Thursday, March 28, 2013

Coconut Oatmeal Pancakes

Turbokid decided he needed "cancakes" for breakfast, so I made up these. They are sweet without added sugar and delicate, so it may take some practice to flip the pancakes without them falling apart. The coconut flavor is subtle. The pancakes are wheat, soy, and nut-free. They are good served with Earth Balance butter and maple syrup or with fresh fruit and toasted coconut.

Coconut Oatmeal Pancakes

1/2 cup coconut flour (pulse unsweetened flaked coconut in a food processor until it turns into a powder)
3/4 cup oat flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup non-dairy milk (I used unsweetened sunflower)
1 Tbsp oil (I used sunflower)

Mix together coconut flour, oat flour, salt, and baking powder in bowl. Stir in applesauce, non-dairy milk, and oil.

Preheat a lightly oiled skillet on medium-low heat. Spoon batter onto the skillet (about 1-2 Tbsp per pancake) and cook for a few minutes on each side, until pancake is golden.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Vampire-Away Kale Chips

One of the local health food stores had a sample of garlicky kale chips out one day so I tried them. They were wonderful, but cost something like $5-6 for a small container. I bought a bunch of kale a couple days ago, so decided I had to replicate those chips. Mine are baked instead of raw because I don't have a dehydrator and raw vegetables are hard on my finicky stomach.

Vampire-Away Kale Chips

1 bunch green kale
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp sea salt

Preheat oven to 275F.

Wash kale, then remove the ribs and tear or cut the leaves into bite-sized pieces.

In a large bowl, toss the kale with the olive oil, then with the nutritional yeast, garlic powder, and salt. I found it was easiest to get an even coating by shaking it in a container with a lid, but tossing in a bowl also works.

Place kale on a baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until crispy, stirring once halfway through.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Sharo's Sourdough Rye

Some people like their bread light and fluffy, but I prefer mine to have texture and substance. This bread takes several days to make, so satisfying that sourdough craving needs to be planned in advance. I made a small amount of starter containing active dry yeast for this recipe experiment, but you can also make your own long-term sourdough starter for multiple batches like this. I had a little trouble with the rises because my house is cold right now.

Sharo Briarwind is a minor character in my Echoes of Oblivion trilogy. She's the mother of major character Rhodren Briarwind and the owner of a bakery in the green city of Heren, Maritor. Sharo is a deceptively clever and earthy woman with a complex past, with hands made strong from years of kneading bread. I'm naming this recipe for her because it may have been the same patient variety of rye her son stole from her in his introductory chapter.

Sharo's Sourdough Rye

Makes 2 small loaves or 1 large one.

1/4 cup rye flour
1/4 cup warm water
1 tsp active dry yeast

Mix together all starter ingredients in a small glass or ceramic bowl (I used a ceramic coffee cup). Loosely cover with plastic wrap and set it a warm place to ferment for about 48 hours.

1 cup rye flour
1 cup warm water
1 Tbsp active dry yeast

After the 48 hours is up, spoon the starter into a large bowl and mix in the sponge ingredients. Cover and let sit in a warm place for 4-5 hours.

1 1/4 cups rye flour
2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp caraway seeds
3/4 cup warm water
1 Tbsp sunflower oil

Add the dough ingredients to the sponge mixture except for the sunflower oil. Mix well, then turn dough out onto a floured surface. Let the dough sit for a minute or two while you rinse out and oil the bowl with the sunflower oil.

Knead the dough for 5-7 minutes, until it becomes elastic instead of sticky. You may need to add in another 1/4 cup or so of white whole wheat flour if it is too sticky to work.

Place the kneaded dough in the bowl and roll around so the surface is lightly coated in the sunflower oil. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.

Divide the dough in half and form into two balls. Place onto a baking sheet, flatten the balls, cover with the kitchen towel, and let rise for 20-30 minutes.

After the second rise, reshape the dough into oval loaves. Cover with a towel and let rise for 40 minutes for the final rise.

Preheat oven to 450F. When the dough has finished rising, lower the oven temperature to 400F. Slice an X diagonally on the top of each loaf. Put the bread in the oven. Before closing the door, toss a handful of ice cubes into the oven for some moisture. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until loaf sounds hollow when you tap on the crust. Remove the loaves from the oven and move to a wire rack to cool.

You can make one large loaf instead of two small ones. The rise times should be about the same, but you'll need to bake it longer, probably about 50 minutes.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Peasant Plate

This simple but hearty meal was inspired by one I used to order at a vegetarian restaurant. My favorite vegetable combination for it is beets and carrots, but you can use whatever you have on hand. My beet-allergic husband wasn't home for dinner so I eagerly cooked up some beets. The brown rice can be substituted with other grains like millet or quinoa. I didn't have any sprouts tonight, but they make a great addition.

Peasant Plate

1 1/2 cups brown rice
3 cups water
1 lb tofu, cubed
1 cup beets, sliced
1 cup carrots, sliced
1/4 cup tahini
2 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 cup water
1/4 tsp salt
mixed greens
sprouts (optional)

Combine brown rice and water in a rice cooker (or on the stove) and cook until rice is tender and water is absorbed.

Preheat oven to 400F. Lightly oil a cookie sheet and arrange cubed tofu in a single layer. Bake for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, steam the beets and carrots.

Create the tahini sauce by mixing the tahini, garlic, lemon juice, salt and water in a food processor.

When the rice, tofu, and vegetables are ready, place a handful of greens on each of 3-4 plates. Spoon rice onto the center of the greens, then top with tofu, vegetables, and optional sprouts. Spoon tahini sauce over everything before serving.


While I was waiting for some rice to cook I had the urge to mix an essential oil blend that approximates the smell of the Michigan forest I spent most of my childhood in. Some of the scents I added aren't actually found in those woods, but they balanced the scents that were found there to create something invoking memories of of my little world of forts and wandering. It has inspired a little creativity for me, so I think I'll be using it in a diffuser while I write my current book. I also posted this on my writing blog.

"Home" Essential Oil Blend

40 drops lavender
25 drops cedarwood
15 drops clary sage
10 drops fir needle
10 drops frankincense
2 drops pine

Mix all essential oils in a 5ml glass vial. Use with a carrier oil in a diffuser when you want to be transported to a northern forest.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Sneaky Gnocchi

On my endless quest to try new things, I picked up a package of gnocchi. I'd never had it before, so I had no idea what to do with it. A quick internet search yielded many suggestions of serving it with an alfredo-type sauce, so I ran with that.

This alfredo sauce is super-sneaky. It contains beans, greens, and pumpkin, but no soy, wheat, or dairy. You can serve it like I did or heat it up in a saucepan and pour it over pasta or vegetables. You can also switch out the pumpkin puree for a different vegetable like carrot or squash and use kale instead of spinach. Or, if you don't like the green tint the spinach gives the sauce, you can leave the greens out entirely.

Sneaky Gnocchi

1 package gnocchi (I used a 17oz package of pumpkin gnocchi)
1 lb tofu, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 medium red bell pepper, diced

Alfredo Sauce
1 15oz can white beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup raw spinach, tightly packed
1/2 cup pureed pumpkin
1 1/4 cup non-dairy milk
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
2 Tbsp tahini

Sesame Parmesan Sprinkles
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1 Tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tsp light miso

Preheat oven to 400F. Put cubed tofu in a single layer on a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 20 minutes.

While the tofu is cooking, cook gnocchi according to package directions (this is usually place in boiling water for a few minutes until it floats, then drain).

Place all alfredo sauce ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

Place sesame seeds in a spice grinder or food processor and process to a powder. Add nutritional yeast and miso and process until well mixed.

Mix together tofu, diced peppers, cooked gnocchi, and alfredo sauce in a bowl, then pour into an 8"x8" pan. Sprinkle sesame parmesan over the gnocchi mixture. Bake at 400F for 20 minutes, until sesame parmesan is lightly browned and the sauce is thick and bubbly.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Variations on a Hazelnut Butter

I picked up raw hazelnuts on sale today with the intent to make nut butter. I usually make raw or roasted nut and seed butters with no extra flavors, but hazelnut isn't my favorite on it's own, so I dressed it up. I'll start out with pictorial instructions on how to make roasted hazelnut butter and finish with recipes for Maple Vanilla Hazelnut Butter and Chocolate Hazelnut Spread using the homemade nut butter. 

Roasted Hazelnut Butter
Preheat oven to 350F. Spread 2 cups of raw hazelnuts on an ungreased cookie sheet. Roast for 10-15 minutes, stirring once.
Now you'll have roasted hazelnuts with a lot of skin. The skins can make your butter a little rough, so  you'll want to remove some of them. Dump the still-warm hazelnuts onto a clean kitchen towel. 
Gather the edges of the towel so you have a bundle, then rub and knead the hazelnuts. The friction will remove some of the skins. It's okay to have some skin, so don't worry about removing it all.
Remove the hazelnuts from the towel. This is what you'll have left over - a lot of extra skins that don't need to be in your nut butter. Toss those skins in your compost and move on.
Put the nuts in a food processor. Since I was making two different spreads, I only put in one cup per batch. 
Start processing. Your initial phase gives a nut powder. This is where you would stop if you wanted to make nut flour for a recipe. We want butter, so we'll keep going.
After processing some more, the nut flour will start to clump and stick to the sides. Scrape down the sides as needed and keep processing.

Here the oils are starting to break out of the nuts. You'll have to scrape down the sides more often at this point.
Getting close, now. It's now holding together as a nut butter, but it's still a bit chunky. Scrape the sides and process just a little more.

Finished hazelnut butter. You can add a little salt if you want and pulse to mix, or make one of the variations below if you'd like something sweeter. Spoon it into a container and store in the refrigerator. 

Maple Vanilla Hazelnut Butter and Chocolate Hazelnut Spread
Maple Vanilla Hazelnut Butter

1 cup roasted hazelnut butter
2 Tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Pulse all ingredients in a food processor. Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator. Makes 1 cup.

Chocolate Hazelnut Spread

1 cup roasted hazelnut butter
2 tsp coconut oil
2 Tbsp sugar or maple syrup
1 Tbsp cocoa powder

Pulse all ingredients in a food processor. Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator. Makes 1 cup. This may be a little on the runny side, but the coconut oil will help it firm up to be spreadable once refrigerated.