Spring Flavors Feature Earthy Delights by Marilyn Ostermiller

Spring awakens fruits and vegetables from their slumber, providing us with local produce that’s crisp, colorful and bursting with flavor. Locally grown asparagus, sweet peas, scallions and rhubarb are the seasonal treats I most anticipate when visiting farmers markets or pick-your-own farms.   asparagus

 If you’re looking forward to spring produce, check with your state Department of Agriculture for an approximate arrival date. The list New Jersey posts is an example. http://www.jerseyfresh.nj.gov/find/availability.html

 Fresh radishes, strawberries or spinach is a treat, but it’s also fun to incorporate them in your cooking. I especially like to prepare a quiche for spring brunch or lunch that incorporates asparagus, green onions and mushrooms. Recipes for spring quiche abound. Basically, you prepare a pie crust, or — my personal favorite — buy it frozen. Then find a basic recipe online that incorporates a mild grated cheese, eggs and milk or cream. Chop a cup or more of spring vegetables and saute for about five minutes. Sprinkle about 1/2 cup of a mild shredded cheese on the bottom crust of a 9-inch pie shell, add the vegetables, pour the egg mixture over it and sprinkle another 1/2 cup of cheese on top. Bake in oven at 375 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes until the mixture sets. Let it rest for five minutes, slice and enjoy warm. A simple salad and crostini or soup fill out your meal.  getPart

 About the time rhubarb is ripe, I start thinking about a pudding my great aunt from Denmark fed me when I was a child. This recipe comes close to the flavor and texture I remember. The Danish name for it is Rabarbergrod.

                rhubarbClean and cut 1 pound of rhubarb into small pieces and cook together with 2 1/2 cups of water 7 to 10 minutes or until tender. Add 2/3 cup granulated sugar when almost done cooking.  Stir in 1 tablespoon of cornstarch mixed first with a little cold water. Heat and stir until thickened and clear. Stir a few times while cooling. Makes 4 cups. Add a few drops of red food color for a brighter color. Serve chilled.

 Despite their bright colors, it isn’t always easy to convince children to try fresh vegetables. A book that some parents found helpful is Little Bento: 32 Irresistible Bento Box Lunches for Kids by Michelle Olivier. It’s a collection of recipes that offers bite-sized combinations of fruit and vegetables by season to prepare for school lunches. Published by Sonoma Press, it is available at Amazon.com

 Please consider leaving a comment about your favorite spring fruit or vegetable and how you prepare it.

Marilyn Ostermiller

 Marilyn Ostermiller is a long-time business journalist who now writes for children. You can follow her on Twitter @Marilyn_Suzanne.

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Finding Comfort in Winter Foods by Marilyn Ostermiller

Come January, when rich holiday treats are but a sweet memory, I take comfort in baking runzas, one of the hearty, yet simple foods, of my European heritage. Runzas are pockets of bread dough stuffed with a savory mixture of ground beef, onions and cabbage. The scent of bread dough rising and the hash simmering on the stove, the flavors melding, put me in mind of Grandma cooking in her kitchen.

Runzas are thought to have originated in Russia in the early 1800s and spread to Germany. Handheld and portable, they are similar to Italian stromboli, Greek pirouskia and Indian samosas. German Immigrants brought the runza recipe with them to the United States, but the sandwiches aren’t well known outside of Nebraska, where the Runza Hut chain has most of its restaurants. The recipe I reach for on Saturday afternoons in winter is from a cookbook published in 1976 by the Federated Woman’s Club in my hometown, Bellevue, NE.

 Runzas:         Ingredients

Dough*                                                           Hamburger Filling

2 cups very warm water                       1 1/2 pounds ground beef

2 packages active dry yeast                 1/2 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup granulated sugar                      3 cups shredded cabbage

1 1/2 tsp. salt                                       1/2 cup water

1 egg                                                    1 1/2 tsp. salt

4 Tblsp. melted butter, cooled 1/2 tsp. black pepper

6 1/2 cups flour                                   dash of Tabasco

* Use prepared bread dough instead, if you prefer. Two loaves should be enough.

Directions: Mix very warm water, yeast, sugar, salt and stir until dissolved. (This process is known as proofing the yeast. If you aren’t familiar with it, the information is easy to find online.)

Add egg and butter. Stir in flour. Put dough in a covered bowl, greased with vegetable oil, and let it rise in a warm place until it doubles in bulk, about an hour.

While the dough is rising, brown ground beef, and onion. Drain grease.  Add cabbage, seasonings, and water. Simmer 15 minutes and cool.  Punch down the dough and roll it out in an oblong about 1/4 inch thick. Cut into 16 squares. Spoon a few tablespoons of the meat mixture in the middle of each square of dough. Pull the four corners of the dough up over the meat mixture and press the edges together. (Some cooks favor a round bun; others, an oblong.) Place the filled buns on a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

Runza Huts serve French fries or onion rings on the side, but, in keeping with the comfort food theme, I make a broth-based mushroom soup to accompany my hot sandwiches. This recipe is easy to make at the same time as the runzas. http://www.geniuskitchen.com/recipe/broth-based-mushroom-soup-super-simple-413306

Marilyn Ostermiller is a long-time business journalist who now writes for children. You can follow her on Twitter @Marilyn_Suzanne.   

Be a Good Cookie Baker.

Baking cookies is part of our holiday tradition.  I know it is for many families this time of year. So, while you make these bite-sized treats, how about making a second batch for a good cause.  COOKIE FOR KIDS’ CANCER is a non-profit organization that has raised nearly 15 million dollars for pediatric cancer research and funded 100 research grants as well. To learn more about this nation-wide organization, and how you can become part of it, visit:  http://www.cookiesforkidscancer.org

Happy Baking!

Got Leftover Turkey? Make Tetrazzini.

I don’t know about you, but I enjoy leftover turkey even more than the day it’s served on Thanksgiving.  Grilled turkey sandwiches with craisins and melted cheese, turkey pot pie, turkey soup.  There are lots of ways to use the leftovers.

One of my favorite recipes is easy enough for you to try with the kids. Kids can dice the turkey and mushrooms and grate cheese with your supervision.  They can stir and help measure ingredients.

TURKEY TETRAZZINI

Ingredients:  2 C cooked, diced turkey      2 C sliced mushrooms   1 C grated parmesan cheese   1 T butter + 1 T oil    3 T flour    1 C chicken broth    1 C milk    1/2 C cooked green peas    3 C COOKED spaghetti (I used Angel Hair pasta broken into 3 inch pieces)  thyme and salt to taste.                 

  1. Saute mushrooms in the butter and oil until browned.  While the mushrooms are cooking, prepare spaghetti and set aside.

2.  Add the flour and whisk until the mushrooms are coated.

3.  Add the milk and broth , stirring until thickened.  You can also throw in the peas to cook here if you haven’t already cooked them.  See below.

4.  Add the parmesan cheese, thyme and salt if needed.  Stir until until cheese is melted.

5.  Add turkey and cooked spaghetti.  Serve HOT with a side of salad.

 

What is YOUR favorite recipe for LEFTOVER TURKEY?

Fall Menus Warm Us Within: by Marilyn Ostermiller

When days grow shorter and leaves turn flamboyant, we gravitate toward foods that warm us within:

  • Four-alarm chili at the tailgating party.
  • Steaming mugs of apple cider at the Harvest Festival.
  • Pumpkin Spice Latte to go from Starbucks.

There’s something about fall that especially makes me want to spice the air with cinnamon and simmering soup.  Here are some perfect recipes you and your kids can make to compliment the fall season.

Baked Oatmeal 

There’s nothing like starting the day with a hearty bowl of hot cereal. This Martha Stewart recipe appealed to me because it includes a generous portion of fresh berries, bananas and toasted almonds. It bakes for 35 to 40 minutes, so save this one for a leisurely morning or weekend brunch. https://www.marthastewart.com/1050163/baked-oatmeal

Butternut Squash Soup.

I make a habit of ordering butternut squash soup in restaurants to sample all the variations. For cooking at home, I like this recipe that incorporates a Granny Smith apple and doesn’t rely on heavy cream for its flavor and consistency. Instead, the ingredients are cooked and pureed.

http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes  /butternut_squash_apple_soup/

 

Pumpkin Pie Spice

This has become  a popular flavor for a host of packaged snacks. The name refers to the mix of spices that have been used for making pumpkin pie since at least the 1890s. It’s easy to make and have on hand for pie as well as cookies or pumpkin bread.

Mix together:

  • 3 Tablespoons Ground Cinnamon                 
  • 2 teaspoons Ground Ginger
  • 2 teaspoons Nutmeg
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon Ground Allspice
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon Ground Cloves

Store in a small jar to have on hand for all the fall recipes that call for it.

http://thepioneerwoman.com/food-and-friends/how-to-make-pumpkin-pie-spice/

Marilyn Ostermiller is a long-time business journalist who now writes for children. You can follow her on Twitter @Marilyn_Suzanne.   

 

https://www.dessertnowdinnerlater.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Homemade-Pumpkin-Pie-Spice2.jpg

Celebrate…Tomatoes!

If your garden is anything like mine, there are still plenty of fresh tomatoes to enjoy before the chill of fall settles in. No garden?  Head out to your local produce stand and sample the heirloom varieties that are becoming popular. Why not have a simple TOMATO SALAD for lunch or dinner?     Eat them alone or with some crisp cucumber slices.

summer saladAdd just a drizzle of olive oil, salt and basil leaves (if desired).  I like it at room temperature to get the best flavor from the tomatoes.  You can also dice them and make a fresh SALSA by adding diced onion, diced green peppers (it’s up to you how hot you want them to be), and some chopped cilantro.

Celebrate nature’s bounty and enjoy TOMATOES!

Here’s a great picture book about tomatoes: LITTLE YELLOW PEAR TOMATOES  by Demian Elaine Yumei

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24864.Little_Yellow_Pear_Tomatoes

Frozen Treats For a Cool 4th of July.

During these dog days of summer when the heat is too much and you don’t even feel like loading the kids into the car to get an ice cream, take heart.  There are all kinds of FROZEN TREATS you can make at home. Not only will you save gasoline and money by making your own frozen Popsicles and Slushies, you have the added bonus of knowing exactly what’s in them!

All you need is fruit juice, ripened fruit, milk or yogurt, a blender, some craft sticks and paper cups or muffin tins and you can make your own.  Here are some tasty suggestions to get started.

1.  Puree chunks of your favorite fruit in  a blender and add a splash of juice or yogurt. Strawberry and kiwi go well together.   Orange and pineapple is another tasty combo. Try throwing in some shredded coconut or coconut milk for a frozen, alcohol-free  Pina colada.  Peach and banana or mango are tasty. (banana goes with just about ANY thing and adds a nice, creamy texture when frozen). Watermelon and kiwi work well, too.

2. Make a batch of INSTANT PUDDING using low fat milk or soy milk and freeze in cups for a fudge pop taste. Any yogurt can be frozen to make pops or ice cubes to use in drinks.

3.  If you don’t have time to make pops, just freeze some fruit chunks and snack on them when you want a refreshing treat that is also healthy and delicious.  Grapes, berries and kiwi taste great frozen.

The possibilities are endless.  I’m sure you can think of some delicious combinations I have yet to try.  I’d love to taste some of your favorite frozen concoctions, so feel free to send your recipes and I’ll post some of them here.  Check out more winning recipes at: allrecipes.com.

Keep Cool and Happy Summer!