Thursday, April 2, 2009

Armenian style crackers

When my daughter comes to me saying "Mom, I want something to eat, but something that's bad for you", I know I'm in for trouble.

To me, it illustrates perfectly the deep emotional completely irrational relationship we have with food. Beyond our basic appetite for food which results from hunger we may sometimes find ourselves inexplicably tied up in a love/hate relationship with food. We may want to gorge on more food, faster, or junkfood not to satisfy our stomachs but our minds.

This is why I take proper care to smooth out any sudden cravings of my children or myself by giving in the occasional indulgence or blatantly refusing to let go. I know this relationship with food needs nurturing and balance as our health both mental and physical, our wellbeing and happiness are at stake.

One of the keys to success is to educate my kids about what goes in their mouths. When I mention to my daughter there are chemicals in processed foods or on fruit and vegetables, her natural instinct is to say what? chemicals? I'm not eating that. Now she knows what organic means.

She also knows the steak on her plate comes from a cow. Her initial apprehension was rapidly won over by her quick curious child mind and she asked what part. I responded the butt. She laughed, made an expression of disgust and went on eating thinking we adults definitely do funny things. But what I ensured was that she doesn't make what could be a shocking discovery at a later age, explained in a way that could lead to a dramatic change in her diet and in herself.

The benefits of eating from a varied plate are not only measurable in calories and vitamin intake but equally importantly in the unquantifiable pleasure of taste that satisfies the soul. I want to empower my children with confidence, knowledge and respect for food so that when they're old enough they don't turn around and gulp down all the junk food they'll feel they've been deprived of all their youth. So that when they are on their own, they do what comes naturally to them. So that wholesome healthy food becomes to them good to eat and good to think and that emotional battle with food bad food, too much food is finally over.

At home, I'm trying my hand at some of the foods I know my kids will love snacking on and I can feel good about giving them such as those crackers. It is basically a slightly sweetened bread dough that is rolled out so thin it crisps up in the oven. You can either precut the dough to have uniform shapes or just cut off shards when baked.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Warm edamame salad with mirin and citrus vinaigrette

An easy way to prepare a tasty satisfying lunch in no time is to give it an Asian touch. The ingredients are straightforward and healthy, and the preparation requires nothing more than a little chopping and stir-frying.

Sometimes I will impatiently shred some pieces off a leftover roast I may have in the fridge and toss it together with some steamed greens. Arrange a quick sauce with soy sauce and toasted sesame oil, and I’m good to go.

Other times, especially in winter, I’ll make a quick miso soup with a dashi and kombu as a base and just throw in whatever I feel like or happen to have on hand : chopped scallions, a handful of fresh shitake, dried or fresh wakame, some cubed tofu, and of course red miso paste.

The idea for this recipe just popped out of nowhere one day I was really hungry but not willing to give up on taste. It is relatively easy to prepare especially if like me you always keep unseasoned steamed vegetables in the fridge (my 20 month old will eat up about 2 pounds of those a week which explains why I always have them ready to go).

For this warm edamame salad I proceeded as follows. I first pan fried firm tofu, tossed in frozen edamame I had first blanched, added chopped scallions and steamed broccoli florets. I microplaned a clove of garlic and a slice of ginger for extra zing. I then combined mirin, freshly squeezed orange juice, soy sauce and rice vinegar for my mirin citrus vinaigrette I and poured it on top at the last minute. For the final touch, I used chopped cilantro and a drizzle of sesame oil.

I absolutely loved the way the crunch of the edamame balanced out the soft smooth tofu to create a texturally balanced dish.

The concept is pretty versatile and would taste great with many different foods you might already have. So play around with the ingredients add sugar snaps, asparagus, chicken, shitake or any kind of mushroom, shreds of toasted nori, any kind of toasted seed or nut. The only rule is to use healthy, minimally handled, just cooked through, fresh ingredients.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Mini cream cheese center chocolate cupcakes

Over the years, I have developed an eye for recipes. When I browse through a food magazine or a cooking book, I can usually "smell" a good recipe right away. I have my own personal indicators of what a tasty dish requires and glancing rapidly through the list of ingredients, the amount of time needed and/or simply the title can reveal a lot about what to expect in your plate. More importantly I am now able to quickly evaluate whether or not the final taste will be worth those long hours spent in the kitchen.

This cupcake recipe was no exception.

I stumbled upon it in the March issue of Bon App├ętit and proceeded as I usually do. I marked down the title and page number on my recipe notebook and knew I would get down to it sooner or later. There are so many recipes out there worth trying, I mark down rigorously all those I want to try. When in need of inspiration, just browsing those notes is usually enough to trigger a good mouthwatering and make me want to start cooking.

For this recipe, a chocolate cupcake batter is made and poured into cups, then hollowed out to put in the cream cheese filling. I also covered some of them with more chocolate batter, to keep a cream cheese center. I was very satisfied with how they turned out. The crumb was moist and dense with a nice chocolate flavor and the cream cheese gave it a nice milky, slightly sour aftertaste.