It’s Memorial Day! In our house, that used to mean one of two things. We’d either be on the road back from my sister’s in Raleigh for a family reunion, or we’d be heading to the Taste of Cincinnati. Unfortunately, my sister now lives in Phoenix (too far to drive, flying not a great option) and COVID19 has put the kaibosh on festivals for the time being.
So, I’m left at home this morning with no siblings and no festival. In an effort to clean out my fridge, which seems to always be full of leftovers, I thought I’d try my hand at potato pancakes- a staple we’d normally enjoy at the Taste of Cincinnati (as well as the Oktoberfest- yet to be determined for fall)!
Normally potato pancakes are made with shredded potatoes, but if you’ve got leftover white, yellow or mashed sweet potatoes, this is a super simple recipe that can be served with apple butter, sour cream, stone ground mustard or ketchup. I served mine with apple butter because I love the combination of sweet and savory. If you’ve got onion, dice up 1/4 cup and add it to the mix.
If you’ve got sweet potatoes, they can be seasoned with cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice or ginger. Cumin is also a versatile spice that goes well in either regular mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes. The pancakes can be made gluten-free by substituting almond, potato or other gluten-free flour.
2 cups mashed potatoes
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
corn or canola oil for frying (roughly 1/4 cup)
- In a medium mixing bowl, combine mashed potatoes, beaten egg, flour, and spices.
- Heat a large skillet and add 2 Tbsp. oil.
- Once oil is hot, use a tablespoon to scoop 4 portions of the potato mixture and place in the hot oil.
- Fry on one side for 2-3 minutes, then flip.
- Flatten the pancake a bit after you’ve flipped it and continuing cooking and flipping until both sides are golden brown.
- Serve with your favorite condiment. Enjoy!
Makes 6 pancakes.
We’ve all been home a little more than we’d like these past few months. We’re not used to being sequestered for so long and it’s ramping up our anxiety. On top of that, several of us (self included) have children we need to teach, entertain and FEED. At our house, we no sooner finish lunch and the question of “what’s for dinner?” arises.
If you’ve got teenagers, they seem like bottomless pits. You can’t feed them enough. Meal times are completely skewed with schedules being tossed out the window as they navigate school from home. Snacks seem more frequent, too. This could be due to boredom, stress, anxiety or just hunger!
And now, summer break has just begun. Since we’re unclear about travel (can we go, where can we go, should we stay home?), we may as well use the ‘thyme’ for something productive.
Respecting the right to eat
I’ve dropped several hints to my girls that perhaps they should be fixing their own meals, or at minimum, learn something beyond pancakes! But, if you want to get them cooking, sometimes they need to start with what they enjoy eating. For my girls, it’s waffles, pancakes and sweets. Our mixer is getting quite the workout these days.
Having dealt with an eating disorder myself at 16, the last thing I want is my girls to feel uncomfortable about food and their bodies. While 80% of what we eat is nutritious, I do allow treats regularly. They may not be eating sugar coated cereal or Poptarts for breakfast, but there is always at least one treat per day (typically after dinner) like ice cream or a brownie. Being militant does no one any good and shaming kids for enjoying food can wreck their relationship with food. Food is for eating!
Teaching kids to cook
If you want your kids to learn to cook, they have to get their hands dirty. Shows like Chopped, Top Chef and America’s Test Kitchen may increase their interest in food and cooking, but actually prepping the food requires them to be in the kitchen, not on a couch.
Below are some tips to get kids started in the kitchen:
- Ask them to make a list of what they’d like to learn to make from each meal. From here, you may start with a basic omelet, French toast or pancakes then move on to salad, soup or other dish.
- Involve them in shopping. Once we’re able to shop as families again, bring your kids to the store and have them pick out the fruits or vegetables they like or side items they’d like to have for their meal.
- Let them collect ingredients for you. This teaches them what goes into a recipe and how you can make substitutes if needed. No oregano? Try Italian seasoning instead.
- Utilize math skills. Ask your kids if they can scale a recipe up or down. This is a great way to teach or reinforce fractions. Have them weigh or measure ingredients. Teach them the difference between “wet and dry ingredients”.
- Talk them through it. Explain what baking soda or baking powder does in recipes or why using whole wheat flour changes the texture, color and taste of things. Ask questions and see what they already know.
- Let them plan a meal. Have them choose a protein, vegetable and starch of choice. Start with having them make the side dish.
- Encourage sanitation. Now more than ever, hand washing is super important. Remind them that raw eggs and raw flour contain bacteria and cookies should be COOKED before being eaten. Use separate cutting boards when cutting meat or vegetables.
- Teach them how to reduce food waste. Show them how leftover chicken can be made into soup, tacos or other dishes. Discuss food insecurity with them. They may never have heard of the term before.
- Experiment with spices. Make a batch of plain rice then try different dried herbs or spices in it. They might find that they like curry, cumin, paprika or oregano. It’s also fine to keep it plain!
- Be patient. Your kids are going to make a mess. They aren’t going to like everything they prepare. The key is to let them try and fail. It’s the only way we really learn.
If you’re tired of seeing the same 3 or 4 people (or for some, no people) because you’ve been sequestered from society for 8 weeks, you’re not alone. Having to work from home, file for unemployment (for some), home school your kids and find a mask to wear every time you leave the house can be draining.
I get it. We all want to resume our “normal” lives of going to work, the mall, the grocery store, and our friend’s and family’s homes. It would be nice to not have to think about getting sick every time we left the house.Being isolated is difficult.
So- how are people coping? For some, getting outside to walk or ride a bike has been exactly what they needed. Many of us don’t take the time to get outside and enjoy the weather because we’re too busy running around with work, kid’s sports, meetings and other events. You can physical distance with a walking partner and still be social, which is great for your mental health.
Others have taken to cooking. For someone who embraces food, it’s refreshing to see people baking bread. CARBS are cool again! Don’t beat yourself up for craving carbs right now. They are comfort food to many. We’re all in survival mode. Have some grace about your food choices.
Maybe you’re learning a new skill? Just about every day, I receive an email or invitation to participate in a free webinar. You can learn about free lance writing, podcasting, how to make your favorite curry or just about any other topic right now. Take advantage of it!
Are you a person of faith? Reach out to members of your faith congregation or take time to pray or meditate daily. It may help to reduce anxiety and stay connected.
Social media use is at its peak. It’s natural to want to connect with people. I’ve been enjoying meeting other dietitians across the country via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I avoid political chatter as it can be draining and divisive. I’m not going to change anyone’s mind and there’s no point fighting online with strangers.
Take care of your pets and your skin. Psychologists note we may all be suffering from “skin hunger” from the lack of personal touches we’re normally accustomed to. Pet your dog or cat often, hug the people in your immediate circle daily. If you live alone, treat yourself to long bath or hot shower or use a favorite lotion on your legs and arms. We all need human touch.
We will get through this. I fully recognize my own anxiety over the future. I’m opting for virtual visits only and giving up my office space. I have no control over the virus. As things open back up here, I’ll have more control over where I can go. But, I’m not too eager to host a party, go to a crowded shopping mall or eat out.
Do what feels right for you.
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Sometimes the simplest combinations are the most delicious! Trying to use up our “pandemic canned goods”, my husband and I decided to try our hand at hummus. How hard could it be?
Hummus is a traditional Mediterranean spread made with chick peas that’s often used as a dip with vegetables, but we’ve used it before as a spread in place of mayonnaise or mustard. You can change the flavor quite a bit by adding roasted red peppers, olives or cayenne pepper. We decided to use it in place of meat for a wrap.
We used whole wheat tortillas, 2 Tbsp. hummus, red pepper strips, 1 tsp. feta cheese, 4-5 grape tomatoes cut in half and a handful of chopped olives in our wraps. Whole wheat or regular pita bread would work as well. Keep in mind I am a food neRD. Store bought hummus would be just as tasty in this wrap.
Hummus uses tahini (sesame paste), which may or may not be in your pantry. Never fear! Peanut butter makes a great substitute. You will need a food processor or high powered blender to get the hummus nice and smooth. We used bottled lemon juice in place of fresh lemons. If you’re out of garlic, use 1/2 tsp. garlic powder instead. We added extra cumin and a dash of cayenne pepper to give the hummus a little extra kick.
Recipe credit to http://cookieandkate.com
1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas, rinsed and drained, or 1 ½ cups cooked chickpeas
½ teaspoon baking soda (if you’re using canned chickpeas)
¼ cup lemon juice (from 1 ½ to 2 lemons), more to taste
1 medium-to-large clove garlic, roughly chopped
½-1 teaspoon fine sea salt, to taste
½ cup tahini
2 to 4 tablespoons ice water, more as needed
½-1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1. Place the chickpeas in a medium saucepan and add the baking soda. Cover the chickpeas by several inches of water, then bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Continue boiling, reducing heat if necessary to prevent overflow, for about 20 minutes, or until the chickpeas look bloated, their skins are falling off, and they’re quite soft. In a fine-mesh strainer, drain the chickpeas and run cool water over them for about 30 seconds. Set aside (no need to peel the chickpeas for this recipe!).
2. Meanwhile, in a food processor or high-powered blender, combine the lemon juice, garlic and salt. Process until the garlic is very finely chopped, then let the mixture rest so the garlic flavor can mellow, ideally 10 minutes or longer.
3. Add the tahini to the food processor and blend until the mixture is thick and creamy, stopping to scrape down any tahini stuck to the sides and bottom of the processor as necessary.
4. While running the food processor, drizzle in 2 tablespoons ice water. Scrape down the food processor, and blend until the mixture is ultra smooth, pale and creamy. (If your tahini was extra-thick to begin with, you might need to add 1 to 2 tablespoons more ice water.)
5. Add the cumin and the drained, over-cooked chickpeas to the food processor. While blending, drizzle in the olive oil. Blend until the mixture is super smooth, scraping down the sides of the processor as necessary, about 2 minutes. Add more ice water by the tablespoon if necessary to achieve a super creamy texture.
6. Taste, and adjust as necessary—I almost always add another ¼ teaspoon salt for more overall flavor and another tablespoon of lemon juice for extra zing.
7. Scrape the hummus into a serving bowl or platter, and use a spoon to create nice swooshes on top. Top with garnishes of your choice, and serve. Leftover hummus keeps well in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 1 week.
And that’s a wrap!
If you’re spending more ‘thyme’ in the kitchen these days, you’re not alone! While everyone was grabbing toilet paper, my husband and I were going for unbleached flour and packets of yeast. If it’s the end of days, we’re going to live it up with bread and cookies! Kidding (sort of).
Being the frugal dietitian that I am, I have discovered that you can use smaller amounts of ingredients in certain recipes and still have your cake, and eat it, too. While we’re not making too much cake these days (we save that for birthdays), a batch of cookies is a great way to procrastibake an afternoon or morning away.
Last night, my girls requested cookies. In the past, I’d make the batch and my husband would bring some to work or we’d give some to neighbors. Well, things have changed a bit. Social distancing has put a damper on sharing. In addition, I’d rather not use up all my ingredients and have to make another trip to the store or Click list order.
Here are a few hacks to spare ingredients and calories when baking.
- Cut the recipe in half. If your cookies, brownies or other baked item has an even number of eggs, make half the recipe. This leave eggs for something else (such as breakfast or tuna salad) and you’re not stuck with dessert that you can’t share with office mates or neighbors.
- Reduce the sugar in your cookie recipe by 1/2 cup. Most drop cookie recipes call for 1 1/2 cups of sugar (3/4 cup brown, 3/4 cup granular). Use 1/2 cup each and you’ll never notice the difference.
- Use less butter. I like the texture of cookies better when I used less butter. Most recipes have a full stick of butter for a full recipe. I use 1 1/2 sticks instead and the texture is crispier and less greasy. If you’re using a half recipe, you’ll need just 6 Tbsp. butter.
- Add 1 cup of rolled oats in place of a cup of flour. This boosts the fiber content in your recipe and gives the cookies a chewier texture.
- Use mini semi-sweet chips. You’ll get more chocolate flavor with mini chips because they can cover more surface area of your cookies.
- Freeze your extra dough or cookies. There’s no rule that you have to bake all of the dough in one session. Keep dough in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Freezing cookies keeps you from eating them all at once or having them sit on your counter and get stale.
- Add orange, almond, cinnamon or other flavors. Change the flavor or your dough and you’ve got a whole new cookie! I’m a fan of using orange and cinnamon together or almond flavoring in place of vanilla. Use full amount of original recipe for this one. A little extra vanilla never hurts!
- Substitute dried fruit for half of the chocolate chips. Raisins, dried cranberries or cherries add a chewy texture to your cookies and reduce the fat in the recipe when used in place of chocolate.
- Try baby food prunes in place of butter in brownie recipes. Prunes enhance the chocolate flavor and give the brownies more of a cake-like texture.
- Add some zest! Orange or lemon zest is particularly delicious in oatmeal cookies or in blueberry muffins.
Half Batch Chocolate Chip Cookies:
6 Tbsp. butter (softened)
1/4 cup granular sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 cup & 2 Tbsp. white flour
1 cup semi-sweet mini chocolate chips
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees
- Place softened butter, white sugar and brown sugar in a mixing bowl. Mix by hand or use a stand mixer to cream ingredients together.
- Add egg, salt, baking soda, and vanilla and beat until blended.
- Stir in flour to make a soft dough.
- Add in chocolate chips and mix into the dough.
- Place 1 tsp. cookie dough on a greased cookie sheet or baking mat in rows of 3.
- Bake for 9 minutes or until lightly brown
Makes 16 to 18 cookies.
If you’re a baker or need a fun gift for one, check out my Whiskin’ it all gifts:
Whiskin’ it all Eco Tote Bag