The Polish people still live close to the land, growing their own food, foraging for mushrooms, and baking bread as part of their heritage. Seasonal recipes have been passed down as culinary heirlooms in an area that has been constantly invaded and ruled by different cultures. Poland was wiped off the map for 119 years and only lived on in the hearts of its inhabitants. Food became a symbol of their national identity. Beets, both tops and roots, are a favorite vegetable for pickles, salads, stews, and their famous borscht soups. When I was first married, a Polish grandma saw me looking at the beets in a grocery store in Los Angeles and she told me her secret recipe for borscht, which I have been enjoying ever since as in the picture above. Marjoram is a favorite herb. Pickles, sauerkraut, mushrooms, yogurt, and sourdough breads are often included in a Polish meal eaten between 3 and 4 pm. Pierogi, irresistible Polish dumplings stuffed with onions and potatoes, have been a staple in eastern Europe for hundreds of years. The Polish cuisine endures as a small stubborn act of defiance in the face of ever changing borders.
Kids can plant leafy greens in the fall and continue sowing at three week intervals to have salads throughout the winter in Southern California, as in the picture above in my plot at Las Flores Community Garden. Lettuces, spinach, arugula, chard, mustard, and other stir fry greens and salad fixings thrive in cooler temperatures. In fact, leafy greens have a sweeter taste and more vivid colors after a frost. Many of these cool season crops will bolt in hot weather, and an emergence of flowering and seed development rather than leaf formation ends the harvest. Salad leaves as alternatives to lettuce heads have become popular with their rich spicy flavors and superior nutritional content. These leafy greens bring outstanding broad based nourishment to the table with vitamins, minerals, and a wide variety of phytonutrients. Arugula, mustard, bok choy, collards, and kale come from the cruciferous vegetable family, while spinach, Swiss chard, and beet greens come from the amaranth family. Kids can start organic seeds indoors or sow directly in their raised bed garden in autumn. Mulch with compost and cover the seedlings with row covers or cloches to conserve soil moisture and protect from pests. Kids can harvest by cutting the outside leaves and leaving the plant to continue growing. Fresh leafy greens are delicious in salads, lightly steamed, or in a quick stir fry. For the best nutrition, harvest leaves in the morning. The more leaves kids harvest, the more will grow.
The climax of my many visits as a small child to the date groves in the Coachella Valley of Southern California, the largest date producing region in North America, was sampling the rich date shakes and date candies that are not only yummy but good for you. Date Palms have been cultivated for centuries in Arabian counties. Dates are rich in vitamins and minerals, providing energy and fiber. In 1912, the King Solomon Date Tree was imported from Arabia, grew healthy in the Coachella Valley, and now produces 3,600,000 offsprings each year. In California, the medjool is the king of dates because of its size, flavor, and texture and has become popular worldwide. Dates are delicious baked in cookies and cakes, mixed in rice dishes, and blended in shakes. Date Energy Balls have been enjoyed for thousands of years and were a staple with travelers during the Middle Ages. This no bake, one bite dessert is perfect for hikers today. Put 5 ounces organic medjool dates roughly chopped, 2 ounces organic almonds, 2 ounces organic pistachios, 1 tbsp organic canola oil in a food processor until ground and resembling breadcrumbs. In a large bowl, shape into balls the size of a walnut. Place the balls in the refrigerator to set. Finish by rolling each ball in either organic toasted sesame seeds or shredded coconut.
Cauliflower is a wonderful winter veggie in the cabbage family with abundant health benefits in its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients, fiber, vitamin C, and potassium. The picture above, taken this November, is my first cauliflower this season. Cauliflower comes in many colors: snowy white, orange, green, and purple. An annual veggie that is hardy to light frosts, cauliflower will bolt in the heat and tastes better after a light freeze, making it a great crop to plant in the fall. Start the seeds indoors and when the starter plants reach 3 or 4 inches tall take them outside for several hours in the heat of the day to harden off for a couple of weeks. Plant the cauliflower seedlings in a raised bed filled with rich organic soil and cover with a floating row cover, a light weight synthetic fabric that allows sunlight and water to pass through to protect the newly planted seeds and seedlings. These covers can be installed over PVC pipe hoops to create insulated tunnels along garden rows to retain heat and moisture and keep out pests. Leave enough space, about 2 feet, between the plants to allow them to fully develop. Water regularly and when the head begins to develop, wrap the leaves around the head and bind them with twine to hold them together to prevent discoloration from the sun. When the head is 6 – 8 inches in diameter, harvest by cutting the head just below the first set of leaves with a sharp knife. After harvesting pull the entire plant from the soil to avoid soil born diseases. Fresh from the garden cauliflower can be added to pasta, rice, or soups to make a delicious and nutritious dish. Hearty cauliflower can be sliced through the stem and roasted with herbs. Kids also like organic steamed cauliflower mashed with organic red potatoes.
Poblano peppers are mildly hot bright green chilies from Mexico that have a heart shape and can grow up to 3” by 6” with thick dark forest green to chocolate brown flesh and are perfect for stuffing. Rice and beans are a staple classic pairing, rich in protein, fiber, and flavor. Kids can make the black beans ahead of time by soaking ½ cup organic black beans overnight and simmering for 40 minutes. In another pot, cook ½ cup organic brown rice and simmer for 50 minutes. Heat organic extra virgin olive oil in a large pot add ¼ cup chopped organic sweet onion and ¼ cup diced organic red bell pepper and cook 5 minutes. Add 2 minced garlic cloves, ¼ tsp cumin, and a sprig of fresh oregano and cook another minute. Drain the beans and add them to the pot with ½ cup orange juice and ½ tsp sea salt. Simmer for 40 minutes. Add ¼ cup of fresh chopped cilantro and 1 tbsp organic extra virgin olive oil to the cooked rice. Kids can roast 3 organic Poblano chilies on a parchment covered sheet pan in a 425⁰ oven for 20 minutes, turning occasionally with tongs until the chilies are charred on all sides. Let the chilies cool in a large covered bowl for 15 minutes. Rub and peal off the skins of the chilies, cut in half, and remove the seeds. In a sauce pan, melt 1 tbsp vegan butter, ¼ cup whole wheat bread crumbs, ¼ tsp cumin, and sea salt. Place the chilies on a parchment covered baking sheet, stuff them with beans and rice, and sprinkle the bread crumbs on top. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes. Mash 1 ripe avocado with 1 tsp fresh lime juice, fresh chopped cilantro, and sea salt. Top the baked Poblano peppers with the guacamole. Serve with cornbread.
Kids think pomegranates are fun to eat with juicy seeds that pop in the mouth, delicious in salads, on ice cream, in baked goods, and vegetable dishes. Kids have been eating pomegranates for thousands of years, and they are mentioned in the Bible, the Mahabharata, Greek mythology, and Shakespeare. The pomegranates in the picture above are on a young tree that was planted a year ago in the Las Flores Community Orchard. Pomegranates are a super-food high in antioxidants that inhibit inflammation and protect collagen in joint cartilage. Drinking pomegranate juice can reduce the toxic effects of free radicals and protect against heart disease, cancer, and cognitive impairment. The skin of the pomegranate is thick and inedible and is used to make a red dye, but inside the skin are hundreds of juicy seeds. First score the fruit with a knife and break it open, put it in a bowl of water, where the seeds sink and the inedible pulp floats, and whack the rind with a large spoon. In late winter, a pomegranate tree can be propagated from a hardwood cutting about 10 inches long, from year old wood that is ¼ to ½ inch in diameter. Once established, the tree is fairly drought tolerant and suited for mild desert climates, taking 3 – 5 years to produce fruit. Pomegranate season is from October through February, so kids can add this winter fruit to baked goods and delicious dishes for the holidays.
Have fun preparing this healthy, fast, easy to make pasta dish with a twist on Fettuccine Alfredo. Hummus, a dip made from chickpeas, is an excellent source of protein and fiber. Kids can make the hummus ahead of time by cooking ½ cup dried organic chickpeas and putting them in the blender with 4 tablespoons organic extra virgin olive oil, ½ tsp cumin, 2 tbsp organic tahini (a rich in omega-3 sesame seed dip), 1 garlic clove, 4 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon, ½ tsp curry powder, and ¾ tsp sea salt, blended until smooth and creamy. Chop and steam 2 cups organic broccoli,¼ cup organic red bell pepper, ⅓ cup organic sweet onion and slice 4 organic crimini mushrooms. Kids can use organic wide Udon noodles which cook in 8 minutes in boiling water. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water. Drain the noodles and return to the pot. In a sauce pan, mix 1 cup of hummus, ½ cup of the pasta water, zest and juice of ½ organic lime, 1 tbsp organic extra virgin olive oil, and 1 tbsp vegan butter. Pour the sauce over the noodles. Mix with the noodles ¼ cup of fresh chopped basil, ¼ cup of fresh chopped parsley, 2 tbsp nutritional brewers yeast, and a pinch of red pepper flakes and sea salt to taste. Add the veggies and toss gently. The hummus creates the most scrumptious, creamiest sauce that kids just love for a healthy dinner in just 30 minutes.