Everything INCLUDING the Kitchen Sink…

My adventures in the kitchen

Summer Eating May 25, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Carey @ 11:31 pm

Both my daughter and I “lose” our appetites come warm weather. We eat tons of fruit, which doesn’t do much for balanced eating. This year we stumbled on what I think is going to be the mainstay of our summer diet – yogurt, flax seeds/meal, nuts and fruit. We started out with dried fruit, but we got some absolutely fabulous berries this week and my favorite is vanilla yogurt with blackberries and – now – granola.

The granola was a spur of the moment thing last night. I’ve been thinking for a while that I needed to try making some again since it’s been years. One thing I’ve discovered is that to get the nice crispy crunch I like in granola I have to have some oil. The beauty of making it your self is that you can modify the amount (and type) of oil and sugar/sweetening used, the main pitfalls of commercially available granola.

The other day Jess found a site where you can “make” your own granola, choosing from a pretty wide selection of grains, nuts, seeds, fruits and other additives (really, Heath bits in my granola??). And I thought about all the goodies in my pantry right now. And thus was born what will probably be the staple of our summer diet, because this will go with just about any fruit.

The beauty is that I finally found a ratio for oil/water that isn’t too bad and makes a nice crispy crunchy granola, so no matter how I digress from the original recipe, as long as I use those proportions it should turn out just fine! The proportions are 1 part oil, 1 part honey/applesauce, and 1 part juice. I used pineapple juice, pretty much because that was the only fruit juice I had. It gave a little tang to the granola. I think I’d probably recommend something a little less acidic though.

You can use about any combination of flaked grains, seeds and nuts that strikes your fancy. I’ve included the recipe with the mix that I used. I want to get some rye flakes and try it with those! I read an article that said you could pop amaranth, so I thought that would be tasty. However, it didn’t really pop very well. I added it anyway, and it works, more or less. It doesn’t stay in the granola bits too well though, so I’m going to have a bunch of amaranth when I get to the bottom of the bag of granola.

I also kept this “basic”, meaning I didn’t add any dried fruits or strong flavors with the intention that we could then customize our granola later with whatever fruit we had on hand.

“Plain” Granola

4 c. rolled oats
1/4 c. toasted flax seeds
1/4 c. amaranth or millet
1 c. walnut pieces
1 c. pecan pieces
1/2 c. unsweetened, shredded coconut
1/4 c. dark brown sugar
1/4 c. buckwheat flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cardamom
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves

2 tsps vanilla extract
1/2 c. oil (I splurged and used 2 TBS melted butter in this!)
1/2 c. fruit juice
1/2 c. honey, sorghum or molasses (remember that the darker the sweetener the darker the granola will be when done baking, so don’t panic if it’s really dark – if you used molasses! I used sorghum, and it came out quite dark).

Preheat oven to 375F.

Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl.

Mix the wet ingredients in a measuring cup. Pour over dry ingredients and mix it all together. Spread out on cookie sheets (I used 2) and bake for 40-45 minutes, stirring 2-3 times during baking so the edges don’t get burned. The granola still seemed a little bit on the wet side to me at the end of 45 minutes, but was really dark, so I took it out. Once it cooled it was plenty dry and crispy.

Cool completely and store in an airtight container.

I think we’ve used half of it already – it makes a great snack to just grab a handful too!


Variety is the Spices of Cooking May 15, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Carey @ 4:27 pm

Variety is the spice of life. Have you ever stopped and thought about that saying? We use it as a matter of course so often that I think it’s lost its punch.

No, that title isn’t a typo or misspelling! The other day I was making applesauce and trying to decide what spices to put in it, and that saying popped into my head, and all of a sudden I had a new association for it. If you could see my spice cupboard (and it is one ENTIRE cupboard), you’d understand. Here’s a list of what I can think of off the top of my head right now:

Dill seed
Caraway Seeds
Chili powder, regular, Cayenne, Ancho and Chipotle
Bay leaves
Paprika, regular and smoked (and, a little digression, may I just say that Smoked Paprika is where it’s at! I will only buy this from now on. It’s like the difference between a Lamborghini and a Toyota Tercel on a curvy mountain road.)
Pepper, black, white, red, pink, whole and ground
Curry powder
Garam Masala
Celery seed

Some of these exist in multiple forms, such as the cardamom, which comes whole, decorticated, and ground. Some of them I buy in bulk. Hence the use of an entire cupboard (ok, it’s the little one…). And these are what make cooking as much fun for me as anything else – how can I use them to make the same dish taste different? This time, the applesauce ended up with cardmom, cloves and curry powder (just a wee pinch of curry powder though!). I just had the applesauce on potato pancakes with plain Greek yogurt, now that was good!

So next time you’re at the store, pick up a spice you haven’t used before and see how you can change your cooking!


Flour and Flowers May 8, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Carey @ 7:57 pm

Last week I had a bout with the flu, and food was the farthest thing from interesting to me. Now it’s time to get back on track here…

I’ll start with the flowers. We moved into a house with a 1/3 of an unlandscaped acre. How much can 1/3 of an acre be anyway I thought. I mean, I grew up on 40 acres (yeah, that was a LOT of work!) Well let me tell you, it’s a LOT of flowers!!

One of the selling points of this house for us was that it was in an older neighborhood and had beautiful, mature trees. As it turns out, maybe a few too many. This has led to my biggest challenge in this project. I love color, and I love flowers. Do you know how many there are that are shade tolerant? I’ll save you the time of looking, because I’ve spent hours on this. The answer is not many!

Slowly but surely I’ve located some. In the past couple of days I’ve planted 5 lilacs, 40 astilbe, a jasmine, 15 monkey faces, 10 columbine, 2 wisteria and a bunch of hostas. Now comes the part where I suck – waiting for all the blooms! But in a couple of years, those along with the roses we planted in the little bit of sunny space we had are going to provide me with an abundance of flowers, both for my yard and my house!

One cool thing that I’ve discovered this week is these –
Last year I was really irritated at all the remnants of artificial flowers I was finding all over the yard. Everywhere I worked I was picking the dadgum things up. Then they showed up again this year. I was really getting peeved! Then Jess said she didn’t think they were artificial, that they were real flower petals. Sure enough, one of the types of trees we have in our yard puts these blossoms on in the spring. The storms over the last few days finally knocked some whole ones down so I could get that picture. Now I’m not so peeved about those petals in my yard!

And on to flours. Jess and I have been talking recently about ways to ensure that as vegetarians we get the protein we need. Especially during the summer, we eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, so we need to make any protein that we eat count. It does help that we aren’t vegan, so we get a fairly good foundation from eggs, cheese and milk.

One of of our main sources is grain. Wheat and rice are easy – it’s in a myriad things that are common to most peoples tables. But a single source grain protein doesn’t provide all the amino acids and other elements that are a critical part of a healthy diet. Plus, I get tired of them after a while 🙂

The past couple of months of not working have given me a great chance to do some experimentation, and our favorite stores bulk section has provided some interesting material to work with. On my last visit I came home with a bag of buckwheat flour. We had made some buckwheat groats for hot cereal recently and it had a really strong, nutty kind of flavor, so I was a bit worried about it overwhelming other flavors.

My current fixation is with biscuits. Growing up we didn’t make biscuits, and for some reason I was always really scared of them. Somehow I’d gotten the idea that they were really difficult to make. I don’t think that anymore! I now consider it an “easy” breakfast to throw a batch together and into the oven.

My first experiment was for biscuits for breakfast a couple of days ago. Jess had brought home some gorgeous strawberries. Unfortunately, when I got up in the morning, one of them looked like it had been dipped in powdered sugar, it was so coated with mold. So we went from the original plan of fruit salad to “how do we use these up as quickly as possible?” The obvious answer was strawberry shortcake. What?? That isn’t breakfast?? Ok, well no, not the best one anyway. But no matter, I didn’t have any short cake or angel food cake around. Jess suggested that I make some kind of biscuits to go with it. So I made Sweet Rye Buttermilk biscuits.

Sweet Rye Buttermilk Biscuits

Sweet Rye Buttermilk Biscuits

The results were spectacular. Of the 7 biscuits, not one made it past that afternoon and Jess told me “not to lose that recipe”, which meant I had to go write it down before I forgot what I’d done!

My second experiment was yesterday, with biscuits again, but this time I didn’t add any sugar. I just substituted 1/3 of the all purpose flour with the buckwheat. Not only did they taste great, it didn’t seem to mess with the texture like whole wheat flour can. And it made for an interesting looking dish!

It seems that substituting about 1/3 of the flour in the biscuit recipe works best if you’re going to replace it with a “specialty” flour. So here’s my basic biscuit recipe, with some notes about the substitutions and changes I’ve experimented with.

Basic Biscuits

3 TBS cold butter
1 1/2 c. flour (I’ve used: 1/2 c all purpose, 1/2 c. white whole wheat, 1/2 c. rye; 1 c all purpose, 1/2 c. buckwheat; for “traditional” biscuits, just use all purpose flour)

1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder (don’t scrape off)
2 TBS sugar (for sweet biscuits. I used raw sugar, and some of the crystals weren’t completely absorbed and it made for a wonderful texture. If you use raw sugar, increase the sugar to 2 1/2 TBS.)

1/2-1/3 c. buttermilk

Preheat oven to 425F.

Cut the butter into small pieces in bowl. Add the flour and use a potato masher (or your fingers, which is what I do!) and work the flour and butter together until it resembles coarse sand. For “buttery” biscuits, use a little more butter and leave some of the pieces a little larger in the flour.

Add the salt and baking powder and mix together.

Add buttermilk and stir. It should be a slightly sticky dough.

Pour out onto a lightly floured surface (flour your hands a bit too, otherwise it’s gonna stick to your hands like crazy!)

Knead 10-12 times until it’s a smooth dough (it will need a few more if you’re using whole grain or “specialty” flours)

Press or roll out to 3/4″ – 1″ thick. The thicker it is the taller your biscuits will be. Just don’t make them too tall or they won’t bake through! Cut out the biscuits and put into a cake pan or pie dish and snug them up to each other so that the edges are touching tightly.

Bake for 18-20 minutes.

Makes 8 biscuits (unless you make them a bit on the big side like I did!)