on parchment sheets in blobs approximately 1 1/2 Tbs large (I use one of these cookie scoops). Then gently press with a spoon or fork to flatten a bit (they will not do it on their own and your end result will be weird if you don’t). Bake for 14-16 minutes or until edges have slightly browned. Allow to cool on the baking sheet for at least 3 minutes before transferring to wire cooling rack. You should eat one at this point, while the chocolate is still melty. Delish!

Zucchini “Crab” Cakes (GF,DF)

 photo IMG_0567.jpgIt would seem that I am not the only gardener overrun by zucchini this year, and I’m with most of the gardeners who responded to my last post; I’m delighted to have this problem of what to do with all of my zucchini. A few years ago a pal of mine posted a recipe on her Facebook page during the height of zucchini season. I was intrigued by the simplicity of the recipe and by the ingredient list which includes Maryland’s favorite spice mix, Old Bay Seasoning.

And so I began my usual process of fiddling, seeing how far I could move within the recipe while achieving the desired results. Over time I’ve adapted my friend’s lovely summer recipe and it is a zucchini staple in our house. While I won’t say that these actually taste like crab cakes (because my mother and many other Marylanders would be appalled by that idea), the flavor of these babies SUGGESTS crab cakes and they are just darned tasty crab facsimile aside. If Old Bay is not available in your area (I nearly passed out when I couldn’t buy it in California years ago), look for spice mixes intended for steamed spiced crabs, but be sure they don’t include super large chunks of spice as many shrimp boil spice mixes do OR try a homemade version like this one.

Zucchini “Crab” Cakes serves 4

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  • 3 cups grated zucchini
  • 2 eggs (I used flax)
  • 1 c garbanzo bean flour
  • 1 T sunflower cheese (you could use mayo)
  • 1 T apple cider vinegar
  • 1 T Bragg’s Amino Acids (or soy sauce)
  • 1-2 T Old Bay

The key to working with zucchini is to remember that it is FULL of water. In order to get browning in a pan, zucchini needs to be lightened of some its moisture load. To do this put your grated zucchini in a strainer with a sprinkle of salt stirred in. Let it rest for at least 15 minutes. I use that time to gather and measure the rest of the ingredients into a mixing bowl. Use a utensil to press zucchini to extract even more water. When you think you’ve pushed out all the water you can, wrap the zucchini in a clean dish towel and squeeze out as much as you can. Your zucchini will look a little less appealing after all this, but trust me, it’s well worth the momentary aesthetic sacrifice.

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Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and stir to incorporate. Mixture should be wet, but able to hold a patty shape. If they are too wet to hold form, add a little more flour. Form into  patties of whatever size you like. I made 8 “cakes” with my mixture. Heat oil in pan to medium and add the cakes. Allow them to brown on the bottom (this will mean leaving them alone for a couple of minutes, although as you can see I overshot for a couple). Flip and brown on the other side. Remove from heat. Serve with a big fresh garden salad. Happy summer!

The Zucchini “Problem” and My Vegetti

 photo IMG_0567.jpgThose of you who’ve grown zucchini know that if the plant works, you go very quickly from wondering if you’ll ever get any zucchini to stuffing zukes in neighbor’s mailboxes when they’re not looking to offload some of your surplus. For the past several years my zucchini have been decidedly in the NOT WORKING category, so I’ve not had to force squash on the cul-de-sac, but this year (largely I think because I got ahead of the bugs early), we have zucchini.

While I like zucchini, I admit that even I am not a fan of the traditional sautéed squash, so I’ve become a zucchini seeker. How else can we use this prolific nutritious gift without having it be, well, yucky? Big Sis and I have shared a few zucchini secrets in the past, but I found a new, and perfectly lovely solution, right there in the “As Seen on TV” display. If you just laughed, then you should admit that you’ve been tempted to look yourself. I just couldn’t stop myself when I saw a little gadget that claimed that it would spiral cut my vegetables for $10 and would fit in a drawer, the Veggetti Spiral Vegetable Cutter. I snatched that little sucker up.

And let me tell you what. It works. It actually does what it apparently says it does on TV. With little effort and about a minute of turning I had enough spiral zucchini noodles for 2 adult dinner sized portions – from one zucchini. Nice.
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 photo IMG_0499.jpgBeing fans of Mediterranean food, we naturally concluded that we could put tomato sauce right on those bad boys and call it dinner, but we were feeling a little zesty, so we went in another direction, sort of a deconstructed zucchini chili mac.I simply prepared the fixins that I would normally serve for us to make burritos and instead of wrapping everything up in a tortilla, we served it on top of zucchini noodles. And it was delish. My vote on the Vegetti? A resounding yes, and I can’t wait to make some zucchini noodles for Pasta Sunday. Next time I post I’ll have another fab zucchini suggestion straight from the heart of Maryland. Hope you’re all having a lovely summer!

Stone Fruit Recall for Possible Listeria

FSNBI got a call. A few hours too late, but I got a call and that’s pretty impressive.

Let me explain. I’ve been a bit out of touch because my brother, who lives halfway across the country from me, has been visiting. I checked out of most of my regular life and spent some wonderful days getting to know him better and watching my children fall in love with their uncle. I’ve missed all kinds of news, including the news about the bag of nectarines in my refrigerator.

In case you’ve not heard, stone fruits are being recalled nationwide for possible listeria contamination. More details follow here. It is important to note that bulk packs, individually sold fruits, and pastry made with fruit are all subject to the recall. I am pleased that my market called me to let me know; I just wish it had happened before breakfast. If they hadn’t called, I probably would have had another before I saw the news today. I’ve eaten several of these. If I complain of flu-like symptoms anytime in the next several months (because apparently it can take that long), please fell free to remind me to see my health care provider.

I will now return to my regularly scheduled activities, including sharing recalls when they come across my wire. I’d encourage you, however to check out the Food Safety News website yourself so you can be informed about the fruit in your fridge. Eat well, be well friends. Fingers crossed.

Buying Healthy at Costo: My Faves

The first time I went to Costco it was with a neighbor. I told her I don’t do well in large stores with lots of different kinds of things to see. “Let me guess; you freeze up?” Why yes, yes I do. She shrugged and said, “Don’t worry. John does the same thing. I’ve got practice. I’ll get you through.”

I like to think that I’ve gotten a little better at managing my scene at Costco. I no longer need a guide or sherpa. I’ve never been tempted by the vehicles or pianos (although I confess camping gear can get a little dicey). I attempt to take a list, and sometimes I even stick to it (silence in the peanut gallery please). At any rate, through all this increasingly disciplined procurement I have discovered that Costco has some remarkable deals on some healthful foods. These have become staples for me that make it easier for me to plan highly nutritious meals or to fake a planned meal with high quality ingredients. While Costco does offer a significant amount of prepared food, they also have a remarkable number of real food ingredients. If you are skeptical, or still in the frozen stage of your Costco relationship, I thought I’d share my top healthful purchases at our local Costco, so you can guide yourself through the onslaught of offers.

1) Produce  photo IMG_0510.jpg

There are a lot of good deals on produce at Costco, although many of them are packaged in ways that I just can’t stomach, so I’m going to focus on the really exceptional, and less poorly packaged, deals here. My favorite Costco discovery is the bag of Power Greens. It has several hearty greens mixed together and is perfect for adding to salads, soups, smoothies, and anything else you would normally add greens to. Don’t forget greens freeze just fine, so the size of the bag shouldn’t put you off. It’s 4.99 for a massive bag of greens that you would normally buy in little piddly amounts in a plastic box. Carrots are also an exceptional Costco score provided you use them a lot. We are carrot lovers and use our 10 lb bag in plenty of time. This bag comes with two bags inside, so it would also be easy to split with a carrot loving friend. Avocados at a dollar apiece? Yes please.

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Frozen produce is also a good deal with organic sweet peas going for just over a dollar a pound. Our Costco also offers frozen organic corn and mixed vegetables. You can find other great deals on dried fruit at Costco. They offer a wide variety of high quality dried fruit at lower than grocery store prices. Just check the ingredients to find the varieties that do not have added sugar. ;-)

2) Nuts and Seeds

While Costco does not fill my raw cashew needs, they manage to answer all my other nut cravings and requirements, and again they do it at prices that consistently beat grocery stores, even those with bulk bins. Kirkland almonds, pecans, walnuts and pistachios are permanent residents on my Costco list. We’ve also gotten pine nuts and chia seeds there (prohibitively expensive at the market, and they do keep just fine).

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3) Grains and Beans

 photo IMG_0546.jpgOrganic brown rice at Costco rings in at 1.16 per pound. Costco also sells sprouted dried beans and organic quinoa at better than grocery store prices.

4) Nut Butters While with the nut prices Costco has, I should really be making my own nut butters, I confess that I don’t. This is one place where I let convenience win the day. Kirkland brand organic peanut butter is a staple in our house. We’ve recently been pleased to also find organic almond butter, both at substantially lower prices than I can find them in the market.  photo IMG_0526.jpg  photo IMG_0528.jpg

5) Pantry Staples  photo IMG_0534.jpg

This is the category for a miss-mosh of ingredients that we buy at Costco and that we’ve found to be higher quality, and less expensive, than any of our other local options. Our Costco pantry staples include: Kirkland maple syrup, Kirkland extra virgin olive oil, dijon mustard, and Kirkland balsamic vinegar.

6) Beverages  photo IMG_0519.jpg

While we no longer buy most of the packaged beverages offered at Costco, we do enjoy the screamin’ deals on snooty coffee. If you are a whole bean coffee purchaser, you should check their prices out. We also occasionally take advantage of sales on coconut water.

7) Bread  photo IMG_0508.jpg

We have had a good experience with whole grain sandwich bread at Costco and have also occasionally enjoyed the gigantic stack of whole wheat tortillas that they sell for the same price as a dinky grocery store package.

8) Better Junk While we typically eschew junk food, the occasional whole grain tortilla chip goes a long way toward limiting the sense of overwhelming deprivation that can consume my kids. Costco has great prices on a few items that I would categorize as better junk. We typically buy one of these for gatherings or vacations and enjoy the leftovers.

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So there you have it, the bulk of my permanent Costco list on my phone (which the children now read and manage in a very dictatorial fashion, much to my chagrin). One of the biggest barriers to healthier eating is the cost of high quality ingredients. If you already have a Costco membership, check out these amazing deals. If you don’t have one, but are now tempted, consider giving it a try – or touring the store and doing the personal calculation of whether or not it makes sense for you, or for you and a friend. I am staring at that picture of chips as I write this… I am weak in the face of chips. Hope you are all having a glorious summer and if you are already a huge box store shopper, what are your favorite healthy (or healthier) deals?

Cold Comfort in a Hearty Salad

The heat is on! Summer is finally really here and so far it’s been lovely. Only brutally hot for a couple of days at a time, lots of play, and good friends all around. While I wouldn’t go so far to categorize my summer as all play and no work, I have been really making the most of time and effort saving cooking strategies to maximize fun time. Let’s face it, when it’s 95 degrees outside and everyone’s been playing as hard as they can for hours, the last thing you want to do is turn on the oven.

Big Sis and I have many times highlighted the importance of cooking extra when we cook in order to create leftovers or to create ingredients that can be used in a later meal. I especially like to do this in the summer. Whenever I cook grains in particular, I try to make twice what I would normally make so that I have some in the fridge for later, and colder dishes.

All of this is leading up to a lovely recipe mash I put together last night, with leftover quinoa playing a secondary, but much appreciated role. The inspiration came from a great dish I made with a great friend last week. She shared a cookbook with me that she had found and after we finished drooling over the pictures (Fresh from the Farm: A Year of Recipes and Storiessuch great pictures), we skimmed for a dinner and came across a quinoa and bean salad that looked like just the ticket. We made it, and it was great, and we had the summer joy of eating it cold for several lunches and dinners.

 photo IMG_0478.jpgUpon my return home, I remembered my big bag of sprouted beans, and a recipe on that bag. It was similar to the quinoa salad, and so I decided to use it as a loose guideline to recreate the quinoa and bean dish. This recipe results in a generous amount, good for a summer cookout or for several days of lunching and munching from the fridge.

Sprouted Bean and Quinoa Salad

  •  photo IMG_0488.jpg2 cups dry beans (any beans would work here, the sprouted bag I have has a nice variety of sizes which contributes to texture for the dish)
  • 1 c cucumber, chopped
  • 1/3 c chopped scallions
  • 1/3 c olive oil
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 1 c chopped tomatoes (I like cherry or grape for cold salads)
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 1 c cooked quinoa or other grain
  • 3/4-1 t cumin
  • 1 t salt
  • black pepper to taste
  • hot sauce if desired

Cook your beans according to the bag or standard bean cooking procedures. As usual, I highly recommend lentils for quick cooking time. Rinse with cold water to cool off. Add to large bowl with the other ingredients. Stir gently to combine. Yup, that’s it. Delish.

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Oh, and what’s that cool thing that squeezes the lemons (even the strangely large ones) without getting seeds in the food? Yeah, that’s a very cool and sturdy tool very cool and sturdy tool given to me by one of my absolute favorite people in the world. You can have one too, if you don’t like lemon seeds in your salad.