Kitchen riffs

It seems like just yesterday it was October, and still hot, and I was itching for cooler weather and “oven season.”  Well, oven season is in full swing, and our recent icy weekend gave me a chance to spend extra time in the kitchen.

St. Louis pretty much shut down on Friday with the impending ice storm (which was, at least where we were, rather underwhelming).  I made a quick grocery store run first thing on Friday morning.  A small amount of freezing rain fell right before I left, making untreated areas a bit slippery, but 98% of my route was treated.  I debated the wisdom of bike over car, but I was happier on the bike.  Definitely a day for sticking to the streets and eschewing the untreated greenway.


I was a bit nervous about what I would find when I left the grocery store, but the precip had stopped and the temp had risen a few degrees, so everything was just wet for my return trip.


Not your stereotypical “bread, milk, eggs” grocery store run.  Obviously my biggest fear is being iced in with no fresh produce!

Come dinner time, I turned to a new cookbook, The Veggie-Lover’s Sriracha Cookbook, a Christmas gift from my sister.  I certainly love veggies, and I’m quite fond of sriracha, and the “Sriracha Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie” caught my eye.

As usual, I used the recipe as a guide, not a dictate — I tossed in some red cabbage and subbed lentils for the tempeh (my original plan was to use both tempeh and lentils, but I was in a hurry to get it in the oven, so I skipped the tempeh).  I also went a little light on the sriracha with G in mind (even though he was “stuck” at grandma’s for the day and night) — you can always add more sauce at the table.


We invited a neighbor to dine with us, and we all enjoyed the flavorful, filling dish.

Most of my kitchen experiments are intentional, but every once in awhile, there’s an accident.  On Saturday morning, we had a little kitchen mix-up.  Matthew was making waffles, and I found a small jar of what I thought was oat flour.  I gave it to him to toss into the waffles.

Several minutes later, he brought me a sample of a waffle with great flavor, but a pronounced crunch, a crunch beyond what we experience when adding a bit of cornmeal to the waffles.  We weren’t sure why they were so crunchy, and he continued making waffles while I went about my morning.

I was walking down the basement stairs when a thought hit me, and I froze.  Suddenly, I was pretty sure I knew what had been in that jar, and it wasn’t oat flour.  A few months ago I experimented with making my own calcium supplement from eggshells — the process was laborious, requiring boiling, baking, and then grinding (in small batches in our coffee grinder) the eggshells.  The result of my efforts was a small jar of finely ground eggshells that I quickly forgot after putting in a jar in the refrigerator . . .

. . . until now.  After a few moments’ deliberation, I fessed up to the mix-up.  We now have a triple batch of “Calcium Crunch Waffles” in our freezer.  Edible, but not something I would have done on purpose!

Keeping with the [intentionally] trying new recipes spirit, I used this Morrocan Farro and Lentil Soup recipe from Food & Nutrition magazine as a guide for a week night meal.  I’d been eyeing the recipe for awhile, but I wasn’t in the mood for soup, so I used the spicing as inspiration for a veggie and grain bowl.  It was a fun change from the standard spicing and flavoring I use.


Another night, I was looking for something new to do with millet, and I found this recipe: Millet Cakes with Carrot and Spinach.  It was a little involved and time-consuming for a weeknight, but I managed to pull it together by skipping the chilling step, which worked okay because I baked them instead of frying (without the chill time, I think they would have fallen apart when frying).

I’m looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of America’s Test Kitchen’s “Complete Vegetarian Cookbook” (thanks, library), which I discovered through the millet cakes recipe.  More kitchen riffs to come, no doubt!

Finally, in the sweets category, I made these Kahlua Truffle Bars.  We received some of these truffles as a Christmas gift a few years back, and I was quite taken by them.  A soft shortbread crust with a rich, dark chocolate topping — what’s not to love?


For some reason, the crust on mine came out crunchy (no, it did not have eggshells in it!), which was not bad, but also not what I was hoping for.  Matthew really likes it with the crunch, but I want to figure out how to get a softer crust next time.

In the spirit of closing a couple of random tabs I’ve had open for weeks, while still keeping track of things, here are a couple of items on my “To Try” list:

Oatmeal Plus

A bowl of oatmeal has been an almost constant breakfast companion for over ten years now.  While I am clearly a creature of habit, my bowl has evolved over the years.  Here’s a quick look at my oatmeal evolution, followed by a recipe for the current iteration.

2006 — instant oats cooked in the microwave, topped with peanut butter, bananas, cinnamon, [sweetened] soy milk, and a bit of brown sugar

2009 — switch from bananas (distinctly not local) to locally grown fruit, when in season (primarily apples), or dried fruit (primarily raisins)

2010switch from instant oats to rolled oats, still cooked in the microwave

??? — ditch the added sugars by switching to unsweetened soy milk and eliminating the added brown sugar; dried fruit makes for plenty sweet oatmeal

2012 — start making an extra-thick, stove top version with rolled oats that works as finger food for G when cooled; make in big batches

2013 — when G moves on from the finger food version, I continue making big batches of stove top oatmeal for both of us; I serve G’s really thick to help it stay on the spoon; bananas reappear as a “sometimes” food

2014 — start using a mixture of rolled + steel cut oats, with an overnight soak

2015-2016 — experiment with adding in other grains, including millet, quinoa, brown rice flakes, and amaranth

Each of these iterations took the flavor, texture, and nutrient variety up a notch.  The amaranth is the most recent addition, and it almost didn’t make the cut.  It’s seedy taste really stood out in the first batch, and I wasn’t a huge fan.  By the second batch, I had adjusted to the flavor, and now I’m really enjoying it.

The overnight soak helps the longer-cooking grains, like steel cut oats, cook quickly in the morning.  It’s still more of a time investment than microwaving instant oats, but it tastes better AND you’ll have breakfast for several days.  The recipe below makes about four days’ worth of one parent- plus one child-sized portion.


Recipe by Melissa
Serves 5-8


2 T. amaranth
1/2 c. steel cut oats
1/4 c. millet
1/4 c. quinoa (rinsed)
1 c. rolled oats
3 1/2 c. water
1 1/2 c. unsweetened soy milk


Measure grains into pan and pour water over the top.  Let sit at room temperature overnight.  In the morning, add the milk, bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce heat and simmer for 8-10 minutes.  Can be served immediately, or turn off heat and let sit, covered, for an additional 5-10 minutes.

Add [soy] milk to thin to desired consistency, and top with cinnamon, fresh or dried fruit, and nut butter of choice.  Additional toppings: hemp seed, chia seed, chopped walnuts, nutmeg.

After the first morning, reheat in microwave with milk.  For a take-to-work version, place oatmeal, additional milk, and toppings in a wide mouth, pint size jar and reheat at work.


Souper food

This post goes back — waaaayyy back! It’s been awhile since I made this garbanzo bean soup, though I’ve certainly made it more recently than SIX years ago!

Fun to go back in time to 2009 (hi, stove in old apartment!).

In 2016, we’re officially out of garden-grown potatoes, so I actually had to — gasp! — go to the store and buy potatoes for this recipe. In fact, I think the only garden goods in last night’s batch were the garlic (thanks to Matthew’s work peeling, chopping, and freezing HUNDREDS of garlic cloves) and some celeriac that I pureed with the beans. If I had been feeling a bit more energetic, I could have subbed garden leeks for some or all of the [store-bought] onion.

Bon appétit!

Her Green Life

This past week, we cooked a few of our favorite staple recipes, including vegetable upside-down cake and garbanzo bean soup, using almost all local ingredients.  We thought these dishes tasted good before, but you can really taste the freshness of the garden and locally grown veggies (or you could, if you were here eating with us).

Garbanzo bean soup

Someone needs to work on her food photography skills . . . .

If you’re wondering how to make this soup, today is your lucky day.  In the past, I have been too lazy to post recipes here, but I  submitted this recipe to my church cookbook, so it was typed and ready to go.

Garbanzo bean soup

4 ½ c. cooked garbanzo beans, divided (= 2 ¼ cups dry beans or 3 cans)

4 ½ c. vegetable broth or water, divided

1 T. olive oil

2 c. chopped onion

10 cloves garlic, chopped

2-3 medium potatoes…

View original post 161 more words

Warm chocolate: Four ways

I like my chocolate dark and warm.  Here are a few of my favorite preparations, just in time for Valentine’s day.


Drinking Chocolate
What passes for hot chocolate in most places is far too sweet and too watery for my tastes.  I prefer a thick, rich drinking chocolate, similar to an Italian hot chocolate.  My simple alternative requires only two ingredients: milk (any kind, but I prefer unsweetened soy milk) and dark chocolate (at least 60%, but I prefer 70%).

  • 1/4 c. milk
  • 0.7 oz. dark chocolate chips (or a bar, cut or broken into smaller pieces)
  • Equipment: Small, microwave-safe mug; tiny whisk; microwave


Directions: Place milk and chocolate in mug. Microwave for 30 seconds on full power. WATCH your microwave the whole time (a clear glass mug is helpful here). Cooking times can vary, and you may need to stop it sooner to avoid it boiling over (I know from sad personal experience!). Use the whisk to thoroughly combine the milk and chocolate.  I’m not sure where I got that tiny whisk, but it’s really useful!

You can play around with adding a bit more milk or a bit more chocolate to get to your preferred consistency, which is a thin pudding, suitable either for sipping or spooning.


This slightly more involved recipe for an official Italian hot chocolate is worth checking out as well, though I usually turn to my easy, microwave version.

Chocolate Cashew Pudding
This started as a search for something warm and chocolaty, but a bit more substantial than the drinking chocolate.  My version  is a simplified version of this recipe.

  • 1 cup raw, unsalted cashews, soaked in water overnight and drained
  • 1 1/2 cups warm milk (I use unsweetened soy)
  • 2 T. cocoa powder mixed with 2 T. sugar
  • 2-3 oz. dark chocolate chips or chopped chocolate
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • Blender or immersion blender — I found my immersion blender works better here, and clean up is easier!

If using an immersion blender, place all ingredients in a wide-mouth quart jar or place all ingredients in the jar of a regular blender.  Let sit a few minutes so the warm milk can soften the chocolate.  Blend until smooth.

The finished product will still have some texture to it from the cashews, so the mouth feel differs from a traditional milk-egg-cornstarch pudding.  I like it!

Chocolate Chia Pudding
This was another attempt to make something more substantial than the drinking chocolate, but without the soaking step of the cashew pudding recipe.  I start with the drinking chocolate recipe above, with perhaps a bit of extra milk to thin it.  After whisking together the warm milk and chocolate, whisk in 2 T. of chia seeds.  Let sit 5-10 minutes, whisking every once in awhile, until the chia seeds absorb some liquid.

Chocolate Peanut Butter
I’ve been making peanut butter for over a year now, and it was only a matter of time until I discovered chocolate peanut butter.  If you already make peanut butter, this is really simple, basically just a matter of throwing some chocolate chips into the food processor AFTER the peanuts have been butter-fied.  The residual heat from processing the peanuts melts the chocolate.

I used this recipe, with roasted, unsalted peanuts and 1 1/2 cups of chocolate chips per recipe.  Melty, warm, and delicious on top of toast or pancakes!

To Your Health!
With health-boosting components including antioxidants and flavonoids, dark chocolate can definitely be part of a healthy diet (check out this article for more details).  A bit of high-quality dark chocolate goes a long way!

We still get a lot of our chocolate from what was Sweet Earth Chocolates (now Mama Ganache Chocolates — I liked the old name better!), because we appreciate the company’s social and environmental standards (especially in contrast to charges against other chocolate companies).

What is your favorite type of chocolate and/or favorite way to enjoy chocolate?


The Pudla! post

What in the world is pudla? In four words: Savory chickpea flour pancake.  Pudla hails from India.

I stumbled across pudla in one of those internet rabbit holes.  It started as a search for recipes for mixed-nut nut butters, which led me to the Bonzai Aphrodite website/blog.  It felt like the author was a kindred spirit (complete with some postpartum mental health issues), so I clicked around the site, which led me to her recently opened wine bar where they serve pudla.

One look at the recipe, and I knew I had to try it — a simple recipe that comes together in a few minutes, featuring high protein chickpea flour plus fresh veggies — what’s not to love?

We have chickpea flour on hand for making farinata, which shares some characteristics with pudla.  One of the advantages of pudla is that you make it on the stove top, versus needing to use the oven for farinata (more of a factor in the summer heat than in the fall (yay, fall!) and winter).

I used Kittee’s recipe (linked above).


My pudla notes/variations:

  • While the recipe says, “one large filling pancake,” 1/2 cup of chickpea flour is two servings (see nutrition table below).  For my first attempt, I cut the recipe in half and used 1/4 cup (one serving) of chickpea flour.
  • How much water?  The recipe says, “whisk in just enough water to make a thick, pourable batter.”  In my experience, you want a little less water than chickpea flour, so for a half-cup of chickpea flour, start with a little less than 1/2 cup water.
  • Vegetables: I used the full amount of veggies (1 cup) for my half-recipe.  My initial pudla featured red peppers, onion, and cabbage, all from our garden.  In a subsequent version, I swapped Hakuri turnips (a mild, sweet turnip that is tasty eaten raw) for the cabbage.  I’m looking forward to trying a mushroom version (I will probably sauté them first).
  • Salt: I used a scant 1/8 tsp for my half recipe.
  • Oil: I used a mix of peanut and [refined] coconut oils in place of olive oil, which isn’t the best for higher heat cooking.
  • Pan: The recipe doesn’t specify a type of pan.  I was a little bit nervous about the stick risk of using cast iron, but I went for it (using Cat’s tips for making scrambled eggs in cast iron, which I need to share), and it worked fine.
  • To serve: I enjoyed my pudla with some sriracha on top.  I didn’t have avocado, but topping something with avocado never hurts!



After making pudla for myself on Friday, I was eager to share the discovery, so I whipped up another batch for our lunch on Sunday.  G was a huge fan; he polished his off and asked for seconds, but then admitted he was full.  I offered to make more for his afternoon snack, and he happily agreed.  I do so love having a child who is willing to try new foods!

Chickpea flour facts and nutrition

I buy my chickpea flour (also known as besan) at a global food store.  Bob’s Red Mill also makes it, and that may be more generally available (though also more expensive) at regular grocery stores.

Chickpea flour is ground simply finely ground chickpeas, though the nutrient content is a bit different than whole chickpeas.


The big difference is in the fiber.  I don’t know if some of the more fibrous portions are sifted out and removed when making the flour, or what, but we somehow lose a hefty 4g of fiber going from the beans to the flour (though the nutrition facts label on the Bob’s Red Mill chickpea flour reports 5g of fiber in 1/4 cup of flour, which is more consistent with the whole bean).  The whole bean also contains a bit more iron compared to the flour.

So that’s pudla!  It will definitely go on our “make regularly” list!