Fort Wayne – Children and eating healthy are two important aspects of Dawn Cole-Easterday’s life.
An employee of Early Childhood Alliance, Cole-Easterday, 50, trains early childhood teachers and daycare providers. She just returned from attending a course in Atlanta on childhood obesity. She has her own ideas on the matter, too.
(There’s a) link between obesity and getting our kids outside again, she says, walking around the garden of her rural New Haven home.
One of her goals is to get more children involved in gardening. Let them get their hands dirty.
Cole-Easterday knows a little about how that can be done. She and her husband, Jeff Easterday, have three sons, Dylan, 27, Jordan, 24, and Tynan, 16.
Each year, the family plants a 120-by-15 foot garden and fills it with a variety of vegetables from asparagus to zucchini. Much of the produce and fruit then is either canned or frozen for later use. The farm also houses seven chickens, two goats, cats and dogs.
The garden is divided into four sections.
I keep a journal. I draw a sketch of the garden (each year). We can remember where we’re keeping the rotation going, she says, adding, Keeps out diseases.
Cole-Easterday says two of her sons are vegetarian which means most of her meals do not include meat.
We don’t eat very much meat. Our middle son and our oldest one are vegetarians. We do much more vegetable dishes. And we’ve got the eggs. We eat quite a few eggs, she says.
In addition to gardening, camping, traveling and reading (she belongs to a book club), Cole-Easterday does like to cook.
I worked at du Jour restaurant when I was home from college. (When) I went to France, I took cooking classes. When we lived in Rhode Island, Jeff was in graduate school and I worked at a restaurant. It worked out nice, she says.
I like cooking more in summertime than during winter. In the summer, you can just go out and see what to pick. It’s a lot more fun, says Cole-Easterday.
Q. Looks like you’ve got between 100 to 150 cookbooks there. What’s your favorite?
A. I have lots of them but for the standard ones, I go to my New York Times.
Q. What’s your go-to meal?
A. In the summertime, it’s like this – lots of vegetables. It’s olive oil and pasta and whatever vegetable we have. Same thing with stir fry and rice.
Q. What’s one thing people would not find in your refrigerator?
A. Processed American cheese.
Q. Who’s your cooking idol?
A. Lois (Anne) Rothert. She was the chef and owner of du Jour restaurant.
Q. What book are you reading now?
A. It’s called On Beauty by Zadie Smith. We’ve had this book club six years. We call it The Bad Girls Book Club because half didn’t read the book. There’s eight or nine of us. When I’m hosting the book club, you get to think about the food that goes with it.
Penne Pasta with Summer Vegetables
12 ounces dried penne pasta
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 small yellow squash, halved and sliced
2 small zucchini, halved and sliced
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
2 sweet banana peppers, seeded and sliced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, plus more for garnish
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, plus more for garnish
1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, plus more for table
Cook pasta to package directions for al dente. While the pasta is cooking, heat a large skillet over high heat and add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the yellow squash and zucchini, season with salt and pepper and cook 3 to 4 minutes, until slightly browned, tossing halfway through. Remove the zucchini and yellow squash to a plate. To the same pan, add another 2 tablespoons olive oil and turn down the heat to medium. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and banana peppers and sauté for another 2 minutes. Add the cooked squash, zucchini, parsley, basil and parmesan cheese and toss together. Strain the pasta, add to the sautéed vegetables and toss. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Transfer to a serving bowl, garnish with a little bit of fresh basil and parsley and serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.
Spinach and Quinoa Stuffed Tilapia
4 cups spinach leaves, picked and washed
3 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1 yellow onion, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 tablespoon fresh chopped tarragon leaves
1/2 teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes, optional
1 cup cooked quinoa
1/2 cup shredded feta cheese
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 (4- to 6-ounce) tilapia fillets
Fill a large bowl with ice and water, set aside. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add spinach; blanch until bright green – about 10 seconds. Transfer to ice bath. When spinach is cold, remove from ice bath, squeeze out all water, and finely chop; set aside. Heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a medium sauté pan. Add onion, garlic, chopped red pepper, tarragon and red pepper flakes and sauté until translucent, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat; transfer to a medium bowl. Add spinach, quinoa, feta cheese, salt and pepper to the onion mixture and stir until well combined. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Line baking sheet with foil and coat with nonstick cooking spray. Place two tilapia fillets on the baking sheet and season with freshly ground black pepper. Spoon spinach-quinoa mixture evenly on fillets and top each with another fillet. Drizzle with another teaspoon of olive oil. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until fish flakes easily. Cut each stuffed fillet in half, and serve. Makes 4 servings.
Asparagus Frittata Recipe
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup minced shallots
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pound asparagus, tough ends snapped off, spears cut diagonally into 1-inch lengths
1/2 cup morel mushrooms, if available
6 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup shredded Gruyere or Swiss cheese
Heat butter into a 10-inch oven-proof sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until they soften and turn translucent, about 3 minutes. Add asparagus and morel mushrooms; reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, covered, for 3 minutes. Pour in eggs and cook until almost set, but still runny on top, about 2 minutes. While cooking, pre-heat oven broiler. Sprinkle cheese over eggs and put in oven to broil until cheese is melted and browned, about 4 to 6 minutes. Remove from oven with oven mitts and slide frittata onto a serving plate. Cut into wedges. Makes 4 servings.