My Little Foragers

A few weeks ago I did a story on Foraging With Kids. As with all educational things I do with my children I never know if it has any impact. So I was taken by surprise when out on a nature hike the boys suddenly screamed “ONIONS!” They had actually spotted wild garlic, which look and smell similar to small onions. All three vigorously began yanking and tugging to break some bulbs loose from the soil. We harvested a few sizable pieces and Dylan insisted he would keep them safe in his pocket, dirt and all, until we got home.

After a lively discussion we unanimously decided a pizza sauce would be the perfect thing to make with our wild edibles. Nothing hard about this recipe and a much better alternative to jarred sauce. With some simple ingredients, tomatoes, garlic, and some spices (plus, I snuck in a zucchini), we had a delicious sauce in no time. And the boys were thrilled that they had eaten off the land. I can almost guarantee they would not have eaten this zucchini sauce had they not had a part in harvesting one of the ingredients. I will confess, I supplemented with garlic cloves purchased at the supermarket.

Now if you live in the suburbs you might be familiar with this plant (or weed as most people would refer to it) as it tends to invade lawns in clumps and take over quickly. This is how I first became acquainted with it, although I would strongly advise against eating anything from a lawn that has fertilizer on it.

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Zucchini Sausage Pizza

Ingredients

1 zucchini, peeled, cut in large chunks

1 can diced tomatoes, drained

2 Tbsp olive oil, divided

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp sugar

½ tsp oregano

½ tsp basil

½ tsp pepper

1 lb. sausage meat, removed from casings

1 package pizza dough

All-purpose flour, for dusting

2 cups, shredded mozzarella cheese

Method

Puree zucchini and diced tomatoes until smooth. Heat one tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat in a saucepan. Then add garlic and cook for about 1 minute until fragrant. Do not brown.

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To the garlic, add pureed vegetables, salt, sugar, oregano, basil, and pepper and stir to combine. Bring to a boil and then turn heat down to a simmer. Let sauce reduce by at least half, this will take about 45 minutes. The sauce can be made ahead and refrigerated for 3-4 days.

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Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a skillet and brown the sausage, breaking it up, until cooked thoroughly. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet by lightly coating it with olive oil. Roll out pizza dough on a floured surface and transfer to baking sheet.

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Next add the zucchini sauce in an even layer onto the dough.

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Then top with sausage.

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And lastly, sprinkle liberally with cheese.

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Bake in oven until underside of the pizza is crispy, approximately 12-15 minutes.

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And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 7): “That’s some good stuff”

Liam (age 5): “Only put a little on mine”

Dylan (age 5): “I love our onion sauce!”

Can you guess who made these?

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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!