Cooking 101

House of Bedlam went on the road last week with our very first cooking class! Thanks to all the little chefs that helped make it a huge success.

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Their enthusiasm was contagious as they rolled dough, slurped up sauce, sprinkled cheese, and got really really messy! Our dessert was the hit of the party and even though a lot of chocolate ended up on their faces most made it on to the plate!

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As you can see a delicious time was had by all:

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Interested in planning a mini-cooking class with your kids? Are you located in Lower Westchester?

Contact House of Bedlam for more information.

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Vegan For Dummies

Inspired by my recent tasting at a local vegetarian restaurant I decided to attempt some vegan baking. I’ve been working on this post for several months because to be honest everything I made tasted awful!

There’s more to being a vegan than just not eating meat. Going vegan also means no eggs, milk or butter. Not even honey to sweeten things up. No animal products whatsoever, which poses a challenge from a baking standpoint.

Finding an egg substitute was the first order of business. Initially I used an egg replacer which consisted of potato starch and tapioca flour, along with some chemical preservatives. Yuck! The ingredients were a bit of a turn-off. Plus it seemed very un-vegan to use a product that was so processed.

I decided to try a more natural route. With a little more research I found several options. Agar agar was one but way too expensive. And since I know it’s not going to become a pantry staple I decided to go with a more wallet friendly option, ground flax seeds. Ground flax seeds combined with water act as an egg would in most recipes.

So with that decided I moved on to the milk. This was an easy swap. Almond milk, soy milk or even coconut milk would all work. I chose the almond since it seemed the closest consistency to whole milk. The butter was also an easy trade. Vegetable oil or coconut oil are both perfect choices.

Next, the sweet component. I wanted our cupcakes to be low on sugar content so even though granulated sugar passes the vegan test I played around with other sweeteners. First maple syrup, then applesauce. Both created weird textures in the finished product. Then I tried bananas and ended up with some seriously chewy cupcakes. They were good but way too dense. Sticking with the fruit theme I pureed some frozen blueberries and mixed that with a bit of sugar. I think I hit on the perfect combination.

This might not be the best vegan cupcake recipe in the world but it was pretty good for a virgin vegan. And my kids ate blueberries and flax seeds without complaint!

Very Vegan Muffins

Ingredients

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (all-purpose fine too)

¼ cup cocoa powder, unsweetened

1 tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

Pinch of salt

1 Tbsp. ground flax seeds

3 Tbsp. warm water

1/3 cup vegetable oil

½ cup almond milk, or soy

2 Tbsp. granulated sugar

1 cup frozen blueberries, pureed

1 tsp vanilla extract

Method

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a mini muffin tin with paper liners. (Makes about 18 mini cupcakes or six large muffins.

Combine flax seeds with the water and set aside for at least five minutes.

Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl add the oil, milk, flax seed mixture, sugar, blueberries and vanilla extract and whisk until well combined.

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Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir together. The batter will be on the thick side. If it is too thick simply add a little bit more milk.

Spoon cupcake batter into muffin tins.

IMG_2184Bake in oven for about 10-12 minutes for mini muffins, and 18-20 for large muffins. The muffins are done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Let cool completely on a wire rack. Muffins can be stored in airtight containers for several days.

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And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 7): “I wish you didn’t tell us this was vegan”

Liam (age 5): “Too chocolately”

Dylan (age 5): “I like these!”

Nibbles & Noshes

Changing your family’s eating habits in a world filled with processed food is not easy. Where do you even begin? I say start small and take one step at a time. Trying to completely overhaul your family’s diet at once is near impossible. Why not just start with the snacks?

We here at the House of Bedlam spend the majority of our waking hours at ice skating rinks. Which means we encounter lots of vending machines and snack bars with wonderful assortments of decadent treats. Did you know vending machines speak in high pitch voices that only children can hear? The voices are saying “drive your parents crazy until they give you some change!” This has not been scientifically proven – YET…

That vending machine full of colorful chips and candy is hard to compete with. To be honest, I have a hard time walking by without gazing into the glass to see what the choices are. If I gave in every time they asked, my kids would gladly live on vending machine fare. I try and stick to the 80/20 plan and have healthy snack alternatives for the times I don’t cave in.

One of my go to snacks is granola and I’ve come up with a recipe that satisfies their sweet tooth and need for something crunchy. Our secret is to add in steel cut oats for an extra crunch.

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This recipe can be tailored with your family’s favorite nuts or dried fruits. Make a huge batch and have some on hand when that vending machine starts talking to your kids!

The Crunchiest Granola Ever

Ingredients

2 Tbsp. vegetable oil

2 Tbsp. honey

¼ cup maple syrup

1 tsp cinnamon

Pinch of salt

1 ¼ cups Old-fashioned oats (not instant)

¾ cup steel cut oats

1 egg white (optional)

¼ cup dried cranberries (optional)

¼ cup raisins (optional)

– Recipe by Elaine Studdert

Method

Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the oil, honey, maple syrup, cinnamon and salt. Add both oats and stir until coated.

IMG_2061Add the egg white and stir until well combined. The egg binds the granola in large clusters which is great for snacking. Just omit if you want the granola to be more like cereal.

Spread the oat mixture on the baking sheet in a single layer, spreading it with a fork to leave clusters. Do not press down.

IMG_2064Bake for 40-45 minutes until browned. The granola will be soft when you remove it from the oven but will crisp as it cools. After granola is cooled break into chunks and mix in the cranberries and raisins.

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Store in airtight container for up to two weeks. If it lasts that long…

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And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 7): “I like the flavor”

Liam (age 5): “Tastes like cereal”

Dylan (age 5): “Too crunchy”

 

For my local readers:

Upcoming talks w/Jen Dorf, Integrative Holistic Health Coach

Tues 3/3 Central School 7:30pm

Thurs. 3/12 Athleta in Scarsdale 6:30pm

How To Make Meal Time Connections With Your Family:

Do you feel overwhelmed by the thought of getting a meal on the table while juggling numerous activities with the kids?  Have you fantasized about enjoying a meal together as a family around the dining room table rather than at the counter or in the car?  Imagine the entire family sharing the mealtime duties so you can all enjoy one another with no distractions. Kids yearn for the family meal and studies show that there is a lower incidence of eating disorders and alcohol/drug abuse when families dine together on a regular basis.  Many of us have never learned how to make this happen! Join Jen Dorf as she shares simple and fun tips to connect with your kids at meal time.  Quick and easy recipes to satisfy the pickiest of eaters, and age appropriate duties will have the entire family engaged at mealtime happy to participate in the process.  You and your family will enjoy each other around the table more regularly.

To learn more visit: Jen Dorf Wellness

Restaurant Review: Vistro Café at Recologie

Normally I would not seek out a vegan/vegetarian restaurant but I recently had the opportunity to attend a tasting at the Vistro Café located at Recologie in New Rochelle. The owners of Recologie Lifestyle Inc., have created a beautiful loft-like space “dedicated to sustainability and a commitment to creating a healthier environment.” Vistro Café is not just a place to eat, it’s a destination to shop for Global Fair trade products, listen to poetry, and gather to hear live music or attend a lecture.

At first glance this would not appear to be a kid-friendly restaurant but I tasted several dishes that I know my kids would love. Specifically the Morrocan-inspired Empanadas and the Fontina Garbanzo Fritters. Both dishes tasted as good as they look.

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Moroccan Empanadas (VG)

Fontina Garbanzo Fritters (GF)

Upon entering the restaurant we were greeted by a sampling of delicious cornbread that set the tone for the amazing meal to follow. For each course, the chefs came out and described their dishes. I felt like a judge on Top Chef as we were presented beautiful plates of food. The three chefs cooking that night were D’Amour Giovanni Green, Ihsaana Muhammad, and Sonia Urban. Each of them brought their own unique flavors and spices to their recipes.

Among my favorites were the Spicy Ethiopian Lentil Stew and the Black Bean soup with Caribbean spices.

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Spicy Ethiopian Lentil Stew (VG, GF)

Black Bean Soup (VG, GF)

Black Bean Soup (VG, GF)

And just when we thought we couldn’t eat another bite, a decadent Triple Chocolate Cake, with a side of Ginger Zing Cookies was presented. Who knew gluten-free could taste this good???

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Triple Chocolate Cake & Ginger Cookies (VG, GF)

Recologie’s Vistro Café is located at 49 Lawton St., New Rochelle. The restaurant is now open for dinner Thursday-Saturday from 5-9pm. And it’s BYOB! The smaller café connected to the retail gallery offers a lunch menu of soups, salads and paninis.

Visit the Recologie website or follow on Facebook for monthly happenings and events. There are music programs for adults and children, poetry readings, a monthly songwriter’s circle, live music and more!

Cookie Season

It’s on! The cookie swaps and bake sales are in full swing. If you haven’t heard by now, it’s time to start baking for the holidays.

I am not a baker. I repeat, I am not a baker. I admire the people who can make a perfectly crisp chocolate chip cookie or a moist banana bread. And I love when my neighbor comes over with some freshly baked loaf of yumminess. (Hint, hint… hope she is reading this!) My own attempts in the baking department are hit or miss. Sometimes we mix everything right and sometimes the formula is off. But that being said a bad batch of cookies is never completely bad. Anything with so much sugar and butter has some redeeming qualities.

Lately my kids are more interested in shooting hockey pucks than cooking with me so it’s been a challenge getting them in the kitchen. But there are still a few things they love to do and mixing cookie batter is one of them. Although I admit I usually have to bribe them with chocolate chips to pull them away from the net in our basement.

For our holiday baking all three boys wanted to try thumbprint cookies. Being able to stick their fingers into cookie dough really sold them. And they very enthusiastically pressed their fingers all over these cookies. Our baking sheets had to be divided by mine, aka the clean (and neat) side, and theirs, aka the not so clean side.

Our cookies won’t be winning any ribbons but they were good enough for us!

All Fingersprint Cookies (recipe adapted from Martha Stewart)

Ingredients

1 stick unsalted butter, room temp

½ cup plus 2 Tbsp sugar

1 large egg, separated

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour

¼ tsp salt

½ cup blanched almonds

½ cup jam, any flavor

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, beat butter and ½ cup sugar together until light and fluffy. Add egg yolk and vanilla and mix again for about a minute. In a separate bowl whisk together the salt and flour. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until well combined.

In a small food processor pulse the remaining sugar and blanched almonds. Or roughly chop the almonds by hands for a chunkier texture. In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg white.

Form dough into small balls, about 1”. Dip the balls into the egg white and then in almond sugar mixture. Place on baking sheet and make a indentation in the center with your finger.

Bake for 10 minutes, remove from oven, and repress centers again, as the cookies might have changed shape. Fill the center of each with jam. Bake for additional 10-12 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven and place on wire rack for cooling.

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And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 7): “Okay, not as good as Oreos”

Liam (age 5): “I can’t remember which thumb is mine”

Dylan (age 5): “MMMMMM”

Full disclosure: I forgot to separate the egg! But as I said, anything with all that butter and sugar can’t go that wrong. So for our recipe we used 1 ½ eggs and they came out pretty tasty.