Carrie Fehr

Kitchen Garden Food and Fitness

Tag: healthy

Comfort in Cookies

Keto Double choc cookies

In unsettling moments, one place that always provides sanctuary for me, is in the kitchen.

An unexpected turn of events, recently led me down the coast of California to visit my son, who lives in Los Angeles. We spent the day sharing things we enjoy together: a walk around the lake, breakfast at a new restaurant, conversations on life, while also savoring the quiet moments, and spending time in the kitchen baking cookies, naturally.

Late in the afternoon, at the end of our visit, my son offered to bake some keto-friendly chocolate cookies. The smell of baking never fails to improve my mood and on this particular day, it might just bring a little comfort for a tender heart.

Besides I was really curious, eager to find out how my son would turn out a batch of cookies sans sugar, and minus all of the carb-laden ingredients that make cookies delicious. Keto, or ketogenic is a low-carb diet based on eating real foods that offer healthy benefits. The idea intrigued me. A lot.

And I have to admit, there is something really satisfying and comforting, about watching my son embrace the cooking process in his own kitchen, watching him engage in a dialogue with food that unfolds his story.

I find myself standing beside the kitchen island filled with awe, when a realization suddenly hit me and I digress for a moment, becoming conscious of a difference that stands out like night and day—- my son’s cooking style is the polar opposite of mine!

Step inside my kitchen and the first thing you’ll notice when I’m preparing a recipe, is that it’s very organized. Every bowl, measuring spoon, and ingredient is lined up and ready to be creamed, mixed, or chopped and sent off to its final destination. I also mentally prepare in advance for the cooking adventure, absorbing myself fully in the process, like a method actor exploring a character. I completely immerse myself in the recipe, dissecting every angle imaginable, as I visualize and breathe my next creation.

My son’s approach to cooking sharply contrasts with mine. A creative thinker, he allows his existential journey through food to be guided by delight in haphazard curiosity and spontaneous improvisation. “What do you think if I combine ghee with butter?” he calmly asks, realizing there’s not enough butter in the refrigerator. Or, “I just found some cocoa powder I can throw in,” he says thrilled by his discovery. “Maybe add a few salted nuts?”

He relies on a recipe like a set of guidelines to forge his own culinary path, rather than a roadmap with constrictive rules. It adds a bit of suspense to the process and also serves as a nice reminder that recipes, like life, can’t always be perfect.

Tasting along the way, his cooking style is more defined by feel rather than exact measurements. None of his ingredients are precisely measured, as he casually scoops the concoction of cookie dough from the bowl onto the baking pan with sheer pleasure and satisfaction.  He pops the cookies into the oven, trusting his own intuition and senses to guide him when they will be ready to come out. Like an ear for languages, it’s a talent.

By contrast, I’m one who slavishly counts the seconds with my kitchen timer, in case I get distracted and forget something in the oven. Plus, I like to play by the rules. So many factors go into baking, it’s as much a science as an art. I’ve learned that the smallest alteration in the ingredient or method can completely change the cooking chemistry outcome. Thinking to myself, I begin to wonder about my son’s baking result.

But by the time the sweet smells of chocolate begin to fill the house, I quickly abandon all conventional baking wisdom, and my sense of anticipation is rising from the seductive aromas emanating from the kitchen.

Still warm from the oven, I eagerly reach for a cookie and gently break it apart with my hands. I can’t wait to taste it! I bite into the brownie-like cookie and taste a hint of flaky salt that carries the intensity of the stevia-sweetened dark chocolate chips melting in my mouth. It reminds me of a super moist lava cake dripping in a silky river of chocolate. I find myself eating slowly, savoring the way the sweet and salty flavors ricochet around each other. Each bite makes me want another. I want more —- a lot more.

Although my son and I have very different culinary styles, we share the same philosophy about cooking, and appreciate the meditative sanctuary that our kitchen offers us. The intrinsic value of a dish, the product of a labor of love— is the joy it brings to each other.

Cooking is about engaging in the moment. It meets us wherever we are, like a yoga practice. It opens a path that is within us, like a treasure waiting to be discovered.  It is a tactile balm that soothes our heart. It waits to unfold slowly, like a lotus flower blooming.

We find stillness and quiet reflection in our kitchen sanctuary. It is a respite, a contemplative temple of food, where we can retreat, when the noise of life becomes distracting.

Double Chocolate Cookies (Keto)

Makes 1 1/2 dozen cookies

Ingredients:

½ cup, plus 2 Tbls unsalted butter, softenened

½ cup, plus 2 Tbls swerve sweetener

2 eggs, room temperature

1 tsp vanilla extract or almond extract

1 ¼ cup almond flour

¼ cup cocoa powder, sifted

1 tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

¾ cup stevia sweetened chocolate chips, plus a little more for topping

Flaky sea salt or fleur de sel for sprinkling on top

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine softened butter and swerve sweetener until  creamy and well-blended.

Beat in the eggs and vanilla extract.

Stir in the almond flour and mix until combined. Add sifted cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix until combined.

Stir in the chocolate chips.  The batter will be sticky.

Using an ice-cream scoop, form tablespoon-sized mounds of dough onto the baking sheets and press the tops down a bit with your fingers, or the back of a spoon. Sprinkle several chocolate chips and a little flaky salt over the top of each cookie.

Place in the preheated oven and bake for 12 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let cool on the baking sheet for about 10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.

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Keto Chocolate Chip Cookies

Keto Chocolate Chip CookieA super moist cookie full of flavor, with a sprinkling of flaky salt that can carry the intensity of pure dark stevia sweetened chocolate chips. This recipe cuts down on the carbs by using almond flour and swerve sweetener as a sugar alternative. Even if you aren’t on the keto diet, you will love these!

Keto Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients:

3/4 cup softened butter

2/3 cup swerve sweetener

2 eggs, room temperature

2 tsp vanilla extract

3 cups almond flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 3/4 cup stevia sweetened chocolate chips

Flaky sea salt or fleur de sel

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 350˚.

Combine softened butter and swerve sweetener in a stand mixer and mix on medium until light and fluffy.  Add eggs and vanilla extract and mix well.

Whisk together almond flour, baking soda, and salt in a separate medium-sized bowl. Gradually add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Using an ice-cream scoop, set tablespoon-sized mounds of cookie dough onto lined baking sheet.  Lightly sprinkle cookies with flaky sea salt or fleur de sel.

Bake for 12-15 minutes until lightly browned.

Let cool on the cookies sheets for 15-20 minutes, then remove to cooling rack. Makes 2 dozen cookies.

Turmeric Latte

Turneric LatteMeet your new favorite latte! Creamy coconut milk, spiced and fragrant with fresh turmeric, ginger and cinnamon, is accented by just the right amount of sweetness that is both soothing and rejuvenating. There’s a good chance you will need to make this. Your body will thank you!

Turmeric Latte

Ingredients:

¾ cup coconut milk

¼ cup water

½ inch of fresh turmeric, grated

¼ inch fresh young ginger, grated

1 cinnamon stick

1 teaspoon honey (optional)

Directions:

Whisk coconut milk, water, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, and honey in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let mixture steep 5 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve and pour into your cup. Makes 1 serving.

The Science Of Cooking: Citrus Rocks!

 

IMG_0826“If we look deeply into a flower, what do we see? Sunshine, a cloud, earth, minerals, the gardener, the complete cosmos.”-Thich Nhat Hanh

Citrus Rocks the Science of Cooking Class where fourth grade Chef Scientists explore the link between minerals that originate in the soil, to the unique role it plays on the human diet, along with a little citrus history, some fun anecdotes, and a healthy recipe.

Citrus Love: With its sheer variety and profusion of colors, citrus fruit esteemed in many cultures as a symbol of happiness — is not hard to love. Even though many citrus fruits are common, there are a few lesser known examples in our harvest basket that stand out. From the wild-looking, yet extremely fragrant Buddha’s hand, to the tiny oval kumquat with its sweet rind and intense tart pulp — make our lips pucker, to the bowling-ball sized pomelo that hangs on trees spanning across the landscape to an impressive 50 feet high.  The citrus harvest basket is brimming with diverse learning opportunities that weave together lessons about folklore, health, environment, and more.  It imparts a sense of wonder and appreciation that inspires students to retell the citrus anecdotes from memory throughout the year.  Retelling a story is a valuable sequencing skill that supports reading comprehension and writing skills in the classroom, and is notable, since cooking classes only meet one hour a month, and in some cases, less than that.

Good to the Bone:  As we turn our spotlight over to the science lab, fourth graders  discover that minerals come from the earth, and humans absorb these minerals through the plants they eat.  As scientists, they explore the nutrients in citrus fruit, and learn that aside from the immune boosting benefits of Vitamin C, it is chock-full of minerals that help our bones, teeth, and muscles, to name a few.  And last but not least, folate, a nutrient that improves mood by raising the serotonin levels in our body, can help explain why we feel so good after eating citrus fruit.

Getting Pithy:  One of the many virtues of citrus is the entire fruit is usable– the pulp, the juice, and aromatic peel, complete as nature intended, and as it turns out, is the perfect ingredient for the recipe– Fruit Roll Ups.  Click here for the link to the recipe.  Student chefs put their cooking skills into action using four colorful varieties of citrus fruit– the Cara Cara, Moro Blood, and Navel Oranges, along with the Satsuma Mandarin. As they section, slice, zest, peel, and juice, their way through the recipe, our excited chefs discover after eating the soft pulp leftover from juicing, that the hollowed out navel orange morphs into a drinking cup!  Finally, we mix and match citrus vocabulary words, like pithy, zesty, and juicy in a citrus acrostic poem, where students create phrases using the concepts they learned from the Science of Cooking Class.  Mindful eating, along with citrus poetry is a great ending to our class.

Butternut Squash Soup

butternut-squash-soup-jpgOn stormy weather nights when I crave something warm and comforting, there’s nothing like a steaming bowl of butternut squash soup to assuage the winter chill. This soup is easy to prepare and with a handful of simple ingredients, it will turn into something creamy and soothing. A sprinkling of pomegranate seeds adds a little burst of color and crunch. Soup On!

Butternut Squash Soup

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

6 cups vegetable stock or water

1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into 1-inch pieces

1/4 pound sweet potato, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces

6 cups vegetable stock or water

3/4 cup coconut milk

Season with salt and white pepper

Directions:

Heat olive oil in large saucepan over medium heat, add the onions, and sauté about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger. Cook until the onion is very soft, about 10 minutes.

Add the vegetable stock or water to the onions and bring to a boil. Add the butternut squash and sweet potato, return to a boil then, reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until the squash and sweet potato is soft.

Pour the soup into a blender and purée until smooth. Add the coconut milk. Return the blended butternut squash and coconut mixture to the saucepan, then, bring it to a simmer. Remove from heat. Taste and season with salt and white pepper.

Confetti Spaghetti

Bold colorful peppers and vine-ripened tomatoes always welcome me back to the kitchen classroom in the late summer, where I teach elementary school children how to cook real food inspired by the garden.

We kick off the season with the recipe, Confetti Spaghetti, highlighting the harvest’s bounty of bright jewel tones that look like the fireworks sky on the Fourth of July– a party on a plate that tastes like a celebration in your mouth.

And, oh so healthy too, these vibrant colored fruits and vegetables have a generous infusion of beneficial vitamins and minerals that nourish both the mind and body.

It’s no wonder that students eagerly swarm like bees to honey, to the cooking lesson. Excited fingers slice, dice, and roll fresh leaves of basil into cylinders that are thinly cut into a chiffonade.  This early hands-on nutrition lesson is not only fun and engaging for children, but will have a positive impact on the choices they make about food for many years into the future.

Confetti Spaghetti is one of the most versatile recipes you can have in your repertoire.  Feel free to choose your favorite seasonal vegetables, red, orange, even purple, and experiment with different flavors and textures or whatever is available to you.  Click here for the Confetti Spaghetti recipe.

Beet Ketchup

Beets and ketchup may seem like an unlikely pair, but this intriguing sweet and tangy flavor combination, will truly make your taste buds come alive. If you’re a newcomer to beetroot, it’s a wonderful way to introduce this vegetable, that is by no means fancy, and is often misunderstood.

Bright and zesty with a hint of spice, this home-made ketchup is great slathered on any sandwich, over a side of sweet potato fries, and is a fantastic barbecue sauce for grilling.  Serve, as a dip for spring rolls, or over eggs—the possibilities are endless.

How do you prepare beets?  Do you have a creative way that encourages children to taste them?  I would love to hear your story.

To find out how students in the cooking classroom explore beets, click here.

Beet Ketchup

Beet Ketchup with Sweet Potato Fries

Ingredients:

3 medium-sized beets, diced

1 onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup honey

1 ¾ cups balsamic vinegar

2 cloves

1 cinnamon stick

¼ tsp powdered mustard

Directions:

Place all the ingredients in a medium-sized saucepan, and bring to a boil over high heat; then reduce heat to a simmer.  Simmer until liquid reduces by half, about 1 hour.

Remove spices and place ketchup into a blender and purée until smooth.  The consistency will be thick, smooth, and shiny.

Tomato Confit

Confit sounds fancy, but don’t let the word fool you, its origin is quite humble, pronounced con-fee, it comes from the French verb confire, which means to preserve.  Confit, one of the oldest methods of preserving food before refrigeration, is a process of slow cooking fruits, vegetables, or more commonly, meat.

When summer is at the height of the tomato harvest, confit is a wonderful way to capture the taste and essence of this late season fruit before it disappears.  Tomato Confit has an intense concentrated flavor that is sweet like jam and smooth as velvet, it’s so tasty you want to slather it over anything and everything, trust me.  One of my absolute favorite ways to enjoy tomato confit, is to simply spread it on crostini and top it with some fresh chopped basil.  So good!  Click here for recipe.

Full of nutrients too, tomatoes are truly a gift of health that your body will appreciate and thank you for later.  So what’s not to love?  Why not give this easy to prepare Tomato Confit Crostini recipe a try!

Butternut Squash Soup

butternut-squash-soup-jpgOn stormy weather nights when I crave something warm and comforting, there’s nothing like a steaming bowl of butternut squash soup to assuage the winter chill. This soup is easy to prepare and with a handful of simple ingredients, it will turn into something creamy and soothing. A sprinkling of pomegranate seeds adds a little burst of color and crunch. Soup On!

Butternut Squash Soup

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

6 cups vegetable stock or water

1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into 1-inch pieces

1/4 pound sweet potato, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces

6 cups vegetable stock or water

3/4 cup coconut milk

Season with salt and white pepper

Directions:

Heat olive oil in large saucepan over medium heat, add the onions, and sauté about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger. Cook until the onion is very soft, about 10 minutes.

Add the vegetable stock or water to the onions and bring to a boil. Add the butternut squash and sweet potato, return to a boil then, reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until the squash and sweet potato is soft.

Pour the soup into a blender and purée until smooth. Add the coconut milk. Return the blended butternut squash and coconut mixture to the saucepan, then, bring it to a simmer. Remove from heat. Taste and season with salt and white pepper.

The Soul Of Ancient Grains

Whole Grain 4

Inspired by a 3rd grade student who raises an important philosophical question when she asks, “Do whole grains have souls?”

Throughout history ancient cultures have regarded grains as a sacred food, like medicine for the soul, it symbolized the essence of their spirituality that meant more than just sustenance. Grains played a significant role in shaping and influencing daily culinary, ritual, and spiritual practices.

Ancient grains tell stories about past civilizations that offer insights into their traditions and cultural values that were important to their life. Quinoa, the legendary grain of the Incas, was known to sustain the body with endurance and to increase deeper spiritual powers through meditation, and with respect, honored as the “mother grain.” Aztecs highly valued amaranth as “the food of the gods,” and for its supernatural health properties that was central to their spiritual rituals.  In the Hindu culture, grains played a role in important rite of passage ceremonies beginning with the ritual of baby’s first solid food, or spiritual food called the “feeding of the grains;” as well as, in weddings and in after life– funerals.

With appreciation for the deeper meaning of ancient grains that was once held sacred, and kept close at heart, I am mindful of my student, and her profound sense of curiosity to express a question the great philosopher, Socrates might ask– Do whole grains have a soul?