Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Smallville Cooking Column

I'm in the newspaper this week. In a town as small as Smallville, it's inevitable that one ends up on the inky pages. Anyway, my recipes are featured in the cooking section. I think the Lemon Raspberry Muffins were featured on the blog ages ago. Everything else is new and delicious. The muffins are delicious too, just not new.

Sixteen years ago my husband, Stuart, would have choked on his dinner if you told him that his wife would one day be featured in a cooking column. Back then, he did all of the cooking because I was too headstrong and independent to be saddled with such a mundane task.

I eased into the kitchen by degrees when I quit work to stay home and raise our children. At first we didn’t stray far from the standard American fare. Our pantry shelves were stocked with white flour, packaged foods, and sugary snacks. I didn’t think twice about what I fed the kids until Claire came along. She struggled with asthma and had a blotchy rash around her mouth and eyes for several years until it finally dawned on me that it might be food related. Through trial and error we discovered that she was allergic to sodium phosphate. This revelation turned me into a label-reading fanatic. I found the offending ingredient in everything from chicken breasts to Cheerios. Once we eliminated sodium phosphate, her health problems simply disappeared.

That success made me take a hard look at everything we were consuming. We stopped shopping in the center aisles of the grocery store. I switched from baking with white flour to white whole wheat flour and then when I learned that freshly ground grain has an even greater nutritional value, I bought a grain mill and learned how to bake all over again. I found that flour fresh from the grain mill creates baked products with a light texture and a wonderful flavor.

Lemon Raspberry Streusel Muffins

In a large mixing bowl combine:
3 cups freshly ground soft wheat flour (You can substitute white flour or half white and half whole wheat flour and they will still be tasty.)
1/3 cup sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoons baking soda
¾ teaspoons salt

In a small bowl combine:
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 ½ cups plain yogurt
½ cup coconut oil, butter, or extra light tasting olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon extract
Pour into the flour mixture and stir just until the flour is moistened.

Fold in:
1 ½ cups fresh or frozen raspberries

Fill greased muffin tins ¾ full.

In a small bowl combine:
1/3 cup sugar
¼ cup flour
2 tablespoons butter

Sprinkle desired amount over muffins. (I usually top the muffins with only half of the streusel and store the rest in the fridge for another time.)

Bake at 400° for 15-20 minutes.

Makes about 15 muffins.

As I continued to read about the connections between food and health, I decided the next area that we needed to tackle was our sugar consumption. Reducing it was pretty simple. We exchanged pancake syrup for berries and sour cream. I cut the sugar used in my baking recipes in half. I stopped buying soda and even fruit juice is a rare treat at our house. Now that we have acclimated, grapes taste like candy and we have even learned that almonds have a natural sweetness to them. You might think that the kids would rebel to such a radical change but intentional education has done wonders for their cooperation. Together, we have learned that sugar plays a role in scores of diseases. Since doing that research, the kids have been fairly proactive in preserving their health. They take an active role in planning and preparing our meals. This ownership also helps them to enjoy what they eat.

Fruit Smoothies
This is a quick and easy summer snack. We use plain yogurt but if the thought of sugar-free scares you, you can substitute vanilla yogurt.

Place in blender:
2 cups frozen fruit (strawberries and peaches are our favorite)
2 cups yogurt
1/3 cup coconut milk
(optional but we love it)
1 teaspoon almond extract
Milk (as much or as little as you want to create the consistency that you’re after)
Combine these ingredients in the blender and serve immediately.

Serves about four.

One Sunday after church, Paul was craving grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. He was all set to zip off to the market for a can of Campbell’s when I promised to find a recipe and make him homemade tomato soup. The thought of canned tomato soup makes me shudder! This adaptation of Michael Chiarello’s food network recipe has become a family favorite.

Homemade Tomato Soup

1 (28 oz) can chopped tomatoes
Be sure to reserve the juices.

Spread the tomatoes into a baking pan. Drizzle with:
¼ cup olive oil
and roast for about 15 minutes.

In a soup pot, heat:
¼ to ½ cup oil
2 celery stalks, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced

Cook until the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the roasted tomatoes, reserved tomato juice and:
2 cups chicken broth
2 bay leaves

Simmer until the vegetables are very tender, about 15-20 minutes.

1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon dried basil

Remove bay leaves and puree soup right in the pot with an immersion blender. Or, if you are like me and don’t have an immersion blender, pour soup in batches into a blender and puree until smooth. If you use the blender method be sure to put a hand towel over the top of the blender before turning it on to keep from get from getting splashed.

Makes about 8 servings. The servings are on the small side but we always eat it with grilled cheese sandwiches made with homemade bread. A fabulous combination!

These days, Paul hardly ever sets foot in the kitchen but when he does its usually to put together these:

Chicken Fajita Pizzas
Preheat oven to 375°

Place in skillet:
2 chicken breasts, cut into small cubes
Add a little olive oil and cook over medium heat until juices run clear.

1-2 teaspoons chili powder

Use olive oil to grease two baking sheets.

On the sheets, arrange:
3-5 large flour tortillas (I prefer Soft and Delicious Soft Wraps by LaTortilla Factory because they are made with olive oil and whole wheat flour.)

Top with:
Small jar of salsa
Cooked chicken
Grated cheddar cheese.

Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted, bubbly and slightly browned.

Serves 4-6

The following internet resources are some of my favorites. They have all been instrumental in helping my family on our journey toward healthier eating.

Sue Gregg Cookbooks at These cookbooks are devoted to cooking with whole foods.
Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig at This cookbook is a healthy eating education! I could not put it down. Absolutely fascinating information.
Pleasant Hill Grain This company, located in Nebraska, sells grain mills, ice cream makers and a variety of not-your-everyday kitchen supplies.The Bread Beckers This company is located just north of Atlanta and sells whole grains and baking supplies.


Christy said...

Congratulations on the column :) And thanks for the recipes and ideas! Once my kids get a little older I plan on switching to grinding my own grain. Won't be long!

Jennifer@DoingTheNextThing said...

Wow, that's really cool! The muffins sound really yummy.

Angela @ Refresh My Soul Blog said...

I am going to have to try some of these-esp the pizza one!

MUch love,

Faith said...

Mmm you inspire me! :)