Monday, December 22, 2014

Sweet and Spice Candied Pecans

I included recipe in my Christmas cookie boxes. I made a test batch for us of course. I upped the heat because I wanted to actually taste it. Maybe I should have changed the name to something more Texan-y. Pecans and peppers are very Texan. Bluebonnet? Mighty Bears? Remember the Alamo? I think Sugar and Spice is a perfectly descriptive name for a really delicious treat.

Sugar-and-Spice Candied Nuts
Barely Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

86.25 g (6 T) dark-brown sugar*
100g (½ C) granulated sugar
21.25g (1 T) honey
1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
¾ t cayenne powder
½ t cumin
1 t ground cinnamon
1 lb. walnut or pecan halves
1 egg white, room temperature
1 T water

1.  Preheat oven to 300 F
2.  Mix sugars, salt, cayenne, cumin, and cinnamon until no lumps remain
3.  Beat egg white, honey and water until frothy
4.  Add nuts to egg white mixture and coat evenly
5.  Toss nuts with sugar mixture until evenly coated
6.  Bake for 40 mn as a single layer on parchment paper (watch carefully for burning), stir occasionally to prevent clumps
7.  Cool on parchment paper, breaking apart any nuts that are stuck together

Note: If using light-brown sugar replace the water with molasses and use 6 grams LESS brown sugar
These are great thawed or straight from the freezer. I think the spice comes out more when chilled.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

It's a Start Oatmeal

This a good basic oatmeal recipe, you can add fruit in the baking or when you reheat it, you can add nuts, yogurt, what have you. Really it is all about ratios. I make some variation every week but alter the volume depending on if DH is eating as well, if we're going out of town, etc. Everything after the flax is just to make a flavored base, I add allspice, clove, etc if I want more of a pie oatmeal, scale back the ginger for DH, stir in a heaping spoonful of nut butter or apple butter, add fruit puree (even sweet potato)...

You Need:
1 C Steel Cut Oats (I've had better luck with Harris Teeter Organic than Trader Joe's, not sure why)
2 C Water
2 C Milk (of choice, I use unsweetened vanilla or original almond)
1-2 T ground flax
3 t cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg
1/2 - 1 t ground ginger

1. (Opt) Soak the oats in the water overnight, at least. I tend to soak for 16-24 hours. Supposedly, people say it tastes sour with a longer soak but I haven't noticed anything. Soaking them should result in a shorter cook time.
2. Combine all ingredients in a heavy bottom pot, I use our dutch oven.
3. Bring to boil, and simmer, stirring regularly for 10-15 minutes. At this point, the grains should be visible near the surface of the liquid and look much softer.
4. Cover and shut off heat. Let steam for 20+ minutes. If it looks like the grains haven't absorbed enough liquid, apply more heat but stir regularly.

Oatmeal can keep for up to a week in a sealed, refrigerated container.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Hearty Cajun Stew

I'm sure some would argue that this really isn't Cajun but I used blackening seasoning and the Cajun Holy Trinity so good enough for now, I guess. I used Serious Eat's Hearty Winter Vegetable as a base. This recipe produces a stew that I'm pretty happy with just broth (it would probably be better if I used SE's suggested broth recipe but I didn't want to buy more produce.) It definitely benefits from a nice sit after the vegetables all cook.

You Need:
2 Qt Vegetable Broth
10 oz mixed mushrooms, de-ribbed and chopped (I used portobello and oyster)
2 leeks, 1/4" half moons out of the white part
2 medium-sized carrots, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 medium yukon potatoes, peeled and diced
2 C chickpeas, cooked (if cooking your own, keep them on the firmer side)
8 leaves collard greens, stem removed and roughly chopped
2 1/2 t low-sodium tamari
1 T blackening seasoning (or to taste)
pinch kosher salt
2-3 T corn meal
1 T butter
1-2 T lemon or lime juice
3 T parsley, chopped

1. In a large pot, saute the celery, carrots, bell pepper, and leek with the butter or butter substitute for 3-5 mn until starting to soften.
2. Stir the corn meal into the vegetables.
3. Add mushrooms, seasoning, potatoes, chickpeas, greens, tamari, and broth and simmer for 30 minutes. The pot can be kept on a low simmer for longer if desired.
4. Taste for saltiness and heat from the seasoning, adjust to taste. Add more corn meal to thicken if desired.
5. Before serving, stir in juice and top with parsley

Note: Depending on your slow cooker, this can be made ahead. I would follow as directed except saute in a pan and then transfer to the slow cooker. Cook on high for 3 hours, low for 6 (theoretically.)

Farro or another nutty grain would be nice in this as well. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Christmas Chip Oatmeal Cookies

I promise I've been eating reasonably healthy* but most of our dinners lately have been repeats or duds. But I've also been baking. This is the first in a series for my Christmas cookie trays and may be my favorite. DH really likes these and I think I might make an extra batch to bring down to my in-laws since it seems right up their alley too.

We debated cranberries versus cherries and I'm glad we went with cherries, they give a brighter, sweeter pop to the cookies. You could leave them whole if you went with a bigger cookie of course, but at the same time, chopped gives them a more consistent flavor.

This recipe opens up to a lot of variations - I've provided alterations for a vegan version as well as a non-vegan version (what most people expect from a cookie.) It's the mix-ins that make it. It's really just a variation on my Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies but adapted to make it Christmas-y ... and to use up the several cups of mint I have frozen in the freezer (I underestimated the yield of one bunch and so bought extra.) You'll notice a halved amount of fat. I left 1/4 cup out by accident and it worked so I went with it.

Christmas Chip Cookies
Yield: 2-3 dozen

You need:
1/4 C butter or butter substitute, cold
1/2 C brown sugar, packed
1/4 C granulated sugar
1 T ground flax in 3 T lukewarm water (or 1 large egg)
2 t vanilla extract
1/2 C all-purpose flour
3/4 C bread flour
2 t ground cinnamon
1 t baking powder
1 heart pinch salt
1 C semi-sweet chips or chunks
1 1/2 C old-fashioned rolled oats
6 T fresh mint, minced
1/2 C dried cherries, chopped

1. Cream butter and sugars
2. Add egg/flax and vanilla, do not completely mix in
3. Add flours, cinnamon, salt, and baking powder, thoroughly mix
4. Add in remaining ingredients
5. Cover and chill. The flavors are best if you let it age at least one day, no more than two but it is ready to bake after an hour.  Roll the dough in parchment paper and twist the ends shut to have slice and bake cookies, but you can freeze as a lump and just scoop out when you're ready to bake.
6. Preheat over to 350 F
7. Bake 1 oz. slices (or rounded tablespoons) on parchment lined baking sheets for 15 minutes, until slightly browned on the edges.

Note: I read somewhere that the best cookies are 4 ounces. These cookies were for cookie trays and I didn't think a giant cookie is what people need around Christmas.

*my new trainer is very into fit riders, which makes sense, but makes me self conscious about the fact I still collapse when things get hard, thankfully she likes that I try and I have soft aids, even they need to be turned up a lot with her schoolmaster.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Finally Finished!: Fox and Friends Quilt

It's not the prettiest quilt ever. Even though in theory the heavier quilting cotton should have held up just fine, there was a lot of easing going on and the hand quilting meant that it got stretched in placed. I really do not like the recommended fabric for the binding (Binding Architextures Cross Hatch in Black.) It jars with that solids and natural theme of the animals. I think a less industrial fabric would be better - there was a camping themed collection last year that might have something that could fit. 

I did use a new technique for finishing the binding. Initially I planned to hand bind since I hand quilted the body but instead I found the suggestion of using the blanket stitch. I have blanket stitch in both directions so it worked well for finishing the binding so all I had to do by hand was finish the corners.

Olive was not impressed.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Power Pup Petals

After making pumpkin bars for thanksgiving (same recipe as I used for Baby Brother's Birthday Box, but with white chocolate and cranberries instead of mini chips) I had some leftover puree. I hate having ingredients go bad, even if it was around 3/4 cup of it. That coupled with really starting Olive's formal training, I decided to making training treats. She has some Petco Pal cookies that I break up but I wanted something I could break up as I went instead of breaking up ahead of time to prevent a delayed reward, also needed something high value that she only gets while training. After looking at a couple of different dog treat recipes and the nutritional information (yes, I'm concerned about my dog's nutrient intake, she's just as active as I am afterall) I came up with the following treat, which gets Olive super-focused...

You Need:

198 g (around 3/4 cup) pumpkin puree
120 g (1 cup) Peanut Flour
5 g (1 T) flax, ground
1/2 t dried/ground ginger
1 t cinnamon
3 T water
1 large egg

1. Mix all ingredients, adjust ratio of wet to dry as needed to get a fairly firm texture.
2. If using a cookie press: Choose a shape that naturally lends it self to be broken into smaller pieces easily, the pumpkin is cute but it doesn't fit the purpose of this cookie (if you're using them for gifts or spoiling your dog, by all means, go ahead). Bake on a silpat or unlined sheet, do not use parchment paper, it will only end in tears as it keeps pulling up with the dough. My press yielded 58 cookies.
If making rolled cookies: Sandwich the dough between two large sheets of parchment paper. Press to a roughly rectangular shape then roll to 1/4" thick. Slice into your desired size. 1/2" squares then cut into triangles would work well as training treats, full squares would be fine but it would just mean a higher calorie load. Line two or more baking sheets, you can reuse your parchment paper if you want here, and carefully spread out your treats to at least 1/4" apart.
3. Bake at 350 until browned and well set, for my pressed cookies that was 12-13 minutes. Let cool completely before bagging/freezing.
4. For drier/chewier treats: You have two options for less crumbly training treats (depends on your dog's preference, I guess, Olive tends to forget to chew soft treats.) One is use a dehydrator. The other is to stick all the cooled cookies in the oven, heat to around 400 and then turn it off and let the cookies sit for 8-10 hours until fairly dry.

- The flax egg and the regular egg can each be switched for one or the other. If you keep a vegan household, then used two flax eggs, if you don't keep flax in the house (it is good for you and your dog), use two chicken eggs
- If you want to use a full cup of pumpkin puree, just keep an eye on the consistency, you might need to cut back on the water or up the flax or peanut flour to get a thick enough texture for the cookie press (if using)
- Most flours would work, depending on your dog's allergies. Peanuts are a special weakness for Olive and with her allergies, I wanted to avoid testing them with anything else. Peanut flour is also slightly lower calorie than oat flour, my other option (buckwheat also works for her but I never have that on hand.)

Monday, November 24, 2014

Chocolate Chunk Banana Bread Baked Oatmeal

I have a special place for quick breads like banana bread. Rarely has a recipe let me know and they're always well received by others. This combines my usual breakfast with one of my favorite quick breads.
I lightly topped each square with peanut butter

I wanted to switch up our routine and make baked oatmeal instead of my usual big pot of oats. I had made a batch of sweet potato pecan baked oatmeal but it turned out a little too savory for what I wanted. DH voted on this variation next. I won't be making this on a regular basis (there's something comforting about only really needing oats and liquid, although I add chia, cinnamon, and ginger.) This is a middle ground between healthy and dessert.

You can definitely play around this recipe. I used a whole bunch of bananas because our freezer is over-flowing with soup and green beans (Olive has been on a diet for most of the year, green beans fill out her meals without adding too much calorie density.) Most standard recipes call for 3 very ripe bananas, so somewhere in-between my 8 and the standard 3 should be good. I've given other suggestions for alterations at the bottom. Alternatively, add more fruit, different fruit, swap out mashed bananas for applesauce and add more dominate fruit in - blueberries? strawberries? mango?

You Need:
2.25 T ground flax
578g/ ~4 cups coconut milk, unsweetened
204 g / 1 cup steel cut oats
140 g/ 2 cups old fashioned oats
2 g/ 1/4 t xanthum gum
26 g/ 4 T hemp seed
4 g/ 1 t baking powder
4 oz dark chocolate, chunked or chips (optional)
40 g/ 7 T walnuts, toasted and chopped
4 g/ 1 T cinnamon
1 g/ 1 t ginger, dried or grated
1/2 t nutmeg, ground
1 pinch salt
38 g/ 1/2 cup peanut flour
2 g/ 1 t vanilla extract
8 RIPE bananas, mashed
60 g / 1/4 cup maple syrup (optional)

1. Mix the ground flax with 16 g/6 T milk, let sit for 10 minutes.
2. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Combine dry ingredients
3. Add the wet ingredients, mix thoroughly
4. Pour into greased casserole, place casserole on a baking sheet.
5. Bake until set, about an hour (
6. Let cool before cutting.

Options and Alterations:
- I like the texture of a mixture of steel cut and old fashioned, if using just steel cut, I would let the mixture sit overnight before baking and if using just old fashioned I would cut back on the liquid but about 1/2 cup, maybe more.
- I wanted a subtle peanut flavor but if you want a serious peanut butter and chocolate bread, then increase it by 1/4-1/2 cup, keeping an eye on how liquid-y the batter is (it should be like loose cement.)
- This originally included rum extract but I don't think it was really necessary and just competed with the other flavors, if you do want to add a bit, add no more 1/2 teaspoon.
- Walnuts could probably be increased unless you are like DH and dislike too much nuts in your baked goods (unless it's your birthday cake of course.) Any nut would really okay here, macadamia nut would be really nice.
- Some people like coconut flakes in their banana bread, throw some toasted flakes in if it floats your boat, I'm personally not a fan. It's a texture thing.
- I like adding protein to my breakfasts so I did include peanut flour for flavor and protein and hemp seeds for an extra bump. If you want to substitute peanut flour and hemp seed with a flavored protein powder, it might work but I don't guarantee it.