Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Pumpkin Waffles


Mornings we rise early, in the dark.  Famished, thirsty. Full of anticipation for another day to begin. Dogs bark, trucks roar, the street sweeper whirrs, the garbage trucks open and close their huge crushing jaws.  We are not alone in the city that never sleeps.  Certain things are predictable and even wonderful. The city wheels go round this way.


I try to remind myself to embrace these painfully early hours as part of the natural rhythm of our life right now.  Change what we can, accept what we can't change.  Eating good things, especially with a good dose of pure maple syrup, helps.  Wholesome, freshly pureed pumpkin makes me feel I've gone the extra mile for all of us. A little care for the caregiver.

Pumpkin Waffles
Makes 4 to 6 waffles, depending on size.

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour (sometimes I use white-whole-wheat flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup melted butter or olive oil (if you use olive oil, add 1 tablespoon sugar to the mix)
1 cup pumpkin puree (homemade or canned is fine...)

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon and stir with a whisk.  Beat the eggs and add them to the dry ingredients along with the milk and butter or oil.  Stir in the pumpkin and combine well.  Heat up your waffle iron and go to it!  Serve with real maple syrup.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Green with Envy


I've been on a calzone-making kick for about six months.  When I discovered it was an easy way to get Roman to eat greens, calzone became part of my dinner rotation.  I love picking him up from school and hearing his excitement when I tell him what's for dinner.  

Calzone are also great for lunch, even at room temperature, when we're too busy playing outside in the beautiful Fall weather to come home. A woman at the park asked me where I had bought them, and when I replied I had made them, she acted like I was bragging (no judgement, but her own child was enjoying a Happy Meal). "This is what I do, I can teach you, if you want" I told her, playing it down.  There is a perception that making your own dough is hard.  Time consuming, maybe, but hard, not particularly.  It all depends on what you want to do with your time.


Lately, I've been putting more energy into making things from scratch.  If you read labels, even when you think you're buying something "healthy," there are still a lot of additives, and usually I don't know what they are or why they are in there.  I love the control of preparing something myself, even if it means coming home an hour early from the park, or a few extra dishes to wash.  It's worth it to me.  And secretly, well, maybe part of me enjoys being called a show off.  There are worse things, for sure.

Healthy Green Calzone
Makes 6 large calzone.
I adapted this recipe from one my mother used to make.  She used ricotta and spinach, which is creamy and decadent.  Lately, I have been using 4% cottage cheese, and a trio of spinach, kale and broccoli.  It makes me a little giddy to see Roman gobble it up.  He loves to dip his in marinara or pasta sauce.

The dough:
1 packet active dry yeast
1 cup lukewarm water
2 teaspoons honey or maple syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
3 tablespoons olive oil

Combine the yeast, water and honey in a large bowl.  Stir, then let it sit for 5 minutes.
Beat in salt and flours.  Use a wooden spoon until it is too thick to mix, then turn it out onto a floured countertop.  Knead until smooth, about 3 - 5 minutes.
Grease the same large bowl with olive oil.  Return the dough to the bowl and make turn the dough to coat it with olive oil.  Cover the bowl with a dish towel and let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Prepare the filling while the dough rises.

Punch the dough to deflate it and turn it out onto the floured countertop.  
Divide it into 6 equal parts and knead each part into a ball.  
Roll each ball into a circle about 1/8 inch thick.  Place 1/6 of the filling onto one side of the circle.  Bring the other side of the dough over the top of the filling and seal the edges, pressing down with the tines of a fork.  Prick the top with a fork to allow steam to release while cooking.  Place it on a greased baking tray.

Bake for 20 minutes at 450 degrees and serve, with marinara or pasta sauce for dipping.

The filling:
1/2 a yellow onion, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, diced
3 cups of fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped
1 cup broccoli florets, cut into tiny pieces (I did not use the stalk).
1 cup of kale, center stalk removed, finely chopped
1 cup 4% cottage cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated parmesan

In a large pan, heat some olive oil and sauté the onion and garlic for a few minutes over medium heat.  Add the greens and 1/4 cup water and cover.  Cook until the greens wilt, then uncover the pan to evaporate the water.  Turn off the heat and add the cheeses.  

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The boy with the silver fork

Ethan turned one in September and because the first year of life rapidly boiled away, I've been trying to keep things simmering on low for a while.  I catch myself staring at the boys with melancholy.  If only I could press a mental record button and remember them forever this way-- Ethan with his arms up, teetering ever so sweetly around the house, his big brother behind him, imitating his swagger.  But things change daily, before our eyes.


Some time ago, I published Roman's favorite meat sauce and it continues to grow in popularity, amongst family and friends.  I make bigger batches now that we have two growing boys. The recipe has changed, as have our lives since we went from three to four.  


If you're currently feeding a baby, my advice is to let your baby take the lead.  Babies should be allowed to hold a spoon or fork, eat off a real plate or bowl, and drink from a cup with no cover.  They are perfectly capable, with practice.  By 9 months, Ethan could feed himself with a spoon.  Eating is a sensory experience, and babies need to learn to chew and develop those important mouth and jaw muscles (purees don't teach them that). Babies are capable of so much and shouldn't be underestimated.  

The same could be said for feeding older children.  I try to respect Roman's right to listen to his body, to know when he's hungry or full, and to tell me what he likes and doesn't like.  He often surprises me.  Last week he asked for spinach in his chicken noodle soup last week and begged for whole branzino instead of fish filets.

And so we go on, each day another chance to try something new, to like it or dislike it and to respect choices.  Pretty important with a four year old.  It's all a learning process, for me as much as for them.  


Bolognese, Part II

These days, our bolognese has a ratio of at least 4 cups of vegetables to 1 lb. of meat.  I never make it quite the same, but this is our favorite family meal because it pleases even the harshest of little critics.
The amounts below for vegetables are suggestions.  This is made to be adapted.  Add spinach and kale, red pepper, or whatever you have in your refrigerator.  I have made probably fifty versions and no one has ever said 'yuck'.   Here is one of our favorite combinations.

1 yellow onion
3 garlic cloves
2 carrots
2 stalks celery
1 yellow squash
1 zucchini
1 cup broccoli (the stalk)
1  box button mushrooms
1-2 teaspoons herbes de provence
1 to 1 1/2 lb ground beef, or a combination of pork, beef and veal
1 box Pomi (Italian brand) strained tomato
1 cup water
salt to taste
fresh parmesan

Using a food processor, finely chop the onion, garlic, carrot and celery.  In a large pot, cook these over medium heat for five minutes in a Tablespoon of olive oil.  Continue to process the rest of the vegetables in batches, adding them to the pot to cook.  Add the herbs and some salt if you desire, and cook for about 7-10 minutes.  Push the vegetables to the side of the pan (or you can take them out if your pan is not big enough) and add the meat.  Brown the meat for several minutes, breaking it up with a wooden spoon.  When it is browned, combine the vegetables into the meat and pour in the strained tomato and water.  Lower the heat to medium-low and cook for about 1 1/2 hours, stirring every so often so it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pot.  It is done when the liquid has mostly been absorbed.  Serve with your favorite pasta and top with fresh parmesan.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Pumpkin Cauliflower Macaroni and Cheese


I don't think the word lazy has ever been used to describe me.  Sometimes I take shortcuts like buying canned pumpkin.  Although I prefer the old fashioned route (which also happens to be healthier).   I was actually pleased when Whole Foods ran out of solid pack pumpkin last weekend.  It gave me the impetus I needed to make my own.  

So Monday morning before 8 am, I had peeled, seeded, cut into chunks, steamed and pureed in the food processor a whole sugar pumpkin.  Because another thing about me: I am always up early, as in hours before the sun- early (thank you, children).  It was nice to make good use of the time.

The resulting pumpkin has gone into fluffy pumpkin waffles and hearty muffins this week.  It also made a tasty appearance in this mac and cheese, which Roman, Ethan and I gobbled up at 9:30 am, because when you've been up since 5, lunchtime can come very early.  For our hungry tummies, it was a welcome treat to refuel until second lunch.


Creamy Pumpkin Cauliflower Macaroni and Cheese

I used the absorption method for the pasta (it's like making risotto)-- adding water and stirring until the macaroni is cooked.  The pasta releases its starch and makes for a creamier dish.

1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 shallots or 1/2 an onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, diced
1 head of cauliflower, remove stalk and finely chop
1/2 bag of elbow macaroni (8 ounces)
2 cups of water (estimated)
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree (you could also use butternut or acorn squash, steamed and pureed)
1 cup shredded whole milk mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan
1/4 tsp salt

Sauté the shallots and garlic in a tablespoon of olive oil.
Add the cauliflower and cook for several minutes over medium heat.  
Add the raw macaroni.  Add 1 cup of water and stir, bringing to a boil and adding more water little by little, as needed until the pasta is tender. When the pasta is done (cauliflower should be tender by this time), stir in the pumpkin puree and remove from heat.  Pour this into a baking dish and stir in the mozzarella cheese and salt.  You can make the dish ahead to this point and keep it refrigerated until before dinner.  When ready to bake, top with parmesan and bake at 375 for about 20 minutes or until it begins to brown slightly. 

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