Sunday, August 21, 2011

Farmer's Market Creation: Spelt Blueberry Spice Muffins

I cannot tell you how proud I am of myself for making this recipe.

It is the first time I've ever made up a baking recipe. I can make things up when it comes to cooking because there aren't any exact measurements. Baking is another story: it requires at least a little knowledge of one of my worst subjects, which is chemistry.

My parents were visiting and we went to the Swarthmore farmer's market. We're big breakfast people: we love eating breakfast out and making big breakfasts at home. We decided we wanted some muffins and found some beautiful blueberries at the market.

I have lots of cookbooks with lots of muffin recipes, but none of them looked that great to me. Plus, they all required baking powder. I have yet to restock my pantry completely, so I didn't have any. This lead me on an internet quest to see what I could use as a substitute. Once I started looking around, I decided I would piece together my own muffin recipe.

Notes: I beam with pride in telling you that these were yummy. I still kind of can't believe that my Frankenmuffins turned out so well. They were moist and flavorful.

These are not vegan, but I found lots of recipes for vegan muffins in my quest. As long as you have baking powder at your disposal and you get the amount and consistency of liquid right, I think you could make them dairy free pretty easily. For instance, you could add coconut milk instead of sour cream and more almond milk in the place of the butter.  You could probably add applesauce instead of eggs.

My dad was my guest photographer for the finish photo (he reads the blog -- Hi, Dad!).

2 cups of spelt flour
1 cup of sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 cup of almond milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup of brown sugar
4 tablespoons of melted butter
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt
1/2 pint of blueberries

Preheat your oven to 350.

In one bowl, mix together your flour, salt, spices, and baking soda. Set aside.

In another bowl, add your melted butter and whisk in your brown sugar so that the sugar dissolves a bit (it will look thick-ish like molasses). Whisk in your egg. Stir in your almond milk, sour cream, and vanilla. Stir just until the mixture is smooth.

Add your dry ingredients to the wet mixture in thirds, mixing just to combine after each third (over-mixing makes for tough muffins). Finally, fold your blueberries into the batter.

Divide the batter into your muffin tin (I use the paper cups, it makes my life easier).

Bake at 350 for 18-20 minutes.

Serve them up for the breakfast-loving people in your life and enjoy!

Copyright to Dad Photography, Inc.

Adventures in Dough Part Four and VTMK: Spelt Oat Bread

I'm trying to whittle down the number of items I buy at the store. If there's something I can reasonably do at home that doesn't require me to become a chemist or a carpenter, I'm opting to do it. In light of that, I decided homemade bread is a good place to start.

Making bread can be time-consuming. I suppose it's made easier if you have a bread maker. But I have an aversion to extra kitchen gadgets, especially those only designed to do one thing. Those little tubes designed to remove garlic skins? Waste of material resources: it adds an extra step to your cooking and (especially if you are sans dishwasher) an extra thing to clean. I don't know if a bread machine fits into the same category, but I do know you make tasty bread without one.

Notes: This bread is delicious. It was easy to make; it took me maybe an hour and half. A very simple weekend project.

The bread is dense and crumbly. It makes nice toast, but it's not as great for sandwiches, unless you toast it beforehand. It would work better sliced thin, but my bread knife isn't sharp enough for that.

When it says "prepare the loaf pan," take it seriously. I didn't butter mine enough and had some trouble freeing the bread. You could, of course, use cooking spray. 

Speaking of non-dairy items, not only is this a new adventure in dough, it's also the inaugural segment of VTMK, which stands for Vegan, To My Knowledge. I'm not vegan and I'm totally not an expert on what things are vegan and what things are not. But I know a lot of lovely people who are vegans or who are incorporating more vegan dishes into their diets. So, when I make a dish that I suspect to be vegan, I will flag it. My favorite vegans that know way more about this than I do can double check. If you're looking for vegan recipes, by the way, check out my friend Missy's lovely site: Vegan-in!

If you plan to use it like you would a regular loaf of bread, I recommend slicing it once it's cool all the way and storing the slices in a large food storage bag. If you keep the loaf whole in the fridge, it becomes more difficult to slice and will more likely fall apart on you.

Ingredients (adapted only slightly from this recipe by Heidi Swanson):
1 1/4 cups of warm water (between 105-115 degree F)
2 teaspoons of dry active yeast (1 packet)
1 tablespoon of honey (make sure it's room temperature)
2 cups spelt four
1 cup rolled oats (not instant or steel cut)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt


First, you'll need to bloom your yeast. Pour your warm water into medium-ish bowl. Stir in the yeast and the honey.

Starts out looking like cloudy water

Let it sit for 10 minutes until it starts to look like more foamy and voluminous.

Looks a little more puffy and opaque
While your yeast blooms, add your flour, salt, and oats to a bigger bowl and mix well.

Once the yeast blooms, add the wet mix into the dry and form a dough ball. Prepare a loaf pan with cooking spray (or butter if you're not making the vegan version). Turn the dough ball out into the loaf pan.

Soon-to-be bread!

 Cover it with a damp paper towel and let it rise for 30 minutes. It will rise to the point where it fills up the loaf pan.

Post-bread nap

Heat the oven to 350 with the rack in the middle. Bake it for 35-40 minutes. When it's done, turn it out on to a rack to let it cool (if you leave it in the pan, it will steam and get soggy).

Once it's cool, slice it up and enjoy!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Macaroni Salad

Macaroni salad is one of our classic family dishes. It's a summer time food for us and a staple at cook outs. Every time I make it, it reminds me of my childhood in the warm, humid climate of the coast.

I have never been able to recreate the version my mom makes. That and her famous brown eggs are two things I can't get to taste exactly like hers. I think there's some mom voodoo going on there, but I can't confirm that. So rather than be faithful, I decided to be innovative. I've tried to make a healthier version of it.

I tested this on my mother while she was visiting and she actually liked it! I figure if it has the original maker's seal of approval it can't be all that bad.

Notes: Normally, this recipe calls for celery. I have a hard time using up celery, so I went with cucumber instead. This is a mayonnaise-based salad. I'm afraid it just wouldn't taste the same without it.

The only reason this isn't Q.E.D is because it has to chill overnight or for at least six hours.

1 box whole wheat shells or elbow macaroni
1 small can of tuna (I used wild caught)
1/2 greens (I used microgreens, but you could use chopped spinach or kale)
1/4 cup of mayonnaise
3 tablespoons whole grain mustard
1/4 cup chopped dill pickle
3 shallots
1 English cucumber


Bring a stock pot of water to a boil, add two small handfuls of salt, and cook pasta according to the directions. When it's done, strain it and allow it to cool to room temperature before you add your veggies.

Stir the pasta periodically to help it cool.

Chop all your veggies while you're waiting.

Add everything to your pasta, season with salt and pepper.

Mix well and chill in the fridge. Enjoy in a warm summer day (any time you want to relive one!)

Split Peas with Mint-Basil Ricotta

Holy my goodness! I have a backlog of recipes to get up here. The professor has been in the kitchen, I assure you, although she has also been in her office, at the airport, over the river, and through the woods.

So, this was my first outing making homemade pesto. As you might recall, I have no blender. I also have no food processor, at least not one with a motor.

I have a pull-cord food processor. I actually love it. It's very cute and easy to use. I also feel like I have a lot of control over exactly how much processing I'm doing. The only trouble is, I can't really emulsify anything because it starts and stops rather than running continuously. But, I've wanted to make my own pesto for awhile, so I decided to give it a whirl (ha!).

Notes: A couple of things I would do differently. First, I followed the directions for cooking my peas that were on the back of the bag. It said simmer the peas for 35-45 minutes. Way too long -- mine were done after 25 minutes. That might be due to my stove. Unfortunately, I didn't check them, so mine were a little mushy. I didn't mind it so much, but I would shorten the cooking time for sure.

Also, due to my tiny processor, I should have chopped my garlic more than I did. I ended up with large chunks of garlic in my pesto. If you have a regular processor, you'd probably have no issue.

I ended up with enough pesto left over for two batches, so I froze the rest. 

1 lb bag of dried split peas
2-3 garlic cloves
2 cups of fresh mint leaves
2 cups of basil leaves
1/4 cup olive oil
8 oz. ricotta cheese


Start by rinsing the peas in a strainer. Pick out broken pieces and let the peas drain.

Dry peas
Bring a pot of water or stock up to a boil, stir in the peas, turn it to low, and let simmer for 25-30 minutes.

While the peas are cooking, make the pesto.

Give the garlic a rough chop and add everything (leaves, garlic, salt, pepper) except for the oil into the processor. If you have a non-motorized one, add everything in at once.

If you have a motorized processor, turn it on and stream the olive oil in until you get a paste. If you have a non-motorized one, pull the cord until you form a paste (guess which one takes longer?)

Delicious paste
Once your peas are done, drain them and put them back in the pot. Add your ricotta and pesto.

Serve it up, preferably next to something that highlights its beautiful color, and enjoy!
Pea green is the new awesome!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Tiger Slaw

I came up with this dish as part of my ongoing series "Finding Non-meat Things to Put Inside Various Forms of Flat Bread."

I used to dislike radishes. I think it's because they have kind of a harsh bite to them. I'm not one to just slice up a radish and eat it raw. I know radishes and herb butter are a classic French combination, and that sounded good to me. But anything I make has to be eaten as leftovers throughout the week. Eating herb butter multiple days in a row is probably not the best nutrition plan.

Since radishes have a kind of bite to them, I figured putting them in some kind of salad or slaw-like preparation where you would normally use something like onions seemed like a logical step. Enter tiger slaw! Get it? Because the radishes have a bite? And it's black and orange? Yeah, not funny, I know.

I love the combination of black beans and cumin. I'm trying to find alternatives to mayo-based salads, so I opted for sour cream, which I think goes great with the smoky cumin.  You don't need much sour cream, so it's not nearly as gloppy (technical term) as a regular may-based slaw would be.

Notes: Grated carrots and radishes will end up containing a lot of water. If you don't want your slaw to be on the wet side, line a fine-mesh strainer with some paper towels or coffee filters and let the shredded veggies drain for a few minutes. That will help get rid of some of the excess liquid.

If you like cilantro (and you really should because it's delicious), that would work really well here. I didn't have any at the time or else I would have added it myself.

As an aside, this would be a totally fun dish to serve at a Halloween pot luck.

4 small carrots
5 or six radishes
1 15 oz. can of black beans
2 tablespoons of sour cream
1 teaspoon cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon


First, rinse your beans with cold water in a fine-mesh strainer. Drain while you're grating your veggies.

Peel the carrots and trim the rough ends off the radishes.

Grate them with a box grater (using the medium sized holes). I just grated mine right into the container I used to store the slaw. This step requires elbow grease.

Pretty colors
Add the black beans and mix. Next add the sour cream and sprinkle the tarragon and cumin on top. Season with salt and pepper.

Mix well and store in an air-tight container in the fridge

Serve in a pita pocket or a wheat wrap. Or, just eat it like a regular slaw. Enjoy!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Spelt Peanut Butter Banana Bread

I have a love/hate relationship with Target. Sometimes it feels like I'm in some kind of bizarre maze. You think you know where some item is and yet it isn't there. So, then you have to start playing mind-reader. "OK, how did the person who designed this store decide to classify food storage jars? Home decor? Kitchen? Storage?" You find yourself wandering from section to section, up and down all the aisles with the ever-increasing suspicion that there someone standing over you wearing a white coat and holding stop watch.

The love part of the relationship is that Target prevents me from going to a store I have a hate/hate relationship with, which is Wal-Mart. The other thing I love about Target is that they can put on a mean clearance sale. They usually are nice enough to put the clearance items on the end caps of the aisles. So, I can walk down one side of the grocery section and find everything that's been marked down, which is how I ended up with spelt flour.

I'm still not 100% sure what spelt is. According to the source of all questionable, but quick knowledge, Wikipedia, it's a sub-class of wheat. Although it contains gluten, apparently some people with gluten issues can tolerate it better than wheat flour (I cannot confirm this). I've been trying to use more wheat flour when I bake to up the nutritional content, so I figured spelt would be similar. I found some on sale at Target and decided I would see how it worked.

Some people are impulse buyers, but I am an impulse baker. If the urge to bake hits me, I will drop what I'm doing and head for the kitchen. Scott has on one occasion had to convince me that 9:00 PM the night before a vacation is not the time to try homemade granola bars. The other day I realized I had two bordering-on-over-ripe bananas sitting on my counter. Once banana bread come to mind, there was no stopping me. And it allowed me to test drive the spelt flour.

Notes: I've made banana bread before, so I decided it was time for a twist. The combination of peanut butter and banana has always been a favorite of mine; I used to eat them together as a sandwich as a kid. Peanut butter banana bread sounded pretty cool to me.

One of the keys to this dish is a whisk. The directions I had instructed you to put the banana in first, which prevents whisking. I did not whisk in the brown sugar and I ended up with a few undissolved bits that burned on the bottom of the bread. It was still really tasty, but I'll be sure to dissolve that sugar really well next time.

The spelt flour worked well. In appearance, it's much finer than regular wheat flour. It's still drier than white flour like wheat is, but it's not as dry as wheat in the finished product. I'm going to try making pizza crust out of it and see how it works.

Ingredients (adapted from Smitten Kitchen's):
1 1/2 cups spelt flour
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup natural peanut butter
1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt
2 ripe bananas
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350.

Melt the butter (I was lazy and did this in the microwave because I didn't want to get out a pot). Add the butter to a large bowl. Whisk in the brown sugar and peanut butter.

Add the beaten egg, vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon, and your mashed bananas.

Sprinkle the salt, baking powder, and flour over the wet mix.

Combine them with a spoon or spatula just until it forms a batter. The batter will be slightly sticky, but wet.

Pour the batter into a loaf pan that has been buttered or sprayed with cooking spray.

 Bake at for 45-50 minutes until a tester comes out clean. Cool the bread on a rack for about 30 minutes.

Once the bread is cool, turn it out of the pan. Slice off a piece and enjoy with a nice glass of milk!

Farmer's Market Creation: Three Pepper Spaghetti

Another Farmer's Market Creation! Technically, this is a co-op creation, but since my co-op sells local produce, which is what I would have been buying at a farmer's market, I think it counts.

I originally created this dish in Mass after I went to the Pepper Festival. Exactly as it sounds, they had all sorts of different peppers. I knew next to nothing about peppers at the time, so I just picked blindly. I chose well because the dish turned out great.

Hungarian, Lilac, and Suntanned peppers

Now that I'm back in the northeast, I have access to grass-fed beef. Not to go back the food agenda I claim not to have, but being a vegetarian is the best choice when considering the way your eating habits affect the environment. So, as I've said, I don't cook meat home very often. But, if you are going to eat meat, grass-fed local beef is the kind to get, which is what they have at my co-op. I'm not a vegetarian and I don't believe that there's anything unethical about eating animals. I do think that if we are going to raise cows, we ought to raise them in a way that is (a) healthy for them and (b) healthy for the environment, and if we can't do that, then we ought not to raise them. But grass-fed beef does that. I don't advocate eating it all the time, but there are meat dishes that I love very much. One of the dishes is a good hearty meat sauce for spaghetti.

Notes: Rules for farmer's market creations applied here: make a dish entirely out of local ingredients that look good when you go to the store. I should have added something with a little more heat in it because I like my three pepper spaghetti a little on the hot side. It turns out the Hungarian wax pepper I used wasn't as hot as I thought it would be. The dish still came out great.

If you wanted to make this a vegetarian dish, I think some slightly mashed red kidney beans would be really nice.

Next time I will use crushed tomatoes from a can. Since I don't have a blender, I couldn't really make the tomatoes as saucy as I wanted. But, since the tomatoes were local, I figured I would make the sauce from scratch.

1 box whole wheat pasta
1 lb grass-fed ground beef
4 small carrots
1 tablespoon chopped tarragon
3 peppers (2 bell, 1 hot)
2 tablespoons herb de provence, divided
7 plum tomatoes
4 or 5 garlic cloves, minced
1 onion
1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
1 tablespoon dried basil
Olive oil


Preheat the oven to 400. Half the tomatoes and scoop out the seeds. Drizzle them with olive oil, salt, and half the herb de provence. Roast them for 25-30 minutes.

While the tomatoes are roasting, prep all your veggies. I like my peppers in thinly sliced strips, so I cut the other veggies to match them.

Heat a large skillet to medium-high and brown your ground beef. When it's just browned, add all your other veggies and saute until they're just getting tender. Add salt and dried basil.

When the tomatoes are finished, either blend them and add them to the skillet or just chop them and add them in. Add tarragon and liquid smoke. Let the sauce simmer for at least an hour.

Fill a stock pot with water, bring it to a boil, add two small handfuls of salt, and cook the pasta according to the box. I always find that I need to cook my wheat pasta for the maximum time.

When the noodles are done, add them to the skillet where your sauce is and let them absorb some of the sauce. Toss until everything is mixed together.

Dish it up and enjoy the fruits of your (and your farmer's!) labor.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Better Breakfast: Cinnamon Muesli

I have given up breakfast cereals.

This was actually a difficult decision for me. I've been eating cereal my whole life -- were it not for Cheerios, I probably wouldn't have made it past the age of four. Cold breakfast cereals are really refreshing and I still love milk as much as I did when I was a kid. But, then I started reading labels.

Ever look at a cereal box ingredients list? Those lists are long. I mean, really long. And they contain a lot of things that you might not expect: lots of different kinds of oils, various gums, colors that are identified by number. As I said when I started the blog, I don't so much have a food agenda. If I did have one, it would be probably in line with the real food movement. This fits well with my original plan: if you can't find it outside or you can't pronounce it, don't eat it.

And there's a bunch of things I can't pronounce on the back of cereal boxes.

So, now what? It's on to better breakfast food. If I do buy cereals, I go for the ones that have very short ingredients lists. Otherwise, I eat a hard boiled egg on toast or I make oatmeal. But my latest favorite breakfast food and the one I eat most often is muesli.

Muesli is one of those wonderful things that comes to us from the Swiss, along with delicious cocoa, those handy knives, and Roger Federer. There are plenty of pre-packaged kinds you can buy, but why bother? It's easy to make, cheaper, and you can experiment with your favorite stuff.

Notes: I had a hard time finding the dried fruit that I wanted. I made my batch before I had looked into the local health food store, which means I missed out on the figs and cherries I could have used. It's OK. I still love raisins and there's always next time!

You can eat your muesli either quick or "soaked." The quick version means you put muesli in a bowl and pour milk or yogurt over it just like regular cereal. I prefer the soaked version because the oats get a little soft overnight in the fridge. The trick, of course, is remembering to make it before you go to bed. It took me a few days to get into the habit, but I got the hang of it. If the absent-minded professor can remember, you can too.

This is a big batch. It will probably last me two months. You can't stretch a boxed cereal that long!

4 cups rolled oats
1 cup raisins
1 1/2 cups of sliced toasted almonds
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/2 cup of plain yogurt (for serving)
Drizzle of honey (for serving)


Mix oats, raisins, almonds, salt, and cinnamon in a bowl. Toss until all the ingredients are coated with cinnamon.

 Store in an airtight container.

To serve, mix 1/4 cup of muesli with 1/2 cup plain yogurt (I use Greek yogurt, but use what you like -- you could even use vanilla yogurt). Cover and refrigerate overnight. Drizzle with honey right before you serve it up in the morning. Enjoy a better breakfast!

(The Perfect?) Hard Boiled Egg Wrap with Microgreens

Made it to Pennsylvania safe and (mostly) sound! There are still boxes in various places around the house, but the kitchen back open for business. Speaking of which, by the looks of things I might have to change the name of this blog to A Professor's Tiny Kitchen.

Good things come in small packages, right? Guys?
It's a galley kitchen. In this picture it was missing a fridge. Apparently it's not standard for apartments in the Northeast (my place in Mass was the same way). We bought one, so now I am fully equipped and ready to cook.

The new kitchen will probably change the direction of the blog a bit. Unlike my Louisiana kitchen, I now have no dishwasher. I didn't have one in Mass either. It's not a big deal, but it does make me mindful of how many dishes I use. You might see some one-pot meals because of that. I'm also sans slow cooker at the moment. It's probably for the best right now, since I have no clue where I would put it. That might have to change soon, though. I'm not sure how long I can go without my slow-cooker beans.

The first recipe from the new kitchen is not so much a recipe as a method. It also stems from another feature in my new apartment: no central air. Now, the weather in Philly is not nearly as hot as the weather in Lake Charles, but it still gets up into the 90s. When it does, turning the oven on is not exactly the thing I want to do. As such, I've been eating some cold meals. And in my increasing efforts to cut out meat and yet still eat sandwiches, I have created this one.

Notes: I have been in search for the perfect method for hard boiling eggs for some time now. Everyone claims to have the perfect method, but only one has worked for me time after time after time. And I have tried many. I share my secret with you.

Directions for What Could Be the Perfect Hard Boiled Egg

I'm not one to insist on certain ingredients, but if you love eggs, it is 100% worth it to find yourself a farm or farmers market and buy eggs from pastured chickens. Not cruelty-free, not vegetarian fed, not even organic. All of these eggs can be fakers. I mean the eggs you can only get from a farm or farmer's market that come from chickens that still live outside. You won't find them at your local grocery store, unless you're like me and your local grocery store happens to be a hippie, granola co-op. What's that you say? You don't know how to find farms or farmer's markets that sell eggs? Oh yes you do. It. Is. Worth. It.

Once you have your delicious farm eggs:

1.) Take your eggs directly from the fridge and put them in a pot. Don't let them come to room temperature.
2.) Fill the pot up with cold tap water. Not warm, not hot. Cold tap water. Put enough water in the pot so that the eggs are covered well.
3.) Put the pot on high and let it come to a boil. At this point, most recipes tell you to turn the heat off. Don't listen to them. They lie.
4.) Let the eggs boil for approximately 15 seconds. THEN turn the heat off. Leave the pot on the same burner.
5.) Most recipes tell you to leave them in pot for 5 minutes. Don't listen to them. They lie. Set the timer for 7 minutes.
6.) When 7 minutes is up, take the eggs out of the water and let them cool completely on a kitchen towel. Once they are completely cool, remove the shell. You will have a perfectly cooked egg: the whites and yolks will be totally done, but the yolks will not have that weird greenish tint that over-cooked eggs have.

Like so

Store them in the fridge. That way they will be ready for you when you want to make the following sandwich:

1 (perfect?) hard boiled egg
1 whole wheat tortilla
2 teaspoons of whole grain mustard
A small handful of microgreens

Directions: First, spread the mustard on one edge of your tortilla leaving enough room so that you can tuck and roll later.

It has a face!
Slice your (perfect?) hard boiled egg and lay the slices on top of the mustard.

Like so
Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add the microgreens.

[Aside: I used a rainbow mix. Again, because I have a hippie grocery store, I can find things like this. If you don't, just use whatever your favorite salad greens are.]

I use a tuck and roll method for my wraps. So, pull the edge over the sandwich ingredients and tuck it under them just a little. Then tuck in the sides and roll once. Tuck in the sides again and roll one final time so that the seam is on the bottom.

More or less
You can eat as is or cut it in half on a bias. Either way, enjoy!

BONUS: Omit the greens and mustard and you'll have a tasty and healthy breakfast wrap!