Test Kitchen Recipe

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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.

Spring Edibles

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Fresh chives and thyme in the garden

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.

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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

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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.

Spice It Up

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January is here, the holidays are over. We made it. The schedule of family feasts and festivities has ended. Cue the advertising for weight loss programs and fitness equipment. This is the time of year where, apparently, most Americans are looking to get healthier and make some changes.

I’m not much on resolutions but do crave getting back on a regular schedule post-holidays. At my house, we use family dinners to get back on track. Cooking is almost always healthier than eating out and brings me great joy. Time is still tight, so I like to prepare quick and easy recipes that feed a crowd. Recipes using seasoning mixes are a great help and there are some local companies that make tasty ones—Michigan Salted, Love MI Seasons and Mickey & T’s.

Michigan Salted is a Grand Haven based company who has been selling a product called M Salt since 2008. M Salt is a perfect proportion of salt, herbs and spices reminiscent of a steak seasoning. Delicious and adaptable, it can flavor just about everything from grilled chicken to sautéed vegetables. Some creative uses for M Salt are to rim a Bloody Mary glass, mix with butter as a spread or sprinkle over popcorn.

Love MI Seasons is made in Dryden by Executive Chef Tom Chappell. Created long before selling the spice blends, Chef Tom has been cooking with these blends at a private hunt club where he perfected the flavors. Three blends are available: BBQ Rub, Fresh Herb and Acapulco Gold. All the products use local ingredients when available.

Mickey & T’s has been manufacturing gourmet rubs and international spices since 1997 in Davisburg. With a large variety of spices, rubs and garlic blends, Mickey & T’s has something for everyone. I particularly like the Taste of Mexico and Taste of Italy blends. These blends are colorful and flavorful with larger pieces of dehydrated herbs and vegetables.

All of these local seasonings have no MSG, are gluten free and are without fillers or preservatives. Local spices and herbs are sustainable and are also proven to boost health benefits. Buying local seasonings is a tasty and healthy New Year’s resolution you can bet on.

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Roasted Chicken

1 whole cut up chicken (about 4 pounds)
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup Love MI Seasons BBQ Blend Rub

Preheat oven to 350o. Place pieces of chicken evenly apart on rimmed baking sheet. Brush chicken with olive oil. Season chicken under and over skin with BBQ Rub. Roast for 1 hour or until skin is crisp and golden brown.
Cook’s Note: Chicken can be prepared on the grill during the warmer months. Preheat grill to medium and cook, turning once or twice, until the skin is crisp and the chicken is cooked through.

Maple Roasted Acorn Squash

2  whole small acorn squash, cut into 1-inch slices
2  tablespoons melted butter
1 ½ tablespoons maple syrup
½ teaspoon M Salt

Preheat oven to 425o. Place cut squash slices on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle squash with butter and syrup. Sprinkle with M Salt seasoning. Roast in oven 20 to 30 minutes or until golden. Serve hot.
Cook’s Note: To make squash slices; cut acorn squash in half carefully. Scoop out the seeds and discard. Place squash cut side down and cut in half again. Repeat until slices of squash are to desired thickness.

—Pam Aughe, R.D.

Honcho

A new job relocated my family to the suburbs of Detroit. Even though this was a great opportunity, moving 700 miles away from friends and family required some convincing on my husband’s part. So, when we landed in Detroit for my first trip to Michigan, he took me right out to eat. Smart man.

We drove right from the airport to a place called the Clarkston Union Bar and Kitchen. Not kidding—right off the plane to lunch in Clarkston. I enjoyed eating and drinking there from the very first visit.  They have a creative menu of well-made food and a slew of beers on tap. And now, almost 15 years later, I have had the pleasure of seeing the opening of four additional Union Joints.

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Rice Bowl with Battered Fish

The latest delicious eatery is called Honcho. And, lucky for me, it is also right here in the Village of Clarkston. Honcho is a mashup of coffee house and Latin Street food. They are open in the wee morning hours for house roasted coffee and freshly baked pastries. Then a full spread begins at 11 a.m. with yet another clever menu highlighting the flavors of many cultures. I enjoyed their take on a rice bowl that had Asian inspirations with jasmine rice, nori and kimchi which I topped with Honcho’s battered smoky tilapia and a fried egg. My lunch mate had an arepa—a cornmeal patty—stuffed with shaved caramelized Brussel sprouts.

We have since made Clarkston our home enjoying the balance of country living and urban access. I believe Honcho’s eclectic menu will fit right in to this Detroit suburb.

—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.

Pizza in Detroit

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Fungus Amongus Pizza

Even though I’ve lived in Michigan over 14 years, I still consider myself a transplant. I can expertly navigate our southeast Michigan roads and give my opinion about where to eat the best Coney. Though, one of my favorite foods still resides back on the east coast—pizza.

When I first moved here, my pizza choices were limited to chain locations serving conveyor belt cooked cardboard pizza or this unusual deep square pizza. Neither choices were a familiar pizza option or fit a craving for my traditional pizza. What I’m talking about is the New York style pizza which can also be called Neapolitan or brick oven pizza.

Fast forward a few years and my pizza craving arrived in Detroit. You know who I’m referring to—Supino Pizzeria next to The Eastern Market in Detroit. This is what I’ve been waiting for. Supino’s traditional New York thin crust foldable pizza is the taste and smell of pizzeria memories.  Determined to find similar pizza shops, I keep on looking. Come to find out, there are others. One has been cooking brick oven pizza for years but, would rather be known for their beer.

Motor City Brewing Works is the 2nd oldest brewery in Michigan creating some of the best hand crafted beers around. No surprise to this beer aficionado but, not everyone is a fan of local, craft beers (I know, hard to imagine). They also have a lovely little menu of brick oven pizza. You can build your own shareable 10-inch pie or choose from some of their cool concoctions. I shared the Roasted Pear and Fig topped with very generous quantity of gorgonzola crumbles. And, yes, I had a beer because how can you not?

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Roasted Pear and Fig Pizza

One of the newest locations for pizza is Pie-Sci in the Woodbridge neighborhood in Detroit. Really not new, I come to find out; they have been a Sunday pizza pop-up at Woodbridge Pub for over five years. Pie-Sci’s claim to fame is creative pizza topping combinations with catchy, creative titles. We tried the Mosta-Spicoli and the Fungus Amongus. The Mosta-Spicoli was like eating an Italian Sunday supper on pizza dough. Pretty terrific and might be my new favorite. The Fungus Amongus was full of mushrooms and cherry tomatoes that just popped with seasonal freshness.

I will forever be a thin crust, New York style pizza girl. Though, I know, everyone has their own personal favorite. Where is your favorite pizza joint in Detroit?

—Pam Aughe, R.D.

Farm at the Stadium

Many family vacations with my husband and two sons include visiting a major league baseball stadium. This summer we were lucky enough to be at Fenway Park in Boston. As the oldest stadium in the country with quirky spots like the lone red seat and the green monster, Fenway was a definite must see stadium.

To my surprise and great pleasure in spring of 2015, Fenway Farms—a roof garden planted on the third base side of the ballpark— was planted. Local farms and Green City Growers collaborated to transform an underutilized rubber roof into a fruitful green space. All the fresh vegetables and herbs grown are served in the club restaurant at Fenway.

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Here in Detroit we also have some spectacular urban farming. Keep Growing Detroit, Brother Nature Produce, Earthworks and Michigan Urban Farming Initiative are all organizations who believe in feeding their community with fresh and healthy foods.

Now I wonder if Comerica Park would now be inspired to create some edible green space? Go Tigers!

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—Pam Aughe, R.D.

Detroit Donuts

I’m taking off my dietitian hat for a moment and eating a donut. I often sample all types of foods as an advocate for the local food scene. Though, in this case, this is where I repeat the mantra—everything in moderation. So, I’m sampling donuts at Dilla’s Delights with complete joy and no regrets. Once you taste these delicious creations, you will understand.

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Dilla’s Delights is a specialty donut business in the Ashley Building in downtown Detroit. Founder and operator, Herman Hayes, named this donut shop in honor of his nephew James Dewitt Yancey (J. Dilla) who was a musician and producer with passion for donuts, Detroit and music. Right when you walk in the door, it’s easy to recognize that donuts and music are the central theme.

Like most delicious treats, it’s hard to have just one. Therefore, I recommend sharing a variety of donuts. The chocolate cake glazed and the mixed berry fritter was a nice combination. Produced with 100% organic flour and fried in rice bran oil, Dilla’s Donuts are a step above in quality and taste. Uncle Herman makes donuts all night long in Avalon International Bread’s commercial kitchen to be open at 5 in the morning for his customers.

With my dietitian hat back on, my recommendation is a little exercise post-donut consumption. Comerica Park is only a 5 minute walk from Dilla’s Delights and would make the perfect snack right before an afternoon ballgame.

—Pam Aughe, R.D.

Made in Michigan Meat & Cheese Board

Last weekend I took a break from dinner duty. Forgoing the challenge of cooking a meal that tries to please everyone is a welcome change. Although we still are required to eat something and take-out food is underwhelming, I took the opportunity to prepare what my family calls “the meat and cheese board.” What this usually involves is a hard salami, smoked meat or sausage along with a variety of hard and soft cheeses. The add-ons depend on what is available and looks tasty. I use fruit spreads, crackers, olives, nuts or hummus.

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I took great pleasure in making this particular platter because I used only products that were grown or produced in Michigan. Our great state is an agricultural goldmine and it is quite easy to find just what I needed. My Michigan smorgasbord contained three cheeses, two bratwursts, a fig spread, fruit and multigrain bread.

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I shopped for all of these products at Argus Farm Stop in Ann Arbor. Argus Farm Stop is a direct-to-consumer market for local producers of vegetables, fruits, meats, baked goods, dairy and artisans. Open since August of 2014, this seemingly small market sells over 100 products from local farms and producers year round. These are all the wonderful products I brought home for dinner:

Raw Gouda cheese—Fluffy Bottoms Farm in Chelsea

Bella Sole cheese—White Lotus Farms in Ann Arbor

Fresh mozzarella—Four Corners Creamery in Tecumseh

Wine sausage bratwurst—Black Oak Farm in Byron

Turkey feta and spinach bratwurst—Duerksen Turkey Farm in Mancelona

Multi grain bread flour—Westwind Farm in Swartz Creek

Notorious F.I.G. jam—Gus & Grey in Detroit

Mutsu apple—Kapnick Orchards in Britton

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As the weather gets warmers and the days get longer, linger on the deck or porch with a glass of wine, good company and your artisan platter. It is a perfect no-cook dinner, yet still a filling, satisfying and local meal.

—Pam Aughe, R.D.