Saturday, February 21, 2009

Teriyaki Ground Turkey and Vegetables

Who needs Hamburger Helper? This recipe is a slightly gussied-up version of an old bachelor staple of Evan's. It's perfect for a quick weeknight dinner. I've labeled it vegetarian because, though we use ground turkey, I think you could easily use vegetarian 'grounds' such as Yves. We were lucky enough to obtain some heritage ground turkey from the farmers' market and it was delicious. We were surprised at just how much Elspeth loved this dinner, particularly since there were quite a few textures going on. We serve this meal over whole wheat couscous.

We did pre-steam the carrots and broccoli for a toddler's benefit. If you don't mind if the veggies are crunchier, you could just add them to the skillet raw.

Now that the kids are older (in 2017) we have re-visited this old favorite that somehow fell out of the rotation. Instead of pre-steaming the vegetables, I grind them finely in the food processor and then steam them in the pan for a few minutes after adding to the ground meat. The very small pieces cook quickly and thus pre-cooking is not required. I also omit the mushrooms, as the kids are not fans. Almost any other vegetable is a hit, however. Grinding them in the food processor also helps to add bulk and to make the meat go further.

And as we are a family of four, I also usually double the chicken and veg; one recipe of teriyaki sauce is still enough.

1 TBSP olive oil
1 lb. ground turkey, vegetarian crumbles, or maybe tempeh
1 large handful crimini mushrooms, sliced (optional)
1-2 cloves garlic, finely minced or crushed--I just use the food processor (optional)
1 red or yellow pepper, diced or ground in the food processor
2-3 medium carrots, sliced or diced and steamed, no need to steam if grinding in food processor
1/4 to 1/2 head broccoli, chopped and steamed, no need to steam if grinding in food processor
1 recipe teriyaki sauce

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat
  2. Add the ground turkey and cook until lightly browned
  3. Add the mushrooms if using and continue cooking until the liquid is released and has mostly evaporated
  4. Add the garlic, if using, and cook for a minute or two
  5. Add the diced peppers, carrots and broccoli and continue cooking for a few minutes
  6. Stir in about 1/2 c. teriyaki sauce and then taste; add more sauce as necessary
  7. Remove from heat and serve over whole wheat couscous. You can also add some extra sauce to the couscous

Teriyaki Sauce and Ginger Juice

Here are two more ideas from the Natural Health cookbook by Dana Jacobi. It's hard to find a decent bottled teriyaki sauce because they seem mostly to be sugar or high-fructose corn syrup. We like this homemade version quite a lot; the only change we made was to add a bit of brown sugar since the sauce wasn't quite balanced to our tastes. The other idea is a way to add ginger flavor to a dish without the texture of the pulp. I plan on making up a big batch of ginger juice and freezing it in ice cube trays. Because you're extracting only the juice from the ginger, you don't need to bother peeling it.


1/3 c. sake
1/3 c. mirin
1/3 c. soy sauce
2 tsp honey
1/4 tsp ground ginger or an equivalent amount of ginger juice
1-2 tsp brown sugar or to taste (optional)

  1. Mix together all ingredients except the ginger and brown sugar in a small saucepan
  2. Bring to a boil over medium heat
  3. Reduce heat and add ginger; simmer until the honey is dissolved
  4. Taste the sauce and add brown sugar as desired; simmer until brown sugar is dissolved
  5. Remove from heat and either use or cool and refrigerate for 2-3 weeks
Grate a large knob of ginger--we use a Microplane. Place grated ginger in some cheesecloth and squeeze out the liquid into ice cube trays. Freeze and then put into a freezer bag. Use anytime you want the flavor of ginger without the pulp. You could even try adding a small cube to a glass of lemonade or any other beverage that might be nice with a ginger boost.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Puttanesca-Inspired Tomato Sauce with Kale and Carrots

I am really not a fan of the premise of such cookbooks as Deceptively Delicious, which advocates fooling one's children into eating healthy food by sneaking vegetables into recipes. I think I would have been a picky child in any case, but that kind of subterfuge coupled with techniques like setting the timer on me to finish my meal, made a bad situation far worse and I've only started to recover from it in the last decade or so. Lying to those I feed doesn't really work for me. That said, I never minded it when my mom put wheat germ in the chocolate chip cookies because there was never any secret about it. It was there, I liked the cookies, end of story.

It is with this latter attitude that I share an innovation on the already-simplified puttanesca sauce I published in November. In that recipe, I recommend cooking the greens in the pasta water and serving with the pasta and sauce. This is still a great technique to make your pasta water do double duty.

However, though Elspeth is still a wonderful eater, we do find that she can be challenged by too many textures in one dish, especially now that she's spooning it up herself. I wanted to find a way to retain the greens, but ensure that she could happily eat the whole mess of ingredients with no troubles.

My new technique is even simpler and fuller of good stuff! What I did this time was to use my food processor on half a bunch of lacinato kale until it was very fine. Then I finely chopped 5 or 6 small carrots in the food processor. I did them separately to ensure that each vegetable was evenly chopped, but you could try combining them and see if the end result is uniform enough. I added both of these vegetables to the garlic and olives and cooked them for several minutes before adding the tomatoes and proceeding with the rest of the recipe.

The final sauce is less 'saucy', so I added a few spoonfuls of the pasta cooking water (after the pasta was cooked) to help integrate it. I made no other changes to the proportions of ingredients and served the sauce, as usual, on whole wheat penne.

Because the original recipe wasn't exactly unctuous or luscious in texture, I don't feel there was a huge sacrifice by adding the kale and carrots. The deep green flavor of the kale is very nicely offset by the sweetness of the carrots, which also act to balance the tanginess you can get with the brine left on the olives or the tomatoes.

It was a hit for the whole family and we'll definitely be changing our standard technique to this one.

5-6 cloves garlic
2 TBSP olive oil
1/2 c. pitted kalamata or mixed olives (or to taste)
1/2 to 1 bunch greens (kale, chard and spinach all work well), washed
5-6 small to medium carrots
1 28 ounce can whole, peeled tomatoes, diced tomatoes or ground tomatoes (I never use the kind that have basil or any other flavoring in them, though you may like to)
Small pinch red pepper flakes or to taste
Fresh ground pepper
Enough whole wheat spaghetti or penne pasta for your family for 1 or 2 meals (we like lots of greens so though the sauce lasts 3-4 nights, we often make pasta and greens every night or every other night)

INGREDIENTS FOR A CROWD (or to fill the freezer)
8-10 cloves garlic
2 TBSP olive oil
2 c pitted kalamata olives
1 large bunch greens, washed
4-6 large carrots, washed and cut into large pieces
2 qt or 2-3 large cans diced tomatoes or homemade tomato sauce
Small pinch red pepper flakes or to taste
Fresh ground pepper

  1. Place a large pot of water on to boil, covered, on high heat
  2. Chop the garlic (use a full sized food processor if you have one)
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the oil
  4. Add the garlic to the skillet and coat with the oil; cook for a few minutes
  5. While the garlic is cooking, dump the pitted olives into the food processor and pulse until finely chopped (but not a paste)
  6. Add the olives to the skillet and stir well
  7. Add the red pepper flakes and some ground pepper
  8. Process the greens until fine; stir greens into the skillet and cook for a few minutes
  9. Process the carrots until finely ground; stir into the skillet and continue cooking for a few minutes
  10. If using whole or diced tomatoes (anything but ground), process them in the same food processor until very fine--I like to use the tomatoes ground up this way because I feel it makes a thicker, more luxurious sauce than having chunks of tomato with somewhat watery juice)
  11. Add the tomatoes to the skillet and stir; bring to a simmer then turn the heat to low and stir occasionally
  12. The pasta water is likely to be boiling now
  13. Add the sea salt and then the pasta and cook pasta according to package directions and your taste. Save some of the pasta water to add to the sauce for texture, if desired
  14. The sauce should be about done now, too. Taste and adjust the seasonings. You may wish to add some balsamic or red wine vinegar, more pepper flakes or ground pepper
  15. Serve up pasta and sauce and enjoy

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Orange and Lemon Cake

All of Evan's family lives in our area, so we're able to get together about once a month for family dinner to celebrate one thing or another. Everyone brings a dish to share and we're most often tasked with dessert. I hadn't really thought of myself as a fancy baker: I've always made cookies and simple cakes. But in Evan's family, I'm proud to say I have a reputation for coming up with creative and tasty celebratory desserts. All of the cakes are un-iced, since I have a well-known aversion to frosting. We often will accompany the cake with homemade ice cream, though this dessert is paired with a simple raspberry sauce.

This month it's my and Evan's mom's birthday. I've frequently made this cake from Patricia Wells' Trattoria cookbook since navel oranges are supposedly at their peak around now and I do love a good orange cake. Wells says she likes it for breakfast and I can understand why! The only small changes I've made to the recipe are that I like to use whole wheat pastry flour (and haven't discerned that the final cake is negatively affected) and that the organic oranges were quite small so I decided to use two instead of one. I recommend using organic orange and lemon since the zest is such an important part of the recipe.

Wells really likes vanilla sugar, which is widely used in France and Italy for desserts. To make it, simply take clean 'spent' vanilla pods (use the inner seeds and pulp for another purpose) and plunge them in sugar to infuse it with vanilla essence. I rarely bother with this and use a combination of sugar and vanilla extract instead.

1 orange (or 2 if the oranges are quite small)
1 lemon
3/4 c. whole milk (I've used milk with less fat but we always have whole in the house these days)
3 c. all-purpose or whole wheat pastry flour (or 15 ounces)
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
16 oz. (two sticks, 1 lb) unsalted butter, cut into pieces and softened
1 1/2 c. vanilla sugar (see note above) OR
1 1/2 c. (evaporated cane juice) sugar plus 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
5 large eggs
Powdered (icing or confectioner's) sugar for dusting if desired
Raspberry sauce (optional--recipe follows)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 and either butter of flour the Bundt pan, use Baker's Joy or another flour/oil spray, or substitute something like Pam for the butter and flour the pan (the latter is what I did this time and, while I think butter tastes better than Pam, this couldn't be beat for ease of use. I had Baker's Joy but it kept clogging and so I got rid of it)
  2. Zest the orange(s) and lemon and set zest aside
  3. Juice the orange(s) and lemon and combine with the milk. Set aside so the milk with curdle
  4. Sift the flour, baking powder, soda and salt together into a large bowl. Add the zests and stir well
  5. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy using a stand or hand-held mixer (or, if you're feeling brawny, your arms and a whisk)
  6. Add the eggs one and a time, mixing well after each one. Wells says (rightly) that the mixture will look rather curdled once the eggs are added and that this is expected
  7. Now add 1/3 of the flour and mix well. Follow with 1/3 of the curdled milk and mix
  8. Repeat until all of the flour and milk are incorporated
  9. Pour the batter into the Bundt pan and smooth it so the batter is evenly distributed
  10. Bake in the center of the oven for 45 to 55 minutes and check for doneness with a toothpick--if it comes out clean, the cake is done, even if the cracks seem moist
  11. Set the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes to cool, then use a knife to loosen the cake from the outside and inner ring of the Bundt pan (loosening from the center section is especially important and easy to forget)
  12. Invert the pan onto the cooling rack or serving plate and cool
  13. When the cake is room temperature, use a sieve to sprinkle icing sugar over the top
  14. Serve plain, with creme fraiche, ice cream, or raspberry sauce
This simple recipe is adapted from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

2 c. fresh or frozen raspberries
1/4 to 1/2 c. evaporated cane juice sugar
1/4 c. water
1 tsp framboise, kirsch or vodka if desired

  1. Put raspberries in a bowl
  2. In a small saucepan, heat the sugar and water until the sugar dissolves completely and the mixture is clear with no grains
  3. Pour over the raspberries and mix in. Madison has you sieve the raspberries to remove the seeds first, but I never bother
  4. Add the liqueur (or liquor) to taste if desired. If you want to balance the flavor without adding alcohol, you might consider a touch of lemon zest or even orange zest if serving with the above cake

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Oat Blueberry Banana Pancakes

Here's another goodie from the Whole Life Nutrition cookbook. It's a good recipe for anyone who is gluten intolerant or who doesn't eat eggs. Elspeth was a little dubious until Evan gave her a bit with a jammy blueberry in it. After that, she couldn't be stopped. Since she did greatly prefer the 'bluble' bites (as we jokingly call blueberries), I would significantly bump up the blueberries in this recipe. The original calls for one small banana; I had half of a large one and used that. The banana flavor was subtle, so I would be tempted next time to use a whole banana of whatever size. Because have no dairy issues in our house, I used whole cow's milk instead of rice milk. The trick to using any kind of milk is that it can't be refrigerator cold or else the coconut oil will harden after you've gone to all the troubled to melt it. If you're using a fresh box (at room temp) of non-dairy milk you can skip the warming step. I found that a 1/2 cup pancake was rather large and also dropping it from a measuring cup onto the griddle made the pancake a bit thick and difficult to cook through. Instead, I just used a large deep spoon and spread the batter onto the griddle to ensure a slightly thinner cake.

I'm editing this post on February 21st to say that the greater quantities of blueberries and whole large banana worked well. The other thing that was really nice was that I replaced 1/2 c. of the oats with 1/2 c. of ground almonds to add more protein and other nutrients. This made the batter much thinner so we didn't need to add more milk. The addition of an extra 1/4 c. of ground flaxseed helped the texture even more and was tasty. I also added 1/4 tsp salt and I think the pancakes were lighter as a result. However, it's still very important to spread the batter onto the griddle instead of forming a pool of it. Otherwise, the edges cook but the middle does not and so the cakes are impossible to flip.

1 1/2 c. rolled oats (she specified thick-cut but I used medium) OR 1 c. rolled oats plus 1/2 c. ground almonds (almond meal)
1/4 c. ground flaxseed (optional for extra texture and Omega 3)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp fine salt (as opposed to kosher or coarse salt)
1 1/4 c. rice milk (or other non-dairy or cow's milk)
2 TBSP melted coconut oil plus more for the griddle (I use non-virgin coconut oil which doesn't give a pronounced coconut flavor)
1 TBSP maple syrup or agave nectar
1 banana
1/2 to 1 c. blueberries--thaw first if using frozen and make sure they're not too cold

  1. Make a flour out of the rolled oat by grinding in a coffee grinder or other such device
  2. Combine oat flour, ground almonds, ground flaxseed, baking powder, soda and salt in a large bowl
  3. Mash the banana in the bottom of a medium microwave-safe bowl (in case you need to warm your milk)
  4. Add the milk and maple syrup to the banana
  5. If using 'milk' from the fridge, be sure to warm it to at least room temperature before proceeding (40 seconds in the microwave on high worked for me)
  6. Now, add the melted coconut oil. If it seizes up because the coconut oil gets too cold, microwave again for 40 seconds or so
  7. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and gently mix until just moistened
  8. Fold in the blueberries and add more milk if the batter is too thick
  9. Heat a large skillet (I actually use our cast iron griddle that straddles two gas burners) over medium-low heat
  10. Brush with coconut oil and ladle the batter onto the skillet or griddle (no more than 1/2 c. per pancake, smaller if little tykes will be eating them; the second time I made these, I used a 1/8 c. measure). Make sure to spread the batter out well, even if it's very liquidy
  11. Cook for a few minutes on the first side. You can tell they're getting done in a similar way to traditional pancakes. You won't see bubbles forming, but the sides of the pancakes will start looking a little dry. If you're worried, lift up a corner to see if it's your desired brownness
  12. Flip the pancakes and cook for an additional few minutes. Remove to a warming plate or serve
  13. Brush the griddle or skillet with a bit more coconut oil and continue with the next round. I made 7 decent-sized pancakes with this amount of batter. When I did dollar-sized pancakes, the recipe made more like 16-18 pancakes.

Better Than Homemade Hummus

My intention was to post about the Cook's Illustrated 'Restaurant-Style Hummus' recipe since we've had some success with it. Two things changed my mind. One is that, though we love the technique they employ to obtain the kind of super-smooth, creamy hummus we prefer, their preferred ratios of tahini, lemon and garlic aren't exactly right. I was going to mess about with the recipe some more to arrive at our perfect proportions, but then the second thing struck me: we have no fault to find at all with Trader Joe's Mediterranean Style Hummus. We like the texture and the balance of flavors. Sure, if one wanted to maximize, I suppose some subtle improvements might be nice. But, by and large, we could eat this hummus daily and often do, Elspeth included. It's closer to our hummus ideal than the Cook's recipe without making any changes.

I'm one of those people who makes most food from scratch and did so before being a mom, though I'd say I'm more, well, fanatical about it now. Because we liked the Cook's hummus technique, I felt obliged to make our own hummus all the time. But then I realized that this is silly. Sure, the Trader Joe's hummus isn't organic, but the fact is anything I make at home isn't going to be any fuller of local ingredients than TJ's, one of our other key values. I'm giving myself permission to save the time and energy I would have put toward trying to perfect the Cook's recipe. We're going to keep stocking our fridge with Trader Joe's Mediterranean Style Hummus (which, the way, Elspeth likes in combination with the Olive and Sun Dried Tomato Spread for her lunches). And maybe I'll use that time and energy I'm saving to do something fun.

PS The other alternative we have to the TJ hummus, is one that we found at our farmers' market. It's not quite as tasty as the TJ stuff, nor as wonderfully creamy. However, what makes it special is that all the ingredients are local, from the chickpeas to the oil (with the exception of lemon juice, I think). They use grapeseed oil instead of olive oil and some seed akin to flaxseed instead of sesame (tahini). It ain't cheap ($5 for a pot half or a third the size of a TJ hummus), but we can add it to our hummus repertoire and it'll still keep me out of the kitchen!