June 3, 2010
PONGO NATURALE per GIOCARE per BAMBINI e ADULTI – NATURAL HOMEMADE PLAYDOUGH for KIDS and GROWNUPS TOO!
Recipe n. 19
I have been trying to be an ‘eco-friendly’ parent since Sasha was born. It’s not an easy goal to reach. It takes quite some time and you need to commit yourself to it. It happens gradually. I have found that there is no need to rush. We changed lots of ‘bad habits’ in our everyday life and in our diet and I think now we are just happier and healthier… A dear friend of mine a while ago asked me to publish this recipe for making a natural, safe, non-toxic and ‘almost edible’ playdough for kids. I found this recipe a while ago, tested it myself and changed only the way the color is achieved. We, (me and my friend Amy) have used this recipe many times in the past few years for our kids playtime and besides being absolutely safe and non toxic, it’s also a great idea to use it if you want make kids party favors.
- 2 cups flour
- 2 cups warm water
- 1 cup salt
- 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 Tablespoon cream of tartar (optional for improved elasticity)
- Natural food coloring (liquid, powder, or unflavored drink mix)
Here are some tips about coloring:
To obtain green you can use chlorophyll drops (you can find them in any health food store).
For red you can use the juice of a beet.
For yellow you can use turmeric powder mixed with a tiny amount of water to make a paste.
Mix all the ingredients in a medium sized pot, adding food coloring last and stir over low heat. The dough will begin to thicken. When the dough pulls away from the sides, remove the pot from the heat and allow the dough to cool enough to handle. (If your play dough is still sticky, you simply need to cook it longer. Keep stirring and cooking until the dough is dry and feels like playdough). Turn the dough out onto a clean counter and knead vigorously until it becomes silky-smooth. Divide the dough into balls for coloring. Make a divot in the center of the ball, and drop some food coloring in. Fold the dough over, working the food color through the body of the play dough, trying to keep the raw dye away from your hands and the counter. You could use gloves or plastic wrap to keep your hands clean (only the concentrated dye will color your skin, so as soon as it’s worked in bare hands are fine). Work the dye through, adding more as necessary to achieve your chosen color.
Store it in an airtight container and if it begins to dry out, you can knead a bit of water in to soften the dough back to usability. You can even freeze the extra playdough up to a year!
Play with your playdough. It’s entirely edible, maybe a bit salty and most important it’s kid-safe! This playdough will last for a long time…
May 17, 2010
PASTA CON CREMA DI SPINACI – PASTA WITH SPINACH SAUCE
Recipe n. 15
When my son was still learning colors, among his big collection of trains from ‘Thomas the tank engine and his friends‘, there was one train in particular which was green. It is a very dark green and for this reason every time we refer to this train we emphasize it calling it the ‘deep dark green train’, exactly the same color as this delicious creamy sauce for pasta, which reminds me of that train. I have been making this sauce for pasta for years. By now it has became part of our recurring family menu. It’s an easy and quick recipe and a light dish to enjoy for lunch or dinner. Sometimes I make this sauce in big batches and freeze it to have it handy on days when you don’t have much time to cook but you don’t want to end up eating take out food.
- 1 lb fresh spinach washed
- ¼ cup rice milk (I like to use rice milk instead of regular milk because it’s lighter and gives a sweeter taste to the sauce with no need to add any butter or cream)
- ½ tsp nutmeg
- ¼ cup Parmesan cheese
- ½ cup fresh ricotta, optional (I usually make this sauce without ricotta, unless I ‘m having a guest for lunch and want to obtain a richer taste and consistency)
- ¾ lb your favorite short pasta
In a medium sized pot bring the water to a boil. Add the spinach and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Take the spinach from the pot and drain excess water. Put to the side and let it cool. In a food processor add the spinach, rice milk, Parmesan cheese, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Mix to obtain a creamy consistency. Bring again to a boil the same pot with water you have used to cook the spinach and add pasta. Cook until al dente. Drain the water and in a large bowl mix pasta with the spinach sauce. Add some extra Parmesan cheese to garnish.
May 14, 2010
MEDAGLIONI DI POLENTA E PROSCIUTTO AL FORNO – BAKED POLENTA MEDALLIONS WITH HAM.
Receipe n. 14
I’ve been craving for polenta lately, despite my southern Italian origin. It’s not a very common dish where I come from. Usually polenta is eaten in the north of Italy. In the south, we sometimes call people from the north of Italy ‘polentoni’, and they have equally endearing terms for us! Last night I made this dish for dinner again and I realize that the more I make it the more I like it. I also found this great brand of organic polenta, which is really delicious and it doesn’t come from Italy but from Argentina. It’s very sweet and has a very light texture.
- 2 cups polenta
- 3 cups water
- 3 cups rice milk
- ½ lb smoked ham
- 1 tsp fresh chopped rosemary
- 1tsp fresh chopped thyme
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- ¼ cup Parmesan cheese
Having all the other ingredients already chopped and ready next to you, in a medium sized pot bring the water with rice milk to a boil. Turn the heat off and slowly add the polenta while stirring with a whisk, always in the same direction. Add the ham, Parmesan cheese, herbs, 1 tbsp butter, salt and pepper. Mix gently together until the polenta is thickening up but still creamy. Don’t let the polenta become hard before transferring it to a flat slightly wet surface (you need to wet it so it won’t stick). With the blade of a knife flatten the polenta and let it cool for at least an hour. Using a round cooking cutter make as many roundels as you wish and transfer them onto a baking dish. Put on top of every medallion a tiny amount of butter and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan cheese. Bake for 20 minutes.
May 7, 2010
CARAMELLE DI NOCI E FRUTTA SECCA – DRIED FRUIT AND NUT ROLLED CANDIES
Soon our son will be turning 3 and I’m already planning with excitement his birthday party, which requires me to do lots of thinking about alternative solutions for a healthy kids menu and eco friendly party. This is the kind of person I am and not surprisingly I hang out with other ‘health freak moms’. We always worry about our kids eating too much sugar and other refined products. Of course when it comes to a party it’s almost impossible to avoid the sugar but at least we can control it by making our own cakes, sweets and treats.I found these caramelle a great idea to add to ‘Sasha’s birthday menu’. They really are just nut snack bars but rolled into a small ball shape. The way they are presented makes them more interesting and delicious in the kids eyes.
- 1 cup of mixed nuts (hazelnuts, walnuts, almond, sunflower seed and sesame seeds)
- 1 cup of dried fruit (cranberries, currants or raisins, apricots, dates)
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil to help it to stick together
In a food processor mix the nuts, the dried fruit and the vegetable oil until you obtain a sort of crunchy sticky dough. Roll candies into small ball shapes or any other shape you would like to experiment with, although balls are the easiest shape as the dough could easily fall apart as the oil and the stickiness from the fruit are the only things that hold them together. Place each ball in a small baking paper cup. Chill for a couple of hours to help them to stick together. You can serve cold or at room temperature.
IMPORTANT NOTE: This recipe is not suitable for people with nut allergies. Be sure to warn your guests.
May 4, 2010
INSALATA DI CALAMARI – SQUID SALAD
Here is another fresh and simple recipe that brings me back to Sicily. It’s a dish that my mother used to make for us quite often, especially in the summer time. If I close my eyes I can still smell the fresh fish from the local vendor where my mum still buys her fish every day with the breeze coming up the hill from the sea. It’s a perfect salad to serve as an appetizer during a party or to eat on its own for lunch or dinner. I love how it tastes and how beautifully the colors of the ingredients complement each other.
- 15 wild squid ( tubes and tentacles)
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 carrots peeled and chopped small
- 4 stalks of celery chopped small
- 2 green onions sliced small
- ¼ cup fresh Italian flat parsley chopped
- 2 juicy lemons
- olive oil
- Salt and pepper
Rinse the squid and place them in a pot with water, bay leaf and a few slices of lemon with its juice. Bring to a boil and cook for about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, drain the water and set aside to cool down. In a large salad bowl add the carrots, celery and onions. Cut the squid in rings and put in the bowl with the tentacles and the rest of the ingredients. Add the olive oil, lemon juice, parsley, salt and pepper. Toss well and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to let the salad marinate. You can serve it cold or at room temperature.
May 1, 2010
PASTA con BROCCOLI, NOCI e UVA PASSA – PASTA with BROCCOLI FLORETS , WALNUTS and RAISINS
Being Italian you would guess that I eat pasta everyday. I used to, especially when I was living in Italy, but now that I have also embraced other ways of cooking I eat pasta dishes less often. Since we also eat less meat, I’m always trying to add protein to our dishes from other sources such as nuts. I remember the day I came up with this recipe, it wasn’t that long ago: the evening I made this for the first time I was happily surprised looking at my son finally eating broccoli and enjoying it!
- 1 lb pasta (I use short whole wheat pasta)
- 1 large broccoli head
- 2 garlic cloves thinly chopped
- ½ cup raisins ( I like to use dried Zante currants)
- 1/3 cup chopped walnuts
- olive oil
- fresh chopped parsley for garnish
- pinch of red pepper flakes
- salt and pepper
Wash and chop the broccoli into florets. In a large pot with water, where you are also going to cook pasta, place a steamer on top with the broccoli florets. Bring to boil and after the florets are steamed put to the side. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. In the meantime in a large skillet with olive oil add the garlic, florets, raisins, walnuts , red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Cook for about 10 minutes and remove from the heat. Drain pasta when it is cooked, and in a large bowl mix the pasta with the broccoli dressing and sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley.
April 25, 2010
MY ITALIAN ‘TRICOLORE’ SPREADS
I love spreads in general, sweet and savory. It’s good to always have some in the refrigerator, they make a perfect appetizer or a quick delicious snack on bread or chips or a perfect base to make sandwiches. You can certainly buy them ready made in any supermarket but they don’t taste anything like healthy homemade spreads. I like to make my own spreads in big batches so that I can freeze some and have them handy when I need them. They are easy to make and you can be very creative with them. There are ‘no rules’. These three spreads are my family’s favorite and when you put them one next to the other they look just like the Italian flag! Isn’t it pretty?
- 2 cups Frozen Peas
- ½ cup Fresh Mint
- 3 cups Vegetable broth
- Salt and pepper
White spread (Hummus):
- 8 ounces dry chickpeas
- 2 Tbsp Tahini (Sesame paste)
- 2 Garlic cloves smashed
- ¼ tbsp ground cumin
- 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice (optional)
- ¼ cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and Pepper
- 10 ounces of sundried tomatoes from a jar (in olive oil), drained and chopped
- ¼ cup fresh thyme or basil
- 2 Garlic cloves, smashed
- ¼ cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper
Let’s start with the ‘green spread’: cook the peas for about 6 minutes in boiling water with the vegetable stock. Drain the water and let it cool down for a few minutes. In the meantime chop the mint slightly and place it in a food processor. Add the peas, salt and pepper. Blend until it reaches a creamy consistency.
For the ‘white spread’: after you have been soaking the dry chickpeas overnight, rinse them well under running water. In a big pot cover the chickpeas with water and bring to boil. Reduce the heat to simmer and cook for about 2 hours. Drain the water but reserve some for later. In a small skillet pan add 1 or 2 spoons of olive oil and when it is hot add the garlic. As soon as the garlic turns golden brown remove from the heat. In a food processor place the chickpeas, sesame paste, garlic with the olive oil, salt and pepper and blend until you reach a creamy consistency. Add some of the water you cooked the chickpeas with to adjust the consistency.
For the ‘red spread’: Drain the olive oil from the sundried tomatoes jar and place the chopped tomatoes, garlic, thyme , salt and pepper in a food processer and blend until smooth. Slowly add the rest of the extra virgin olive oil.
Transfer the spreads to 3 different bowls and arrange slices of toasted bread on a platter to serve the spreads on.
April 22, 2010
PESCE PANATO con PATATE DOLCI AL FORNO - BREADED FISH with ROASTED YAMS
I’m not a vegetarian yet, but I’m pretty sure that I will be one day. I believe there is a right time for everything. Your body knows what it needs and doesn’t need. I feel somewhere in between right now as in the past couple of years I unconsciously started to eat less and less meat, preferring to eat fish and more vegetables instead. I know so many people who can’t stand the smell and taste of fish. I grew up on fish so I started to feed Sasha fish since he was very young and found a couple of tricks to make the fish taste ’yummy’. I have been using this recipe over and over, at least once a week, if not more.
- 1 pound of wild Lemon Sole (but you can use any fish you like)
- 2 big yams
- 1 lemon
- 1 cup breadcrumbs
- 3 tbsp ground flax seeds
- 3 tbsp sesame seeds
- ½ cup good quality extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for the yams.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees
Starting with the yams, wash them thoroughly without peeling them. Cut lengthwise into ½ inch thick fries, or a little less. Arrange them in a roasting pan and drizzle with olive oil, add a pinch of salt and pepper. Toss them well to be sure that all the pieces are coated in olive oil and put in the oven for about 40 min until they are cooked through and crispy.
Pour the olive oil in a bowl while in another bowl mix together the breadcrumbs, ground flax seeds, sesame seeds, salt and pepper. Dip the fish first into the olive oil and then roll into the breadcrumb mix. Place the fish in a baking dish and bake for 15 to 20 min. Serve when it’s still hot with a quarter lemon on the side.
Serves 3 to 4 people
April 11, 2010
IL SUCCO ARANCIONE DI SASHA – SASHA’S FAVORITE JUICE
I recently ‘converted’ my family to add at least one raw meal once a day to our diet. Usually this would happen half an hour before lunch with a mixture of vegetables and fruit extracted from my new juicer. I like to try many different combinations of fruit and vegetables mixed together, so we never know what color the juice will come out until the very last minute. Everyday our son Sasha asks me the same question: “Che colore e’ il succo oggi mommy? Rosso, blu, verde?” Green is not usually his favorite but he will still drink it and it makes me so happy that I have finally found a way to have him ‘eat’ all the good vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, Kale, spinach and even wheatgrass! Yes, you can make a juice pretty much out of any kind of vegetable you like. Of course they need a big help from the natural sugar, which is in all fruit to taste good and believe it or not they really do taste good! Not to mention that if you are a bit creative you can also make great ice pops with some of the same juice you made using any kind of mold you have handy at home. The only difference is that instead of drinking it you are going lo lick it and it’s going to feel so cool especially in the coming hot summer days!
Everybody will love it!
- 3 CARROTS
- 2 APPLES (I like to use red delicious apples as they are very sweet)
- 1 SMALL PIECE OF GINGER
- 1 STALK OF CELERY (optional)
Serves 2-3 people
Now, in order to make a good juice you need to have a real juice extractor. A blender or a regular juicer won’t do the job. Wash the apples and carrots. You don’t need to peel them. Ideally organically growth vegetables and fruit are always the best choice. You don’t want to drink any pesticides along with your juice. Just cut them in half to avoid stressing the juicer machine and peel the small piece of ginger. Turn the machine on and add one piece or two at a time. Drink it right away! Absorption of and benefit from the juice is highest then.
Tip: Keep your fruit and vegetables in the fridge if you like to have a cold juice. You can add ice or cold pure water afterword if you prefer a more liquid version or just to adjust the thickness of your juice.
Advice: Don’t try to store the juice in the fridge for any length of time as all these kinds of juices are meant to be consumed instantly to avoid oxidation and loss of important vitamins.