“Flowers are the sweetest things God ever made, and forgot to put a soul into.” ~Henry Beecher

Friday, February 19, 2010

A Craving for Pancakes

There are some foods that I would not call my favorite things to eat, but every now and then I will crave them, and so I give in. One of those things is pancakes. If I go out for breakfast, almost all of the time I will order eggs and not even give pancakes a second thought. If I’m in the mood for them, however, it doesn’t matter what time of day it is. I’ll eat them for dinner. I’ve found lots of recipes online for pancakes made with different flours and I’ve tried several. The recipe below is a variation of a common recipe that simply uses whole grain spelt flour. Spelt is an ancient grain related to wheat that can be better tolerated by some people with wheat allergies. For the sugar, I’ve substituted organic sucanat, an unrefined, precursor to white cane sugar that retains many nutrients. It has a slight molasses flavor compared to white sugar and these days I regularly use it as a sweetener.

Whole Grain Buttermilk Pancakes

1 cup whole grain spelt flour

3 T sugar, such as sucanat

½ t baking powder

½ t baking soda

½ t salt

1 ¼ cups lowfat buttermilk

2 T melted butter

1 egg, beaten

2 t vanilla

Whisk dry ingredients together in a medium bowl. Combine the buttermilk, butter, egg and vanilla, then pour into dry ingredients and mix just until combined. Let batter sit for a few minutes.

Melt 1 teaspoon butter in a skillet over medium heat. For each pancake, pour 1/3 cup of batter into skillet. Flip when the batter is bubbling around the edges and set is center is set. Cook until the bottom is brown and the center is cooked. Serve with butter, maple syrup, fruit or yogurt.

To save time, the dry ingredients can be mixed in bulk then measured out when needed:

4 cups flour

¾ cup sugar

2 t baking powder

2 t baking soda

2 t salt

Mix well and store in airtight container in a cool place. To make a batch, combine 1 ¼ cup of the dry mix with the wet ingredients above and proceed as usual. I have made this bulk dry mix with various combinations of whole wheat, buckwheat, and whole grain spelt flours. I’ve even replaced ¼ cup of flour with ground flax seed meal, and I’ve always have good luck with it. And—if I’m in the mood for chocolate, I will simply add a tablespoon or two of unsweetened cocoa powder. I didn’t do that yesterday morning, but they still got rave reviews. In fact, they’ve been requested again...

Friday, February 5, 2010

Cold Brewed Coffee

I love coffee. It may seem strange for someone who loves yoga to drink this dark caffeinated beverage, but I do. In fact, I drink it every morning and I will occasionally have a cup in the afternoon (but it’s mostly green and herbal teas after noon). Research suggests that like green tea, coffee is a source of antioxidants and there were several studies that came out a few years ago suggesting that coffee consumption may have positive effects on a number of ailments, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease. A couple of the articles that reported on the findings can be read here and here. Of course I want to believe it’s good for me, but like anything, I believe that it should be consumed in moderation.

Recently, I rediscovered the method of cold brewing. It’s something that I tried several years ago and I was very impressed with the results. It’s a simple method for preparing coffee that just takes a little advanced preparation. Coffee grounds are soaked in cold or room temperature water for several hours to make a concentrated coffee solution (sort of like a double shot of espresso). Then to prepare a cup, the coffee is mixed with steamed water at a 1:2 or 1:3 ratio. Why bother, you ask? Because the finished product is worth the effort. Cold brewing extracts the flavors from the beans while leaving much of the bitterness and acidity behind, resulting in a very smooth cup of coffee. There is a system you can buy called the Toddy to do the cold brewing, but I found that it’s possible to make in my French press. To prepare:

1. Place ~1/2 cup of ground coffee into a French press, or large, glass jar.

2. Slowly add 2 cups of filtered, room temperature or cold water and gently stir to ensure that all the grounds are soaked. The ratio is 4:1 water to coffee, and can be scaled up.

3. Cover container and let sit for several hours on the counter, or overnight in the fridge.

4. In the morning, insert the plunger to separate the grounds from the liquid (if using the French press), or strain the coffee through a fine mesh filter or cheesecloth.

5. For each cup, dilute 1:2 or 1:3 coffee concentrate to steamed water, then, if desired, add creamer and/or sweetener.

6. Store the remaining concentrate in the fridge.

This morning as a treat, I prepared my coffee with hot milk instead of water. Not really so different from making a latte or a cappuccino. In fact, I have a Bodum milk frother that I sometimes use to give it even more creaminess. I love this little tool. I usually have the best results when the milk has some fat in it and it is just forming tiny bubbles around the circumference of the pot, i.e., it’s about to boil (I’ve found that it also works great for beating one or two eggs or whipping a small number of egg whites). The result this morning, was the beautiful looking cup of coffee at the top of the page that took very little effort. And, I have enough coffee solution to last several days that I have the option to prepare in a variety of ways. I can't tell you how many mornings I've looked at my cup of coffee with gratitude. It's always something for which I am consciously thankful. : )