Tag Archives: Whole Wheat

Fig and Walnut Bars

I’m watching The Reader as I write this.  If you haven’t seen this movie yet (or read the book), I strongly suggest that you do so, even though it is a bit, ahem–uncomfortable at times.

Yesterday I went to a rehab hospital with my class and met several patients with different life-altering diagnoses such as spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, strokes, and other neurological disorders.  What really struck me is that every patient that we were introduced to were working at their therapy with positive, if not downright upbeat, attitudes.

These are patients with fairly new injuries that had a significant effect on their physical and mental functioning.  Even though the hospital was a really great one, I’m sure they’d rather be home or in their jobs like they were a few months ago than struggling to do basic tasks that only recently were so easy they were automatic.  I just can’t imagine the immense willpower it must take every day to pick oneself out of the deep sea of “why mes” and “what ifs” and just start focusing on needs to be done.

So kudos to the people who can do that–you are amazing and inspiring,

I brought some leftover fig and walnut bars for my friends and I to snack on while we were driving to and from the hospital.  They were definitely a welcome bite, since we were starving.

Fig and Walnut Bars (adapted from this recipe)

for the filling:

  • 8 oz dried figs, stems removed and cut into quarters
  • 1 T Lyle’s golden syrup (or honey)
  • 2 T water
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • 1/2 t cinnamon
  • 1/4 t ground ginger

for the crust:

  • 1 C whole-wheat flour
  • 1 C old-fashioned oats
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 6 T apple butter (or applesauce)
  • 1 flax egg (1 T ground flaxseed in 3 T warm water)
  • 2 T Lyle’s golden syrup (or honey)
  • 1 C toasted walnuts, for the top

To make the filling, combine all the ingredients (figs, syrup, water, lemon juice, and spices) into a food processor and combine until roughly smooth.  If a dash more water is necessary for it to form a paste, add it.

Set aside.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and spray a square 9″ pan with canola oil.

In a medium bowl, combine the dry ingredients and add the wet ingredients, leaving out the toasted walnuts (to toast them, simply place them in the hot oven on a metal pan for five-eight minutes until browned).  Stir until a thick dough is formed.  You may need to add a bit more applesauce or water if it is too thick–it should be like a drop cookie dough.

Spread about three-quarters of the dough into the bottom of the pan and press it even.  Layer the fig filling on top (it should be a thin but even layer), and drop spoonfuls of the remaining oatmeal dough on top of the fig layer.  Spread the dough thinly and press the toasted walnuts into the mixture.

Bake on the middle rack for about 20 minutes, until the dough is browned.  It’s a bit difficult to tell with all the walnuts and layers, but it should be relatively firm to the touch.  Allow it to cool completely before slicing.

These are amazing–the fig center is sweet enough to make it taste like a dessert, even though the ingredients say otherwise.  With whole walnuts on top and a soft oatmeal “crust”, there are enough textures and flavors to make this a seriously satisfying snack.

A fig newton on (healthy) steroids.

I cut them into bars first, and then in half again into bites–mini snacks are just that much more appealing, don’t you think?

I’ve got a lot of school work to do this weekend, but never fear: the spring break countdown has finally begun!  On Friday, Fritz and I are headed to my parents’ house for an entire week, and I can. not. wait!

Kinda weird that I have to bring my baby tomato plants on a 6 1/2 hour drive, but a you gotta do what you gotta do.

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Filed under Desserts

Year of the Vegetable (and Pasta Puttanesca)

I have very exciting news.

News that involves vegetables.  Many vegetables, coming to me once a week in a box from a farm just a little further east on Long Island.  A CSA box.

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and it’s a system where the consumer (that’s me) buys directly from a farmer (that’s them).  It’s a bit expensive for our budget, but I talked Fritz into letting us try it this year.  It averages out to about $21 a week (our grocery budget is around $50 a week).

From June 1st ’till the end of November we will be picking up a box of CSA veggies from a drop-off point close by our apartment.  I’m really excited because I can’t wait to have fresh-picked local vegetables at my disposal for 26 weeks.  I’m also looking forward to learning how to use some new vegetables that I’ve never had the opportunity to use–the farm grows over 100 varieties of vegetables, and they promise 6-10 different types of vegetables in each box.  Of course, I am a little nervous about getting stuck with a giant pile of kale every week for 26 weeks–but their list of last year’s boxes has a lot of variety, so I remain hopeful.  I also have wanted to really dive into making us eat a lot more fresh and green vegetables this year, so with this system I’m stuck finding a way to use what I’ve been given (plus I hate wasting food and I love a challenge so…).

The farm we are using is called the Golden Earthworm Organic Farm, and here’s their website if you want to learn more about CSA or their farm: thegoldenearthworm.com

In other exciting vegetable news, our baby tomato plants are growing like wildfire.  On some advice from Mom, I knew I needed to thin them out ASAP since a lot more of them were growing than I anticipated.  I bought some peat pots for $1.50 and got to work.

To prepare the pots, poke a hole in the bottom, fill with potting soil, and drench with water until the pots are saturated.  Transplant the babies, and voila!

Obviously I would rather not be transplanting baby plants when they are this small, but the pots got overcrowded really fast and I didn’t have much of a choice.  Hopefully now with more room these 14 plants will prove their worth (’cause I’m dreaming about fresh salsa and canning tomato sauce already).

I think that Henry also considers himself their watchdog/mother/guardian angel.  He’s constantly watching over them, sniffing them, and not yet eating them.

Not yet.

Lastly, here’s a recipe for a fresh  new pasta sauce I tried for the first time ever tonight: pasta puttanesca.  It’s quick and simple (and I left out the anchovies, so it’s not fishy), and I absolutely loved it.  I normally don’t even like olives, but between the brine and the bright bites of parsley that I harvested from our herb garden (already!? I know!!), it was my favorite pasta sauce ever.

Pasta Puttanesca (adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook)

  • 1 box whole-wheat angel hair pasta, cooked according to directions
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 3-4 cloves garlic (I only had dried garlic so I did my best)
  • 1 t red pepper flakes
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 C black olives, pitted and roughly chopped
  • 1/4 C minced fresh parsley
  • 1 T capers (optional–I didn’t have them)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Cook the pasta according to directions on box.

Over medium heat, saute the garlic in the olive oil.  Before it starts to brown, add the olives, red pepper flakes, and tomatoes.  Let the sauce simmer until it begins to thicken, then add the parsley.  Flavor with salt and pepper to taste.

Dinner was conceptualized and on the table in less than 20 minutes, including picture time.  Love when that happens.

Light and fresh is really the best way to describe this meal.  Sprinkle some fresh parsley on top for a springtime finish.  We also added a dash of grated parmesan cheese–serious yum.  Fritz did wish that he had some chicken in there.  Sometimes I forget that there are other people in this household who crave meat in their meals–sorry Fritz.  It’s an easy addition for next time, though.

Fritz and I are watching a movie called Creation about Charles Darwin’s life.  I strongly recommend it, even to those of you out there who aren’t giant nerds.  And especially those of you who are (Mom!).

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Filed under Entrees, Vegetarian

Whole-Wheat Banana Marble Cake

There comes a time in every woman’s life when her grocery budget for the month runs out.

For me, that time was two weeks ago.  There’s still a ton of food in the pantry (whole-wheat pasta, beans, lentils, canned tomatoes, almonds) and the freezer (frozen pesto, pork chops, strawberries and mangos, and a loaf of whole-wheat bread), but we are seriously lacking in fresh veggies.  I made myself promise this time that I wouldn’t cheat and use next month’s cash because that’s what I usually do…and that’s why I’m stuck in a cycle of always running low at the end of the month.

But we do need vegetables. 

But I also can’t be trusted in a fresh produce section without going way overboard (so many exciting possibilities!), so after discussing the issue at length with my friend Lola, we decided it would be best for me to grab a few cheap packages of frozen vegetables and just make it work until April finally rolls around.

Nicely enough, Waldbaum’s had a 10 for $10 sale on frozen vegetables, but it even happened to be the good kind.  The steam-in-its-own-bag kind.  And they had some great mixes (such as Asian veggie mix) that were actually included for once.  So only $10 into next month’s budget, I’m a pretty happy camper.

And luckily I always have baking supplies in stock, so as per Fritz’s request for a sweet snack, I decided to bake a cake.  One that’s as healthy as you can get while still remaining cake-like.

Whole-Wheat Banana Marble Cake (adapted from Blue Ribbon USA)

  • 1 C sugar
  • 1/2 (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 C mashed ripe bananas (I used three bananas)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 C whole-wheat flour
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/4 C unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Confectioners’ sugar for dusting the top (optional)

Tharrie (Fritz’s mom) gave me this cookbook a year or so ago and until now I hadn’t made anything from it.  It’s a book containing State Fair blue-ribbon winning recipes from  the 50 states.  Since my first try of a recipe from this book came out so well, I’ve got my eye on a few more I’d like to try.  This cake came from good ol’ West Virginia.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9×9″ square pan (you could use a round one too, if you like).

Cream the butter and sugar together in a mixer for two minutes or until fluffy.  Add the vanilla, egg, and banana and mix until well combined.  While the mixer is running, slowly add the baking powder, baking soda, salt, and flour and mix until no lumps remain–scrape down the sides of the bowl once or twice to make sure you have everything in there.

Take out half of the batter and set aside.  To the remaining half, add the cocoa powder and mix again until combined.  Scrape the sides down once more to make sure all of the chocolate half is, well…chocolate.

Drop spoonfuls of the plain banana half into the greased pan, leaving spaces between for the chocolate batter.  Add the chocolate batter in spoonfuls, then swirl the two colors together using a knife.  Be careful not to overswirl, or instead of marbled you’ll just have a mess.

It doesn’t have to be perfect, though.

Bake on the middle rack in the oven for 30-40 minutes, until an inserted toothpick comes out with a few crumbs clinging to it (when baking a cake, by the time a toothpick comes out dry, so will your cake!).  Cool on a baking rack and dust with confectioners’ sugar, if you like.

I did.

Enjoy!  The sweetness of the bananas come through nice and strong, and despite the whole-wheat flour it still tastes like cake and not banana bread.  The cocoa swirled through and the sugar on top really make this a perfect dessert that’s not too decadent.

Not that I’m against decadence by any means.  Sometimes I just like to have my cake and eat it too, without feeling guilty or weighed down by frosting.

I’m sure you can guess that Fritz was a fan.  He had his with a scoop of butter pecan ice cream he has squirreled away in the freezer (I hate nut-flavored ice cream, so it’s safe from me), and proclaimed the cake, “really flavorful–banana bread and sweet cake combined.” 

And Henry?

Well, he was busy catching up on the season finale of Jersey Shore. 

I think we were all ready for Sammi and Ronnie to just break up already.

Jeez!

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Filed under Desserts

Multigrain Bread

Seeing the footage from Japan really puts our lives in perspective, doesn’t it?

Suddenly studying doesn’t seem so bad anymore.  Even better that I have an apartment to do it in, and I know where all my family members are–and there is fresh bread to eat.

I baked this bread over the weekend, and it has held me over for the last few days when I need a quick carb pick-me-up (and it tastes amazing, really amazing with a rooibos tea spread that I bought at Wegman’s a while ago).  Between that and the sun finally coming out, I might be able to muster up enough energy to get going on the last few midterms I need to study for.

This recipe is from Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book of Breads, and I chose it simply because I was impressed by the sheer amount of whole grain he managed to cram into it.  It makes three loaves, and it is absolutely perfect to toast and eat with peanut butter, rooibos tea spread, butter, bananas, honey, mint jelly, eggs, and blackberry jam.  I know because I’ve tried it all.

Multigrain Bread (three loaves)

  • 1 C rolled oats
  • 1 C barley flour (you can grind your own)
  • 1 C millet
  • 1 T brown sugar
  • 2 t salt
  • 2 C hot water (120-130 degrees)
  • 1/3 C canola oil
  • 3 packages dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 C mashed potatoes (yes, really)
  • 2 C whole-wheat flour
  • 3/4 C rye flour
  • 2 C all-purpose flour

Line three (or two if you want really tall loaves) loaf pans with wax paper, and grease them.  Make the mashed potatoes or better yet use up leftovers (plain–no butter or sour cream, please).

In the mixer bowl, measure the oats, barley flour, millet, brown sugar, and salt.  Pour in the hot water and canola oil and mix.  Add the yeast and allow it to dissolve in the liquid before adding the mashed potatoes.

Next, add the whole-wheat and rye flours, and mix for two minutes with the flat beater.  Change over to the dough hook.  While the mixer is running, add the all-purpose flour 1/2 C at a time until the dough forms a “shaggy mass”, pulling away from the sides of the bowl.  Once it is all added, if the dough remains sticky you can add sprinkles of flour, but don’t go overboard.  Knead the dough (using the dough hook) for eight minutes.

Place the dough into a large, greased bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and leave at room temperature until it has doubled in size (about 1 1/2 hours).

A seriously large bowl.  I had to switch to a bigger one because I didn’t anticipate the dough rising this much.

Turn the dough onto a floured table and shape it into three loaves.  Place into the pans, cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel, and let it rise again (another hour).  When you have twenty minutes left to rise, pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.

Bake on the middle rack until browned, about 45 minutes.  Turn out one of the loaves and tap on the bottom–if it sounds hollow, then they’re done.

Allow them to cool before slicing.  If you can.

The absolute best part about this bread (other than the yeasty fresh-bread taste, obviously) is that the millet gives each slice an amazing crunch.  Totally unexpected.

Best thing since…well.

I kept one loaf out and froze the others.  Just wrap in plastic wrap and/or freezer bags first.  When you take them out, make sure you allow the bread to reabsorb any water that forms inside the bag before you start slicing it and toasting it, otherwise you’ll have a really dry sandwich.

Fritz is presenting his research today in San Diego–I wish I was there too, but at least the sun managed to break out from the clouds here so I’m not missing out on all the fun.

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Banana Whole-Wheat Rusks (South African)

It’s amazing how much the weather affects my mood.  When I woke up this morning it was gray and rainy out.  I did my usual Friday morning thing (straightened up, made a giant breakfast, did the dishes, and sat down to read) and even though that routine usually fills me with a huge sense of peace and relaxation, I felt weirdly…melancholy.  An hour or two went by, and as the rain stopped and the sun came out I was back to my regular baking, errand running, procrastinating, happy self.  And it was 100% due to the sun.  It was gorgeous enough to open the windows while I baked–and that is probably my favorite thing ever.

It also might have had to do with the green-themed care package that arrived in the mail today stuffed with goodies from my parents.  Thin Mints really just have a happy way about them, and my mom told me she has a new problem called she can’t stop buying me cute and functional things for my kitchen.

Mom and Dad found this scarf for me in Chinatown last time they were in NYC for business

Now that is a problem that I can live with.

I’ve mentioned before that the hubs is South African, and he has begged me for rusks for a few weeks now.  Rusks are a hard, twice-baked bread that is like biscotti in that it is dipped in tea or coffee to soften before eating.  Usually rusks are a little less refined than biscotti, too–salty buttermilk or rough bran often flavor these amazing snacks.

I have become a huge fan of rusks in the last few years, and since Fritz has also been asking for banana bread (he gets excited when he spies a few spots on a banana), I decided to go out on a limb and combine the two!

Start off with banana bread:

Whole-Wheat Banana Bread (you could use any banana bread recipe you like, but I’d aim for a hearty, less sweet version like this one I adapted–you want to complement your tea, not overwhelm it)

  • 2 C whole-wheat flour
  • 2 T ground flaxseed
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 3 bananas, mashed
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 C brown sugar (I used Indian maple sugar)
  • 1/2 C milk (I think these would be even better if you substituted buttermilk here)
  • 2 t vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350.  Start by combining the dry ingredients, then adding the wet ingredients and mixing until a smooth batter forms.  Like I’ve said before, I like to slice the bananas into the mixer and then let the beater mash them a bit–then there are some chunks of banana left for discovery.

Pour into a greased loaf pan–I topped it with a crushed granola bar for some extra texture, but that’s optional.  Bake on the middle rack until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 50 minutes.  The top and edges will be a nice, dark brown because of the whole-wheat flour.  Let it cool for at least 15 minutes before you turn it out and slice it.

If you are just making banana bread, stop here.  Otherwise–turn the oven down to warm/200 degrees and get ready for rusks!

Banana Whole-Wheat Rusks

Slice the bread into thick slices, and divide each slice vertically into four pieces for thin, rectangular shapes.  Place the rusks on a dry baking sheet and dry out in the oven, rotating every hour or so to prevent them from burning.

It helps to keep the oven door propped open a bit to let the moisture escape.  The drying should take 3-6 hours for one loaf, depending on how hot your oven is and how thinly sliced the rusks are.  Once they are dry, cool completely before storing in an air-tight container.  Serve with tea or coffee.

Fritz nearly fainted with happiness when he discovered what was cookin’ in the oven all day.

Even Henry couldn’t wait for these rusks to finally be finished:

You’ll notice that Henry is seated on a scratching pad that he has decided is better suited as a throne–he sits on it all day long.  Gotta love that catnip.

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Filed under Breads, Snacks

Very Veggie Pizza (with Whole-Wheat Dough)

In celebration (yes, celebration!) of yesterday’s Meatless Monday, I made a pizza.  We were tired, and I didn’t feel like going to the gym–but I did feel like playing with my new light box!  By the time I got dinner started it was already dark outside, so you get to experience how food looks in our new box.  It’s not better than natural light by any means, but it is eons better than what I had before.

Start off by making the dough, because it’ll need to rise and you can get all the toppings ready once it’s busy doing its…you know…thang.

Whole-Wheat Pizza Dough  (adapted from In Great Taste by Evelyn Lauder)

  • 1 C spelt flour
  • 1 C whole-wheat flour
  • 1/2 C wheat germ
  • 1 1/2 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 pkg active dry yeast
  • 2 t salt
  • 1 t sugar
  • 1 1/4 C warm water
  • 1 T olive oil

First I had to make the spelt flour.  Because my mom is amazing and scatters kitchen gifts in her wake wherever she goes, I have a coffee grinder that also works perfectly to make grains into flour.  You can also experiment here with what kind of flours to use–the original recipe used all-purpose flour for the whole thing and suggested subbing half whole-wheat.

Add all the dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl, combine, and make a well for the wet ingredients.  Pour them in, making sure the water is warm but not hot enough to kill the yeast.  Mix thoroughly and knead for ten minutes on a tabletop or about half the time with the KitchenAid.

Cover bowl with Saran wrap and allow to rise until doubled in size, about forty minutes.  Meanwhile, prepare your toppings.

Very Veggie Pizza

  • Whole-Wheat pizza dough
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1/3 C basic pesto sauce (remember this recipe? Get a few cubes out of the freezer!)
  • chopped veggies (I used 1/2 bell pepper, a tomato, olives, 3 scallions, and 1/2 onion–all the leftovers in the fridge!)
  • parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  While the dough is rising, chop the veggies and place the canned tomatoes into a saucepan.  Let them simmer until thickened into a sauce.

Once the dough has risen, punch it down and divide into two.  Roll out into a circle 10-12″ in diameter, and if you want an authentic feel, dust the bottom with cornmeal.  Place on a cookie sheet and spread with half the pesto, leaving 1/4″ bare on the edges.  Cover with half of the tomato sauce, then layer on half the vegetables and top with a sprinkle of the parmesan cheese.

Repeat with the other pizza.  When the oven is hot, bake the pizza on the middle rack for about 12 minutes until crispy on the bottom and the vegetables are cooked through.  If you want, you can broil it for a minute or two to blacken the toppings a little–but I didn’t want them overcooked.

This crust is my favorite that I’ve ever made.  It was perfectly crisp on the bottom, but still just doughy enough under the veggies to satisfy my pizza craving 100%–I didn’t want a flatbread sandwich, I wanted a pizza!  However, by far the perfect touch was the pesto sauce under the tomatoes.

It was divine.

And the best part is, you get leftovers to bring to school the next day!

What do you think about our lightbox photos?  Pretty crazy background there, huh?

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Filed under Breads, Entrees, Vegetarian

Heart-y Strawberry Whole-Wheat Pancakes

Heart-y!  Get it?  ‘Cause it’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow and these heart-shaped pancakes are chock full of healthy ingredients and are so filling and…yeah.  You get it.

I’ve been all about breakfast lately–and Fritz and I truly outdid ourselves since we decided to celebrate V-tine’s a day early on account of having a full day of classes tomorrow.  We slept in a bit, and woke up to a 55 degree house again (seriously?!).  We decided to make a gigantic breakfast to warm up while we waited for the heat to be fixed.

It might be illegal to have food this good when it’s not even the official holiday yet.  And if this breakfast doesn’t fill your heart to overflowing with love for each other–and every other organism on the planet, I don’t know what will.  Not to mention your body will thank you for all the good stuff inside: wheat germ, flaxseed, strawberries, and whole-wheat flour make this a heart-healthy breakfast.

Strawberry Whole-Wheat Pancakes (adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook)

  • 1 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 C whole-wheat flour
  • 2 t baking powder
  • 1 T ground flaxseed
  • 2 T wheat germ
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 egg
  • 3 T melted butter
  • 2 C buttermilk (I use dried buttermilk–add the powder with the dry ingredients and the water with the wet) 
  • 1 C chopped strawberries

This is an easy mix.  I combined the dry ingredients, made a well, and added the wet ingredients.  Mix well, then add the berries.

 Cook over medium heat–we used egg shapers to make hearts and perfectly round pancakes.  Looks good, but they also cook evenly and don’t run into each other for easier flipping.  Top with more strawberries, some cinnamon sugar, and of course, maple syrup.  These pancakes have a perfect and subtle butter flavor already so you don’t need to add extra (unless you want to–it is almost a holiday!).

Just a touch of syrup.

Well, maybe a little bit more.

To celebrate, we made a really fun, delicious, and exotic Asian-inspired dinner together.  You’ll see all about that in a later post.  We also decided to exchange gifts early–Fritz made my present this year (and Henry helped).  Here’s a little hint:

You’ll see the fruits of their labor in a day or two.  Have a happy V-Day tomorrow!  What are your plans?

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(Not Your Grandmother’s) Tuna Salad

I found this recipe in Cooking Light magazine, and I decided to make it as a lazy post-gym quick yet satisfying meal.  Only once I realized that it was going to score high marks in the all-important triumvirate of cooking did I think to take a photo.  It was:

  1. Cheap
  2. Easy
  3. Healthy

I mean, what more could you ask for?  Oh wait–delicious!  That’s the last thing I expected, because I have never been a fan of canned tuna, and even less so of tuna salad.  But this is a whole ‘nother kind of tuna salad.

So here’s my recipe and one picture of my unintended success.

Not Your Grandmother’s Tuna Salad (adapted from Cooking Light)

  • 6 oz (half a box) of whole-wheat penne
  • 7 oz can of tuna, packed in water
  • 1 large (any color) bell pepper
  • 1/2 C cooked spinach, drained (I used frozen, but fresh would be even better)
  • 1/2 C cooked peas (I used frozen again)
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 2 T red wine vinegar
  • 1 t olive oil
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste

Boil the pasta according to directions on the box.  Meanwhile, cut the pepper in half lengthwise, remove the seeds, and place skin-side up on a foil-lined baking pan.  Broil in the oven until the skin is blackened, about fifteen minutes.  Dice into small pieces.

Once the pasta is cooked, drain and put in a large bowl.  Add the rest of the ingredients and toss well.  If using fresh spinach (or arugula), toss in the rinsed leaves and allow the hot pasta to wilt them.  Otherwise, heat the frozen veggies and drain before adding them in.

Serves four–and for the record, it’s good microwaved the second day too.

Since I don’t have any other pictures of dinner for tonight, I thought I’d let you feast your eyes upon the Christmas gifts that I made for some of my favorite ladies in my life.  Homemade vanilla extract.

It’s super easy–vanilla beans, vodka, and a cute bottle.

Let it sit for about six weeks until it turns dark and fragrant (much darker than these bottles–these pictures were taken the second day).  Then top it with an ornament and BOOM! Perfect presents!

Only eleven months ’til Christmas!  I think it’s about time to start planning some gifts, right?

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Filed under Entrees, Side Dishes

A Sleepover with Whole Wheat Pumpkin Pancakes

Our good friends the Jensens came up with an amazing idea for this week: a sleepover!  Cait slept over here for girl’s night, and Fritz headed over the Jensens’ apartment for some pizza-eating, man-movie-watching boy time.  When we met up at our place for breakfast this morning, we discovered the true difference between men and women:

Boys:  Ate multiple calzones, leftover Halloween candy, fruit snacks, and frozen fruit bars, then watched an entire man-movie.

Girls: Chatted for three hours non-stop, made mexican hot chocolate, started a movie and fell asleep ten minutes later.

It was perfection (for both parties).

Cait and I woke up bright and early and the boys showed up soon after, ready to eat.  While we prepared the food, Fritz and Jeff played Jenga with the added “danger element” of Henry trying to swipe at the blocks.  Cait made sausage, veggie and scrambled egg muffins (see her recipe here at her blog A Bicycle Built For Two):

While those were baking, I made some fall-themed (no, I’ll never get sick of it) pancakes:

Cinnamon Pumpkin Whole Wheat Pancakes (adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook)

  • 1 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 C whole-wheat flour
  • 1/2 t baking powder
  • 2 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 egg
  • 3 T butter, melted
  • 2 C buttermilk
  • 1/2 C pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 t cinnamon

I didn’t take a picture of the ingredients, because there were people over ready to eat and that would just be awkward.  But this is an easy one!  Mix all the ingredients together.

On second thought, add a little more cinnamon.  Spray a crepe pan (or whatever you have) with canola oil, and place over medium heat–don’t get impatient and turn the heat higher, because you will have burned pancakes.  Pour in some pancake batter and flip when there are bubbles over the entire surface.

This is enough batter to make pancakes for five or six hungry people.  While they are cooking, set out a plethora of toppings for everyone.  We went with peanut butter, honey, Lyle’s golden syrup, pumpkin butter, cinnamon sugar, and of course, maple syrup–and I don’t go anywhere near that fake stuff.

Eventually, you will have a giant stack of steaming, not-too-dense pancakes just begging for you to sit down and eat ’em.

And here’s Cait taking a few of her own pictures:

It was a really amazing and relaxing Saturday night/Sunday morning.  For dinner I made an Asian-inspired fennel salad with miso dressing; not my favorite but I know a few people who would love it.  Have a great end to the weekend, and here’s to only having two days of school this week!

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Buttermilk Rye Whole-Wheat Bread (so good you might want to marry it)

Yes, I made bread today.  But more importantly:

WE BOUGHT A CAR!!  Finally!  Fritz wandered into a Kia dealership and they happened to have a trade-in that was in our price range.  Fritz checked it out and drove home to tell me (I was home baking).  When the bread had risen, the oven preheated, and after an eternity the bread fully baked, we drove back so I could perform my thorough car evaluation/inspection (“It’s cute!”).

WOOOOOOO!!!!

Anyway, let’s get back to business. 

Buttermilk Rye Whole-Wheat Bread (From Bernard Clayton’s Complete Book of Breads)

  • 1 C rye flour
  • 1 C whole-wheat flour
  • 1 pkg dry yeast
  • 1 T wheat germ
  • 1 T caraway seeds
  • 2 t salt
  • 1 C buttermilk
  • 3 T molasses
  • 2 T canola oil
  • 1 C bread or all-purpose flour

You’ll need a large loaf pan (5″-by-9″), greased, and I strongly suggest using a mixer to save your biceps all the hard work of kneading this dough!

In a mixer bowl, combine the rye and whole-wheat flours, the yeast, wheat germ, caraway seeds, and salt.  Mix well.  I use dry buttermilk, which I added to these dry ingredients (4 T).  In a saucepan, heat the buttermilk (in my case, the water I’d mix the dry buttermilk with normally), molasses, and oil until hot (120 degrees).  Pour into the dry ingredients and blend at a medium speed for three minutes with a flat beater.

By hand, gradually stir in the white flour to make a firm (but not stiff!) dough.

Knead for 8 minutes using the mixer and the dough hook.  If the dough remains sticky (mine did!), add pinches of all-purpose flour.  Be careful not to add too much!  Bernard Clayton, author of this recipe, calls the “cannonball” a standard rookie mistake of new bakers.  Place the dough in a greased bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap.  Allow it to rise until doubled in size, about an hour.

Lightly flour your work surface (ahem, my kitchen table), and roll the dough out to a 14″-by-17″ rectangle.

Start on the short side and roll the dough up tightly.  Pinch the edges and ends to seal, and place in the greased pan.  Loosely cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, about an hour to an hour and a half.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees for at least 20 minutes before baking.  Place the pan in the oven and bake until the loaf is a dark brown color and sounds hollow when tapped.  Let cool on a wire rack before serving.

It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it.  The bread is moist, tangy, and full of whole wheat goodness!  Something I learned from Mr. Clayton today is that if you are planning on eating the bread in the next two days, store it in a paper bag to keep that crispy exterior.  If  not, freeze what you plan on eating later–wrap it in two plastic freezer bags.  To defrost, take out of the freezer and wait until all the ice crystals have reabsorbed into the bread, then pop it in the oven at 350 degrees for 15 minutes to revitalize.  This makes your bread taste good as new, rather than that stale taste it’ll pick up after only a few days in the fridge.  Thanks, Bernard!

I made sushi tonight with some friends for the first time, and I’ll update on that tomorrow.  Until then–here’s a Henry shot for you to cuddle up to:

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Filed under Breads