whole grain

toasted pecan spice cookies

pecan spice cookies up closeWell, it’s over. After a speedy procedure between 10:30 and 11:30 this morning, I stumbled hesitantly out of the oral surgery office, with a lot less smarts and a mouthful of stitches. Yes, yes, I just made the classic and corny you-must-be-less-wise-because-you-got-your-wisdom-teeth-out joke. I couldn’t help myself. My innocent little wisdom teeth were yanked from their happy homes; I need some puns for consolation.

The remaining sedative fog burned off on the car ride home, so by the time I walked into the kitchen, I felt pretty good. My face – from my ears and lower eyelids to below my chin – was still cold and numb, so the pain was minimal. Fortified by some ibuprofens, I decided to take advantage of my presumably short-lived comfort by making some cookies. Dad’s siblings and my cousin were set to arrive this evening, and one always wants to have cookies on hand when guests are coming. So, I stuffed a napkin in my mouth to catch my wayward drool (tmi?), strapped my ice packs to my face, and pulled out the mixer. Baking therapy. With a side of fruit juice to keep me going.pecan spice cookies on a platter

And the cookies? They’re delightfully chewy, warmly spiced, and full of nuts and raisins. You can’t go wrong. I first made them before Christmas, and between then and now I’ve whipped up a batch three or four times. I think they’re currently my favorite cookie. Their main flavor is reminiscent of gingerbread, but there are also oats for more texture, golden raisins for tangy sweetness, and toasted pecans for crunch and lovely, nutty flavor.pecan spice cookies

I have become loathe to include nuts in anything without first toasting them. They just have so little flavor if you don’t toast them; they’re just texture. But once you brown them a bit, suddenly the aromatic oils burst forth and fill the air and whatever dish to which you add them. It’s marvelous! Even the mild almond suddenly develops a personality. A quality raw pecan itself has a strong, woody flavor; add a little heat and it blooms beautifully.pecan spice cookie dough

Speaking of flavor, if you try these cookies, do use golden raisins. It really makes a difference. Regular raisins are to molasses as  golden raisins are to honey. There’s a brightness, a lightness in golden raisins that you just don’t get with the regular ones. And sometimes I think I can detect just a hint of tartness.pecan spice cookies in a box

Toasted Pecan Spice Cookies 

  • 1/2 cup pecans
  • 1 + 1/2 sticks butter
  • 1 + 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup oats
  • 1 + 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 + 1/2 teaspoons nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup golden raisins

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Spread the pecans on a cookie sheet and toast them in the oven as it heats up, until deep brown a fragrant; time will vary according to oven, so be vigilant and check them every minute.

Using a mixer, cream the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and eggs and beat until smooth. Add the oats, salt, baking powder, and spices (or combine separately in a bowl and pour into butter mixture) and mix until combined.

Chop the toasted pecans. Fold pecans and golden raisins into cookie dough.

Roll dough into walnut-sized balls and place on a cookie sheet. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes. The cookie will be puffy. As soon as you take them out of the oven, transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool. They may seem undercooked, but they’ll be fine. It’s okay if they smoosh a little bit when you move them. If you leave them on the baking sheet, they will have crispy, thin edges when they cool.

Enjoy with milk! [Makes ~33 cookies.]

inside-out vanilla peach crumble

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Ever since I made inside-out pear crumble way back when I first started blogging about food on here, I played with the idea of making something similar with peaches. But it was never peach season, and if it was, I was traveling somewhere. If there ever was a point when fresh peaches were sitting on our counter, I never had vanilla beans. And I was determined to make my crumble with real vanilla beans.

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Finally, at the beginning of last August the peaches and vanilla aligned. During our family trip to Italy, I purchased a little bag of vanilla beans at a spice shop in Sorrento. I also snagged some whole nutmegs; both spices cost less than half what they would have in the United States – reason number 2609 to love Italy.

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Once home from Italy, I threw myself into cooking again, attempting to fit in as much culinary bliss as possible before moving to my essentially kitchen-less dorm in mid-August. With my whole vanilla beans at last in hand, I wasted no time in concocting the dessert I had so long mused over: inside-out vanilla peach crumble.

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I combined a buttery crumble topping with the minuscule, caviar-like vanilla seeds. I supposed I could have ground the entire vanilla bean – an idea to which I was recently introduced from a post on Food Gawker by London Bakes who learned it from 101 Cookbooks – but I hadn’t heard of that at the time.

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Instead, I put the empty vanilla pod in a tupperware container of sugar, which gave the sugar a lovely vanilla flavor. I can’t remember where I read that idea, but it is clever, too.

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I spoon the crumble into the hollows of half of the peach halves, which I deepened a bit with a melon baller.
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Fruit for dessert is so wonderful!
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Roasting the peaches transforms their juicy flesh from luscious and firm to luxurious and succulent. The flavor of their sugars deepens and intensifies, melding with the savory butteriness and rich vanilla tone of the soft crumble filling. I only wish I had baked the peaches earlier in the day, so I could have taken advantage of natural light to snap a picture to do their deliciousness justice.

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Inside-out Vanilla Peach Crumble

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup whole wheat flour (for gluten free: use a gluten free flour mix of your choice or a combo of brown rice, millet, and oat flours like the on in my gf pancakes recipe)
  • 1/3 cup oats
  • 2 dashes salt
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cold butter
  • 2 vanilla beans
  • 4 to 6 ripe peaches

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Cut butter into small chunks. In a medium bowl combine flour, oats, sugar, and salt. Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly. Slice vanilla bean pods in half lengthwise and scrape the insides of the pods with a knife to remove the minuscule seeds. Mix the vanilla seed scrapings in with the rest of the crumble mixture.

Slice the peaches in half. Remove the pits of the peaches. Using a melon baller or a small spoon deepen and widen the cavity inside of the peach just enough to remove the pointy flesh where the pit used to be. Spoon crumble filling into one half of each of the peaches. Place all the halves skin side down in a baking dish.

Bake for 30 minutes. If you want the crumble to both soft and crispy as opposed to just crispy, at the 15 minute mark place the tops of the peaches on their respective crumble-filled counterparts. If not, just watch the crumble carefully to be sure it doesn’t burn. Enjoy warm – with vanilla ice cream, perhaps?

cranberry walnut pancakes [gf]

I found some cranberries in the freezer. They must be at least two years old. A few years ago Dad made cranberry muffins for his weekly staff meetings at work. After a few months of cranberry he switched to banana chocolate chip walnut muffins. For at least a year he faithfully baked three or four dozen every Tuesday night – multiple dozens for the staff and about a dozen for us for breakfast on Wednesday mornings. Eventually things got too crazy at work and we got too fat at home – kidding, kidding – for the muffins to continue, but the Muffin Era was glorious, buttery, and delicious while it lasted.

Anyways, these cranberries I found were ancient. Are ancient. I haven’t finished them off yet. Once discovered, immediate use seemed in order. First, I cooked down some with sugar for a simple cranberry sauce for sweet potato oven fries that we ate with ginger tofu. Then, I baked cookies. Now, I’ve made pancakes. Next? Cranberry juice, perhaps. Anyone else cook and bake according to what needs to be used up in the freezer?

I must say that I am rather pleased with these pancakes. I can’t help it. The last time I made pancakes, I resolved to concoct a gluten free version. Instead of altering my previous recipe I chose to construct an entirely new one: this one. And it worked!

I ground three types of flour: millet, brown rice, and oat. And for those few, brief minutes I loved our Vitamix. Then I returned to reality. The stupid thing is incapable of pulsing food, people. And it sounds like a jet engine or one of those Xelerator hand dryers – you know, the ones that look so sleek and round and modern but blast both your ears and your hands with a stream of air so violent that the skin on the backs of your hands folds into crisscrossing tidal waves blown before a storm of desert wind. Those hand dryers. That sound. Vitamix.

After I finished mentally blessing and berating the Vitamix, I tossed the rest of the ingredients in with the flour. Mixed it.

And poured a single pancake’s worth of it into a small pan. We trashed our electric pancake griddle the other day. Bits of nonstick surface were flaking off and appearing in our food.

So, I cooked my pancakes one at a time.

Until they were gloriously golden brown. Hurray!

Cranberry Walnut Pancakes [gluten free]

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup oat flour
  • 3/4 cup millet flour
  • 1/2 cup brown rice flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 + 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 + 1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 3/4 cup frozen or fresh cranberries

Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl. Stir in vanilla and buttermilk. Fold walnuts and cranberries into batter. Scoop batter onto a pan or pancake griddle preheated to medium heat. Cook a couple minutes per side, until golden-brown.

Serve with more walnuts and cranberries, if you so desire.

Makes about 6 large pancakes.

[A note on oat flour: According to my brief research into the matter, oats themselves are gluten free, but often they are processed and packaged around gluten-full flours. Therefore, it is advisable to purchase certifiably gluten free oats if you can’t tolerate gluten. But if you’re like me, and just want to eat some gluten free pancakes, just use any old oats.]

Submitted to the Gluten Free Fridays link roundup.

peach millet pancakes

[I wrote this just before heading off to Cousins’ Camp – a glorious week of pure fun with the cousins at Grandma M’s farm, annually –  but never quite finished it and had no time to do so in the day we were home before leaving for this Europe trip. So, I’m posting it now because when I look at my blog it seems overrun with some teenager’s amateur photos and too-brief descriptions of sights everyone who has been to the places featured has seen. It needs food.]

We had breakfast food for supper the other night. That never happens in our house.

But, I assure you it was entirely necessary in this case. No it wasn’t. The truth is that I have been too lazy to get up at a decent hour of the morning to experiment with these pancakes. I much prefer to bake and cook after breakfast. Strange. I’m a morning person. That shouldn’t be. I’ll get back to you when I figure out why I cook after and not for breakfast.

Well, anyways  (anyways, which Mother likes to remind me is not actually a word, is a word that enters frequently in both my speech and writing; must have something to do with my ridiculously tangential narrative style – case in point), I found some surprisingly ripe peaches at Food Lion a few days ago, not too long after I actually had risen at a sensible hour to make lemon cornmeal pancakes from Eat, Live, Run. Though I did not find the cornmeal pancakes’ flavor particularly delicious, probably due to my dislike for cornmeal, I liked the concept of adding a different flavor of meal/flour to pancakes. Plus, they included buttermilk, which I have recently decided is the most wonderful liquid ever invented; I’ve taken to keeping a half gallon of it in the fridge and adding it to everything I can.

So,  the cornmeal pancakes, they inspired me. But, I was equally inspired by some millet “corn” bread I made months ago. Everyone in the family loved it; we snarfed down the entire 8×8 inch pan of it at one meal. While ground millet has a lightly sweet, sort of nutty flavor reminiscent of corn, it is far less grainy than cornmeal and doesn’t have that bitter cornmeal aftertaste I can detect in anything. Millet really is wonderful.


Inspiration flowing from all sides, I tossed some millet in our Vitamix, threw the resulting flour in a bowl with some whole wheat flour, added peaches and buttermilk and other vital ingredients, and poured the batter onto the pancake griddle. They rose and browned beautifully, and everyone enjoyed them.

My next goal for these: make them gluten free. Just because it’s fun.

Peach Millet Pancakes

[Inspired by Eat, Live, Run]

Ingredients:

  • 1 + 1/4 cups millet flour
  • 1 + 1/4 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 + 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 ripe peaches

Cut the peaches into thin slices and halve the slices. Stir together all of the other ingredients until just combined. Fold in the peaches. Cook the pancakes on a hot pancake griddle. Enjoy with more peaches – and butter and syrup, obviously – if you please. Makes 10 pancakes.

teff and millet biscuits [gf]

I first learned of the existence of teff from a delicious quiche recipe on one of my favorite food blogs, 101 Cookbooks. The quiche itself was light, fluffy, and flavorful, but what interested me most about it was the teff crust. I had no idea what teff was and was most certainly not going to compromise on the integrity of the recipe by making a normal crust. Actually, I constantly mess with the ingredients of recipes I try out. In this case, I really just wanted to try teff, whatever it was.

Turns out, teff is a teeny, tiny grain. Really, really tiny. The size of a millimeter of 0.5 mm mechanical pencil lead kind of tiny. Supposedly you can cook it to make a pudding-like dish, but that sounds gross to me. More importantly, you can grind it into a deep brown, gluten-free flour. Yay!

Like many recipes for which I do not have the ingredients the moment I discover them, the quiche and its crust stayed constantly in the back of my mind for quite a few weeks before I happened upon teff in the grocery store. It was sequestered off by itself in some illogical corner of the store, if I remember correctly. The organization of grocery store aisles defies comprehension sometimes.

I ground some teff flour in our Vitamix and made the quiche; its crust was a bit hard and strange right out of the oven, but it improved greatly after sitting in the fridge overnight.

Of course I needed another use for my leftover teff, so I made some gluten free-biscuits with both teff and millet flour. Since I do not maintain a supply of xanthan gum or arrowroot powder, coagulating agents normally used in gluten-free baking, I went without. The resulting biscuits, the recipe for which I present to you below, were nutty, soft and somewhat fluffy, and very crumbly. Younger-but-taller brother Isaac really liked them. So did I.

I have decided that it is far more fun to think of gluten-free biscuits as a different type of biscuits rather than biscuits with something missing from them. In fact, I like that policy for most any food. Vegan raspberry truffle brownies, for example, are not brownies that someone messed up by removing the eggs and milk. Nope. They are the best fudgy brownies I have ever had in my life. And tandoori grilled tofu is not a sad substitute for chicken. Tofu is a neutral medium for conveying tasty spice combinations. I like to taste chicken when I eat chicken, anyway, not Indian spices. I save those for tofu. Sounds a lot like post-modern American tolerance, doesn’t it? Well, maybe it is. But, I just think it is more fun and allows for the sampling of a wider variety of new ingredients. Plus, since there are no moral absolutes when it comes to food, tolerance is entirely practical and permissible. Except when it comes to olives. Those are just wrong.

Teff and Millet Biscuits [gluten free]

Ingredients:

  • 1 + 2/3 cup teff flour
  • 1 cup millet flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 + 1/2 tablespoons sugar

Combine all the ingredients in a medium size bowl. The dough will be rather wet and sticky.  Drop the dough by 1/4 cup scoopfuls on a baking stone or lightly greased baking sheet. There should be 9 or 10 biscuits. Bake at 350ºF for 25 minutes. Eat them, covered in butter and honey, as soon as possible.

Submitted to the Gluten Free Fridays link roundup.

our spartan kitchen: rosemary fig whole grain muffins

Three items:

1. WE GOT KITTENS! Rescue kittens, that is. They are both so lively that it is nearly impossible to get a well-focused picture of them facing the camera.

Easter, who we estimate is four weeks old, was dropped off in the back of someone’s truck on Easter Sunday.

Sherbet (shur-burt), who is six weeks old, was “owner surrendered,” as the people at the Humane Society say.

2. I burnt my thumb. I have no picture to prove it, but I do indeed have a nice, blistered second degree burn on the pad of my poor left thumb. The top of that pan really did not look that hot!

3. I finally made these muffins, the idea for which had been bouncing around in my brain for weeks. I just needed to acquire some figs. Thanks to my friend Anna and Whole Foods [cue heavenly music] in Raleigh, the other day I did just that.

Whole Foods actually offered two types of dried figs. In their apparent goal to bound above and beyond the limits and expectations placed on a single grocery store, Whole Foods actually offers two types of figs. And, in my enthusiasm at being inside a Whole Foods and discovering figs, I purchased both. For my muffins I somewhat arbitrarily decided to utilize the mission figs instead of the Turkish ones. The mission figs seemed a bit more moist, which I figured would render them easier to chop.

I made a sad and pathetic attempt to photograph the ingredients I used before I actually made the muffins. Of course, I left multiple ingredients out of the picture and added in cloves, which never enters the recipe scene. Oh well.

For me the most exciting part of the whole recipe was tasting and using brown rice syrup for the first time. Whole Foods provided me with that opportunity also. I cannot wait until one opens up here in town this summer! Oh my goodness. I will be able to spend hours wandering the aisles, drooling over the produce, and staring, enraptured by the array of bulk food dispensers. What a wonderful thought! My anticipation is great.

Brown rice syrup is so delightfully thick and sticky-sweet; it is like molasses but properly, purely sweet instead of nastily bitter.

Let it be known throughout the earth: I like batter. After scraping this bowl to a sufficient degree in my mind, I and one of my dear brothers – alas, I must sometimes compete for extra batter – used a spatula, a fork, and our fingers to clean it well. I presume that the “waste not, want not” saying applies to batter as well as to food one does not prefer.

 I must admit that just about the only clean item after I finish baking something is, in fact, the bowl that used to hold the batter. I make a mess, despite my constant cleaning up and putting away in the middle of things.

It was a miracle we had cupcake liners!

These are perfect breakfast or snack. I guess you could even eat one for dessert if you are strange and dislike properly sweet desserts. I cannot fathom people like that. It blows my mind. If it has lots of sugar, I will probably eat it.

Rosemary Fig Whole Grain Muffins

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup barley flour (or whole wheat flour)
  • ½ cup oat flour (or whole wheat flour)
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoons salt
  • ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • ¼ cup milk (dairy or otherwise)
  • 2  eggs
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 tablespoons brown rice syrup, agave nectar, honey, or a combination
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 1 cup dried mission figs
  • 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, minced
  • 2 teaspoons poppy seeds (optional)

Preheat oven to 375ºF.

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl combine the wet ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients in with the dry.

Briefly soak the figs in water to soften them. Cut off their hard stems. Coarsely chop the figs a size you like. Add the figs and rosemary to the bowl with the other ingredients. Mix until combined, but do not overmix.

If using them, place cupcake liners in a muffin pan, and spray with baking spray. If not using cupcake liners, simply grease the muffin pan well. Fill muffin cups 3/4 full. Sprinkle with poppy seeds.

Bake the muffins for 15 to 20 minutes, until they test done. Enjoy warm!