Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Strawberries: Salsa Style!


Tomorrow I'll be at Green City Market making Strawberry Salsa with the Sprouts. Even if you're busy or too far away to make it, I still want to get you the recipe. It's a quick recipe to brighten up a weeknight dinner.

Seedling's weekly email tells proclaims that this is the strawberry's peak week. To celebrate this, we're eating strawberries every day: in our cereals, in our yogurt, in our smoothies, and in our salsa. Salsa? Yes, salsa. With a bit of red tomato, it partners well with grilled chicken, fish tacos, and even chips. Get it while you can.

Paired with Fish Tacos

Strawberry Salsa
Makes approximately 1 ½ cups

¾ cup strawberries, cut into small dice
½ tomato, cut into small dice
2 tablespoons diced red onion
¼ Serrano chile, minced
1 tablespoon cilantro or mint, finely chopped
1 teaspoon lime juice

Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl and serve with chips or as a sauce for fish or chicken.

Originally posted in June 2010

Sunday, June 26, 2011

On Surgery and Pretzel Chicken and Beer Cheese Sauce


I've always been blessed with good health, which is a good thing generally, but particularly because my husband's had more than his share of health issues, mainly back related. I can claim no major illnesses and with the exception of tubes put into my ears at age 4, no surgeries.

My accidents and incidents have been of the freakish sort, like the iron that fell on my head last summer. Last weekend, I took another trip to the ER for another freak accident. Packing down our kitchen garbage, I stabbed my hand with a broken wine stem. I could blame my husband who'd deposited it in the can the evening before, but I'd seen it when I discarded a bunch of dry cleaner bags on top of it. Unfortunately, I'd forgotten about it by the time I wanted to add more trash to the can. You can bet I remembered it immediately when the glass split my flesh.

Spurting blood, an ambulance ride, and five stitches later, my streak of good luck with good health has ended. Scheduled is my first surgery in 38 years to repair my .common digital nerve. Fortunately, it's my left hand (I'm a righty), but still it's going to be an interesting summer. Well, that is, if I survive. You have to wonder about the doctor from whom I got my second opinion. When asked what the worst case scenario would be if the surgery didn’t turn out as planned, he answered deadpan, “You could die.” Suffice to say, I won’t be using his services.

You can watch me cook one handed twice this week. Tomorrow, I’ll be making Pretzel Chicken with Rarebit Sauce at Taste of Chicago, 2:30pm. On Wednesday, come visit me at Green City Market for my first Sprouts visit of the season.

Pretzel Chicken with Rarebit Sauce
Serves 4

2 cups pretzels, crushed well in a food processor
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 large egg
1 tablespoon water
4 chicken cutlets, pounded thin
4 to 5 tablespoons unsalted butter

Rarebit Sauce
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Worchestire sauce
1/3 cup amber beer
1 cup grated aged cheddar
1 pinch paprika
1 tablespoon chopped chives for garnish

Set three shallow bowls next to one another on the counter. Fill the first with the egg whisked together with the water, the second with flour, and the third with the crushed pretzels.

Heat the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk until lightly colored, a few minutes. Whisk in the mustard, the Worcestire sauce and the beer. Cook until thickened about 5-7 minutes. Reduce the heat to low.

Heat a non stick sauté pan over medium high heat. Add the 3 tablespoons of butter to the pan. Dip the chicken first in the flour, then the egg, and then finally the pretzels. Place them in the pan and reduce the heat to medium. Cook until lightly browned. Flip and add 1 to 2 tablespoons of butter to the pan and cook until the other side is lightly browned.

While the chicken is cooking, increase the heat under the beer sauce to medium. When warmed, add the cheddar and whisk until smooth. Taste for seasoning. The sauce should be under seasoned given that it will be paired with salty pretzels. Add paprika and stir.

Remove the chicken to individual plates. Sauce and garnish with chives.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

What's Eating Your Child?

“If you could quickly and effectively cure your child’s ear infection, moodiness, or frequent colds with food instead of drugs, which option would you choose? In WHAT’S EATING YOUR CHILD? leading nutritionist Kelly Dorfman empowers parents to become Nutrition Detectives by revealing simple ways to uncover the clues behind a child’s health problems and find an accurate, nutritional treatment immediately.”

The press release issued by Workman, Kelly Dorfman’s publisher seemed to promise miracles. In this country of instant diet promises, assurances like these always make me a bit suspicious. But then, I started to read the book. Like Purple Asparagus, Dorfman has a common approach to basic nutrition. In Chapter 1, she describes her vision of a perfect world “where we would not be solving nutrition problems but preventing them.” In her perfect world, our society would support healthy eating, farming would make a comeback as a noble profession, and pediatricians would be more food-savvy.

As Dorfman admits and we all know, we live far from that perfect world and so throughout her book, she shares case studies from her practice to show how good nutrition can cure common ailments. She also explains how parents can combat the scourge of picky eating and by doing so dramatically their children’s development.

We, at Purple Asparagus, are pleased to host Ms. Dorfman this Saturday at Flourish Studios located at 3020 N. Lincoln Ave. Chicago, IL 60657. The event is free, but space is limited. By registering you will also have the opportunity to win a 1/2 consultation with Dorfman immediately after the event or a copy of her book.

To reserve your space email info@purpleasparagus.com or call (773) 991-1920.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Kid Eats at Sable Kitchen and Bar

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A restaurant question frequently posed to me is where can a family find a sustainably sourced meal and still feel welcome? Unfortunately, far too often, so called “family-friendly” restaurants serve produce drenched in pesticides and meat from animals hopped up on antibiotics to keep them “healthy” in wretched confined feeding operations. And I won’t even bring up the quality of offerings on the kids’ menu, often fried and always dumbed down.

Late last year, we took a family trip to London and I was amazed how much better the restaurants there were in welcoming families. Bumpkin, our favorite London place, didn’t have a kids’ menu, but instead told us that they could make a smaller version of any menu item. Zaika, a tony Indian restaurant in Kensington, “washed” Thor’s chicken before putting into the curry sauce so that its spice level would be acceptable to a younger palate.

Here in the states, it’s not as easy for families. But, I’m here to help. My family likes to eat out, but we’re also very conscious about the quality of food that we eat. As a result, I’ve done a lot of homework on restaurants that we’ll feel comfortable at but still serve the quality of ingredients that we enjoy at home. In this new series, I’ll share some of our favorite spots that treat and feed us well. One caveat, if you think it’s okay to let your child jump on the banquette seats (as three little girls did last week at Perennial Virant) or screech at the top his or her lungs through a meal (a delight we witnessed at Big Jones), stick with Chucky Cheese.

It was my birthday on Monday. To celebrate, we visited Sable Kitchen and Bar. As a hotel restaurant, Sable has an obligatory kids’ menu, but it’s not necessary. Sable’s menu is stocked with delicious small plates, creative reinterpretations of bar food. There’s the pretzel, paired with salty, smoky cheese sauce, and the fried cheese curds hot and ready to dip in slightly spicy house made ketchup. I love the Reuben rolls, phyllo wrapped around all the traditional fillings. The kitchen makes several varieties of flatbreads, including one topped with tomato and mozzarella, flavors meant to appeal to big and little kids. The little Locathor, however, prefers the grass-fed Dietzler Farm burger, a producer using sound methods to raise its livestock. The bar’s got a diverse cocktail list and will happily make a Shirley Temple without the artificially colored grenadine, prettied up with last year’s preserved cherries.

Sable’s chef Heather Terhune and her staff welcomed us all graciously. Heather and I are Facebook friends and I had let her know we’d been in. She stopped by our table and Thor was delighted that she remembered a few things about him including his love of music. And so, we had a wonderful family celebration only enhanced by our parting gift. On birthdays, Sable gives the guest of honor a gift: a cupcake kit: cake mix, maple sugar, and a recipe for Maple-Bourbon Cream Cheese Frosting, a delightfully adult way to celebrate.

Maple-Bourbon Cream Cheese Frosting
Enough to frost 12 cupcakes

Recipe Credit, Chef Heather Terhune, Sable Kitchen and Bar

5 ½ ounces cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon bourbon
¼ teaspoon kosher salt

Beat the cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Mix in sugar, maple syrup, bourbon, and salt. Beat until smooth. Frost the cupcakes and sprinkle with maple sugar.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

National Flavored Milk Day of Action


Back when I started Purple Asparagus, I used to say: "I'd rather under promise and over deliver than over promise and under deliver." For many years, I lived by this, but then a bad habit crept in. As more and more people learned about us and our work and we started fielding more requests for our services, I forgot how to say the word "no."

This bad habit went into overdrive this year after winning the Trib's Good Eating Award in February. As you might imagine, receiving this prestigious honor catapulted us and me onto a larger stage. I was so grateful for the recognition that I felt loath to turn down any but the most outrageous of inquires.

It's the end of the school year and I feel like I'm limping towards the finish line. It's been a long year. A good year, yes, but still a long one. To recuperate, I’m trying to reintroduce "no" into my vocabulary (sometimes I think I should practice it in front of the mirror). During the summer, usually filled with farmers’ market appearances, Purple Asparagus is moving into a serious development phase to meet the burgeoning demands on our services. (Much more on this topic soon).

There is one program that I severely under delivered on and about this I'm feeling rather guilty. I had signed up to be a leader on Jamie Oliver's National Flavored Milk Day of Action. Given that the event was in June, I should have realized that most of our schools programs wrapped up before the date arrived. I thought, however, at the very least, I could blog about my two favorite healthy flavored milk recipes. Thursday came and I was ready. After a long day, I set my computer on my lap with every intention of banging out a quick post.

What happened? I fell asleep. Soundly.

While the Day of Action has come and gone, kids will always still like flavored milk. And while LA may be moving to take these highly sweetened beverages of dubious nutritional value out of their schools, more districts have not. And while I'm not going to delve into the politics of the matter - I risk falling asleep again, I offer these delicious, nutritious alternatives, kid tested and approved by Little Locathor.

Minty Strawberry Milk

Serves 2

Frozen strawberries are a better alternative for this recipe. They blend better with the milk and the seeds soften. Nevertheless, given that this is strawberry season, you may have some extras in your fridge and they’ll work almost as well.

½ cup frozen strawberries or 1 cup fresh strawberries, hulled
2 cups soy, almond, or low fat cow milk
3 mint leaves, optional
1 tablespoon honey

Blend all ingredients in a blender and serve immediately.

Chocolate Milk

Serves 2

The problem with chocolate milk isn’t the chocolate. Cocoa powder, sugar and fat free, is high in antioxidants, powerful disease fighters. No the issue with chocolate milk is all the HFCS they add to it to get kids to drink it and addicted to it. Here, I substitute honey in a reasonable quantity. If it doesn’t seem sweet enough to your child, you can add more honey, but I do recommend trying to wean them off sugary stuff, even if you do it little by little.

You can also scale this recipe up to make a large batch. That way you have it at the ready for any requests for chocolate milk. Keep it in the refrigerator.

1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 tablespoon honey
Tiny pinch of salt
Drop of vanilla
2 cups 2 % milk

Whisk together the first four ingredients. Whisk it into the milk and serve.

Friday, June 10, 2011

White Boy Taco Night


It was White Boy Taco night on this Fast Food Friday in my house.

See how I deftly sidestepped the date of my last post.

Oh dang, did I say that out loud? Did I just point out that my last entry was over a month ago (and it wasn’t even posted here originally). Okay, so I’m not so deft or very clever. And given my inability to post with any regularity these days, I’m lucky if any of you stick around. But I hope that you do, and a full explanation for my absence is forthcoming, just not tonight.

No, tonight, tonight was White Boy Taco night in my house.

How many of you growing up in the 1970’s remember the Ortega family pack? Full of crispy half moon taco sleeves, taco seasoning, and sometimes something that resembled salsa, it was a box of family dinner fun. I’m not sure when taco night entered my mom’s bag of tricks – it may have even been my own import from a friend’s house, just like Stovetop Stuffing was, a dish I’m now certain was laden with MSG, but so very tasty to a preteen palate.

It was the excess of ground beef from our meat CSA that originally inspired taco night in our house. In our monthly share, we often received 3-4 pounds of the stuff and I was running out of ideas. At Whole Foods, I saw a pack of organic Garden of Eatin’ taco shells . I picked those up along with a pack of taco seasoning. With some salsa, cheese and sour cream, dinner was served in a half hour. Because the Little Locathor, a bit picky at the time, ate every bite, the meal entered our monthly rotation.

These days, I make my own spice mix and add some frozen local corn to bulk up the beef, modifications that make the meal a bit healthier and maybe even more popular to my family. Thor requested it for special last-day-of-school meal and I was more than happy to oblige him. While cooking the beef, I tweeted about White Boy Taco night and a friend asked about it. And with this request, I realized it was time for me to shake off the cobwebs. So to @familyfoodie, this recipe’s for you.

White Boy Tacos
Serves 4

2 teaspoons Ancho chile powder
¼ teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon oregano, Mexican if you got it
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon paprika
1 pinch cayenne
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 pound ground beef, preferably grass fed
½ cup frozen corn kernels
1 box hard shell corn tortillas
1 avocado, thinly sliced
Tomatillo or tomato salsa
Grated Monterey Jack
Sour cream

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Lay the taco shells on baking sheet and place in the middle of the oven. While the shells are baking, mix together the first eight ingredients in a small bowl. Saute the ground beef in a large skillet breaking it up with a wooden spoon. After a minute or two, sprinkle on the seasoning and stir until the meat almost loses all its pink. Add corn and cook a minute or two more. Remove the shells from the oven and fill each with beef, cheese, salsa, avocado, and sour cream. Enjoy the crunchy goodness.
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