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?






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!

Turning an Oops into an Ohh

Elimination Diet: 15 hours, 28 minutes

As I told you all, I was going to attempt to make granola bars for our breakfasts.  I adapted a recipe that I had used before, hoping that agave would act like maple syrup and stevia would act like sugar.

Almost Mistake #1:  It is hard to cook without my usual ingredients.  I almost sprayed the pan with vegetable (soybean) oil. 

Almost Mistake #2:  I accidentally purchased non-allergen free cashews, so I couldn’t use them in my granola bars.

Almost Mistake #3:  I bought a variety of dried fruit:  craisins, raisins, apricots, mixed berries.  The craisins and mixed berries had added sugar.  Thankfully I caught it, but only after adding it to the nuts.  I had to pick out all the dried fruit just in case I mistook a blueberry for a raisin.  (See the pile in the back of the picture?)

Actual Mistake #1:  Granola bars never set.  They maintained a crumbly, yet delectably yummy texture (and they smelled great!).

Actual Save #1:  Turning granola bars into granola.

If you would like to make gluten-free, peanut-free, sugar-free granola, here’s what I did:

3 1/3 c oats (read the packages carefully, many are not gluten-free)

11 packets of Stevia (or ~4 T)

2/3 c oat flour (simply put oats in blender or food processor until a light powder forms

1 t salt (I left this out since my nuts were salted)

1/2 t cinnamon

1 c raisins

1 c flax meal

2 c coarsely chopped nuts (I used almonds and pistachios)

1/3 c cashew butter

1/3 c almond butter (you could just use 2/3 of a cup of either butter alone)

4 T safflower or grapeseed oil

1/2 c agave

2 T water

First stir the dry ingredients and nuts together.  In a separate bowl, whisk the oil, agave and water.  Add both bowls together with the nut butters and stir together well.  This is where you should not follow my directions.  You should turn the oven onto 250 and layer some of the mixture onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment.  Bake, mixing every 5-10 minutes until golden brown.  I am not sure how long this will take total to bake.  I pressed mine into a 13×9 pan first baking 35 minutes, hoping they would be bars when finished.  Then I baked on a cookie sheet an additional 15 minutes.  I suspect it will take about an hour.   Just be careful, burnt granola does not turn into an ohhh!

I think I missed the vanilla I usually add (vanilla often has alcohol and sugar, making it a no-go).  I think that for my next batch, I will add a vanilla bean to the wet ingredients and let it meld together happily for a bit before stirring together.

New breakfast plan?  Granola with almond milk and fresh fruit.  Blueberries and bananas see like a good place to start, huh?

I am trying to get some prep work done for the next few days.  I just finished cooking some garbanzo beans for hummus in the pressure cooker and am soaking more beans for dinner tomorrow night.  For now, I am going to sip my last cup of coffee for a while and enjoy a final egg.  Tomorrow morning will arrive very quickly!

Wish us luck!

The Reunion: Meal by Meal

Tracy’s last post went back to the beginnings of our blog and our friendship.  Also, it was a set-up for the post you are about to read.  Tracy and I had not been in the same place since March 2010, so it was far past time for us to rendezvous, catch up and eat.  We’re going to narrate this post simultaneously with paragraphs denoted by our first initial.  And there will be many food pictures and jealousy (on your part).  Some of the pictures are of a lower quality, because I am a champ at forgetting my camera and had to use my iPod for a lot of them.

R: Tracy got into town around4:30, I met her at 5:30, and we got this show on the road. We had decided to make roasted butternut squash ravioli with a sage brown butter sauce with a friend of mine (who conveniently has a lovely kitchen and a pasta maker.)  So, we collected the things we needed (lots of butter, sage, shallots, etc) and headed out to my friend’s house.

T: It should be noted that the Basketball Player (that would be the woman with a pasta machine and great kitchen) helped make a great first night in Chicago.  Music playing, a dog catching all my dropped food morsels, and new stories told by old and new friends.  Thanks Basketball Player for your contribution to a great night!  Now, on with dinner.

R: She already had bread started, which we soon ate with some of Tracy’s sweet potato butter, and the Garrett’s popcorn we had also picked up on the way.  What took the longest for this recipe was roasting the squash, but once that was done, we were on our way to pasta.  We did make one substitution, ricotta instead of cream, which was more out of convenience than out of concern for our health (brown butter sauce).  Luckily, it was a great substitution and made the filling kind of light and fluffy.  Tracy was in charge of browning the butter.  It made the sage crispy, which added a surprising but subtle layer of texture.  In my opinion, and I think my cohorts would agree, this was one of the best meals I’ve made/had in a long time.  It was definitely worth the waiting and the work.  Those little ravioli just melted in my mouth.  And there’s a few waiting for me in the freezer still!

T: I was thinking the other day that I have had similar meals in fancy restaurants, for about $20.  I think the three of us ate that night, extremely happily, for about $15 in ingredients.  Not bad.  Not bad.  What more can be said?  Fresh pasta.  Fresh pasta!  (and butter)

R: Tracy and I slept in on Saturday and decided to make pancakes for breakfast, but these were no ordinary pancakes.  I had discovered about a year ago that grinding up raw sunflower seeds in my coffee grinder made a usable flour option.  The first time I used sunflour (just go with it) to make pancakes, the pancakes came out a bright green.  This time the greening was more subtle, but the pancakes were just as delicious.  I used a standard pancake recipe, and added in just a little wheat flour to help the pancakes stick together.  We ate the pancakes with agave, Nutella, sweet potato butter, and local honey, not all at once.

T: Don’t forget the freshly squeezed grapefruit and orange juice.  A lazy Saturday morning.  Making breakfast in our pajamas, eating half of it with our fingers and joking with The Comedian (Rachel’s roommate) and Murder Mystery (Rachel’s roommate’s coauthor).   We finally deciding we should probably brave the outdoors.

R: After spending some time in a local independent bookstore, Tracy and I started to get hungry again.  This time we headed over to Falafill, a falafel restaurant where you get basic falafel and then are able to top your falafel with all manner of mediteranean salads and toppings.  Taboulah, faul, Jerusalem salad, shredded carrots salad, spicy potatoes, minted cabbage, (they usually have minted beets too, but not this time, sorry Tracy), curry aioli, pickles, pickles turnips, yogurt sauce, olives, garlic sauce, and tahini sauce; all delicious.  Falafill is one of my favorite places to grab a meal in the city, and pretty much everyone loves it.  What’s not to love?

T: Rachel topped our falafel.  I have to say, it was certainly difficult to distinguish all the ingredients.  But in the end, who cares?  They were all delicious.  Maybe even better all mixed together.  Either way, hunger disappeared while laughing at headlines from The Onion.  Now, onward!

R: We wandered the city for a while, ended up reading in the winter garden of the Harold Washington Library before meeting up with some mutual friends from Toledo, my former roommate (Ms. Executive Suite) and her boyfriend (Science Man).  With our forces combined, we decided to take on Xoco, the cafe next door to Rick Bayless’s Frontera Grill.

T: That is, after munching a bit at the our friend’s hotel.  Apparently Ms. Executive  Suite gets free nibblies for traveling a lot.  Thankfully she and Science Man were willing to share.  It helped tide us over on the wait for a table at Xoco.

R: I had been to Xoco before for hot chocolate and churros, but I was excited to eat their real food. There was an hour wait, but it was totally worth it.

T: Of course it was worth it.  The host ensured that we had beer and wine to keep ourselves busy while waiting.  Free samples win every time!

R: I had a carnitas caldo… which is like spicy pork soup.  It was really spicy.  We were given bread to go with it, after the host saw us struggling with the water to spicy things ratio.  My favorite thing was what Science Man had… but I don’t exactly remember what is was.  It was kind of like a sandwich sitting in sauce, which seems more italian than mexican, to be honest.

T: Maybe it was the ahogada torta ( Golden pork carnitas).  I had the Seafood Caldo which included mussels, catfish and shrimp in a slightly spicy tomato broth.  I could have licked my bowl, but I resisted.  More was yet to come.

R: But the best part was the hot chocolate at the end of the meal.  I got the authentic, which is mostly just cocoa beans and water, no milk need apply.  It’s just so tangy and chocolaty. Insurmountably fantastic.

T: I accidentally ordered the original hot chocolate, but was not disappointed.  Mine included milk.  Creamy and delicious.  Great way to end a great meal.

R: And then there was a hotel party.

T: And we should leave it at that.

R: Sunday morning meant a gigantic brunch situation, because we added in The Comedian and another friend from Calvin and her boyfriend.  So the seven of us met up at The Bongo Room.  We did have to wait a while because that place is pretty popular, but finally we sat down to various types of benedicts, for the most part.  I had the BLT benedict, with bacon, spinich, tomato, and a pesto hollandaise.  Potatoes with dill! It was delightful.

T: The wait wasn’t so bad.  Apparently Chicago understands that bringing a beverage to a waiting group will always make them happy!  I had the spinach, roasted red pepper and feta benedict.  The hollandaise.  And those poached eggs.  So creamy.  So delightful.  And those potatoes were crazy good.

R: We also ordered a plate of pumpkin pancakes for the table, which were served with some crazy maple cream cheese stuff.  We were stuffed to the gills.

T: Best Choice All Day.  Those pumpkin pancakes were A-MAZ-ING!  I was not hungry again til dinner time.  No kidding.

R: In the afternoon, we decided to just have a chill day.  We watched a movie, and sat around and talked.  We drank the last of my yuengling and planned to have stuffed pizza for dinner.  Now I know there are differing views on the best place for stuffed pizza, but I may have found a new favorite.  We went to Nancy’s on Broadway, mostly because it was close, also because I had heard good things.  Listen, that pizza was phenomenal.  And we stuffed it with onions, artichokes, spinach and green peppers. There was a nice balance between crust, cheese and stuffing.

T: Unlike a lot of stuffed pizza, this one managed to be fairly “light”.  Rachel and I split our second piece (I mean, they are huge pieces) but I certainly got my fill without worrying about wobbling onto the Megabus.

R: I think the weekend was, at least, a culinary/gastronomical success!  I still don’t know if I am keeping the sourdough starter Tracy brought along alive.  I’m not convinced it’s still growing.  And I still haven’t tried all the pickled/canned items I was gifted from Tracy’s larder.  However, it was a blessing to see my fabulous friend and spend real time in the kitchen.  We didn’t do a lot that didn’t involve eating, but we did have a lot of time to catch up with each other and our friends, which is really what sharing meals is all about.

T: A great [yummy] weekend indeed.  It was fantastic to meet members of Rachel’s Chicago life and to be reunited with some of our Toledo life.

The KitK ladies wish you all a week filled with good friends and good food.  Happy Eating!