Tag Archives: Baking

Friendship Cookies and Good Bye Tears

Sometimes there are things that I want to write about, but the moment is a bit too close at hand.  I started to write this post last August after a dear friend from Pella and her family visited us for a couple of days in the middle of their epic road trip from Iowa to British Columbia and then back down to the Oregon coast.

Dinner on the Deck

Dinner on the Deck

Visiting the fairy doors at Neck Point.

Visiting the fairy doors at Neck Point.

We’ve done a lot of moving around, Dave and I.  From various apartments in upstate New York during graduate school through our impromptu academic tour of the American Midwest and now to Vancouver Island.  Most of these “homes” have not lasted for more than two years before we move again following the job market.  In each of these places we have been blessed with some amazing friends.  The kind who we may not see for a year (or more), but the minute you are back in contact it’s as if you were never apart.  Conversations pick up as if we had just been chatting yesterday, and it is this effortlessness that makes it all the more gut wrenching when you have to leave them again.

Learning to skip stones at Neck Point.

Learning to skip stones at Neck Point.

Also checking out the gorgeous sea life in the shallow waters.  Can you see all the tiny crabs?

Also checking out the gorgeous sea life in the shallow waters. Can you see all the tiny crabs?

Sailing cork boats at Transfer Beach, Ladysmith.

Sailing cork boats at Transfer Beach, Ladysmith.

Which brings us back to the post that I started last August.  Little Man still talks about Iowa as a place that he wants to go back and visit.  In fact, he consistently talks about how “tomorrow” we need to catch a plane and go to Iowa then to China to visit his Kung Fu Panda friends.  At first I thought he assumed that all travel must go through Iowa since that is the last place that he traveled from on our move here.  So we pulled out the globe and his map and I showed him how Iowa is in no way closer to China than we are here.  Then Little Man explained to me that the goal was to visit Iowa and his blue home (our house there was painted blue with a scarlet front door), then to travel on to the Jade Palace in China.  Ah…

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When our friends came out to visit from Iowa, it was as if we’d just parted company the day before, not the year it was in real time.  We played, the kids played, and we ate, drank and talked for hours.  It was fantastic.  And as is often the case, the better the visit is, the sadder the departure.  We had already taught Little Man the Turkish tradition of throwing water on the vehicle of loved ones who are leaving to ensure that they must come back soon.  So as they were getting into their car, Little Man was urging me on quickly to grab a container of water to make sure they came back.  We dowsed the car, and are still waiting with baited breath for them to return.

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He was quiet as we went back inside after their departure.  We closed the front door and Little Man looked out the window watching their car disappear around the corner into the woods.  Dave scooped Little Man up and took him to the couch in his arms.
“Daddy, what does ‘sad’ mean?”
Little Man’s head was bowed so all I could see were his golden curls, not his face.
“Sad is something we feel when we are upset.  Are you sad that your friends are leaving?”
A nod of curls followed by, “Do you cry when you feel sad?”
“Yes, some times we cry when we feel sad,”  Daddy said.  “It’s OK to cry when we feel sad.  It’s OK to cry.”  Daddy folded him in his arms as Little Man’s face crumpled into tears.

Paparazzi taking photos of dinner.

Paparazzi taking photos of dinner.

We had to treat our Iowa friends to some locally caught salmon.  This time packet grilled and seasoned with ginger, garlic, chives and soy.

We had to treat our Iowa friends to some locally caught wild salmon. The salmon was packet grilled and seasoned with ginger, garlic, chives and soy.

Dave's famous... I mean, Joe's famous potatoes.

Dave’s famous… I mean, Joe’s famous potatoes (Cabin Grilled Potatoes)

This much sauteed kale with garlic, came from...

This much sauteed kale with garlic, came from…

this much rainbow chard that came from...

this much rainbow chard that came from…

my glorious garden.  I can't wait to see it lush like this again!

my glorious garden. I can’t wait to see it lush like this again!

I stood in the kitchen, “good bye” tears in my eyes, and tried to gain control.  My “plan” had been to hold it together for Little Man’s sake, so I could comfort myself with tears later after he was asleep.  No such luck.  So instead I baked.  The known movements of measuring, portioning and stirring were comforting, as was the aroma from the oven.  For this moment, for me at least, the main point wasn’t the special treat to eat afterwards, but the actions and senses leading up to it.

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That visit spurred me on to try to find Little Man more friends here on our island.  He was only 2 1/2 when we left Iowa, but all of his little friends that he’d known since birth were now far away and it’s hard (even for a little guy) to break into a community like Nanaimo where many people have lived for generations and don’t know what it’s like to be new in a place and friendless.  Now, to celebrate when we make new friends or for special play dates (generally outside ones where errant chocolate chips won’t ruin someone’s couch), I like to make a baked treat to bring along.  Sometimes this means mini-muffins or scones, but what we’ve started thinking of as special treats with friends are cookies.

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One of my favorite comfort foods is an old fashioned chocolate chip cookie.  However, the “old fashioned” part has had to be updated a bit for our current dietary requirements.  My goal here was to take that standard recipe for a delicious chocolate chip cookie with crispy edges and a chewy center loaded with chocolate chips, and make it into something that while it would be a stretch to call it “healthy” I could feel good about feeding my child and offering to other children (and parents, of course).  So in my case that meant getting rid of the wheat and using spelt flour, which still has some gluten for texture but has less of the gastro-issues than wheat has, and sneaking in some chia meal to up the “goodness” value.

As I’ve written before, there’s no need to go out and buy a special bag of chia meal.  If you have chia seeds at home, all you need to do is pour some of the seeds into a coffee grinder or food processor and blitz them up.  Creating your own chia meal has the added benefits of making all the great nutrients of chia more easily accessible to your body, and there is less chance of a stray whole chia seed getting into your dishwasher and growing like a chia pet.  If you don’t have chia, but do have flax seeds feel free to use them the same way.  If you have neither, then you can simply replace the amount of chia meal for a flour of your choice, or even oats.

Enough talking, let’s make some cookies…

Not So Traditional Chocolate Chip Cookies

Not So Traditional Chocolate Chip Cookies
Ingredients
:
2 cups spelt flour (or whole wheat)
¼ cup chia meal (see note)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) good quality dairy free margarine (or butter), softened
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup white sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 375°. Set aside an ungreased baking sheet.
  2. Combine the spelt flour, chia meal, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. Set this aside.
    I was making these cookies more or less in the dark since Little Man was having a hard time nodding off that night.  So if the flash seems a bit harsh, that's because it was the only light source.

    I love how the chia meal always looks like I’ve just dumped a ton of black pepper into a recipe. Trust me, it will work its way in unobtrusively soon.

    See, the chia meal is whisked into the rest of the dry ingredients and away it goes.

    See, the chia meal is whisked into the rest of the dry ingredients and away it goes.

  3. Combine the softened margarine (or butter), sugars and vanilla in a large bowl either by hand or with an electric beater or stand mixer. Make sure the mixture is smooth and creamy.

    There's no need to use any other tool than a large spoon and a little elbow grease to combine the wet ingredients here.

    There’s no need to use any other tool than a large spoon and a little elbow grease to combine the wet ingredients here.

  4. Add the eggs, one at a time, to the butter mixture, combining well.

    Adding the eggs, one at a time.

    Adding the eggs, one at a time.

  5. Carefully add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, stirring slowly at first so that you don’t create a flour cloud by beating your ingredients too enthusiastically. Make sure that the dough is smooth and thoroughly combined.

    I did the sizing of the bowls backwards in this picture, so this step might look a little different for you.  It will still taste amazing in the end.

    I did the sizing of the bowls backwards in this picture, so this step might look a little different for you. It will still taste amazing in the end.

  6. Add the chocolate chips, stirring just to distribute them throughout.

    I'm surprised that Little Man didn't sense the chocolate being added to the bowl and run out in his pjs requesting a sample.

    I’m surprised that Little Man didn’t sense the chocolate being added to the bowl and run out in his pjs requesting a sample.

  7. Using two spoons (or a small scoop if you are feeling fancy) scoop out and drop tablespoon-sized portions of dough onto the baking sheet, spacing them a few inches apart since the dough will spread while baking.

    The dough is a little glossy here since the cookies had been in the oven for a minute or so before I remembered to take the photo.

    The dough is a little glossy here since the cookies had been in the oven for a minute or so before I remembered to take the photo.

  8. Bake the cookies for 9-11 minutes or until nice and golden brown. The cookies should not look wet in the middle, but will be soft when you take them off of the tray.  Don’t worry, they will firm up as they cool. Remove the tray from the oven and let the cookies sit for about 5 minutes before moving them to a cooling rack. They can be cooled completely or served immediately. Just warn little mouths about the potential for hot, melted chocolate chips.
    Perfectly golden.

    Perfectly golden.

    Dangerously ready to eat.

    Dangerously ready to eat.

  9. You can continue baking the cookies until the dough is done, or take any dough that you don’t wish to bake now, form it into a log on plastic wrap, cover it securely and keep it in the freezer until you are ready to slice and bake the cookies. You may need to increase the baking time by a few minutes, so watch them carefully towards the end. The dough can be frozen for up to a few weeks.  Enjoy!
    You can freeze cookie dough to make your own slice and bake cookies, ready whenever you want them to be.

    You can freeze cookie dough to make your own slice and bake cookies, ready whenever you want them to be.

    No, the cookie log does not need to be perfect.  You are just going to slice and bake it so don't waste too much time making the perfect cylinder, unless you have a food stylist snooping around in your freezer.

    No, the cookie log does not need to be perfect. You are just going to slice and bake it so don’t waste too much time making the perfect cylinder, unless you have a food stylist snooping around in your freezer.

Note: Make your own chia meal by blitzing up chia seeds in a coffee grinder or food processor. You can also do the same with flax seeds, or make oat flour by blitzing up whole oats (not instant, please). Store any extra chia meal in the freezer to keep it fresh.

Click here for a printable version of the Not So Traditional Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe.

All these need is a glass of milk.

All these need is a glass of milk.

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And a friend.

Walking at Neck Point.

Walking at Neck Point.

Mini Chocolate Cupcakes

Someone once read me a quote that describes time as a whirlwind, swirling faster as you move away from the center out towards the edges.  Time moves slowest at the center of the whirlwind and this is full of people trying desperately to slow down or hold onto time, mostly young lovers and the parents of young children.  As Little Man turns four both Dave and I find ourselves manically flip-flopping between being excited for what this new year will bring (aka let’s please get out of the threes… please…) and sappy nostalgia for the baby that Little Man used to be.  Sob!

Right now the excitement for four is winning out, and I can’t wait to see what this new year will bring.  To start his fourth year out right we wanted Little Man to be able to bring a special dessert to his day care, but still have it be something we can feel good about him eating.  I haven’t written about it yet, but much of last year has been a struggle to figure out if Little Man is dairy/lactose intolerant or not.  Many of the recipes that I have been working on recently are dairy-free versions of family favorites.  In many cases I’ve been able to simply swap out cow’s milk for almond or coconut milk.  In a few examples, the transition hasn’t been that easy.  The main thing for this birthday treat, however, was that we wanted it to be something that Little Man would be hugely excited for and that he and his “classmates” would have no idea that the treat they were eating was good for them (or at least not as bad as the refined flour and white sugar versions can be).

These mini muffin/cup cakes are delicious treats on their own.

These mini muffin/cup cakes are delicious treats on their own.

Last year Little Man and I brought mini-muffin sized versions of my Banana Chocolate Muffins, which were also one of my first posted recipes for this site (more nostalgia…).  This year I wanted to bring it up a notch and make it more cupcakey.  The first step was to revamp my previous recipe making it nearly dairy-free.  I say “nearly dairy free” since it does have semisweet chocolate chips and those contain milk.  If you want truly dairy free you can simply omit the chocolate chips, or use a dairy-free/vegan alternative.  I haven’t found one that I’m happy with yet, so standard semi-sweet chocolate chips won out.  These muffins, mini or otherwise, are delicious on their own and are treats that I feel good about Little Man eating.

But what really sets these mini muffin/cupcakes apart is the frosting.  Oh, the frosting…  This frosting is the first thing that I’ve every come across that deserves the phrase “stupid good!”  It’s amazing.  Four ingredients.  30 second to whip it up.  The hardest thing is not devouring the entire bowl before frosting your cupcakes or cake.  Seriously… This stuff is ridiculous, and I cannot take a single iota of credit for it.  The frosting recipe comes from an amazing blog called Chocolate Covered Katie.  I’ve included a link to the Vegan Chocolate Frosting Shots here, as well as in the main recipe below.  For Dave and I, we were happy leaving it just barely sweetened with a little powdered sugar, but for the kiddos I added probably about 1/2 cup total of powdered sugar to take the edge off of the bittersweet chocolate goodness that this creates.  This “frosting” could be served as a chocolate mousse in a fancy coupe and no one would be the wiser.  Seriously, it’s that good.  I doubled the recipe to make enough frosting to cover these cupcakes.

My sous chef had a great time playing "baker," though it took a bit of persuasion to convince him that wearing an apron was a good idea.

My sous chef had a great time playing “baker,” though it took a bit of persuasion to convince him that wearing an apron was a good idea.

OK, back to the awesome cupcakes…  Since these cupcakes were for Little Man’s day care buddies, it only seemed fitting that he help me make them.  You’ll notice that in the pictures from this recipe are, shall we say… a bit more messy than usual.  They often have ingredients all over the counter, with Little Man’s grubby mits sticking out of the bowl at any given time.  We had a blast.  While I “controlled” the situation enough to make sure that the end product was delicious, I wanted this to be super fun for Little Man.  He got to taste the ingredients and saw that flour did not taste good good, while brown sugar was quite tasty.  I measured, he dumped, and a good time was had by all.  By the time we were spooning batter into the muffin cups, he was pretty done with the whole procedure, but that was fine since the motor skills of filling little muffin cups cleanly is still a bit beyond him.

In terms of planning, I made the cup cakes two days in advance, the frosting the night before, and then frosted and decorated the cakes in the morning before day care.  You can certainly frost them the night before, but you would need to either leave them uncovered in the refrigerator or keep them in a container that does not touch their tops.  The frosting stays soft to the touch, so plastic wrap won’t be an option.  Your hardest hurdle to clear will be not gobbling them up before sending them off to school.

Little Man got to help sprinkle the baby planets over the frosted cup cakes.

Little Man got to help sprinkle the baby planets over the frosted cup cakes.

Mini Chocolate Cupcakes (Dairy Free)
Ingredients
:
4 very ripe bananas
¼ cup canola oil
¼ cup silken tofu
2 eggs
½ cup brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
3 Tbsp. cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
¾ cup semisweet chocolate chips (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400ºF and line a mini muffin pan with paper liners. A regular muffin pan can be used, but the cupcakes will spread out a bit rather than growing tall.

    I don't own a mini muffin pan, so we simply used a regular sized pan with mini muffin cup papers.  Little Man had a blast dropping single cups into each hole in the pan.  Of course this task was made more fun with a generous mug of Auntie Erin's Hot Cocoa, hence the straw in the photo.

    I don’t own a mini muffin pan, so we simply used a regular sized pan with mini muffin cup papers. Little Man had a blast dropping single cups into each hole in the pan. Of course this task was made more fun with a generous mug of Auntie Erin’s Hot Cocoa, hence the straw in the photo.

  2. In a large bowl add the bananas, oil, tofu, eggs and brown sugar. Beat them on medium high with electric beaters (or a stand mixer) until well combined. There may still be tiny flecks of tofu sprinkled throughout, but that’s fine. It will melt right in.
    Wet "more or less" ingredients.

    Wet “more or less” ingredients.

    Not the most photogenic image, but no matter how fast I whisked I couldn't get the tofu to incorporate like I wanted it to.  So I switched to the electric beaters, and they did the job.

    Not the most photogenic image, but no matter how fast I whisked I couldn’t get the tofu to incorporate like I wanted it to. So I switched to the electric beaters, and they did the job.

  3. In a medium bowl add the flours, cocoa powder, baking powder and baking soda. Whisk the ingredients together to combine.

    Dry ingredients, mostly in the bowl.

    Dry ingredients, mostly in the bowl.

  4. Gently add the dry ingredients to the wet, being careful to not over mix the batter. Fold in the chocolate chips if using.

    The rich, chocolate batter.  Make it truly dairy free by omitting the chocolate chips or using a vegan substitute.

    The rich, chocolate batter. Make it truly dairy free by omitting the chocolate chips or using a vegan substitute.

  5. Spoon a couple of teaspoons of batter into the prepared muffin pans.

    This was Little Man's pan that he filled.  If I had a small cookie scoop for this, it might have been easier for him.  As it was, the two teaspoons were a fun, artistic adventure.

    This was Little Man’s pan that he filled. If I had a small cookie scoop for this, it might have been easier for him. As it was, the two teaspoons were a fun, artistic adventure.

  6. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack.

    Once on they were on the rack, it became difficult to to convince Little Man that they weren't there as immediate snack treats.

    Once on they were on the rack, it became difficult to to convince Little Man that they weren’t there as immediate snack treats.

  7. Decorations: Frost the cupcakes with Vegan Chocolate Frosting, then decorate as whimsy dictates. Sprinkles are always fun, or you could use sugared flowers for an upscale look. Little Man’s birthday party this year is space-themed, so he chose tiny sphere sprinkles since they look like “baby planets.”

Click here for a printable version of the Mini Chocolate Cupcakes (Dairy Free) recipe.

Now we're talking...

Now we’re talking…

 

Fluffy Wheat Bread and That Darn Cat

While I absolutely love my Whole Wheat Oatmeal Bread, there are times when I want something that is a little lighter, a little fluffier.  That’s where this delicious, fluffy, whole wheat bread comes in.  This recipe is adapted from one that was taught to me by a friend.  It makes three loaves or rounds of bread, and I like to bake one off immediately while freezing two dough portions to thaw and bake later.  Ever since I started making the Whole Wheat Oatmeal Bread and this Fluffy Whole Wheat Bread, I end up making a batch of dough every few weeks and haven’t bought bread from the store in about a year.  Yes, that means that every few weeks I go through the labor of making my own bread dough, but it’s something that I love to do and since Santa brought me a stand mixer last year, the active labor part is quite short.  It always has the feeling of play as I shape the loaves, and it makes the house smell great to boot.

I do have one word of warning… be careful where you put your shaped loaves to rise.  Just this New Years Eve I set a beautiful round of Fluffy Whole Wheat Bread dough in front of our wood burning stove to rise.  Dave was making an amazing surf and turf dinner that included mussels in a butter and white wine sauce, so I was making bread to soak up all of that delicious mussel broth.  When I went back downstairs an hour later to get the risen dough, I was greeted with the sight of a very comfortable and pleased-with-herself cat grinning at me as she lounged on top of my beautiful bread.  Doh!  She was not pleased when she was unceremoniously removed from her bready pillow, but at least the plastic wrap and towel covering kept the dough more or less safe.  It was a bit squished with a cat imprint on one side, however.  Dave found this amusing.  Lesson learned.

Fluffy Wheat Bread
A soft, fluffy, whole wheat loaf that is perfect for sandwiches, toast, or just fresh with butter. This recipe makes three loaves, so I like to bake one off immediately and freeze the other two portions to use later.
Yield: 3 loaves

Proofing Yeast Ingredients:
¾ cup water
1 tsp. honey
2 packages of yeast (or 4 ½ tsp.)
Bread Dough Ingredients:
8 cups whole wheat bread flour
1 tbsp. salt
2 cups water
1 egg
2 tbsp. honey
¼ cup canola oil

Directions:

  1. Combine the water and honey from the proofing yeast ingredients in a microwave safe bowl and heat in the microwave for 30 seconds. Stir in the yeast and set the mixture aside to proof for 10 minutes. The yeast should get nice and foamy. If it does not get foamy then you likely have a bad batch of yeast and need to start over.

    Happy, bubbly yeast.

  2. Combine the whole wheat bread flour and the salt in a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and stir the salt into the flour briefly. Salt can inhibit yeast growth, but it also gives bread great flavor. So we want to distribute the salt so that it doesn’t hit the yeast in one big clump.
  3. Add the rest of the bread dough ingredients to the flour and salt mixture, and then add the proofed yeast. Stir to combine.  If using a stand mixer, once the ingredients are nearly combined (you may need to turn off the mixer and scrape down the bowl once or twice) switch to mixing speed 2 and “knead” the dough for 6 minutes. Be sure to follow manufacturer’s guidelines for processing dough in your mixer. If making the bread by hand, scrape the thoroughly mixed of the bowl out onto a lightly floured board and knead by hand for 15 minutes. Dough will likely be slightly sticky, but avoid adding extra flour as much as possible.
    Almost all of the ingredients...

    Almost all of the ingredients…

    Everything into the pool.

    Everything into the pool.

    Switching to Speed 2 to actually knead the dough.

    Switching to Speed 2 to actually knead the dough.

    While I like to knead dough by hand, when I'm making the dough regularly I really like the speed of my stand mixer.

    While I like to knead dough by hand, when I’m making the dough regularly I really like the speed of my stand mixer.

  4. Once the dough has been thoroughly kneaded, place it in a large, warm bowl that has been lightly coated with oil. Flip the dough ball over and cover the bowl lightly with plastic wrap. Then cover this with a clean towel and place it somewhere warm to proof. This should take 45 minutes to an hour, or as long as it takes for the dough to double in size.
    Lightly oil the bowl.  In cold weather I like to heat the bowl in warm water before oiling it and proofing the dough.

    In cold weather I like to heat the bowl in warm water before oiling it and proofing the dough.

    Place the dough in the oiled bowl and then flip it to keep the top moist during proofing.

    Place the dough in the oiled bowl and then flip it to keep the top moist during proofing.

    Tuck the dough in nicely with a loose layer of plastic wrap and then a clean kitchen towel.

    Tuck the dough in nicely with a loose layer of plastic wrap and then a clean kitchen towel.

    Happy, risen dough.

    Happy, risen dough.

  5. Once the dough has doubled, gently press down on it to release the built up gasses. There’s no need to punch it, just press it down and let it rest for 8 minutes before continuing.

    There's absolutely no reason to get violent with your dough.  Just give it a good bit of pressure to release some of the built up gasses, then let it rest again.

    There’s absolutely no reason to get violent with your dough. Just give it a good bit of pressure to release some of the built up gasses, then let it rest again.

  6. After the dough has rested divide it into three roughly equal pieces. On a lightly floured board shape one piece into a roughly 8×6 inch rectangle. Tightly roll the rectangle into a long cylinder, tucking the ends in as you go. Seal the cylinder along its base so that no seams are visible. Set the cylinder aside and repeat this step with the remaining two pieces of dough.
    No need to get fussy with exact measurements here.  Just divy it up and keep moving forward.

    No need to get fussy with exact measurements here. Just divy it up and keep moving forward.

    Shaping the dough.  Start with a rectangle, then roll it up into a cylinder.

    Shaping the dough. Start with a rectangle, then roll it up into a cylinder.

    Creating the loaves.

    Creating the loaves.

  7. To freeze for future use: Wrap each piece of dough in plastic wrap and then place them into large, resealable plastic bags. Seal the bag and place it on a flat surface in the freezer. The dough can be frozen for 2-3 months. Remove the dough from the freezer and thaw in a well-buttered loaf pan for a few hours or overnight and then proceed to baking instructions.
    Wrap the cylinders up loosely in plastic wrap.  They'll continue to expand as they freeze, so if you wrap them too tightly they will burst.

    Wrap the cylinders up loosely in plastic wrap. They’ll continue to expand as they freeze, so if you wrap them too tightly they will burst.

    Getting the dough ready to freeze.  When you are ready to bake them off, just let them defrost overnight to do their second rise.  Be patient and give them time.  The dough's cold, so needs some time get nice and fluffy.

    Getting the dough ready to freeze. When you are ready to bake them off, just let them defrost overnight to do their second rise. Be patient and give them time. The dough’s cold, so needs some time get nice and fluffy.

  8. To bake immediately: Place each piece of dough into its own oiled loaf pan. Cover the pan(s) loosely with plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel. Set the pan(s) aside to let the dough rise for about 45 minutes to an hour. Proceed to baking instructions.
    IMG_3070

    Nicely risen dough, without any squished marks from being sat on by a cat.  Like I said, lesson learned.

    Nicely risen dough, without any squished marks from being sat on by a cat. Like I said, lesson learned.

    IMG_3076

  9. Baking Instructions: Preheat your oven to 350ºF and bake the bread for 20 minutes. The bread is done when it is brown on top and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. You can also check its internal temperature to ensure that it has reached 190ºF. Cool on wire racks and enjoy!
    This bread is just calling for butter and jam.

    This bread is just calling for butter and jam.

    This loaf was destined for a dinner of tuna and smashed avocado sandwiches.  They were perfect.

    This loaf was destined for a dinner of tuna and smashed avocado sandwiches. They were perfect.

Click here for a printable version of the Fluffy Wheat Bread recipe.

Baklava Cake: How to Use Leftover Phyllo

Phyllo is one of those ingredients that seems to be able to strike fear into the hearts of would-be-bakers.  Some recipes make phyllo sound as fragile as an explosive, and that you must cover up the sheets between additions or all is lost.  Forget all of that.  Phyllo is one of the most forgiving things you can ever work with.  A little butter or olive oil goes a long way and by the time you’ve baked your creation to a golden crisp, any imperfections in execution will only exist in your own mind since your finished beautiful dish won’t show them.

That said, every now and then there can be some phyllo left over that doesn’t make it into the final product, or perhaps a recipe only called for a partial box of phyllo and you didn’t quite get the box well sealed allowing the phyllo to dry out.  Do not despair.  There are a myriad of ways that you can use the sadly dried out and crumbly phyllo.

A bowl of phyllo shards.

A bowl of phyllo shards.

For just a few examples dried out phyllo can be toasted in the oven and used as any sort of crunchy topping on casseroles, in salads, on sundaes, and the list goes on.  Today, however, we are going to transform the brittle bits into a honey-soaked cake version of the famous Mediterranean baklava.

Baklava Cake
Filling Ingredients
:
1 cup combined walnuts and almonds
¼ tsp. cinnamon
1 tbsp. butter, melted
Cake Ingredients:
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup white sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
¼ cup plain yogurt
¾ cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
Topping Ingredients:
1 heaping cup of phyllo dried bits
1 tbsp. butter, melted
Syrup Ingredients:
½ cup white sugar
½ cup honey
½ cup water
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9 x 12 inch pan.
  2. Pulse the nuts in a food processor until finely chopped. You want some texture, so don’t let it get powdery. Put the chopped nuts into a small bowl and toss with the cinnamon and butter. Set aside.
    Pulse the nuts in a food processor to chop them finely, but don't let them get powdery.

    Pulse the nuts in a food processor to chop them finely, but don’t let them get powdery.

    Add the seasoning to the chopped nuts.

    Add the seasoning to the chopped nuts.

    Toss the ingredients together to combine.

    Toss the ingredients together to combine.

  3. Whisk together all dry cake ingredients in a large bowl. In a small bowl whisk the wet cake ingredients together. Add the wet to the dry and gently incorporate. Do not over mix.
    The dry ingredients.

    The dry cake ingredients.

    The dry ingredients whisked together.  I love my flat whisk for this.

    The dry ingredients whisked together. I love my flat whisk for this.

    The wet ingredients.

    The wet cake ingredients.

    The wet ingredients combined.

    The wet ingredients combined.

    The cake batter coming together.

    The cake batter coming together.

  4. Pour half of the cake batter into the prepared pan and smooth to the edges. Sprinkle the nut filling evenly over the batter in the pan. Gently pour the remaining batter over the nut filling and then use a spatula to spread the batter over the nuts and to the edges of the pan.
    Pour half of the cake batter into the pan and spread the batter out to the corners.

    Pour half of the cake batter into the pan and spread the batter out to the corners.

    Sprinkle the nut filling evenly over the batter.

    Sprinkle the nut filling evenly over the batter.

    Carefully pour the remaining batter over the nut filling and gently spread it out to the edges of the pan.

    Carefully pour the remaining batter over the nut filling and gently spread it out to the edges of the pan.

    The final layer of cake batter.

    The final layer of cake batter.

  5. In a medium bowl toss the dried phyllo bits with the butter. Let the phyllo bits break apart into glistening shards of dough. You don’t want them to become powdery, but let them break apart a bit. Evenly sprinkle the phyllo over the cake batter in the pan.
    A bowl of sad, dried out phyllo edges.

    A bowl of sad, dried out phyllo edges.

    A little butter to pull the phyllo shards together.

    A little butter to pull the phyllo shards together.

    A bowl of phyllo shards.

    A bowl of phyllo shards.

    The phyllo shards are sprinkled over the cake and it's ready for the oven.

    The phyllo shards are sprinkled over the cake and it’s ready for the oven.

  6. Carefully place the cake pan in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Loosely place a piece of foil over the cake and bake for another 35-40 minutes. The foil should protect the phyllo from over browning. Remove the foil for the last 10 minutes of baking time.
    Cover the cake with foil for much of the baking time so that the phyllo doesn't over brown (aka burn!).

    Cover the cake with foil for much of the baking time so that the phyllo doesn’t over brown (aka burn!).

    Remove the foil from the cake for the last 10 minutes or so of the baking time.  Watch the cake like a hawk at this stage, and replace the foil if you think the phyllo is getting too dark too quickly.

    Remove the foil from the cake for the last 10 minutes or so of the baking time. Watch the cake like a hawk at this stage, and replace the foil if you think the phyllo is getting too dark too quickly.

    The cake is fully baked, but not done yet...

    The cake is fully baked, but not done yet…

  7. Meanwhile combine the white sugar, honey and water for the glaze in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Once the syrup starts to bubble remove it from the heat and stir in the lemon juice and cinnamon.  You can gently reheat the syrup if needed to make it nicely spoonable over the warm cake.
    The syrup ingredients.

    The syrup ingredients.

    Heat the syrup until it just begins to bubble and then remove it from the heat.  If you boil it too long it will turn into candy, and that's not what you are going for here.

    Heat the syrup until it just begins to bubble and then remove it from the heat. If you boil it too long it will turn into candy, and that’s not what you are going for here.

  8. Test the cake to be sure it is cooked through. Once done remove the cake to a rack to cool. Place a piece of aluminum foil under the rack and carefully spoon the syrup over the cake. Some of the syrup will spill off of the cake, so the foil below the rack should keep your counters from becoming a tasty, but sticky mess. Try to get as even a coating as you can, and don’t forget the edges.

    The cake gets a gorgeous sheen from the honey syrup as it sticks to the phyllo, but also soaks into the cake.

    The cake gets a gorgeous sheen from the honey syrup as it sticks to the phyllo, but also soaks into the cake.

  9. Cool the cake for 15 minutes. Cut, serve and enjoy!

Click here for a printable version of the Baklava Cake recipe.

Eat

Using Frozen Pizza Dough

It came to my attention that while I have briefly talked about how to use frozen pizza dough for flat bread, I’ve never actually given the process it’s own center stage.  Frozen pizza dough is like gold in your freezer, and it is incredibly easy to thaw quickly in the microwave.  There is no need to wait for a solid hour or more for it to thaw out on the counter top.  So I wanted to share that information here in it’s own post and it’s own recipe.  Hopefully this will help make it more accessible and also take a bit of the fear factor out of using the dough from frozen.

This all started with a blog post about stocking your pantry with easy to make foods, that can be made cheaply, made in bulk, and frozen for storage and easy retrieval later on.  For me, the most versatile thing that I make in my kitchen is Whole Wheat Pizza Dough, and unless something terrible happens (like our freezer being such a mess that we can’t possibly see a frozen ball of delicious dough… which has happened…) I always have it in my freezer.

What I do not always have is the hour or more that it can take to allow the dough to leisurely thaw out and come up to room temperature while lounging (the dough, not me) on the kitchen counter.  This is especially true in the cold weather months.  Instead, we have been graced with the microwave.  If, like some of my dear friends, you have no use for the microwave then please by all means use this same recipe to make and freeze the dough.  You need to be more organized than I am in order to remember when to pull the dough out to thaw, but judging on the organizational skills of my friends who choose to not use the microwave that isn’t a problem.

But back to our task at hand…  Using frozen pizza dough.  This is going to be important, since the next post I do will have an amazing Turkish inspired baked tomato and egg dish.  You are going to want to make that dish, and you are going to want this easy flat bread to go with it.  Trust me.  🙂

Pizza Dough Flat Bread Using Frozen From Scratch Pizza Dough

Ingredients:
One portion of premade frozen Whole Wheat Pizza Dough (white dough works well for this too!)

Directions:
If you have lots of time…

  • Remove the frozen portion of pizza dough from your freezer and place it on the counter or someplace warm to sit for about an hour to thaw. Once the dough feels slightly chilled, but no longer frozen, use it as described below.
    Frozen pizza dough lounging on the counter

    Frozen pizza dough lounging on the counter

    If you don’t have an hour to thaw your dough…

  • Remove the frozen portion of pizza dough from your freezer and remove any plastic or other coverings you had it protected in.

    Frozen dough ready to be defrosted.

    Frozen dough ready to be defrosted.

  • Place the frozen dough on a small, microwave safe plate and “heat” the dough on regular power for 30 seconds.

    Pizza dough that has been defrosted in the microwave and rested.

    Pizza dough that has been defrosted in the microwave and rested.

  • Let the dough rest in the microwave undisturbed for about 5 minutes. After the dough has rested give it a gentle poke with your finger in the center to see if it has thawed all the way through. If it still has a large frozen portion in the middle, then heat it again for 30 seconds and let it rest for 5 minutes. Continue doing this until the dough is completely thawed. Be careful since if you heat the dough too much in the microwave the edges will start to cook all the way through. You can still use your dough if this happens, but just know that those edges may get extra firm when you bake the dough.

To Bake Your Dough:

  • Roll or stretch your dough to the desired shape and thinness for whatever purpose you desire.
    Ready to roll...

    Ready to roll…

    Hand stretched dough seasoned with a little olive oil, salt, and dried thyme.

    Hand stretched dough seasoned with a little olive oil, salt, and dried thyme.

  • If you want to be sure that you don’t get too many bubbles forming in the middle of your dough, dock it at this point with a rolling docker or simply poke it all over with the tines of a fork.
  • If you want the dough to be used as a flat bread or similar preparation, season the dough with a little olive oil, salt and your favorite dried herb blend and then bake it in a preheated 425 degree oven, checking it after about 10 minutes to ensure that it isn’t browning too quickly. To give it a nice burnishing on the top, switch your oven to broil for the last minute, but watch it like a hawk so that it doesn’t char.
  • If you want to use the dough for pizza, simply follow the pizza recipe you have at hand, or check out some of the options here at thesheepareout.com.
  • Enjoy!

Click here for a printable version of the Whole Wheat Pizza Dough recipe.

Click here for a printable version of the Using Frozen Pizza Dough recipe.

Pizza Dough Flat Bread

 

 

Stocking the Pantry 2: The Bread Edition

After publishing his seminal work entitled An Eater’s Manifesto in which he lays out many concerns over the modern production of food, Michael Pollan found himself deluged with questions regarding what was actually safe (or good) to eat.  His response was In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto where he writes that we should “eat food, not too much, and mostly greens.”  Sounds simple enough, except for the fact that what many of us consider to be “food” are actually highly processed, food-like products. To specify what he meant by “food,” Pollan wrote that it should be recognizable by our grandmothers (or great-grandmothers) as  “food,” even when we read the ingredient list.  In short, you shouldn’t need a Ph.D. in Nutritional Science to understand the contents of what you are going to eat.  Pollan’s iconic example of this is the ingredient list from a brand name “bread” product that had an astounding 20 ingredients when bread truly only needs four; flour, yeast, water and salt.

It was through readings such as Pollan’s that I realized I really didn’t know how a lot of the basic foodstuffs were made.  Don’t get me wrong I knew what was in some of these things, but I didn’t know how to go about making them for myself.  I had the theory, but not the practice.  Much of my cooking before that time had been focused on either making really fancy food or really quick food.  There were the fancy meals for friends where I tried out new ideas and tastes that until that time I’d only read about, and then there were the weeknight meals as a young married couple trying to balance graduate school and life. The basic foodstuffs, the types of things that I liked to keep in my pantry like spaghetti sauce, pizza dough, even muffins, were things that I only bought in packaged form and hadn’t really thought about making them at home.

Around the same time of Little Man’s arrival I had started teaching anthropology of food courses at the university where I taught.  The research I was doing for my courses, as well as our desire to feed our family well, led me to start tinkering with making some of these basics, like pizza dough and soup stock.  Now these things are so basic for me to make that it irks me if I run out and have to buy them from the store.  The basic food that I’ve recently added to my repertoire to make at home is whole wheat bread.

Now before you get nervous and start mentally listing off all the ways that you live a super busy life and can’t possibly fit making your own bread into an already crazy schedule, don’t panic.  Take a deep breath.  This recipe is a fun Saturday afternoon project and makes enough dough for you to make three loaves of bread, two of which can hang out in the freezer until you are ready to eat them.  That is the beauty of stocking your pantry; you make things periodically in bulk, freeze them, and then use them as you want them over the following weeks or months.  You can choose what types of staples you would like to have at hand, and make them at home.  And for all of these basic foods, like pizza dough, bread, tomato sauce, etc., there is something immensely satisfying knowing that not only do you know the entire ingredient list, but you actually made these things.  They weren’t made in a factory by extruders and people garbed in sci-fi plastic clothing, but these foods were made by you, with your own hands (and your kids’ hands), and that makes it all taste that much better.  Have fun!

IMG_9825Whole Wheat Oat Bread

Adapted from: Girl Versus Dough

Ingredients:
2 cups water
2 cups milk
4 ½ tsp. (2 packets) active dry yeast
3 tbsp. agave
4 cups whole wheat flour
5 cups whole wheat bread flour
2 cup rolled oats (not instant)
½ cup olive oil
2 tbsp. salt

Directions:

  1. Combine half of the milk and water in a microwave safe bowl and heat for 45 seconds or until very warm (not more than 115ºF).  Pour this into the bowl of a stand mixer (or mixing bowl) and add half of the yeast and agave.  Stir to combine and let rest for 10 minutes or until foamy.
    Adding the yeast to the milk mixture in the stand mixer.

    Adding the yeast to the milk mixture in the stand mixer.

    The yeast starting to proof and get foamy.

    The yeast starting to proof and get foamy.

    The rest of the dry ingredients.

    The rest of the dry ingredients.

  2. Add half of the flours, oats, olive oil and salt to the bowl and mix/stir to combine.  Once the ingredients are incorporated, mix at Speed 2 on your stand mixer for 6 minutes.  If kneading by hand, dump ingredients out onto a lightly floured board and knead until smooth and elastic (about 15 minutes).
    The mixture just getting fully incorporated and starting to pull away from the sides of the bowl.

    The mixture just getting fully incorporated and starting to pull away from the sides of the bowl.

    The cohesive dough has been "kneaded" by the machine and is ready to proof.

    The cohesive dough has been “kneaded” by the machine and is ready to proof.

  3. Oil a large bowl for the dough to rise in.  Place the dough into the bowl, cover loosely with plastic wrap and set aside.

    The first batch of dough resting in a proofing bowl.

    The first batch of dough resting in a proofing bowl.

  4. Repeat the previous instructions with the remaining ingredients.  Once the second batch of dough is completed, add it to the first.  Roll the dough quickly in the oiled bowl so that all sides are slicked.  Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap and then with a towel.  Place the dough in a warm place to rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
    The second batch of dough has been added to the first and set in the bowl to rest.

    The second batch of dough has been added to the first and set in the bowl to rest.

    Covering the dough with plastic wrap.

    Covering the dough with plastic wrap.

    Tucking the dough in with a towel.

    Tucking the dough in with a towel.

    A big, beautiful bowl of proofed dough.

    A big, beautiful bowl of proofed dough.

  5. Gently press down on the dough to release some of the gases.  Let it sit for 10 minutes.

    There's no need to brutalize your dough by "punching" it down.  Just give it a nice press to release some of the gasses, then let it rest for a bit before proceeding.

    There’s no need to brutalize your dough by “punching” it down. Just give it a nice press to release some of the gasses, then let it rest for a bit before proceeding.

  6. Divide the dough into three pieces.  On a lightly floured board shape one piece of dough into a roughly 8×6 inch rectangle.  Tightly roll the rectangle into a long cylinder, tucking the ends in as you go.  Seal the cylinder along its base so that no seams are visible.  Set the cylinder aside and repeat this step with the remaining two pieces of dough.
    Form the individual pieces of dough into rough rectangles.

    Form the individual pieces of dough into rough rectangles.

    Then roll the rectangles into tight cylinders, tucking in the edges as you go.

    Then roll the rectangles into tight cylinders, tucking in the edges as you go.

  7. To bake immediately: Place each piece of dough into its own oiled loaf pan.  Cover the pan(s) loosely with plastic wrap and a towel.  Set the pan(s) aside to let the dough rise for about 45 minutes.  The dough should be more or less the shape of the finished loaf.  Proceed to baking instructions.
    If you want to bake a loaf immediately, place the formed cylinder into a well oiled bread pan.

    If you want to bake a loaf immediately, place the formed cylinder into a well oiled bread pan.

    Cover the prepared dough with plastic wrap and its towel, then set it aside to proof again.

    Cover the prepared dough with plastic wrap and its towel, then set it aside to proof again.

    This dough is proofed and ready for the oven.

    This dough is proofed and ready for the oven.

  8. To freeze for future use: Place each piece of dough into its own large, resealable plastic bag.  Seal the bag and place it in the freezer.  The dough can be frozen for 2-3 months.  Remove the dough from the freezer and thaw in a well-buttered loaf pan, then proceed to baking instructions.

    Any dough that you want to save can be tightly wrapped in plastic and then sealed in a plastic bag and frozen.  This dough will last in the freezer for 2-3 months.

    Any dough that you want to save can be tightly wrapped in plastic and then sealed in a plastic bag and frozen. This dough will last in the freezer for 2-3 months.

  9. Baking Instructions: Preheat your oven to 400ºF.  Bake the bread for 40-50 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking.  The bread is done when dark brown on top and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom, or has reached an internal temperature of 190ºF.  Cool on wire racks and enjoy!IMG_9824
 Recipe Icon Whole Wheat Oatmeal Bread
http://www.thesheepareout.com
adapted from: Girl Versus Dough
Ingredients:
2 cups water
2 cups milk4 ½ tsp. (2 packets) active dry yeast
3 tbsp. agave
4 cups whole wheat flour
5 cups whole wheat bread flour
2 cup rolled oats (not instant)
½ cup olive oil
2 tbsp. salt
Directions:

  1. Combine half of the milk and water in a microwave safe bowl and heat for 45 seconds or until very warm (not more than 115ºF).  Pour this into the bowl of a stand mixer (or mixing bowl) and add half of the yeast and agave.  Stir to combine and let rest for 10 minutes or until foamy.
  2. Add half of the flours, oats, olive oil and salt to the bowl and mix/stir to combine.  Once the ingredients are incorporated, mix at Speed 2 on your stand mixer for 6 minutes.  If kneading by hand, dump ingredients out onto a lightly floured board and knead until smooth and elastic (about 15 minutes).
  3. Oil a large bowl for the dough to rise in.  Place the dough into the bowl, cover loosely with plastic wrap and set aside.
  4. Repeat the previous instructions with the remaining ingredients.  Once the second batch of dough is completed, add it to the first, and shape the dough into a tight ball.  Roll the dough quickly in the oiled bowl so that all sides are slicked.  Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap and then with a towel.  Place the dough in a warm place to rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
  5. Gently press down on the dough to release some of the gases.  Let it sit for 10 minutes.
  6. Divide the dough into three pieces.  On a lightly floured board shape one piece of dough into a roughly 8×6 inch rectangle.  Tightly roll the rectangle into a long cylinder, tucking the ends in as you go.  Seal the cylinder along its base so that no seams are visible.  Set the cylinder aside and repeat this step with the remaining two pieces of dough.
  7. To bake immediately: Place each piece of dough into its own oiled loaf pan.  Cover the pan(s) loosely with plastic wrap and a towel.  Set the pan(s) aside to let the dough rise for about 45 minutes.  The dough should be more or less the shape of the finished loaf.  Proceed to baking instructions.
  8. To freeze for future use: Place each piece of dough into its own large, resealable plastic bag.  Seal the bag and place it in the freezer.  The dough can be frozen for 2-3 months.  Remove the dough from the freezer and thaw in a well-buttered loaf pan, then proceed to baking instructions.
  9. Baking Instructions: Preheat your oven to 400ºF.  Bake the bread for 40-50 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking.  The bread is done when dark brown on top and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom, or has reached an internal temperature of 190ºF.  Cool on wire racks and enjoy!

Click here for a printable version of the Whole Wheat Oat Bread recipe.

IMG_9825

Lumberjack and Lumberjane

A continuance of Poking a Wood Fire (see earlier post).

First year wedding anniversary, and just back from a field season in Turkey.

First year wedding anniversary, and just back from a field season in Turkey.

The other day I stumbled across some pictures of our first wedding anniversary when Dave and I were camping at the much missed Highpoint State Park in New Jersey (best campsites ever… and a really good winery call Westfall Winery nearby too).  The weather was so miserable that most of the other reserved sites were vacant and the park rangers looked pityingly at us whenever they drove by.  We, however, were having an amazing time and didn’t even notice the bad weather.  Dave and I had just come back from a field season in Turkey, had both lost ridiculous amounts of weight from a combination of hard work and dysentery, and were simply reveling in being on vacation… for our anniversary… in weather that was not topping 140º Fahrenheit.  After the sizzling, dry plains; the wet, dripping woodlands seemed miraculous.

Dave proudly standing by his tent; the one dry spot of our campsite.

Dave proudly standing by his tent; the one dry spot of our campsite.

What also seemed miraculous was Dave’s ability to start a fire in that wet pond of a fire pit.  While looking at the pictures from this trip and with fire-starting on my mind, I remembered that Dave had made a sort of Jenga-like construction of kindling, had filled it full of newspaper, then lit it.  Once that initial fire was established, he put logs around it and the resulting fire was amazing.  I’ve since used a variation of that as my “new” fire method, and so far so good.

If I look at it hard enough, it will burst into flame and warm me.

If I look at it hard enough, it will burst into flame and warm me.

Fire pit or bog?

Fire pit or bog?

Back on Vancouver Island and on the road to fire mastery, I turned my sight to our non-existent wood pile.  It is daunting to think how much wood goes into keeping a fire going, especially when you try to extrapolate that out to cover the unknown quantity of our winter.  For weeks I have been watching industrious neighbors and friends gather and split immense piles of fire wood, filling sheds from stem to stern with neat stacks.  Now I was also noticing how BIG these sheds are, and I was starting to think that we could be on the brink of trouble.  This woodchuck needed to start chucking wood, and fast.

Luckily our Farmer-Landlord was thinking similar thoughts, and approached Dave about heading up to The Mountain to gather firewood.  I don’t know which mountain.  I don’t know where this mountain is.  But you can hear the capitalization when people speak of it.  Farmer-Landlord sent Dave off to buy a wood gathering permit, and $20 later they had plans in place for the following weekend to drive to The Mountain to get wood.  Whatever that meant.

We weren’t really sure what to expect from Dave’s wood-finding mission, or how to prepare him for it.  What was it going to be like?  What equipment beyond closed toe shoes and gloves did he need to bring?  What exactly did one “do” to gather enough wood for an entire winter season?  My anthropologist friends will understand this, but the expedition was also starting to have a bit of a “hunter-gatherer” feeling to it.  Dave was leaving our home site to hunt and bring home wood, while I was staying around the home to gather… I don’t know… something fabulous I’m sure.

Then the day for the wood hunting expedition came; cold and misty.  Dave left with Farmer-Landlord in a beat-up old pickup truck with trailer attached.  On the way up The Mountain an elk sauntered across the road in front of them, the first sighting of such a beastie by either one.  Then they came to the timber yard, and it was like nothing either one of us had expected.  Dave’s cell phone photography showed a place that looked oddly like the messy playroom of a giant toddler.  Massive tangled mounds of the better parts of trees were piled around the clearing.  Dave and Farmer-Landlord started pulling logs out of the piles, chain sawing them into smaller pieces (ranging from ready for the fireplace to person-sized) and filling up the truck bed and trailer.  Once both truck and trailer were filled, they headed back down The Mountain, getting back to the farm midafternoon after a long day of hard labor.

Massive piles of the better parts of trees available for harvesting with a permit.

Massive piles of the better parts of trees available for harvesting with a permit.

A closer look at the timber pile.

A closer look at the timber pile.

This will keep us warm all winter... right?

This will keep us warm all winter… right?

In the meantime, back on the ranch… or in our case farm… Little Man and I had our own travails.  My lovely little toddler boy was stung in the face by a yellow jacket, initiating what I’m sure is the first of many medical panics of my parenting life.  That is a story for another time, but when Dave and Farmer-Landlord pulled into the yard I had just gotten my swollen-faced angel baby to sleep for his nap.  I was a mess.

Arriving like triumphant hunters, Dave and Farmer-Landlord dismounted from their trusty steed and posed in front of their bounty.  I was impressed, but still distracted by the sting and hadn’t had a chance to tell Dave of what happened since The Mountain was well out of cell range.  Farmer-Landlord misinterpreted my lack of praise and chastised me for not being more glorifying of my MAN.  He had hunted.  He had brought back fire wood.  I was not being as adoring as befitted a gatherer.  I stuttered out something not quite as idolising as Farmer-Landlord thought appropriate, applauding them both on the success of their hunt.  Farmer-Landlord rolled his eyes and looked pityingly at Dave who was finding all of this quite amusing.

The next few minutes were filled with me explaining what happened to Little Man, and then there was a flurry of logs being tossed through the air into piles bordering our property.  I pitched in as much as my bright pink gardening gloves would let me, and surprisingly missed being drilled in the head with the flying pieces of wood.  We now had enough fire wood to (hopefully) last us the winter… we just needed to chain saw most of it into smaller pieces and then split it all.  This was going to take some time…

The saga of the wood splitting will have to wait for another post, but in the meantime I knew that we would need snacks.  Power for the muscles, and comfort for the hunter-gatherer-wood splitter soul.  These Zucchini Oat Muffins have been a huge hit with Little Man’s buddies at play dates.  The last play date when I served these muffins at snack time, one of his little friends informed me that these were delicious and much better than the previous ones I had made, which happened to be quinoa muffins.  With the toddler vote strongly in my pocket, and with Dave attempting to snatch these muffins off of the cooling rack, these are some seriously delicious muffins.

Zucchini Oat Muffins

I am often trying to make baked goods a bit healthier so that I can feel better about feeding them to my toddler… and to myself, of course.  That is how I came up with these muffins in the first place, since most green things are on Little Man’s “persona non grata” list.  These, however, he gobbles up, and will try to snag from his friends’ plates if they are not vigilant.  The batch photographed here was made with the last summer zucchini from the farmers’ market (sigh…).  I had been told by someone wise (my brother) that you could freeze grated zucchini to use in future baked goods, so I gave that a shot here.  I grated the whole zucchini, put half into the batter and half into a plastic baggie in the freezer.  I haven’t used my frozen zucchini booty yet, but will let you know how the experiment works.

Ingredients

1 c. flour

1c. whole wheat flour

1 c. rolled oats (not instant)

½ c. brown sugar, packed

1 tsp. cinnamon

½ tsp. ground ginger

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

3 large eggs

¼ c. canola oil

½ c. plain yogurt (fat free is fine, just use good quality)

¼ c. milk (same as for yogurt)

2 c. grated zucchini

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350º F.  Prepare a muffin pan with papers, or you can grease the pan.
  2. In a large bowl combine the flours, oats, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
Dry ingredients

Dry ingredients

With the oats

With the oats

3.   In a small bowl whisk together the eggs, oil, yogurt and milk.

Dry and wet ingredients before being combined.

Dry and wet ingredients before being combined.

4.   Add the wet ingredients to the dry, and stir to combine.  Add the zucchini to the mix and combine gently.  Do not over mix the batter or you will toughen your muffins.  Not good.

Combining the two

Combining the dry and wet ingredients.

Adding the zucchini into the batter

Adding the zucchini into the batter

The final Zucchini Oat Muffin batter

The final Zucchini Oat Muffin batter

5.   Scoop the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown on top.  Test your muffins with a tooth pick to make sure they are cooked through.  If the tooth pick comes out wet, give them another couple of minutes in the oven.  Let the muffins cool in the pan on a rack for about 5 minutes, then remove them from the pan to the rack and cool.  They can be served warm.  Enjoy!

Zucchini Oat Muffin batter ready for the oven.

Zucchini Oat Muffin batter ready for the oven.

If you can believe it, I was so focused on getting the muffins out for Little Man’s buddies at the play date… I forgot to take pictures of the final product.  I’ll be making them again soon, though, and will update the post with the final glorious picture of golden brown deliciousness.  Until then… just use your imagination.  🙂

Click here for a printable version of Zucchini Oat Muffins.

A hiking trail behind our campsite at High Point State Park, New Jersey.

A hiking trail behind our campsite at High Point State Park, New Jersey.