17 May 2011

Spring Cleaning Finds, and a Bonus

Trying to follow good, healthy practices, I like to cook things when the ingredients are in season, a la farmer's market.  The following is definitely not farmers' market and definitely not seasonal.  However, in a twisted kind of way it is seasonal.

What does Spring make you think of?  Strawberries?  Asparagus?   Eggs?  What about pumpkin?  No?  NO!  Unless, of course, Spring also means Spring Cleaning, and that entails clearing out the pantry and checking expiration dates on canned goods.  Does anyone else always seem to have a can of pumpkin left over after Thanksgiving?  I always do, and unfortunately, it tends to expire before the next Thanksgiving rolls around.  And I need the room.  I do not have a limitless pantry.

Tangent: if you are interested in major pantry reorganization, please visit this Kitchen Stewardship post for a lot of really inspirational links regarding pantries, bulk food storage, and freezer storage.  I've got to get busy!

So I unearthed this can of pumpkin and no way was I making pumpkin pie.  So I did something better: whole grain pumpkin muffins.  Did you know that you can turn any quick bread recipe into a muffin recipe?  Just put the batter into muffin cups (12 muffins for one 9x5 loaf of bread) and bake for about 22-25 minutes.  If ever you have muffins left over, and we don't, you can freeze them and have them some other time.

I used the King Arthur Whole Grain pumpkin bread  recipe (see below) and added dried cranberries to the batter.  I had some of those left over too.  I had some pumpkin seeds, and sprinkled them on top, and it was a flashy, thematic addition.  (Note: I have a picture of these beauties on my camera, which seems to have died.  If it resurrects, I will put the picture up, but for now, just use your imagination.)  These muffins were delicious and loved by all at our breakfast table.  Not hard to make, though I did save it for the weekend, and the boys snacked on pumpkin muffins all weekend long.  I was happy knowing that they were snacking on something that was giving them whole grains, lots of beta carotine, plus other good stuff, rather than, say, Cheetos.

One thing I do not like is when recipes call for something like 1 cup of canned pumpkin.  A can of pumpkin holds more than a cup.  Remember, I'm trying to use up stuff, and be frugal, not throw out nearly half a can.  I decided to save the extra pumpkin and make it into smoothies for the boys.  Honestly, to me a pumpkin smoothie didn't sound that great, but Cool Guy especially liked the idea.

I put into the blender the remaining can of pumpkin, some vanilla yogurt, a pinch of cinnamon, a banana past its prime, and about a Tablespoon of maple syrup.  Whirred it up, and had a very quick, nutritious, and surprisingly good after school snack. 

So this can of pumpkin turned out to be a two-fer winner.  What do you have in your pantry?  Can you put your creativity to work and find some good uses for your orphans?

Pumpkin Muffins
(Reprinted, with permission, from King Arthur Whole Grain Baking Book)

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup regular sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 3/4 cup chopped nuts (I didn't include, since boys don't want them)
  • 3/4 cup raisins, dried cranberries, or chocolate chips
1. Heat oven to 375.  Grease 12 muffin cups.

2. Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and spices in a bowl.

3. Cream together butter, and sugars in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy.

4. Beat in eggs, one at a time.

5. Beat in vanilla and pumpkin.

6. Add dry ingredients.

7. Stir in nuts and other addition.

8. Fill muffin cups.  They will be pretty full.

9. Sprinkle on pumpkin seeds if you have them.

10. Bake for about 23 minutes.

11. Wait about 10 minutes after taking out of the oven, and then remove from muffin pan.

I'm not going to do the math translating nutrition information between 1/16  of a loaf to 1/12 of the recipe for the muffins, but suffice it to say that you WILL get close to 20 whole grains, a nice bit of fiber, protein, vitamin A, iron, calcium and other stuff that is good for you.

Pumpkin Smoothie

  • Vanilla yogurt
  • banana
  • canned pumpkin
  • dash of cinnamon
  • Tablespoon of maple syrup
  • ice cube, optional
Whir it all in the blender.  Add more yogurt if the pumpkin is too strong.

04 May 2011

Granola Girl

Does this make me a crunchy mom?  The fact that I make granola?  Do any of you dear readers make granola?  Do you know how easy it is?  And how good?  And how good for you?

What I like best about granola, besides how good it is, is that it makes a ton at once, and then for several weeks, I have at my fingertips the making for a very healthy, very quick, breakfast.

Let's face it: the boys and I don't share the same tastes.  Cool Guy could happily eat oatmeal every morning of the year, and he does ask for it for breakfast every night before he goes to bed.  Wish he could remember to brush his teeth as faithfully as he remembers to ask for oatmeal.  But after awhile, oatmeal pales for me.  I sometimes try to jazz it up a little, like last week, when I added rhubarb to the oatmeal pot, and thought Cool Guy was going to have to miss school because he was so incensed with my tinkering.

I guess granola is my way of tinkering with oatmeal so that it's not just oatmeal that I've ruined, but is something else entirely.

I've tried several different "recipes" of granola, and by far, my favorite is King Arthur flour's Maple Granola.  All granolas I've made have been good, if I do say so myself, but this one is superior.  It is perfect in its ratio of nuts, fruits, and grain, and is sweetened perfectly.

I never, ever have the exact ingredients called for in the recipe, so I make substitutions like mad, and each batch comes out differently, and always good.  This time, I used pumpkin seeds instead of sunflower seeds, and pecans rather than walnuts.  I cut out the coconut entirely because I do not like coconut at all, ever.  And I don't add the powdered milk - don't like that either.  For fruit, I used apricots, dried cherries, and dried cranberries.  A little heavier on the cranberries than the other fruits.  And I got to use some maple syrup from the local farmer's market.  It's available right now and very reasonably priced.  Sometimes, I use dry roasted peanuts, and that makes a good addition.  And I always throw in a handful of ground flaxseed to bump up the Omega-3's.

Another twist in preparation, is that I throw the whole mess into one 13 x 9 baking dish rather than portion it out between two jelly roll pans.  I do this because my rotten, lousy oven is too small to accommodate a jelly roll pan.  I have never had a problem with baking it all in my one pan, and it makes the process that much easier.

Yes, making granola is an investment in time, though most of the time is baking time, where I just plop down and watch a movie (wish) while it bakes.  But you've got to be around for it, to stir it around, and then you've got a big bowl to wash, and some containers to find to hold it all, but it is so worth it!.

This morning, another oatmeal day, before I put the water on to boil, I measured out 1/4 cup of granola into my bowl and 1/4 of lowfat vanilla yogurt.  I mixed that together, sliced a banana and mixed that in.  The granola gets a chance to soften a little, which I like, while the boys' oatmeal is cooking.  When their oatmeal is ready, so is my granola, and we sit down and eat together.  They're happy, I'm happy.

Do my boys like granola?  In a word, no.  When it comes out of the oven, they snick little tastes, but once I've put it in containers and offer it for breakfast, they want nothing to do with it.  Go figure.  I just tell them that their tastes aren't mature enough yet.  Burt loves it, and I love it, so I say, More for us.

Print out this recipe from King Arthur.  Get some ingredients together.  Give yourself a evening to make it, and then you can spend the next few weeks congratulating yourself on how frugal and healthy your breakfast is.