our messy table

Month: July, 2014

what i have learned

SONY DSC

Is that on really bad days, days that seem to be popping up more frequently as of late, is that it is possible for everything I touch to turn to shit.

A good night’s sleep will testify against this. But I don’t want to write about perspective today. I am focusing on that boiling point of “in the moment”.  Because in those moment, those moments when I feel my pursuits are so positive, so innocent, and then a flaming obstacle hurls itself in my face, I sometimes get upset. And discouraged. And the thing about being a mom is, there is no time to feel sorry for poor me. Until… well… here is a minor example:

SONY DSC

My husband recently downloaded a “mixology” app onto his phone and has been obsessed with the idea of making cocktails ever since. We will have sat down for dinner and I will be talking about, oh, I don’t know, the situation with Chilean mining and he will turn to me midsentence and say, “How do you think whipped milk and bitters would taste with melon and cachaça?”. Cue my flat faced expression.

We don’t even have any liquor, except for a very cheap bottle of gin collecting dust bunnies from last summer when I was briefly experimenting with basil gimlets. Without a single ounce of his enthusiasm or support, I might add.

And yet, there he was in our kitchen last night, the cheap gin drawn out from its dusty grave, simple syrup on the stove while he squeezed limes and stewed strawberries and basil. I was mystified. And because I like cocktails very much, I wanted to be excited. But all I had was a dim feeling of annoyance.  Where has this cocktail enthusiast been all my life?

SONY DSC

The boiling point came when I burned the chocolate. Someone wanted brownies. And by golly, what is more innocent than after-baby-goes-to-bed brownies?

Yet, the burning cocoa and sugar flooded the kitchen with the scorched smell of failure. Which reminded me of all the other little failures I had made in previous days which had bottled up and bottled up until the chocolate. The scorching, smelly, last-straw.

SONY DSC

Then, the interrogation. Why now with the cocktails? Why now the interest when last summer I couldn’t get you to so much as look at coconut rum in the liquor isle. Is it because it wasn’t your idea? Is it because you wanted to distract me while I made brownies so I would fail for the 12th time today and have absolutely no self-esteem?

. . .

Remember? I am not discussing perspective. I am talking about the boiling point. The non-existent pressure valve. Because, regardless of perspective, and especially for me, it comes like death and taxes.

And after the chocolate is burned and cooled and scraped from its small pan, there is still quinoa crunch hiding in you cabinet. There is yogurt in your fridge. And there simply isn’t enough for anyone but you.

. . .

SONY DSC

This is another recipe from Megan Gordan’s Whole Grain Mornings. It is a simple play off a quick granola recipe, but made up of the popular grain, quinoa, instead of oats. You will want to be sure to either purchase pre-rinsed quinoa or rinse and dry the quinoa yourself to remove the sharp, bitter taste of the saponin coating on un-rinsed quinoa.

Here is a quick tip for rinsing quinoa yourself: The seeds are very small, and can escape even a fine-mesh sieve. You can easily rinse the quinoa in a bowl. Put the quinoa in a bowl and fill with cold water. Stir it around a little, then let the seeds settle. Pour the water off the top and add more, until the water doesn’t look foamy. Hold your hand or a plate against the bowl to pour off the remaining water. When finished, you will want to spread out the rinsed quinoa over a dry towel to dry. Use immediately after. Storing even dried rinsed grains can cause them to mold.

Once everything is baked, you will have a high-protien, vegan snack that is a nice addition to yogurt, fruit parfaits, or even green salads.

Quinoa Crunch

  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained well
  • 1/2 cup sliced raw almonds
  • 3 Tablespoons raw sesame seeds
  • 1 Tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 Tablespoon virgin coconut oil

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Mix all ingredients together and spread them evenly over prepared baking sheet. Bake until toasty and fragrant, about 10-12 minutes.

Transfer to a bowl and let cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 month.

skinny

SONY DSC

I suppose this blog is due for a summer salad recipe… something green and fresh from my garden, toppled with fresh herbs, dried fruit or sharp cheese and some tangy, inventive dressing. But to be honest, I have not seen or heard from my garden in two weeks. The carpet in our house is getting washed today, so I plan to visit my mom’s for a bit of garden-time while they dry.

I feel ready to tackle the massive bed of weeds that has most surly made its home there. But before I hack away hopeful heads of leafy greens, I will write once more about breakfast. For my purposes, the non-green kind.

SONY DSC

I am not shy about that fact that, when it comes to using dairy products in cooking, baking or straight up drinking from the carton, we don’t fear fat. That’s not to say we frequent McDonald’s for Oreo Blizzards (and that’s not to say I would turn down an Oreo Blizzard if you offered me one… right now…). But when it comes to stocking our fridge, we welcome the whole milk yogurt and cheese, the sour cream and butter. We don’t deprive ourselves because, lets me honest, everything is better about these products. The flavor, the texture. The minimal processing. The way they function in a recipe.

Aside from the groceries we used for baking, we didn’t start buying a lot of dairy until our son was old enough to drink cow’s milk and eat solid food. As you probably know, it is recommended that you start offering babies whole milk because the calorie content is good for them. And after a bit of research, I learned that the same applies to yogurt and cheese. Babies need that healthy fat for their brains and bodies to develop. And after sampling all the full-fat dairy we were buying, we learned that it straight-up tasted way, way better than the skimmed versions we knew so well.

SONY DSC

This wasn’t terrible news for us. Whole milk, especially organic milk since the cows eat grass and not grain, has many unique fats, including omega-3 fatty acids. Research has found that people with high levels of these fats have lower rates of obesity and diabetes. Also, the fat in whole milk is proven to help the body to absorb fat soluble vitamins, like vitamin A and D.

Some researchers suggest there may be bioactive substances in milk fat that alter our metabolism in a way that helps us utilize the fat and burn it for energy, rather than storing it in our bodies.

((On another note, whole-milk dairy products are relatively high in saturated fat. And eating too much saturated fat can increase the risk of heart disease. So many experts would agree that adults with high cholesterol should continue to limit dairy fat.))

I personally suspect that I may be bit lactose intolerant. But I find that full-fat dairy products agree with me better than 0% fat Greek yogurt, for example. When we can afford it (and when I can even find it here in the Midwest), I like to buy goat or sheep milk yogurt because it is easier for me and my son to digest. A little more information on that here.

http://www.mtcapra.com/benefits-of-goat-milk-vs-cow-milk/.

And of course, there are healthier fats, like virgin coconut or grape seed oil, which frequent our shelves as well. I am not recommending you bask in cream-based gravy every night (though I don’t think my husband would be opposed). But in moderation, we believe whole-milk is our delicious, satiable friend.

SONY DSC

I am also convinced that calories are not my enemy. And that I would rather model a healthy life after my most admired cookbooks authors than the dull-faced, skeletal “6 hour workout!” diet models I see every. dingle. day. on pinterest.

a few sources:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/02/12/275376259/the-full-fat-paradox-whole-milk-may-keep-us-lean

http://www.pccnaturalmarkets.com/sc/1301/whole_milk_dairy.html

Ok. Enough of that soap box. I promised a recipe.

SONY DSC

This quick jam comes straight from Megan Gordon’s beautiful book, Whole Grain Mornings. We have been through three separate batches of this and I plan on making another later this week. The classic strawberry-rhubarb combo pairs wonderfully with tangy yogurt, mellow vanilla ice cream, and spread over scones, waffles, crepes and pancakes. This week, we have loved spooning it over yogurt or ricotta along with these oat-based, toasty little cardamom biscuits, found on My New Roots. I know the amount looks to be a lot. But with how addictive and healthy these are, I don’t recommend halving this recipe. You will surly regret it.

SONY DSC

Lemon Cardamom Biscuits

Makes about 80-90 biscuits

  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • ¼ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • zest of 1 large lemon
  • ½ cup natural cane sugar
  • ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 3 Tablespoons coconut oil, melted
  • 1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • rice flour for dusting (any flour will work)

In a food processor pulse the oats until you have a rough flour. Add the baking powder, cardamom, salt, lemon zest and coconut sugar. Blend for a few seconds to combine.
In a measuring cup, measure out the applesauce, then add the coconut oil and vanilla, whisk to combine. Pour the wet ingredients into the food processor and pulse until fully incorporated. The dough should be sticky and wet, but not pasty. If it is too wet to work with, add a little more oats or oat flour. Preheat oven to 350°F.

Dust a large, clean working surface with flour. Empty dough out on to the floured surface and gather into a rough ball shape. Divide dough into quarters. Working with one quarter at a time, roll dough into a log, approximately 10”/25cm long. Then slice log into ½” / 1¼ cm rounds. Place on a lined baking sheet.

Bake biscuits for 10-12 minutes until just turning golden on the bottom, then turn the oven off and let the cookies sit in there until the oven is cool. Once cool, store biscuits in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

SONY DSC

Strawberry Rhubarb Quick Jam

Sadly, I have almost no desire to make real jam. Like Megan, all the fuss with sterilizing isn’t appealing to me. Maybe I will change my tune one day. Until then, we love this quick jam.

• 2 cups chopped rhubarb (approximately 4 medium stalks)
• 1 pound fresh strawberries hulled and chopped (about 3 cups)
• 1 ¼ cups natural cane sugar
• Pinch salt
• 2 teaspoons lemon juice
• 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

In a large bowl, stir rhubarb, strawberries and sugar together. Let them until macerate until the sugar has begun to dissolve into the fruit, about 10 minutes.
Transfer to a heavy bottom pot. Bring to a moil at medium heat. Stir in salt, lemon juice and zest and decrease heat to medium-low.

Gently simmer the fruit until it breaks down and the mixture starts to cook down, 15-20 minutes. Stir occasionally to avoid sticking. If the fruit isn’t breaking down on its own, you can use the back of a fork or a potato masher to help it out.

Ideally, when the jam is close to done, the mixture will still be loose. Remove from heat and pour into a clean bowl to fully stop the cooking process. Let cool completely and transfer into clean, glass jars. This jam should keep easily for up to 3 weeks, and in the freezer, up to 6 month.

SONY DSC

To Serve

Spoon whole milk yogurt, honeyed ricotta or cream into bowls and drizzle with cooled quick jam. Sprinkle a few biscuits on top and enjoy!

Baked Oatmeal

SONY DSC

I am very happy to say that we are settling into summer. We found a wild raspberry bush in our backyard the other day, and spent a good chunk of the afternoon thumbing around its thorns for the ripest berries, staining our lips and fingers.

Between our evenings at the pool and luxurious days outside, throwing sticks around, feeding bunnies grass and searching desperately for a kitten, we eat a lot of popsicles.

Now, though I am quite interested in the trend of homemade popsicles, I am also very lazy. Therefore, the bright, fruity, store-bought popsicles have been our treat of choice. Which brings me to my current dilemma:

Before summer came floating into our lives, we had established a very good routine in which my son ate food, nearly any kind of food, like a pack of wild dogs. There were some mornings I feared he would burst from drinking down bowl after bowl of yogurt. I can still feel that beam of pride and he stuffed his face with rice and cabbage and other sautéed vegetables as if there was nothing more delicious in the world.

SONY DSC

But these past few weeks, there has been only one food group in his mental food pyramid. A food group so important to him that I am starting to believe he will nearly starve himself waiting for the next opportunity to eat one…

Can you guess what that food group might be??

Earlier this week, I was becoming concerned with the popsicle obsession. I would have given anything to see my little ham spoon down bowl after bowl of homemade applesauce again; pull apart an oily roast like there was no tomorrow. Because now, he just waits. He sits in his high chair with an irritated stare, throwing his peanut butter toast at the wall, demanding that his single food group appear. Sugar water and artificial flavor. The end.

SONY DSC

Before I give in and purchase the little popsicle molds in attempts to bring more nutrition to this food phase, I decided to mix things up in our kitchen. With moving and the go-go mentality of summer, I have fallen into a bit of a breakfast-lunch-dinner rut. Meaning, I have run out of new tricks, and was trying to feed my son the same things over and over again without luck.

I truly am comfortable with food ruts. I am a stickler for routine and could happily eat the same things for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day.  But I realized this was probably getting a little boring and all-too predictable for the rest of my family, namely my toddler. I decided maybe if we tried my breakfast staple oatmeal a different way, he might be interested.

So I revisited my favorite food bloggers for inspiration and stumbled upon an old favorite from last summer. Back when my son was too young to eat solid food, and therefore, too young to know the wonder of baked oatmeal.

And guess what? After a nice long cuddle session while waiting for the oatmeal to bake, my son settled down in his highchair and ate his whole helping! He didn’t ravage it like I hoped, but he ate it, which is good enough for me. I felt very triumphant, but held my poker face. As soon as he knows how much I love him eating the same things I love to eat, he is bound to refuse eating them. In that case, maybe I should start acting very excited whenever he eats popsicles….

. . .

Though I have been through quite a few recipes for baked oatmeal, this is my favorite. It is graciously simple while still being delicious and hearty. If you are feeling organized, you can mix the dry ingredients the night before. Then, while the oven preheats, simply pour the wet ingredients and berries over the oats in the morning. This oatmeal will fill your house with the smell of warm maple syrup and cinnamon, should you chose to include it. Also, if you want to swap out the whole milk and butter for coconut products, the results are still very yummy. Although I find the full-fat dairy version to be the richest. I have also substituted the egg for a mashed banana in the past with great success.

SONY DSC

Baked Oatmeal

Yield: about 6 servings

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • ½ cup chopped walnut or pecan halves, coconut, or more oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ¾ to 1 ½ cups blueberries
  • 2 cups whole milk or coconut milk
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1 large egg (or mashed banana for vegan)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter or coconut milk, melted and cooled slightly
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 375°F with a rack in the top third of the oven.

In an 8-inch square baking dish, mix together the oats, the nuts, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Scatter the berries evenly over the oat mixture.

In another bowl, whisk together the milk, maple syrup, egg, about half of the butter or oil, and vanilla. Slowly drizzle the milk mixture over the oats. Gently give the baking dish a couple of thwacks on the countertop to make sure the liquid moves down through the oats.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the top is golden and the oat mixture has set. Remove from the oven, and allow to cool for a few minutes. If the remaining butter or oil has solidified, rewarm it slightly; then drizzle it over the top of the oatmeal. Serve.

we are here

And now. After months and months of planning then un-planning and treading through the unpleasant unknown, we are here.

SONY DSC

With much help from our amazing friends and family, we moved 4th of July weekend into yet another farm house, located just a half a mile down a gravel road and not really close to anything. We have an unbelievably huge entry way, old, green carpet, a beautiful bay window that showers us with light every morning, a thick grove of trees, and kittens in the barn. I have been suffering a bit from laundry-withdrawal. But thanks to another set of family friends, a solution is on its way (we purchased our own! Are we grown-ups or what?). And though we went through a bit of a rough-transitional patch with our toddler, I think we are well on our way to feeling very at home.

SONY DSC

Which leads me to thank everyone who helped us move on their holiday weekend. My mother and father-in-law are the dynamic moving duo. Their donated time was sandwiched between two busy work days, but they made the 4.5 hour trip here to conquer some heavy lifting and see their grandbaby. My own mom and dad have helped immensely with the drawn-out processes of moving; cleaning, unpacking, babysitting, cleaning. And we have some great friends who stopped by to carry boxes, who babysat my kid while I packed, and lent us their trailers and trucks.

Seriously. Moving can be ugly. But this last weekend went incredibly well thanks to you.

SONY DSC

I have a thick stack of recipes and pictures I have been meaning to share with you. My half-finished books and projects are on the shelves collecting dust. I think my son is just waiting for me to blink away this goofy, post-moving daze floating through my eyes. So I will keep things simple today. Anyway, my baby is bound to wake up anytime now. And with his sweet, agreeable skin long shed, the new, willful, stubborn toddler attitude leaves me needing to a few minutes of shut-eye before nap time ends. So without further adieu…

SONY DSC

My son and I picked a whole bunch of strawberries before leaving our last rental, which was located about a mile and a half from a lovely strawberry patch. After, we washed, hulled and froze a few pounds of them, then zipped through several fresh strawberry recipes that I had been meaning to try. I also remembered a recipe I had been eyeing on Luisa’s blog, the Wednesday Chef, on roasting strawberries, and decided there was not time like the present.

I started with 1 ½ pounds strawberries, then hulled and cut them in half lengthwise if they seemed large enough.  I then scattered them in a large baking pan and added about 1/4 cup of sugar and one teaspoon of vanilla extract. I mixed it up and then spread the berries out evenly. I set the oven to 375 F for 45 minutes and rotated the pan halfway through, but only sort of shook the strawberries a little instead of stirring them.

SONY DSC

This leaves you with soft, dark ruby berries and an amazing red sauce that spoons well over yogurt (or, you know, ice cream). We treated this recipe like a jam and spread it over French toast the following morning. Oatmeal the next. And just like that, the roasted strawberries were gone.

You could try adding a few additions (cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, peppercorn, citrus) but they were truly wonderful the way they were.