Thursday, September 29, 2011

Crockpot Applesauce - Real Convenience Food

Yay, fall! My favorite season is finally upon us; I can stop sweating and I can go apple-picking with my family! If you've never done this, the time is now. You get to eat lots of apples and do silly stuff like this:

Of course, when you pick apples you end up with lots and lots of them. Like, more than you'd ever need or want. But you're not going to waste any, are you? No, you're going to eat them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And you're still going to have way more than you want.

In order to make a significant dent in your pile, you've got to find a recipe that requires a large number of apples. I've got just such a recipe: applesauce. 

And this applesauce, my friends, is about the easiest you're gonna find. Not only do you just throw everything in the slow cooker, but you don't even have to peel the dang apples! Keeping the skins on also makes this sauce super healthful, as most of the apples' nutrients are in their peels. Apples are not only popular with kids and adults alike, but they are also a good source of Vitamin C, fiber, and polyphenols.

Ingredients
yields: 5 1/2 - 6 cups
  • about 15-20 small/medium apples (preferably organic), cored and quartered*
  • juice of one lemon
  • 1/4c orange juice
  • 1-2T vanilla
  • 1/2t cinnamon**
*My apples (a combination of Baldwin and Cortland) were on the small side; I just filled my 6-QT slow cooker to the top with them; if you're using bigger apples you won't need as many to fill your crockpot!
**I'm a believer that a little cinnamon goes a long way; this amount gives a nice hint of the spice but you should feel free to add more, if it floats your boat.

Fill the Crockpot with your apples, add the rest of your ingredients, and give it all a quick stir. Set it to cook on low for five to six hours. The smell of applesauce cooking away is fantastic; people pay good money for candles that don't smell half as good. 

My apples were fully cooked at about five hours but I left them in for almost six hours; they get more of that gorgeous caramelized flavor and richer color the longer they cook. (Another bonus of keeping the skins on is that the sauce becomes a lovely berry hue).

When your apples are done cooking, let them cool a bit before using an immersion blender to fully incorporate the skins into the sauce. I just pulsed it enough to break up the skins, but not too much, as I didn't want a super smooth sauce. NOTE: if you decide to peel your apples before cooking, you can just run a fork through the cooked apples and they will fall apart into applesauce!
My hubby likes lots of extra cinnamon on his.
OK, so you have all this luscious applesauce...now what? Some suggestions:
  • freeze small batches for future use 
  • add to muffin and pancakes batters
  • put in the custards when you make french toast or bread pudding
  • stir into plain yogurt
  • add a few spoonfuls to sweeten smoothies
  • pack in individual containers to add to lunch boxes
  • top with chopped walnuts, granola, and/or flax or chia seeds
  • put a dollop on latkes (potato pancakes)
  • serve alongside meats, such as roast pork
  • share a jar with friends who didn't get to go apple picking!
The color of your apples' skins will determine the hue of your sauce

Today, I'm going to make a Sour Cream Apple Loaf and maybe a sandwich of sharp cheddar, apple slices and honey mustard. Tomorrow...who knows?

What's your favorite way to use loads of apples?


For some other recipes in our "Real Convenience Food" series check out: Asparagus and Pea SoupTomato, Cucumber & Onion Salad with Feta Cheese; and Caramelized Onion and Mushroom Soup with Asiago Cheese. And don't forget one of our most popular posts ever: our Foolproof Caramelized Onions, made in a Crockpot!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Cornbread Muffins with Squash and Blueberries


Muffins, like smoothies, are magical: kids will consume them, no matter what you put in them (even *gasp* veggies). My son particularly loves blueberry muffins so I wanted to come up with a way to pack them with diverse nutrients. 

Summer squash is both inexpensive and in season. It's full of everything from Vitamin C to B-complex vitamins (including folate) to omega-3s to zinc and magnesium. All of these work together to maintain a healthy blood sugar level in your body; this is important for everyone but is crucial during pregnancy. Oh, and to get squash's full antioxidant effect, make sure you eat the skin!


These muffins--definitely more of a grainy cornbread than a cake-y muffin--seem to have lots of ingredients and lots of steps. But, truly, they're easy. I just tried to break out all the steps as much as possible to make it easier for you, dear readers!

Ingredients
yield: 12-14 muffins
  • 1/2c unsalted butter (preferably organic, grass-fed)
  • 1/2c kefir
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 medium summer squash (about 2 cups when grated), tough ends trimmed
  • 3/4c whole wheat pastry flour
  • 3/4c almond flour
  • 1/2c honey
  • 1t baking powder
  • 1/2t baking soda
  • 1/4t salt
  • 3/4c medium-grind cornmeal (organic, please; non-organic corn is most likely genetically modified)
  • 1c blueberries (dried work well if you don't have fresh)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin pan with paper liners. Melt butter in a saucepan; when completely melted, pour into a bowl to cool. 

Once the butter has cooled, whisk in the kefir...

...and the eggs.



Grate the summer squash. I used a coarse Microplane grater; my sous chef held it steady while I grated. 

I got just under two cups of the grated squash. Add it to the butter mixture.
Sift flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a large bowl. If you don't have a sifter, no worries! Put a fine mesh colander over a bowl and use that to sift. After you're done sifting, whisk in the cornmeal.

Fold the squash mixture into the dry ingredients to form a very thick batter. Then fold in the berries. Transfer batter to the muffin pan, filling each cup about 3/4 full. Bake for about 33-37 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool for about 15 minutes before removing from the pan and cooling completely on a rack.


If you'd like to send these muffins in your kid's lunch box--but your child's school is nut-free--you can omit the almond flour and replace it with regular flour.

Full disclosure: when my muffins were still warm the papers were a bit greasy. This wasn't an issue when they were cool and I felt the texture of the muffins was just fine, so I personally wouldn't want to cut down on the fat, but I did want to give you the heads-up.

Are your kids maniacs for muffins?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Vitamin K is for Kiwi (and Kids!) - Green Fruit Smoothie

Many of my friends and clients struggle with getting their kids to eat green vegetables. Perhaps it's because some greens can be a little bitter or tough. But greens are crucial to a well-rounded diet. That's why smoothies - like our Tropical Popsicles or Piña Kale-ada - can be such a good way to get greens into your kids' tummies.

This smoothie is made with all green fruits (yes, avocado is a fruit!), so it's a bit sweeter than other green drinks may be; it can be a good starting point for kids who find other smoothies too grassy-tasting. This smoothie boasts Vitamin K - abundant in the green veggies your kid won't eat - as well as omega-3 fats, vitamins C and E, folate, manganese and potassium. It also provides a good deal of fiber, especially if you include the kiwi's edible skin; many children have issues with constipation so boosting fiber is important.



Of course, this is just also a really great way to get more servings of antioxidant-rich fruit into your child's diet. Kids tend to love juice, but juices leave out some very important parts of the whole fruit, such as the peels and seeds; this smoothie includes all the good stuff!
Ingredients
yield: about 12 oz
  • 1 kiwi, hard ends removed, preferably unpeeled
  • 1/4 avocado, peeled
  • about 1 cup grapes (you can partially freeze them for a slushier texture)
  • 1/4c milk/kefir/plantmilk* (I used coconut milk)

*I added some milk as a nutritional boost, because Vitamin K and calcium work together to build strong bones. 

Place all the fruit and milk in a blender. 

Puree until smooth.
Drink up! And remember to keep offering green veggies to your kids! They'll dig in one of these days...
What's your favorite way to include greens in your family's diet?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Nourish Your Children: Let Them Play Outdoors!

Looking for ways to keep your kids happy and healthy? Guest poster - and physical therapist - Renat Yaron has a suggestion for you: slow down and get outside!

Pile o' leaves = pile o' fun.

Does this sound like you?

I'm so stressed and I've got no time… Julie has school, then ballet, then French class...then we have to rush home and eat dinner so that we can go over her flash cards before bed.  This is all so overwhelming and Julie is only two years old!

What happened to unstructured, fun, imaginative, outdoor play?


We live in a competitive society where education and achievement are valued above much else.  Parents feel pressure to make sure that their child does not fall behind; computers are capable of doing everything for us these days so it’s actually possible to never leave the house; and safety has become more of a concern. 

PLAY …
The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that children require unstructured play to help them reach cognitive, physical, social, and emotional milestones. 
I’m a pediatric physical therapist in NYC – I’ve seen children who are enrolled in a ton of classes but have a difficult time negotiating playground equipment because they just aren’t exposed to it often enough.



PLAY…
The United Nations High Commission for Human Rights recognizes play as the right of every child.  
United Nations?  Human rights?  You must be thinking of underdeveloped countries and sweat shops – but it has become a problem here in the U.S. with parents overbooking their children’s day so much that free play becomes obsolete.  Even play dates are arranged through classes or gyms where kids are told what to do and how to play; parents pay lots of $$ for birthday parties where kids are ushered from one activity to the next.

PLAY…
The CDC reports that approximately 12.5 million children in the US aged 2-19 are obese; that is triple the rate of one generation ago. 
Of course this has lots to do with economics and poor eating habits, but equally as much to do with sedentary lifestyles.

The tried and true method to foster your child’s ability to work in groups, resolve conflicts, discover interests, practice decision-making skills and more is … PLAY!  The good, old-fashioned let your kid run outside, find some friends and pretend kind of play. Kids instinctively know how to PLAY!!  Watch them, they will do it.  

One of the most helpful parenting tips I got was from The Blessing of a Skinned Knee. Basically: kids are like a bag of mixed seeds.  We need to care for them and nourish them and stand back to watch them grow and develop into whatever they may be. One way to nourish them? Let them PLAY. OUTSIDE.
The author's daughter, a literal treehugger.


What were your favorite outdoor games when you were a kid?




About the author:
Renat Yaron, MSPT, has worked as a physical therapist for over 11 years in orthopedic, pediatric, and pregnancy physical therapy, and is certified in infant massage. She enjoys traveling, holds a black belt in Seido karate and dabbles in belly dancing.  These days, she is most passionate about her two little girls.










Thursday, September 1, 2011

Honeydew, Mint and Feta Salad

Sometimes recipes are born of necessity; this one certainly was. I'd bought this gorgeous chunk of grass-fed goat cheese at the local farmers' market (I eat less cheese these days than I used to, so when I get some I make sure it is the best quality I can afford). Hurricane Irene was set to arrive; I just knew that we'd lose power and I'd lose my divine, pricey cheese, as well as everything else in my fridge (my precious freezer stores of sauces and chili and soups! NOOOOOO!!!).


I had to act fast: I pulled out some other perishables that I wanted to use before they went bad and came up with this bright, refreshing, savory and sweet - you know I love that combo - salad. Plus, it just looks really pretty! Just what I needed for a dark, rainy, floody day.

Ingredients
serves 2-4
  • 2 cups honeydew melon, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 ounces feta cheese, diced
  • 1-2T chopped fresh mint


Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Serve in that bowl, or portion out into smaller ramekins. Lookin' sharp in a green ceramic ramekin:

But I also like the sharp contrast with the red ramekin...


However you serve it, it is delicious (even when a big ol' storm isn't looming).

I hope that all of you who were affected by the storm are getting your homes and lives back in order!

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