Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Eating with Kids in Charleston, SC

We're back from five days exploring Charleston, South Carolina and are slowly recovering from a jam packed schedule and many food indulgences (hello cheesy grits). What a town Charleston is! Between the historic architecture (imagine colorful pre-Civil War townhouses with porches galore), friendly locals (with charming accents), and an endless supply of thoughtful food, the city is a perfect small urban getaway. We quizzed our cab driver on the way to the airport about the downsides of Charleston as we became quite smitten. She described heavy humidity and swarming gnats in the spring and summer. Good thing because we were ready to recruit all of our friends and family to move down south.

Of course, the vacation wasn't as much relaxing as it was an adventure. Nick and I joked that we felt like chaperones on a school trip - ha! Perhaps next year we'll visit a secluded beach. Because we checked just one bag I made the call to leave our nice camera at home so here are some informative but less pretty phone shots. I've noted the kid friendly attractions and every place we ate at and even a few food spots that we didn't have time for but look delicious. 

EAT: Butcher & Bee - (photo above). Hip lunch spot with mason jars of sweet tea to go, a changing daily menu, and tables outside. I ate the spicy kale slaw with peanuts and hummus platter one day. Another lunch was a sampler platter of falafel, sweet potato toast, grain and cauliflower salad, and mushroom soup.

VISIT: South Carolina Aquarium - Impressive aquarium with everything kids are looking for including touch tank, sharks, and an albino alligator.

EAT: Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams - This may be the best ice cream in the country!? Made with milk from grass fed cows and inspired flavors like Wildberry Lavender and Bangkok Peanut. I ate a bowl of Brambleberry Crisp.

VISIT: Magnolia Plantation & Gardens - Founded in 1676 this plantation and gardens offers unique history, hiking trails, animals, and a swamp! Dylan did get pinched by a grumpy goose and our entry sticker was eaten (off a jacket!) by a deer.

EAT: Minero -A casual Mexican eatery opened by famous chef Sean Brock - delicious! I ate the guacamole, chicken taco, sweet potato and mushroom mulla, and churros with chocolate sauce.

EAT: Husk - "Centrally located in historic downtown Charleston, Husk, the newest offering from James Beard Award-winning Chef Sean Brock, transforms the essence of Southern food. Led by Brock, a Lowcountry native, the kitchen reinterprets the bounty of the surrounding area, exploring an ingredient-driven cuisine that begins in the rediscovery of heirloom products and redefines what it means to cook and eat in Charleston." Couldn't have said it better myself. We shared the shrimp toast and slow poached egg over grits, greens, and tomatoes. I had cat fish for dinner and strawberry lemon cake for dessert.

PS. You need a babysitter for this one!

VISIT: Children's Museum of the Lowcountry - Amazing museum with epic shopping market, full size pirates ship, and great outdoor space.

EAT: Xiao Bao Biscuit  - Strangely enough, this Asian restaurant was our favorite of the trip (even with all the amazing southern food we tried!). We ate fried brussels sprouts and eggplant in fish sauce, tile fish with nori and squid ink pasta, spicy tofu, rice...the list goes on. The menu offers dishes inspired by a variety of Asian countries but uses locally grown produce (imagine collards in place of Chinese cabbage). In hot weather the chefs cook cooling Thai food and in cold weather spicy Szechuan dishes.

VISIT: Patriots Point - A little boy's dream - WWII aircraft carrier, bi-planes, jets, submarine, and destroyer!

EAT: Hominy Grill-  This place is a Charleston classic. Nick ordered "The Big Nasty" for breakfast. It's fried chicken on a biscuit with sausage gravy. Whoa.

EAT: Glazed Gourmet Donuts - Homemade artisan donuts that sell out within hours of opening. Every day there is a new selection of choices. We tried the raspberry, chocolate, and the apple-bacon fritter.

A few food stops that we missed:
Artisan Meat Share
Leon's Fine Poultry & Oysters

Until next time Charleston...now on to kale salads and green juice to detox!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Oven Risotto with Kale Pesto

It seems as though everyone on the island is preparing for the mass school vacation exodus. I popped into the bookstore this morning to grab this book for our trip (not that I'll be leisurely reading on the plane but love the idea of a "vacation book") and overhead three conversations about the eagerness to escape and what new books to pack. And this island we are all fleeing? Well it looks something like a magical (but really freakin' cold) ice kingdom. Here I'm sharing some of local photographer Alison Shaw's amazing shots.

Before we go, I had to try this Oven Risotto with Kale Pesto from the February issue of Bon Appetit. It lived up to all my expectations and makes the perfect winter dinner.

 Oven Risotto with Kale Pesto
 serves 4

1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped, divided
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 cup arborio rice
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 small garlic clove
1 cup (packed) fresh parsley leaves
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
2 cups Tuscan kale leaves, divided
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 ounces Parmesan, finely grated (about 2 cups)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Toast walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing occasionally, until golden brown, 8-10 minutes. Let cool.

Meanwhile, heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a large ovenproof saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until softened and translucent, 5-8 minutes. Stir in rice; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until some grains are translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add wine, bring to a simmer, and cook until pan is almost dry, about 3 minutes. Add 2 cups very hot water; season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, cover, and bake in oven until liquid is mostly absorbed but rice is still starchy in the center, 15-18 minutes (it should be undercooked).

Meanwhile, pulse garlic and half of toasted walnuts in a food processor until very finely ground. Add parsley, chives, half of kale, remaining 2 Tbsp. oil and 1/4 cup cold water; process until smooth; season pesto with salt and pepper.

Set saucepan over medium heat. Add 3/4 cup very hot water and cook rice, stirring occasionally, until it is tender but still has some bite and sauce is creamy, about 3 minutes. Stir pesto, butter, three-quarters Parmesan, and remaining kale. Adjust consistency with water, if needed (I did), season with salt and pepper. Serve topped with remaining walnuts and cheese.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Winter Juice

You would think that juicing in the dead of winter is really a good sign. It means we're being proactive with our health, getting in front of those flu germs, and gulping down fresh fruits and veggies, right? Well yes, I guess it is all those things but really it isn't a good sign at all - it's a desperate one in fact. We have whipped out the juicer more often this week because it is the last trick in my bag. This weather has taken us through dozen of puzzles, a new gallery wall of marker art, and enough snow play to last a lifetime. Small appliances however (especially with plungers and fierce motors!) are new and exciting. So we are juicing almost everything in our refrigerator drawers as edible experiments. Most have come out well (besides a very bitter orange juice) but this mix is our favorite.

Winter Juice
makes 2 small glasses

6 carrots
1/2 a cucumber
2 apples
1-inch piece of fresh ginger
4 celery stalks

Simply juice the fruits and vegetables according to your machine's instructions. We start with the softest produce and work our way up to the hardest (typically carrots). Pour into glasses and enjoy.

Juices from years past:
Sunny Juice
Healing Pink & Green Juice
Pear Lemon Ginger Juice
Apple Carrot Ginger Juice

Cheers to only 29 more days until Spring!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Clean Slate Salads & Book Giveaway

Getting a new cookbook in the mail is my kind of fun. I flip through it right away, bring it into bed at night, start folding down pages, and ultimately create grocery lists for a handful of first choice recipes. We cook and eat those, check out the other folded pages, again shop and cook, slowly eating our way through it. I'm in the middle of a love affair with this new book, Clean Slate, from the editors of Martha Stewart Living, and am giving away a copy. Leave a comment below to enter the drawing and I will pull a name early next week!

I can't wait for one of you to bring this home. There is so much important information in here from an overview of nutrients (including super detoxifiers, antioxidant powerhouses,  inflammation fighters, and digestive aids) to a simple pantry restock approach, and two specific mind/body detox action plans (one is 3 days and the other is 21 days - both come with full menu guides and recipes). Personally, I'm starting with the 3 day detox plan (call it trip prep or snow distraction strategy #99) and really appreciate the ease of it. You just cook three big batch meals (a smoothie, salad, and soup) to enjoy over the 3 days. It's so simple that I may even be able to talk Nick into it.

I have at least a dozen recipes dog-eared but started in the kitchen with these two salads and loved both.

Farro, Pea Shoot & Goat Cheese Salad
serves 6

1 cup farro
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup fresh shelled peas
2 ounces pea shoots, torn into bite-size pieces
1/3 cup small fresh mint leaves
1/3 cup almonds, toasted and chopped
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh goat cheese, crumbled (1 ounce)

Place farro in a medium saucepan, and cover with 4 inches of water; add a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until tender; 30 to 35 minutes. Drain and transfer to a bowl; let cool completely.

Meanwhile, cook peas in a small saucepan of salted boiling water until tender, about 2 minutes. Drain and run under cold water to stop the cooking.

Add peas, pea shoots, mint, almonds, and lemon zest to farro. Toss with lemon juice and oil. Season with salt and pepper. Serve topped with goat cheese.

Brussels Sprout Salad with Avocado & Pumpkin Seeds
serves 6

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest plus 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1 pound brussels sprouts, trimmed and leaves separated
2 tablespoons raw hulled pumpkin seeds (pepitas), toasted
1 avocado, halved, pitted, peeled, and sliced

Whisk together lemon zest and juice and mustard in a bowl. Add oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper.

In another bowl, toss dressing with brussels sprout leaves and pumpkin seeds. Gently stir in avocado, season with salt and pepper, and serve immediately.

PS. Tell your friends to enter too and here's a look inside...

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Overnight Soaked Oats

We bit the bullet and booked a spontaneous family trip to visit Charleston, South Carolina during the last week of February. From all reports, it's a charming southern city with beautiful architecture, enough fried chicken, pimento cheese, and grits to sink a ship, and lots to do (did I mention it should be in the 60s - practically flip flop weather if I'm concerned). The idea of walking along a snow-free sidewalk gives me goosebumps.

But back to the food. Charleston's local food scene is already impressive and I haven't even set foot in the city yet. Nick and I are eagerly planning every meal and I'm sure we still won't fit in all the recommended spots. So no, this trip is not going to be a light eating experience but will be a memorable one. Before we hit the road, I'm packing in as much work and chores as possible. These overnight soaked oats are my new favorite breakfast for busy weeks- so simple to prepare and perfect for a quick breakfast, the lunchbox, baby's meal, or after school snack. If you have a sweet tooth, drizzle a little maple syrup over the top before digging in. The best part - you don't cook anything, just stir all the ingredients together and you're done.

Overnight Soaked Oats
from Green Kitchen Stories
makes 1 jar, simply multiply for multiple breakfasts

1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
a pinch of ground sweet spice (vanilla, cinnamon, cardamom or mixed spice)
a few drops of vanilla extract
1 tablespoon seeds (chia, flax, sesame etc.)
3/4 cup unsweetened plant milk (almond, oat, coconut etc.)
2 tablespoons fresh or frozen fruit (berries, mango etc.)

Combine all the dry ingredients in a small jar and stir. Pour over chosen liquid and stir again then top with fruit. Screw on the lid and place the jarred oats in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight.

PS. If you are under feet and feet of snow and craving a warm breakfast you can certainly heat the soaked oats up before digging in.

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