Friday, September 30, 2011

Apple Dessert, as in 1945

IMG_1473_2Darienne shared this simple delicious apple recipe with us while she was visiting her childhood home in New England, a couple years  ago.

Besides being with her family, she was surrounded by a unique collection of something like 469 cookbooks(!). The recipe is from the 1945 North Amherst Cookbook, created by the Ladies Social Circle of the North Congregational Church of Amherst, Mass.

The Ladies Social Circle Apple Dessert

In Darienne's words: "Apple Dessert, contributed by one Edith French, is similar to an apple cobbler but with more of a cookie-like topping, instead of a cake-like topping, as my mother puts it. Her grandmother used to prepare it from this same cookbook, and my mother made it for her family when she was growing up and then for her own children. On that week she made it for a fifth generation."

4 or 5 apples
1 cup sugar, divided
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tbsp. butter, softened

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Peel and slice apples. Fill pie plate with sliced apples. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup sugar and cinnamon. Bake about 15 minutes.

Remove pie plate from oven and reduce temperature to 350 degrees. Mix remaining 1/2 cup sugar, egg, flour, baking powder, butter, and salt. Dot mixture over apples. Return to oven and bake for 35 minutes.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Chicken with Apples and Saffron

Photo by Adi Ziv-Av

This recipe was first made while we were still living in Forest Hills, New York, seven years ago. The thought of celebrating the Jewish New Year was a culinary challenge for me. I wanted to gather apples, saffron, chicken and even some honey and nuts. With some inspiration of Moroccan flavors and Indian marinades, I made a fusion and the result became a tradition in my family.

As I usually do every year, I keep changing  the recipe slightly.  Gravenstein was the choice for apples, no dried fruits were in the marinade, chicken was the best ever from Mary's Free Range, and instead of couscous we had some purple potatoes with capers and cranberry beans.  

Apple Saffron Chicken

The yogurt marinade is the key to success with the chicken texture. I used a low-fat organic natural yogurt from Trader Joe's and that worked perfectly. This year I tested mashed papaya as main marinade ingredient instead of yogurt. The result was equally delicious.
A good saffron also helps. This year I found a very good one by Morton and Basset from Novato, California. 

2 cups apple juice
12- 14 saffron threads
2 cups of your favorite mixed dry fruit
6 tablespoons low-fat natural yogurt
kosher salt to taste
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 medium white onion, cut in cubes
3 pounds chicken breasts, butterflied
1 pound chicken thigh filets, fat removed
2 medium Pink Lady apples, thinly sliced
Your favorite honey to drizzle the apples

Warm apple juice and add saffron (and dried fruit, if used) . Reserve for later. In a big bowl whisk together yogurt (or papaya)  salt, olive oil and onion. Immerse chicken pieces and marinade overnight or a minimum of 2 hours.
Heat large skillet over high heat. Remove chicken from marinade; reserve marinade. Sear each piece of chicken, being careful to just bring the meat to the surface. If not using a ovenproof skillet, transfer the seared meat to a ovenproof dish. Cover with reserved marinade, and use the slices of apple as a top layer on the dish, to work as a lid. Bake in oven for 25 minutes at 375F. Serve hot. Ideal sides are salads, couscous and rice.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Honey-Gravenstein Apple Parcels

If you are celebrating the arrival of the  Jewish New Year, or the first week of autumn, or just love seasonal apples, this is a cute way to bring apple with honey to your table inside a different, elegant and healthy package.

I was lucky enough to find some delicious Gravenstein apples in my local market, which brought all the flavors needed to make these morsels so irresistible. If you've never tasted one of these apples before, I promise you will never forget them: their sweetness and tartness are unique.

From today, we will also celebrate the arrival of autumn with a series of recipes that bring apples to your plate. Enjoy!

And, before we forget, have a sweet (and very healthy) new year!

Apple Parcels

I adapted this from a very basic recipe by Great American Home Baking. I mainly changed all the ingredients and used Israeli date honey to finish it, but I believe any clover honey will do. Also, this recipe is vegan, with no animal fat in it and, therefore, zero cholesterol. 

3/4 cup white whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup canola oil spread (such as Healthy Balance)
1 tablespoon organic brown turbinado sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon flaxseed meal mixed in three tablespoons of water
1 tablespoon almond milk
1 teaspoon ground cardamom

2 chopped, unpeeled Gravenstein apples (golden delicious, the ones shown in the photo, will work fine too!)
1/2 tablespoon turbinado sugar
zest of half a lemon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 425 F. On a work surface or in a bowl, mix flour, vegetable spread, and all other pastry ingredients, working the dough with a pastry cutter or two forks. When the crumbly dough is finally formed, reserve on the side. Add more almond milk, if necessary, to bind the dough.

To make the filling, simmer chopped apples in their own juice with the sugar and cinnamon for about 20 minutes until the apples are tender but not yet applesauce-like.

Meanwhile, roll out the dough on a floured surface and cut the squares into the desired size with the help of a pizza cutter. Spoon the apples in the middle of each square and, with the tips of your fingers, bring the corners to the center and pinch to seal and close the parcels. Brush honey on top. Bake for about 10 to 15 minutes until the crust is golden.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Fresh and Fast Homemade Tortillas

Fair warning: Once you try making tortillas from scratch, those store-bought ones will taste like cardboard. You'll never go back. Good thing these are so easy to make.

This recipe was not taught to me by my abuelita, nor anyone else's abuelita, for that matter, and it makes no claim to authenticity. A fresh tortilla made with silky-soft white flour and lard is incomparably delicious ... but I can't bring myself to make it that way. In this version, white whole-wheat flour and a small amount of oil make for a soft, flavorful tortilla with a little more nutritive value. I made it as healthfully as I could—pushing it any further, I found, ruins all the pillowy gorgeousness of a homemade tortilla.

Once you've made these once or twice, you should be able to crank out a batch within 20 minutes. It's all hands-on work, which can be tough to manage with young ones underfoot. The best way to pull it off is to have them join in: Let them mix up the dough by hand, and watch and giggle as the tortillas puff up on the skillet. 

Yep, that's funny-looking.
A few tips:
  • More hands = more fun. Enlist little ones to blend the dough. If you have more skilled help available, have one person roll out tortillas while the other mans the skillet.
  • Preheat your skillet. Make sure it's hot before you throw your first tortilla on there. But not too hot—you want gentle browning, not smoky blackening.
  • Keep 'em soft. When you take the tortillas off the heat, wrap them in a kitchen towel. To store for later, pack them in a zip-top bag or airtight container while they're still warm.
  • Make extra. These are irresistible fresh off the skillet, but they store well. Make a larger batch and save some for easy snacks and lunches later in the week. 
  • Add flavor. Try incorporating pumpkin, tomato paste, spinach, or red peppers. To see how to do it, check out this recipe for Pumpkin Tortillas.
Leftover stir-fry wrapped in fresh tortillas—yum!

Homemade Tortillas

This goes very light on the oil—if you wish, you can add a little more; I rub a few drops of olive oil on my hands when I knead the dough. Makes 8 to 10 tortillas.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white whole-wheat flour (or substitute all-purpose)
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive or canola oil
¾ cup warm water

Stir together flour, baking powder, and salt with your fingers or a fork. Drizzle the oil over the dry ingredients and blend well. Add a spoonful or two of water, mix in, and repeat until the dough starts to come together in a shaggy ball. You might need a little more or a little less water.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for a few minutes until it’s smooth and elastic. Divide into 8 to 10 pieces and roll into balls—about the size of ping-pong balls.

Heat a skillet over medium heat. Roll a ball of dough out into a very thin circle, about 7 to 8 inches. If the dough is resisting, cover and let it rest for 10 to 20 minutes.

Put the rolled-out dough onto the heated skillet and cook for about 15 seconds; you should see some puffy spots and browning. Shake the skillet a little to slide the tortilla around if it gets too puffy. Flip every 15 to 20 seconds—it shouldn't take more than a minute or so.

Wrap cooked tortillas in a kitchen towel to keep them warm and soft, or store in a tortilla warmer while you cook the remaining tortillas. If you have leftovers, store them for up to a week in the refrigerator in a zip-top bag or airtight container, or in the freezer.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Lunchbox Tricks with Pizza Treats

We've been back to school for a few weeks now, but we're only just beginning to get back in rhythm. A new year inspires a renewed commitment to sending our kids to school with healthy, fun, and tasty lunches to fuel them through these busy days.
Darienne and I  found out lately that pizza dough is great and versatile way for lunch boxes. They make a good alternative to sandwiches and the kids like to eat them cold, which is a good advantage. Here are some links of how creative you can go with them: 

Pizza Lollipops: These are a favorite for Darienne's kids! If you have a small lunch box or just don't want to bother with lollipop sticks, they're equally entertaining as little wheels.
Ham and Broccoli Calzones: These calcium-rich pocket sandwiches are fun—and fast to make if you have pizza dough ready to go.
Beef and Spinach Pockets: Loaded with lots of higher nutrition ingredients, these are easy to eat and freeze well. Do a whole batch and warp individually so that you can send to lunch when running out of ideas. 
Mini Hot Dogs  aka Pigs in a Blanket - Sounds like a party? Maybe good for one special day of the week. This is fair competition with the cafeteria, does well eaten cold, and you choose the best type of frank, tomato sauce, and even one or two green ingredients to be wrapped in it. 

The magic about playing with pizza dough is that by making them different shapes you can be creative with the fillings. From chicken to grass-fed ground beef, using chopped vegetables and including all sort of seasonings and some good cheese, the pockets, calzones, and lollipops can be a complete meal, guaranteed to vanish from the box. 

For a very delicious homemade dough recipe, you can use this one by Darienne: 

Pizza Dough
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
2 1/4 teaspoons yeast (one package)
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1 1/4 cups lukewarm water
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for baking sheet
optional: fresh or dried herbs, ground flax seed

In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, combine the flour, yeast, and salt, along with herbs or flax seed, if using. Process the dry ingredients briefly, then pour in 1 cup of lukewarm water and the olive oil. Add more water, just a tiny bit at a time (you might not use the entire amount) and continue to process until the dough forms a ball. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead for a minute or so to form a ball. Set dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a towel, and let rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Divide dough into as many pieces as you plan to turn into pizzas, pizzas, calzones, lollipops or blankets. Shape each piece into a ball and set on a floured surface. Cover with plastic wrap or a towel and let rest for 15 to 20 minutes. Use the dough as desired, following the recipes above. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Food blues

“I don’t want to be hot lunch!”

I should be thrilled: My second-grader actually wants me to pack his lunch every day. Really? After all the whining last year about having to bring his lunch three days out of five?

Instead, I feel desperate. I have no idea what to send to school with him.

I should be full of ideas. That’s my job here—to have good ideas about feeding our kids. This blog boasts more than three dozen creative ideas for stuffing a lunch sack, and that's in addition to traditional sandwiches, meat-and-cheese skewers, and the usual fare.

But my kid isn’t eating much of anything these days. His list of acceptable foods has grown pitifully short. The only chicken he’ll eat is in nugget form (only fast food, not frozen and certainly not homemade). He balks at beef except in tacos, satay, and sometimes Trader Joe’s Bool Kogi. Beans, pork, and fish are out. So are vegetables except romaine lettuce. Cheese pizza is OK hot, but not packed cold. Pasta must be hot, plain, and only in certain shapes.

Peanut butter, Nutella, and fluff sandwiches are good, except when they aren’t. Quesadillas, hot dogs, macaroni and cheese, pot stickers, eggs, yogurt that isn’t in a tube, cheese, nuts, and most fruits—fresh and dried—are all on the reject list.

I’m burned out. Fed up. Seriously annoyed.

It was a relief and surprise when he recently asked to make sourdough bread, using a starter recipe from a cooking class he took two years ago. He didn't need to ask me twice. That afternoon, we got our starter going. Five days later, we baked two huge, gorgeous loaves of bread. A few days after that, he sold homemade sourdough baguettes at a lemonade stand to benefit his school. An extra cup of starter yielded the tastiest, laziest waffles I've ever enjoyed in my kitchen.

His starter, nicknamed "Cutie," is now almost a month old. He's feeding it regularly and cheers to see it bubble and rise.

It's just white bread—plain, simple, bad carbs and all. But it's nourishing, in so many ways.

What do you do when you have the lunch box blues? If you have any ideas, please share in the comments!


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