Tag Archives: food

Baking to beat the cold and stress

In many ways, yesterday was a typical January day in northwest Ohio. Sort of. There was nearly one foot of snow on the ground, and extremely high winds had created large drifts up the sides of houses and parked cars. Icy roads made driving dangerous.

Okay, so if you live in Minnesota or North Dakota, you might be yawning by now. But hey, this is Ohio. We get snow. Some years we get a lot. Some years we get none. This is one of those “a lot” years. Windchills of 40 below didn’t make it any more palatable.

So there we were. Stuck in the house. Even Bluffton University shut down for two days. So…what to do?

One of my favorite rooms in the house is the kitchen. It’s bright. It’s yellow. And it gives me a nice view of the back yard, and the little A-frame that my dad built 20 years ago. He insisted it would probably fall apart after two years.

Backyard
Looking at the A-frame sparked a memory of Dad baking bread on cold winter days. So? I baked bread.
Bread-baked

While that was rising, I figured I could log on to my work desktop and get some work done. But since I’m really good at procrastinating, I shoved that thought to the back of my brain, and instead baked cookies.
Not just any old cookies. It’s January. I hate January. In fact, my stress level rises just thinking about January. So…since whoever decided that dark chocolate and antioxidants are good antidotes to stress, I’ve resorted to the perfect cookie, Anti-Stress Cookies.

Chock full of ingredients like whole wheat flour, olive oil, dark chocolate chips, raisins, dried sour cherries, walnuts, oats, yogurt, brown sugar, butter, and whatever else you feel like adding.  I added 1/4 cup of flax seed this time. You can’t ruin them…unless you leave the room and forget they’re in the oven. Doesn’t matter. Surely, someone in your house likes dark cookies. If not, call my husband.

cookie-plate

Anti-Stress Cookies
1½ c. white flour (or white whole wheat flour)
¾ c. whole wheat flour
1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
¾ teaspoon salt
½ stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 c. olive or canola oil
1 c. packed dark brown sugar (I actually use 3/4 c.)
1 large egg
2 egg whites
¼ cup molasses
¼ cup nonfat plain yogurt
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
½ cup oats
1 ¼ cups Monukka raisins
1 ¼ cups dried cranberries or dried cherries
1 ¼ c. DARK chocolate chips (i.e. Ghirardelli)
1 ¼ cups chopped walnuts
Directions
Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt in a medium bowl.
Beat the butter, oil and brown sugar in a large bowl with a mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 minutes. Beat in the egg and egg whites  Add the molasses, yogurt, ginger and lemon zest and beat until smooth, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in the flour mixture to make a sticky batter (do not overmix). Fold in the oats, raisins, cranberries or cherries, chocolate chips and walnuts.
Chill dough for at least 30 minutes. Drop heaping tablespoonfuls of batter onto prepared baking sheets. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Bake the cookies until dark golden but still soft, 10 to 12 minutes; cool on a rack. Store in an airtight container for up to one week. May also be frozen (I like my cookies hard!)

By the time I was done with all the baking, I’d warmed up the house, and the frigid temps outside didn’t seem nearly so daunting.

Gordon Lightfoot and a really Wacky Cake

It was 1969 when Gordon Lightfoot wrote “If you could read my mind, love, what a tale my thoughts would tell….” The song may have been about the breakup of his marriage, but the lyrics were solid gold for even the teenyboppin’ crowd. I know this because I was 13 years old and in the 8th grade.

So yesterday when I read in the New York Times that Lightfoot would turn 75 this week, that was the song that immediately came to mind. All through the day as I graded papers, walked the dog, cooked and baked, the song replayed in my head. Over and over.

Maybe it was good luck. Maybe not. Because my success in the kitchen was two for three. The vegetable soup and bread both turned out perfectly.

image (4)Of course, there is no recipe for either one because I pretty much threw both together with whatever was around.

The wacky cake, however, was another story. Actually, the cake itself was perfect as usual. It’s a can’t-miss recipe. But it’s what you decide to do to glitz it up for someone’s birthday that impacts the outcome. Here’s how it looked first:

imagePretty ho hum…unless you can smell it. So just close your eyes and imagine the amazing smell of warm cocoa.

But…it was the hubs’ birthday and I decided to replicate something the girls and I invented long ago. As soon as it comes out of the oven, you cover it with mini-marshmallows and chocolate chips. They quickly melt and you kind of blend them together with a icing spreader. This works well UNLESS, of course, the marshmallows have outlived their shelf life. Apparently, if they’re old and dried out, they won’t melt.

Nothing worked….not putting it back in the warm oven and not a quick zap in the microwave. I was really beginning to feel frustrated. Lucky for me, I don’t have a picky husband. He took one look and knew what I was thinking because he started humming “If you could read my mind, love…”

Just proves at least some of those lyrics can apply to just about every situation.

photo (11)

Wacky Cake
(Makes one 8X8-in. square cake)

1 c. white sugar
1 1/2 c. flour
3 tbsp. cocoa
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
In the 8X8-in. square pan in which you plan to bake the cake, mix dry ingredients with fork. Make three holes. Pour in 1 tsp. vanilla, 1 tbsp. vinegar, and 6 tbsp. canola oil.
Pour one c. cold water over and mix up with the fork. Bake 25-30 minutes at 350 degrees F.

Note: This can be eaten as is, dusted with powdered sugar, iced with your favorite icing recipe, topped with marshmallows and chocolate chips, or with the following:

1/3 c. butter, melted
2/3 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. nuts
2 tbsp. water
Mix and pour over cake and brown until brown.

One bad apple didn’t spoil this applesauce

As a kid, I had a love/hate relationship with this tree — or at least one of its predecessors. It’s a transparent apple tree, which stands in the exact same spot it stood when I was a child. If it’s the original, it’s ancient.

Last week, my running partner and I discovered that the tree was full of apples but no one was picking them. We got permission from the owners to pick the apples, so carefully picked our way through the grass which was littered with rotten fruit. Which brings us to the hate part of my relationship with this tree — rotten apples draw bees. Not a summer went by that one of those bees failed to embed its little stinger in one of my feet.
IMG_0142[1]As for the love part…well, my mom made the best applesauce with those apples. They tend toward worminess but she spent hours cutting them up, cooking them, mashing and straining them through the ancient Foley Food Mill before canning or freezing the resulting sauce.

Fast forward to 2013  — the apples still tend toward worminess but we each managed to pick enough to make us both happy.
IMG_0140[1]For a few days, my husband and I avoided the apples, thinking maybe the applesauce fairy would deal with them. But…as luck would have it, a few days later, we lost power so with nothing better to do, we lugged the apples to my mom’s home, where she cheerfully helped us prepare the apples — in exchange for keeping some for herself.
IMG_0148[1]While cooking them, I forgot to add sugar until the sauce had already cooled. Which just proves that sugar is highly overrated — it didn’t even need sweetening!

Since we’d sold our canning equipment long ago — after remembering exactly what we hated about helping our parents can tons of produce every summer — we froze the sauce. A few whirls through the Cuisinart and it was ready for the containers.
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Inside this restaurant are big breakfasts, a bus, Edsel grille and upside down bicycle

IMG_0440[1]How can you not love a restaurant with a bus AND a fishing boat inside and an airplane outside the front door? Who can resist eating a hearty breakfast inside the bus or boat? And then there are all those other quirky items like the Edsel hood behind the reception desk, an Elvis statue, a bicycle hanging upside down, a toilet seat mirror in the restroom, tire chandeliers, and countless classic vintage tin signs.IMG_0437[1]

Sadly, our daughter’s stint at Kent State is ending — well, actually, that part is good, except it means no more regular visits to Mike’s Place Restaurant, just outside Kent, Ohio. IMG_0436[1] IMG_0438[1]

IMG_0427[1]IMG_0432[1]IMG_0433[1]

On a recent visit for brunch, we ordered an eclectic assortment of food items. Just beware — according to the menu, the chef is not fond of special orders and IF you are brave enough to try, expect a somewhat skeptical, dour glare from your server. Guess they know best anyway, because everything was scrumptious.

French toast

Broccoli and spinach omelet with home fries

Honey milk balls: good-for-you sweets

Kids aren’t the only ones who balk at eating something new if you tell them it’s good for them. Adults are pretty much the same way. In fact, we (the elders) can be downright suspicious about new foods.

Of course, we like to blame that on our parents, who we claim “made” us eat cooked spinach because it tasted yummy and because it was good for us. Note to kids: This is a lie. No parent — at least none with whom I am acquainted — ever forced a child to eat cooked spinach because (a) they also did not like it; or (b) they wanted to save it all for themselves because for some unfathomable reason, they really did like it.

That brings us to liver. And yes, I do realize there is little connection between liver and spinach, aside from the fact that both are sources of iron. Most kids — no, make that most humans — do not like liver and cannot be enticed to try it no matter how many onions are smothering it.

Here’s the thing. I love liver.  In fact, I requested it for my birthday dinners, which is why my brothers were often absent those evenings. They conveniently developed the one-hour flu. Unfortunately, while liver not only is a good source of iron, it also ranks way up there on the cholesterol scale. My daughters are still thanking my doc for having discovered my high cholesterol before I subjected them to liver.

Before I lose you, let me make my point. Food should not only taste good, it should look appealing. Ah, and yes, it should have some redeeming value. About 30 years ago, I received my first copy of Doris Janzen Lonacre’s More With Less Cookbook (Herald Press). Hidden among its pages of amazing recipes is one for Honey Milk Balls.

The name itself is intriguing. Honey and milk in a ball? How is that possible since both are (somewhat) liquid forms. But they’re delicious. Kids love them. Adults love them. I was reminded of this again when I made them for my adult students. All I had to say was peanut butter and they were snatched up.

The ingredients are honey, peanut butter, powered milk and oats. That’s it. No baking, no cooking. Mix, stir and roll into little balls. Kids love to make them because kids love any reason to get their hands into something mushy. Adults not so much.

High in protein, fiber and calcium, they are actually good for you. They’re easy to make. What more could you want? Aside from a bigger bowl to make a triple recipe. Get a big one. You’re going to need it.

Honey Milk Balls
1 c. oats
1 c. powdered milk
1/2 c. peanut butter
1/2 c. honey
Mix in a large bowl (you may have to finish the mixing with your hands, which is okay because you can just lick your fingers. Form into small balls and eat. If you don’t eat them right away, store them in an airtight container.