with fresh garlic, swiss chard, and organic golden flax
Since first bartering with Ben at Little Hat Creek Farm for basil in June 2015, I had an itch to invent a crisp cracker with the intense flavor of pesto. After a couple hours at the city pool the next day, I whipped up a mini-batch test version of these just in time for dinner (bartered Twin Oaks vegetarian chorizo with sauteed onions and greens), and was lucky enough to catch them before burning while juggling everything else. They were an instant hit as we ate them still warm, even with Fionn, who tasted one and asked for another with a mouth still stuffed with the first one.
I’m particularly excited to include authentic Spanish smoked paprika sea salt from Spanish Food Works in these crackers. Jane Gregg, the maven of la comida de España behind Spanish Food Works, bartered her smoked pimentón salt for crackers during the soggy Saturday storm at City Market in summer 2015, and I suspected it would work well with the basil and garlic. A year later, I’ve made a few tweaks to the original test recipe, I can say that these are now ridiculously tasty and honestly nutritious. Welcome back, basil season!
Sometimes, you just really want a cookie. Something warming and chewy and crunchy and flavorful all at the same time. And sometimes, if you are me, you cannot resist trying to screw up a perfectly good thing by making it with vegetables and without grain. This one took a bit of experimenting, but, as luck would have it, these ended up being delicious: a nutritious snickerdoodle packed with zucchini, sunflower, and hemp seeds. The seeds add a creamy “nuttiness” that pairs well with zucchini, which also has a way of tasting nutty. Instead of rolling them in sugar (one of my favorite holiday kitchen tasks as a little girl), I created a blend of dried date powder and cinnamon.
I have been looking forward to the full swing of red pepper season, and here we are in mid-late August with the staff at Whisper Hill Farm‘s market stand nearly begging people to buy whole flats of the things. I took them up on the offer last Saturday, bartering a four-pack of superstar omega bars to keep those hard-working ladies fueled as they packed up after market.
On Monday, a visit from the woman who must be the most self-sacrificing friend in the universe found us, with our collective clan of three boys, in our garden. You know that point in late afternoon, about an hour after waking naptime, when toys start to be used a little too aggressively, evidenced by balls hurling through the air, yelps that “so and so hit me with the book,” etc.? At that point, you know you missed some magic window in which smarter moms would have proactively transitioned everyone to an outside activity. Oops. I had been waiting for my first delivery from bulk distributor Dutch Valley Foods, headed my way on a tractor trailer with a vague ETA. Awaiting a call from the driver when he got close, we headed out to the garden. Fionn was eager to show his friends Carter (5yo) and Alan (3yo) how to pick tomatoes, which he is quick to remind you that he doesn’t like (“they are too squirby for me”), but respects simply because red, he now repeatedly declares, is his favorite color.
Carter had the idea to make a salad, so I offered the challenge to see how many colors we could find for it. The eager team waded from tomatoes to peppers to beets to carrots, through knee-high weeds in what other people might refer to as a “lawn.” We got a meager but respectable haul, and I used some of their very carefully-harvested cherry tomatoes (and basil) in the dough mixture.
These crunchy crackers are packed with Vitamin A and C from ripe red peppers and cherry tomatoes, but also chock full of nutritious seeds, including flax and chia.
Ingredients: roasted red peppers (Whisper Hill Farm), organic millet, organic flax seeds, organic raw sunflower seeds, cherry tomato, organic chia seeds, filtered water, organic extra virgin olive oil, organic dates, organic apple cider vinegar, sea salt, roasted garlic, fresh basil, smoked paprika, cayenne
Fionn & Carter in the garden, 8.17.2015
el cuatro cracker dough: can you identify all 4 seeds?
Last week at the market (August 1), a palate-savvy young customer asked if I made anything with sesame. Though I do have a pumpkin sesame cracker recipe, it occurred to me that, with pumpkin season a couple months away, I should come up with something a little more summery to go with sesame. This cracker pairs fresh zucchini, onions, and tomatoes with organic flax, sunflower, millet, and sesame, cumin, and brava sea salt from generous fellow market vendor Jane Gregg of Spanish Food Works. I’ve been looking for a cracker to use my beloved Egyptian Walking Onion, which creates small bulblets at the top of the stalk (not underground, like most onions), and this was the one. In late spring, the plant is glorious and alien (see photo below)– by now, the bulblets have made the plants so top-heavy that their dry brown stalks lay on their side, seeming to nap on hot August Days.
The resulting cracker is more subtle than the vegan three seed pesto cracker I have been making the past few weeks, meaning that it could be good to eat with a variety of bean or pepper dips.
With the spinach season waning for my local source (Broadhead Mountain Farm) and most other farms in the area, I set to work finding a replacement for tangy three seed spinach crackers, which seemed popular at market these past two Saturdays. What green vegetable could I transform into something crunchy, savory, and snackable?
Our garden had the answer. Back in mid-March, when no one in their right mind would plant summer crops without some kind of row cover, my husband and his visiting father dutifully heeded my suggestion to go make themselves useful in the yard. When he told me he planted peas and bush beans, I rolled my eyes? “Beans? Seriously? It’s way too early.” Scoff I did, and those few little seedlings struggled sadly as if to substantiate my skepticism. But now, three months later, they are going gangbusters. And in perfect garden irony, volunteer cilantro thrived temptingly right next to the tomato plants that we still a month from fruiting to salsa satisfaction. Every year, I bemoan the fact that by the time tomatoes are ripe, the cool-loving cilantro has bolted, set seed, and become bitter enough to ruin any attempt at salsa. So I enjoy it when I can, making cilantro bean dips and salad dressings throughout the spring. Thus, in the garden, the inspiration for this new cracker was born, and I like how thin and crisp they can get if I keep a watchful eye to prevent burning!
I jokingly called this the Seedy Mexican Cracker around the house (it’s like two bad racial jokes in one!), but thankfully one of my farmers market customers offered an alternative that allowed me to re-name version 2.0. By weight, they are mostly fresh green beans and golden flax seeds, but the cumin and cilantro shine through nicely without overpowering. Next time, I might add some sun-dried tomatoes (we still have some from last year’s garden) for some specks of color.
This is the perfect portable “treat” for the kiddos (you don’t have to tell them that there’s little bits of kale inside), or a great chewy re-fuel after a workout. In slightly more than 200 calories, each bar is a good source of protein (10 grams!), iron, Vitamin E, fiber, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, & manganese, a very good source of Vitamin K, and contains about 1,900 mcg of omega-3 fatty acids from four kinds of seeds. Since just enough certified organic raisins and dates are used to hold the bars together, it wouldn’t technically be lying to call this a “chewy raisin bar” for the little ones particularly wary of new foods. This is nutrient density at it’s best!
Flavors include superstar(vanilla rosemary) and mighty mint (cacao nibs with peppermint)
Ingredients (superstar bar): organic raw sunflower seeds, organic raw pumpkin seeds, organic seedless raisins, organic medjool dates, organic flax seeds, organic chia seeds, raw hemp seeds, local organic kale, sea salt, vanilla extract, lemon extract, fresh rosemary
These crackers were inspired by the Millet Crackers featured in Ruth Yaron’s Super Baby Food (page 509). As I gushed in my recent book review, I adore the book’s simple, practical language, and brief, to-the-point recipes. Of course, this recipe absolutely fails to uphold the simplicity principle, as her recipe instructions are a mere three and a half lines while mine are at least, um, well, just see for yourself. Crackers are a fickle art; what can I say? In any case, I found this to be a successful experiment in adding essential fatty acids, protein, salt, and sweet without crystalline or liquid sweeteners, nuts, or gluten. A groggy post-nap Fionn gobbled several after sneaking them from the still-warm cookie sheet on top of the oven. Enjoy (and thanks, Ruth)!
Millet & Fig Crackers with Rosemary
A crunchy, sweet, nutty cracker with pepitas, figs, and rosemary.
Remove any stem pieces from dried figs and cut each in half. Place the halves in a glass or metal measuring cup and add 1/2 cup hot water. Add the butter so it can melt. Set aside for at least 10 minutes.
Grind millet and pepitas in a blender (I use a Nutribullet) until a coarse powder consistency. Place this powder in a medium bowl and add the salt. Then crush the dried rosemary with your hands as you add it to the bowl, stirring everything until thoroughly combined.
Blend the fig/water/butter mixture in a blender until the figs are pretty well blended (some small chunks are okay, but nothing larger than a pea).
Combine the fig slurry with the dry ingredients, stirring thoroughly until the dough is a thick and just a little sticky. With oiled hands, roll into a two equally-sized firm balls, then flatten them to about 1 inch thick.
Put them them back in the bowl, cover with a cloth, and let chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350F.
Roll out a large sheet of parchment paper (at least 2 feet long) and place one of the dough balls in the center. Fold the parchment over the ball and then continue to roll it out to about 1/8 inch thick. Trim off jagged edges and score the rolled dough into 1 by 2 inch rectangles. Delicately move this sheet over to a cookie sheet.
Add the trimmed dough to the second ball and repeat step 7. For any additional jagged edges, you can flatten then into cracker pieces with your hands or roll them into balls and let your kiddo taste-test them.
Bake for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, take the crackers out of the oven and spread them out on the sheet, flipping each over to make sure they cook evenly. Turn off the oven and put the cookie sheets back in the oven, setting a timer for 5 minutes. Check them at this point, removing all the crackers except those that still seem too soft in the middle, putting them back in the warm oven for up to 5 additional minutes.
Let them cool completely before storing in an airtight container.
This recipe will yield about 80 1 by 2 inch crackers. I estimate a toddler serving to be about 5 crackers.
I thought we were done with snow days for the year, but alas. It was raining and 40+ degrees when the City of Charlottesville decided to cancel school due to a winter storm warning that would supposedly turn the rain to ice and snow later in the day. Spoiler alert: it happened, despite my fervent disbelief, and it’s sleeting buckets as I write this, safely at home.
Fortunately, Thursdays are not school days for Fionn anyway, so we pretty much operated as normal, waking about 6:15, eating breakfast, sitting on the potty, and finding socks that could pass for matching at 20 feet. Plenty of time to get ready and to head to the gym where he could play with all the other preschoolers off from school.
At an afternoon trip to the library this week, I picked up a book called You Can Do It, Sam by Amy Best and Anita Jeram. As usual, I was judging books by the covers when I made a series of quick grabs because before Fionn disappeared down an aisle or dumped a pencil container. I’m also just superficial like that, despite being an English major who should know better than to judge literature by its cover art. Upon getting home, though, my method proved fortuitous: the book features a mama bear and her son Sam, who together bake twelve little cherry cakes before sunrise on a snowy day. They wrap each one and drive out into the pre-dawn snow, delivering them to the doorsteps of their friends and neighbors, Sam hopping out of the passenger side of their beat-up green pick-up truck at each house. I can practically hear the door creaking on its hinge into the cold air each time. The sun is just rising as they get back home, and they enjoy the two remaining cakes with some cocoa, Sam proudly recounting his baking and delivering, hoping his friends liked their surprises. This story brought back memories of my mom’s holiday candy-making (she was a maven of fudge, sugar-coated pecans, chocolate covered peanut butter balls, and just about anything so full of sugar that your teeth would get a migraine after two bites). Every year before Christmas, she would fill little boxes and bags with her treats and urge me off to the neighbors for delivery. I HATED it. Oh, I get nostalgic now, sure, but I HATED it, and I could empathize with little Sam as his mama nudged him out of the truck to go leave his cake surprise at the first house. Then he got into it, of course, just as I did… after about seven years.
So, with two hours before needing to get on with our day and head to the gym (where we both get to play, SEPARATELY, which is key), we got busy with Mollie Katzen’s recipe for Orange-Cherry Cornbread Muffins in the Sunlight Café cookbook, subbing honey for the sugar and using whole wheat flour. I also made my own buttermilk with raw milk and apple cider vinegar, because who keeps buttermilk handy? Fionn’s stirring of the dry ingredients resulted in only minor flour casualties, a triumph he made up for by dumping vanilla extract all over the counter while I grated orange peel. I swabbed it up and used it as cologne to prophylactically disguise my eventual sweat stank at the gym. Little dab for him, too, since toddlers always seem to smell a little weird.
I’m not the type to get fancy with gifts (my wrapping jobs often get mistaken for a man’s), but we managed to fashion a humble sharing receptacle out of an old Amazon Prime box. You should know that I am sheepishly looking away as I type “Amazon Prime,” by the way. Of course, in our version of the story, Fionn didn’t hesitate to stuff his face with two muffins before sharing. Gotta taste test, right? And hell if we were going to hand-deliver each muffin all over town.
Our humble version of “cherry cakes”
Ready for delivery!
The box survived a couple accidental overturnings on the way (I’m a klutz), and eventually found a home on the kitchen counter in the ACAC Kidzone, where I am sure the staff were happy to see baked goods from me that didn’t include turnips or spinach. Yes, I brought paleo turnip spice muffins to share a few days ago. “Dude, just TRY one! Even Fionn says they’re nummy!” was met with skepticism.
NOTE: If a recipe says “10 muffins,” just trust it rather than trying to squeeze out another one with the batter. Ours would have been fuller, with coveted muffin tops, if I had followed instructions. Great recipe, Mollie, as always. The orange zest is crucially delectable.