Wonderful whole-grain waffles (without the sticking)

Along with pancakes, whole-grain waffles are part of our normal breakfast rotation around here. Our waffle iron was one of the few items on our very small wedding registry (this makes it easy to remember its origin) and is a gift from my parents.

From the beginning, getting the waffles to release nicely was a tricky proposition.  I don’t know if the issue is our waffle iron, our recipe, or some of both, but until we discovered our secret weapon, the first waffle of the batch always stuck.  I don’t mean it was a little tricky to remove; I mean we were scraping chunks of what should have been a beautiful waffle out of a hot waffle iron, cursing the thing while trying not to burn our fingers and swearing that we’d never make waffles again.

This happened with the first waffle (and sometimes the second and third, to a lesser degree) regardless of how much oil we used.  In addition to the environmental issues with disposable aerosol bottles, commercial non-stick spray is not recommended for waffle irons (or anything with a nonstick coating, really), because the propellant gunks up the surface, so we used a pastry brush to apply either canola oil or melted coconut oil in between every waffle.

Subsequent waffles usually released better (except for this one time when I swear every. single. waffle. in the batch was a hot mess, as was I by the end of it), and by the end of the waffle making session, our frustration would have faded a bit, eased by the fact that we were eating delicious waffles.  But the effort required made me eschew waffles in favor of pancakes on more than one occasion.

Enter the secret weapon.

On the way back from a camping trip two years ago, we stopped to do a little shopping.  I believe we were at T.J. Maxx, and, not unusually, I was much more interested in looking at their kitchen wares than at clothing.  They had a Misto oil sprayer, which I’d contemplated before, but never purchased due to concerns about how well it would actually work.  Matthew was interested in having something like that for applying oil to the top of rising bread dough, and we decided that for ten dollars, it was worth a try.

Back home, it sat in the box for a couple of months before I actually cleaned it (to remove any residual chemicals from manufacturing) and filled it with oil.  It then took another few months for us to think to use it to apply oil to the waffle iron, but once we did, holy moly, what a difference!  Consistently beautiful, easy-release waffles were ours!


There have been a few hiccups along the way.  Every so often, the Misto clogs and needs to be cleaned (if you have one and it is refusing to spray anything but a sad stream of oil, this is likely your problem).  You need to wait for it to air-dry before refilling and using again, so if it just happens to clog in the middle of a batch of waffles, you’re s.o.l. (yes, I learned this the hard way).  I have not done so, but I’m somewhat tempted to buy a back-up so I have a clean, dry Misto waiting in the wings for just such occasions.


Recipe adapted from 1000 Vegetarian Recipes by Carol Gelles

Quantities here are for a double recipe — enough to feed a crowd or freeze a bunch. Cut in half if you want less.

3 c. whole wheat pastry flour*
1 c. other flours (I use a mix of almond and/or cashew meal, coconut flour, and corn meal)
1/2 c. sugar
2 T. baking powder
2 2/3 c. milk
2/3 c. oil
4 eggs, separated
2 t. vanilla
1/3 c. rolled (NOT quick) oats, optional

In a large mixing bowl (big enough to hold wet and dry ingredients), sift together flours, sugar, and baking powder.

Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form (do this first while the beaters are still clean).  Then, use the mixer to combine the milk, oil, egg yolks, and vanilla.

Preheat the waffle iron.

Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet.  Stir gently until just combined, folding in the egg whites toward the end.

Apply oil to the hot waffle iron, ideally with a Misto.  I spray the bottom first, add the batter (I use about 1 cup of batter per waffle; this doesn’t totally fill our waffle iron, but that’s my preference) and then spray the top just before closing.  In our waffle maker, on a “medium” setting, these cook in about 3 minutes.  If you still see steam coming out of the waffle iron, it is probably too soon!

If it does stick a bit, use something wooden to help it release (metal will scratch the iron’s cooking surface).  Place on cooling rack.

*You can play with the ratios of different types of flour a bit, but I would not go much below 2.5 cups of whole wheat pastry flour.


We make big batches and freeze them to enjoy over a few weeks.  To freeze, place thoroughly cooled waffles in freezer bags.


In the morning (or at snack time), let thaw at room temperature for a bit and reheat in the toaster for an almost-as-good as fresh waffle!

These waffles are fairly sweet on their own.  I usually top with butter and just the tiniest bit of real maple syrup or homemade fruit sauce; chocolate chips and cherry sauce are the topping of choice when I’m feeling decadent (and nostalgic, as that was my go-to combo when using the Belgian waffle maker in the Notre Dame dining hall).

Small appliance extravaganza

I almost titled this post “Christmas in November,” but if you’ve gone anywhere near a retail location in the past week, you really don’t need a reminder that apparently Christmas now immediately follows Halloween.  (Try explaining to a three-year-old that we still have quite a ways to go until December 25 when you have reminders everywhere!)

Anyhow, I guess when it rains it pours, like last year when we replaced our toaster and toaster oven at the same time.

Food processor
The current small appliance extravaganza started with a new food processor, a decision that’s been a long time coming.  For the last ten years, I’ve been using a basic Black & Decker food processor.  I don’t use it all that often, but given the usual life span of such things, I honestly expected it to die a long time ago.  I’ve started making cashew butter fairly regularly (unlike peanut butter, I can make cashew butter cheaper than I can buy it), plus the occasional batch of sunflower seed butter.  It also gets some use making hummus and veggie burgers, as well as pureeing squash.  And it just keeps chugging.

The problem is not really one of aging, but a design issue.  The basic blend/process feature works fine, but the slicing/shredding blade is basically worthless.  We’ve lived without this feature for quite awhile, making slaw, kraut, and potato pancakes the old-school way, thinking eventually the motor would die and we’d upgrade, but the darn thing just keeps on kicking.  With plans to make a big batch of kraut (and after having recently made a big batch of root veggie pancakes, with only a little bit of shredded finger included), Matthew made the call to upgrade.

After consulting Consumer Reports, we settled on a Cuisine Art.  I must say, I was a bit underwhelmed when we took it out of the box.  Other than having a stainless steel base, it looked a lot like the Black & Decker — was it really worth 3-4 times as much?

Then Matthew tried slicing some chunks of cabbage and you guys!  Magic!  Beautifully shredded cabbage with the press of a button and really quiet (not whisper quiet, but quiet enough that I’m okay running it in our apartment after G’s in bed, which says a lot!  In comparison, I probably should have worn hearing protection when using the old food processor).  Anyhow, seeing is believing — this seems like a good purchase.  If it stands the test of time and I’m using it 10+ years from now, then we’re really golden!


Gabriel is starting to get really squirrelly when the camera comes out, but he actually asked to be in this picture — future small appliance model?

Electric mixer
No sooner had Matthew brought up getting a new food processor than our electric [hand-held] mixer began to die.  It will still, sometimes, function on the lowest speed, but that’s all we can get out of it.

We again turned to Consumer Reports and selected a fairly basic Kitchen Aid model (i.e., not the most expensive one that comes with all of the accessories).  I don’t expect this to be a major upgrade over what we had, but something that works will be nice.

Grain mill
This time last year, I borrowed my friend Kelly’s electric grain mill to mill our corn.  We really enjoyed using our home-grown corn meal and flour in corn bread and baked goods throughout the year.  Since it’s something we plan to continue growing, it [kind-of] makes sense to have our own mill (really, it would make the most sense to have one mill to share in some kind of neighborhood group, but since we don’t have that kind of set up . . . ).

Matthew found this grain milling attachment for our stand mixer.  I’m interested in seeing how it compares to the electric mill, which worked well, but, even on the coarsest setting, produced a corn “meal” that was more flour than meal (okay for some things, but really too fine for polenta and corn bread — we used our home-grown in combination with store-bought to get the right texture for those items).  The attachment takes up much less space than Kelly’s stand-alone grain mill, so that’s another plus.

And that’s a wrap on our purchases to date.  It seems a little extravagant, but we spend a lot of time in the kitchen, and having these tools does make cooking from scratch easier.  The kitchen is definitely where I would have the most difficulty being a minimalist!

I’ll write more about the grain mill after we’ve taken it for a few spins (if it doesn’t work well, we’ll return it).  I’m considering a soy milk maker, but I want to do a bit more research, including borrowing a friend’s machine to get a feel for the process and to make sure the product is something I want to consume.


Grain mill test run and cornbread recipe

Matthew grew two types of grain corn this year, one for polenta and one for flour.  He harvested a number of lovely ears and removed the kernels, at which point we were stuck.

I attempted to “mill” some of the polenta corn in our food processor, which laughed at my efforts as the kernels spun around making quite a clatter, but coming no closer to becoming corn meal.  Next up was the coffee/spice grinder, which kind-of worked, albeit in very small batches and producing a grain with uneven texture (some almost as fine as flour, but other grains still very coarse).  Due to the presence of the very large grains in the final product, the polenta took over three hours to cook!

Fortunately, a friend has an electric grain mill, and she was willing to let me take it for a test run.  I wasted no time milling all of our corn before returning the mill.


I originally planned to try other [gluten-free] grains after finishing with the corn, but that never happened . . .


. . . because it literally took hours to get a relatively small amount of corn kernels through the mill.*  The corn kernels (bigger than popcorn kernels) were at about the upper limit as far as size of whole grains that would work in the mill.  I suspected that smaller grains (e.g., rice, quinoa, millet, etc.) would flow through much more quickly, and my friend confirmed this.

Despite the rather ridiculous time input, this was my best option by far for turning the corn kernels into a form we could eat, so I stuck with it.

Even on the coarsest grind and slowest motor setting (which is also supposed to contribute to a coarser grind), the milled “polenta” corn was really too fine for making polenta.  We’ll use it in cornbread and other baking where we would use “fine” corn meal instead.

Similarly, the milled “flour” corn came out much finer than I expected.  Even “fine” corn meal has some grit to it, but this was really more like flour.  Matthew later explained that this was due, in part, to the variety of corn — a type that was a low “flint” level, which is what makes corn meal gritty.

Other thoughts:

  • This grain mill is a beast — it takes up some serious kitchen counter real estate.  Granted, it’s the kind of thing that you would use every now and then and store elsewhere, but still.
  • On a related note, this would be an ideal appliance for some kind of neighborhood (or co-housing) appliance share.  It would be easy to share among a number of households, and that would also help lower the cost.
  • Along with beastly size, this machine roars like a beast.  The noise wouldn’t have been a big deal for short periods of time (<15 minutes or so), but the whole having to run it for hours thing got old fast.
  • The hopped did not really work for my big corn kernels.  I did a good bit of manually stirring the kernels in the hopper to help keep things moving.  I don’t think this would be necessary with smaller grains.
  • The lid on the compartment that holds the milled flour has a rubber seal.  While I understand the necessity of the compartment being well-sealed, this thing was ridiculously hard to remove!

While the idea of being able to turn any whole grain into flour is appealing, an electric grain mill is not on my purchase-soon list, especially with a price tag near $300.

Now that all this corny talk has whetted your appetite, here’s cornbread recipe that I’ve been meaning to share, based on this recipe at Kitchen Parade.  I discovered and adapted this recipe about a year ago, and it quickly became a favorite.


  • 1-1/2 cups buttermilk (I used soymilk and vinegar)
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 1/4 cup + 1 T. mix of sorghum and honey (or just honey)
  • 1-1/4 cups yellow cornmeal, preferably stoneground
  • 1/2 cup flour (I used half and half rye and rice flours to make a wheat-free, but NOT gluten-free, cornbread)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 egg

Preheat oven to 450°F.  Place a 9″-12″ cast iron skillet on the stove top over very low heat to warm gently.

Combine buttermilk, olive oil, honey, and egg.  In a separate bowl, combine corn meal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Mix wet ingredients into dry.

Melt butter in the cast iron skillet to coat, then pour in batter and bake for 15-20 minutes.  Time will vary based on size of skillet.

Note: I most recently made this recipe using our corn “flour” in place of the corn meal.  While the resulting product was quite delicious, the lack of grit in the corn created a product with a texture more like a muffin or cake than traditional corn bread.  In the future, I will use our home-grown corn meal/flour for the 1/2 cup of flour in the recipe, and stick with store-bought, fine corn meal for the 1 1/4 cups of corn meal.

*I was 100% on-board with keeping the mill gluten-free, since my friend’s husband has a gluten sensitivity, and being able to mill their own GF flour was a big reason they bought the mill.  However, this meant that I wasn’t able to try making my own whole wheat Cream of Wheat-esque cereal, something that my oatmeal-shunning hubby wants to try.

Risotto gets a makeover: Easy and healthy

In my recent post on lunches, I mentioned risotto, with the promise for a recipe soon.  I had to look back through my archives to make sure I hadn’t already shared the recipe here.

Turns out, this was NOT the first time I mentioned my risotto method — the previous instance occurred over two years ago, in December 2010.  At that time, I also said I would post the recipe, yet a search of my archives shows zero risotto recipes.  Let’s call it pregnancy brain, shall we?

If you’ve been waiting over two years for my top-secret-easy-and-healthy risotto recipe, I do apologize.  If you’ve only been waiting since last week, think how good you have it!

The secret to my risotto is using oat groats instead of the traditional arborio rice.  Though they sound like something a horse (or a goat?) might eat, oat groats are simply the whole oat grain — what they steam and flatten to make rolled oats.  It looks like a wheat berry.

So, why use oat groats?  Well, nutritionally, you get the health benefits of whole grain oats, with a good serving of heart-healthy fiber.  While this is not a fat-free, or even necessarily a low-fat recipe, the natural creaminess of the starch in oats produces an effect similar to arborio rice, and you can have a very rich tasting dish without having to add too much fat.

While oat groats take just as long, if not longer, to cook than arborio rice, they require less babying.  Traditional risotto has you standing at the stove stirring the whole time, gradually adding small amounts of hot broth every now and then.  With oat groats, after toasting the grain for a few minutes, you can toss in the broth, bring it to a simmer, cover it, and walk away.  Sure, you’ll have to come back every now and then to give it a stir, but it’s not a big deal.


Butternut squash and asparagus risotto

Recipe by Melissa

1 1/2 cups thinly sliced leeks (or sub. diced onions)
2 T. butter
2 T. olive oil
1 1/2 cups oat groats
5 c. vegetable broth
8-12 saffron threads
1-2 c. cooked butternut squash
2 c. asparagus pieces
1 c. frozen peas (optional)
salt (to taste — amount will depend heavily on how salty your broth is)
1/3 c. nutritional yeast
1/2 c. freshly grated Parmesean cheese

Melt butter over low heat in large sauce pan.  Add leeks, and cook gently until softened, 10-15 minutes.  Add olive oil and 1/2 t. sea salt.  Add oat groats, increase heat to medium, and cook for 5 minutes to lightly toast the grain.

Add 3c. broth and the saffron — broth can be hot or cold, but if you start from hot, it will speed things up a bit.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer while covered (the oat groats will need to simmer for a total of 60-90 minutes).

After 20 minutes, add the butternut squash.  You want it to dissolve into the risotto, adding to the depth and richness of the dish.

At this point, the risotto should be thickening nicely.  You may need to stir it a bit more frequently now.  Add the nutritional yeast, and more broth if necessary.

After 60 minutes of simmering, check tenderness of the grain, it should be chewy, but tender.  If it’s close to ready, add the asparagus and peas.  Maintain a gentle simmer for 10-15 more minutes.  When vegetables are tender and cooked through, remove from heat and stir in the grated Parmesean cheese.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

*Ingredient variations are pretty much endless. The picture above is actually a sun-dried tomato and leek [oat groat] risotto, originally mentioned here.

Lunches for the week

As I put away our leftover honey beans on Monday night, I happily realized that the fridge held enough leftovers to provide lunches for the rest of the week.  That knowledge removes the pressure to continue making big, leftover-yielding dinners, buying me an easy night or two of sandwiches, pasta, or leftovers for dinner instead of just for lunch.

In order to keep track of all the leftover goodness and avoid food waste, I grabbed a piece of scratch paper and sketched out our lunches for the week.


The full lunch menu — most of the veggies in the dishes are locally grown:

Monday: Kale quinoa quiche with a side of squash
Tuesday: Black bean soup w/avocado and tortilla chips; side of collard greens
Wednesday: Rotini w/red sauce and sauteed eggplant, ‘shrooms, and squash
Thursday: Polenta topped with black-eyed peas, collards, and sundried tomatoes w/a side of roasted sweet potatoes
Friday: Honey beans, whole wheat bread w/olive oil, sides of squash and kale

On the top half of the page, I brainstormed dinner ideas based on what we had to use and what types of food (i.e., rice, lentils, tofu) we haven’t eaten in awhile.


Our fridge full of leftover goodness (and a huge hunk of rising Danish pastry dough, second shelf from top, on the right).  A bit crazy, but I have a pretty good mental map of what is where, and this is nothing compared to high gardening season when we’re truly overflowing with fresh produce.

In case you were wondering, I have yet to use my “coasting” dinner (many weeks I don’t — it’s just nice knowing I have a cushion, if necessary).  Tuesday night I made risotto (recipe coming soon) and Wednesday night I made a variation of my Persian stew, with lentils instead of chickpeas and [garden!] cabbage instead of cauliflower.