Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Easy Indochina Cambodian Pineapple Lemon Grass Chicken and Vegetables (yes, easy!)



There have been many experimental recipes in my quest to raise adventurous eaters. Through these recipes, I hope to introduce our kids to unique flavor profiles. Sure they love simple meals (I have yet to meet anyone that does not like mac and cheese). But it’s important to us that our boys have the opportunity to try different dishes ranging from arepas to za’atar. Our pantry is well-stocked with many exotic spices. I think my jar of Chinese Five Spice will last us through the year 2020.

So when I was invited to join the Massachusetts WORLDFOODS Fusion Taste Team, I said “hai” (yes in Cantonese)! WORLDFOODS makes 51 types of Asian sauces: dipping, stir-fry, cooking, marinades, chutneys and salad dressings. Made from 100% natural ingredients, traditional herbs and spices, WORLDFOOD sauces represent cuisines from Thailand, Malaysia, China and India. This would be a perfect opportunity to introduce my family to exotic Asian recipes without having to scour Asian markets for a million different ingredients and many hours in the kitchen.  

First up, Indochina Cambodian Pineapple Lemon Grass Stir-Fry. My kids love Asian food, but are not big fans of anything too spicy. So I wanted to try flavors that I knew they would love but not burn their taste buds off (some of those chilies are HOT). As soon as you open a jar of WORLDFOODS sauces, you can smell the exotic spices and fresh ingredients. Stir fry with some meat and your favorite veggies and you have a complete meal faster than if you ordered take-out. And I dare say even better than take-out. This stuff is good. And a perfect weeknight solution for even the most adventurous types. We’re looking forward to trying some other sauces – maybe with a bit more heat next time!

Easy Indochina Cambodian Pineapple Lemon Grass Chicken and Vegetables
Serves 4

INGREDIENTS
  • 1 lb boneless chicken thighs, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • ½ lb sugar snaps, strings removed
  • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced on a diagonal
  • 1 jar WORLDFOODS Indochina Cambodian Pineapple Lemon Grass Stir Fry Sauce


DIRECTIONS
  1. Season chicken with salt and pepper. In a large nonstick skillet or wok, heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil over high heat. Add half the chicken; cook and stirring constantly, until opaque throughout (2-4 minutes). Transfer to a plate. Repeat with the remaining chicken.
  2. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pan, along with the onion, sugar snaps and carrots. Cook, stirring constantly until onion is tender and golden.
  3. Add the jar of stir fry sauce and chicken (and any accumulated juices) back into pan and heat for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally until sauce is heated through and slightly thickened.
  4. Serve over rice or noodels and enjoy!

I was given WORLDFOOD Sauces to try as part of the Massachusetts WORLDFOODS Fusion Taste Team. As always, all opinions are my own. 



Tuesday, October 16, 2012

World Food Day


Today is World Food Day - a day Oxfam America is hoping everyone will stop to think about where their food comes from, the impact it has globally, and the small steps everyone can take to make the food system more fair and sustainable. It's about coming together over good food and even better conversation with this discussion guide. It's about making making sure everyone has enough food to eat, always.


Where to start? Learn about Oxfam's GROW method: Save Food, Buy Seasonal, Less Meat, Support Small-Scale Farmers, and Cook Smart. And then have it become second nature.

Be sure to follow Oxfam on Twitter and the Oxfam GROW Pinterest board for recipe ideas, news and events. And get clicky and Like Oxfam on Facebook too.

"Can you remind me to do all this when I am a grown-up mom?"

This is what my 7-year-old said to me when we were having meat-free meal yesterday and we were discussing the GROW method. I sure can kiddo. Take a moment and be thoughtful about how you are feeding your family and how that impacts the rest of the world. Because together we can grow a better future. 

This post (and my sharing on social media) was inspired by my participation in a compensated program initiated by Women Online/The Mission List to raise awareness about Oxfam America's GROW Method. All commentary and opinions are, of course, my own.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The 18 Percent

photo credit: Oxfam America

We've been hearing a lot about percentages this year as we lead up to Election Day. The one percentage I don't think we'll hear the candidates discuss is the 18%. Did you know that livestock is responsible for 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions? And nearly 8% of global human water use goes to grow food for cattle alone. As my boys like to say, "Holy cow!"

I'm not suggesting we start an Occupy Cattle Ranch anytime soon. But if we all made one meatless meal once a week, we can really make an impact on the environment (and on our health and wallets). For example, it takes 6,810 liters of water to produce one 1lb package of ground beef. That's equivalent to my family drinking over 4 1/2 liters of water EVERY DAY for a YEAR!

Less Meat
"Rearing animals for food means a lot more greenhouse gas emissions, more water consumed, and more land required, compared to growing food crops. If we eat a little less meat and a little less dairy we will dramatically reduce the impact of our diets on the environment." 
Some of our favorite meatless meals

Try whipping up a meatless meal at least once a week. We do a Meatless Monday here because all the cool kids are doing it. Here are some of our favorite meatless recipes: Mom's Granola, Monkey Bread French Toast, Vegetable Noodle Stir-Fry with TofuBulgur Veggie Burgers with Lime MayoStuffed Tomatoes with Grilled Corn, and Greek Pasta Salad. We are trying to cut back on how much milk we drink too. For example, we have started using soy milk in our cereal. I know this may not be easy, especially with young children that need the protein and vitamins and allergies, so make sure you consult your doctor.



This post (and my sharing on social media) was inspired by my participation in a compensated program initiated by Women Online/The Mission List to raise awareness about Oxfam America's GROW Method. All commentary and opinions are, of course, my own.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Be a Lazy Cook

I will be the first one to admit that I can be lazy in the kitchen. I will avoid any recipes that require lots of ingredients (which means lots of shopping - which I hate). A dish that requires multiple cooking techniques? Forget it. I will only make risotto once or twice a year because I can't bear the thought of constant stirring. Well, it just so happens that my laziness efficiency  is actually saving energy and money.

Oxfam GROW Method #4: Cook Smarter
"We rely on precious fossil fuels to cook and heat our food, and these everyday tasks add up to big emissions, as well as big energy bills. Try cooking with as little water as possible, using a flat bottomed pan, covering your pan with a lid and reducing the heat as soon as the water starts to boil - you 'll save energy, water and money!"

1. Change How You Cook
Did you know that by 1) using just enough water to cover your food while cooking on the stove (rather than filling the pan up to the top);  2) Using a flat-bottomed pan and covering with a lid; and 3) reducing the heat as soon as the water starts to boil can reduce up to 70% of the energy you use?

And the next factoid is truly amazing to me: If all urban households in Brazil, India, Philippines, Spain, the UK and the US took these three steps, we would save over 30 million megawatt hours of energy a year. You're picturing Doc from Back to the Future shouting "1.21 gigawatts?! Great Scott!" right about now, huh? Or put in another way, saving 30 million megawatt hours a year is greater than if the same households each planted a seedling and let it grow for ten years. Woah. That's heavy.



2. Change What You Cook
Another way to save energy is to make things that don't require energy, like sandwiches, salads, cold soups or no-bake treats. So those nights when you'll eat a bowl of cereal for dinner because you don't feel like cooking for yourself? Great! Or you can try some of these one-pot or no-cook recipes such as Chicken Pho Naan SandwichShrimp GazpachoBaby Bok Choy, Carrot and Apple Slaw,  Peach Plum Salsa, Almond Butter, Cream Cheese and Strawberry Sandwich, or Chicken Sofrito. And be sure to check out Oxfam's pinterest board for more recipe ideas.

Some of my favorite no-cook and one-pot meals

So go ahead - be lazy in the kitchen. Just make sure you put don't leave a mess, because I would NEVER do that (wink, wink).

This post (and my sharing on social media) was inspired by my participation in a compensated program initiated by Women Online/The Mission List to raise awareness about Oxfam America's GROW Method. All commentary and opinions are, of course, my own.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

It's Not Fair

"It's not fair" are three words I hear almost daily from my seven and three year old boys. Whether it's because someone had ruined a favorite toy or someone decided to play by their own rules, my kids have learned early on that life is not always fair.

When it comes to the food system, life for the small-scale food producer in developing countries is truly not fair. Small-scale food producers often will see a large percentage of the food they grow get lost in the process of harvesting, transportation and storage. And for those that are successful in getting their food to markets, they will often be exploited. So what can we do?
"By supporting small-scale food producers you're supporting the 1.5 billion people that live on small farms in the world, and helping protect our ability to produce food in the future through sustainable farming practices. Buying Fair Trade products and brands is a great way of doing this so look out for them when you shop."

1. Try Fair Trade
Look for logos like this to help you identify small-scale food producers embracing sustainable farming practices. You'll also feel good knowing that these producers receive fair prices for their produce, ensuring they have money to buy food for their own families. Check out chocolates, coffee, tea, organic food and sustainably-sourced fish for fair trade certification.

Cassoulet with farmers market veggies

2. Buy Local
Shop at your local farmers market grown by small-scale producers close to home. Then go home and make this killer Cassoulet with Lots of Vegetables by Mark Bittman (who is pretty much the original proponent of the GROW method). Made this hearty dish tonight and the boys licked their bowls clean. I might have too.

Here's hoping we can instill empathy in our kids so "it's not fair" is something that together, as the global community, will experience less and less.

This post (and my sharing on social media) was inspired by my participation in a compensated program initiated by Women Online/The Mission List to raise awareness about Oxfam America's GROW Method. All commentary and opinions are, of course, my own.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Buy Seasonal and Make Butternut Squash Soup

As I mentioned in my previous post, over the next five days, I will be blogging about each of the five principles of Oxfam's GROW method - simple steps every family can take to live within the planet's ecological boundaries and end hunger. Up next: Seasonal
"We waste lots of energy trying to grow food in the wrong place, at the wrong time of year. Discover what's in season near you and you'll find perfectly delicious fruit and vegetables to eat which aren't using all that energy to reach your plate."
You know that beefsteak tomato you thought of buying because you were craving caprese salad in the dead of winter? Consider this before you buy it: a whole lot of energy and greenhouse gas emissions was used to force tomatoes to grow in winter. And don't forget about the miles and miles that tomato had to travel, which also means more greenhouse gas emissions. And do I even need to mention the inferior taste and texture? You get the point.

1. Grow Your Own
If you can, start your own fruit or vegetable garden. Is there anything better than just-picked garden veggies? Plus it has been a fool-proof way to get my kids to eat their veggies. They grew it. They want to eat it. If you don't have the space to grow a garden, be sure to check out community gardens or join a CSA.

The boy and dad harvesting veggies from the garden last summer

2. Buy What's In Season
Here in New England, we are lucky in that while certain growing seasons are shorter than others, produce is as varied as it is abundant. Almost every meal we make will be based on what's in season and what we can get locally. Besides, it also gives us something to look forward each season. Like this Butternut Squash Soup we make every Fall. Visit www.oxfamamerica.org/growmethod to find out what’s in season near you. Now go make this soup - Butternut squash was only $.69/lb at Russo's the other day!

Butternut Squash Soup with Grilled Cheese. Hello Fall!
Butternut Squash Soup
Inspired by Mill at 2t Restaurant, Tariffville, CT

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 butternut squash (about 1.5-2lbs), peeled, seeded and diced
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 1 cup chopped carrot
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 2 sage leaves
  • kosher salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup half and half

DIRECTIONS
  1. In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. When hot, add squash, onion and carrots and cook until lightly brown (about 7-8 minutes). 
  2. Add stock and bring mixture to a a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and add nutmeg, cinnamon, brown sugar and sage. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 25-30 minutes. Remove from heat and cool slightly.
  3. Remove sage leaves and discard. Place in blender or with an immersion blender, puree until smooth. Add 1/2 cup of half and half and blend for 20 seconds. Serve immediately.
This post (and my sharing on social media) was inspired by my participation in a compensated program initiated by Women Online/The Mission List to raise awareness about Oxfam America's GROW Method. All commentary and opinions are, of course, my own.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Pretty Messed Up... Until Recently


There are days I dread looking at the contents of my well-stocked fridge, feeling put out as I ask myself, “Ugh! What should I make for dinner?” And until recently, unaware there are many, many people without this luxury. Until recently, I was oblivious there are kids looking forward to going to school just so they can get a hot meal, because they can’t get one at home. Until recently, ignorant to the fact that one out of seven people go to bed hungry.

Oxfam’s GROW Campaign
It was recently that I was invited to join Oxfam America’s GROW campaign. The GROW campaign is Oxfam’s initiative to end hunger by raising awareness on small changes families can make everyday to fix a broken food system. How broken is it?  One billion (!) people go hungry every day. 50% of the population in more than half of industrialized countries is overweight. On top of that, we see volatile food prices, a system dominated by powerful corporations, and a system contributing to climate change. Yeah, it’s pretty messed up.

So what can you and I do about it? A lot actually. And you’re probably doing some if it already (go you!). The Oxfam GROW Method revolves around these five principles:


I will be writing a blog post about each principle everyday for the next five days, starting with Save Food.
“Around a third of the food produced for people's plates ends up lost or wasted between farm and fork. The amount of food thrown away in rich countries is almost the same as that produced in sub-saharan Africa each year.”

1. Meal Plan
I’m a big fan of meal planning as I wrote about here and here. I’ve found that not only is this a big time saver, but there is less waste. For instance, I’m not buying anything that I may already have stocked in the cupboard, and I often plan for leftovers. Try it. Your hidden Type-A persona and the planet will thank you.

Menu planning saves time and food
2. Use Leftovers
Not only are leftovers great for the day-after lunches, but give it new life with some creative recipes here. I’m also a fan of giving about-to-be-tossed food new life in soups like Stone Soup or old bread for We Are Not Martha’s amazing Panzenella with Sausage.

Use back of crisper veggies for soup

3. Freeze
I get flack from my husband when I freeze whatever is left from that dinner’s prep or untouched meal by my picky eater. "You are never going to eat this" he will say. There are some hectic nights that I’m thankful for the 1-2 servings of frozen leftovers I can reheat in minutes. Soups are a no-brainer to freeze (love this trick for freezing soups by the way).

Best Way to Freeze Soup (Image Credit: Southern Living)

Check out some other tips for Saving Food here. And stay tuned as I blog about other small changes you can make that will have a big impact in parts of the world where food is less abundant.

This post (and my sharing on social media) was inspired by my participation in a compensated program initiated by Women Online/The Mission List to raise awareness about Oxfam America's GROW Method. All commentary and opinions are, of course, my own.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Momofuku Cornflake-Chocolate Chip Marshmallow Cookies



We love our local library. It has become our home away from home for the boys and me. We have our routine when we arrive in the Children’s Department: commandeer a table, scurry off to find books, pile any finds on the table, then read some and reserve others to be read at home. As the boys get lost in the books, I’ll browse for food-themed children books like this one (and the impossible-to-find The Magic Tree House Book #15).

I recently came across this gem. Check out this trailer for this adorable picture book:


Cooking with Henry and Elliebelly by Carolyn Parkhurst is a sweet story of big brother Henry and little sister Elliebelly pretending to have their own cooking show. My boys love the fun dialogue and I adore the illustrations by Dan Yaccarino. The featured recipe in their make-believe cooking show is a raspberry-marshmallow-peanut butter waffles with barbecued banana bacon. Sounds crazy, imaginative but strangely delicious, right? And something that could truly come out of the kitchens of Christina Tosi’s Momofuku Milk Bar.

Christina Tosi is the winner 2012 James Beard Rising Star Chef and pastry chef at David Chang’s Momofuku Milk Bar in New York. She is also the mastermind behind one of my new favorite cookbooks, Momofuku Milk Bar. The thing is INSANE. Cereal Milk Ice Cream (made from the milk at the bottom of sugar cereal), Compost Cookies (chocolate cookies with salty pretzels and coffee grounds), and Liquid Cheesecake (barely set cheesecake layered on top of carrot cake). Holy sugar. Henry and Elliebelly would be all over these recipes!

So in the spirit of Henry and Elliebelly, the boys and I made a batch of Tosi’s Cornflake-Chocolate Chip Marshmallow Cookies. These bad boys require a 10-minute creaming process to infuse the cookies with extra butter and sugar. And it includes a cornflake crunch that is so addictive, you will be snacking on it and not even realize you’re doing it. These cookies are as sweet and buttery as it gets. And quite possibly the most complex and fun cookie you will make and/or eat.

Check out the video and recipe here on Martha Stewart. And if you’re not up for baking from scratch, Williams-Sonoma now carries Momofuku cookie mixes. I think Henry and Elliebelly would approve, wearing pirate hats of course.

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