our messy table

Category: Sugar Free

maple popcorn

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It seems impossible to even think… but after all that comes with school and life, I might be creeping toward some sort of finish line.

I am a person who finds validation in finish lines. I love the feeling that comes with finishing a long and tedious race. But as I said… to even think about it seems a little delusional. I don’t want to get too comfortable in the triumph. Because if there is anything I have learned, it is that the triumph of finishing is fleeting. And finishing one long and tedious race often promises another. And another. And another…

. . .

My husband and I had to make an out-of-town trip on my son’s second birthday. We packed him a little over-night bag and left him with my parents. And while we were gone for just a 24 hour period, it seemed like he grew up a little. When we came to pick up his wired little body from my parent’s house, and he didn’t seem to have missed us in the least, the stunning realization hit: he turned 2 without us.

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. . .

There is this illustrated bedtime book we often read about a baby girl with tussley black hair whose parents are going about the bedtime routine. The little girl is putty in their hands… through clean-up time and bath-time and snuggle-time and book-time and finally, sleep-time. And the whole dang time the parents are smiling at their toddler. They seem totally engaged – as if nothing more is on their minds than giving her tender loving care. And, I know it’s dumb, but I often feel very envious of those illustrated people. I want so badly to align with the idealistic image of a contented and controlled parent. I want so badly to arrive at the end of each day and have nothing more on my mind than enjoying the company of my family.

And I can’t stop feeling in awe of my 2 year old son. That he didn’t need me there to hold his warm little hand for the transition.

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. . .

To celebrate our son’s birthday, the three of us went out last night for cheap spring rolls. To follow, we went to see the downtown lights display.

Today, after his nap, my son and I are making a little birthday cake. There will be finely ground graham crackers, cinnamon and lots of brown sugar. There will probably also be some confusion and spilt buttermilk and broken eggs. Either way, I am going to try and breathe easily about it. Because whether or not I am exhausting an old race or beginning a new one, whether I am thinking about a million things at once or able to zero-in, I am going to breathe. Because my son is healthy, and loving, and 2. And there is a lot to be thankful for in that.

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. . .

I thought you could all use a recipe for a little something for a holiday party. I love this recipe because there is a) no butter, b) no corn syrup, c) no refined sugar and d) is still perfectly addicting and delicious. Also, I often detect a funny artificial flavor with many homemade caramel corn recipes, and I really don’t know why that is. But let it be known, this recipe is perfect. It is quite sweet given the amount of maple syrup. Yet, with its hint of natural peanut butter and sea salt it tastes like real food – not just candy. You could easily play-up this recipe by adding ¾ a cup of peanuts, toasted almonds, coconut or a combination of all three.  Due to the lack of corn syrup as a preservative, I would recommend keeping this popcorn refrigerated until serving-time. This keeps it fresh and crisp.

Maple Popcorn

Once again, from Cookie and Kate

Popped popcorn, yields about 6 cups

  • ⅓ cup popcorn kernels
  • 1 Tablespoon extra-virgin coconut oil or extra-virgin olive oil

Maple caramel corn

  • 6 cups popped popcorn
  • ½ cup real maple syrup
  • 3 Tablespoons natural peanut butter or nut butter of choice
  • 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon, plus more for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

To pop the popcorn, place a large mixing bowl near the stove. Pour the oil into a large, heavy-bottomed pan with a lid. Turn the heat up to medium, add 2 kernels of corn, and cover. Once the kernels pop, remove the lid and pour in the remaining popcorn kernels. Cover the pot and give the pot a little shimmy to distribute the kernels evenly.

Cook over medium heat, shaking the pot occasionally. Crack the lid just a bit so the popcorn stays crisp, and cook until the popping sound slows to about one pop per every few seconds. Remove the pan from heat and dump the popcorn your bowl, taking care not to pour in any unpopped kernels at the bottom of the pot. If necessary, pick out any unpopped kernels that made it into the bowl with a spoon.

To make the caramel sauce, in a small, heavy bottomed pot, bring the maple syrup to a boil over medium heat. Keep a watchful eye on the syrup and continue boiling for 2 minutes and 30 seconds, reducing heat only if necessary to prevent overflow. Remove the pot from heat.

Add the nut butter, vanilla extract, salt and cinnamon to the pot of maple syrup. Whisk until well blended. Drizzle the mixture over the popcorn and toss with a rubber spatula or big spoon until well mixed. Pour the popcorn on the parchment-covered baking sheet and arrange it in a single layer.

Bake the popcorn for 6 minutes, then rotate the pan and cook for another 2 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with additional cinnamon and salt, to taste. The popcorn will continue to crisp up as it cools. Once it’s cool, break the popcorn into pieces and serve.

 

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walnut banana baked oatmeal

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Hello people! I tell you. I sat down to write this post a handful of times over the past month. And if I learned anything from that stream of failure, it is that sitting down to write after baby is bathed and wrestled into pajamas and read about 50 books (a mild exaggeration) then tucked sweetly into bed… after the dishes have been washed and dried and put away and all the odds and ends dispersed randomly throughout the day are set back in their places…. after my evening jog and shower and my cup of tea found its way warmly into my hands… sitting down to write put me to sleep. And I tell you, those were some very good nights of sleep.

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Today is Saturday. And baby is napping. And I probably should be doing other things. But I feel like being here.

That being said, this past month of blogging failures has taught me something quite valuable I wanted to share.

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Before my last post, I was beginning to feel increasingly strained in my day-to-day life. I felt distracted and mildly chaotic all the time, which can be stressful when you are trying to help a 22-month-old down a ladder or into his winter clothes. So I made a choice.

I wanted to allow myself the grace to be in-the-moment. I decided that if I had the time and energy to post a recipe, I would post. And if not, then I wouldn’t feel bad about it. Overall, I wanted to be more conscious of my time spent looking into a screen.

I didn’t cut myself off from staring into a screen. That didn’t seem very realistic. I just tried to be more conscious of that time. More disciplined.

This may seem like a no-brainer. But it was difficult for me to not feel that pull toward facebook in every free moment.

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While following through, something very nice happened.

I didn’t feel the rush to get here and record a proud moment. I tied my kid’s shoes calmly and watched his facial expressions as he examined a caterpillar and looked into his eyes when he talked to me. I made dinner more slowly. Spent more time outside with the three of us. Made new friends.

The crunch of leaves under feet seemed more clear and crisp. My dog seemed like less of a nuisance…

I felt at peace with myself.

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And overall, I learned that I do not need your attention to feel that my life experiences are meaningful.

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Understand that I am so grateful for your reading eyes. I love to write and hear your feedback, especially when you try our recipes. But my separation from this space, and even from social media and pinterest and other media-things I will forever love, made me feel more… I don’t know… mentally stable. Less anxious and strained. More observant of my family and the precious time we have.

I don’t want to contribute to the mass of eyes fixed on glowing screens. I want to encourage everyone to do much less of that. I want our eyes to be on our little ones… even if they are just playing or sleeping. I want our eyes looking into the faces of our friends while talking over coffee. I want them staring out the window, finding all the fall colors in one tree.

That is not to say that writing here is futile. Or that I am old-fashioned (well, maybe a little). All I am asking is that we pay better attention to what is around us. Talk to your neighbor. Make a connection with someone new. I promise… it’s more interesting, more clear, more beautiful than whatever is happening here.

But, you, know. With a grain of salt. The recipe I am about to share is pretty kick-butt.

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My son and I are all about oatmeal. I pack oatmeal with yogurt and honey every morning for his day care breakfast. And on Saturday mornings, after my husband has left for work, my son routinely pushes a chair to the counter and we get busy with some kind of baked oatmeal. Last Saturday, our breakfast involved toasted walnuts and bananas. It filled our house with the smell of warm cinnamon and honey. Each mouthful tasted like amazingly textured banana bread. The recipe made quite a lot for two, so we were able to store it for future breakfasts and served it with yogurt for quick snacks. We hope you love it as much as we did.

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Banana Walnut Baked Oatmeal

Yield 6-8 servings

• 2 cups rolled oats
• ½ cup pumpkin seeds, toasted and cooled
• 1 cup walnuts, toasted, cooled and coarsely chopped
• 3 Tablespoons ground flaxseed
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1 ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
• ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
• 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
• 1 ½ cups whole milk
• ½ cup buttermilk
• ½ cup applesauce
• 1/3 cup honey or maple syrup, plus more for serving
• 1 large egg, beaten
• 1 Tablespoon vanilla
• 3 ripe bananas cut into ½-inch slices
• 3 Tablespoons coconut oil or butter melted, plus more for greasing pan
• Flaky sea salt (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease an 8-inch square or pie dish with a little coconut oil or butter. Fully coat the bottom and sides.

In a large bowl, mix together oats, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, flaxseed, baking powder, spices and salt. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 cup of milk and the buttermilk, applesauce, maple syrup or honey, egg and vanilla. Add to the dry mixture and fold quickly until just combined. You don’t want to stir too vigorously because you will break up the oats and they will become mushing when baked.

In the prepared dish, spread an even layer of sliced bananas (about 2 bananas). Then evenly spoon half the mixture on top of bananas. Top with remaining bananas and then the rest of the oat mixture. Pour remaining ½ cup milk on top and drizzle with coconut oil. The mixture will seem really wet at this point. Don’t worry. The oats will soak it up.

Bake until oatmeal is bubbly and has a golden top, about 40 minutes. Let cool for at least 15 minutes before serving to allow the oatmeal to set. Serve warm and drizzle with honey or maple syrup and falky sea salt. Cover and refrigerate leftovers for 4 to 5 days,

what i have learned

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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:

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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?

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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.

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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.

. . .

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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.

Baked Oatmeal

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.