Sunday, March 31, 2013

Whole Wheat English Muffins

Even if something is commercially available at a reasonable price, I can't resist trying to make it myself at least once. I've long meant to try my hand at English muffins, but compared to other breakfast breads and pastries, whole grain recipes are hard to come by. I typically stick to a few trusted sources when it comes to recipe websites, but this time I ventured outside my comfort zone this time to achieve my whole wheat goal. Like almost any homemade version, these English muffins are not facsimiles of the commercial version, but absolutely delicious in their own right. By using mostly whole wheat flour and no dough stabilizers, these turn out somewhat denser than their commercial counterparts, but there are still plenty of nooks and crannies to soak up all manner of condiments with so much more flavor than the white flour variety. (If you'd like a lighter muffin, increase the portion of bread/AP flour). Fresh from the skillet they're simply delightful with only butter and/or jam, but they also make delicious breakfast sandwiches or Eggs Benedict. If the entire batch doesn't get devoured right out of the skillet, extras freeze beautifully for a homemade breakfast anytime.

Whole Wheat English Muffins
adapted from Cowgirl Chef
makes 6 muffins

1 package active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon butter, softened
2 cups whole wheat flour
½ cup bread or all-purpose flour
¼ cup yellow cornmeal, or as needed
1 tablespoon canola oil, for greasing skillet

1. Place the yeast and warm water in the bowl of a mixer and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add the sea salt, honey and butter and with the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed.

2. Add the flours and mix until all of the ingredients are blended, then increase the speed to medium-high until the dough is smooth, about 5 more minutes. Shape the dough into a ball, and put it in a lightly greased bowl, cover it with a towel, and let it rise for 2 hours in a warm (but not too hot) place. (Note: you can do all of this in advance, and let the dough rise overnight.)

3. To make the muffins, punch down the dough, and divide it into 6 pieces that you’ve shaped into discs. Set aside for 30 minutes.

4. Put the cornmeal in a shallow bowl or on a plate. Cover the top and bottom of each disc with cornmeal and cook in a lightly greased skillet over medium-low heat. Each side will take about 5 minutes. Let cool on a rack completely.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Spicy Stewed Potatoes and Spinach with Coconut Milk

Indian food is one of the cuisines I came to much later in life. I now live in a culinary utopia, but I grew up in an area where most of the people were only aware of Indian "culture" through Apu on The Simpsons. I was lucky to have parents who valued other cultures and taught me as much as they could about the worlds beyond my tiny hometown, but that still didn't change the fact that there wasn't anywhere to go out for curry and naan. Now that I'm cooking for myself, I find that Indian culinary tradition is one I go back to frequently, especially when I'm making vegetarian meals. This recipe combines hearty potatoes and gently cooked spinach with spicy chiles, fresh cilantro,and creamy coconut milk to create a filling dish that satisfies all of your taste buds. It is rather gentle with the traditional spices, using turmeric instead of the full suite of curry spices, and a nice way to gradually introduce novices to the lovely flavors of Indian cuisine. More adventurous palates or those better acquainted with Indian food may want to substitute the turmeric with curry powder, whose myriad ingredients are just as eagerly soaked up by the potatoes and spinach. Chicken, fish, or tofu would feel most at home next to this on your dinner plate, but it could be served over rice or quinoa for a hearty, starchy dinner.

Spicy Stewed Potatoes and Spinach with Coconut Milk
adapted from Eating Well
serves 4

1 pound Yukon Gold or red potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
2 dried red chiles, such as Thai, cayenne, chile de arbol, or guajillo, stemmed
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup firmly packed fresh cilantro
4 large cloves garlic, peeled
1 teaspoon salt, divided
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric (or curry powder, to taste)
1/2 cup light coconut milk
8 ounces baby spinach

1. Place potatoes in a medium bowl; cover with cold water to prevent browning. Place chiles in a small heatproof bowl and pour the boiling water over them. Set aside until they are reconstituted, about 15 minutes. Reserving the chile-soaking water, coarsely chop the chiles (do not seed).

2. Pile cilantro, garlic, 3/4 teaspoon salt and the chopped chiles in a mortar. Pound the ingredients to a pulpy mass with the pestle, using a spatula to contain the mixture in the center for a concentrated pounding. (Alternatively, mince the ingredients in a food processor.)

3. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the spice paste and cook, stirring, until the garlic is honey-brown and the chiles are pungent, 1 to 2 minutes. (Make sure to use adequate ventilation.) Drain the potatoes and add along with turmeric; cook, stirring to coat the potatoes with the yellow spice, about 30 seconds. Pour in the reserved chile-soaking water and scrape the pan to loosen any browned bits; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are fork-tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

4. When the potatoes are tender, pile the spinach leaves over them, add remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, cover and cook until the spinach is wilted, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the coconut milk mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve promptly.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Quinoa-Spinach Bake

When it comes to healthy grains, quinoa is king. It is a complete protein, gluten-free, and quick-cooking, so you can serve a crowd with all manner of dietary restrictions with minimal time and effort. Quinoa is a relative newcomer to the American food scene and some might be a little surprised by its flavor and texture, but I've come to really adore each nutty, chewy bite. This dish can't feed quite everyone (sorry vegans!), but it makes for a fantastic side or main for everyone else. I was a bit skeptical at first that it would turn out dry and crumbly, but the moist quinoa, vegetables, and delightfully salty pockets of cottage cheese were held together perfectly by just a couple of eggs. Fresh thyme and rosemary imbue each bite with a lovely herbal quality and generously perfume the house as it bakes. The contrast between the crunchy outside and tender center is a real treat, the cascade of textures throughout each bite elevating what would be a delicious, but monotextural, combination of ingredients to something much more special. I ate this as a main with roasted vegetables on the side, but it would also be a lovely accompaniment to meat or eggs. Whether you're feeding vegetarians, gluten intolerants, or just health-minded individuals, this dish is a crowd-pleaser appropriate for any meal or season.

Quinoa-Spinach Bake
adapted from Whole Living
serves 4 as a main or 8 as a side

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Thai Tofu or Chicken Salad

These below average temperatures are really getting on my nerves. All I can think about are flip flops, shorts, planting gardens, and all the other wonderful things that come with spring, especially the culinary ones. Despite all of that, the sunshine creeping into the evening is giving me hope that soon the snow will be gone and I'll be awash with spring vegetables. This salad is made with local spinach, available all year long, and carrots, a fall/winter vegetable, but the Thai flavors in this salad make it feel quite spring-like in my opinion. Too often both salad and tofu get a bad rap, but neither needs to be boring or leave you hungry, and this recipe is proof of that. A delicate sprinkling of feta and peanuts add the perfect level of saltiness to accent the fresh and crunchy carrots and spinach and the tofu or chicken make it a filling and complete meal. This same collection of ingredients could also be adapted into a stir-fry or noodle bowl for something even more hearty, but this should satisfy most appetites with just a crusty piece of bread or roll on the side.

Thai Tofu or Chicken Salad
serves 1

2 cups spinach, salad greens, or baby lettuce (about 2 ounces), washed, dried and chopped
1/4 cup grated carrot (about 1 ounce)
2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onion
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
3 ounces cooked chicken or baked tofu
2 tablespoons chopped roasted peanuts
2 tablespoons crumbled feta (about 1/2 ounce)
Salad dressing, for serving

1. Combine spinach, carrot, green onion, and cilantro in a bowl or on a large plate and toss to combine. Top with chicken/tofu, peanuts, and feta cheese. Drizzle dressing of choice over top, and enjoy!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Skillet Tuna Noodle Casserole

I make sure to eat seafood at least once a week. Sometimes it's high end sushi, most often it's salmon, but sometimes it's just canned tuna. Luckily for me, affordable canned (or rather pouched) tuna was perfectly suited for my latest craving - tuna noodle casserole. Cookbooks and websites abound with recipes for tuna casserole, but I couldn't easily find one that suited my needs when I was dining solo. Since I crave variety and can't keep up with recipes I have bookmarked, I'm always trying to find and develop and recipes to feed only one or two. Recipes often don't scale down easily for just a couple of diners, but it was easily to build this basic tuna noodle casserole recipe from the ground up. I started with a simple bechamel sauce, using it to blend together whole wheat pasta, peas, and tuna, a healthier riff on the traditional condensed soup and egg noodle version. Whole wheat bread crumbs and nutty Parmesan add a lovely layer of crunch and flavor on top and just the right amount of texture to this creamy dish. It's basic and satisfying, but the bechamel could easily be punched up with whatever herbs and spices you have on hand. Whether you're craving a homemade bowl of comfort now to combat this winter that just won't end or wait until spring peas make their first appearance, this cozy meal is sure to please.

Skillet Tuna Noodle Casserole
serves 1 hungry person or 2 light appetites

2 ounces whole wheat fusili or other small pasta
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup low-fat milk
One 2.6-ounce pouch tuna
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
1 tablespoon whole wheat bread crumbs
1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Bring a medium pot of well-salted water to a boil and cook pasta to just shy of al dente, about 9 minutes, adding peas during last minute of cook time. Drain, reserving ~1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.

2. Meanwhile, melt butter in a small oven-proof pan. When butter is melted, add flour and stir well to combine. Cook, stirring constantly, until the roux is light brown, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add milk, stirring constantly, and bring mixture to a simmer. Simmer until mixture is thickened, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add pasta, peas, and tuna, stir to combine, and season to taste with salt and pepper and red pepper flakes (if using).

3. Combine bread crumbs and Parmesan in a small bowl. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the pasta Place the pan in the oven and cook until mixture is bubbly and bread crumbs are toasted, about 5 to 10 minutes. Serve promptly.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Chickpea and Roasted Broccoli Salad with Feta


I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw fresh broccoli at the farmers' market. Although Madison, Wisconsin is home of the country's largest producer-only farmers' market in the summer, in winter the variety of fresh local produce is not quite so plentiful. It's true you can get root vegetables and greens all winter long, but the arrival of each new veggie is an occasion to be treasured. Even though it's grown in a greenhouse, this first taste of broccoli will be short-lived so I tried to put it to good, if simple, use. And when in doubt, roast it! I eat roasted broccoli and cauliflower in absolutely ridiculous amounts, but every so often they make it into more elaborate recipes. The vegetal element of this salad is threefold - deeply flavorful roasted broccoli, sharp and crunchy red onion, and tender greens showcase so much of what vegetables bring to a dish. The chickpeas make the salad truly substantial and the salty feta cheese is the perfect foil for both the deep caramelized flavors and the sharp and fresh ones. The vernal equinox just around the bend and soon after it all the wonderful ingredients of spring, but until the snows disappear this hearty salad is just what the season ordered.

Chickpea and Roasted Broccoli Salad with Feta
serves 1

4 ounces cauliflower or broccoli, cut into small to medium florets with at least one flat side
Olive oil cooking spray
Extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces salad greens or lettuce
1/2 ounce red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup canned chickpeas, thoroughly rinsed and drained
1/2 ounce crumbled feta or goat cheese
Salad dressing, for serving

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Toss the cauliflower with olive oil to coat and season to taste with salt and pepper. Roast until tender and browned, about 20 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, spread salad greens on a plate, topping with red onion and chickpeas. Once the cauliflower or broccoli is done roasted, sprinkle on the salad and top with cheese. Drizzle with salad dressing of choice, and enjoy!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Whole Wheat Buttermilk Biscuits

Biscuits and gravy is probably my favorite breakfast and I order it whenever I see it on a menu. But if I'm not in the mood to venture out for that indulgence, it's pretty easy to whip some up at home. Biscuits and gravy starts, of course, with delicious biscuits. As with almost all of my baking, I prefer a whole wheat/whole grain recipe to a white flour one, adding nutrition and flavor. Often regular whole wheat flour can be substituted for part or all of the all-purpose flour in a recipe, but in a recipe where delicate texture is of the utmost importance, whole wheat pastry flour is a far superior substitute. This recipe delivers all the rich, flakiness you expect from a buttermilk biscuit with the added nutty flavor of whole wheat flour. They are delicious dunked into a hearty soup or stew, as a base for sausage gravy, as the topping for a pot pie, made into strawberry shortcake, or simply slathered with butter and jam. If you make them double-sized, they also make a fantastic breakfast sandwich. They're best fresh from the oven as with any baked good, but the extras I froze held up surprisingly well for a quick workday breakfast. The perfect all-purpose biscuit recipe for sweet and savory applications alike, these homemade biscuits are a quick and easy way to make dinner just a little more special.

Whole Wheat Buttermilk Biscuits
from Eating Well
makes 12 biscuits

3/4 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
1 tablespoon milk, for brushing

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.

2. Combine buttermilk and oil. Whisk whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Using your fingertips or 2 knives, cut butter into the dry ingredients until crumbly. Make a well in the center and gradually pour in the buttermilk mixture, stirring with a fork until just combined.

3. Transfer the dough to a floured surface and sprinkle with a little flour. Lightly knead the dough 8 times, then pat or roll out to an even 3/4-inch thickness. Cut into 2-inch rounds and transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Gather any scraps of dough and cut more rounds. Brush the tops with milk. (Alternatively, you can make drop biscuits, as I did).

4. Bake the biscuits for 12 to 16 minutes, or until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool slightly before serving.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Roasted Sweet Potato and Apple Salad

While I'm already craving spring vegetables like asparagus and peas, there is one winter vegetable that I'm not sure I'll ever tire of - sweet potatoes. I've eaten my fair share of sweet potatoes this winter as fries, soupsburgers, and hashes, mashed, stir-fried and roasted, but this is the first time I've ever put them in a salad. I had a few trimmings left over from a larger recipe, so I relied on my go-to vegetable cooking method (roasting) to make those leftover pieces the most delicious they could be. Apples and sweet potatoes are an obvious pair, so I roasted them together to sweet, caramelized perfection, contrasting those flavors with pungent blue cheese and rich and toasty walnuts. This is yet another riff on my go-to salad recipe, but one of my favorites to date, combining a host of my favorite ingredients in perfect balance. Although I'm anxious for the days when I'll be topping my salads with roasted asparagus and fresh and crunchy sugar snap peas, these last tastes of winter are still pure heaven.

Roasted Sweet Potato and Apple Salad
serves 2

1 small sweet potato (about 4 ounces), cut into small pieces
1 small apple, cored and cut into small pieces
Olive oil cooking spray
Extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces salad greens or baby spinach
2 tablespoons finely minced shallot
1/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts or pecans
1 ounce crumbled blue cheese
Salad dressing, for serving

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Toss the sweet potatoes and apples with olive oil to coat and season to taste with salt and pepper. Roast until tender and browned, about 20 minutes, flipping midway through roasting.

2. Meanwhile, spread salad greens on a plate, topping with shallots. Once the sweet potatoes and are apples are done roasting, sprinkle on the salad and top with cheese and nuts. Drizzle with salad dressing of choice, and enjoy!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Salmon with Capers and Dill

With St. Patrick's Day approaching, a day that mostly centers around amateur drinking and foods with horrifying shades of green, I thought it appropriate to share a dish that would easily grace a real Irish table. Adapted just slightly from Rachel's Irish Family Food: 120 Classic Recipes from my Home to Yours and shared by The Splendid Table, this authentic meal is a lighter and healthier way to honor the Irish tradition. In addition to swimming the cold Irish rivers, salmon also plays an important role in Irish mythology. The Salmon of Wisdom was said to be a fish that would grant all the knowledge of the world to first person to eat its flesh, earning this fish a place in the hearts, minds, and bellies of many an Irish lad and lass. This recipe is brilliantly simple, the piquancy of the lemon and capers shining brilliantly against the rich salmon and butter and burst of fresh herbs. Dill is an herb sadly infrequent in my culinary repertoire, but each time I use it I ask myself why I don't do so more. If you're like me and always looking for an occasion to cook something special, why not try this meal out for St. Patty's Day? It may not grant you with the knowledge of the universe, but it is a fine start to a night of carousing or a quiet night at home with a pint of Guinness. Éirinn go Brách!

Salmon with Capers and Dill
adapted slightly from The Splendid Table
serves 4

4 tablespoons (50g) butter, diced
4 (4-ounce/125g) salmon fillets (with the skin left on, if you wish)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons capers, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice mixed with 6 to 8 tablespoons water 
4 teaspoons chopped fresh dill or 1 teaspoon dried drill

1. Place a frying pan over medium-high heat. When it is hot, add a couple of pats (knobs) of butter, very quickly followed by the salmon, with the skin side down. Fry for 3 to 4 minutes, until golden brown underneath. Turn over, season with salt and pepper, and fry for another couple of minutes, or until the fish is just cooked through. (The timing will depend on the thickness of the salmon fillets and heat of the pan.)

2. Add the capers, along with the remaining butter, and lemon juice mixture and boil for 1 minute. Season to taste, adding more lemon juice or water, if necessary. Transfer the salmon onto warmed plates, stir the chopped dill into the sauce, and pour over the fish to serve.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Whole Wheat Pancakes

I very rarely order pancakes when I'm out for breakfast. I'm definitely not anti-pancake, but they're so easy to make at home and quite often turn out better. I also greatly prefer whole (or multi-) grain pancakes to those made with white flour, which are definitely harder to come by even in a wonderful food city like Madison. Fortunately for me, a big batch of these pancakes take very little time to make. Made entirely with whole grains, they're a bit denser than your average white flour pancake, but that makes them feel hearty and satisfying instead of heavy and cumbersome. They're absolutely delicious with the traditional butter and (real) maple syrup, but extras can also be repurposed with great success into breakfast sandwiches. If you have a little time and want to go the savory route, I recommend a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich (dipped into maple syrup, of course). For something a bit healthier and more suited for breakfast on the run, a smear of almond or peanut butter with sliced bananas or apples in the perfect solution. Extra pancakes freeze wonderfully so investing the time for one generous batch of pancakes can provide breakfast for days. Whether you're gathering friends and family around the table for a feast or just want a freezer full of breakfasts at the ready, this recipe is the answer.


Whole Wheat Pancakes
adapted from Martha Stewart
makes about one dozen 4- to 5-inch pancakes, serving six

1 1/4 cups whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup wheat germ
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 1/2 cups low-fat buttermilk (I used powdered buttermilk, following the instructions on the package)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
Vegetable-oil cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Whisk together flour, wheat germ, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Whisk in buttermilk, oil, and eggs. Let stand 10 minutes (if batter thickens, stir in 1 tablespoon water).

2. Coat a nonstick skillet with cooking spray, and heat over medium heat. Spoon in 1/4 cup batter for each pancake. Cook until bubbles appear. Flip, and cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Keep warm in oven while you cook remaining batter.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Southwestern Squash Burgers

I've gone through a number of veggie burger phases in the past, and think this recipe may be starting a new one, thanks to a need to use up squash puree. I was a little skeptical of these burgers at first because they didn't have any beans and just 1/2 cup of squash puree is used to blend all the ingredients together, but they turned out absolutely wonderful. Whole wheat bread crumbs and wheat germ, which serve to bind and give body to the burger, also had a real contribution to the flavor, which I found surprisingly pleasing. Corn and peppers bring freshness and a bit of texture, with the squash puree adding a subtle hint of sweetness and sticking everything together. The cheese blended into every bite prevents the burger from feeling too healthy, it's smokiness blending beautifully with the smoky cumin and ancho chile powder. Unlike many veggie burgers, these hold together well, their texture solid enough to get a delightful brown crust when fried. Essential for busy professionals and families alike, extra uncooked burgers can be frozen so you're never more than a few minutes away from a tasty meal.

Southwestern Squash Burgers
adapted from Eating Well
makes 4 burgers

6 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped red or green bell pepper
1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons chili powder (I used ancho
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Tomato Salsa, optional (recipe follows)
1/2 cup canned unseasoned pumpkin or other winter squash puree
1/2 cup shredded smoked or sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
1/2 cup fine dry whole wheat breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
6 8-inch whole wheat flour tortillas, (soft-taco size)
Shredded lettuce, for serving (optional)
Salsa, for serving (optional)
Sour cream, for serving (optional)

1. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in bell pepper, corn, garlic, chili powder and cumin; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes more. Transfer to a large bowl; let cool to room temperature, about 10 minutes.

2. Add pumpkin, cheese, wheat germ, breadcrumbs, parsley, salt and pepper to the onion mixture; mix well. With dampened hands, form the vegetable mixture into four patties.

3. Preheat oven to 325°F. Stack tortillas and wrap in aluminum foil. Place in the oven for about 15 minutes to heat through. (Alternatively, stack tortillas between two damp paper towels; microwave on high for 30 to 60 seconds, or until heated through.)

4. Using 2 teaspoons oil per batch, cook 2 to 4 patties at a time in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until browned and heated through, about 4 minutes per side. Adjust heat as necessary for even browning. Wrap the patties in tortillas and serve immediately, garnished with lettuce, salsa, and sour cream, if desired.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Winter Squash Orzo with Sage

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you may be sick of squash recipes by now. But then you'd also know how I love local, organic ingredients and hate waste, so you may still have an appreciation for the plethora of squash recipes. Luckily I've managed to find enough variety in my recipes to use up my freezer squash cache that I'm not sick of it just yet, but I may feel differently when it truly feels like spring around these parts. Until then I'm going to keep looking for new and different ways to enjoy many members of the gourd family. I've made quite a few pastas with a squash-based sauce, but this stands out as one of the creamiest, silkiest indulgences yet. The squash itself is mildly sweet and very smooth, with a little bit of butter and milk enriching the sauce enough to form a full background against which the sage and Parmesan shine. For me, sage is decidedly a harvest and winter herb, and this perfectly seasonal bowl of flavor is a fine way enjoy the (hopefully) impending end of winter.

Winter Squash Orzo with Sage
adapted from Serious Eats
serves 4

8 ounces whole wheat orzo
3 cups vegetable or chicken stock
3 cups water
1 1/2 cups winter squash puree (pumpkin, butternut, acorn, etc.)
1 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1/2 cup milk
1 shallot, diced
1 tablespoon butter
3/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried sage
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, plus additional for serving

1. In a large saucepan, bring 3 cups of broth and 3 cups of water to boil over high heat. Add orzo. Return to a boil and cook for 7 or 8 minutes or until pasta is just shy of al dente. Drain and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, sauté shallots in butter for 5 minutes over medium heat. Add 3/4 cup of broth and 1/2 cup of milk. Allow to simmer for 5 minutes or so.

3. Add squash puree to simmering broth and stir well. Add salt, pepper, sage and remaining 3/4 cup of broth. Reduce heat and simmer on medium low for about 8 to 10 minutes, or until sauce is slightly thinner than the desired consistency.

4. Add orzo, stir thoroughly, and continue to cook for an additional few minutes until the orzo is cooked and sauce is the desired consistency, adding additional water or broth if sauce is too thick. Stir in Parmesan cheese and serve hot, serving with more cheese on top, if desired.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Baked Whole Wheat Donuts

Who doesn't love donuts? The sheer fact that there are gluten-free donuts, vegan donuts, and ones topped with bacon proves that there's one out there for almost everyone. I'll admit I've never had a Krispy Kreme and just had my first donut from Dunkin' Donuts a couple of weeks ago, but I've sampled donuts far and wide from many small bakeries. In Madison, Greenbush Bakery has to be my favorite and I've never passed up an apple cider donut at an orchard, but I've long been meaning to try making them at home. And only 6 months after I bought the donut pan, I finally did! I'll be the first to admit these are not the be-all and end-all of donuts - they are a basic recipe and baked instead of fried - but their simplicity is the very reason I chose to share them. I always like to start with the basics before making too many tweaks to a recipe and this recipe is an ideal jumping off point for my own recipe development. As written here, these are nutty, subtly spiced with a lovely tender crumb, but they can be easily elevated with the glaze of your choice. This can be as simple as a smear of peanut butter or jam or as culinary as a lovely homemade caramel, or even a simple dusting cinnamon sugar or powdered sugar. Though these won't take the place of a deep-fried donut from your favorite bakery, they are a lovely healthier alternative for a weekend morning when you aren't ready to get out of your pajamas and face the world.

Baked Whole Wheat Donuts
adapted from King Arthur Flour
makes 6 donuts

1 cup (4 ounces) whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons dried buttermilk powder
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons water

1. Whisk together all of the dry ingredients in a medium-sized mixing bowl.

2. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, oil and water (or buttermilk or yogurt) until foamy.

3. Pour the liquid ingredients all at once into the dry ingredients and stir just until combined.

4. Butter or grease the doughnut pan; non-stick pan spray works well here. Note: even though the pan is non-stick, since the doughnuts are low-fat they may stick unless you grease the pan first. Fill each doughnut form half full.

5. Bake the doughnuts in a preheated 375°F oven for 10 to 12 minutes. When done, they'll spring back when touched lightly, and will be quite brown on the top.

6. Remove the doughnuts from the oven, remove them from the pan, and allow them to cool on rack. Glaze with icing, or coat with cinnamon-sugar or any non-melting sugar.