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IMG_4052I remember reading recently that a celebrity chef had refined his previous blueberry muffin recipes.  I pulled up the latest version and started to print it out, when I noticed the massive quantities of saturated fat and refined sugar.  No, that won’t do, I thought.  I started combing the internet for better options, but I kept finding unhealthy stuff like crumb toppings.  Back to the cookbooks I went, and then I started substituting.  The result are these high-fiber yet soft muffins, for your eating pleasure and heart health.

Blueberry Muffins: Truly tasty, healthy version
Makes 6 muffins.

Wet ingredients:IMG_4053
1 ½-2 eggs*
2 tablespoons sugar
¼ cup ground flax seed (meal)
6 tablespoons to ¼ cup milk (use less with the egg and a half version)
optional:  a few squeezes of fresh lemon or lime juice
Dry ingredients:
1 cup whole-grain oat flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
optional:  fresh lemon or lime zest
Fruit:
½ – 1 cup blueberries (frozen will hold up well)
Topping(s):
optional: lightly chopped slice almonds (a few tablespoons)
pinch of turbinado or demerara sugar (raw sugar)

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease 6 muffin cups.

In one medium bowl, mix the eggs and sugar together and then add the flax meal and milk. In another bowl, mix together the dry ingredients well. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and incorporate thoroughly, without overmixing. Add the blueberries.

Using an ice cream scoop or spoon, divide into the six prepared muffin cups. Drop on almonds and sprinkle a pinch of raw sugar on each muffin. Bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees. Remove from muffin tin promptly.

Nutrition per muffin, with all optional ingredients:  176 calories, 23 grams carbs (lots of heart-healthy water soluble fiber!), 6 grams protein, 7 grams fat.
Eliminating the optional ingredient and extra egg and milk will bring you to about 150 calories per muffin.IMG_4055

*Where do you find half an egg?  I get mine from my Partridge Silkie hens.

For another blueberry muffin recipe, try this peach blueberry muffin recipe.  Are you looking for a savory blueberry breakfast?  Try this easy egg custard with sausage and blueberries!  

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Longtime readers may remember that I restrain myself from eating fresh tomatoes out of season. Nothing compares to a homegrown summer tomato, in an heirloom variety that may not ship well but tastes delicious on your table. For those beauties, I like the simplest preparation, such as slices on my dinner plate with a little salt and pepper. If the tomatoes are really good, come morning I still want more. That’s when I make a fried egg and tomato sandwich, with or without (turkey Canadian) bacon. Butter some good bread and then toast it while you slice the tomatoes and lightly fry an egg. I like mine open-faced and over easy.

This is really my sandwich, straight out of the camera, no retouching or boosting the color.

That’s a classic brandywine tomato, by the way, plus a country egg, of course.  If you don’t like yours runny, break the yolk in the pan and cook it a bit more.  It’s tasty that way too!

What’s your favorite simple summer breakfast?

Copyright 2011 Ozarkhomesteader.

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Life has kept me from blogging lately. A relative had some emergency orthopedic surgery that kept me away from home. I’m headed back there on Wednesday, but meanwhile I’m desperately trying to get caught up on planting. Mr. Homesteader has been keeping himself busy too. Take a look. Can you guess who’s coming to breakfast soon?
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Nothing smells like home-baked bread on a cold winter afternoon–or any time, now that I think about it!  Thank goodness making bread at home is easy and even quick, if you just leave the dough on its own as it rises (and why wouldn’t you?).  Today we’re going to make a remarkably soft but also hearty, healthy whole-wheat and oatmeal bread that makes great breakfast toast, super sandwiches, and even tasty croutons.  You can add walnuts or seeds for a bread fit for the Woodstock generation, or try using herbs or garlic to turn it into rustic supper rolls, as I did with a little of the dough the last time I made this bread.  You can even make fresh, hot homemade glazed doughnuts for breakfast and still have enough dough left for a good-sized loaf of the bread in the afternoon.

Bread is really easy , as long as you remember three keys for making good yeast bread.  The first key to baking any yeast bread is to remember that yeast is a living organism.  It’s going to be happiest (and help your bread rise best) if you start with fresh (live) yeast and wake it up in a nice warm (not hot) bath.  The second thing you need to know is that yeast likes to eat, but it doesn’t like to binge; keep your yeast feed slow.  The third key is remembering that wheat gluten is your friend when it comes to yeast bread.  Wheat gluten is the substance that helps build structure to work with all the gas produced by your happy yeast.  Put together happy yeast and wheat gluten, and you’ll have great homemade yeast bread.

Ingredients

Remember to use organic when you can!

  • 1 tablespoon yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 cup warm water (comfortable for your skin)
  • 1 cup old-fashioned (not quick cooking) rolled oats (a.k.a. oatmeal before steel-cut Irish oats and Scottish oats invaded the US)
  • 1 1/4 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons ground flax seeds (optional:  if you don’t have flax seeds, try using another tablespoon of butter)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2-3 tablespoons honey
  • 4 cups whole-wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
  • 1/4 cup whole-grain oat flour (or just add another 1/4 cup whole-wheat flour if you don’t have oat; I keep both in my pantry, and the oat flour helps provide softness)
  • 1/4-1/3 cup wheat gluten (Gluten has gotten a really bad rap in recent years, but it’s a must if you want to make whole-grain bread and still get the flexibility that contributes to sustaining the rise.  Gluten, by the way, also raises the protein content of the bread, so if you’re not sensitive to it, use it!)
  • 1/2 cup more warm water (same as before–like a nice hot bath but not so warm that it hurts you or the yeast)

Begin by dissolving the yeast and sugar in the 1/4 cup warm water in a large bowl (preferably 4-quart, although a 2.5 quart will work in a pinch).  You’re proofing the yeast.  If it’s good, in a few minutes you should have woken up your yeast, and they should have started making a foamy mess in your bowl.  That’s what we want to see!

Meanwhile, pour the 1 1/4 cup boiling water over the oatmeal.  I use a 2-cup heat-safe pyrex measuring cup for the oatmeal, and then I can just add everything else except the flour.

Next scald the milk by bringing it to the edge of a boil, until tiny bubbles appear around the edges of the pot.  Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the butter, salt, and honey until they dissolve.  Add them to the oatmeal.

As soon as the oatmeal mixture reaches that good bath-water temperature, add the oatmeal to the yeast mixture in your really big bowl, add the flax seed, and start working in your flour, baking powder, and wheat gluten, alternating so that they all three get thoroughly mixed.  Knead the flour in until you think you can’t add more, then do the easy thing and add the last 1/2 cup warm water–yep, bathwater temperature again.  Knead a few minutes more, until all of the flour is incorporated.  Then cover the bowl and set it in a warm place to start rising.  Thanks to the extra water, it will keep developing the gluten on its own, without too much kneading from you.

For the next twenty-four hours or so, let the dough rise.  When you notice that it’s doubles, form your hand into a fist and slam it into the middle of the dough.  Punch it down.  Give it a few good kneads.  Re-cover it and walk away again.

When you’re ready to bake, you’ll need at least two hours with the dough.  Start by punching down and kneading the dough one last time.  Then put it in a warm (not hot), buttered bread loaf pan, 9×5.  (You can use an 8×4 if you’ve taken a bit out for other purposes–see below.)  Let it rise for an hour in a warm (not hot) place for an hour.  Start pre-heating your oven to 375 degrees F.  The dough is ready for the oven when an indentation you make with your finger still bounces back but just barely.  Put the dough in the oven and bake for 40 minutes.  The bread is done when you knock on the bottom and it sounds hollow.  Cool in the pan a few minutes and then cool on a rack.

The Bonus:  Rolls or Doughnuts!

Now, I happen to know that this dough makes an ample loaf, so ample in fact that you can pull out a bit of dough for something else and have enough left.  Let’s say that you start this bread Sunday afternoon.  How about if you take out dough about the size of two or three chicken eggs that very night?  Turn that into three dinner rolls, let rise for about an hour in a warm spot, and then bake them for dinner, about 20-30 minutes at 375 degrees F.

Or you can do what we did this morning, having started the dough yesterday.  Make doughnuts! Take out a scant 1/2 cup dough.  Add 1/2 a chicken egg (or one bantam egg), beaten with a sprinkle of sugar (no more than 1/2 teaspoon) and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla.  Knead it together until the egg is well incorporated.  You’ll have a very soft dough.  Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of flour on a bread board and then pull out three or four balls of dough.  First form rounds, and either cut out the middle or use the handle of a wooden spoon to poke through a hole and enlarge it.  Use flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking.  Let the doughnuts rise for a half hour.  Heat oil of two or three inches to 350 to 375 degrees F in a Dutch oven or other heavy pot.  Drop doughnuts in one at a time and fry until almost done on one side, and then flip to the other side.  Remove, drain, and drizzle with glaze.  Glaze:  three tablespoons of powdered sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, and enough milk, by the drop, to make your glaze.  Take it slow with the milk and stir with every addition; you can easily go from not enough to too much.

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I love cranberries, so I stock up when they appear in markets in autumn. (I’m ordering some plants for the homestead, so by next Thanksgiving I may have my own!) I, of course, like making cranberry sauce, but this year I’m not home, so I decided to use my first bag of cranberries for cranberry-gingerbread pancakes.  You may enjoy their spicy, tart taste with warm maple syrup for breakfast this weekend.

This recipe makes 6 medium-sized fluffy pancakes.  To make the pancakes a bit thinner, use a tablespoon additional buttermilk, or just use all milk instead of buttermilk, with the original measurement.

  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh or frozen cranberries, macerated for a few hours or overnight with 1 tablespoon brown sugar  OR 1/2 cup whole-berry cranberry sauce
  • OPTIONAL:  chopped pecans or black walnuts
  • 1 medium egg
  • 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon buttermilk or milk (milk will make pancakes less fluffy)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon melted butter
  • 1-2 tablespoons molasses
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour OR part whole oat flour (Oat flour will make a softer pancake with no crisp on the crust.)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch of allspice
  • tiny pinch of cloves

Mix together the egg, buttermilk, butter, and molasses.  In another small measuring cup, mix the flour and other dry ingredients. (You can do these steps the night before, if you want to make breakfast really easy.) Heat a large fry pan or griddle over medium heat until  drop of water dances on the surface.  Grease with oil or a butter and oil mixture.  Mix together the wet and dry pancake ingredients and stir in the cranberries and optional nuts.  Drop pancake batter on greased griddle and immediately spread mix slightly with back of spoon. (You won’t need to spread if you used the thinner batter recipe.) Cook on one side until little bubbles start to form.  Depending on your heat source, you may need to slip your spatula under the pancakes and rotate them before you flip, if it looks like they are cooking more quickly on one side than the other.  Flip when the bubbles are even dispersed across the top and the edges start to look cooked.  Cook the other side.  You can keep cakes warm in the oven while you cook the rest.  Serve with maple syrup or a dollop of cranberry jelly.

Ingredients for a dozen medium-sized pancakes, for bigger families or bigger appetites!

  • 1 cup chopped fresh or frozen cranberries, macerated for a few hours or overnight with 2 tablespoons brown sugar  OR 1 cup whole-berry cranberry sauce
  • OPTIONAL:  chopped pecans or black walnuts
  • 2 medium eggs or 1 extra-large egg
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons buttermilk or milk (milk will make pancakes less fluffy)
  • 3 tablespoon melted butter
  • 2-4 tablespoons molasses
  • 1 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour OR part whole oat flour (Oat flour will make a softer pancake with no crisp on the crust.)
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ginger
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon of allspice
  • pinch of cloves

Do you have a favorite holiday breakfast?  Do tell!

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.

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Over the past week, a pile of tomatoes accumulated on our kitchen counter.  They were tasty and ripe, but a lot of them were also ugly.  Some of them had split, while others had fallen victim to tiny predators, which took bites out of each tomato and moved on to the next.  I didn’t have quite enough tomatoes to justify a canning session, but I had to use the tomatoes before they went bad.  I’d just cut off the parts that had already been compromised.  I needed a recipe for a pile of tomatoes, something other than marinara sauce.

Regular readers may recall that I fell in love with the concept behind the cookery school at Ballymaloe, an Irish estate.  Ballymaloe focuses on using fresh, local, seasonal ingredients.  Studying at the school is not in my budget, but buying Darina Allen’s cookbook was, as I described in April.  Since I got the book, I’ve used it as much for tips on breaking down whole chickens as I have for the recipes, but a recipe for tomato and pecorino tarte tatin caught my attention as I contemplated my pile of ugly tomatoes.  I ended up using Allen’s idea–baked tomato in a nice crust–rather than the recipe, so what I present here is my adaption, a right-side-up pie rather than an upside-down tarte tatin.  This tart makes a rich side dish with a light dinner but can also be an appetizer on its own or a tasty leftovers breakfast.  And you can make it without heating up your house if you use your toaster oven.

Filling Ingredients for an 8-inch cast iron pan

  • 1/4 sweet yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • about 5-6 cups peeled, chopped fresh tomatoes, preferably a mix of paste and slicing tomatoes; okay to use cherries too, but they’re a lot harder to peel!
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • optional:  1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced (okay to use the yellow onion, but then your pie won’t be quite as pretty)
  • tiny bit of olive oil
  • 2-3 slicing tomatoes, sliced thinly
  • 1 1/2 ounces manchego or other sweet, hard cheese, like a dry, aged cheddar
  • several fresh basil leaves, chiffonaded

Crust Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup cold butter, cut into bits
  • optional but really tasty!:  handful or two of toasted pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup plain, nonfat yogurt
  • flour for rolling

Begin by sauteing the chopped onion in the olive oil and butter in a heavy-bottomed non-reactive pot (e.g. aluminum-bottomed stainless steel) while you prep the chopped tomatoes.  When the onions just barely start to caramelize, add the chopped tomatoes, salt, and sugar.  Cook uncovered over low heat, simmering until the tomato and onion mixture is reduced to about 1/3 or even 1/4 of its original volume.  The consistency should be like jam, close to tomato paste.

Meanwhile, roast the thinly sliced red onion with a little oil in your 8-inch cast iron pan for about 15 minutes at 375 degrees F.  Set aside the roasted, now caramelized onions.  We’re going to need the pan.

You can make the pie crust while the tomato jam cooks down and the red onions roast.  Put the flour mixed with with salt and leavening and cold, cut butter in a medium-sized bowl.  Cut the butter into the flour, using a pastry cutter or fork.  Once you’ve cut in the butter, creating a mealy mixture, mix in the toasted pine nuts, breaking them with the pastry cutter.  Now stir in the yogurt, just until you’ve formed the dough. Do not overwork pastry dough! Wrap the dough and chill for a few minutes.  When the tomato jam is ready, flour a clean surface and roll out about 2/3 of the dough and use it to line your 8-inch cast iron pan.  (Save the rest of the dough, well wrapped, in the refrigerator.  We’re going to use it for sweet apple turnovers!) Pre-bake the crust at about 375 degrees F for 15 minutes, covering the crust loosely with aluminum foil to keep it from over-browning in the toaster oven.

Now let’s fill!  Using a fine grater or even a microplane, grate a thin layer of cheese over the baked crust.  Spoon on about 1/2 of the tomato jam.  Add a the slices from one tomato and a little more cheese.  Put on a little more tomato jam, add more slices, and then sprinkle on the roasted onions.  Add more tomato slices, the basil, a little more jam, and the rest of the cheese.  Bake at 375 degrees F for 15-20 minutes, covering loosely with foil to avoid over-browning the crust.  Let cool briefly and then slice and serve.

Would you like to make a 10-inch tart instead?  Simply prepare 50% more of all of the filling ingredients and use all of the pastry dough.

Do you have a favorite savory vegetable pie that you make or had somewhere?  What do you do with your ugly tomatoes?

 

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader, including photographs.  All rights reserved.

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August and September end the lazy days of slow breakfasts, but they don’t have to end good breakfasts.  For a quick, healthy breakfast or afternoon snack, bake a loaf of whole-grain, low-fat, higher protein but still moist and delicious zucchini bread, chocked full of good stuff like pepitas, which contain healthy fatty acids.  Take a look at the ingredients:  your only fat is from the egg(s) and the pepitas.  All of the moist goodness comes from buttermilk and yogurt, plus those dairy products and pepitas bring extra protein, calcium, and some good fats.  One loaf will yield close to 2 dozen slices for several breakfasts, lunchbox treats, afternoon snacks, or even as Mr. Homesteader likes it best, dessert at night (warmed with a dollop of ice cream).

Ingredients for 1 loaf baked in a 9×5 inch pan

  • 1/4 cup plain, nonfat yogurt
  • 1/3 cup sugar (or less)
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk or kefir
  • 1-2 eggs
  • 1 cup grated fresh or frozen (drained) zucchini
  • 1 cup plus one tablespoon whole-wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 -3 tablespoons cinnamon (or less, if you aren’t a cinnamon nut like I am!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/3 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds) or 1/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans
  • handful or two of golden raisins, regular raisins, or currants (optional if you hate raisins, of course)

Preheat oven (or toaster oven!) to 350 degrees F.  Grease the bottom only of a 9X5 bread-baking pan (glass or cast iron preferred over a flimsy metal pan, as you’re going to bake this for a while).  Combine the first five ingredients in a small bowl or large mixing cup–about 1 quart size should give you plenty of room.  Combine the remaining ingredients except the pepitas and raisins in a 2-cup measure and stir well.  Add the flour mixture to the wet mixture and stir just to combine.  Stir in the raisins and pepitas, reserving a few pepitas for the top of the loaf.  Pour everything into your prepared pan and sprinkle on the last of the pepitas.  Bake at 350 degrees F for about 70 minutes, covering the top loosely with foil to avoid over-browning about half way through the process.  Let the bread cool 5 minutes in the pan, and then slide a knife around the edges to make sure the bread is separated neatly.  Remove the bread from the pan and let it finish cooling on a rack.  Slice after it cools, as you need it, from the center outward.

If you’ve got space in your freezer, you can double or even triple this recipe and freeze loafs for easy breakfasts in the winter.  If you decide to freeze the zucchini instead, be sure to grate it first and then drain it very well after it thaws before you use it for bread.

Does your family have a favorite quick back-to-school breakfast?  Do you have a special way to bake zucchini bread?

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader, including photographs.

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