When I heard there was a new, well newish, book out called American Grown by Michelle Obama I was always going to buy it. Michelle Obama is one of my style icons and I much admire the work that she does through her Let’s Move campaign to combat childhood obesity in the USA.
American Grown as its subtitle says is the Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America. Michelle Obama began planting the White House kitchen garden in March 2009. She explains in the book’s introduction that she hoped the garden ‘would help begin a conversation about the food we eat, the lives we lead and how all of that affects our children’.
American Grown tells the story of the creation, the nurturing and the harvesting of Michele Obama’s White House kitchen garden. It contains: beautiful photographs (including some of Bo the family dog); excellent gardening tips; advice for parents on healthy eating; charmingly illustrated plans of seasonal plantings; special recipes created by White House chefs; and articles on interesting gardens and garden projects in various parts of the USA.
I found the historical snippets about the White House grounds fascinating. Who knew, I certainly didn’t, that in the 1850’s Washingtonians were sometimes able to amble around the White House grounds and even ride horses along the South Lawn’s paths. And there is an old picture of sheep grazing on the lawns in front of The Oval Office.
One section of the book, The Challenge of Childhood Obesity, makes interesting if at times depressing reading. Children are apparently now suffering from diseases such as high blood pressure or type 2 diabetes once only seen in adults. But mostly the book, as you might expect, is a message of hope-filled encouragement to transform eating and exercise habits so that children, and indeed all of us, can have healthy and happy futures .
I was drawn, understandably given my penchant for sweet treats, to a recipe for White Chocolate, Cherry and Carrot Cookies – so I made a batch. They are indubitably a delicious way of having one of the requisite five a day fruit and vegetable portions. I crossed my fingers and toes hoping I had *translated* the American cup measurements to grams correctly and I reduced the sugar quantity slightly.
Here’s how to make them.
225 g plain flour
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon of baking powder
225g unsalted butter
200g light brown sugar
1 tablespoon mild honey
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
3/4 medium-sized carrots – grated
2 large handfuls of dried cherries or dried cranberries
55g white chocolate chopped into small pieces or white chocolate chips
First preheat your oven to 180°C and line a baking tray with parchment paper. Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl and set aside. Using an electric mixer beat the butter, brown sugar, honey and vanilla extract until they are smooth. Then add the eggs and mix until they are well combined. On a low-speed add the cherries and the chocolate. Again on a low-speed add one-third of the flour mixture – then add the remaining flour mix and combine on a low-speed. Finally add the carrots and mix until the are well incorporated.
Using a tablespoon drop the stiff mixture into heaps approx two inches apart. Bake for twelve to fourteen minutes. Remove them from the oven and allow them to cool completely.
The verdict: totally scrummy and addictive even though my biscuits were misshapen as I ignored the recipe direction to leave two inches between the mounds of mixture when I was dolloping the mix onto a baking tray.
Note: the photos of Michelle Obama in the above collage are from The White House flickr photostream