Baking and cooking for joy

Baking and cooking when I have a luxurious amount of time to just work the way I enjoy working in the kitchen is probably one of the greatest stress relievers and antidepressants I've found. There's something to be said for spending countless hours in the kitchen, measuring ingredients, combining them, cleaning as you go, being precise, tasting, adjusting... ahhh, it just makes me so happy. I love creating something with a person, or group of persons in mind. I focus all of my love and energy on making something especially for them, that I know they will enjoy. I honestly think it makes all the difference. It sounds kind of silly, but I think baking/cooking with love is something you maybe can't taste, but something you can definitely sense in a dish. For example, (bear with me, it's a silly one), my husband likes to just throw some food and hot water in a dish for the cat, mix it together, slap it down, and expect him to eat it (nothing against my husband). The cat rarely eats all of it--only when he gets desperate. When I prepare his food, I make sure to measure the perfect amount, add just the right touch of hot water, mix it thoroughly, and mound it up so it's easy to eat. I take the time to make it just the way he likes it, and 80% of the time he eats it all on the spot. I know that's a ridiculous example, but my cat is unbiased proof! Another example--one time my sister's friend came over to go on a hike with her and her boyfriend at the time. He was their music professor or something--really cool guy. I was making pancakes. He studied me for a moment, and said "I've never seen anything like that--you are making those with love." I was struck with his comment and replied: "Exactly! That is exactly right!" I was amazed that he could take one look at me and understand my entire style in the kitchen. That is one of the best compliments I have ever received.

I've had a long week. And by long I mean super, ridiculously long. One of those weeks that seem like they never end, and are full of mishaps, arguments, and just general lag. Monday was the day from hell (you know those days, where nothing goes right), and I think from Saturday-Wednesday I slept a total of 11 hours. Then, yesterday I started work in the afternoon, nannyed overnight, and got off work at noon today. In that 22 hour time period, I dealt with broken tree branches, countless fights, smashed fingers, flag football, soccer, lost balls, lost dogs, 4am bloody noses, 6am dog vomit, prepping one kid for a baseball game, and the other for soccer, 3 meals, 4 loads of laundry, 4 loads of dishes... all on about 4 hours of sleep. In reality, it was all enjoyable, and hilarious. I laughed my way through all the silly "mishaps" and therefore so did the children.

Needless to say I was exhausted when I got home. I still had to prepare two meals with my husband, meal plan, grocery shop at 4 separate places, go to Target, and bake my Lemon Cake for Zombie Jesus Day tomorrow (which is a long recipe). I wandered around outside snapping some photos to try to regain sanity before facing the holiday crowds. When I got home from my errands, my feet ached, I had a headache, I could barely keep my eyes open and all I wanted to do was curl up and watch Project Runway. Instead, I put on my apron, got out my stand mixer, and started zesting citrus. Three hours later, my muscles are relaxed, my headache is gone, and the joy is back in my heart. I can feel the love of my family and "family" I am so excited to spend time with tomorrow. My house is warm and full of the happy scents of orange and lemon intermingled with baked goods. I am exhausted, but in a good way. I feel accomplished, and satisfied.

If you had a long week like me, grab a tedious recipe, and go spend some hours in the kitchen. Feel the stress, anxiety, and busyness trickle out of your head, roll down your spine, and leave your body while you create something with love:)


Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with Crumb Topping

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with Crumb Topping
1 9-inch pie crust 

1/2-3/4 lb rhubarb, sliced 1/2 inch thick
2-3 cups strawberries, halved or quartered depending on size
1/2-3/4 cup sucanat, or unrefined sugar (depending on the sweetness of your berries)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
dash of cinnamon
1 egg
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 tablespoon corn starch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 all purpose flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar (or scant 1/2 cup sucanat + 1 tablespoon molasses)
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup cold butter

Combine the fruit with the sugar, lemon juice, and cinnamon. Let stand at room temperature and allow to macerate for about half an hour, or up to an hour. Meanwhile, mix the egg, flour, cornstarch, and vanilla, then add to the macerated fruit. Also, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Prepare the pie pan with the pie pastry, then add the filling.

Make the topping by combining the dry ingredients and then cutting in the butter. Top the filling with the topping (dyoh).

Bake for 10 minutes at 400, then lower to 350 and bake for another 35 minutes until golden brown and bubbling.

Somehow I don't have a photo of the finished product. It was a birthday gift that I rushed off to the recepients:)


Whole Wheat and Spelt Buttermilk Pancakes

This morning husbandface slept in, after a late night at work last night, which means I didn't eat breakfast. Instead, I started a strawberry rhubarb pie for my friend's birthday (recipe coming soon), then went to the fruit stand, the library, and an antique store. When I came home, he was just waking up. It was around 12:30pm and a good time for a hearty brunch. I offered to make him pancakes while he made scrambled eggs. I threw some bacon from our local butcher in the oven to bake while we cooked.

This recipe is adapted from Deliciously Organic. My experience with whole wheat pancakes has been less than satisfactory. They always seem to be heavy, dense, and overly chewy. This is not the case with this recipe. Carrie describes them as being "light and fluffy with delicious crispy edges." I couldn't agree more. In fact, they are probably the best pancakes I've ever had. They are light, fluffy, and elastic, but with depth and substance; topped with some freshly ground peanut butter, and a dash of maple syrup, they're incredible.

I didn't have buttermilk on hand, so instead I put 1 tablespoon of lemon juice (vinegar works, too) in a 1 cup measuring cup, and added milk to the top. You'll need to do this twice, plus a scant 1/4 cup milk plus a dash of lemon juice or vinegar, for this recipe.

Whole Wheat and Spelt Buttermilk Pancakes
24 3-inch pancakes

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup spelt flour (you can omit the spelt flour by using 3 cups ww pastry flour)
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 1/4 cup buttermilk (see above for substitution)
3/4 cup whole milk
3 eggs, separated
6 tablespoons unsalted melted butter
coconut oil, for frying (you may use butter instead)

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, salt, baking soda and powder, and the cinnamon. In a separate bowl, combine the milks with the egg whites. In yet another smaller bowl, combine the melted butter with the egg yolks (you may want to temper the egg yolks before hand if your butter is freshly melted and still hot to avoid cooking the egg).

Add the yolk/butter mixture to the egg white/milk mixture and whisk. Combine the wet ingredients with the dry, stir until just combined (lumps are okay), and let stand for five minutes.

In a pan between medium and medium-high, add a teaspoon of coconut oil. Coat the pan with it once it melts. Cook the pancakes by dropping 1/4 cup ladle fulls onto the hot pan (3 at a time works well). Cook until bubbling, and the bottom is golden brown, then flip and continue cooking until golden brown. Transfer each batch to a warm oven while you cook the remaining pancakes. 

Serve with butter or peanut butter, and maple syrup. They would also be lovely with a berry compote. Any leftovers can be easily frozen, separated by parchment paper, in a ziploc or tupperware. To reheat, simply toast, or put in a 350 degree oven for ten minutes.


Poached Egg atop Parmesan Roasted Asparagus

Our real food pledge is going so well! This morning I woke up and did an hour or two of recipe researching. Then, I woke Mikey up and made him a yummy breakfast of parmesan roasted asparagus topped with a poached egg off of For the Love of Cooking. I think sometime, for a treat, we'll wrap par-cooked bacon around the asparagus before roasting, too:)
[update continues below recipe]

Poached Egg atop Parmesan Roasted Asparagus
Serves 2
10 spears of asparagus, woody ends snapped off
Olive oil spray (mist your own!)
2 tablespoons grated parmesan
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the asparagus on a oiled baking sheet. Spray them with a little olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with cheese. Set aside. 
Bring a pot of water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Spray silicone or glass prep bowls with oil. Put an egg in each bowl, set atop the water, and cover.
Put the asparagus in the oven. Cook both for about 5-7 minutes, depending on the size of your asparagus, and how well done you like your egg. We like our whites cooked, and the yolk runny. 
Place 5 spears of asparagus on each plate, and top each bundle with a poached egg. Season with salt and pepper. Enjoy :)

After breakfast, we went out to Central Market and bought a bunch of real food baking supplies. Spelt flour, whole wheat flour, oat flour, brown rice flour, sucanat, raw unrefined sugar, raw sesame seeds, raw peanuts, pine nuts, etc, etc, etc. We headed over to Yakima Fruit Stand afterwards and stocked up on produce! We came back home, moved our patio table onto the sunny grass, and ate lunch by the creek. We've been loving local turkey with havarti, Vegenaise and lettuce on Dave's Killer Bread. Then, I made chocolate-peanut granola! Now, I'm editing photos while hubsface takes a bath before work. Tonight, we will be making roasted vegetables with orzo. WHEW.


Days two and three of the real food pledge

It's going really well! We haven't given in to any processed, preservative-filled, fried, or sugar filled things. I haven't been sleeping well (read: at all) so it's hard to tell a difference energy-wise. I would say I do feel a more stable energy level, whether it's low or really low, hahaha:) Husbandface also reported feeling a "smoother" energy level, with no drop offs (seeing how he usually starts his day with cereal).

Yesterday for breakfast we had slow scrambled eggs, kale, and toast with watermelon and apple slices. It was amazing. For my snack, I had a whole milk latte with honey. We did sandwiches with turkey from our local butcher, havarti, and lettuce for lunch. Last night we went to Kirkland's city council meeting to support KTUB's case against the YMCA, so our dinner plans were slightly messed up. Instead of stir fry, we made some whole wheat semolina pasta with asparagus, green beans, and carrots. It was delicious, and hubsface requested it for lunch again today! We snacked on peanut butter toast, and fruit/veggies.

Today, I woke up early to go to work, so we were unable to do breakfast together. I had some toast, and an apple with peanut butter later on once I woke up more. The husband also had toast, with peanut butter, and something else I am forgetting about. I snacked on turkey and veggies, then we did pasta with veggies for lunch. We also had some coffee with honey for our afternoon snack. Right now, we have a whole roasted chicken in the slow cooker, the meat is falling off the bones, and it's smells so incredible. I am going to make a vegetable tian to go along with it.

I'm going to bake something soon, and I'm excited to completely substitute natural sweeteners for refined sugar, instead of just partially like I usually do.



Day one of the Real Food Pledge

Today we started our Real Food Pledge. So far, nothing seems different. For breakfast, I had yogurt with strawberries, banana, apple, and grapes. Then I had half a banana with a tablespoon of peanut butter for a snack. I haven't gotten a chance to go to the butcher for lunch meat yet so for lunch we had sharp cheddar grilled cheese sandwiches on Dave's Killer Bread (since I haven't made bread, yet) with watermelon. Will probably have some raw veggies for the afternoon snack. The husband had eggs and asparagus for breakfast, and the grilled cheese/watermelon combination for lunch as well.

I just meal planned, and am not really faced with any challenges, yet. This is pretty much how we eat already! Which is good. Here are our first four dinners:

Thai chicken vegetable (bell pepper, onion, mushrooms) lettuce wraps

(Changed to whole wheat pasta with veggies)

Slow cooked whole chicken with vegetable tian (zucchini, tomato, summer squash) and salad

Whole wheat orzo with roasted vegetables (mushroom, bell pepper, asparagus, onion, tomatoes) and leftover chicken with salad

Sounds amazing. For lunches, we'll probably stick to salads or sandwiches, and fresh fruit/veggies. For breakfasts, probably combinations of eggs, yogurt, granola, fresh fruit and toast from homemade bread. Snacks are probably going to mostly consist of veggies/fruit, nuts, and dried fruit.

It's too soon to note any changes, obviously, and especially since we didn't eat that many industrialized ingredients anyway, but I do feel quite chipper today:) Maybe it was all the crafting I did this weekend combined with the gardening yesterday. My crafting is a surprise, but I will definitely show it off when it's done;)