Tag Archives: recipe

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.

The REAL pfeffernusse…all others must be faux

Pfeffernusse. Peppernuts. Did the Dutch know what they were doing when they created this tiny cookie that leaves such a powerful impression and incites such passionate arguments among those who love them.

With pepper or without? Anise? Cardamom? Cinnamon? Cloves? Nuts? Seems everyone has his or her own favorite recipe and is equally certain that his or her recipe is the best. But they’re all wrong. And I know this….how?

Because the Pannabecker version is the best. After all, we Pannabeckers are Dutch. We were tile bakers long ago.

Here’s the thing about pfeffernusse. They’re hard. Very hard. And while some claim that they soften over time…this is just not true. If you actually think they soften over time, then you’ve never eaten a one-year-old pfeffernusse. They’re hard….and in my family, harder means better.

For many years, my mother would try to see how long she could keep some in a jar before someone would finally filch the last few. I think they often lasted until late spring.

But at long last, I have beaten her record. Not on purpose, mind you. I just found a tiny baby food jar full of pfeffernusse made in December 2011. And they’re still excellent. And very hard.2012-11-20 12.15.56

Curious enough to try making them? Here’s my recipe…or actually, it’s my Grandma Pannabecker’s recipe. The trick to getting them very small is to roll them into pencil-like rolls and cut into tiny pieces.

Pfeffernusse
5 eggs
3 c. sugar, sifted
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. soda
1/2 tsp. cloves
Pinch salt
4 c. flour (or a little more)
Sift flour three times until very light. Sift together sifted flour, cinnamon, soda, cloves, salt. Beat eggs until light and fluffy. Beat in the sugar. The stir in the flour mixture. Using a small amount of dough at a time, roll into long, pencil-thin coils. Cut into tiny pieces and place on greased cookie sheets. Try to separate each piece or they’ll back together into big pieces. Bake approximately 15 minutes at 350 degrees. Watch carefully! Cool and store in airtight containers.

Let me know how long yours last!

Cooler days of fall call for “cozy” foods

Last week one day, my daughter texted me a photo of something edible. At least I thought that it looked edible. Turned out it was strawberry baked oatmeal. It look really good and I was really hungry. Only problem was she lives oh so far away. So I asked for the recipe. I’m thinking of making my own version with rhubarb.

This reminds me of a conversation I had with the late Barney Habegger (of http://www.habeggerfurniture.com/) . Barney and I were eating breakfast at Camp Friedenswald (http://www.friedenswald.org/) where baked oatmeal is often on the menu. Unfortunately, he and I both had to skip it because we both have (had) high cholesterol and that morning’s version had a high fat content (not the good fat). We were both determined to create a lower-fat version. Lindsay’s done that for us.

Strawberry baked oatmeal

Baked Oatmeal
1.5 cups rolled oats
1a/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk (I use soy)
1 egg
1/4 cup applesauce
1tsp vanilla
any fruit you want

Bake at 350 for 40 minutes

(Add maple syrup if you want)

I haven’t baked my oatmeal yet, but the cooler days do inspire me to cook more “cozy” foods. Yesterday I woke up and my first thought was that it felt like a lentil-soup-in-the-crockpot day. Since I didn’t have all the ingredients in an specific recipe, I combined ingredients from three recipes. This is what I came up with. It’s a vegetarian version but you could easily add ham to it. Here’s the thing about lentil soup — you can add just about any veggie to it and it’ll still turn out great! I also don’t know exactly how much garlic was in mine. My husband had to dig some up from the garden, so he added it later after I’d left.

Lentil Soup
1 c. onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
5 c. fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth (I make this, using the vegetarian chicken-flavored broth powder from The Food Store in Bluffton)
1 c. dried lentils
1/2 c. carrots (I skipped these — I hate cooked carrots)
3 c. Swiss chard (I used a mixture of chard and spinach)
1 1/2 c. potatoes, chopped (I used sweet potatoes)
1 c. ham, chopped (didn’t use this in mine)
14 1/2 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 tsp. dried basil (or fresh)
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. black pepper
3 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
Combine all ingredients except fresh parsley in slow cooker. Cover. Cook on low 7-9 hours. Stir in fresh parsley and serve.
Note: We sprinkle grated cheese on ours right before eating; sometimes we also add vinegar.



Secret family recipe revealed

Whenever I see granola for sale in groceries, a very clear visual pops up in my mind. There is my dad, standing at the kitchen counter with a huge stainless steel bowl in front of him. He’s carefully measuring ingredients into the bowl. Oats, wheat germ, sunflower seeds, and sliced almonds.

On the stove top, a mixture of honey, oil and vanilla are warming. He reaches for the pot, slowly swirls the mixture over the dry ingredients. Using a large wooden spoon, he carefully and methodically stirs the mixture, gently turning it over until each grain, nut and seed is coated.

For Dad, making granola was a welcome change from his usual days spent in the lab and classroom, teaching his students to blend the right ingredients for experiments. Yet, in many ways, his hours in the kitchen were very similar to those in the lab — the right ingredients, perfect measurements, temperature control, and most important — staying nearby throughout the process.

Because once he had the ingredients mixed and spread in baking pans, he knew timing was crucial. If he didn’t watch it carefully, at timed intervals removing the pans from the oven to stir them, he’d end up with a burnt batch. And on a college professor’s salary in the 70s, a batch of granola could be expensive. A burnt batch even more so.

Once the granola was done, he’d remove it from the oven, set it on racks to cool before spooning into old tins and coffee cans saved just for this purpose.

Thinking back, I must have taken that granola for granted. It was always there. Secretly, I’d filter through the cans for the big chunks. My favorite way to eat it was on top of ice cream.

My mom still makes granola regularly; probably some of my brothers do, too. Awhile back, my husband, daughters and I made a family cookbook to give to family members as a Christmas present. My parents’ granola recipe stands front and center, an icon of our family history.

Today I had a hankering for granola…the real thing. No coconut. I don’t think any of my family members (brothers, parents, children) has ever liked coconut so it’s not in the recipe. You could add it, but then it wouldn’t be our granola. It would be yours.

This is the original recipe, with notes about any changes I made. When making mine, I took poetic license and added some flax seed — the wheat germ of the 2000s. Dad would have understood. He was all for change as long as it was a healthy one. Mother, of course, has probably made more changes to her own versions over the years. Pumpkin seeds, walnuts, dried fruit.

If you decide to make your own, remember this caveat: Do not leave the kitchen. Sit at a nearby table with a cup of tea or coffee and set a timer. Unless, of course, you like your granola with a blackened quality.

Granola

1/4 c. safflower or canola oil
1/2 c. honey
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
4 c. rolled oats
1 c. wheat germ
1 c. sliced almonds
1 c. sunflower seeds
1/2 c. whole wheat bran
1/4-1/2 c. flax seeds (OPTIONAL — this is my addition)

Heat first three ingredients. Add to remaining ingredients and stir (mix well). Spread on oiled cookie sheets or baking pans. Bake at 325 degrees (stir twice during baking) 20-25 min.
Store in tightly-closed containers.