Sunday, September 30, 2012

oatmeal and bananas

This morning, like so many others, I found my sleep deprived pre-coffee self struggling with what to feed my monkeys.  Normally, well I should say on school mornings, my daughter sleeps in.  This leaves me plenty of time to quietly and peacefully make french toast, scrambled eggs, pancakes, or other nourishing healthy breakfasts with enough time before school.

On the weekends, however, my daughter wakes up at the crack of dawn.  Forget for a moment that last night, my husband and I went out to see an old friend's band have their first show together in 15 years.  Forget that we didn't pick up the kids from grandma's until midnight.  The kids had fallen asleep at 930, but they both woke up after midnight.  If that had happened on a school day, she would have been impossible to wake up.  But it being Sunday, she woke up at 630.

When the kids wake up before I do, making a good breakfast is a bit more difficult.  They are hungry.  And trying to make a good breakfast while both kids are wide awake and hyper and whining and jumping on the couch and pointing scissors at each other just doesn't work for me.  Those are the days when they get cereal or toast, or even a spoon of peanut butter and peach cup, but I do try to get in as many healthy breakfasts as I can.

This morning, as I had mentioned before, was a crack of dawn morning.  But fortunately, my son was still asleep.  Those days aren't so bad.  My daughter usually is more reliable when she is running around solo.  Unfortunately, I had only gotten 5 hours of sleep, my head was thick from the previous night's whiskey (that's right- the ONE whiskey gave me a hangover), it was pre-coffee, and my eyes were struggling to stay open.  That's when I found the oats.

In my September Savorfull box, I received a bag of Bob's Red Mill Steel Cut Oats, and that made for the perfect Sunday morning breakfast.  Oatmeal is so easy to make.  For three servings, put three cups of water to boil, add one cup of the steel cut oats, give it a stir, set the heat to low, and simmer away for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Voila!  Easy peasy.  While it was cooking, and instead of taking a nap which would have been just way too irresponsible......  I found a banana.

I used to sauté bananas almost every day.  Mm mmm.  Just heat up some butter on medium high to high heat (or dairy free butter over here), slice up a banana into the sizzling butter, sprinkle on some cinnamon, and with a flick of the wrist, flip the pan to coat and stir the bananas.  We have these great eco-friendly nonstick pans that are very lightweight- I bought them from Target a few years ago and I L O V E them.  I always feel like such a pro when I flip the food around in those pans....

Anyway, I like to let the bananas sit for a spell in the hot butter so that the edges get nice and crispy.  You want to take them out before they get mushy- it only takes about 3 to 5 minutes.  The bananas pictured here were cooked in a pan that wasn't quite hot enough, and I didn't take them off soon enough.  So they got a bit mushy.  But they were so beautifully carmelized and delicious, it really didn't matter at all!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

food allergy conference

Ok.  So what most of you may know, is that my son has life threatening food allergies.  What most of you probably don't know, is that I have been working on (hopefully!) passing legislation that will ensure restaurants be more allergy aware.  It's called the Food Allergy Awareness Act, and it was a groundbreaking law that passed in Massachusetts, but not in Illinois.  When I heard about this Act, I immediately went to work to try to get it passed in Michigan.  And to find out why it didn't pass in Illinois!

In short, it requires restaurants to hang posters in the kitchen that provide allergy information, it would require restaurant workers to watch a 30 minute training video, and put labels on menus asking the customer to notify the server if they have food allergies.  To me, this is a real no brainer.

It might not seem like a big deal to eat in a restaurant if you have food allergies.  Just don't order anything with cheese on it, right?  Not quite.

Several of you have eaten with me in a restaurant.  You know that it takes me 10 minutes to order a bowl of oatmeal.  And you will also note that I really haven't eaten in a restaurant in months. After experiencing your two year old go into full blown anaphylactic shock after eating a piece of bread that was toasted on a pan that had once had butter on it, might scare many of you into trusting your child's life to restaurant workers.  Most of whom, I might add, are accommodating.  But many of whom are high school kids who think "just a little butter won't hurt," or people who are apathetic and snarky, or people who just don't know.   It's not their fault if they don't know.  And that is exactly what we need legislative help to change.

There is a great website called Allergy Eats, and this is where you can find restaurants that are allergy friendly.  Or not!  It is a list of restaurant reviews from all over, compiled by customers with allergies.  The people who give the best recommendations are those who have the same concerns.  I love this site.  I have added some reviews of my own...

Anyway, Allergy Eats is sponsoring a Food Allergy Conference for Restaurants in Boston, Massachusetts, on Tuesday, October 16.  You can find the information here.  I am hoping for the day that we can have these in Michigan, with the Michigan Restaurant Association president as a keynote speaker...

Wish me luck on my venture, and I will keep you posted with my progress!  Because there WILL be progress.  My current state of idealism and optimism simply does not allow for anyone to say no.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

september savorfull

I really love that green box.  And every time I write about it, you will probably see very familiar photos.  I want you to experience the green box the same way that I experience the green box.  One step at a time.  

This month in the Savorfull box we have Red Mill Steel Cut Oats, a box of Better Batter all purpose gluten free  flour, Enjoy Life Vanilla Honey Graham cookies, and Mila Chia seeds, which I just now at this moment realized I photographed backwards...  

Every month when I open my box I am hit with such a breath of fresh air.  Savorfull not only lets you know what products are out there (and the products are actually really really good), but it makes living with allergies less scary. Here is a company that is devoted to living with allergies.  There IS a market for us out there.  We are not alone.  Thank you Savorfull!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

peach pies with my daughter

My mom is a great cook.  The strange thing though, is that whenever I think of her cooking when I was growing up, I only have one memory: my mom cooking calf's liver.  And what's even stranger is that was before my parents' divorce, which happened when I was six.  And I haven't eaten calf's liver since.

She used to give it a breadcrumb crust and sauté it with onions in butter.  I remember the texture and flavor, which I always liked, but what really brings me back is the smell of the onions cooking.  Cooking onions in butter isn't the same as cooking them in oil.  There is such a soft richness to onions in butter that fills the air and swallows me up.  And when I catch it's scent, I am instantly transported to that day: the late afternoon sun streaming through the windows filling the room with a golden glow, it's warmth like a blanket on my back, while I sit outside the kitchen door watching my mom move around the kitchen, with the background music of those sizzling onions.

I think the funniest part of this memory is that I never knew she cooked the onions in butter. I just happened to drop some butter into my onions one day, and it was as if I was hit by a truck.  Who would have thought that such a simple combination could be so heavy hearted. To this day when I sauté onions, I always toss in a little butter (or dairy free butter as it were) to wrap me up in those comforting arms.

So what does this have to do with peach pie?  Nothing.  But it has everything to do with cooking with my daughter.  You know where I'm going with this, right?

Our pies, side by side.  And her foot.

My pie.

Her pie.

My pie.

Her pie.  

I just love her to pieces.

peach pie

1 double crust pie dough (recipe to follow)
6 peaches, give or take, peeled, pitted, and sliced
squeeze of half a lemon or orange, whatever you have on hand
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar (light or dark- both are delicious)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
small pinch of allspice
small pinch of salt
2 tbs minute tapioca

1 tbs almond milk
1 tbs sugar

Make the pie dough and let it rest for at least an hour.  I like to take it out of the fridge at the same time as I turn on the oven so it warms up a bit to make rolling smoother.  You have to be careful though not to keep the dough out for too long, as you don't want the butter to get too warm..  If you think the dough has gotten too warm, don't worry, just put it right back into the fridge until you're ready.

Preheat oven to 400˚F.

Slice and peel the peaches.  I am not a fan of poaching the peaches to remove the skins.  To me, it is a big time waster, as by the time your water comes to a boil, you can have all of the peaches peeled with either a paring knife or a regular ol' peeler, and you don't have to deal with burnt fingers and soggy peaches.  But if poaching is your thing, then by all means have at it.  Maybe I just don't do it right...  Anyway, dump the peeled, sliced peaches into a large bowl and toss with the lemon or orange juice.  In another bowl, combine the sugars, cinnamon, allspice, salt and tapioca.  Add it to the peaches and mix to thoroughly coat.

On a floured work surface, roll out half of the pie dough.  Give your work surface a healthy sprinkle of flour and unwrap one dough patty.  Gently roll the dough, beginning in center of the patty, roll out, rotate the dough a quarter turn, roll out, rotate a quarter turn, roll out, blah blah blah, until you have a nice 12" circle.  All the while, making sure you have flour under the dough so it doesn't stick to the counter.  Carefully transfer to a pie dish, keeping the crust hanging over the edge of the dish.  To do this, I like to take the rolling pin and roll the dough around the pin.  Then take the pin, place it on the pie dish, and roll out the dough right onto the dish.  Easy peasy.

Pour the peach mixture onto the pie dough and smooth into the dish.  Roll out the other patty as before, and carefully lay it on top of the pie filling.  Or you can get fancy and cut it into strips to make the lattice crust.  Or you can get fancier and cut the dough out with a cookie cutter and lay those shapes on top.  This was my first lattice top, and I just kind of figured it out in the moment.  I started by laying a strip on top, vertically down the center.  Then I put another horizontally down the center.  I kept that pattern, vertical and then horizontal, weaving the strips together, over under over under over under.  I then took all of the edge overhang and folded it under itself to make the edge crust.

Place the pie onto a baking sheet and brush the top with the milk and sprinkle with the sugar for the glaze.

Bake for 20 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350˚F, and bake for another 30-40 minutes or until the pie is bubbling and the crust is a nice golden brown.  As with the pie pictured above, I should have taken out the small pie and then continued to cook my bigger pie, but I didn't.  I took them out all at once, so my daughter's pie looks beautifully golden and mine is a little pasty looking.  But it was cooked perfectly and tasted delicious.  I cooked it for about 25-30 minutes, and I really needed the extra 5-10 minutes to darken that crust.. No matter, the pie was consumed in 7 minutes flat.

Transfer pie to wire rack to cool completely, or at least for a couple of hours.  If the pie does not cool, it will be runny.  The tapioca works to congeal the innerds, but it only works when the pies have had time to cool...  Cool the pie.  Wait for it to cool.  

Yeah, good luck with that.

pie dough for double crust pie

2 cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 sticks Earth Balance dairy free butter, cubed and very cold (I will cube my butter first and put it in a bowl and into the freezer while I get my other ingredients together)
1 tbs sugar
1/2 tsp salt (the Earth Balance is salted, so I usually omit the salt here, or at most I'll add a pinch.  If you use unsalted butter however, add the salt)
8 tbs ice cold water, give or take

I have done this by hand for years, but just recently I started using the food processor.  I have found that since having kids, I am usually in a hurry.  Food processor pie dough is perfect.  But you have to be careful not to over process.  You want to be able to see chunks of butter throughout the pie dough because when the butter melts, it forms pockets of buttery steam which is what makes the dough light and flaky.  If you don't want to use a processor, than by all means, just mix it with your hands or a pastry blender until the butter is about the size of small peas.

Put flour, sugar, and salt into food processor.  Pulse a couple of times to blend dry ingredients together. Add butter all at once and give it about 5 pulses.  I don't like to pulse it too much here, because there is more pulsing to come and at the end, I want my butter in bigger chunks.  Add the water, a couple of tablespoons at a time.  Pulse 2 or 3 times after each addition, just to mix it in.  The pulses should be very quick.  The butter chunks should be the size of large breadcrumbs or small peas.  

Once the dough has come together, turn it out and gather it into a flat ball.  Cut it into two pieces, one slightly larger than the other.  Wrap each patty in plastic wrap and put them in the fridge for at least an hour to let the dough rest.