Sunday, January 23, 2011

Red Cabbage Salad with Carrot Ginger Dressing

Today's outside temperature briefly reached a balmy 0° F (that is - 18° in C).  My car has a thick layer of snow on the floor mats that warms up enough to vaporize and then freeze on the inside of the windshield.  Every car trip starts with scraping off the ice while my boys happily shout, "It's snowing in the car!"  Somehow the coldest days of a Vermont winter are also the most sunny and beautiful.  You look outside and think, "The weather report must be wrong, it can't really be that cold.  Look at how sunny and bright it is."  Then you step outside and your boogers freeze.

Today when we wanted to entice Sebastian and Julian outside along with their friends across the street, Ada and Ezra, we promised them a show.  I tossed boiling water in the air where it instantly vaporized sending out a cloud of steam.  We drained a kettle of water and all discovered the beauty of this cold day.  It might have been cold but it still took several minutes for our boogers to freeze.  Here is a video of our science experiment, if you live where it gets very cold I recommend you try this at home.

Sometimes in winter I crave something different, a dish with a fresh bright taste that allows you to look forward to spring and all the vivid flavors it brings.  The other week I made the carrot ginger dressing I discovered last spring and we used it to dress shredded cabbage.  Lewis, Julian and I each ate huge mounds of it.  Sebastian declined, despite his recent love of soy braised cabbage and creamy red cabbage with mustard and fennel seeds, he still thinks of himself as a cabbage hater.

I found myself craving it again today to go with the bright clear sunshine outside, and the freezing cold temperatures.  I figured out how to make it with an immersion blender as well, which I love for its easy clean up (plus I broke my mini food processor).

Carrot Ginger Dressing

1 large carrot (3 - 4 oz's), coarsely chopped
1 - 2 Tbsp coarsely chopped fresh ginger (we seem to prefer 1 Tbsp but make it to your taste)
1 Tbsp sweet white or awase miso
2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar (today I ran out of rice wine vinegar and used champagne vinegar)
1 Tbsp roasted sesame oil
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp water

To make using an immersion blender (directions for blender of mini food processor below).  Place carrots, ginger, miso, vinegar and sesame oil in a pint sized wide mouth jar or 2 cup glass measuring cup (or similarly sized container).  Blend until finely chopped and blended.  Add the olive oil and water a tablespoon at a time, blending well after each addition.  Add more water if you want a thinner consistency.

To  make using a blender or mini food processor; pulse the carrots and ginger in a blender or mini food processor until finely chopped, scraping down the sided as needed. Add the miso, rice wine vinegar and sesame oil and blend until well combined. Add the extra virgin olive oil and water in a slow stream while the motor is running.   Add more water if you want a thinner consistency.

Serve on the salad or vegetables of your choice, shredded cabbage is a wonderful winter choice.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Healthy Breakfasts

What does a healthy breakfast mean to your family?  I was recently asked that question for an article in the Burlington Free Press.  Healthy food is still evolving in my kitchen but for the most part it is related to emphasizing whole ingredients and making things from scratch.  I told Hannah Crowley, the Free Press correspondent, "I think everyone has a different take on healthy; for me healthy means no processed ingredients, no high fructose corn syrup or trans fat. In general if I don't understand what's on the label, I don't cook with it."  I also spoke of  the pancakes and muffins we often have for breakfast.  My recipe for Banana Greek Yogurt muffins was published along with the article.  These muffins are just my latest tweak to my regular Sour Cream Banana muffins, using more white whole wheat flour and Greek yogurt in place of the sour cream.

When I read the article I thought my "healthy breakfasts" sounded decadent next to some of the meals described by Jodi Whalen of August First Bakery and Dianne Lamb, UVM Extension Nutrition and Food Specialist.  However I still feel comfortable feeding that to my family (as well as the preschoolers at work).  Really a healthy breakfast needs to get you started for the day with enough energy to last until lunch.  You can read the Healthy Breakfasts article and decide for yourself.

Turns out my friends comments on facebook when I posted the link was not the only attention it would receive.  When I checked my e-mail that afternoon I was surprised to find an e-mail from the corn refiners association in my inbox.  I am just in awe of a P.R. budget that can respond to negative press in smaller newspapers.  The fact they responded with out of date studies and propaganda beside the point.

January 7, 2011

Robin Berger

Dear Ms. Berger:

I am writing on behalf of the Corn Refiners Association, which represents the manufacturers of high fructose corn syrup in the United States. We read that your quote, “…for me healthy means no processed ingredients, no high fructose corn syrup or trans fat” with interest (January 7 Burlington Free Press “Start The Day, New Year Right With Breakfast, Experts Say” by , Hannah Crowley). There has been a lot of confusion about high fructose corn syrup. If your schedule permits, I would be happy to speak with you regarding the information below and any other related topics on this safe sweetener.

According to the American Dietetic Association (ADA), “high fructose corn syrup…is nutritionally equivalent to sucrose. Once absorbed into the blood stream, the two sweeteners are indistinguishable.” The ADA also noted that “Both sweeteners contain the same number of calories (4 per gram) and consist of about equal parts of fructose and glucose.” (Hot Topics, “High Fructose Corn Syrup.” December 2008.)

The American Medical Association stated that, “Because the composition of high fructose corn syrup and sucrose are so similar, particularly on absorption by the body, it appears unlikely that high fructose corn syrup contributes more to obesity or other conditions than sucrose.” (Report 3 of the Council on Science and Public Health A-08, June 2008.)

It is a popular misconception that high fructose corn syrup is more ‘processed’ than sugar, fruit juice concentrate, or agave nectar production. In fact, they all go through remarkably similar production methods that aim to refine the raw botanical material into a robust and versatile sweetener that can be formulated into a wide range of foods and beverages.

As many dietitians agree, all sugars should be consumed in moderation as part of a balanced lifestyle.

To read the latest research and learn more about high fructose corn syrup, please visit Please feel free to contact me if you would like additional information about the products made from corn.

Thank you for your consideration,

Audrae Erickson
Corn Refiners Association
Washington, DC

I was actually pretty happy, even excited, to receive this e-mail.  For one I am more then happy for the corn refiners to think of me as a problem, I am actually pretty proud of that distinction.  In addition their worry over every small negative comment is a sign that people are starting to avoid their products and they are worried.

As for their claims of it being equivalent to sucrose or table sugar, there are more and more studies that say the opposite, no matter how much money they may put into biased studies.  Rutgers University completed a study that found a link between drinking sodas with high fructose corn syrup and the development of diabetes, an illness that is quickly reaching epidemic levels in this country.

Scientists at Princeton University studied the effect of diets high in high fructose corn syrup as compared to table sugar or sucrose.  They found rats who were fed HFCS were significantly more obese than rats fed table sugar or sucrose.  The corn refiners association would like us all to believe that their products are no worse for you than table sugar.  The obesity epidemic in this country being related only to how many calories we are consuming, not what type they are.  I believe in general we need to reduce sugars in our diets but in addition I still believe the best practice is to eliminate High Fructose Corn Syrup and any other food that requires chemicals or procedures not possible in a home kitchen to make them.

Feel free to read the Princeton University Study on High Fructose Corn Syrup yourself.  Even if these studies are not accurate, eliminating high fructose corn syrup from your diet will still improve your health.  When you eliminate high fructose corn syrup from your diet you are forced to avoid some of the most processed nutrient empty foods from your table.

Greek Yogurt Banana Muffins
Makes 12 muffins

I have been making these for the preschoolers breakfasts and sharing the extras with the staff.  I think they are pretty popular as recently one of my co-workers licked the top of one so he would not have to share it with anyone else.  Apparently when children are not around the staff does not always model the best behavior.  Next I plan on reducing the sugar in these.

1 stick (1/2 cup or 4 oz's) unsalted butter at room temperature
3/4 cup light brown sugar, not packed, after all I was making muffins and not cake
1 large egg (place the egg in a bowl of warm water until you are ready to use it)
3/4 cup overripe, very brown bananas, puréed (I puréed mine with an immersion blender)
1/4 full fat Greek yogurt
1 tsp vanilla extract (I often up the vanilla extract in recipes, it makes them subtly better)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt (I used Kosher)
1 1/2 cup white whole wheat or whole wheat pastry flour

Place the oven rack in the middle position and preheat to 350° Fahrenheit. Line muffin tins with 12 liners and set aside.

Beat the butter and brown sugar in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment or in a mixing bowl with an electric mixer on high speed. The mixture should be pale and fluffy, stop and scrape down the bowl as necessary. Add the egg and mix until well combined, then add the banana purée, sour cream and vanilla extract. Mix to combine well and add the baking powder, baking soda, and salt and mix before adding the flours and mixing on low speed. Make sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl and mixing one final time, although mix only until combined to prevent overmixing (if you mix to much the flour will form gluten strands and the muffins will be tough).

Divide the batter evenly between 12 muffin cups and bake in the center of the preheated oven for 20 minutes or until a toothpick or knife inserted in the center comes out clean (It can be moist from the butter but there should be no batter). Allow to cool in muffin tins, store in an airtight container.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Posts I Cook From: 2010

I have been reading all sorts of round up posts over the last week as bloggers summarized their year in blogging.  Most were a list of the tops posts based on page views or number of comments.  Perhaps I am just more cynical then some but I don't fully trust my statistics or their significance.  I know that largely my most popular pages are the ones that are featured on Foodgawker and Tastespotting.  Comments seem like a more accurate method, although even then it could just be most controversial, heart wrenching, timely, or just the ones with the most visits, or the best photos.

So instead I decided to give you a list of the posts I actually refer when cooking.  As an added bonus this means I know the recipes work as written. These are the posts I actually pull out my computer and cook from, the ones where I have to refer to what I have written to get it right.  Originally I was going to include 2009 as well as I never thought to do this last year.  However the list complied form both years was far longer then I was expecting, so I will save that for a another post.

My CSA has not grown bok choy for the entire time I have been a member (this summer will be our 12th season) so it is not one of the vegetables I am constantly looking for new preparation methods for.  Maybe if we had it more often we would grow tired of this recipe.  So far we all still love it (okay, I admit it, Julian as refused this dish every time I have made it.  So we all still feel the way we did the first time I made this).  The leaves have a concentrated umami, earthy flavor while the stalk is tender and almost melting and juicy.  If our CSA adds bok choy to the rotation I may need to search out other recipes, but for now we are happy.

These crepes have been a regular weekend breakfast for several years now.  Sebastian and Julian would much prefer they were served on the weekdays as well.  If my week day routine allowed for either Lewis or myself to spend the time at the stove making them everybody would be happy.  The recipe is for a true french crepe, taught to me by a lovely french women.  Most of the time we serve them with an array of jams, although I have been known to make chocolate ganache or warm up some Dark Chocolate Caramel Sauce to spread on them.  They also work beautifully with savory fillings.  On the rare occasion there are any left after breakfast I have created delicious dishes just by filling them with leftovers.

The more I make these muffins the more I appreciate them.  Which is a good thing, as they are on the menu for the preschoolers breakfast so I am making large quantities of them once a month.  I have started to use Greek yogurt in place of the sour cream and only 1/4 cup of white flour.  I plan on trying it with all white whole wheat next time.  The first time I made them at work I baked 12 extra for the staff to share.  However they had a little trouble sharing properly, with some people helping themselves to a second muffin before other folks even had one.  I received this e-mail about them recently:

Hi Robin,

I thought you'd be happy to know that this year, as holiday gifts . . . I baked banana bread using your recipe for banana bread muffins. Anna, Tavi and I had a loaf for brunch today and it was delicious. I consider that to be a testament to the recipe more than the chef as I am a strict instructions follower. In fact, I was terrified to see that the bread hadn't cooked through after twenty minutes. Tavi had to talk me down, reminding me that muffins bake through much faster and that I would probably have to wait an hour.



These have not usurped our regular pancakes in our normal breakfast rotation but they sneak in every now and then.  I just made them again yesterday morning and had the inspiration for this post as I pulled out my computer and used my own blog for reference.  They have a heartier taste then a standard pancake with a pronounced sweetness from the banana (or maybe that is the maple syrup I generously pour on top).  They also reheat really well for later enjoyment.  The flavor profile is mostly banana, I know one readers husband was disappointed that the cocoa was not more pronounced

Since I posted these they have quickly become my favorite cookie.  They have a subtle flavor with a pronounced vanilla flavor.  Crisp in a delicate shattering way.  Most of the time I prefer chewy cookies to crisp ones but they are still delicate and tender in their texture.  Plus they have a sweet nutty flavor from the oats that may even convince you they are health food.

When I first created this jam I had a moment of panic that we would never have enough to last the whole winter.  At the rate it was disappearing I was not even sure we would have enough for the summer months.  When friends who live by a Trader Joe's came to visit I requested the California apricots I needed to make more (okay, I may or may not have threatened denying one of my visitors, who is known to spread obscene quantities of jam in any breakfast item, a taste of the new jam if they did not bring some).  We now have a healthy stock pile and I feel confident we have enough to last until spring. However our love for it is still strong.

Tomato Orange Marmalade became a kitchen responsibility the first time I made it.  A preserve my family suddenly needed to have around that could not be found in the store.  Happily it is also one of the canning projects I find the most satisfying.  It bubbles away on the stove for a long time looking nothing like a cohesive preserve.  Instead it looks like a pot full of liquid with random citrus peels floating in it.  Then there is a moment when everything comes together and looks like one thing.  All year long we happily spread it on toast, peanut butter sandwiches and crepes.  It does not taste like tomatoes, instead it has a mellow bright flavor without the usual bitterness of marmalade.  The taste is good enough that when I offered the Burlington Free Press photographer a taste when he was here for an article on canning he could not keep himself from double dipping.  I did think of killing him, but instead I gave him a jar.

I have probably baked more of this recipe then any other I have mentioned here.  After preparing it with the preschoolers I taught folks how to make it in a cooking class.  The following week I added to my tally by baking over 25 of them for the Family Room's Family Supper.  Even when baking it in quantities that involved pouring several quarts of heavy cream and 36 eggs in a large vat some people said it was the best pumpkin pie they have ever had.  Then for Thanksgiving my boys and I baked it with a friend I used to babysit for when he was a baby.  It was his contribution to a pot luck Thanksgiving.  I have also used the crust, without the sugar and cinnamon, on quiche.

This recipe is not one that I have tweaked or played with for several reasons.  The first one is safety, it is safe as written, so I change how spicy it is by swapping hot peppers for mild ones or vice versa, however the basic ratios and amounts all remain the same.  The other reason I don't play with it, putting my own personal flavor profile on its established framework, is it is perfect, as written.  My friend Annie put in all the work finding the right balance and then having it tested for safety.  Now I just receive the compliments.

I just prepared this again the other night using only soy sauce (no Bragg's) and green instead of red cabbage.  I asked Sebastian to take a taste from my plate and he screwed up his face in disgust and then obliged.  He chewed, thought for a minute and began making place on his plate.  "I'll have some of that." Pretty good from someone who does not like cabbage.  However this recipe does not have the bite of raw cabbage or the flavor of most cooked cabbage.  It is darkly rich and savory and one that most people would never think was cabbage.

The only reason not to make this recipe is you have a New Year's resolution not to eat sweets.  I gave some to a neighbor when she was out walking her dog and she told me she ate all of it before she returned home.  I am not usually a fan of white chocolate but this one only serves to make the peppermint smoother and contrast with the other chocolates.  The holiday season may be over but this recipe still deserves to be enjoyed.  If you need an excuse, make it for Valentines day.  Although if you make it now you will need a new batch long before February.