Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Napa Cabbage Slaw with Miso Peanut Ginger Dressing

October 18th and 19th I attended the School Nutrition Association of Vermont's fall conference.  It is always nice to step away from my children for a couple days and have the opportunity to miss them, plus I got to spend time with a close friend who already works for Burlington School Food Service.  However the highlight was being surrounded by people who are passionate about children and how to feed them.  There is so much press right now about what is wrong with school meals and little understanding of the federal program that funds school lunch and the limitations it has.  Then there is the challenge of making nutritious meals that the kids will actually eat with limited funds.

Before I worked as a lunch room monitor I dreamt of making lunch longer.  Every day my kids would come home carrying most of the lunch they took to school.  However now I know that most students eat their lunch in the first 15 minutes, and as soon as they are done eating the behavior issues begin.  Now my dream is to have a math and science teacher for every school.  Then teachers could have a break while their students were learning math and science, and they could be with their students for lunch and recess.

However this post is not really about what needs to change in lunch, or even ways that innovative food service staff is working to change it already.  Instead this post is about Napa Cabbage and what the $#@%!  I was supposed to do with the one Lewis picked up at the CSA while I was at the conference. Somehow he did not notice what I seem to be happy to bring home and what I only take when there are no other options.  So I was left last week, on the day before my CSA pick up, with a head of Napa Cabbage as the only vegetable option for dinner.  I ended up channeling several Asian slaw recipes, including the ginger carrot dressing I love so much.  The Napa Cabbage Slaw with Miso Peanut Ginger Dressing I made was light and bright with a understated richness from the peanut butter.  Sebastian declared to his brother, who was stubbornly refusing to eat it, "You should really have some.  Even I like it, and that's saying something."  But Julian stuck to the role reversal and refused a cabbage salad his brother was happily eating.  If you cannot serve peanuts in your house, try it with sun butter or tahini instead.

Napa Cabbage Slaw with Miso Peanut Ginger Dressing

2 Tbsp Ume Plum vinegar (you can sub rice wine vinegar or cider vinegar if you really have to, but the ume plum vinegar is really special)
6 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons white miso
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon mirin
1 - 1 1/2 Tbsps finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
1 Tbsp smooth peanut butter (sub sun butter or tahini if there are any allergy issues)
2 -3 small to medium carrots (about 4 1/2 to 6 oz's)
3 tablespoons grapeseed oil
2 to 3 pound head of cabbage finely shredded (I did not shred the bottom 4 inches and saved them for a stir fry another night)
1 red pepper, seeded and sliced thinly, slices then cut into thirds (optional, I omitted this the second time I made it)

Place the ume plum vinegar, water, miso, sugar, mirin, ginger, peanut butter, carrots, and grape seed oil in a quart jar and blend until smooth with an Immersion Blender or puree in a mini food processor or blender.  Pour the dressing on the shredded cabbage and red peppers.  Mix well and serve.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Pear Pancakes. an excuse to write something

I have been struggling in the midst of a home renovation and finding my place in the working world to find a recipe to share with you.  The honeymoon phase as the lunch room monitor is long since over and I am realizing what a mistake this was.  I took the job because I wanted to have an impact on how children eat, to try to make a more positive environment.  However I have learned that one adult with good intentions, in a room with 80 + children, can only do so much.  When one table gets too loud the children at the next table have to get louder so they can hear each other.  Soon the lunchroom is filled with yelling children and you have no idea where it got started.

I was convinced to apply for this job by friends who know about my passion for feeding children.  So instead of continuing to stand in a roomful of children desperately trying to keep things calm, I am going to work on feeding them.  Next week I will say good-bye to being a lunch room monitor and join Burlington Food Service at the High School.  There will be some minimal food prep to start and I know they are always looking for better ways to feed the students.  The head of food service here calls me, "Chocolate Milk" because I first met him at a meeting where I tried to convince him to take it off the menu.  We may disagree about chocolate milk, but we both believe in feeding kids.

Amid all this we are also having work done on our house.  I will save the details of that for another post.  So I have been struggling to find a creative enough recipe to share here, I also have been aware of explaining to the guys working on the house why I am outside leaning over a plate of food with my camera.  I have shared my pancake recipe here before, but I love the flavor of pear pancakes enough to give them their own post.  Plus, for new readers, this really is a great pancake recipe.  The pears become soft and tender in the batter, with the heat bringing out their sweetness.  I like them best with a little cinnamon added to the batter, topped with melted butter and pure Maple Syrup.  I have given the recipe as both the original size and 1 1/2 times the recipe, which is enough to feed the whole family when everyone is hungry and tastes better because of the increase in eggs

Pancake Ingredients (original batch size)

1/2 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 cup white whole wheat or whole wheat pastry flour
2 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 - 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup milk (you can use regular milk or buttermilk, the baking soda makes the recipe flexible)
1 large egg
2 Tbsp butter melted and slightly cooled
1 to 2 pears, sliced in quarters, core removed, and then thinly sliced.  Peers with thick skins should be peeled first.

Pancake Ingredients (one and a half batches: enough to satisfy all 4 people in my family)

3/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
3/4 cups white whole wheat or whole wheat pastry flour
3 Tbsp sugar
3 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 to 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
3/8 tsp baking soda (I often just use 1/2 tsp baking soda here)
1 1/2 cup milk (you can use regular milk or buttermilk, the baking soda makes the recipe flexible)
2 large eggs
3 Tbsp butter melted and slightly cooled
2 pears, sliced in quarters, core removed, and then thinly sliced.  Peers with thick skins should be peeled first.

Sift the dry ingredients together. Measure the milk and add the egg/eggs to the milk and whisk to combine and beat the egg/eggs (I use a large glass measuring cup and then whisk the 2 together by spinning the whisk between my hands. Both my boys can imitate this move perfectly with their toy whisk). Add the wet to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined, a few lumps are fine, overmixing is not. Add the butter while still mixing in the wet ingredients.

Use a small ladle or measuring cup to pour pancake batter onto a preheated hot griddle that has a light film of butter on it (I set my electric griddle to 350°).  Press slices of pears into the pancakes as they cook. Flip the pancakes when they appear to be dry around the edges and holes appear across the surface of the pancakes. If you are unsure if they are done lift a corner of a pancake with your spatula to check the color. Cook the second side until light brown and either keep warm in a 200° oven or serve immediately with butter and real maple syrup.