A Different Kind of Pear

We are lucky enough to live around the corner from a Mexican Market. I like to go in there and look around for new and different ingredients. When my daughter saw these bright purple fruits she knew she wanted to take them home.
I thought this would be a great activity in the hot weather, so we went for it. Now, I knew all about the Prickly Pear, it comes from a cactus, it grows with long spines all over it and it is very staining. The spines get removed before it comes to the store, but beware tiny spines can be lurking. Before you start rub the fruit with a damp towel to get off any leftover prickers. (I got a tiny one in my hand and it itched like the devil) That told we bought three, and dug right in. They are delicious as is, but you can make jam with them, or dice them and serve over with fish or in drinks, the possibilities are endless.

I shot a very crude video for you to get the full messy effect.
Kidlet had just come home from
school, we did not primp at all for this video (she was fully destroyed from a long hot day of school) I also made her wear an inside out tee shirt so she wouldn't stain her clothes! We hope you enjoy learning about this and maybe it will inspire you to find an unusual food in your neighborhood.

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Ethiopia - Cooking Around the World - Kid Style

It is highly unlikely that we will travel to Africa any time soon, but we did bring Ethiopia to us by way of our kitchen! I am always thinking of new ways to get kids to love flavorful food. This time the idea came from my daughter who loves to eat with her hands. My husband suggested we make Ethiopian food because it is traditionally eaten with your hands and it may be fun to eat. We all decided to start our trip around the world from home, a kind of staycation. We explained to our daughter that in Ethiopia people use their bread to scoop up the food instead of forks. She was really excited about that, because she loves to eat with her hands. (you know that now!)

We decided on a vegetarian stew, a crispy crunchy buckwheat fritter and injera a spongy flat bread.
We printed the recipes and I shopped during the week and we planned to cook on Sunday. We all got into the kitchen and in a fury or bubbling pots, sticky dough, and a fine dusting of flour, and created a great feast. Claire measured flour, Matt peeled and I orchestrated it all, tossing sweet potatoes in here, chickpeas in there. During the fury Matthew found some great Ethiopian music and started tossing out facts about the people, food and culture, it was controlled chaos but somehow it all turned out great. It was fun, it was one of the first times all three of us worked in the kitchen together, and we will do it again! We chose recipes that we could tailor to our spice level and create the recipes just how we want them.
The final judgment was a thumbs up from the whole family.

The recipes below have been adjusted to be very kid friendly, I cut the spices way down and simplified the veggies for speed! If you can't find Berbere spice you can fudge it by mixing your own and omitting the chilies. An online search will give you a bunch of recipes to play with. Claire ended up liking Turmeric so much she
named her new sock cat we made that day, Turmeric! I just love introducing new spices and flavors!
Get creative and chose a destination for your family, who says you can only do Geography in school?
Next stop Hawaii!

Injera (Ethiopian Flat bread)

Our bread was far from sourdough, but I think for kids it is perfect.

Injera can be tricky, but once you get it down you will love making it.

The temperature of the grill, the type of grill (mitad), the temperature of the dough during fermentation, quality of the flour and how you mix the dough, can all affect the flavor and texture.

We made batter with very low fermentation to get the kids used to the texture; next time I will up the sourdough flavor.


4 cups flour, self-rising

1 cup whole-wheat flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 1/2 cups club soda

Whisk flours and baking powder together in a bowl. Add club soda plus about 4 cups water. Whisk into a smooth thin batter, a few lumps are OK. Heat a large, non-stick skillet.

When a drop of water bounces on the pan's surface, quickly pour enough batter from the bowl to cover the bottom of the skillet.

Swirl the pan so that the entire bottom is evenly coated, then set it back on the heat. You may need to use a spatula to quickly smooth the batter.

When the moisture has evaporated and small holes appear on the surface, remove the injera. It should be cooked only on one side, and not too browned.

If your first one is a little pasty and undercooked, you may need to cook a little longer or to make the next one thinner.

Like a French crepe, be careful not to cook them too long, or you'll have a crispy bread that may be tasty but won't fold around bits of stew.

Stack the injera one on top of the other as you cook, covering with a clean cloth or keep in foil to prevent drying out.

Vegetable Mafe

The kids won’t even know there is cabbage in here, just chop it small!

1 large onion, diced

2 sweet potatoes

4 carrots

½ head of cabbage, chopped, very small

2 teaspoons Berbere spice mix

3 cups tomato sauce

¾ cup peanut butter

Cut all vegetables into bite sized pieces 
In a saute pan add 1 tablespoon of ghee or olive oil, cook the onions until wilted, add the root vegetables. Sauté veggies for a few minutes more, then add the spices, cabbage, and tomato sauce. 

Simmer for approx 45 minutes until veggies are soft. 
Remove ½ cup hot tomato sauce and stir in the peanut butter until incorporated.

Return to pot and simmer for a few minutes more. Adjust thickness by adding more tomato sauce or a little water, if necessary.

Ethiopian Spiced Ghee (Spicy Niter Kibbeh)

Don't be intimidated this is easy if you keep the flame low. Use ghee in place of butter or oil in any recipes. I always have a jar of unflavored ghee in my kitchen. Once you remove the milk solids the ghee won’t burn like butter, it is perfect to cook pancakes in.

Ghee can be stored at room temperature without going rancid but I keep mine in fridge. Keep it clean and well sealed and it will last months.

We ate this on the Kibbeh on the bread and on the stew!

If you have a small mortar and pestle, let your kids grind up all the spices, ginger and garlic in it first. It is fun and lets them smell the ingredients before they taste the butter.

1/2 lb butter

1/4 chopped onion

1 clove of garlic, smashed

1 tbs chopped ginger (skin on is OK)

1 tsp of turmeric,

1/4 tsp cumin,

8 cardamom seeds pods, smashed

1 tsp fennel seed

Pinch nutmeg

To make the spiced butter, melt butter in a pot. Skim the foam as it forms with a spoon and discard. Keep the butter on low it may bubble up if there is any water in it. When the butter is clear, mix in all the remaining ingredients. Stir and simmer on very low for about 15 minutes Let the spices settle, and then drain through a cheesecloth or fine strainer in to a clean jar.

Pumpkin Kibbeh Stuffed with Spinach, Chick Peas, and Walnuts

This has a similar look to falafel, but tastes very different. It is mild in flavor and kids will like the crunch, plus it packs a ton of fiber. You adjust the spice level for your kids; we used regular paprika for a more mild taste.

Note on Bulgur- it is best if the bulgur is fine, like coarse polenta. You should look for “Fine Bulgur”. If you can’t just use a food processor or blender and mix it until it is like coarse sand.

Have the filling prepared and all the ingredients ready to go for your kids to help put these together.

For the Filling:

1/3 cup chopped onion

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup cooked chick peas, peeled and slightly mashed

1/4 cup chopped walnuts, chopped

1/3 cup cooked and chopped spinach (frozen is fine)

Salt and pepper

Pinch of Hungarian paprika

2 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice

For the Pumpkin Shell:

1 cup cooked pureed pumpkin

2 cups fine grain bulgur, unwashed dry

1/3 cup flour

2 tablespoons grated onion

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

Pinch of hot Hungarian paprika (or regular)

Vegetable oil for frying

Chopped parsley and quartered lemons


In a deep saute pan add enough vegetable oil to come no more than 1/3 up the sides of the pan. Heat until a deep fat fry thermometer registers 375 ˚F. If you don’t have a thermometer use medium high heat. Meanwhile, make the filling.

In a small sauté pan, heat a tablespoon of oil, when hot add onions, cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Then add the chickpeas, walnuts, spinach, seasonings, and lemon juice, stir to incorporate, remove from heat.

Now make the pumpkin shell. In a mixing bowl, place the pumpkin, dry bulgur, flour, onion, and seasonings. Mix well and set aside for 10 minutes. If the dough becomes dry, add a few drops of water and then knead well.

(Get your kids with clean hands to knead the dough in the bowl.)

This is a perfect place to get the kids to help. It really doesn’t matter what they end up looking look like. I’d go smaller rather than large to shorten cooking time.

Now shape the kibbeh.

Knead about 2 tablespoons of the pumpkin mixture until it holds together. Keeping your hands moist, form a smooth football shaped oval. Poke your index finger through the end and fill with 1 teaspoon of filling. Close the end and reshape, if necessary. Carefully place in the hot oil and fry for 2 minutes, until they turn dark brown. You will have to fry them in batches. Drain on paper towels and and sprinkle with some chopped parsley, serve immediately with lemon slices.

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Batter Up... It's Breakfast Time

Arrowhead Mills Multi-Grain Pancake & Waffle Mix

Pancake batter that is, I know nothing about baseball! With school in full swing, make sure your kids are getting a healthy breakfast.

Recently I was asked by www.mambosprouts.com review a new product from Arrowhead Mills. We love pancakes in our house any kind will do, so we were thrilled to help out. We usually make homemade but having a nice bagged mix on hand is always nice.

This is what the product info said…

Arrowhead Mills Multi-Grain Pancake & Waffle Mix is made with a nutritious blend of organic whole grains including whole wheat, brown rice, yellow corn and rye. The delicious balance of wholesome grains bakes up into scrumptious muffins and more. Easy to prepare – just add water – delicious and nutritious pancakes and waffles are ready in minutes.

This is what we found out…

The product says it is 70% Organic, the main flours are organic. The lesser ingredients such as baking powder and corn starch are not organic but it is a good start for people switching over from completely non organic products.

They are full of multi grain but the prominent taste and texture from our perspective is corn. The texture is very much like a corn meal pancake, which we happen to love.

These are so easy, just follow the directions on the bag, add oil and a liquid, in our case we added water so that we could really taste the grains.

The first batch looked very thick, the batter was stiff and the pancakes came out too dense. My daughter suggested that we add more water to make them lighter. We added 1/4 cup more water to the batter and cooked a second batch.

The second batch turned out so much better. The texture is more like a light cornmeal pancake, but with structure. They are not sweet, this is nice because when you add a bit of syrup or powdered sugar they taste just right.

We went one more step and added frozen blueberries, this hit the spot! The frozen berries kept the batter from turning blue and they cooked up just right. They added a little sweetness to the not so sweet pancakes.

The outcome, we loved the pancakes and we'd eat them for dinner too. I feel fine about serving these for "breakfast for dinner" because they are a little more substantial than an all white flour pancake. We never did make the waffles, they call for an egg, and honey in adition to the oil and liquid. I think the egg will add a little lightness to them. I will try them in the next few weeks.

My seven year old said, "these are the best pancakes, I love them with the berries."

They are easy, and tasty, want to win a package? Leave a comment telling me what you would add to these to make them enticing for your kids? Would you add savory or sweet ingredients? I will choose at random and e mail you when you win.

Contest end date 9/22 8 AM.

Our random WINNER is...Emily...We did take in to account the Facebook comments too.

Emily B. said...

I second the chocolate chips but I'd go for milk chocolate rather than semi-sweet. Blueberries are always a favorite but maybe a bit too predictable.
If I really wanted to knock someone's socks off, I would add applesauce and/or mashed banana (along with a dash of cinnamon) to the batter. mmmm... super yum!
(And my two year old will think I'm God!)

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Competition to Improve School Meals

Secretary Vilsack Launches Recipes for Healthy Kids Challenge

Competition to Improve School Meals and the Health of Children Across the Nation

WASHINGTON, Sept. 7, 2010 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the Recipes for Healthy Kids Challenge to improve school meals and the health of children across the nation through the creation of exciting new recipes for inclusion on school lunch menus. The competition - part of the First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! initiative - will draw on the talents of chefs, students, food service professionals, and parents or other community members working together to develop tasty, nutritious, kid-approved foods.

"The Recipes for Healthy Kids Challenge is an important contribution to our overall efforts to combat childhood obesity," the First Lady said. "It's vital that we provide our children with healthy and nutritious food in school and help them learn healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime."

Recipes for Healthy Kids Challenge teams will have the opportunity to submit original recipes that meet nutritional requirements in three categories: whole grain foods, dark green and/or orange vegetables, and dry beans and peas (legumes). Submissions must be taste tested by at least 30 students who participate in the National School Lunch Program.

"Improving the nutrition and health of kids across the nation is a national priority and the Recipes for Healthy Kids Challenge is a great way to engage the creativity of talents of chefs, students, food service professionals, and parents or other community members," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "Through the challenge website, families can vote with their forks and help introduce exciting new recipes into the National School Lunch Program and beyond."

There will be a grand prize chosen by the judging panel as well as a Popular Choice winner based on public voting. The judges will also choose award winners for the top two recipes in each category. Winning teams will be invited to prepare their nutrition-packed meals alongside White House chefs. To recognize and share the culinary creativity nationwide the top ten recipes in each category will be published in a Recipes for Healthy Kids Cookbook to share with students and families.

Improving USDA's child nutrition programs on behalf of 32 million kids across the nation is a top priority of the Obama Administration. Strengthening the Child Nutrition Act, which authorizes USDA's child nutrition programs including the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs, is the legislative centerpiece of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! campaign. This legislation will serve as a down payment in battling hunger and food insecurity while providing critical resources to raise a generation of healthy children. To learn more about the First Lady's Let's Move! campaign, visit www.LetsMove.gov.

FNS oversees the administration of 15 nutrition assistance programs, including the child nutrition programs, which touch the lives of one in four Americans over the course of a year. More information about FNS and its nutrition assistance programs is available at www.fns.usda.gov.

The deadline for recipe submissions is Dec. 30, 2010. For further information about the Recipes for Healthy Kids Challenge, please visit the contest Web site at http://recipesforkidschallenge.com/.


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Churros Or "Squirros"– by Any Name They Are The Same

STONE'S SOUP CORNER Edible Marin Wine Country Magazine

These may not be the most low cal treat but a great holiday sweet. Make a bunch and serve them instead of bars or pie.

A few months ago I was in San Rafael and stumbled upon a small churro stand, hidden deep in the area commonly referred to as the "Canal." The ladies who run the stand are very nice and extremely passionate about churros. Of course I had to buy a few of the cinnamon and sugar redolent treats because, I thought to myself, "Everything in moderation, and I am only going to eat one, but I can't leave my family out." I did actually give them one–to share!

Churros are a Spanish invention. Many centuries ago, Spanish shepherds used to make churros while tending sheep high in the mountains. The name "churros" was derived from the most common breed of those sheep–the "Churra"–because the pastry looks like the sheep's horns.

Having only limited cooking supplies, the shepherds needed to come up with a snack that could be easily made and cooked over an open fire. Churros were a brilliant solution, easy to prepare and cook in a pan of oil. I am sure they were getting their protein and veggies at their main meals, because one can't live on fried dough alone!

Today, crispy, sweet churros can be found in most places in the world, especially those with a significant population of Spanish descent. Each area, or maker, might have its own version. In Spain, you see people dredging them through a mug of thick drinking chocolate before eating. In Mexico, the churro is sometimes filled with thick pastry cream.

Many cultures fry dough-based foods for special occasions like holidays and festivals. These foods are not eaten on an everyday basis, but are special to families or stem from a tradition. Jewish people fry sufganiyot, jelly-filled doughnuts, at Hanukkah. American Indians make savory fry bread. The American South has the hush puppy. The beignet is from France. The bunuelo is from South America. Modern Americans love any variety of doughnuts, anytime. There are hundreds more versions of these fried dough treats and they are all different–some sweet, some savory, some chewy, some dusted with sugar, some messy, but all delicious.

Making or eating these foods is a way for people who live far from their homeland to connect and feel a part of their culture and heritage.

Churros are easy and fun to make at home–and muy sabroso! Since we don't have sheep at our house, we appropriately named our version of the treats "squirros," after the cute, fuzzy tail of a squirrel. Ask your kids to come up with their own names for your creations. If they do, I'd love to hear them. Send me a comment here, maybe we can come up with some really unusual ones.


I've added autumn flavors to these traditional churros. Try your own flavorings, too. You can add a variety of extract flavorings to the batter, dip them in melted chocolate or drizzle with jam. Any way you make them they are a treat, so have fun and make sure you share!

The frying part is definitely NOT for the kids to do, but have them help roll them in the sugar coating. It is simple and fun to do.

Yield: About 1 dozen 4-inch churros
1 cup water
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup butter
1 cup unbleached flour
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
11/2 cups vegetable oil
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, or to taste
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
Pastry bag fitted with a large star-shaped tip. Note: Disposable pastry bags are available at any craft or kitchen store and they are great tools to have around the kitchen. If you do not have a star tip, a round tip will work as well.

Paper towels for draining the cooked churros of excess oil.


Combine all the ingredients for the coating and set aside. In a 3-quart saucepan add the water, brown sugar, salt and butter, and bring to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat and add the flour and pumpkin pie spice. Stirring in the flour will take some muscle. Mix until well blended.

In a separate bowl, mix the eggs and vanilla together; add this mixture to the flour mixture. Stir until well blended and all the egg mixture is completely incorporated.

Fill the pastry bag, fitted with tip, with the churro dough.

Heat the one and a half cups of vegetable oil in a frying pan with high sides or a wide saucepan to 375°. If you don't have a thermometer, the "medium high" setting on your stove should hold the oil at around 375°. Test your oil by dropping in a small amount of dough; it should bubble up right away. If it does not, the oil is not yet hot enough and a soggy churro is no bueno! Once the oil has reached the correct temperature, squeeze a four-inch-long tube of the dough from the piping bag into the hot oil, using scissors to cut off the end of the dough tube from the piping bag. Be careful of the hot oil!

You should be able to fit four or five churros at a time in the pan. Cook each churro about one minute and then turn it over with a slotted spoon. Cook an additional minute or two until it turns a nice golden brown color. Remove the churros with a slotted spoon and place them on a paper towel-covered plate to absorb excess oil.

While still warm, roll each churro in the coating until well coated. Serve warm.

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