Friday, April 19, 2013

Maple-Chia Granola

I have a difficult time figuring out what to do with chia seeds. I don't like their texture in drinks and I'm usually not in the mood for pudding. This granola is a good, non-threatening way to introduce chia to your diet. It's especially good sprinkled over some plain or vanilla non-dairy yogurt and fresh fruit.

Maple-Chia Granola

4 cups old fashioned oats
1/2 cup chia seeds
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup coconut oil

Preheat oven to 300F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Put all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Spread the granola evenly on the baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, remove from heat and stir well, then bake for another 15 minutes. Allow granola to cool completely on the baking sheet before transferring to an air-tight container. The oats will become crunchier as they cool.

Quick Farro and Veggie Bowl

I'm always looking for quick, healthful meals for the nights when there just isn't time to cook. This one takes about 15 minutes to make and any veggies can be substituted for the ones I included. Quick-cook farro and smoked seasoning can be found at Trader Joe's, and I'm sure other stores also carry similar items. If you can't find quick-cook farro, regular farro can be used, but you'll have to cook it longer. The smoked seasoning is optional, but I think it adds a fun kick to an otherwise simple dish.

I subscribed to a weekly home-delivery organic produce service last week and we received our first box today. It was a huge box that contained all sorts of tasty and very fresh treasures. My kids are excited by the oranges and tangerines, and I am excited by having an easier way to feed my family fresh veggies. The kids are becoming difficult to shop with, so being able to make fewer trips to the grocery store is a relief. One of the items in this week's box was a bunch of baby turnips, so those little gems became the inspiration for this dish.

It was still steaming when I took the picture, but we were in a hurry so I didn't have time to let it cool.
Quick Farro and Veggie Bowl

1 cup quick-cook farro
2 cups water or vegetable broth
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 bunch baby turnips (including greens)
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 clove garlic, minced or grated
1 handful cherry tomatoes, diced
1 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
smoked seasoning blend to taste (optional)

Place farro and water or broth in a saucepan and cook according to package directions.

While the farro is cooking, heat the olive oil in a saute pan. Remove and reserve the greens from the baby turnips. Dice the turnips. Saute the turnips until they begin to soften. Add the chickpeas, mushrooms, and garlic and saute for a few more minutes. Chop the turnip greens and add them to the pan along with the tomatoes, salt and pepper, and smoked seasoning. Saute until the turnip greens wilt.

Stir in the cooked farro and serve. Serves about 3.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread

I get bored easily so like to experiment with variations on recipes. I've been making bread from my rye sourdough starter a couple times a week, so I'm on a quest to find my favorite sourdough recipes. This one is great. It's made entirely with white whole wheat flour, but it is fluffy instead of dense like most homemade whole wheat breads. Most of the sourdough recipes I've seen either use multiple rise times or allow the dough to proof for 12+ hours, but this one only has a single, four-hour rise with no dough reshaping. That is mostly because I forgot about it while doing other things and when I came back to the kitchen, the dough was huge so I thought I might as well bake it. My forgetfulness paid off, because this is my favorite sourdough variation so far.

Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread

1 1/2 cups sourdough starter
1 cup soy milk, room temperature
1 Tbsp active dry yeast
3 Tbsp wheat bran
3 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp salt
3 Tbsp Earth Balance, softened
4 cups white whole wheat flour (plus more for kneading)

Mix all ingredients together in a large mixing bowl, then turn dough onto a floured surface and knead for several minutes, until dough is smooth and stretchy. Form dough into a loaf shape on a parchment paper-covered baking sheet, then cover with a clean towel or plastic wrap and place in a warm area to rise for at least four hours.

Preheat oven to 400F at the end of the rising time. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.

Variation: For a denser, even more flavorful bread, try replacing the white whole wheat flour with freshly ground red winter wheat flour (one of my local grocery stores has a wheat berry grinder), the Earth Balance with olive oil, and the sugar with molasses.

Fiddleheads for One

Sometimes you come across odd seasonal produce, lovely little things that are only available a week or two a year. Morels, fiddleheads, and ramps come to mind. If you are lucky enough to find them in a store, they are incredibly expensive. However, a little can go a long way, especially when you know the kids will have no interest in your little culinary treasures.

I found fiddlehead ferns last night. They were nearly $20 a pound, but I decided to try them anyway. I grabbed a handful and they rang up at under $2. So, what do I do with a handful of scroll-like ferns? Saute them with tempeh and mushrooms!

If you want to try fiddleheads, make sure you thoroughly cook them before eating them because they are only edible when cooked. The method I used blanched them and then sauteed them. They are quite good, a gustatory cross between asparagus and green beans. I served this saute over steel cut oats for breakfast, but it would also be good with brown rice or another cooked grain. You can also This recipe is for a single serving, but it can easily be doubled.

Fiddlehead ferns and crimini mushrooms

Flax tempeh, crimini mushrooms, dried thyme, and fiddlehead ferns - washed, sliced, and trimmed

Blanching the fiddleheads - only boil them until they float. It takes less than 30 seconds.

Tempeh, lightly coated in soy sauce and coriander and sauteed in olive oil.

Add in fiddlehead ferns.

Add in mushrooms and seasonings once ferns are cooked thoroughly.

Served over steel-cut oats.

Fiddleheads and Tempeh Saute for One

1 small handful of fiddlehead ferns (12-14 fiddleheads)
1 handful crimini mushrooms, sliced.
4oz tempeh, sliced
1 tsp tamari
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp dried thyme (or 2 tsp fresh thyme)
salt and pepper to taste

Bring a small pot of salted water to a boil. Trim the browned ends from the fiddleheads. Blanch the fiddleheads by tossing them into the boiling water for about 30 seconds, until they float. Quickly remove them from the boiling water and douse them with cold water.

Heat the olive oil in a saute pan. Toss the sliced tempeh with the tamari and coriander to coat, then saute them in the olive oil until they just begin to brown.

Add the fiddlehead ferns to the pan and saute with the tempeh until they begin to soften and brown. Add a little more olive oil if the pan becomes too dry. Add the mushrooms, thyme, salt, and pepper and saute for 2-3 minutes, until mushrooms are cooked.

Remove from heat and serve over steel-cut oats, brown rice, or quinoa.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Avocado Kale Salad

Leafy greens are a staple in my family's diet. I try to cycle through the darker varieties - spinach, Swiss chard, mustard greens, turnip greens, collards, and kale.

This salad was inspired by one I had from a health food store salad bar. I thought that salad had potential, but was a little boring with just kale, onions, and the avocado dressing. I livened up this version with mini heirloom tomatoes, raw pepitas, and cucumber. 

There is a lot of nutritional value to be excited about in this tasty raw salad. Kale is high in Vitamins A, C, and K, and also contains significant amounts of calcium, folate, and potassium. Avocados contain beneficial fats in addition to a high fiber content, Vitamins C and K, and folate. Lemons are full of potassium and Vitamin C.  Pumpkin seeds are a good source of zinc and other trace minerals. Tomatoes are rich in antioxidants.

Avocado Kale Salad

1 big bunch of kale, washed, chopped, and stems removed (or a 10oz bag of pre-chopped kale)
2 avocados, peeled and pitted
2 lemons, peeled and seeded
1/3 cup water
3 cloves garlic
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup raw pepitas (hull-less pumpkin seeds)
1 medium English cucumber, diced (about 1 cup)
1 cup diced cherry tomatoes (I used some mini heirlooms)

In a food processor or blender, puree avocados, lemons, water, garlic, salt, and pepper.

Place kale in a large mixing bowl. Pour avocado dressing over the kale, mix well, and then use your hands to massage the dressing into the kale. This will make the leaves tender.

Stir in the pepitas, cucumber, and cherry tomatoes.

The salad can be served immediately or refrigerated and allowed to marinate for several hours or overnight.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Sourdough Soft Pretzels

My lovely jar of sourdough starter has now contributed to three loaves of bread and a batch of soft pretzels. My husband was craving soft pretzels after a day out, so I told him I'd try making sourdough pretzels. The dough takes 2-3 hours to proof, so plan a little ahead. Top them any way you choose. You can sprinkle with coarse sea salt for a classic soft pretzel, shredded sweetened coconut if you're craving sweet, or jalapenos and shredded cheddar Daiya if you're feeling spicy. Turbokid dove for the sesame pretzel and ate the entire thing.

(Clockwise) Jalapeno-Cheddar, Sesame, Coconut, Cinnamon Sugar
 Sourdough Soft Pretzels

2/3 cup sourdough starter
1 cup lukewarm water
3 cups unbleached white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp sea salt

For boiling:
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda

olive oil (for savory) or coconut oil (for sweet) for brushing
Optional topping ideas: coarse salt, cinnamon and sugar, minced garlic, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, nutritional yeast, sliced almonds, jalapenos and Daiya cheese, coconut shreds, etc.

Combine starter, water, flours, sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Knead dough for several minutes, until dough is smooth and stretchy. Cover dough with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and set in a warm spot for 2-3 hours, until dough has doubled in size.

Stir baking soda into water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Preheat oven to 450F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Lightly oil the parchment paper.

Dough balls. Keep them covered so they don't dry out.

Divide dough into 8 portions and roll each piece into a rope about 24 inches long. Keep the dough covered with plastic wrap or a towel when not working with it so it doesn't dry out. Knot each rope into a pretzel shape. Boil the pretzels for 30 seconds, one at a time, in the baking soda water. Remove from water with a slotted spoon and drain.

Knotted pretzel, pre-boiling. Boiling sets the shape and helps the toppings stick.

Place the pretzels on the baking sheets. Lightly brush with olive oil or melted coconut oil, then sprinkle on topping of choice.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, until golden brown.

Jalapeno and Daiya cheddar

Sweetened shredded coconut

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Pumpkin Spice Bran Muffins

I wasn't able to get a decent picture of these because my kids were more concerned with eating the muffins than food photography. I started out by using pumpkin puree in place of oil and then decided to add the spices for a pumpkin pie flavor.

Pumpkin Spice Bran Muffins

1 1/2 cups wheat bran
1/2 cup hot water
1 cup soy milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 Tbsp ground flax seed mixed into 2 Tbsp water
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice

1 1/4 cup white whole wheat flour

Preheat oven to 400F.

In a large mixing bowl, combine wheat bran and hot water. Allow to sit for a few minutes so the bran absorbs the moisture. Meanwhile, combine soy milk and apple cider vinegar in a small bowl or measuring cup. Allow to curdle, then stir into bran. Mix in brown sugar, pumpkin puree, and flax. Sift in baking soda, salt, and spices, stir, then sift in white whole wheat flour and mix until well combined.

Spoon batter into 12 greased or papered muffin cups. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Adventures in Fermentation

(L to R) Pickled Onions, Moroccan Preserved Lemons, Sauerkraut, Sourdough Starter, Kombucha. The second sourdough starter in the back is being adopted by a friend soon.

About five weeks ago, I attempted growing my own kombucha SCOBY from a bottle of commercial kombucha. I didn't realize at the time that the instructions I was following were for the old formulation of kombucha prior to it being temporarily removed from store shelves in 2010. After a couple weeks, I tossed out the weird, transparent jellyfish-like-blob I'd grown and acquired a real SCOBY. My first batch is in its first fermentation now. In a couple days, I'll taste-test it and if it's ready, I'll bottle it up with interesting flavors like carrot juice, hibiscus flowers, or orange juice and send it into the dark for its second fermentation.

About two weeks ago, I began a rye sourdough starter using this method. It took off and grew into a monster ooze that bubbled out of the old spaghetti sauce jar I'd started it in. I split the starter into two jars, one for a friend and one to keep, and fed the cloned monsters succulent grains of organic rye for a couple days before capping the jars and storing them in the fridge.

Rye Sourdough Starter on day 3. So many bubbles and the monster is only hours away from overflowing the jar.

Today I took the starter out and made my first loaf of sourdough using this recipe. It was a test loaf to make sure my starter was good. Well, it was certainly good, and I ended up with a 10-inch in diameter fluffy loaf of sourdough bread with a chewy crust and a pleasant tang.

My lovely first loaf of sourdough bread.

I fed the monster to replace the starter I used and it bubbled out the top of the jar within an hour. I have some happy yeast in that starter! The spaghetti squash jar wasn't going to cut it anymore, so I picked up a 2-quart jar, added to my recently-fed starter, and watched the monster grow to fill 2/3 of the new jar. I sense a large quantity of sourdough recipe experiments in my future.

Not content with just a brewing kombucha and a happy sourdough starter, I felt compelled to find new things to ferment. I went shopping for organic produce - onions, lemons, and cabbage. I had a bag of onions already, but they sprouted in my cupboard and now I'm waiting for the frost to pass so I can plant them outside.

The cupboard dwellers. Their owls have not yet arrived.

In the span of an hour and a half, I made Moroccan Preserved Lemons, Sauerkraut, and Pickled Onions. They have taken up residence on a cookie sheet in the cupboard under my buffet counter, little jars of mundane things waiting to create some magic.

So, here I am after midnight, typing with briny hands and hoping everything works. Fermenting is a curious thing -  an exercise in patience and an obligatory strong stomach ready to ignore the oddness of what you're eating or drinking in favor of appreciating the beneficial microorganisms. I'm trying to figure out what I should make next. Any suggestions?

Monday, April 1, 2013

Garbanzo Flour Chocolate Chip Cookies

I'm not gluten-free right now, but I still like to experiment with gluten-free baking. I have never used xanthan gum in my gluten-free baking because everything I've made has turned out fine without it so I think it's unnecessary in most recipes. These cookies are made with garbanzo flour, which gives a beany flavor to the dough but the beaniness disappears upon baking. They are also free of tree nuts, peanuts, and soy. If you desire, you can stir in coconut flakes, dried fruit, nuts, or seeds along with or instead of the chocolate chips. The cookies bake up soft and don't fall apart or crumble like many of the gluten-free recipes I've tried.

*Note* This recipe had a typo. It should have been 1/4 cup non-dairy milk instead of 3/4 cup.

Garbanzo Flour Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup non-dairy milk
1 Tbsp cornstarch or arrowroot powder
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups garbanzo flour
3/4 cup chocolate chips.

Preheat oven to 350F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In a mixing bowl, use a fork to combine brown and white sugars, coconut oil, non-dairy milk, and cornstarch. If your kitchen is cool, it might be easier to mix with an electric beater because coconut oil solidifies below 76F.

Stir in vanilla, baking soda, and salt. Mix in garbanzo flour until well combined. Fold in chocolate chips. Drop dough by the tablespoon onto the cookie sheets.

Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, allow to cool for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to continue cooling. Makes about 2 dozen cookies.