LittleJudeonFood

One kid's adventures in gastronomy


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Cuckoo for Kale Chips

A little more than 2 years ago, I wrote about my love for kale chips. I’m happy to report that—unlike, say, pâté, beets, and orange foods—it’s a love I still embrace. Only now, because I’m such a big boy, I get to help make them. And clever Mama has upped the ante by introducing nutritional yeast into the mix.

What I can tell you about nutritional yeast can fit on a kale chip. Suffice it to say that it is different from the yeast we’ve used to make bread and is most definitely not brewer’s yeast (even though the label might tell you otherwise).

One of these is nutritional yeast, and one is not. Psss... its the one on the right.)

One of these is nutritional yeast, and one is not. (Psst… it’s the one on the right.)

Nutritional yeast (often called “nooch” by those in the know) has a cheesy/nutty flavor (think: Parmesan), and what’s not to like about that? In addition to adding oomph to vegetarian dishes, it has a dose of B-vitamins as well as all the amino acids. Mama likes putting it on her eggs, but it’s similarly stellar in a tofu scramble or on popcorn.

But don’t let my 4-year-old limitations hold you back from experimenting with nooch. If you make something yummy with it, let me know!

Love, Jude

Supercheesy Kale Chips

1 bunch kale
Olive oil
Sea or kosher salt
Nutritional yeast flakes

Preheat oven to 300°F. Line a baking sheet with foil or just commit to cleaning your baking sheet when you’re done and go without. Rinse kale and rip the leaves from the center stalk. Mama suggested I pull the upward-growing leaves downward, so they tear off more easily, and it works! Try to make them of similar size because remember that the larger pieces won’t crisp up as much as the smaller ones.

Tear the leaves downward away from the stalk.

Tear the leaves downward away from the stalk.

Scatter kale on baking sheet, then toss with about 1 Tbsp oil. You really don’t need a lot—it’s just so the salt and nutritional yeast has something to adhere to.

We used kosher salt on our kale, but feel free to use sea salt, if thats what you like.

We used kosher salt on our kale, but feel free to use sea salt, if that’s what you like.

Sprinkle with salt and as much nutritional yeast as you want—the more, the cheesier. Who am I to tell you how much you like? Experiment by spreading the kale leaves around the baking sheet then sprinkling different sections with different amounts. (After my little experiment here, I think we learned that “avalanche” is a little too much.)

Maybe don’t let your kid pour on the nooch.

Bake for about 15 minutes, until desired crispness. You could toss them once during baking, but you don’t have to. Enjoy immediately!

Thats a big plate of kale chips and a little bowl of soup.

That’s a big plate of kale chips and a little bowl of soup.

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Vive la quiche!

In honor of Bastille Day (and Papa’s return from Paris), Mama decided to make a quiche. She opted for crustless, as who has time to make and pre-bake a crust on a hot summer’s evening? Because I like broccoli (and because we had a bunch of it), she figured a broccoli and cheese quiche would be just the thing.

She figured wrong.

Of course she tried calling it an “egg pie” and a “broccoli pie,” which only made matters worse. After much cajoling, I finally tried a tentative bite. You can imagine what followed.

I knew from first sight that I wouldn't like this.

I knew from first sight that I wouldn’t like this.

Mama asked if I could tell her what I didn’t like about the quiche. I said, “I didn’t like the broccoli, and I didn’t like the egg.”

Well, there you have it. (Truth is, I might have liked it better had there been a crust, as who doesn’t love a flaky, buttery crust?)

Love, Jude

 

Broccoli & Cheese Quiche

A crown of broccoli, cut into small florets (our crowns were small, so Mama used 2)
6 organic eggs
½ cup cream or half-and-half
1/3 to ½ cup shredded cheese of choice (we used Gruyère, but you could use Cheddar, Asiago, Fontina…really, anything you have a hankering for)
Salt & pepper
Pinch of nutmeg (to make this a classic quiche)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9” pie plate. (We used butter, as it’s a French dish, after all.) Boil or steam the broccoli until bright green and crisp tender, about 1 minute. Drain and set aside.

Jude on Food: All ingredients that go into a quiche should be cooked.

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs until broken up and well combined. Add the cream or half-and-half and whisk to combine. Stir in the blanched broccoli and cheese. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Gently pour into prepared pie plate and bake until set & puffy, about 30 minutes.

Allow to cool about 5 minutes before cutting and serving.


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Strawberries and Cream

This year, our favorite organic berry-picking patch was overrun by hungry deer, so we couldn’t pick our usual lovely collection. Mama found another patch, though it was much less unkempt. Witness the weeds:

I didn't like picking these strawberries because it was too much work. I kept asking Mama to add her berries into my basket.

I didn’t like picking these strawberries because it was too much work hunting for them. I kept asking Mama to add her berries into my basket.

But the berries were warmed by the sun, and they positively burst when I bit into them.

At home, Mama ended up doing all the cleaning, but I helped her by eating a lot of those strawberries so that there were fewer of them for her to clean.

With them, we made a lot of freezer jam. We’ve made it before, but this time Mama tried a new recipe, based loosely on this one. Voilà:

Though all the jars ended up sealing, we're going to store them in the fridge & freezer.

Though all the jars ended up sealing, we’re going to store them in the fridge & freezer.

But the real show stopper, the easiest and most delicious part, was the fresh berries with whipped cream we ate for dessert. Mama says anyone with a whisk can whip cream, but not everyone does it correctly. She showed me how to do it right.

First, we kept everything cold, including the bowl and the beaters. Mama said this isn’t strictly necessary, but it’s been pretty hot out lately, so better to be safe—you’ll get a better whip with cold equipment. (She also wanted to save her arms by not whipping it by hand, though she suggests everyone ought to give that a try sometime.)

Mama explained that the only cream that’s going to whip is heavy cream, or whipping cream (either one will work). If you try to whip light cream or half-and-half, you’ll be whipping until I turn 4. This is because of the fat content (the fat is what holds it together). She also explained that plain whipped cream tastes about as bland as… well, plain whipping cream. Bleck.

Jude on Food: Flavor everything!

To remedy this, Mama showed me how to make chantilly cream. If you’re feeling fancy, you can pronounce it “shahn-tee-ee,” but I’m really good at making “L” sounds, so I’m going to stick with that. Chantilly is basically sweetened whipped cream with added vanilla.

You can find all sorts of recipes for basic chantilly cream, but Mama’s advice is to taste it once it’s beginning to whip up. If it needs more vanilla (or other flavoring, such as orange, lemon, or almond), add it. If it could be sweeter, sprinkle in more sugar. As for the type of sweetener you use, regular sugar works fine, but Mama likes to use confectioners’ sugar—that’s the soft powdery kind we sometimes put on crepes. She told me she’s never tried other sweeteners, but she supposes they would work just as well. (If you try one, let us know!)

Two other things Mama noted about making whipped cream: 1) go slowly—if you rush it by turning your mixer on high speed, you’ll not only splatter cream everywhere (as I found out), but you’ll heat up the cream, and it’ll take longer. 2) Don’t overwhip it.

whipping cream/littlejudeonfood.com

Whip it–whip it real good!

The problem with overwhipping cream isn’t the taste. It’s the texture. Even I don’t want my whipped cream to look like cottage cheese. Ewww, right? You can whip it to soft peaks or stiff peaks, but if you go beyond that, you can’t do much with it…except, maybe stuff it into something.

Because it’s just Mama and me right now (Papa’s out of town), she showed me what would happen if we pushed the cream too far:

Who am I kidding? I'd still eat that.

Who am I kidding? I’d still eat that.

Mama let me beat the cream at first (note the splatters), but then took over to finish the job. I took this picture (and about 18 more like it):

Do you see the trails that are created by the beaters? They're loosely holding their shape, but they're still very soft.

See the trails that are created by the beaters? They’re loosely holding their shape, but they’re still very soft.

Another way to tell when the cream is getting close is to stop beating it and check how it looks on the beater.

The whipped cream is just clinging to the beaters, and there's a soft little peak down in the bowl.

The whipped cream is just clinging to the beaters, and there’s a soft little peak down in the bowl.

From here to ruin is a short path, so beat carefully from now on. If you’re planning to pipe the cream, you’ll want stiffer peaks, as they’ll hold their shape. If you’re looking for just a bit of billowy adornment, as we want for our berries, then stop when they’re soft.

Stiff cream will hold in the fridge, covered, for a day or so. Soft cream should be used pretty soon after it’s made. If it starts to weep, give it a light whipping with a whisk before using.

berries and cream/littlejudeonfood.com

And what’s not to like about having a little whipped cream on hand?

Love, Jude

Chantilly Cream

1 cup cold heavy cream or whipping cream*
1 Tbsp powdered sugar (or, to taste)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (or, to taste)

Place cream, sugar, and vanilla in a medium bowl and beat at low speed with an electric mixer (or in the bowl of a stand mixer with whip attachment); alternatively, use a whisk. When the cream begins to take shape, you may increase your speed a little bit more, but not more than medium. Move the beaters around the bowl and rotate the bowl to ensure you reach all the edges. Beat until desired stiffness, then serve or store until ready to use.

This dessert is Mama approved AND Jude approved.

This dessert is Mama approved AND Jude approved.

Note: For an extra-special treat, try whipping crème fraiche. As sour cream’s sophisticated (and more pricey) cousin, it’s tangy and makes for a great complement to lemon curd and supersweet berries.

For a vegan alternative, put a can of full-fat coconut milk in the fridge overnight. Without shaking it, take it out of the fridge, remove the lid, and scoop out the solid white part. (Reserve the watery portion for smoothies.) Whip & flavor the white solids like you would cream.


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Redirect your child’s behavior…

…and you can put dinner together pretty quickly. Or so I’m told.

Mama occupied me with a can of chickpeas.

peeling chickpeas/littlejudeonfood.com

She showed me how to squeeze their little tails to pop them out of their skins. (I ate as many as I popped.)

squeeze the little tail/littlejudeonfood.com

Meanwhile, having been inspired by a recipe, she set to work on a dinner that involved rapini, or broccoli rabe. Not to be confused with broccolini (broccoli’s slender cousin), rapini is more leafy than broccolini. It also shares family lineage with turnips. Who knew?

rapini/littlejudeonfood.com

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

What prompted the can of chickpeas was my reluctance to pull the silk off several ears of corn. Have you seen how much silk gets trapped between the kernels? I was in no mood to pluck more than a few strands, so Mama passed the task to Papa and set me up with chickpeas.

All the while, the grill was preheating. When the corn was clean, Mama slathered olive oil on her palms, then rubbed them all over the corn. These Papa placed directly on the grill grates. He sprinkled kosher salt over them, then closed the lid. Every few minutes, one of them went out to turn the ears. Mama said she wanted “a good char” on them. At one point, she called us out to hear them popping!

Meanwhile, back in the kitchen, Mama set some spaghetti to cooking while she prepared the rapini portion in another large pot. The house smelled good with the sizzling garlic and lemon. By the time I was done with the chickpeas (Papa helped near the end), everything was done. The corn was brought to the table, the rapini-lemon-cannellini bean mixture was tossed with the pasta, and we were ready to pig out.

dinner's ready/littlejudeonfood.com

Except, I had eaten all those chickpeas. Still, I tried a bean. And a rapini floret—it was bitter! I did eat my corn, though. What’s not to like about corn on the cob? Luckily, none of the kernels popped in my mouth.

corn eater/littlejudeonfood.comAs I declared, “Good dinner, Mama!” It was made so quickly, and we were done with it so early, that I was able to play a long time before I had my bath. No distraction required.

Love, Jude

Char-Grilled Corn on the Cob

Peeled ears of corn
Olive oil
Kosher or sea salt (and ground black pepper, if desired)
Butter and/or grated Parmesan cheese, to serve, if desired

Preheat the grill. (Mama set it to about medium heat, and the temp gauge said it was around 400°F.) Using tongs, smear a paper towel with oil, and rub the grates. Spread about a teaspoon of olive oil between your palms, then run them around the ears of corn. (They don’t need to be heavily coated, but use more oil if necessary.) Sprinkle with salt (and pepper, if desired). Set ears directly on grill grates then close the lid.

Every few minutes, turn the ears. A char is desirable. Grill for about 10 minutes (you’ll start to hear the kernels pop). Remove to a plate and serve as is, or with butter and Parmesan.


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Mussel Mania

Mama brought home a bag of mussels, and she was very excited to show them to me. She tapped on an open one, and I watched as it slowly closed. They open and close! So we gently tapped a few more before Mama put them in the fridge while she prepared the rest of our dinner (including an appetizer of kale chips).

These mussels are closed tight, like clams!

These mussels are closed tight, like clams!

Though we were having fun with the mussels closing, Mama told me it’s very important to pay attention to any mussels that don’t close because those mussels are dead and they could make us very sick. An easy way to “engage” them all at once is to gently dump them into a colander. The movement and the bit of knocking about should be enough to close them up. Give them a gentle rinse with tap water, looking them over for any that are still open or that have cracked shells.

The mussel on the left wouldn't close, whereas the one on the right is slowly closing his lid.

The mussel on the left wouldn’t close, whereas the one on the right is slowly closing his lid.

Now’s a good time to pull off any beards you find. That’s right, I said beards! This is the mossy-looking bit that hangs off the mussel where the two shells join. Not every mussel will have a beard, and all it takes is a little tug to pull it free. Tug down, toward the hinge of the mussel, and maybe give it a wiggle.

It's just a tiny bit of mossy stuff, but you don't want it in your dinner.

It’s just a tiny bit of mossy stuff, but you don’t want it in your dinner.

Jude on Food: When the mussels are raw, all the shells should be closed. When they’re cooked, they should all be open.

Part of what makes mussels an easy (and cheap) dinner to prepare is that the broth they’re steamed in becomes part of the finished dish. And this broth can be as fancy and flavorful as you like—or as simple as you can make it. Mama’s been on a tomato-and-fennel kick lately, which is appropriate since mussels enjoy an anise accompaniment. (Or so she says.) She sautéed fennel, tomatoes, and garlic in butter. (To simplify, sauté a shallot and a clove of garlic.)

You don't really need a side dish of veggies when you cook them with your main dish.

You don’t really need a side dish of veggies when you cook them with your main dish.

Then she added some vegetable broth, mainly because I’m eating it (in theory), but then she added a healthy splash of white wine. When the liquid got hot, she added the mussels and put on the lid. I told her I didn’t think they liked that very much. She kept the heat at medium, and allowed the mussels to steam until they opened up.

They're all open and ready for their close-up.

They’re all open and ready for their close-up.

I really think Mama thought I was going to try these because I was having fun getting them to close. But I didn’t like the look of them when they were all naked outside their shells. Forget the no-thank-you bite; it was a “bleh” bite. I thought the little tomato was an egg yolk at first, and I was going to eat it until Mama told me what it really was. I did finally dip my bread in the broth, to everyone’s satisfaction. It wasn’t bad, truth be told, but it was a good thing I ate all those kale chips before dinner.

Broth-dipped bread wasn't so bad.

Broth-dipped bread wasn’t so bad.

Love, Jude

Mussels with Fennel and Tomato Broth

2 Tbsp butter or olive oil
1 bulb fennel, sliced
1 cup (1/2 pint) grape, pear, or cherry tomatoes, halved
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup vegetable stock (optional)
1/2 cup white wine (or 1 cup, if not using broth)*
2 pounds mussels, rinsed & debearded, open shells discarded
Bread, for serving

Melt the butter or heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large pan with a lid. Add the fennel and cook until it starts to turn golden and becomes soft. Add the tomatoes and cook until melty, a couple minutes more. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant, 1–2 more minutes. Stir in the stock and/or wine and get it hot. Then pour in the mussels, scatter until they’re nestled in the stock, then cover. Steam for about 5 minutes, or until all the mussels open. (Discard any that do not.) Pour into a large bowl and serve with crusty bread or pommes frites. (Garnish with fennel fronds, if desired.)

Use a ladle to scoop up a number of mussels (with their shells) and broth.

Use a ladle to scoop up a number of mussels (with their shells) and broth.

Note: Instead of wine and/or broth, you may use a bottle of beer. Amount of liquid is approximate—you really just need enough to steam the mussels and create a lovely broth.


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Break out the Grill

First, let me wish all the mamas out there a belated Happy Mama’s Day. We had a fun day, as the sun finally decided to grace us with its presence. We even wore shorts!

It was such a nice day that we took out our kayak for the first time.

Mama’s Day was such a nice day that we took out our kayak for the first time.

If you haven’t already, you should bring your grill out from wherever you’ve stored it for the winter. Please don’t wait until Memorial Day. Your grill deserves better than that.

Mama brought home some Idaho-caught rainbow trout from the fish market. Here’s what it looked like: fish heads/littlejudeonfood.com We’ve done whole fish on the grill before. Don’t fear it just because it has a head and eyes. If I can touch the fish, you can, too. Preparation is super simple: stuffed fish/littlejudeonfood.com Salt and pepper the flesh, add a few slices of organic lemon and whatever herbs you have on hand. We used dill, but tarragon, basil, or chives would have been equally good. Mama stuck a couple toothpicks through the bellies to help keep them closed, then she rubbed a little bit of olive oil on their bodies. Ready to go:

Up in the corner you can see Brussels sprouts in their cute little cages.

Up in the corner you can see Brussels sprouts in their cute little cages.

Set them on a hot grill and close the lid. Mama used medium to medium-high heat. It took about 10 minutes, turning them over once. The flesh will be opaque and flaky. easy grilled fish/littlejudeonfood.com The fish should slide out from the skin quite easily, but be careful of the bones. We enjoyed this fresh-tasting fish with grilled Brussels sprouts, chickpea salad, and cucumber salad (which I did not eat—no matter how often Mama tells me it’s “like pickles,” I know that’s just not true). So treat your grill to the way it wants to be treated, and put a fish on it tonight.

Love, Jude


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Ramp it up!

Mama decided a stir-fried rice bowl would not only be a fast dinner but also use up some veggies that had been lying dormant in the crisper. It also gave her an excuse to use the ramps she bought at the market today.

Ramps? Mama told me they’re generally considered a harbinger of spring, along with asparagus and rhubarb. You’ve probably seen them and not given them a second glance. They look sort of like a weak, skinny scallion, except with long leaves. Their main difference from scallions, however, is their strong oniony fragrance and flavor. Imagine eating a raw garlic clove and a scallion. And that’s just the leaves. (Or so I’m told, because I would not try them raw.)

These skinny little onions pack quick a punch.

These skinny little onions pack quick a punch.

Ramps’ flavor actually mellows as they cook, so don’t be afraid to try them in eggs, added into pesto, grilled to top meats, mixed into crab salad—or added to stir fries. Just trim the root ends and peel off the very outermost layer of skin from the bulb. Rinse them well. And ramps should have some purplish coloring to them, so don’t discard colorful stems.

For some reason, I didn't get my rice bowl in a bowl, which made it easier for me to pick out what I wanted.

For some reason, I didn’t get my rice bowl in a bowl, which made it easier for me to pick out what I wanted.

As it turned out, I didn’t know I was eating ramps. I ate the rice, the egg, the peas, and the leftover cooked chicken mama tossed in. There wasn’t an overly powerful garlic or onion taste. I took a tiny bite of squash but left the mushrooms. I don’t care how many times Mama says I have eaten mushrooms before; it doesn’t mean I’m going to eat them now. Mushrooms and squash aside, I declared this dinner “delicious”…although, I don’t know why I didn’t get mine in a bowl. (If you’d like to see what else I’ve helped Mama make along these lines, look here and here.)

Love, Jude

Veggie Rice Bowl with Ramps

Sesame oil (regular or toasted), or peanut oil
Seasoned rice vinegar (plain okay)
Tamari (or soy sauce)
Splash of orange juice (optional)
1 yellow squash, cut into matchsticks
6 oz cremini mushrooms (or mushroom of choice), sliced
2 handfuls sugar-snap peas
6 ramps, sliced (bulbs & leaves)
2–4 servings warmed cooked rice (any variety)
2 eggs, well whisked

In a large skillet or wok, heat a good swirl of sesame oil over medium-high heat. Add the squash and mushrooms and sauté a couple minutes, until they begin to soften. Add a few shakes of tamari, a few shakes of vinegar, and the o.j. (if using). Stir, then add the peas and ramps. Cook until peas are bright green and ramps are wilted.

Meanwhile (or beforehand), lightly coat a small skillet with oil over medium heat. Add the eggs and don’t stir; allow them to set, 2–3 minutes. If you can, flip it over and just sear the other side. (If not, don’t worry about it. The eggs are still cooked.) Remove to a plate or cutting board. When cool enough to handle, roll up the egg like a cigar, then slice cross-wise to make thin strips. (Cut these strips in half, if desired.) Toss into stir fry mixture to heat through.

Put rice in the bottom of a bowl, top with stir fry mixture.

Serves 2 adults and 1 kid

Note: If you’re cooking the rice from scratch, get it going before you even start chopping your vegetables. That way, it will be ready when you are. May also toss in some tofu or cooked pork or chicken, if you have it.