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Super simple pesto

Made with basil fresh from the farmer’s market!

Super Simple Pesto
Ingredients
2 cups Basil
3 cloves garlic
½ Cup Grated Parmesean Cheese
2 Tablespoon pine nuts
Salt and Pepper to taste
7 Tablespoons Olive Oil

Preparation

1.  Combine the first 4 ingredients in a food processor and pulse.
2.  When ingredients are combined, add olive oil in a slow drizzle while pulsing.  If you need an extra hand, recruit a kid!  They love to pulse.
3.  Refrigerate in an airtight container and use atop chicken, seafood, pasta, caprese salad…pretty much anything!

Superfood smoothie perfect for toddlers

This is a perfect breakfast for a busy morning and if you involve your toddler in “making” the smoothie he will be much more likely to eat it!  Blueberries have tons of antioxidants and protect against heart disease and diabetes, all while improving brain function.  Spinach is rich in iron and bananas pack a powerful dose of antioxidants.  If your kid has seasonal allergies like mine, incorporating local honey into their diet (as long as they are old enough) can help battle runny noses and congestion.  Protein and calcium in milk provide fuel for the brain and body.  And cinnamon?  Some studies show it helps regulate blood sugar which can help prevent the all to common mid morning meltdown.

Ingredients

1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1/4 cup frozen blueberries
7 frozen strawberries
1/2 cup fresh spinach
1/2 banana
1/8 cup whole milk
1 Tablespoon ground Flax Seed
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 Tablespoon honey
Preparation
Pre measure the ingredients and let your toddler help you pour them into the blender*.
Add all ingredients to the blender except 4 strawberries.

Allow your toddler to push the button (or flip the switch) to turn the blender on and off.

Open the blender top a few times and allow your toddler to add a strawberry
Get a spoon and ask your toddler to taste the smoothie.  If he approves, pour it into a cup with a lid and straw.
Enjoy!
For added fun, rinse your blender and pour a small amount of dish soap in the blender along with about 1 cup of water.  Ask your toddler to turn the blender on again and voila!  You have a bubbly clean blender!
*If you have a kid that will be weirded out by spinach in the smoothie, mix everything but the banana, blueberry and strawberry together before you ask for his help.  Then ask your toddler to help you add the fruit and blend.  Also, you should be warned that this smoothie has a greenish color.  If this will be a problem for your toddler, you can either a) add cocoa to make it brown (make sure it’s at least 70% cocoa and not processed with alkali/dutch processed which removes the flavanoids) or b) pour it into a dark colored cup so your kiddo can’t see it’s green.

Make your own olive oil bottles

We all know olive oil has the “healthy fats” that you’re supposed to eat to decrease your “bad cholesterol” (do you like my super technical medical terms?  Yeah, that’s why I went to law school).  But do you ever walk into your supermarket’s vinegar and oil aisle only to have a mini anxiety attack over the plethora of choices (and price ranges!) of olive oil?  No? Oh, me neither…that must be some other foodie family blogger.  Moving on…

When I was at the store yesterday, I estimated there were 20 different olive oils on the shelf, priced from $3.86 all the way to $34.00.  In addition to the price difference, there are also different virginity levels or “grades of the oil: Premium Extra Virgin, Extra Virgin, Virgin, Standard, Super Slutty (just kidding). Some bottles say the olives are hand picked and others brag that the oil is cold pressed or filtered.  To add an extra layer of confusion, you can also choose the country of origin for your olive oil: Spain, Greece, Italy, California, France–and sometimes they blend oil from different countries together to make an olive oil meritage.

I love dipping bread in olive oil while I drink a glass of wine…but if you’re like me you can easily do without the bread and olive oil and just double up on the wine if you have to put too much thought into it.  So here’s what you really need to know about Olive Oil Varietals, a few tasting notes and some great ways to use olive oil after you’ve had your first glass of wine.

Olive Oil: The Quick and Dirty
•    Look for olive oil in a tinted or metal bottle—OO is like a vampire—sunlight kills it
•    Look for “born on” date—olive oil starts to lose its taste after 1 year—Extra Virgin Olive Oil keeps longest
•    If you’re not using it for high heat cooking, make sure it says “unrefined”
•    Store your olive oil in a dark cool place to keep its flavor intact

For dipping, dressing & drizzling: Use Extra Virgin because the acidity level is the lowest and its aroma and flavor can be most fully appreciated.  Premium or Estate Extra Virgin, though more expensive, will make a favor difference in your cooking.
•    One of the best meals I ever had in my entire life was at Don Alfonso on the Amalifo Coast.  I bought two bottles of Olive Oil while I was there and savored every dip and drizzle.
•    On my honeymoon, we did an Olive Oil tasting at Round Pond in Napa Valley, CA.  The Meyer Lemon Olive Oil is perfect for salads.
•    Last Summer at the Farmer’s Market in San Francisco, this guy recommended we try his unfiltered olive oil.  He said it’s like “your favorite song, turned up.”  He was right.  It’s peppery, olive(y) and so flavorful.  Drizzle atop pasta or fish off the grill.

For quick sautéing or when mixing with other ingredients: Use Virgin because the taste will be somewhat diluted by the cooking and mixing with other ingredients.  I don’t have a favorite virgin oil.  I usually look for the best price.
For high heat cooking: Use olive oil or grapeseed oil.  Although Olive Oil’s smoke point is relatively high (400 degrees F) he flavor of the olive oil will disintegrate at higher heat so you might as well use a cheaper oil for high heat cooking.

How to Infuse Olive Oil

Infused olive oil is a great way to add a little extra kick of flavor to your standard olive oil and it makes a GREAT gift.  I still recommend using Extra Virgin Olive Oil, but you can save a little bit of money by adding your own depth of flavor with herbs and spices.  There really isn’t a precise science to infusing olive oil.  I’ve included a few of my favorite combinations, but you can really experiment and use whatever you like!*

Tools and Ingredients
Glass or nonreactive metal container
Funnel
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Herbs (i.e. Rosemary, Thyme, Basil,
Spices (i.e. Peppercorn, Crushed Red Pepper Flakes)
Citrus Fruits (i.e. meyer lemon, orange or kumquat)

•    Find an awesome bottle.  Remember: Olive oil is like a vampire and sunlight kills is so try to find a bottle with a dark tint.  Ideally, you also want it to be air tight.
•    After preparing your herbs, spices or citrus fruits by washing, grinding or zesting, place them in the awesome bottle.
•    Pour olive oil into the bottle through the funnel. (Note that most recipes below call for heating the olive oil.  This makes the flavor infuse more quickly but is not necessary)
•    Allow ingredients to “awesomate” (technical term) for about two weeks (feel free to taste intermittently).
•    Make a cool label (or just handwrite the ingredients like me).
•    Enjoy.

Infused olive oil can be kept for up to a year, but tastes best when used in the first six months.
*Beware of using garlic to infuse your olive oil.  When homemade garlic-infused oil is left unrefrigerated or kept for too long, the chance of botulism growing is very real. There have been a number of documented cases of people getting sick from their homemade garlic oils.
*I should also tell you to refrigerate infused oils.  Refrigerated is the safest way to store infused oil.  I store my oils at room temp, but then again, I’m a pretty bold risk taker.

Meyer Lemon Olive Oil
Ingredients
1 cup olive oil
Peel from 2 Meyer lemons
Preparation
•    Warm the olive oil and the peel over very low heat for 20 minutes.
•    Allow to cool for half an hour.
•    Strain and pour into an antique stoppered bottle, or any bottle you may have.

Chili Infused Olive Oil
Ingredients
2 cups olive oil
4 teaspoons dried crushed red pepper flakes
Preparation
1.  Combine the oil and crushed red pepper flakes in a heavy small saucepan. Cook over low heat until a thermometer inserted into the oil registers 180 degrees F, about 5 minutes.
2.  Remove from heat. Cool to room temperature, about 2 hours. Transfer the oil and pepper flakes to a 4-ounce bottle.

Basil Infused Olive Oil

Ingredients
4 cups of packed basil leaves
2 cups of virgin olive oil (the flavors of extra-virgin olive oil will compete too much)
Preparation
1.  Combine basil and olive oil in a blender.
2.  Puree the mixture until smooth.
3.  In a saucepan, simmer the olive oil and basil puree over medium heat for 45 seconds.
4.  Pour the heated mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl to remove the basil.
5.  Let the mixture sit for a few hours.
6.  Pour the oil into an airtight jar. (don’t include the dark liquid at the bottom of the bowl, which is water mixed with finely ground basil)

Rosemary Infused Olive Oil
Ingredients
1/2 cup olive oil
3 fresh rosemary sprigs
Preparation
1.  In small saucepan, combine oil & rosemary. Cook over low heat until a thermometer reaches 180 F, about 5 minutes. Remove and let cool to room temp.
2.  Transfer the sprigs to a bottle, then add the oil. Seal and refrigerate up to 1 month

Now, if you’re really interested, here is an in depth lesson on Olive Oils:

Read more

To flapjack or not to flapjack, that is the question.

Pancakes always create a bit of anxiety for me because I never know quite how to classify them—are they a main course or a side? Do I treat them like a quiche, for example, and order pancakes as my entire meal or do I instead treat them like toast and order them in addition to my eggs and bacon? Typically the former leaves me feeling a little carb heavy and the latter makes me feel like a fatty. Usually my internal debate goes something like this:

Fatty Foodie: “OMG pancakes sound so good. They are probably just the run of the mill flapjack, but what if they are extra fluffy or extra thin or something I’ve never even seen before. I should probably try them.”
Fit Foodie: “Pancakes are essentially sugar and carbs topped with fat and more sugar. Do not order them. Get the egg white omelet with veggies.”
Fatty Foodie: “You owe it to your foodie family readers to investigate what could possibly be and likely IS the best pancake in the entire universe. Look, it’s called a griddlecake. That means it’s something really special. And it has at least one egg in it so that’s protein. It’s essentially health food.”
Fit Foodie: “She has a point with the egg. You can go to the gym later. Do it, but get a side of fruit.”
Fatty Foodie: “Good idea. Get a side of fruit and a few eggs. Pancakes are really just bread. You need protein. You can only eat half of the pancakes if you get too full. Oh look, this place already has a menu item consisting of eggs, bacon and 2 pancakes. That means pancakes are supposed to be ordered alongside other food. Get that meal. It’s totally normal and socially acceptable.”

Clearly, the Fatty Foodie side of my brain paid attention in law school while the Fit Foodie side was checking out hot guys. Shit. Saturday morning I was in Oklahoma City for a conference and I ordered the “griddle cakes” (with a side of fruit) from room service at the Colcord hotel. These pancakes were fluffy, flavorful, HUGE and amazingly delicious. I ate half of them (and none of the fruit) and felt like I couldn’t breathe for the rest of the day because I was so full.

When my husband suggested I make pancakes for breakfast the next morning my inner fit foodie cringed. I decided I would make pancakes, sans the side (or main course) of eggs but I would try to make them a little healthier. I added ground flax seed, bananas and blueberries to the pancake recipe I usually use and voila-I had a fiber, fruit and protein(ish) rich meal in one simple flapjack. If I had oats, I would have added them too and maybe even chia seeds or granola.

My Sunday pancake wasn’t as big or fluffy as my Saturday morning rooms service griddlecake, but it was pretty darn good. And I felt better after I ate it too. Here’s the recipe if you’d like to try it.

Shellfish with Thai Red Curry Broth*

Steamed shellfish is always a great way to make a quick dinner.  It’s been a crazy week, and I knew this Foodie Family would need a speedy supper tonight.  I modified this recipe by Bobby Flay for my dish and it was very tasty.  I usually make mussels with white wine and garlic, but I was in the mood for something a little spicy tonight so I decided to use Thai flavors in the broth.  I forgot to take a finish of the finished product, but the mise en place was beautiful, and the entire dish PLUS homemade chocolate chip cookies was ready in less than 30 minutes.  Winner, winner shellfish dinner!

 

Ingredients

2 tablespoons peanut oil
3 tablespoons ginger, minced or finely chopped (I grated mine on a microplane)
1 stalk lemongrass, crushed
1 tablespoon chili paste (be careful…add a little at a time)
1/2 cup white wine
1 can unsweetened coconut milk
1 cup chicken broth (optional)
2 tablespoons fish sauce (nam pla)
2 fresh limes
.75 pounds cockles, scrubbed
1.5 pounds littleneck clams
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro stems, plus 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
4 tablespoons chopped Thai basil or Italian basil leaves

Directions

Heat the oil in a heavy Dutch oven on the grates until shimmering.  Add the ginger and stir until fragrant.  Add the lemongrass, chili paste, wine, chicken broth, coconut milk, fish sauce, and lime juice and bring to a simmer, whisking. Add the clams, cover the pot, and let steam 2-3 minutes.  Add cockles, and steam an additional 1-2 minutes until the shells open. During the last minute of cooking, add the cilantro and basil. Serve from Dutch oven into individual bowls, discarding the lemongrass.  
 
Serve with crusty bread and a delicious wine (I recommend Riesling or Zinfandel with this dish)
 
*This dish was originally titled “Clams and Cockles in Thai Red Curry Broth” but Food-C was worried it might entice people looking for a different kind of website…