Pancake Star Wars

Junior received a set of Star Wars pancake molds for Christmas. We tried them out using our usual batter ratios, but with 100% Kamut. I didn’t read the instructions and realized after the batter was all over the first set that I should have sprayed a little something on the mold. Those pancakes went directly to the chickens. The next set, a Millennium Falcon and X-Wing turned out, except that the X-Wing looks more like a starfish:IMG_0376

The next pair, a Tie Fighter (or Tie Interceptor) and a Millennium Falcon looked pretty good (as compared to my very unstaged stove top):IMG_0374

until I tried to flip the Tie Interceptor Fighter. It crashed hard:IMG_0375

Of the 3 shapes, the Millennium Falcon was the simplest and most sure to have recognizable results. Junior had fun but what a pain to clean these things! These are the types of gadgets that seem too good to be true in their super cute packaging on the shelves at Williams Sonoma.  When the pushing gets to shoving, when the batter actually hits the griddle, it’s not really very cute. We’ll use them again; maybe we can produce some stop motion breakfast battle movie.

I was very happy with the Kamut, which produced crazy fluffy, crazy light results. I did make this batter thinner than I usually do, what with using the molds. And I didn’t drop any frozen blueberries or raspberries onto the cooking batter like I usually do. If you’ve not tried raspberry pancakes, you really should.

Here’s how the batter happened today:

Kamut Pancakes

8 oz Kamut flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons butter, melted

2 eggs

8 oz kefir

8 oz milk

Preheat a griddle or pan. I love using cast iron. In a larger bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the melted butter, eggs, kefir, and milk. When the pan is ready, ladle out 1/3-1/2 cup batter. After the pancake gets bubbled, flip it.

Serve with syrup or jam or apple butter or apple slices sautéed with butter and cinnamon or add yogurt to the pancakes with any of these other things, it’ll all be good!

 

Granola

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!

The Reason For Frozen Fruit

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.

IMG_0023

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:

IMG_0024

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!

IMG_0025

Breakfast of Champions

So, my sister has been doing smoothies for 2 years. Since her diagnosis, she has become a nutritional fount of knowledge, practicing the art of a plate 2/3 full of vegetables and fruit, limiting animal protein and grains, and eliminating anything remotely allergenic to anyone. She is doing well.

Here, weekday breakfasts for spouse-on-the-go, and for me whenever I get around to eating, have usually consisted of plain, live-cultured yogurt, with my soaked-grain, slow-dried granola, and fresh fruit. My alternate meal was most often scrambled backyard eggs and toasted long-ferment, high-hydration sourdough. Always wanting to “get more fruits and vegetables into my diet”, and because my parents gave me this for Christmas, and because of the off-putting marketing materials that came with it, and because I already had a great blender that I wanted to prove was a great blender, I, one day, decided to smoothie. With what I’d gleaned from my NutriGuru sister regarding hemp hearts, quinoa, avocado, flax and chia seeds, I dusted off the Waring Bar Blender and set-to.

Here we go
Here we go

In went chopped kale, raw sweet potato, hemp, flax, avocado, a little parsley, some pear, and berries from the freezer. Some water to make it blendable, and presto-breakfast! I was amazed at how unvegetablely it tasted, and how easy it was to consume anywhere. The greens and seeds were not pronounced. The thick consistency forced mindful eating, it wasn’t possible to guzzle, the mix of flavors a mystery for my tongue to unravel. When I realized, after a few months, that I had felt pretty good, and since this was the primary change I had made to my diet/lifestyle, I began to smoothie for Spouse as well-he needed in on my new practice.

When the bar blender began to chime the toll of burnout, I humbled myself, unpacked the NutriGizmo, read only as much material as needed for the how-to, and kept making smoothies.

The magic bullet of health we've all been looking for!
The magic bullet of health we’ve all been looking for!

So far, the little device is great. The capacity is far smaller than the bar blender but since Spouse leaves home before me, I make our smoothies separately. It is a quieter blender than the Waring, but given the noise-carrying open plan of our house, I leave the base in the laundry room, so a still-sleeping Junior will stay that way.

Pre mix
Pre mix

This morning’s version: celery, carrot, kale, avocado, cooked quinoa, flax seed, hemp hearts, fresh lemon juice, Anjou pear, and water. I regrettably forgot the tiny knob of ginger I’ve grown to love.

Ready for launch
Ready for launch
Partial mix
Partial mix
Done
Done

While I’d rather have a Vitamix, this silly thing was free. A gift, most likely inspired by an infomercial, a thing I’d tried to give away on 2 separate occasions, saved the day and kept me in my new habit. The product is a crass appeal to Seniors for longevity and happiness. This device “extracts” nutrients from the foods it blends! Whatever. It smoothies.

Rant No. 37

I don’t do well on surveys wherein asked to agree Completely, Mostly, Somewhat, Not At All. The questions or statements foggy with Finding What I Really I Think, similar questions, worded slightly different to catch me and my opinion. I over think these questionnaires, trying to see behind the query to what is really wanted.

from Rent's Due Ranch
from Rent’s Due Ranch

This being said, I do, most certainly, have opinions. I described myself once as having a Boxcar full of Band Wagons loaded with Soap Boxes. THIS being said, there are few of my diatribes I make public. Today’s Rant, however, I share unapologetically.

Genetically Modified Organisms. 

According to Wikipedia:

A genetically modified organism (GMO) is an organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques. Organisms that have been genetically modified include micro-organisms such as bacteria and yeast, insects, plants, fish, and mammals.

Genetic engineering is not the same as traditional, or selective breeding, whether of plants or animals. Traditional breeding, practiced by humans for all recorded history, is time-consuming, choosing the desired male and female, waiting for gestation and growth, seeing if the result meets the desired objective:Does the cow produce lots of cream? Is the zucchini green enough? How sweet is the watermelon, meaty the tomato, or pest-resistant the corn? To get the highest result, the process will takes years, syringe upon syringe of prize-winning sperm, painstaking collection of top-producing pollen, seed-saving for another planting, soil and feed kept optimal for healthy growth. Over the course of 300-1000 years of selective breeding, early Central American farmers invented maize. That’s a long time.

Preparing breakfast
Preparing breakfast

Genetic engineering was first accomplished in 1973, when Herbert Boyer and Stanley Cohen were able to transfer DNA from one species to another. 41 years later, bio technology has become big business. I haven’t devoted myself to what’s happening with stem cell research, animal or human cloning, or even genetic engineering uses in industrial applications. I care about food.

Since World War II ended, the companies that profited heavily from weapons and chemical production turned their attention to agriculture. People needed to eat. Whole regions and countries devastated by combat, farms and food supplies gone. What was needed? A food supply to serve the world. Companies like BASF, Monsanto, Dow Chemical, Dupont, and Bayer began  producing chemicals for farming: herbicides to kill weeds but not crops, pesticides to kill plant-eating insects but not crops, fertilizers to increase yield without the need to rotate crops or amend soil in traditional ways. As part of the inaptly named Green Revolution, these companies set out to “help” farmers feed the world.

After a few years of initial higher yields from these “revolutionary” methods, those not in line to make profit from the new practices began to see disturbing trends. Farmers began to require more of the chemical to achieve previous results. Insects and weeds began to appear resistant to the sprayed-on killers.

No. 8 plus butter & olive oil
No. 8 plus butter & olive oil

More applications were required. Finger-crossed farmers hoped for high enough yields to pay the mortgage, the seed bill, next season’s required chemicals. More and more farms began to fail. Small farms sold or walked away from, were amalgamated into super holdings, acres upon acres of wheat, corn, soy, or cotton, operated by corporate employees, and state-of-the-art computer-controlled farm machinery. Acreage, over fertilized, began to fail, began to turn to salt. Where the Mississippi meets the Gulf of Mexico began to develop Dead Zones, zones unable to support marine life due to nutrient runoff consumed by algae which in turn sinks, decomposes, and uses up oxygen. In 2013, this area was only the size of Connecticut. The revolution was ending.

Rather than turn back the clock to crop rotation, animal foraging, winter wheat, and other time-honored healthy soil practices, our former WWII heroes gathered up the burgeoning genetic engineers and set-to on crops. Monsanto, the top seller in pesticide production with its “safe” RoundUp, available at Home Depot, Lowes, and most suburban garages, worked diligently to produce seed that contained resistance to the weed killer.

Grated, towel-dried
Grated, towel-dried

The corn, weakened with a strain of e.coli to allow for cross breeding, married to genes resistant to RoundUp, producing a plant that could be sprayed with the pesticide but not itself succumb. Similar treatment has been applied to soy, canola, cotton, and sugar beets. RoundUp Ready seeds are expensive and because patented by Monsanto, cannot be saved by the farmer who plants them, eliminating an age-old practice for plant selection and cost savings. RoundUp has long been touted as safe at recommended levels, but rogue weeds and studied health problems are on the rise. Also disturbing has been the increase in crop contamination, especially as concerns canola: an adjoining non-RoundUp Ready field finding non-RoundUp susceptible plants growing. Monsanto has insisted that their RoundUp Ready seed will not cross-pollinate and has tirelessly pursued these farmers in court, suing them for illegally growing the Monsanto product without license.

For a longer time over medium heat
For a longer time over medium heat

Monsanto has usually won these cases, another independent farmer losing everything. Bayer markets its version of this corn as Liberty Link. Monsanto has also been the leader in producing seeds that are resistant to certain pests. Most notably, Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt, has been introduced into corn to combat the effects of the European corn borer. This pesticide remains in the plant, the insect only having to nibble its last meal. No spray required. They have also introduced DroughtGard corn, allowing corn to be grown with less water, and subsequently, grown more densely.

Yesterday the USDA announced that Simplot was given the green light on its genetically modified potato. Evidently potatoes contain acrylamide, shown to be a carcinogen when cooked at high temperatures, most notably as deep-fried french fries. Simplot’s new potato will eliminate this problem component, as well as be less susceptible to bruising, something evidently unsightly to consumers. Rather than find better cooking methods for potatoes, Simplot has rushed to a GMO solution to keep its profits high in frozen french fries and hash browns.

There are plenty of places on-line to read the science, both for and against, this kind of genetic breeding. Plants are still developing resistance to  RoundUp and Bt. The soil is still turning into to salt, the waterways still polluted with runoff. Whole developing countries are saying “No” to GE seed being dumped within their borders. People like Vandana Shiva are battling to keep their countries free and thriving without GMOs. Healthwise, there hasn’t been time for long-term studies since humans only started ingesting GMOs in 1982, with the introduction of Humulin, a GE insulin. In 1997, the EU began requiring labeling for all GMO food products, including animal feed, something the US Federal government has refused to do, leaving many states fighting for this right of self-determination, against the millions of dollars spent by GMO companies. So far, the only way to avoid GMO foods is by consuming those organically grown.

Crispy, breakfast goodness
Crispy, breakfast goodness

The Organic Standards, updated yearly, state that GMOs cannot be considered organic, something Monsanto is lobbying strongly to overturn. A better way than buying organic is to meet the farmer who grew the food. I bought these potatoes from Mike of Rent’s Due Ranch in Stanwood, Washington. I picked them up from April at the University Farmer’s Market. They are the Satina variety, a Yukon Goldish type, yellow, not too starchy, delicious. They have been left with dirt on to increase the keeping quality, something this consumer finds beautiful.

Labeling of GMOs should be available, should be the standard. We should all be able to choose what foods we consume. Third World and developing nations should be able to choose what seeds are grown within their borders, without ramification of losing other global assistance. Seeds are the beginning of all life. Do we want a few multi-national corporations to control the world’s seed supply, to say who can plant, to say when and where their seeds can be planted? If someone else controls the food, we will all be controlled by them. Do the research. Speak up. Meet a farmer. Buy some seeds. Put in a vegetable plot, however small. We still have each other, and life is still good.

Just say no
Just say no

Pumpkin Scones

Today. For breakfast. Breakfast at 11AM because I was still in bed reading recipes until 10. These were yummy. I found them on The FauxMartha. I fell in love with The FauxMartha upon discovering and recreating her Salted Caramel Chocolate Cake. Oh my goodness. When visiting the site this morning, I found this scone recipe. I had all the ingredients, failed to take any process photos, used Emmer instead of white whole wheat, and reduced the sugar by a tablespoon. I didn’t use any pepita seeds.

Pumpkin, spices, cream, butter, flours, sugars, etc.
Pumpkin, spices, cream, butter, flours, sugars, etc.

With the use of Emmer and pumpkin, the scones end up with a rather meh color. Taking photos of them against my wood counter tops heightens that meh, but these scones were light, tender, not overly spiced, and with the glaze, a perfect sweet for our family.

Pumpkin & cream glaze
Pumpkin & cream glaze

Some days I take the time to make a recipe my own. Today I just wanted to make pumpkin scones.

Yum.
Yum.

Cheers!

Einka Meets Waffles

Known in Germany as Einkorn, and in Italy as Farro Piccolo, Einka comes from Bluebird Grain Farms in Winthrop Washington. I had tried a bit of einkorn grown by Lentz Spelt Farms, available in Seattle at Big John’s PFI, but the price tag of $6.75/lb kept my quantity low. It was enough, however, to see, feel, use, and taste the difference. After receiving my order from Bluebird less than 24 hours ago, I have been on a bit of an einka bender: pasta, chocolate chip cookies, and now waffles.

My waffles originated with Joy of Cooking, with separated eggs, whipped egg whites, and melted butter. Trying the recipe this morning with the einka flour was, again, successful. Waffles start with these ingredients,

Mise en place
Mise en place

plus baking powder and salt. I melt the butter on my stove top rather than in a microwave, seasoning my tiny cast iron pan every time I do. The batter turned out nice,

Ready to bake
Ready to bake

with the same consistency that I have come to expect. One 4-ounce ladle is just enough to fill our thrift store waffle iron. For me, the most difficult part of waffle-making is the waiting for the iron to thoroughly do its job; an undercooked waffle tastes eggy and not in a good way. Given enough time, the waffles did not disappoint:

Yum
Yum

If you are unable to consume all the waffles in a batch, let them cool on racks, wrap in parchment, and place in a freezer bag. They thaw and re-crisp under an oven broiler. Adding a scrambled egg and some fresh fruit, gives Junior a break from our usual breakfast routines. Oh, and just so you know, waffles do NOT need any added sugar in the batter. Enjoy the baked waffles with Grade B Maple Syrup!

Einka Waffles
8 ounces einka flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3 eggs, separated
3 tbsp melted butter
13 ounces milk
Method:
In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
In another bowl, combine the egg yolks and milk. Whisk together while adding the melted butter in a steady stream. Whisking will keep the eggs from scrambling if the butter is too warm.
In a small bowl, beat the egg whites until peaks form. Don’t overbeat as the whites will become dry and difficult to incorporate.
Add the milk mixture to the flour, mixing until just moistened, but leaving some lumps. Gently fold in the egg whites.
Bake.
Adapted from Joy of Cooking