Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Success with Muffins!

One of the first things I attempted to bake by "soaking" my flour was the muffin recipe from Nourishing Traditions.  I don't know if it was user error, or what exactly happened, but what I ended up with were flat, dry, tasteless muffins.  Yuck.  I am not a picky eater at all, but I couldn't even eat them.  Of course the silver lining in this little story is that in my desire to use those muffins for something (rather than throw them out) I discovered my bread pudding recipe.  That recipe has become a staple in my kitchen (partly because it's so good & easy, and partly because I have had so many failed bread attempts!).

Not being one to give up so easy, I decided to try muffins again when I saw Wardeh's recipe for Basic Soaked Muffins.  I saw the pictures and the comments, and this made me feel confident that these might work out- and they did!  You start by combining 1 1/2 c. flour (it says pastry flour, but all I had was regular whole wheat), 1/2 c. rolled oats, 1 c. milk, and 2 Tbsp. vinegar (I actually used whey, because I have so much after making yogurt cream cheese.)

I let it soak for about 20 hours.  To melt the 1/2 c. coconut oil I needed, I placed it in a glass jar inside a pot of water on the stove.  In a bowl separate from the flour mixture I whisked together 2 eggs, 1/2 c. turbinado sugar, and 1 t. vanilla.  Then I slowly poured in the melted coconut oil, whisking continuously.  I added in 1 teaspoon salt and 2 teaspoons baking powder.  I also added in Wardeh's suggested spices of 2 t. cinnamon, 1 t. ginger, and 1/4 t. nutmeg.  At this point I also began preheating the oven to 375.

Now it's time to add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture.  Here is what my flour mixture looked like:
Can you see the discoloration that is on the surface?  This darkening seems to happen when I soak using cultured dairy (kefir, whey, yogurt, buttermilk) but it doesn't affect the finished product.  When I was adding in the egg mixture to the flour, I had a "lightbulb" moment.  I decided to finely chop some organic crystallized ginger & add it to the dough.  I took two squares (example below) and mixed it in.

And here is what the dough looks like when it is all mixed together (I added 1/2 c. raisins in later to part of the batter).
I didn't have enough muffin liners, so part of the pan I just rubbed generous amounts of coconut oil inside (one of the great things about using coconut oil when you bake is if you get it on your hands you just rub it in!  Great moisturizer!)  The ones that have no liner are without raisins.  I used my cookie scoop to drop a few scoops of batter into each cup.
After baking for 20 minutes I stuck a toothpick in one of them & they were still very wet inside.  About another 8 minutes & they were perfect.  Everyone in the family liked these.  They have a nice risen shape, good flavor (I really liked the ginger), and moist.
This post is a part of Real Food Wednesday at Kelly the Kitchen Kop.


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Almond Coconut Milk

This post is a part of Tuesday Twister at GNOWFGLINS.

I have been buying refrigerated coconut milk to use in our smoothies.  At around $4 per half gallon this "milk" is fairly expensive.  When I saw the Nourishing Cook's post for Almond Coconut Milk I decided to give that a try sometime.  This also ended up being my first attempt at lacto-fermenting anything.

The night before I set 2 c. of raw almonds in a jar, covered them with filtered water, added 2 Tbsp. sea salt (shook to mix) and let it set overnight.  The next day I drained them, rinsed them, and put them in my food processor along with 1/2 c. coconut and 1 quart warm water.  I blended for a few minutes (this was a bit much for my processor & I had a little leaking out where the lid connects with the container) then let it sit for 10 minutes.  I poured this mixture into a colander lined with paper towels that was sitting inside a larger bowl.

Once this has drained you re-blend the almond coconut mixture with another quart of warm water and repeat the draining process.  Here you can see my 1st batch of milk in the red pan while the second batch is draining.  I think I would like to try cheesecloth next time & see if it doesn't drain easier.  I've got this batch pressed down & let it sit for several hours to drain out.

Later I combined both milks, along with 1/4 c. whey, 1/2 tsp. sea salt, 1 tsp. vanilla, and 1/8 c. maple syrup.  I tasted it at this point, and while it wouldn't be something I would drink a glass of (neither is commercial coconut milk) it wasn't bad.

The recipe says that this will keep 1 week in the refrigerator, or a month if you lacto-ferment it.  I decided to try lacto-fermenting so it would last longer.  So my next step was to place the jars (I ended up with a little more than would fit in one jar) up in my cupboard for 48 hours.  Here is what they look like after 24 hours.

Layers have seperated and you can see the whey action going up at the top there.  Now, here is what it looked like after 48 hours (it grows- watch out!)
Wow!  Not pretty curdled looking stuff there at the top, and you get a big whiff of sour.  I dumped it all into the blender and pureed to get all those layers mixed up again.  Here, it doesn't look so bad, just frothy...
But this is definitely some sour fermented stuff, almost vinegar like.  Of course, this is my very first time ever tasting anything lacto-fermented so I may not have acquired the "taste".  Since I understand that lacto-fermented things are good for the digestion I have been using this "medicinally".  I add about a tablespoon or so to a big batch of smoothies.  I can drink a tiny bit if I make myself too.

If you are looking for a milk replacement I would suggest you make this without lacto-fermenting.  And do not throw out the finely ground almond/coconut mixture- keep it & use it in granola bars.  I used mine in homemade granola, however; I think it would be better suited to granola bars.  (Yes, I made Wardeh's soaked granola, but because I added the damp almond/coconut meal it made it more like granola jerky & I don't think I can give a fair report on it- though I am eating it!)

I'm going to try this again soon- let me know if you try it too!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Food Revolution

Tonight is the final episode of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution (on ABC).  Have you been watching?  If you've missed any episodes ABC has them on their website as well.  Have you signed the petition that Jamie Oliver is going to deliver to The President?  You can pass this website on to your friends or post it on your facebook page.  I think everyone should be aware of what is really going into our kids' school lunches (or not going in) and even some small changes would be huge improvements!

I found this interesting article that shows how schools have implemented healthy changes (mainly in snacks/vending machines) and have seen improvements both in revenue as well as in behavior.

Check out this article about the high school in Appleton, Wisconsin that in 1997 dramatically changed the food available in school.  What I love is how their "experiment" has clearly shown that changing what we put into our bodies changes how we behave & feel.  Suddenly kids were behaving well & learning more- amazing!

We all want what's "best" for our kids.  I guess the question is, how hard are we willing to work for it?  Are we willing to work on prevention, not just medicating disease?  I hope so!  And that's why I signed Jamie's petition, because I would love to see some change!

I'll be back next week with some posts on "soaked" muffins & homemade Almond/Coconut milk.  Enjoy your weekend!


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Pear Sauce or Syrup, in your crockpot!

Sometimes, you can get pears and they are sweet and juicy.  Then other times... well, last week was one of those other times.  I bought two bags of pears, 6 pounds total, and they were so sour & dry!  My husband bit into one & said it was like it was sucking all the moisture out of his mouth!  Now what do you do?  Well, I have a recipe for making applesauce in the crockpot, and I thought, why not make pear sauce in the crockpot?

Crockpot Pear Sauce (or Syrup)
3 lbs. pears
1/2 c. water
2 Tablespoons lemon juice 
1 Tablespoon cinnamon (more or less to taste)
2 Tablespoons maple syrup (1/4 cup if making pear "syrup")

Put water & lemon juice in the crock pot first.  As your processing your pears (peeling, coring, slicing thickly) you can drop them into the lemon water so they don't turn brown.  After the pears are finished add the cinnamon & syrup, stirring to combine.  Cook on low for 6 or more hours.  I set mine to cook before I went to bed in the evening.

In the morning follow the wonderful smell to the crock pot. The pears have reduced quite a bit in cooking, look a little watery & everything is brown (from the syrup or the cinnamon?  I don't know.) but don't let it worry you!
If you have a stick/immersion blender, it would work great for this.  Of course I just used my regular hand blender & it came together well for a "chunky" type sauce.  It is still super hot at this point- if you're planning to have it for breakfast you probably want to get up before breakfast to allow this time to cool off.  It will also thicken slightly as it cools down.

I would suggest you store this in a glass container in the refrigerator & use within 2 weeks.  What really surprised me about this is how sweet it was- wow!  I used 1/4 cup of maple syrup because my pears were so tart, but this sauce was so sweet (that's why I call it syrup)!  My daughter could eat it straight, but I decided it would be better on pancakes.  Both my daughter & I agreed it was great on pancakes (and a lot cheaper than straight maple syrup)!  You should also try it mixed with plain yogurt or add some to your smoothies. 

This post is a part of Pennywise Platter Thursdays


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Cookies... for breakfast?

If you're of my generation that line may bring back memories of Saturday morning commercials for a certain sugar filled cereal...  but what we've got going here is a whole different animal!  Last week I had some soured milk that I needed to use up and I felt like making something different for breakfast.  I decided to try out the recipe for Breakfast Cookies at Heavenly Homemakers.

Since I started cooking with soaked grains I have been missing cookies something terrible!  The only cookie recipes I have found either require sprouted flour or are macaroons (nothing against macaroons, but it's not quite the cookie experience I was craving).  The first time I made this recipe I soaked it for 12 hours, the second time was closer to 24 (which is much better for you).

"Soaked" Oatmeal Cookies
Makes about 50 cookies (unless you make giant ones)

The recipe calls for 1 c. melted butter, but I melted 1/2 c. butter with 1/2 c. coconut oil.  Stir that together with 2 c. flour and 2 c. oats, then add in about 1/2 to 3/4 c. of  buttermilk (I added a tablespoon of kefir to my soured milk to make sure it was cultured).  You want to mix well so that everything is moistened & you will have something that is a very thick oatmeal consistency.
Cover and let sit for 12 to 24 hours.  For the next step you better get ready, because you are going to get a good arm workout!  What was oatmeal consistency has now become much more cement-like!  Use a sturdy spoon to start breaking it up.  I added the 2 eggs & 1 t. vanilla at this point, as well as 1/2 c. honey (the recipe calls for 3/4 c., but because these were for breakfast I didn't want them too sweet) & I began to work that moisture into the dough.
Eventually it will begin to get smooth and you can add a teaspoon each of salt, cinnamon, and baking soda.  Once that is thoroughly mixed in add 1 c. raisins (my raisins were low so I only had 1/2 c.).  Preheat your oven to 350 and get out your cookie sheets & parchment paper (optional).  I was using a cookie scoop, so my cookies were not "giant" like the original recipe.  I filled two very large cookie sheets and baked them one sheet at a time for 15 minutes each.

Oh, my cookie scoop, how I missed you!  You have no idea how delighted I was to make cookies again!
If you use the full 3/4 c. honey your cookies will not be as firmly rolled as these are (and when I made almond butter ones they were much looser & spread much more).  When they are done you get a light & fluffy cookie.  But the real fun was when my daughter (who did not know what was for breakfast) got a whiff of them baking and said, "What is that smell?"  When I got to tell her, "Breakfast Cookies," her whole face lit up!  Priceless.
These are healthy so if you want to serve them for breakfast, go ahead, but I would use them as a side with some other protein item (bacon & egg, whole milk yogurt, etc.) to really start your day right.

Now we get to have cookies again- hurray!  I even made almond butter cookies (with the full 3/4 c. honey) for my husband's birthday celebration & they were well liked.  Even with 3/4 c. honey they are still not overly sweet, which is great for us.  These are handy for dessert, after school, or as a quick on-the-go snack.

Almond Butter or Peanut Butter Variation: substitute 1 c. almond or peanut butter for the 1 c. butter/coconut oil, omit cinnamon, optional: add 1/2 c. chopped almonds or peanuts
 In case you're wondering, I did include the almond butter with the oats & flour that "soaked" for 24 hours.  I did not try almond extract instead of vanilla, but you might want to if you're using almond butter.  This batter will spread more, so make sure to space them 2" apart on your cookie sheet.

(Suggested) Apple Spice Variation: subsitute 1 c. finely chopped apples for the raisins, add 1/8 to 1/4 t. ground nutmeg (I have not tried this yet but I think it would work great!  I'll let you know soon!)

Chocolate or Carob Chip Cookies: this is the one my son can't wait for- use chocolate or carob chips instead of raisins, omit cinnamon (or leave in depending on preference)

Do you have any other ideas for variations on this cookie?  How about a tropical version- use 1/2 c. shredded coconut & 1/2 c. tropical dried fruit, instead of raisins, and a different extract instead of vanilla?  Have some fun!

Tomorrow will be my post on making homemade pear sauce (or syrup) in the crockpot.
This post is a part of Real Food Wednesday.


P.S.  Have you seen Food, Inc?  Did you know it is premiering on TV tonight on PBS?  Check your local listings, in my area it is on at 9pm.  Then watch it, record it, DVR it, or Tivo it.  Tweet about it, update your facebook status, email your friends, talk about it and get people watching & learning!  If you want to talk about it after you watch it you can visit my Food, Inc. post to comment & discuss there.  I am sure that change can happen if people learn & begin to care about what they feed themselves!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Homemade Barbecue Sauce

Yesterday was my husband's birthday.  For his birthday celebration I made him Kimi's "soaked" Brownie Pudding Cake.  Sweetened only with honey, but chocolate-y enough to please guests, it was a good choice.  No pictures- I was too busy!  I also made "soaked" Oatmeal Almond Butter Cookies (cookie post is coming later this week- yeah!) which were a big hit with everyone.  For his birthday dinner we had beef short ribs, mashed potatoes, and steamed broccoli with butter and cheese.  Our potatoes were mashed with sour cream, butter, and chicken broth.  Sprinkle with some salt & pepper = yum!  My daughter said, "Take a picture of my plate!" and then leaned in close...
Some people's children are so camera shy...

The ribs were marinated in homemade barbecue sauce for about 18 hours & had a nice flavor.  I want to share my sauce recipe with you- I had to hunt on the internet to find one that was sweetened only with honey and didn't include stuff I didn't want (like Worcestershire sauce).  I ended up combining a couple different recipes I saw.  This recipe will make about 16 servings- enough to marinade meat in & have more for dipping, etc.  You may want to make it 24 hours ahead of time to allow the flavors to meld together.

Homemade Barbecue Sauce
1 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. ground ginger
1/2 t. black pepper
1/4 t. chili powder
1/4 t. paprika
2 t. Dijon mustard
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup organic or homemade ketchup
1/4 cup organic soy sauce or apple cider vinegar
1/4  cup honey

Whisk all ingredients together.  You're done!

Do you have one of these tools?  This one is from Pampered Chef, but there is also something similar sold at Bed, Bath & Beyond.  This tool is indispensable for me- I use it several times a week for measuring honey, peanut butter, coconut oil- anything that is sticky or hard to get out of a measuring cup.  You slide the inner cylinder down to the appropriate measurement, add your ingredients, then push them clean out into your bowl.  Just use a scraper to scrape what's left off the end & you've got it all- very easy & accurate.  I love it.  In fact, I have to get a new one because this one, after years & years of use, is cracked.  I just find it so handy I had to tell you about it!

Later this week I will also post about making homemade pear sauce in the crockpot.
This post is a part of Tuesday Twister blog carnival at Gnowfglins.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Spinach Basil Pesto

This post is a part of Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade.

Do you like pesto?  I love pesto!  The produce buying group I belong to had some basil last week & I decided it was time to make some homemade pesto.  I found this great recipe for Spinach Basil Pesto, which was perfect because I also had some baby spinach in my fridge too.  I love this because you just mix it up in your blender (ok, not my blender- it's too wimpy!) or your food processor & it's done.

You start with 1 1/2 cups baby spinach, 3/4 cup fresh basil (I used more), 1/2 cup pine nuts, 1/2 cup grated parmesan, 4 cloves garlic, 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons olive oil.  The recipe also calls for lemon zest, but I'm not a fan of "zest" so I left it out.  You blend it together (it was at this point I realized my blender could not handle this & I transferred it to the food processor), then drizzle in remaining olive oil (about 3/8 cup).  OK, it's ready!

What a yummy way to get your greens!  We had ours on.... (true confessions time) store bought ravioli.  Well, it was organic, but a little too processed for me.  But it was my daughter's night to choose what we were eating.  Several years ago I got tired of my daughter always complaining about what I was making for dinner (complaining because she wanted what *she* wanted), so we came up with a compromise: one night a week she gets to choose what we have for dinner (no take-out) & the other nights I choose & no complaints!

She does love to cook & wanted to make pizza for lunch a few days later.  I made Sarah's Sourdough Pizza Crust and my daughter made all the pizzas- she decided to make an assortment of mini pizzas.  We came up with the idea of having pesto chicken pizza (she cut up the leftover Baked Chicken Breasts Supreme).  She also made a cheese pizza for her brother and a couple nitrate-free organic pepperoni ones!   We put the extra mini pizzas in the freezer so she has meal options for a different day.  Since I believe in giving credit where credit is due, I told her she could be in the picture of these awesome pizzas.  She jumped at the chance...

And, I have one other great way to use pesto that I have to share- it's so good.  You take a whole cut up chicken with skin on.  Loosen the skin on each piece of chicken and spoon pesto under the skin.  Bake in a pan as usual.  You will get wonderfully flavored chicken pieces!


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Organic Sugar & Raw Honey Give Away

Just Making Noise blog is having a great give away right now- a box that includes all these products: organic sugar, organic "cow friendly" sweetened condensed milk, and 3 jars of raw organic honey!  Sounds delicious!  You should go visit her blog- even if you don't win anything you'll enjoy it there!  :)


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Homemade "Soaked" Bagels & Yogurt Cheese

This post is linked up with Cutting Back on Sugar on Naturally Knocked up
and Pennywise Platter Thursday at The Nourishing Gourmet.

I stopped buying bagels in the store a long time before I ever stopped buying bread.  The reason is that my daughter loves them & will eat them all day.  It seemed like a lot of empty calories & sugars for her so I just stopped buying them.  But as we struggle to find things for my daughter to take in her lunches (she's picky) I decided to make some bagels for us all.  I had made homemade bagels once before, a long time ago, and it really is not too hard.  This time I used the recipe from Passionate Homemaking  soaked grains & no added sugar equals bagels I can feel good about.

First you mix 1 cup warm water, 2 Tbsp. acid medium (I used kefir), 1/4 cup honey & 4 1/4 cups whole wheat flour.  I had to use a fork because this is a lot of flour relative to not much liquid.  After a while of mixing I pressed the dough down (trying to get all the flour in contact with the moisture) covered it and let it "soak" for 12 hours.

When I was ready to make the bagels I combined 2 Tbsp. of yeast, 1/2 cup warm (100-120 degrees) water, and a dab of honey & let it "puff" for about 5 minutes.  DO NOT use a 1 cup measuring cup to do this in!  I turned around to do some dishes & when I turned back around I saw this!

OK, well we know that yeast is active!  I tossed the soaked flour mixture into the bowl of my Kitchenaid mixture.  You can see, it is very dry, but I think that's how it has to be...

Because once I added the yeast mixture (and 1 Tbsp. salt) I got a dough that was really very...

STICKY!  I added about a 1/2 c. of spelt flour to it & kneaded it for several minutes.  It did eventually become more of a dough, though still very sticky.  I wanted this dough to rise quickly, so I put it in the oven with the light on & a pot of just boiled water.  After two hours my dough had risen well.

Time to punch down the dough & since I wanted cinnamon raisin bagels I added about a teaspoon of cinnamon & 1/4 cup of raisins at this point.  The dough is still very sticky, but I did not want to add more flour.  If your dough is sticky I would suggest oiling your hands very well (I used olive oil).  After kneading in the cinnamon & raisin I picked up the dough & split it into half, then each of those into half, then each of those into thirds (making 12 balls).  I laid them out on the same oiled plastic wrap I had used to cover my dough while it was rising (oh yes, I reuse around here- a lot!)

While those are resting I've already got out my big skillet & started the water boiling.  I purposefully used this one, with the most surface area, because I wanted to be able to cook several at once.  Lindsay says to cook 2 or 3 at a time, but I just don't listen.  I am either lazy or I love being super efficient- or both!  After 5 minutes you then poke a hole in the middle of the balls & let them rest for another 10 minutes.  You can see mine are kind of wonky- but that doesn't bother me!

While they're resting you can also start pre-heating your oven to 350.  Hopefully by now your water is at a good boil.  Cooking them first in the boiling water is what gives bagels their characteristic "chewy" texture.  I cooked them for about 45 seconds to 1 minute on each side, and drained them on a wire rack.  A lot of the raisins fell out of the dough in the water, but when I had boiled all the bagels I just used the spatula to strain the raisins out of the water & poked them back into the bagels.

They were still very soft so I carefully transferred them onto a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet.*  I did not do the egg white glaze. I'd rather not mess with an egg white, and they are fine without it, just not shiny.  After baking for 35 minutes they are done (and your kitchen smells wonderful).  The instructions are to flip them half way through, but my cookie sheet is insulated so I don't need to.  They aren't the prettiest things ever but they are very tasty!

*I always use parchment paper on my cookie sheets because I'm sure they are aluminum & I don't want aluminum touching my food.  And did you know you can reuse parchment paper?  Oh yes you can!  Since most things just slide right off you can keep reusing that parchment paper until it turns a dark brown.  I do this with my bread pans too- parchment paper makes getting the bread out so easy.

Have you made yogurt "cheese" before?  You just line a strainer with coffee filters, put it inside a larger bowl, and pour the yogurt in.  After a few hours the whey is strained out (save this in your refrigerator & use for soaking grains) and you are left with something very close to cream cheese.  I had put a large container of yogurt in my freezer (it was about to go bad & I didn't have time to use it up).  A few days ago I pulled it out so it could thaw in the refrigerator before I used it to make a wonderful creamy yogurt "cheese".  I like to put a couple spoonfuls of yogurt cheese in a small cup & then dip bits of bagel in there.  For my daughter I mixed the yogurt cheese up with some fruit syrup (frozen fruit cooked with maple syrup, leftover from breakfast).  And then I had a craving for ginger- so I took some candied ginger (ok, I confess there's some organic sugar in there), minced it & mixed it in with the yogurt cheese- that tasted awesome with a cinnamon raisin bagel!

Good stuff!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Baked Chicken Breasts Supreme & "Soaked" Biscuits

When I cut up the chicken I found I had quite a bit of boneless chicken breast meat.  I decided to pull out a recipe that has been one of the "regulars" in my kitchen.  The marinade makes the chicken very moist- you just have to make sure you plan ahead because it marinates overnight (for best results).

Baked Chicken Breasts Supreme
 1 1/2 cups plain yogurt or sour cream (I prefer sour cream)
1/4 c. lemon juice 
**original recipe calls for Worcestershire- which has corn syrup & other nasties- any suggestions?** 
1/2 teaspoon celery seed*
1/2 t. salt *I had celery salt, not seed, so I used 1 t. of celery salt instead of 1/2 t. seed & 1/2 t. salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon pepper
8 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
2 cups fine dry bread crumbs (make your own by tearing bread, toasting in oven, and pulsing in food processor)
   optional: garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, basil leaves

The night before: In a large bowl combine first 8 ingredients (everything except chicken).  Place chicken in mixture & turn to coat.  Cover & marinate overnight in the refrigerator.
Meal night: Pre-heat oven to 350.  Remove chicken from marinade & coat each piece with crumbs 
(I wanted to add some spice to my bread crumbs, so I mixed in a pinch of garlic powder, onion powder, organo, and I had some fresh basil leaves so I snipped some in there too, parmesan cheese would also be good in there).  
Arrange in oiled baking pan & bake, uncovered, for 45 minutes or until juices run clear.
  I believe this recipe was originally in "Taste of Home" magazine

Simple as that!  Our dinner included salad and a "soaked" biscuit.  When she tasted the biscuits my 11 year old daughter said, "These taste like Pillsbury.  I know coming from you that wouldn't be a compliment, but it is coming from me."  She is so funny!  I used this recipe from Heavenly Homemakers.

First you combine 3 cups flour with 1 cup buttermilk.  You will probably want to use a fork to mix, because the mixture is fairly dry/tough to mix- at least mine was, it's in the bowl up front:
The bowl in the back was a steel-cut oats pancake experiment & that failed- but I'm sparing you the gory details on that!

 I let this "soak" for about 16 hours, then added the 2 t. baking powder and 1 t. sea salt, plus 1/2 cup melted butter.  After mixing all that in I got a nice dough that looked like this:

The great thing about this dough is with plenty of fat it was very easy to work with, not sticky at all.  I put it directly onto my counter (no added flour), patted it to about 3/4 inch thick, cut out biscuits, and put them all onto a piece of parchment paper directly on the oven rack for my toaster oven!

After baking at 400 for 20 minutes they were done.  They seemed a little dry so I spread more butter on top while they were hot.  They were very tasty & I am going to have the leftovers for breakfast tomorrow with some eggs and sausage too!  Yum!


Sunday, April 11, 2010

Honey Dijon Chicken

This post is a part of Tuesday Twister Blog Carnival at GNOWFGLINS

It used to be that boneless skinless chicken breasts were the majority of our chicken meals.  Since I  started insisting on humanely farmed chickens I have been buying whole chickens & roasting them.  This month I felt like something besides the same old roast chicken.  I decided to try my hand at cutting up the chicken, and I also happened to see a couple of different blog posts recently about cutting up your own chicken.

However, when I went to cut up my chicken, I did not have any of that information in front of me.  I can't exactly cut up a chicken on my desk.  (Has anyone invented a laptop computer that installs under your kitchen cabinets?  I think they really should- and make sure I get credit for the idea!)  Plus my son was using the computer, and I decided to let him stay occupied while I hacked my way into this chicken!  I got the wings and drumsticks off, that was easy enough.  But after that I kept flipping the bird over & over- everything looked the same.  I also got off - what are those?  thighs?  drumettes?  And I cut the breast meat off (quite a bit there).  I am not sure what all I did to this poor chicken, but I think it may be a crime somewhere...

What you see in the glass jar there in a honey Dijon marinade/cooking sauce.  Last time I made Honey Baked Chicken* for dinner there was plenty of sauce left in the pan, so I froze it & reused it one more time for this dinner.  I've had this recipe for a long time- it is so good & so easy.  A great company dish as well because it fills your home with yummy smells!  (My daughter actually asked, "Who's coming over?" when she smelled it baking.) 

Honey Baked Chicken
4 Tablespoons butter (1/2 stick)
1/2 cup honey
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 whole bone-in chicken breasts, halved (OK, this is funny- how many chickens have 3 breasts?  HA!) OR
    one 3 1/2 lb fryer (cut) OR boneless skinless chicken breasts

1. Turn on oven to 350.  In a 9x13 dish, melt butter in oven (while it is pre-heating).  Remove dish & mix in honey, mustard, curry, & salt.
2. Coat chicken pieces in butter mixture.  Bake skin side down 30 minutes.  Flip pieces & bake for 20 to 30 minutes more until browned (optional: basting occasionally- I never do though).  Reduce cooking time if using boneless chicken breasts.

*I think this recipe may have originally come from menu mailer @ Saving Dinner...
This is all I have to show you, because my family dug into it before I could get the camera out.  Some suggested go-alongs for this are green beans & cornbread (with honey butter) or salad & scalloped potatoes.  There is a super easy recipe for Cream Scalloped Potatoes at Heavenly Homemakers.  You will not believe how easy they are- just cream & potatoes- and my husband said they are "delectable"!  You could cook them at the same time/temp as the chicken & they should all be ready at the same time.

That same night I started marinating the chicken breasts for dinner the next night.  First I pounded them down (thinner pieces cook faster & also makes for more servings).  The recipe for Baked Chicken Breasts Supreme is another favorite of our family & great for company because the marinade makes the chicken really moist.  And making your own bread crumbs is another great use for failed (sourdough) bread!  I will share that recipe with you in my next post!


Thursday, April 8, 2010

Homemade "Mounds" or "Almond Joy" Candy

The other day my husband came home from work & saw my computer open to a page on The Nourishing Gourmet that featured a picture of her homemade "Mounds" candy.  Right away hubby started talking about how good they looked- and when I looked at the ingredients I thought, "I can make those!"  So I did  :)  Have you tried them yet?  If you like coconut & chocolate- you must!  They are UH-MAZE-ING!  If I had an award to give, I would certainly give her one for this recipe.

I used a mini muffin pan, so the recipe made 24 candies.  I used 2 "crispy" almonds in each one (you could do 3, or use chopped), so you would need at least 48 almonds this way.  Here's my 1 1/3 coconut in the bowl (I used unsweetened shredded instead of flaked) along with the teaspoon almond extract and 1/4 c. honey & 1/2 c. coconut oil that I melted in pot of hot water.  You don't have to use muffin liners & may not want to- I will go into that more...  Using almonds make these more of an "Almond Joy", but because it is a dark chocolate, not milk chocolate, it's kind of a "Mounds" & "Almond Joy" hybrid.
OK, so my 6 year old son is a camera fiend & he took this picture of me furiously stirring up my coconut/honey/oil mixture (and then he took 20 of the dog).  Sometimes his pictures actually turn out & I am so thankful for the "delete" button on digital cameras (as well as the fact that the sink of dirty dishes is behind me where you can't see it)!
Here is the coconut mixture sitting on top of the almonds. Next it goes into the freezer for 30 minutes, and you can work on the chocolate mixture (or spend some time deleting pictures from your digital camera).
Here is the coconut oil, tablespoon vanilla, scant 1/4 c. honey and 3/4 c. cocoa powder getting mixed together.  I want you to know I was almost out of coconut oil, so I only used 3/4 c. instead of the 1 c. called for & it still turned out great.  In fact this chocolate mixture is more than great, it's so-good-I-have-to-lick-the-bowl-clean great!
Oh yeah!  There it is- can you believe that ingredients this simple can make something this awesome?  Now, if you are using paper liners you have an extra step here- you have to remove the paper liners before you put the chocolate layer on- you see the cups are so full that the chocolate will run over the top & around your paper liners.  Not good.  So, why use paper liners?  Well, if you notice in my picture below my candies ended up looking "chocolate dipped" because the paper liners are smaller than the muffin cups, they freeze that way & then the chocolate goes all around them.  So, if that look is important to you- go for it- otherwise skip the paper liners!  By the way, if you use a tablespoon to measure the chocolate mixture on each candy it should work out just right.  Freeze for another 30 minutes or so, wait patiently, until...
My husband took one bite of these and said, "These are way better than Almond Joy!"  My daughter (11 year old milk-chocolate-loving-sweet-toothed one) said, "These aren't sweet enough" and as she was finishing it she said, "Can I have another one?"  LOL- yes!  Kimi says to store these in the freezer but we put them in a container & they store well in the refrigerator.

WARNING: these candies may cause serious cravings & consuming thoughts of... MORE!


This post is a part of Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Grrr granola & bread... yeah crackers!

This post is a part of Tuesday Twister at Gnowfglins 
and Real Food Wednesday at Kelly the Kitchen Kop

I want to tell you that I have a love/hate relationship with granola.  Before I started soaking all my grains I loved granola for breakfast.  Plain yogurt, honey, raisins and granola all together was sheer bliss for me!  I have not had granola for a while now, but with some yogurt in my fridge and some Soaked and Ready Oats left from my adventures in No Bake Granola Bars, I decided it was time to bring back some bliss by making granola!  Fool that I am!  You see the hate part with granola is I hate to make it.  I always burn it--- grrr!

One thing I've learned about granola is that if you use maple syrup instead of honey (or a mix there of) it will not burn as quickly as it does with just honey.  So, I found an old recipe I had for granola & instead of honey I used maple syrup.  Now, let me share with you some more lessons I've learned about granola:

 Isn't that a cute little batch of granola in my cute new toaster oven?  I had just enough oats for a half batch...
  • Granola has to be babysat.  Do not think you can get your granola going inside your oven & then go put your son to bed- the same son who will not stay in his bed long enough to fall asleep unless you lay there with him.  Especially do not do this if you are using a recipe that calls for baking at 350 and stirring every 10 minutes.  Try a lower temperature!  I started the granola, stirred after 10 minutes & then went in with my son- peeling myself away after what I thought was 10 minutes...

    I don't know if you can tell from this picture very well- but I came back to a tray full of smoking granola!  Don't you hate it when you burn food?  I mean really, if I'm going to do that, why don't I just save myself a whole lot of work & throw my money directly into the trash, right?  Part of the reason why this burned has to do with another granola lesson:

    • Make sure the granola is in an EVEN layer.  You see, it started out nice & even, but when I stirred it the first time I just left it uneven & lumpy.  The thin areas are where it burnt first.  I did manage to salvage a little bit of granola off the top.  Enough for about two servings- so here it is...

    A little too much of a "roasted" flavor, but not bad.  As soon as I can get to the store to buy more oats I am going to try Wardeh's recipe for raw soaked granola.  I don't have a dehydrator & the lowest my oven goes is to 170, so it won't be "raw" but I think I will use a temp of about 250 & take it slow.  Hopefully I will have a happier story to tell you soon!

    Now, I know most food blogs post wonderful pictures and recipes of marvelous food success stories.  However, I think it's good for me to share my failures with you sometimes- then you know it's OK to try something & not succeed at it!  Which brings me to my next sad story- sourdough bread.  I am still trying to find success in this arena.  I have been feeding and using my sourdough starter, keeping it out on the counter, and now in the dark cupboard, trying to find a way to make my own bread without using commercial yeast.

    A big reason why I want to do this is because once we are in Rwanda (see "my other blogs" on the side panel for more info on this) I would love to be able to make my own bread using natural yeasts.  The traditional bread in Rwanda is a flat bread made from flour, oil, and water, called Chapati.  Finding & buying commercial yeast is expensive.  The American style bread they sell in the stores comes in paper bags (the president of Rwanda has outlawed plastic bags).  Mostly it is white bread & stale!

    So, I tried again yesterday to make sourdough bread, and I am ..this.. close to just giving up!  Sarah  was sweet enough to come over to my blog & comment, after I talked about my attempt at her Sourdough multi-grain bread.  For my latest attempt at sourdough I decided to try a short/warm rise to see if it would be less sour.  Instead of starting the bread the night before I started it in the morning & put the dough in the oven with the light on & a pot of just-boiled water in there.  I let it "rise" for about 5 hours, but I think it needed more time.  I did the same thing with the second/in-pan rise, letting it "rise" (I put this in quotes because my dough did not rise much at all!) for about 7 hours.  And I should have read Sarah's comments sooner- then I might have remembered to slash my loaves so I didn't end up with the splitting-out-the-side look!
    These were a couple of small, dense loaves, but the good news is that they are not too sour- so the taste is OK!  I received a dehydrated Oregon Trail sourdough starter in the mail, which I need to revive & try out- so maybe here in a week or so I will see if this starter works better for me.

    And, just because I like every story to have a happy ending- let's talk about the Sourdough Crackers from Sarah's blog.  I love these crackers!  They don't care if your starter is active or not & they are a cinch to make!  The healthiest way to make these would be with sprouted flour, but since I don't have any I used spelt flour (first time using spelt too).  My cookie sheets are big enough that I divide the dough in half & roll it out, using an oiled rolling pin, onto parchment paper.
    The shape doesn't have to be perfect (obviously!).  The thinner you roll them the more of a chip-like texture they will have & stay crispier.  I use a pizza cutter to cut the dough before it bakes- so quick & easy!  You brush with olive oil & sprinkle with salt (I used sea salt).  I baked both of my sheets at the same time, on different racks.  Check them half way thru the cooking time to see if you need to rotate them.  I would also suggest you make these early enough in the day that they can sit out & cool for several hours, like start in the early afternoon.  These need to be completely cool & dry before you store them. 
    Great to have around as a snack and so much better for you than anything you can buy in the store!  Now I want to make some hummus to dip them in-  yum!