Make your own sprouter: a great project for kids

Spring is around the corner and soon we’ll have some fresh veggies. While you wait, why not grow your own right on your kitchen counter? (What could be more local than that?) Sprouting seeds is a quick (and cheap) way to add some fresh food to your diet.

Here’s how to make an easy seed sprouter out of recycled materials.

What you’ll need:

  • Mason jar with matching ring (and lid, for tracing)
  • plastic lid from a food container (like a large yogurt container)
  • hole puncher that creates small holes
  1. Trace the jar lid onto the plastic lid. Cut out the circle that you made.
  2. Use the hole puncher to make holes all over the plastic circle. Punch carefully so that you don’t overlap the holes.
  3. Fit the plastic lid into the metal ring.
  4. Twist it on your jar and voila! You have now made a homemade seed sprouter.

Add your seeds of choice to the bottom of the jar and allow to soak, covered in water, for about 8 hours. After that, you’ll need to rinse and drain your seeds twice a day. (Use that handy lid that you made to drain out the water completely.)

A couple of weeks ago, I helped my class to make sprouters. Each student made one, and we sprouted  mung beans, which I just picked up in the bulk aisle. When I tried it at home, it took 3 tablespoons of seeds and about 5 days to grow enough sprouts to fill the jar.  At school, we soaked our seeds on Monday and had enough to eat for lunch on Friday. The room was a little cooler, so the sprouts were not as plump as when I grow them at home, but they were definitely edible.

  • For information on different seeds that can be sprouted, try here.
  • What can you do with your sprouts? How about egg rolls or homegrown fried rice?

Many thanks to D. who helped my class stir fry up our sprouts for lunch!

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Leek and Sorrel Custards

We were lucky to find ourselves with some of spring’s first vegetables from Persephone Farm, and I wanted to make something interesting to honor the eggs and ingredients. This recipe is loosely adapted from the delicious Local Flavors. It looks and tastes awfully fancy, but it was astoundingly easy to make! I think that it could be very flexible, as well. Stick with 1 cup sauteed vegetables and 4 oz of leafy greens and the dairy proportions. Let me know what you come up with!

serves 4, individual portions

1 cup chopped leeks
3 tbls. butter
4 ounces sorrel, chopped coarsely
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 cup cream
1/2 cup whole milk
3 eggs
ground white pepper

crumbled bacon for the top (optional)

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F. Set a teapot of water on to heat.
  2. Melt butter in skillet over medium-low. Use this melted butter to brush the insides of 4 half-cup ramekins.
  3. Add the leeks to the remaining butter in the skillet. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the sorrel and 2 tbls. of water to the skillet. Stir around and cook until wilted, about 3 minutes. (The sorrel will begin to loose some of its lovely green color, but it will look fine in the end.)
  5. Add milk and cream and stir. (You just want to heat this a little.)
  6. Using an immersion blender, puree the mixture until it is your desired level of ‘smooth.’ Add in the eggs and blend for just a tiny bit more. (I found it easiest to use the cylindrical container that came with my immersion blender.)
  7. Set the ramekins in a glass baking pan. Fill with mixture. Pour hot water into the baking pan so that it comes almost to the top of the ramekin.
  8. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove the ramekins carefully with tongs.
  9. Garnish with bacon.

Serve with fresh bread and garden salad with potato croutons.

Blackberry Quick Bread

Come on. Confess. You’ve been hoarding those berries in the back of your freezer. It’s time to get them out. Have some faith that spring is near.  This flexible quick bread can be made with any berry,  just be sure to defrost them completely before using.

Makes 2 loaves – one for you and one for a friend (who will truly appreciate the sharing of your freezer stash)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 white wheat (or whole wheat) flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp. lemon juice (optional)
4 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup applesauce
about 12 oz. blackberries, gently mashed
almonds (optional, for sprinkling on top)

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. This bread will mix up faster than your oven can preheat – it’s that quick! Grease and flour 2 bread pans.
  2. Mix flours, sugar, baking soda, salt.
  3. Stir in flavorings, eggs, oil, and applesauce.
  4. Fold in blackberries. (Don’t be alarmed. Your batter should be bright purple. Baking will tone it down a little.)
  5. Bake for 1 hour.
  • Do you have a lot of frozen berries? How about dessert? Kids love roly poly or mix berries for an easy crisp.

Fresh Pasta Dough

You can play around with the proportions of pasta recipes and decide what suits you best. This is the version that we like.

8.5 oz. AP flour
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
3 large eggs
1 tbls. olive oil

Mix dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, mix eggs and oil. Add egg mixture to flour mixture and mix with fork until partially combined. Finish the mixing with floured hands. Turn the dough onto a board and knead for 5 minutes. Wrap the dough in plastic and let rest for 30 minutes at room temperature. (Don’t cheat. This step allows the dough to absorb the flour properly.) When it is time to roll it out, cut the dough in half. Knead the ball that you are about to work with gently a few times. Run it through the rollers at the widest setting. Fold your dough into a little package or envelope shape and run it through again. Add flour as necessary. If cutting dough into strands, be careful with moisture content. Your rollers will not cut all the way through if your dough is too moist.

Baked Risotto with Winter Squash

This is an easy risotto to make on a busy evening – you bake it in the oven! Serve with a salad for instant comfort food.

1 lb. winter squash, peeled and cut into about 3/4 inch dice
2 cups Arborio rice
4 tbls. butter
3 1/2 c. chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. salt
about 6 leaves fresh sage, chopped finely
white pepper
1/2 c. Parmesan
1/4 c. almonds or hazelnuts squash risotto

  1. In a medium skillet, melt butter. Add rice and saute until it begins to turn a little brown.
  2. In another pan, heat stock with bay leaf.
  3. Add rice to a 2 quart casserole. Stir in squash, salt, pepper, and sage.
  4. Stir in warmed broth.
  5. Cover dish with lid or tightly fitting foil. Bake at 400F for 30 minutes.
  6. Remove lid. Sprinkle with Parmesan and nuts. Bake for 10 more minutes until nuts are toasted.

Tips for Eating Locally Through the Winter

With the opening of the farmer’s market this week, I finally feel like winter is over.varitable vegetable variety

So, how did we do? I think we faired much better this winter than last. I’m happy  to say that we just used the last of our storage onions, still have some potatoes left over, and though I haven’t seen them in awhile, there may still be a  few green vegetables in the bottom of the freezer. Oh, how far we’ve come. I’ve been repeatedly told that it’s not true, but last winter, I feel like all we did was eat squash.  This year, we were able to make it through the winter with variety. And so, while it’s still fresh in my mind, I’ll lay out a few things that I learned when I look back on this, our second winter,  of eating locally.  It’s never too early to plan for next year.

How to survive the winter and eat more than squash:

  • Start preserving right away. Each time you go to the market, put a little aside for the winter. Did you get an especially abundant CSA box? Think carefully at the beginning of the week and put away anything that you won’t use. (Don’t wait until the end of the week, when that arugula is wilting.)  This website tells you how to best preserve food, no matter which method you prefer.
  • Learn new skills. Don’t discount a little food project, just because you’ve never done it.  Put canning, dehydrating, and pickling on your list of things to learn. This book is one of our favorites.
  • Swap. Do you have too many beans? Maybe someone else has too many apples. It’s in our natures to keep all that applesauce to ourselves, but really, sharing leads to variety.
  • Constant vigilance. Be on the lookout for food. Read local websites that connect you with farmers. If people know that you’re looking, some delicious things might just come your way.  For our area, I recommend, the KCAA site and  Sound Food.
  • Take field trips. Some markets go year-round. With planning, you can make trips and stock up.  Check out the Seattle markets and our favorite, Ballard’s Sunday market.
  • Start a root cellar. It doesn’t have to be underground or even a real cellar – ours is just a corner of the garage with a fancy thermometer.  Learn what stores well in your temperature and humidity – and unless you want a bag of rotten carrots (er… that never happened to us… no, of course not) learn how to prepare your vegetables for storage.
  • Store food in food. Many things store well in prepared foods, which you can freeze after making.  Put the spinach in a calzone.  Make a tomato sauce from summer’s best.  Put corn in your chicken potpie (though it freezes nicely by itself).  Not only is this a great way to add variety to your meals, but it saves you time on a busy night.

Many thanks to the farmers who were at the market Saturday morning with grins and delicious variety.