Monday, October 29, 2007

Mmmmm Yummy Meals, Mommy!

I never claimed to be much of a cook. But I can read a mean recipe. I'm also a horrid klutz in the kitchen, burning or cutting myself during almost every meal preparation attempt. For these and financial reasons (do you think it's right that "real" foods - fresh fruits and veggies - are so much more expensive than overprocessed junk like boxed mac and cheese? I sure don't) I've been taking the slacker approach to meals lately. It's been fun, tossing something in the oven and walking away without searching for the first aid kit. But alas, our health is declining and waist size increasing, so it's once again time for some real food.

One of the keys to feeding our rather large crew on the smallest possible budget is frequent, small meals. That means, unfortunately, mom's in the kitchen every other day almost nonstop. But, that other day is easier.

Breakfast was a pretty good oven pancake. It was just a couple eggs, a dash of milk and a cup of flour (I mixed up a little pastry flour, a little regular flour and a pinch of flaxseed meal) tossed in the oven to puff for 20 minutes at 450°. This option is great because I don't have to stand over the stove and flip pancakes! We topped them with a syrup I made by putting fresh raspberries, frozen wild blueberries and a little apple juice in the blender. When I heated it up, it thickened just a little and was SO good.

While that was in the oven, I stirred together the muffins for morning snack. We had them with ginger tea at 10 when I got back from Walgreens (where I purchased gauze, medical tape, burn cream and bandaids, for the burns I received while making the stupid oven pancake.) Oh, they were so good!

Lunch was Mochi Soup and Potato Pie. Now, mochi is just rice starch, made from rice and water, nothing funky there. I didn't make the mochi myself, but bought a cake at the health food store and grated it into the soup. The soup got thick and yummy very quickly without the addition of milk. And I want to warn you: the Potato Pie looks very strange because I used purple potatoes! When I bought the potatoes, I didn't remember what I wanted to use them for, and got these cute little purple potatoes. They don't really "go" with the green of the dill and parsley, though, unless you're into green and purple. They didn't taste purple at all, just like regular potatoes!

While the soup was simmering happily and the Potato Pie was baking its little heart out, I toasted a cup almonds in a dry saute pan until they got really fragrant. I moved them off the heat and tossed in a few teaspoons of tamari soy sauce and minced fresh oregano. The kids can nibble on those for snack this afternoon when the munchies hit. Well, all except youngest who's allergic to almonds and middle who has braces, that is.

We aren't a family of soup eaters. It's taken me 17 years to get my oldest girl interested in anything liquid and warm (other than hot cocoa), but the kids all liked this Mochi Soup recipe and I sure like having veggies on the table at lunch rather than the PB & honey of late.

A note on ingredients: I use only freshly home-milled whole wheat flour, extra-virgin olive oil, grade B for cooking maple syrup and sea salt unless I say specifically otherwise in a recipe. Lemongrass is a wonderfully aromatic herb I find in the produce section at the store by the other fresh herbs. I like to snip it with scissors to use it in tea or cooking because it's a little too woody for my knives. As for veggies, frozen is better than canned if fresh is out of season. I don't like buying fresh veggies out of season because of the price and the negative impact I have heard they have on the environment and economy. We use cow's milk, mostly for cooking, because we have allergies to many other milk alternatives but we very rarely will just drink a glass of milk.

Here are my recipes:

Bran Muffins (makes 12)
Start out by making two cups of lemongrass tea. Combine 3/4C all bran cereal, 1/2C rolled oats, 1C brewed lemongrass tea and 1/2C milk. Let that sit for a minute to soften up while you grate a one-inch knob of ginger onto a piece of cheesecloth. Now, to the cereal, add 1C pastry flour 1t baking powder and 1t baking soda. In another small bowl, combine 2T oil and 1/4C maple syrup. Take the ginger and twist the cheesecloth around and around and around, and squeeze the juice into the small bowl. Toss the ginger pulp. Stir the liquids in the small bowl well then pour over the bran mixture. Add 1/2C chopped dates, 1/2C grated carrot, 1t minced lemongrass. Bake for 20 minutes at 400°. Oh, that other cup of lemongrass tea? Drink it with a tiny drizzle of honey while you wait for the muffins to cook.

Mochi Soup (made enough to feed 8 of us)
In a 3 quart pot, combine 8C vegetable stock, 1C corn kernels, 1C green beans cut into one-inch lengths, 2 minced shallots and bring it all to a nice, rolling boil. Reduce the heat to medium, cover loosely and simmer 15 minutes. Grate in 6 mochi cakes and simmer another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. I served this with a sprinkling of fresh dill on top.

Dilly Potato Pie (made about 8 half-cup servings)
Start out by mincing a clove of garlic. Let it sit out in the air until you need it. (It increases the health benefits to let garlic air a bit.) Clean your potatoes, either scrubbing or peeling (I'm a scrubber, myself.) Cut them into 2-inch chunks and steam them until they are soft, about 10 minutes. Take a masher to them and pulverize them to your preferred level of mash. Chop half a small onion (we're not big onion eaters) and add that and the garlic to the potatoes. Chop up 1 1/2C watercress, 1/4C parsley (I like Italian, but curly works too), 1T fresh dill and toss those in with the potatoes. Stir together 3 eggs, 1/4C milk, 2t oil and a pinch of salt, and add to potatoes. Now plop those ole taters in a casserole dish (2 quart worked for me) and bake it for 30 minutes at 350°. I served these with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. My kids will eat darned near anything covered in Parmesan.

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