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June 30th, 2011

Cooking with Kids: Whole Grain Strawberry Shortcake with Ginger

By Marygrace Taylor

Berries have a lot going for them: They’re loaded with fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants, and so are super good for you. They also score points for being incredibly versatile—eat berries out of hand for a snack, toss them into a savory salad, or turn them into dessert. Best of all—maybe because the finger food size is more fun for little hands—you don’t have to work very hard to get your kids to gobble them up.

mgt og blog july

One of my family’s favorite ways to eat peak-season berries (like the ones overflowing at farmers markets right now) is in pie, but the whole process making the dough, rolling it out, and trying to keep it ice cold the entire time is pretty unappealing when it’s 90 degrees outside. Even when the temperature is cooler, notoriously tricky piecrust can be tough for children to work with, and so isn’t the best choice for parents who want to get their kids into the kitchen.

So instead, we get our fix with strawberry shortcake, which has all the delicious components of pie—buttery crust, saucy fruit, and even some sweetened cream to match the obligatory scoop of ice cream—in a package that requires less work and is simpler for kids to make.

Whole Grain Strawberry Shortcake with Ginger

Be sure to taste the strawberry mixture to adjust for sugar and lemon. Depending on your berries, you may need to adjust the sweetness and acidity.

Active time: 20 minutes

Total time: 40 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 pint strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • ¼ cup raw cane sugar, or to taste
  • Juice of half a lemon, or to taste
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup rolled oats
  • 3 tablespoons raw cane sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons low-fat buttermilk
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon finely chopped crystallized ginger

Whipped Cream Ingredients

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon raw cane sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

1. In a bowl, have your child combine the strawberries with the sugar and lemon juice, then taste to see whether she thinks the berries need more sweetness or sourness. Set aside.

2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet.

3. Have your child measure the flours, oats, sugar, baking powder, ginger, and salt and add to a bowl. After mixing with a fork, she can add in the butter pieces and use her fingers to crumble the butter into the flour mixture until pea-sized clumps form. Add the buttermilk and vanilla then fold in the crystallized ginger.

4. Help your child place the shortcake dough on a lightly floured surface and shape it into a disk, about ½-inch thick. Divide the disk into eight small wedges, transfer to the baking sheet, and bake 15 to 18 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

5. When the shortcakes are cool, make the whipped cream. Have your child measure the whipping cream, sugar, and vanilla and add to a bowl or stand mixer. Whip the cream until stiff peaks form, being careful not to over mix.

6. Slice the shortcakes in half horizontally. Have your child spoon the strawberry mixture over each bottom half of the shortcake, followed by a dollop of whipped cream and the top half of the shortcake. Serve.

Makes 8 shortcakes

Marygrace Taylor is the staff writer and recipe developer for KIWI Magazine. She lives and cooks in Austin, Texas, with her husband and dog, Charlie.

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June 28th, 2011

Nature Sounds in the Garden

mark-highlandI recently was fortunate enough to attend the Native Plants in the Landscape Conference held at Millersville University in Millersville, Pennsylvania. This conference is a must-attend for anyone in the Mid-Atlantic or New England areas that enjoys the benefits of native plants. From hardcore plant talks to landscape design, this conference is sure to please the plant geek in you! I’ve been attending for the past few years, but this year had a special treat in store during one of the evening sessions.

Will Hershberger is an expert in “insect concertos.” He has recorded thousands of hours of specific insect, amphibian, mammal, and bird songs in nature. His talk consisted of playing animal sound after animal sound, highlighting each unique wavelength of song. He showed us the spectrograph (a visual representation of the audio) while each song played. It was so cool to see the actual song in graph form—you can begin to see the mathematical sequence for some insects by watching the wavelength and frequency of each song.

Needless to say, I was fascinated! After his talk, Hershberger was signing books, and I couldn’t resist the urge to talk to him about my nature and music theory. I went up to him and began with “I’ll try to keep this short…,” probably what every speaker does not want to hear, but he humored me and I did keep it short. In sum, my theory is this: When listening to nature’s chorus, it seems there are so many mathematical similarities to classical music—almost as if you could sync the two together and find similar patterns (I have a book from the 1930s on birdsongs that explores this theory).
His eyes lit up as he explained to me his buddy’s Ph.D. research. In it, his friend recorded animals in a variety of environments: primary succession, secondary succession, disturbed sites, residential neighborhoods, etc. Through his recordings, the friend discovered that in an undisturbed site in nature, each class of animal (insects, birds, amphibians, etc.) spoke to other members of the population in a distinct octave, while at the disturbed sites, all animals sang in the same octave, limiting their ability to hear each other over all the extra “noise.” No wonder it’s hard for animals to stage a comeback after their habitat is disturbed!

This tidbit of knowledge has encouraged me to plant more natives in my garden, to encourage the insects and all animals to settle in, feel comfortable, and start talking again! Won’t you join me?
For more organic gardening tips from Organic Mechanics, find us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter (@organicmechanix), or visit our blog at http://organicmechanicsoil.blogspot.com/.


It was on a beautiful piece of Illinois farmland that Mark pushed his first shovel into garden soil. After he “grew up”, Mark focused his M.S. degree studies in the Longwood Graduate Program on compost and potting soil. After the Longwood Graduate Program, Mark started The Organic Mechanic Soil Company, LLC. As a frequent guest on NBC’s The 10! Show, he showcases the joy of gardening. Mark is also an approved consultant for the Institute for Local Self Reliance, working to educate farms and businesses on food-waste composting.

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