Thursday, February 18, 2010

Pumpkin Flax Seed Granola

Pumpkin Flax Seed Granola
Sometimes I fall into a bit of a rut with breakfast. Lately, I have been eating eggs or oatmeal. Now I love both eggs and oatmeal, but I wanted to make something different. I had purchased a um, large bag of oatmeal, like 25 pounds, or 21 kilos a couple of months back. Abandoning the idea of steadily eating eating away at the fifteen pounds left is not really an option. So, what to do? GRANOLA! Now, while granola bought in the store is hideously expensive, making it at home is pretty easy and relatively quick. So, because I love the pumpkin flax seed granola from a great natural brand, I decided I would try to make up my own recipe. So, here it is. The amounts are approximate, but the results should be delicious even so. If this mix of seeds isn't really your thing, feel free to change it up.
Pumpkin Flax seed Granola
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup honey
1 cup oil
1 cup water
5 lbs of oatmeal(this I did measure on a kitchen scale)
1 cup flaked coconut
1 cup flax seed
1 cup sesame seeds
1 cup pumpkin seeds
Turn oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Melt the sugar, honey, oil and water together to make a syrup. I recommend doing this in a LARGE saucepan on the stove, under careful supervision. I opted for the microwave and it didn't really satisfy my desires to have it all melted together. The stove top works much better. Mix the oatmeal and various stuffs in a really big bowl. Yes, a really big bowl. I really should measure how big my bowls are, but I used the biggest one I had in my kitchen that was stainless steel. Then carefully pour the syrup over the oatmeal/seed mixture. Stir generously to coat as much as possible with the goodness of the syrup. The syrup is going to be your main prevailing flavor, so make sure it coats the oatmeal well.
Next, in some baking pans, spread out the coated mixture. This is going to be your granola after it bakes, so treat it with love and respect because it might be going into the oven looking kind of wet and sticky but it will emerge triumphant and proud and delicious! Stir carefully after 20 minutes and it will be done when it has baked for between 40 minutes to an hour. This range is because everyone has personal preferences. You might like your granola darker or lighter. When the granola is close to being done, it will start smelling awesome, so let the aroma be your clue to watch it carefully.
This granola will be so much better than anything you have ever had from a store if you don't burn it. It might still seem a bit moist, but it will continue to dry after it has been removed from the oven. Stir it well as it cools to remove any traces of moisture and then store in the freezer or refrigerator for up to six months. At room temperature, I can't say how long it will last because everyone in your house will eat it. This granola makes a great gift when you just want to show off to someone how totally cool you are. Or not, you can just eat it yourself.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting

Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting
Its the sweet stuff. Seriously, this is amazing frosting.
1/2 cup softened butter
8 ounces cream cheese
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup  heavy whipping cream
Cream butter and cream cheese together. Add powdered sugar and beat well. Then add the whipping cream and whip it up. The frosting will become stiffer than whipped cream but will spread easily.
Some issues to be aware of: this frosting has sugar and fat. Yes, I know, it is caloriffic! Just don't eat it every day for a week and you should be fine. Also, ideally, the cake should be refrigerated once it is frosted. If it lasts that long. This frosting goes well with just about any cake, but especially well with carrot, chocolate zucchini and raw apple.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Triple Ginger Chews

Triple Ginger Chews 

I published this recipe on a certain social networking site a while back, but the formatting got confused and made it tough to link to. Good recipe when you are feeling blue because of the B vitamins in the molasses. If you leave out the eggs, these are amazingly buttery.

Triple Ginger Chews 

2 cups all purpose flour 
2 cups oatmeal baby food, or finely ground oatmeal 
2 teaspoons allspice 
2 teaspoons ginger powder 
1 teaspoon salt 

12 oz butter (about 3 sticks), room temperature 
1/2 cup molasses 
1 1/2 cup sugar 
1/4 cup grated ginger 
2 eggs(well beaten) 
1 cup crystallized ginger, finely minced 

1/2 cup large-grain sugar like Turbino or sugar in the raw 

Mix dry ingredients. In separate, larger bowl, cream butter, molasses and sugar. Then add eggs, fresh and crystallized ginger and mix well. Gradually add dry mix to wet mix. Stir until flour is absorbed. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Roll dough into tablespoon sized balls. Roll to coat in large grain sugar, then place on baking sheet, spaced a few inches apart. Bake for 10 minutes. Cookies should darken, puff up and crack. Remove from oven, cool and serve. 

I used the baby food as a dry flour because it works great as an additive to almost any baking and helps up the nutritional value of things my kids will eat without questioning if it is icky. To make an easy 'oat flour', blend oatmeal until powdery and fine, or just grind it if you have a wheat grinder. These cookies are also good with whole wheat flour. The molasses hides the darker color and again, makes these slightly healthier. :D

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Lemon Poppyseed Cake

Lemon Poppyseed Cake

This recipe is altered from one from the Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone by Deborah Madison.  I altered it to be slightly more healthy and because I am feeling too icky to make a huge effort to do it her way.  Oh, yes, I got sick with something, fever, sore throat, achiness... I am thinking flu. However, ibuprophen is a great friend when you need it.  So I am up and about today.  We have an awesome store, not too far from where I live called WinCo  WinCo is new to this area, but I really like them. Last night I found lemons at 10 for a dollar so I got 10.  I have already used several to make a lemon honey tonic for my sore throat(mix the juice of one lemon with one teaspoon honey and a cup of hot water, stir to dissolve and drink it.) I have been thinking about this cake for a while and a friend mentioned she was making a lemon cake and I thought, what a great combination the lemon and poppyseed would be.  Also, I lost seven of those random ten pounds, so I am feeling better.  I am going to be working out with my husband and looking forward to it, after I get over this illness.

Lemon Poppyseed Cake
One cup poppyseed
1/2 cup milk
zest of one lemon
2 cups whole wheat flour
one teaspoon baking powder
one teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1/2 cup oil
juice from that zested lemon
1 cup buttermilk or sour cream

Mix the lemon zest into the hot milk and add the poppyseed. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Mix the dry ingredients throughly and then add the eggs, oil, lemon juice, sour cream or buttermilk and the poppyseed. Mix really good. In fact, you can beat it on medium speed with your mixer for 2 minutes if you want. Pour into a greased and floured 9 inch spring-form pan, bundt pan or 9x13 inch pan or two 9 inch cake pans. Or cupcake liners, it would be about 24 cupcakes. Bake in the oven for about 50 minutes for the bundt and spring-form pans, 45 minutes for the 9x13 and 30 for cupcakes. Remove from oven when the cake is golden, firm and beginning to pull from the sides of the pan. Dust with powdered sugar or coat with a lemon glaze.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Raw Apple Cake

Raw Apple Cake
I have been gaining weight lately. I think there are multiple reasons, and probably eating too much sweets has contributed some of it. Finding a way to balance my current raging sweet tooth with things I should be eating more of, like fruits and vegetables, is my current challenge. I was strongly considering a short term dietary shift, but due to some setbacks, I have not implemented it yet. I will be blogging about what I am eating when I do that along with recipes. Anyway, this cake, along with the zucchini chocolate cake and the carrot cake, made up the triple layer cake I baked for my oldest son's first birthday. Frosted with whipped cream frosting, the cake was a huge success. Even when each of these cakes are served separately, they are a delicious healthy treat. But maybe just once a week, not every day? Yeah, I am looking for some new recipes for healthy, portion controlled treats. With millions of recipes out there, I am sure I will be able to tailor one or two to my personal tastes :)
Raw Apple Cake

4 cups of chopped fresh apples
2 cups of brown sugar
1/2 cup cooking oil
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
Mix all ingredients to moisten and place in a greased 9 inch by 13 inch pan or 2 round 9 inch cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees F for one hour.

Ok, it seems really simple to make, and it really is. No need for frosting, and it makes a good breakfast or brunch cake. I think this is my mother's favorite recipe for cakes and she makes it not nearly often enough. It will have big chunks of apples unless you chop them really fine, but that is part of the charm of the cake. This recipe was altered from the Kitchen Magic cookbook, a cookbook about using your food storage every day. It has some other 'healthy' recipes I want to try later, after I figure out if there is some other reason I gained 10 lbs in 2 months.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Best Way to Disguise Zucchini

Zucchini Chocolate Cake
The best way to disguise Zucchini is in baked products. While you might have had zucchini bread or muffins before, you might never have heard of zucchini chocolate cake. This treat is awesome not only because it uses 3 cups of shredded zucchini, but also because it tastes really yummy, just like chocolate cake should and because the zucchini offers a moisture to the cake that keeps it fresh longer. I know it isn't zucchini season currently, but I am using some zucchini one of my friends kindly insisted I take home last summer that I grated and froze. Zucchini is mostly water, so when it thawed, there was quite a bit of water that had separated from the vegetable flesh. Some of it I drained and the rest I added to the recipe, in place of the buttermilk(yes, I know the buttermilk was supposed to DO something, but I forgot at the moment of actual mixing) In case you can't tell, I am trying to rotate my food storage and get some things used up in fun ways. The original recipe called for all purpose flour, but the whole wheat I ground a couple of days ago worked great and was full of fiber and other nutrients that are classically lacking in commercially milled flour.This recipe was also borrowed from the Joy of Gardening Cookbook. My aunt used to cook this cake all the time when we had an excess of zucchini.
Zucchini Chocolate Cake
4 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate(I weighed out 4 oz of DARK chocolate chips because I was out of unsweetened)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups of whole wheat flour
1/3 cup cocoa
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup buttermilk or sour cream
3 cups of grated zucchini or summer squash
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour or line with parchment paper two nine inch cake pans. Melt chocolate and oil together. You can do this in the microwave or over very low heat on the stove to make sure it doesn't burn. Cream the butter until light, then add the sugar, eggs and vanilla. Beat well.  Add the melted chocolate and mix well. Sift together(yeah, I always stir them thoroughly instead of sifting) the dry ingredients and then stir them into the batter with the buttermilk. (This was the point I just dumped the melted zucchini into the batter. Oops!) Mix good and then taste the goodness... Oh wait, that wasn't the end! Divide the batter between the two prepared pans. Bake in the center of the oven for about 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting. Cream Cheese frosting is a great match with this rich cake. This cake is SO good! You might not want to tell your family and friends what is in it, until they rave about it.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Healthy Carrot Cake

Healthy Carrot Cake
I would say this cake recipe is healthy because it does what many cake recipes do not: encourage your kids to eat vegetables. I have a bunch of recipes like this, just easier ways for me to help my children eat healthier. My children also like to eat carrots raw, so I guess they would eat them anyway. I have a variation on this recipe that I used for my baby's birthday to make a very rich cake. There are two ways I like to frost this cake, one with the traditional cream cheese frosting, and the other where I melt butter on top and then sprinkle cinnamon sugar generously over the butter. The butter and cinnamon topping makes the cake healthier, because it uses far less sugar. It also makes this cake more suitable to for a breakfast treat which is what we did today. This recipe is adapted from one in the Joy of Gardening Cookbook.

Healthy Carrot Cake 

4 cups of grated carrots
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 tablespoon cinnamon powder
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
Heat oven to 350 degrees F. 
Blend dry ingredients together. If you want to take the time, feel free to run them through a sifter. Next add the eggs, oil and vanilla. Blend well and then add the carrots. Mix together and place in two greased 9 inch cake pans, 24 lined cupcake tins or a oiled 9 by 13 inch pan. Bake until done, this can be measured by inserting a clean knife or straw into the pan and having it come out clean. This will be about 30 minutes for the cupcakes, 45-50 minutes for the cake pans. It will smell very good when it is done because of all the spices. If you are going to frost with the butter and cinnamon sugar, spread the butter over the top of the cake while it is still hot. Mix one teaspoon of cinnamon into one cup of sugar to make the cinnamon sugar blend. It is also good on toast and spice cake.
A richer variation of this recipe calls for a substitution of 1/2 cup of ground sesame seeds for 1/2 cup of the flour  and of one cup of walnuts and 1/2 cup of raisins for 1 cup of grated carrots. Good stuff.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Completely Beautiful Bread

Completely Beautiful Bread  
I have made bread a bunch over the course of growing up and have had mixed results. Lately I have been trying different ways of making bread, most of which consisted of dumping my ingredients n my bread machine, turning on the dough cycle, removing the dough, kneading and forming a loaf, and then baking in a hot oven. Good breads have come from this, but I had a desire to make some loaves all at once instead of one at a time and to use freshly ground flour from the hard white wheat I have stored for emergencies. No time like the present to accomplish my goals! So today, I went into my storage area and wrestled the lid off of the bucket of hard white wheat, got out about ten pounds and took it upstairs to run through the donated Magic Mill to make flour. First off, the people who sealed that bucket did not want the lid to be easily removed. I had stupidly left the bucket in a comprised situation on the exterior of my house and even though the outside of the bucket was dirty from having got wet, the inside was completely clean. Good to know. Please store your grain more responsibly in a cool, dark, dry location. Also, hard WHITE wheat cooks up like hard RED wheat in theory, but truthfully acts more like regular bleached Bread flour. I was able to make 100% whole wheat bread that was light and even fluffy with none of the hardness and coarseness I usually find in whole wheat bread.
Soft whole wheat bread recipe

2 cups of very warm water
3 tablespoons of yeast
1/4 cup brown sugar
Mix together in a one quart or larger bowl. Set aside.
3 cups of freshly ground whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon of salt
1/4 cup of brown sugar
Mix together in a bowl big enough to hold your one year old. J/K The bowl was a bigger stainless steel one that is about 16 inches in diameter and probably holds two gallons of water, easy.
Add the bubbling yeast mixture. Stir to make a wonderful thing called batter. This batter is why this recipe totally is the best one I have ever made! Let the batter sit and rise for about twenty minutes. Don't do what I did and leave your fork in it. That was dumb on my part because I had to fish it out from all the bubbly batter.
Now, add about 3 more cups of flour to the batter. This addition will make it look like all the moisture has been absorbed. If you really rock, you will have done all this stirring and stuff in a Kitchenaid mixer and the next step is even more simple: Stir all the flour into the batter to make the dough and knead for five to ten minutes. I used my hands and got them really covered in the dough. It is fun. Now, oil the bowl liberally, place the kneaded dough back inside, flip over to coat the dough with the oil, cover the bowl and let rise for 45 minutes to an hour in a warm place. After the dough has risen double or even triple in size(literally, mine filled the bowl that I was describing earlier), turn it out on a clean surface, like a counter. Now knead. Pretend the dough is one of your kids, spank it, punch it a few times. Work it over and make it bend to your will. After you get your aggression out on the dough, you will have kneaded it for about ten minutes. You are welcome to knead it less, but I cation, do not add more flour. With the dough having been oiled and kneaded before, it should resist sticking to the surface and the addition of more flour will make it very heavy and stiff. Divide the bread in half, place each half into a well oiled 9 by 5 inch bread pan and let rise in a warm place. I put mine over the oven as I preheated it to 350 degrees F. Let rise until about doubled(this was about 20 minutes), then place in the oven for 30-35 minutes. The resulting bread should be softer than you expect so don't do something lame like pounding on the top of the loaf to check if it is done. What you can do, if you have doubts about what your nose and eyes are telling you is an amazing loaf of bread, is to measure the interior of the loaf with a meat thermometer. Please be sure it is clean and not crusted with the remains of your last steak or Thanksgiving turkey. It should read 205 to 210 degrees F.
Eat and enjoy with lots of butter or apple butter or apple plum butter or pumpkin butter that you previously canned. Also makes great sandwiches and remember, this bread will be softer than most breads baked at home. It should still have a great crust, but be careful when cutting it or it will smash like the bread from the supermarket. 

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Oil Pie Crust

Pie Crust
Alright, pie crust is a loaded topic. Many people would prefer to only use things like shortening and lard to make it, but I say nay. I have always preferred using natural oils to make my pie crusts. Sometimes I will go overboard and use some butter. However, butter must be kept cold or the crust will be too sticky to handle. This is my standard oil-based pie crust mix. If you prefer to have a crust that is more like a commercial one that incorporates solid fats like lard and shortening, try using either palm or coconut butter.
Oil-based Pie Crust

2 cups flour (I use unbleached all purpose flour, but whole wheat pastry flour works good too.)
1 teaspoon salt(even if the crust is for a dessert)
1/2 cup oil (Soybean or other type, depending on the use of the crust and your personal tastes)
1/4 cup very cold water(yes, COLD is important in this)

Blend flour and salt. Add oil and cut it into the flour until the mixture is crumbly and resembles something like Bisquik mix. Bisquik has fat in the mix and this is what make is have a different texture than self rising flour.
Now, add your COLD water carefully to the oil/flour mix. Gradually stir it together until you can make a ball of the dough and have it hold together. If your pie has two crusts, you will need two balls, so divide it in half. Now, prepare a surface to roll the crust out. Make sure it is clean so nothing funky gets into your crust. Then apply a small amount of flour over the surface and over your rolling pin. This will prevent the crust from sticking as you roll it. Alternatively, if you have a wonderful invention like a Silpat or even just parchment paper(the baking kind that is pretty sturdy), using these can help as well. I do not recommend using wax paper, but some people do. Flatten your ball of dough as much as possible with your hands before using your rolling pin. Then roll it to be as thin as you need, or think your crust should be. Some people use a set of measuring bands on their rolling pins to be sure of the thickness, but that is more than I do. Once your crust is rolled out, double check the size using your pie pan you were going to use for the pie. If it is a little bit too small, roll it out more until it fits right. Then(and this IS the tricky part), carefully transfer the crust to the pie pan. I like to carefully scrape the crust from the counter, folding it over in half and sometimes once again, into fourths using a awesome pancake turner. If you have a Silpat, the crust is easily moved from the counter to the pan. I really should get one of those...
Anyway, after the crust is in the pan, put your yummy filling inside and top with the other crust. If you are making a pumpkin or open faced pie, this recipe will make TWO pies! How cool is that? So, to review, mix the oil with the flour, add the water, then make into balls and roll into crusts. If your dough is a little bit sticky, add a tablespoon more flour. If it is too dry, add a tablespoon more water.
Bake as per your pie instructions. This will normally depend on the type pf recipe. I made Beef pot pie and cooked it for 400 degrees F for 30 minutes. Fruit pies are about the same time. Custard pies, like pumpkin, require special attention in the oven and normally two separate temperatures.
For a dessert pie, you can add a small amount of sugar in the flour like 1 or 2 tablespoons.