Earl Grey Kombucha

Makes 2 qt (or litres)

IMG_1798

While I’m pretty sure I had had some kind of fermented tea during my Japan days, I can’t really be sure.

So, it has to be said that my first official introduction to fermented drinks was in culinary school.  Everyone was drinking kombucha, and everyone was making it.  Except for me.  Kombucha Brooklyn (especially) provided me with some delicious choices so I never really had to dabble in the art of bacteria breeding.  It seemed easy enough.  I just never felt the urge or desire to venture down that scary bacteria-ridden road.   Frankly, I was relieved.

Then I moved to the UAE.  Suffice it to say that there is no Kombucha Brooklyn here.  But what I did find was an incredibly friendly community of bacteria breeding foodies eager to share their knowledge and SCOBYs.  When you suddenly find yourself in a place where every assumption is challenged, every belief is toyed with, every conviction slightly to drastically changed, you realize you are a bit more capable of whatever it is you weren’t before.  So, bye-bye fear and hello bacteria.

What was I afraid of?  Well, bacteria!  What if I didn’t “grow” it right?  What if it gets moldy?  How will I know if it tastes right?  Will I get sick from a bad batch?  There’s nothing like a good experiment to put all those questions to rest.  That and support from the previously mentioned community of just as crazy as I am health nuts.  Who knew I’d fit in so well here?

So, everyone in culinary school was drinking it because it is incredibly nutritious, and it’s the same reason everyone here is, too.  It is known as ‘the immortal health elixir’ and the biggest reason is kombucha’s unique ability to detox the body.  Kombucha has many acids and enzymes beneficial to the detox process, already produced in the body.  This alleviates the work of the pancreas and liver and helps them do a better job.  Glucuronic acid (GA) is the key word here.  The main function of GA is to bind to toxins and escort them from the body.  And, the GA in kombucha is very effective.  It is even effective at eliminating several environmental toxins.  (Think plastics, pesticides, etc.)  Studies show that GA has also been linked to cancer prevention¹.  Read that sentence again because it’s amazing.

Other health benefits include a very happy digestive system.  Food and drink that have been fermented have, in a manner of speaking, been pre-digested.  The bacteria formed during this process not only aids the gut by populating it, but also helps you fully digest.  Kombucha is a true probiotic (which from the Greek means “for life”).  It helps rid your body of excess candida, helps keep allergies in control and does wonders to boost immunity.  It actually does all those things.

It starts as a quest for better health but soon you begin craving that slightly vinegary, yet subtly sweet effervescence.  Trust me, you will.

And trust me, it’s worth the experiment.  But just so you know, it’s a bit like opening Pandora’s box.  There is no end to what you will learn and no end to the myriad ways different drink and food can be fermented.  It’s a wild, bubbly ride!

You’ll need:

2 T loose Earl Grey tea (or 6 tea bags)

2 qt (or litres) water

1/2 – 3/4C organic sugar

1 Kombucha SCOBY* (SCOBY is an acronym for Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast.  You can get one from a friend or if you are the first brave soul of your circle of friends, you can get a starter here or here.)

about 1C of kombucha (which will have come with the SCOBY)

2 qt glass jar (sterilized), clean kitchen towel or a couple of layers of cheese cloth and rubber bands

To make:

1.  Boil your water and remove from heat.

2.  Add tea and sugar and let steep until water is cool.  I usually let mine sit for a few hours, mostly because by the time I remember that’s how much time has passed.  Tastes great still!

3.  Add the tea to the jar and then add the 1C kombucha.  Let this mix of teas get acquainted and then introduce the scoby.

4.  Cover the jar with the kitchen towel (or cheese cloth) and secure the rubber band around the mouth of the jar.

5.  Keep the jar in a safe place where it won’t be moved or jostled, where it’s room temperature and out of direct sunlight.

6.  Let ferment for about a week, untouched.  After a week, give it a taste test to see where you are.  Don’t be surprised if another scoby has begun to form at the top of the jar.  This is good and is a sign that your kombucha is healthy.

7.  When you’ve finished about half of the kombucha, you can add another quart/litre of fresh (cooled) tea to the batch.  This is called a continuous brew.

*Disclaimer:  There are plenty of sources that recommend NOT using Earl Grey tea for kombucha because of the bergamot essential oil.  It is thought that the oil could compromise the health of the scoby.  However, many people have used Earl Grey and had successful batches and beautiful scobys.  I am now part of that list!  The beautiful thing about fermentation is experimentation!  Brew away!  And if you’ve got a great flavor working for you, please share it!

¹http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2208084?dopt=Abstract

Blueberry Coconut Pancakes with Coconut Yogurt

Makes about 10 (1/4c) pancakes

Blueberry Coconut Pancakes

I get excited about food.  Back in the States, the days we got our CSA boxes were happy days.  My husband and I would go through the box, checking out our goods while talking about this meal or that for each beautiful piece of produce we touched.  Here in the UAE, that excitement has doubled…at least doubled!  We don’t get the exotic, heirloom treasures that the Hudson Valley has given us over the years but then again, we do live in the desert.  And I don’t mean that figuratively.  We actually live in a desert.  So, any produce (and so far we’ve gotten arugula (aka rocket), strawberries, peppers, sweet potatoes, chard, beets, carrots, celery, green beans, spinach, tomatoes, cucumbers, a whole bunch of fresh herbs, organic eggs, organic, low-heat pasteurized milk, to name a few) we get that is local AND organic is amazing!  What really doubles our excitement is that Claire is now very much a part of our conversation and investigation of our beloved farm fresh boxes.

This week she went straight for the blueberries.   Like mother, like daughter.  They were like blue little pearls peeking up at us underneath all that glorious green.  They were irresistible.  While Claire got through one box, I managed to put another away for a special breakfast.  Little did I know how special it would turn out.

Berries in general are super stars (and why you should always go organic when buying some).  When you hear about blueberries especially, and their amazing health promoting properties, the first word to come to mind is likely, antioxidants.  And, rightfully so! Blueberries are not messing around when it comes to its antioxidant power.  What’s special about it is that the antioxidants in blueberries offer whole body support.  Each and every system in our bodies, from the cardiovascular system to the nervous system to the digestive system, benefits from the antioxidants in blueberries.

Another word that should come to mind is, phytonutrients.  While anthocyanins are the most popular, given that the berries get their blue from them, there are a myriad of other phytonutrients that work together to make this berry the super star it is.  Got cholesterol issues to deal with?  Eat blueberries.  Need a cognitive boost (as in memory, especially)?  Eat blueberries.  Got insulin issues to contend with?  Eat blueberries.  Want general protection from cancer?  Eat blueberries.

I’m sure by now you’re getting my drift.

More good news.  If you find yourself having to freeze blueberries, or buying frozen blueberries, you won’t be compromising much of the antioxidants at all!  Buy out your farmer’s blueberries and make a home in your freezer for them.  This way you can enjoy this super berry all year long!

On to the recipe now.  It became this on its own.  I’m not sure what I even had in mind anymore, but this one is a winner.  If you’re a GF eater, opt out the spelt for GF all-purpose flour OR GF oat flour.  My new favorite topping for pancakes is yogurt and I can get some pretty decadent yogurt here!  Next time I may try putting the yogurt into the actual batter to see how that goes, but if you get to it first, please let me know how it goes!

You’ll need:

  • 1 C organic spelt flour*
  • 1/4 C organic coconut flour
  • 1/4 C unsweetened shredded coconut (or dessicated coconut for my new UK and AUS friends 🙂 )
  • 2 T coconut (or date) sugar
  • 2 t baking powder
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 3 medium eggs (I used farm fresh eggs which are typically smaller, so 2 large eggs would probably be OK, too)
  • 1 1/4 C organic whole milk
  • 1/2 C coconut oil or melted butter (organic of course!)
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 1 C organic blueberries + more for garnish

To make:

  1. In a large bowl, mix flours, shredded coconut, sugar and baking powder.  Combine well.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, salt, milk, coconut oil (or butter) and vanilla.
  3. Add wet ingredients into dry (make a little well in the dry ingredients to incorporate evenly and prevent too many lumps) and mix just to combine.  Resist the urge to over mix!  The batter will be slightly thicker than you’re used to because of the coconut flour.  Don’t worry.  It’ll even out when cooking.
  4. Add blueberries and stir again, gently.
  5. Heat a cast iron griddle over medium heat and melt some butter.  Using a 1/4C measuring cup, pour the batter into the pan and cook for 3-4minutes or until golden brown.  Flip pancake over, gently!  Resist the urge to press on the pancake!  It will cook evenly and quickly without any tampering. 😉
  6. Keep pancakes warm in the oven until ready to serve.
  7. Serve with a dollop of yogurt, a few fresh blueberries and your favorite sweetener such as maple syrup, date syrup or honey.
  8. Enjoy!

Little Foodies

AKA Kids Who Eat Everything

Claire loves olives, dates, apricots, raisins and seaweed in her snack box.  This was her 8th time trying papaya and she's finally taking to it.

Claire loves olives, dates, apricots, raisins and seaweed in her snack* box. This was her 8th time trying papaya and she’s finally taking to it.

If your first thought was, “those kids don’t really exist” or “if they do exist, they’re definitely not mine”, I ask you to put those thoughts away and think of the perfect world.  A scenario might look like this: you and your family are sitting down to a meal of whole foods, including the dreaded green vegetables, and not a whine or complaint in protest is heard, instead you hear the sounds of satisfaction, lots of Mmmms and lots of silence.  It may sound impossible and to get that every single day might not be very likely, but versions of this perfect world are within your grasp.

My sister, a Francophile at heart, recommended I read Karen LeBillon‘s “French Kids Eat Everything”.  I devoured it.  It turns out French kids really do eat everything.  (I’ve also seen Japanese kids eat everything, which means a lot of other kids must, too.)  Why do they? Karen LeBillon does a good job of explaining this and her 10 food rules are great to get you and your family onto that foodie track.

What struck me the most about her book was how food culture is developed and maintained in France.  It starts at the top (government) and trickles down into the different facets of society until it reaches the schools and the homes of each family.  Each and every person is concerned with maintaining and instilling the food culture to their children, the next generation of eaters.  Where their food comes from and how it is treated is of utmost importance. Eating is a celebration!  Food is to be shared, talked about, prepared and enjoyed together, at the table, not in the car or on the subway. There is definitely some rigidity to the way this is achieved in France, at least to my North American sensibilities, but I have to admit that while reading this I did kind of wish I was French.  Or at least I wished I was living there.

In my food culture, often referred to as the ‘fast food nation’, NONE of this is true and kids are hardly ever expected to eat what adults eat. The result is a lot of adults eating exactly what they ate as kids, usually tons of fried finger foods, pasta, meatballs, chicken, a ridiculous amount of dairy, too much sugar.  My shock at how many adults have confessed they don’t like vegetables (except for potatoes) never wanes.

So, if you want your kids to eat well as adults, they HAVE TO eat well as kids.  But how?

  • Experiment and Innovate – You will learn how to prepare the same food a million different ways.  You have to.  You have to give your child the opportunity to try a food in many different forms, textures, flavors (spices), hot/cold, raw, etc.  One way will stick and it will open him up to trying the same food in another way.
  • Be Persistent and Patient– LeBillon says that it may take 15+ times of introducing a food before your child will eat it.  This was a relief to read.  I had been persistent before but would give up after 5 or 6 tries.  I tried this 15+ out and it turns out to be true. Be patient.  Your baby/child is probably skeptical and will need patience to convince her.
  • Make it Fun, Make it Beautiful, Make it a Big Deal – When eating is a chore it is utterly boring for you and your child.  It is also utterly boring when what you are eating isn’t very appealing.  We eat first through our eyes and if it’s vibrant and beautiful, there will be more of a chance that you’ll at least get a taste to happen.  Eating IS a big deal so make it one!  Make it special.  Karen LeBillon talks about the French dressing up their tables with table cloths and special dishes and utensils for the kids.  It’s a brilliant idea and it works.
  • Do it Together – Children of one of my client’s asked to watch me in the kitchen one day.  He (11yrs) and his sister (8yrs) devoured the miso soup I prepared with a side of brown rice.  They ate fish prepared en papillote.  They loved the green juice.  All were new foods to them.  They were amazed at how the ingredients turned into the meals I was preparing because it is an incredibly amazing process.  Share it with your children and their enthusiasm for trying what they’ve prepared will skyrocket.
  • Eat Real Food – This is a biggie.  Canned peas suck.  Peas just out of the pod are like candy.  Kids are not stupid and they know the difference between real food and what is supposed to pass for food.  A huge misconception is that their taste buds can’t handle big flavors.  It’s true, their taste buds need to be developed (and it’s not just kids who need to do this), but a variety of flavors helps in this process.  Real, fresh, (yes organic, too), food explodes with flavor and as it delights you, it will delight them.

These are my own approaches with my daughter and I was beyond pleased to see that they were in some way or another on LeBillon’s list as well.  I may not come from a place with a well defined food culture, but if we all endeavor to help our kids become less-picky eaters, and more aware of food and how it binds us to each other and the Earth, we’ll be defining it from the bottom up, starting in our homes until the message gets heard way up top.

*LeBillon goes into great length about snacks and snacking.  If this is an issue for you and your family, you will be happy to know that it was a huge issue for her and her family as well.  She offers an interesting take on the whole subject!  As a mother, a chef and an expatriate, this book spoke to me on many levels.  It’s a great read, entertaining and informative and with delicious recipes to top it all off!

Bon Appetit and Bonne Chance!

Spiced Date Syrup

Yields 1-1 1/2C (about)spiced date syrup

Happy Anniversary Guaya Gourmet!

Somehow we are at our first year anniversary!  Last year when I began blogging here, Claire was 5 months old and spent most of her time in the kitchen with me in her carrier.  Now, she spends her time climbing on and off the footstool, opening drawers and cabinets and subsequently hiding my measuring cups and spoons, and helping me by mixing or adding ingredients.  Oh, and we also live in a foreign country.  A lot has changed.

Other surprises over the past year include; gathering quite a following (THANK YOU for reading and following!), developing relationships with other bloggers via social media networks, learning a ton about social media and how useful it is, learning and working with the developing taste buds and moods of a baby foodie, and being consistently amazed about the people I meet as a result of the food that inspires and delights me.

It has been a fruitful and eventful year.  And with every meal that has made it to these pages and all the meals that haven’t, we have been grateful.

That was my toast.  Now on to the real reason you’re here.

For our anniversary blog post, Claire and I thought it would be most logical to write about a local ingredient.  We miss maple syrup (along with kale) and while it is available here, it is prohibitively expensive and well, not very local.  Enter dates!

Dates are incredibly nutritious and the best part about this syrup is that it is a whole food.  You are getting the sweetener without any of the fiber removed so it is much easier assimilated and processed by the body and your body doesn’t get a shock from the sugar.

What makes dates special?  FIBER, POTASSIUM, B-COMPLEX VITAMINS, and ANTIOXIDANTS do!  Let’s do a quick recap on why we should care about these characteristics.

Fiber:  Soluble fiber (remember the peas?) dissolves and becomes gel-like traveling slowly through your digestive tract, makes you feel fuller and longer and it binds to cholesterol lingering around your body and escorts it out.

Potassium:  A mineral that is critical for muscle contraction.  So, dates are especially good if you’ve got an exercise regime you adhere to.  But, even if you don’t, you know what else is a muscle…your heart!  “A critical electrolyte, potassium allows our muscles to move, our nerves to fire, and our kidneys to filter blood. The right balance of potassium literally allows the heart to beat.”¹

B-Complex Vitamins:  This is a team of vitamins that are essential for many bodily functions such as making blood cells, maintaining blood glucose levels and they are also key for mind-related health such as mood, memory and stress.  Click here for more detailed and fascinating info.

Antioxidants:  I love these.  Dates have polyphenols which are particularly effective at protecting the body, destroying free radicals roaming around.  We’re all vulnerable to oxidative stress so you can’t ever really get too many antioxidants!

You can use this syrup in your baking, as a topping on pancakes, waffles, granola, oatmeal, yogurt, in your smoothies or even as a sweetener for your morning coffee.  However you use it, enjoy every delicious minute of it!

You’ll need:

12-15 pitted dates, Medjool or Halawii

1-1 1/2 C water- I had some coconut water so I added that, too.

3-4 (slightly crushed) cardamom pods

To make:

1.  Place pitted dates and cardamom in a bowl or jar and add just enough water to cover dates.  Let sit for at least 4 hours or as in my case, overnight.

2.  Remove cardamom pods and blend water and dates until syrup forms.  If you want, you could run it through a sieve or cheesecloth for a finer consistency.

3.  That’s it!  It will keep refrigerated for 2-3 weeks.

4.  Enjoy!

¹http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/potassium-and-your-heart

Yellow Split-pea Pâté

Makes 2 C

split pea pate

You never know when you’ll be in need of a quick pâté.  My need for it came because Claire and I were going to attend a Crafting/Play date.  Moms are responsible for bringing a healthy dish so we can all eat well (and the kiddies, too) while we’re socializing, getting to know each other, and learning about the new place we live in.  Play dates like these are filled with all kinds of valuable information!

While I can eat hummus for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and I now (happily) live in the land of hummus, I figured a little variety wouldn’t hurt.  And, I was out of chick peas and black beans.  I had intended to make this hummus-ish, but instead the pâté was born.  Inspiration comes from places you’d least expect and by the time I added the ginger, I knew this dish was going in a completely different direction.

Yellow split-peas.  How random, yet how perfect.  If these little organic yellow split peas could talk, I’m sure this is what they would say, “Wait!  Stop right there and give us a chance because believe it or not, we pack quite a nutritious punch in each of our tasty halves.  We have awesome fiber power.  More specifically, we have great soluble fiber, you know, the kind that forms a gel-like substance in the body making you feel full longer and then travels slowly out the body taking with it some cholesterol.  This slow movement is also great for balancing blood-sugar levels and is great news for diabetics.  You know what else we’re good at?  We’re good at reducing your risk of breast and colon cancer thanks to the isoflavones (those are phytonutrients-aka pretty potent stuff) we have.¹  And, with basically no fat at all, we’re also a pretty good source of protein.  Eat us with some rice and we’re a complete source of protein-great for vegans and vegetarians.  We’re also well known for our folate and B1 in addition to potassium, thiamin and phosphorus.²  And, (as if you need more convincing), we are absolutely DELICIOUS!”

Those are some pretty convincing peas!  And by the time you’re done with this pâté, you might be more willing to give the hummus a little rest once in a while.  It’s only fair, chickpeas work hard, too.

You’ll need:

1 shallot, diced

2 T extra-virgin olive oil

1 T balsamic vinegar

1 C dried yellow split peas, rinsed*

4-6 C vegetable stock (or a bouillon with water)

1 1″ piece of kombu

1 bay leaf

1 t cumin

1/4 t cinnamon

3 1/4″ slices of fresh ginger

Sea Salt, to taste

1 t miso paste (optional)

1 t sesame seeds (for garnish)

To make:

1.  In a saucepan over medium heat, add olive oil and then shallots and a pinch of salt.  Sauté shallots for a few minutes until translucent and fragrant.  Once they begin to caramelize, remove from heat and add balsamic vinegar.  Return to heat.

2.  Add yellow split peas, kombu, bay leaf, and spices, including ginger and enough stock/water to cover by a couple of inches.  Bring to a boil and then reduce to simmer, covering partially.  Let cook for about 40 minutes or until the peas are tender.

3.  Remove from heat.  With a slotted spoon, scoop out the split-peas (discarding ginger, bay leaf and kombu) and place in a blender.  Reserve the cooking liquid to adjust the texture to your liking, but I found that the split peas soaked in a lot of the liquid so I didn’t need any extra.  Add miso if using.  Blend to your desired consistency.

4.  Transfer to a bowl and sprinkle sesame seeds on top for garnish.  (I was going to use tahini but after tasting it, I found it so yummy I didn’t want to add anything else to it…that’s the reason I had the sesame seeds ready for garnish;)

5.  Enjoy with vegetable chips or crudité.  Either way, enjoy!

¹http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=56

²http://www.livestrong.com/article/279735-yellow-split-peas-health-benefits/

Honey Flax Banana Bread

Honey Flax Banana Bread

This was our first baking endeavour in our new kitchen with our new oven.  Besides the fact that I had missed baking, I needed to bake something to bring to our first ever dinner party in UAE…and as a family.  If you’ve never been to a dinner party with 6 kids before, you should try it.  It’s actually quite a lot of fun.  There were also chickens, cats and yes parents, too but that’s all for another post.  (Can you guess where I’ll be getting my free-range, organic eggs from?)

So, I HAD to bake something and since I’ve been working on versions of this banana bread for years now, it has become my default recipe to gift.  The only hiccup was that I could not find vanilla extract anywhere in this country.  When I commented on this seemingly odd fact, my husband reminded me that it’s because of the alcohol content.  So, no vanilla extract but loads of “vanilla flavor”…nein danke.  (If you think you’ll be seeing a recipe for homemade vanilla extract soon, you know me all too well:)

Regardless, the banana bread emerged smelling promising.  I increased the cinnamon to compensate a bit for flavor and did the same with the honey instead of using maple syrup or agave.  The result was, well let’s just say there was a lot of silence and not a crumb to be found.  This is music to any cook’s ears!

Honey is an incredible sweetener.  And, it has an incredible story.  Bees feast on flowers and carry the nectar from their feast in their mouths to the hive.  The nectar mixes with the bees’ saliva, which has special enzymes to turn it into honey.  The flutter of the busy bees’ wings provides enough air to keep the honey from collecting too much moisture, making it just perfect for us to consume!  Read more about it here.

The enzymes are why raw honey is superior to other pasteurized and processed honeys.  Honey in its raw state is chock full of anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties.  It also has anti-inflammatory properties which should be ringing all kinds of bells as far as health is concerned!  (Remember, inflammation is often the root cause of MANY, MANY oft preventable illnesses.)  And, in case you were wondering, yes, there are anti-oxidants in there, too.  In ancient Egypt, honey was used to dress wounds and more recently, Manuka Honey especially is still being used as an effective treatment for burns.  Honey has a low Glycemic Index which means that the sugars enter the bloodstream slowly and steadily allowing the body time to deal with processing it.  This makes it a much healthier sweetener and one suitable for diabetics…in moderation!

It’s also a great sweetener for kids.  (Just be aware that it is advised that honey not be given to babies under one year of age.)  It’s sweet without that artificial-tasting sweet.  Trust me, it makes a difference!

You’ll need:

1 C spelt flour

1/2 C oat flour

1/4 Ground Flax Seeds

1 T cinnamon

2 t baking powder

1/4 t baking soda

1/2 t sea salt

3 very ripe bananas

1/2 C raw honey (if you have it:)

2 large organic eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 C unrefined extra-virgin coconut oil or melted unsalted butter (organic &/or pastured if you have it:)

1/2 C chopped walnuts (optional)

To make:

1. Preheat oven to 350 and line a 8.5″X4.5″ bread loaf pan with parchment paper. (I made 3 smaller ones, but this recipe will make one nice sized loaf.)

2. Mix all dry ingredients thoroughly.

3. In a medium bowl, mash bananas well, add honey and stir to combine.  Let sit for a few minutes before adding the eggs and oil (butter).  Then combine all well.

4. Make a well in the center of flour mixture and add wet mixture.  Stir to combine but don’t over mix.

5. Add mixture to loaf pan and top with walnuts.

6. Bake in oven for 45-50 minutes or until top and edges are golden brown.  It’s a good idea to turn the bread around midway through baking time for a more evenly baked and moist loaf.

7. Enjoy!

Black Bean and Quinoa…Burger?

For picky, I mean, moody eaters, especially!

Makes 4 adult burgers and 3 baby burgers:)  (or 6 adult burgers)

blackbean and quinoa burger

It finally happened.  What parents everywhere told me would happen. My baby girl who ate EVERYTHING suddenly only wanted bread. Oh, what a slippery slope that bread, pasta, pita, naan route is.  It happened a few days before we left the USA and it got worse when we arrived.  My daughter’s addiction also involved copious amounts of olives (all kinds), feta once in a while, and raisins.  Still, getting her to eat variety (bye, bye balanced meals) was impossible.  And like any new mom, I enabled her.

Worried sick that she isn’t eating well, or enough, (what’s that about percentiles?) results in me enabling her “pickiness”.  Please, just eat something, anything!  As if all calories are equal.  I’m a health-supportive chef, I know this!  But, I’m also a new mom and reason isn’t always the first thing that comes to the rescue when worry sets in.

Yet, logic did follow.  She wouldn’t starve.  She kept eating those (usually refined) foods because I had made them available to her.  And she knew that!  And so the experimenting began…again.

First- eliminate those bread-y foods she’s addicted to.  She’ll get hungry and she’ll eat, (eventually), what IS available.

Second- go back to basics.  For us this meant going back to foods she used to love and again, because she’s older now, tweaking seasoning, textures, cuts, and believe it or not, presentation.

Third- be persistent and consistent.  If she doesn’t want to eat something, try again another time, try another form (in soup, as finger food, puree???), but keep trying.

I’ve been surprised with the outcome.  Claire IS an adventurous eater and she will try most things.  She eats well on most days.  On others she can’t be bothered as much.  It’s led me to wonder about these terms we’re so quick to label our kids with; picky, fussy eaters.  I’m reluctant to call Claire picky yet.  I think she’s still working on developing her tastebuds and like all people, sometimes she’s in the mood for (fill in the blank) and sometimes she isn’t.  Can’t blame her for that!  But I know that if I want her to develop healthy eating habits and become an adult who eats vegetables as well as a varied diet, then I have to give her those foods now.  If I want her to grow up loving and enjoying food, from sourcing it to cooking to eating, then we have to do those things now, together, as a family.

The experiment continues!

Now, let’s get to this burger.  It has quickly become a household favorite.  As an ex-vegetarian, I find I’m always trying to find the next amazing veggie burger because so many fall flat.  (Boca Burgers are gravely insulting to vegetarians!)  They also work great for Claire because she can pick up each delicious, nutrient dense bite with her little fingers.  I opted for quinoa, in an effort to avoid using wheat products (flour, breadcrumbs) where I don’t really have to, because she’ll inevitably end up eating it elsewhere, so minimizing her exposure (and increasing diversity) is in our best interest.  If black beans and quinoa have not made a home in your pantry yet, what are you waiting for?

Happy cooking!  Happy Eating!

You’ll need:

1 C dried black beans, soaked

1 1″ piece of kombu

1 bay leaf

1 t ground cumin

1/2 t ground coriander

1/2 C cooked quinoa

1/2 C walnuts, finely chopped

1/2 C finely shredded carrots (1 medium sized carrot should suffice)

1 small red onion, chopped

1/4 C parsley, finely chopped

3 T extra-virgin olive oil

Sea salt

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

To make:

1.  Cook off the beans.  Drain and rinse and add beans to a soup pot with enough water to cover.  Add kombu and bay leaf and let boil on high heat for 10 minutes.  Skim the foam off as often as needed.  After 10 minutes, reduce heat to medium, add cumin, coriander and a nice, solid pinch of sea salt.  Partially cover and cook for 50 minutes or until beans are very tender.  When done, drain (reserve some liquid, just in case) and mash with a potato masher.

2.  Add the rest of the ingredients to the beans and mix well.  (Optional:  You could refrigerate the mixture at this point to let is set and get firm before making patties, but it’s not necessary.)  Form 6 even patties.

3.  Heat 1/2T of oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat.  Cook burger about 5 minutes on first side or until golden brown, then flip burger and cook for another 4-5 minutes.

4.  Serve on a roll or pita (when in Rome, right!) and top with your favorite burger toppings.  I also like to serve it over an arugula salad with avocado.  YUM!

5.  Enjoy!