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Secrets: Cooking With the Lepperts

 

Recently in our local, neighborhood paper, the elementary schools' lunch menu was printed for the month of October. Here is just the first week of October: Monday, Cheeseburger Minis; Tuesday, Bagel Pizza; Wednesday, Mini Corn Dogs; Thursday, Cheese Pizza; Friday, Nachos & Cheese. The rest of the month looked the same. Not a single vegetable, fruit or salad was listed. I hope that they simply omitted these things, but reading it reminded me, as a homeschooling mom, that one of the greatest things about homeschooling is that most days we can fix our children healthy, home-made food, if we choose. Foods that will include vegetables, fruits, maybe some whole grains and not a lot of sugar or processing. One of the things that helps me make it through tough homeschooling days when we aren't sticking to the academic schedule we planned, or the house is too messy, is that I feel that when I serve a lunch that has steamed broccoli, brown rice and homemade soup (not every day, mind you), we are creating a healthy HOME life. Food is an important part of that. Hey, I might even go so far as to say that two bowls of steamed, organic broccoli might be more important than cursive writing, math or history!

When the spirit of cozy home-making hits you, you might want to try some of the three recipes we have included here:

Lasagna
Layered salad
Michael's Fabulous Miso soup

The lasagna and soup are both great cold weather foods and the layered salad is a tasty change from the standard green salad. Here are the recipes.

LASAGNA FOR ALL

I call this Lasagna for all because it can be served to anyone with nearly any dietary requirment. We recently had some friends over, two different families. One is the families keeps kosher and this was the perfect thing to serve. The other family is flexable in their eating and they liked it, it is vegetarian and it has a real meaty taste. Our son, Lennon does not eat any animal products at all and so he loved it too!

Ingredients:

Yves™ Veggie Ground Round Italian style - 2 packages
2 cakes of smooth (or creamy) tofu
1 package of Soy Sation™ shredded "mozzarella" soy cheese (you can substitute another brand)
1 box of lasagna noodles
1 med-large brown onion, diced
¼ cup fresh basil, chopped or dried basil or Italian herbs of your choice
Sea salt (Celtic or Si)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon Black pepper, fine ground
1 teaspoon Granulated garlic

Method:

First, saute one diced, medium onion, in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. When the onion is transparent, add the package of Yves™ Veggie Ground Round and brown over a low flame, stirring often. This will take about 10 minutes, so you can make the tofu "cheese" stuffing for the center of the lasagna.

Mix 2 cakes of tofu, basil or Italian herbs, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon granulated garlic, 1 teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Mix all of these ingredients together in a bowl and then place in a blender or mix by hand. The mix should look creamy, as it does in the photograph on this page.

By now the Yves Veggie ground round should be nicely browned. Spread 1 to 1-1/2 cups of pasta sauce on the bottom of a large baking pan. (See picture). Place a layer of raw lasagna noodles on the pasta sauce, then the Yves veggie "meat", then more pasta sauce, then the "cheese" mixture and another layer of noodles. Continue this layering process alternating until the pan is full. Fill the empty pasta sauce jar with water and pour the full jar over the entire pan. Add shredded soy cheese, cover the (very heavy) pan with aluminum foil and place it in the oven for 45 minutes at 350 degrees. Check it continually for water. Don't let it dry out! The foil should help keep moisture in, but ovens vary and other factors can affect water loss. If you notice the top drying out, add a little more water and re-cover. Remove the pan from the oven, cut into serving-size pieces and enjoy!

MICHAEL'S MISO SOUP

Before we begin the actual recipe, a short discussion of miso paste is necessary. Miso paste has the consistency of wet sand or wet dough. One could mold it into a ball shape, for instance, and it would maintain its shape. Miso is made from fermenting soybeans along with a cereal grain such as barley, rice or wheat, and sea salt, for a period of at least 1-1/2 years. (I am told 3 years is the ideal.) There are a considerable number of misos, all a slightly different color. Some are considered beneficial to serve in warm weather, others in cold weather, and others are appropriate for any time. Miso is a living food -- a culture -- in the same way that real yogurt is and it supplies nutritional benefits by its "live"- ness. Therefore, don't buy or use pasteurized miso, as it has had the living culture killed and it serves no purpose but as a flavoring agent. If you eat in a Japanese restaurant, miso soup will be on the menu, although possibly pasteurized. Most of these soups are much weaker than my soup and contain no vegetables, only a few small cubes of tofu and maybe a bit of chopped scallion. While tasty, it is not the hearty main dish this recipe will produce. If you serve my soup along with brown rice, barley or some other grain and a simple salad, you will have a filling meal, perfect for autumn! (My favorite "flavor" is dark, barley miso (aka mugi), it is very hearty and great for cool weather.)

For those of you not familiar with burdock root (aka gobo root), it is a wonderful vegetable, with an earthy, potato-like flavor. Burdock resembles a crooked cigar. It was a standard American vegetable until about 80 years ago. (It is mentioned in the play "Our Town" by Thornton Wilder.) Burdock grows wild everywhere in the U.S. It can be expensive, but you don't need more than a quarter pound - or even less -- for this recipe. One "stick" is fine.

Also in order is a discussion of sea vegetables. There are many types of sea vegetables, including dulse, very popular in Ireland. Once again, the U.S. produces these sea vegetables, too. For instance, coastal Maine and California-Oregon produce them in abundance. There are approximately five varieties with Japanese names: Wakame, Hijicki, Kombu, Nori, and Arame. One use of Nori is to wrap sushi rolls in sushi restaurants. I have used the other four in this type of soup, with Nori flakes sprinkled on sometimes as a garnish. (All of these sea vegetables are available online from Eden™ Foods, or they can give you the address of your local supplier. Please see their ad on p. 31.) Sea vegetables are a substantial source of minerals and other elements, and taste great with "land" veggies. I have included two sea vegetables herein, kombu and wakame, cut into small strips and then cut crosswise, into tiny "squares" using a pair of scissors, right over the pot. All of the "exotic" ingredients mentioned in this column are available in any good health food store or online.

This recipe yields enough soup for 2 adults and 2 children. Increase the water volume by 1 cup for each additional adult or child. (2 adults, 5 children = 7 cups water, total). Increase the miso by 1 tablespoon per 2 cups of water - or to taste, and all of the vegetables should be increased accordingly.

Ingredients:

Burdock root - one thin root (ring-finger thickness), approx. 6 inches long, sliced into thin rounds
Carrots - One or two, sliced into medium-thickness rounds
Cabbage - One-fourth head, sliced thin
Sea vegetables - Eden™ Kombu: 2-inch long, 1-inch wide piece; Eden™ Wakame: 1-inch by 1-inch square
Broccoli - ½ pound of crowns or stalks - if crowns, cut tiny; if stalks, cut into thin rounds
Daikon radish - One-half of a medium-sized one, cut into thin rounds
Scallions (green top of a green onion) - one or two chopped medium-fine for garnish
Miso paste - preferably Eden™ barley (aka mugi )

Method:

Place a soup pot with 6 cups of water on the stove, on high heat. Prepare all of the vegetables, beginning with the broccoli, burdock, carrots and daikon, and place them into the pot, as each is ready. Then cut the sea vegetables into the pot with scissors as described above, followed by the cabbage. Cover and let these ingredients boil for approximately 20 minutes or until the carrots and broccoli are as soft as your family likes. Turn the heat off and with a soup ladle, put two to three ladles of just broth into a large bowl. (A few tiny pieces of vegetable in the bowl will be permissible.) Dissolve two to three tablespoons of miso paste into the broth by stirring gently and evenly to get all of the paste mixed with water and then continue stirring and smoothing the paste into the water until the two are mixed well. Pour the dissolved miso back into the soup pot and return to low heat for just a few minutes. DO NOT ALLOW TO BOIL. Remember, boiled miso is "dead". Turn off heat and serve in soup bowls with an ample pinch of chopped scallion floating on top of each bowl as a garnish. Serve with brown rice or bread and a salad.

MARY'S APPLE CRISP

This dessert, a perfect compliment to miso soup and brown rice, is made with all natural ingredients besides being sugar free and dairy free. It tastes best when cooked and then allowed to sit overnight so all of the flavors mix together. For this dessert, you will need about 8 medium to large apples, diced. After they are prepared and refrigerated, you can make the dough and then the nut & oatmeal mixture.

Nut & Oatmeal Mixture Ingredients:

1 Cup, chopped walnuts
1 Cup, chopped pecans
1 Cup, uncooked oatmeal
3 tablespoons, rice syrup
2 tablespoons, corn oil
1 teaspoon, sea salt

Method:

In a heavy skillet containing the corn oil, roast the nuts, oatmeal and salt over high heat for approximately 10 minutes, stirring almost constantly. (This mixture will burn very quickly, so don't leave it!) Reduce heat to low and stir in rice syrup. Bring heat up to medium, stirring constantly for another 5 to 10 minutes, until ingredients are thoroughly mixed and syrup is warm. Cover and set this aside until after crust is baked. Now for it:

Crust Ingredients:

1 Cup brown rice flour
1 Cup whole wheat (or whole grain) pastry flour
1 Cup white flour
1 Cup uncooked oatmeal
1 teaspoon sea salt
¾- Cup corn oil

Combine all dry ingredients in a mixing bowl, blend and then gradually add oil while stirring. The consistency should be moist but firm, like wet sand. Press the crust dough into a standard baking pan or baking dish, (8-1/2" x 12"), covering the sides as well as bottom about ½" thick all around. Preheat oven to 400° and bake crust for 15 minutes or until light brown on the edges. While it is baking, cook the diced apples as follows:

Apple Mixture:

8 medium to large diced apples (galas are good)
2 tablespoons rice syrup
1 tablespoon Eden™ barley malt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons, Eden™ kuzu starch (kuzu root covers the Southeastern US & is a thickening agent like cornstarch)
1-1/2 Cups, cold water

Method:

Dissolve kuzu in the cold water. Stir very carefully and well until all is dissolved. Place apples in large saucepan, pour kuzu water, barley malt, rice syrup and cinnamon over them. Cook at high heat 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low, place a heat diffuser under pan, cover and cook 5-10 minutes.

Combining all:

Pour the cooked apple mixture into the baked bottom crust, spreading it to cover evenly. Pour nut-oatmeal mixture over that, spreading evenly. Take the remaining uncooked crust mixture and sprinkle it over the top of all. Try to crumble as best you can. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 250° and cook for another 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature. Cover with foil overnight. As mentioned, it is best the next day. You can re-heat it at 200° for 20-30 minutes before serving.

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