3.31.2010

Seven Grain and Brown Sugar Bread - Recipe


My experiments with hot cereal for breakfast were unfruitful. Yep, I still don't like squishy soggy grains for breakfast.  Luckily I know what to do with leftover hot cereal: make bread. I improvised this recipe from the recipe Oatmeal Molasses Bread from Earth to Table. It turned out delicious.

Jeff asked me why I didn't put the seven grain cereal on top instead of the oatmeal. Well, the oatmeal is prettier, don't you think? The results are a soft and sweet loaf of bread that needs just a little butter smeared on top. This recipe will work for any leftover hot cereal. It doesn't have to be leftover either, you can make fresh hot cereal if you like. 

Seven Grain and Brown Sugar Bread

1 cup cooked hot cereal (I used Bob's Redmill Seven Grain Cereal)
2/3 cup hot liquid (could be water, could be milk, could be coffee)
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
2 1/2 teaspoons yeast
3-4 cups unbleached flour

Step 1: Mix the hot cereal with your hot liquid and brown sugar. Stir in the melted butter, egg and salt. Then sprinkle the yeast over that and mix it in.

Step 2: Slowly stir in the additional flour. When the dough becomes very hard to stir, turn it out on the table and kneed in the rest of flour until you have a nice elastic dough. Take a good 10 minutes to get the bread well kneaded. The dough should still be slightly sticky after kneeding.

Step 3: Form the dough into a ball and cover it lightly with oil. Place it in a bowl and cover with a tea towel and let rise in a still oven until double in size (about 1 to 1.5 hours). Punch down the dough and turn it out on a floured surface. Divide it into three equal balls. Roll a ball out into a rectangle about 12x9. Starting at the narrow end, roll up the dough into a cylinder and pinch along the bottom to smooth and seal. Repeat with the other two dough balls. Place the cylinders of dough on a greased cookie sheet. Sprinkle oats or the dry seven grain cereal over the top of the dough and press it in. Allow the dough to rise for another 40 minutes.

Step 4: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Bake the loaves until they are golden brown, about 30 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Try to wait at least five minutes before you slice and serve warm with butter.

This bread is a little too soft for sandwich bread, but honestly it never lasts long enough for me to wonder what to do with it. We just keep slicing and eating it until all three little loafs are gone.

This post was submited to wildyeast.com.

3.30.2010

Hot Cereal Three Ways

I have never liked hot oatmeal. I know, I know, it's soooo good for me. But it's the texture, gooie and smooshy and not appetizing! I don't care how much honey and jelly and dried fruit and yogurt is mixed in, I don't like it. But I'm not giving up. There must be some version of hot cereal that I can enjoy eating.

I bake often with seven grain cereal and old fashion rolled oats. They are in my cupboard right now. This morning I decided to make the recipe on the back of the seven grain cereal package. I only made half the recipe. Basically 3 cups boiling water add a little salt and 2/3 cup dry cereal, reduce heat cover and mix occasionally until all the water is absorbed.

Then I looked at my favorite healthy food bloggers and looked at how they eat their hot cereal. The most common ways were: with a little peanut butter and honey, with some sort of fruit and yogurt and with pumpkin puree and cinnamon.  In an effort to find a way to eat hot cereal that I like I made a sampler breakfast of Hot Cereal Three ways. Jeff and I tried butternut squash cinnamon, Greek yogurt with raspberry puree and one with a dollop of peanut butter and honey.

Here's my review:


I didn't like the yogurt added in, it just made it slimier which didn't help the cause.

I did like the raspberry. This is some of the last of the raspberries that Jeff's grandma froze. I added a little honey to sweeten it up. It made the seven grain cereal hot pink. I can think of some little girls who might enjoy a naturally hot pink breakfast.

I didn't care for the squash and cinnamon. This is a huge thing in the fitness blogs these days. They all love their oats and pumpkin. Well I don't get it. I love squash and pumpkin puree, I'll eat it with a spoon, but I think I'll pass on it in my hot cereal.

The clear winner for me was the peanut butter honey combo. It brought out the naturally nutty flavor in the hot cereal. I still could only eat about a half cup, but it was better than the others.


After our little breakfast sampler experiment I still had a cup or two of cooked cereal. So I'm making some bread; a variation on the Oatmeal Molasses Bread that I love from Earth to Table. This one is Seven Grain Brown Sugar Bread. I'll fill you in one the recipe tomorrow. Here's a little sneak peak to wet your whistle:

3.29.2010

My Favorite Spring Bloom: Squill

Squill (Scilla siberica) are such a lovely color and so dainty. They are blooming in the Welcome Garden at Taltree. The yellow in the back ground are miniature daffodils. I am enjoying this colorful spring flower combination.

Squill will naturalize in an area and reseed themselves. One of the most beautiful examples of this is The Knoll on Iowa State's Campus. For a week or so in spring the lawn of The Knoll is sprinkled with little blue flowers.  Squill is beautiful planted into turf grass. (This might be the only time I admit there is something nice about turf grass.) The squill will bloom before the lawn needs mowing and by the time it needs to be mowed this spring ephemeral will have retreated back to its bulb. When planting keep in mind they cannot tolerate high foot traffic.  

3.28.2010

What Did You Do for Earth Hour?

Millions of people across the world united for Earth Hour on Saturday by switching off their lights in order to draw attention to the growing concerns of global warming.

8:30 pm on Saturday evening people switched off all non-essential lighting for an hour in order to reduce the global carbon footprint.

The event has been gathering momentum every year since the first Earth Hour was launched in Sydney, Australia three years ago. The 2010 Earth Hour is set to be the biggest yet by quite some margin as the message has spread virally on social networks such as Twitter and Facebook, as well as in the mainstream media.

Last year, 88 countries participated in Earth Hour, with more than 4,000 cities shutting off their lights to mark the event. Notable landmarks which participated in the global shutdown included San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, Rome’s Colosseum and the neon lights of Las Vegas.
This year more than half of America’s states will be marking Earth hour, a huge increase from the 80 million Americans in just eight states that took part last year. Earth hour could be supported by half a billion people this year worldwide if early indications prove correct.

“It reflects the conviction of people around the world that climate change is real, and we need to do something about it,” commented Carter Roberts, CEO of the World Wildlife Fund. Candlelit dinners are expected to be held in record numbers across the globe as millions switch off their lights for the good of the planet.  From Gnews

Jeff and I enjoyed some wine by candle light.  If only it had been Clos out of the box, it would have been just like Panama. What did you do?

Kitty in My Oven


Our cat likes to sit on the heating vents so I guess I shouldn't have been surprised when he climbed into the warm oven. He's a tropical jungle cat born and raised in Panama after all.  Want to know more about how we got a cat from Panama?  Here's the story of Zeus.

3.27.2010

New Skillet in the Kitchen

We have discovered our kitchen again. Almost all of it has been in storage since we left for Peace Corps in May 2007. We have bowls, plates, hot pads, spatulas and oh lots of exciting things. However, one thing we lack is a nice big skillet. I'm pretty sure I put one on our wedding registry but it was probably a hundred dollars. We got lots of other exciting stuff but no skillet. The good ones aren't cheap. I believe in good cookware. We will use it *hopefully* the rest of our lives.

Last week we were killing time waiting for our car to be fixed (something about an emissions filter needed replaced) so while we waited we walked across the street to the Marshalls. What I was looking for were pillow cases that actually go with the sheets and blankets on our bed. But what Jeff found was a Calphalon Contemporary Nonstick 12" Omelette with Cover for half off. We debated. We walked away, we walked back, we did the hokey pokey. It's not like we were going anywhere until we got the call that our car was ready.

Did we really need a fancy skillet? Would we use it? Do we really have $50 to spare? The answers were: No we don't need it, but we don't have any large skillets; yes it would be awesome and get lots of use; and I guess, moving has taken a huge chunk out of our budget, but we have $50 to spare. I think the words "investment in our kitchen" were uttered.

So we bought it and haven't looked back since. We already have the 2.5 quart sauce pan and love it. So I knew the skillet would be equally awesome. The best part is it has a lid and it's clear. Now I don't have to use a cookie sheet for a cover and I can see my eggs frying or onions browning. It's the little things that make me happy.

Now we can get rid of that ridiculous half wok, half skillet we inherited from a roommate in Savannah.

3.24.2010

How to Cook with Parsnips - Recipes and Ideas


Have you ever tried a parsnip?  What do think of them? 

They are a close relative to carrot, but they have a creamier texture when cooked and more of a celery flavor.  You can roast them, mash them, or put them in a stew. 

Parsnip is a vegetable that is harvested after the first hard frost in the fall.  The frost actually makes the parsnip sweeter.  If you don't harvest your parsnip in the fall you can leave it in the ground all winter and then as soon as the ground thaws in the spring, dig them up.  Here's a growing guide for parsnips if you are interested. 

This is a parsnip that was in the ground all winter. The estate where the founder of Taltree lives has a kitchen garden and they dug theirs up last week.  When I was offered a parsnip I accepted it gladly.  It was delicious and sweet.  Jeff made it into a lemon curry with tempeh - a variation on this recipe

Here are some other exciting recipes using parsnips:



3.23.2010

Baking with Duck Eggs - The Best Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies - Recipe


Jeff's specialty is chocolate chip cookies.  He makes the perfect cookie with a soft middle and crispy sides.  His secret?  He uses room temperature butter.  Not enough heat to turn it into a liquid, but nice and soft; about 30-50 seconds in the microwave.  Then he mixes the dough by hand. 

This time 'round I talked him into using a duck egg.  (For more about my recent foray into duck eggs along with ideas and recipe click here.) He used one duck egg in place of two chicken eggs.  These may be the best chocolate chip cookies ever.  The extra protein and fat in duck eggs is supposed to make them extra good for baking.  I think I'm a convert.
  
I had three chocolate chip cookies for a snack after work with a cup of tea.

They were good.  

I'm sad they are gone. 

If you want to try them here's Jeff's recipe:

The Best Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies - Made with Duck Eggs

2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup salted butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 duck egg
2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
1/2 cup old fashion rolled oats
Step 1:  Preheat the oven to 375° F.

Step 2: Mix flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. In a large bowl beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract until creamy. Add duck egg, beat well. Gradually stir in the flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chips and oatmeal. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

Step 3:  Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Yields: 36 cookies

Nutrition: Each cookie has 123 calories, 8 grams of fat, 0.5 grams of fiber, 2.5 grams of protein and 6 grams of sugar. 

3.22.2010

Rustic Leek and Potato Soup - Vichyssoise - Recipe


The French have a fancy name for leek and potato soup: vichyssoise. Pronounced "vee-SHEE-swas" or something like that. This is a simple creamy soup that you likely have all the ingredients on hand except maybe the leeks. It is worth the trouble of picking up some leeks on the way home to enjoy this warming soup on a gray day like this. It may be March, but winter isn't done with us yet.

This soup can be served all chunky and delicious or pureed for a more sophisticated finish. Either way have a loaf of crusty bread and some sharp cheese ready to serve with it.


Rustic Leek and Potato Soup - Vichyssoise

4-5 lb of leeks (about 3 large)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
5 1/4 cups chicken broth (I used Better than Bullion paste)
1 bay leaf
1 3/4 lbs red potatoes (about 5 medium), peeled and cut into 3/4 inch cubes
Step 1: Clean your leeks well. Leeks are grow best in silty soil and the grit gets between the tight leaves. Here's a tutorial on how to get your leeks squeaky clean. Then chop the leeks into 1 inch slices.

Step 2: Heat the butter in a large pot over medium heat. When the butter starts foaming add the leeks. Stir to coat and increase the heat to medium, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the leeks are tender but not mushy, 15-20 minutes. Do not let the leeks brown. Sprinkle the tablespoon of flour over the leeks and mix it in. Allow a couple minutes for the flour to dissolve.

Step 3: Increase the heat to high; whisking constantly, gradually add the stock (or equivalent bullion and water). Add the bay leaf and potatoes, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce until the potatoes are almost tender, 5-7 minutes. Take the pot off the heat and let stand covered for an additional 10 minutes. Discard the bay leaf and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Step 4: You can serve the soup now and enjoy the chunks of potato and leek or you puree it for a smoother texture. An immersion blender is the easiest option or you may batch the soup through a food processor or blender. Another option would be to blend part of the soup so you get the creamy broth and the chunks - so many options. Don't forget to take out the bay leaf before pureeing. I forgot and I had a couple spoonfuls with twiggy little bits. Oops.

Leek and Potato soup will store a couple days in the fridge or freeze for several months. When reheating be sure to warm gently, do not allow the soup to boil. Boiling will cause curdling.

3.21.2010

How to Clean Leeks


Leeks are a wonderful cool weather vegetable. They require a silty sandy soil to grow and unfortunately that grit winds up between the leaves and will get into the cooking if you’re not careful. There are two good methods to make sure you get all the silt out of your leeks the Fan and Swish.


Both methods start with slicing the leeks into quarters lengthwise. Slice all of the light and dark green part, but leave the white end with the roots intact.

The Fan Method
Use your hands to fan out the leaves of the leek as you run it under cool water.

The Swish Method


Fill a large bowl with tepid water and up end your leave into the bowl and swish and swirl the leek up and down from side to side rapidly to get the dirt out. You'll be surprised how dirty the water is when you are done.

Now you have nice clean leeks ready for use in delicious recipes like Leek and Potato Soup which is coming up tomorrow.

3.18.2010

How to use Duck Eggs - Recipes and Ideas


I found a local source of eggs in Valparaiso, Indiana. It's an on your honor type deal. So I stopped by after work and found all that was left was a half dozen duck eggs with $2.50 written on the side. So I figured let's try duck eggs.

They are huge.  Above is a picture of a chicken egg next to one of the duck eggs.  I put up a plea on FaceBook asking for suggestions on what to do my new acquisition.  A friend suggested this link from The New Agrarian.There is information on cooking, frying and baking with duck eggs.

Chocolate chip cookies made with a duck egg.  
According to this source duck eggs have more fat in the yolk and more protein in the white than chicken eggs and thus need a gentler touch and lower heat than chicken eggs. As for baking, the extra fat makes baked goods richer while the extra protein makes for more fluff and thus lighter texture. That seems good to me. I'll have to make some muffins or bread to test this claim. I also hear they are really good in custards and ice-creams.  I tried making chocolate chip cookies with a duck egg and they were amazing.  Here's the recipe: The Best Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies.

As for nutrition, how do duck and chicken eggs compare? The average duck egg has 130 calories, 9.5 grams of fat and 9 grams of protein. An extra large jumbo chicken egg (which is about the same size as a duck egg) has 90 calories, 6 grams of fat and 8 grams of protein.   If you want to compare more eggs check out this link that compares the nutrition of many eggs including: duck, chicken, goose, quail and turkey.

And here are some Duck Egg Recipes to get the ideas flowing:

Purple sprouting broccoli with prosciutto duck egg
Fresh fettuccine with ricotta, spring onions and fried duck egg
Leche flan made with duck eggs
Red potato salad with bacon and duck eggs
Raspberry duck egg custard tart
Oeufs en cocotte - French for egg casserole


Tonight Jeff is making Old Country Pie (basically a vegetarian shepard's pie) from The Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen.  He used one duck egg in place of the two chicken eggs.  I'll let you know how it goes tomorrow.  Here's a picture of the pie before it went in the oven:

3.17.2010

Oatmeal Scones with Pecans and Currants - Recipe

I thought about making Irish Soda Bread in honor of Saint Patrick's Day, but Jeff reminded me I don't really like Irish Soda Bread. Instead I made oatmeal scones. Oatmeal is Irish, right?

I used a recipe from The New Best Recipe cookbook by Cook's Illustrated for the base. I substituted currants for the dried cherries and pecans for the hazelnuts. I make do with what I got. The organic dried cherries were almost $8 for a half cup packet. Yikes!

To get a nice hearty oatmeal flavor and still maintain a fluffy texture Cook's Illustrated recommends toasting the oats for flavor and baking at a high temperature for fluff. I baked them at 450 degrees like the recipe said, but I burned the bottom. I'm thinking this new oven runs hot. I need to get an oven thermometer to find out.  Or maybe the temperature should be brought down a notch.

The toasted oatmeal brought great flavor and the scones had a nice craggy texture. Not quite as soft as their white flour equivalent, but enough to keep the texture light. I had one for breakfast this morning and it was just the right amount of sweet to go with my morning cup of coffee.

Oatmeal Scones with Currants and Pecans

1 1/4 cup rolled oats

1/4 cup pecans
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup milk
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1/2 cup currants
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons butter chilled, cut into 1/2 inch chunks.

Step 1: Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Spread the oats evenly on a baking sheet and toast them in the oven until they are fragrant and starting to turn brown. They go from brown to black very quickly so keep your eye on them. It should take about 7 minutes to toast your oats. Set the oats aside to cool and increase the oven temp to 450 degrees. Reserve 2 tablespoons of oats for dusting the work surface.

Step 2: Combine the milk, yogurt, egg in a bowl. Reserve 1 tablespoon of the mixture for glazing the top of the scones.

Step 3: Place the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into the food processor and blend until combined (four 1-second pulses). Sprinkle the chunks of chilled butter around in the flour mixture. Pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs and no large chunks of butter remain. In a large bowl combine the butter flour mixture with the toasted oats. Make a well in the center and add the liquid ingredients. Gently fold together with a wooden spoon. Use your hands to gently combine the mixture into a ball.

Step 4: Dust the work surface with half of the reserved oats. Sprinkle a baking sheet with the reserved oats and then put the ball of dough into the middle and pat until it is a 7-9 inch circle. Brush the top with the reserved milk mixture. Then cut the dough into 8 wedges with a serrated knife. Bake until golden brown (12-14 minutes). Cool the scones on a wire rack and serve or store in an air tight container.

Enjoy with coffee or a tall glass of milk.

3.16.2010

A Little Spot of Sunshine in the Garden

I spotted these Dutch Crocuses (Crocus x hybridus) in the welcome garden at Taltree Gardens and Arboretum this Monday.  They must have opened up over the weekend.  They are a welcome burst of color in the spring garden. 
A more subtle flower is coming up through the leaves over in the Oak Island beds. This is a Christmas Rose (Helleborus niger 'Double Fantasy'). Hellebores are more of a gardener's garden flower. They don't have the show stopping display of brightly colored tulips, but they do have a complex flower structure that inspires the consummate gardeners to get their cameras out and scrawl down the name to make sure they find some for their garden.

I was sure excited to see them yesterday.

3.15.2010

My Favorite Part of Our New Apartment

Here's the best part of our apartment; the big bay window with our dinner table in the middle. Actually that's this desk from Target. We found parts of it in a dumpster at our apartment in Iowa before we left for Peace Corps. I talked Jeff into saving the pieces and with some extra screws and newly drilled holes it has been modified as an excellent kitchen table.

I am also enjoying the bookshelves flanking the sides; they almost look like built-ins. The bar stool in the right corner has aspiration of becoming a plant stand; we just need to find it a plant.

The bay window faces west and if I ever get home early enough (day light savings is helping my cause) it has a really stunning view of the sunset.

This is my favorite apartment in the history of our apartments.

3.11.2010

First Flowers of Spring: Snow Drops, Witch Hazel and Aconites

Spring is peaking out from under the fallen oak leaves here at Taltree Arboretum and Gardens. I took a little walk around Taltree and looked at the Welcome Gardens and Pavilion Garden today. It’s the first time I walked around like a visitor. Well, not quite like a visitor, I had a species list in hand and in the back of my mind I was noting things that will need work sooner rather than later.

In just about every bed I found the earliest spring blooms.

Witch Hazel (shown above) is one of my favorites. This is Witch Hazel ‘Superba’ (Hamamelis mollis). It has such beautiful sunset colors and it has a spicy fragrance.

Around the pavilion yellow buds of aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) are poised to open. One more warm day and we’ll have sunny little flowers.


The last spring ephemeral I came across was this cluster of snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) .

Proof that spring is on its way.

3.06.2010

We Have the Keys to Our New Place!

We are currently living in box central. There are basically two paths one to the kitchen and one through the bedroom into the bathroom. I have also discovered I can get internet if I sit in the bay window! Our internet doesn't come for five business days.

We came in around 4pm yesterday. It took us a couple hours to unload everything in the van but the dresser and vanity. We tried to get the queen sized box springs up the stairs, but they are an inch too wide. We sat on the stairs and scratched our head. What do we do now? What if we can't get the box springs in? It looks like the person who lives in the other half of the top floor has two doors, a back and front door. Perhaps we can get the box springs up through his side.

By the end my arms and legs were shaky and I just wanted food and sleep. We got a hot meal and then, squished the mattress and just barely got it up the stairs. We hunted down some sheets, pillows and blankets and slept on the mattress on the floor.


Today we have unloaded the cars and moved the bedroom furniture up. I'm starting to unpack the kitchen. The cabinets are really high; I can barely reach the middle shelf. And the top shelf? Not a chance. It's like you'd need to be six and half feet tall for this kitchen. Jeff should be right at home. I on the other hand will have to wear stilts to cook, or at least some 1970's disco platforms. Perhaps I could get the kind with goldfish swimming in the heels.

3.04.2010

The Moving has Commenced

We have a moving van and we are loading it.  We drive on Friday. 

I always think I am prepared for moving and then we start.  If we can just get enough sleep and eat healthy I think this will all go well. 

Next time I post we'll be in Indiana.