Christmas in Blizzard Country

Meet Chester.  He has a bad habit of lying on your lap with his belly in the air and then sliding off your lap head-first.  This adds an appreciated element of comedy on those days when the weather decides it wants to snow 12 inches and leaving the house is too intimidating. Strangely is wasn’t the snow that kept us from leaving town at the end of the week.  Not only did we catch a stomach bug two days before our flight back to the West Coast, but due to a series of unfortunate events, we ended up spending the night in Newark Airport.  Note to self: only plan to sleep in airports where seats aren’t separated by armrests and CNN isn’t left on ALL NIGHT.  While I am now fully up to date on such interesting topics as a sailing race around the world historically only won by French middle-aged men with children, a booming horse racing economy in some Chinese city where jockeys are famous like basketball players, and the history of the man-made Dubai harbor, I would have sacrificed all of it for another hour of sleep.

At least the tree looked nice.  It was a bit shorter than usual at only 9 feet or so, but that’s what you get when you don’t drag the tree from the middle of the forest yourself.  This year my mom had the brilliant idea that she would have her children cook all the Swedish food for the Christmas eve meal while she decorated the house.  I must admit, she was a lot more relaxed than usual, although we certainly weren’t.  Sunday night was a series of two kinds of cookie, four pies, and two pickles.  Monday was the ham (the first one I’ve ever liked), sausages, salmon, two potato dishes, and some other things that clearly weren’t as important because now I can’t remember them.  Luckily the herring came pre-pickled.

While most of us thought that was enough cooking and were content to eat leftovers on Christmas day, my sister decided to start a batch of cinnamon sticky rolls before opening presents (an event that lasts an eternity at my parents house no matter how many presents there are, and where an eternity is conveniently quantized into units of how long it takes a yeast dough to rise).  The cinnamon sticky rolls were delicious. And I’ve been dreaming up less sweet and perhaps more buttery versions ever since.

Biscuits with Cheddar and Kale

This has got to be one of the crazier baked goods I’ve made lately.  Perhaps I’ll rationalize it by saying there’s pretty much nothing I won’t do to get rid of 2 cups of cooked greens.  I was also intrigued by the idea of biscuits that don’t contain butter (even if the reason they don’t contain butter is because they instead contain two cups of grated cheddar cheese).  Normally I try to only post recipes here that I know I would make again… this one?  Not so sure, at least not with kale.  The earlier versions of this recipe look more promising: the Cheddar and Mustard Greens version from Food in Jars and before that the Cheddar Scallion and Cheddar Chives recipes from Local Kitchen and Epicurious.  So while I will most likely never make these biscuits again with kale, I can’t get the thought of a caramelized onion and swiss chard version with a super-sharp cheddar out of my head.

Biscuits with Cheddar and Kale
(Makes 10-12 biscuits)
1 1/2 cups white flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons salt (or a bit less)
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
2 cups of cooked and finely chopped kale
1 cup milk + extra if needed

Begin by finely chopping the kale and cooking it in a little bit of oil until tender.  It is hard to know exactly how much raw kale will equal 2 cups cooked kale, so I just cooked a very large bunch of it and it was scarily close to 2 cups.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F before preparing the rest of the ingredients (grating cheese etc.).  Mix together the flours, baking powder, and salt and then add the grated cheese.  Next add the cooked kale and mix to distribute the greens evenly (they like to clump together).  Add the 1 cup of milk and mix the dough with your hands to try to form a single cohesive ball of dough.  Add more milk (1/4 to 1/2 cup) bit by bit if the dough doesn’t hold together.  When the dough is holding together nicely, use a spoon to scoop 10 to 12 portions of the dough onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.  Bake the biscuits for 18-20 minutes until golden brown.

Sourdough Pancakes with Strawberry Syrup

In less than a year we have fostered three yeast colonies.  The first two slowly solidified in the fridge after weeks of neglect.  I was worried, therefore, when I was given Atlantis III, that it would suffer the same fate: I would grow tired of throwing away perfectly good sourdough starter and cease to take it out of the fridge at all.  Perhaps the world of sourdough starters is new to you, in which case you may be wondering why it would be kept in the fridge or why I would have to throw it away.  Here’s what I used to do: twice a day discard half the sourdough starter and feed the rest with a half cup of flour and a quarter cup of water.  If I didn’t want to babysit the starter during the week, I put it in the fridge, thereby slowing down the ravenous yeasts’ metabolism.  But this time something has changed.  In addition to a new yeast colony, I received a recipe for sourdough starter pancakes (in fact, I might go so far as to say that I only accepted a new yeast colony after hearing about the recipe for sourdough pancakes).  My friends said this pancake recipe changed their lives.  Well, it has changed mine too.  Instead of ever having to throw out part of the starter I use it directly in the pancakes, and the flavor is just divine.  Really, I look forward to the weekend because of these pancakes.  We have had them every Saturday and Sunday morning for breakfast for nearly the last month and I’m far from being tired of them.  And even when I’m snuggled up in bed on a Friday night, I am willing to brave the cold evening air to race downstairs, take Atlantis III out of the fridge and feed her, because otherwise I won’t get my pancake fix.  If throwing away sourdough starter kept you from keeping a yeast colony of your very own, I present you with the pancake recipe that might just change your life.

Sourdough Pancakes
(enough for 2-3 people)
3/4 cup sourdough starter
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons oil (I use olive oil)
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 1/4 teaspoons salt
3/4 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar OR one heaping spoonful of honey
Grated lemon, lime, or orange peel (optional)
Using a whisk, mix all the ingredients except for the baking soda until very well incorporated.  Heat a skillet with a small pat of butter (or oil).  Add the baking soda to the batter and incorporate well while trying to stir as little as possible.  Fry the pancakes on medium-low heat for about a minute per side.  Or rather, flip them as soon as you can see them start to bubble, and if the underside is too dark by then, turn down the heat.  I usually make ~3 inch diameter pancakes (4 at a time).  Keep the cooked pancakes warm under a lid or in the oven at 170 degrees F.

Strawberry Syrup
2-3 cups frozen strawberries
2-3 cups water
2 teaspoons Grand Marnier (or vanilla extract)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 packed tablespoons brown sugar
Place frozen strawberries and water in a large pot.  Bring the water to a simmer while you make the pancakes.  The strawberries will slowly soften and turn the water a deep red.  I simply let the strawberries cook for as long as it took to make the pancakes, probably 30-40 minutes, but I was careful to add more water to the syrup if the sauce got too thick.  Add the lemon juice and Grand Marnier early on in the cooking.  Towards the end add the brown sugar if the sauce is not as sweet as you would like.   Even a small amount of sugar made the syrup sweet enough to eat as the only pancake topping (normally I prefer both fruit and maple syrup).

Kathy’s Raisin Scones

In the last couple of years I have been trying to collect recipes from my grandmother and great aunt who are both excellent cooks.  My great aunt’s potato salad is still my favorite and my grandmother makes the best Swedish meatballs I’ll ever eat.  But perhaps their very expertise makes it difficult to document, because they both insist that their potato salad or Swedish meatballs are so simple and that they change the recipe every time.  Well!  I look forward to the day that I can be such an expert about anything, and such comments only make me beg them to write down their secret formulas harder.  The following is a recipe from my grandmother titled “Kathy’s Scones”, although who Kathy is I may never know.  They are best eaten warm from the oven (although not hot, as I learned the hard way).

Kathy’s Scones
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup butter
1/2 cup raisins
3/4 cup milk
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  Mix together the first four ingredients and then cut in the butter until it the dough has the consistency of coarse cornmeal.  Add the raisins and then add the milk, stirring only until the dough comes together.  On a floured surface or some parchment paper, form the dough into a circle about 7 inches across and 3/4 inch high.  Cut into as many wedges as you like (the original recipe suggested 6-8, but as I was expecting company, I went for 12).  Place the scone wedges on an ungreased baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown.  If you make more than 6-8 scones, reduce the baking time a bit or use a lower temperature.

Homemade Almond Milk

If I can’t own a cow, at least I can buy raw almonds at the Farmer’s Market and make my own milk.  Even though I have been drinking soy and almond milk since I was very little, I had no idea it was so easy to make your own.  Enter Fieldguided and their link to a rather beautiful video about how to make your own nut milk by My New Roots.  Since buying a nutmilk bag (just a fine-meshed bag to strain the nut milk from the nut pulp), we have not been out of almond milk in our apartment for almost two weeks.  The only hard part is remembering to start soaking the almonds 8 hours before you actually get to make the nutmilk, which I am so bad at that I painted a fridge magnet to remind me.  The following recipe is the procedure for making any kind of nut milk, but I have only experimented with almonds so far.

Homemade Almond Milk
(Makes 4 cups almond milk)
1 cup raw almonds
Water
Nutmilk bag or other contraption for straining the nutmilk from the nutpulp

There are just a few easy steps to making almond milk:
Step 1:  Soak the almonds in enough water to cover them by a few inches for 8 hours.
Step 2:  Drain the almonds and rinse them until the water runs clear.
Step 3:  Blend the soaked almonds with 4 cups of cold water in a food processor or blender for about a minute.  I only have a small food processor, so I have to do this step in batches.
Step 4:  Line a clean container in which you’d like to keep the nutmilk with a nutmilk bag.  Pour the nutmilk and nutpulp into the nutmilk bag.
Step 5:  Squeeze the nutmilk bag so that you get all the nutmilk out of the nutpulp.
Step 6:  Drink the nutmilk within 3-4 days and do something with the nutpulp, such as making almond pulp cookies (recipe below).
So what is one to do with the 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups of almond pulp?  Well, I’ve now had a couple batches of almond pulp to deal with and I can suggest that at least one fun thing to do with it is to make “almond meal” cookies.  I just substituted the almond pulp for almond meal/flour in gluten-free almond flour recipes.  Here is one basic combination of ingredients (adapted from a recipe on Paleoz.com):

Almond Pulp Cookies
1 1/2 cups almond pulp (or whatever you are left over with after making almond milk)
1/4 – 1/3 cups honey
1/4 cups olive oil or other less flavored oil
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Chocolate chips for chocolate chip cookies OR lots of spices for spice cookies
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Mix all the ingredients until well-mixed.  I used lots of ground ginger, some cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg to make ginger-spice cookies.   Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and make little mounds of cookie dough.  Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the cookies are cooked through.  These almost have the texture of muffins, and I have no problem eating them for breakfast.

Lemon Pancakes with Potato Flour

Tapioca starch down on those delicious cheese puffs, and only potato flour to go… on my quest to use up the gluten-free flours that will soon be stale and unfit for baking adventures.  Again the King Arthur Flour blog saved me, this time with some of the most delicious pancakes I’ve ever eaten (except my Dad’s of course, a recipe that he has memorized and made for weekend breakfasts for as long as I can remember).  These pancakes are lemony and fluffy.  I made a very tart lemon syrup to go on top of them that could only be eaten in small quantities (yes, it was that intense).  The original recipe called for potato flour and cornmeal and was thus gluten-free.  As I didn’t have cornmeal, I substituted a coarsely-ground whole wheat flour that we buy from the Farmer’s Market, and which provided a somewhat comparable texture.

Lemon Pancakes with Potato Flour
3/4 cups potato starch
1/2 cups coarse whole-wheat flour
3 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/8 teaspoon xanthan gum
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cups milk
1 – 2 tablespoons grated lemon rind
Combine the ingredients and let the batter sit for 10-15 minutes (this resting period is important for gluten-free baking).  Heat a skillet or griddle and cook the pancakes for 1-2 minutes per side.  I usually cook my pancakes in butter because it tastes just so good, but I’m sure canola oil would work.  Enjoy with syrup, powdered sugar, honey, or fruit and maybe whipped cream!

The lemon syrup I made was essentially the juice of one lemon, a tablespoon or more honey, dash of salt, and a teaspoon of corn starch.  I cooked the syrup until it was thickened, adding a bit of more water when too much of the syrup had boiled off.  It was very tart, but somehow perfect on these pancakes.

And now, for other things I’ve been enjoying recently.  First, oven-roasted broccoli spears and thinly sliced carrots, drizzled in honey to make them caramelized:

Second, attempting to make homemade nut butter.  I started with some hazelnuts, but they never got very creamy.  I added cocoa powder, vanilla extract, and honey to make a sort of homemade nutella, but this would have worked much better with oilier, or perhaps just fresher, nuts.  Almond “nutella” coming soon!

Finally, after eating too many chocolate chips, I thought I would melt them and mix the melted chocolate with a little milk and some nuts to make my own chocolate nut clusters.  These are delicious!  They’re also dangerous, not only because then I eat them all, but also because dealing with the hot bowl of chocolate has added a total of two scars to my not otherwise unblemished fingers.  My favorite so far is a mix of walnuts and almonds made with Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips and a bit of homemade almond milk.

Apple Dutch Babies

That’s right, here at Black Holes for Breakfast we like to feast on the blood of Christian babes. OK, fine, I actually have no idea why they’re called Dutch Babies, nor does anyone I’ve talked to, Dutchman or not. They make for a delicious and remarkably simple Sunday breakfast–and the simple part is why this is a guest post from your favorite guest-poster, Peter.

This recipe starts off delicious with apples cooked in butter and honey, and just gets better. The only problem I have is waiting for it to cool. Without further ado, therefore, I present you with the recipe, as adapted from The Commonsense Kitchen:

Apple Dutch Babies
Apples:
3-4 tablespoons butter
3 large tart apples, sliced
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon honey (or sugar)

Batter:
3 large eggs
3/4 cups milk
3/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Melt the butter in a cast iron skillet. When hot and bubbling, add apples, then spices and honey. Stir intermittently for 10 or so minutes, until the apples are soft but still holding their shape. Meanwhile, prepare the batter by whisking the ingredients in a bowl until smooth. When ready, pour the batter into the skillet and immediately put the skillet into the oven. After 15 minutes, reduce the heat to 350 degrees F and bake for 8 or 9 minutes more, until (you guessed it) golden brown. Enjoy!

Notes:

Four tablespoons of butter is probably a bit excessive (but wonderful), so I usually put in whatever chunk of butter is convenient. When I don’t have cinnamon I put in cloves and nutmeg, and sometimes I just put in all three when I feel like it. If the pancake puffs up in the first 10 or 15 minutes of baking you should deflate it by poking it with a fork, but as I usually use heavier whole wheat flour this isn’t an issue. The recipe says to wait for it to cool to room temperature so that the flavor of the apples becomes stronger, but we’ve never been that patient. Finally, in the original cookbook this is actually a variation on the plain Dutch Baby, which omits the apples, and then instructs you to serve hot with jam, syrup, or powdered sugar. That is delicious as well, but if you have apples, why not use them?