In Zimbabwe, this worm is snack food

Amalinda Ndlovu shows her catch while harvesting mopane worms in Gwanda, Zimbabwe. In Zimbabwe as well as most parts of southern Africa, mopane worms are a staple part of the diet in rural areas and are considered a delicacy in the cities. They can be eaten dry, as crunchy as potato chips, or cooked and drenched in sauce. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

Amalinda Ndlovu shows her catch while harvesting mopane worms in Gwanda, Zimbabwe. In Zimbabwe as well as most parts of southern Africa, mopane worms are a staple part of the diet in rural areas and are considered a delicacy in the cities. They can be eaten dry, as crunchy as potato chips, or cooked and drenched in sauce. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

In Zimbabwe, mopane worms are a staple part of the diet in rural areas and are considered a delicacy in the cities. They can be eaten dry, as crunchy as potato chips, or cooked and drenched in sauce. When harvest season for the worms began recently, I decided to document the process, and I found it somewhat stomach-turning. But the worms can be mighty tasty and they’re very nutritious. Here’s the scoop on mopane worms.jd-logo-topsecret

THE MOPANE WORM

The worm is the large caterpillar of the Gonimbrasia belina species, commonly called the emperor moth. It’s called a mopane worm because it feeds on the leaves of mopane trees after it hatches in summer. It has also burrowed into literature, finding its way, for example, into the pages of Alexander McCall Smith’s series about The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, set in neighboring Botswana. At least one of the characters munches on dried mopane worms.

THE HARVEST

After six weeks of rain, the mopane worms cling to mopane trees in rural Gwanda, an arid cattle-ranching area in southern Zimbabwe. Amanda Ncube normally fetches firewood to sell and looks after the family cattle, but when it’s worm-harvesting season she joins other women and a few men in collecting the worms and piling them into buckets. The worms are as long as a hand and as thick as a cigar. Ncube carefully plucks them from the lower branches before climbing partway up the tree to shake off the higher worms. The more stubborn ones are pried loose with a long stick. The worms excrete a brown liquid once they make contact with skin, leaving the pickers’ hands wet and slippery. As they harvest the worms, the women and men move from one tree to another until their buckets are full. A thick slimy green fluid comes out as Ncube carefully squeezes out the entrails from a mopane worm she has just plucked from a tree. During harvest season, the porches of mud-walled homes are covered with thousands of worms, laid out to dry in the hot sun.

THE MARKET

At the local market, mopane worms are popular with residents who buy a cup or two of them and eat them immediately. The market is abuzz with activity, with most stalls strategically displaying the delicacy so people cannot miss them. Vendors offer free samples. The mopane worms are graded according to size and the area where they were harvested. Picky buyers ask about their provenance before buying, favoring worms from one district over another because of barely discernible — at least to all but the connoisseurs — differences in taste.

HIGH PROTEIN

The mopane worm is a healthful and cheap source of nutrition.

A Zimbabwean nutritionist, Marlon Chidemo, says the worms are high in healthy nutrients and contain three times the amount of protein as beef. He says eating worms is less taxing on the environment than consuming beef because it takes far fewer leaves to produce worms than it does feed to produce the same amount of beef.

WORMY BUSINESS

Dried mopane worms have become a multimillion-dollar industry, even exported to countries like South Africa and Botswana. They can be found in African restaurants in Paris.

PREPARATION

Once they’ve been dried out, they can be eaten straight away. They can also be cooked in a spicy or peanut butter sauce and served with pap, a maize porridge.

Having grown up eating the mopane worms, I have never had the opportunity to see how they harvest and prepare them until now. While the process is rather disgusting, the worm can be a pleasure to eat as a starter or a side dish. The taste is reminiscent of salty potato chips. Malawi’s first President Hastings Kamuzu Banda preferred his just like that, simply dried and then eaten as a snack like chips. Banda was known for carrying around pocketsful of worms that he would also offer to children.

A RECIPE

Here is a Congolese recipe that AP’s special Africa correspondent Michelle Faul describes as “one of the tastiest” for mopane worms.

Mopani Worms for four people.

Ingredients:

  • 500 grams dried mopane worms
  • three tomatoes diced or 1 can of tomatoes
  • two onions, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • three fresh green chilies, finely chopped
  • three cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • tablespoon of fresh ginger, finely chopped

Soak dried worms in water for 3-4 hours to reconstitute. Fry onions in groundnut oil on medium heat until translucent. Add turmeric, chilies, garlic and ginger.
Fry for about five minutes. Add tomatoes and cook on low for about 20 minutes until spices are well blended. Add drained worms and cook until they have softened a bit but still are a little crunchy.
Salt and pepper to taste.
Serve with pap, called sadza in Zimbabwe. Enjoy.

Mpokuhle Ncube hangs from a Mopane tree in search of mopane worms for harvesting in Gwanda, Zimbabwe. In Zimbabwe as well as most parts of southern Africa, mopane worms are a staple part of the diet in rural areas and are considered a delicacy in the cities. They can be eaten dry, as crunchy as potato chips, or cooked and drenched in sauce. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

Mpokuhle Ncube hangs from a Mopane tree in search of mopane worms for harvesting in Gwanda, Zimbabwe. In Zimbabwe as well as most parts of southern Africa, mopane worms are a staple part of the diet in rural areas and are considered a delicacy in the cities. They can be eaten dry, as crunchy as potato chips, or cooked and drenched in sauce. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

 

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Make, then devour the Salad People

Kids and fresh produce don’t always mix – especially if we’re talking about broccoli, cauliflower, or asparagus. These veggies appeal more to the tastes of grown-ups than of kids, who might rather eat a hot dog or some mac ‘n’ cheese instead.
Mollie Katzen, a mother and well-known cookbook author (“Moosewood Cookbook”) knows the drill well. Most kids prefer “sugar, frosting, and gumdrops” to fruits and vegetables, she says in “Salad People” (Tricycle Press; $17.95). The trick is getting kids into the kitchen for reasons other than “junk food.” Her cookbook may help.
“Salad People” contains 20 inventive and preschooler-friendly snack recipes. Each is complete with step-by-step pictures that walk adults and young helpers through each phase of the cooking process. What works about the pictures is their simplicity. There’s little reading; just follow the illustrations.
Even the recipe names are fun – Counting Soup, Polka Dot Rice, and Cory Corn Cakes, for example.
The first recipe in the book, is for “salad people.” It’s loosely based on a meal that the author’s mother used to make for her and her brothers when they were kids. “We called it Faces [back then],” she writes, “and it was a cheerful montage of cheese, fruit, and vegetables arranged to look like little people, one per plate.”
The dish has a Mr. Potato Head-like feel to it. You start with a body (in this instance, it’s a pear) and add various body parts, one by one. Cheese, celery sticks, bananas, or melon “spears” become arms and legs. Blueberries, raisins, or dried cranberries can be buttons on a shirt. The author makes suggestions for which foods work well for each body part, but the child is limited only by his or her imagination.
The author says giving kids the opportunity to prepare food on their own is the most effective way to encourage good eating habits: If they make it, they’ll eat it. “Pride of accomplishment is key,” she explains.
There are many soup and salad recipes in the book, but there also are recipes for tiny tacos, crunchy fruity granola, and broccoli-cheese quiche.
So what do kids think about all this cooking with fresh produce?
“More, please,” says preschooler Andrew in the book. He adds, “I really liked it.”

Key Ingredients

  • Cored pear halves (fresh and ripe, or canned and drained)
  • Cottage cheese or very firm yogurt

Choose from among these other ingredients:

  • Strips of cheese (cut to be arms and feet)
  • Sliced bananas (cut into vertical spears as well as rounds)
  • Cantaloupe or honeydew melon (cut into 4-inch slices)
  • Celery sticks (plain or stuffed with nut butter)
  • Shredded carrots (in long strands, if possible)
  • Sliced strawberries
  • Raisins
  • Dried cranberries
  • Pitted cherries
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Blueberries
  • Peas
  • Cooked pasta, angel hair or rotini
  • Parsley sprigs
  • Small spinach leaves
  • Sliced black olives

Directions
Place a pear half in the center of each plate, flat side down. Arrange a round scoop of cottage cheese or very firm yogurt above the narrow top of the pear, so that the cheese or yogurt looks like a head and the pear resembles a torso.
Create arms and legs from strips of cheese, banana spears, or melon slices, or celery sticks.
Create hair, facial features, hands, feet, buttons, zippers, hats, and so forth from any combination of the remaining ingredients.
Name it and eat it!

Nutrition Information
Varies, but it’s all good!

When you’re all done…

Send us a picture of your creation before you eat it. Mail them to juniordispatch@yorkdispatch.com

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The Apple Crisp is calling

BY THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Hands-on cooking can be a tastily satisfying project for children — especially when it’s a favorite dessert that’s wholesome, simple to make and fun to eat.
Whether it’s a late-vacation entertainment or an outlet for bounding back-to-school energy, cooking demands attention, brings tangible rewards, and something new is always learned in the process.
A Cooking Class feature in an issue of Family Fun magazine offers a step-by-step guide for a young chef to making apple crisp. A crisp is easier to make than a pie but it’s every bit as delicious, says food writer Ken Haedrich.
This apple crisp has a cinnamony-oatmeal topping that goes well with the sweet-tart fruit, and the recipe makes plenty, to serve topped with ice cream or, for a special treat, drizzled with sweet, velvety homemade vanilla custard sauce.

Image by SRQPix via Flickr.com

Serves/Yields: 1 Apple Crisp
Prep. Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Difficulty: Hard

Ingredients
For the Apple Filling:

  • Soft butter for greasing casserole dish
  • 8 to 9 cups peeled, cored and sliced apples (about 7 to 8 large apples)
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

For the Oatmeal Topping:

  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup cold, unsalted butter, cut into ¼-inch pieces
  • ½ cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)

For the Vanilla Custard Sauce

  • 6 large egg yolks
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 cups light cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions
Heat the oven to 375 F. Generously grease a shallow, 13-by-9-inch casserole with soft butter.
Pile the sliced apples in the casserole. Sprinkle the sugar and lemon juice over them and stir the fruit gently, right in the pan. Once the slices are evenly coated, spread them uniformly.
Combine the flour, oats, sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in a large mixing bowl. Toss the ingredients with your hands to mix them. Add the unsalted butter pieces to the dry ingredients and use your fingers to rub in the butter until you have pea-size crumbs. At this point, none of the flour should be noticeable. Mix in the pecans or walnuts, if desired.
Spread the topping evenly over the apples and press it down gently with your palm. Bake the crisp on the center oven rack for 45 to 50 minutes, until juice bubbles around the edges and the topping is golden brown. If the top starts to get too brown, move the crisp down one shelf.
Transfer the crisp to a wire rack and cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.
Makes 9 to 12 servings.

For the Custard Sauce
Whisk together the yolks and sugar in a mixing bowl. Bring the cream just to a simmer in a medium-size nonstick saucepan and promptly remove it from the heat. Stir the hot cream into the yolks, adding about 1/3 cup at a time. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan.
Cook the custard over medium-low heat without letting it boil, stirring continuously, until it thickens to the consistency of heavy cream (about 7 minutes). Watch the sauce carefully, because the change is subtle.
Strain the sauce through a fine-mesh strainer into a small bowl. Stir in the vanilla extract. Let the sauce cool to room temperature, then chill it, covered, until cold. It will keep for 2 to 3 days. Whisk it briefly just before drizzling it on the crisp.
Makes about 2½ cups.
————————-
Cook’s Dictionary
What’s the difference between rolled and quick oats?

  • Rolled oats are whole oats that have been steamed, rolled, and flaked just enough to shorten the cooking time but still retain the chewy texture.
  • Quick oats are refined into even thinner flakes than rolled oats. They cook quickly and have a softer texture.

——————-
Choosing apples for your crisp
Almost any variety of apple will make a good crisp. If you don’t already have a favorite, here are a few worth trying. Don’t be bashful about using more than one kind, either.

  • Braeburn: very juicy, with a crisp yellowish flesh and a nicely balanced blend of sweetness and tartness.
  • Cortland: tender and sweet with just a hint of tartness.
  • Fuji: a relative of the Red Delicious, this variety has a spicy sweetness.
  • Golden Delicious: considered the all-purpose cooking apple on account of its rich, mellow flavor.
  • Granny Smith: firm, with a mouthwatering tartness that holds up when baked.
  • Northern Spy: tart and firm, this is one of the best for crisps and pie.
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Make your own dough

You can make your own Play-Doh style modeling clay by following this recipe. This recipe creates a cream-colored dough, but you can color it with food coloring dye.

Image by Robert S. Donovan via Flickr.com

Prep. Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 cups salt
  • 2 tablespoons cream of tartar
  • 1 cup of water
  • 2 teaspoons food coloring
  • 1 tablespoon oil

Directions: Combine flour, salt and cream of tartar in a cookpot, then add water, food coloring and oil. Mix and cook over medium heat, stirring continuously. (2-5 minutes)

When mixture forms a ball in the center of the pot, turn off and knead on a lightly floured surface. Store in an airtight container or a plastic bag.

When you’re done, send us a picture of your first creation by emailing us at juniordispatch@yorkdispatch.com

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Ham and Cheese Waffle Sandwich

We went with waffles instead of bread when we rethought the classic ham and cheese. We also suggest serving it with a small container of maple syrup for dunking.
Serves/Yields: 1
Prep. Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 2 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons honey mustard or Dijon mustard
  • 2 frozen waffles, toasted
  • 3 deli-slices maple ham
  • 2 deli-slices Swiss cheese
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • Maple syrup (optional)

Directions
Spread the mustard over 1 side of each waffle. Top 1 side with 1 slice of cheese, the ham, the other slice of the cheese, then the other waffle.

In a large skillet over medium, melt the butter. Fry the sandwich for about 1 minute on each side. Serve with maple syrup for dunking.

Nutrition Information
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 674 calories; 365 calories from fat; 41 g fat (18 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 106 mg cholesterol; 41 g carbohydrate; 34 g protein; 4 g fiber; 1,342 mg sodium.
Source: The Associated Press

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A whole new type of PB&J

Try this unique recipe for a new type of PB&J called Pop PB&J, and if popcorn wedged into the center of a PB&J doesn’t do it for you, try pretzels or potato chips.

Serves/Yields: 1
Prep. Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 0 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 2 slices whole-wheat bread
  • 2 tablespoons fruit jam
  • 1/2 cup popped popcorn

Directions
Spread half of the peanut butter on 1 side of each slice of bread. Spread the jam over that. Arrange the popcorn in an even layer over 1 slice, then top with the second slice of bread.
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 586 calories; 236 calories from fat; 26 g fat (5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 75 g carbohydrate; 20 g protein; 7 g fiber; 485 mg sodium.
Source: The Associated Press

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Honey Cucumber Sandwich

Honey and cucumbers? It’s an intriguing combination, wouldn’t you say?

Serves/Yields: 1
Prep. Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 0 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

Introduction

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill
  • 2 slices whole-wheat bread
  • 2-inch length English cucumber, cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper

Directions
In a small bowl, mix together the cream cheese, honey and dill. Spread the mixture over 1 side of each slice of bread. Top with cucumber slices, then season with salt and pepper. Top with the remaining slice of bread.
Nutrition Information
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 381 calories; 153 calories from fat; 17 g fat (10 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 48 mg cholesterol; 46 g carbohydrate; 12 g protein; 5 g fiber; 393 mg sodium.
Source: The Associated Press

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Kid-Friendly Focaccia

By J.M. HIRSCH, The Associated Press
The holidays are the perfect excuse for getting hands on with your kids in the kitchen. If you’re able to embrace the mess and suspend all notions of perfection, everyone can have a blast.
The trick to keeping the mood festive is to pick projects that are fast, easy and taste great. Drop cookies are an excellent choice because they are simple to make and usually taste good no matter what they look like.
This simplified focaccia (Italian flatbread) is another great choice. It calls for just a few inexpensive and common ingredients, has plenty of opportunities for the kids to pound and smoosh the dough, and is all but impossible to mess up.
This recipe calls for topping the focaccia with rosemary, salt and olive oil. But you also could make a sweet version, topping it with butter or canola oil and sprinkling it with cinnamon and sugar.
One tip for cooking with kids — always use bowls that are larger than needed. This helps keep the ingredients in the bowl when little hands get a little too excited about mixing.
Serves/Yields: Makes one 8-inch round focaccia
Prep. Time: 1.5 Hours
Cook Time: 12 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt, plus additional for sprinkling
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus additional for drizzling
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 2 to 3 sprigs fresh rosemary

Directions
In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, sugar and yeast. This is a great opportunity to let the little ones practice their measuring skills. Plus, they love dumping the ingredients into the bowl and mixing them.
Add the olive oil and water, then mix some more. Once the dough starts to come together, let the kids use their hands to gather and press together the pieces of dough.
Sprinkle the counter with a bit of flour, then transfer the dough to the counter. Knead the dough about 10 times by pressing the dough, then folding it onto itself and pressing again.
Use a rolling pin to roll out the dough into a circle. Lightly coat an 8- or 9-inch round cake pan with cooking spray, then place the dough in the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place (near a heating vent or radiator) for 1 hour.
After 45 minutes, heat the oven to 375 F.
When the dough is ready, it should be risen and slightly bubbly. Have the children use their fingertips to gently poke dimples over the surface of the dough.
Drizzle the dough with a bit of olive oil, then sprinkle it with salt. Pull the rosemary leaves off the stems, then scatter the leaves over the dough. Bake for 12 minutes. The focaccia will not be browned when it is done.
Remove the focaccia from the pan, then cut into wedges.

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Refresh yourself with a Raspberry-Yogurt Swirl

Kids will probably need some help with this recipe that requires some small appliance use. Still, it’s plenty fun to watch all those raspberries get zapped with the puree.

Serves/Yields: Makes 4 servings.
Prep. Time: 20 minutes
Cook time: Freezing time required
Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cups raspberries (fresh or frozen unsweetened (see note below)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons apple juice concentrate, defrosted
  • 2 cups vanilla yogurt

Directions
Put the raspberries in a blender with the sugar and apple juice concentrate. Puree.

Place a strainer over a bowl, and pour the puree into the strainer.
Stir until the puree passes into the bowl and only the seeds are left
in the strainer.

Funnel the raspberry pureee into a plastic squeeze bottle and tightly screw on the lid.

For each serving, place 1/2 cup vanilla yogurt on a plate and spread it into a circle about 5 inches across.

Squeeze raspberry pureee onto the yogurt in any chosen design, and, if
desired, swirl it with a toothpick. Eat with a spoon. Makes 4 servings.

Note: If you use frozen unsweetened raspberries for this, defrost them
at least halfway. Save and include in the purée the juices that the
berries create as they defrost.
Source: ‘Salad People,” by Mollie Katzen.

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Beat the heat with Cool Cucumber Soup

Mollie Katzen, a mother and well-known cookbook author (“Moosewood Cookbook”) knows the drill well. Most kids prefer “sugar, frosting, and gumdrops” to fruits and vegetables. Well her Cool Cucumber Soup might entice some kids.

COOL CUCUMBER SOUP

Serves/Yields: Makes 3 to 4 servings.
Prep. Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: None
Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients

  • 2 medium cucumbers
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 10 leaves fresh mint
  • Nonstick spray for the honey spoon
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions
Peel cucumbers and then cut them down the center, lengthwise. Use a
spoon to scrape out the seeds. (It’s easiest to do this right over and
into the garbage.) Cut the cucumbers into large chunks. Place the
cucumber in a blender with the yogurt, mint, honey, and salt, then
puree until smooth – or mostly smooth.
Serve cold in a bowl or cup.
Source: ‘Salad People,” by Mollie Katzen.

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