A Season for Baking

I know that fall has arrived and feels like it has already passed in many parts of the country.  Now that we are in Chapel Hill, the signs of fall are less abundant.  You have to search for auburn leaves crackling in the wind. While the grocery stores are filled with mums, winter squash, and pumpkins I am wearing short sleeves and sunglasses.  My windows have been open all day and the dogs have been basking in the sunshine.  The only hint of real autumn is the crisp air in the morning.  The temperatures are dropping at night into the forties only to climb back into the mid-seventies by late morning.  I feel pulled and dragged back and forth between summer’s sunshine and fall’s ingredients.  What foods are “in season” here?  There’s a whole new cooking learning curve for me.  Good thing the farmer’s market is just a brisk Saturday morning walk away.  In the meantime, I am taking advantage of the cool mornings and evenings to crank up the oven to make some “every” season favorites.

 

 

 

 

Since the first time I made homemade granola, I haven’t spent another penny on a box or bag of it.  It takes a little bit of time, but it comes together quickly and easily. You mix up the ingredients, spread them on a cookie sheet, and bake on a low heat until golden brown and your house smells like sweet, roasted nuts and oats.  It doesn’t get much better than this.

First chop up 2 cups of nuts.  I used 1 cup of cashews and 1 cup of almonds this time, but you can use anything you like.  Mix them with 3/4 cup of shredded, unsweetened coconut (You can leave this out, if you have coconut haters at home, but I suggest you try it.  I have converted many a coconut hater with my granola). Finally add 3 cups of old fashioned oats, 3/4 t of salt, and 1/4 cup plus 2 T dark brown sugar.  I have used regular brown sugar before, but the dark gives a lovely depth of flavor.

In a separate bowl combine 1/4 cup plus 2 T real maple syrup, honey, or agave with 1/4 c oil and mix well with the dried ingredients.  Spread it on a baking sheet with a lip or a 13×9 baking pan.  Bake at 250 for 1 hour and 15 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.  I find it is best to keep track of how long it’s been in the oven.  I use my dry erase board to keep track of the minutes, burning your lovely granola will not be lovely.  After the first stir, you will notice that the house is beginning to smell heavenly.  This is only one of the reasons to make your own granola.  I don’t think a candle company has replicated this aroma.

After an hour and fifteen minutes, the granola will be golden brown and the nuts will be wonderfully toasty.  If you can wait, let it cool.  If not, grab a handful.  You will not be disappointed.

Feel free to add your own flair.  I generally mix some ground flax seeds to the granola after it comes out of the oven.  Adding cinnamon, nutmeg, or other spices to the mix is also lovely.  Raisins or other dried fruits are a natural addition to granola.  A bit of vanilla extract or vanilla bean infused in the liquids can’t be wrong.

Personally, I eat my granola every morning with a bit of Greek-styled yogurt and local honey or a bit of fruit.  Someday, I will have to share with you how I make my yogurt so you can know how amazing that process can be and how delectable the outcome!  The Philosopher drowns his granola in milk and adds fresh berries or bananas.  Since it’s fall, roast up some apples with cinnamon in the oven and top them with some granola and a little vanilla ice cream.  Simple apple crisp!  Toss your granola in your homemade trail mix, toss a few pieces in your pancakes after pouring them on the griddle for another breakfast treat, or give it away as a gift.  People love granola, yet most don’t realize how easy it is to make!  Last year, a good friend made homemade granola and packed it in gift bags for the holidays. Yep, that’s a great gift!

Store your granola in a container with a tight-fitting lid.  One batch usually lasts a few weeks around here.

So dear readers, wherever you are and whatever season your body thinks it is, cook and eat well.  How are you enjoying the changing seasons?

 

 

 

 

KitK Cooking Extravaganza

 

This post is sadly delayed.  Rachel and I spent a glorious couple of days together early in August.  We went to see my friend Catherine Murray of Photo Kitchen perform at Columbus’ Pecha Kucha.  We explored the Columbus Zoo with the Philosopher’s family.  We ate fabulous breakfasts at Skillet and Northstar.  All in all, I would say it was another Karma in the Kitchen reunion success.  And like last time, Rachel and I cooked.  A lot.  I roped Rachel into joining me in the sweaty world of canning.  I ordered extra tomatoes from The Sippel Family Farm to make tomato chutney.  I scoured the local peach and blueberry options to make jam.  And I purchased tons of Snowville milk and cream to make homemade ricotta.  Oh yes.  We stayed busy in the kitchen!

First, we prepped tomatoes for tomato chutney.  We used this recipe as a base, but we significantly reduced the amount of sugar (by half).  Here’s what we ended up doing:

8lbs of tomatoes, peeled, cored and chopped (the easiest way to do this is score an X on the bottom of a tomato, drop it in boiling water for a few minutes and then put in cold water.  The skins should pop of easily.  Then remove the core and chop.)  , 2 heads of minced garlic, 2 chopped onions, 1c brown sugar, 1/2c white sugar, 3c apple cider vinegar, 3 limes, zested and juiced, 2T fresh minced ginger, 4t dried hot pepper flakes, 2t cumin, 1c golden raisins chopped roughly by hand, and salt and pepper to taste.  We combined the ingredients in a stockpot and simmered all day.  I think it took about 5 hours for the chutney to finally thicken.  Stir it often, as the sugar will make it scorch easily.  We ladled the chutney into 1/2 pint jelly jars, leaving a 1/4″ headspace.  They were processed in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.  We ended up with 12 jars of chutney.

 

Next, Rachel and I prepped peaches and blueberries for jam.  We peeled, cored, and roughly sliced 10 pounds of peaches (save the peels!).  We added 2 quarts of blueberries, washed well.  3 lemons were zested and juiced and added to the fruit.  We added sugar to taste, I prefer a slightly tart and less sweet jam.  So for our fruit, we added about 5 cups of granulated white sugar.  The fruit simmered happily on the stove until thickened.  I used a bit of Pomona’s Universal Pectin near the end to finish firming it up well.  Test for firmness by putting a bit of jam on a spoon and popping in the freezer for a few minutes.  When you have reached your desired firmness, you are ready to can.  We used 1/2 pint jars, placed 1t of bottled lemon juice on top of the jam after leaving 1/4″ of headroom, and processed in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.  We ended up with 12 jars and a good sized bowl to go with our dessert that night!

I know you are trying to figure out why you should save your peels.  Well, here goes.  We simmered the peach peels with sugar and water making a simple syrup.  We then combined the strained syrup, fresh mint, sparkling water, a dash of fresh lime, and Middle West Spirits vodka together for a fabulous after dinner cocktail.  You should definitely save the peach peels!

Lastly, we made a batch of homemade ricotta using Smitten Kitchen’s recipe.   Her instructions are so clear and easy to follow, I am not going to retype them for you.  But I am going to insist that you drop what you are doing, grab some local milk, and MAKE RICOTTA CHEESE.  Immediately.  Rachel and I were sneaking bites while the ricotta was still straining.  We just couldn’t help ourselves.  We decided that a piece of bread, topped with a smear of ricotta and some tomato chutney was a fabulous way to begin our dinner.  The play of the sweet and spicy chutney against the creamy goodness of the ricotta kept us reaching for more.  And more.  Happy faces all around that evening.  And into the next days lunch.  And breakfast.  And snack.  And dinner.  Oh ricotta.  You made us so happy!

 

 

 

 

 

A quick glance at the table reveals that I also made my infamous tomato tart.  Now, I bet you wish an invitation to our dinner party had graced your door, huh?

But I haven’t even covered dessert yet!  You should know that a meal like this requires a beautiful, tasty, butterfat-laden dessert.  Unfortunately you will have to go without a picture, but trust me, this recipe for a ricotta cheesecake should not be ignored.  The only changes to the directions were made because the recipe made more filling than my pie pan allowed, so we filled two small oven-safe glass bowls also.  We also popped an oven safe bowl filled with water in the oven to produce a nice, steamy environment for our baking dessert.  You should immediately forget everything you ever thought you knew about cheesecake.  Cream cheese has nothing on this heavenly light, slightly lemony dessert.    Perfect for leftovers!  We dolloped some peach and blueberry jam and ate to our hearts content under the stars of an August night.  It doesn’t get much better than this!

Ah Rachel.  Never is my kitchen karma so great as when I have the perfect cooking partner.  It’s comforting to know she’s willing to experiment with me.  Tasting something again and again.  Tossing in a little of this and a little of that until we both find our own recipe nirvana.  We work well together also, Rachel and I.  While I chopped onions and minced garlic for the chutney, she was peeling and coring tomatoes.  While she peeled peaches and washed blueberries, I was at the store for a few forgotten items (ok, ok.  I ran to the store twice in 20 minutes for twice forgotten items!)  What’s great is that cooking is the perfect way to catch up on the last few months.  A phone call here or a gchat there is great, but nothing beats a sweaty, sticky day in the kitchen to learn about new friends, new apartments, new jobs, and old stories.

This is going to be my last post for awhile.  The Philosopher was offered a job at UNC Chapel Hill and I am currently packing up our belongings, getting estimates from moving companies, and selling our collected stuff!  I hope to be back to blogging and cooking by the beginning of October.  Our new city has a year-round farmer’s market that is apparently in the top ten nationwide.  I would certainly say that the south sounds welcoming to me!

Unfortunately, we are also having to say goodbye to our dear friends and neighbors.  While Columbus is a great town for many reasons, the people whose lives have intersected ours have truly made this city our home.  From old colleagues, to new classmates, neighbors, children, doggies, and coworkers, we have been fortunate to have our lives filled with amazing people that have loved us and supported us.  We have many warm memories and many homes that we plan to visit again soon.  A piece of our hearts and our lives will be left in this town and we truly have you all to thank for it.  While we welcome the challenge of forming a new community in NC, we will continue to stay connected to those people who made the Bus our home for 2 years.  Thank you all!  We love you dearly!

Detox Detour: Donuts.

Need I say more?  Today my friend Jess came over and we made donuts together.  You are already jealous, I could stop here.  But I won’t, because I’m sadistic like that.  I can give you a little gluten free love, though, with what we made first for brunch, which was a sweet potato frittata.  My real camera batteries were dead, so you will have to cope with the underwhelming iPod photos.

It was inspired by this recipe, but turned out to be vegetarian (no bacon y’all) and not nearly as thick.  I think my eggs were small and I didn’t use a whole onion or that much spinach.  Also, I used goat cheese instead of feta, which is tangier and not as salty.  I threw a little nutmeg and cayenne on top, because those are my go to spices for sweet potato dishes.  And I didn’t broil it in the oven, I just baked it for 10 minutes or so, to get the top a little brown and to make sure the egg was set.

This turned out amazing.  There were only two of us, but we ate 3/4 of the whole thing and then I finished the rest for dinner.  I decided the reason it was so delicious, besides liking each of the ingredients separately, is that it had all the flavors.  So, the sweet potato was sweet, the egg was a little salty, the crunchy almost burned bottom was a little bitter, the goat cheese added a little sour, and the onion/spinach combo was pretty savory.  In every bite, you were able to experience all the flavors.  Did I forget any?  It also had an excellent density, with the egg staying fluffy and the sweet potato reaching that stage of creaminess that only sweet potatoes can find.

It turned out so well that I’m kind of excited about making other frittatas and soon.  It was really easy, and while it required a lot of eggs, it was a good way to get a lot of delightful tastes into one mouthful.

You might be like me and be a little nervous about heating up a quart of oil to 375 degrees on your stove top, but rest assured, making the frittata was the most dangerous thing we did all day.  Jess cut her hand on the mandolin, slicing perfect sweet potato rounds, and I burned my fingers taking the frying pan out of the oven.  It’s really a wonder that we persevered on to making doughnuts, but let’s be honest, what better way to sooth our wounded selves than with some sweet puffed sugar coated goodness?

For the donuts (please note that I am using donuts instead of doughnuts because I don’t want to keep typing doughnuts all the time; this is likely the same reason the shorter version was developed in the first place), we used this recipe for the most part.  It was most aggravatingly sticky at first, even though I put it in the fridge for about 30 minutes, but with a little more flour and some coaxing, we were able to get it to calm down and we made it into donut shapes.  Turned out that the holes were more satisfying, but if you are going to make donuts and talk about it, you have at least make a few that look like the traditional donut.

The oil was a little tricky, mostly in maintaining the correct temperature.  We put the burner on high to get the oil heating, and when it got into the range we needed, we turned it down to low, but it kept rising well over 400.  So, we had to take a little hiatus while waiting for the oil to cool down again.  It ended up sticking right around 365, but that seemed to do the trick, because it was definitely cooking our doughnuts into the most wonderful little bundles of joy.  We had the dough about 1/2 inch thick, and it looks really flat, like you are going to have flat donuts, but they definitely plump up.  The coolest part is when you first put them in and they sink to the bottom and then within a few seconds, they rise to the top and sometimes they even flip themselves for you.

The donuts were awesome even without anything on them.  I love cake donuts, so this type of recipe was a natural choice.  However, yeast donuts seem a little bit tricky, more difficult to get right; it makes me want to try them.  Jess was talking about potato donuts, make partially with mashed potatoes, which I am still trying to wrap my head around.  So there may be more donut posts in the future.

Cinnamon Sugar DonutsFor the ones which we didn’t eat immediately, we dumped some in cinnamon sugar.  They tasted just like the fresh donuts you get at the fair or outdoor markets.  For the others, Jess whipped up a lovely maple glaze.  I couldn’t decide which way I liked best.   I think some chocolate icing with coconut would have been amazing, but really I was just pleased to have made donuts at all.

The real question, at the end, was what to do with the oil.  You can’t dump it down the drain, you can’t pour it into your trash can.  My thought was to put it back in the bottle, which we did, but Jess suggested straining it so that we could use the same oil for donuts again in the future.  I feel good about this proposition, and now I have a bottle of donutty oil sitting in my cupboard.

Well, I hope you have enjoyed this brief detour from the detox fast.  I can assure those of you who are tending towards a diet that is gluten free that at your request, we would be glad to try our hands at gluten-free donuts.  We may have to do that anyway, because my roommate has been sentenced to a gluten-free diet for basically the rest of her life.  I would love to hear other folks’ stories about making donuts at home and whether you have any hints that would add to our approach to donut making in the future!

The Diet: Day 11

We can claim that this was a cleaning out the fridge and freezer cooking day.  As mentioned yesterday, I recently realized I had a ton of stuff frozen to use this winter that I haven’t gotten to yet.  Today, I decided to make more gluten-free breakfast muffins using zucchini and yellow squash I shredded and froze for bread.  I used the same recipe as Day 7, but substituted the squash for the carrots and raisins.  I still added coconut.  One thing I hadn’t considered was how much liquid is in summer squash.  I omitted the water in the recipe and still ended up using a little more brown rice flour and garbanzo flour to thicken it up.  I have to say that they aren’t nearly as far from my mother’s zucchini bread as I feared they would be.  In fact, they are quite delicious!

For dinner I made an Indian-styled dish with fridge leftovers; spinach and green beans.  First, I pressure cooked some garbanzo beans, I used the equivalent of one can in the dinner.  Next, I warmed 1t mustard seeds in olive oil until they popped.  Then I added 4-5 pinches of garam masala, 1/8-1/4t cayenne (depends on personal preference), 1/2t ground coriander, 1/2t ground cumin, and 1/2 t turmeric,   I added a bit of coconut oil after the herbs were fragrant and added one sliced onion.  When tender, add 2 cloves of minced garlic and a good grating of fresh ginger (1 or more tablespoons).  Then I added about 1 pound of fresh green beans and one can of unsweetened coconut milk.  I covered the pan and allowed to simmer for about 5 minutes until the beans were nearly soft.  I added ~1c frozen peas and 1 c garbanzo beans.  I simmered until the peas were warmed and wilted a few ounces of fresh spinach.  This was served over rice to happy bellies.  A gentle heat from the cayenne was balanced well by the coconut milk.  The other spices warmed my palate and the slight crunch of the vegetables and beans offered a great texture.  All in all, it was a great dinner.

My puppies were jealous of our meal and protested by looking pitifully cute.

What did you eat tonight?

The Diet: Day 10

Spring always comes with surprises, like a dusting of freshly fallen snow on my spring flowers yesterday.  The strength of tulips and daffodils to withstand freezing temperatures assures me that I too will survive the cold, dark days of finals week and emerge upon spring break soon.

I also suddenly remembered all the food I stored to get us through the winter and began realizing that our CSA will begin in another month or so and I still have a ton of stuff in the freezer!  So, for breakfast, I decided to use some the pumpkin puree from the fall.  We received a bunch of pumpkins from our CSA and I spent an afternoon last fall roasting and pureeing the insides and toasting the seeds (after they had served as decorations on our front step for a few weeks, of course!).  I froze 2c servings and have made muffins and breads with them often throughout the winter.

This morning, I decided to make pumpkin waffles.  Unfortunately, I forgot that I had never purchased cooking spray that can be used on this diet.  Therefore, pumpkin waffles became pumpkin pancakes quickly.  I used a few recipes for proportions, but could find no recipe that fit all our dietary needs.  So here’s what I did:

First, I added the vanilla seeds and pod from one vanilla bean to 2c almond milk and stirred together.  Let vanilla flavors mix well until needed.  Remove pod to use with wet ingredients.

Sift 2 1/2c all purpose gluten-free flour, 2 1/2t gluten-free baking powder, 1/2t baking soda, 1/2t salt, 2t cinnamon, 1t ground ginger, 1/2t nutmeg, 1/4t cloves, and 1/2t xanthan gum.

In separate bowl, whisk almond milk, 1 15 oz can pumpkin puree–not pumpkin pie filling (or n my case, 2 c defrosted pumpkin puree), 1/3c safflower oil, and 1/3c agave.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients.  Stir in 1/2-3/4c old fashioned gluten-free oats.  I used 3/4c, which would have been perfect in waffles, but made pancakes a little too thick.  Let the batter rest for ~5 minutes to allow oats to soften.

Make waffles according to directions of maker.  Or grease pan with coconut oil and pour pancakes.  Serve with maple flavored agave or roasted apples.  Enjoy!

We will be eating leftovers from Day 9 for dinner and will have hummus and veggies, apples with cashew butter, and leftover muffins for lunch.

Spring always comes with surprises, like a dusting of freshly fallen snow on my spring flowers yesterday.  The strength of tulips and daffodils to withstand freezing temperatures assures me that I to will survive the cold, dark days of finals week and emerge upon spring break soon.

Spring always comes with surprises, like a dusting of freshly fallen snow on my spring flowers yesterday.  The strength of tulips and daffodils to withstand freezing temperatures assures me that I to will survive the cold, dark days of finals week and emerge upon spring break soon.

The Diet: Day 7

One week in, how are we doing?

We have nearly finished my granola, so tomorrow will likely be the last breakfast with it featured until I make more.  We also still have a bunch of lentils and veggies from Day 4 that will suffice for lunches tomorrow.  I went to the store today in preparation for tomorrow’s dinner.  I plan to try to replicate Chipolte’s veggie burrito bowl.  I am making black beans, fajita veggies, and cilantro-lime brown rice.  We shall see how it turns out.

I just finished baking carrot muffins for breakfast for the next few days.  These guys are my take on a recipe in “Flying Apron’s Gluten-Free and Vegan Baking Book” by Jennifer Katzinger.  Of course, I made changes.  The most important was to go from three mixing bowls to two.  Dishes are important to consider.   Do you want to wash muffin tins and a grater and the measuring cups and the measuring spoons and the spatula and the whisk and the three mixing bowls?  I don’t think so.

First, peel and grate 1 1/4c carrots (between 4-6 depending on the size of your carrots).  Set aside. (I left them on my cutting board).  The picture is of the peelings which I froze to make vegetable stock.

Measure and mix 2c brown rice flour, 1 1/4c garbanzo bean flour, 1/4c ground flax, 1 1/2 t baking soda, 3/4t kosher or sea salt, 1 1/2t ground cinnamon, 1/2t nutmeg, and 1/4t ground cloves together.

In a second bowl, combine 1c safflower oil, 2c water, 2c agave syrup, and the beans from one vanilla pod.   I found this nearly impossible to mix together due to separation.  So don’t fret if you find the same problem.  Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients.  When you have emptied one bowl add the carrots to it.  Also add 2 1/2c unsweetened coconut and 1 c golden raisins.  You can also add 2 c of chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans would be best, but I have not found any that are peanut-free at my local store) but I left them out.

Pour into greased muffin tins and bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes, until the tops are firm to the touch.  *Hint:  I greased my muffin tins with safflower oil.  I simply poured a little oil in and used a kitchen towel to spread it around.  Since I don’t remember the last time I purchased paper towels, this works well!

*Note:  This recipe made 2 dozen muffins.  The recipe said it would make 15, but I have no idea what size of muffins the author made, they were definitely larger than my standard muffin tin.  If this seems like a lot, halving the recipe could be perfect!

Of course I had to taste the batter, since for once there were no raw eggs to worry about.  I had high hopes for the muffins after the first taste!  And the first warm bite did not disappoint.  Other thoughts, I totally don’t miss eggs or gluten.  I think there is enough oil and other moisture adding items that the texture is exactly what you want in a baked good.  I would make these again.  Maybe with grated granny smith apples next time.  Or some of my frozen pumpkin puree from our CSA.  So many options!

The Diet: Day 3

I am posting early today because there are plenty of leftovers in the fridge from Day 1 and Day 2 to get us by for lunch and dinner.  But breakfast, ohh breakfast.  This was time for something special.  This morning I made a breakfast risotto.  It was slightly sweet with wonderful, lingering spices.  We shall call it:

Chai Risotto with Baked Apples

First, slice one apple thinly and arrange in a baking pan of your choice.  Whisk together 1-2T agave syrup (I used the maple-flavored syrup) and a splash of lemon juice (I used the bottled stuff for this).  Then I added the seeds from half a vanilla pod.  (Save the pod for the risotto!)  After stirring together well, I brushed the mixture on top of the apples and put them in a 350 oven.

While they are baking, warm 3 cups of unsweetened almond milk with the reserved vanilla pod, the other half of the seeds (and the pod), fresh grated nutmeg, a cinnamon stick, 1/8t ground cloves, and 1/4t of ground cardamom.  In a separate pot, melt ~2T coconut oil over medium heat.  Add 1c arborio rice and stir together for 2 minutes.  Add a ladle of warmed spiced milk and stir until incorporated.  Repeat until all milk is incorporated.

Keep checking the apples.  Just before pulling them out, I added a little coconut oil to help them brown.  Total, apples took less time than the risotto, probably 10-15 minutes.

When the risotto is finished, make sure you remove any vanilla pods and the cinnamon stick.  I found I wanted a little more spice, so I added more freshly grated nutmeg and some ground cinnamon.  I also felt it need a little sweet finish, so I added a little plain agave (less than 1 tablespoon).  Serve with sliced apples on top.  Enjoy!

This was a hearty breakfast that will stick to your ribs.  The Philosopher said that “It tastes like nothing I have ever eaten before….but it’s good.”  So there you go.  Breakfast like you have never had before.  Hearty and warming.  Slightly sweet and bright.  This is a great alternative to the typical oatmeal breakfast.

Have a great day!