Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Quick Breakfast Option

I am not a morning person. Nor am I a "breakfast is the most important meal of the day" type. As a scrappy sleeper, I need quick and healthy breakfast options. The other day I encountered my old friend dried oatmeal packets, but found the one I was eating had a litany of suspicious ingredients. I decided to try making my own.

The basic idea of dried instant oatmeal: buy instant oats, then add whatever seasonings suit your fancy.

The nice thing was, most of the ingredients I needed were lying around my kitchen.

I dried my own fruit in a food dehydrator, but packaged fruit works easily as well.

Step 1: Make the oatmeal thickener. Add 1 cup oats, 1T wheat germ, and 2 tsp. flaxseed to a blender and pulsate until powdery.

Step Two: Stir powder into 5 cups of dried instant oats. (Since I was making three kinds of oatmeal at 5 cups each, I made three batches of the thickener.)

Step Three: Add whatever flavorings you choose! I added the following ingredients to three separate batches of five cups of oats:

Apple-Date Oatmeal
Stir in 2T cinnamon, 3T brown sugar, and 1 tsp. salt.
Then mix in 1.5 cups dried apples, 1 cup chopped walnuts, 1 cup chopped dried dates.

Lovely Blueberry Oatmeal:
Stir in 2T cinnamon, 3T brown sugar, and 1 tsp. salt.
Then mix in: 1 cup dried blueberries and 1 cup chopped pumpkin seeds.

Almond Peach Lavender Oatmeal
Stir in 2T vanilla powder (optional), 3T brown sugar, 1T chopped lavender, and 1 tsp salt.
Then mix in: 2 cups dried peaches and 1 cup chopped almonds.

Store oatmeal as desired - in one large or many serving-size Ziploc bags. Prepare as you would any packet of instant oatmeal.

Friday, August 26, 2011

What you pay for is...what you get?

Two high school students in New York used DNA barcoding to test the genetics of local food products, and came up with some surprising results.

"The new barcoding study by Tan and Cost uncovered additional examples and types of “mislabeled” food products:

An expensive specialty “sheep’s milk” cheese made in fact from cow’s milk;
“Venison” dog treats made of beef;
“Sturgeon caviar” that was really Mississippi paddlefish;
A delicacy called “dried shark,” which proved to be freshwater Nile perch from Africa;
A label of “frozen Yellow catfish” on Walking catfish, an invasive species;
“Dried olidus” (smelt) that proved to be Japanese anchovy, an unrelated fish;
“Caribbean red snapper” that turned out to be Malabar blood snapper, a fish from Southeast Asia" (1).

Read the article.
Watch the video.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Red Bell Pepper Sauce

Red pepper season! I picked up these beauties for 97 cents each. Quite a steal, considering they can be upwards of three dollars each. Red peppers are great sources of fiber and Vitamins A and C. A cup of red pepper has three times your daily requirement of Vitamin C. (1)

I turned to the Rodale Whole Foods Cookbook for a red pepper recipe, and found one for a red pepper sauce.

It involved sauteeing and simmering a mixture of red peppers, onions, brown sugar, garlic, fresh sage and salt until the veggies were very soft...

Uh-oh. This recipe involved pureeing the softened vegetables. My ACE housemates might remember how poorly this went - twice - when I tried to make tortilla soup. The blender disaster of 2007. Not sure the cupboards ever recovered. Thankfully it went better this time.

Meanwhile, my ground turkey, ziti noodles and mozzarella cubes waited in the wings.

Voila! The finished product. it might not look that great. But it was delicious. The peppers made a very sweet sauce and the mozzarella softened nicely. I'd make it again. You should make it, too.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

School District Cooking from Scratch

"...Already, the number of ingredients in an average meal — not to mention the ones that sound like they came from chemistry class — is plummeting."

Check out this New York Times article about a Colorado school district's overhaul of their cafeteria cooking. They are attempting to cook from scratch, which is cutting costs and eliminating many artificial ingredients in student lunches.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Home is where the Herb is

Ok everybody, squish together for a photo.

Back Row (L to R): Lavender, Basil, Rosemary
Front Row (L to R): Tarragon, Sage

These herbs live on my back porch. I have never grown lavender, tarragon or sage, but I've had great experience with rosemary, which is a hardy plant that lasts through the winter.

Having fresh herbs on hand enables you to add depth to any dish.

Basil recently made a guest appearance on my bruschetta:

How to cut basil:
1. Stack 4-6 leaves on top of one another.
2. Roll the leaves into a tube vertically.
3. Slice perpindicular to the stem to create thin strips.
4. Drizzle over pasta, bruschetta, garlic bread, or other foods.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

This Looks Fun

Check out's The Science of Cooking, a friendly and inquisitive website that reveals what's really going on when you bake bread, cook meat, and season foods. Recipes, activities, and visual aids help readers go to a level of cooking investigation that might actually make Nietzsche smile (see right).

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Soft Pretzels

In honor of this:

I made these:

Yes, the soft pretzels were a big hit at our Sound of Music party. I served the pretzels with Plochman's mustard and they were all gone by the end of the night!

The recipe came from Daniel Leader's Local Breads book. I knew the twisty part would take all my cooking cunning, but the recipe was more involved than I expected. I cut butter into the flour with my fingers, like in a pastry recipe, and the formed pretzels had to be simmered in a mixture of water and baking soda for about 30 seconds just before baking.

In spite of the complicated steps, this recipe is a keeper.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Cracker Face-Off

Snack Time. Which family favorite do I reach for?

You can eat almost twice as many Wheat Thins per Triscuit for the same kcal count, and Triscuits have slightly more fat. But check out the ingredients. Do you want the good news or the bad news first?

Wheat Thins: Whole grain wheat flour, unbleached enriched flour (wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamine mononitrate {vitamin B1}, Riboflavin {vitamin B2}, folic acid), sugar, soybean oil, cornstarch, malt syrup (from barley and corn), salt, invert sugar, leavening (calcium phosphate and/or baking soda), whole grain barley flakes, triticale, vegetable color (annatto extract, turmeric, oleoresin). BHT added to packaging material to preserve freshness.

Triscuit: Whole grain soft white winter wheat, soybean oil, salt.

My guess is I'd feel fuller, longer, with half as many Triscuits, and without all the extraterrestrial ingredients.

Stay tuned for a cracker recipe I learned while baking with Mother Dorcas!

Banana Bread

I am making banana bread today and free-styling a bit off the recipe in Joy of Cooking.

1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup wheat flour
2-3 bananas, mashed (about 1-1 1/2 cups)
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup butter (the real stuff), softened to room temperature
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup walnuts
2 eggs

1. Combine dry ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.
2. Stir together butter and sugar in large bowl. Whisk in the mashed bananas and eggs.
3. Gradually add dry ingredients to the liquid mixture.
4. Fold in the walnuts.
5. Pour into one large loaf pan or several smaller loaf pans. Top with crumbled nuts.
6. Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Serve with tea and a good story.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

They Draw & Cook

Check out this fantastically fun website, where artists submit drawn recipes:

Hope you see me up there one day!