Test Kitchen

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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.

Local Applesauce

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There are 825 family-run apple farms in Michigan. 825! Within 30 minutes of your house, you can probably even name one or two. I know there are at least three orchards in my local area that I visit regularly—Porter’s, Spicer’s and Ashton’s. Michigan farms harvest nearly one billion pounds of apples in a short three month window. So, along with having an orchard on every corner, there are an enormous amount of apples to eat as well.

I’ve participated in all the happenings at all my local orchards, including picking apples, eating donuts, visiting the playgrounds and shopping at the farm stands. Though, this visit to the orchard was strictly business—buying apples. My plan was to can applesauce at home and I unfortunately could not dilly dally on all the wonderful extracurricular activities at the farm.

Though, because our beautiful fall weather just won’t quit, please be sure to linger. Take the time to enjoy all that Michigan apple orchards and farms have to offer—and have a glass of cider for me.

Applesauce

Ingredients
1 bushel of apples, cored, peeled and thinly sliced (about 40 pounds)
1 ½ cups brown sugar, divided
¾ cup lemon juice, divided
15 quart jars or 30 pint jars

Applesauce and Canning Instructions
Place about 1-inch of water on the bottom of a 5 to 6 quart stockpot. Add enough prepared apples to fill to the top (one bushel apples should make about 6 small batches). Cook apples until tender, about 15 to 20 minutes, adding additional water as needed to prevent scorching. Add ¼ cup brown sugar and about 2 tablespoons lemon juice per batch of cooked apples. Cook an additional few minutes. Mash or puree apples to desired consistency. Simmer the mashed apples gently while filling prepared canning jars. Process according to water bath instructions for 20 minutes.

Cook’s Note: You can make a smaller batch of this applesauce and skip the canning process. It will last in the refrigerator 7 to 10 days.

Find an apple orchard or farm near you at www.michiganapples.com

—Pam Aughe, R.D.

Jams, Jellies and Preserves

 

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The charm of living in a large agricultural state like Michigan is the many u-pick produce farms. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and cherries are some of my favorite fruits to pick, eat and preserve. Though, admittedly, I’m often an overzealous picker and end up with excess fruit. Freezing is always the easy route but I adore making jam and canning. Many, many jars of jam later, I realize I can only eat so many peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Naturally, I thought to bake with the extra homemade fruit jams.

Oatmeal Jam Bars

6 tablespoons butter, softened

½ cup light brown sugar

1 cup all-purpose flour

½  teaspoon baking soda

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

¾ cup jam

Preheat oven to 350o. Combine butter and sugar in a mixer and beat until well combined. Add flour, baking soda and salt; stir until incorporated and crumbly. Stir in oats. Place 2/3 of oat mixture on bottom of 8-inch square baking pan lined with parchment paper. Top with jam and spread evenly. Press together the remaining oat mixture with your hands and place chunks of oats on top of jam to mostly cover. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until fruit is bubbly and top is golden.

Cook’s Note: Bake with your favorite flavor of jam or preserves. I used strawberry—made with strawberries from Middleton Berry Farm—and it was delicious. If the fruit is very thick, you can lightly warm in the microwave to be able to spread easily.

Here are some other great ideas for using up homemade fruit preserves, jellies and jams:

In the dessert category, use jam in layer cakes, filling for muffins and donuts, thumbprint cookies, cheesecake topping, ice cream sundae topping or layer into trifle. Kids would love the jam frozen into popsicles.

Beverages also make for great use of jams. You can stir the sweetened fruit into lemonade, ice tea or Italian soda. For the grownups, mixed into cocktails with your favorite spirit is delicious. Also, blend with yogurt or ice cream for a smoothie.

Breakfast is an easy way to use jam swirled into yogurt or oatmeal. It is also a great topping for biscuits, waffles or pancakes. If you are little more adventurous, try making stuffed French toast or crepes.

For the savory route, top baked brie, goat cheese or cream cheese with preserves. Spread in the middle of a stuffed pork loin or chicken breast, pour over a ham as a glaze or stir into barbeque sauce. Sometimes simple is best—just place jam in a small dish on a cheese platter.

Raspberries, peaches, pears, apples and cherries are all waiting to be picked right now at many local u-pick farms. Go to www.upickmichigan.com to find a place near you.

—Pam Aughe, R.D.