Wednesday, January 21, 2009

banana bread.

While I haven't had a recipe or post up for a bit, we have been busy in the kitchen. I have been experimenting with some new bread recipes. We have been soaking/sprouting/drying wheat berries and making our own (malt) flour and learning to use it. I also have found a new local source for wheat (hard red winter) and so have been testing how it works with both the standard and soaked loaf breads to get a feel for its chemistry. We have had a few flops, but have had some really great tasty bread too. I have also been testing a different wheat grinder to see the difference in a finer flour! In between all of the bread baking we have also been making some other goodies.

Today I had a sick boy, so we were home and pretty quiet. I decided to make a loaf of whole wheat banana bread. It is sooo good. I like it because it uses 100% whole wheat pastry flour, but the flavor doesn't overshadow the bananas at all and it is a nice moist bread. It also isn't too sweet, but is rich with flavor. It made the house smell amazing, too!

::whole wheat banana bread::

1/3 cup softened butter
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar/muscavado
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/4 cup yogurt (I used home made vanilla yogurt)
1 1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas (about 3 bananas)

1 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder

In one bowl cream the butter, honey and brown sugar together, and then add the vanilla, eggs, bananas and yogurt. Mix to incorporate. The bananas should be a little chunky, but not big pieces (using a fork to smush helps).

In a second bowl mix the dry ingredients together and stir a little to mix.

Mix the wet into the dry a bit at a time stirring to incorporate. Don't over mix.

Spoon into a buttered bread loaf pan and put into a pre-heated 350ºF oven. Bake 40-50 minutes, until done. Pop out of the pan onto a rack to cool. So good served with fresh butter.

ingredient tip::
Bananas are at the top of my list to buy organic. Commercially grown bananas not only are grown in not very environment/worker/wildlife friendly ways, but the end product exposes us to a cocktail of chemicals as well. No thank you. Look for fair-trade organic bananas at your local coop or Whole Foods/Wild Oats type of store!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

whole wheat strawberry-orange muffins.

We have a freezer full of delicious strawberries we picked last June. We have been working our way through them for desserts and smoothies - but there is something extra wonderful about the color, taste and smell of strawberries once January hits. I opened the bag today and the smell was spectacular. Yum.

I used this basic muffin recipe for the base, but tweaked it a bit to add additional liquid so that I could use whole wheat flour rather than all purpose white flour. By using the juice of a mandarin, I got that extra liquid as well as a really good flavor boost. The muffins are so good - the flavor is more like a tea bread...not too sweet. But the texture and crumb is all muffin.

I sprinkled unsweetened organic shredded coconut on top before baking. Nice combination with the strawberries.

::whole wheat strawberry-orange muffins::

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup turbinado (granulated) sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon

1 cup milk (room temp)
1/4 cup softened butter
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
zest and juice of one organic mandarin (small orange or clementine would be fine too)
1 1/2 cups roughly chopped frozen strawberries
unsweetened shredded organic coconut (optional)

Preheat your oven to 400°F.

Mix together the dry ingredients in a bowl. Set aside.

In a second bowl, beat together the milk, butter, vanilla, and eggs until creamy. Squeeze in the juice and add the zest.

Toss your chopped frozen strawberries (not cut too small, but not whole) into the flour. Turn to coat. Putting the fruit in the flour first will help keep it from sinking to the bottom during baking.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry. Lightly stir to incorporate. Do not overmix. Let the mix sit a few minutes.

Fill paper muffins cups or a lightly greased muffin tin about 2/3 full. Sprinkle on coconut (optional). Put in the middle rack into your pre-heated oven. Bake about 15-20 minutes...until done.

Makes about 18 normal sized muffins.

If you use normal all purpose flour (and not whole wheat), leave out the mandarin juice (keep the zest if you like) or the batter may be too thin.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

split pea soup.

I love making soups in the winter. I know, I've said it a million times. I just love making a big pot of soup in the slow cooker and having it for lunch for a few days. Packing it for my husband to take to work. To eat for dinner with a bit of freshly baked bread. So good on a cold winter day. I picked up a bag of split peas at our local coop last week and had to make some split pea soup. I think the first time I LIKED split pea soup was in my 20s. Up until then all I knew was the nasty canned stuff my mom kept from 1971 in the back of the pantry. But while at a little cafe in Chicago I tried the soup of the day - an amazing bowl of split pea soup. I knew then how good it could be, and I was hooked!

I know the traditional split pea soup uses a ham hock or chunks of ham, but this smoked bacon version is gooooood. I had gotten some pastured organic smoked bacon from a local farm - the flavor and aroma is amazing - and it just seemed perfect for soup. It is! While the smoked bacon gives a rich flavor, this would make a good veggie soup too...

::split pea soup::

5-6 cups stock (hot)
16 oz. dried split peas
3 onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 carrots, sliced
2 med. potatoes, chopped
1 lb. smoked bacon*, cut into 1" or so bits

1 Tbsp coconut oil
bay leaf
sea salt
freshly ground pepper
sheet kombu
dash sesame oil
fresh parsley

Into your slow cooker/crock pot, add about 5 cups of your HOT stock and all of the split peas - turn to high to get it going.

Cook your bacon - I like to bake mine to manage the smell throughout the house. I put mine in a small cake pan and into a toaster oven set to 350º/bake. I just cook until it is done. Skillet is fine too. When cooked, cut into small pieces.

In a skillet, add the coconut oil and toss in the garlic and onions. Cook on high until beginning to get translucent. Add to the crock pot. When the bacon is done put that in too - and then add the potatoes, carrots, bay leaf, kombu, a dash of sesame oil (even a dash adds so much flavor!), and about a tsp of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Cook on HIGH for 1 hour. Turn down to LOW, and let cook, stirring occasionally for 3-4 hours. Add a little more stock during cooking if much you need can vary based on how big your carrots/potatoes are, etc. In the last 30 minutes, pull out the bay leaf and what is left of the kombu sheet - add a handful of freshly chopped parsley. Season with more salt & pepper to taste.

I like to whiz with an immersion blender at the end to really make it more creamy - it blends the flavors, and gives that split pea look and texture. I do like to leave it chunky, so only do it enough to get the liquid to thicken a bit. If you don't have an immersion blender, you can take 1/2 of the liquid and whiz it in a food processor.


ingredient tip::
*When buying pork, be sure to buy pastured. Pastured pigs are not kept in confinement, and are free to root and dig and behave in natural ways with other pigs in the sunshine. Pastured pork is not only more humane for the pigs and better for the environment, but is also better for you. Pastured pork has higher levels of vitamins and Omega-3's. Not to mention it just tastes better. Extra bonus if you can find organic pastured pork. If you live in a farming area go find a farm! The farms where we purchase pork let us go out and visit - see where the animals are raised and walk right up and say hi to the animals (and meet the farmers!) - and we can also buy on farm directly from the farmer.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

dark oatmeal cookies

In my ongoing quest for good whole wheat flour cookies, I have also headed into the realm of oatmeal. I love the texture of oats, but don't really like using the quick oats, and don't like when cookies are too sugary tasting. This recipe turned out great. The dark sugars and molasses work well with the oats and whole wheat flour too - making a very rich robust chewy cookie (lots of flavor) that is soft fresh out of the oven and yet doesn't fall apart when stored. Even my 5 year old who doesn't like seeds or chunks in his food ate some - they smell so good!

::dark oatmeal cookies::

1 3/4 cup steel cut oats (not quick oats)
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt

1 1/4 stick butter, softened
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup turbinado (or granulated) sugar

1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp molasses

Mix together dry ingredients in a bowl. Set aside. In a mixer/Kitchen Aid, mix together sugars and butter until creamy. Add in egg, molasses, and vanilla - mixing a little in between each addition. Scoop in the dry ingredients from the bowl a bit at a time on low-med until all incorporated.

On a lined cookie sheet drop 1-2 tablespoon sized balls a few inches apart. Put into a pre-heated 375º oven (middle rack) for 10-11 minutes until golden brown! If you like them softer, pull out a minute early - if they are going in a cookie jar, leave them in the full time. Let sit on pan for 1 minute before transferring to a cooling rack.

ingredient tip::
Even a little bit of good quality molasses is a good thing. In addition to providing quickly assimilated carbohydrates, blackstrap molasses can increase your energy by helping to replenish your iron stores - blackstrap molasses is a very good source of iron. Blackstrap molasses is also an excellent source of manganese and copper and a good source of iron, calcium, vitamin B6, potassium, selenium and magnesium.