Archive for the ‘General’ Category
Did we mention that rhubarb is loved around our house?
We have some friends with a giant patch of rhubarb. Every time we see them they tell us to come over and cut as much as we can. For a while we will keep doing that, but hopefully we won’t have to in a few years.
When we moved in five years ago we transplanted a couple rhubarb plants to our backyard, but they never did well. I think there wasn’t enough sun, plus they’re choked out by the oregano. Earlier this month we transplanted some more, but this time to the front yard. We planted them right when it was really hot, and a few days later the leaves we all brown and dead. Bummer.
But then a week later Bridgit tells me that a few are sprouting tiny new stalks and leaves. Now, a couple weeks more and they are all looking great!
If you’ve got rhubarb ripe for the picking, try your favorite rhubarb-strawberry pie, but swap out the strawberries for some mulberries (they grow like crazy in out town), and cut down on the sugar just a smidge. And if you’re feeling wild, add a quarter teaspoon ginger. Or go simple and stew together rhubarb, mulberries, a pinch of salt, some ginger and sugar to taste with the juice of a lemon. Cook it up until it thickens, let it cool and spread it on some toast. What a way to wake up!
Rain has dumped on the Midwest for a few weeks now. Luckily we got our corn, beans, and more carrots in last weekend when we had a respite. The first round of carrots are doing great and few inches tall. Potatoes are coming up. The crops are loving it. It makes me wonder what the rest of the summer is going to be like. Overall the annex garden is almost full, and we need to get the tomatoes, eggplant, and basil in the ground.
The first rain of the season drove us inside at 10:30 this morning, but already we had “watered” the cold frame (shoveled snow into it), cleared a lot of leaves and found some green oregano. Parsley and arugula in the cold frame survived the winter, as did the new thyme in the garden. The rosemary plant looks like a gonner, but I'll let it sit for a few more weeks to see if there's anything that might come back. Some spinach and lettuce planted too late for a winder harvests is already an inch high. Looks like local harvests will begin again soon!
One of my friends had an intense day, so the kids and I decided to make her some cookies. We love to make cookies, with all the measuring and dumping and mixing, it’s childhood heaven. I’ve been working on a low fat, low sugar recipe for a while. Cooks Illustrated created light recipe where you use all butter (no applesauce or other funny stuff), but you melt it, and somehow that means you only have to use half as much.
Well, it’s a great recipe, but it has 1 cup of sugar, which is the main ingredient we try to avoid in this house, so I’ve been slowly reducing it. A half cup provides enough sweetness, but since sugar is important for moisture and cohesion, I have been tinkering with the recipe in other ways to compensate. I perused online for a trailmix cookie recipe and found one that included 1/2 tsp of baking soda dissolved in 1 tbsp of hot water. Wondering if that might do the trick, the kiddos and I set to work on a batch of cookies.
But wait. I forgot. We ran out of cinnamon a few days ago. Grrrrrr. What’s an oatmeal cookie without a little cinnamon? Plus, cinnamon speaks to your tastebuds as if it’s sweetness, thereby allowing you to reduce the sugar content without totally sacrificing flavor. What’s a girl to do without cinnamon? Dorie Greenspan published the recipe for this amazing Spiced Cranberry Bunt cake in the November 2008 issue of Bon Appetit where she introduced me to Chinese 5 Spice*, and aromatic combination of cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and other spices. Since then, I’ve used it here and there to add ore interesting flavor than cinnamon alone.
Using 5 spice, I knew I had to be choose my nuts and fruits wisely. Thinking about the fruit, nuts and seeds I had, I thought a Turkish/Middle East inspired cookie with apricots and pistachios might work out well. Of course you could always replace the 5 spice with cinnamon and have a quite traditional (only healthier) oatmeal.
Also, sorry about the lack of pictures. Imagine an oatmeal cookie, not totally flat, not a puffy little cake cookie, but a nice normal one. Now imagine it a few shades darker because of the spice and molasses. There’s your picture.
*I bought my 5 spice in bulk where I could get just a spoonful for a few cents, just in case I didn’t like it. I’ve been back for more. Twice.
Turkish Spice Trail Mix Cookies (makes about 30 and are probably healthier than most granola bars)
2/3 c. white whole wheat (or unbleached all purpose) flour
1 1/3 c. oats (preferably old fashioned)
1/4-1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled (in a big enough bowl or pan to mix the following 7 ingredients)
1/2 c. sugar (or 1/2 c. dark brown sugar and omit the molasses, but I’m “frugal”)
1 egg, room temp
1 T. blackstrap molasses
2 T applesauce (or just do 6 tbsp melted butter)
1/2 tsp 5 spice powder (or cinnamon)
1/4 tsp powdered ginger (my ginger loving friend might have liked 1/2 tsp)
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tbsp hot water
1 1/2 cups “stuff”
We did chopped apricots, golden raisins, toasted almonds, pecans, pistachios and sunflower seeds.
The variations are endless: sesame seeds, dried cherries, coconut, chocolate chips, or the classic raisins and walnuts)
2 tbsp chopped candied ginger, optional
Preheat the oven to 325*. If using raw nuts and seeds, place them on a baking sheet in the oven to toast for 15 min or until fragrant. Remove and allow to cool. The oven does not have to be preheated for this.
In the mean time, in a small bowl, pour hot water over the dried fruit & candied ginger, if using (this helps plump them). Mix the flour, oats and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Mix the sugar into the butter. Beat in the egg. Add the molasses, applesauce, 5 spice (or cinnamon), ginger and vanilla. Stir until blended.
Dissolve the baking soda into the fruit and water mixture. Stir the sugar/egg mixture into the oat mixture until combined. Add the fruit, water, baking soda, nuts and other “stuff” and mix until evenly distributed. Drop tablespoonfuls onto a cookie sheet and flatten a little. Bake 1 sheet at a time for 12-14 min, rotating halfway through baking. Allow to cool 5 min, then remove to a cooling rack. Enjoy!
P.S. My wonderful aunt asked about a diabetic friendly oatmeal cookie recipe just as I was preparing to type this. One might try replacing the sugar and applesauce (maybe the molasses too) with 1/3 cup agave nectar. It has a lower glycemic index than sugar.
Tom is emphatic about one thing: you must do at least 1 I-wouln't-have-done-this-except-it's-a-snow-day thing on each and every snow day. Getting caught up on laundry and cleaning the bathroom are allowed, as long as you do at least one totally fun snow day thing. For me, that means muffins. I started making these last spring and haven't made them much since, because they're really a cool weather muffin in my opinion. They've got that cozy molasses thing going for them, and I like them a lot, even with the lower sugar option.
Bran Muffins adapted from Joy
Makes 12 good sized muffins
2 c flour (I used white whole wheat)
1 1/3 c oat or wheat bran
3/4 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
2 large eggs
2-4 tbsp sugar
1 1/3 c butter milk*
1/4 c molasses
1/4 c apple sauce
1/4 c butter, melted and cooled
zest of 1 orange (at least 2 tsp).
1/2 c rasins (I once tried apricots, but the flavor was lost entirely)
1/2 c. walnuts, chopped
Preheat oven to 350*. Grease a 12 cup muffin tin. Mix the dry and wet ingredients separately. Add the raisins and nuts to the wet ingredients. Mix the wet into the dry. Do not over mix, but be sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl. Divide the batter between the muffin cups. Bake for 20-22 min until a toothpick come out with just a few crumbs. Let cool 2-3 min before removing from pan. Serve hot or cool on a cooling rack.
*or put 1 tbsp vinegar in measuring cup and top off with milk. let sit for at least 5 min. Or do 1/2 milk, 1/2 yogurt. I just took the extra whey from my messed up batch of yogurt (about 1/3 cup) and topped that off with milk to equal the recipe amount. The key is to have that acid to interact with the baking soda, but the flavor of real buttermilk is irreplaceable.
Assignment: 1 Full recipe Soft Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread
Hamburger or Hotdog Buns
1 Loaf Apple Strudel
I've been having fun baking with this group: it has certainly served as major motivation to make some of the recipes in the Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day book that would have taken me years to try. However, not one to take assignments literally, I made a major substitution right away. We did another batch of the Master Recipe instead of the Soft Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread. Why? We really haven't been thrilled enriched doughs, so with the cost of local eggs and honey, and the recent layoff, it just didn't seem worth it. But I was certainly excited to get on with the apple strudel bread.
WIth all these ingredients, I needed a helper.
My first challenge was gala apples. They're nice and rather sweet, but way too one-demensional for baking in my opinion. Checking the the fridge, I found I had cranberries left from Christmas. Knowing cranberries would add the necessary zing, I settled on my filling.
In addition to the apples, coarsely chopped walnuts, and raisins I added
1/2 cup fresh cranberries, chopped
3 T turbinado sugar
1 t cinnamon
Some other bakers had problems with it being too moist. In the past I have sauteed or microwave the filling and that has taken care of the problem, but with the gala apples, it was not necessary.
I've made plenty of rolled breads and knew I wanted something fancier for this loaf since I was bringing it to a friends for dessert. Besides, I wanted to play! I decided to try more of a traditional strudel look, knowing that the dough wouldn't be as flakey, but also would be much healthier. I rolled the dough on my silpat and put the filling long-way down the middle in a mound. Then using scissors I slit the dough in ~3/4 inch strips stopping just before the filling.
I then brought the strips in, alternating sides to create what I call a “fishbone.” (I'm sure there's an official term for this, but I have no idea what it is.)
I slid the silpat onto a cookie sheet, covered with a greased opened cereal bag and let it rise.
At the end of the rise, I brushed it with eggwash and sprinkled it with a cinnamon sugar topping. I baked it for about 35 min, pulled it out and checked the temp. It was over 200*, so I covered it with a towel and the family walked over to our neighbor's to enjoy a great dinner and an even better dessert and wonderful friends.
As for the buns, we were having tempeh, which is rectangular, so to make rectangular buns I created the boule, rolled into a rectangle around an inch thick and cut them into rectangles. I didn't love the way they turned out, but I think I just needed more dough. I'll try again and report back then! In the mean time, I'm off to make another apple strudel!
I try to cook breakfast at least once during the week. We are a family that really enjoys all those boxes of cold cereal, but even on sale they are not particularly economical, healthy or environmentally friendly with all that packaging and shipping (though the bags are great for rolling out pastry or covering that rising dough). Because I don’t feel like getting up before Tom to make pancakes or waffles, I turn to oatmeal. I love the old fashioned stuff, and my sister-in-law Betsy says it doesn’t take that, but I made it the “regular” was the other day, and it felt like it took FOREVER. That’s when I realized I should to share this “recipe,” technique really. You do all the measuring night before, and it couldn’t be simpler. Turn it on rather low (we do 3 on our stove that goes to 10) before hopping in the shower, and it’s ready once you’re out. Make sure to check out your coop or bulk food store for oats. We pay $.95-1.25/lb for organic. Quaker and even the generic brand are usually a lot more in the supermarket.
Enough for 2 hungry adults and a couple hungry kids. Adjust quantities as necessary.
2 c old fashioned oats (thick rolled are my favorite)
4 c water
dried fruit* (1/4-1/2 cup)
1/2-1 t cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger, optional
1 soup spoon of blackstrap molasses, optional
The night before put all ingredients in a sauce pan, give it a stir with that soup spoon and put a lid on it.
The next morning turn burner on rather low with the lid on. It should be ready to eat in about 10 min, but because of the low temperature and lid, it will sit on the burner for a while longer without harm.
Serve with maple syrup, honey or other sweetener, nuts, yogurt, milk or anything else that suits your fancy.
*We most often use raisins, since I can get organic ones cheap, but cranberries, cherries, blueberries, apricots are all delicious
It’s also good with a pinch of ginger or Chinese five spice and probably a host of other spices. I wouldn’t recommend nutmeg; it was pretty funky.
*note: we’ve recently started topping with frozen blueberries or jarred peaches
(Super easy) Chocolate Cherry Walnut Bread (a new <a href="http://www.zingermans.com/Product.aspx?Category=&ProductID=B-CHO">Zingerman's</a> rival?)
I joined a bread baking group and we're baking thorough Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. As a group, we're starting with the Master Recipe, which I followed to a T. Really. I actually followed the recipe verbatum. It made a great loaf of bread, and lovely pizza, but after all the excess of the Holidays, my gluttonus self needed MORE. We rolled out the remaining dough (1 to 1 1/2 pounds or so) on a silpat and sprinkled it liberally with dried cherries, chopped walnuts (1/2 cup of each perhaps) and a few mini chocolate chips (<1/4 cup), then patted those down. We rolled up the dough and goodies, pinched the seam, cut it in half (it was long) and place both the loaves seam side down on a cookie sheet with another silpat. After some debate, we covered the loaves with a greased cereal bag and let it rise in our cool kitchen overnight.
When the first kid woke me up in the morning, I ran out to the kitchen, turned the oven to 375, popped in the bread, turned on the timer for 40 min (an educated guess as to how long it would take for the oven to warm and then bake the bread), and, after picking up the other little one, ran back to bed. 40 min later when the timer went off, I sent Tom to check the bread. It was perfect, so he pulled it out to cool. Finally our little ones demanded that we all rise and consume the bread, so we quickly fried up some eggs, pulled out the cream cheese and sliced up a loaf. It was GLORIOUS. Really, if you are a person who goes in for things like chocolate-cherry-walnut bread, this is for YOU! And the bread dough could not be any easier. If you're too nervous to work with yeast, this is a fantastic place to start. My generous husband decided we should give the second loaf to his brother whom we rarely see but happened to be in town… I'm still a little bitter about that. But as the saying goes: bake and release!
read this on a blog I just found. As I've been buying up new size 4 clothing (!!! I NEVER thought I could even be a 4) people have been asking how I've gotten “so skinny.” Eating well and only (mostly) when I'm hungry. Pollan says: Eat food, mostly plants, not a lot. Well, I've got 2 out of 3 down and it seems to be working. In any case, the research says there's something to it:
“[Harvard economist David] Cutler and his colleagues …surveyed cooking patterns across several cultures and found that obesity rates are inversely correlated with the amount of time spent on food preparation. The more time a nation devotes to food preparation at home, the lower its rate of obesity. In fact, the amount of time spent cooking predicts obesity rates more reliably than female participation in the labor force or income. Other research supports the idea that cooking is a better predictor of a healthful diet than social class: a 1992 study in The Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that poor women who routinely cooked were more likely to eat a more healthful diet than well-to-do women who did not. So cooking matters — a lot. Which when you think about it, should come as no surprise. When we let corporations do the cooking, they’re bound to go heavy on sugar, fat and salt; these are three tastes we’re hard-wired to like, which happen to be dirt cheap to add and do a good job masking the shortcomings of processed food. And if you make special-occasion foods cheap and easy enough to eat every day, we will eat them every day. The time and work involved in cooking, as well as the delay in gratification built into the process, served as an important check on our appetite. Now that check is gone, and we’re struggling to deal with the consequences.” –Michael Pollan, “Out of the Kitchen, on to the Couch” New York Times Magazine, July 29, 2009.
As for a cooking update: I'm in the process of perfecting my chocolate (w/ secret squash) muffins, and that should be posted soon. But really we've just been trying to use up or preserve our glut of EVERYTHING! Eggplants, tomatoes, carrots, beets, cabbage, kale (of course), herbs, now the leeks are coming in… Right now I'm plotting an eggplant, kale, carrot curry. I'l let you know how it turns out.
Eli loves “green sauce” (pesto) and requested it for dinner the other night. Well, we didn't have much basil, but did have some cooked kale hanging out in the fridge. As I pondered making a faux pesto I remembered ricotta cheese being added to the light pesto recipe form Cook's Illustrated “Best Light Recipes.” I also happened to have about 8 oz. of ricotta that needed using. With all that in mind I set out to make a “green sauce” to empty my fridge and delight our taste buds. The result? Success. We used leftovers to spread on bread, topped it with cheese and popped it under the broiler for a few min. The rest we took with us on our weekend with our foodie friends, and a few didn't even realize there was green stuff in there that wasn't basil. One friend scoffed at the title pesto, but all seemed satiated with the delicious, nutritious, aptly titled “basil spread.”Basil Spread
The easiest way to do this is to start the water boiling for the pasta, salt it, add the kale leaves (get going on the garlic), pull them out 3 min later, drain, and add to the food processor.
This can be made with a knife on a cutting board, adding the ingredients in the same order, chopping furiously between additions, but it will never be quite as saucy. Literally and figuratively.
Several blacnched kale leaves (or other greens) (Maybe 3/4-1 cup washed, cooked & chopped)
A few small handfuls of basil (because that's all I had)
2 cloves of garlic
1/4 c. ricotta
Nuts (about 1/3 cup)(I usually let Eli choose, but I must say I'm partial to walnuts)
Salt & Pepper
In a food processor, process the garlic until finely minced. If there's time, let that sit for a little while to oxidize. Add greens & pulse until chopped. Add fresh basil and pulse some more until chopped and incorporated. Remove lid and drizzle with a little olive oil, drop on ricotta, and a few shakes of dried basil. Process until almost desired consistency. Add parmesan, nuts, salt and pepper to taste, then process until you think it's done. Enjoy on pasta, bread, crackers, veggies…
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