A New Love Named Buck…

……wheat, that is.  Buckwheat.

Buckwheat and I are very much in love.

It’s a new grain for me.  I have my usual favorites…couscous, bulgur, barley, quinoa.  And because breakfast is my most favorite meal in the whole wide world, I love to explore different ways of creating deliciousness to wake up to in the morning.  I’ve done the oatmeal, the smoothies, the scones, the pancakes, the quinoa hot cereal and so on.  But I recently discovered this grain – called Kasha for hot cereal – that makes for a verrrry delicious bowl of hot cereal!  Mixed with mashed banana, warm milk, cinnamon, almonds, raisins, a drizzle of honey, marmalade, and banana slices on top, it is a breakfast lover’s dream.

After doing a little investigating, I learned that buckwheat, or kasha, is a traditional Eastern European meal.  Furthermore, it is high in fiber, is wheat and gluten-free,  contains eight essential amino acids, and a large number of important minerals.

As with any grain, it’s extremely versatile!  A few weeks ago I cooked up a nice buckwheat pilaf with fresh herbs, peppers, leeks, lemon juice and white wine.  Savory or sweet, it’s my new fave!   Any other ways/recommendations for using buckwheat/kasha!?

This is what I used:

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Pure Wholesome Goodness Scones

I didn´t quite know what to call these scones.  They are chock-full of all kinds of pure wholesome goodness…so I just went with that.  It´s a bit uncreative, but it honest, straightforward, and transparent.  I like that in a person, so why not in a scone?

Scones are pure comfort food for me, topped with some marmalade and paired with tea.  It´s a breakfast, brunch or afternoon tea´s lover.  Truly.  And scones, though they sound fancy and British, can be whipped up in no time, in and out of the oven, and in your mouth in 40 or so minutes.  Every scone recipe goes the same way – you mix the dry ingredients, cut in the fat, and then add the liquid.  It´s the same for biscuits.  Scones are a lot like biscuits in the chemistry side of things.  But we´re not talking biscuits, we´re talking scones.  So let´s talk.

I´m gonna go out on a limb and say these scones are quite healthy.  Many scones are not, often carrying ingredients such as heavy cream and lots of butter….though in moderation, there´s nothing wrong with those kind.  But these kind, are not those kind.  These scones are dense, flaky, rich, spicy, and not too sweet.  Perfect with chai tea and milk and honey.  I hate to admit, I ate three of them the day I made them, and they are disappearing quickly with house visitors….!

Pure Wholesome Goodness Scones

Makes about 15, depending on the size you cut them

1 cup buckwheat flour (or rice flour or any other kind of flour)
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 cup oats, quick-cooking or regular
1/4 cup ground flaxseed
1/4 cup raw sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 stick butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2/3 cup any dried fruit mixture (raisins, apricots, cherries, figs, prunes, etc), cut into small pieces
3/4 cup+2 tbsp buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp raw turbinado sugar
1tbsp milk

Preheat oven to 375 F.  Line a baking sheet with wax paper.

In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients (first 11 ingredients).  Slice in the butter.  Using your hands or a pastry blender, work it into the flour, until it creates a roughly crumbly mixture, leaving small pieces of butter present.  Add the dried fruit mixture, mix.  Add the buttermilk and vanilla extract.  Mix well to combine all dry ingredients with wet.  Dough should be sticky.  If it´s too sticky add a tiny bit more flour.  Transfer the dough to a very generously floured surface.  Fold over 4-5 times, and flatten into a roughly round disc about 1-1 1/2-inch thick.  Cut into triangles of your desired size.  Brush each scone with milk, and top with raw sugar.  Place on prepared baking sheet and bake in oven 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown.  Cool on rack, and enjoy warm with tea!!


Apple Ginger Cardamom Jam

So, my oven broke.  And since I’m living in a so-called “developing” country, and eeeevvverrrrything takes longer to get done, it might be awhile before I can post anything that requires an oven.  SADness.

Soooooooo, I decided to can, since I have a plethora of jars.

Has anyone out there made apple jam before?  With an abundance of apples in these parts, I figured why not give it a try.  I know it’s not your typical fruit to be used in jam, but it actually turned out quite delightful!  And paired with cream cheese on whole-grain, homemade bread?  You can’t beat it.

Apple Ginger Cardamom Jam

*Note: this recipe doesn’t make very much…about enough for 4-5 small mason jars.  If you wish to make more, double it!

6 cups grated, peeled apples
Juice of one lemon
2 cups sugar (or more if you prefer it more sweet)
3 tsp ginger (more if you want more kick)
15 green cardamom seeds

Place peeled, grated apples in pot with lemon juice, sugar, grated ginger and cardamom pods. Cook all on medium-high heat for about 25-30 minutes, or until you get a nice jam-ish set. The temperature should be around 240 degrees.

When slightly cooled, place in prepared, sterilized jars, and following hot water bath canning procedures.


Rainy Day Kitchen Inventions

Sometimes in life there are things so unique, so wonderful, that they simply cannot be recreated and be exactly the same nor exactly as wonderful.  That’s what happened last night in my kitchen.  A very, very, rainy Saturday night and I decided to bake something (what I typically do many times with rainy days or bored days).  Lately, I have been exploring with other ways to use avocados with the abundance of them I have in my backyard.  Besides previously tried and tested recipes of avocados in cakes, avocados in smoothies, I thought I would try a bread – a quick bread.  And as I write this, I am enjoying this bread that was merely invented, created, and not noted on paper.  Nor can I even remember what I did.  I mean, I could try, and I would probably most likely succeed, but I just fear it won’t taste as darn good as it does (But, if someone really wants it, I’m pretty darn sure I could remember it to almost a T, so let me know).  But for now, better to just enjoy it thoroughly and cherish it’s uniqueness.

So this bread, is an Avocado Banana Bread with chunks of Dried Pineapple (and it’s made with whole wheat flour).  It is loosely based on my mother’s long-standing, ever-so famous, Chocolate Chip Banana Bread (which, she may disown me if I post the recipe for that), with many substitutes to make it weeeeellll..….a bit healthier.  But the good flavor isn’t compromised much at all!  The avocado is the fat used in place of melted butter and gives the bread a nice, smooth texture.  Some of the sugar is substituted with honey, giving it a hearty sort of nutty, sticky flavor, in addition, so does the whole wheat flour.  And the chunks of dried pineapple give it a little tart kick every bite you take. It is just perfect.

And so as I sit here with the rain pouring down on the tin roof above, I think how there is nothing more satisfying when I go into the kitchen, with just an idea, without a recipe, with whatever ingredients I have on hand, and the product that comes out of it all is successful.  It is just like any art, where the separate paints make an eye-catching picture, or little pieces of clay make a life-size sculpture, or individual dancers make up a ballet.  You can’t quite know how it will turn out until you just do it.  And when you do, there is nothing more satisfying.


Something savory….soup!

When it comes to food, everyone has their tastes.  Savory, sweet, bitter, you name it.  And on that spectrum of tastes, people seem to lie far to one side or the other.  On my spectrum, I have a propensity to be faaaaaar beyond the sweet end.  It’s true, I crave healthy sweet treats – honey in my tea, marmalade on my toast, a bite of organic, dark chocolate here and there, and home-baked sweets constantly, and I’m known to always have some home-baked goods on hand (great for those unexpected visitors).  Every breakfast of mine includes something sweet like honey, marmalade, cereal, smoothies.  Give me oatmeal and pancakes over eggs any day, unless of course they include a sweet, creamy cheese.

I’ve realized that nearly every post on this blog thus far has been something sweet, breakfasty, desserty, snacky.  So, for this post, I’m going to give you a bit of my savory side of life…something I create daily for lunches and dinners, but never quite feel the urge to post.  A friend inspired me to do so.

I know we’re coming into Spring and most people aren’t thinking about soup – frozen life is no longer blanketed in snow, the flowers are beginning to bloom, the sun is showing its face after being in-hiding for 6 months, the birds are singing, and drops of rain may be falling here and there.  But I am thinking about soup these days.  I love soup any time of year.  It is pure comfort food that warms the body and soul.  So, I hope you enjoy this soup as much as I do.

Ginger Red Lentil Soup with Basil Cream

20 large basil leaves, very finely minced
1/3 cup plain yogurt or sour cream
pinch of salt

To make the Basil cream, mix all in a small bowl, let sit, chilling until ready for use.

2 cups red split lentils
7 cups water
2 vegetable bullion cubes (for 4 cups of H20)
3 Tbsp ginger, peeled and minced
1 medium carrot minced

2 Tbsp curry powder
1 Tbsp butter
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 small can tomato paste
2/3 cup plain yogurt
2 tsp salt
fresh ground pepper

Rinse lentils until water until water is no longer murky.  In a large saucepan brings lentils and water to a boil.  Add bullion, ginger and carrot and reduce to a simmer, covered for 30-40 minutes.

Meanwhile, in separate pan, toast curry powder until fragrant over medium-low heat.  Set aside.  Add butter to same skillet, add onions and garlic and saute until translucent.  Add tomato paste, then toasted curry powder.  Mix well.  Add yogurt until thoroughly mixed.

Add onion mixture to soup.  Stir well. Can add more water to your liking (I liked it rather thick).  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Top with a dollop of basil cream, and enjoy with warm crusty bread.


That’s the Way the Cookie Crumbles

It’s not very often food bloggers write a post about a failure – a recipe gone awry, a kitchen disaster of sorts.  But I am going to do it.  Go ahead, judge me, and my baking skills.  But I’m sure even the greatest of cooks had many failures before creating that perfect recipe.  And since lately I have been getting into creating my own recipes and adapting from others, this is one lesson learned.  So here it is. Okay so maybe it’s not thaaaaat bad. in fact it was quite good.  Just not perfect.

I attempted to make a chocolate-dipped lemon almond cookie (inspired by Cannelle et Vanille’s Lemon and Almond Meltaways), which also happens to be gluten free.  And for me there’s nothing more delectable than the combination of almond and chocolate (hence why I made them chocolate-dipped).  That’s where I think I went awry, an unexperienced gluten-free baker attempting to fuss over new recipes…what was I thinking!?  But I’m not going to lie – although these cookies still taste delicious, they wouldn’t pass any beauty contest nor texture contest.


Now, like I said, I’m no gluten-free baker, so perhaps AAANNNNNYYYYONE out there who knows anything about gluten-free baking would be so kind to enlighten me.  The problem with these cookies is that they were a little too dry and crumbly, and I think that may be due to the rice flour combined with the almond meal.  When attempted to be chocolate-dipped, they nearly fell apart, in the chocolate.  However, after they had cooled a bit in the fridge, they seemed a bit more substantial, but still dry when bit into.

I know it appears that half of these cookies have had a bite taken out of them.  Well, they haven’t, that’s just my baking mistake of crumbly cookies.   A few strong survivors made it….far enough from the oven to the chocolate to the plate to someone’s mouth.

So there you have it – I learned my lesson in gluten-free baking.

Inexperience of gluten-free baking+creating and adapting recipes=dry cookies.

I guess that’s just the way the cookie crumbles.

I’m going to post the recipe anyway for those brave souls out there that want to try and alter it to make it a tiny bit better.  And like I said, they are quite delicious!  If I were to make these again (and I may one day to perfect them), I would just cut out all the gluten-free stuff and substitute regular flour (it’s not like I need gluten-free).  Perhaps this recipe also needed an egg??

Chocolate-dipped Lemon Almond Cookies

1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
2/3 cup powdered sugar
Zest of 2 large lemons
2 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup very finely ground almonds
1 1/3 cups rice flour (more if needed)
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup finely chopped, good quality chocolate
2 Tbsp butter

Cream together the butter, powdered sugar and lemon zest. Add the lemon juice and vanilla. Mix well.  Place almonds in food processor and ground until a very fine powder. Combine all the dry ingredients (including the almonds) and add them to the mixer. Cream until all comes together to a semi-hard dough that no longer sticks to the bowl.  If not hard enough, add more rice flour.

Transfer the dough to a sheet of parchment and shape it into a log that is about 2 inches in diameter. Use the parchment to tighten the log and form a long cylinder.

Refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours until firm.

Cut the log into 1/4-1/2 inch thick slices. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment and bake at 350F for about 16-18 minutes until firm and not quite golden brown. Let them cool on the baking sheet.

Melt chocolate over a double broiler with butter, until smooth and creamy.  Dipped cooled cookies in chocolate halfway and place on parchment paper until hardened and cool.


Brunch – Whole Grain Pancakes with Blackberry Compote

There is nothing like brunch.  I can’t tell you how I look forward to waking up to a steaming cup of chai tea sweetened with honey and milk and spend some leisurely time making brunch.  It’s my Sunday morning ritual….when life allows.

Most recently, I made something so simple, so delicious, it’s the stuff dreams are made of.  At least my dreams.  Whole Grain Pancakes with Blackberry Compote.  Not to mention, blackberries I had picked on a hike only one hour earlier.  Pair it with a simple fruit on the side, like fresh mangos tossed with shredded coconut and lime juice, and you’ve got pure goodness.

I have had many a’pancake in my lifetime.  Some thin, some thick, some dense, some fluffy, some bland, some just perfect.  And these, I have to say may be absolutely perfect…the perfect balance between flavor, fluffiness and texture.  And there’s a healthy side to them -whole grain.

Pancakes, in general, require very special treatment and lots of care during the pancake-making process.  They are delicate and cannot be left alone too long.  Ideally, pancakes are made in cast-iron skillets.  A well-seasoned skillet will yield a perfect pancake that is slightly golden brown, crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, and makes your mouth water, and your eyes roll back and gently close in complete and utter satisfaction.  When cooking pancakes, a low-medium heat is best.  It will allow the pancakes to cook evenly inside and out and create a nice golden surface.

Okay, okay, enough talk.  Pancakes are JUST. PLAIN. GOOD.

Whole Grain Pancakes with Blackberry Compote

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup natural granulated sugar (evaporated cane sugar)
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
2 1/4 cups buttermilk
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons butter, melted in the skillet

8 ounces of wild blackberries, rinsed
1/4 cup natural granulated sugar (evaporated cane sugar)
1/4 cup honey or maple syrup
2 tablespoons water
a squirt of half a citrus (orange, lemon)

To make the blackberry syrup, put the blackberries, the sugar, honey or maple syrup, water and citrus in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Heat and stir until the sugar dissolves, simmering for 5 to 6 minutes or until the blackberries break down and become sauce-like.  Remove from heat to cool slightly.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt. Add the buttermilk, eggs, and melted butter. Stir all the ingredients until they are just combined. Leave the batter slightly lumpy, as you don’t want to over mix.

Heat your skillet to a low-medium with a bit of butter.  Pour about 1/3 of a cup of batter into the skillet. Wait until the pancake bottom is deep golden in color and the top has formed slight bubbles, then flip with a spatula and cook the other side until golden and cooked through. Repeat with the remaining batter.

Pour the compote on top of warm pancakes and revel in epicurean heaven.

Compote is great left-over on toast, ice cream, yogurt, you name it.