Savor The Earth

eat tastier, eat greener, eat cheaper

Oatmeal Muffins–by request August 18, 2009

Filed under: breakfast,easy,fast,muffins — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 2:53 pm

LM is hankerin’ for some delicious muffins.  I’ve made these morsels a staple around here for years, usually for late breakfasts.  Back in ’98 I baked dozens of batches for the crew of Rock Opera.  Director Bob Ray claims that’s what kept folks coming back!

OATMEAL MUFFINS makes 12

  • 1 cup organic old-fashioned oatmeal.  Whole Foods carries a respectably-textured brand in bulk for $1.79 a pound.
  • 1 cup yogurt.  Local is best and homemade from local milk is the bestest.
  • 121 grams (1 cup) organic all-purpose flour.  WF 365 brand 5# bag goes for only $4.69.  That’s a deal!
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg, local please
  • 104 grams (1/2 cup packed) brown sugar.  I prefer dark brown.  WF sells Wholesome Sweeteners brand but the best bargain is Central Market’s organic brand light brown sugar @ $2.99 for a 2-pound bag.  You choose.
  • 1/2 cup good oil for baking.  I frequently use coconut oil, although you will get a slightly heavier result here.  Nut oils are great, especially toasted versions, and ‘specially if you can find organic.  Otherwise any neutral-flavored organic oil is fine.
  • turbinado sugar–CM sells this gorgeous less-refined sweetener in bulk for $1.49 a pound.
  • medium-fine to finely chopped toasted Texas pecans, optional

You’re gonna need a 400º oven for these muffins.  You can cut this recipe in half and employ the toaster oven (1/2 an egg is about 1 1/2 Tablespoons), but 6 of these toothsome treats is never enough at our house.  Grease your muffin tin–two 6-cups or one 12-cup–with the lube of your choice or use muffin liners.  If You Care® makes unbleached “baking cups”.  I’ve purchased these at Central Market and they should certainly be available at Whole Foods.

Stir the oats and yogurt together and let them sit-n-soak.  You can take care of this the night before, but a half-hour submersion will get you by.  Stir together the flour, baking soda and baking powder.  Stir the salt into the oats, then the egg, next the  brown sugar, and finally the oil.  Dump the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and quickly but gently combine the two mixtures until almost mixed.  Go ahead and leave some streaks of unblended flour.

Fill your muffin tin(s).  I recommend using a spring-loaded scooper.  Fast and efficient!  Deck the tops with turbinado sugar and optional pecans to taste.  This is a good time for the younger baker in the family to help out.  Kids will most enjoy dousing a particular scoop of batter with as much topping as they’d like and claiming that one as their own.  Trust me.

Bake for about 15 minutes.  You’ll have to rely on your familiarity with your baking appliance to decide when to check on these guys.  The tops should get a little brown and of course the centers of the muffins will test done (no raw batter showing up on a skewer or wooden toothpick poked into one.)  I never need to check these muffins anymore.  At this point I just know.

Let ’em cool just a bit.  If you can!

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Ice Cream’s Nice August 17, 2009

Filed under: dessert,easy,ice cream — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 7:46 pm

We’re beatin’ the heat over here with sweet scoops of the cold stuff.  The man of the house survives on a stiff coffee drink he concocts with caramelly cajeta, a goat’s milk version of dulce de leche.  We buy the HEB brand and at $1.99 for a 10.9 ounce jar it’s quite the bargain.  I sneaked a couple of jars to make this cool treat.  He didn’t mind at all.

Check out Organic Valley’s website for a $1 OFF coupon towards any of their butters.

TOASTED PECAN CAJETA ICE CREAM makes about 1 1/2 quarts

  • 2 cups whole milk, preferably local.  Goat milk is great for this.  I used Swede Farm Dairy.
  • 1 cup heavy cream, preferably organic.  I use Organic Valley.  Check out their $1 OFF coupon.
  • 16 ounces cajeta.  For HEB’s Sabor Tradicional brand (labeled cajeta quemada), use a scant 1 1/2 jars.
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, preferably authentic Mexican (I like Nielsen-Massey) or homemade vanilla rum

Toast your pecans.  I use my toaster oven @ 300º.  At that temperature I’m less likely to burn my nuts even if I forget them for a while.  You can turn them down as low as 250º, for slower roasting.  The more absentminded you tend to be, the lower you should set your oven!  When your nuts are good and toasted, remove them from the oven and stir in the butter and salt.  Using a spatula, scrape the nuts out of the pan and onto a plate to cool completely.

In a solid 3-quart saucepan, bring the milk and cream just to a boil over high heat.  Quickly remove from the hot burner and pour in the cajeta.  We rig up a cooling rack with a rolled-up cloth napkin to prop the cajeta jar at an angle over the pan so you don’t have to stand there and hold the jar.  Whisk in the vanilla.  Let the mixture cool to just warm, whisking occasionally.  Refrigerate it overnight.

Churn the mixture in your ice cream maker until almost firm.  Add the pecans and let the machine mix them in.  Pack the ice cream into resealable containers and freeze until firm enough for serving, a couple hours or more.

Eat it up quick!  (As if you can’t!)



 

Jasmine Rice and Using Your Nước Chấm August 13, 2009

Filed under: easy,eggs,grains,rice,vegetables — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 1:10 pm

nice rice, lady

My all time favorite rice is Texas-grown Lowell Farms organic jasmine rice.  Previously I have always purchased this treasure in 2-pound bags from Central Market and sometimes HEB.  The escalating price ($3.79 now) finally drove me to the internet, where I secured a 25-pound bag for about $35, including delivery.  I don’t know if that’s the greenest way to get it but we’re almost never without a pot of this white gold in the fridge, and I’m saving about 40¢ per pound.  I adore this rice and the intoxicating aroma that fills the house while it’s cooking.  Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Daguid recommend this brand in their wonderful cookbook, Seductions of Rice (great book, btw).  Lowell Farms sells a brown jasmine rice, as well.  I’m not that into brown rice but I welcome your suggestions.

I’ve never had a hard time cooking rice.  Or if I did, it was so long ago in my culinary journey that I don’t remember any particular frustrations.  I find rice preparation to be pretty easy and straightforward (that is, for a straightforward preparation).  You can use a rice cooker, I s’pose, but I’ve never tried one.  Here’s my rice routine.  Be brave.

EVERYDAY RICE

  • 1 cup Lowell Farms white jasmine rice
  • 1 2/3 cups water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 fresh bay leaf–Yes, I have my own bay leaf bush.  So I put bay leaves into most everything.  Don’t go out and buy fresh bay leaves just for your pot of rice, though.  This magic leaf is optional here.
  • a dab of butter

Put everything into a solid 1 1/2 quart (or so) saucepan.  As one of my very favorite cookbook authors, Yamuna Devi, advises in her magnum opus, Lord Krishna’s Cuisine, “thin walled pans are useless.”  Cover the pot with a compatible lid–a dedicated marriage between top and bottom is important here–and bring it all to a big boil on high heat.  Give it a brief stir, turn the heat down to low (lowest on my electric range) and cook for 20 minutes.  Set your timer!  If you put your ear close to the pot–careful! don’t burn yourself!–you’ll still hear the simmering.  Remove the pan from the heat and let it rest 10 minutes.  Freshly cooked jasmine rice is indeed seductive.  Around here we have to try not to eat it all up plain on the spot.

This is the rice that we eat with whatever needs rice:  beans, stir-fries of all nationalities and fusions thereof, puddin’, even Indian food when I can’t get a batch of basmati rice going for some reason.  A small bowl of hot rice adorned with a spoonful of chutney or Indian pickle (around here, we favor Patak’s Garlic Relish and Brinjal Eggplant Relish and Laxmi Carrot Pickle) makes a satisfying snack.  If you’ve got cooked rice you can even dress it as for bún, utilizing the same accompaniment concept.  And if you’re looking for yet another way to use up your nước chấm, try this variation of the Thai/Laotian  stir-fry known as

YAM KAI

  • 1 bundle of bean thread noodles, also known as cellophane or glass noodles
  • 2 to 4 eggs, local of course, beaten
  • 1 to4 kermit (Thai) eggplants.
  • about 1 quarter of a large red onion, sliced
  • 3-6 shallots, peeled and sliced
  • fresh red or green chiles, halved lengthwise if plump, sliced thin
  • nước chấm

Soak the bean thread noodles in hot water for 20 minutes.  I put a quart of water in a Pyrex measuring cup and nuke it for 222 seconds.  Then I place the noodles into the cup and go about my prepping.  After the soak, drain the noodles (I use a sieve), place in a wide bowl and douse with a couple Tablespoons of nước chấm.  Distribute the dressing with a fork and cut the noodles into manageable lengths with scissors.  I just go at it in the bowl somewhat haphazardly.

Behead your eggplants (I’m still buying my beauties from Ringger Family Farm), halve them from top to bottom and cut each half into 4-6 wedges, depending on size.  Toss the wedges with about 1/2 teaspoon turmeric, plenty of freshly ground black or white pepper and a pinch of kosher salt.

Heat up a well-seasoned wok or skillet you can trust with your huevos, add a couple of Tablespoons of your choice of fat, and toss in the eggplant wedges.  Stir-fry until you get some browning, it’ll smell great, and add your shallots, then your onion slices.  Give the mix a few stirs, then pour in your eggs and scramble them around.  When the eggs are nearly set dump in your noodles and stir the whole thing around to finish everything off.  Quickly plate it up so you don’t overcook your eggs.

Sprinkle with chile slices and add more nước chấm to taste, if necessary.  Babies like these noodles, too!

Nước chấm
 

Texas Bún August 12, 2009

Filed under: easy,grilling,meat,noodles,salads,vegetables,Vietnamese — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 9:56 am

We’ve got a produce-challenged member in our household, but luckily that person loves bún , that fun (aren’t all salads fun?) Vietnamese rice noodle salad.  Pretty much any other dish containing the word “salad” repulses this individual.  But my bún is so tasty, and delights our mouths with such a charming medley of tastes and textures, resistance is futile.  Here’s how we’re búnning right now.

BÚN serves several salad suppers

Nước chấm–dressing/dipping sauce

  • 3 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup fish sauce (nước mắm)–I’m using Thai Kitchen right now.  You may have a favorite.  If not, this one’s fine and readily available.
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup honey, local of course
  • zest of 1 or 2 limes

Mix all dressing ingredients together.  You can prepare your nước chấm ahead of time and store it in the fridge.  In my house we always use it up well before it has any opportunity to turn on us.  If you have an under-one-year-old wantin’ to bún, be sure to replace the honey with 1/2 cup turbinado sugar and increase the water to 1 cup.  This is a kid friendly dish, by the way.

Pork Patties

  • 1 pound ground pork.  I usually buy Richardson’s pastured pork at Sunset Valley Farmers Market
  • 2 teaspoons turbinado sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fish sauce
  • 1/3 cup or so minced shallot and or scallions.  throw in a little minced garlic, too.
  • 1 small green Texas pear, peeled and finely shredded
  • and fat pinch of black pepper and cayenne or paprika

Mix the pork patty ingredients together well, either with a stand mixer (my first choice) or by hand.  Refrigerate the mixture for a while–overnight or all day–to allow the flavors to come together.  Form about 9 patties (mixture may be somewhat loose–that’s OK) and grill them on a medium-hot fire.  Get them cooked through.  They’ll retain their moisture.

Noodles

Different brands of rice noodles will cook up at different rates, so instructions here are inexact.  For the brand I’m currently working with, I placed the noodles in a 3 1/2 quart pot of boiling water.  I stirred the noodles down, covered the pot and took them off the heat for about 8 minutes.  Try testing your vermicelli at about 5 minutes.  When the noodles are tender, drain them in a colander and rinse them well with cold water.  Go ahead and rinse enough to cool the noodles on down.

Toppings

  • julienned cucumbers (scoop out the seeds first).  I’m still finding Texas pickling cukes at our markets.
  • mung bean and sunflower sprouts–I buy these locally sourced from Central Market.  They’re available year-round.
  • sliced sweet onion–I’m enjoying the allium bounty of Hairston Creek Farm lately.
  • medium-shredded peeled Texas pear (ripe) or Asian pear.  I found Asian pears recently at Gundermann Farms booth at Sunset Valley.
  • julienned carrots are traditional but out of season at this time.  Hence the pear.
  • sliced hot chiles–red or green, your choice.  Somewhat optional.
  • fresh basil and mint leaves, cut in chiffonade or torn by hand.  Cilantro should take center stage here, but locally it’s out of season.  Every summer I’m saddened by fresh coriander’s absence, and I always swear I’ll grow rau ram or culantro next year.
  • crushed roasted peanuts or soynuts.  I’ve even used almonds.  I haven’t tried good ole Texas pecans, though.
  • fried sliced onion garnish–I last purchased Laxmi brand at Whole Foods.  Fiesta will certainly sell this product (maybe a different brand, though) and possibly Phoenicia.  Sometimes I find fried onions at the other stores, sometimes I don’t.

Now you’re ready to assemble your bún.  I like to use wide, not too shallow bowls.  Nestle a tangle of noodles in your bowl.  Festoon with a shower of toppings including one or two pork patties.  Some folks around here go for more veggies, some go for more meat.  Anoint the colorful arrangement with 2- 4 small ladlefuls of nước chấm.  You’re not aiming for soup here, but you do want well-seasoned performers in this show.  Prepare for a polyphonic jamboree of colors, flavors and textures!

 

Tomatoes fine, if fewer; Pizza! August 9, 2009

Filed under: bread machine,easy,pizza,vegetarian — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 9:12 am

The Central Texas mid-summer heat has done in many of our local tomato plants.  I’m still finding romas and smaller types at the farmers markets.  These are perfect for slow-roasting in the toaster oven.  I line my baking pan with a sheet of parchment and toss in the tomatoes, halved lengthwise.  I give ’em a healthy drizzle of olive oil, a pinch each of dried oregano, dried basil, dried thyme, small pinch of ground coriander and a tiny pinch of ground fennel plus lots (you decide) of black pepper.  Stir them around and align them cut-side up.  Now they’re ready for your 300º oven, where they’ll bask for an hour and a half or so, til they’re as done as you want.  These sweet gems are just right for pizzazzing your pizza.  Here’s how I usually make mine.

PIZZA yields  1 thicker-crusted or 2 thinner-crusted pies

  • scant 1 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano or Italian herb blend
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon turbinado sugar or honey
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 300 grams flour–I usually use about 160 grams kamut and 140 grams bread flour or all-purpose flour.  This is approximately 2 1/2 cups total flour.
  • 1 teaspoon instant (bread machine or rapid-rise) yeast

Place the ingredients into your bread machine in the order listed, unless your machine directs otherwise, and program it for the “dough” cycle.  Making pizza at home in the summer uses a lot of energy (unless your forno is out back) with all the heatin’ up and requisite coolin’ down you gotta do.  But at least you can put your bread machine outside.  If you’re up for grilling your pie, check out Fine Cooking magazine’s helpful video instructions for grilled pizza.

My bread machine’s dough cycle runs 2 hours, so when about  30 minutes remain I heat my oven to 400º for a thick pizza or 425º for thin ones.  I use a pizza stone (make sure it’s in the oven now!) and of course they’re frequently available at the thrift stores for a bargain price.

For a thicker crust, I use a 12″ X 1 1/4″ round pan and for thinner crusts I use a mismatched set of 10″ and 12″ very shallow round pizza pans.  There’s no reason you can’t use squares or rectangles if that’s what you have.  I line the pans with parchment paper and oil them up very well with olive oil.  When your dough is ready, use liberally oiled hands to remove the dough and place it onto your pan(s).   Give the dough a minute to rest and then you can start gently stretching it to fit your pan.  If the dough resists your efforts, give it a respite to relax.  It’ll loosen up.  Once your dough is stretched, top it how you please.  Just don’t overload your pizza or the crust will sag with sog.

My pizza toppings vary with the season, my larder and my whims.  Lately I’ve spread them with homemade arugula pesto, minced garlic-stuffed Texas green olives, shredded Full Quiver Farms mozzarella or any of our many fine local goat cheeses, grated pecorino romano and sliced local sweet onions tossed w/ olive oil.  A sprinkling of dried oregano, black pepper and crushed red peppers zests it up.  After 20 minutes (10 minutes for the thinner crust) I remove the pizza from the oven, top it with some roasted tomatoes (coarsely chopped or not), take it out of the pan and place it directly on the baking stone.  I raise the oven heat to 425º if it’s not there already.  For the crispin’, the thicker pizza may take around 10 minutes and the thinner around 8.  Remove to a cooling rack and don’t burn yourself!



 

Hurry up Biscuits August 3, 2009

Filed under: biscuits,bread,easy,fast — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 2:02 pm

biscuits 'n' gravy

Drop biscuits are fast and fine.  If you add a little cornmeal to ’em they’re mighty finer.

CORNMEAL DROP BISCUITS yields 10 or so, depending on your scoopin’

  • 2 1/2 ounces (5 Tablespoons) butter, I prefer Organic Valley’s regular unsalted butter for this recipe
  • scant 2/3 cup milk, preferably local
  • 2 3/4 ounces (3 Tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons) honey, preferably local
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 7/8 ounces (1 cup) cornmeal
  • 4 ounces (1 cup) white whole wheat flour, preferably organic
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • freshly cracked black pepper, a little or a lot, optional

If you’re baking these in your big oven, start preheating it to 400º now. Usually I just bake a partial batch and the toaster oven gets it done with minimal preheating and minimal kitchen heating.  Really saves energy.  Cut your butter into 1/4 Tablespoon or so chunks.  Put the butter bits on a small plate and pop it into the fridge while you work on the rest of the recipe.

Combine your milk and honey together with the salt.  I mix it with a fork in my measuring cup to spare a bowl.  Whisk together the remaining dry ingredients and place them into your food processor.  Dump in the chilled butter and pulse a few times to incorporate.  You want to still see some chunks so don’t pulse to uniformity.  If you don’t have a processor you can cut in the butter the old-fashioned way in a bowl with a pastry cutter.  My pastry cutter is pretty much relegated to chopping hard-boiled eggs.  That activity doesn’t happen very often around here but I do find this implement to be perfect for the task.

Dump your buttered flour into a bowl and pour all your honey/milk in at once.  Quickly stir it all together with a fork (use the same fork) to evenly moisten the mass and don’t overmix.  Scoop the mixture onto a baking sheet right away using anywhere from a heaping Tablespoon to about 2 Tablespoons per biscuit.  (Do make them equally sized.)  If you won’t be eating the full batch right now, and of course a full batch won’t fit into the toaster oven anyway, scoop out some biscuits onto a plate and put the plate in the freezer for awhile.  When the frozen dough has firmed up, you can cleave the hibernating honeys from the plate and place them into a plastic bag or container for the next time you want even-faster biscuits.  Around my house that’s usually about a minute after we eat the last of the beginning batch.  They actually bake up texturally superior from the frozen state.  I find them moister inside even when I bake them browner.

Bake until browned and done, anywhere from about 10 minutes to maybe 15 minutes.  Depends on size of biscuit, size of oven, spacing of biscuits (I generally like them farther apart, hence crispier-crusted) and whether your dough’s freshly mixed or frozen.  The bottoms on these babes can brown, overly to my taste, so adjust your rack to give ’em a margin of safety.  In the big oven an insulated pan can help.

The flavor of these biscuits improves on cooling, but who can wait?  At any rate, everybody knows to eat ’em fresh.  Enjoy!