Tuesday, March 22, 2011

We Love Carrots

orange is my favorite color.  i don't know if that signifies any deep meaning to anyone but orange has always been my favorite color. except of course, when red was my favorite color.  there are some that say that orange foods are healthy for you.  really? why? according to the ny times, "People with high blood levels of alpha-carotene — an antioxidant found in orange fruits and vegetables — live longer and are less likely to die of heart disease and cancer than people who have little or none of it in their bloodstream." really? why? then there are those that say that those foods are rich in vitamin A.  you can almost understand why parents are eagerly buying those annoying packages of organic baby carrots and putting them in lunch boxes all over the world. one of my heroes,  dentist & nutritional anthropologist weston a. price did much research in this area and found that vitamin A is only present in animal foods (egg yolks, fish eggs, animal livers, butter) not orange fruits and vegetables. beta-carotene, yes. vitamin A, no. sorry.  his brilliant research is documented in his equally brilliant and compelling book "Nutrition and Physical Degeneration."  

so what's all the hub-bub about carrots, good eyesight and vitamin A then?  or, better yet, how do we go from beta-carotene to Vitamin A? according to price, beta-carotene can only be converted to vitamin A in the presence of animal fat.  awesome! great news! i love animal fat! i LOVE FLAVOR! flavor is in fat! butter, cream, olive oil, coconut oil, avocado, tallow, bacon grease, lard, etc. go hand in hand with vegetables in order to make them nutrient dense and healthy! perfect!  it makes so much sense, doesn't it?  when we cook vegetables for children (and even for some silly adults), we often get a fight. why? most people forget to season them. yes, i personally do believe that most vegetables are absolutely perfect and delicious on their own, just as they have sprung forth from the sadly mineral depleted earth. but, if you want them to provide all of the vitamins and minerals that they are able to provide to our bodies for optimum health, you need to properly prepare them and that means adding good healthy fat and a pinch of sea salt.  you can eat organic baby carrots all day, every day and never see a drop of vitamin A without the essential co-factor of butter, the fat that makes this FAT SOLUBLE VITAMIN accessible.  so, the next time you steam those carrots (or any vegetable for that matter), remember to put lots of really good quality butter and a generous pinch of celtic sea salt on them. speaking of carrots......

when sylvia was three years old she wrote her very first song on her own and i was so proud. it goes like this:

"we love carrots" (sung to the tune of Frère Jacques or Are You Sleeping?)

we love carrots, we love carrots
everyday, everyday
may i please have a carrot?
yes you may, you're welcome
crunch, crunch, crunch
crunch, crunch, crunch

The carrot is a root vegetable that is usually orange in color but purple, red, white, and yellow varieties exist and are available from June through October in NY and the surrounding areas. We eat the taproot of the vegetable although you can eat the greens if you really want to. I find them bitter in a bad way - not like radicchio or endive which are bitter in a good way.  

According to wikipedia, The wild ancestors of the carrot are likely to have come from Iran and Afghanistan, which remains the centre of diversity of D. carota, the wild carrotSelective breeding over the centuries of a naturally occurring subspecies of the wild carrot, Daucus carotasubsp. sativus, to reduce bitterness, increase sweetness and minimise the woody core, has produced the familiar garden vegetable. In early use, carrots were grown for their aromatic leaves and seeds, not their roots. Some relatives of the carrot are still grown for these, such as parsleyfenneldill and cumin. The first mention of the root in classical sources is in the 1st century CE. The modern carrot appears to have been introduced to Europe in the 8-10th centuries.

If you would like to geek out i invite you to get your carrot on at the World Carrot Museum (not kidding), a virtual museum whose mission is to educate, inform and amuse visitors through the collection, preservation, interpretation and exhibition of this amazing, edible root vegetable.


i always liked carrots but this past year something amazing occurred. i discovered 2 farmers at the union square market who grow carrots that are out of this world.  i already mentioned vinny & denise who introduced me to their "cowboy" carrot variety, which are sadly now gone until june which i will always gladly pay $4 per pound for (imagine that).  thankfully, about a month ago i discovered carrots ($1.50 per pound!) grown by john schmid at muddy river farm.  muddy river farm is located in new hampton, ny about 10 miles away from middletown.  known as the "black dirt region" this land used to be an old lake bottom and is famous for it's peat/muck soil which contains over 50% high organic matter and produces delicious, nutrient dense food.  John and his son Jack have been farming their 20 acres for 15 years and bring their not certified organic, but unsprayed food, to union square market on fridays only.  their carrots are being pulled from storage and will last only about another week but will soon be bringing in spinach, arugula, radish, swiss chard and more.  in the winter they grow roots and pumpkins as well as some greens in their high tunnel (unheated green house). 

I still love my raw carrots, and so do the kids. we love to crunch, crunch, crunch and do it almost every day.  however, sylvia likes to dip her carrots in raw sour cream or a simple guacamole.  henry prefers hummus. the following are my favorite cooked carrot recipes. try them, i think you will really enjoy them. they are quick and fun to make and even better to eat when you bring your beautiful, vitamin and mineral enriched family2table.

roasted carrot mash (a great alternative to mashed potatoes)
1. preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. wash and peel 12 medium carrots.
3. roughly chop carrots into pieces and toss with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper
4. roast in the oven until golden and cooked through. (shake the pan so they don't burn)
5. slightly cool carrots and put into a food processor. (do this in batches)
6. add 1/4 -1/2 cup heavy cream and pulse. (depending on the consistency you like. i prefer my mash with big chunks of carrot still in it)
7. add 1 TBS raw honey and pulse.
8. adjust seasoning and serve alongside meat, fish or sauteed/wilted greens.

gingered carrots (this is best done ahead of time and stored in the fridge, using when needed. they will hold up to a week)
1. bring a large pot of filtered water, salt and a knob of ginger, sliced into chunks to a boil.
2. wash and peel 12 medium carrots.
3. cut them into (coins) rounds or on the bias (keeping them all the same size).
4. put carrots into water and boil until cooked al dente.
5. drain water and retain ginger with carrots. put in containers and hold in the fridge)
To serve
1. heat a bit of water in a saute pan.
2. add carrots (no ginger this time) till heated
4. when water is almost gone, add 2 TBS butter and coat carrots.
5. salt & pepper (i prefer white pepper on my carrots) to taste and serve.

carrot cardamom soup
1. heat a stock pot and add a generous knob of butter
2. add 1 large onion, diced & 2 large stalks of celery diced, sweat veggies
3. add 6-8 carrots washed and roughly chopped, sweat
4. in another pan, toast 6 cardamom pods, split pods and add seeds to veggies
5. add 1 quart of chicken stock and 1 cup of water. bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes.
6. puree till smooth and serve with a generous dollop of sour cream with fresh chives.

carrot oatmeal cookies

1 cup sprouted flour

1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 cup rolled oats
2/3 cup chopped crispy walnuts
1 cup shredded carrots
1/2 cup real maple syrup, room temperature
1/2 cup unrefined (fragrant) coconut oil, warmed until just melted
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
Preheat oven to 375F degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and oats. Add the nuts and carrots. In a separate smaller bowl use a whisk to combine the maple syrup, coconut oil, and ginger. Add this to the flour mixture and stir until just combined.
Drop onto prepared baking sheets, one level tablespoonful at a time, leaving about 2 inches between each cookie. Bake 10 - 12 minutes or until the cookies are golden on top and bottom.

carrot salad with tahini dressing
1. grate a bunch of carrots
2. add a cup of raisins
3. add 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
4. add 1/4 up toasted pine nuts
5. toss with extra virgin olive oil and raw apple cider vinegar.
6. salt and pepper to taste.
7. refrigerate (this can last days)

tahini dressing
1. mix 1 TBS raw tahini with water until a paste forms
2. thin it out with fresh lemon juice until you achieve the desired texture
3. salt & pepper to taste
4.  drizzle on top of the carrot salad (which can be mixed with any greens or sliced apple to fill it out it can also be stuffed inside a pita, rolled into a wrap or used as a stuffing for pork chops!)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Packed Lunches for "Picky" Eaters

i took a little trip down to the florida keys all by myself to visit friends and chill my head out.  you need that every once in a while when the cold of a nyc winter has got you in its grip.  it worked.  a few days of sun, relaxation, fresh caught fish, acupuncture and swimming with dolphins did the trick.  now i'm back and looking at things with fresh eyes and a clear head.  invigorated and feeling charged enough to make it through to the spring that is waiting to knock at my door.  while i was a way i received an email from my friend nina asking what i put in my kids packed lunches so i ran off a list and liked what i saw so i thought i would share it and my thoughts with you.  

every year i teach a workshop called "packed lunches for picky eaters."  at least 30 people show up, sometimes more. they confess that they do not feel inspired to make creative lunches or feel lost because their child is picky and wants to eat the same thing every day. you know what i think about that.....picky eaters are not born that way, they are created.  if you are a picky eater, chances are your kids will be too.  if you embrace food with the same gusto and vulnerability you embrace life, then your children will grow to be food fearless and want to try everything. remember, "just one bite to be polite"  because you never know, your new favorite food might be right in front of you.

i pack 3 lunches every day (son, daughter & husband).  usually the same menu because that makes it easier and we can all talk about it later. "what was your favorite part of lunch today?" or "what did you think of the new herb salami i bought?" and "i loved the berries in those pancakes. should we get those berries again?"  I find that this is a great way for the kids to learn to express gratitude.  It just like asking "what was the best part of your day today?" a question i ask every night before the kids go to bed and they answer with joy.  without knowing it, they have just reflected and said thanks for something - an evening prayer if you will. 

back to lunches:  the goal of a packed lunch is to provide nutrient dense meals that will keep blood sugar stable and fresh, beautiful flavors that will keep your eaters content. i rely heavily on leftovers and rarely ask my family what they want.  i usually hit a home run and the lunch bags return empty. but some days i don't hit it right on the head and that's okay.  no matter what, everybody digs in and gives what they have a go.   the following is a list of what i have packed for take away lunch when you just can't have your family2table at home.  the important thing is to bring that family2table feeling, love and nourishment to you and your family wherever you may go.

1. Any type of antibiotic and hormone free, grass fed meats (my children eat sandwiches but sometimes prefer slices or "rolls" of meat as well as sausage, meatballs, burgers, etc). check out elk trails ranch (Ron) at the union square farmers market on saturdays -  he makes the best buffalo kielbasa! you can cook it or just put the whole sausage cold in the lunch box.  both my kids love it and i carry it wherever we go.  Buy a few packs and keep them in the freezer.  OH! we love duck confit. you can make or buy a leg or two and shred the meat into soups, stews, salads, sandwiches etc.

2. Chunks of good (preferably raw milk) cheeses.  A cheese sandwich on sourdough rye with a thick layer of real butter and a sprinkle of celtic sea salt is delicious and will keep the blood sugar balance for hours.  Skewer the cheese with sausage chunks, cherry tomatoes (or any other cooked veg that skewers well and your child will eat) or fresh fruit. Skewers are available at most kitchen supply stores (a pack of 100 for $1.50).  DONT FORGET TO CUT THE POINT OFF BEFORE PACKING!

3. Nori or Cucumber wrapped vegetable sushi rolls - so fun! they love this. sushi is not that hard to make with practice.  Lacto-fermented vegetables can be made easily at home but are also available from Hawthorne Farms at Union Square Market and Integral Yoga.  They taste great and are a great source of enzymes, Vitamin C and probiotics for good gut health. Roll Chia seeds into the rice for more Omega3s.

4. Sliced Apples or pears with a sprinkle of sprouted granola and raw honey.  green apples are also great sliced very thin on a cheese sandwich with curry mayo. I use a japanese mandolin to get paper think slices for sandwiches. Please be careful and use the finger guard. 

5. room temp. brown rice pasta salads (leftover fish, sausage, chicken, pesto, roasted veggies, tomato, capers, olives, anchovies, etc)  If your child is a pasta fan and that's your go-to dish, then do all you can to make it a bit more nutritious.  Use real bone broth (beef, chicken, fish).

Bone broth has so much value nutritionally. Vitamins, minerals, gelatin for gut healing, etc.  If you roast chicken for dinner save the bones and make broth.   Hawthorne farms has incredible beef soup bones and marrow bones.  Marrow is a super-food children should consume as often as possible.  it is also something we as parents can slip into the food without them even knowing -- in pasta, for instance.  Use lots of butter, broth, raw milk parmagianno cheese.  

Pasta is a great opportunity to use fish eggs as well. Salmon roe, dried bottarga (mullet or tuna roe).  Make pasta a whole pound at a time and store in quart containers in the fridge.
Use ample sea salt in the water when cooking.  You can also cook the pasta in Broth or Miso instead of water for more nutritional value.

6. Lentil salad (any bean or grain salad actually - 1.e cous cous, quinoa- major protein source) - combine with meats, fish, veggies, herbs, olive oil, coconut oil.  PLEASE REMEMBER when preparing grains, beans and pulses to SOAK for 24 hours to disable the phytic acid - which is anti-nutrient and blocks mineral absorption.  When bringing to a boil, skim "scum" off the
top as this are impurities that need to be removed.  With lentils and beans,  DO NOT add salt while cooking.  Salt after you have turned off the pot and let soak with salt while cooling.  you can add aromatics to the pot while cooking (carrot, onion, garlic, herbs etc)

7. Hummus with crackers - Wassa or Rye Vita (i usually give olives and pickles on the side) my kids love to spread and dip. you can also do hummus with blanched crudite.  I blanch with ample celtic sea salt in the blanching water and the ice bath as this imparts more flavor and minerals into the vegetables.  Roasted Vegetables are great crudite for kids as these veggies are very sweet from the carmelized natural sugars of the vegetables from roasting.  If you are making your hummus, soak beans properly first.  Hummus can be made from all beans and pulses.  Black bean with chipotle puree and cilantro, white bean with preserved lemon, garlic and thyme, red lentil with garam masala and dill.  have fun and play with flavors. be bold, try new things and let your children help create new flavors.

8. boiled Eggs with crumbled bacon - Neiman ranch thick cut - and peas. I cannot say enough about EGGS.  I LOVE eggs.  my kids adore eggs all ways.  Please make sure you are getting eggs from a reliable, non-factory farm source. I can recommend Nevia from Bohdi Tree Farm who comes to Abingdon Market on Saturdays and Dave from Muddy Farm who is also at Abingdon Market on Saturdays.  Eggs can be added to pasta or eaten plain and exquisite with sea salt.  Eggs salad with homemade MAYO or Wild Salmon Salad (fresh or tinned) with chopped, boiled eggs on sourdough bread or crackers.

9. Wraps! we use flax bread or sprouted tortillas. we particularly like bacon, tomato, fermented beets and avocado and lamb sandwiches with cucumbers and yogurt.  PLEASE TRY and get away from the packaged single serve Yo Baby style yogurts (way too much sugar) and move on to plain, organic yogurt made from good milk from grass fed cows like Hawthorne Farms Plain and Maple Vanilla yogurt available at Union Square Market.  There are plenty of reusable containers that we can put the yogurt in and put in the lunchbox.

10. use half an Avocado as the cup for another salad and combine (lentils, beans, fish - salmon salad, shrimp salad, tuna - don't get too mayo-gooey though and please use a homemade mayo to impart more nutrition).

11. fried rice - a great way to use leftover rice.  heat a skillet - very hot - add coconut oil, break an egg and scramble. Add leftover, cold rice and cook. add any veggies ( frozen peas are great), leftover meats, fish, herbs (cilantro, basil) add asian vinaigrette (wheat free traditionally brewed Tamari, rice wine vinegar, fresh lime juice, fish sauce and sesame oil).

12. cold soba noodle salad - Soba noodles are delicious and this salad can be prepared days ahead of time. as a matter of fact this dish gets better as it marinates in the fridge.  You can buy soba noodles in packages or in bulk.  Using a julienne peeler, add cucumber and blanched carrots to the cooked noodles. Add cilantro, basil, sesame seeds and leftover chicken, meat or fish.  Use the Asian Vinaigrette from the fried rice above.
This vinaigrette is easy to make and stores well in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

13. chopped chicken LIVER or bison liver or liverwurst on bread - I know what you are thinking....my kid won't eat liver. Most don't like it, that's true. But, if you make it and eat it, odds are at some point they will get into it.  Pate is readily available, delicious and one of the most nutritious foods on the planet.  we should all eat it twice a week.  Just try it. Please. 

14. a cold Roasted Chicken leg is always great (leftovers make great lunches, friends!).  Nothing beats a drumstick with a few sides for lunch.  Thanksgiving Turkey, Meatballs, Meatloaf, Burgers Stew, Soup, etc. Leftovers are a blessing.  Use them liberally!  A thermos keeps them warm all day.

15. Yogurt and Fresh Fruit Salad - Again, please try and stay away from the single serving packaged yogurts.  There are many brands that are properly made and delicious.  Skewer the fruit and encourage the Yogurt as a dip to the fruit kabobs.  Raw honey or maple syrup in the yogurt is a perfect sweet treat!  This is also a great classroom snack.

16. Thai Summer Rolls & dumplings - Shredded Raw veggies (and leftover meats and fish) and herbs in a rice paper wrapper with dipping sauce.

17. Pad Thai & Curries:  Curry can be made days ahead and warmed in the morning. Pad Thai is a great new take on pasta for kids and is easily prepared and packed in the morning.

18. Sourdough bread with real butter and smoked salmon.  Forget the bagel! this is the bomb!

write to me if you need recipes for any of these ideas of if you have an idea you would like to share.