Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Native Blend Popcorn Balls

Popcorn, sunflowers, pumpkins, blueberries, and cranberries are all foods native to the Americas. They’re darn tasty, too!

makes 12 balls

10 cups popped popcorn (1/2 cup unpopped kernels, popped in 1/8 cup corn or canola oil)
1/3 cup roasted, unsalted sunflower seeds
1/3 cup roasted, unsalted pumpkin seeds (or buy them raw and toast your own, see below)
1/3 cup dried blueberries
1/3 cup dried cranberries
¼ cup brown rice syrup
1 cup packed light brown sugar
½ tsp. salt
margarine or oil

To toast raw pumpkin seeds, preheat the oven to 350º. Place the pumpkin seeds on a baking sheet and toast, shaking the pan one or two times, for 10 minutes, until the seeds are slightly puffed. Set aside.

Pop the popcorn and place it in a large mixing bowl with the sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, dried blueberries and dried cranberries. Remove any unpopped kernels. Set aside.

Place the brown rice syrup, brown sugar, salt, and ¼ cup water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture boils over the entire surface. Stop stirring and adjust the heat if necessary to maintain this constant boil without boiling over.

Okay, now you have a choice. If you want soft, somewhat gooey, chewy popcorn balls (my personal preference), boil for about 8-10 minutes (240º on a candy thermometer, aka soft-ball stage). If you want hard, less chewy popcorn balls that crackle when you crunch into them (my husband’s preference), boil for up to 15 minutes (250º on a candy thermometer, aka hard-ball stage).

Pour the sugar mixture evenly over the popcorn, stirring constantly until everything is completely coated, being sure to stir from the bottom of the bowl to catch all those little sunflower seeds that like to fall to the bottom. Put some margarine or oil on your hands to keep the mixture from sticking. Scoop up large handfuls and shape into balls, pressing firmly (if you are packing some inside a lunch box, make sure you make them small or flat enough so that they fit with the lid closed).

Work quickly before the mixture has a chance to cool. If the mixture gets too firm to shape, place it in a warm (300º) oven for 1 to 2 minutes to soften.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Lunch Box Fondue

Kids love to dip things! Be sure to include a long-handled fork to dip the veggies with. This recipe also makes a nice "cheese" sauce to pour over baked potatoes or steamed greens.

makes about 2 cups

½ cup chopped baby carrots
one 12-oz. package soft or firm silken tofu
¼ cup nutritional yeast flakes
¼ tsp. dry mustard
1 TB mellow brown rice or white miso
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
¾ tsp. salt, or to taste
pinch of white pepper
pinch of nutmeg

Place the carrots in a small saucepan and cover with a scant ½ cup of water. Bring to boil and lower the heat to a simmer. Cook until the carrots are completely tender.

Meanwhile, place all the rest of the ingredients in a Vita-Mix or other blender. When the carrots are done add them and their cooking liquid and puree until completely smooth.

Place the fondue back into the saucepan and heat on medium low heat, stirring frequently, until piping hot.

To serve, pour the fondue into a small crockpot or fondue pot and serve surrounded by vegetables and bread for dipping (see our list of favorites below). To pack for a lunch, pour hot fondue into a small thermos that has been preheated with boiling water for 10 minutes.

Some Favorite Fondue Dippers:

cubes of crusty wholegrain bread
boiled baby new potatoes
lightly steamed baby carrots
raw or lightly steamed cauliflower florets
raw or lightly steamed broccoli florets
steamed Brussels sprouts
blanched aspargus spears
bell pepper strips
apple chunks
cherry tomatoes
artichoke hearts
raw button mushrooms
raw zucchini slices
blanched whole green beans