Trying to shrink

I hope you aren’t getting tired of muffins. Obviously, I’m not. Today’s post is masquerading as yet another muffin post, but it’s really about something else entirely. Something very personal. If you have been a very long time reader of mine, you will remember the year that I was serious about Weight Watchers and I lost forty two pounds. Several months ago, I just let it all go. It happened the way this sort of thing happens to people. I had a routine and it centered around work. I ate certain things at certain times of the day and walked during my breaks and then sometimes, made it to the gym on top of that. I had a really good routine that I hardly had to think about. The weight loss came easy. When I lost my job, I lost my routine, I got really depressed, things started to slip and a whole host of bad habits came back. Then I stopped trying altogether. I have gained back seventeen pounds.

Now, I know your first instinct is to be supportive and tell me that seventeen pounds isn’t even half of what I lost and I’m still okay. The problem is that I was going through all of this effort for my health. I don’t want to get diabetes, go blind, trip and break my hip, trip again and break my other hip and suffer the way my mother has. I don’t want to clog my arteries, suffer for years with angina and then have a quadruple bypass like my dad. I know I don’t want any of that, but I suffer from human nature and I am my parents daughter and I have ingrained poor habits that I have to concentrate very hard on changing every day. My dad said something last week that sums up what I need to strive for. He basically said that everyone gets old and everyone will die, but you want to do whatever you can to have the best quality of life until the end. Well said. Something I need to concentrate on very hard. Something that seeing my mom laying in her hospital bed so fragile and unhappy drives home for me.

One problem I have that I think everyone struggles with is portion control. I have a bad habit of having more than one of something I like and taking too much of it to begin with. In order to shrink me, I’ll need to shrink my portions so that’s what I did this week. I did a knock-off of the delicious strawberry muffins from last time but I made sure I made them in mini muffin tins. Here is the Mimi math for you. Each mini muffin is one half the size of a regular muffin. If I ate a regular muffin and then lost control and had to have a second muffin, it would equal four mini muffins. So, if I have a mini muffin and have a second, it equals one regular muffin. If I go really crazy and have three, it is equal to one and a half regular muffins, I am still ahead half a muffin. Terrible logic, I’m sure, but these are the little tricks that helped me lose the weight last time.

Sourdough apple walnut mini muffins

3 tbsp flax seeds

½ cup water

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1 tbsp baking powder

¼ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp ground ginger

¼ tsp allspice

3/4 cup coarsely chopped, toasted walnuts

½ cup apple sauce

½ cup honey

½ cup buttermilk

½ cup sourdough starter

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 large apple diced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 24 cup mini muffin tin with olive oil spray and set aside.

In a blender, grind flax seeds to a powder. Add water and blend for forty-five seconds until thickened. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, allspice and walnuts.

In another large bowl, mix together all of the flax seed mixture with the apple sauce, honey, buttermilk, sourdough starter, vanilla extract and diced apples. Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until well combined. Let stand for a few minutes to rise a little bit.

Spoon the batter evenly into the muffin cups. Put the muffin tin into the oven and bake for 20 minutes until the muffin tops are browned and a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Cool for a few minutes and then serve.

P.S. Any muffin batter can be baked as mini muffins instead. Just experiment with decreasing the amount of time they bake. Here is a list of muffins that have appeared on Delectable Tidbits before:

Blood orange sweet cherry corn muffins

Carrot-currant muffins

Coco-nutty-cocoa sourdough muffins

Orange poppy seed mini muffins

Peach and strawberry muffins

Sourdough strawberry walnut muffins

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What do you do when you run out of eggs?

Years ago, I was a fiend for pressure cooking. Once I acquired my pressure cooker, I cooked everything I could find in it, got bored and then put it in a cabinet never to be heard from again. The author of my favorite pressure cooker cookbook, Lorna Sass, put out a vegan cookbook around that time. It was called Recipes from an ecological kitchen. Poor Lorna. I stopped using the pressure cooker book and the vegan book got relegated to the bookshelf as a reference manual for grain cookery. One thing in the vegan book that has always fascinated me was her use of flax seed as a substitute for eggs. She would grind raw whole flax seed in a blender, add water and blend for up to a minute to form a thick paste. She states in the cookbook that it works just like eggs in her recipes and makes for light and fluffy baked goods. It sounded like magic. It sounded too good to be true!

Even when I was a vegetarian, I still ate eggs and dairy. I love my eggs and dairy! I still do. I’ve never used her flax seed method because I always had eggs in the house and never had flax seed in my pantry. Now I bake bread. I have more flax seeds than I know what to do with. Today, I had no eggs. I was completely out and I wanted a muffin with my morning tea. Today seemed like a great day to try an experiment.

Over the past couple of months, I have baked muffins using Herbert a couple of times. Once was the delicious cocoa, coconut and pecan muffins and recently, I baked a recipe from my blog friend over at the Lost World of Drfugawe. John made these amazing cornmeal muffins. When I saw them, I had to make them. They turned out delicious, tall and fluffy. Drizzled with raw honey, they were superb. One thing that surprised me about his recipe was that he used a full tablespoon of baking powder. I followed the recipe, making just a tweak here or there, to be rewarded with such light fluffy corn muffins. When I thought about it, it made sense. There are acids that build up with the starter. The neutralizing powers of baking powder and acids are what makes baked goods rise. Since I planned to use starter, buttermilk, lemon juice and strawberries, all tart ingredients, I borrowed this little bit of baking wisdom from John.

My muffins were tall and fluffy. The flax seed paste mimicked the eggs as advertised but they also lent a nutty grainy flavor that complimented my toasted walnuts. I used a spare amount of honey for sweetener, so the muffins ended up on the less sweet side and the springtime strawberries are a bit tart but altogether, I have to call these muffins a huge success. Just the perfect morning breakfast food to go with tea or coffee. I was told by an appreciative boyfriend that these muffins are pure strawberry goodness.

These springtime muffins are going to YeastSpotting, the place to go for all your bread baking porn.

This recipe contains buttermilk because I like what buttermilk does to baked goods, but if you want to make them vegan, just substitute soymilk or rice milk for the buttermilk and agave syrup for the honey.

Egg free sourdough strawberry and walnut muffins

3 tbsp flax seeds

½ cup water

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1 tbsp baking powder

¼ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

1 ½ tsp lemon zest

¼ cup canola oil

½ cup honey

½ cup buttermilk

½ cup sourdough starter

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 cup coarsely chopped, toasted walnuts

1 ¾ cups diced fresh strawberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, Place the raw walnuts in a small iron skillet. As the oven gets up to temperature, toast the walnuts for 5 – 8 minutes, watching them to make sure they don’t burn. Remove from oven and cool.

Spray two six cup muffin tins with olive oil spray and set aside.

In a blender, grind flax seeds to a powder. Add water and blend for thirty seconds until thickened. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and lemon zest.

In another large bowl, mix together all of the flax seed mixture with the canola oil, honey, buttermilk, sourdough starter, and lemon juice. Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until well combined. Let stand for a few minutes to rise a little bit. Gently stir in the walnuts and the strawberries.

Spoon the batter evenly into the muffin cups. Put the muffin tins into the oven and bake for 20 – 25 minutes until the tops are browned and a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean.

Muffin manna

I promise we are going grocery shopping TODAY!

That being said, I woke up this morning to find that my significant other had made it to the refrigerator before me. His reward for being both a morning person and a breakfast lover? Leftover French toast and leftover frittata. He was set. I’m really not a morning person and breakfast, in my opinion should be put off for at least a little while until the grogginess wears thin.

Once I made it into the kitchen, I realized that there was one egg, a little tiny bit of milk that was flirting pretty heavily with it’s expiration date, and a teensy bit of yogurt. Hmmm. Maybe a muffin and some green tea could somehow be coaxed out of the last remaining food items in the house.

I grabbed a beloved breakfast cookbook and found a muffin recipe I hadn’t tried before. It was for Orange-Cherry Corn Muffins. I had one last bag of frozen sweet cherries and two teeny blood oranges left. I didn’t expect much from these muffins made of scraps but they came out so good that I had to keep the “sharing my breakfast” theme up with you.

These muffins turned out to be different from the original recipe due to my usual need to make things healthier and an unusual need to find appropriate ingredients. Here are some substitutions I made:

Whole wheat pastry flour for white flour

Honey for sugar

Blood oranges for Oranges

Yogurt diluted with milk for buttermilk

Olive oil for butter

These muffins were tender, moist and tangy and had a pretty sunny color due to the blood oranges and cherries. The best muffins I’ve had in a long, long time. My boyfriend… well, let’s just say that with an appetite like his, there is always room for dessert. He loved his second breakfast.

Blood Orange-Sweet Cherry Corn Muffins

Adapted from Sunlight Café by Mollie Katzen

Olive oil Spray

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 cup cornmeal

½ tsp salt

1 ½ tsp baking powder

1/8 tsp baking soda

1 tbsp blood orange or orange zest

½ cup blood orange juice or orange juice

1/3 cup honey

¼ cup nonfat plain yogurt thinned down with ½ cup nonfat milk

1 large egg, beaten

½ tsp vanilla

4 tbsp olive oil

1 ½ cups frozen sweet cherries, undefrosted and coarsely chopped.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, F. Spray 8 – 10 standard muffin cups with olive oil spray (The recipes in this book annoy me. The muffin recipes always make an odd amount of muffins and she gives a range for how many you will end up with. When dealing with this book, I always start out spraying 8 cups, if the recipe makes up to 10 muffins like the author says, I spray a couple more as I need them. I don’t do all 10 because I ruined my muffin tins spraying too many cups once for one of these recipes, be careful).

In a large bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, salt, baking powder, baking soda and zest.

In another bowl, combine orange juice, honey, yogurt/milk mixture, egg, vanilla and oil.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Add the chopped cherries. Mix until combined well, being careful not to overwork the batter. Spoon batter into muffin cups until just full. Again the recipe gives a range of 8 – 10 muffins, depending on how you fill the cups you may get 8, you may get more, I got 9 and one of the cups was slightly overfilled.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for a few minutes before serving.

The alchemy of flour, salt and water

This morning, as I sat where I am sitting now, I really meant to put my nose to the grindstone and not delay the inevitable and sit and look for a job. But I sit and look for a job a lot. Since this is a chore that is not very exciting or particularly rewarding, I tend to let my mind wander and I get distracted. This morning, since I also delayed something else that is inevitable: eating breakfast, I found myself sitting in front of a computer, hair a mess, teeth not brushed, still in pajamas obsessing about a breakfast burrito. Normally this would not present a problem. We often pick up whole wheat tortillas at the store when we purchase groceries, but this past weekend it seemed like a much better idea to have a lot of fun instead of doing chores so we never quite made it to the store.

The prospect of cleaning up the mess known as me, and transporting myself to a grocery store in order to come home and cook seemed a hell of lot more daunting than skipping straight to the kitchen and creating an even bigger mess by starting a whole step backwards. When I say starting a whole step backwards, I of course mean making the wraps for my breakfast. Last week while perusing the Indian food section of my cookbook collection (yes, I have so many books that they can be categorized into sections, don‘t you?), I was noticing that there was a chapati recipe in each book. Recipe is a little bit of an overstatement. Chapatis are flour, salt and water, kneaded for a few minutes, flattened with a rolling pin and cooked in a heavy, hot pan. Same thing in each book. Easy.

But… I was thinking, would they be the same thing as the tortillas I buy? Not really, flour tortillas have a little bit of fat in them. The chapati recipes I was looking at have no fat, but the dough is kneaded for as long as I would knead a yeasted dough. They wouldn’t be soft but they should have a nice texture. The other challenge to my idea of a breakfast burrito would be the size. I only have a nine inch cast iron skillet. My chapatis would be bigger than a standard corn tortilla, but not big enough to wrap things up burrito style. I would have to make my breakfast resemble something more along the lines of a large taco. Fine with me. Filled with eggs and cheese and other goodies I could scare up from the depths of the vegetable drawer and the pantry, my chapati breakfast wraps would be a triumph!

Would you care to make breakfast with me? First let’s make chapatis:

In a large bowl, mix together 2 cups stone ground whole wheat flour and ½ tsp salt. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and slowly start to mix in between ¾ – 1 cup of water. I started with ¾ of a cup but being that I was using stone ground whole wheat instead of Indian atta flour, I think I needed more moisture. I used almost a cup of water. Begin kneading the dough in the bowl until it starts to stick together. Transfer the dough to your favorite kneading surface (mine is a lightly floured wooden board) and knead for seven minutes or more until you are able to form a supple, smooth dough. Form this dough into a round ball (see above), cover with a clean kitchen towel and let it sit for twenty minutes.

Divide the dough into eight even pieces and roll one into a thin round (about 9” in diameter).

Heat a 9” or larger cast iron skillet over high heat until it begins to smoke and then lower the heat to medium. Carefully transfer the first round of dough to the pan so that it lays flat.

Cook for about a minute until it starts to form bubbles. Turn the chapati over and press down with a clean dishtowel to make sure all of the surfaces contact the pan. Cook for about a minute and turn over again. Make sure the edges especially are cooked all the way.

Remove the chapati to a tortilla warmer or a dishtowel lined basket to keep warm.

Repeat the process seven more times until all chapatis are cooked. I was able to roll each chapati out in the time it took for the bubbles to form on the first side, so I did these assembly line fashion. If this is too stressful, roll them out and stack the dough between pieces of wax paper or parchment so they are ready to go.

While my fresh chapatis were safely tucked away warm and toasty in a tortilla warmer, I did a reconnaissance of what food was left in our kitchen. Here is the lovely chapati wraps I was able to make for a hearty brunch.

Chapati breakfast wraps

(Makes 4 wraps)

4 chapatis

2 – 3 tsp olive oil

½ red onion, halved again and then sliced thin

1 zucchini, sliced thinly into rounds

Salt and pepper to taste

5 eggs, beaten

15 oz can black beans

Chili powder and cayenne to taste

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar

¼ cup cilantro, minced

1 avocado, pitted and cubed

If the chapattis are fresh, keep them warm. If not, toast them on both sides in a cast iron skillet and keep them warm until you are ready to use them.

Saute the red onion in olive oil until it softens and begins to brown slightly. Add zucchini, season with salt and pepper to taste and cook until the zucchini softens and just begins to brown a bit.

Meanwhile, heat the black beans in a small pot over medium heat. Season with chili powder and a dash of cayenne to taste.

When the veggies are cooked, add the eggs to the pan. Scramble the eggs, stirring until fluffy and cooked.

Put a chapati on a plate. Top with ¼ of the scrambled egg mixture. With a slotted spoon, drain some of the black beans and use them to top the eggs. Next add the shredded cheese, then cilantro and avocado.

As I said before, the texture of the chapatis was not soft like the flour tortillas we Americans are used to. There was a toothsome quality but they were still soft enough to wrap up the fillings. They had a good wheat flavor with a little bit of a smoky charred flavor from toasting in the cast iron skillet. I really enjoyed them as a wrap for this egg mixture and they were surprisingly easy to prepare.

I used stone ground whole wheat flour for these but I may try using whole wheat pastry flour or a mixture of stone ground whole wheat and whole wheat pastry flour. I’ve never used atta flour so I am not sure what would be closer to authentic. If anyone has experience making chapatis with the proper flour, let me know what you think!

A friendly reminder: play with your leftovers

When I was a kid, my Mom would admonish me to eat everything on my plate because there were starving kids in (the third world country of her choice for that week). I’m not sure why parents did that. Kids are a bit selfish and it’s hard to get guilty about a kid you’ve never met in some country you’ve probably never been to. Sometimes I wish I had taken the parenthood route. Why? Because now you can hit ‘em with this one: “Jimmy finish your food! You know that food waste causes global warming and we’re all going to die!!”. Now that should get little Jimmy’s attention!

Anyway, the threat of global destruction isn’t half as personal as what many of us are going through economically right now and wasting food is really wasting money, isn‘t it? I am guilty like all of us of buying food and letting some of it go to waste each week and it makes me sad to toss out perfectly good food especially as we see our grocery bills go up and up. Lately, I’ve been concentrating on finding ways to identify what is hiding in the fridge and I’ve been finding creative ways to make use of it. For instance last week when we weren’t particularly hungry for an actual dinner but we wanted something to munch while watching the Olympics, I made a veggie tray of carrots, celery and radishes (all things I buy for soups and salads and toss out a few of each week as they rot). A quickie guacamole made out of an overripe avocado, lemon juice and salt made a terrific dip. This was healthy and strangely satisfying. That same week I also turned leftover brown rice into sourdough rolls.

A couple of days ago I made the Indian Spiced Salmon from the Muir Glen cookbook that I got with the tomatoes I reviewed. The recipe is a knockout, full of garam masala and sweet from honey. The problem with this recipe is that it makes a lot of sauce since you need to braise a couple of pounds of salmon fillets. We ate a generous amount of the sauce with our four servings of salmon over two days, but when we were done, we had a full two cups of the sauce left over! Organic canned tomatoes are pricey so it seemed like a shame to waste the sauce but I didn’t really want to eat it on pasta due to the garam masala and sweet honey flavors. I saved the sauce anyway (which normally means putting off throwing it away until I find where it got pushed into the back of the fridge two weeks later). I also made a pan of homemade polenta to go with the Tuscan chicken dish we liked so much from the same book. This makes a load of polenta. Such great food but what on earth do you do with the odds and ends and things you are tired of eating?

I was so proud of myself this morning. Having a desire to try an Israeli/North African dish called Shakshouka (tomato sauce poached eggs) for a very long time, but a failure to remember to buy the ingredients, I suddenly realized I could use leftovers to make something similar. Fifteen minutes later we were eating breakfast food good enough to be served in a fine restaurant on leftovers that could have ended up in the trash next week. Here is how simple this meal was:

Mock Shakshouka (tomato poached eggs)

2 cups leftover tomato based sauce of your choice (I used leftovers from this salmon dish)

5 large eggs

Salt and pepper to taste

In a large skillet, heat the sauce over medium high heat until simmering. Crack 5 eggs over the sauce, season with salt and pepper to taste and lower the heat to medium. Cover the pan and cook for 5-8 minutes to the desired doneness (5 minutes for runny yolks, longer if you like a hard poached egg). Serve eggs with a liberal amount of sauce.

Griddled Polenta

6 or more 1” thick slices of homemade or store bought cooked polenta

Olive oil spray

Heat a cast iron or other heavy skillet over medium heat. Spray liberally with olive oil spray. Lay polenta in pan and griddle for 3 – 4 minutes on each side, until browned and slightly crisped.

Wow! That was easy and so delicious. We got an extra high quality meal this week with little more than the effort to imagine what could be done with leftover food. Please, I encourage you to go into your kitchen today and really look hard at what is sitting in your pantry and your refrigerator. A box of macaroni and cheese, a can of tuna and frozen peas could be your next satisfying lunch with the benefit of keeping wasted food out of the trash, money savings and the end of that nasty fast food habit.

You can thank me later.

A tasty treat that’s good for you too

I am so amazed how time flies sometimes. Time zips by so quickly that I forget to be responsible. This week I almost became a double murderer due to being neglectful. I didn’t mean to be a killer, but I am. I stopped feeding my vinegar some time during the summer. The vinegar was starting to form a pretty good mother and I figured it was time to let it ferment the rest of the way and then I could harvest some pretty great vinegar and pop the mommy into more wine to start over. Well… out of sight out of mind. This week I thought about the fact that I hadn’t looked at it in a really long time. I took a look and there was this thick disk of vinegar mother floating on the surface (good news) but, to my horror, she was covered in blue mold (bad news). I tried to lift this mess off of the vinegar (which looked fine), but I dropped it back in and the blue mold dispersed into the vinegar. Now I know that John (DrFugawe) will probably chide me for being a wimp… but… I got grossed out, so I tossed the vinegar and the mother. Thus, I am a murderer!

I also forgot about mostly whole wheat Herbert. He was in the fridge, so I thought things were fine. It turns out that I forgot to feed him since mid December. This happened last year, but white flour Herbert seemed…well…more… resilient. Whole wheat Herbert made a layer of black (ew!) hooch. I poured off the offending black liquid and then I thawed him out and fed him, but there was almost no life affirming activity. I have been tending to him round the clock but things don’t look that good. He is definitely on life support. Because I need to keep feeding him, I also needed to find a use for the extra starter. Herbert still looked okay enough for something like waffles, but just not nearly strong enough for bread. I remembered a recipe I bookmarked. Time flies and I realized that I meant to make Kathie’s Chocolate Cherry Sourdough Muffins way back in July when I came across the recipe on YeastSpotting. Now was the time.

I thought I had all of the ingredients but I was out of milk and must have used up my dried cherries during my Christmas cookie bake-a-thon. I stared at the bags in my cupboard and what caught my eye was pure genius. I had a huge bag of unsweetened shredded coconut that I got on the cheap from a local health food store and a bag of raw pecans. I would make a nutty coconut filled muffin instead. I wanted the coconut to be moist and sweet so since I already decided to steal my boyfriend’s rice milk to sub in for the missing milk (I’m a thief as well as a murderer). I thought soaking the coconut shreds in some honey sweetened rice milk would be just the ticket. It worked out well. The coconut softened, sweetened a bit and then flavored the leftover rice milk in the bowl.

The muffins were wonderful. They had great oven spring and a cake like texture. They were both chewy and crunchy from the nuts and coconut, but being low-fat with no refined sugars (I also substituted maple syrup for sugar) they had a mild, clean cocoa flavor. I felt really good after eating one. My boyfriend had to stop himself from eating many, many more muffins than he did.

Thank you Kathie for your recipe. I am submitting my version of it to YeastSpotting.

Coco-nutty-cocoa sourdough muffins

2 tbsp honey

1 cup unsweetened, plain rice milk

1 ½ cups unsweetened shredded dried coconut

½ cup cocoa powder, measured and then sifted

1 ½ cups whole wheat pastry flour

¾ tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

¾ cup well fed 100% hydration sourdough starter (mostly whole wheat this time)

½ cup grade B maple syrup

1 egg, beaten

½ cup unsweetened applesauce

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup pecan pieces plus 12 pecan halves for garnish

Olive oil cooking spray

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, F. Spray two six cup muffin tins with olive oil spray and set aside.

Pour coconut into a medium sized bowl. Whisk together honey and rice milk until the honey is dissolved. Pour rice milk mixture over the coconut. Mix until combined and let stand for at least fifteen minutes.

In a large bowl, combine cocoa powder, whole wheat pastry flour, baking powder and salt.

In another large bowl, combine starter, maple syrup, egg, applesauce and vanilla. Add wet ingredients and coconut mixture to flour mixture and mix until just combined. Gently fold in pecans.

Divide batter between muffin tins. It will fill up the tins, so make sure the batter is pretty evenly divided. Top each muffin with a pecan half. Bake in the oven for 20 – 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack before serving.

Time flies

I can’t believe how quickly that past month flew by. About an hour ago it was mid December and I posted about the no knead bread that I made. A few minutes later it was Christmas. A couple of minutes ago we rang in the new year and now it is already mid January. Before I knew it, my blog had started to gather dust. It’s not that I haven’t been cooking. I have! It’s just that I haven’t been cooking anything you haven’t already seen before.

Last week I made a frittata. I don’t know why it’s been so long since I’ve made one except for the fact that eggs give me problems. I’m a little egg impaired. It’s not my fault. The rental house we live in includes a thirty year old stove. It is so old that the burners are warped and some of them are beginning to fail. Also, I need to mention that it is electric instead of gas which poses it’s own set of challenges. I cannot make a decent fried egg in these conditions. Scrambled eggs either work or they don’t depending on how the stars are aligned that day and… I cannot make an omelet at all. Don’t even ask me to try. It is always a disaster. However, with the help of a heavy, well seasoned cast iron pan, a frittata is simple and foolproof. Why? Because I can start it on the craptastic stove and finish things off in the broiler.

To me, frittatas are a wonderful thing. Like quiche, you start with a formula and work from there. A frittata is your choice of seasoned veggies and optional meats, topped with eggs, then topped with your choice of cheese. The combinations are limitless. The other wonderful thing is that a frittata doesn’t have to be a breakfast item. Frittatas work equally as well for lunch as they do for dinner if you put a green salad on the side. Leftover frittata heats well. I had the leftovers of the one I made last week wrapped up burrito style in a whole wheat tortilla. It was scrumptious!

I usually go for veggies – no meat for my frittatas. I just like how clean tasting they are without all of the extra fat. For years I made a spinach and potato frittata. I was stuck in a rut on that one. It was so good, Greek style with a topping of broiled feta cheese. What changed things for me was a food network show where someone broiled zucchini for a frittata. I think I have a new love. Zucchini makes a very light delicious frittata. Last week I did a feta and mozzerella blend for the cheese. I used sharp cheddar and parmesan this week, delish! Go with what you like for the filling and the cheese. You won’t regret it.

Veggie frittata

Loosely adapted from Moosewood restaurant cooks at home

2 medium zucchini

2 tbsp olive oil

1 large red onion, halved and then sliced thinly

2-3 small potatoes cut in half lengthwise and then thinly sliced

2 small garlic cloves, chopped fine

½ tsp each dried dill, oregano and basil

Salt and pepper to taste

4 large eggs, beaten

Up to half a cup grated or crumbled cheese (I used ½ cup cheddar and a couple of tbsp parmesan)

Preheat the broiler. Split the zucchini in half lengthwise and then chop it in half crosswise. Broil for 8 – 10 minutes (turning it over after 5 minutes) or until tender. Cool slightly and then slice half moons. Reserve.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large cast iron or heavy broiler-proof skillet. Add onions and potatoes to the pan. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook covered over medium heat, stirring every few minutes or so for eight minutes. The onions should caramelize and the potatoes will brown. A minute or two before the veggies are done, add the garlic and spices.

Stir in the zucchini and top the veggies with the eggs. Swirl the pan a bit to make sure the eggs cover all of the veggies. Lower the heat to low and continue to cook the frittata covered for a another eight minutes. Top the frittata with the cheese. Continue to cook, the frittata, covered for two more minutes. Move the frittata to the broiler. Broil for two more minutes until the eggs are set and the cheese is lightly browned and bubbly. Let the frittata stand for a couple of minutes and then cut into slices to serve. Serves four to six people depending on their self control

The waffle experiments – Part 2

Pumpkin Waffles

This morning I excitedly went to my cupboards. It was time to ignore the “use by” date and grab that old can of pumpkin that had been sitting there longer than I care to admit and try another round of pancake batter as waffles. I used this pancake recipe that I absolutely love for pumpkin pancakes.

The pumpkin pancake batter was really good as waffles, but I have to admit, my initial enthusiasm from a few days ago is beginning to falter. The batter for these pancakes is thicker than I remembered. As a matter of fact, it is nearly as thick as the waffle recipes I was complaining about. It all started to come back to me. The texture of these pancakes is similar to a ricotta cheese pancake although there is no cheese in them. The texture is caused by the fact that the batter contains very little oil but a lot of moisture from the vegetable puree. This moisture, seems to be trapped in the puree and doesn’t cook off when you use a waffle iron. The batter was difficult to work with as it had a tendency to adhere itself to the waffle iron, making these very difficult to remove from the appliance. I also had to cook these at a lower temperature than the last couple of batches of waffles. The first waffle was a disaster! Overcooked and torn apart from the roughing up I had to give it to extricate it from the waffle iron.

If you decide to try these waffles, and don’t get me wrong, you should (the flavor makes up for the difficulties). Cook them on medium heat and use plenty of melted butter on your waffle iron. But be prepared. Despite my use of copious amounts of butter on the waffle iron, these waffles aren’t crispy edged. They are soft and cake like. The flavor is a bit like pumpkin spice bread, only not very sweet. But that’s what maple syrup is for, right?

So what is my take on this experience? Some pancakes are waffles. I suspect that my cornmeal and oatmeal pancakes will be inappropriate as waffles although I may try to find out anyway. 😉 That is the fun of getting into the kitchen to experiment! At this point, I think the best pancakes for waffles are the ones that make the flattest thinnest pancakes. If it is a pancake that could double as a crepe, toss that batter in the waffle iron instead because I bet you’ll end up with little bit of heaven on your plate.

Soylent Green is… people!!!!!!!!

Aaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!! Aaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh!!!!

No, no, no! I mean… pancakes are waffles. That’s it…pancakes are waffles. Phew! I’m so relieved! I bet you are too.

See:

Wheat and Rice Waffle

That is a waffle made with my wonderful wheat and rice cakes recipe. It is featured here with fresh pineapple, yogurt and real maple syrup!

Now I know that you are all way more savvy than I am, and you probably have figured out the whole pancakes are waffles thing a long time ago, but here is why I was so confused. Every recipe I have tried for waffles makes a really thick batter. So thick that my waffles always came sort of soft and soggy. Not like the crispy waffles you get at the local diner. Even the sourdough waffle recipe I tried suffered from thick batteritis. Since the batter was always really thick, I thought that waffle batter had to be thicker than pancake batter. It also seemed to me that the waffle batter had way more fat and sugar in it. To add to my confusion, I remember seeing a Good Eats episode on Food Network where Alton Brown explained the importance of plenty of fat and sugar in waffle batter.

I have to thank my best friend R. for showing me the way to good waffles. We were talking and she mentioned that she made some “kick ass” sourdough waffles. I asked for the recipe and she sent me an email entitled “fabulous waffles” which contained a recipe that would change my concept of waffles. You make a sponge the night before with your sourdough. The next day you are supposed to remove ½ cup of the sponge and save it as your next sourdough project. R. does not. She just adds the rest of the ingredients and gets an extra waffle out of the deal. The batter was super wet. Even a little wetter than some of my pancake batters. The waffle iron has to be really hot so that it can steam out all of that liquid but then, you are left with waffles that have a crisp exterior and a soft center. Just perfect. These waffles were an epiphany for me.

After making sourdough pizza last night, I meant to start a sponge for sourdough waffles for this morning and I forgot. We still wanted (no, needed) waffles this morning and I had a lot of buttermilk leftover from something I made last week, so I decided to make my wheat and rice pancake recipe and try it out as waffles. I made the waffle iron nice and hot and they came out perfect. The flavor and texture were wonderful. Now I want to try all of my pancake recipes as waffles.

Here is a list of possible candidates if you want to experiment with me:

Blueberry corn cakes (although this is a thick batter so it may be problematic)

Carrot cake pancakes

Oatmeal pancakes (again, these could be way too thick)

Orange sourdough pancakes

Pumpkin pancakes

And…I have an amazing recipe for gingerbread pancakes that I haven’t made in a long time and I have yet to blog about, but those gingerbread pancakes would make really interesting waffles. Let me know if you have any other great pancake recipes to try out as waffles.

Here is the recipe for those amazing Sourdough Waffles. My friend got them from a web site somewhere that credited them to Theresa B. by way of South shore B and B in Alaska. Here is my interpretation of R’s version of the waffles:

½ cup active sourdough starter

2 tbsp sugar

2 cups warm water

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

2 eggs, beaten

1 tsp salt

3 tbsp canola oil

1 tsp baking soda

The night before, mix starter, sugar, water and pastry flour in a large bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave out overnight.

The next morning, mix in eggs, salt oil and baking soda. Allow the mixture at least 5 minutes to rise.

Preheat your waffle iron to one of the hottest settings. Cook waffles according to your waffle iron’s instructions.

Waffles can be kept in a warm oven as they are cooked so that all waffles will be warm when you serve them.

The sourdough madness continues!

CherryCoffeeCake1

Sometimes I feel like I am on the brink of sourdough madness. I am a bit obsessed. This week, however, I feel a lot better about myself. I stumbled onto a couple of recipes that put things into perspective for me. I can still call myself an avid hobbyist baker. I am not yet mad. I have not yet used sourdough as a batter for frying red meat. I have not yet put strange vegetables in my bread. I’m all right.
 
Things started quite innocently this week with a conversation with my best friend. I had emailed her to say thank you for sending me two gorgeous, scrumptious jars of homemade jam. One peach the other blueberry. She emailed me back and asked me if I saw the plum kuchen in this month’s Gourmet magazine and could it be made with sourdough. Well of course I noticed the plum kutchen in all of it’s beauty and glory. I noticed it again when it appeared with an even prettier photo on Smitten Kitchen. I did of course think I’d like to make it with sourdough.
 
I’ve been baking with my sourdough for a couple of years now but I had yet to try to make a cake. I first noticed sourdough cake when thumbing through the Joy of Cooking and have always had it in the back of my mind to bake a cake someday. Since I have no experience baking any cake with sourdough, I emailed my friend back that one of us would need to try it and report back. (I’m a coward, I know!). It was my first impulse to shy away from converting that recipe to sourdough because I have no understanding of how sourdough works in baked goods other than bread.
 
Today that changed for me. Instead of doing responsible adult things, I started to obsess about that kuchen and wonder what the heck yeast does in cakes. My research did not come up with an easy answer so I started looking at recipes. A particular recipe caught my eye because all of the ingredients or some reasonable substitutions were available here at home. I would just have to bake something and see what I think sourdough does in the recipe.
 
The recipe I chose for cherry sourdough coffee cake looked good but there were a couple of changes I made. Here’s why: the normal thing to do in any cake recipe I’ve baked in the past is to cream the sugar and butter. This results in a nice fluffy cake. The baker who created the recipe has you mix together all the dry ingredients and cut the butter into the mixture like you are making pie. Normally I wouldn’t agree with this but it was too late. I had already mixed the dry ingredients before I realized what I was being instructed to do. Once I mixed the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, I had a dough not a batter. This may be correct but it could be an inconsistency that happened due to our starters? As far as I can tell we both use 100% hydration starters but I panicked and added a quarter cup of milk to thin things out a little. I used sweet cherries not tart cherries so my filling was sweeter than it should have been. I used more cherries because I love them and 1 ½ cups just didn’t seem like enough.
 
I felt a bit of apprehension about this cake as I put it in the oven. I felt like I had uneven cake layers (too much batter on bottom, not enough on top). I tried to spread the top layer of batter over the cherries and the fruit bled into the batter. I was happy to realize that the crumble topping would cover things up well. I still felt odd about the addition of milk to the dough to change it into a thick batter. My apprehension cleared when I got a whiff of an exquisite smell coming from my oven a few minutes later. I went to peek at it and the flat looking bit of batter in the pan had puffed up tall. It was so pretty!

So. I think I will have to try a few more cakes and muffins to really analyze what is going on here, but I think the starter worked as a dough conditioner. I used unbleached white flour for this cake, but it came out silky like I had used cake flour. The rise on this cake was crazy. I think the yeast helped in that regard. As for that malted yeasty flavor, we got a hit of on the first bite but then it went away as we kept eating and tasting. Now that I think about it, that could be why I see so many recipes for chocolate sourdough cake. It could be it works better with stronger flavors. But…don’t let the idea that the cake has a yeasty flavor deter you. This cake was wonderful. Please make it for someone you love today.

I am submitting this coffeecake to YeastSpotting on Wild Yeast. Click here to see what other delicious things were baked up this week.

CherryCoffeeCake2

Cherry sourdough coffee cake
Adapted from this recipe by Nancerose on grouprecipes.com
 
Cake:
 
1 ½ cups unbleached white flour
 
 ½ cup evaporated cane juice or granulated sugar

½ tsp baking soda

½ tsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

½ cup unsalted butter

½ cup sourdough starter (mine was fed the night before)

1 large egg, beaten

1 tsp vanilla extract

¼ cup milk (I used nonfat, any kind should work)

Filling:

2 cups frozen sweet cherries

1 tbsp lime or lemon juice

½ cup evaporated cane juice or granulated sugar

2 tbsp corn starch

Topping:

1/3 cup rolled oats

¼ cup packed brown sugar

¼ cup chopped pecans

3 tbsp unbleached white flour

¼ cup unsalted butter

Filling:

In a medium saucepan, pour in the frozen cherries and cook on high heat until they defrost and begin to boil, about 5 -7 minutes. Lower to a simmer. Add lime or lemon juice. Mix together the sugar and cornstarch. Stir the sugar mixture into the cherry mixture and continue to simmer for 2 or 3 minutes until the mixture thickens. Remove from the heat and allow it to cool completely while you proceed with the recipe.

Cake and topping:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, F.

In a large bowl, Mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Using a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until it looks like coarse crumbs. In another bowl, mix the egg, starter, vanilla and milk. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined.

For the topping: in a small bowl, mix together the oats sugar nuts and flour. Using the pastry cutter, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until it forms coarse crumbs. Set aside.

Butter an 8” x 8” square pan. Pour half of the cake batter into the pan. Pour the filling over the cake batter and spread it out with a silicone spatula. Drop the remaining batter over the filling in small amounts. Use the spatula to carefully spread the batter over the topping. It can be sloppy but you want to make sure there are no giant holes for the filling to come gushing out of. Sprinkle the topping ingredients evenly over the cake. Bake for 35 – 40 minutes. Check the cake at 35 minutes by using a toothpick to see if it comes clean. If it needs a few more minutes and you think the nuts are browning to quickly, use a sheet of aluminum foil to tent over the cake and keep the topping from burning. Cool the cake on a wire rack before serving.

 

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