Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘whole grains’

pilaf with farro and beets6907pilaf with farro and beets6917
Pictures can be amazing, can’t they?

pilaf with farro and beets6919

pilaf with farro and beets6911

I sometimes surprise myself when I am going through the photos I’ve taken of my recipes. There are, without a doubt, the ones that hastily cause you to hit the ‘Delete’ key, shuddering in horror; they’re too close or too cloudy or they just don’t allow for one to discern what’s on the plate. They’re overexposed. Ugly. But those tiny slips caught in the wink of the shutter are evened out by beauties that can convey taste, aroma, and feel with one glance. The beauties that make you go ‘Wow’ and when you place them in your post, they literally tell the story without you needing to do much else. But every food has a story. Sometimes the tale tells of a feet-first plunge headlong into love with a certain food, a single bite causing your taste-buds to explode while the endorphins engulf your brain. You’re whupped and there’s no going back. Or it may be a telling of how we find a food that quietly asserts itself into our life, a slow and deliberate culinary courtship. Maybe the first exposure isn’t mind-blowing, but it isn’t a dud either. You look forward to the next time. You know there’s more to it than this. After a few meetings, the quiver in your heart starts to build and when you spy your current food crush, it’s silly how your chest seems to collapse in relief that you’ll be together again.

This past year I crushed, big time, into total infatuation with gold beets, and their greens. It didn’t take much. By routinely visiting the organic farmer at the local markets who carried these burnished lovelies and allowing them to roast to their full potential, I became fully acquainted with their earthy solid personality. We just clicked, those beets and I. It was quality time well spent. Mike gave me an enthusiastic endorsement for sauteed beet greens and we never looked back. Beets were in the recipe box, finally. We ate them so much that it was a turgid and satiated overkill. We sighed a lot during those dinner meals. Then high summer came, the corn took hold along with eggplants so shiny and purple, followed by a parade of tomatoes and zucchini and endless grilling adventures. Beets were nearly forgotten, sad as it was. But I was sold on the roasting method, and most days couldn’t even consider turning on the oven. They simply had to wait. I realized after a while that I missed them a great deal but I knew, like any solid friendship, that we would endure through our separation.

Then I found this recipe. It was the way back to my summer love of beets and caused me to drive across town just to find a bunch, greens attached, that would do this recipe justice. The moment we connected again was like any friendship renewed after absence. No lapse of time could remove the bond and the oven, once more, shared it’s warmth with my old friends and turned them soft and supple.

I was enamored…no, scratch that… bewitched by the flavors that came from this dish. It’s simple base of whole grain farro is more than capable of standing up to the lusty flavor and texture of beets and their greens, and the beets happily share their colors with the grain to diffuse the entire dish in sunshine-y warmth. Since 2007 I’ve been experimenting with whole grains, and I found farro to be an amicable and easy friend to bring into my life, a chewy and simple grain that mimics wheatberries and a heartier barley. Never mind that it was costly. Or that only one store I knew carried an affordable brand. Of all the whole grains I’ve encountered in the past two years, this one has become a good and trusted companion, steadfast, reliable and so so good for me. We all need friends like that in our lives, in both our hearts and our pantry.

pilaf with farro and beets6913

The original recipe for this dish was in salad form, but for a November meal, a cold offering wasn’t going to cut it. Even with the warm sunshine that’s been poured upon us, the chill and darkness comes quickly with the descent of the five-o’clock hour, and something steaming, whether a bowl or a plate, more appropriately fits the season. I’ll revisit the salad option next Spring when the markets open again, and I can once more hone in on that stand, with the kind bearded farmer behind the table, the dirt still stuck to his knuckles. For this time of year, and especially with the brisk wind that came up after several days of that limpid sunshine, a pilaf was exactly what we needed.

Farro is not a quick grain to cook, and you’ll find many recipes call for it to be soaked ahead of time, but I’ve discovered that to be unnecessary. Washed and placed in boiling water, the grain cooks up deliciously chewy in 35-45 minutes, and once cooked to that al denté stage, it freezes really well with little loss of texture. And maybe it’s the way it is with you too, but I roast my beets or I simply don’t eat them. Call me picky, but I never met a beet I wanted to devour before being introduced to those that mellowed in the oven, swaddled in foil, and so perfectly tender that the skins slipped off with hardly any effort. Again, this isn’t quick. I made both the farro and the beets the day prior to creating this pilaf. It worked for all of us.

Farro Pilaf with Gold Beets
originally from The New York Times recipes for Health and Nutrition, March 27, 2009; adapted by Kate

3 large gold beets, roasted and diced, with greens washed, de-ribbed and rough chopped
2-3 c. cooked farro (can sub brown rice)
1 red pepper, seeded, cored and diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small shallot, diced
1/2 c. crumbled feta or goat cheese
1/3 c. pecan pieces
salt and pepper to taste

{{Farro can be cooked like any other grain, with a 2:1 ratio of water to grain; 1 cup uncooked will yield the amount needed for this recipe. It should be tender to the bite, not too firm with a texture similar to barley. Be sure to rinse it thoroughly in a wire sieve prior to cooking. It can be very dusty.}}

In a deep skillet with a tight fitting lid, heat oil of choice and add red pepper, cooking for about 5 minutes. Add shallot, cooking until soft and slightly browned, maybe 5-8 more minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds or so. Add the chopped greens and cook, stirring continually until just barely wilted. Stir in the cooked farro and diced beets. Add about 1/3 cup of water and combine. Cover the pot, turn heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally until heated fully through. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve topped with cheese and nuts.

KATE’S NOTES:
The mellow flavors of the beets and farro simply beg for a good salty and robust cheese. Feta is perfect, goat cheese would be great but blue cheese and gorgonzola also would work nicely.

Read Full Post »

The FDA is pretty darn good at sounding the alarm over foods that one shouldn’t eat, or maybe not in excess. They’re just as good at recanting that advice after a year or so, more research and maybe some hand deep in their back pocket, but do they ever go the opposite direction? Can a food item be so stuffed with good ingredients, a high health quotient and incredible good taste that it’s possibly too good for you? Would the mighty FDA ever come at us like a pack of angry Chihuahuas for bypassing the french fry in favor of whole grains and fruit?

Eh, I think not. But this muffin might come a wee bit close to inducing a good health coma, if that is indeed possible.

apple bran muffins6858apple bran muffins6860
Muffins are one of my favorite snack items to make. There is so much that can be done to your basic muffin that I could spend from now until next November making a different variety each week and likely never run out of options. They tend to have a split personality though; as much as everyone wants to believe that eating a muffin is healthier, most of them sold in stores or coffee shops aren’t any better for you than eating a cookie or a croissant. And they’re HUGE, usually. Much too huge, and come on….who eats only half of those monsters? Uh, huh. That’s what I thought.

These basic whole grain muffins are one of my favorite recipes to play with, and they’re loaded with healthy ingredients. With their good hearty texture, they’re wonderful for any eating need from morning coffee to a late night indulgence and they adapt to any kind of extra I can dream up to mix into the batter. I’ve made them with zucchini, chopped pears and pecans, banana, blueberries and here in this version with apples. They freeze beautifully too, as any good muffin should.

Whole Grain Muffins
by Kate

1 ½ c. buttermilk
2 large eggs
2 T. butter, melted
¼ c. oil
¼ c. real maple syrup
1-1/2 c. All-Bran cereal
½ c. packaged 7-Grain cereal (like Bob’s Red Mill; 5-Grain or 10-Grain is fine too)
3 T. whole rolled oats
1-1/2 c. AP flour (can sub Whole wheat flour for half, if desired)
2 T. ground flaxseed
¼ c. brown sugar
1 t. EACH baking powder and baking soda
¼ t. salt.

Heat oven to 375°. Line muffin tins with paper liners, or spray with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk together buttermilk, eggs, butter, oil and maple syrup. Stir in All Bran cereal, oats and the 7-Grain cereal. Let stand for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In another bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, flaxseed, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Blend in the wet ingredients and fold together until just combined. Scoop into muffins tins to 2/3 full and bake for 18-20 minutes, or until tops spring back when touched. Cool on wire rack for about 10-15 minutes, then remove muffins from pan to cool completely.

Added ingredients– 1 c. blueberries, frozen (do not thaw) or fresh; 1 c. chopped pear like a D’Anjou or Bosc; 1-2 mashed ripe bananas, 1/2 c. of any nut you prefer; 1 c. shredded zucchini; 1 medium apple, cored and chopped or shredded (or about a half cup of chunky applesauce), 1/2 c. coconut (delicious with banana and pecans)  The possibilities are endless for what you put in these!!

And yes! Pumpkin, sweet potato or even squash is an option too, but check out this recipe for a delicious muffin idea with those ingredients.

Read Full Post »

bulgur and fish 002

I’ve been holding out on you, but not on purpose.

I’m guilty of thinking that somehow giving you a simple recipe as a means to serve frozen corn might just bore you to death. Really, it isn’t anything superbly fancy, but right about now, as we are staring down the summertime bounty of vegetables and with fresh corn season coming quicker than a May thunderstorm, I think it’s time to share the love. Especially since I enhanced the dish with my current love- bulgur- and made it a couple thousand times better.

I don’t even know when it was that I came across this method on Kim’s blog, but I was immediately transfixed and had to try it. Which I did, and which I almost regretted because I could barely think of anything else. Now I need to share it with you.

bulgur and fish 003

I simply call it Brown Butter Corn. How easy is that? You take some good butter and heat it in your pan until it’s toasty and brown, add in frozen corn and cook it until it’s tender and delicious, maybe tossing in a handful of fresh basil, or rosemary, or thyme and a seasoning of sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Pile it on your plate next to your main course and you’ve elevated your meal slightly from the humdrum to the hubba-hubba.  (wow, did I just say that?)

bulgur and fish 001

Only this time, with a container of my current whole grain love all cooked and ready in the fridge, this side wasn’t just about the nutty and toasty, it was far better. Copious amounts of fresh basil really sent the flavor sky-ward. And with a perfectly cooked piece of Mahi-Mahi as an accompaniment, alongside an effusive smiling husband (and a kid-free evening), it quickly became one of those meals that sends shivers through you, making you slow down, smile more, sigh often and think “When can we have this again??”

Brown Butter Corn with Bulgur
by Kate

4 T. good quality butter
1 pkg frozen corn, shaken in a wire sieve to remove any ice or frost- NOT rinsed!
1-2 cups cooked bulgur
Fresh herb of choice- basil, rosemary and thyme all work well
Salt and fresh ground pepper

Heat butter gently in a large skillet over medium heat. When it’s darkened and smelling toasty, add corn (it will sizzle!!!) and quickly stir to combine. Allow to cook for about 10 minutes, stirring often. Add in bulgur and fresh herb, stir to combine and heat through. Season with salt and pepper.

KATE’S NOTES:
The simplicity of this dish is ridiculous. Even without the bulgur it’s delicious, and the variation of vegetables that you could use is astounding. I think of fresh summer squash, a julienne of root vegetables, diced eggplant or even a mix of greens. Sub in another grain for the bulgur- like farro, another of my current loves- or add in wild rice, red rice or a mix. I’ve loved corn and rice mixed together since I was a little girl, but there is something about the browning of the butter that makes it so much more elegant. Watch out though! The butter slips easily from ‘browned’ to ‘burned’ and once that happens, you need to throw it out and start over. ‘Burned’ butter corn, I’m thinking, isn’t all that appetizing. Heat it gently and stay close by. And by all means, DO NOT rinse the corn! The butter is scalding hot when you add the vegetable, and if there is water on it, the likelihood of bad splattering is quite high.

Read Full Post »

I am one of those cooks who use recipes only as a fundamental guideline to a finished product. I can trust my own cooking skills enough, and what I know about how my family eats, to be confident when I look at a recipe in determining what ingredients in it won’t work, or what needs to be enhanced. Even simple basic products can be made better with a little creativity and an eye towards a higher nutritional value.

Take a jar of spaghetti sauce. It’s high on the convenience scale, and has a reasonable amount of nutritional value, provided you avoid the sugar-laden brands and stick with a purer variety. With the addition of sauteed onion and garlic, along with shredded zucchini, carrot and spinach, a few chopped fresh roma tomatoes, some fresh basil or rosemary and a little tomato paste to bring it all together, you get a pasta sauce brimming with vegeteble content, better flavor and more nutrition.

I often come across recipes too, that when I do follow them to the letter and get that anticipatory excitement of what the finished product will be, I often end up sorely disappointed, especially if I ignore my inner urgings to add something of my own liking. It is a rare occurence indeed when I work through a recipe and come to a conclusion,  after following the prescribed steps, that what I see in front of me might be way better than what the original end result offered. That was the case with this Savory Millet Risotto.

millet-risotto-006

The recipe, from the current issue of Eating Well magazine, was supposed to be for a Millet Cake, similar in structure and use to Polenta. Even though I have given up on using Polenta in any of my meals after repeated attempts to enjoy it always fell flat, I earmarked this recipe as an option. The millet cooks with shredded vegetables, parmesan cheese, fresh thyme and lemon zest to a creamy consistency, at which point it would be cooled, then shaped into patties to sear in a pan. It never made it that far.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Seemingly a whole lifetime ago, I worked for five years in the office of a wholesale bakery and I have to say,  the smell of yeast has been and still is one of my most favorite smells of all. I loved walking through the production area in the early afternoons as the baking staff began their daily preparations; I loved standing by the enormous mixing bowls as hundreds of pounds of bread dough, pungent with the scent of yeast and flour, spun and smacked around inside. It was a happy day indeed when my boss would inform me that they would be making test batches that day because I knew he would be bringing me endless samples of warm bread to critique. And the best perk was free bread for the taking- crispy baguettes that snapped when you broke them, showering golden shards of crust everywhere, tangy sourdoughs, pillowy stirato loaves, rustic wheat breads and a mouth-watering marble rye that was my favorite sandwich loaf. The best lunch I could indulge myself in was a sliced baguette spread with a little of their scratch aioli and a few slices of salty ham. I was in carb heaven. I still miss the amazing bread, and it’s been a very long time since I last walked through those doors. I can buy the loaves in the grocers, and the flavor is still good, but I miss the experience of picking up a loaf off the rack that was only hours out of the oven, ethereal in it’s taste.

breadsI still love really good bread and for a long time I routinely spun loads of flour, water and yeast in my bread machine, so much so that I managed to effectively kill the thing outright, but I’m happy to have gotten my money’s worth. Since then, which was quite a while ago, I haven’t made a lot of bread from scratch despite having the time and the desire for it. I experimented with this amazing no-knead bread and loved the rich dense crumb and tangy flavor, but I am plagued with a ‘Must Have It Now’ mentality sometimes, and this just doesn’t work well with the patience and time required for a good loaf of scratch bread. There are some high quality artisan bakeries in the Twin Cities, including my old employ, and for a short trip in the car I can pick up a few loaves of bread to indulge myself in, but what I really need to do instead is lose the impatience inside of me and buckle down to make myself a good loaf on a regular basis.

On a recent trip through the library, I came across the publication of a local group called The Saint Paul Bread Club. I barely hesitated before slipping the slim book off the shelf. It’s basic and fundamental, nothing glossy or fancy, just page after page of bread recipes from a local group of passionate bread bakers, along with plenty of insider tips and hints to making better breads at home. After a few perusals and some thought to the first loaf to try, I rolled out of bed on a particularly gloomy morning after a simply pathetic night’s sleep and all I could think about was the smell of yeast, a warm glowing oven and the taste of a fresh warm loaf. The weather promised everything from rain to an eventual accumulation of upwards of 6″ of snow. It instilled in me both a bluesy melancholy, and a fierce need for the routine of baking, the rhythmic kneading and the promise of carbohydrates.

honey-whole-grain-bread-001

This loaf contained bulgur and millet and I had both on hand. Bulgur  is cracked and parboiled wheat and really simple to use- it requires little else but a soak in hot water. Millet is a hulled, wheat-free cereal grain- the outer husk is removed leaving tiny yellow balls. Millet requires cooking, but this recipe didn’t make any mention of pre-cooking the grain so I didn’t, and it plagued me on whether or not this would result in a tooth-cracking slice. It didn’t.

honey-whole-grain-bread-005

This recipe started with a sponge- honey, warm water and yeast were whisked together until foamy, then stirred with whole wheat flour, bulgur, oil and salt and allowed to sit until all puffy and fragrant. I mixed in the bread flour and millet, and pretty soon was faced with a coarse hairy blob of dough, and tiny grains of millet popping all over the kitchen. It seemed like hours before I stopped feeling their little hard knobs under my feet, even with obsessive sweeping. But the magic of kneading kicks in- and magic it is- taking a rough and craggy blob and transforming it into something smooth, elastic and uniform, dotted with the tiny yellow points of millet and smelling alive and warm.

honey-whole-grain-bread-011honey-whole-grain-bread-012honey-whole-grain-bread-008

The rest is your basic bread instructions; rise until doubled, punch down and allow another rise (which I skipped for time purposes) shape the loaves and place in a pan, rise to double again and then bake. I won’t bore you with instructions.

And somewhere along the way, amidst all this tactile interaction and flour/yeast transformation, a tiny sliver of light knifed through me, lifting the melancholy, driving it far away. Was it the nap I took during the first rise? Maybe. It likely was something else altogether; the bread making lifted my spirits, even with the late winter storm blowing hard outside and the yeast saturated me with it’s own little charm. It could have been the workout I gave my arms and shoulders as I kneaded, driving a much appreciated blast of endorphins into me, or it could have been the fact that a hands-on loaf of bread is a thing of beauty. It transports you back to a simpler time, before cellophane loaves were the norm, where you watch a few pantry staples work a magic trick right before your very eyes. It’s nearly impossible to bury yourself in the blues with that happening in front of you.

And the taste….well, that’s enough right there to lift your spirits. This loaf was moist, a nice dense crust and crunchy little bites of millet throughout. It made awesome toast too- to me, the best indicator of a good bread. I’m thinking that I need to buy this little bread book.

(recipe after the jump)

(more…)

Read Full Post »

And how I got from hot steaming soup to a cool salad I have no idea, but  I can’t throw off the desire to recreate something I see on a website, even if the weather outside is more comfort food appropriate than salad worthy.

I wish I could remember where I originally saw the photo of this Orzo salad with yellow pepper, kalamata olives and feta cheese because it would be nice to give due credit. Regardless, with a party to attend it was the perfect excuse to give it a whirl even if the temperatures outside plummeted to sub-zero once again.

I’m really glad I did.

orzo-grain-salad-0031

The original recipe called for orzo and israeli couscous- double pasta whammy- and although it probably would have tasted fine, it was too much in the carb department. As I browsed the grocer’s aisle in search of some type of substitute and appearing about as aimless as possible to all those frantic cart pushers around me, I finally spied, way on a top shelf and really obscure, a package of Kashi Original 7-Grain Rice Pilaf.

I am, admittedly, always willing to buy just about anything from Kashi, even without scrutinizing the label, the ingredients or even the expiration date like I tend to do. It’s one of the few items in a grocery store that I know is good quality. What I liked about this ‘pilaf’ if you can even go so far as to call it that, was that it was nothing more than a simple vacuum packed assortment of cooked whole grains. That’s it. No sodium laden, preservative choked flavor packet to add, no un-pronounceable ingredients, nothing but cooked grains. A quick turn in the microwave and they were ready to eat, or to be tossed into any preparation, mixed to your own liking. I love the idea of whole grain pilafs; the mix of nutty and healthy grains can compliment any dish, but since most of them require widely fluctuating cook times, it’s hard to think of putting them together myself without a whole lot of work. I do imagine though, that the work and effort would be totally worth it.

orzo-grain-salad-004

I did add some extra wheatberries to this dish. I love their chewy goodness and the added nutritional aspect of them. They are really simple to keep on hand to add to any number of preparations, especially pilafs.  Eating Well magazine has the goods on cooking wheatberries. This is how I do it. Then I package them in one cup increments and freeze them. They break apart very easily once frozen and have a long shelf life. I add them to pasta dishes, pilafs, soups, oatmeal, breads…..the list is endless.

This is one of those dishes that tastes better once the flavors have a chance to get to know each other really well. I mixed it on a Saturday for a Sunday party and the sampling while I prepped didn’t impress me at all. By the time it was served the next day it was a lot better.

And I’m certain it will taste much more appropriate in July. It’s kind of  nice to get ahead of myself on summer foods!

Orzo and 7-Grain Salad

1/2# cooked orzo pasta
1 pkg Kashi original 7-Grain rice pilaf
1/2 c. cooked wheatberries
1 yellow pepper, diced
1 4-oz can artichoke hearts, chopped
1/2 c. kalamata olives, chopped
1 3-oz pkg feta cheese
italian style vinaigrette
Salt and pepper

Prepare pilaf according to package directions. Stir all ingredients together in bowl and add about 1/3 c. dressing to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Cover and refrigerate overnight or for several hours. Before serving, stir thoroughly and taste for seasoning. Add more dressing, salt and pepper if needed.

KATE’S NOTES:

I ran out of kalamata olives and to add more of that tangy flavor, I stirred some olive tapenade into the dish. This could easily sub for the olives. Go the extra mile and make your own vinaigrette, or use a good quality bottled option. The possibilities for extra additions to this are endless.

Read Full Post »

Overnight Apple-Date Muesli
By Robin Asbell, The New Whole Grains Cookbook

1/2 c. slivered almonds
2 medium apples
1 1/2 c. nut milk, or other milk
2 T. maple syrup
1 1/2 c. thick rolled oats
1/4 c. soy protein powder (optional)
1/2 c. pitted dates

Preheat oven to 325 and spread almonds on a baking pan. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden. Let cool.

Get out a large storage tub or bowl with a lid. Quarter the apples and core, then shred right into the bowl, skin and all. Add remaining ingredients, including almonds, and stir well to combine. Cover tightly and place in refrigerator overnight.

In the morning, stir thoroughly. Spoon desired amount into individual bowls and serve cold, or warm in the microwave for up to 2 minutes per bowl.

KATE’S NOTES:
I tried this the first time with the protein powder and decided I didn’t care for it, but that’s just me. I always, always, always add in about 2-3 tablespoons of ground flaxseed to this, regardless. I double it and we enjoy it for several days. It will get softer and a bit less flavorful the longer it sits, but if you’re like us, it rarely lasts that long.

I am not a fan of dates but I. Love. Figs. so I chop those up into it instead. The variations on this, like I said, are infinite. Use raisins, currants, dried cherries, craisins, dried apricots or any type of dried fruit you like in any combination; vary the apple flavor by going tart or sweet; add in a multitude of nuts, use other cereal flakes, like barley. Skip the maple syrup or use an alternative, like raw or maple sugar sprinkled over the top before you eat it. Give it your own fingerprint and I’m sure it will also become a favorite for you.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »