Sprouts: A little life in the dark days

I have taught a few Raw Foods classes over the years, though I would not call myself an expert, I have done some research on this subject. One of the things that almost always gets people to sign up for my classes is Sprouting! Lentils Sprouting seems to hold an intense fascination with people today, and I completely understand. To me it sort of fulfills that human desire to create, to watch things grow. Since most of us have a million excuses not to actually grow our own vegetables, we can at least sprout some lovely shoots on our kitchen counter with little to no effort in a matter of days.

Instant gratification. Fresh Food. Micro Farming.

I find myself doing most of my sprouting in the days of winter – when sunlight and fresh food is scarce. The ground is frozen and the sky is slate gray, but my little sprouting trays are teeming with life.

Separating my sprouting into two different types makes my brain a little happier, as I like to sprout some from (A) and some (B) at the same time (in different containers) so that I have sprouts to munch on and sprouts to cook with. (These are just a few of my favorites out of 100’s of things to sprout.)

Sprouts that I can eat whole and raw (A) and Sprouts that have to be cooked or the seed removed (B).

(A) group includes thing like Flax, Wheat and Rye Berries, Radish, Broccoli, Cabbage, Alfalfa, Almonds, Black Sesame

(B) group includes things like Sunflower Seeds, Mung Beans, Black Beans, Kidney Beans, Lentils, Brown Rice

Sprouts are incredibly easy to grow – you can honestly use a wet paper towel (like the experiment you did in grade school, remember)! But here are few methods that most people prefer (click photos and link to the site they are from):

Jars with cloth or net over the top.  (click photo to find site this photo is from)

Jars with cloth or net over the top.

Hemp Bags

Hemp Bags.

Or my preferred method: Sprouting Tower with Trays!!

Or my preferred method: Sprouting Tower with Trays!!

This sprouting tower basically just “fills itself” – I pour water in the top (the top is the white tray on the left) and it fills and then empties into the next tray by the use of the magical force of gravity, and repeat on each level until all the excess water is trapped in the last tray until I empty it. The ridges on the bottom of each tray ensures that the seeds remain moist but not too wet.

Recently I sprouted flax seeds, black lentils. and wheat berries,

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Day Two Wheat Berries

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Day Two Flax Seeds

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Day Two Black Lentils

that just kept growing.

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Day Three Wheat Berries

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Day Three Flax Seeds

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Day Three Black Lentils

AND SOME WOULDN’T STOP!

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The science and nutrition around sprouting is quite simple (and a super old practice). First of all seeds (and this includes nuts, beans, legumes, and grains) are routinely eaten in their whole or ground form – but you are actually missing a lot of the nutrition that is contained within these little things. Since seeds carry around the beginnings of new life, they store huge amounts of highly concentrated nutrition to help a little sprout start and make it into the ground – where it can begin to draw nutrients from the soil. This “highly concentrated nutrition” is actually protected by carbohydrates and insoluble fiber, to basically make it harder for others to access and easier for the seed to “sleep”. With the process of sprouting, or waking the seed from nutritional hibernation, you jump-start a reaction in the seed that (a) begins photosynthesis, (b) enzymes begin to metabolize the carbs and fiber to gain access to the more nutritious amino acids, proteins, minerals, and vitamins, and (c) causes the seed to start to grow.

It’s an ingenious plan of nature to make these plant babies so self-sufficient, simply carrying its first few days worth of food around with it. And to get at that wonderful nutritive food is easy! Easy as stealing candy from a baby, a baby sprout plant that thinks it is going to use all that energy and nutrition to grow into a plant.

To wake these seeds up you need two things…come on! think back….fifth grade science class…..Water and Light! The correct balance is the only hurdle to jump. Too wet and you get moldy seeds. Too dry and they don’t sprout. Too much light and they fry. Too little light and they won’t crack. Generally I find, for the light – especially in the winter – that on the kitchen counter is light enough. Assuming your kitchen isn’t in an underground bunker.

Water, on the other hand, is a bit trickier. Really you just want your seed moist, but not wet – and certainly not soaking in a pool of water. It is best to moisten them twice a day.

Well, ok now – Get To Sprouting!!! and look out for my post on what to do with all the sprouts you now have!

(The first photo in this post was borrowed from this blog: http://www.insonnetskitchen.com/sprouted-lentils/ )

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Scones, one of the best quick breads

I love scones, because they are basically a biscuit that you can fill with any amount of fun things – sweet or savory!

The last few times I made scones I tried all different kinds of combinations:

Cheddar and Cashew

Sunflower Seed, Dried Cherry, Mexican Chocolate

Flax Seed, Pecan, Dried Cranberry

 

This is my simple scones recipe:

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I often write recipes to myself as just a list of ingredients (ask any one of my former employees and they will surely roll their eyes about it), so it’s not surprising that there are no directions. In baking, I like to make sure I have measurements for the ingredients, as I am not a good enough baker (yet) to guess on the amounts of leaveners, etc. The technique on scones is a basic biscuit technique – simply: mix dry ingredients, cut in butter, add liquid and other flavorings/additions (like nuts, berries, or cheese).

A few words of wisdom from my years of baking at work and at home:

*Make sure your baking powder and baking soda are no more than one year old. Everything in your kitchen runs out of life eventually (even dried beans can become inedibly dry after a few years) and these items are not an exception. If you are in doubt, just get new ones – it’s not that much of an investment to ensure successful baking.

*Use unsalted butter. Always. Salt is a preservative, meaning salted butter is more likely to be a lot older. Plus you want to be able to control the salt content in your cooking.

*Don’t get overwrought about “room temperature butter,” just let it sit out for like 10 minutes – that’s it. It just has to be slightly pliable.

*Don’t overwork your dough – unless you are making bread or pasta, you don’t need to knead a dough. Stir it until it is wet and everything seems evenly distributed.

*Last, but certainly not least, don’t get stressed out. Food is like a reflection of your mood, if you are stressed about making something it will most likely turn out tough/undercooked/wrong because you nervously stir it/open the oven too much/skip a step. Relax, enjoy the feel/smell/taste of it all.

 

Simple Scones

makes 12 small scones

 

3 c flour

1/3 c sugar

2.5 tsp baking powder

.5 tsp baking soda

3/4 c butter, room temp

1 c buttermilk, milk, cream, or yogurt

 

1. Preheat oven to 400degrees.

2. Mix dry ingredients in bowl, add butter pieces. Cut butter with a pastry cutter or using hands until you get a gravely texture.

3. Add liquid and any other flavorings (nuts, dried fruit, cheese, etc) and stir until combined.

4. Separate dough into thirds, and turn each third on a floured surface until a cohesive ball – form into a 4″ puck and chill for about 30 minutes.

5. Remove from refrigerator and cut into fourths. Bake on a baking sheet for 15-25 minutes, until slightly browned.

note: You can keep the puck in the freezer for up to three months. Just pull it out and let it thaw on the counter for an hour or two, cut into fourths and bake as usual.

 

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Dry Ingredients

 

Cold Butter

Cold Butter

 

Room Temp Butter

Room Temp Butter

 

Add Butter to Dry Ingredients

Add Butter to Dry Ingredients

 

Cutting Butter By Hand - squeeze butter between thumb and forefinger and drop back into the flour mixture. Repeat.

Cutting Butter By Hand – squeeze butter between thumb and forefinger and drop back into the flour mixture. Repeat.

 

Halfway Through the Cutting Process - the butter is still big and looks flakey

Halfway Through the Cutting Process – the butter is still big and looks flakey

 

Done Cutting the Butter - the mixture resembles small gravel

Done Cutting the Butter – the mixture resembles small gravel

 

Add Liquid Ingredients

Add Liquid Ingredients

 

Four Inch Puck - chill before cutting

Four Inch Puck – chill before cutting

 

Cut in Fours and Put Into the Oven

Cut in Fours and Put Into the Oven

 

Golden Brown Scones

Golden Brown Scones

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Good Housekeeping

I took this tattered cookbook from my mom’s house years ago, and somehow figured she wouldn’t notice. The ignorance of youth.

Well, she told me not that long ago that she knew I took it and (like only a mother would) said she is glad I have it. So, thanks mom. I love this book, it is basic and easy and it has had years of use at my mother’s hand. I remember her pulling it out whenever she couldn’t remember exact measurements for her favorite recipes. It gives me a warm sense of home.

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On a recent cold Sunday morning (ok, more like afternoon) I decided to make French Toast. I actually went through about five old cookbooks until I found a recipe for it. Didn’t seem to be a popular dish until the sixties, though it does appear in really old publications (like the White House Cookbook, 1894, as “American Toast: To one egg thoroughly beaten, put one cup of sweet milk and a little salt. Slice light bread and dip in mixture, allowing each slice to absorb some of the milk; then brown on a hot buttered griddle or thick bottomed frying pan; spread with butter and serve hot.” An interesting and savory version from over 100 years ago.)

The recipe given in the Good Housekeeping Cookbook, 1964 was pretty simple, I suppose for me too simple. So I took the base recipe:

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and added some things, so it looked like this:

FRENCH TOAST

(makes 4 – 6 servings)

4 eggs

1/2 t salt

2 T brown sugar

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup yogurt (vanilla or plain)

6-12 slices of any kind of bread

oil, butter, or fat for browning

1. Break up eggs with a whisk, then whisk in salt, sugar, milk, and yogurt until well mixed.

2. Dunk bread in egg mixture. Let them soak for a few minutes if they are thick.

3. In a skillet or on a griddle, melt butter or fat on medium heat. Add in as many pieces of toast to fit in pan. Brown both sides and keep warm in oven as you brown the other pieces.

4. Serve warm with cinnamon sugar, honey, maple syrup, jam, or any such sweet thing.

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Eggs.

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Whisk.

Add Salt, Sugar, Milk, and Yogurt.

Add Salt, Sugar, Milk, and Yogurt.

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Let it soak up all the goodness.

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And soak.

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I love a cast iron pan. I use have oil half butter, which keeps the butter from burning.

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Brown. And don’t overcrowd the pan.

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Another flip.

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Brown the other side.

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Serve.

Try this for a perfectly subtly-sweet hearty breakfast, I suggest serving it with any form of pork (or if you are disinclined to eat meat, try some other such salty goodness to pair with this sweetness like: homemade eggplant sausage, soy-free vegan bacon, or just delicious hash browns).

today’s menu

Grab you bags and bring your appetite down to Wallingford for some deliciousness.

This week we will have:

Moroccan Red Wheat Salad

Nash’s red wheat berries with produce from One Leaf (eggplant, cucumbers, fennel), parsley, and Liz’s amazing spiced tomato syrup

Peach Caprese

a NW take on an Italian favorite, Collins Family Orchard peaches with lemon basil and Samish Bay fresh mozzarella 

Potato Salad

Olsen’s red lasoda potatoes, tossed with carrots greens and a creamy roasted garlic dressing

Turmeric Potatoes and Cauliflower

Clara’s favorite bright yellow and delicious (not to mention nutritious) hand-stainer recipe : potatoes roasted with lots of turmeric and mustard seeds, finished with lime juice and tossed with caramelized cauliflower – let us stain our hands and countertops with this pungent spice and you just relax and reap the benefits

Kitchen Sink Salsa

Liz’s salsa making magic continues with this all-over-the-place amazing salsa of tomatillos, corn, and jalapeños from Alverez with pinto beans, ancho, pasilla, and (of course) lime

Plus something for the kids!!

KFH peanut butter

Fresh Made Peanut Butter and Raspberry Jam Sandwiches!!!

So we’ll see you there…

my papa’s 60th

In my move I pretty much missed my father’s birthday – and it was a big one.

So on my last trip home I got the fam together and made of my pop’s favorite dishes – osso buco. (I found out this was his favorite when we went to Italy a few years ago and he set out on a mission to eat osso buco at every place that served it. Honestly it was an amazingly interesting experience – we tasted osso buco from fancy places to corner cafes, each a little different.)

You will find soon that I am not the biggest fan of traditional recipes – I much prefer the paragraph method that is basically me telling you the story of how to make something with extremely loose quantities.

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Start with thick beef shank; salt and peppered. Sear to a dark crust in cast iron. Add chunky mirepoix (carrots, celery, and onion) garlic, and sage. Deglaze pan with red wine – about a half inch. Cover and throw in a 300degree oven until the beef is falling apart. Add more liquid if you need, the meat must stay moist. This will take a few hours.

Pull the meat off the bone – place on platter. Scoop out mirepoix with slotted spoon and place around meat. I also like to place the bones on a separate platter on the table, so people can eat the marrow at will. Simmer the pan liquid – adding stock if necessary – until it is tasty. Whisk in a whitewash (water and flour, 2:1) and thicken the sauce. Season with salt and pepper and add a touch of light vinegar or lemon juice if it needs a bit of brightness.

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I also made home made peanut butter cups – my dad’s two favorite things are peanut butter and chocolate.

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a piece of cocktail history.

the mixologist and I went to Vessel on Olive and 7th, downtown last night. He was picked to be in a vermouth cocktail competition. While I was waiting for the competition to start, I asked for a menu. I was handed a thick leather bound book, which included a complete listing of their liquors, their small (but interesting) food menu, and a cocktail list that was comprised of the cocktails from the competition. Looked like this:

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Before I even got a chance to ask about their “regular” cocktail menu, the gentleman behind the bar explained that the cocktail menu changes each night – depending on who is tending bar. And for this special event (which they do once a month) they wanted to feature the drinks in the challenge so folks could get involved in a way.

A different menu every night? That was mind blowing to me! My mind was eased a bit when he explained that each bartender doesn’t change the menu every night – the bartenders may stick with their menu for a week or a month – it’s just specific to them.

Proprietary drink menus. That is a super interesting way to do it.

I got a Carne Salade, thinly shaved cured beef with cheese and sprouts and oil. It was salty and delicious. I would have killed for a squeeze of lemon.

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Then I tried a bit of the winning cocktail (no, my mixologist didn’t win) and realized they have the clearest ice I have ever seen in a cocktail in my life.

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The bartender told me that they have a giant ice machine that is made for making ice for ice sculptures – it goes through all kinds of processes to make the ice clear and free of air and minerals. I was an incredible and beautiful thing – I guess I’m about to get snobby over the cloudiness of my ice now.