Basics: Yogurt

virginia 904

Growing up I was teased (ever so gently mind you) by my sisters for being basic. I liked my food straightforward and simple. I didn’t like mixing flavors or ingredients. It wasn’t that I was picky about the items, I just did not want them melding together.

As I have grown older, I don’t mind the mixing (most definitely prefer it now), but some things still seem best left plain, simple, just as they are. One thing. Yogurt. I love plain yogurt. Now, don’t mistake me here. That doesn’t mean I don’t put all sorts of fruits, seeds, and nuts in it, because I do. But, I like to start with plain simple yogurt.

virginia 899

Plain Yogurt

makes 4 cups, takes roughly 13 hours

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups good, local whole milk (I love to use Cruze Dairy Farm…makes it super rich and creamy…and the best part, gets a layer of cream on the top if you are lucky)
  • 1/4 cup yogurt with active live bacteria (try not to use skim…whole or at least 2%)

Supplies:

  • thermometer
  • pot with lid
  • towel
  • whisk
  • mason jars or containers for the yogurt
  • large covered casserole or Styrofoam container with lid (something water proof and heat safe)

Begin by heating your milk gently in a pot to 150 degrees.

While the milk begins to heat, I sterilize the jars for the yogurt.  Typically I use four 8 oz mason jars.  There is something so French about using glass for one’s yogurt.  Maybe because we have a collection of glass jars from the summer in France.  We ate yogurt just so we could have the jars.  Total side note.  Back to sterilizing glass.  Boil water and carefully pour the water into the jars and let sit while you finish making the yogurt.  One note.  I have never had the glass crack on me.  But add the water with care.  You can run hot tap water over the jars first, or heat the water, but not let it boil.

Back to the milk and the stove.  Remove from heat and cover the pot with a lid and a towel to keep nice and warm.  Hold for 30 minutes.  Remove the towel and lid and let cool down to 115-118 degrees.  Make sure the milk has lowered to under 120 degrees before adding the yogurt or you will kill the live bacteria.  Add the yogurt, stir and pour into sterilized jars (emptying the water prior).

Now, this is the key part.  The water bath.  Compliments of Dawn Raburn.  Whenever I have a question of life and health and homemaking, she is my go to resource (after my own mother of course).  She has seen and done it all and seems always ready with an answer.  So, carefully and gently put your glass jars, lids tightly secured, into your container and pour the hottest tap water possible or a mixture of tap water and a little boiled water around the jars, filling with water until just under the rims of the jars.  Now cover and let sit.  I usually put my yogurt in our oven.  Just someplace it won’t be disturbed and that is warm, away from any drafts.

You wait.  For 12 hours.  You can wait less.  8 hours if you like.  But I recommend 12.  Honestly, I forgot the yogurt one night and left it an additional 6.  I don’t recommend that.  It was okay.  Nothing bad happened.  I didn’t get sick and it tasted slightly more sour.  But still held the same smooth creamy consistency.  So, back to the yogurt at hand.  Remove from the water bath and put in the fridge.  That’s it.  You’re done.  Now, enjoy.  Eat and be glad.

 

 

 

Ginger Please (Ginger Granola Recipe)

virginia 911

God, food, family, and travel.  Those are the things I want in life.  The things that I am passionate about and love dearly.  They are why I do what I do.  But lately I have all these feelings and thoughts swirling around inside me and I cannot seem to get my hold on them.  If what I am doing is the best.  If I should be doing something else.  If it is time for something new.  Or for something old.  I tend to question those things.  Constantly.  Mornings like this morning rock me.  To stir those doubts and cause me to look back and look forward and to feel unsettled.

But those questions won’t be answered today.  Today I will focus on sharing my latest granola recipe (and latest addiction).  Pretty much you can expect to find a steady supply of this in my house.  I go through phases but right now I am not even tempted to make any other granola.

Hands down, ginger. Every time.  Everything and anything with ginger.  Like the ginger sausage at Austin’s Elizabeth Street Cafe or the Pimms Cup at Holland House in Nashville.  So, when we were in England and I had ginger granola for the very first time, I could not contain myself.  All I wanted was to go home to my kitchen and whip up my own version.  And that is exactly what I did.  Ginger Coconut Granola to be exact.

virginia 896

 

Ginger Coconut Granola: 

Ingredients:

  • 3 cup oats
  • 1 1/2 cup shaved coconut, unsweetened
  • 1 cup buckwheat
  • 1 cup pecans, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 cup fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 Tbs pumpkin seeds
  • 2 Tbs chia seeds
  • 1/4 cup succanat
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil, plus extra for baking sheet
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 Tbs whole milk

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly oil rimmed baking sheet with extra coconut oil.  Combine oats, coconut, buckwheat, pecans, ginger, ground ginger, pumpkin seeds, chia seed, sugar, and salt in a large bowl.   Set aside.  In a small saucepan over low heat, whisk together honey, oil, milk, and vanilla until mixture is completely melted and combined.  Pour over oat mixture and coat well.   Spread out on baking sheet.  Bake for 25 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring often.  Let cool on baking sheet on wire rack for 1 ½ hours undisturbed.  Break up and store.  (I like to keep it in the freezer.)  Makes a little over 4 cups.

 

Want other granola recipes?  Check out the previous one here.

 

Simple Summer Salad

If nothing else, I love how traveling changes you. How inevitabley you are changed. How you cannot approach life in the same way. Even if in small measures. I went to Austin.  Again.  The second time in the span of a year.  I would never have thought I would return so quickly.  But now that I have, I feel as though it must become a yearly pilgrimage.  There is so much still to explore.  To see.  To taste.  Especially to taste.  Traveling with family who enjoy food as much as I do means days spent finding the best coffee shops and restaurants. Our latest sojourn in Texas was full of emotion.  Constant overwhelming excitement.  One discovery after another of the most delightful places. I could barely stand it.  How can you not almost die over breakfasts of sticky rice with ginger sausage and poached eggs with herb salad, sriracha, and hoisin.  It was one of the best breakfasts. So perfect. So delicious. Truly a delight. Upon returning home, I couldn’t get over the herb salad. A light combination of herbs. Tarragon, cilantro, mint, basil…I am sure there were others.

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

My mother, later that week after I had returned home, made salads as part of dinner. This recipe is totally based upon the delight she threw together. Not at all my own, but forever the way I will eat and make salads.  Use what is in the garden, at the market.  What you have on hand.  Mix according to taste.  Be adventurous and try something new.


Simple Summer Salad:
Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Serves 4

Salad:

  • 6 cups salad greens, a mix including spicy arugula, rinsed and chopped
  • 1 cup herbs, equal mix of dill, cilantro, oregano, and mint (but throw in basil and or tarragon should you like), rinsed, stems removed
  • small bunch of radishes, washed and thinly sliced
  • freshly shaved parmesan cheese, roughly 1/2 cup or according to taste
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts

Balsamic Vinaigrette:

  • 6 Tbs olive oil
  • 3 Tbs balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

Nothing simpler than throwing a bunch of lettuce and herbs in a bowl and tossing to combine.  Add radishes, cheese, pine nuts.  Combine all the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and whisk to combine.  Use according to taste.

*Salad bowl available at 1307 in downtown Chattanooga

Polenta with Mushroom Ragout

photo (17)

These first few months of the year have been ones of rest.  A time to live simply and slowly.  The hint of looming deadlines can be seen in the horizon.  But thankfully they are still looming.  Pretty much I have two weeks until everything turns crazy.  I know in a month life will be full once again to the brim.  It amazes me though, how even in those times of busyness, I find time to do things that could be easily omitted for something of a more pressing nature and in times of rest and relaxation, I don’t find the time to do the things I love most.  Maybe it is that I make time to try to balance out everything else that seems to be whirling around me.  In the midst of stress and busyness is when I find the kitchen calling to me the strongest.  I look back at these past few months and realize I have not really cooked.  I have stepped back.  There have been no pressures, disappointments, or deadlines that cause me to hide from the world and do the one thing that is easy and makes sense and that I can control.  Cooking.

The Wynn Resort in Las Vegas recently teamed up chef Tal Ronnen in an effort to include vegan and vegetarian options for all of their restaurants.  Looking over the menus, I could not help but be drawn to their Polenta Mushroom Cake with a Lentil Ragout and Sweet Pea sauce.  My take on their dish (based on what was literally in the fridge at the time), Polenta with Mushroom Ragout and Sautéed Dandelion Greens.

photo 4 (1)

photo 3 (1)

photo 2 (3)

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Polenta with Mushroom Ragout and Sautéed Dandelion Greens

Serves 2-4 (I think 3 is rather perfect)

Ingredients:

Polenta

  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup polenta
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 Tbs butter
  • 1 Tbs rosemary, chopped
  • salt

Ragout

  • 2 Tbs butter
  • 1 lb mushrooms, your choice or a combination (shiitake, chanterelle, oyster), trimmed, cleaned and thickly sliced
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • salt and pepper

Greens

  • 1 bunch of dandelion greens, lower stems removed, roughly chopped
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced

Bring a pot of salted water to a gentle boil with a bay leaf.  Whisk in the polenta and stir for one minute.  Reduce heat to low.  Cover and let cook.  Every ten minutes, stir.  Cook for roughly 40-45 minutes or until done.  Remove from the heat and remove the bay leaf.  Stir in the butter and chopped rosemary.  Serve immediately when finished cooking.  In the meantime, prepare the mushrooms and the greens.

Begin by bringing another pot of water to boil and blanch the greens.  Drain and rinse them in cold water so they stop cooking, gently squeezing out excess water.  Put aside for now and begin the mushrooms.

Melt the butter over med high and cook the shallots for a couple of minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute.  Then add the mushrooms and cook until golden and beginning to soften, roughly 6 minutes.  Add the wine and thyme and simmer over med low for another 5 minutes or until the wine is cooked.  You don’t want it to over cook and be dry but most all of the liquid should be cooked out.  Season with salt and pepper.

And last heat the oil in another pan.  Add the garlic and cook for one minute.  Then add the dandelion greens and cook until just wilted.  About 4 minutes.

Serve the polenta, add the greens, and top with mushrooms.  Enjoy!

 

Dairy Free Cinnamon Rolls

I have a weakness for cinnamon rolls. They are kind of up there with lattes and cake. Not quite there, but awfully darn close. Pretty much if a cinnamon roll comes through the door of our house, you better guard it, or it might disappear.

Processed with VSCOcam with hb2 preset

I have had cinnamon rolls on my mind for weeks now. So, when I met a friend for coffee earlier this week and she brought a couple for me, I gave in. When it comes to baking, I usually wait until a craving hits and I stave it off for as long as possible before giving in.  But, I couldn’t resist any longer and had to try my hand experimenting.  Let me start by saying, I love butter and milk.  LOVE.  But of late, I have had so many friends with food intolerances that I have been trying to create recipes that avoid cow’s milk.

Processed with VSCOcam with hb2 preset

These cinnamon rolls are hearty and gooey.  They fill you up but don’t sink you (unless you have more than one).  They are sweet, but not over the top.  (Which if you want them even less sweet, omit or reduce the amount of icing you use.)  One note of complete honesty though, I didn’t have enough powdered sugar on hand.   Had I had more, I definitely would have made the icing more of a cream and less of a glaze.  But, to each his own.  Whatever you prefer.  Add more powdered sugar until you have the consistency you want.  And honestly, if you want it stiffer, you can whip it with a beater rather than by hand and even add some melted coconut oil too.   Experiment. Come up with what you think tastes best; what you think makes the perfect cinnamon roll.

And the nice thing about cinnamon rolls, you can start them at night and have them ready to eat in the morning.

photo

Coconut Milk Cinnamon Rolls

Makes 12

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1 packet dry yeast (or 2 1/4 tsp)
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 6 cups spelt flour (you won’t quite use all 6 cups in the dough, reserve the remainder for the work surface)
  • 1/2 cup Teff flour (I love the slightly malty flour that Teff flour gives.  However, you can easily omit this if you don’t have it on hand.  It is not worth going out to just buy this.)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 Tbs coconut oil
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1/3 cup + 2 Tbs honey

filling:

  • 3/4 cup sucanat
  • 2 Tbs coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch sea salt

icing:

  • 1 can coconut milk*
  • 1 1/3 cup powdered sugar

Begin by combining the yeast and honey in the warm water to proof.  Set aside for roughly 10 minutes until foamy.  Meanwhile, combine the flour (reserve one cup of the spelt flour) and salt in a large mixing bowl, whisking to combine.  Set aside

In a small saucepan melt the coconut oil over low heat.  Add the coconut milk and warm gently.  Add the honey and continue to heat gentle until warmed.  Remove from heat and add the yeast to the wet ingredients and whisk to combine.  Stir into the flour mixture with a wooden spoon.  Work the dough together, kneading in the reserved flour as needed until you have a manageable, soft dough that is no longer sticking.  You should still have about a 1/4 cup remaining.   Cover with a moist towel and let rise in a warm place for two hours.

Once the dough has had time to rise, sprinkle the remaining flour on your clean work surface and form into a rectangle, about a 1/2″ thick.

In a bowl, combine the sucanat, walnuts, cinnamon, and salt.  Spread the coconut butter evenly across the dough.  Sprinkle the filling mixture evenly over the dough, leaving a slight border around the edges (1/2″ to 1″).  Now, here comes the really only slightly difficult part.  Gently, yet tightly, roll the dough into a log (rolling in from one of the long sides).  The dough will be soft so try to make sure to get as tight a roll as possible.  Now, seal the dough and place the seam side down.  Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into 1″-1 1/2″ pieces.

Carefully place the rolls into a 9″ x 13″ baking dish.  Some of the sucanat is sure to escape.  Don’t worry.  As you transfer the pieces to the baking dish, scoop up any lost sucanat and scatter along the bottom of the baking dish before placing the cinnamon roll.  This only helps the end result. You know the best part of a cinnamon roll?  The cinnamon that gets trapped on the bottom and caramelizes?  Yep…this just makes the bottoms even more gooey and caramelized.  Try to fit the cinnamon rolls as tightly together as possible so to help them maintain their shape while cooking.  You might have some space at the end of the baking dish, but don’t worry.  It will be fine.  If anything, you can cut the rolls at 1″ to try to get 15 instead of 12 and fill up the dish.

Now, cover with the towel and allow to rise for another hour.  At this point, I say put them in the fridge and go to bed and patiently wait until the morning.  Or if you are ready to bake them, go ahead.  If you put them in the fridge, make sure you allow them to come to room temperature before baking.

Heat oven while the rolls are rising or returning to room temperature to 350 degrees.  Place in the middle rack of the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes (checking after 20 minutes).  Bake until they are beginning to brown and color.  To test, tap them and make sure they feel set and cooked through.  But be mindful, they will still have some give and be soft.  Remove from oven and let cool completely.

While the cinnamon rolls are cooling, make your icing.  Open the can of coconut milk and pour out the liquid, scraping the solids into a bowl.  So, some of you might be familiar with a little trick to aid in separating the solid from the liquid.  If you put your can of coconut milk in the fridge over night, it helps separate them.  If you don’t, it should not be an issue.  However, if your can is not separated, you are going to have to use cheesecloth and strain the liquid.  Here comes the decision part.  You can whip with a beater until light and fluffy and then slowly adding the sugar or you can simply whisk together the ingredients by hand for a glaze.

Frost the cinnamon rolls and enjoy!