June 29, 2010

Fire and Ice Sour Cherry Oatmeal

This weekend they started harvesting the cherries in the orchard next door and I'm busy eating frozen local ones from last year.  Doing my part to clean out the old I say.

I've been eating oatmeal a lot lately since I seem to notice it's lactogenic effect.  My new favorite oatmeal is Bob's Red Mill Scottish oatmeal.  It's creamy even when made water (since I'm off dairy and avoiding soy milk) and cooks quickly, unlike that Irish stuff that you have to remember to start the night before.  At first I was making it with dried cherries, raisins, nuts and cinnamon, then I moved on to frozen blueberries but now I'm in love with this combination. 

Fire and Ice Sour Cherry Oatmeal
Makes 1 serving

2 oz (~1/3 cup) Scottish oatmeal
1 cup water
a large pinch of salt *very important
5 oz (~1 cup) frozen sour cherries, no sugar added
1 tablespoon raw honey, I often buy from Sleeping Bear Farms
1 1/2 teaspoons extra virgin coconut oil

-Cook the oatmeal with the water and salt.  Two minutes in a microwave or use a stovetop or when I'm feeling more ambitious I follow this Soaked Oatmeal recipe.
-Top the steaming hot oatmeal with the frozen cherries and then drizzle over the honey and coconut oil.  The cold from the cherries will make the honey taffy-like and the coconut oil hard like Magic Shell.
-Eat right away to enjoy the textural and temperature contrasts. 

**As soon as I get some sweet cherries I'm making a batch of these Rum Soaked Preserved Cherries.

June 27, 2010

DB Chocolate Pavlovas with Michigan Strawberries

The June 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Dawn of Doable and Delicious. Dawn challenged the Daring Bakers’ to make Chocolate Pavlovas and Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse. The challenge recipe is based on a recipe from the book Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard

I dub these the pavlovas not meant to be.  One batch I over baked into rock hard pucks.  One batch I over mixed into flattened, rubbery pancakes.  And my final attempt today was the above lumpy, sad blobs.  With my final batch I did obtain the chewy/crispy contrast of a true pavlova with good chocolate flavor which went well with the fresh Michigan strawberries.  But without being artfully piped they resemble the dog bombs in the yard more than something delicious.  Oh well...I do enjoy whipping and playing with eggs and want to thank Dawn Nyman from Doable and Delicious for this month's challenge. 

-See the complete chocolate pavlova recipe at Dawn's site, Doable and Delicious.
-My other foray into pavlova making, Michigan berry sorbets in mini pavlovas.
-The whipped topping on the pavlova is Soyatoo.
-Visit the Daring Kitchen and see other pavlovas made this month by browsing the Daring Baker Blogroll.

And now for some new Penny pictures!!

The doll baby shot
She was so happy after getting her hand stuck in her sleeve and having a new texture to chew on.

June 24, 2010

The Whole Badelynge (two new ducklings!)

Yesterday morning the final members of our little group of ducks arrived. We had originally ordered four ducklings but sadly one of the first set, our blue Indian runner, arrived deceased. The service at eFowl.com was very helpful and promised us a replacement duck in two weeks.

Well it turns out that our little replacement duckling needed a travel companion and so we now have a flock of five; our big girls, Charlotte, Pixie and Coco, and the two new ducklings, Gypsy (the replacement blue) and Solomon (a second black duckling.)  Since the extra duckling didn't come with a gender identifying leg band and we haven't made the effort to check its nether regions we are calling it Solomon after the nemesis in my husband's latest iPhone game, Solomon's Keep.  I suppose we'll have to change it to Solome if it starts laying eggs. 

Seeing the two sets of ducklings side by side made the older girls' growth even more dramatic.  They are getting way too big for the garage!  Thankfully their coop is finished being built and we'll be picking it up on Sunday.  We're trying to introduce different foods to them.  They love broccoli and Swiss chard and yesterday we gave the older girls some tent caterpillar moths to eat.  Coco was especially enthusiastic about them.  Today the whole gang got some time outside and Charlotte and Pixie had a snack of daddy longlegs.  The two little ones tried copying the older ducks but were far too slow.  Here are some pictures from their outing.
Gypsy copying Pixie
Clockwise from the bottom left: Coco, Charlotte, Gypsy, Solomon and Pixie
The "old" girls, Coco, Charlotte and Pixie
Pixie and Solomon
Charlotte and Pixie towering over the new ducklings
And a random picture of Fritz taking a nap in Penny's Boppy, I'd be mad at him but he fits perfectly.
Other Dog Hill Duck posts

June 21, 2010

The Ducks' 1st Day Out

While we were gone this weekend the ducks seemed to grow at least 3 inches each. So today I let them have a little supervised adventure outside.  They nibbled a few weeds and fell into the ditch where we had a hose running and Fritz, our young dachshund, was completely out of control.  The best part is when they followed me around in a little herd...no wait, clutch, flock, badelynge??  According to the "ultimate authority" WikiAnswers, they are my brood of ducklings.  But I'm totally going to be throwing around the term badelynge when they are all grown up!
Coco taking a dip/slip
I moved them into the shade when I noticed Charlotte (the black one) panting. Her dark feathers must soak up the sun like crazy.  They were much more relaxed then.
More duck posts:
Introducing the Dog Hill Ducks

Bionicle Cake #2

Let me heave a sigh a relief for another June birthday, Father's Day, graduation party mayhem over with.  Somehow I managed to satisfy Alex's desire for yet another Bionicle themed cake.  This time I attempted a Takanuva mask, cake #1 was a Bohrok.  I made vanilla cake and chocolate cake, with chocolate frosting made with Earth Balance, covered in homemade fondant, brushed with luster dust--all pulled together Sunday morning in a hotel room.  Oh and some raw chocolate cake for John. 
The Takanuva Bionicle mask cake

June 16, 2010

Happy Birthday Alex! (Almond Lemon Meringue Cupcakes)

On Tuesday my son Alex turned 8 years old.  To celebrate we went with a few of his friends to a local arcade to play laser tag.  Since he's hoping for a Bionicle cake for his family birthday party (dear me, I'm so screwed! this cake was a challenge and I had my own kitchen to bake in--I'm going to be downstate 5 hours from my kitchen!!)  I thought I'd keep this first run simple with cupcakes.  I made our perennial favorite cocoa cake with seven minute frosting, minus the corn syrup for a corn allergic guest.  Then because my husband John is *trying* to go grain free/paleo I also made the Lemon Meringue Cupcakes from Straight Into Bed Cakefree and Dried.

I've had this recipe bookmarked for ages.  I love that everything in it is sweetened only with honey.  It's easy to find baked goods recipes using agave or flavored with honey but with sugar as well but rarely do you find honey only recipes.  For my honey I used local star thistle honey from Sleeping Bear Farms.  The cakes are almond flour based filled with lemon curd and topped with honey meringue.   I find all lemon curd tremendously addictive and this one was no exception though the cake turned out to be the bigger hit.  John loved them unfrosted and I can see myself making the cakes again and topping them with a dark chocolate ganache.

Here are my American adaptations/interpretations to the recipe so I can remember them:  3 large tsp of nut butter = 3 rounded teaspoons; 2 dessert spoons of mild honey = 2 tablespoons; 50 ml vegetable oil = 3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon (or rather 3T + guesstimate a third of a tablespoon); 160C fan assisted = 325 degrees F convection. The recipe as written made 16 mini cupcakes in nut cup papers baked for 11-13 minutes.  Coconut oil works well in place of the butter in the lemon curd and you don't need to add it slowly, just whisk well.  It will make the curd grainy cold but be smooth at room temperature.  Thanks Naomi for the great recipe!

The mini cupcake brigade

June 10, 2010

Dog Hill Ducks

Yesterday we added three ducklings to our menagerie.  For those counting, that's in addition to our three dogs, two cats, and a turtle--though the turtle is just visiting until we get our pond dug.  We've been talking about getting poultry since we started planning our move up north and John and I have been made even more jealous by the chicken phenomenon going around Traverse City.  After mulling it over, we ultimately felt ducks might be a better fit for us, at least to start.  We know they will end up being more pets than livestock and really for us pets = members of the family.  You should see how spoiled rotten the Dog Hill dogs are!

After reading up on ducks and duck breeds I really wanted to try Indian Runners.  They are known as great foragers and good egg layers--perfect for our plans by which I mean my garden and baking.  Indian Runners come in many different colors.  Ours are fawn and white (Pixie), chocolate (Coco) and black (Charlotte) with an additional blue duckling coming soon.  They have a very distinctive shape and stature: upright and skinny.  You might remember Ferdinand the duck from the movie Babe, he was an Indian Runner.   And wasn't he the cutest thing ever?!!!

My son Alex is thoroughly enthralled with the ducks as are John and myself but the most enthusiastic response comes from Fritz our Dachshund.  He'd jump right in the box with them if we didn't hold him back!  The silly, fearless ducklings don't seem to mind and even peck at his nose.  We're going to keep a very close eye on him with them until they are big enough to fend him off. 

If you are in the area this Saturday check out the Traverse City Coop Loop, a tour set up by some of the city's chicken owners.  The link will take you to a map and more information.  Or take a look at some of the coop blogs from our area: Notes From a Country Girl Living in the City, Traverse City Urban Chickens, and The Homestead Co-op.

Our new ducklings, from the left: Charlotte, Pixie and Coco
Roxy with the ducklings
Alex holding Coco
Fritz getting a peck from Coco
From the left: Pixie, Charlotte and Coco
And what does Penny think? She couldn't care less.

June 8, 2010

Double Dark Chocolate Cookies (vegan)

Don't all diets need a little chocolate?  I'm busy working to fit back into my pre-pregnancy jeans but just can't live without a little chocolate now and then...or rather nearly every day.  The question that remains is how to administer said chocolate.  Some of my chocolate cravings are satisfied by very good chocolate from TCHO, a new favorite, but I'm also itching to get back into my baking groove and had cookies in mind.

I started with a basic recipe from Martha Stewart.  I knew it could be tweaked to make a just as satisfying and yet much more nutritionally valuable cookie.  I did have my diet in mind but there also was the soon-to-be 8!! year-old monster, my son Alex, that needed to be kept happy.  It would be cruel to make batches of cookies that were too "healthy" to appeal to his taste buds.  So I tested and tried combinations until I arrived at this recipe.

This dairy-free, egg-free, low-soy, whole wheat, lower sugar version of the double chocolate cookie really satisfies my chocolate cravings and yet still manages to stay kid friendly.  They exemplify my ideal cookie texture: crispy on the outside, chewy inside with melty chocolate bits throughout.  And if you just so happen to be counting points with Weight Watchers you can have one for 2 points or two for 3 1/2.  They fit in perfectly with my dieting modus operandi: filling up on vegetables seasoned with good quality protein and skipping the bread/pasta/rice so I can indulge in a sweet--that is if I can get to them before Alex does!

Double Dark Chocolate Cookies
My adaptation of the Double Chocolate Cookie recipe  from Martha Stewart
Makes 3 bakers dozen cookies (39 cookies)

4 oz (~1/2 cup) unrefined coconut oil*
2/3 cup dark brown sugar
8 oz (~1 1/3 cup) semi-sweet chocolate chips or chunks
3 tablespoons golden flax seed meal
6 tablespoons warm water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder**
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Ingredient notes:
*Lately I've been using Tree of Life brand coconut oil which has very mild coconut flavor and is acceptable to Alex's palate.  If you or those you are baking for don't object to coconut then by all means use a more coconutty oil.
**Any baking cocoa you have will work but if you want the darkest cookies use half regular cocoa and half black cocoa (like this one from King Arthur Flour).   You would then be using 1/4 cup of each type of cocoa.

-Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F.  Line your baking sheet pans with parchment paper.
-If your coconut oil is liquid it's best to chill it until just firm.  Add your solid coconut oil and brown sugar to a stand mixer and beat until well combined.  Note: this will not cream and become fluffy like margarine or butter.
-Melt half of the chocolate (4 oz) in a double boiler or microwave and set aside.  Mix the flax seed meal and water together and allow to gel.
-Add the gelled flax and the vanilla extract to the coconut oil mixture and beat until combined, at least one minute.  Add the melted chocolate and beat until incorporated, you will need to scrape the sides of the bowl a few times.
-Stir or sift together the flour, cocoa(s), baking soda and salt.  Add to the coconut oil mixture and beat until smooth, scraping the sides several times.
-Add in the remaining chocolate (4oz).  The dough will be thick and gummy at this point and you will have to work to get the chips even throughout.
-Scoop tablespoon sized balls of dough onto the lined cookie sheets leaving at least 1 1/2 inches between each cookie.  To make this easier use a 1 tablespoon disher, see link at the end for an example.
-Bake for 11-12 minutes until puffy.  Remove and allow to cool on the baking sheets.
**These freeze very well as baked cookies.  You can bring them to room temperature or gnaw on them frozen.

Trying something new...
I'm an avid fan of Amazon.com so I'm testing the Amazon Associates function in Blogger. For full disclosure these are links that would give me a kick back if you purchased the item through them.  They are however things I actually do use and like a lot.

June 5, 2010

Black Pepper Asparagus with Millet and Bacon

Michigan asparagus soon to be gone for the season and Michigan strawberries just in.  I love the farmer's market in the spring!  Penny was very good at the market and shopping this morning but just refuses to be out in the garden with me.  So I'm inside cooking and blogging instead, the tomato plants will have to wait.

I've been eating a lot of millet lately.  It was one of the grains I made and froze for post baby eating, along with brown rice and quinoa which also freeze well cooked.  I hadn't eaten millet much before but it turned out to be a pleasant surprise when I realized how much I loved the corn-like flavor and fluffy texture.  Now I'm craving it.  Don't they say that thin people eat "like birds"?  My chickadees love millet!  A perfect get off the baby weight food!  Regardless, here's a great combination I made today that also utilizes my new favorite way to make asparagus.

Basic Millet Pilaf
Makes ~3 cups of millet

1 cup whole millet
2 1/2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt

-Toast the millet in a dry saucepan until it smells nutty and turns a light golden brown.
-Add the water and salt and bring to a boil.  Turn down to a simmer, cover and cook 30 minutes or until tender.
-Fluff with a fork and serve.  Or...
To store in the freezer for later:  Spread out the cooked millet on a baking sheet, allow to cool to room temperature, freeze and then crumble and bag.  When needed, shake out and warm in the microwave covered with waxed paper or in the oven covered with parchment.

Black Pepper Asparagus with Millet and Bacon
Serves 4 as a side or 2 as a meal

1lb fresh asparagus spears, chopped into 1 inch sections
3 cups prepared millet pilaf
4 slices of bacon, sliced into lardons *or see meat-free variations at end
1 tablespoon lemon juice
salt and freshly ground black pepper

-Heat up a skillet, cast iron is best for this, and add the lardons.  Cook until crispy.
-Remove the crispy lardons to a serving bowl and pour off almost all of the bacon fat.
-Make sure the pan is hot and add the asparagus.  Salt the asparagus lightly and grind on a generous amount of black pepper.
-Cook the asparagus over high heat tossing occasionally until it starts to brown and is hot and cooked through but still slightly crunchy.
-If you are using pre-frozen millet heat it up.
-Toss the heated millet, crispy bacon lardons and asparagus with the lemon juice and more black pepper.  Taste for seasoning and add more lemon juice/salt/pepper to your own taste.
-Serve with a side of Michigan strawberries for the best effect.

Meat-free variations:
-Chop Fakin' Bacon (smoked tempeh) into lardons and fry in 1 tablespoon of oil until crispy. 
-Caramelize 1/2 cup of chopped onion in 1 tablespoon of oil and use in place of bacon.

Fritz our dachshund caught a tomato hornworm moth this week.  John and Alex decided I couldn't kill it to protect my garden and so they relocated it.  My sincere apologies to the tomato gardener this guy finds.