Sunday, July 27, 2008

Intuitive Cooking: Book Review

We've been on the road, and I have A LOT of catch-up to share with you as we've been cooking together in lots of ways over the last few weeks. So, more on that very soon. For now, here's a great and inspiring look at this 215 page cooking school.

Intuitive Cooking by Joanne Saltzman

For everyone who ever wanted to attend cooking school, but for some reason couldn’t. For everyone who strives to make the perfectly balanced, healthy, mouthwatering, and impeccably seasoned meal. For everyone who ever wanted to explore the uniqueness your food offers and dance with its whole energy. Here it is: Intuitive Cooking, the new book from the amazing people at The Book Publishing Company. Written by Joanne Saltzman, founder and director of the Natural School of Cookery in Boulder Colorado, this book will bring you to new level of cooking and is a must-have for anyone wanting more than a conventional cookbook offers.

Intuitive Cooking is divided into three sections. The first, The Alphabet and Grammar of Cooking, covers just what the title tells us, the language of cooking and how it all fits together into the different elements that make up a good meal. Saltzman introduces us to her own cooking vocabulary developed over years of experimentation and improvisational cooking. She is one chef who is truly connected to the ingredients she uses. Following Saltzman’s lead, you will be too.

The second section, Cooking Methods, includes information about the various methods for cooking, as well as information about pretreatments and sauces. This section is both complete and well written. Studied, this is the section of the book that will transform the way you approach the food you have on hand.

The final section, Primary Elements and Recipe Sketches, the bulk of the book, is stuffed full of nearly 400 mouth watering combinations. Organized by vegetable family (root, onion, vine, pod/seed, sea vegetable, flower, fruit, stalk, mushroom, beans, gluten, soybeans) it includes information on first and second stage methods, as well as for selection and storage.

This is not a recipe book, but rather a book of combinations. Users of this book are given the necessary background and ideas for vegetables, proteins, herbs and spices, oils, liquids and salt form to use, but the intuition you bring to it is entirely your own. Fortunately, Saltzman gives both inspiration and techniques for developing it.

In addition to the main sections, there are many charts and tables. A total resource guide, this glossary will serve as welcome information to both the beginner and experienced cook.

If you can’t spend weeks, months, or even years devoting yourself to cooking school, Joanne Saltzman’s Intuitive Cooking is the next best thing. It is truly a gift of a resource sure to help you find your creative self in the kitchen. The result will be a dinner table boasting healthy, balanced, perfectly seasoned meals made with whole foods, intuition and love.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Camp Cooking: Thinking Outside the Recipe in the Great Outdoors

From the July issue of Wonderwise:

It’s that time of year again; the magic of camping season is in the air. From the planning to the first spark of the evening flame, a camping trip and all that it means for fun and exploring the outdoors is the quintessential family bonding experience. For me, the quality of a camping trip is largely measured by the food. From the first mention of a camping trip, I start thinking about the meals, getting our menus ready and strategizing the various ways we can get the kids involved in the cooking.

Whether you are heading out to the backyard or into the deep woods, camp cooking can be a fun way to connect with nature and each other, all while providing your family an extra fun way to explore new ways to prepare nourishing foods together. And fortunately, the options for a family camp kitchen are exciting, fun to make, and taste great!

Dazzling Desserts
When our camp plans first get sparked, I usually start thinking about dessert first. Here's a few of our time-tested favorites:

Apple Pie on a Stick
A good roasted apple is a treat. Roasted over the campfire is even better. Start by using an apple cut into slices or bite sized chunks.. Add it to a skewer, and away you go! Once the apple is sufficiently roasted, remove from the heat and sprinkle on some apple pie spice, or just cinnamon or nutmeg. Finish it off by dipping in a bit of sweetener, if you like.

Banana Yumm!
This is a fantastically yummy dessert that is fun for kids to make mostly by themselves. Start with a ripe banana (but not too ripe). With a knife, cut two slits in the peel of the banana and peel it back, exposing the banana inside. Use a spoon to scoop out a section of the banana; in its place, sprinkle in a bit of your favorite trail mix. If you use chocolate, it melts wonderfully with the banana, making it an extra special treat. Replace the banana skin (covering the trail mix mixture), wrap the entire banana in tin foil, and place over the fire until heated through. When removed from the heat and cool enough to handle, unwrap the banana from the foil and scoop out the insides to enjoy a warm banana and choco-nutty treat!

Orange Cup Muffin-Cakes
This wonderful dessert is actually much easier than it sounds. Cut the tops nearly off of as many oranges as you want muffins or cupcakes, leaving it attached just enough to make a “flap”. Fill the oranges with your favorite muffin or cupcake batter. Place over the fire and let “bake” until muffins are done (when you poke them with a bamboo skewer and it comes clean). We have also tried wrapping these in foil and placing in the fire, but the result is more of a pudding than a cake. However you choose to bake them, you will surely enjoy these orange essence treats!

Camp Menu continued…
While it may be the desserts that top my planning list, of course the other items on the menu are not only an important part of your camping, but also a great way to involve your entire family in meal time. Here are a few meal ideas to get you cookin’:

Rainbow Skewers
Kabobs are a great family friendly way to make a camp meal. Kids love to make their own patterns and designs for what will go into their meal by placing them on a skewer to roast over the fire. try bringing a pan of already marinated tofu or tempeh and precut veggies to your campout and let the kids create their own patterns and rainbows. We like using zucchini coins, sweet peppers, and even a few sweet fruits that roast well, like mango and pineapple. Roast them until browned for a rather gourmet camping meal.

The Wonder of Foil
Foil cooking is a wonderful, easy way for kids to get in on the meal making while in the great outdoors. Set up an assembly line of sorts and let kids add any combination of the following to a square of foil: try precooked beans, rice or quinoa, thinly sliced potatoes and bits of rosemary, corn, broccoli, peas, fennel, or squash pieces. Wrap the foil tightly and place in the fire. Once warmed thoroughly, remove the wrapped foil from the fire, open (be careful of the escaping steam) and add your favorite fresh toppings, such as avocado, tomato, olives, “cheese”, cilantro, or a favorite dressing or sauce. For a snack, try wrapping some corn kernels and a drop of oil. Place atop a fire grate and make sure you have some long handled tongs so you can give them a continuous gentle shake. Voilá! Your very own mini popcorn treat.

Reinventing the Dog
Of course, hot dogs, kids, and campfires go hand in hand. And fortunately, there are many varieties of "dogs" that are NOT nitrate and other yucky stuff-filled. Of course, kids rarely need help in using their imaginations, but you can guide them in the many new ways they can eat their veggie dogs. Consider bringing your favorite biscuit batter (prepared before you leave the house is easiest) and help children wrap their dog up in a blanket for those cold camping nights. Or try cutting your dogs to resemble a spider or other insects you might encounter on your journey by slicing it lengthwise about halfway up from the bottom. Now that’s a not dog…one that will inspire creativity, laughter, and maybe even a few campfire stories.

So it has really happened, summer has officially arrived. Get in on the magic as you light up your fire. The fairies will surely dance around your wondrous campfire meals!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Quote of the day!

Smack dab in the middle of this afternoon...

Zeal: Mom, I'm hungry.
Ginger: Ready for a snack?
Zeal: Yes, I'm ready to eat my snack the way the people in Pompei ate their food.
Ginger: And how did the people in Pompei eat their food?
Zeal: Laying on the couch and having someone feed them (he says with a snicker, a hand covering the mouth, and even a dash out of the room because he know's there just NO WAY!)

Just had to share. This crazy kid.
Welcome! Here you will find simple recipes, inspiring ideas, personal stories, inspiration, and tools to experiment and explore the kitchen together.  So enter the family kitchen with absolute abandon, and begin your journey towards thinking outside the recipe!