Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Hearty Oatmeal Pancakes

The picture over on Plants and Animals is better...

We ate these pancakes for our first meal on the Penny Wise Eat Local Challenge. They are my favorite pancakes, from a cookbook trio I find myself using most often these days. Simply In Season, published by Herald Press, is terrific. Years ago, I bought a cookbook called More With Less, also published by Herald. The recipes were contributed by members of the Mennonite Community, and came from all over the world. I used it for years, and gave copies of it to some of my sisters- I wanted to share the low-impact eating and cooking style.

Last year EunJee gave me a copy of Simply In Season, the next cookbook commissioned by the Mennonite Central Committee. The book is divided into sections- starting with Spring, passing through Summer, Autumn and Winter, with a fifth section called All Seasons. The recipes in each section feature the foods that are abundant during that time. But even more than the recipes (which are delicious), I enjoy the comments found on most pages. The cookbooks are an education just to sit and read. Take, for example this comment on page 295, the same page as the pancake recipe

"Who's the most efficient?

One common perception is that farmers today must "get bigger or get out": in order to compete, they must become as economically efficient as possible. That is thought to mean having bigger farms, more powerful machinery and fewer types of crops.

A growing number of studies, however, show that small farms are more productive than large ones, yielding as much as four to five times greater output per acre. The difference is largely attributed to the kinds of crops grown. A thousand acre farm that grows only corn and soybeans may produce more than a small farm where corn is grown with other crops. But the total amount of food will be more on the small farm, whether judged by volume, weight, calories or cash value."

It reminds me of the comparison between spinning wheels and drop spindles; Industrialized people can never understand why indigenous people would want to keep spinning with drop spindles when spinning wheels are available. But to spin on a spinning wheel, the spinner must sit and do nothing but spin, whereas a spinner using a drop spindle can mind children, herd animals, even cook, if he or she has sufficient skill. Drop spindles, a technology that has been in use by humans for thousands and thousands of years are said to be "slower by inch but faster by the mile because the spinner can utilize all the odd bits of time available to her, and end up with more yarn overall.

OK, Now everyone is wondering "What on earth is she going on about? Yarn? This is a food blog! Sorry, that's my life, I see connections everywhere. But now that I have drug you down a completely irrelevant path, here's the recipe.

Hearty Oatmeal Pancakes

2 cups (500 ml) rolled oats
2 cups (500 ml buttermilk or plain yogurt
The night before using, combine together in a large bowl.. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

2 eggs (lightly beaten)
1/4 cup (60 ml) oil
In the morning, stir into oat mixture

1/2 cup (125 ml) flour (We use white whole wheat)
2 Tablespoons sugar (We used 2 Tablespoons honey because of the Eat Local Challenge)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt

In a small bowl, mix together, then add to batter and mix briefly in a hot, greased fry pan (or griddle.)

The batter is VERY thick. Often we will add grated apple to the batter which makes it a little thinner. The recipe also suggests stirring in blueberries. I think I would add almost any fruit, to tell you the truth. Peaches would be very yummy. This time we used a jar of canned apple slices- Chuck put the apple slices on the griddle and then spooned the batter over the apple slices. We like to eat them with peanut butter and maple syrup.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Almonds, almonds everywhere

What do Toffee Marzipan Walnuts, raw food and Tofu have in common? Not very much, but they all floated through my consciousness at about the same time, and resulted in this post.

Synchronicity- it's a wonderful thing.

Recently, Chuck and I started craving nuts, and purchasing mixed nuts to eat as snacks. We congratulated ourselves on the Omega-threes we were getting.

Never one to take something off the shelf and eat it straight, I bought different kind of mixed nut combinations (with NO peanuts- they have their place, and it's not in my mixed nuts!) Cans of exotic blends marched into the house, and were promptly dumped into a huge mixing bowl, recombined and poured back into the original cans, surprising Chuck every time he opened one. My favorite- cashews, pecans, pistachios, macadamia nuts and a spicy smoked almond, combined with a run-of-the-mill deluxe mixed nut blend, and a couple handfuls of dried cranberries thrown in for color and surprise. Something different in every handful.

Unfortunately, it become expensive. And salty. I decided we needed to cut this out.

A week or so ago, Haalo down under at Cook Almost Anything Once posted about Toffee-coated marzipan walnuts. Visions of marzipan danced in my head, walnuts sounded appealing, even though I really haven't liked them much. I'm a pecan woman, myself.

During this time period, in ways that will be explained in another post, I became interested in making my own tofu. To the amazement of the young woman visiting us for Spring Break, I pulled out a book I purchased years (I'm talking back when I was a vegetarian, before 1979) The Book Of Tofu, by William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi. There will be more about this in this other post, but deep in the book, Shurtleff talks about making tofu from almonds. An whisper of an idea lodged itself in my brain.

About the same time, my sister Amanda told me about some sprouted almonds she had eaten, and how wonderful they were. She described the process she was told created them. I was intrigued.
My will power crumbled, and I took myself off to my local bulk food store, around here run by Mennonites, and frequented as often by women wearing prayer caps arriving by horse and buggy as by those of us in bare-headed in cars. The price was better (But still not cheap, as is the nature of nuts) and the nuts unsalted.

Many dollars later, I returned with pounds of walnuts, mixed nuts, almonds, whole pecan halves. No marzipan.

My main goal was to coat my almonds with a spicy, sweet coating to add to my mixed nut compilation. But I saved some out for sprouting, so I could let Amanda know how it went.

To coat the almonds, I looked in my cabinet. At any given time, I have a wide variety of stuff to make food spicier. Since we are still working on getting the pantry cleaned out from before I became a local food fanatic, not a bit of it is local, (spicy isn't high on the taste priority list around here. ) Well, I consider the stuff from Original Juans (with the screaming faces, or 100% Pain) local, but only because I stop by the factory outlet when I am in Kansas City.

I decided on the two at the far left- Dan-T's smoked chipotle sauce, and the Fiesta Raspberry Jalapeno. I was hoping for a sweet, hot, smoky flavor.

I combined 1/4 cup of each sauce in my big Pyrex mixing cup, and tossed 4 cups of almonds in it until they were well coated.


I dumped them into a 9 by 12 cake pan, and roasted at 350 degrees F for about an hour, stirring every so often.

These were OK- not as hot or as sweet as I wanted, but OK. Next time I'll add some honey to the mix, and perhaps a habanero sauce instead of jalapeno. OR, I might get fancy and make my own sauce.

I also wanted to try the sprouting almonds thing. I did a little research on at a place where I have shopped before- Sprout People. Turns out sprouted almonds are really soaked almonds, because they aren't left long enough for a real sprout to appear, just long enough for the enzymes to activate and (supposedly) make the almonds both more digestible and healthier.

Now, my bulk store lady isn't sure whether or not these almonds are really raw- they don't say so on the bin, but the label that prints up when she enters the code comes up as raw. Anyway, I soaked them overnight, then put them in a sprouting jar for 24 hours. I rinsed them, and then put them on my dehydrator for another 24 hours.

They are OK- certainly not the marvelous taste delights Amanda described, but nicely crunchy and light.

The final two items in my Almond Synchronicity- this article about the California Almond Board and their decision to pasteurize almonds but still market them as raw

And this post from bad home cooking with a recipe for almond lemon almondrados. I once handed my dog a piece of particularly aromatic Provolone cheese, and she threw it to the ground and rubbed herself all over it in ecstatic delight before she ate it. At the time I found that peculiar, but just reading about these almondrados makes me understand the urge...

Sorry for the terribly long post. It took me 3 days to finish!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Do you know the muffin (wo)man?

(These are apple muffins)

Actually, I am the muffin woman. It's a fairly recent transformation, and mildly surprising even to me. I never liked to make cupcakes or muffins because of the fussiness about them- I didn't like playing around with the paper liners, I didn't like measuring out the small amounts of batter. But last fall, I became the muffin woman in a big old way.

My younger son was married in September of 2006. The bride and groom, as well as all other members of our extended family, live in Missouri. The wedding was to be held here, in Pennsylvania, because this is the bride's home; all of her family lives here, as do my husband and I.

For some reason, about 3 weeks before the wedding, I became concerned (some might say obsessively concerned) about the number of people from our side of the family who were making a long trip for the wedding. I decided that the best way for me to honor them for making this trip was to make them breakfast every day. All of them. To that end, I started making muffins. Fourteen dozen muffins. I filled my freezer, and the freezer of my co-worker with muffins. We had a lot of muffins.

Some were good, some not so good. We had muffins left over. I sent muffin care packages back to Missouri. I took muffins on a work retreat a few weeks later.

In all the muffin making, I found a good, versatile recipe. Last night, my son told me that he had started on a healthy living routine, one facet of which was eating breakfast instead of skipping it. He added that his lovely new wife was making him muffins for breakfast. So I thought I'd share my good muffin recipe with my daughter-in-law and all of you!

This recipe is adapted from one of my favorite cookbooks- Simply In Season, from Herald Press. In the cookbook, it's called Nutty Pumpkin Bread, on page 178.

1.5 cups (375 ml) flour
1.5 cups (375 ml) whole wheat flour (I like white whole wheat)
1 cup (250 ml) wheat germ (I use oat bran instead)
1 cup (250 ml) brown sugar (I use sucanat*)
1 cup (250 ml) white sugar (I use sucanat for this, too)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1.5 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (I alter this based on what fruit I use)
0.5 teaspoon each ground ginger, nutmeg, cloves (ditto on the altering)

Mix together in a large bowl and make a well.

2.5 cups (635 ml) pumpkin or winter squash cooked and pureed (I have substituted grated zucchini or chunky applesauce or peachsauce or other thick cooked fruit puree for this)
4 eggs lightly beaten
1/2 cup (125 ml) oil
1/2 cup (125 ml) pecans or other nuts (I have used almonds and sunflower seeds)
1 cup (250 ml) raisins or dates (I have used dried apples, dried cranberries, dried peaches, any dried fruit)

Add into the well and mix just until all of the ingredients are moistened. Pour batter into 2 greased 9 x 5 inch loaf pans (I use 2 silicone muffin pans- I know a lot of people don't like these, but I love them- I freeze the muffins right in the pan, and then pop them out to seal in a bag)

Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) until a toothpick place in the center of the muffin comes out clean 50 minutes for loves, 30 minutes for muffins.

Now, it may be that I have a high tolerance for variance in muffins, but I have been happy with every combination I have used. I think the yummmiest were the ones I made with peachsauce, dried peaches and pecans. These are pretty dense, which is OK with me, but some others might find them overly heavy. Anyway, Jen, this muffin's for you! (actually, you have the cookbook!)

*Sucanat is a very lightly refined sugar cane product. I have read that it has a higher glycemic index than white or brown sugar. I buy mine in bulk.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

What's for dinner?

More food I didn't cook.

Sometimes I have to fight a battle with myself. I want to be good, and eat locally. I also want to sample all the foods of the world. Sometimes I can make reasonable facsimiles at home, but sometimes I just have to bite the bullet and go with the real thing.

Sunday we stopped at the European Grocery in the next town. I bought some of thier wonderful flatbread, a container of Kajmak and a jar of Ajvar. Kajmak is sort of like butter, and sort of like cream cheese, and very tasty. Ajvar is a roasted pepper spread. The flatbread is unlike any I have had before- less flat and more bread-y. At any rate, it's all yummy. And it was supper 2 nights in a row.

I don't know if you can read the label on the top of the ajvar jar- it says "Home Made". This summer I plan to try to make my own Ajvar, guess I'll have to make myself little home made labels!

Here is a recipe from Epicurean.com . I haven't tried it, but it's probably what I will use as a springboard this summer. If you make it before I do, let me know what you think!

Monday, April 9, 2007

Korean Home Cooking

Sorry, no recipes this time. I'm just going to tantalize you with pictures of some yummy Korean food, cooked for us by two lovely young women. This past week, EunJee and HyeJin came to visit us while they were on break from school. I thought they would do what most teens do when they are on a holiday break- sleep, shop, do laundry and watch DVD's. They did all that, but they also cooked for us. It was a treat- they made a terrific dinner, all the while telling us that they really couldn't cook.

I don't know the names of many of the dishes they made- they kept the menu and recipes a secret. There was a little bundle of rice and ground beef, tied with a strip of nori (seaweed), and a another meat dish that consisted of slices of beef in a sweet brown sauce, (not bulgoki) accompanied with slices of cooked green pepper and mushroom. My husband is convinced the little bundles were called chewibap; I don't know about that, but bap is the korean word for rice, so he could be close. There was a salad of cucumbers, spinach and silken tofu in a vinegar dressing. They cooked some commercial dumplings- mandoo- and melted cheese over them. Oh, and Korean rice- a white, short grained, very sticky rice.

My personal favorite was kimchijaen. Jaen is a pancake; pajaen has scallions, hae mul pajeon has scallions plus little bits of seafood. Kimchijaen, obviously has chopped kimchi. Kimchi, spicy fermented cabbage, is the traditional food of Korea, and Koreans eat it everyday. Koreans consider kimchi to be a health food. Health.com lists it as one of the worlds healthiest foods because the bacteria aids in digestion, but other sites have broader claims. This site talks about the research. I've tried to make it at home, but my efforts amused my husband and Eunjee. One of the things I love about Korean food is all the little side dishes that go with dinner. We had a relish made from carrot and white daikon radish, odang, which is a spicy fish cake, soybean sprouts, a cucmber dish called uwikimchi, and a spinach dish. Sometimes we get gokdugi- a spicy relish made with daikon radish. We bought all of the side dishes at the Korean grocery.

If you are looking for Korean recipes, try My Korean Kitchen, TriFood, and KoreanInfoGate . Zenkimchi's food journal is interesting, too.

EunJee came to our house as a foreign exchange student in 2003, we had her weekends while she went to boarding school the next two years, and she is now finishing up her first year of college. HyeJin was a student at the boarding school, and will be starting college next year. This is the time of year to be thinking about having a foreign exchange student. We have had 3, they have all been pleasant experiences. (I know there are people who have less than pleasant experiences, but we've been 3 for 3 on the good side, and I really have met relatively few people who had a bad experience.) You don't have to be the typical nuclear family with kids in high school to have a student, either- single people and empty-nesters can apply. In fact, I think it was an advantage that our children were grown before we started having students- there was very little chance of conflict between the kids. Think about it- visit AYUSA's website and find out what it takes to be a host family.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

An Avocado a day...

I like apples, but just think how marvelous life would be if we could substitute "avocado" for "Apple" in the old adage about keeping the doctor away.

Well perhaps that's not so far off the mark. On the Cancer Cure Foundation website listing of cancer fighting foods, avocados are first on the list (probably because avocado starts with "A"). According to the website, "Avocados are rich in glutathione, a powerful antioxidant that attacks free radicals in the body by blocking intestinal absorption of certain fats. They also supply even more potassium than bananas and are a strong source of beta-carotene. Scientists also believe that avocados may also be useful in treating viral hepatitis (a cause of liver cancer), as well as other sources of liver damage." And WebMD praises the avocado, citing a study that showed subjects who ate an avocado daily for a week had a significant drop in total blood cholesterol levels, and LDL ("bad fat") levels while at the same time their HDL ("good fat") levels rose.

I did a little happy dance when I read this, always delighted to have an excuse to eat an avocado. My happy dance got a little more frenetic when I spotted grapefruit on the Cancer Cure Foundations list, as well.

Every winter, my parents send us a case of the most wonderful Texas Ruby Red grapefruits from Bell's Farm in McAllan, Texas. There just isn't a better gift than this! Huge, sweet and wonderful, Chuck and I try to make them last as long as we can. Chuck carefully removes the peel and the bitter white layer just underneath by scraping lightly with his pocketknife; we split one per evening, eating them segment by segment like oranges. Cancer Cure says about grapefruit "Grapefruits, like oranges and other citrus fruits, contain monoterpenes, believed to help prevent cancer by sweeping carcinogens out of the body. Some studies show that grapefruit may inhibit the proliferation of breast-cancer cells in vitro. They also contains vitamin C, beta-carotene, and folic acid." To make a good thing even better, an Isreali study, also mentioned on WebMD found that participants eating a low fat, low calorie diet showed a greater drop in cholesterol if a red grapefruit was added than if they ate a white grapefruit or no grapefruit at all. Triglycerides in the red grapefruit group were also lower than with the other two groups. (And red grapefruit taste far superior to pink or white, in my opinion.)

Despite enjoying them just as they are, I do occasionally, make a very simple and delicious salad, combining grapefruit, avocado and red onions. When I tell people about this, they are always surprised and a little hesitant about the combination. But everyone who has tasted it has thought it was terrific. I am very happy to enter it into Mele Cotte's Cooking to Combat Cancer Blog event.

Grapefruit, avocado and red onion salad

For 2 servings

1 ripe avocado, peeled and coarsely diced (Avocado should be soft but not squishy)

1 large Ruby Red grapefruit, peeled, segmented and membranes removed

approximately 1/4 cup chopped mild red onion.

salt to taste

pinch of Korean red pepper (or other coarsely ground red pepper) (optional)

Combine everything but salt and red pepper in a bowl, mixing carefully so that the avocado and grapefruit don't get overly squashed. Sprinkle salt , toss again, and sprinkle the pinch of red pepper over the top.

The citrus should keep the avocado from darkening, but this should be eaten fairly soon after preparing- I've not found avocados to keep well once they have been cut.

Neither grapefruit nor avocados are local foods here in Central Pennsylvania, but there are some things and some times when the rules have to relax. Both of these fruits fall in that category!

(Please note, if you are taking any meds you should check with your doctor or pharmacist about possible drug interactions between grapefruits and a number of commonly prescribed drugs for a variety of conditions. In the course of writing this, we discovered that the Lipitor my husband takes is one of those cited, and we will be checking with his doctor before grapefruit season next year.)

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Home made yogurt- is this ambrosia?

In a recent post on Local Forage, Carla gives a "thump on the head" to Stonyfield Farm for joining other dairy operators in lobbying the USDA to NOT require the Organic Standards Board recommendation that organic cows receive 30% of their feed from pasture.

I was dismayed by this, because I have been buying Stonyfield's yogurt for the past year or so. I like it, and the inulin fiber they add, purportedly to boost calcium absorption, gives the yogurt a really nice smooth texture. But it also started me thinking. Stonyfield isn't in my foodshed- in fact it's almost 500 miles to Londonderry, NH.

Here in S. Central PA, dairy farming is important. In fact, we are here because of the dairy industry- my husband worked for a cream cheese company that moved us here. Around my house, fields are speckled with black and white Holsteins and Belted Galloways, creamy brown Jerseys providing contrast. Our friend Ashley was Dairy Princess last year, a duty that entailed promoting milk and dairy products at various functions. The dairy farms run the gamut from 300 cow automated operations, with indoor cows who seldom see the out of doors, to small family herds of pastured cows, milked by mom and dad and any siblings old enough. With this tremendous bovine presence, I began to wonder why I was not getting local yogurt.

Well, the answer to that is, "Because there isn't any." I can get local milk and ice cream, lots of cheese, but as far as I know, no one is marketing local yogurt. I have no idea why that is.

As a wedding present, we were given a Salton Yogurt maker, an odd little machine that made between 4 and 6 single servings of yogurt (I don't remember how many now- that was 30 years ago!) I used it a lot, but it never made enough for me- I love quantity. So I learned to make yogurt without a machine (What a concept!) I always used non fat dry milk, but I quit when I realized I didn't know where the milk came from, or how the cows were treated and fed.

Obviously, the answer to my yogurt dilemma was to make my own, using local milk. The first batch I made used 2% milk. Wow- was it ever terrific! Tonight, my friend EunJee, visiting us for her spring break from SUNY helped me, and we used just under a half gallon (1.9 L) of 2% and a full half gallon (1.9 L) of non-fat. This netted us about 9 pints (4.25 L) of yogurt.

You will need
Containers for the yogurt- pint or quart sized ( .5 or 1 L) canning jars work well, or plastic yogurt containers.

An ice chest or cooler, with a lid, that is big enough to hold the containers.

A pot large enough to hold the milk you will be using, and still leave at least 2 inches (5 cm) head space and a stirring utensil that will reach the bottom of the pan.

A thermometer that will measure temperature of the milk up to 180 degrees F (83 degrees C)

1/4-1/2 cup (118-236 ML) plain commercial yogurt with live cultures- Dannon works best, in my opinion. You can use your home made yogurt to culture the next 2 batches, but you should go back to a commercial yogurt every 3rd batch. This makes sure your bacteria haven't mutated or become weak.

Milk- 1/2 to 1 gallon (1.75- 3.5 L) More would be difficult to deal with, less wouldn't be worth the time.

Make sure everything is impeccably clean. We are going to be encouraging a bacteria to ferment milk by inoculating the milk with the bacteria we want growing there. If everything isn't scrupulously clean, we could introduce a wild bacteria into the mix that might not have the same pleasing end product!

Based on how much milk you are using, decide how many containers you will need for your end product, and then add 1 more, just in case. I used pint canning jars and lids. Spread a clean kitchen towel, or several paper towels out on the counter top.

Step 1-
Wash containers in hot, soapy water, rinse in the hottest water you can. (Jars straight out of the dishwasher can also be used) Invert the clean jars on the towel- this keeps airborne bacteria or dirt from falling in your clean jars. Fill a mixing bowl with the hottest water you can. Wash lids, rinse and then submerge lids in the bowl of hot water to keep them sterile. Wash pot and whatever you are going to stir with. I repeat- Wash everything!
Step 2-
Pour the milk into your pot. Heat the milk to 180 degrees F (83 degrees C), stirring constantly, all the way to the bottom of the pan. This step is very important if you are using raw milk, probably less so if you are using pasteurized milk, but better to be safe than sorry. Don't boil, though, because that alters the taste of the milk. This picture is from a batch of yogurt I made using "cream line", or non-homogenized, milk- the yellow is butter fat floating on top of the milk.

Step 3-
Cool the milk to 120 degrees F (49 degrees C). I usually fill the sink with cold water to cut the time this takes, and put the pot in the sink. In the summer I even use ice water.
Step 4-
Stir the commercial yogurt into the cooled milk. Make sure it is all dispersed through out the yogurt. Step 5-
Ladle the milk into the containers, and put the lids on. (Sometimes I put a teaspoon of yogurt into each jar, just to make sure there are plenty of bacteria in there.) Place the containers in the ice chest. Step 6-
Put enough hot water (about 130 degrees F- 54 degrees C) in the ice chest so that it comes about half way up the jars or containers. Put the lid on the chest, and walk away for 8-12 hours. I usually make the yogurt after supper and leave it until the next morning. Longer fermentation means tangy-er yogurt. I love to combine yogurt, fruit and a little honey or Sucanat in a bowl, then freeze for a couple of hours. It's almost as good as ice cream! Bananas work especially well in this, so did the apricot/raspberry mixture left over from my fried pies.

Now it's time to move onto making tofu!