our messy table

Month: May, 2014

“healthy”

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Adding the word “healthy” in front of a dessert recipe has become quite the popular marketing strategy. I mean, who doesn’t want to feel less guilty about eating dessert? I spend a lot of time scanning the internet for these recipes… healthy cookies, healthy muffins, healthy tiramisu… what? It is out there. It doesn’t taste very good. But it’s out there. Shameless in its grossness.

Fortunately, there are a lot of tasty, “healthy” cookie recipes, many of which source from one of my favorite online recipe journals.

My husband is often dismayed by the amount of time I spend scouring this site for new healthy baking ideas.

“What’s the point of eating a cookie,” he wails, “if they taste healthy?”

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It’s easy for him to say. The guy could swim open-mouthed through a river of gravy twice a day without gaining a pound.

Lucky for me, I have an open mind about these kinds of things. Obviously I would never turn down a blessedly butter-rich, crispy and gooey chocolate chip cookie. But if you ask me, there is something very rewarding about eating a cookie that tastes a little more interesting. A little more… yeah, healthy.

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This cookie recipe calls for carrots. I know what you are probably thinking… but stay with me. These cookies have that pleasantly crispy edge from the coconut oil, a nice chew from the carrots, oats and raisins, and will fill your house with the sweet fragrance of maple syrup baking into whole wheat flour.

My toddler son, I should note, loves these. Especially if yogurt-dunking is involved. I love them with coffee or tea.

Also, when it comes to dessert, I tend to make small batches. The recipe I have posted below yields a batch of roughly 12 little cookies. Feel free to double it or triple for a crowd.

Wishing you all a happy long weekend!

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Yields: about 1 dozen cookies

  • 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup unrefined coconut oil, warmed until just melted

Preheat oven to 375F degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and oats. Add the raisins and carrots. In a separate smaller bowl use a whisk to combine the maple syrup, and coconut oil. Add this to the flour mixture and stir until just combined.

Drop onto prepared baking sheets, one level tablespoonful at a time, leaving about 2 inches between each cookie. Bake in the top 1/3 of the oven for 10 – 12 minutes or until the cookies are golden on top and bottom.

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despite ourselves

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My husband is really good with mechanical processes. He can take apart a car and put it back together. He can read music. Understand the rules of an organized game. Build sturdy, functional things. He writes and reads with purpose. He can meticulously follow a recipe and yield pleasing, expected results.

1 plus 1 equals 2.

If he stepped up to a blank canvas, freshly stretched over its wooden frame, he would think for a while before picking up the brush. He would need a plan. He would need to know each brush’s function. How much water combined with black would make which shade of gray. His planned image would likely be symbolic and a very literal sense.

I have spent a large portion of our relationship marveling at his particularities. At how completely talented he is. How confident that 1 plus 1 will always equal 2. Because I have spent a large portion of my own life around organized games, football and basketball in particular. I am almost 26, and in the stands, I daydream. I still don’t understand what is going on.

If I took a car apart, it would be toast. I would set out to build a chair and end up just hammering random chunks of wood together and call it therapy.

I can’t read music. When I write, instead of having a specific story to tell, I wade around in the whiteness of this space and see what happens.

My recipes are sometimes very, very felt out. Sometimes I guess measurements.

1 plus 1 equals… I forget.

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If I stepped up to the blank canvas, I would pick up a brush in seconds. I would splash it in some water and mix two colors together. Two colors I was drawn to without explanation. I would have just feel it. Those two colors.

My brush would sail around the canvas to the rhythm of something very innate that I have never fully understood.

Don’t get me wrong. I like plans. I like control over people and situations. But when it comes to being mechanical, to creating something functional, I am pretty useless. Because of how I paint. Because of how I am.

Sometimes my husband and I do not understand each other, and I have a hunch that we never fully will. He can’t take me apart and put me back together. He can’t anticipate what I am going to say or why I feel the way I do.

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I have recently decided that the people I am closest to, the people I think I know so well, are all too specific to be fully understood. Sometimes, to say I do understand is a bit demeaning. Sometimes, all I can do is confess that I don’t. And appreciate them anyway.

. . .

What I love about my own parents is that they seem to have come to terms with this. That they are different and complex. Yet in some way, probably some way that comes with time, they have grown into each other. Despite the mystery of each other.

. . .

I confess that being a parent has not made this easier. Caring for and raising a small person while trying to purposely grow together as a married couple has felt more difficult and puzzling than my 6th grade math homework.

And yet, there we both are, tucked away inside our 17-month-old. In the lines of his face. In his eyes. In the way he runs around outside with wild, free-spirited abandon. In the way he meticulously screws and unscrews caps onto recycled bottles, trying to figure out how they work. In the way he loves barbeque sauce, like daddy. And like me, totally digs a homemade breakfast cookie.

So I try to visualize my husband and myself at the same canvas. Working through our painting together. Disagreeing a lot. Finding harmony here and there. And creating something beautiful despite ourselves.

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Fudgy Chocolate Rye Muffins

From A Sweet Spoonful

Yield 12 muffins

  • ½ cup cornstarch
  • 3 Tablespoons cocoa powder
  • ½ cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (60%), broken into bits
  • 1 cup whole-grain rye flour (or spelt or whole-wheat if you prefer)
  • 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup cane sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a muffin tray with paper liners (or butter well).

Place the cornstarch, cocoa, brown sugar and water into a saucepan and whisk together constantly over medium heat until boiling and quite thick. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter and chocolate until thoroughly combined.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Add the oil, vanilla and eggs to the chocolate mixture and stir well. Fold in the sugar and continue stirring until mixture is smooth and thick. Fold in the flour mixture and stir until no clumps remain.

Spoon the batter into muffin liners. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the tops have puffed and are dry to the touch — yet still a touch jiggly in the center . Let cool on a wire rack before serving.

soaking your grains

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I came across some earth-shattering news a while ago that I tried to block out. It altered the way I viewed one of my favorite hobbies… baking… and the nutritional content I was always so sure I was reaping from it. A friend sent me a link which brought me to other links and spiked my interest in the topic of whole grains and digestion. I mean, I never really considered that grain is a seed. And that means something when it comes to digestion.

Now, before I go on I will point out that the internet is an excellent place to sound like a expert on anything. I am not a dietitian or a doctor and am certainly not claiming to be an expert on this topic. The information below can be cited from this source. Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions is also a wealth of knowledge.  This dietitian writes about why soaking grains isn’t important. Read up!

. . .

Like in nature, seeds are meant to pass through the digestive process mostly undigested so that they can be planted elsewhere. To make it possible for seeds to pass through digestion, they contain anti-nutrients that make the seeds (and in my case, flour and oats) difficult to digest.

Seeds also need to be preserved until the time is right for actual sprouting. Phytates are enzymes that bind phytic acid to phosphorus and are found in the bran part of the whole grain. Phytates prevent the seeds from sprouting until it is ready.

When we eat foods containing phytates, the minerals we think we’re getting  aren’t bioavailable.

So how do we counteract the phytic acid in our grains?

Phytatse will go to work for you to break phytic acid apart and free the minerals in whole grains and legumes. They just require a few simple conditions to be activated:

• Moisture
• Slightly acidic environment
• Warmth
• Time

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In other words, all you need to is soak your grains and legumes to begin germination. It just takes some warm water, some vinegar, lemon juice, buttermilk or another acidic additive, and a 12-24 soaking period.

. . .

So, why exactly should you soak your grains?

Soaking the grains renders the enzyme inhibitors unnecessary since they exist to protect the seed and prevent early sprouting.  The inhibitors are neutralized so that the seed can sprout, making everything more accessible to our bodies.  Levels of phytates are also reduced in soaking because the acidic liquid helps to break the bonds they form with minerals. Properly soaked grains are easier to digest and allow your body to absorb more nutrients from the whole grain and other food sources.

This news was earth-shattering for me because I bake almost daily. Whether I am whipping up an impromptu batch of muffins from leftover oatmeal or making cupcakes for an afternoon activity, I bake with flours constantly. I eat oats in raw form almost every day. This information meant that regardless of my effort to swap in whole grain flours for the every trusty all-purpose white, my body wasn’t reaping the full benefits. This meant that baking would require a little more planning than I was used to… like 24 hours ahead more. Which meant if I wanted to make a batch of whole-grain pancakes, I couldn’t just whip them up that morning, I would have to soak the flour the day before.

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I was perturbed. But I decided that before gnashing my teeth and dismissing this information as crazy, I would give the soaking process a 2 week trial. I realized that I wouldn’t necessarily feel the the benefits of soaking my grains and legumes. But I wanted to know how much it would change my routine and perspective once I started soaking everything a day in advance. I started with something very simple. Soaking my oats.

I set out a small saucepan containing 1 cup or raw rolled oats and added 1 cup of warm (110 degrees F) and a Tablespoon of yogurt (for the acid). Oats are low in the enzyme phytase, needed to neutralize the phytates so your body can absorb all the nutritional benefits of a bowl of oatmeal. Therefore, you are supposed to add a Tablespoon or two (10%) of whole wheat flour to your soaking oatmeal.

I let them soak for 24 hours, then at 7 the following morning (breakfast time) I added another cup of water, cooked my oats and ate them with my son the same way we do every morning.

There couldn’t be a simpler way to add nutritional value to my every day. It just required a little planning ahead.

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I also experimented with soaking my flours for 12-24 hours before baking. I just had to plan my baking projects ahead of time.  It was kind of fun anticipating tomorrow’s morning pancakes. It felt more intentional that just whipping something up willy nilly.

I soaked my flours and baking soda/powder in the liquid ratio (usually milk, oil or melted butter) and the acidic additive (buttermilk or a little vinegar) over night on the kitchen counter. After 12-24 hours, I would mix in the remained ingredients and bake away.

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I also soaked my beans and other grains for a 12-24 hours before a meal. I simply drained them before cooking.

I am aware that I will not always be ambitious or organized enough to plan every baking/cooking endeavor 12 hours in advance. There will be plenty of impromptu cupcakes in the future. And I am not quite sure if this process would work with your standard chocolate chip cookie. But when I am feeling ambitious and organized, I will take advantage and carry out the simple process. If you give it a try, let me know how it goes. Here is a recipe to start you out with!

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Corncake Pancakes

Yield: about 9-10 4-inch panckaes

  • 1 1/4 cup whole milk (plus 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar)
  • 1 Tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour or spelt flour
  • 1/2 cup corn flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt

In a medium bowl, whisk flours with baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add vinegar and honey to milk and pour over flour, then briskly whisk the ingredients together.

Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set in a warm room for a 12-24 hour period.

  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten

Beat egg into melted butter then fold evenly into soaked batter.

Heat your skillet or saute pan to medium. Brush the pan with butter and ladle 1/4 cup batter at a time, 2 inches apart. When the pancakes have bubbles on top and are slightly dry around the edges, flip them over and cook them until golden brown underneath. If they seem to be cooking too quickly (dark on the outside, raw centers) turn your heat down to low for the next batch and inch it up as needed. Repeat with remaining batter, and serve immediately with a pat of salted butter and a healthy dose of maple syrup.