There’s Corn in My Ketchup!

When I told the boys one of the ingredients in their beloved ketchup was corn they looked at me like I had three heads. Then I hit them with another whammy; ketchup is also made from tomatoes. Wow, were they shocked!

Of course the corn in ketchup is not literally kernels of corn. It’s in the form of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) which is a derivative of highly processed corn starch. The reason food companies use HFCS is simple economics. It’s cheaper than sugar and it acts as a preservative which means products can stay on supermarket shelves a LONG LONG time without spoilage. And we’re talking years for some products, especially condiments. Kind of scary when you think about it…

Why is this such a bad thing and why should we care? In a nutshell, HFSC has been proven to be directly linked to the worldwide obesity epidemic. And it’s in almost everything we eat. From the obvious: cookies, fruit snacks, fast food, juice, to the not so obvious: yogurt, salad dressings, crackers, lunch meat, spaghetti sauce, and even many cough syrups.

The documentary “Fed Up” (produced by Laurie David), just out in theaters, tackles this issue head on. If you have kids and haven’t been to a movie in the past five years that’s not animated (guilty!) there are countless books on the subject. Salt Sugar Fat by Michael Moss and The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan are two of the most comprehensive in my opinion.

This week we decided to make our own ketchup and see if it measured up to the “real” thing. We don’t aim to solve the world’s problems here in our little kitchen but I do want my kids to know that food does not grow in colorful plastic pouches. And I welcome any excuse to get them in the kitchen – even if they don’t always eat what we’re cooking up!

Homemade Ketchup

Ingredients

1 28oz can of whole peeled tomatoes

½ cup distilled white vinegar

2 Tbsp. sugar

1 tsp salt

½ tsp onion powder

½ tsp garlic powder

½ tsp black pepper

1 Tbsp fresh corn (optional)

 

Method

Add all ingredients to a large saucepan and mix well. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat slightly to a simmer. As tomatoes are simmering, stir occasionally and break down the tomatoes with the back of mixing spoon as they cook down and soften. Cook until reduced by half and color deepens to a dark red, about 75-90 minutes.

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Once the mixture is reduced, transfer to a food processor to smooth out texture. Transfer ketchup to a fine mesh sieve while it is cooling to drain any excess liquid.

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Store in glass container and keep refrigerated. Shelf life: about 2 weeks.

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And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 6): “Doesn’t taste 100% like real ketchup”

Liam (age 5): “ I don’t like the ketchup we made”

Dylan (age 5): “It’s really really really almost like real ketchup”

This recipe did not go over as planned, it just couldn’t compete with the “real” thing. After a unanimous vote, we decided it would make an awesome pizza sauce instead!

 

 

 

The End

Every summer we take a trip to Montauk with our cousins. It has become a family tradition that we look forward to all year. We pack the minivan to capacity and head out on NY-27 to the End, as Montauk is often referred to. Once we finally arrive at our dive motel, the kids’ scream “Montauk!” and the fun begins.

Most people would define vacation as a time devoted to rest and relaxation. But our kids never seem to get that memo. Strangely, their energy level seems to increase exponentially as the days goes by.

One minute they want to be at the beach, the next it is the pool, followed by a trip for ice cream, fishing, or miniature golf. Then back to the beach, which makes them hungry again so back to the room for a snack. Each of these trips requires no less than a shower, a bathroom break, and a change of clothes. If you have ever read the popular children’s book, ‘If You Give a Mouse a Cookie…’, then you get the idea.

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Our vacation wraps up with our big family potluck dinner. Personally this is one of my favorite nights. Some menu items this year were Robyn’s famous meatballs, Chris’s sausage & peppers, and our turkey chili. In years past our Aunt Harriet would make a huge pot of clam chowder to start off the meal. I am making my own version this week, heavy on the veggies, with a little bacon thrown in for good measure.

Corn Clam Chowder

Ingredients:

5 slices bacon, diced

1 Tbsp butter

1 cup onion, finely diced

1 cup celery, finely diced

1 cup carrots, finely diced

Juice from 10oz. can minced clams, clams reserved

1 cup chicken broth

1 cup potato, cubed

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

3 Tbsp all-purpose flour

3 cups whole or 2% milk

1 cup fresh or frozen corn

 

Directions:

Cook bacon in a large saucepan until crisp.

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Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels and set aside. Add butter, onions, celery, and carrots to the bacon drippings. Sauté vegetables until softened, about 20-25 minutes.

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Add clam juice, chicken broth, potatoes, salt, and pepper. Cover and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.

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In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour and milk. Add reserved clams and milk mixture to the soup and continue cooking over medium heat, stirring often, until thickened and bubbling, about 8-10 minutes. Add corn in the last two minutes of cooking.

Garnish with bacon bits and serve with crusty bread for dipping.

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And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (big brother): “My tastebuds don’t think it’s yummy”

Liam (little brother): “EEEWWW – what is THAT?”

Dylan (little brother): “It’s so disgusting! Mommy, why did you cook this for dinner?”

Funny, I don’t remember my Aunt Harriet getting that reaction!

Milestones

Matthew lost his third tooth this week and was giddy with excitement. That night, he jumped right into bed; there were no pleas to watch more TV, no arguments about brushing teeth, no last minute trips to the kitchen for water. At first light, he popped out of his room waving the dollar bill he had earned from the Tooth Fairy.  I was half asleep but I do believe the clock read 5:15….

It is hard to remember that magical moment you experience in childhood when you awake to discover money under your pillow; proof the Tooth Fairy really does exist. But as a parent I have discovered it is just as enjoyable to be on the other side of the fence because you are now in on the joke. When we tiptoed into Matthew’s bedroom to make the exchange, it was so hard to hold back our laughter and not wake him. We conducted the transaction, dollar for tooth, and ran out giggling when it was done. And of course, we both feigned amazement the next morning when he proudly showed us our his dollar.

Matthew has five more teeth loose at the moment. He is already counting the money. The other day he mentioned a friend had told him that his two big front teeth were worth 10 dollars each because they were the big ones! We gently broke it to him that it must have been a fairy tale his friend heard; it could not be true.  Having three kids, tooth fairy money adds up, we have college tuition to think about! Any parent out there reading this giving over a dollar per tooth please keep it on the down low…

I had planned to make corn on the cob this week but due to the Matthew’s lack of chewing abilities I had to make a few adjustments – I ended up doing sort of a corn salad instead.

Corn Crab Salad w/Pepita Pesto

Ingredients:

Pepita Pesto

1 cup fresh parsley leaves, packed

1/4-cup grated Pecorino Romano

1/4-cup roasted pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds) *

1 clove garlic, minced

2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1/2-cup olive oil

Salt & pepper to taste

* pine nuts are traditionally used in pesto but most any nut will do, pepitas work very well and are a lot less expensive.

 

Corn Crab Salad

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 onion, diced

2 ears of corn, kernels removed, about 2 cups

2 Tbsp pepita pesto (see above)

1 cup crab meat (optional)

 

Directions:

For the pesto:

Combine the parsley, Romano, pepitas, garlic and lemon juice in a food processor. Pulse until it is a paste.

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Add olive oil and pulse until well blended. Add salt and pepper to taste. If the nuts are already salted you probably don’t have to add any more salt. Refrigerate remaining pesto for up to one week.

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For the corn salad:

In a large skillet heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onions and cook until caramelized, about 20 minutes. Add the corn and cook until warmed through, about two minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the pepita pesto.

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Lastly, gently fold in the crabmeat. Shrimp would work well in this recipe too.

Serve warm or cold.

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And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 6): “I like a good corn”

Dylan (age 4): “I ate everything in a row, this, this and even this leaf”

Liam (age 4): “ Did not like the things in this!”

A so-so verdict. I used the pesto on pasta the following night and it got a much better reception!

Grilling for Dummies

I grew up in an apartment in the Bronx and then Queens. In between those two boroughs came a short stint on Long Island. After a year my dad found he preferred playing golf on a lawn a lot more than mowing one! I remember my mother grilling almost every night during that brief period; she loved that it meant no pots to wash. She also grew up in an apartment so her grilling repertoire was not that broad – we ate a lot of grilled chicken that year!

One of the highlights for me moving to the suburbs, as an adult, was purchasing our shiny new Weber grill. We came from a 1-BDRM in Brooklyn with a 2-burner stove and no oven – to say we were novices when our grill showed up was an understatement.

The delivery guy had to show us three times how to turn it on – I remember him talking slowly so we could follow along. After our “lesson” he assured us we would be fine, wished us luck, got in his truck and drove away… However, I guess we missed part of the instructions… How would we know when you ignite a gas grill the cover should be OPEN?!

To date we have managed not to set the house ablaze… And thanks to Bobby Flay and his plethora of grilling shows I have mastered most of the basics. Now we just have to figure out how to take care of the $#%^ lawn!

Thai Skirt Steak & Corn on the Cob

Ingredients 

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

1 Tbsp sugar

1 Tbsp fresh ginger, grated

1 Tbsp garlic, minced (2-3 cloves)

1 Tbsp fish sauce

1 Tbsp soy sauce

1 1/2 pound skirt steak, cut into 4” pieces

4 ears corn, silk and husk removed

Olive oil for brushing

Salt & Pepper

 

Directions

Combine cilantro, sugar, ginger, garlic, fish sauce, soy sauce in a large zip lock bag. Add skirt steak, seal bag, and make sure steak is well coated. Refrigerate and marinade for one hour – ideally let marinade overnight.

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Soak corn in large bowl of cold water for about 10 minutes.

Preheat grill to medium-high. Remove corn from water and shake of excess. Brush the corn with olive oil and season with salt & pepper. Place corn on grill and turn frequently until kernels are tender and slightly charred, about 15 minutes. Remove from grill and set aside.

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Let steak come to room temperature. Crank grill up to high heat. Place steak on grill and brush with reserved marinade. Grill on each side until well charred, about 5-6 minutes, for medium-rare.

IMG_4598Remove steak from grill; cover with foil. Let stand for 5 minutes; cut across the grain into thin slices.

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And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 5): “Really really really yummy, why do we need to save any for Daddy?”

Liam (age 4): “I like the steak so badly”

Dylan (age 4): “This corn tastes like fish. I can’t even bite it!”