Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Making the old new again

In 2003, my husband and I created a Food and Gardening newsletter to send to our friends at Christmas - (short-lived tradition died when kids came into our life).  As part of the "food" of the newsletter, I added my favorite muffin recipe at the time - Cranberry Pumpkin Streusel Muffins.  The recipe results were very good - the muffins that is.  Many people shared comments on how they enjoyed the recipe and I continued to make the muffins over the next couple of years.
  More recently, I bumped into a friend I had not seen in years and she told me how she makes that recipe every year at this time.  Huh?  Really?   I was truly honoured at the idea of someone making my muffins over a 10 year period.  Then I got curious as to what was in those muffins as I had totally forgotten about that recipe in light of the  food changes in our life.  So I finally dug up that newsletter recipe, spun a few "ingredients" around and with a little more tweaking a second time, they came up pretty well perfect with enjoyable reviews by our guests.
I have made this  without the streusel topping because it is really easier and faster and school-friendly.  This original recipe came from my sister but I have no idea where she got it anymore.  This new version is now mine and I hope you will enjoy it and add it to your muffin collection.

Pumpkin CranApple Muffins

1 cup pumpkin puree
2/3 cup palm/coconut sugar*
2 eggs
1 cup apple (medium-sized) - chopped in small pieces or grated *
1 cup cranberries - cut/chopped to size of choice*
1/2 cup creamy liquid of choice (I use unsweetened coconut or rice milk)
1/4 cup coconut oil - melted (or oil of choice)
1/4 cup apple sauce
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 1/2  tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 3/4 cup spelt flour * - whole or light

375 F for 20 minutes
This recipe makes about 15 muffins which is more than a normal muffin tin. If that is a "pain" for you, distribute the batter over 12 muffins and add baking time in small increments (2 - 3 min) to ensure they bake through.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the pumpkin puree, sugar, eggs, coconut milk, , apple sauce, oil, cinnamon, soda and salt - pretty much everything but the flour and fruit! Mix well with a whisk.
Mix in the shredded apple and chopped cranberries.
Gently stir in the flour and stir until just combined.

Drop the batter into a muffin pan (your choice if you prefer to use muffin liners).  My scoop measures 3 Tbsp and I can get about 15 - 18 muffins from this depending on how "overflowing" my scoop is.

Bake for 18 - 20 minutes.
Allow to cool for 5 minutes before removing them from the pan.

Cook's Notes:
Palm Sugar: See Sugar 101 tab at the top of the blog.

Apples: I have done this recipe with both chopped and grated apple.  The difference is chopped apples still appear as small pieces and grated apple just breaks down into the muffin.  Both are equally great so do as you are lead.

Cranberries: I personally prefer smaller bits of cranberries verses a big berry in my muffin.  They can be a little tart in such a large bite.  I cut the cranberries into half and sometimes quarters before adding to the batter.  Fresh or frozen berries can be used in this recipe.

Spelt Flour: I have used whole spelt in this recipe very successfully.  Whole spelt is more "nutritious" for the body as the bran has not been removed offering more fibre and just overall less processing.  Similar in the difference of whole wheat to white flour if you are familiar with that.  You can use light spelt in this recipe as well and chances are the muffins will be fluffier and higher.  If I can get away with whole spelt, I do.  What do you prefer?

If we are being honest, I do enjoy mine with butter and most often have a hard time stopping at just one muffin!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A new Pumpkin Pie

Just in time for the Thanksgiving Holiday - a Spelt Crust Pumpkin Pie!   Last week I watched a few minutes of Anna Olson's Baking show and it was about making the perfect pie - which included a very seasonally appropriate, Pumpkin Pie.  It instantly sparked my interest as I got making it with a little skip in my step. A few things caught my interest on this particular recipe.
1.   The crust was made with butter (not shortening) and had lemon juice in it. I don't think I have ever heard of lemon juice in a pie crust.
2.  She made this beautifully creative braid around the crust which beats my efforts of trying to crimp the edges just right.
3.  The pumpkin filling called for fresh ginger... I have only used fresh ginger in my cooking but why not?!
4. She only used 1/2 cup of sugar.  Seemed like so little compared to most recipes so I did not adjust the amount.  

All this plus my undying curiosity as to whether I could make a flaky crust using spelt flour and company coming got me moving pretty quick on this.

The end result was delicious!  The crust was super flaky (with a small hint of something different) and the ginger in the filling was just right.  Likely could have used a bit more ginger than I added but not over powering at all.  It is also mildly sweet so if that is a concern, you could add the traditional 3/4 - 1 cup of sugar for something sweeter.  I would totally make this again and that is why it is going on my I know where to find my recipe.  If you would like to see Anna's original, click here.

Pumpkin Pie with Spelt Crust

1 1/2 cup light spelt flour*
1/2 tsp salt
10 Tbsp cold butter cut into cubes
1 large egg yolk
3 Tbsp ice cold water
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

2 cups pumpkin puree
½ cup palm sugar*
3 large eggs
¾ cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 - 1 ½ teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger*
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
⅛ teaspoon salt

I have always done pie dough by hand - using a pastry cutter in a bowl.  You can do that with this recipe as well but this time around, I chose to follow Anna's steps using a food processor.  I found using the processor, I did not make the butter crumb as small as I would have doing it with a pastry cutter and that does help create a flaky crust.

In a small bowl or measure cup, place some water (about 1/4 cup) along with ice cubes to get the water as cold as possible. Set aside until needed in the crust.  This water will be much colder water than just straight from your tap which helps keep the butter firm and then makes a crust flaky.  A little trick I learned from my mom.

Using a food processor, pulse the flour and salt to combine.
Add in the cold, cubed butter and quickly pulse to combine the butter into small, pea-size pieces.  It should look a little lumpy with small butter pieces.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolk, ice cold water and lemon juice.
Add all the liquid into the flour and pulse until it just barely comes together (it should resemble a crumble dough).
Using a clean work surface, dump out the dough and gently press the dough to create a flat, round disc.
Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 2 hours.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to just under a ¼ inch thick.
Using a 9-inch pie plate (do not grease), line the plate with the pastry ensuring the dough rests easy in the bottom and sides.
Trim the pastry off right to the edge of the pie plate.
Reserve the remaining dough for the braided trim and chill it and the pie shell while preparing the filling.

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

In a large bowl, whisk the pumpkin puree, palm sugar and eggs together.
Add in the coconut milk, ginger, cinnamon, clove and salt and whisk until well blended.
Pour this into the chilled pie shell.

To create the braid trim, roll out the remaining pie dough into a long rectangle.
Cut the dough into thin strips about 1/3-inch wide (you may need to play with this to see what works best for you - as I had to do as well!). 
Braid three strips together.  You may have to make a few braids to cover the complete edge of the pie.

With any additional leftover dough, you can cut out leaf shapes.  I used a small round circle cutter and cut one circle and then overlaid the cutter to make two leaves of the one circle.

The key was to use a knife to detail in the veins to make them look like leaves.  Lay them over the braid joints in the crust
and then in the middle for the
         pièce de résistance!

Place the pie in the oven for 10 minutes at 400 F, then reduce the oven temperature to 375 F and bake the pie for another 35 to 40 minutes.  The pumpkin filling should be set and a little jiggly in the middle is fine.

Cool the pie to room temperature and either enjoy it like that or chill before serving.  

Cook's Notes:
Light Spelt Flour - Whole vs light Spelt flour is similar to the difference between baking with whole wheat and white flour.  Whole is definitely a heavier flour (and healthier with the whole bran included) which means baked products are not as light and fluffy and perhaps less flaky in a pie dough.  I am not sure how the whole spelt would work in this pie dough recipe but feel free to try it if you are adventurous.  For a guaranteed success, I would suggest the light spelt flour.

Palm Sugar -  See Sugar 101 tab at the top of the blog.

Fresh Ginger - Fresh ginger should be firm, light colored skin and fragrant.  To peel the ginger before grating, I suggest using the edge of a spoon to take just the very top layer of skin off.  It comes off in a very thin layer leaving the most of your ginger for grating.  Of course, some chose to just grate the peel in as well.  Try to use a microplane grater which makes a paste-like grate for no lumps in your pie filling.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Nature's Perfect Cake

This is the most simple cake idea ever - wish I had thought of it.  
No Gluten.  
No Sugar.  
No eggs.  
No dairy.  
Organic if you choose.  
Turn your WATERMELON into a cake!!!  
Presentation is definitely the key to pulling this off - even on kids.  
I have used watermelon for dessert but cut it up in slices in a bowl and it was just watermelon.  
When you turn your watermelon into a cake shape (preferably a double-layer cake height), 
add some fruit "candies" and suddenly - You are eating a cake.  Really.   

Be creative.  Use whatever fruit you have to decorate and present it as a cake.  I had strawberries sliced up, blueberries, apple triangles and mint leaves.  The color of additional fruit really is important and vital for appeal and transfiguration.  Serve it up on a platter or cake stand, add the candles, sing and slice it like a cake.  Perfect for the world of food trends and diets and allergies.

A few suggestions:
Watermelon shape:  Try to buy the longest, more oblong shaped watermelon you can buy.  If long enough, cut off the curved ends so you can have a cake entirely flat and round-shaped.  You can see I had to use part of my curved end which made it a bit more dome-shaped but it did not alter the experience for us who enjoyed it..
Fruit "Candies": Don't use bananas unless the cake is eaten immediately.  Even with apples, make sure the variety does not brown quickly or use some lemon juice on them to keep them from browning.  Try grape halves, cantaloupe/honeydew balls or possibly use small cookie cutter shapes (ie stars, hearts, circles/rings) to cut larger surface fruit.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Warmth for winter

Here is a quick and easy dish to make that is a guaranteed hit (except for perhaps the picky non-bean eater).  It is easy to double or triple for large groups to feed, great to make ahead and freeze or bring to someone who needs a meal. 

The recipe originated from an actual meatball recipe from my mother in-law, but I just never had the interest in making meatballs as it seemed like a lot of work.  So I changed the meat and sugars and found this version very enjoyable and fast to make.  If you are one who prefers the meatballs, feel free to go that route - it uses the same ingredients.  If you like prefer quicker, and equally pleasing, give this lazy sauce version a try.

Hawaiian Meat Sauce with Rice

1 lb ground beef * 
3/4 cup onion (sm-med sized) - finely chopped
1 clove of garlic - minced
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

1 cup ketchup - Jenn's Naturally-sweet Ketchup
1 1/2 tbsp dried mustard *
2 tbsp white vinegar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup or apple butter or honey
1 - 19 oz can Red or White Kidney beans - rinsed thoroughly
1 - 19oz can Navy beans - rinsed thoroughly
1 - 14 oz can Pineapple (crushed or tidbits) - with juice

1 1/2 cup uncooked rice of choice - cooked according to directions

In a large skillet, brown the beef over medium-high heat and create a small crumb for the meat. Before the beef is fully cooked, add in the onion, garlic, salt and pepper. Cook until the meat is fully browned. Drain unnecessary juices if you have any. This step can be done ahead of time and once the meat is cooled, frozen for use at a later time. (If you prefer to make meatballs, combine the beef, onion, garlic, salt and pepper and form into balls.  Bake at 400 F for about 10 minutes.)

Add the ketchup, vinegar, mustard to the skillet and mix well.  Add in all the remaining sauce ingredients to the meat in the skillet (you may choose to decrease the amount of beans if it seems like too much for your liking).  Heat the mixture on med-high heat until the sauce begins to boil and then turn down the heat to simmer for about 30 minutes.  Add water as needed if the sauce looks too dry.  Serve over cooked rice and a side of something "green" is always nice!

Cook's Notes:
Ground Beef - I have gotten into the habit of browning about 3 - 4 lbs of beef at a time in my skillet.  I add in the onion, garlic and salt and pepper.  I allow the beef to cool down and then store it in a zip-lock bag and put it in the freezer until needed.  When I need a meal, I can then make any dish I so desire - chili, hawaiian meat sauce, tacos, soup etc.  And the beef breaks apart easily for taking out the amounts I want.  You could also store the beef in separate bags with 1 lb in each bag.  Whatever you prefer! 

This pic shows how I actually have packed up the meal for future use or to give away.

Dried Mustard - Is dry mustard different from prepared mustard??  My google searches do say that you can replace dry mustard with prepared mustard.  1 tsp dry mustard = 1 Tbsp prepared mustard.  So for this recipe,, you would need 4.5 Tbsp prepared mustard.  I have not tried it but figured someone might be out there and not have dried mustard.