Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Healing Power of Ginger

Exciting Ingredients Part 5: Ginger

Welcome back to Tiny’s Kitchen! Over the holidays, Tiny had a lot of fun cooking and catching up with her friends and family. But with the winter chill, she has come down with a bit of a scratchy throat. When her good friend Lydia decided to make some soothing honey ginger tea to calm Tiny’s cough, they got to talking about all of the wonderful ways the world uses this spicy tropical root.

A lovely, flowering plant, native to south China, Zingiber officinale has been used as a spice and a medicinal plant since at least as early as 220 BCE. It has since spread the world over, and ginger is now cultivated in subtropical regions around the globe. It is known to be anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial.

Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, Indian, South American, and Caribbean cooks, to name just a few, use it in savory and sweet dishes and beverages for its spicy and fragrant flavor. North American and European bakers use it dried, candied, or preserved, as a confection or in cakes and cookies.

When cooking with the fresh root, Tiny likes to peel away the papery skin with the side of a spoon, and slice or grate it across the stringy grain. It keeps well in the fridge, wrapped in paper towels and a plastic zipper bag, or tightly wrapped in the freezer. The dried spice, so handy in baking, loses its freshness quickly; buy it in small quantities and discard any unused powder after 3 to 4 months.

If you’d like to try a zesty side vegetable dish, these ginger garlic green beans are a yummy warm option.

This easy ginger-scallion sauce is delicious with grilled chicken or vegetable stir-fry. Or try it on Tiny’s salmon lettuce wraps.

If you’re a fan of sushi and sashimi, try making your own sweet pickled ginger, a classic Japanese accompaniment to fish and rice.

Poach some pears in ginger beer! The non-alcoholic spicy-sweet drink makes a perfectly seasoned poaching liquid for a light fruit dessert (or special occasion breakfast). If you don’t feel like fussing with the vanilla custard, leave it out; the pears are perfectly lovely on their own.

These chewy nonfat cookies from David Lebovitz have an extra kick from both powdered and candied ginger root. They are marvelous for ice cream sandwiches or on their own as a light dessert.

For a traditional Indian spiced tea, try this chai masala. Loaded with fresh ginger, cardamom, and milk, it will warm you right up on a chilly morning. 
If you prefer a non-dairy, non-caffeinated brew, give Lydia’s recipe a try! She has found it soothing for sore, scratchy throats and tummy aches alike, but Tiny thinks it is tasty enough to drink all winter long.

Lydia’s Honey Ginger Brew

1 ½ cups water
2-inch piece of fresh ginger root, peeled, sliced thin
1-2 tablespoons honey
1-2 tablespoons fresh or bottled lemon juice

Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepot. Add the ginger, cover the pot, and turn off the heat. Set a timer for ten minutes, and then strain the infusion into a teapot or 2 mugs. Add honey and lemon juice to your taste; Lydia likes to use both!

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This post created by Kat Craddock

Photo credits: Cassie Sciortino

Friday, January 8, 2016

This is Fantastic! What's Your Secret Ingredient?

Meet The Family, Part 2: Garlic & Onions

The more Tiny cooks, the more she seems to come in contact with some of the same ingredients. Garlic and onions have made their way into many of Tiny’s meals lately. Turkey meatloaf, beet tzatziki, cauliflower soup, salmon lettuce wraps - they all get an extra boost of flavor from one or both of these ingredients! This week, Tiny decided to take a look into these veggies to see just how they help make her meals taste so delicious.

As it turns out, garlic and onions both belong to the Allium Family, which is a genus of flowering plants with over 750 different species! They grow mainly in Asia, the Mediterranean, and western North America. Not all alliums are edible, but those that are add a variety of flavors and textures into meals, which makes them popular ingredients around the world. Garlic, shallots, leeks, chives, and green, red, white, and yellow onions are just a few of the ones most commonly used. Raw or roasted, sauteed or pickled, this family of plants is incredibly versatile, which is what makes them so fun to cook with!

Tiny loves to eat alliums, but often wonders how something that smells stinky can taste so good! Plants in the allium family produce sulfuric compounds that give them their characteristic taste and odor. In fact, the word allium comes from the Greek word aleo, “to avoid”, due to their unpleasant scent. Cooking raw onion and garlic tends to lessen their sulfur taste. And the sulfur isn't just a flavor or smell - it is also known for its cancer-fighting properties!

By the way, have you ever cried while helping to cut an onion? Slicing onions breaks the cell walls, releasing an enzyme that reacts with the water in your eyes to form sulfuric acid. Your body naturally produces tears to help clean this acid out of your eyes! Here's a trick: an adult can use a very sharp wet knife when cutting onions, since a sharp blade will damage fewer of the onion's cells, creating less of this enzyme, causing less tears! 

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Post and photo credits: Cassie Sciortino

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Creamy Cauliflower Soup

Tiny has been having heaps of fun trying new recipes for the holidays but sometimes she just feels like a simple bowl of soup for supper. This creamy cauliflower version is scented with fragrant Persian spices and it is loaded with all the health benefits of the cruciferous veggies that she learned about last month. Make a big batch and freeze some for later; it is a hearty and soothing supper for a cold winter night.

Creamy Spiced Cauliflower Soup with Garlic Toast

Crispy Garlic Toasts:

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced finely
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 baguette or your favorite bread, cut in ½-inch slices

Ask an adult help you to preheat an oven to 375 degrees.

An adult helper can place the cookie sheets in the oven and bake until toasted, golden, and very crispy, about 12-15 minutes. Depending on the size of your baguette, this recipe might make more toasts than you need for your soup; if you crisp them completely (with no softness in the middle at all), they will stay nice and crunchy for several days in an airtight container. Enjoy the leftovers with cheese or dips, just like chips or crackers.

Creamy Spiced Cauliflower Soup:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small white or yellow onion, diced (about 1 ½ cups)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb trimmed cauliflower, stems and florets, roughly chopped
4 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable stock
½ cup half and half
1 teaspoon kosher salt
zest of ½ lemon (½ teaspoon fresh or ¼ teaspoon dried)
1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin and 1 teaspoon ground coriander

If you have a hand blender (also known as an immersion blender or stick blender) you can puree the soup right in the pot. Otherwise, have an adult help you to transfer the soup to an upright blender. Put the cover on the blender and hold the lid down as you pulse to chop up the vegetables. Tiny likes to leave this soup a little bit chunky or you can puree it completely if you prefer! 

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This post created by Kat Craddock

Photo credits: Cassie Sciortino

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A Scrumptious Vegetarian Fall Feast

Although turkey can be tasty, some of Tiny's friends are looking for a meat-free way to celebrate the holidays this year. This colorful pasta dish would be a pretty centerpiece for any Thanksgiving spread! 
Or if you would like to add meat to this recipe, consider using up some of your Thanksgiving leftovers for a weekend supper.... Add a layer of shredded turkey, and include some mashed carrots or pumpkin in the vegetable puree.

Tiny found some fresh spinach lasagna sheets for her version. 

Fresh pasta, which often comes in plain, whole wheat, or spinach flavor, is made with whole eggs, so it contains more protein than the dried kinds. It is also faster to cook, and oh, so delicious. If you can’t find fresh lasagna sheets near you, never fear! Dry sheets are a perfectly suitable substitute; just increase the boiling time to eight minutes.

Celeriac is the root of a variety of celery and it has a flavor similar to the stalks: mild, sweet, and clean. The root is starchy and not at all stringy, making it a delicious addition to purées or soups.

1 celeriac bulb, about 1 pound, peeled and cut in 1-inch cubes
1 small butternut squash, about 2 pounds, peeled, seeds removed, and cut in 1-inch pieces
4 whole garlic cloves, peeled
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Optional ½-1 cup low sodium vegetable stock or water
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup light cream
2 eggs, beaten
1 pound ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided in half
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage or 1 tablespoon dry sage
8 oz mozzarella or fontina cheese, coarsely grated (about 2 ¼ cups, divided)
4 9x13-inch fresh lasagna sheets, about 2 pounds (or 2 boxes dried lasagna sheets)

Optional 12-16 whole fresh sage leaves, reserved to decorate the top

Ask an adult to turn the oven down to 375 degrees, and then help you transfer the vegetables and garlic back to your bowl. 

In a large pot of salted water, an adult can help boil the lasagna sheets according to the package instructions (usually 1-2 minutes for fresh pasta or 6-8  minutes for dried). Drain and rinse the sheets well with cold running water, then toss them gently with a little drizzle of olive oil before setting them aside at room temperature. Rinsing and oiling the pasta will remove some of the starch and prevent them from sticking to themselves before you are ready to use them.

Cover the lasagna with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil, increase the oven temperature to 425 degrees, and continue baking for another 8-12 minutes, until the top is browned and bubbly.

Have an adult help you remove the lasagna from the oven and let it rest for at least 20 minutes before serving. This is also a really fantastic recipe to make a day ahead of time; Tiny thinks that if you can resist eating it right away, it might even be better the second day! To reheat the lasagna, just pop it back in a 350 degree oven, covered in foil, for 20-30 minutes.

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This post created by Kat Craddock

Photo credits: Cassie Sciortino

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Warm Tea Poached Apples

Tiny likes to cozy up with a warm cup of tea after an exciting day, but this week she decided to try something a little different: cooking with some of her favorite tea flavors! All kinds of tea can be tasty in both savory and sweet dishes.

Chamomile, which is a plant in the daisy family, is known to be calming and soothing when brewed in a tea. This makes it particularly great in an after-dinner treat before settling down for bedtime! The word Chamomile comes from the Greek 'chamai melon' meaning 'ground apple', and is named this because its flavor is reminiscent of the fruit. Tiny decided to pair the two together for this comfy fall dessert!

Chamomile Poached Apples 

4 T dried chamomile, or 6 chamomile tea bags
2 strips of orange zest
1 strip of lemon zest
1 cinnamon stick
6 T honey, or otherwise to taste
1/3 cup golden raisins
Slivered almonds, chopped nuts, or granola (optional)
4 apples, such as Pink Lady, Braeburn, or Cortland

Brew the tea by bringing 2 ½ cups of water to a boil. Steep either the dried chamomile or the tea bags for 4-5 minutes.

Once the apples are ready, use a slotted spoon to carefully move them onto a plate. Strain the liquid into another small saucepan; keep the raisins for the apples, but toss out the zests and the cinnamon. Gently simmer the remaining liquid to thicken it and concentrate the flavor for 20-25 minutes. Let the 'syrup' cool at least 10-15 minutes before serving.

Serve apples with a spoonful of the syrup over plain Greek yogurt, vanilla ice-cream, or with a splash of warm milk. Sprinkle with golden raisins, nuts, granola, or other crunchy addition!
Any leftover apples are delicious chopped and added into hot oatmeal or your favorite cereal.

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Post and photo credits: Cassie Sciortino

Monday, November 9, 2015

Delicious and Cruciferous!

Meet The Family, Part 1: Cruciferous Vegetables

At the greenmarket this week, Tiny learned that many of her favorite cold-weather veggies have something in common… broccoli and Brussels sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower, kale and kohlrabi, radishes and rutabaga!  These are some of the stars of the fall table and they are all members of the same diverse and delicious family: they are all cruciferous vegetables. 

Cruciferous vegetables often have an intense sulfuric or spicy flavor, balanced by a subtle sweetness. They have been popular food crops for thousands of years… we know that the ancient Romans enjoyed broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower and that the ancient Greeks cultivated mustard for their greens and seeds. More recently, we have learned that cruciferous veggies are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Medical researchers have begun to uncover evidence that a diet rich in cruciferous vegetables could prevent and even fight certain types of cancer.

Tiny knows that cruciferous veggies can be a little bit intimidating, and that’s why she found some exciting, easy recipes to introduce you to them. Tiny thinks you will find a few that you like. In addition to the ones we already mentioned, cabbages, turnips, watercress, bok choy, collard greens, and arugula all cruciferous. So are wasabi and horseradish… finding your favorites is just a matter of tasting them all!

Do you already love steamed broccoli? Try it roasted, with tahini garlic sauce.  This is a quick and easy weeknight dish. Make extra: everyone will want seconds!

Bok choy, sometimes referred to as “Chinese cabbage” is so easy to cook.  Serve this easy garlicky bok choy as a side dish or drop it in your favorite Asian noodle soup.

Some cruciferous root vegetables like turnips and radishes make great salads…served with crusty wholegrain bread, this turnipand arugula salad is hearty enough for a lunch or a light dinner. 

Mustard-based dressings and sauces are delicious with other members of the cruciferous family…try this crunchy winter cabbage salad from Deborah Madison. Tiny likes to add thin slices of radish and kohlrabi! There are lots of mild blue cheeses out there; if this is a new flavor for you too, try serving a little bit on the side, or substitute farmers’ cheese or crumbled feta.

These festive roasted cauliflower and Brussels sprouts from Jamie Oliver make a fabulous special occasion side dish… the saffron is a little bit pricey, but you can buy it in tiny quantities and a little bit goes a long way, or leave it out if you prefer. The pine nuts and raisins give just the right amount of sweetness and crunch!

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This post created by Kat Craddock
Photo credits: Cassie Sciortino