Thursday, December 15, 2011

Latkes and Doughnuts

The festival of lights and oil is nearly upon us; that once a year time for frying. While I eat a pretty healthy diet and don't generally promote fried foods, I do on occasion fry some platanos, or make some homemade eggrolls. I've tried pan frying these and find that deep frying in oil that is the right temperature actually produces a less greasy food, (I know it is hard to believe). While these days we generally need to minimize our fat consumption, Hanukkah is the one time of year when myself and many other Jewish people break out the oil and get frying.

Here is my recipe for LATKES (potato pancakes).
Here is my recipe for JELLY DOUGHNUTS.

If you want to get creative with your fried foods, you can make eggrolls with wonton or eggroll wrapers often found in the produce section of grocery stores and at any Asian market. You can make any filling you like: meat, vegetables, tofu, shredded cabbage and carrots with ginger...let your mind go... or search for recipes on line.

Enjoy, and Happy Holidays!!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Cardamom Bread Time

As xmas draws near, the Jew in me has some sweet envy. While I start thinking about fried potato lakes and jelly doughnuts for the celebration of Hanukkah, the world around me is ablaze in candy canes and gingerbread houses. I am lucky that I get to enjoy some of the xmas festivities with extended family and in-laws, and share in some of their distinctive traditions. I posted about this cardamom bread last year. It is a fabulous Swedish bread, and as Cardamom is hands down my favorite spice, I just must repost this for your baking pleasure!

Read Cardamom Bread Post

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Pie on the Brain

In preparation for Thanksgiving, this past weekend I taught a class called "How to be a Pie Ninja".  30 people showed up and we had a blast sharpening our pie making skills and demystifying the art of pie dough. The best part of the class was watching each group of people decide on the spices, fillings and decoration for their pies. It was wonderful to see people getting comfortable with the process of making a pie from scratch, a task that can seem intimidating to some. Really, when it comes down to it, if you can follow a recipe you can make pie, and if you do it a few times you start to see what works and what doesn't. The best part is, pie makes people happy, and it doesn't have to look pretty to taste good. We donated these 6 pies to Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen for their holiday meal.
Here are some links to some of my pie recipes, and our pie party from last winter. My favorite pie dough recipe is linked below as well.

Pumpkin or Sweet Potato Pie
Peach and Raspberry Pie
Pie Party 2011

Life has been so busy this year, that I haven't been able to post the dozens of ideas I wanted to share about food for the Thanksgiving meal. For some Thanksgiving inspiration, check out our table from 2009, or 2010.

Here are a few wonderful links to pie obsessed bloggers that I have enjoyed, not to mention some excellent recipes:
A cool blog,, where a nyc family celebrated 'pie month':
A great article from Melissa Clark on pie doughs, and some great pie recipes as well.

The Best Pie Dough
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (1 cup white flour plus 1/4 cup or more whole wheat flour or wheat germ)
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup ice water
1/2 teaspoon vinegar (white or cider)

   1. Make the pie dough: Cut butter into 1-inch pieces and place in the freezer for 15 minutes. Measure and sift all of the dry ingredients. In a mixer, food processor or using two forks,  cut the butter into the dough until it is the size of larger peas. Some larger sized piece of butter are good, just pinch them flat. Add the ice water and vinegar and mix dough till combined, dough should be tacky, but not sticky. If the dough is crumbling apart, it is too dry, add a spoonful more water. Gently form the dough into a disc, wrap with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for one hour or longer until well chilled.

   2. Preheat the oven to 375°. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to an 11-inch round about 1/8 inch thick. Transfer the dough to a 9-inch pie dish and trim the overhang to 3/4 inch; fold the overhang under itself and crimp decoratively. Prick the bottom of the pie shell all over and refrigerate until firm.

   3. Line the shell with foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until lightly golden around the edge. Remove the foil and the weights and bake for about 12 minutes longer, or until the pie shell is golden brown and cooked on the bottom. Cover the rim of the pie shell with foil when it starts to brown. Leave the oven on.

Have a great Thanksgiving!!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Braised Kale with Tomato

A few years ago I was shopping at the US 1 Caribbean Market and saw this woman stuffing huge bunches of kale into bags, filling her cart. At the time I had just finished the arduous process of collecting recipes for the New Haven Cooks cookbook and had been asking people across the city for their favorite recipes featuring vegetables and fruits. It was shocking how many people sent me a chicken recipe, dip, or fried seafood recipe with not a thought to vegetables, no less one in the ingredient list. So the site of a woman joyfully filling her cart with the largest bunches of kale I had ever seen made my heart race a bit, and I just had to know what she was planning to do with them.

She may have thought I was a little crazy, nosing around in her shopping cart, but she smiled and told me that she cooks her kale with lots of onion, garlic, tomato and a little hot pepper. I didn't get much more detail than that. I'd bet if I'd gotten to stand next to her at the stove, there might have been some other key ingredient like allspice berries, smokey paprika, or vinegar....I guess I'll never know, but she inspired me to start cooking my greens with tomato, and the rest I leave up to my imagination...

This is a great dish for fall and winter. You can use any type of kale, or even collard greens.

Braised Kale with Tomato
1 large bunch kale 
1 medium onion
3 cloves garlic
1 -15oz can diced tomatoes, or fresh tomatoes, chopped
1 small hot pepper, seeds removed or 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper - to taste

Optional ingredients: allspice berries, smokey paprika or ground chipotle, vinegar.

1. Wash Kale. Slice kale into 1/2inch strips. discard thick part of stem at the bottom of the bunch. Cut across the strips a few times to shorten the pieces. 

2. Cut the onion into a small dice or fine julienne, sauté in olive oil with salt and pepper over medium heat until translucent. Finely chop the garlic and add to the pan. Add hot pepper or spices if using, sauté until fragrant, do not allow garlic to brown. 

3. Add diced tomato to the pan, bring to a simmer. If using vinegar, add it now. Taste broth and adjust seasoning. Add kale and stir to coat. Cover pan and simmer for 5 minutes. Check kale for tenderness and adjust seasoning.

I generally cook my greens for a short time to retain as much of their nutrients as possible. Taste the greens after 5 minutes to determine if you like them this way or want to cook them a little longer.

How do you like to cook kale?
Please share below!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Apple and Cider Crisp

I created this delicious low sugar apple crisp recipe last fall, and now that the weather has turned cool, I've started to make it again. I can tell it is going to be a staple for the next few months, so I wanted to re-post the recipe. If you want to simplify it event further, just apples, cider and a bit of cinnamon for the filling works great, and a 1/4 recipe tossed in a small oven-safe skillet to cook during dinner makes an easy, healthy dessert.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


While I'd like to say that I discovered these wonderful corn "pancakes" while traveling in Colombia, or at my Venezuelan friend's house, I actually owe my love of them to the streets of New York. I first encountered arepas more than a decade ago in the generic street fairs that squeeze onto the streets of New York during the summer and fall. Under the arepa vendor's tent there was a large griddle perpetually covered with yellow sweet corn arepa pancakes, speckled with corn kernels and melted cheese in various stages of done-ness, (if that's even a word). The first time I ate these I went right home and tried to make them with some fine cornmeal I had in the kitchen; the result was a pasty inedible mess. It wasn't till years later that I found arepa flour, which is a precooked corn meal, and discovered the simplicity of making them at home. I think Goya makes a brand that is widely available, but I have not used it. The Doñarepa brand is delicious, as I'm sure many of them are. From what I can tell each country or region seems to have one favorite brand, some yellow, some white, so you'll have to try them out to see what you like.  I must say, generally I try to buy organic corn products because they are one of the most highly genetically engineered crops, but this is one of the few exceptions I make because those darn arepas are so addictive, and the memories of the sweet hot corn pancakes in NYC just never seem to be satiated no matter how many of these I make at home....

Sweet Corn Arepas
Follow the instructions on the package if different from these.
The fresh corn and cheese are optional as well, you can make arepas with just the arepa corn flour and water. 

1 cup yellow arepa flour
1 cup warm water
1 tablespoon butter (optional)
1/2 salt (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon sugar (optional)
1/2 cup fresh or thawed corn kernels
1/4 cup finely chopped mozzarella or fresh cheese
oil for cooking

  1. Mix warm water and arepa flour, sugar, salt and butter until it forms a moist but not sticky dough. let sit for 10 minutes. If it gets dry add a bit more water. Mix in the corn kernels and cheese. 
  2. Form the dough into balls and then flatten into pancakes between your hands. You can also roll the dough into a log and chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour to 2 days until you are ready to cook them, then slice the dough into rounds. Cook arepas in a hot pan with a small amount of oil until browned on both sides.
Arepas are delicious with eggs, beans, meat, vegetables, for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  For this meal I served them with black beans with small pieces of pan fried maduros(sweet plantain), sautéed Kale and peppers with caramelized onions and a bit of pan fried queso fresco, a mexican fresh cheese. 

My 3 year old was well occupied during all this cooking with a hand full of arepa dough. She rolled and patted her way right through until dinner was ready. It always amazes me how easy it is to engage kids in the cooking process when I have the energy to do it....

There is a very well known arepa restaurant in NYC which makes the white corn variety common in Venezuela. These are a bit puffier and are sliced open and stuffed with delicious fillings.
Check out the Caracas Arepa Bar for more info.

In New Haven, CT a popular spot for yellow corn arepas is Manjares cafe.


Do you LOVE arepas too?
How do you make them?
Please share by commenting below!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Food Day 2011

If you haven't heard, the first national Food Day is happening this year Monday, October 24, 2011. When I first caught wind of this earlier this year, I got pretty excited imagining block parties with long tables set up down the middle of the street, neighbors sharing healthy home-cooked foods and people coming together to eat and talk about food in our community. As the Chair of the New Haven Food Policy Council, a chef and a mother, I felt it was my duty to make a little noise about Food Day. So, we gathered a large group of leaders in our city and started to plan. Since all of us are spread thin, we tried to build on the good work already going on: The WIC offices will be doing events using the New Haven Cooks/Cocina New Haven cookbook, schools are conducting real food events and tastings, people are opening up their backyard gardens to visitors, and so much more.

Food Day is a national campaign to draw attention to and celebrate healthy, affordable foods produced in a humane, sustainable way and to fix the food system by:

·       Reducing obesity and diet-related disease by promoting safe, healthy foods
·       Supporting sustainable family farms and cutting subsides to huge agribusiness
·       Ending urban and rural “food deserts” by providing access to healthy foods
·       Protecting the environment and farm animals by reforming factory farms
·       Promoting children’s health by curbing junk-food marketing aimed at kids
·       Obtaining fair wages for all workers in the food system

There are over 1500 events happening nation wide so far. 
There is still time for you to get involved! 
To truly change anything about our food environment, we need to change the culture of food in our communities. Hosting a pot-luck with your neighbors, sharing some delicious healthy recipes, talking to people about food justice and sustainability issues, holding a food drive at your job, signing a petition or inspiring a recipe collection at your place of worship or neighborhood organization, all of these are the small things that truly bring about change. I can attest to this personally, since a few times a week someone contacts me to say that a recipe they found on my blog is now a staple in their family, or that their child now eats more vegetables and fruits since they learned some new techniques for feeding their family from the blog or cookbook. These are small changes, one person at a time, but the cumulative effects of all of us sharing our knowledge and making small changes, really will have an impact in the long run. So, I know it's short notice, but check out the Food Day site for info and their incredible resource page for their dinner party kit, film screening kit, Food Day curriculum and so much more!
If you are in New Haven please register your event on the site or find a local event there. Get creative have fun with it help to make some change to bring about good food for everyone!
If you'd like to visit a Farm for food day find one here:

If you want to go fruit picking find a location here:

Please share your thoughts and ideas below!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Best Apple Cake - Again

It's apple season, and while there are 100 fabulous sweet and savory things to make with apples, I just have to re-post this wonderful apple cake recipe that I discovered last year! It is simple, delicious and moist, with a sugary crispy edge. My mouth is watering just thinking about this cake.... 
If you are interested in going apple picking, check out for a location near you.

Yes, it's that good.....

The Best Apple Cake
adjusted from the original Teddie's Apple Cake

Butter or oil for greasing the pan
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups oil
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar packed
3 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups apples, pealed, cored and cut in thick slices or 3/4-inch cubes
1 to 2 cups chopped or coarsely ground nuts (walnuts or pecans are best)
1/2 cup currants or raisins
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9-inch tube pan. Beat the oil and sugar together in a mixer (fitted with a paddle attachment) while assembling the remaining ingredients. After about 5 minutes, add the eggs and beat until the mixture is creamy.
  2.  Sift together 3 cups of flour, the salt, cinnamon, cardamom and baking soda. Stir into the batter. Add the vanilla, apples, nuts and raisins and stir until combined. 
  3. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan before turning out. Serve at room temperature.

    Monday, September 26, 2011

    Feast from the Fields 2011

    What an amazing night. Last weekend I cooked for a fund raising dinner for 250 people at an urban charter high school with an organic farm. Most of the ingredients traveled only a few feet to arrive in the kitchen including the pig, the chicken, and nearly all of the vegetables. The honey, peaches and cheese were from other nearby farms, and only the oil, butter, flour, sugar, pasta and spices were purchased from afar. 
    Another local chef, myself, and many students, teachers and kitchen staff from Common Ground High School cooked and served up this fabulous dinner. A wonderful accomplishment, a great learning experience for the students, and a real gift to the community in so many ways. The meal, the silent auction and live auction raised $40,000 for the school.

    Unfortunately I do not posses the skill to cook, coordinate a meal like this AND photograph it, so the true essence of the night: enthusiastic, capable teenagers representing the diversity of our little city, cooking, cleaning, working, learning, serving, eating, and growing was not captured in photos. Jason Sobosinski from Caseus restaurant and "The Big Cheese" Food Network Show and I planned and cooked the meal. It was a fun mash-up of our two styles, and in the end it worked wonderfully. The unbelievably hard working coordinator of the event, Joel Tolman is a colleague and friend of mine: thoughtful, smart, collaborative, and an incredible force. Shannon, the new farmer for the school is working wonders with the land and supplied us with an abundance of food: cucumbers, beets, red onions, winter squash, salad greens, kale, chard, herbs, garlic, a 165 pound pig, and more than a dozen chickens.  And a big thank you goes out to Rhonda, Thea and Theresa, the Common Ground Cooks and all the students who helped to prep hundreds of pounds of produce from the farm and wash lots and lots of dishes!!!
    Here are some snippets of the food from the night:
    Cider Brined Slow Roasted Whole Pig
    Poblano Pepper Apple Sauce

    Buttermilk-Marinated Common Ground Fried Chicken
    Fresh Thyme and Lemon Zest   

    Mac and Beaverbrook Farms Cow & Sheep Cheese

    Garlic Braised Common Ground Kales & Chards 

    Common Ground Quick Pickle Red Onion &          Cucumber Salad with Basil and Tarragon

    Common Ground Arugula and Mixed Greens, Roasted Delicata and Candy Roaster Squash & Shredded Beets
    Roasted Scallion and Ground Pepita dressing
    Beltane Farms Chevre

    Warm Honey Bourbon Peach Short Cake & Homemade Creme Fraiche
    Our fabulous student waitstaff for the night
     Scallions for the salad dressing roasting on the hot coals of the pig roasting box

    Pickled red onions with tarragon and basil, waiting to be tossed with the cucumbers

    The pig named "milkbottle" being brined and seasoned to go into the cook box. The students raised this pig, and many stopped by to say "hi" to it, or were fascinated to see how it would be cooked. A few students were sad, which is very understandable, but most were very interested in the process and they all knew he was being raised for food. I had the experience of raising and slaughtering a chicken once when I was a teen, and it gave me a life long appreciation and consciousness about animal rearing and the sources of meat in our country. I now only eat meat that is sustainably raised (which is more expensive and harder to find, so I eat a lot less meat than the average person).

     Thea and Jason cooking fried chicken, also raised on the farm. 
    As you can see, they kept things lively in the kitchen!

    I was very happy with how the salad turned out. The roasted scallions added a smoky depth to the dressing, and the ground pumpkin seeds gave it a nutty sweetness. The greens, a mix grown on the farm, had been harvested the day before, and it was topped with roasted delicata and candy roaster squashes, which can both be cooked without peeling them, which makes the prep time much quicker, and helps hold the squash together for a dish like this. To add some brightness to the dish, the beets were shredded raw using a fine shredding attachment to the food processor, and some delicious fresh chevre (goat cheese) from Beltane Farms rounded out the dish nicely.

    Jason, as a master of all things cheese, made Mac and Cheese using a wonderful assortment of cheeses from Sankows-Beaverbrook Farm.

    For dessert we wanted to use an end of summer fruit rather than the usual apples and pears of fall. The white and yellow peaches were the final harvest from near-by Drazen Orchards, a great family run orchard where they practice IPM - integrated pest management to greatly minimize the amount of pesticides and fungicides used. The peaches had to be harvested a few weeks before the dinner, and wouldn't have lasted in the fridge, so a group of students sliced and froze them on sheet pans (no need to peel them!), then transfered them to a large bag. Since they had been frozen we needed to cook them for dessert, so the were roasted with a local honey, bourbon and vanilla bean sauce.
    The shortcakes came out great, thanks to the fabulous recipe from Caludia Flemming's 
    incredible cookbook "The Last Course".

     The completed dessert: Warm Honey Bourbon Peach Shortcake with Homemade Creme Fraiche.

    Creme Fraiche, a french style sour cream, is very easy to make at home, rather than buying an expensive container from the store. 
    2 Tablespoons of cultured butter milk or yogurt
    2 cups of heavy cream (pasteurized is better than ultrapasteurized)
    1. Mix the ingredients together well. Cover with a towel and let sit out on the counter for 12 to 24 hours, until it is as thick as sour cream. It will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. For dessert it can be served straight or sweetened and whipped.It can be used in savory dishes as you would use sour cream.
    I will post recipes for the complete shortcake dessert, and the salad in the near future, 
    so check back soon!
    And, if you live anywhere near New Haven, CT go check out Common Ground School, there are lots of opportunities to visit during open farm days and festivals!

    Thursday, September 15, 2011

    Roasted Tomato Sauce

    Between the heat of late summer, bugs, and hurricane Irene, my garden has seen better days. While September is prime harvest season on a farm, the offerings from my backyard are meager this year, with one exception. The tangle of tomato plants in one raised bed, generally referred to as "the tomato forest" managed to blow flat without snapping, and so survived the hurricane. The cherry tomato plants are prolific, and just when I think I've picked the last of the fruits, another wave of tomatoes arrives. This year I have Sungolds (which yield a ton of sweet orange cherry tomatoes), a red standard cherry tomato, large heirloom Brandywines for slicing, and some seeds from last year called michael's wedding that sprouted up around the garden, and I let a few of them grow (those are tiny red tomatoes  that spit when picked, so I didn't buy them again, but they are fine for eating right off the vine).

    Every few days we pick a bowlful, about a pint of cherry tomatoes, often they are eaten in the distance between the garden and the kitchen door and don't make it into a meal. With the weather turning colder last week, a warm dinner was on my mind.  Simple and quick, I boiled some whole grain pasta, and started slicing the cherry tomatoes in half for roasting. I then turned my attention to finely chopping a large amount of onion and garlic, which cooked at a low heat in plenty of olive oil until they were tender and fragrant. The tomatoes were added, sauteed for a moment, then stuck under the broiler to blister and release their juices. The rest of the dinner came together mostly as an after thought; some spinach leaves got tossed in with the pasta and black beans were added for protein. I'd had illusions of fish joining this meal rather than beans: some canned salmon left over from our hurricane provisions, but fish from a can just wasn't doing it for me that night. Lastly, I snagged a handful of marjoram on my way out the backdoor, tossed it with the pasta, and we had a meal. My kids complained that this was not what they thought I meant when I said we were having pasta with tomato sauce for dinner, but they grudgingly ate it anyway, and I was content with the tangy juices of the fresh tomatoes, and the olive oil, thickly laced with sweet onion and garlic. Nothing fancy or magnificent about it, just a simple good meal.

    Roasted Tomato Sauce
    4 servings
    1pint cherry tomatoes or 3/4 pound other tomatoes
    1 large onion
    4 cloves garlic
    1/4 cup olive oil
    salt and pepper to taste
    any fresh or dry herbs you like such as marjoram, basil, oregano, thyme, mint etc...
    1. Finely dice onion and mince garlic. Saute onion in olive oil over low heat in a large wide skillet. Season well with salt and pepper. When tender, add garlic. Saute until garlic is fragrant, do not brown.
    2. While onions are cooking, slice cherry tomatoes in half, or cut larger tomatoes into a large dice.  Set oven to broil on high.
    3. When onion and garlic mixture is very tender, add tomatoes and toss to coat with oil.  Place under the broiler and cook until tomatoes are blistered and browned on edges. Remove from oven and toss with pasta and herbs, adding any ingredients you like: spinach, zucchini, beans, fish, etc...a fine grating of cheese is always good too.  Enjoy!
     What are you making with the end of summer produce?

      Monday, September 5, 2011

      Live Food

      Live Food.
      If your mind conjured an image of you biting into a live fish, it's tail flapping water in your face, you can relax. When I talk about live food I mean plant based food that has the energy used to grow itself still inside of it. I know this might sound hokey, but compare a fresh green bean to one from a can, or think about how good a recently picked carrot is compared to one that's been sitting in your fridge for 2 weeks. 

      Live food is a little different from raw food, which may be uncooked, but not "living". As an example, an almond is raw if it has not been roasted, but an almond is a seed, and if you soak it in water over night it will start the process of sprouting and starting to grow into an almond tree, this makes it live, not just raw. I often hear myself telling my kids they need to eat something fresh so they can get  "growing energy from their food", that they need to grow their own bodies. I like thinking about food this way, rather than just telling people to "eat their vegetables" I try to focus on eating enough fresh live food to balance out all the rest of the food in my diet. (Check out this fun recipe for Almond Milk using "live" almonds.

      As for me, well I love carbs for breakfast. Toast, cereal, muffins, scones are all high on my list of favorite early morning eats. The thing is, if I eat too much of them I get tired. This summer during my dance camp vacation, I discovered a wonderful new breakfast treat that walks a perfect line between carbohydrate and live food, making it better balanced once it is digested, so I feel great after eating it, not ready for a nap. 

      Live Museli, you are my new favorite breakfast!
      Credit to one of the great Dance New England cooks (not sure which cook though...)

      Live Museli
      Makes 4 servings
      1 Cup  oat groats
      1/4 Cup  raw sunflower seeds
      1/4 Cup  raw pumpkin seeds
      1/4 Cup  raisins
      1/4 Cup raw almonds
      Fresh fruit such as peaches, plums, apples, pears or berries - (about 2 peaches or apples and or one cup of berries)

      1. Place all ingredients except for fresh fruit into a bowl or pot. Fill the bowl or pot with water, about two inches above the grains. Cover with a towel or pot top and let sit over night or for 6-12 hours. 
      2. Drain off the water. Scoop about 1/2 a cup of the live grain/seed mixture into a bowl. Add some cut up fresh fruit, yogurt and honey are also nice additions if that sounds good to you.
      note: I didn't have any almonds when I made this batch, but it is so much better with them!!

      This breakfast always leaves me feeling satisfied and energized. I hope you enjoy it too!

      Wednesday, August 31, 2011

      Tortilla Pizzas and TV

      I've been avoiding it for years, but finally did it, I braved the TV cameras, and did a cooking spot for Television! And you know, it really wasn't so bad, I'm not sure what I was so nervous about. They asked me to do a segment on cooking for kids, and there was one recipe in particular that I knew would be great. It is simple and invented itself out of pure necessity and hunger:

      Picture this:
      I'm tired after a long day of working on multiple food related projects and trying to find funding to pay myself (stressful to say the least). I pick up kid #1 from school giving him a big hug and a snack, go to another school to pick up kid #2 who is finishing snack. We arrive home, both kids are tired and fussy, and despite the fact that they have both eaten a snack within the past hour, they are seriously hungry and not afraid to let me know it. This is not one of those good nights that I preach about where I've managed to have some leftovers or bits and pieces of a meal like steamed broccoli, or cooked whole wheat pasta in the fridge that I could use to throw dinner together. On this night, my cabinets are nearly bare, and I have to get creative. I do have a few good staples in the house: whole wheat flour tortillas (I keep extra ones in the freezer), a block of extra sharp cheddar cheese (the generic one is cheaper and tastes great), a can of black beans, some frozen peas, corn and green beans.  And so, Tortilla Pizzas were born!

      Rather than plopping my kids in front of a video, like I often do to get dinner ready, I decide to have them help cook. They wash up, drag stools noisily across the kitchen floor and start sprinkling veggies and beans over the tortillas. I hand them some thin slices of cheddar cheese, which I make with a vegetable peeler, to top off the veggies, and we put the "pizzas" into a 450 degree oven, until the  cheese is bubbling and brown. We cut the tortillas into wedges and dinner is served.

      It would have been great with a dollop of yogurt, lettuce or guacamole, none of which I had that night, but I settled for a few drops of good hot sauce, and my two very hungry kids dug in with pleasure. They'd helped cook themselves a delicious, nutritious and satisfying dinner. 10 minutes of work, less than $5 dollars worth of ingredients for all three of us, and a heck of a lot more nutritious than eating out. Now that's my kind of "fast food"!!!
      My boy helping out with the cooking demo, he was so excited!
      Tortilla Pizzas
      4 Whole wheat flour tortillas or 6 corn tortillas
      6 oz Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese (block, not shredded)
      1 can Beans*-  rinsed and drained
      2 cups Vegetables of your choice, fresh or frozen: spinach, corn, peas, peppers, broccoli, etc.

      Preheat oven to 450 degrees
      1. Line 2 baking sheets with foil (optional) and rub with oil. Place tortillas on the baking sheet in a single layer.
      2. Top tortillas with beans and vegetables. Leave some space between the toppings so the cheese can melt down into them and get crispy and delicious.
      3. Using a vegetable peeler, slice long thin strips of cheese off of the block. This technique allows you to use less cheese than cutting with a knife, and is easier than cleaning a grater. Top each tortilla with a single layer of cheese. Place pans in the oven until cheese is melted and browned, about 5-7 minutes. 
      4. Finished tortillas can either be sliced in triangular wedges like a "pizza" or folded into quesadillas or tacos. The tacos work especially well with the corn tortillas: top them with a dollop of yogurt, some shredded lettuce and hot sauce. Salsa, pickled onions and guacamole are also great additions. 
                Some great combinations are: 
                black bean, corn, broccoli
                spinach, tomato, black bean
                red bean, peppers, corn, spinach
                or for something a little different try: turkey, apple, broccoli and cheddar
      * Canned beans are easy and part of my life as a busy parent, but I often cook dry beans which are much cheaper, delicious and easy if I plan ahead. Try this recipe for the basics on working with dry beans, it's easier than you think! I often make a big pot and freeze individual portions in bags or containers so they are easy to pull out of the freezer when I need a quick meal.

      Please leave any comments below! 

        Friday, August 26, 2011

        Summer Coming to an End

        Sorry for my absence over the past few weeks. I was getting some much needed R&R with my family in the woods. We spent a week at the wonderful dance community I wrote about last summer in this post. It's where I got my first experience cooking in a large commercial kitchen when I was just a youngster.

        We ate well this year, tons of vegetables and huge salads at lunch, warm tasty vegetarian fare for dinner, plenty of vegetarian protein (beans, eggs, nuts, tofu, yogurt) and there seemed to be more dessert than I remember from past years. It was fun to spend a few hours back in this great communal kitchen again, lending a hand with recipe sizing and altering for gluten free or vegan recipes, transforming leftovers into new meals and chatting it up with the cooks and friends. 

        I feel at home in a big kitchen cooking large quantities of food, and wish there was a kitchen like this where I live during the rest of the year. I read a quote by a someone recently about how it is a genetic tribute to her Jewish ancestry that she gets such satisfaction from cooking large quantities of food and feeding whole communities....let's just say I can relate to that.

        I have about half a dozen partially written blog posts waiting in the wings and a fall season packed with exciting food policy initiatives, cooking events and urban gardening projects, not to mention my first ever TV cooking segement, so check back soon for more tasty bits.

        Hope you all had a great summer and are surfacing well from the hurricane.

        Friday, August 12, 2011

        Peaches Are Back

        Heaven for me would be an hour or two of fruit picking every day. Just the thought of it makes my heart swell.  I can hear the fruit ripening on the trees beyond the city limits. I can almost feel the soft flesh of the fruit on the trees, a gentle pressure under my finger tips just before it is plucked from the branch. There is something addictive about fruit picking, and whatever it is I am hooked.

        There is so much to say about fruit picking that I could ramble on for hours. However, since I'm trying to get my family out to the woods for some R&R, dancing and peace, you'll have to settle for one good seasonal recipe, and wait till I get back for more fruit picking rantings. In New England right now, blueberries are finishing, and peaches, plums, raspberries and summer apples are just getting started. Go to for info on where and what to pick in your area.

        Here's a link to my Peach & Raspberry Pie from last summer
        And, last night I made an easy Peach Buttermilk "Ice Cream" by blending, buttermilk, light brown sugar, fresh peaches, and a few leaves of fresh lavender (optional). Pour it into an ice cream maker and enjoy! well, there, see I ranted anyway.....

        Roasted Corn and Peach Salad 
        with Tarragon and Basil

        3 Ears of Corn
        3 peaches, cut into a small dice
        Scallion, red onion, or chives
        3 sprigs of Basil,  leaves finely chopped
        1 sprig of tarragon finely chopped
        2 tablespoons white vinegar
        1/2 teaspoon salt
        1. Shuck corn. Roast over an open flame on a grill or stove top, turning until it is browned on all sides. Cut corn from the cob.
        2. Toss all ingredients together in a bowl and let sit for 15 minutes before serving. adjust seasoning as desired. 
        This salad can be used to top off grilled meats, fish or tofu, it is also delicious over lettuce with some lentils or a hard boiled egg added for protein. Enjoy!