Tag Archives: Dried fruit

My Spin on Pumpkin Muffins

24 Nov

For a few years now, I’ve been using Ellie Krieger’s pumpkin muffin recipe, but usually adding or subtracting a thing or two.  Here is Ellie’s recipe on the Food Network website:

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ellie-krieger/pumpkin-muffins-recipe/index.html

I changed up some of the ingredients and amounts.  In my version, I doubled the amount of pumpkin–mostly because I wasn’t sure I would use the rest of the pumpkin from the can!  Instead of one cup, or half a can, I used the whole thing.  It turns out that more pumpkin=moister muffins.  I also used alternative flours–half oat flour and half whole wheat white flour.  I didn’t use pumpkin seeds, and added chocolate chips and dried cranberries.  Sometimes I also like to add walnuts, but I didn’t this time.  These muffins are entirely whole grain and have a lot of pumpkin, and very little oil.  These are very good with coffee, either for breakfast or an afternoon snack.  Yum!  Here is my version of Ellie Krieger’s Pumpkin Muffins:

Ingredients

1 cup oat flour

1 cup whole wheat white flour (using unbleached white flour or whole wheat pastry flour would also be fine)

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/8-1/4 tsp nutmeg

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

3 tablespoons black strap molasses (you can use any molasses–black strap is stronger in flavor than others)

1/4 cup canola oil

2 eggs

1-16 oz. can pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie mix–plain pumpkin with nothing added)

1 tsp vanilla extract

3/4 cup soy milk

3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

3/4 cup dried cranberries

Instructions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Grease a muffin pan or line with muffin papers:

Next, mix the dry ingredients.

Set aside.  Next, in a large mixing bowl, mix together the brown sugar, molasses, canola oil, and the eggs.  You can use a wire whisk or an electric mixer, which is what I did.

Once these ingredients are mixed, add the pumpkin and the milk.  Whisk or mix using the mixer.

Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture along with the cranberries and chocolate chips.  Stir just until mixed–too much stirring and you end up with tough muffins.

Next, fill the muffin papers.

Bake for about 20 minutes.  Check the muffins by poking one with a knife or fork–if it comes out clean, the muffins are done.

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Cappuccino: No espresso machine necessary!

14 Nov

This morning I had a lovely breakfast before heading out to the Sunset Valley Farmer’s Market.  My customary coffee turned into a cappuccino, and I had a lovely fruit/yogurt parfait using some of the granola I made a few weeks back.

It turns out that all you need to make a cappuccino complete with frothy goodness is a blender!  I got this great idea from my newest cookbook, The Urban Vegan by Dynise Balcavage.  I typically make my coffee in an Italian espresso pot, or caffettiera.  However, make your coffee with whatever contraption you wish.

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While my coffee was brewing, I put about 3/4 cup of soy milk (you can use milk of any type for this purpose) in a glass liquid measuring cup and microwaved it for about 1.5 minutes.

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Get out your blender.  Put the hot milk in the blender, and whirl for about 20 seconds or so.  The blender gets enough air into the milk to produce froth.

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Check out my lovely holiday mug.  It’s a little crazy looking, but comes in handy for a cappuccino.

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Mix the coffee and milk in the mug, and sprinkle with cinnamon.

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To top off my cappuccino triumph, I made a breakfast parfait with a sliced organic Gala apple, organic whole milk yogurt from Straus Family Creamery, the very last of the granola I featured on the blog about a month ago, some dried cherries, a few chopped walnuts, and some honey.  Yum!  Great way to start a Saturday.

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I think this set me up for a great farmer’s market experience.  I ended up with giant sweet potatoes, a large bunch of beautiful arugula, persimmons, a green bell pepper, and a bag of tangerines.  Yum!!  I’ll take some pictures of my loot and post them later.

Homemade Granola

25 Oct

First, I want to apologize to those of you disappointed in my recent hiatus from The People’s Gourmet.  I had some stubborn computer problems which are finally fixed, and of course I got out of the habit of posting on the blog.  So, little by little, I’m getting back to it.  Today I’m featuring one of my favorite make-it-yourself things:  granola.

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It’s hard to find ready-made granola in the supermarket that’s reasonably priced and doesn’t have a lot of crap in it.  Check out the ingredients list sometime, you’ll see what I mean.  If you DO find granola without a lot of sugar and processed ingredients, it’s pretty pricey.  The best part is that making good, wholesome granola for yourself is very uncomplicated–just make sure you can set aside about an hour and ten minutes for mixing the ingredients and toasting in the oven on low heat.

Making your own granola takes a bit of time, but most of it is the time it takes (about 50 minutes or so) for baking, so you can do other things for the vast majority of the preparation time.  You can make a lot at once and have it ready to go whenever you need it.  I enjoy eating it with soy milk, or adding plain yogurt and fresh fruit for a nice, filling breakfast.  Granola makes for a truly instant breakfast, and it’s good for you too.  I haven’t bought boxed breakfast cereal in years, and this granola is one reason I haven’t missed it.  Who wants to eat corn flakes when you can eat this granola??

This recipe for granola is really a very loose template.  One of the best things about it  is that the actual ingredients you use are entirely flexible based on what you happen to have lying around your pantry and what your preferences are.  The basic formula is composed of three things:  1) oats and other grain-based ingredients, like wheat germ, oat bran, millet, amaranth, etc., 2) dried fruit, and 3) a syrup for coating the granola to sweeten it a bit.  To this basic formula you can add any of the following:  nuts (I use almonds or walnuts most frequently), seeds (sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds are good options), and coconut.  Amount here are flexible as well.  I happen to like my granola heavy on the dried fruit, but it doesn’t need to be.

Ingredients

4-5 cups of old fashioned or quick-cooking oats

1/2 cup amaranth (amaranth is a tiny grain with a grassy sort of flavor–read more about it here)

1 cup walnuts (or almonds, peanuts, pistachios, etc.)

1/2 cup sunflower seeds

1/2 cup pumpkin seeds

1/2 cup dried, shredded coconut

2 cups dried fruit (the options are here are extensive:  dried cranberries, chopped apricots, raisins, golden raisins, dried papaya or pineapple, chopped dates, and on and on)

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

For the syrup:

1/2 cup brown rice syrup (if you can’t find it or don’t want to use brown rice syrup, use an extra 1/2 cup of brown sugar plus 1/2 cup water, or 1/2 cup of honey or maple syrup)

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup water

2 tablespoons of butter

Instructions:

First, prepare the syrup.  Heat a small saucepan over medium heat with the brown rice syrup, brown sugar, water, and butter.  Combine with a whisk, and heat until the brown sugar and butter dissolve into the liquid.  Set aside.

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Next, combine all ingredients except the dried fruit.  You don’t want to include the dried fruit because it will get hard and possibly burn in the oven.  Next, stir in the syrup, trying to evenly coat the oatmeal/nut/coconut mixture.

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Place the mixture on a cookie sheet, spreading evenly.

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Bake for 30 minutes.  Then, take out of the oven and stir the mixture around so that all parts of it have a chance to toast evenly.  Bake again for 20-30 minutes.  The mixture will look about like this when done:

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Allow it to cool for about 20 minutes or so.  Then, stir in the dried fruit.  Store in the refrigerator.

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The Easiest, Cheapest, Most Satisfying Breakfast Ever

17 Aug

What could it be, you ask?  I realize I’m making quite a claim here.  My answer?  Oatmeal.  Oatmeal is actually pretty fast when you cook it yourself instead of making it from the instant packets.  Quick-cooking oats cook within 1 minute, regular “old fashioned” oats in 5, and, my favorite kind, steel-cut oats cook in about 15 minutes, or even more depending on how creamy you want them.  However, many of us are not willing to cook anything in the morning.  I know this because I hear it all the time from people I know.  Below, see what steel cut oats look like if you’ve never seen them before.   Steel cut oats are just the entire oat “groat” cut into smaller pieces, whereas more “mainstream” oats are whole oats that are steamed and then pressed, making them faster cooking and giving them a different texture.

steel cut oats

steel cut oats

Many people I know who don’t want to commit to cooking something for breakfast eat instant oatmeal.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with eating instant oatmeal, but many brands have a lot of added sugar and other questionable ingredients.  Others, like Kashi, are better in terms of having less sugar, but cost more.  I checked, and a box of 6 packets of Kashi instant oatmeal are $3.50-$5, depending on where you buy it.  If you cook your own oatmeal, it’s unbelievably cheap by comparison.  For $4, I can get 4 pounds of steel cut oats from a local grocery store’s bulk food section.  There are some brands of steel cut oats that are pricier, like McCann’s, but typically you can find them cheaply priced in the bulk section of many grocery stores.  Also for $4, you can get two big canisters, or about 4 pounds total, of 1-minute quick or 5-minute old fashioned oats.

2 lb container of 5-minute oats, also known as "old fashioned oats"

2 lb container of 5-minute oats (30 servings), also known as "old fashioned oats"

The solution that will help you save both time and money and reduce your sugar intake is the following:  Make several servings on Sunday evening, store in the refrigerator, and reheat as needed throughout the week with a bit of extra water and your favorite toppings.  I got this idea from Heidi Swanson, in her book Super Natural Cooking.  You still have, in effect, an “instant” breakfast, but it won’t have as much sugar and it’s much cheaper.  Plus, you can use some tasty and creative toppings.  Here, I give you some ideas.  But first, how to make the oatmeal.  My example is with steel cut oats, because I prefer them.  I enjoy the 5- minute “old fashioned” oats as well and buy them also, but I don’t really like the 1-minute “quick oats” because they come out a bit mushy, in my opinion.  But, to each his own.

I made 4 servings of oatmeal, with 1 and 1/3 cups of oats, 4 cups of water, and 1/2 tsp of salt.  Steel cut oats require a 1/3 cup oats to 1 cup water ratio, whereas 1-minute and 5-minute oats require a 1/2 cup of oats to 1 cup of water.  Multiply these amounts based on how many servings you need to make.  You need some salt to bring out the “oaty” flavor.  When I forget to add salt, my oats are bland.  No one wants bland oats.  Anyway, each serving needs just a pinch of salt.  For my 4 servings, I used a 1/2 tsp, so use that as a guideline if you need to multiply.

Step one is to measure out oats and water.  Step two, bring water to a boil with the salt.

water and salt

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When water boils, add the oats.  Stir, then turn down heat to medium low.  Leave uncovered to cook for the time required depending on the type of oats you are cooking.  Steel cut oats need at least 15 minutes.  I cooked mine for 20 or so.  Obviously, quick and 5-minute oats will cook much faster!

Simmering oats

Simmering oats

The oats will thicken as they cook away….

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Once your oats are done cooking, allow them to cool a bit and transfer to a container for storing in the refrigerator.  Refrigerate.  When ready to eat, add a bit of extra water, perhaps 1 tablespoon per serving, and microwave for 1-2 minutes.  Then, add your favorite toppings.  More on that in a second…but first, pictures on what I did with my oatmeal this morning:

Blueberries, brown sugar, and peanut butter

Blueberries, brown sugar, and peanut butter

Yum!

Yum!

To this, I added some soy milk.  You can use soy milk, cow milk, cream, goat milk, almond milk, or no milk.  Whatever you want.

So, with a bit of forethought and some oat cooking on Sunday evening, I have enough “instant” oatmeal to last several days.

One of the advantages of cooking up plain oatmeal is that you can play with different toppings and come up with some very tasty results.  You pick your sweetener here, whether it be brown sugar, white sugar, honey, maple syrup, molasses, whatever.  Unless you pour on the sugar, you’re certainly getting less sugar than you would with your average flavored instant oatmeal.  Here is a list of some of my favorite combinations:

  • 1 or 2 teaspoons peanut butter with a few chocolate chips.  It’s fabulous.  Like a cookie!  My sister taught me this trick.
  • berries, like blackberries or blueberries, with peanut butter and brown sugar
  • frozen or fresh mango with some coconut and some brown sugar or honey
  • walnuts, cinnamon, brown sugar
  • fresh or frozen strawberries, mashed, and some brown sugar
  • mashed banana with peanut butter
  • chopped dates, brown sugar, and walnuts
  • raisins or dried cranberries with walnuts or almonds
  • whatever kind of jam you have
  • applesauce

There are endless other combinations, but those are some favorites that come to mind.  Enjoy your “instant” oatmeal!