Test Kitchen Recipe

IMG_3925

Cherry-Chocolate Almond Clusters

CHERRY-CHOCOLATE ALMOND CLUSTERS 

The Food and Nutrition test kitchen program’s collective cook-off recipe this month is Cherry-Chocolate Almond Clusters. This is a perfect recipe for Michiganders—70 to 75% of the Montmorency tart cherries consumed across the nation are produced in our fine state. Michigan is nationally recognized for its prized cherry production though fresh cherries aren’t quite in season yet. Our cooler climate only allows us to pick fresh cherries from late June through August.

The test kitchen’s original recipe uses fresh cherries which will be fun to try during the summer months. But, for now, I switched out fresh cherries for dried. Michigan dried cherries have a 6 to 12 month shelf-life in the pantry allowing us to eat Michigan cherries all year long. Though, being so delicious, they are typically eaten long before any expiration date.

Fresh cherries can be frozen, canned, dried or concentrated, and are abundant in anthocyanins. Anthocyanins give cherries their ruby red color, sour-sweet taste and anti-inflammatory health benefits. Full of vitamin C, potassium and fiber, eating cherries in any form is an easy choice.

Once you make a small batch of Cherry-Chocolate Almond Clusters, you will want to double the recipe and share this delicious and nutritious treat.

 Cherry-Chocolate Almond Clusters
#FNTestKitchen

¼ cup sea salt, dry roasted almonds, rough chopped
¼ cup dried pitted tart Michigan Montmorency cherries, chopped
½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Combine almonds and cherries in a small bowl. Place chocolate chips in a separate small microwave safe bowl and microwave on high for 30 seconds. Stir with a rubber spatula and repeat until chips are melted. Pour melted chocolate into cherry and almond mixture; gently stir until evenly coated. Place heaping tablespoons on a wax paper-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with kosher salt and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Yield: 6 clusters

—Pam Aughe, R.D.

Michigan Food Finds

IMG_3865 (1)

Fresh chives and thyme in the garden

SPRING EDIBLES

Michigan spring weather is a constant flux of beautiful sunny days mixed in with gray, rainy days along with the ultimate possibility of wet snow. Every day is a surprise. In spite of all the weather challenges, my garden consistently provides me with some hope for summer. This time of year, my perennial herbs appear—bright, strong and green.

The first to poke through the ground are the chives. Ready to use just as soon as they sprout, chives will grow tall and flower staying hardy until the winter. Once I clean up my garden, the fresh thyme perks up and is also ready to be harvested. These common herbs are familiar spring edibles and are widely consumed. Looking around my yard, I also notice a variety of wild spring edibles.

The dandelion is the most common wild edible much to the angst of my family and neighbors. They are the unwelcome invaders of the perfect suburban lawn and garden. Introduced as salad greens by European settlers, dandelions are a great (and inexpensive) source of antioxidants and nutrition. The leaves, flowers and roots are all edible raw or cooked. The leaves and flowers can be added to soup, sautéed, fried into fritters or made into tea. The roots are commonly dried and roasted for a coffee or tea substitute. Be sure to only consume dandelions that are not treated or sprayed.

IMG_3881

Dandelions in my front yard

I also have found growing wild in my garden purslane. Found close to the ground in shady areas, purslane is often just picked and discarded. It had thick red stems and succulent green leaves shaped as tiny spoons. Purslane can be eaten raw or cooked adding a peppery flavor and heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

Lastly, the other most pesky but noticeable wild edible, are nettles. I inevitably find these by accident and end up quite itchy. Though, nettles can be easily disarmed then consumed like any other edible green. Most importantly, pick the nettles while wearing gloves, then just pour boiling water over them for 30 seconds. You can consume without any problems once disarmed.

I have learned to embrace our Michigan “spring” weather and revel in the daily changes. I’m pleased to have a few homegrown items to eat before the traditional bounty of Michigan edibles become available. As with all wild edibles, be sure you can positively identify what you are picking and eating. Michigan State University Extension is a great resource for gardening and agriculture. Check out their spring wild edible workshop.

Dandelion Flower Tea
8 to 12 dandelion flower heads, gently rinsed
10 to 12 ounces boiling water
Slice of lemon, lime, fresh ginger or sprig of fresh mint
1 teaspoon Whitfield’s Raw Honey

Place dandelion flower heads in a heat safe mug. Pour boiling water over flowers; steep 5 to 10 minutes then remove dandelions. Add lemon, lime, ginger or mint. Stir in honey. Drink hot or cold over ice.

—Pam Aughe, R.D.

Test Kitchen Recipe

IMG_3796

MOROCCAN-SPICED LAMB MEATBALLS

As a Registered Dietitian, teaching nutrition through cooking has always been the best tool to promote healthy eating. My professional organization—The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics—is now offering the Food and Nutrition test kitchen program. Every month there will be a collective cook-off of a themed product. My challenge is to tie the cook-off to our local Michigan food sources. The test recipe this month is Moroccan-Spiced Lamb Chops.

The rise in interest of local, organic and ethically raised animal products has risen dramatically. So much that consumers are willing to pay more and travel farther for local meat. Lucky for me, we have a farm right here in northern Oakland County called East River Organic Farm that offers a source for Michigan meats.

East River Organic Farm began in 1994 as a local source for fresh, high quality organic foods. Presently in Oxford, Michigan, they use environmentally sound farming practices that raise cattle, pigs, chickens, turkeys and lambs for consumption. This week I purchase ground lamb for the monthly test kitchen recipe.

The original recipe used lamb chops with a spice rub. I choose to change it up to ground lamb for meatballs and serve it over couscous. If you want to cook along, check out the Food and Nutrition test kitchen.

Moroccan-Spiced Lamb Meatballs
#fntestkitchen

Ingredients
1   pound ground East River Organic Farm lamb
1   whole large egg
½  cup whole wheat breadcrumbs
3   tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, divided
½  teaspoon ground cinnamon
½  teaspoon ground cumin
½  teaspoon kosher salt
¼  teaspoon ground black pepper
1   tablespoon olive oil
1   small onion, chopped
2   cloves garlic, minced
Juice of 1 whole lemon
1   can (14.5 ounces) organic diced tomatoes with juice
1   can (15 ounces) organic chickpeas, drained and rinsed
½  cup chopped dried apricots

  1. Preheat oven to 350o.
  2. Place ground lamb, egg, breadcrumbs, 2 tablespoons parsley, cinnamon, cumin, salt and pepper in a large bowl and gently combine. Shape into 8 evenly sized meatballs.
  3. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a Dutch oven. Add meatballs and brown on all sides. Remove and reserve.
  4. Add onion and garlic to the hot pan and cook until softened, about 3 to 5 minutes.
  5. Add lemon juice, scraping up any browned bits from bottom of pan; stir in tomatoes and return meatballs to the pan. Bring to a simmer.
  6. Cover Dutch oven and place in preheated oven for 40 minutes.
  7. Remove from oven and add chickpeas and apricots; continue to cook another 20 minutes.
  8. Serve meatballs with bean-tomato mixture on top of a bed of couscous. Garnish with 1 tablespoon chopped parsley if desired.

Yield: 8 meatballs

—Pam Aughe, R.D.