Cascadian Farm Organic Goodness

WELCOME TO OUR ALMANAC! READ ABOUT ALL THINGS ECO FROM ORGANIC VEGGIE
GARDEN TIPS TO GREEN FAMILY ACTIVITIES.

One of my favorite breakfasts is nothing more than yogurt, berries and almonds. I generally just plop all of it down in a cup and never think twice. However, I still remember the breakfast parfait I ordered one morning at a small whole foods place in Chicago, served in a tall parfait glass.

It's funny how things like the glass it's served in can leave such a lasting effect on the memory. The amazing granola and fresh berries didn't hurt much either.

Something about Cascadian farm's new Chocolate O's cereal made me instantly want to eat it with yogurt. No, it's not granola, but it has this distinct flavor and crunch that can stand up to a mix of berries and yogurt, and besides, it's chocolate for breakfast.

Chocolate Breakfast Parfait

½ cup Cascadian Farm Chocolate O's cereal

½ cup plain Greek yogurt

½ cup Cascadian Farm Frozen Berries

1 tablespoon honey (optional)

In your favorite glass (because presentation is everything) layer ¼ cup Chocolate O's, ¼ cup yogurt and ¼ cup berries. Repeat. Drizzle with honey, if desired. Serve immediately.

Makes 1 chocolate breakfast parfait.

Photo by Shaina Olmanson

In our house, dinner is a family affair. We gather to cook. We gather to eat. Still, kids are kids, and being kids, their likes and dislikes can change on a minute-by-minute basis. Foods that may interest them in one setting may be found repulsive in the next. It's a constant guessing game.

To keep them motivated to continue exploring their world and developing a healthy relationship with food, we get them involved at every corner and try to incorporate the ability to make their own choices into meals where appropriate as well. While they may not be able to choose everything about a given meal throughout the week, giving them control over certain aspects of what they eat has been very beneficial in staving off food struggles during family dinner.

One such example is to have a family pizza night. Pizza night has long been a favorite of mine. Pizza acts as a catchall for any leftover scraps from the week before, emptying the fridge for a big trip to the farmers' market, co-op and grocery store on the weekend. Leek and potato on a pizza? Why not? Bacon, scallions and Gruyere? Of course.

Put out bowls of all the leftover bits and pieces, fry up a bit of bacon and set out leftover ham and chicken and pizza night goes from ordinary pepperoni to works of art that help get the kids involved in the process of feeding themselves.

No Fail Pizza Crust

Don't have the time to let the pizza dough rise? No bother. This one works great even without the rise time . You'll get a chewier crust with a crisp bottom, more akin to a New York thin crust, which may be what you prefer anyway.

1 cup water at 110 degrees F

2 teaspoons active dry yeast

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

2 teaspoons dried herbs (optional)

3 cups all-purpose flour (I use an unbleached white wheat blend)

In a medium bowl place warm water and sprinkle with yeast. Allow to rest for 5 minutes until the yeast is frothy and then stir it in along with the olive oil, salt and herbs. Star adding in the flour, a ½ cup at a time, mixing in with a fork thoroughly after each addition. When all the flour has been added, turn the dough out onto a flat surface and knead for 3-4 minutes until smooth.

Place the dough back into the bowl and cover, allowing it to rise in a warm place for about an hour. (See note above. You can skip this part when low on time or if you're looking for a different style crust.)

Preheat oven to 475 degrees F. When the dough has risen, punch it down and split it into 8 equal balls (you can also roll out 2 larger pizzas). On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out into ¼"-thick disks.

Sprinkle baking sheets with cornmeal and place the rolled dough on top. Have everyone top their circle with their favorite sauce and toppings. Bake at 475º F for 15-20 minutes or until crust is golden and cheese is melted and beginning to brown.

Makes (8) 6-7" pizzas or (2) 14-16" pizzas.

Repeat after me: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It's been drilled into your head for years, right? I need no more convincing. I love breakfast. Oatmeal. Granola. Smoothies. Pancakes. Muffins. Eggs. Whether they're baked into a frittata or scrambled, fried or rolled.

Sure, you could roll your eggs into a fluffy omelet, but here in our house we're all about fuss free rolling. They come together quickly and easily, making them perfect for our large family. Excuse the running of the eggs. Our griddle is broken and slants.

Rolled Omelet

olive oil

6 large eggs

1-2 tablespoons half and half or milk

½ teaspoon salt

Your favorite fillings: cheese, vegetables, meat, herbs, salsa

Crack eggs into a large bowl. Add in half and half and salt. Beat well with fork until all whites are completely broken up and mixed in.

Heat griddle or large skilled with rounded sides to medium heat. Add enough olive oil to cover the bottom. Pour out about 2/3-cup worth of the egg mix onto the griddle. Immediately sprinkle 2-3 tablespoons of filling just off center. Using an offset spatula, flip the closest side of the egg over the filling. Continue rolling until you reach the end of the egg. Flip onto plate and serve immediately.

Makes 3 rolled eggs.

Photo and video by Shaina Olmanson

I have a bit of a potato leek soup obsession. My own brand happens to create its own broth and then get blended together into smooth, creamy perfection. Then I went to San Francisco this fall where I was served a bowl of potato leek soup just lightly drizzled with truffle oil. No pulsing blender. No cream. Again, perfection.

Whether it's the leeks or the potatoes that call to me in this soup, it's one that I find myself going back to again and again. This heartier version (read: unblended) incorporates a healthy dose of spinach for an extra nutritional boost, which is always needed and welcome in the midst of the winter.

Potato Leek and Spinach Soup

3 leeks

1/4 cup olive oil

2 cloves garlic, diced

1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes

2 quarts of water

1/2 cup white wine

bunch of fresh thyme

2 bay leaves

3 cups baby spinach leaves

1 teaspoon white pepper

salt to taste

Truffle oil, optional

Cut off the root end and the very top of the dark green end of the leeks. Slice the white and light green portion of the leeks thinly. The dark green portion can be left longer for easier removal from the stock. In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add in leeks and sauté for 10 minutes until soft. Add garlic and stir once. Pour in water and the reserved green tops from the leeks. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer for 30 minutes.

Wash and dice the potatoes, leaving skins in place. Remove the long dark green tops from the pot. Add in the potatoes, white wine, bay leaves and thyme. Simmer for 45 minutes until potatoes are tender and starting to fall apart at the edges. Stir in spinach 5 minutes prior to serving and stir to wilt. Serve warm and drizzled with truffle oil if desired.

Makes 6 servings.

I don't bake very often because we don't eat many sweets at home, so when I do, I try to make it worthwhile. I tend to go all out and over the top, like apple pie cheesecake. Plain cheesecake just won't do, and apple pie alone is only apple pie, after all. It should be no surprise, then, that when making peanut butter cookies, I didn't just make peanut butter cookies.

My kids have been going through peanut butter and jelly deprivation since they attend a peanut- and tree-nut-free school. It seemed only right to deliver their peanut butter and jelly fix in whole wheat cookie form. For these cookies I used a whole wheat pastry flour and sucanat as my sugar of choice. You can substitute whole cane sugar or maple sugar as well.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich Cookies

1 cup peanut butter

¼ cup unsalted butter

¾ cup whole cane sugar or sucanat

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon sea salt

For the filling:

½ cup Cascadian Farm Fruit Spread

Beat together peanut butter, butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in eggs and vanilla. In a separate bowl whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder and sea salt. Stir the flour mixture into the peanut butter mixture, scraping the bowl halfway through. Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350º F. Roll dough into 1/2"-3/4" balls and place on lined baking sheets and press down lightly. Bake at 350º F for 10-12 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.

Heat the fruit spread in a small saucepan over medium heat. When the jam is melted, turn the burner off and allow it to cool slightly. Line up half of the peanut butter cookies with the bottom side facing up. Place a drop of jam, about a teaspoon's worth, in the center of each. Top with a second peanut butter cookie.

Makes about 25 sandwich cookies.

 

Photo by Shaina Olmanson

My garden is covered in three feet of cold white fluff. There is a pretty good chance I won't see dirt until sometime in May. My stores of canned goods and frozen produce are being knocked down daily. Still, I'm thinking about getting my hands dirty. In the middle of January when the temperature outside is frightful.

So, while your compost pile is working on the grass clippings, fallen leaves, food scraps and other lawn waste you threw in there to get ready for planting season, you should be sitting inside nice and cozy planning out your garden. Here are a few things to get you started.

  1. Determine your space. Figure out how large your garden areas are and decide if you'll be adding more this year. This will help you when determining the number of plants. Think about hours of sun each garden space gets to help figure out which varieties will grow best in which areas.
  2. Decide seed versus starter. If you are going to grow from seeds, you'll need to start your seedlings 4-6 weeks before your last frost date for your area when you'll be moving them to the garden area.
  3. Order your seeds and other supplies. If you are looking for specialty seeds like heirlooms or specific varietals, check out different companies and get your order ready. Also start collecting necessary seedling trays and soil so that you have it on hand when it's time to plant.

Then, when you've got your garden planned and you know when your seeds can grow in the ground, get ready to plant. Your location will determine when you should start seeds, and if you're going the seedling route, you can still figure out how many plants you'll need to get and start finding the best local growers and sources for those plants.

Have you started thinking about gardening yet?

 

Photos by Shaina Olmanson

Soup for me is a winter essential. I eat it for lunch regularly, and when I'm not eating it for lunch, I'm making up batches to serve for dinner with bread, still warm from the oven, which I liberally dunk into my bowl. If I could, I'd probably start eating it for breakfast as well, but I think I'd miss eggs and toast.

This winter with it snowing every other day and then dropping below zero on the off days – okay, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but not by much – I find myself craving chili, but not the typical vegetarian chili that's laden with zucchini and dressed up with corn or mushrooms. I want a chili to eat daily, but one that doesn't taste like vegetable stew impersonating chili.

This vegetarian chili variety is the kind that looks exactly like my regular beef or steakhouse chili would, just without the steak. It's thick and held together with two types of beans and spiced up with a jalapeño and a bit of cayenne, more if you like it hot, but it's just runny enough that you could dip a piece of bread in it and it would soak in and stick to it. It's a chili that I can happily sit down to lunch with.

 

Simple Vegetarian Chili

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, diced

1 green bell pepper, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 tomatoes, diced

2 jalapeños, seeded and diced

2 tablespoons chili powder

2 teaspoons cumin

½-1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

3 cups canned crushed tomatoes

2 cups vegetable broth

3 cups kidney beans, cooked

1 ½ cups navy beans, cooked

Salt and pepper

 

In a 5- or 6-quart stockpot, heat oil over medium heat. Add in diced onion and bell pepper and sauté until the onions are transparent, about 7 minutes. Add in garlic, stir and then add in the tomatoes and jalapeños. Add in chili powder, cumin and cayenne. Cook for 3 minutes. Pour in crushed tomatoes, vegetable broth and both types of beans. Simmer over low heat for at least 30 minutes to allow flavors to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve however you like your chili: topped with cheese, sour cream, diced onions, fresh cilantro, whatever's your personal favorite.

 

Photo by Shaina Olmanson

In my previous post on how to make your own pain au levain from scratch, the recipe makes two loaves. If you're anything like my family, you probably will eat one loaf and the other will eventually go stale as it sits on the counter.

For those times when we just can't eat it fast enough, we resort to making some of our favorite meals with stale bread. It quickly becomes croutons or is sliced into pieces for a French toast bake. Stale bread is also good for strata and egg bakes and, well, bread puddings, which is where I plan to go today.

A good bread pudding, one that's sufficiently soaked with milk and sugar and plump, juicy raisins served steaming from the oven is a perfect winter dessert. Top it with a bit of brandy cream sauce, and you have a dish fit for guests or your next dinner party.

 

Brandy Bread Pudding

1 loaf pain au levain or any crusty bread, cubed (7-8 cups)

½ cup raisins

3 cups whole milk

1 cup heavy cream

¾ cup dark brown sugar

4 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 teaspoons brandy

1 teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon salt

 

Add bread cubes and raisins to a large bowl. Whisk together milk, cream, sugar, eggs, vanilla, brandy, cinnamon and salt. Pour milk mixture over bread cubes and raisins. Stir to combine and allow to sit for one hour at room temperature. Pour into a greased 9x13" pan.

Remove bake from the refrigerator. Preheat oven to 350º F. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes until the center of the bread pudding is set and bounces back when tapped. Remove from oven and allow to sit for 15 minutes before serving. Slice into squares and serve topped with brandied whipped cream.

 

Brandied Whipped Cream

1 cup heavy cream

1-2 tablespoons powdered sugar

1 tablespoon brandy

 

Using hand beaters or a whisk, beat together heavy cream and powdered sugar until stiff peaks form. Fold in brandy and serve.

 

Photo  by Shaina Olmanson

In September I took on the task of making my own sourdough starter, and ever since I've been obsessed with the act of making bread. Something about the process has been rather meditative. Plus, there's something about the smell and taste of fresh baked bread that just doesn't compare to store-bought. Here are a few things to know as you get started:

  • Be sure to use your eyes. If it has been the allotted rising time, but the dough hasn't risen, let it sit longer.
  • Invest in a kitchen scale. Flours change in moisture levels as they sit on shelves, which can mess with their cup measurement. A scale will provide more accurate measurements.
  • Practice makes perfect. Starters die, dough doesn't always rise, the crust is too hard or not crusty enough. Don't let mishaps get you down. Bread baking is an art, and with time you'll get better at the crafting of it.

Pain au Levain adapted from Makanai

¾ cup (210 g) sourdough starter (80% hydration)

1 ¾ cups (420 ml) water

3 1/3 cups (500 g) whole wheat bread/pastry flour

1 ¼ cups (130 g) rye flour

2 ½ teaspoons fine sea salt

 

Mix together the sourdough starter, water and flours in a glass mixing bowl. Let it stand covered at room temperature for 30 to 45 minutes. Using a stand mixer or by hand, add salt and mix until dough starts to become smooth and uniform in texture. Fold the dough four times and let rest. Repeat this folding and resting every 15 minutes for one hour.

Place the dough in a bread bowl or mixing bowl. Cover with a towel and let rise one hour in a warm place. Push the dough down in the center, remove dough and fold four sides into the center. Turn the dough over so the seams are on the bottom. Form into one or two loaves, either oval or round. You could also divide dough between bread pans, if desired, filling 2/3 full. Place on dough baking sheet or on paddle. Cover with a towel and let them rise for 1 to 1 ½ hours or until dough is doubled.

Preheat the oven to 435º F. Slash the dough lengthwise just off center and dust with a bit of flour. Place dough in oven on baking stone with a pie plate filled with ¾ cup of water just beneath it. Closing immediately. Bake for 45 minutes. Dough should be 200º F when finished cooking. Allow to cool before eating.

Makes 2 loaves.

 

Photo by Shaina Olmanson

The table is busy, with arms in the air passing dishes and receiving others. Everyone is vying for the creamy one with the golden brown top. It's been baking for at least the last 2 hours, but waiting through the smell has made the minutes long and fluid, and the moment has arrived to finally taste it. Hastily, you dig the spoon in deep and claim a corner of the potato pie for yourself, as does everyone else.

Potatoes au gratin are one of those classic dishes with several variations. Mine is light on the cheese and spruced up a bit for Christmas with fragrant herbs. My favorite for this time of year is rosemary, as there's usually rosemary somewhere else on the table, and it pairs well with the other flavors of the season like oranges and cranberries.

 

Herbed Potatoes au Gratin

4 pounds potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

3 tablespoons fresh herbs (rosemary, oregano, parsley), finely chopped

Kosher salt and black pepper

3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

 

Preheat oven to 350º F. Rub the crushed garlic around the inside of the baking dish or dishes. You can choose to use a 2-quart dish or individual dishes for single-serve options. Set aside garlic. In the dish, place potatoes in a single layer. Sprinkle lightly with rosemary, salt and pepper and then about 1 tablespoon of the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Continue layering up the dish: potatoes, herbs and salt, cheese.

When all potatoes are layered evenly, pour cream over until it just comes to hit the very top of the top layer. You want the potatoes to be covered with cream, but they should not be floating. Place in the oven at 350º F and bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes or until top is crispy and brown and cream has become creamy pockets and is no longer pooling. Smaller dishes will need slightly less baking time, approximately 20 minutes less. Halfway through the baking time, open the oven and push potatoes down under the cream again with the back of a spoon to ensure the cream is evenly distributed while baking. Remove from oven and allow to stand for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Makes 6 servings.

 

Photo by Shaina Olmanson

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