For those of you who travel often as I do, I know you’ve seen the waffle maker in the breakfast area of most hotels. It’s a popular menu item. You get to make it yourself and can smother it in margarine and sugary syrup. I will admit to looking longingly at it but just can’t quite bring myself to eat it, after all I try to be prudent about my health and eating choices. I’m not saying that the waffles there aren’t good and tasty, it’s just that there is too much sugar and carbohydrates – and too little protein – in them for me.

waffle maker at a hotel

Waffle mix dispenser and waffle machine at a Hampton Inn & Suites

So, imagine my joy when my chef brother introduced me to a healthy alternative. Naturally I had to tweak the recipe a bit — you know, put my own spin on it. Depending on health or dietary requirements you can adjust it to suit your needs. For those with celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, or wanting a gluten-free diet you should use rice flour in place of the all-purpose and wheat flour that I use. Also, the original recipe called for almond milk. I prefer whole, organic milk as there is no sugar added to whole milk. Again, use what works best for you.

Ingredient list:

  • 1 1/2 cups buckwheat flour
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon wheat bran
  • 1 teaspoon flax meal
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup or honey
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • Coconut oil or olive oil for the waffle iron
  1. Mix the dry ingredients first
  2. Sift all the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg into a large bowl
  3. In another smaller bowl blend the wet ingredients
  4. Whisk the egg and milk together, add vanilla extract, and your maple syrup or honey
  5. Don’t put all the water in just yet, I suggest you add no more than 3/4 of a cup and reserve the rest. Depending on how humid or dry it is where you are you may need more or less.
  6. Add the wet mix to the dry mix and blend until the batter is completely smooth. You should see bubbles start to appear on the surface.
fresh mixed waffle batter

Waffle batter right after blending – you can see some bubbles starting to appear

Since the batter needs to sit for at least 10 minutes before you start using it, this is when I plug in my waffle maker and let it start heating up. You will need to give the mix a light stir before you start using it just in case some of the ingredients settle. I get 6 waffles out of each batch but you may get more or less depending on you waffle maker.

fresh waffles

Fresh waffles cooling on a rack on my stove

Buckwheat flour is a great alternative to regular flours and much healthier for you too. I could write a whole post on it, but if you want to know more just check out this information here on Buckwheat flour.

The waffles can be made in advance as they freeze well. I wrap them in wax paper and foil before freezing then warm them in my toaster oven (someday I may get a microwave oven). Now all you have to decide is what to top them with. What do I use? Why organic butter and real maple syrup!

Enjoy!

Baking can be a hard thing for many folks; however, with a little preparation and good instructions anyone can make healthy and tasty snacks. With help from a friend of mine, we recorded the following video showing how you too can be a successful baker.

Watch my video out on YouTube.

Enjoy!

 

I must admit that I bake a lot of muffins and quick breads. I have also shared this bounty with friends and family. This is both good and bad: the good part is when I can’t figure out what to give someone for a birthday or holiday gift I just bake their favorite; the bad is that I spend a lot of time baking. The baking is not so bad though, it’s washing all those dishes!

One of my favorite sandwiches is peanut butter and jelly. There are so many ways you can fix it and so many jellies, jams and preserves to choose from. With a whole grain bread, good peanut butter and jelly (I always check the labels when shopping because I want to avoid too much sugar and other bad stuff) you can have a balanced meal of protein, fruit and carbohydrates.

So, while searching for a new muffin recipe to fix, I thought of peanut butter and jelly. This recipe is a bit of my own idea and the combination of several recipes I found on the Internet. They are easy to fix and taste delicious.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar (I use turbinado)
  • 1 tbsp baking powder (I get one that does not have sodium aluminium sulfate)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 3 tbsp cold butter, cut into small chunks (cold but not frozen)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk or buttermilk
  • Cinnamon sugar (see below)

Start by heating your oven to 400 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine sifted flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the peanut butter and butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. I use a pastry cutter but you can use a fork and knife, though I must admit that the pastry cutter is MUCH easier. In a separate bowl beat the eggs and milk. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir gently until everything is just moistened.

Use a scoop to fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups two-thirds full. Sprinkle the tops with the cinnamon sugar and bake for 15 – 17 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when you test them. Yield is about 1 dozen, depending upon your muffin pan.

Cinnamon sugar:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon

I use turbinado sugar but I have to grind it in a spice grinder because it’s just too course otherwise. You can adjust the ratio of sugar to cinnamon to your taste too.

My favorite way to eat these muffins is to put some jelly or jam on warm muffins. It’s sort of like eating a warm peanut butter sandwich.

Enjoy!

Recently a friend of mine gave me several bags of cucumbers. While I love to use them in salads or with other veg to dip up hummus, there were just too many of them for me to be able to eat before they went bad. I really didn’t know what I was going to do, that is until I remembered a gift of yummy bread and butter pickles a friend had given me years ago. They were so good I asked her to share the recipe with me. I’d put it away though, not knowing when I’d every have enough cucumbers on hand to make it. At long last I did.

Here’s the list of ingredients:

  • 1 gallon sliced cucumbers (Now you’re wondering about how many cucumbers that is, well there is about a one or two cups per cucumber, depending upon their size. There are 16 cups in a gallon.)
  • 7 large onions – I used both sweet and red onions
  • 1/3 cup of salt
  • 3 cups cider vinegar
  • 5 cups sugar (I used turbinado)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. mustard seed
  • 1 1/2 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 1/2 tsp. celery seed
  • 5 cups cracked ice

Start by slicing all the cucumbers and onions. I left the seeds in my cucumbers but next time I may try removing them. Put them in a large bowl or container, add the salt and cracked ice. Mix thoroughly and let stand for 3 hours. Drain well.

Combine the cider vinegar, sugar, mustard seed, turmeric, and celery seed. Pour this mixture over the drained cucumbers and onions. Heat just until the mixture comes to a boil.

Here’s a picture of everything combined:

canning2

Next time I think I’m going to need a bigger pot!

At this point I got everything ready to can the pickles:

canning1

The key to safe canning is lots of hot water and keeping everything clean.

And here’s the collection that I wound up with. Several lucky friends were the recipients of some of this bounty.

canning3

Mason jars cooling on the counter. Be sure to check the lid seals to make sure they are really sealed.

I canned mine so they could be stored in the pantry but it is easier to can and then refrigerate — any jars that don’t seal properly should be refrigerated. If you’ve never canned before don’t despair, here are some links to great resources about canning. My mom did a lot of canning of the veg from our garden when I was a kid, but I used the links below to make sure I was doing things right:

I love pickles and especially bread and butter pickles but I’ve pretty much had to give them up because all the ones at the store have high fructose corn syrup in them. HFCS is very controversial and, personally, something that I work very hard to not consume.

Enjoy!

It has been a while since I’ve been back here, but I have been busy in the kitchen and wanted to update my Blueberry Confit recipe.

The method described in that post, blueberries and maple syrup, works great with many different kinds of berries. I’ve used strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and even cherries. One thing that I’ve started doing is using my immersion blender to puree  the fruit. Here’s what I do:

  1. Clean fruit and place in a saucepan. Make sure you have several inches of pot above the level of the fruit. This makes a big difference when you use the immersion blender. I learned the hard way and had to clean a lot of fruit off the walls and myself!
  2. Add pure maple syrup. Hard to say how much, but you want to fill the pot to where you can see the syrup but you don’t want to drown the fruit. Just enough so that you know there is some syrup in there.
  3. Heat the fruit and syrup over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Don’t wander off and forget it or it may bubble over and make a mess on your stove.
  4. Remove from heat and use your immersion blender to puree the fruit. You could also pour into a blender if you don’t have an immersion blender, just be very careful as this stuff is hot.
  5. Return to the stove and cook at low for another 10 to 15 minutes.
  6. Turn off heat and allow to cool before pouring into a glass or stainless steel container and placing in the refrigerator.

What can you do with this? Well, I like to add some to my morning yogurt. It’s great over pancakes or waffles too. Use as a topping on ice cream or add to a smoothie mix. Like fruit in your oatmeal? Add some of this.

Looking for an easy desert or snack? I add some corn starch (always mix the corn starch with cold water in a bowl before adding to the fruit mix) to make a thick fruit preserve out of some of the batches. Then all you need is some pastry or filo dough. Put some in a small ramekin and cover with the dough then bake till golden in the oven. Or, you can make turnovers by cutting the dough into squares (approximately 6″ works best) and putting a tablespoon of the preserves in the middle. You’ll be tempted to add more but, trust me, it doesn’t work out well. Use an egg wash brushed around the edges to seal the turnover. Brush the top with more egg wash and bake in the oven for about 12 to 15 minutes.

This fruit confit is very versatile and, even better, freezes well. When berries are in season I make many batches and then freeze for when the berries are not available. That way you have berry goodness all year round.

Happy cooking!

Well I was going to write that post about buckwheat that I promised a while back but, thanks to my brother, I have something very, very tasty to share with you. My brother is a chef and is currently realizing a dream of his by attending Le Cordon Bleu. Whenever I talk to him I try and turn the conversation to food and weasel some tips or recipes out of him. I’m hoping that he’ll contribute a few posts here as well when he gets a chance. Until then I’m sharing this with all of you.

I was telling my brother about some of my pancake experiments (you can find them here and here) when he told me about blueberry confit. Now I’d heard of duck confit and have seen some of the chefs on TV using the confit method with other meats but couldn’t imagine covering fruit in fat (just doesn’t sound good to me). Turns out I was thinking of the wrong liquid. The key to this process is maple syrup.

If you’ve never tried maple syrup, you don’t know what you are missing. I’ve used it as my pancake syrup for years and years. It is also great with ham as a glaze or flavoring when cooking. Sometimes I put a bit in my black eyed peas. Also, just a bit added to a milkshake can really enhance the taste. Even better, if you are a follower of the glycemic index values of foods, pure maple syrup has an index value of 54. All natural, good for you, and low in carbs – now that’s what I call a win-win!

Anyway, back to the blueberry confit. This has to be one of the easiest things to make. I was in luck earlier this week when I went to the store as they had blueberries on sale so I also picked up a bottle of dark amber maple syrup. You can use any kind of maple syrup, I don’t think it really matters. Here’s all you need to do:

  • Rinse and dry the blueberries and then put them in a stainless steel pot on the stove.
  • Cover them with the maple syrup (I poured the whole bottle in – it wasn’t that big🙂 ).
  • Turn the burner on to a low heat and let it cook for a couple of hours. You should stir this from time to time. The blueberries will soak up the maple syrup and the juice from the blueberries will flavor the syrup.
  • When done I poured the results into a stainless steel bowl and stored in the fridge. I would recommend using stainless steel because of the intense color of the syrup. Plastics would absorb both color and flavor.

I was going to take a few photos of the blueberry confit poured over the pancakes we had this morning but nobody trusted anybody else with this tasty stuff, so we all sat guarding our share. As a result the only photos I’ve got are these below showing the confited (is that really a word?) blueberries and the now blueberry colored syrup. Trust me, the taste of this stuff is like you’ve died and gone to heaven.

blueberries cooked in maple syrup

Yummy is all I can say

blueberry maple syrup

You have got to try this

You can pour this over pancakes, mix with yogurt, spread on biscuits, or heat and pour over ice cream. I’ll bet my brother can think of many other tasty applications but we’ll all have to wait till I get the chance to talk with him again. Let me know if you have any ideas.

Enjoy!

Cast iron cookware

Some of my cast iron pots and pans

As someone who loves to cook I have quite the collection of pots and pans. However, my absolute favorite cookware is cast iron. Now, if you are wondering why I prefer something as old-fashioned and heavy as cast iron then read on.

Here’s a partial list of all the benefits of cooking with cast iron:

  • The stuff lasts forever – I still have some pans that belonged to my great-grandmother. The two in the lower right of the picture above were hers.
  • Because cast iron heats evenly and holds heat so well it is unbeatable for searing meats or fixing sauces.
  • Cast iron is the original ‘non-stick’ cookware when properly maintained. The picture below was taken this morning after breakfast. See how the water is rolling off the cooking surface? Did you know that most pots and pans with a non-stick coating will give off harmful gasses when heated? Check out the health warnings here for more information.
  • Just like other non-stick cookware you will find that you don’t need to use a lot of oils (fat) when cooking with cast iron. Anyone on a diet can appreciate fewer calories!
  • You can cook on your stove top or in the oven. Heck, if you are camping then you can use it over the campfire. I’ve made some awesome pancakes that way!
  • Cast iron cookware is easy to take care of too. When it’s time for clean-up all you have to do is wash it quickly in hot, soapy water then rinse and dry completely with a paper towel.
cast iron pot being cleaned

The water just runs off …

One of the “tricks” to maintaining cast iron cookware is to keep it properly ‘seasoned.’ While many new cast iron pots and pans are sold pre-seasoned I would still recommend giving them a good cleaning and seasoning yourself. Here’s how: I season mine with vegetable oil – olive oil is not recommended. Just coat the pot or pan and place in a 150 to 175 degree oven for at least two hours (three or four is better) then turn the oven off and allow everything to cool completely. After that just pour the oil out and rub with paper towels to remove excess oil. Once seasoned every time you use the cookware the oils in the food will add to the seasoning. Just make sure that you properly clean the cast iron when done using it.

Don’t store foods in cast iron. The food will react with the metal and, trust me, the results are not good. Also, NEVER put cast iron cookware in a dishwasher; always wash this by hand. If rust forms on the surface all you have to do is give it a good scrub (steel wool works great for this) and then re-season the pan.

Here’s some links to more information on cast iron:

Happy cooking!