Oven extravaganza

I really hesitate to use the oven in the summer, but I live with a baked-good fiend.  To minimize the impact, I try to save up baking projects to avoid heating up the apartment for one tray of cookies.

As a concession for over a week of gross, unseasonably hot weather at the end of May/beginning of June, St. Louis granted us some slightly cooler temps on Sunday.  With quite the backlog of baking, the oven extravaganza swept through our apartment after lunch.  The menu featured zucchini bread, peach-cherry pie, granola, and butterscotch bars.  We used local peaches and zucchini (frozen from last summer).

Health notes: As usual, we baked with 100% whole wheat pastry flour (it is difficult for me to eat baked goods, even nice, homemade baked goods, made with white flour — they taste too sweet and lack the depth of flavor that the whole wheat provides, not to mention the nutritional benefits of whole grains).  We also somewhat reduced the sugar in most of the recipes.

Our oven extravaganza two weeks ago featured more varied cuisine: kale chips, roasted pumpkin seeds, chocolate chip cookies, sunflower seeds, beets, and granola.  I’ve been curious about those kale chips for quite awhile now — they were quite good, and a fun alternative if you’re inundated with kale from your garden or CSA share.

However, during Sunday’s baking, I noticed that most items took longer to bake than usual.  Our pans filled the oven, but not so much that it should have restricted airflow.  Maybe it was the semi-frequent opening and closing that came with having multiple items with different baking times and needs (e.g., the granola needed to be stirred every now and then)?  Did we really save any energy?

Next time, I will track exactly how long we have the oven on, and compare it to how long it would take to bake each item, one-at-a-time.  The fact that the oven only preheated once, compared to four times if we baked Sunday’s items in separate sessions, must translate to SOME savings.

Eating beetles

I love eating beetles!

And by beetles, I mean beets, of course.  I’m not sure why I’ve taken to calling them that, but I find it amusing.

Matthew bought these at the farmers’ market on Saturday — our first of the season.  The beets in our garden aren’t this big yet.

Roasted Beets

Wash beets thoroughly.  If they’re fairly small (and sometimes even if they’re big) you can skip peeling them.  (My sister taught me this.)  Cut them into small chunks.  Toss with a bit of olive oil and salt.  Spread in a single layer on a baking dish.  Roast for 45-60 minutes at 325-400 degrees F, stirring occasionally.

Delicious on salad with poppy seed dressing (recipe here), onions, toasted pecans, and goat cheese.  Other serving suggestions: serve the roasted beets as a side dish or toss with pasta.

Poppy seed dressing

A few days ago, when I posted this recipe, I decided to add a “Recipes” category to this blog.  Despite the fact that I have plenty of “Food” posts, recipes are lacking because I rarely use them.  Most dinners are a little of this, a touch of that, add lots of garlic, and voilà — dinner (and leftovers for lunch)!

However, we follow recipes from time to time.  Using a little magic math, I reconstructed the recipe for our favorite store-bought poppy seed dressing.  I’m sure the make would not give me the recipe, but all I needed was the ingredient list and nutrition information.  Yes, I do feel rather clever!

Poppy Seed Dressing

6 oz. canola or olive oil (I use a combination)
3 oz. water
2 oz. white vinegar
1 oz. apple cider vinegar
7 T. sugar
1 t. salt
1 T. finely chopped onion
1/2 t. mustard powder
1/4 t. xanthan gum
1 T. poppy seeds

Place all ingredients EXCEPT for oil and poppy seeds in a blender.  While the blender is running, slowly add the oil.  When thoroughly mixed, turn off the blender and stir in the poppy seeds by hand.

Notes: Xanthan gum is a thickener — you can find it in health food stores.  If you omit it, the dressing will still taste fine, but it will be thinner.  If you don’t have a blender, you can still make this dressing.  Just place all of the ingredients in a jar and shake thoroughly (will work best if you put the lid on first).

Serving suggestion: Our favorite salad with this dressing consists of arugula (or mixed greens that contain arugula), roasted beets, thinly sliced onions, toasted pecans, and goat cheese.

Rumor has it that eating poppy seeds can produce positive results on drug tests, so I may try to avoid them before my drug test for the new job.