Saturday, March 26, 2011

Tangled Up in Blue

Ayla and I went on a two-hour walk through our neighborhood yesterday.

We set out to get lost, take paths and roads we hadn't before, and find our way home again.

It drizzled. It down-poured. The sun shone.

  It was beautiful.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Wait

"Be like a flower and turn your face to the sun."
- Kahlil Gibran

Last week's Slice of Life is "The Wait." Darrah writes about spring in spring in Seattle on her site, and while I feel like I'm waiting for something, I don't quite know what it is yet. And end to the strange summer-winter weather we've been having here in the Bay Area? My next concert? For my fingers to recover as I'm teaching myself to play guitar? I suppose I'll just keep waiting to find out, and until turn my face to the sun...

See more Slices of Life here

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Superfood Muffins

I picked up a young coconut at Windmill Farms Produce, our local farmer's market, today. It was completely on a whim and I had no idea what to do with it, but I had been planning to make some sort of oatmeal and cranberry baked good today, and it came to me that fresh coconut might make an interesting addition.

 Cranberries and coconuts are both considered superfoods, though "superfood" is not a term used by dietitians. Still, they're both tasty and have good-for-you properties, and I'd like to image that little muffin up there wearing a tiny cape. Cranberries are a potent antioxidant, with the highest concentration of phenols which are thought to reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer, stroke, and heart disease. And coconut contains a healthy form of fat, while the water is high in electrolytes (natural Gatorade!). I even read somewhere that the water was used in place of blood plasma during WWII.

Breaking in to the coconut was interesting though. I did a little research online and after five minutes or so of various pounding and thwacking, I finally succeeded. I ended up with about 3/4 cup of coconut meat and 1 cup of coconut water.

Then I pureed the coconut meat with about 2 tablespoons of the water until smooth. I used this coconut puree in place of the butter in my muffins.

Before I had begun trying to figure out how to break into the coconut, I combined the oats and milk in a bowl, so the oats would soften.

I combined the coconut puree with sugar, two egg yolks, and the oats and milk. Then I added a mixture of  flour, salt, and baking powder. Stir gently, just until everything is combined. Next add dried cranberries that have been soaked in hot water, then drained and tossed with about a teaspoon of flour, so they don't sink in the batter.

In a very clean bowl I whipped up two egg whites. I wanted to give these muffins some loft since the oats would make them denser. My egg whites appear to be smiling at me, so they must have agreed.

The egg whites are ever-so-gently folded into the rest of the batter.

Then I used an ice cream scoop to transfer the batter to a muffin-cup-lined and greased muffin pan, and I sprinkled the tops with demerera sugar for a little crunch. I baked them for 30 minutes, let them rest for 10, and my superfood muffins were done!

The result is a slightly chewy muffin, courtesy of the oats, with zings of cranberry and a light coconut flavor. These will make an excellent breakfast for the week, perhaps slathered with honey butter or alongside my new favorite thing, Greek yogurt.

Here's my recipe...

Oat, Cranberry, Coconut Muffins
makes 12

1 cup oats
1 cup milk (I used half and half)
1 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup coconut puree (use softened butter if you're omitting the coconut)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup flour
2 eggs, separated
Demerera sugar

Preheat your oven to 400F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners, and grease with cooking spray oil.

Combine the oats and the milk in a bowl and let sit for 20 minutes. In a separate bowl combine the dried cranberries with hot water for about ten minutes, then drain well and toss with a teaspoon of flour.

To make the coconut puree, blend the meat from one coconut with two tablespoons of the coconut water in a blender until smooth. Transfer to a large bowl, add the sugar and the two egg yolks, and mix well. Add the oats and milk and mix again.

In a separate bowl combine the flour, salt, and baking powder. Add this to the wet mixture and gently stir, until just combined. Add the rehydrated cranberries and stir again.

In a very clean, large bowl, beat the egg whites with a hand mixer until soft peaks form. Very gently fold the egg whites into the rest of the muffin batter. Transfer the batter to the muffin pan, filling the cups nearly to the top if you want nice, large muffins. Sprinkle the tops with demerera sugar. Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden and a toothpick or tester comes out clean when inserted in the middle of a muffin. Let rest 10 minutes in the pan, and then enjoy!

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Let's Go for a Walk

Just another walk up on our hill with Ayla. I enjoy seeing how it changes with the seasons, and seeing the grasses and flowers grow almost overnight. I don't enjoys the bees, they scare me, even if they are just big old bumble bees that won't sting me. I have issues with those creatures. And I run really fast when one starts buzzing around me, which Ayla thinks is great fun. And I don't enjoy the remains of the local coyote's dinner that Ayla is so good at finding. This is another thing Ayla thinks is fun. Crazy beast.

I love it when Ayla gets Dobe ears, pointing up. I didn't want to have them cropped because it is unnecessary, and I wanted her not to look too scary, but I do like the cropped ear look at times.

Hello little lady bug.

Ayla is serious.

Okay, not really. Sproing!

A tired dog is a happy dog. With a really long tongue.

Ayla's version of tiptoeing, through the tulips.

Hmm, Ayla appears to have lost something. Along with her marbles, that is.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Just Call Me Abuelita

Who doesn't love a fresh homemade tamale? People are usually daunted by the prospect of making tamales on their own, but when I saw the recipe for Vegetarian Tamales on Tasty Kitchen recently I knew I had to try. And really, it wasn't hard or overly time consuming.

I made up a tasty filling, soaked the corn husks for wrapping, and mixed up the masa dough, and then set to spreading, filling, wrapping; rinse and repeat. And I ended up throwing most of them, uncooked, in the freezer for future meals. The longest part of the process is the steaming, which takes an hour and a half (and longer if frozen), so plan ahead a bit: I'm usually home around 4:30, so I'd toss some in my steamer when I get home from work, and about two hours later toss together a salad, and have a tasty dinner by 7:00.

Roasted Vegetable Tamales
adapted from Tasty Kitchen

1 package corn husks
2 cups masa
1 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. chili powder
2 1/4 cups veggie broth
1 stick butter, softened
1 sweet potato, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
3 green onions, chopped
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1/2 lime, juiced
1/2 cup shredded cheddar

Toss the sweet potato, zucchini, and garlic with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast the mixture in a 375F oven for about 45 minutes, or until done. Feel free to use whatever assortment of veggies tickles your pickle too, such as winter squash, regular potato, asparagus, etc.

Soak the corn husks in water for at least 30 minutes. I used a giant saute pan, filled with water, and weighted the corn husks down with another pot.

In a bowl combine the masa, baking powder, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1 tsp. chili powder. Add 2 cups of the veggie broth to form a dough. In a separate bowl cream the butter until fluffy, then add the masa dough and mix well.

Combine the roasted vegetables with the green onions, cilantro, tomatoes, lime juice, the remaining 1 tsp. chili powder and 1/4 cup veggie broth, and cheese. Taste and season as needed.

Take one of the soaked corn husks and spread at least a couple tablespoons of the masa dough in the center. Put a spoonful of the veggie filling down the middle, but not to the very end of the masa dough. Then wrap it all up like a burrito and tie of the ends with strips of another corn husk. Keep going until you've used up your masa dough and filling. You may need to use two husks when they are smaller, to wrap everything securely. I've read that you can also use foil in place of the corn husks, but I haven't tried it.

Either put them in a freezer bag at this point and pop them in the freezer, or get ready to cook your tamales. I used a big stock pot with a steamer basket in the bottom, or you can suspend a metal colander over boiling water, or use a real steamer if you have one. Get your water boiling and add your tamales, making sure they aren't touching the water. Steam for 90 minutes, checking the water to make sure you don't run dry and burn your pot, then check one: if the masa's firm, you're ready for dinner!

Kind of a crummy picture, but they tasted great. I served mine with an slaw of red cabbage, carrot, and cilantro (dressed with mayo, lime juice, a splash of apple cider vinegar, chili powder, salt and pepper), and vegetarian refried beans. I haven't tried the from-frozen tamales yet, but I'm sure they'll taste just as good, just take a little longer to cook.

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