Fluffy whole wheat pancakes

Pancakes are a relatively rare occurrence in my house. They’re too much like cake for breakfast, and that much sweetness + carb loading doesn’t sit well with me that early in the morning. But sometimes temptation wins out over practicality.

Recipe

Fluffy Whole Wheat Pancakes from passthechallah.com

Process notes

  • used 240 gm freshly-milled hard white wheat flour
  • used whole milk
  • made 26 small- to medium-sized pancakes instead of the 10-15 from the recipe instructions

Results

I really like that these pancakes aren’t too sweet! But I do find them a little too rich and oily.

And because of the whole grain wheat I used, these were a little too grainy/toothy in texture for me.

This experience made me want to try a soaked wheat pancake recipe, to see if I can get the texture smoother.

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Yeasted flour tortillas

I crave those soft and fluffy flour tortillas from restaurants, and have been unable to achieve a comparable version with wheat flour. But the search continues! This time I had the idea to add yeast, wondering if that would help keep them soft and tender.

Recipe

Adapted from Wheat Flour Tortillas

Process notes

Formula

  • 160 gm freshly-milled hard white wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp yeast
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp canola oil
  • 2/3 c water

Process

Combine the flour, yeast, and salt in a mixing bowl. Add the oil and water and stir together. Knead a few times, adding in a bit more flour.

Cover and rest in oven with proofing function turned on. (I had to run an errand and mine proofed for about 1 1/2 hours.)

Punch down the dough and cut into 4 equal pieces. Form balls (swirling dough under cupped hand on unfloured counter, like when making rolls) and roll out into flat disks. Let dough rest when it springs back, and continue rolling.

Heat long griddle pan to medium high heat. Place tortillas in pan and cook for a minute or two until bubbles form. Flip and finish cooking the other side.

Let cool a few minutes, then place in bread bag. Once completely cooled, place in freezer for keeping.

Results

In my effort to get fluffier tortillas, I didn’t roll these quite thin enough. They’re more like a pita or flat bread. They taste good, although the wheaty flavor is quite prominent. More so than when I bake bread with this flour.

My first tortilla was used for a simple adaptation of an Egg Florentine Quesadilla (thawed spinach + shredded cheese + fried egg, topped with granulated garlic, onion powder, salt, and pepper) and it was awesome. I used another for a simple wrap of lettuce, cheese melted on under the broiler, mayo and mustard, salt, pepper, oil, vinegar, and oregano. It’s my easy version of a vegetarian sub, but on a pita-like bread.

Whole wheat buttermilk (whey) pancakes

My most recent batch of homemade yogurt came out very well, and I turned half of it into Greek style yogurt, giving me 1 1/2 c of whey to play with.

I very rarely make pancakes, and they sounded fun to both me and my husband. Plus I like pancakes with applesauce, and there’s some of that in the refrigerator waiting to be eaten up. And some boiled cider, which I think would be good as a flavor boost to the no-sugar-added applesauce.

Recipe

Adapted from whole wheat buttermilk pancakes from ohsweetbasil.com.

Process notes

Formula

  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 250 gm freshly-milled hard white wheat flour
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 c  whey (from homemade yogurt)
  • 1/2 c plain regular yogurt (homemade)
  • 2 tbsp butter, unsalted and melted

Results

I preheated the griddle (the long rectangular kind that bridges across two burners) when I began making the batter, but this was too soon and it got too hot. When I added the butter, it quickly browned. So next time I’d either preheat it later, or just preheat it at a lower temperature. This particular griddle tends to get blazing hot, and then retains that heat for a long time.

When mixing the wet ingredients together, I accidentally forgot to mix in the eggs. Which I didn’t realize until after I’d poured the first 5 pancakes onto the griddle. I stirred the eggs into the remaining batter and proceeded. Those first 5 turned out rather bland, and the rest of them were a tad too eggy because I didn’t pour any egg out before mixing it in.

I’m not a pancake connoisseur, so I don’t have a rich background of pancake tasting to draw from. But I do like these quite a bit. They came out tender, but not crumbly. I think the whey had a lot to do with that. It’s doing a good job of tenderizing my home-milled flour.

creamy vegetable pasta bake

Creamy vegetable pasta bake

creamy vegetable pasta bake

Lately I’ve become rather hooked on maximizing grocery store savings. It’s like a game, seeing how I can get the most for my money, and it helps that I focus on stocking my pantry with staples that help me cook from scratch. When the grocery store had 1-lb bags of pasta on sale for $.49 each, I stocked up on a variety of shapes and have been brainstorming all the fun ways I can use them.

BudgetBytes.com has loads of doable, healthy, and frugal recipes (my Mealtime board is now loaded with pins from this site). It was really hard to choose which to make first! I started with one that aligned best with my freezer and pantry items and adapted it with my ingredients.

Recipe

Vegetable Alfredo Pasta Bake from BudgetBytes.com

Process notes

Formula

Vegetables:

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 6 oz frozen peas, cooked and drained
  • 12 oz frozen broccoli, cooked and drained
  • 6 oz frozen chopped spinach, cooked and drained
  • salt and pepper

Sauce:

  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/4 c hard white wheat flour
  • 4 c whole milk
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • pepper
  • 3 oz shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Pasta and topping:

  • 1 lb shell pasta
  • 3 oz shredded gouda

I don’t like adding frozen vegetables to a hot, oily pan because of the sizzle and splatter, so I opted to cook my veggies first in a small Micro-Cooker vegetable steamer that goes in the microwave. Except for the carrots, which I sauteed in the oil.

Results

Oh, yum. This is a great balance of flavor and textures. Not too cheesy, not too saucy, plenty of vegetables. The gouda on top is really special. And after a few years of only eating homemade pasta at home, it’s a treat to have the convenience of dried pasta on hand.

I actually think I could skip adding the cheese to the sauce next time, and just go with the cheese on top. Increasing the spices and seasonings in the sauce would be good, perhaps adding dried minced onion and garlic (or fresh, if I have some).

I love the way this casserole turned out — and perhaps even more I love that there are seven more servings of it in the freezer, ready to be pulled out for an easy meal here and there.

Whole wheat flour tortillas again

I’m giving the whole wheat flour tortilla another go, with some adjustments to the last recipe I made:

Formula

  • 375 g freshly-milled hard white wheat flour, coarse bran sifted out
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 heaping tsp fine sea salt
  • 5 tbsp Crisco vegetable shortening
  • scant 1 c warm water
  • cut prepared dough into 19 balls, each weighing 1 1/8 oz

Results

 

These taste really good, but the texture is a little tough. Not sure if that’s because I’m over-cooking them in the skillet or if it’s a whole wheat flour thing.

I froze the tortillas and eat them as needed from the freezer, and while they’re not the soft and fluffy tortilla I’m seeking, they’re nice to have on hand.

Italian Vegetable Casserole with Beans and Rice

Italian Veggie Casserole with Beans and Rice

I’ve been in a casserole mood of late. It’s so nice to prepare something once and then enjoy it for several days (especially when I’m keeping busy making things for my shop). There’s a great basic mix and match casserole formula in The Best Casserole Cookbook Ever, by Beatrice Ojakangas, that provides guidance with lots of flexibility. I used her formula before with my Whole Wheat Tuna Noodle Casserole.

Italian Vegetable Casserole with Beans and Rice

My take on Beatrice’s formula wasn’t originally going to have an Italian theme, since it was starting with rice and beans. But after choosing my veggies, sauce, and topping it started to look like a natural fit. All that was needed for seasoning was some oregano.

Everything came together so well, and I love how it turned out. This casserole is hearty and delicious, and leftovers reheat great.

Italian Vegetable Casserole with Beans and Rice

Italian Veggie Casserole with Beans and Rice

Makes a generous 3-qt casserole (mine filled all the way to the brim of my dish)

Ingredients

  • 1 c brown rice
  • 2 tbsp butter, divided into 1 tbsp + 1 1/2 tsp + 1 1/2 tsp
  • 12 large cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tsp oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium zucchini, cut into 1- to 1 1/2-inch chunks
  • 2 c cooked navy beans
  • 14.5 oz can whole tomatoes
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 c grated Parmesan

Instructions

  1. Cook brown rice according to directions, adding 1 tbsp of butter to the boiling water.
  2. Heat the remaining 1 1/2 tsp butter and 1 tsp oil in a pan over medium heat and add onion slices. Cook over medium low heat until they start to brown (or you can take them all the way to caramelized). Set aside.
  3. Now that the brown rice and onions are started, it’s a good time to preheat the oven to 350°. Butter a generous-3-qt casserole dish.
  4. Saute mushrooms in 1 1/2 tsp butter and 1 tsp oil over medium heat until moisture cooks off. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
  5. Boil a saucepan of enough water to come a couple of inches above the zucchini slices. Add the zucchini and simmer for a few minutes until just tender. Avoid overcooking and turning them to mush. Drain and set aside.
  6. Pulse the tomatoes (with juices) in a blender or food processor until the chunks smooth out. Then pour into a small bowl and stir in the garlic and oregano. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. In a large bowl, gently mix the beans, rice, zucchini, onions, and mushrooms. Spread into the prepared dish. Pour tomato sauce evenly over top. Sprinkle the cheese evenly on top and cover.
  8. Bake for 30 minutes with cover on, then remove cover and bake an additional 10-15 minutes, until browned and heated through.
  9. Remove and let rest for about 10 minutes, then serve.

New bag of 25 pounds of Prairie Gold wheat berries

Fresh 25-pound bag of hard white wheat (post-50-pound bag)

Today I finished up the 50-pound bag of Prairie Gold hard white wheat that I had purchased 11/21/14. That’s an average of 5 pounds of wheat per month. I’m kind of surprised I did that much baking in ten months!

Empty canisters from the 50-pound bag of Prairie Gold Wheat Berries

To mark the occasion, I filled up my canisters with the new 25-pound bag of Wheat Montana Prairie Gold Hard White Spring Wheat.

The cost of the new 25-pound bag was $13.98 + tax (8.1%) = $15.11, or $.60 per pound.

Vegetarian Strata with Broccoli and Mushrooms

Vegetarian Strata with Broccoli and Mushrooms

Whenever I make bread, I struggle with the storage details. Should I freeze half of the loaf? Should I slice and freeze the whole thing, taking out pieces as needed? Should I leave the whole loaf out on the counter so it’s ready whenever we want it? The dilemma comes from the fact that there are just two of us eating it, and I prefer to leave it on the counter but that turns into a bread binge race against time to eat it before it goes stale or moldy.

And this was the situation I found myself in this week: half of a loaf on the counter, starting to loose it’s freshly-baked vitality. I thought back to recipes I’ve seen or made that used a lot of bread and remembered a ham and cheese strata from my favorite childhood cookbook from the 80s, Better Homes and Gardens New Junior Cookbook. A quick recipe search led me to As-You-Like-It Breakfast Casserole from simplyrecipes.com and I was well on my way to developing my version of that strata, updated for homemade bread and non-meat-eaters.

Vegetarian Strata with Broccoli and Mushrooms

Even though there’s not meat, this strata is hearty and filling. The flavor is relatively mild, and it doesn’t taste cheese-heavy, so seasonings can easily be adjusted for more oomph.

Vegetarian Strata with Broccoli and Mushrooms

Adapted from As-You-Like-It Breakfast Casserole

Serves 8

Vegetarian Strata with Broccoli and Mushrooms

Ingredients

  • 8 eggs
  • 6 1/2 oz grated cheddar cheese
  • 6 slices bread, cut into cubes
  • 2 cups milk
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 12 oz frozen broccoli
  • 8 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 1/2 tsp butter
  • 1 1/2 tsp oil
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4-6 green onions, sliced
  • 1 tsp dried thyme

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Butter a 9×13 casserole dish and set aside.
  2. Saute the mushrooms in the butter and oil until cooked and liquid has cooked off. Stir in the garlic and cook briefly, just until fragrant. Set aside.
  3. Boil a saucepan of water and add the frozen broccoli. Simmer until it’s cooked to the desired texture. Drain and set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, beat the eggs, then mix in the milk and cheese. Gently stir in the bread cubes until moistened.
  5. Add the mushrooms, broccoli, onions, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Spread into the prepared dish and bake for 40 minutes, then check to see if it needs additional time. When it’s done, the top will be browned and the center will spring back when touched.
  7. Remove from oven and cool for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Banana bread pancakes

Making it work with one ripe banana

I really hate to throw food away. But this lone, extra-ripe banana on the counter was past the point of good eating.

Times like this are a great way to discover new recipes — in this case it was banana bread pancakes.

I chose the pancake format, but really what I wanted was banana bread. I just didn’t want all of the oil and sugar required for that route. So my pancakes were eaten room temperature with butter, the same way I eat my banana bread. These weren’t an exact replacement for banana bread, but very tasty nonetheless. I like how they got caramelized on the surface.

Whole wheat banana bread pancakes

Banana Bread Pancakes

Adapted from Whole Wheat Brown Sugar Banana Bread Pancakes

Makes 4 medium pancakes

Ingredients

  • 84 g freshly-milled soft white wheat flour
  • 2/3 tsp baking powder
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 1/2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/3 tsp cinnamon
  • Pinch nutmeg
  • 1/4 c milk (plus a bit more if the batter is too thick)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 very ripe banana, mashed
  • 2/3 tbsp melted butter
  • vegetable oil for cooking

Instructions

Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a medium bowl.

Stir in the milk, vanilla, banana, and melted butter and stir until thoroughly combined.

Heat a skillet over medium heat and add a dab of oil. Pour a big spoonful of batter into the skillet and cook for a couple of minutes until browned on the bottom. Flip and let cook for another minute or two. Repeat with the rest of the batter.

Serve warm with whatever toppings sound good, or serve cooled with some butter (like banana bread!).

A somewhat softer and fluffier version of whole wheat flour tortillas

I’ve had great success with thin whole wheat flour tortillas. The recipe consistently produces a tortilla that folds pretty well and tastes good, but can be tough to chew. As a change a pace I wanted to try one that was softer and fluffier.

I chose a new recipe fairly randomly just to get started, tweaking it a bit for my whole grain flour.

Recipe

Homemade Tortillas from Confections of a Foodie Bride

Process notes

  • used 13.5 oz freshly-milled hard white wheat flour
  • used Crisco vegetable shortening
  • used 1 c water instead of 3/4 c
  • kneaded for about 5 minutes before dividing and resting the dough
  • divided dough into 11 pieces

Results

For me, the trick with flour tortillas is rolling them thin enough to not be like a pita, and thick enough so they don’t get dry and tough. I rolled these out so they basically filled the bottom of my cast iron skillet, and that was about right for the size of each dough ball.

Next time, I’d consider making more, smaller tortillas so they’re more like a soft shell taco. I think this would make eating them as fajitas work better. It’s been my experience that unless the tortilla is really large, getting it properly filled and keeping it from falling apart is tricky. I’m starting to lean toward a couple of small, taco-style shells rather than one large burrito…until I learn how those pros at Chipotle do it anyway.

These taste very good, but aren’t as soft and fluffy as I’d hoped. I’m sure that’s because I’m using whole grain flour, not fluffy white processed flour. The trade-off is definitely worth it to me in order to put something whole grain in my body. But perhaps sifting out the coarse bran next time will soften them up more.

I’m also curious what would happen if I substituted soft white wheat flour for a portion of the hard white wheat flour.

thin and chewy pancakes

Thin and Chewy Pancakes with Apple Pecan Compote

The last time I made regular ‘ole classic pancakes I realized that not everyone has the same idea of what makes the ideal pancake. What I seek in a pancake is thin and chewy, not fluffy and cakey. So at the time, I bookmarked Grandma Curley’s Swedish Pancakes and this morning finally got around to making them.

I loved them! I didn’t use a special pan, just a nonstick griddle pan. And after the first pat of butter in the pan, didn’t even bother adding more butter. That made the edges less crispy, but I’m OK with that.

thin and chewy pancakes with apple pecan compote

Thin and chewy pancakes with apple pecan compote

These pancakes are very thin, have a chewy texture, and are wonderful topped with different things. I went with butter, apple pecan compote, and touch of maple syrup. They’d be great with applesauce, jam, or butter and cinnamon sugar…and because they’re thin and pliable, they’d roll up well. Reminds me of the lefse I ate as a kid spread with butter and sprinkled with sugar.

Thin and Chewy Pancakes

Adapted from Grandma Curley’s Swedish Pancakes

Makes about twelve (thin!) 5-inch pancakes

Ingredients

  • 1 extra large egg (I didn’t have these, so used 1 egg + about 1/2 of another)
  • 1 c milk
  • 3 tbls butter, melted
  • 1 1/4 oz freshly-milled soft white wheat flour
  • 1 1/4 oz freshly-milled hard white wheat flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Instructions

  1. Warm a nonstick griddle over medium heat.
  2. Whisk the egg, then add the milk and butter and whisk to combine.
  3. Stir in the flour and salt.
  4. Pour the batter onto the heated griddle, 2 tablespoons at a time. When the top looks pretty dry, flip and cook the other side.

Apple Pecan Compote

Ingredients

  • 1 apple, diced small
  • 1/4 c water
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbls granulated sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 2-3 tbls pecans, small to medium pieces

Instructions

  1. Prepare ingredients for the compote so it can cook while the pancakes are cooking.
  2. Heat the apple and water in a small saucepan to a boil. Reduce heat to low and add cinnamon, sugar, and salt. Stir occasionally for about 10-15 min.
  3. When done, take off heat and stir in the pecans.

slice of veggie-packed breakfast casserole

Veggie-packed Breakfast Casserole

My goal with creating this recipe was to have a hearty breakfast that requires no work to prepare in the morning — just a quick reheating in the microwave and it’s ready to go. I wanted it to be an easy, healthy choice for when time is short in the morning before heading out to work.

I started drafting the recipe by listing all of the veggies that I know my husband and I both like and would be especially tasty for a morning meal. And I knew it would include eggs and cheese to tie it all together. I approached it sort of like making a quiche, except with a shredded-potato base instead of a pastry crust.

This recipe is definitely a labor of love! It took a few hours to make, primarily because of all of the prep and pre-cooking of the vegetables. And then I accidentally turned the oven off in the middle of baking it, which stretched the cooking time out considerably.

But the time and energy definitely paid off and now there are 8 big, delicious slices of this casserole (really it’s more like a vegetable torte, with well-defined layers as opposed to stirred-together casserole ingredients), making a whole week of quick and easy breakfasts.

veggie-packed breakfast casserole

 

Veggie-packed Breakfast Casserole

Makes one 9×12-inch dish, cut into 8 generous slices

Ingredients

  • 2 large Russet potatoes, left whole with skins cleaned
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 red bell peppers, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbls oil
  • large pack of white mushrooms, cleaned
  • 4 tbls butter, divided
  • bunch of spinach, cleaned and stemmed
  • 6 oz cheese, shredded
  • 6 large eggs
  • milk (to fill to the 4 ½ cup line when mixed with the eggs)
  • 2 large tomatoes, thickly sliced
  • 1 to 1 ½ c bread crumbs (I used crumbs from whole wheat loaves I’d previously made)
  • 1 tbls olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Place the whole potatoes in a pan of water and cover with cool water. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 25 minutes, or until a knife can be inserted into them fairly easily. Drain potatoes and place in an ice bath for 15 minutes, then peel the skins off and refrigerate while the rest of the ingredients are prepared.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°. Rub 3 tbls of the butter in the bottom of a 9×13 pan.
  3. Heat 1 tbls of oil in a pan and saute the onion until soft and translucent. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add bell pepper and garlic and saute for a few more minutes until the peppers are slightly softened. Set aside.
  4. Pull the stems from the mushrooms. Slice the caps and wring the moisture from them using a thin towel (such as a flour sack dish towel). Finely chop the mushroom stems and wring them out as well. Saute over medium-low heat with 1 tbls of butter until cooked through and the liquid has evaporated (about 15 minutes), seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
  5. In a large bowl, stir together the onion and pepper mixture, the mushrooms, and the spinach. The heat from the onions and mushrooms will wilt the spinach.
  6. Shred the potatoes. Set aside.
  7. In large measuring cup, add the eggs and fill up to the 4 ½ c mark with milk. Whisk together until smooth.
  8. In a small bowl, mix the bread crumbs with the olive oil.
  9. Assemble casserole: distribute the shredded potatoes in the bottom on top of the butter, sprinkle with salt and pepper; sprinkle ⅓ of the cheese over the potatoes; spread the onion/pepper/mushroom/spinach mixture over the potatoes evenly; pour the egg/milk mixture on top; sprinkle on the remaining cheese; lay the tomato slices on top; sprinkle the bread crumbs evenly over the tomato slices.
  10. Cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 30 minutes. Then remove the foil and bake an additional 15-30 minutes, or until the egg is cooked and the dish is bubbly.
  11. Let rest for a bit, then slice. If storing for eating over several days, it’s easier to get the slices into storage containers once it’s been chilled.