Eat in Season: Figs

“Oh, bring us a Figgy Pudding, oh, bring us a Figgy Pudding, oh bring us a Figgy Pudding and a cup of good cheer!”… So the song says… but WHAT IN THE WORLD IS A FIGGY PUDDING?! Don’t worry, Captain Create knows now, and has a recipe to share so you’ll know too!

Figs are a tasty snack all on their own. They can be eaten fresh, dried, or cooked into things like jam, cookies, and puddings. Figs are a good source of Vitamin K and the minerals calcium, magnesium, potassium and manganese. In fact, they contain one of the highest sources of plant-based calcium. Figs are also a great source of antioxidants, which can help your immune system fight germs. You can sometimes find them fresh in Utah in the cities, and they are tasty! You can just eat them, or serve them with cheese and honey like they do in Greece. Finding them dried or made into jam is a lot more common in cold states though. Today’s recipe uses dried figs, which have a longer shelf life and might be easier to find in Utah shops.

As Captain Create read up on Figgy Pudding, it became clear that a “pudding” in the United Kingdom is not the same as a pudding in the United States! Interesting that even though we speak the same language, many words have different meanings depending on where you are! As you can see below, the photos on the left are of a European pudding, which is more like a really rich cake filled with spices and fruit. Traditionally they get steamed in a bowl, as in the top center photo. Sometimes steaming can take 5-7 hours to cook! Pudding in the United States is often cooked on a stove top in a pot, and is a creamy, scoopable snack with no fruit or flour in sight! A Figgy Pudding is a European style pudding, which could be a fun new thing to try this holiday season!

Captain Create has a recipe for figgy pudding that is pretty close, but skips the steaming for 7 hours! First you soften diced dried figs in juice, then mix them up into cake batter and bake it all up! If you don’t have dried figs in your local store, any combination of dried fruit will work. Think about any dried fruit you can find or have at home already like raisins, currants, cranberries, cherries, apricots, apples, or even pineapple! We ran out of figs when we made ours, so its a fig/cherry/apple pudding!

We didn’t have a bundt pan, but had a mini loaf pan and a beehive pan, so we baked our puddings into two different shapes. These puddings have a lot of flavor, and we found that sharing them was a must; it was just too much to eat a whole one after dinner!

Be sure to finish up the dishes while your puddings bake, then dance and sing while your puddings cool; there are lots of ways to dance to We Wish You a Merry Christmas, and be sure to sing really loud at the “Figgy Pudding” part!

Recipe of the Week: Stuffing NOT From a Box

Sometimes we need tasty food fast, and using a box mix is a great way to save time, but sometimes its fun to make something from scratch for special days. Stuffing (or dressing) is an easy-to-make-from-scratch holiday food! Yes, it is a couple more steps than making a boxed stuffing, but its still easy to do, and you may end up with a new secret family recipe!

First you’ll need bread. Cutting or tearing bread into bits is a fun kid activity, so if you have kids in the kitchen that need a job, this one is perfect for them! The bread in this recipe can be slices, ends, or pieces from any kind of bread, roll, biscuit, or even cornbread. Don’t forget that corn is a whole grain too! You’ll want to cut all your bread into cubes (or tear it into similar size pieces), and let it dry. In Utah, this is easy because we have low humidity so you can simply leave your bread out to dry overnight. If you’re living in a humid place, or its raining outside, or you need to make stuffing sooner than tomorrow, you’ll want to toast your bread pieces in the oven. Spread your bread out on a tray and let it dry out in a 200* oven until its nice and stale.

Once your bread is all set, its a matter of sautéing your veggies and tossing it all together with the bread. Usually celery, onions, and herbs are in stuffing, but you can add anything under the sun! I have been to meals with cranberry, pecan, and wild rice stuffing, and other meals with smoked oyster and cornbread stuffing… there really aren’t any rules, so make what you like!

The recipe below is a good starting point, so feel free to add what you’d like to it to make it your own. Captan Create likes to cook stuffing in a shallow pan, rather than inside the turkey, so that the top can get nice and crispy and you can be sure that the temperature has reached 165* inside the stuffing. That way, you know your guests won’t get an upset stomach from it not getting cooked enough.

Around the World in 80 Plates: Tunisia

Welcome to the northernmost country on the African continent: Tunisia! It is directly south of Italy, across the Mediterranean Sea, and is in between Algeria and Libya. People have lived here for a really really long time; since about the 10th century BC, but much of the information on the city then is only written accounts by ancient Greeks and Romans, rather that real residents of Ancient Carthage so it’s not as accurate as researchers would like. You can still visit some of the ruins of Ancient Carthage. Arabic is currently the official language of Tunisia, but many of the schools, media, and businesses use French, which has no language designation.

This North African country has thousands of years of history, and their recipes that have been around nearly as long! The culture of Tunisia is very mixed due to its long established history of outside influence from people such as Phoenicians, Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, Arabs, Siculo-Normans, Turks, Italians, Maltese, Spanish, and the French, who all left their mark on the country.1 Food here is influenced by the desert in the south, and the northern Mediterranean climate, as well as the ingredients that grow nearby, like olive oil, hot chiles and spices, tomatoes, seafood and meat. Chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans) are a staple crop here, and are served in many different dishes because they are useful in many ways, tasty, and full of nutrition. They can be found being served at breakfast, lunch, and dinner!

In Tunis, the capitol city of Tunisia, they start their days with a savory chickpea stew called Lablabi. It has a flavorful broth, chickpeas, spicy harissa paste, and is often served with poached eggs or tuna for added protein to get you through the day. Its a bit different from our usually sweet breakfasts in the US, even though eggs with hot sauce is popular here.

It does take some time to soak dried chickpeas in order to make the soup, but there is a point to starting with dried chickpeas. The broth is just not the same without the chickpea cooking liquid (not the liquid from the can!). You can only get the broth just right if you cook the chickpeas yourself.

Try this variation of breakfast and see what you think! There are no rules, so you can add nearly anything to make your own Lablabi at home.


Eat in Season: Swiss Chard

Cooler weather means many garden harvests are through, but sturdier plants like swiss chard are still holding their own! These green leafy vegetables are a little tougher than delicate lettuces, so they’ll grow outside a little bit later in the cold Utah autumn, and they taste great! Red stemmed chard is pretty common, but it grows with a rainbow of stem colors and dark green leaves.

It does a lot for your body too; Swiss chard contains high levels of iron, calcium, Vitamin A,, Vitamin K and Vitamin C, plus insoluble fiber to keep your guts working like they should

If you’ve never had swiss chard, now is a great time to try it! The stems and leaves are edible, but they cook at different times, so they are usually separated after you wash the leaves. The bright color of the stems can be preserved by cooking them right after you cut them in water with lemon juice. The acidic lemon juice keeps the color from fading to brown, just like apple slices

Try this Italian style recipe and see if swiss chard can be added to your new favorites list. The recipe below can be served alongside roasted chicken, fish, or porchops. Others have added onions and bacon and served it as an entree. There are no rules; Create what you like!

Recipe of the Week: Brussels Sprouts with Apples and Bacon

As the weather cools off, the veggies we have available to us change with the seasons too. This yummy veggie dish combines two of fall’s most famous foods into one tasty dish: Apples and Brussels Sprouts! There are many different kinds of apples, and you can read more on apples and where they come from here.

Brussels sprouts look like tiny cabbages, but grow on a tall leafy stalk instead.  Roasting them is an easy way to bring out all their wonderful flavors without sacrificing any nutrition they have inside. They are packed with vitamins K, A, and C, plus calcium, phosphorus, and have no cholesterol.

Choose brussels sprouts that are firm, with tightly closed leaves and bright green color. Some of the outer leaves may need to be tossed if they are damaged, and some fall off when you cut the sprouts in half. When you cook them, be sure to spread them out on the pan and don’t crowd them so that they can roast instead of steam the ones next to them. There are so many things you can roast along with the sprouts and apples, so if you think it sounds good, try it! Create your own favorite dish!

Tip of the Week: Safe Cooking & How to Calibrate a Thermometer

The big holiday season is coming up quickly, and that means lots of cooking, parties, and sharing food with friends and family! Serving safe food is an important goal to have all year, and especially during the holidays, so that everyone stays healthy. If you are not safe with your food, nasty little bacteria could make your food taste funny, they could make you EXTREMELY sick, and ultimately, your cooking party gets ruined. So fight that bacteria. Fight ‘BAC’!

Here are some ways to Fight ‘Bac’:

Your thermometer is an important kitchen tool anyone can use to be sure foods are cooked enough to kill the bacteria to keep them from making you, or your guests sick! Calibration means making sure that the temperatures the thermometer is showing are correct, so that you know the food really is the temperature it says it is. The easiest way to do this is to set the thermometer to freezing, which is either 32 Fahrenheit, or 0 Celsius. Many thermometers have a way to adjust them underneath the dial, and come with a wrench to make this an easy process. (Digital thermometers are a different story, and have calibration instructions with them.)

All you need is a glass of ice water and some patience!

Add a Little Fright to Your Food: Halloween #myplatemyway!

Halloween is in a few short days, and its easy to add a little bit of fun and fright to the foods you are already eating! #myplatemyway means you can change up any part of your MyPlate meal for something spooky and still get in all your food groups for the day! Swap out an ordinary orange with a “pumpkin orange” (peel the orange whole and add a celery “stem”).

With a few careful and creative cuts or additions, you can transform a regular slice of toast to Halloween toast with fun colored spreads (like avocado, cream cheese, or smashed sweet potato). Pizza toast can become a Mummy Pizza with carefully placed strips of cheese and olive eyes, and candy eyeballs can be added to nearly anything for a bit of spooky fun!

Spaghetti and meatballs can become spaghetti and eyeballs with a bit of carefully placed cheese and olive slices! Carefully slice up any color olives you have, and some light colored cheese and bake your homemade, or store-bought, meatballs to melt the cheese and olives together! How can you add a little bit of this fun and spooky holiday to your #myplatemy way meals and snacks?

Easy Halloween After-School Snacks

Its the last week of October, and Halloween is nearly here! Be sure to spend the rest of this week getting in the spirit of things with a few themed snacks! These are quick and easy for after school, and can even be added to a snack tray to get you ready for walking around the neighborhood, gathering a few tricks and treats.

It is as easy as adding a little bit of “spook” to something you’d usually eat after school and before homework, or re-thinking our favorite Halloween candy layers in tasty parfaits. Read on to see Captain Create’s easy and tasty Halloween After-School Snacks!

Cheese and Crackers

Top whole wheat crackers with a slice of cheese.  Use fall or Halloween themed cookie cutters for festive and fun shapes.  I used some cupcake sprinkles to make jack-o-lantern faces.


Who doesn’t love a PB&J?  Use whole wheat bread and a fruit spread with limited sugar.  Use fall or Halloween themed cookie cutters to add a festive touch.

Candy Corn Fruit Cup

Pineapple chunks, mandarin oranges, and a dollop of whipped cream make a healthy candy corn look-a-like with just enough sweetness.

Spooky Teeth

Use apple, peanut butter, and marshmallows to make this spooky snack.  Core and cut an apple into slices.  Spread peanut butter on an apple slice.  Place marshmallows on top of the peanut butter.  Spread peanut butter on another apple slice and place it on top of the marshmallows. 

Recipe of the Week: Cinnamon Leaves & Tasty Dips!

October is one of the most colorful months of the year because of all the beautiful leaves changing colors all across the Utah mountains and valleys! If you get a chance to get outside and walk through the neighborhood, a park, or hike in the mountains, be sure to see how many different colors you can find!

One you’re back from your leaf-peeping walk, try out this tasty leaf-shaped snack!

Captain Create also has a few different healthy dips you can try with your leaves (or cats, ghosts, or pumpkin shapes)

Pumpkin Cookies

Do you ever have a cookie emergency? And you need a cookie  right then but you don’t have any cookies! Well all you need is pumpkin and a cake mix and you have fresh, warm, cookies in minutes.vol_2052

Pumpkin Cookies

1 spice cake mix

1 15 oz. can pumpkin

Chocolate chips (optional)

Spray cookie sheet with non-stick spray. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Dump cake mix and pumpkin in a mixing bowl and beat together. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop on greased cookie sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes.

I know it is hard to imagine making cookies with only 3 ingredients…

Dump the pumpkin and cake mix in a bowl…

Beat together and stir in chocolate chips…

Bake at 350 for 12 to 15 minutes and you have delicious pumpkin cookies! Oh man, am I good or what????

For printable version, click here pumpkin-cookies

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