When I first arrived in Washington, I wasn’t even sure that we could plant a garden. I didn’t know whether we would be allowed to change the landscaping on the White House grounds, or whether the soil would be fertile enough, or whether there would be enough sunlight. And I had hardly any gardening experience, so I didn’t even really know how to go about planting a garden in the first place.
Of course, she had a lot of help, including the assistance of the National Park Service, since it turns out that the White House grounds are a National Park. The proceeds of this book go to the National Park Foundation, the charitable partner of the National Park Service.
Thoughts: I loved the way American Grown is organized, four seasons for four themes while the story of the White House garden is woven seamlessly throughout.
The Spring section was all about the beginning of the garden, including the first planting day with the help of local fifth-graders. There are also tips for starting your own garden and making use of the produce in the kitchen.
The summer section covers community gardens and farmers’ markets around the country and how the White House garden serves as a focus for community.
The fall harvest chapter highlighted efforts to improve health by improving food, including school gardens and Growing Power, the movement that I wrote about here: Book Review: The Good Food Revolution by Will Allen.
The Winter chapter talks about the children, our future, including the Let’s Move initiative to reduce childhood obesity and restore health.
The final section “Garden Highlights and Recipes” was more useful than I anticipated. Again organized by seasons, each section is filled with tips for buying and using produce. Did you know this —
When washing greens, do not rip them into smaller pieces before you run them under the water because the leaves will lose their nutrients. Instead cut or tear them after you dry them. (p. 218)
I’ve been tearing lettuce between the first and second rinse for years. But not anymore!
Recipe: Given the season, I combed over the Fall Recipes. Most interesting was the Sweet Potato Quick Bread with layers of ginger flavorings on page 246. The original recipe is up on We Gotta Eat: AMERICAN GROWN – SWEET POTATO QUICK BREAD.
As I wrote last week, I don’t eat quick breads when a yeast bread will do. So, I decided to see if I could convert last week’s bread recipe, Pumpkin (Winter Squash) Yeast Bread, into a Sweet Potato Yeast Bread.
It worked! The three forms of ginger really punched up the flavor and I loved the yellow color of the loaf.
I didn’t peel the sweet potatoes as the inspiring recipe suggested. I don’t see the point when the potatoes are going to be boiled and puréed. There are nutrients in the skin and I suspect the skins added to the beautiful warm color of my bread. Fourteen ounces of sweet potato yielded more sweet potato purée than I needed for my bread. I made the excess into a sweet potato soup to eat while the bread baked–thinning with chicken stock, adding flavor with sweet chili sauce and soy sauce and ground ginger, and simmering on the stove until it achieved the desired thickness.
The original recipe used honey for sweetening. A yeast bread that is sweetened with only honey doesn’t toast well — it goes from warm to burnt in about two seconds flat. Thinking about the streusel topping on the sweet potato casseroles of my youth, I decided to use half honey and half raw sugar.
Bread Machine Sweet Potato Bread
by Joy Weese Moll
1/2 cup whey, fat-free milk, or water
1 cup sweet potato purée
1 tablespoon raw or brown sugar
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups white bread flour
2 tablespoons butter, cut into 6 or 8 pieces
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon minced crystallized ginger
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons yeast
1. Make the sweet potato purée by cutting about a pound of sweet potatoes into large chunks, covering with cold water, and cooking in boiling water until tender, about 25 minutes. Drain. Purée the sweet potatoes in a blender or food processor.
2. Mix the whey, sweet potato, sugar, honey, egg, and salt.
3. Stir together the flours, the butter, and the gingers.
4. Follow bread machine instructions for adding liquid and dry ingredients and the yeast.
5. Bake using the whole wheat bread setting.
White House pastry chef, Chef Bill Yosses, recommended a smear of cream cheese to top the quick bread. I used my substitute, yogurt cheese mixed with a little mayonnaise, on my yeast bread and loved the mild sweetness with the ginger kick. Rick made a peanut butter and honey sandwich with Sweet Potato Yeast Bread and declared that it tasted like cake. My diabolical plan to replace baked goods with yeast bread is working.
Appeal: The book is visually stunning with a large format, magazine-style layouts, and gorgeous photographs — an exceptional coffee table book for the gardener, cook, or foodie.
Other Reviews: Vassilly of 1330v liked American Grown, too: Review: American Grown by Michelle Obama.
Challenges: This is book 14 of the 19 books I’m aiming to read for the Foodies Read 2 challenge. I better read faster!
Check Beth Fish Reads for more Weekend Cooking posts today — we get film reviews, restaurant photos, and all other sorts of foodie fun.