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School Lunch Flashback

11 Aug


I’m bringing back this article I wrote for Edible Marin Wine country in 2012. This continues to be an easy fun lunch for my kiddo!

If you have a rice cooker, set it the night before to cook fresh rice in the morning before you get up. Use whatever is on hand, leftovers, nuts, veggies , chicken, steak, whatever you have on hand.

We are all getting ready for school and being prepared for lunch making is a real time saver. Good luck!


By Jennifer Carden / Photographed by Matthew Carden

If it’s day one of 200 or so school days to come and you’re already out of ideas, you are not alone. It feels like kids’ school lunches have been the same since the ’50s. Does this sound familiar: PB&J with the crust cut off, an apple and juice? My own mom used those waxed bags that never quite closed, so one side of the sandwich was dried out by the time lunch rolled around. I almost never ate them. Sorry, Mom.

I consulted with my daughter when I was writing this piece and she provided some useful food for thought on why kids don’t finish their lunch at school. “I like to get through my lunch fast so we can go out to recess,” she divulged. I think that’s pretty universal. So give this sleight of hand a try to spice up your child’s lunchtime with a game of handball… sushi, that is!

Temarizushi is Japanese for “hand ball,” and these small jewel-like rice balls, formed by hand, are traditionally served in the spring for young children’s parties. They are actually great year-round, changing the toppings with the seasons, and a perfect way to use the leftovers in your refrigerator. Three rice balls that include a protein have around the equivalent nutritional value of most lunchbox sandwiches, making them the right kind of fuel for all that playing and learning. The balls are easy and fun for kids to make the night before school.


Tear or cut a dozen 4- by 4-inch squares of plastic wrap and set aside on a clean, dry work surface. (Note: If you lay them down with half extending over the edge of the counter it makes them easy to grab when you need them.) Place a small amount of your chosen ingredient on a sheet of the plastic wrap. Drop approximately 2 teaspoons of room-temperature sushi rice on top of your *Toppings of choice. If it is sticky, dampen your hands with a bit of water.



*Toppings of your choice such as: toasted sesame seeds; nori (toasted seaweed), cut out with a hole punch or cut into shapes; carrot, zucchini or cucumber ribbons; cooked fresh pumpkin; corn; sliced black olives; tofu, cut into animal shapes with small cookie cutters; leftover chicken, salmon or scrambled eggs; edible flowers; or thinly sliced deli meats like turkey or ham For a sweet option, add cinnamon sugar to the rice and top with thinly sliced apples.


Gather the plastic wrap up around the rice ball, then twist the plastic wrap tightly, firmly pressing the rice into a ball shape. Continue with new ingredients until you have used up all the rice. Wait at least 15 minutes to unwrap the balls and serve. If you make these ahead of time, leave in the wrap and store in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature to serve. For lunch boxes, leave them wrapped for safekeeping and your child will have fun unwrapping them at lunchtime.

How to make perfect sushi rice every time.

Ingredients for Perfect Sushi Rice

2 cups sushi rice

2 cups water

4 tablespoons rice vinegar

3 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons mirin

2 teaspoons salt


Toppings of your choice* (examples below)



Do not follow the directions on the bag of rice! Rinse the rice only 3–4 times— the water does NOT have to run clear as it will instruct on the bag. Allow rice to drain thoroughly.

While rice is draining, combine vinegar, sugar, salt and mirin in a bowl and mix well. Set aside.

Add the rice and water to a pan and bring quickly to a boil over high heat. Once it reaches a boil, reduce to a simmer. Cover the pot and cook for 15 minutes before removing the pot from the heat, keeping the lid CLOSED. Abso- lutely no stirring or sneaking a peek!

Let rice rest for 10 minutes, then remove the cover.

Spread the rice in a wide glass or ceramic dish to cool and lightly fan the rice while adding the vinegar mixture. Mix rice gently, being careful not to break or mash it.

Cook’s note: If you have a rice cooker, follow the directions for “sushi rice” and add the vinegar and other seasonings after cooking.

Yields 4 cups of rice.


Bullseye Pops

11 Jun

EMWC Summer 2013 Stone's Soup Corner

THE KIDS are ALL Right

Photo Matthew Carden

Another share from Edible Marin Wine Country, I couldn’t pass up sharing this recipe!

When I sat down to write this issue’s Stone’s Soup Corner, I thought I had it all worked out. Melon soup was on the agenda. Perfect for summer— cool, refreshing and easy.

I usually clear my ideas with my 9-year-old daughter before I discuss them with my editor, but this time I never got around to asking her what she thought about this soup idea. Her reaction when she heard: “Mom, no kid is going to eat that!”

And she was right. I had lost sight of whom I was writing for. So, together, we brainstormed for a summer melon-y idea and came up with these creamy pops.

Food is at the center of so much of our lives and too often it becomes simply a chore. We shoo the kids away so we can get the cooking done, clean up and get on to the next task. But food should be fun, not stressful or humorless. That is why I like cooking for kids and silly grown-ups.

Sometimes on a hot day sharing a moment with a sloppy, drippy homemade pop is simply the right thing to do. Forget all the to-do lists and the dirty laundry, just for a moment. These Bull’s Eye Honeydew Pops highlight the ripest melons of the season. They are creamy, refreshing and dairy free!

Make an extra batch to keep in your freezer—it’s nice to have homemade pops ready for a playdate or family dessert on a hot summer night.


Bullseye Honeydew Pops

Yield: 6 regular-size pops or 24 ice-cube-size pops

3⁄4 cup full-fat coconut milk
1⁄2 cup sugar
6 large mint leaves (Mint grows wild, so go check your garden before

you buy it at the market.)
3 cups very ripe Honeydew melon flesh (about 1⁄2 a melon 24 fresh or frozen cherries
Decorative straws (cut to size) or Popsicle sticks

Extra Tools

Straws or wooden Popsicle sticks

Small pop molds (Note: pop molds look great, but an ice cube tray will work just fine.)

Add coconut milk, sugar and mint leaves to a small saucepan and warm slowly over medium heat, scraping the sides constantly with a rubber spatula. When the sugar is dissolved, remove pan from heat and cool mixture to room temperature.

Dice the melon flesh into small pieces and place in a blender. Drain the mint from the cooled syrup, then add syrup to the blender. Blend until smooth and frothy.

Place four cherries into each pop mold—or, if you are using ice cube trays to make your pops, place a stick or straw into each cherry and place 1 in each cube reservoir.

Pour the coconut-melon mixture around the cherries in each mold, then place a straw or Popsicle stick into the center. If you are using ice cube trays, carefully pour the mixture around each cherry in the tray.

Freeze for 4 hours or until firm.

edible marin & wine country summer 2013 | 53

Eating Your Curds And Whey

25 Apr

I wanted to share this article I wrote and styled for Edible Magazine. My husband is the photographer and my daughter was the taster.  I use the whey from the cheese making as my liquid in the biscuits, it creates less waste and adds flavor.


EMWC Spring 13 Stone's Soup Corner_Page_1

EMWC Spring 13 Stone's Soup Corner_Page_2Here is a photo from the Spring Issue by Matthew Carden emwc-cherry-on-top-winter-2012

You Can’t Beet Love

17 Jan

Making Pink Pasta

It’s almost Valentine’s Day!! Make it fun and low key. Get your veggies in while eating your pasta too!

From Edible Marin & Wine Country winter 2011 Photos: Matthew Carden

Kids adore pasta, so what better way to share the love this Valentine’s Day than making homemade pasta together? Coloring it PINK—naturally, using beets— will make it a special Valentine’s Day treat, and get them to eat their veggies, too! You don’t have to be an Italian nana to make pasta at home. It couldn’t be easier, and you and your kids will be thrilled with your accomplishment.

Once you color your pasta pink, you might be inspired to create other red and pink foods for your kids to explore. Serve marinara sauce with your pink pasta. Use a cookie cutter to make heart-shaped tomato-flavored tortillas for quesadillas. Use edible markers to draw red hearts on hard-boiled eggs. Bake a pink angel food cake to serve with strawberry ice cream. For a pink drink, add cherry juice to homemade lemonade. You can also make your own placemats and other decorations using pink or red wrapping paper. Make this an “edible-y” pink Valentine’s Day!

Can’t “Beet” it Pasta!

Pasta Drying

Pasta Drying

Serve this with lots of fresh veggies to create a rainbow on your plate.

Yield: 4 child-sized servings


1 meduim red beet, peeled and diced

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt or 1/2 teaspoon table salt

1 cup all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons semolina flour, plus extra for dusting

1 large egg, at room temperature

To prepare beet pureé, place beet pieces in a small pot and add enough cold water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer and cook until very tender, about 10 minutes.

Drain, reserving liquid.

Add salt and olive oil to drained beets and blend with a stick blender or in a small food processor. Purée until the mixture is a very smooth paste. Set aside.

To prepare pasta dough

In a small bowl, add flour, semolina flour and egg and mix with a fork until the egg disappears.

Add 1⁄3 cup of the beet purée and work this in with the fork until fully incorporated.

You will likely have some loose flour remaining in the bowl, which is OK. Place the dough and the extra flour on a cutting board. Knead with the palm of your hand until all the flour has been incorporated. If the dough is sticky, you may need to add a bit more flour (a little at a time) to reach the desired consistency. Be careful not to add too much flour so that the pasta dough becomes dry. Continue to knead the dough until it springs back when poked with a finger. Now the dough needs a “nap.” Wrap the dough ball in plastic and allow it to rest in the refrigerator from 1 to up to 24 hours.

Rolling and cutting the pasta

If you do not have a pasta machine, a rolling pin works just fine here. Divide the dough ball into quarters and place the quarters, 1 at a time, on a well floured board or countertop. Keep the unused dough covered until you are ready to roll it out. Roll out the dough as thin as possible (it will thicken when cooked). Using a sharp knife or scissors, cut the pasta into long strips, about ½ inch wide. After cutting, toss the strips of pasta lightly with the semolina flour to prevent sticking.

To cook and serve

Cook the pasta immediately in salted, boiling water (the water you reserved from boiling the beets adds extra color) for approximately 2–3 minutes, drain and serve with your favorite sauce or simply butter or olive oil and salt and pepper. If you are not going to cook and eat the pasta immediately, you can dry the strips by hanging them over a wooden spoon or other suitable, clean surface (the back of a chair or oven handle also works well). Don’t allow the pasta strips to touch each other until they are thoroughly dried or they will stick together.

Crunchy Granola a Whole New Generation

1 Oct

A fun craft to serve your creation in
My latest article from Edible Fall 2011
Stone’s Soup Corner
Crunchy Granola a whole new generation…
When I told my parents 18 years ago that I was moving to California, they labeled me as “crunchy granola.” I was pretty offended. After all, I wasn’t a hippie; I was a modern 20-something heading to San Francisco to seek out conversations about art in cafés with Beat poet types! They also asked me when I was coming back, to which I replied “never.”

After a year or so in San Francisco, I decided to set aside my artist’s tools and take up cooking–the right choice, looking back. The joke is on me because now one of my favorite recipes is what I call “Grab and Go Granola.” I guess I was “crunchy granola” after all!

The ways of Woodstock may be gone, but the tradition of making healthy homemade snacks is alive and thriving. These days, “health food” is not just for love-in breakfasts or others on the fringe; it is mainstream. Snacks like granola are soaring in popularity and it seems every time you turn around there is a new gourmet granola on the market shelf. There are fruity ones, nutty ones, even regular-old cereals masquerading as granolas. A great way to ensure that your family truly is getting a healthy, wholesome granola is to make your own–and it’s an easy and fun activity for kids, too!


In the cooking and gardening camps at Napa’s Connolly Ranch, we teach the kids to make pots for seedlings out of newspaper. These paper pots are also a fun way to serve snacks like homemade granola. You can use newspaper or even plain copier paper or construction paper for colored snack cups. This is a fun and creative activity for parties and play dates, too. Try making different shapes, like squares or rectangles!

Materials needed:

Sheets of paper
Markers or crayons
A can (vegetable or soup cans work well)

To make:

1. Cut or fold the paper so that you have a piece that is long enough to fit all the way around the can (with a slight overlap) and is about 1 inch higher than the height of the can.

2. Wrap the paper around the can and tape the seam to seal the paper around the can–but not so tightly that you won’t be able to slip it off.

3. Fold one end of the paper under the can to form a bottom for your cup.

4. Tape the seams to secure the bottom.

5. Have your child draw a design on the paper, then slip it off the can.

6. Fill your cups with your homemade granola or any other dry snack.

Grab and Go Granola 

Granola is easy to make and store and it is delicious plain or as a topping. Try it on yogurt! My recipe below is easy and adaptable. Add more or less of any ingredient to your liking and it will always be delicious. Experiment with different types of nuts and dried fruits–dried blueberries or cranberries give it a flavorful punch. Make a double batch because it will disappear quickly.

Yield: About 6 cups


1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut (Note: Using large-flake coconut adds a great chewy texture.)
4 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup wheat germ or flax meal
2 cup unsalted sunflower seeds
2 cups almonds, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons sesame seeds or flax seeds
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup honey 1/2 pound butter, melted
3/4 cup dried currants or golden raisins


Preheat oven to 350° F.

Spread coconut on a baking sheet and place in the oven for about 5 minutes, checking constantly. Once coconut starts to toast it will brown quickly, so keep an eye on it. Bake until the edges are golden, then remove from the oven and transfer coconut to a shallow dish to cool. Once cooled, crush to break apart into individual strands.

Decrease the oven temperature to 300° F.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. In a small pan, melt honey, maple syrup and butter and set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, combine oats, wheat germ or flax meal, sunflower seeds, almonds, sesame seeds or flax, cinnamon and nutmeg, then stir well to combine.

Pour melted honey, maple syrup and butter mixture over oat mixture, then stir well to combine. Spread on parchment-lined baking sheets and bake at 300° F. for about 25 minutes, until lightly golden. Check often to make sure it does not burn. Remove from the oven and allow to cool, then break up any large chunks with your hands and add the coconut and dried fruit. Store in an airtight container.

Mucking it up in Spring!

3 Mar

Article from: Edible Marin and Wine Country — Spring 2011

Stone’s Soup Corner

For those of us who live in Northern California, spring is all about waiting for the rains to end and the sun to arrive again, and, thankfully, it always does. During this time of year, there is a lot to be done to prepare the garden for summer planting. It’s also a great time to talk to your kids about what you are going to plant so that they will be excited about taking care of the garden and harvesting and eating what you have grown–and getting dirty in the muddy veggie patch! So, put your rain boots back on and go get dirty with your kids in the Spring muck!

Try my recipe below for “Swamp Soup,” and I bet you will get your kids to not only eat their vegetables, but love them. The trick here is to hide a few beans in the bottom of their soup bowl and tell the kids to eat to the bottom of “the swamp” to find the “muck beetles”–and yes, I made that up. By the time they get to the bottom of the bowl, the soup will have magically disappeared. The soup itself is delicious, packed with green vegetables and will warm you and your kids up on a chilly Northern California spring day.

Swamp Soup

Yield: 4 servings


4 cups chicken or vegetable broth, divided in half

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 cups zucchini, thinly sliced (about 3 whole squash)

2 medium ripe avocados, peeled and with the pit removed

½ teaspoon salt or to taste A handful of cooked organic black or pinto beans Prepared pesto (optional)


In a large saucepan, bring 2 cups of the broth to a boil with the onion, garlic and nutmeg. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for an additional 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Next, add the remaining 2 cups of broth and the zucchini and bring back to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, re-cover and simmer for an additional 15 minutes. Remove the lid and allow the soup to cool slightly.

In a blender, purée the slightly cooled soup mixture with the avocado, in batches, until it reaches a smooth consistency. Return the purée to the saucepan, add salt to taste and warm gently. To serve, place a few of the beans in the bottom of the bowl and gently pour in the soup. When you serve it make sure to tell the kids to eat to the bottom to find the muck beetles!


• If you don’t want to open a whole can of beans for this recipe or take the time to soak dried beans and cook them separately, just pick up a few at your grocery store’s salad bar.

• Add a dollop of pesto to this soup after you purée it for an extra punch of flavor and a green color.

• Float strips of toasted bread or crackers on top of the soup and place a bean on one so your kids can make the “bean bug” “jump” from log to log.


Looking for something fun and educational to do with your kids over a long weekend or spring break? Try this project using dried beans that will teach them a little science and gardening know-how. Setting it up is a great inside activity on a rainy day. Beans sprout very quickly so they are fun to watch and this experiment works well for kids of all ages.

In this version of the old-school experiment you use different liquids–milk, water, salt water and sugar water–to find out which one causes the beans to sprout in the shortest amount of time.

Things you’ll need:

4 empty cups

1½ cups of water

½ cup milk

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

4 paper towels

20 dried beans

4 plates

Steps of the experiment:

1. Fill 3 cups each with ½ cup of water, and a 4th cup with ½ cup of milk.

2. Add the sugar to 1 of the cups that contain water and add the salt to another, leaving 1 with just plain water.

3. Soak 1 paper towel in each cup for 1 minute, or until saturated.

4. Label each of the 4 plates with one of the following: water, milk, salt-water and sugar-water.

5. Place 5 beans on each plate, and cover loosely with the saturated paper towel that corresponds to the label on that plate.

6. Observe the growth of the beans each day for several weeks, making notes on the number of beans that have sprouted on each plate, as well as the length of the sprouts. Determine which liquid was the most successful at causing the beans to sprout.

7. Once the beans sprout, you can plant them in dirt and keep them growing!

Churros Or "Squirros"– by Any Name They Are The Same

2 Sep

STONE’S SOUP CORNER Edible Marin Wine Country Magazine

These may not be the most low cal treat but a great holiday sweet. Make a bunch and serve them instead of bars or pie.

A few months ago I was in San Rafael and stumbled upon a small churro stand, hidden deep in the area commonly referred to as the “Canal.” The ladies who run the stand are very nice and extremely passionate about churros. Of course I had to buy a few of the cinnamon and sugar redolent treats because, I thought to myself, “Everything in moderation, and I am only going to eat one, but I can’t leave my family out.” I did actually give them one–to share!

Churros are a Spanish invention. Many centuries ago, Spanish shepherds used to make churros while tending sheep high in the mountains. The name “churros” was derived from the most common breed of those sheep–the “Churra”–because the pastry looks like the sheep’s horns.

Having only limited cooking supplies, the shepherds needed to come up with a snack that could be easily made and cooked over an open fire. Churros were a brilliant solution, easy to prepare and cook in a pan of oil. I am sure they were getting their protein and veggies at their main meals, because one can’t live on fried dough alone!

Today, crispy, sweet churros can be found in most places in the world, especially those with a significant population of Spanish descent. Each area, or maker, might have its own version. In Spain, you see people dredging them through a mug of thick drinking chocolate before eating. In Mexico, the churro is sometimes filled with thick pastry cream.

Many cultures fry dough-based foods for special occasions like holidays and festivals. These foods are not eaten on an everyday basis, but are special to families or stem from a tradition. Jewish people fry sufganiyot, jelly-filled doughnuts, at Hanukkah. American Indians make savory fry bread. The American South has the hush puppy. The beignet is from France. The bunuelo is from South America. Modern Americans love any variety of doughnuts, anytime. There are hundreds more versions of these fried dough treats and they are all different–some sweet, some savory, some chewy, some dusted with sugar, some messy, but all delicious.

Making or eating these foods is a way for people who live far from their homeland to connect and feel a part of their culture and heritage.

Churros are easy and fun to make at home–and muy sabroso! Since we don’t have sheep at our house, we appropriately named our version of the treats “squirros,” after the cute, fuzzy tail of a squirrel. Ask your kids to come up with their own names for your creations. If they do, I’d love to hear them. Send me a comment here, maybe we can come up with some really unusual ones.


I’ve added autumn flavors to these traditional churros. Try your own flavorings, too. You can add a variety of extract flavorings to the batter, dip them in melted chocolate or drizzle with jam. Any way you make them they are a treat, so have fun and make sure you share!

The frying part is definitely NOT for the kids to do, but have them help roll them in the sugar coating. It is simple and fun to do.

Yield: About 1 dozen 4-inch churros
1 cup water
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup butter
1 cup unbleached flour
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
11/2 cups vegetable oil
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, or to taste
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
Pastry bag fitted with a large star-shaped tip. Note: Disposable pastry bags are available at any craft or kitchen store and they are great tools to have around the kitchen. If you do not have a star tip, a round tip will work as well.

Paper towels for draining the cooked churros of excess oil.


Combine all the ingredients for the coating and set aside. In a 3-quart saucepan add the water, brown sugar, salt and butter, and bring to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat and add the flour and pumpkin pie spice. Stirring in the flour will take some muscle. Mix until well blended.

In a separate bowl, mix the eggs and vanilla together; add this mixture to the flour mixture. Stir until well blended and all the egg mixture is completely incorporated.

Fill the pastry bag, fitted with tip, with the churro dough.

Heat the one and a half cups of vegetable oil in a frying pan with high sides or a wide saucepan to 375°. If you don’t have a thermometer, the “medium high” setting on your stove should hold the oil at around 375°. Test your oil by dropping in a small amount of dough; it should bubble up right away. If it does not, the oil is not yet hot enough and a soggy churro is no bueno! Once the oil has reached the correct temperature, squeeze a four-inch-long tube of the dough from the piping bag into the hot oil, using scissors to cut off the end of the dough tube from the piping bag. Be careful of the hot oil!

You should be able to fit four or five churros at a time in the pan. Cook each churro about one minute and then turn it over with a slotted spoon. Cook an additional minute or two until it turns a nice golden brown color. Remove the churros with a slotted spoon and place them on a paper towel-covered plate to absorb excess oil.

While still warm, roll each churro in the coating until well coated. Serve warm.

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