Thursday, April 24, 2014

Everyday Favorites: Blender Waffles (or Pancakes)
(gluten-free, vegan, need VitaMix other SuperBlender)

This is what I envision right now: a series of posts called "Everyday Favorites" in which all our family's standards get posted on this site.

This is why: well, first of all, I'm motivated by a big old kitchen failure that occurred yesterday. It was veggie loaf - like meat loaf but with lentils and veggies instead of meat and eggs. It was horrible. Like, took a bite, made a face, spit it out, promptly threw two loaves in the garbage horrible. On Earth Day, no less! Hence a failure on several levels. On the heels of that debacle, I'm reminded, bittersweetly, of how much has changed since I started this kitchen journal, and how I need to sometimes set aside my ambition and just stick to what works. We culinarily-inclined do not find this an easy task. When life hands us lemons (or food allergies or a powerful article on the environmental impact of eating meat and dairy at the rate we do), we make lemonade! Even if our first try tastes like straight-up distilled white vinegar with a shot of flax seed oil and we wonder how all that hard work could be so utterly fruitless, we persevere! A few years ago, if I made a crap veggie loaf, I'd keep trying until I got it right. But times have changed. I have a different kitchen. I have less time. I have more mouths to feed. I work with costly ingredients that I can't afford to waste. If something isn't good to start with, I can't be bothered with it again. The tinkering in my kitchen is going to happen with things that are good to start with, but that I know I can make better, or at least own a little more (i.e. add cilantro).

So my Everyday Favorites series (I've got five things in mind - one for every meal of the day and, yes, I consider our two snacks per day meals) is meant to be my opportunity to share with you some of my most beloved recipes. The recipes that I return to over and over again - recipes that started out decent enough but, over time, after a lot of tinkering, arrived at a place that I'd call perfect.

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Today's is the inaugural post, starring our favorite waffles. Perfect waffles, actually.

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I mean, right? That's mostly MC's handiwork.

We make them about one night a month, usually two batches at once*; I soak the grains in the morning and make the batter at night while my husband mans the iron (how decidedly gendered of us). We let them cool on racks and then we freeze them, eight per bag, and reheat them in the toaster for quick breakfasts. (I find that all breakfasts with children need to be quick - and we haven't even started our 7:06 am school bus pick-up yet! Oh dreaded Fall 2014...)

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I was going to rave about how economical these are but am a little reluctant. The grains, especially if bought in bulk, are super cheap. I figure these cost about $4-5 for 12 waffles, which is half the cost of the Van's gluten free ones. But then there's that VitaMix thing. Total luxury item.

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So while they are only a qualified *cheap*, they are an unqualified delicious, they have a great chewy bite but brown and crisp up perfectly around the edges, they store beautifully, and they're made from all whole foods. I've also given you a pancake variation at the bottom, if you like the concept of this recipe (and you have a VitaMix or something comparable), but you are waffle iron-averse. (Perhaps you are like me and have been burned a few too many times attempting gluten-free, egg-free waffles. Pun totally intended.)

Another reason for the Everyday Favorites series: this is a record for me as well as you. This waffle recipe took a fair amount of trial and error. MC and I agree that we have got it d-o-w-n this time. Now I've got the formula stored on the trusty internets for next month!

Other Everyday Breakfast Favorites:

Carrot Cake Pancakes (another blender recipe)

For more pictures of what the grains/process looks like, check out this old post.

* When I say we make two batches, I really mean we make two rounds of the same thing back-to-back. Doubling doesn't work because the VitaMix can only accommodate so many soaked grains and cups of fluid. FYI.

Whole Grain Blender Waffles (gluten free, vegan if you want)
Yield: ~12 waffles

1 1/4 cup brown rice
3/4 cup raw buckwheat groats
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, whey, or lemon juice
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1 cup milk, nondairy beverage, or water
1/2 cup applesauce (could substitute: 1 very ripe banana; 1/2 cup cooked, mashed sweet potato or pumpkin)
1/4 cup oil (I've used all of the following with similar results: grapeseed, melted coconut, rice bran, or olive oil)
2 tablespoons ground flax seed
2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
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Spray oil to grease waffle iron

Optional add-ins:
1 cup mini-chocolate chips or 1 grated apple or pear (stir into batter after you've finished with blender)
1 cup fresh or frozen berries (add to blender after everything else is mixed, before adding baking powder - you'll want the berries a little chopped up but not so processed that the batter turns blue or pink)

In a large bowl or measuring cup, cover brown rice and buckwheat groats with water by about 2 inches. Add 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, whey, or lemon juice and soak for 8-24 hours. 

When you're ready to make your waffles, preheat your waffle iron according to manufacturer's instructions.

Drain the grains, rinse them in a fine sieve, and pour them into your blender. Add the remaining ingredients, except for the baking powder, and blend until smooth. Add a little more water, 1-2 tablespoons at a time if you'd like a thinner batter. If you are using berries, add them now and blend until coarsely chopped and evenly dispersed throughout batter. Add the baking powder and blend on low, briefly, until just incorporated. If you are using chocolate chips or grated apple or pear, manually stir it into the batter after the baking powder has been incorporated and you are basically done with the blender.

Spray the waffle iron with oil. Ladle batter into iron. (Note! Err on the side of too little batter during the first go. An imperfect-looking, small waffle is better than a waffle batter mess all over the sides of your iron.) Cook according to manufacturer's instructions. If you plan on freezing them, aim for a little underdone, as the toaster will brown them a little more. Enjoy!

Pancake Variation
Yield: 24ish silver-dollar size pancakes

1 1/4 cup brown rice or oat groats (don't use oat groats if making waffles though! - they won't crisp)
3/4 cup raw buckwheat groats or millet
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, whey, or lemon juice
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1 cup milk, nondairy beverage, or water
1/2 cup applesauce or 1-2 very ripe banana(s)
2 tablespoons oil (I've used all of the following with similar results: grapeseed, melted coconut, rice bran, or olive oil)
2 tablespoons ground flax seed
2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 teaspoons baking powder
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Butter or high-heat oil for greasing skillet or griddle

See above for optional additions.

If making pancakes, consider some of the optional add-ins above, but quickly sprinkle them into the pancake batter once it's in your skillet or griddle, before flipping.

In a large bowl or measuring cup, cover brown rice and buckwheat groats with water by about 2 inches. Add 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, whey, or lemon juice and soak for 8-24 hours. Drain the grains, rinse them in a fine sieve, and pour them into your blender. Add the remaining ingredients, except for the baking powder, and blend until smooth. Add a little more water, 1-2 tablespoons at a time if you'd like a thinner batter. Add the baking powder and blend on low, briefly, until just incorporated.

Heat 1/2 tablespoon oil or butter in a skillet or griddle over medium-high heat. Add pancake batter in 2-tablespoon increments (my batter was thin and spread considerably to make perfect 4" pancakes). Cook for a couple minutes over medium heat and once bubbles begin to form (see picture above), carefully flip and cook another minute or two.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

From Baked via Joy the Baker via Cake and Edith to You with Love: Rootbeer Float Cake!

My husband's birthday is today. So is his father's. Tomorrow is my son's. Weird, right? Yesterday we hosted a multigenerational birthday party in their honor and this root beer float cake that MC requested made for a quite festive, decadent conclusion to the event.

Bday party

I don't know if it's just that I haven't had a real cake in a long time (the kind with butter and flour and eggs), or if it really was one of the best cakes E-V-E-R, but I couldn't stop eating it last night. Moist, rich, near overload of sweetness beautifully balanced by near overload of cocoa and dark chocolate. Plus, root beer. Kind of fun! My only change was to add an additional 1/4 cup root beer to frosting (1/2 cup total) because it seemed like it was going to be too thick to spread. I also reduced salt in frosting to 1/4 teaspoon, per Joy the Baker's suggestion.

I hope someone you love has a birthday soon so you can enjoy this! Alternatively, I hope you are the kind of person who just randomly makes cakes. Because this is seriously crazy good.

Almost as good as the vegan cake that the allergic kids got...

Bday partyBday party

Which actually was delicious, just not if you had the root beer float cake first. ;)

Click HERE for the recipe at the Joy the Baker's site.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Salad for Dinner: Orange Date Vinaigrette and How to Make a Really Great Leftovers Salad

Step 1: Have some greens on hand. (Mixed baby greens with herbs is what I had/used.)

Step 2: Roast some random vegetables or bits of vegetables that have been neglected. Best ones, IMHO: broccoli, winter squash, root vegetables, cauliflower. (I used the remaining half of a butternut squash that I'd had left over from my Mambo Italiano class last week.)

Step 3: Find something crunchy in your pantry, e.g. nuts, seeds, granola, toasted coconut flakes, cacao nibs. (I used the latter and they were kind of magical.)

Step 4: Wait. It's dinner. We should probably have some protein. Fortunately, I had some runner cannellini beans in my refrigerator, as well as some nice crumbly, salty queso fresco. Perfect. Other reasonable options: chicken, chickpeas, lentils, fried or baked tofu, more nuts. Steak? Does anybody ever have leftover steak?

Step 5: Make a really really really delicious, creamy, decadent dressing that makes your salad look and feel and taste like it's decidedly NOT a leftovers salad.

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Like this one. Do it. Seriously. It's wonderful.

Layer/toss everything together and feel spoiled and healthy.

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And afterwards, you might even feel full. Which is always a rewarding feeling when you've opted for salad over grilled cheese and fries.

Orange Date Vinaigrette
Yields: about 1 cup

7 regular pitted dates or 4 pitted medjool dates
1 clove of a shallot (about the size of a half a ping pong ball?) (or about a quarter of a small onion or 2 scallions, white and v. pale green parts)
Juice of 1 medium-large orange
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon mirin or sherry or some other sweet wine you happen to have lying around (or you could use a couple teaspoons more apple cider vinegar + a couple teaspoons of honey or maple syrup or sugar)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt

Blend everything in a blender or food processor until smooth and creamy. Add a little more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, if you want a thinner dressing. Store in refrigerator for up to a week.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Tradition Shmradition, Local Shmlocal: Zippy Bruschetta

Would you like to see something beautiful? Great! Here you go:

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I'd love to take credit for it but I can't. Four of the ten strangers at last night's Mambo Italiano class made that tomatoey deliciousness. I know tomatoes are not quite in season, but temperatures above freezing sure made it seem like (relative) summer yesterday. And nothing says summer like freshly diced, gorgeous, juicy, fragrant tomatoes (from another hemisphere, chopped perfectly by someone other than myself). 

This recipe is a good example of my style of food preparation/recipe development. I like a lot of flavor, so I add a lot of ingredients. Is this approach for everyone? No. Is simpler better? Yes, sometimes. But other times, like this time, you just want the best-tasting bruschetta ever, tradition and simplicity be damned. So mix it up with dijon and dried marjoram. They're delicious.

Last night's class participants: I had a great time. Thanks for being so helpful and inquisitive and all-around spectacular. xoxo

Zippy Bruschetta
Yield: 6-8 people as a starter

1-2 large baguettes
2 tablespoons olive oil

2 lbs firm, fresh tomatoes, hulled, and finely chopped (could substitute 28-oz can diced tomatoes, partly drained)
1 shallot, minced
3-5 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon dried basil, parsley, or Golden Figs Dynamite Herbs
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
¼ cup red wine vinegar (or balsamic vinegar in a pinch)
¼ cup olive oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine tomatoes and remaining ingredients and toss gently. Set aside and allow flavors to marry for several minutes.

Meanwhile, slice baguette thinly (about ½” thick). Brush one side of each slice with olive oil and place on baking sheet(s), olive oil side down. Bake on top rack until toasty, about 5-6 minutes.

Remove bread from oven and place slices on a serving platter. Using a slotted spoon, top each slice of bread with about 2 tablespoons of tomato-garlic-vinaigrette mixture. Serve immediately.