Archive for the 'Morning Tea' Category

Cherry Picking with Slow Food Beijing

We spent this past Sunday picking cherries and peas in God’s Grace Garden, a biodynamic farm in the southwest of Beijing. The event was organized by the newly founded Slow Food Beijing. The farm is 25 acres large and was established in 2001 by Therese Zhang, a very interesting Chinese woman who speaks fluent English, Spanish and French. Therese hasn’t always been a farmer. She worked for a canning company when she learned about organic agriculture. She eventually quit her job and started planting fruit trees and vegetables on her new farm to ensure a lifetime of healthful food for her family and friends. She also raises life stock and we got to feed baby chickens, ducks and even turkeys (hopefully we can reunite with one of them on our Thanksgiving table later this year). For more information on God’s Grace Garden, here is a link to a very interesting video I found on vimeo (http://vimeo.com/9902834).

Therese’s daughter-in-law cooked a fabulous lunch for us with produce and meat from the farm, including duck, lamb, eggs, leafy greens, cabbage, zucchini, peas and homemade tofu. I asked her to share some of the recipes with me and hopefully in time I can share them with you.

With full and happy tummies, we headed towards the cherry trees. We tried 3 different varieties, before settling for utterly delicious Bing cherries. I found a lonely ladder and we managed to completely clear two fully loaded trees in less than 2 hours. Naturally, a good part of what we picked went straight from our hands into our mouths, but we also took several pounds home which I could not wait to turn into delicious treats.

I spent the entire next morning searching for recipes that would be a good match to our wonderful cherries. For once I decided that making up my own recipe might be too risky and settled instead on a Cherry Brown Butter tart recipe I found on Smitten Kitchen and a Cherry-Almond Upside-Down cake I found in a Bon Appetit magazine from June 2008. The first one is a twist on a Raspberry Brown Butter tart, which initially was published by Bon Appetit as well. Both cakes tuned out fantastic, but the brown butter really raised the tart to another level. It was heavenly and very much enjoyed by everyone.

As to the upside-down cake, I changed the cornmeal asked for in the original recipe to almond meal and used Chinese black wheat flour instead of all purpose flour. I am sure white spelt or white wholewheat pastry flour would work just as well. This cake is particularly delicious with ice-cream, Greek yogurt or a dollop of creme fraiche.

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Oatmeal Quinoa Breakfast Cookies

I found a container of cooked quinoa in the back of my new, narrow but deep fridge this morning, which was begging to be eaten. I remembered a recipe for breakfast cookies I read in the latest issue of “Bon Appetit” magazine and decided to give it a try. My kids each have to bring two snack to school per day and with our stack of cereal bars dwindling fast and replacements costing the equivalent of nearly 10 USD, I will probably be doing a lot of baking in the years to come.

Not that I mind really, as it is much more fun than cutting the head and feet of yet another organic chicken which is staring at me from my counter top. I went for a different brand, this one twice as expensive as the last one and I was hoping it would be a bit more plump in the chest and thigh, but no. I did find some organic pork; liver, tiny pieces of very fatty bacon and knuckles. Now I just need to find the “Sauerkraut” and dig up my German cookbooks…

Here is the recipe for the delicious, and very wholesome breakfast cookies, which have been my second and third breakfast today and probably will be my lunch as well. Oh no, weren’t they supposed to be for the kids’ lunch boxes?

I slightly changed the original recipe, substituting spelt flour for wheat, maple syrup for honey and walnuts for almonds. I am sure you can use whatever you have available. These cookies seem to be very forgiving.

Off to my first Mandarin lesson today. Got to find myself some coffee on the way.

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Mysterious Brownies

Looking at the title, you might wonder if you should even consider reading this post. How can brownies be mysterious, if all it takes is flour, butter, sugar, eggs and chocolate to make them. It really doesn’t get much more straight forward.  To my excuse, I am in a state of frantic pre-holiday chaos and with my brain crammed with to-do-lists, I had to come up with something quick, and this was it. The title actually does fit the brownies quite well, since they got a few untypical ingredients that are best not mentioned when it comes to picky eaters. I assure you however, that no one will ever be able to tell what exactly they are and these brownies will be devoured in no time. There’s no way you can detect the pumpkin (even if you want to) and my family thinks they are just delicious. Guilt free snacking at it’s best!

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Pumpkin, Maple and Walnut Bread

Pumpkin has entered center stage in my kitchen over the past few weeks. I love it in in all shapes and forms, in soups, salads, sides, mains and especially deserts. I have been trying out lots of recipes recently and this pumpkin bread is one of my newest inventions. I had some roasted pumpkin left over from a major Sunday dinner experiment – a whole stuffed and roasted pumpkin. I filled a rather big white (also called “Ghost” or “Casper”) pumpkin with rice, Moroccan spices, chickpeas and apricots and roasted it for 2 hours. As this was an experiment, I had no clue how much time everything would take to cook, which led to an overcooked pumpkin and undercooked stuffing. Aside from that, the pumpkin also ruptured and all the lovely juices escaped. Not good! I salvaged the whole thing by cooking the stuffing with some of the pumpkin and more chicken stock and turned it into a Moroccan pumpkin risotto. Unusual, not overly attractive, but delicious nonetheless. My kids warned me however to not post this one on my blog, which I reckon was good advice.

The left-over pumpkin was delicious, beautiful dark orange in color and very sweet. Perfect for pumpkin bread. I added some lovely spices to it and sweetened it with maple syrup. It turned out delicious and I can’t wait to make it again. It’s great for breakfast with maple sweetened yogurt or afternoon tea with a dollop of whipped cream.

Note: I made this recipe again with roasted butternut squash. The squash was much moister than the pumpkin I used initially and the bread turned out very “soggy”. My advice would be to either drain the roasted pumpkin/squash over a towel-lined colander for an hour or to use less of it. Another option is to use raw grated pumpkin (a food processor does the trick) the same way you use carrots in a carrot cake. I used this method successfully with 3 cups of raw grated pumpkin. Good luck!

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Spelt and Hazelnut Sugar Cookies

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups whole spelt flour (or half white/half whole spelt)
  • 1/2 cup ground hazelnuts
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 10 tablespoons butter (140g), room temperature
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 pinch sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • colourful sprinkles

Method

Sift together flour, ground hazelnuts, baking powder and sea salt.

Using hand or standing mixer, whisk together butter and sugar for 3 minutes. Add egg, whisk for another minute, then add vanilla extract.

Fold dry ingredients into butter mixture until well incorporated. 

Turn dough onto cling wrap, flatten into a disk, cover with more cling wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour or over night.

Preheat oven to 350F (180C).

Roll out dough between 2 large sheets of cling wrap until it is about 1/4″ (0.5 cm) thick. Using cookie cutters, cut out hearts in various sizes. Place cookies on parchment lined baking tray and brush lightly with milk. Top with sprinkles and refrigerate for 10 minutes. If dough gets too soft when cutting the shapes, wrap it up again and refrigerate some more. I always use only half of the dough while the other half rests in the fridge.

Bake for 12 minutes, rotating baking trays back to front and top to bottom half way through.

Remove from oven and let cool on wire rack.

Share with loved ones!

Lunch Box Cereal Bars

And here is yet another lunch box recipe. These cereal or granola bars are full of fiber, vitamin A, and complex carbohydrates, helping your children to stay focused and energized, without the sugar highs and subsequent lows of so many commercial snack foods out there. Despite them being loaded with dried apricots, even Freddie, my fruit phobic middle child, loves them, which says a lot. They are super easy and quick to make, and keep for at least a week when stored in an air tight container. Once they’re out of the oven, let them cool completely in the pan before cutting, otherwise they’ll turn into crumbly granola instead.

Brown rice syrup, which is available in health food stores and well-stocked supermarkets, has a mellow sweetness and does a fantastic job keeping all ingredients sticking together. It’s much stickier than maple syrup on it’s own, so best not to skimp on it.

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Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

This one is for all my friends in the Northern Hemisphere, who are currently inundated with zucchinis and need help finding new ways to reduce their supply. Zucchinis have long been a staple in baked goods such as delicious zucchini bread, but the combination with chocolate is fairly new – at least to me. I made them 6 months ago for the first time and no one in my family could tell they had zucchini in it, which is a good thing. They are much more open to bananas and cranberries. I have made them ever since and get a total kick out of the surprise on people’s faces when they find out that they are loaded with vegetables, whole grains, olive oil and agave syrup. I admit, the combination sounds a bit scary and way too healthy for a treat like a muffin. But that’s what I am here for, to find new ways to combine the tasty with the healthy and make it delicious. I used agave syrup as a sweetener, which has a neutral taste and won’t give you the sugar high you will get from regular sugar. I packed in 2 medium zucchinis, grating them extra fine in the food processor and squeezing out the liquid with my hands. The flour is once again spelt and buckwheat, but any other will do without the need for adjustment. I used extra virgin olive oil, which might come as a bit of a surprise to you, but it’s my favorite oil and I try and use it whenever I include vegetables in my baking. You won’t notice the taste difference, I promise! Right at the end, I couldn’t resist and added 3.5 oz. of 70% chocolate, chopped into small pieces. Heaven!

Makes 12

Ingredients

2 small to medium zucchinis, finely grated and some excess liquid squeezed out

1 bar (100g or 3.5 oz.) of good quality 70% chocolate, cut into small pieces or a generous 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

Dry Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole spelt flour
  • 1 cup white spelt flour
  • 1/2 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1/2 cup good quality cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

Wet Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon agave nectar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk

Method

Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C).

In medium bowl, sift together dry ingredients.

In large mixing bowl, mix together wet ingredients.

Add half of dry ingredients to wet mix and gently combine. Mix in grated zucchini and stir until incorporated. Add chocolate. Gently fold in remaining half of dry ingredients. Don’t overmix!

Divide batter into 12 muffin cups and bake for 25 minutes.

Multigrain Waffles with Sesame

We Germans, we love our waffles. Not for breakfast, no, for lunch, dinner or anytime in between. Traditionally we eat waffles with apple sauce, but we also devour them with whipped cream and sour cherries or raspberries. Growing up, we probably had one sweet lunch or dinner per week. It was either rice pudding, pancakes, bread pudding or waffles. So it won’t come as a surprise to you, when I tell you that I kept with that tradition, and occasionally make sweet dinners for my family. I had a small box full of wrinkly, soft apples in my pantry that my children refused to take to school for snack time and I decided it was time to make apple sauce again. My oldest son has become a very fast apple peeler over the years and once again was recruited for the job. We ended up with a pasta pot full of peeled and chopped apples, which we slowly steamed with the addition of a little lemon juice. Once soft, we let them cool a bit, before turning them into a fine puree using our trusted immersion blender. I filled most of the apple sauce into containers, which I store in the freezer, but I left one bowl in the fridge for last nights waffle dinner.

Waffles

These waffles are a relatively new recipe I came up with after reading “Good to the Grain“, a whole-grain baking book by Kim Boyce. She inspired me to dig deep in my pantry and experiment with a variety of flours in my baking. And oh Mama, am I glad I did! These waffles are so delicious, crisp on the outside, with the right amount of sweetness and none of the flours overpowering each other. To my favorite spelt flour, I added millet, amaranth and buckwheat flour for protein, barley for it’s blood-sugar stabilizing quality and b-vitamins and a little ground flaxseed for it’s omega-3 oils. Don’t worry if you don’t have all the different flours. Go ahead and experiment, you might come up with a recipe that will eventually be named after you and handed down generations…

After mixing the wet with the dry ingredients, I switched the waffle iron to the highest heat setting and brushed it with melted butter, to ensure crispy waffles. I then sprinkled the waffle iron with sesame seeds, which add a wonderful crunch. One set of waffles takes about 10 minutes, therefore it’s best to start early. Turn on your oven to a low setting and put the finished waffles next to each other on an oven rack, to keep them hot and crispy.

Makes 5 sets of waffles (2 each, see picture)

Ingredients

2 ounces (50g) butter, melted and cooled, to brush waffle iron

1/2 cup sesame seeds, to sprinkle over melted butter

Dry Mix:

  • 1 cup whole grain spelt flour
  • 1/2 cup white spelt flour
  • 1/2 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1/4 cup amaranth flour
  • 1/4 cup barley flour
  • 1/4 cup millet flour
  • 1/4 cup freshly ground flaxseed
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Wet Mix:

  • 2 cups buttermilk (I didn’t have buttermilk, instead, I used 2 cups of fresh almond milk, mixed with 2 tablespoon lemon juice.You can substitute any milk for the almond milk. Let stand and do it’s thing for 5 minutes, before adding it to remaining ingredients)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons canola (rapeseed) oil

Method

Turn waffle iron on highest setting.

Mix dry ingredients and sift into large bowl.

In a separate bowl, whisk together wet ingredients until well combined.

Gently combine wet and dry ingredients and let rest for a couple of minutes. The batter will start to bubble and thicken slightly.

Brush waffle iron and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Ladle batter onto waffle iron and sprinkle with more sesame seeds, so that both sides are covered in them. Close, and let bake for at least 5 minutes before taking your first peak. Every waffle iron is different, so just go with your experience on this one.

When waffles are done, either eat them straight away or put them on an oven rack to keep warm. Don’t put them on top of each other, as this will make them loose their crispiness.

Repeat process with remaining batter.

Serve with apple sauce.

These waffles make for a delicious breakfast the next day. Re-heat them in the toaster or just wrap them in foil and stick them in your kids lunch box.

A little trivia at the end. Did you know that you’re ready to get married once you manage to peel a whole apple in one go, without breaking the strip of apple peel? I think I was about 10 or 11 years old and mighty scared when I was told that it was time to get married. I probably didn’t touch another apple peeler for another decade, just to make sure that nobody would get the wrong idea.

Spelt and Buckwheat Banana Muffins

I know what you’re going to think. “Who needs another banana muffin recipe?” There are “only” about 304,000 results when you do a search on google. And I have tried many of them on my decade long quest to come up with the most delicious, healthy, light on the inside, crisp on the outside, sweet but not too sweet, banana muffin. It has to be whole grain and believe me, I have tried many variations. Whole wheat, spelt, buckwheat, barley, quinoa, maple syrup, brown sugar, agave syrup, canola oil, coconut oil, olive oil, butter, apple sauce, eggs, no eggs, you name it. You see, my middle son, Frederick, loves banana muffins and has the sweetest smile on his face when he finds a batch in the kitchen. He would never eat a banana in any other state, after all the only fruit he likes is apple. But then again, he doesn’t appreciate those in muffins. He loves all of my experiments around the banana muffin, so when I found some sad looking bananas yesterday, I gave it another go. They turned out super delicious and therefore I wanted to share this recipe with you.  But be careful, after the great muffin onslaught in the afternoon, no one was hungry for dinner yesterday and for once we have lots of left-overs…

This recipe is equally suitable for banana bread. Just lightly grease a loaf pan, pour in all of the batter and bake at 180C (350 F) for 50 minutes to an hour or until toothpick comes out clean. 

Just a note, I usually use only maple syrup as a sweetener for my muffins and prefer organic, cold pressed canola oil to butter, but since I don’t have much of either at hand at the moment, I decided to use brown sugar and a mixture of butter and canola oil instead. If I would be in the States right now, I would use 1/2 cup of maple syrup instead of the sugar and 1/3 of a cup of canola oil plus 1/3 of a cup of apple sauce. Because of the extra liquid, I’d reduce the buttermilk to 1/4 of a cup. So depending on the inside of you cupboard, you can use whatever you prefer or have most of.

Makes 12 (+1)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups whole spelt flour
  • 1/2 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 5 tablespoons (70g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method

Preheat oven to 180 C (350F). Line a 12-cup muffin tray with paper liners. I always have a bit too much batter and usually need a ramekin for an extra muffin.

Sift together flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

In a separate bowl, mix melted butter, oil, eggs, sugar, buttermilk and vanilla. Add mashed banana.

Pour wet ingredients into flour bowl and stir in gently, careful not to overmix as that will make the muffins too dense. Fold in walnuts and divide batter into muffin cups.

Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from muffin tin and let cool on wire rack.

Oh-So-Good Oatmeal Cookies

 

Makes 2 dozen

Ingredients

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, softened
3 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 cup evaporated cane juice sugar, maple or agave syrup
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/4 cup wheat germ, preferably toasted
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup seedless raisins, chocolate or carob chips
1/2 cup toasted pecans, finely chopped

Method

Preheat oven to 375°F (190 C). Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together butter and oil until completely blended. Whisk in maple syrup, egg, vanilla and salt; set aside. In a second large bowl, combine oats, wheat germ, flour and baking powder, then add to butter mixture and stir well to combine thoroughly. Fold in raisins and pecans.

Drop dough by the spoonful onto prepared baking sheets, spacing them about 2 inches apart, and bake until cooked through and golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Carefully transfer to wire racks and set aside to let cool completely.