Granola

7 Apr

Granola has been an often seen item on our breakfast menu for almost 30 years. During that time it has experienced several incarnations. In the beginning, it was a recipe learned from an older, mama-of-many, friend, a staple at her breakfast table, primarily rolled oats, a bit of cinnamon, a few chopped almonds, some wheat germ, drizzlings of honey and olive oil, baked low and slow, with raisins added post oven. I lived that version for quite a while.

Always learning something new, I took the cereal through a Nourishing Traditions phase, with added yogurt and water, soaking for 12-24 hours before setting it to bake. More recently, I tried a grain-free version that was delicious, decadent with its assortment and quantity of nuts and seeds.

Not grain-free by any means, I am conscious of the amount, type, and quality of grains that I and my family consume. I don’t think our bodies need lots of rolled oats at breakfast, and I actually balk at their use since learning that oat producers marketed the grain as human food only after the demise of horse-drawn transportation, but I do use the grain in my current granola. In a lesser quantity, with other plant-based proteins to balance the potential glycemic hit of the grain, I use it for economy. Just like General Mills.

IMG_6711I use about half nuts and seeds and half oats, a bit more generous with the nuts/seeds. I like, in varying degrees: almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, hemp hearts, and ground flax, all of which mix with organic regular rolled oats. These prone-to-stale items are kept on hand in the freezer, staying fresh longer when I over buy, the many little bulk bags corralled together in larger Ziploc.

IMG_6709After sprinkling liberally with cinnamon, I pour melted coconut oil, maybe 1/4 cup for 1 pan of granola, across the olio (a gratuitous homage to words I never knew before doing newspaper crosswords), along with a few tablespoons of honey, a pinch or two of salt, then I stir. This goes into a 325F oven for 30-45 minutes, stirred 2 or 3 times during baking.

IMG_6708When the slightly golden cereal cools, I might add some raisins or dried currents, but generally add fresh fruit before eating. Invariably, many of the hardly chopped almonds never make it to the half-gallon canning jar which serves as the granola’s home, their delicious coconut/honey/cinnamon coating hard to resist!

As granola is very open to adaptation and experimentation, the ratios here can be adjusted to your taste or dietary needs. You can chop by hand, resulting in the uneven pieces as pictured, or have a more uniform cereal, giving the larger almonds & walnuts a whirl in the food processor before combining with the other ingredients.

This cereal is lovely with any milk and fresh strawberries, served with yogurt and frozen berries, or used as the topping for a fruit crisp. Don’t settle for boxed or bulk ready-made granolas. This food is easy to make, easy to store, easy to eat, allowing you, once again, to control the quality of the food you eat. Cheers to that!

So It Begins

7 Apr

Another quarter of creating with young bakers starts tomorrow. Another quarter of leaving the house earlier than we’re used to, hauling equipment and ingredients to a ungainly kitchen, sanitizing and setting up. While we have an additional half-hour this go-round, recipes still have to be thoroughly thought through to fit within our frame. I’m expecting to see mini double-crust pies, cream puffs, pastry cream, cheesecakes, and crackers; pita, pizza, and a daring roulade. Things may be over-mixed, rolled too thin, or unevenly baked, but I’m betting on delicious. These bakers dive in, anxious to try, anxious to touch, smell, and taste. There’ll be a lot of hand washing. I’ll try to take photos to show you our process and results.

Over the past 4 years, the venue has not been ideal, some of the relationships have been uneasy, the initial learning curve was steep, and the resulting day has always been exhausting. Filled with gratitude as I set out to start, what will probably be my last quarter in this kitchen, I think of everything I’ve learned from the students, what I’ve learned about myself, all the tricks and tips I’ve picked up from the place itself; I am grateful for the parents who let me work with their kids; I am grateful for Junior plugging along with me. I have been transformed by this funny little class I dove into 4 years ago.

If there is anything you’d like to do, something you’ve thought to try your hand at, I don’t know how to encourage you enough to take the plunge. I hope you do. Cheers!

All hands

All hands

The Reason For Frozen Fruit

25 Jan

Years ago, a friend gave me this recipe, one she received from her German mother-in-law. She called it Kuchen, though I’ve never found a recipe for kuchen like it. Regardless, this Kuchen is delicious, adaptable for breakfast or tea, and super simple to throw together.

Breakfast

Here goes:

2 cups of flour (this batch was 100% whole wheat pastry) + 1/2 cup cold butter + 1/2 cup sugar (while this is original recipe, I always reduce to 1/3 cup, usually always use coconut palm sugar, and as this was for breakfast, reduced that to a little bit more than 1/4 cup) into the bowl of a food processor, and pulse to crumbs. Remove 1 cup of the mixture and set aside. Add to the food processor 1 teaspoon baking powder + 1/4 teaspoon or so salt + 1 egg. Process until combined. Dump the flour/egg mixture into the 9-inch fluted tart pan (or and similar sized oven safe dish, pan, or tin), then press the mixture evenly over the bottom and up the sides.

IMG_0022

Cover with a single layer of fruit, fresh or frozen. Berries are my favorite, but larger fruits work nicely when sliced thin and arranged artfully in a slightly overlapping single layer.

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Cover the fruit with the reserved flour mixture. Slide this pan onto a larger baking sheet, then slide both into the preheated 375F degree oven. Set the timer for 15-20 minutes. Remove when it looks something like this:

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If you want to use blueberries, add some lemon zest. If you’re doing an apple version, sprinkle some cinnamon over the fruit before the reserved crumbs. Use a variety of fruits, keeping it single-layer deep. Try this with different flours or combinations of flours. Reduce the sugar or use the whole original amount. In less than 30 minutes, you will fill your kitchen with amazing aroma, announcing to guests, or resident sleepyheads, that you’ve been thinking about them, that they’re special, that they are worth some delicious effort. You don’t have to tell them how much effort!

Cheers!

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The Library

4 Dec

I love the library. I love researching books, reading reviews on Goodreads or Amazon, then searching KCLS, placing holds, picking up books for free. After only 2 weeks since joining the Artisan Bread Bakers Facebook Group, sifting through millions of posts, I reserved Flour Water Salt Yeast by Ken Forkish. A large portion of the posters among the 10,000+ members of this group think highly of Portland’s Ken Forkish of Ken’s Artisan Bakery. I had known about the Portland bakery for some time, but didn’t conclude, until after perusing Amazon’s Look Inside feature, that the Ken spoken of in the group and the bakery Ken were the same.

Stack of beauty

Stack of beauty

Now, I don’t particularly like Facebook. I periodically purge my activity log, removing likes and photos and comments, knowing any and all that I post are used to target me and my “friends” by the movers/shakers of our consumer-driven economy. After reading the new Terms & Conditions the other morning, I committed myself to another purge, to update my Ello account, and perhaps leave Facebook for good. This time. Really. I’ll do it. Except for 3 groups that I really like. Damn it.

New bread

New bread

I suppose if I’m to be hardcore, I would end all my friendships, keeping only the 3 groups and probably my *Like* of NPR and Anne Lamott, or I could hide all my friends to not see their posts, so then I wouldn’t accidentally comment on or like their posts, but could still peek once in a while….

Bulk rise, 3 folds total

Bulk rise, 3 folds total

Anyway, the Forkish book is good, I think especially good for those wanting to get started in artisan-style bread making. Flour Water Yeast Salt contains more information on the process of bread making, including more commercial yeasted recipes where the user can practice method, using higher hydration levels, longer proofing times than “regular” bread recipes call for.

Ready for pan

Ready for pan

I have made a few batches of The Whole Wheat Saturday bread, a same-day bake, tweaking the recipe by adding more whole wheat than the 50% required, and baked as sandwich bread. It turned out well, working nicely for sandwich and french toast, as well as pizza dough.

Good crumb, nice crust, and flavor

Good crumb, nice crust and flavor

Mushroom & basil

Mushroom & basil

The bread has many of the characteristics of the longer rise wild-yeasted bread I usually make, has the ease of active-dry yeast, a bread I can whip up on a much shorter notice. It doesn’t, however, have the soul of sourdough.

I began my relationship with sourdough in a class, 20+ years ago, simultaneously working my way through Nancy Silverton’s Breads of the La Brea Bakery. I used Silverton’s method for years, including the early posts on sourdough here, until I happened on Chad Robertson and Tartine. Tartine Bread changed everything I thought I knew about sourdough. Where Forkish’s book would have had more thorough explanation, I jumped into high hydration, long ferment, lactic versus acetic acid starters, creating the leaven/levain with a relatively tiny amount of starter, without water wings, nose plug, or goggles. Robertson’s story, the lay of the book, the not-dumbing-down-too-much captivated me. The learning process has been bumpy but satisfying, the experience now my benchmark for other methods.

All that to say, I’ll keep working through Flour Water Salt Yeast. This initial loaf is a keeper, and some cookbooks are worth the price for even just one good recipe. As for connection, when I read through the introductory section of Robertson’s next book, Tartine Book No. 3, showcasing the many ancient grains he has worked to incorporate, I cried. I cried because of Einkorn. While super useable and full of information, Flour Water Salt Yeast didn’t affect me this way. I don’t cook or bake based on emotion, but bread making is soulful and ancient, something created with hands, something to be broken by hand, and something to be shared. Connection.

Here’s how Junior and I make French Toast.

Breakfast

Breakfast

French Toast • serves 2

4 slices Whole Wheat Saturday Bread from FWSY

2 eggs

1/4 cup milk

2 teaspoons cinnamon

pinch of salt

1 tablespoon butter, for pan

butter & syrup for serving

Method

Preheat Griswold No. 8 cast iron skillet to medium.

Combine the eggs, milk, cinnamon, and salt. Whisk until well blended.

When skillet is ready, melt the butter in pan. Dip bread, 1 slice at a time, into the egg mixture. Let the mixture drip a bit then carefully lay the bread into the pan. Repeat with remaining slices. Cook a few minutes, then flip, cooking a few more. We like the outside slightly crisp, with the inside still soft but not raw.

 

 

Resolution

1 Dec

This may be a bit early. It’s only just December, but I do make resolutions for the New Year. I make them throughout the New Year. I made a new resolution on November 23, 2014: I will clear my counters before beginning any cooking or baking project. My kitchen is tiny. The counters are a flat surface that collect all manner of ephemera: recipes to try, Netflix to return, receipts waiting for transport downstairs, flyers to remember, shopping lists to add to, the grain mill hopper waiting for empty, baking pans, to-be-filed recipes, and other miscellaneous waiting for their transport downstairs, reading glasses, car keys, Lego sculptures, groceries to be put away.

This all came to a halt when I, frazzled from a late return home, rushed to get dinner biscuits into the oven. I scooted a free 12-inch area on the counter, got flour everywhere before getting biscuits into the oven, when I stopped to take in what I was doing. What a disservice to myself and my well-being! I, who love to cook and bake, barring any joy or pleasure from my kitchen time, increasing my stress and unhappiness, all because I hadn’t been taking a few minutes to tidy before starting/ending my kitchen projects. I put any perishables away, and did a perfunctory clean-up after dinner, but the next morning I moved everything from counters to table. The table could have all day to be sorted and cleared, if need be.

The notorious paper depot

The notorious paper depot

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The pasta machine stays put til we party

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Where things queue for basement delivery

I am by no means a hoarder, I just get distracted. I sit down at the computer and find I’ve started a blog post which always takes far longer than I imagine it should, then I rush upstairs to make breakfast and shower and rush out the door to Junior’s karate. I return home after the Post Dojo Friend Time, the dishes are in the sink, the dishwasher unemptied, the espresso area not tidied….

I am happy to report since 11/24/14 my counters have remained clear. After a project, after shopping or milling or washing, all put away-filed, pantryed, moved to the proper place. I purpose to take the few minutes needed. I keep my eye on my desktop clock!

Thanksgiving was at my sister’s, but I made bread, cake, mashed potatoes, and a roasted beet salad, cleaning counters after each before beginning the next. I cooked and baked, busy right up until Time To Go, but felt relaxed. I don’t have a photo, but here is the salad I made-it was delicious and held up well for leftovers. Cheers!

Roasted Beet Salad with Orange & Fennel

4 medium-large red beets

8 small golden beets

2 naval oranges

4 satsumas

1 small bulb fennel

1/2 medium red onion

1 lemon, juiced

Fresh cilantro leaves, optional

Olive oil

Gray sea salt & fresh ground pepper

Preheat oven to 425F

Wrap the beets in foil, keeping different sizes separate, and roast until a knife easily penetrates to the center of them, about 1 hour. Remove from foil and let cool

Cut the ends from each orange and peel with a sharp knife, removing peel and white. Working over a bowl to collect juice, cut out each section of the orange from its surrounding membrane. When orange is sectioned, squeeze the remaning membranes over the bowl, collecting any additional juice.

Peel the satsumas in the same way, but slice the fruit into circles.

Cut the top from the fennel, then slice the bulb in half. Slice each half into very thin half-moons. You can use a mandoline.

Clean the onion, cut in half from stem to root, and slice as thinly as you can.

When beets are cool to handle, peel/slip off the skins. Cut the large beets in thin wedges and the small beets into rounds.

Juice the lemon and combine with the orange/satsuma juice, along with the fennel and onion slices. Stir to combine.

Arrange the beets on a platter. Distribute the fennel, onion, and juice evenly over the beets. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt/pepper. Garnish with cilantro leaves if using.

 

In Season

27 Nov

I love my Farmer’s Market. My market runs year round and only supports first-hand food growers and producers. I don’t get there every week-I often work weekends with shifts that conflict with market hours. I don’t always have market money in my budget-but do try to go for the pre-freeze enormous bunches of greens, always better tasting and a better price than anywhere else, and the kombucha, not (yet!) available at my usual brick-and-mortar market.

More kale than the fridge could hold!

This is late sumer

Beside knowing the faces and names of the people I buy from, the thing I love best about the market is the grounding effect it has. If I only shop at a conventional grocery store, even if that store is a co-op, organic, with goals of supporting local produce and products, there will always be items on hand, far out of our local season, every day of the year.

Shop

This is beauty

Shopping in the grocery store vacuum, seeing 3 kinds of bell peppers, cilantro bunches, corn-on-the-cob, and strawberries during January in the PNW can start to seem “normal”. I begin to feel numb to the when and where and who of the food I buy. Bundling up with scarf, hat, gloves, and warm coat early on a January Saturday morning brings everything back to real: there’ll be root vegetables minus carrots, there’ll be some little bunches of always-hardy kale, there will still be apples, there will be fruit and chilis dried by the growers, there will be the bakers, the butchers, the kombucha, and cheese makers, but it will be slim. There will be camaraderie and smiles, the summer poet’s fingers perhaps too cold to type, but the tamales, salmon slider, or cup-of-soup will be warming.

This is Seattle

This is Seattle

I don’t have a root cellar or even a second fridge at my house. I store some squash and potatoes in the barely heated basement, but I will be buying carrots and kale from California.

This is Fall

This is Fall

I will buy Washington-grown fruit until it’s all gone, or too musty from storage, but won’t buy apples or pears from Chile or New Zealand or  whereever else they might come from. I will use the seasonal fruit captured in my freezer rather than that shipped fresh across the planet.

This is November

This is November

In January, I’ll be teaching new groups of kids how to make a soup and a few other things. I will be emphasizing ingredients that might still be available at a Farmer’s Market, though will be using some that won’t be. Things like celery, local only for a moment, are so integral to the flavor base of every soffritto or mirepoix. Celery seed can be used as a substitute, and I will include the seeds in our conversation, but first learners need to mess around with the whole food before experimenting with stand-ins. For this reason, I do buy celery out-of-season. I buy it intentionally. Having taken many road trips to central California, I can imagine the trucks, the stops, the last In-N-Out of Redding, the low water levels of Lake Shasta, the relief of Portland, the amazingly boring (no offense!) highway between Vancouver and Olympia. Yes it’s more than 100 miles away, but I can reasonably drive to celery. I know the trip it will take, and I will be grateful.

This is me

This is me

As for the soup, it’s a minestrone I’ve tweaked, and, yes, the celery makes a difference. I make this with Junior, both of us practicing our knife skills. The rosemary comes from my garden, nestled where it is, protected from the coldest our PNW Winter can muster. For economy, I usually use the small white beans available where I buy bulk, cooked, then frozen in recipe-ready quantities. If I cooked the beans, I add their liquid to the soup. Take care with canned tomatoes. Always buy whole, it’s good to know what really might be in the can, and buy from companies that care about canning practices, limit toxins whenever possible. Frozen vegetables are a good winter substitute for from-across-the-planet fresh. The green beans can be happily exchanged for strips of kale or any other vegetable you prefer. The touch of green makes me happy.

This is simple food. Each time I start a batch, I have doubts about the meal to come. But each time I sip a spoonful, I marvel that such few ingredients turn into something as comforting, satisfying, and tasty as I find this soup to be. Cheers!

Minestrone • Serves 4-6

Preparation time: 15 minutes • Cooking time: 30-40 minutes

 Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium red onion, chopped

2 medium carrots, peeled and diced

1 large celery stalk, diced

1 pinch of red pepper flake

1 garlic clove, minced

1 ½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

1 large potato, diced

1 14.5-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained (save liquid) and finely chopped

1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced

About 5 cups of water

1 10-ounce bag frozen green beans

Optional: ¾ cup grated Parmesan for serving

Method

Place a large pot onto the stove. Turn the burner onto medium. Pour the olive oil into the pot. When the olive oil is warm, add the onion, carrots, celery, red pepper flake, and garlic.

Stir the vegetables to coat with oil. Stir in the salt and pepper.

Cook for 5-8 minutes, until the onion begins to turn golden.

Add the tomatoes, potatoes, cannellini, rosemary, the saved tomato liquid, and about 5 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Let soup cook for 15 minutes, gently boiling. Test the vegetables for tenderness.

During the last 5 minutes of cooking, add the frozen green beans. Taste for seasoning and adjust if needed. While the soup is cooking, grate the Parmesan, if using, and set aside.Ladle the soup into bowls and sprinkle with Parmesan, if using

Cake Plate

20 Nov

Last year I gave a Green Cameo Depression Glass Cake Plate to my mom for Christmas. With the plate, I gave instructions that the green beauty be returned to me 5 times during the year, wherein I would send it back burdened with cake.

Vintage

Vintage

My mom was remiss until sometime in October, when her obedience to the gift instructions was speedily rewarded with a most delicious apple cake, a cake I have no pictures of, and whose recipe I am now unable to locate, but it did exist, the small kitchen sample being gobbled up quickly.

When the plate returned to my tiny kitchen, I was awash in pumpkin and found a pumpkin cake recipe on Food52. I did my usual alterations, combining different flours and reducing sugar, the result worthy of the delicate support.

The usual suspects

The usual suspects

The egg whites, separated from the yolks, are only whisked until white and frothy.

White and frothy

White and frothy

Folding

Folding

The finished cake requires candied pumpkin seeds for the garnish: lightly toasted seeds coated with caramelized sugar and a little butter. This was easy to carry out while the cake was in the oven.

Pumpkin seeds

Pumpkin seeds

Can I get a "Yum?!?"

Can I get a “Yum?!?”

The cream cheese icing was a snap, the whole project straightforward.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas

With anything in the kitchen, nothing should be served without being tasted first. I mean, what if I had mixed up the salt and sugar or the pumpkin had turned or …? In any regard, I have 3 more cakes to go and not much time. Need to get that plate back!

So good.

So good.

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