Wednesday, October 28, 2009

quail eggs

For dinner tonight I sauted onion and red peppers with diced baked potato (leftover from baked potato bar the other night) and cilantro, salt and pepper. I topped it with fried eggs for Steve and fried quail eggs for me.

I went to the Asian market a few days ago; while there I saw an absolutely enormous refrigerated case full of very pretty, speckled quail eggs. Having never tasted them before but heard folks say how fabulous they were I decided to get them (Steve did not want to try them). Quite frankly I'm not sure what the hullabaloo is all about. My suspicion is that the attraction to quail eggs is for the novelty value. To be truthful I'm not sure if it's because I don't have a very sophisticated palate or because there really isn't a huge difference, but I did not taste a significant difference in the eggs. The only difference I noticed was that the yolk on the quail eggs had a creamier mouthfeel to me than chicken eggs do. So aside from the novelty value of a bite-sized egg it's certainly not something I think I'll do again.

Nutritionally the protein value is the same (comparing 1 ounce, 28 grams, of raw egg each) except that quail eggs have twice as much cholesterol. However quail eggs also have more riboflavin and a tiny bit more choline, B12, and folate as well as zinc, phosphate and iron.

As always, it comes down to the willingness to be adventurous, to try new things. While I don't think I will buy quail eggs again I'm glad that I had the opportunity to try them.

photo courtesy of K. Suzuki |

Monday, October 26, 2009

no-knead mesquite bread

Those inventive folks over at have come up with a new twist on the, by now, ubiquitous no-knead bread. Laura, one of the Editorial Assistants, found my post about mesquite flour and emailed me to let me know about this really fun article on how to harvest and process mesquite to make the flour. It includes a recipe for No-Knead Mesquite Bread which they said I could share with all of you. Living here in Texas I know we have mesquite, but there isn't any in my area. I'm going to have to learn to identify it though so that if I find any in my travels I can harvest the pods.

No Knead Mesquite Bread Recipe

3 cups white flour
3 tbls mesquite flour
½ tsp yeast
1 ½ tsp salt
1 ½ cups of water

Mix dry ingredients in a bowl
Add water and mix
Stir with fork (mix will be sticky)
Cover in a bowl, let sit overnight
Place bread dough on cutting board covered with towel for 2 hours
In metal bowl bake in sun oven @ 350 for 1 hour

photo courtesy of: Wendy Tremayne

Friday, October 23, 2009

almond delights

My friend Cindi, who also grinds her own flour, has been experimenting with different kinds of cookies. Her kids have been in love with my Sunshine Cookies since they were first introduced to them when Cindi took one of my classes a couple of years ago. Looking to expand their cookie repertoire a little she's been playing around with different, healthier, combinations of ingredients. I think this one is a keeper since she writes, "My son who doesn't really like cookies, except for your sunshine cookies, ate about 4 of them in one sitting." She notes that these cookies come out very moist like a marzipan cookie.

This is her first "official" Cindi recipe and I'm just thrilled that she's allowing me to share it with you here. These sound absolutely fabulous and I can't wait to make up a batch of almond flour and try them.

Cindi's Almond Delights
2 cups almond flour
3/4 cups evap. cane juice crystals
3/4 stick of unsalted butter
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
1 egg

blend softened butter for a minute or two
add all the other ingredients and mix well
roll into balls and press with a fork
bake at 300 degrees for about 25-30 minutes; cookies will not brown
to decorate, top with sliced almonds or drizzled or dip in dark chocolate


delicious looking photo - Cindi H.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

strawberry-colada scones

Having leftover fresh ground flour from the ricotta pancakes I decided to make some scones. Scones are great. Not as dense as muffins, the right size for a snack and, like muffins, very pliable to modification. Rummaging around the pantry and fridge revealed some strawberry yogurt and the last little bit of shredded coconut so strawberry-colada became the flavor of the day. Unfortunately I did not have any fresh or dried strawberries which I think would have made these scones even better; the currants worked well but the scones were a little light in the strawberry flavor. In the future I'll make sure to have strawberries available the next time I want to bake these.

In the past when I have made scone recipes using fresh ground flour I find that sometimes they are more dense than I'd like. Wanting to make sure these were light more fluffy I separated the egg. If you are using a whole grain flour you may want to do the same.

Strawberry-Colada Scones

1 C. oat flour
1 C. brown rice flour
1/3 C. evaporated cane juice crystals
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
generous pinch of sea salt
1 C. strawberry yogurt
1 egg separated
1/4 C. coconut oil melted
1/2 C. currants
1/2 C. shredded coconut

preheat oven to 400
beat egg whites until peak forms, set aside
mix together egg yolk, coconut oil and yogurt until fully blended
in a separate bowl mix together flour, cane juice crystals, baking powder, baking soda, and salt
add dry mixture to yogurt mixture until just moistened
gently fold in currants and shredded coconut
gently fold in egg whites
drop by tablespoons onto a greased baking sheet
bake 15 minutes or until golden brown
let cool 2 minutes on baking sheet before transferring to rack


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

ricotta pancakes with honey glazed plums

Cooking and baking is always an adventure. Inspiration is all around you if you are open to it. There's no real explanation for why or how ideas come together but I can honestly say that frequently it's a matter of "oh gosh there's X in the fridge and I better use it up." Then I make something using that ingredient. Most of the time I make tried and true recipes, either my own or those from trusted cookbooks. Sometimes the inspiration is something I ate elsewhere that I really liked and have been given the recipe. Other times the recipes find me but I somehow can't help playing with them a little bit.

Such is the case with today's breakfast. The inspiration was a click-through twitter post that brought me to Almost Bourdain's (AB's) blog, which I just discovered and like a lot. He credits his inspiration for this recipe to Bill Granger, I credit my inspiration to him. It's kind of neat how that works, we're all connected by this idea of ricotta in pancakes but we each put a slightly different twist to it; all of them, I'm sure, very delicious.

My changes came about because I am trying to work more with gluten free recipes lately. These are for a few people I know who are faced with gluten sensitivity. It's also, as always, inspired by what I have on hand. AB's version calls for bananas and honeycomb. I didn't have enough bananas but did have plums. Didn't have any honeycomb either (and I miss my friends from CT who used to supply me with it) but I did have honey. Together with some breakfast sausage this made a great meal and is definitely on the repeat again list. I hope you like it too.

Ricotta Pancakes with Honey Glazed Plums

For pancakes:

1 1/3 C. ricotta cheese
3/4 C. buttermilk (for a little tang to offset the honey glazed plums)
4 eggs separated
1/2 C. fresh ground oat flour
1/2 C. fresh ground brown rice flour
1 t. baking powder
1 t. vanilla
pinch salt

beat egg whites until peaks form, set aside
mix ricotta, egg yolks, vanilla, and buttermilk together until well blended
mix together flours, baking powder and salt
gently add flours into ricotta mixture
gently fold egg whites into mixture until just blended
drop by 1/4 C. measure into medium hot, greased pan
after 2 minutes flip to cook other side

For honey-glazed plums:

2 plums
2 T. honey
1/2 t. cinnamon
2 t. butter

cut plums into bite sized pieces
toss with honey and cinnamon
in a medium-hot pan melt butter
add plum mixture and stir until plums begin to soften just a little (about 7 minutes)

serve pancakes with plums on top

Honestly these were fabulous. I would even consider serving them as a dessert by making the pancakes smaller and putting a dollop of creme fraiche on top with a dusting of cinnamon.

Friday, October 16, 2009

green goddess dressing

I recently posted on Facebook about a meal that included homemade Green Goddess Salad Dressing. When I was a kid we always had Green Goddess in the house, I think it was my father's favorite dressing. Creamy and a little tangy it was great.

Somehow when I got older I never had it in the house. Then I had kids and, like most kids I know, they had an instant love affair with creamy ranch. That and vinaigrette became the house standards. Oh sure, every now and then we'd get wild and throw in French Catalina or a Thousand Island, but most of the time we stuck with our good old standby dressings.

I recently had an excess of parsley; not wanting to freeze it, since frozen tiny packets of herbs tend to get lost in my freezer, I was casting around for an idea when I remembered this dressing. Paging through my favorite cook book of all times, the 1975 edition of Joy of Cooking, I found a recipe on page 364. I made a few changes based on ingredient availability and personal taste (I do not like anchovies). This is my modified version:

Green Goddess Dressing
1 C. mayonnaise
1 minced clove garlic
1/4 C. minced green onions
1/2 C. minced parsley (the original recipe calls for 1/4 C. but I like it with more parsley)
1 T. lime juice (it's supposed to be lemon but I was out)
1 T. tarragon vinegar
1/2 t. salt
ground black pepper
1/2 C. yogurt (this is supposed to be sour cream but I was also out of that)

Blend it all together and put in the fridge until ready to use. This makes almost a pint however ,in addition to a salad dressing it also makes a delicious dressing for wrap sandwiches.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

pumpkin oat breakfast bars

My friend Erin recently shared this fabulous recipe for a great on-the-go-snack bar. With pumpkins in season it's easy enough to make your own puree. If you don't have the time or inclination to make your own, the canned stuff works just fine. One word of caution, when choosing canned pumpkin I highly recommend that you read the label and make sure that you are getting only 100% pumpkin. You don't need all those other ingredients.

Pumpkin Oat Breakfast Bars (make ahead for quick breakfast or breakfast that must travel with you)

3/4 cup pumpkin purée (can be canned)
2 eggs
1/4 cup butter or ghee at room temperature
1 large or 2 small ripe bananas
1/4 cup honey
2 cups rolled oats (not the quick cook variety)
1/2 cup pecans, chopped (can use walnuts or sunflower seeds)
2 Tbsp shredded coconut, unsweetened
1/4 cup oat bran (optional)
1/2 tsp cinnamon, ground
pinch of Celtic sea salt
1 Tbsp grated orange rind from an organic orange (optional)
1/4 cup dried currants
1/4 cup dried blueberries, wild

Measure out the 2 cups of oats and pour just enough warm water over them to cover them.
Soak for about 5 minutes while you’re mixing up the wet ingredients.
In a mixing bowl, stir together the pumpkin, eggs, butter or ghee, honey and banana.
You may want to mash the banana before adding to the bowl if it’s not really soft.
Before adding the oats, drain them well; add the oats, nuts, coconut, oat bran, cinnamon, salt, orange rind, currants and blueberries, and stir until ingredients are well combined.
Spread mixture into a lightly greased (butter, ghee or coconut oil) pan so the batter is no more than an inch or two deep. An 8” x 10” baking dish works well.
Bake in a 350 degree oven for 40 minutes or until it’s beginning to brown.
If they fall apart when you cut them into bars, you might try baking for about 10 minutes longer.
For very crisp bars, remove from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack.
Cut the bars when cool.

If you want to learn more about Erin you can visit her website.

photo courtesy of Waldo

Sunday, October 4, 2009

banana bonanza

Bananas are a comfort food for almost everyone. Creamy, tasty, and sweet, they are easy to eat. Everyone knows they are good for you (and unlike most other "good for you" foods this does not seem to bother anyone). Everyone also knows that bananas are a very good source of potassium, however most people don't realize that there are a number of other healthy reasons to eat bananas.

They are high in fiber, in the form of pectin, which is excellent for helping to ease constipation (because of the high potassium content bananas are also a good choice when it comes to replenishing the electrolytes lost due to diarrhea). Bananas also provide a high percentage of our daily amount of vitamin B6, which, according to Phyllis Balch, author of Prescription for Nutritional Healing, "is involved in more bodily functions than any almost any other single nutrient." B6 is important for the immune, nervous and cardiac systems and is also important for circulatory health. Another helpful component of bananas is something called protease inhibitors; these can be helpful in stopping the bacteria that cause stomach ulcers.

Although we are used to seeing only two to three different varieties in the supermarket, there are believed to be around 500 varieties, including plantains. They come in all different colors and sizes. Bananas can be eaten when they are green, providing something called resistant starch which has a fiber like effect on your system and also helps to promote "good" bacteria. The riper the bananas are when you consume them, the more antioxidants they provide, making them a great all-around fruit.

Most people do not like to eat very ripe bananas. When the fruit starts to get spotted on the outside they are frequently considered to be "over-ripe" although this is usually not the case. Very ripe bananas are usually either thrown out or baked into some sort of treat. If they are too ripe for your palate and you are not in the mood to bake you can freeze them. I frequently freeze bananas in the peel if they are going to be used in baking, and peeled, in baggies, if I am planning on adding them to smoothies. In the peel is fabulous because when you are ready to use them you simply let them thaw on the counter, snip the end, and let it "goosh" into your mixing bowl where it will incorporate itself very nicely into the batter.

Today I happened to have 5 very ripe bananas and decided that it was a good day to bake. The following recipe is modified from one originally given to me by my friend Theresa. She got it from her grandmother, the family name for it was 1940's Banana Bread. The basic recipe is the same, I've merely changed the flour to whole wheat, the sugar to evaporated cane juice, and added pecans, chocolate chips and a little vanilla to make a wonderfully tasty banana bread. Theresa bakes hers in loaf pans but I love making this in a bundt for that little extra touch.

Banana Pecan Chocolate Bundt Bread

4-5 ripe bananas
2 eggs
2 C. whole wheat flour
1 C. evaporated cane juice crystals
2 t. baking soda
1 t. vanilla
1/2 C. chopped pecans
1/2 C. chocolate chips

preheat oven to 325 degrees F
grease a bundt pan and set aside
in a large mixing bowl mix bananas together
beat in eggs one at a time
add in flour, sugar and baking soda until well incorporated
add in vanilla, pecans and chocolate chips until well incorporated
pour batter into bundt pan
bake 1 hour or until cake pick inserted into batter comes out clean
remove cake from oven and let sit 10 minutes on cake rack
invert to release cake from bundt pan and let cool completely

photo courtesy of

Thursday, October 1, 2009

evolution of a recipe

I previously talked about this pear torte as part of a post about modifying recipes. As I mentioned in the post, the torte came out a little denser and heavier than I would have liked.

As part of explaining how I modify recipes until I come up with what I want for the final version I thought I would give you the next step in the creation of this torte. I will start by pointing out, as you will see below, that it is not always a straightforward process. Inspiration takes over, mistakes cause you to go in a different direction, taste testers make suggestions that help you refine what you are doing. It's more than just a matter of measuring out ingredients.

First a huge thank you goes to my friend Teresa who gave me another bag of these most delicious pears. They may not look like much but they are fabulous in both flavor and texture. Unfortunately I am using a picture of the pears again because I forgot to take a picture of the torte before it was devoured by the folks at home and other taste testers.

I had originally thought to change the recipe by adding some applesauce to moisten it, or soaking the flour, or adding some fat; instead I made the following changes:

Whole Wheat Ginger Pear Torte
2 eggs
1/2 C. milk (the original recipe was 1/4 C.)
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 C. crystalized ginger chopped (this was a new addition)
1 C. evaporated cane juice crystals
1 C. whole wheat flour
1/2 C. all purpose flour (this was a tip borrowed from my King Arthur Whole Grain Baking book)
1 t. vanilla

The original recipe had cinnamon, this version has none because of the addition of the ginger

Preheat oven to 350 deg F
Peel, core, and slice pears
Mix together eggs, milk, salt, vanilla, evaporated cane juice crystals, and chopped ginger
Add flour and mix well
Grease a 9" cake pan
Coat the pan with evaporated cane juice crystals
Layer the pears into the bottom of the pan (the original recipe called for the pears to be folded into the batter)
Pour torte mixture over pears
Bake 40-45 minutes or until done

The torte was delicious, The balance of flavors was just right. The outer 1/2 of the cake was perfect, the middle of the cake had a more pudding-y consistency. I think the problem with the middle was either because of the way I arranged the pears (too many in the center made it more damp, checking the torte too early caused it to fall slightly, possibly not having the right amount of baking soda leavening*, or perhaps the pan was too big and I need to consider making this in my 8" pan and adjusting the amount of batter.

Comments from the taste testers were, "I would leave out the pears", "it needs more vanilla" and the rest all agreed that they liked it just the way it was.

So now I'm hoping that Teresa will once again generously offer some more of those fabulous pears and I can try again. I'll keep you posted.

*Shirley Corriher's book BakeWise says if there is too much leavening it can create too many bubbles in the batter which then rise to the top and cause the cake to be too heavy in the middle. The formula is supposed to be 1 t. of baking powder or 1/4 t. of baking soda for every cup of flour. Because I used both I did "fuzzy-math" to come up with 1/2 t. and 1/2 t. that may have been part of the problem. I really need to stop borrowing this book from the library and just break down and buy it, it's a great resource for bakers.

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hawthorne for health

Karen asks, "What do you think about using hawthorne berries to help prevent the flu?"

I am not an herbalist so I had to do a little digging to come up with some information but here is my opinion on this:

Hawthorne (Crataegus monogyna) is a small tree or shrub that grows mostly in Europe, Asia and Africa. It is usually grown as a hedge, the leaves are edible in salad and the fruits, or berries (called haws), are frequently made into jams, jellies, syrup, or used to flavor brandy for liqueur. It's herbal properties are cardiac, astringent, and diuretic; the parts used are the blossoms and berries. It seems to primarily be useful for lowering high blood pressure, as aid to help with diarrhea and for cardiac health.

I was not able to find any specific information relating to using the berries or their powder as a flu preventative.

I think the best ways to avoid the flu are the obvious ones of washing your hands frequently with soap; it's very important to monitor small kids who may skip the soap part, check out this article for proper hand hygiene including a video on how to wash your hands the right way. it's also important to avoid contact with anyone who has the flu and to make sure that you are consuming immune boosting foods such as garlic, ginger, cayenne, and vitamin C.

As an interesting side note I learned that the oldest known Hawthorne, called the Hethel Old Thorn, is reputed to be over 700 years old and is found in Norfolk East Anglia, United Kingdom

Photo courtesy of
The Complete Medicinal Herbal