Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Making the Perfect Pancakes

****************

The Ingredients

  • 2C flour
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups milk
  • 1 large egg
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
*****************

Dry Ingredients

Mix together these dry ingredients.

You can do this with either a whisk or a Mason jar.

You want to go ahead and mix your dry ingredients enough to get rid of any lumps at this stage in order to avoid big lumps….and because later you will need to avoid over-mixing the batter once you add the wet to the dry,

 

 

The Baking Powder…Be sure to check the expiration date on the baking powder canister. If your baking powder is old or expired, your pancakes will not right…and will end up flat, instead of light and fluffy.

If you would like even fluffier pancakes, feel free to double the amount of baking powder.

You might also want to try using only 2tsp of baking powder and then adding 1/2tsp baking soda.

 

The Flour…Spoon your flour into a measuring cup instead of scooping the flour out of the flour canister with a measuring cup, like most of us do…including me.

Scooping the flour causes your measuring cup to be filled with too much flour, often resulting in tough pancakes.

Don’t restrict yourself to only using all-purpose flour…be adventuresome by swapping out half of the flour with another type of flour—such as whole wheat, buckwheat, brown rice, corn, oat, or gluten-free.

 

 

*********************

Mason Jar Method

You can also use a Mason jar to shake your ingredients together.

To do this, layer your wet ingredients first—milk, egg, and oil…and then your dry ingredients—flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a wide-mouth quart-sized jar. Seal the jar tightly . Shake the jar vigorously for at least two minutes…until the ingredients are combined. Once the ingredients are combined, you can either cook pancakes immediately or stick the jar in the fridge for later.

To make your pancakes, simply pour the batter straight from the jar onto your griddle or pan…and cook them…(more on that later)…

 

—————————–

Liquid Ingredients

Combine your liquid ingredients.

 

The Butter,,Using unsalted butter allows youu to control the taste of your pancakes better..

 

The Buttermilk...Butttermilk is what makes your pancakes tenderest. If you do not want to use milk or buttermilk, use water, coffee, or juice as your liquid base instead…reducing the amount of liquid called for in the original recipe by.one-fourth of the amount.

 

 

 

The Eggs…Bringing your eggs to room temp before mixing into your batter will give you the best results.

To make your pancakes even fluffier, take the time to separate the egg yolks from the egg whites. …beat your egg whites  with a hand mixer until stiff peaks form…and finally fold the beaten egg whites into your batter gently with a rubber spatula until just combined.

 

 

 


**************
Mixing Ingredients Together

You should have already whisked your dry ingredients together before you added in the wet ingredients…so you should be able to combine your wet ingredients and dry ingredients together very easily.

Now gently fold your dry ingredients into wet ingredients until just combined.

Stir until the flour is moist, but there are still a few small clumps of flour.

.Do not over-mix the batter. It’s okay to leave some lumps in the batter.

If you overmix the batter, you will end up with tough and dense pancakes, not fluffy.

At this point, you should add any ingredients that you would like to add to your batter…such as…

  • Banana…one mashed ripe banana
  • Blueberries…1C
  • Cream cheese…3oz finely chopped cream cheese
  • Lemon…1tsp grated lemon peel
  • Orange…1tsp grated orange peel
  • Pecan…1/2C…toast and chop finely
  • Strawberries…1C
  • Walnuts…1/2C…toast and chop finely

*********************

Resting Your Batter

Now that all of your ingredients have become friends, it’s time to rest your batter. What does it mean to “rest” your batter?

To rest your batter means to simply leave it alone for anywhere from ten to thirty minutes. The longer you rest your batter, the better your pancakes will turn out…

Why should you “rest” your batter?

  • Resting your batter will…
  • dissolve any small lumps
  • give the baking powder enough time to activate
  • give the flour a chance to absorb liquid in the batter

**********

The Pan

As far as what kind of pan to use when making pancakes, the best option is an electric griddle…

An electric non-stick griddle makes flipping your pancakes much easier.

But if you’d rather cook your pancakes on top of the stove or don’t have an electric griddle, use a large, about 12,” non-stick skillet with sloping slides….preferably cast iron.

Cast iron will give you even heat distribution allow you to brown your pancakes without having to use tons of butter.

 

 

*******************

Heating the Pan

 

Heat your pan or skillet over medium heat until drop of water sizzles..

Heat a little bit of vegetable oil…(for other types of oils to cook with, check this previous post out)…

Avoid using regular butter because the butter will be more likely to burn and make your pancakes turn out funky tasting.

Reduce heat to medium-low.

 

 

***********

Cooking

Use a 1/4C measuring cup…or pour the batter from the Mason jar depending on which method you used earlier…to shape the batter into medium-sized circles….about 3-1/2″ wide. 

Cook your pancakes for a couple of minutes…until little bubbles appear and the edges start to get firm.

Be sure to avoid squishing the pancakes with your spatula.

Flip. Once you flip the pancake over, don’t press down on it with your spatula. Let the pancake cook naturally so you do not end up with flat, boring pancakes.

Cook your pancakes for a couple of minutes on the other side…until both sides are lightly golden.

Keep pancakes warm while you’finish cooking the rest by covering the pancakes with aluminum foil and then sticking them in an oven that has been preheated to about 200.°

If you find that your pancakes are browning too quickly, turn down the heat down and let the pan cool down for a minute or so before starting the next batch.

If you find that your pancakes are sticking to the pan, add more butter or oil.

Wipe out the pan between batches…especially if you are using butter instead of oil.

Finish cooking any remaining batter.

 

 

 

*********

Storing

Obviously most of us know what to do with the pancakes once you finish cooking them, but did you know that you can also make them ahead of time…instead of resorting to vuying already frozen pancakes from the grocery store…I was kina shocked to find pancakes stored by the frozen biscuits and frozen breakfast burritos and frozen waffles…wonder how many preservatives are in all of these products, right?

 

To refrigerate…put the pancakes in an airtight container…will stay fresh for up to 5 days

To freeze…flash freeze them and store in large ziplocs…will stay fresh up to 2 months

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Making the Perfect “Energy Muffins”

Muffins can be another healthy breakfast food…

…but store-bought tend to be fairly calorie-dense, usually contain preservatives and other hard-to-pronounce ingredients, and tend to be very high in sugar…oversized nutritional disasters packed with tons of calories and fat and little protein.

 

 

Instead make your own muffins…they are so easy to bake and freeze in bulk…not to mention cheaper.

 

 

The following base recipe allows you to be creative by adding different fruits or nuts…and is totally sugar, oil, and gluten free.

 

Fruits and nuts may add calories, but are worth it. Dried or fresh fruits…such as raisins, cherries, blueberries, apples…are packed with antioxidants. Nuts…such as walnuts, pecans, almonds… provide heart-healthy fats.

 

The carbs in the whole-grain flour will help fuel your muscles, and the high fiber will keep you feeling full.The substitution of applesauce for oil reduces the fat content of the muffins.

 

 

 

Energy Muffins

2C whole-grain flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4C ground flaxseeds
2tsp cinnamon
2tsp baking powder
2 eggs
3 ripe bananas
1/2C unsweetened apple sauce
1C unsweetened almond milk
1tsp vanilla
1/2C dried, fresh, or frozen fruit (optional)
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350. Fill a muffin tin with 12 paper muffin cups.Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Slightly beat the eggs. Mix in the milk and applesauce. Add wet ingredients to the dry mix. Stir until just combined, sprinkling in the nuts or fruit. Spoon into muffin cups. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until muffin tops are golden brown.

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Visions of Veganism—Milk

A second ingredient that I am learning to substitute now that we are trying to eat more “politically correct” is milk.

Typically it’s easy to replace the milk with another non-dairy milk at a one-for-one ratio….such as replacing 1 cup of dairy milk, with 1 cup of the fdollowing…

  • almond milk
  • coconut milk
  • hemp milk
  • oat milk
  • rice milk
  • soy milk

Most of these non-dairy milks also come in different flavors—such as plain, vanilla, and chocolate.

Three brands of non-dairy milk that are commonly availa ble are…

Finally, even though you can basically substitute the dairy milk asked for in a recipe with the same amount of almost any of these non-dairy milk, these are a few things to remember when choosing which non-dairy milk to use, tsuch as…

1.Choose the plain flavor for non-baking needs.

2.  Choose the milk that you use in the recipe based on the recipe that you are making…(or whatever you already have on hand)…For example, if you are making a baked good that contains nuts, use almond milk…If you are making anything rropical, use coconut milk.

3.  Coconut milk contains more fat than most other dairy-free milk and has a much richer taste, giving your recipes an actual coconut taste instead of being neutral….so only use coconut milk with foods that complement the coconut flavor …such as in a curry or some sort of tropical dessert.

4.  If the recipe only calls for a very small amount of milk, you can you use water instead.

5.  If you are using sweetened milk, you might need to use a little less sugar in the recipe.

6.  Make sure the the milk that you buy does not contain sweeteners….you can do this by either check ing the list of ingredients or look for products that have been specifically labeled as unsweetened.

7.  Soy milk and rice milk both have mild flavors that can be used with a variety of other ingredients….and is probably your best bet because it is so versatile.

8.  Soy or almond milk, that is both unflavored and unsweetened, is the best choice for soups, stews and sauces,

9.  Vanilla almond milk is great for most cupcake, cake, and cookie recipe.

Each of the different milk substitutes will have its own texture and taste…Keep trying different options until you find one that you love the most or the one that best suits your purpose.

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Visions of Veganism—Butter

Butter is important in baking because it gives your foods color, flavor, and acts as an emulsifier.

Yet butter is one of those products that is looked down and frowned upon my vegans…

So what I am supposed to use instead so that I can make my sour cream pound cake where my vegan daughter can eat it also…after all this pound cake does call for two whole sticks of butter…definitely a Southern recipes, right?!

 

1.Applesauce…Applesauce can be used in baking…(more on this next post)…Applesauce can be usedf as alternative for butter. Applesauce makes your baked goods have a very  moist. texture.  Other “politically correct” options worth checking into include avocado and nut butter…(more on these later also)…

 

2. Coconut Butter or Margarine…These both can be used in recipes instead of butter. Neither of them contain cholesterol. Choose coconut  butte if you want your cookies, cakes, and so forth to have a  richer flavor, margarine adds a milder taste. Two goo options are Artisana Foods Coconut Butter and Earth Balance Soy Garden Buttery Spread..

 

3, Coconut Oil…Organic coconut oil often gets a bad rep, but if used in moderation this is a good alternative. Coconut oil usually works great  for nearly all baking needs as a substitute for butter.

.Coconut oil has a fairly mild, neutral flavor and is much more cost effective than most other vegan butter substitutes. When substituting coconut oil, you will want  to use the coconut oil as a solid at room temperature and substitute it cup for cup.

To use coconut oil as a substitute, replace the original ingredient amount with 3/4 coconut oil and 1/4 water. Mix the coconut oil and water together before adding to your recipe.

 

4, Homemade Vegan Butter…Trtue vegans that have enough,  if not perhaps too much,  time on their hands often try making their own homemade vegan butter This can be quite a time-consuming project though.

Non-Hydrogenated Butter Substitute….such as Earth Balance Buttery Sticks or a similar vegan butter substitute…

How many of us keep these products on hand on a regular basis…or else are also avoiding over-processed foods…or refuse to pay the extra money to buy these products.

 

5. Oil…Oil is typically not a good ingredient in baking recipes because it has low nutritional value and too many calories….but if the recipe the recipe that you are making does call for oil instead of butter, choose a “neutral” oil, such as rapeseed oil, so that the oil does not leave a strong, strange flavor.

You could also try EVVO…extra-virgin olive oil…but this will probably give your baked goods a funky taste.

 

6. Vegan Margarine…Margarine is another option for a butter substitute. You can find vegan margarines in almost all supermarkets these days…

Most vegan margarines are soy-based, but be careful because often these soy-based margaines contain whey, which is a dairy product and totally defeats your efforts in turning a recipe into a vegan recipe.

Margarine can also be bad for your health due to the hydrogenation….so bad that you would actually be better off using butter instead….if you’re going vegan primarily for health reasons and can do so without a “guilty conscience.”

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Making the Perfect Amaranth “Granola Bars”

 

Melt the honey and almond butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat.

Stir to combine.

Stir in the vanilla.

Remove from heat.

Let cool 5min.

Place all of the remaining ingredients…except for the chocolate…in a large bowl.

Pour the honey mixture over the ingredients.

Stir to combine.

Add the cold, chopped chocolate.

Stir together.

Press the mixture in a square baking dish lined with parchment paper. You want your mixture to be about 1/2″ thick.

Refrigerate for about four hours.

Lift the bars from the pan by using the parchment paper to lift it out of the baking dish.

Use a large, sharp knife to cut the bars into twelve separate bars.

You can store these by place them in an airtight container and refrigerating for up to five days.

 

 

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Making the Perfect Muesli Bread

In the last post, we learned how to “make the perfect muesli”…but let’s bump it up a notch by using our muesli to “make the perfect muesli bread.”

The perfect muesli bread is a fragrant loaf chock full of all sorts of dried fruit and whole nuts….crunchy and crusty on the outside …warm, soft, and chewy on the inside.

The perfect muesli bread is eaten right out of the oven…toasted…mothered with butter, jelly, honey, and perhaps a soft cheese—such as Havarti, blue cheese, cream cheese or mascarpone.

Because of the combination of grains, nuts and fruits found in the muesli by itself, obviously muesli bread is healthy and filling at the same time. In fact, muesli bread is one of the items that Starbucks uses in its proteinlet box—along with a boiled egg, cheese, apples and grapes.

The dried fruit found in the muesli gives the bread a slightly sweet taste. The combination of oats, fruit and nuts makes the bread very filling.

Muesli bread can also be used to make French toast;…to replace any other starch that you normally serve at dinner…to serve as a healthy snack anytime of day. 

Making perfect muesli bread bread is simple…and involves simply combining 1-1/2 of muesli with  basic bread-making ingredients—such as flour, water, yeast, salt, and sugar…taking time for the bread dough to rise…and baking.

*********

 

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Making Marvelous Muesli

So now that we know what muesli is…how do we make our own…and what do we do with it once we have it made?!
Making your own muesli is super easy and takes only about five minutes to go…a perfect combination of nuts, seeds, and oats that is perfectly healthy and perfectly filling.

 

 

*********

The Math

Making your own muesli is also more of a mathematical formula…than a method that must be mastered….a matter or proportions and personal preference…
Typically you will want to use about…
  • 4 cups grains
  • 1 1/2 cups nuts/seeds
  • 1/2 cup dried fruit

Start with a ratio of four parts grain + one part nuts/seeds + one part dried fruit.

Keep in mind that the more fruit you add, the sweeter it will be. The more nuts you throw in, the more expensive your grocery bill. Remember, also, that the grains will become soft when combined with milk or yogurt. Muesli with extra nuts will be overly crunchy; muesli with lots of fruit will be very chewy.

 

 

 

 

***************

The Grains

***************
Nuts/Seeds…1 cup

 

Nuts and seeds—such as…
  • Brazil nuts
  • cashews
  • chia seeds
  • coconut flakes
  • hazelnuts
  • macadamias
  • peanuts
  • pecans
  • pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • pistachios
  • poppy seeds
  • sesame seeds
  • sliced almonds
  • sunflower seeds
  • unsweetened coconut flakes.
  • walnuts

will give your muesli a delicious crunch,,,not to mention te fact that nuts and seeds will make your muesli even healthier because they contain omega-3 fatty acids and protein.

Choose any nut, seed, combination that you like…or omit them altogether if you’re allergic to them or simply don’t like them.

 

Before mixing your ingredients together, also take the time to toast your nuts in the same way that you do your grain. This will not only give the nuts a little extra crunch, but also make them more flavorful.

Don’t add oil or any other liquid to the pan when toasting your grains and nuts. Toasting the nuts release their oils, so anything added will make your muesli taste a little greasy.

**********

The Fruit…1C

 

The third ingredientw that you will want to add to your muesli—now that you have stirred together your grains and nuts/seeds, is/are fruit(2)…Dried fruit will add both sweetness and chewiness to your muesli.

This can be any fruit that you like…as long as it’s dried and not fresh. Adding fresh fruit will make your muesli too soft and cause it turn bad much more quickly.

There are no set-in-stone rules as far as what fruits to add…simply choose whatever fruits that you and your family like.

A few ideas as far as what fruits you could add…as long as they are dried or dehydrated…are…

  • apple chips
  • apricots
  • bananas
  • blueberries
  • cherries
  • cranberries
  • currants
  • dates.
  • figs
  • mango
  • papaya
  • raisins
  • strawberries

Here are a few things to remember…as far as adding fruit to your muesli…

  • Add only enough d  to make your granola taaste seweter…but nout so much that your granola is too sweedt.
  • Avoid dried fruit that contains added sugar.
  • Chop up your dried fruit into bite-sized pieces before adding to your muesli.
  • Do not add any additional sugar to your muesli. You shouldn’t need it…and as we already know…it’s not good for you.
  • Experiment until you find the “perfect” recipe.Avoid dried fruit that contains added sugar.
  • Make sure that any dried fruit that you use does not contain dded sugar.
  • Save fresh fruit for when you actually get ready to eat your muesli.

 

 

************

 The Spices

If you would like your muesli to have even more of a taste that your family will enjoy, feel free to add spices.  Spice (that are often used to make your muesli more flavorful include cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, cloves, and ginger,

Store a cinnamon stick, a few whole cloves, or a vnanilla bean with your muesli to infuse different flavors.

 

 

******************

Stirring Your Muesli

Now that you have put all of your “stuff” into a container, put the lid on the container and shake until everything is combined.

 

 

******************

Storing Your Muesli

Store the muesli in an airtight glass jar or plastic container. Your muesli will stay good for  up to two months as long as it stays dry.

********************
Serving Your Muesli

 

The easiest way to enjoy your muesli is to add milk or stir it into some yogurt.  Waiting for about ten minutes to half an hour before eating it will soften up the grains a little.

You could also soak your muesli in milk overnight….at a 1:1 ratio. To make overnight oats, combine 2/3C muesli wotj 23C milk in a small lidded container. Refrigerate overnight. Enjoy cold in the morning.

A third option is to heating your muesli in the microwave before serving.

 

Soaking or cooking your muesli will break down the oats, making them easier to chew and digest…and making the muesli more nutritious becsuse the nutrients—such as the fiber, healthy fats, antioxidants. vitamins, protein, omega 3 and minerals found in muesli—are more easily absorbed by your body.

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Amaranth…The How

 

*************

Now What?!

So now that we have all run to the store and grabbed the biggest bag of amaranth that we could find, you could simply boil the amaranth and eat it plain…but what’s the fun in that?!

What else can we do with amaranth?

You will find that the nutty and toasted flavor of amaranth also works well in many dishes…including breads, muffins, soups…

So let’s get boiling mad in the kitchen and start letting off some steam together…

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Amaranth…The What

The other day as I was making my sandwich for lunch, I noticed that my bread was called “Ancient Grain”…I thought to myself, wonder what that means…hope it doesn’t mean that my bread has been around since ancient times…if that were the case, the bread would probably be stale…and the sandwich would probably make me sick.

So as I did research on out next cooking method—boiling—I found that one of the most commonly boiled foods are grains and have decided to explore this topic of “ancient grains” and grains in general for a while….beginning with amaranth.

 

 

**********

Ancient Grains

Ancient grains are those grains that existed thousands of years and continue to thrive today….such as amaranth…which has been cultiivaed as far back aa 8,000 years ago.

Aramanth was originally harvested in Mexico and was in fact the central staple of the Aztec empire…possibly making up to 80% of the calories in their regular diets.

 

 

***********

The Aztecs

The Aztec people  used amaranth for medicinal purposes….believing the grain to had healing powers.

Amaranth also played a significant role in their culture.

They even held an annual festival each December. This festival was a tribute to their god Huitzilopochtli. The Aztecs would prepare for this festival by decorating their homes and trees with paper flags and fasting. The people prepared for the whole month of December, probably like many of us do each December now to pay homage to our God.

During the festival they would sing songs…offer up prayers to this god…and eventually end  the festival  by offering a human sacrifices.

Not only that…they would also make statues of this god out of amaranth seeds and honey….eventually cutting this statue into small pieces and eating it once the feast was over.

In fact, even the name of the grain has religious importance…having been derived from either the Greek word amarantos, meaning “one that does not wither,” or “the never-fading.” …or the Hindi word Amar which translates to the the word “immortal.”

This all took place until the sixteenth century when Cortez “discovered” the Aztec civilization and  Spaniards began moving into the land The Spanish immigrans of this  “Spanish conquest” began fervently,  and often forcefully, trying to convert the Aztecs to Christianity.

They declared any  foods that had previously been involved in “heathen” festivals and religious ceremonies of the Aztec people—such as amaranth—as illegal…burning most of the amaranth plants and heavily punishng anyone caught with the grain.

After this Spanish Conquest, the grain almost went into extinction, but complete eradication of amaranth proved impossible. The seeds from the amaranth plant have in fact spread around the world.

***************************************

Amaranth and Your Own Diet

Amaranth has a sweet and nutty taste.

Technically amaranth is not actually a grain at all, but a seed

As far as nutritional value, amaranth is a gluten-free grain that is one of the best protein sources for vegans. Amaranth also contains high amounts of many important amino acids, minerals, and vitamins

Let’s now look more closely at the nutritional value of amaranth….and why the Aztecs believed that amaranth had healing powers…and then we will see how amaranth is a common ingredient in many dishes in the following countries—Mexico, Peru, Guatemala, China, Russia, India, and Nepal,.

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Let’s All Get Boiling Mad Together

Yeah, I know…I said that we would crawl our way up the Raw Foods Pyramid one food at a time…one tier at a time…

But…

My family will never be content to eat nutritional yeast and raw sweet potatoes for the rest of their lives.

So instead I have been getting acquainted with all the different cooking methods…what foods work best for which technique…how to use each method in creating not only meals that are healthier, but also more delicious.

I began looking at these different cooking methods by starting with what I thought were “moist cooking methods”…specifially sauteeing, pan frying, and deep frying.

Let’s consider a few characteristics that make certain cooking methods “moist” cooking methods…

  • 1. Moist-heat cooking methods involve cooking food with, or in, some type of liquid—such as steam, water, stock, or wine. Lately I have learned that many people do not consider these three methods to be “moist” cooking methods because…but, hey, we’ve already talked about it…so let’s move on and not join in on that debate.
  • 2. Moist-heat cooking methods involve using lower temperatures—ranging from 140°F to 212°F—(yeah, I know, we just talked about frying foods at 300-ish degrees…just go with it)…
  • 3. Moist-heat cooking methods soften tough fibers—such as meat protein or plant cellulose….which can be good or bad depending on the food that you are figuring out what to do with.
  • 4. Moist-heat cooking methods are typically simple and economical.
  • 5. Moist-heat cooking methods are more likely to preserve and maintain the water-soluble vitamins and other nutrients of the food, taking advantage of that food’s nutritional potential.
  • 6. Moist-heat cooking methods preserve and even add moisture to the food as it is cooking…important for cooking foods that need softening—such as hard vegetables, tough meat or dry grains and beans….
  • 7. Moist-heat cooking methods bring out more of the natural flavor in the food.

We have already looked at sauteeing, pan frying, and deep frying.

Some more common moist-heat cooking methods are…

  • boiling
  • braising
  • poaching
  • simmering
  • steaming
  • stewing

So let’s get boiling mad together in these next few posts, okay?!