Guest Post: Stone Soup

Below is a post from a friend of mine, Lena Brook who I met through our work with Urban Sprouts.  Lena, very generously offered to share a recipe that her daughter and she worked on together and I can never say “no” to that.  Especially since Lena is a wonderful cook. One of the first few times I met her she made a persimmon and blue cheese salad for a potluck that left me thinking that I needed to get to know her better.  She is passionate about feeding her family well, improving the quality of food that others eat and food justice.  Clearly, a kindred spirit. 🙂

In addition to being a mom, Lena is Senior Program Associate at the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility, where she works to harness the power of the California health care sector to redefine the meaning of hospital food.  She lives with her husband and two young daughters in San Francisco. In 2009, she launched the San Francisco School Food Coalition, with the mission of reforming school food programs at the San Francisco Unified School District.  We’ll have to get her to do a post on school food some time soon.

The recipe below is timely – it’s getting colder and all of us need to “de-tox” from the food disaster that was Thanksgiving.

Stone Soup by Lena Brook

The classic folk tale “Stone Soup” was a favorite of my daughter Ava’s when she was a preschooler. We read that book endlessly, yet neither of us grew tired of the story, with its wise messages of cooperation and community through the lens of sharing food.

So imagine how excited Ava was when her after-school “Cooking in the Garden” teachers decided to make “stone soup” one cool Monday afternoon in October! At pick up time, she couldn’t stop raving about how delicious the soup was, how healthy, how she loved it DESPITE the (judicious) addition of canned tomatoes (not a favorite), and how thrilling it was to share some with me. “Stone soup” was the topic of conversation all evening long and could not be laid to rest until I promised to make some at home. So we did. As luck would have it, the soup fit all of our respective criteria for a successful dinner: the girls loved how “good” it tasted and emphasized that making it was “fun!” The soup became a veritable rainbow of vegetables – that holy grail of healthy kid cooking. Add a side of bread and cheese, and you’ve got yourself an easy weekday meal.

“Stone Soup” – developed by Lena Brook and Ava Becker
adapted from “Cooking in the Garden” after-school class, Grattan Elementary School

Dice carrots, celery and onion and saute this mirepoix with olive oil in a soup pot until soft, about 10 minutes. Rough chop a variety of vegetables* and add to the base. Add a bit more olive oil for flavor, a bay leaf if you desire, about 1-2 teaspoons of kosher salt, a dash of pepper and enough water to cover all of the vegetables plus an inch. Bring to a boil then reduce to a rolling simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes, until the vegetables are soft. Add ½ of chopped, canned tomatoes (or more/less to taste) toward the end of cooking. Enjoy!

* This is the perfect soup to empty out the miscellaneous vegetables floating around in your crisper drawer or pantry. All you need is 1-2 of each, with the emphasis on variety and color. Suggested options include but are definitely not limited too: purple/red/white new potatoes; sweet potatoes; rutabagas; parsnips; kale; yellow/red/orange beets; corn; spinach.


Checkout the free podcast from Barefoot Books — stories for kids, including “Stone Soup”.

Guest Post: Farmhouse Cheddar Muffins

I love the guest post below for a number of reasons.  It’s from someone who reads our blog (yay!) and she is a fellow “uber-foodie”, hence a kindred spirit.  Anya cooks with her son regularly and actually made the recipe below with her children.  She also took pity on me and sent me a delicious apple recipe to utilize all the apples we picked on our Sebastopol Adventure . Most of all, I am a sentimental fool and I love that she used to make these muffins with her mother and now she is the mother who makes them with her kids.  Family food traditions are priceless!  Thank you Anya for sharing one of yours.  🙂

Farmhouse Cheddar Muffins by Anya Soltero
The Yummy Apple Muffins recipe reminded me of the Farmhouse Cheddar Muffins I used to make with my mom in our Richmond District kitchen when I was a kid. I made them as a young adult in my own Haight St. rentals and – inspired by the post – I brought out the well-used cookbook to bake them with my son Caleb, 4, as Sadie, 1, looked on from her high chair.
These muffins are perfect to make on a crisp fall morning. It’s a simple recipe that is not too sweet and can be enjoyed at the breakfast table. I love the apple-cheddar combination, along with the spices and cider, which really bring me into this season. I just wish I had some extra warm apple cider laying around to enjoy with the muffins. The recipe reminds me of a time when my mom was alive and well, and when being under her wing in the kitchen was the closest place to heaven for me. My weekly practice of baking something with Caleb in the kitchen will hopefully pack him full of wonderful memories too, recipes to take through life, and a passion for food and cooking that my mom shared with me. Enjoy!
Farmhouse Cheddar Muffins (Cookbook: From a Baker’s Kitchen, Gail Sher)
Bits of apple, chopped walnuts, and cider make this muffin mildly sweet. Chunks of sharp Farmhouse Cheddar add a surprising contrast.

1/4 cup, unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg, room temp
3/4 cup apple cider (save some for sipping)
1-1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup rolled oats
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 large pippin (or any) apple, peeled, cored, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup diced farmhouse cheddar (I use sharp Tillamook, or medium when I have it around)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
In a small bowl, combine the butter, brown sugar, vanilla, egg, and cider. In a larger bowl, stir together the flour, oats, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add the apple, cheese, and walnuts. Pour in the liquid mixture and stir only until the dry ingredients are moistened.
Spoon the batter into well-buttered or paper-lined muffin cups. Bake the muffins at 375F for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Happy Father’s Day – Mango Buttermilk Ice-cream

My mother made an amazing and coma-inducing Indian meal for Father’s Day. Think mughlai chicken, saag paneer, mint potatoes, kidney bean curry (rajmah) and basmati rice flavored with spices (see below).

This fresh churned mango buttermilk ice-cream (variation of Strawberry Buttermilk Ice-cream) was the perfect end to a perfect meal.  It tasted like mango lassi transformed into an ice-cream.  There is something very satisfying about eating ice-cream right after it is made.  Plus the kids really enjoyed watching it being churned in the ice-cream maker and of course eating it!

Mango Buttermilk Ice Cream

2 cups low-fat buttermilk

1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk

1 cup mango puree

1 tbsp sugar (optional – depends on sweetness of mangoes/mango puree)

pinch of ground cardamom (optional)

Whisk all the ingredients together and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes or more.  Transfer it into an ice cream maker following the manufacturers directions.

Serve it soft right away or put it in the freezer for 10-15 minutes to set up a little bit more.  We ate it right away!!  All of it!