For a couple years now, I've been having fun grinding up all manner of veggies and fruits and hiding them in everything from pizza to brownies. But it's gotten harder now that Allyson is bigger; she shadows me and follows my every move in the kitchen.
Last week when we got beets in our organic produce co-op delivery, I racked my brain for a way to serve them so that someone other than myself would eat them. I came up empty, so I drug out the food processor and turned them into a gorgeous purple puree.
"What's that?" Allyson asked as I surreptitiously scraped the last of the puree into little baby food containers for the freezer.
"Why, it's beet puree!" I announced cheerfully, like a 1950s TV commercial announcer.
She scrunched her brow. "What's it for?" she demanded.
"Oh, I don't know," I evaded. "Maybe I'll make some more pink pancakes with it."
"Mmm! I love pink pancakes."
"Only I don't have any ricotta. I'll think of something," I promised. And then I went online and found this recipe for chicken nuggets with beets:
|Can You See the Pink?|
It was a very messy recipe, a pain in the behind, really. I mixed the beet puree with a beaten egg, dipped the chicken breast pieces in it, and then tried to make my healthy whole-wheat breading stick to them. My fingers were stained crimson for several days afterward. And while the nuggets in the online picture looked like perfectly normal nuggets, mine were decidedly pink even after I browned them in a bit of olive oil.
"What's for dinner?" Ethan asked as he breezed through the kitchen on the way to the pool.
"Chicken nuggets," I said.
I smiled, knowing he thought I'd broken down and bought the greasy kind you get in the grocery store freezer case. When I called him out of the pool a few minutes later and handed him a plate to eat on the patio, he exclaimed, "Hey, why are these pink?"
I sighed. "Beets."
"You made chicken nuggets with BEETS?" he repeated. "Why would you do that?"
"Just try them," I coaxed. "They're really good. You can't taste the beets at all."
"Yeah, try them, Ethan," Allyson called around a mouthful of nugget. In her mind, their pink hue was actually an asset.
Ethan nibbled his first nugget cautiously, and then popped the next two in his mouth and practically swallowed them whole. "Can I have more?" he asked.
Before I had a chance to bask in my victory, he made it even sweeter. Standing at the pool gate and waving a nugget in the air, he yelled, "Hey, Christian! Try one of these nuggets my mom made. They're pink!"
His friend climbed out of the pool. He hesitated for a moment, and then took a nugget. "Mmm," he agreed. "That's good."
Ethan and his friends didn't bat an eyelash the next evening when I offered them pink banana muffins. In fact, they liked them a little too well; between the three of them they polished off six muffins in three minutes. Naturally, Allyson was even more thrilled with her pink muffin.
|Beet & Banana Muffins|
|Isn't the Juice Gorgeous?|
Allyson really wanted me to show you pictures of the pink pancakes I made with our last beet delivery, but I couldn't find the picture. "Be sure and tell them about the pancakes," she said. "Those are my favorite."
Bountiful Harvest... Almost
In other news, we harvested the seeds from Allyson's very own sunflowers recently! It had never occurred to me that we could actually eat the sunflower seeds until our neighbors came by for a swim--the same neighbors who gave us the pumpkin pie Christmas before last. Shawn said the sunflowers reminded him of growing up in the country, and he told us how much his family enjoyed the seeds.
We let the sunflowers dry on their stalks, and then Allyson and I spent a couple of hours at the picnic table, meticulously working the seeds free from the dried flower heads. The proliferation of seeds in one flower was staggering, but we soon found that others had beaten us to much of our harvest. About two of every three striped hulls had a tiny black hole at its base, and the inner seed was either completely gone, or rotten.
Some of the little thieves were still crawling among the seeds, so I had to be very cautious. Allyson didn't mind the little beetles at all.
Getting the seeds out of the flower was the easy part, we soon learned. Extracting them from their hulls was much harder. We could think of no other way besides splitting the hulls with our fingernails and nudging the tiny seeds into a bowl.
After a couple more hours of labor, my too-short thumbnails were literally bleeding. I consoled myself with fantasies of the whole-wheat walnut and sunflower seed bread I planned to make with our harvest. But do you know that all those hundreds of seeds from two flowers yielded less than a quarter cup of seeds? I had to supplement with seeds from the grocery store. Still, the bread was so yummy.
Yesterday Allyson and I went to Sprouts Farmers Market, and I spotted raw sunflower seeds in the bulk section. As I dropped scoop after scoop into a bag, I marveled at the ease of of it, the luxury. And I didn't even so much as chip a nail! Still, I imagine they can't be quite as tasty as those seeds from our very own backyard. No, definitely not!