Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Pancakes

 

freezing3With a little pre-planning, you can stock your freezer with family friendly weeknight dinners, easy sauces and sides, quick dessert toppings and breakfast options. You can also preserve the late summer and fall fruits and vegetables by freezing.

Freezing slows down bacterial growth, but doesn’t kill it, so start with good quality produce. There’s nothing more disappointing than spending your time and money to freeze food and have to throw it away when it doesn’t taste good.

Foods That Freeze Well

  • Meat, poultry and fish all can be frozen with success. Raw meat is preferable for long storage because it doesn’t dry out or get freezer burn as fast as cooked meat.
  • Breads and baked goods can freeze and do well in the freezer. This includes cakes, pies, muffins, bagels, quick and yeast breads both as dough/batter or baked, cookies raw or baked and pizza dough raw or baked.
  • Butter and margarine freeze well.
  • Beans can save you money, if you buy dry beans then soak and cook them yourself instead of buying the canned variety.
  • Rice can also freeze and cooking it ahead can save time.

Foods That Can Freeze But Will Change In Texture

  • Fruits and vegetables all soften and those with high water content do not freeze well. Fruit that still has ice crystals can be eaten as is after thawing but most fruits and veggies should be used for cooking after being frozen.
  • Potatoes freeze well and make quick side dishes, however they must be cooked before freezing to insure they don’t turn black.
  • Pastas will become much softer after they are frozen and should only be cooked about three-quarters of the recommended time. Also pastas frozen in liquid or sauce will absorb much of the sauce.
  • Milk and dairy products can be frozen but may separate after being frozen. Cheese will become crumbly and hard to slice but is fine for cooking or melting.
  • Herbs lose their texture but retain their flavor. Frozen herbs can be used for cooked dishes but not for garnishes.
  • Raw eggs removed from their shells can be frozen but should be mixed with a bit of salt or sugar to keep them from turning rubbery.
  • Cooked eggs that are scrambled freeze well. Boiled eggs don’t do as well because the whites get rubbery.
  • Fried foods lose their crispness but do ok when reheated in the oven.
  • Salty, fatty items, such as bacon, sausage, ham, hot dogs, some lunch meats and some fish do not last long in the freezer. The USDA only recommends freezing these items for 1-2 months. The salt causes fat to go rancid in the freezer. If it looks or smells ‘off’ toss it.

Foods That Don’t Freeze Well

  • Cornstarch looses it’s thickening power. Use a roux made of butter and flour (or rice flour if you’re gluten-free) instead to thicken your casseroles.
  • Gelatin weeps or loses water.
  • Vegetables such as lettuces, celery, radishes and cucumbers become  watery.
  • Melons get very soft and lose much of their juice. They can still be used for smoothies but generally are not good frozen.
  • Meringue toppings become tough and rubbery.
  • Custards and cream puddings can separate.
  • Mayonnaise tends to separate.
  • Crumb toppings for things like casseroles or desserts can become soggy.
  • Egg white based icing or frosting can become frothy or weep.
Freezer Burn - Meat

Freezer Burn – Meat

Freezer Burn - Fruit

Freezer Burn – Fruit

Tips for Frozen Foods

  • Before freezing hot food, it’s important to let it cool down. Heat will raise the temperature of the freezer and the food will not freeze uniformly; the outer edges of the hot dish will freeze hard quickly, while the inside might not cool in time to prevent spoilage.
  • Poorly wrapped foods run the risk of developing freezer burn and unpleasant odors from other foods in the freezer. Use only specialty freezer wrappings: they should be both moisture-proof and vapor-proof.
  • Leave as little air as possible in the packages and containers. When freezing liquids in containers, allow a small amount of headroom for expansion. When using freezer bags, be sure to remove as much air as possible before sealing.
  • Use rigid containers with an air-tight lids and keep the sealing edge free from moisture or food to ensure proper closure.
  • Write the name of the dish and the date on the package with a marker.
  • In many cases, meats and fish wrapped by the grocer or butcher need no extra attention before freezing. However, meat wrapped on Styrofoam trays with plastic wrap will not hold up well to freezing. If the food you want to freeze was not specially wrapped, then re-wrap them at home.
  • Freeze in small containers with no more than a 1-quart capacity to ensure that freezing takes place in a timely manner (i.e., within four hours). Food that is two inches thick will take about two hours to freeze completely.
  • A temperature of 0 degrees F (-18 degrees C) is best for maintaining food quality.
  • With the exception of muffins, breads and other baked goods, do not thaw foods at room temperature. Bacteria can grow in the thawed portion of prepared foods, releasing toxins that are unsafe to eat even after cooking. To ensure that your food is safe to eat, thaw overnight in the refrigerator.

This information below lists recommended storage times for popular pre-cooked foods–casseroles, soups, lasagna–to ensure high-quality results:

Type of Food

  • Tomato/vegetable sauces 6 months
  • Meatloaf (any type of meat) 6 months
  • Soups and stews 2-3 months
  • Poultry and Meat Casseroles 6 months
  • Poultry (cooked, no gravy) 3 months
  • Poultry (with gravy/sauce) 5-6 months
  • Meatballs in sauce 6 months
  • Pizza dough (raw, homemade) 3-4 weeks
  • Muffins/quick breads (baked) 2-3 months

Recipes below give you some ideas of all the different ways frozen meals can be put together to save you time in the future.

freezing

Freezer Corn Saute

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh chives
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 14 ears of corn, husks and silks removed
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped red or green bell pepper (1 medium)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped sweet onion (1 medium)
  • Four 1-quart freezer ziplock bags

Directions

In a small bowl combine butter, chives, parsley, salt and black pepper. Shape mixture into a 5-inch log. Wrap in waxed paper or plastic wrap. Freeze about 1 hour or until firm.

In a covered 8-quart pot cook corn in enough boiling water to cover for 3 minutes; drain. Plunge corn into two extra-large bowls of ice water. Let stand until chilled. Cut kernels from cobs. (There should be about 7 cups.)

Line two 15x10x1-inch baking pans with parchment paper or foil. Spread corn kernels, bell pepper and onion in an even layer in the prepared pans. Freeze, loosely covered, about 2 hours or until nearly firm.

Divide vegetables evenly among four 1-quart freezer bags. Cut butter log into eight slices. Add 2 slices of butter to each bag. Squeeze air from bags; seal and label. Freeze for up to 6 months.

To reheat each portion

Transfer frozen vegetable mixture to a medium saucepan or skillet. Cook, covered, over medium heat for 10 to 12 minutes or until butter is melted and vegetables are heated through, stirring occasionally.

freezing7

Eat Twice Lasagna

Ingredients

  • 1 package (16 ounces) lasagna noodles
  • 3 pounds ground turkey or beef
  • 3 jars (26 ounces each) spaghetti sauce or 10 cups homemade sauce
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1-1/2 pounds ricotta cheese
  • 6 cups (24 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Cook noodles to the al dente stage. Don’t overcook. The pasta will have additional cooking time in the oven. Drain and place noodles on clean kitchen cloths.

In a Dutch oven, cook turkey or beef over medium heat until no longer pink; drain. Pour into a large mixing bowl and stir in the spaghetti sauce.

In another large bowl, combine the eggs, ricotta cheese, 4-1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, parsley, salt and pepper.

Spread 1 cup meat sauce in each of two greased 13-in.x 9-in. baking dishes.

Layer each with three noodles, 1 cup ricotta mixture and 1-1/2 cups meat sauce. Repeat layers twice.

Top with Parmesan cheese and remaining mozzarella cheese.

Cover and freeze one lasagna for up to 3 months. Cover and bake remaining lasagna at 375°F for 45 minutes.

Uncover; bake 10 minutes longer or until bubbly. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting.

To use frozen lasagna

Thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Cover with foil and bake at 375°F for 60-70 minutes or until heated through. Uncover; bake 10 minutes longer or until bubbly. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting.

Yield: 2 lasagnas (12 servings each).

freezing4

Blueberry Oatmeal Pancakes

You can freeze these in single-serving portions (in ziploc bags) and reheat in the microwave for a quick breakfast.

Ingredients

  • 3 1/3 cups self rising flour
  • 1 1/3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 4 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 cups milk
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups blueberries
  • Maple syrup or maple flavored yogurt, for serving

Directions

In a large bowl, combine flour, oats, sugar and baking soda.

In another bowl, whisk together yogurt, milk, butter, vanilla and eggs. Pour mixture over dry ingredients and stir using a rubber spatula just until moist. Add blueberries and gently toss to combine.

Lightly coat a griddle or nonstick skillet with nonstick spray or brush with oil. Scoop 1/3 cup batter for each pancake and cook until bubbles appear on the top and the underside is nicely browned, about 2 minutes. Turn and cook pancakes on the other side, about 1-2 minutes longer.

freezing5

Frozen Spinach and Feta Stuffed Chicken Breasts

What is great about this recipe is that the chicken can be cooked without defrosting first.

Makes 12

Ingredients

  • 12 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (not cutlets)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 6 oz reduced-fat cream cheese
  • 1 cup feta cheese
  • 4 cups baby spinach leaves, chopped fine
  • 12 quart sized freezer ziplock bags
  • 2 gallon sized ziplock bags

Directions

In a mixing bowl combine the chopped spinach, the cream cheese and feta.

Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Make a slit in the side of the chicken breast to create a pocket.

Fill each chicken breast with the cheese mixture.

Place each stuffed breast separately in a quart sized freezer ziplock bag. Squeeze out all the air in the bag before sealing.

Place 6 bags in a gallon freezer ziplock bag and the other six in another.Squeeze out the air and freeze.

To cook

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove as many chicken breasts as you need for dinner and place them in a baking dish coated with non-stick cooking spray. Bake, covered with foil, for one hour or until tender and no longer pink in the center.

freezing6

Kid Friendly Lemony Chicken Noodle Soup

8 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 carrots and/or parsnips, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 2 pounds bone-in chicken breasts, skin removed
  • 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup small pasta
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Directions

Heat the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the carrots and/or parsnips, celery, onion, thyme, 1½ teaspoons salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are tender and just beginning to brown, 10 to 12 minutes.

Add the chicken, chicken broth and 4 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until the chicken is cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the chicken and place on a cutting board. When it is cool enough to handle, shred the meat with 2 forks; discard the bones.

Meanwhile, add the pasta to the soup and simmer until al dente, 6 to 10 minutes. Add the chicken, lemon juice, and parsley and stir to combine.

This soup can be frozen in freezer-safe containers for up to 3 months. Freezing individual servings can be helpful for a quick lunch.

To reheat

Run the containers under warm water until the soup loosens from the container. Transfer to a pot and heat over medium, covered, stirring occasionally, until heated through.


hh-corned-beef

Did you know that corned beef and cabbage is a traditional American dinner on St. Patrick’s Day and not an Irish one? Beef was not readily available in Ireland and was considered a luxury. Irish folks actually celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with bacon, pork or lamb and a plate full of vegetables. The term “Corned” comes from putting meat in a large crock and covering it with large kernels of salt that were referred to as “corns of salt”. This preserved the meat.

So how did pork and potatoes become corned beef and cabbage? The tradition started in the 1900s, when the Irish emigrated with other ethnic groups to the United States. Irish immigrants in America lived alongside other European ethnic groups. Members of the Irish working class in New York City frequented delis and lunch carts and it was there that they first tasted corned beef. Cured and cooked much like Irish bacon, it was seen as a tasty and cheaper alternative to pork. And while potatoes were certainly available in the United States, cabbage offered a more cost-effective alternative to cash-strapped Irish families. Cooked in the same pot, the spiced, salty beef flavored the plain cabbage, creating a simple, hearty dish that couldn’t be easier to prepare. The popularity of corned beef compared to bacon among the immigrant Irish may have been due to the fact that brisket was cheaper and more readily available in America. Once in America, they took to cooking beef brisket, an inexpensive cut prized by their Jewish neighbors on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. After taking off among New York City’s Irish community, corned beef and cabbage found fans across the country. It was the perfect dish for everyone from harried housewives to busy cooks on trains and in cafeterias—cheap, easy to cook and hard to overcook. It was even served along with mock turtle soup at President Lincoln’s inauguration dinner in 1862.

potogold

Looking for some different side dishes for your St. Patrick’s Day dinner? The traditional dishes often include shepherd’s pie, corned beef and cabbage and Irish soda bread. For those who keep to the Irish-American tradition, the bad news is this: the meal is not exactly healthy. Corned beef contains about 285 calories for a four-ounce portion and is packed with a whopping 1,286 milligrams of sodium per serving. That’s more than half of the sodium you’re supposed to have all day. Pair the meat with potatoes, bread and an Irish beer and you have a caloric bomb on your hands.

I don’t want to ruin your feast, but if you really want corned beef and cabbage for St. Patty’s Day, there are ways to make the meal healthier. At the butcher, ask for an extra-lean cut of corned beef. Cut off all visible fat and steam-cook or bake  the meat in the oven to melt away much of the additional fat. Here is a link for a recipe on how to bake corned beef instead of braising it.

http://www.food.com/recipe/baked-corned-beef-brisket-410347

Instead of cooking the traditional vegetables along with the corned beef in the fatty highly salted water try these healthier side dishes to celebrate the holiday.

creamy-broccoli-potato-soup_456X342

Creamy Broccoli Potato Soup

Serve this delicious soup as a first course.

Ingredients

  • 6 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 bunches fresh broccoli , chopped (about 8 cups)
  • 3 large potatoes, cubed (about 4 1/2 cups)
  • 1 large onion, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 can (12 oz.) evaporated milk
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Bring the broth, black pepper, garlic, broccoli, potatoes and onion in a 6-quart soup pot over high heat to a boil. Reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook for 15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Remove the soup pot from the heat.

Process soup ingredients with a hand-held immersion blender or puree in a food processor. Return all of the puréed mixture to the soup pot, if using a regular processor. Stir in the milk, salt to taste and cheese. Cook over medium heat until mixture is hot.

corn muffins

Corn Muffins

Ingredients

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten or ½ cup refrigerated egg substitute
  • 3/4 cup low-fat milk
  • 1/4 cup plain low-fat yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line fifteen 2 1/2-inch muffin cups with paper baking cups. Coat the paper cups with a little cooking spray; set pans aside.

In a medium bowl stir together cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. In a small bowl combine eggs, milk, yogurt, honey and oil. Add egg mixture all at once to the cornmeal mixture. Stir just until moistened.

Spoon batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling each two-thirds full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center of the muffins comes out clean. Cool  muffin pans on wire racks for 5 minutes. Remove muffins from the pan and serve warm.

colcannonrecipe

Colcannon with Leeks and Kale

Colcannon is a traditional Irish dish made from mashed potatoes and cabbage.

Serves 4 – 6

Ingredients

  • 3 medium-sized russet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 8 ounces red potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 10 ounces parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 leek, cleaned and chopped
  • 4 ounces kale, chopped
  • 1 cup low-fat milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

In a soup pot, add potatoes, parsnips and bay leaves. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a low boil or simmer and cook for 20 – 30 minutes or until the potatoes and parsnips are tender enough to be mashed.

Once the potatoes and parsnips are tender, drain the water and discard the bay leaves. Mash the potatoes and parsnips in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in the soup pot used to boil the potatoes. Saute the leek over medium heat until tender, about 3 – 5 minutes. Add the kale and saute for 2 – 4 minutes or until tender. Stir in the milk, salt and pepper. Cook over medium until heated. Pour over the mashed potato mixture in the mixing bowl and stir until combined. Taste for seasonings and add additional salt and pepper if desired.

Crispy-Green-Beans-with-Pesto3

Crispy Green Beans with Pesto

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, cut in half
  • 3 cups fresh green beans, ends trimmed and cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1/4 cup homemade pesto (see recipe below)
  • 1 tablespoon toasted pine nuts

Directions

Heat olive oil in a large  non-stick skillet. Cook garlic on medium-high heat for about 30 seconds, remove from skillet and set aside.

Add beans to the same skillet and sauté for about 6 minutes or until beans are cooked but still crispy.

Return garlic to the skillet and cook an additional 30 seconds. Pour into a serving bowl and toss with the pesto.

Sprinkle with pine nuts and serve.

Basil Pesto

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts or walnuts, toasted
  • Large bunch of basil
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 3 tablespoons freshly grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese

Directions

Process the basil, garlic, nuts, salt and pepper into a paste in a food processor. Add the olive oil slowly through the feed tube to produce a loose-textured puree. Mix in the cheese.

potato pancakes

Potato Apple Pancakes

Yield: 10-12 pancakes.

Ingredients

  • 2 large russet (baking) potatoes, peeled
  • 2 medium apples, peeled
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten or ½ cup refrigerated egg substitute
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Vegetable oil for sauteing
  • Low fat sour cream, optional

Directions

Finely shred potatoes and apples on a grater; pat dry on paper towels. Place in a bowl; add the eggs, onion, flour and salt. Mix well.

In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Drop batter by heaping tablespoonfuls into the hot pan. Flatten to form 3-inch pancakes.

Cook until golden brown; turn and cook the other side.

Drain on paper towels. Serve immediately with the sour cream, if desired.

brussel sprouts

Sicilian Brussels Sprouts

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces pancetta, diced
  • 2 pounds fresh Brussels sprouts, halved
  • 6 tablespoons capers, drained
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons champagne vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 3/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel

Directions

In a large ovenproof skillet, cook the pancetta over medium heat until browned. Remove to paper towels with a slotted spoon.

Add Brussels sprouts to the skillet; cook and stir until lightly browned. Remove from the heat. Stir in the capers, oil, vinegar, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Bake, uncovered, at 350° F for 15-20 minutes or until caramelized, stirring occasionally. Add the raisins, pine nuts, lemon peel and pancetta; toss to coat.

Enhanced by Zemanta

 

The exact history of quick bread is not known, but most quick breads were not developed until the 18th century, after the discovery of the first leavening agent, ‘pearlash’. The first published recipe to call for pearlash — a type of gingerbread — was published in 1796 by Amelia Simmons. It was the beginning of a chemical leavening revolution that would spread around the world.

The early colonists had hardwood forests as a resource. Aside from being a logical building material and fuel, hardwoods provided another important resource, ashes. Ashes were a major export two hundred years ago, both to Canada and Britain. They were valuable for sweetening gardens and for providing lye for making soap. They were also a source of potash and its derivative, pearlash, which proved to be a leavening agent.

To make pearlash, you first have to make potash and to make potash, you first have to make lye. To make lye, you pass water through a barrel of hardwood ashes over and over. To make potash, you evaporate the lye water until you have a solid. Pearlash is a purified version of potash. It is an alkaline compound and when paired with an acidic ingredient, such as sour milk, buttermilk or molasses, will produce carbon dioxide bubbles, the very same thing that yeast produces. Pearlash was used primarily in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but because of its bitter aftertaste, it not did not replace yeast and was eventually replaced by saleratus (baking soda).

Baking soda comes from several sources, but the bulk of it is derived from an ore called “trona” which is mined in the Green River Basin in Wyoming. (Technology is being developed now to produce baking soda from sea water.)

When baking soda is heated, it slowly breaks down into sodium carbonate, water and carbon dioxide. When mixed with something acidic and wet, it starts producing carbon dioxide right away without waiting to be heated.

The next step after developing baking soda (which only worked when there was something acidic in a batter) was to create a “combination” powder which just needed to get wet to become active. To do this, baking soda was combined with a powdered acid, along with a little cornstarch, to keep the two dry and inactive. Scientists next added a second powder, cream of tartar, (a fruit acid that accumulates on the inside of wine casks as a wine matures) to the combination.  When baking soda and cream of tartar are moistened in a batter or dough, they begin to react to each other right away producing carbon dioxide bubbles.

This combination powder is still a very effective leavening agent, although it has a couple of drawbacks. It is “single acting, meaning that when it’s mixed into a batter or dough, it starts and finishes its reaction then and there. When you bake with it, you must get whatever you’re making into a preheated oven as quickly as possible before the bubbles begin to disappear. The second drawback is, that no matter how dry these combination powders are kept, they lose their potency after a short time.

Double acting baking powder is single acting baking powder taken one step further. The baking soda is still there, but the cream of tartar has been replaced by two acids, one like cream of tartar that reacts to the baking soda as soon as it’s wet and the other agent that doesn’t begin to react until it’s heated. This means you can be more leisurely about getting a dough or batter into the oven.

Like single acting baking powder, double acting baking powder contains a little cornstarch to prevent the baking soda and acids from reacting. However, it too will lose its leavening ability after about six months. Baking powder should be stored at room temperature in a dry place. A cabinet or pantry away from the sink or heat source is a perfect place. Do not store baking powder in the refrigerator, as it may shorten the shelf life due to condensation that occurs on the can.

Make Your Own Baking Powder

If you have run out of baking powder you may be able to make a substitution by using the following:  for one teaspoon baking powder = mix 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar plus 1/4 teaspoon baking soda. If you are not using the mixture immediately, add 1/4 teaspoon cornstarch to absorb any moisture in the air and to prevent a premature chemical reaction between the acid and alkali.

When baking powder was fairly new, bakers felt that it was going to replace yeast for all bread baking. It produced the same gas that yeast did (carbon dioxide) and its action was indeed “quick” compared to that of yeast. It has, in fact, replaced yeast as a leavening agent for cakes almost entirely, but not in bread dough. Quick breads cover a wide range of baked goods from biscuits and scones that are made from a dough,to muffins and loaves that are made from a batter. They can be large or small, savory or sweet. The major thing that identifies them is the fact that they are, as their name implies, quick to make.

Quick breads can be made from many kinds of ingredients. Banana bread and pumpkin bread are popular, but for the gardener with too much zucchini, a good zucchini bread recipe is a great way to use up some of that surplus squash. Zucchini, a green striped squash with a sweet flavor, is excellent to use in a quick bread. Modern squash, like zucchini, are descendants of plants that were first cultivated around 10,000 years ago, in what is today Mexico and Guatemala. Evidence suggests these ancient squash were originally grown for their seeds before eventually being bred as a vegetable. Shortly after Europeans arrived in the Americas, they began bringing squash back to Europe. The Italians are credited with breeding today’s modern zucchini from the original American squash.

How to keep your Zucchini Bread healthy:

  • Substituting whole wheat flour for white flour adds fiber and you’ll get about 3 grams of fiber in each serving.
  • Applesauce is a naturally fat-free ingredient that can be substituted for oil in many recipes.
  • Yogurt, an excellent source of calcium, phosphorus, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and iodine, is another ingredient that can be substituted for some of the oil in recipes.
  • Use sugar (Truvia or Domino Light) and whole egg substitutes (Egg Beaters) to reduce fat and calories in baked goods.
  • Zucchini is the low-calorie, naturally fat-free secret ingredient and hidden vegetable in the recipes below. A cup of zucchini used in a recipe contributes essential nutrients and keeps the bread moist.
  • Add nuts. They are lower in saturated fats, higher in mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids and an excellent source of omega-3 essential fatty acids.

Zucchini Chip Bread

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (or 1-1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour and 1-1/2 cups of all-purpose flour.
  • 3/4 cups sugar or sugar substitute blend equivalent to 3/4 cups of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 cup refrigerated egg substitute
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon finely shredded orange peel
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate pieces

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease bottom and 1/2 inch up the sides of two 8x4x2-inch loaf pans. Set aside.

In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, baking soda, nutmeg, salt, cinnamon and baking powder. In a small bowl combine egg substitute, applesauce, oil, orange peel and vanilla; add to flour mixture. Stir until just moistened. Fold in zucchini, walnuts and chocolate pieces.

Divide mixture evenly between the two prepared pans. Bake about 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near centers comes out clean. Cool in pans on a wire rack 10 minutes. Remove bread from pans and cool completely on wire racks. For easier slicing, wrap and store overnight before serving. Makes 2 loaves (24 servings).

Vegan Gluten Free Zucchini Bread

Wet Ingredients:

  • 2 cups grated fresh zucchini
  • 1 cup organic applesauce
  • 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Dry Ingredients:

  • 1 cup white sorghum flour
  • 1 cup gluten free all purpose flour (Bob’s Red Mill or King Arthur)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon xanthan gum

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large mixing bowl, combine zucchini, applesauce, sugar, oil, vanilla and apple cider vinegar.

Whisk together the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and sprinkle over the wet ingredients. Mix thoroughly.

Pour batter into a lightly greased (9×5) loaf pan.

Bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan. Place the bread on a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before serving.

Zucchini-Carrot Muffins

Yield: 12 muffins

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (or 1 cup of all purpose flour and 1 cup of whole wheat pastry flour)
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 pinch ground cloves
  • 2 eggs or 1/2 cup refrigerated egg substitute
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cups sugar or sugar substitute equivalent
  • 1 small zucchini, shredded (3/4 cup)
  • 1 small carrot, grated (1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds

Directions:

Heat oven to 350 degree F. Coat the wells of a standard-sized (12)  muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, ginger, cinnamon and cloves in a large bowl.

Mix eggs, oil and sugar in a medium-size bowl. Whisk for 30 seconds to dissolve sugar. Stir in shredded zucchini and carrot.

Stir egg mixture into flour mixture. Stir in sunflower seeds. Divide batter equally among muffin cups, a slightly heaping 1/4 cup in each.

Bake for 23 to 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from pan to wire racks to cool.

Zucchini Pancakes

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound zucchini, shredded
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup refrigerated egg substitute
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil plus 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1/4 cup light dairy sour cream with chives (optional)

Directions:

Combine the zucchini and salt in a large bowl. Let stand 30 minutes. Place zucchini in a strainer and press firmly with a rubber spatula to force out water.

Combine zucchini, 1/2 cup red onion, the Parmesan cheese, flour, egg, 1 tablespoon olive oil, garlic powder and pepper in a large bowl. If the batter is not thick enough to hold together, add a little more flour, one tablespoon at a time, until the mixture is the right consistency.

Lightly coat a large skillet or griddle with nonstick cooking spray. Add 1 teaspoon olive oil to skillet and heat over medium heat. Using 1/4 cup zucchini mixture per pancake, drop zucchini mixture onto hot skillet, leaving 2 to 3 inches between mounds. Flatten mounds to about 1/2-inch thickness. Cook pancakes about 4 minutes or until golden brown, carefully turning once halfway through cooking.

Keep pancakes warm in a 300 degree F oven while cooking the remaining pancakes. If desired, top pancakes with sour cream .

Zucchini Scones

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup butter, cut up into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup refrigerated egg substitute or 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini
  • 1/2 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips or finely chopped pecans

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large bowl,  stir together all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda and salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Make a well in center of the flour mixture.

In a small bowl, combine egg and buttermilk; stir in zucchini and chocolate pieces or pecans. Add the buttermilk mixture all at once to the flour mixture. Using a fork, stir just until moistened.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead dough by folding and gently pressing it for 10 to 12 strokes or until nearly smooth. Pat or lightly roll dough into an 8-inch circle. Cut dough circle into 12 wedges.

Place dough wedges, 2 inches apart, on ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 13 to 15 minutes or until edges are light brown. Remove scones from the baking pans and cool on a wire rack. Serve warm. Makes 12 scones. Scones freeze and reheat well.

Zucchini Cornbread

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter or butter alternative, such as Smart Balance (or 1/4 cup butter and 1/4 cup applesauce)
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten or 1/2 cup refrigerated egg substitute
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 large zucchini (about 10 ounces)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar or sugar substitute equivalent
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup medium-grind cornmeal

Directions:

Position a rack in the middle of oven and preheat to 350° F. Coat a 9 x 5 x 3″ loaf pan with cooking spray.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat or in the microwave. Set aside and let cool. Whisk in (applesauce if using) eggs and buttermilk.

Trim zucchini ends. Thinly slice five 1/8″ rounds from 1 end of the zucchini and reserve for garnish. Coarsely grate remaining zucchini. Add to the bowl with the butter mixture and stir until well blended.

Sift both flours, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda into a large bowl. Whisk in cornmeal. Add zucchini mixture; fold just to blend (mixture will be very thick). Transfer batter to prepared pan and smooth top. Place reserved zucchini slices on top of the batter down the center in a single layer.

Bake bread until golden and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 55-65 minutes. Let cool in pan 10 minutes. Remove from pan; let cool completely on a wire rack. Store airtight at room temperature.

Zucchini Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 6 egg whites
  • 1 cup natural applesauce
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar or sugar substitute equivalent
  • 2 cups grated zucchini
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup finely chopped walnuts

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 12 ounces reduced fat cream cheese
  • 3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 13×9 inch baking pan.

Combine egg whites, applesauce, sugar, grated zucchini and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat until well mixed.

Combine the flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder and cinnamon in a large measuring cup and add to the egg mixture. Mix on low speed until just combined. Fold in the walnuts with a spatula.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 45 minutes.

To make the frosting:

Beat cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar and vanilla in the bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Spread on the top of the cake. Chill before serving.


 

Flour that is used in baking comes mainly from wheat, although it can be milled from corn, rice, nuts, legumes, and some fruits and vegetables. With so many types of flour to choose from-spelt flour, soy flour, quinoa flour, rice flour, organic bread flour and even gluten-free flour-your head may begin to spin. If you want your recipe to be a success, you’ll need to understand what each type does and whether it’s right for your recipe’s need.

There are two different types of wheat in the descriptions below: hard and soft. The difference is in the protein content, with hard wheat having a higher level of protein than soft. Wheat is milled and processed in slightly varying ways to create the different flours, for example whole-wheat flour will be darker in color than all-purpose flour because it contains the whole kernel (the bran, germ and endosperm) rather than just the endosperm (the center of the wheat kernel).

The type of flour used will ultimately affect the finished product. Flour contains protein and when it comes in contact with water and heat it produces gluten, which gives elasticity and strength to baked goods. Different types of flour contain different amounts of protein. Therefore using a different type of flour than what is called for in a recipe (without compensating for this change) will alter the outcome of the baked good. A cake flour is used to make a white cake where a delicate tender crumb is desired. Bread flour is used to make a chewy bread and all-purpose flour makes a delicious batch of chocolate chip cookies.

What Mario Batali says about using different flours in Italian cooking:

Soft wheat flour produces the tender pasta used in Emilia-Romagna’s cuisine. Hard wheat flour, conversely, is lower in starch and higher in protein and gluten, producing firm and resilient pasta and bread. Durum wheat is high in gluten and is usually ground into semolina, a slightly coarser flour used in pasta production, particularly in the South of Italy. When purchasing flour, look at the nutrition panel for the protein content, which is listed in grams per pound.

Essentially, for thin tender pasta, I’ve found the pastry flour in the bulk bins to be perfect. For everyday pastas I just use all purpose. For rustic pastas with a rougher texture and thicker noodles, I mix in 1/3 or even 100% semolina, again from the bulk bin. Sometimes I experiment with hard winter wheat Durum (bulk bins), which I think is similar in protein/gluten to semolina but more finely ground if I want a finer texture.

How To Store Flour:

Flour must be kept cool and dry. All flours, even white flour, have a limited shelf life. Millers recommend that flours be stored for no more than 6 months. The main change that occurs over time is the oxidation of oils when flour is exposed to air. The result of this is rancid off flavors. During hot weather, store flour in the refrigerator.

Flour should be stored, covered, in a cool and dry area. This prevents the flour from absorbing moisture and odors and from attracting insects and rodents. Freezing flour for 48 hours before it is stored will kill any weevil or insect eggs already in the flour. It is better not to mix new flour with old if you are not using the flour regularly.

Do not store flour near soap powder, onions or other foods and products with strong odors.

If freezer space is available, flour can be repackaged in airtight, moisture-proof containers, labeled and placed in the freezer at 0 degrees F. If flour is stored like this, it will keep well for several years.

Keep whole wheat flour in the refrigerator the year around. Natural oils cause this flour to turn rancid quickly at room temperature.

Throw away flour if it smells bad, changes color, or is infested with weevils.

Flour is always readily available so it should only be brought in quantities that will last a maximum of two to three months.

Put a bay leaf in the flour canister to help protect against insect infections. Bay leaves are natural insect repellents.

Following are the flours I use on a regular basis with a description of how I use them. The brands I use are also depicted in the pictures but use the brands that are sold in your area. Recipes follow with the type of flour I use in the recipe.

Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

Ideal for the full range of your baking repertoire. All-Purpose is strong enough to combine with whole grains for higher-rising loaves, and tender enough to make beautiful pie crusts, scones and muffins.

Unbleached Bread Flour

High-gluten bread flour, milled from hard red spring wheat, is perfect for yeast baked goods-bread, rolls, pizza, and more. The higher the protein level, the stronger the rise. Excellent companion for whole grain flours, such as rye or whole wheat.

Ultragrain All Purpose Flour

Ultragrain All Purpose Flour contains 9 grams of whole grain per serving and twice the fiber of other all-purpose flours. Use it in place of standard white flour in all of your favorite recipes. Recipes made with Ultragrain look, cook, bake, and taste like recipes made with white flour, but have the added benefit of whole grain nutrition. I like the convenience of the whole wheat flour added in with the white flour, especially for baking muffins and other coffeecake types of bread.

Self-Rising Flour

Self-rising flour, a blend of flour, baking powder, and salt, is a Southern staple. Milled from a lower-protein wheat than all-purpose flour, it produces softer, more tender baked goods, including biscuits, pancakes, cakes, cookies, muffins, pastries, and more.This convenient flour eliminates two steps in many of your favorite recipes: adding the baking powder, and adding the salt. Both are already in the flour.

White Whole Wheat Flour

100% white whole wheat is a lighter whole wheat, with 100% of the nutrition. Makes lighter-colored, milder-tasting baked goods. Perfect for cookies, bars, bread, muffins, pancakes… all your favorite baked goods.

100% Whole Wheat Flour

Traditional Whole Wheat Flour, features the classic flavor of red whole wheat. Its fine grind and 14% protein content produce whole-wheat breads with a hearty texture and higher rise.  Excellent for yeast bread.

 

 

Unbleached Cake Flour Blend

A flour blend that produces a medium-fine texture cake, moist and flavorful, with no artificial colors or chemicals added. It is a good flour to use for baking birthday cakes and cookies, especially Christmas sugar cookies.

 

Whole Wheat Pastry Flour

Pastry Flour (both white and whole wheat) is milled from soft wheat and has a level of protein between all-purpose and cake flours (at about 8-10%). That medium level makes it great to use in recipes where you want a tender and crumbly pastry (too much protein would give you a hard pastry and too little protein would give you a brittle dough). Try pastry flour in recipes for biscuits, pie dough, brownies, cookies and quick breads. Do not use it for making yeast breads.

I prefer to use the whole wheat version and I have great success with it in all my pies and cookies.

Whole wheat pastry flour is milled from low-protein soft wheat, producing a flour with 9% protein. Use it in cookies, pie crusts, and scones to incorporate whole wheat into your pastries while retaining the tenderness these pastries need.

 

Semolina Flour

Semolina–a coarse grind of high-protein durum wheat–gives gorgeous color and great flavor to breads, pizza crust, and pasta. Substitute semolina for some (or all) of the all-purpose flour in your bread recipe.

Makes wonderful pasta.

My favorite way to use the semolina flour is mixed into pizza crust – it really just helps make a superior crispy product. I just replace about a cup of the regular flour with semolina and mix it in.

 

Italian-Style Flour

Italian-Style flour makes an extremely supple dough, smooth and easy to work with. The “00” refers to the grind of the flour, and how much of the wheat’s bran and germ have been removed, not to its protein level. There are low-, high- and in-between 00 flours. The one sold in the US is a lower protein one. Try it for crackers or pasta, tender pizza, focaccia, and bread sticks or crisp grissini.

Instant Flour

Wondra is an instant flour, low in protein and finely ground. It has been treated, so that it will dissolve instantly in water and not require the same long cooking process as non-instant flour to dissolve in a liquid and thicken it. The process is called pregelatinization and it involves heating a starch (flour) with very hot water and/or steam, then drying it out, so that it has essentially been cooked already. Because of this, instant flour is unlikely to form lumps when mixed with water or broth. Wondra also has some malted barley flour mixed into it, which acts as a dough conditioner in many breads. This quick-mixing all-purpose flour is the perfect solution for lump-free gravies and sauces and for breading fish and poultry.

 

Fluffy Pancakes

These pancakes taste like they are made with buttermilk and are light and fluffy with minimal fat.

Makes: 5 servings (2 pancakes each)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup fat free milk
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1-1/4 cups Ultragrain All Purpose Flour
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup Egg Beaters
  • No-Stick Cooking Spray

Directions

Pour milk into small bowl and whisk in oil and lemon juice; set aside. Place flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda in medium bowl; blend well. Form a well in center of dry ingredients; set aside.

Add Egg Beaters to milk mixture; whisk together. Pour mixture into the center of dry ingredients. Gently whisk together just until combined; a few lumps will remain. Do not overmix.

Spray large nonstick griddle or skillet with cooking spray. Heat griddle over medium heat until hot. Pour four 1/4 cupfuls of batter separately onto griddle.

Cook about 1-1/2 to 2 minutes or until large bubbles form on top and bottom is golden brown. Turn with wide spatula; cook 1 minute more or until second side is golden brown. Keep warm. Repeat until all batter is used. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar or serve with pancake syrup, if desired.

Whole-Wheat Scones                                                                     

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons reduced-fat cream cheese, cut into small pieces
  • 2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
  • 2 cups Whole-Wheat Pastry Flour
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup dried fruit, your choice
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
  • 2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon buttermilk, divided
  • ½ cup chopped pecans, divided

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Lightly oil a large baking sheet or coat it with nonstick spray. Place cream cheese and butter in freezer to chill, about 10 minutes.

2. Combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large mixing bowl. Cut cream cheese and butter into flour mixture using a pastry blender or your fingers until it resembles coarse meal. Add dried fruit, 1/4 cup pecans and orange zest and toss to incorporate. Make a well in the flour mixture. Add 2/3 cup buttermilk, stirring with a fork until just combined.

3. Transfer dough to a well-floured surface and knead gently 7 or 8 times. Divide dough in half. With floured hands, pat each piece into a circle about 1/2 inch thick. With a floured knife, cut each circle into 8 wedges. Transfer to prepared baking sheet. Lightly brush tops with remaining 1 tablespoon buttermilk and sprinkle with remaining pecans.

4. Bake scones for 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden and firm. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly. Serve warm.

Fresh Whole-Wheat Pita                                                                                                          

Stuff with your favorite salad or sandwich fixings. Leftovers make tasty baked chips.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 package dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water (100° to 110°)
  • 10 ounces bread flour (about 2 1/4 cups)
  • 4.75 ounces White Whole-Wheat Flour (about 1 cup), divided
  • 2 tablespoons 2% Greek-style yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • Olive oil cooking spray

Directions:

1. Dissolve sugar and yeast in 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water in a large bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Weigh or lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Add bread flour, 3 ounces (about 3/4 cup) whole-wheat flour, yogurt, oil, and salt to the yeast mixture; beat with a electric mixer paddle attachment at medium speed until smooth. Switch to the dough hook and knead dough until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes); add enough of remaining whole-wheat flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to the bowl (dough will feel sticky). Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, for 45 minutes or until doubled in size.

2. Position the oven rack on the lowest shelf.

3. Preheat the oven to 500° F.

4. Divide dough into 8 portions. Working with one portion at a time, gently roll each portion into a 5 1/2-inch circle. Place 4 dough circles on each of 2 baking sheets heavily coated with cooking spray. Bake, 1 sheet at a time, at 500°F for 8 minutes or until puffed and browned. Cool on a wire rack.

Yield: 8 servings (serving size: 1 pita)

Golden Semolina Biscotti                                                                                                                                                       

You won’t need a mixer to make these crunchy biscotti; the dough is easily stirred together by hand.

Ingredients:

  • 5 tablespoons (2 1/2 ounces) melted butter
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 to 4 drops flavoring of choice; e.g., butter-rum, almond, hazelnut, etc.
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/3 cup Semolina Flour
  • 2 cups diced dried fruit, chocolate chips or chunks, or nuts

Directions:

Grease a baking sheet. Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Stir together the melted butter, sugar, salt, baking powder, flavor, and vanilla, mixing until blended. Add the eggs, then blend in the flour and semolina. Use a spatula or your hands to mix in the fruits, chocolate, or nuts.

Scoop the dough onto the baking pan and shape it into a 10 1/2 x 4-inch log.

Bake the log in a preheated 350°F oven for 30 to 35 minutes. Cool for 1 hour.

Slice on the diagonal into 1/2- to 3/4-inch wide pieces. Place the biscotti back onto a baking sheet.

Bake in a preheated 325°F oven for 22 to 26 minutes, until golden. Turn them over halfway during the baking time.

The biscotti will become crisp as they cool; allow them to cool right on the baking sheet.

Store in an airtight container when totally cool. Yield: 14 to 18 large biscotti.

 


12-Days

Homemade Christmas gifts are a great way to add a very personal touch to your gift giving during the holiday season. We have all heard this sentiment that “the best present is a homemade, personalized gift”. With homemade gifts, you don’t have to pay for the advertising, packaging and transportation costs of items you purchase from stores or online. Instead, you have better control of the gift budget, since you can readily choose materials or components for making gifts that are well within your budget.

Many of the mass-produced gift items are things that your gift recipients actually do not need. How many times have you received off-the-shelf Christmas gifts that you simply stash away in a corner of your closet after the festive season is over? With homemade Christmas gifts, you get to customize your gifts to what your gift recipients might like or use. Though it may sound troublesome, it is actually this preparation that makes the gift really special, and it helps build up the excitement to Christmas when the gift is ready.

Another great item you can find in your garden or at the farmer’s market for homemade Christmas gift ideas is dried herbs. Such herbs gifts are especially great for those who love to cook. You can reuse a small or medium fancy jar, or buy one anytime throughout the year when they are on sale, and prepare this unique gift for your loved ones as Christmas gifts. Include tags that suggest a recipe for each herb on the jar. You could even include personalized labels on the jars, such as a reminder to give thanks, smell the roses and smile. These personalized messages are bound to help bring smiles to your gift recipient as he or she cooks.

I really appreciate gift containers of pancake or cocoa mix on a busy morning, so I have put together some suggestions for gifts that you can make in your kitchen. I am sure you can think of many more.  Happy Gift Giving.

1. Marinated Olives With Rosemary And Orange Peel                                                                              

Makes 1 pint

This recipe can easily be doubled or tripled to fill as many pint jars as needed. Store them in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Package for gift giving.

Ingredients:

  • 2 (5.3 ounces) jars black or green olives, with pits (scant 2 cups)
  • 1 large sprig rosemary, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • Zest of 1/2 orange, removed in thin strips
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • Extra-virgin olive oil

In a large bowl, toss together olives, rosemary, zest and pepper flakes, and then pack mixture into a 1-pint glass jar. Pour in enough oil to just cover the olives (about 1/2 cup), and then seal tightly and chill for 1 to 3 days.

2. Homemade Mustard Sauce                                                                            

Makes 2 cups

  • 2 ounces yellow mustard seeds
  • 1/2 cup brown mustard seeds
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup Chardonnay wine
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon ground turmeric
  • 2 the lemons, juice and zest of
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black peppercorns, to taste
  •  2 pint sized jars

Using a coffee grinder, grind the yellow mustard seeds until they are powdery and resemble coarse meal.

Place in a food processor and add the remaining ingredients.

Process until very smooth. Spoon into 2 pint sized, sterilized jars. Store in the refrigerator.

Note: This mustard improves dramatically over time. Its flavors will mellow, becoming milder and less sharp.

3. Pickled Peppers with Shallots and Thyme                                                                                           

These pickled peppers are great as a pizza topping or served with bread and cheese.

MAKES 1 QUART

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound sweet or mild mini bell peppers, sliced crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick rounds, seeded
  • 2 large shallots, thinly sliced, separated into rings
  • 2 cups white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 5 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • Pinch of coarse kosher salt

Directions:

Place peppers and shallots in medium bowl.

Mix vinegar and next 6 ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar and salt. Remove brine from heat; carefully pour over peppers and shallots. Cover bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Uncover; cool to room temperature. Transfer to pint-sized jars, pressing peppers into brine. Cover; chill at least 4 hours and up to 10 days.

4. Wild Mushroom, Bean and Barley Soup Mix                                                                                  

This mix makes 6 (1-pint) jars or 12 (1/2 pint-1-cup) jars.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups dried red lentils
  • 6 whole bay leaves
  • 3 cups pearled barley
  • 1 1/2 cups dried porcini, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups dried yellow split peas
  • 3/4 cup mixed dried vegetables for soup, such as Just Veggies
  • 2 tablespoons dried dill weed

Place ½ teaspoon black pepper in the bottom of 6 (1-pint) jars. (If making in 8-ounce jars, half all ingredients.) Pour ¼ cup red lentils into each jar.

Place one bay leaf in each jar, vertically against the inside of the glass, anchoring the tip in the lentils. Pour ½ cup barley into each jar, holding bay leaf against jar until the barley keeps it in place.

Place ¼ cup mushrooms in each jar. Press down to eliminate air pockets.

Pour ¼ cup split yellow peas in each jar, followed by a heaping 2 tablespoons of vegetables in each jar (see picture of dried vegetables).

Top each jar with 1 teaspoon dill weed, and place lids tightly on jars. Makes 6 (1-pint) jars, each jar serves 8.

Attach to jars: Directions for making the soup:

Combine 1 pint soup mix, 4 cups water and 2 cups vegetable broth in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil. Stir well, cover, reduce heat and simmer 45 minutes. Stir in 2 more cups vegetable broth and 1 teaspoon salt.

Bring back to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 40 to 50 minutes, until barley and peas are tender.

5. Holiday Trail Mix                                                        

Makes 8 cups, enough for about 16 servings

This healthful, colorful trail mix is ideal for gift giving. You can use raw green pumpkin seeds (also known as pepitas) or choose roasted salted nuts for a light salty note in your mix.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 1/2 cup cinnamon cereal squares (such as Puffins) or other cereal
  • 1 1/4 cup green pumpkin seeds
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup date pieces
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and toss. Divide mixture between gift bags or jars and package for gift giving.

6. Cranberry and Orange Granola                                                                      

Makes 4 Cups

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1 cup sliced almonds
  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon hazelnut or grapeseed oil
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1/3 cup candied orange peel, sliced into long, thin strips

Note: Candied orange peel can be found seasonally at most supermarkets and purchased year-round online.

Directions:

Preheat oven to 300°F.  Spread oats on a large rimmed baking sheet. Toast, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned and fragrant, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a heatproof bowl; add almonds and let cool slightly. Coat same baking sheet with nonstick spray. Whisk maple syrup, butter, and hazelnut oil in a small bowl to blend. Pour syrup mixture over oats; stir thoroughly to coat. Spread mixture on prepared sheet.

Bake granola, stirring occasionally, until light golden, about 15 minutes. Stir in the cranberries and raisins; bake for 10 minutes longer. Remove granola from oven and let cool slightly. Stir in the orange peel. Let cool completely, then break into pieces.

DO AHEAD: Store airtight at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.

7. Better Than Nutella (Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread)                                

Makes 4 cups

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups (heaping) hazelnuts, preferably skinned (about 10 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 pound semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces, room temperature
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Four clean 8-ounce jars

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Spread nuts on a rimmed baking sheet or in an ovenproof skillet. Roast, shaking sheet once for even toasting, until deep brown, 13-15 minutes. Let cool completely. (If nuts have skins, rub them in a kitchen towel to remove.)

Grind hazelnuts and sugar in a food processor until a fairly smooth, buttery paste forms, about 1 minute.

Place chocolate in a medium metal bowl. Set bowl over a large saucepan of simmering water; stir often until chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove bowl from over saucepan; add butter and whisk until completely incorporated. Whisk in cream and salt, then hazelnut paste. You can also use a double boiler.

Pour sauce (called gianduja in Italian) into jars, dividing equally. Let cool. (Gianduja will thicken and become soft and peanut butter-like as it cools.) Screw on lids.

DO AHEAD Gianduja can be made up to 4 weeks ahead; keep chilled. Let stand at room temperature for 4 hours to soften. Can stand at room temperature up to 4 days.

8. Candied Espresso Walnuts                                                                                             

Serve dinner with coffee.

Makes 4 cups

Ingredients:

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons finely ground espresso coffee beans
  • 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 1 large egg white
  • 4 cups walnut halves (about 12 ounces)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325°F. Spray a large rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray. Whisk sugar and next 4 ingredients in small bowl. Whisk egg white in a separate large bowl until frothy. Add walnuts; toss to coat. Sprinkle walnuts with espresso mixture and toss to coat. Spread coated walnuts on prepared sheet in single layer.

Bake 5 minutes. Slide spatula under walnuts to loosen from baking sheet and stir, rearranging in single layer. Bake until walnuts are dry to touch, about 5 minutes longer. Loosen walnuts from sheet again; cool on sheet.

DO AHEAD Candied walnuts can be made 2 weeks ahead. Store in airtight container at room temperature.

9. Chocolate Sauce                                                                           

About 2 cups 

Ingredients

  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 (15-ounce) can evaporated milk
  • 2 ounces chopped semisweet chocolate
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

Whisk brown sugar and cocoa powder in a large heavy saucepan. Gradually whisk in milk until a smooth paste forms. Bring to a simmer, whisking constantly. Reduce heat to low and simmer, whisking constantly, for 4 minutes. Remove from heat and add chopped chocolate; stir until melted. Stir in vanilla. Pour into pint or half pint sterilized jars. Let cool. Store in the refrigerator. Should be heated before serving.

10. Chocolate-Walnut Cookie Mix                                                                 

Yield: 36 Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 wide-mouth Mason jar (1 quart)
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Directions

Dry Mix:

1. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

2. Spoon flour mixture into bottom of the jar and press down hard to compact (a small spice jar works well for compacting). It needs to be at about the 1-1/4-cup mark on the jar to insure that there is enough room for all ingredients. Continue layering with cocoa powder and granulated sugar compacting each layer. Add chips and nuts. Close jar tightly. Store up to 2 weeks at room temperature.

3. Write the following recipe on a gift card and attach it to the jar with ribbon.

4. Decorate lid of jar with fabric and tie with ribbon and bows. Makes 36 cookies.

Chocolate-Walnut Cookies Directions

In a large bowl, combine 3/4 cup cooled, melted butter with 3 eggs and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Stir in contents of this jar until just mixed. Refrigerate dough for 1 hour. Drop by rounded tablespoons, 2 inches apart, onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for 13 to 15 minutes or until firm. Cool on baking sheet for 1 minute before removing to wire rack to cool completely.

11. Cinnamon Pancake Mix In A Jar                                     

Makes enough for 2 or 3 gifts

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups unbleached flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon

Combine all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl. Use a whisk to incorporate the ingredients evenly. Divide in half or thirds and package for gift giving.

Directions for Making Pancakes

  • 1 cup Cinnamon Pancake Mix above
  • 3/4 cup low-fat cottage cheese
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 2 large egg whites or egg substitute
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter

Whisk pancake mix with cottage cheese, milk, eggs, almond extract and butter. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Brush lightly with oil. Drop 1/4 cup batter onto skillet. Cook until pancakes until bubbles appear. Flip and cook 2 to 3 minutes longer. Repeat with remaining batter.

homemade-gifts-hot-chocolate

12. Hot-Chocolate Mix      

  • 3/4 cups Quality Unsweetened Cocoa, such as Valrhona
  • 6 ounces Quality Semisweet Chocolate, chopped
  • 1/4 cup Sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1 teaspoons Ground Nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoons Ground Clove

Make the mix:

Place all ingredients in a food processor fitted with a metal blade and process just until mixture is powdery — about 30 seconds. Be careful not to over process. Store in an airtight container.

Directions for a gift: Fill jars with the mixture, cover the lids with a festive swath of fabric, and include peppermint “stirring” sticks for added flavor and color.

To make hot chocolate, combine 1 cup of milk and 2 tablespoons of this mix in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, stirring constantly until chocolate is incorporated and mixture is warmed through. Serve immediately.



%d bloggers like this: