Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Whipple in Me

I feel like everyone should visit the Whipple household (Ben's Mom's house).  It's like stepping into Willy Wonka's house.  Three kinds of Kool Aid in the fridge, two flavors of ice cream, and candy dishes around the house filled with chocolate.  I can't control myself in this type of enviroment.  You think with a name like "Grain Girls", I could help myself.

The holiday is just around the corner and I have to make sure Ben and I don't resort back to old habits.  One of my resolutions is to "healthify" old recipes.  My husband has come a long way and everyone knows this hasn't been an easy task! He's eating kamut, spinach salad, and homemade soy/yogurt ice cream. I feed him so many different types of squash that he's now a fan.  Last time I checked, he could name 9 grains!  Impressive. 

Today, I felt it necessary to post one of my not so heathy recipes, however it still contains grains. Lorna would never approve this recipe but as I stated in the above paragraph, my plan is to revamp it in 2011.  When I make this recipe, I can't believe I add a full stick of butter and 1 can of sweetened condensed milk.  Who puts this in a recipe?  GUILTY...right here! Apparenlty, I still have a little Whipple in me!    

Fudgy Bars - Modified from Meals for Month, by Linda Larsen
2 cups chocolate chips
3 tablespoons butter
1 14oz can of sweetened condensed milk
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups oats
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, melted
1 cup chopped walnuts

1. Preheat oven to 350.  In a microwavable bowl, combine chocolate, 3 tablespoons butter, and sweetened condensed milk.  Heat for 2-3 minutes until melted.

2. In a bowl combine flour, oats, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt.  Pour melted butter over and mix until crumbs form.  Stir in walnuts. Press 1/2 of the crumb mixture in a 13"x9" pan.  Pour chocolate mixture over crust.  Sprinkle remaining crumb mixture over chocolate.

3. Bake at 350 for 25-25 minutes.  Let cool, cut bars, and enjoy!  I like to individually wrap and freeze.

Stay tuned  for the 2012 fudgy bar healthy remix recipe.  -amy w.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Don't Forget to Toast Your Oats - Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, Pg. 282

Show of hands to those who toast their oats when making oatmeal cookies?  I had to reread the recipe to make sure I was following directions.  Surely it read, " Spread oats out and bake at 400 on the bottom rack for 3 minutes, stir, and continue baking until lightly toasted, 1 to 2 minutes."  You know what to do the next time you make oatmeal cookies! 

Why I LOVE Oatmeal Cookies
1. Spelt flour + oats = TWO grains in one recipe
2. Ben likes anything with the word cookie in it
3. Yellow raisins count as a serving of fruit
4. Toasting your oats brings out the oat-i-ness

A must read for the month of November!

"Will Write for Food is for food lovers who want to express themselves, guiding them from their earliest creative impulses to successful article writing, restaurant reviewing, and cookbook writing. Dianne Jacob—journalist and food-writing instructor and coach—offers interviews with award-winning writers such as Jeffrey Steingarten, Calvin Trillin, Molly O'Neill, and Deborah Madison, plus well-known book and magazine editors and literary agents, give readers the tools to get started and the confidence to follow through." -www.goodreads.com 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Facebook Fan Page

I'm not sure if we consider ourselves a company, BUT as you know we are owners of the domain graingirls.com and NOW you can join us on Facebook!  Grain Girls

Millet + spelt + quinoa + barley, you name it, we are cooking with it, or at least trying!

If you have never given grains a chance, we hope to inspire your taste buds and invite them into your home.  If you hate grains and everything about their taste, texture, and appearance, it's time to get your grain on! We are here to help! Join us on Facebook for fun updates about what inspires us and keeps us cooking grains. 
amy w.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Early Morning Grains

I have been eating unique varieties of grains now for nearly 6 years! I can hardly remember a time when I didn't have a pantry full of bulgur, millet, quinoa, amaranth and 5 kinds of rice.  Yet I still have moments when I eat plain, lightly-salted grains for breakfast.  I generally start my day fairly early, but try not to leave the house with a healthy hot breakfast in hand.  I am the girl with the "crazy grains" as some of my classmates would say, and it feels odd to have anything else for breakfast (OK, bacon is always an acceptable substitution!).  But, it can be hard to be creative at 5:30 am, and if I did not prep the earlier in the week, salted bulgur with nothing else will be my morning meal along with my 12 ounces of french press coffee.

This week however, was a strong one, a moment of hope in a gray grain world.  On Monday, my weekly prep day, I cooked a few cups of barley from Finn River Farms. For three days, I reheated the barley with roasted acorn squash (cooked with a sauce of butter, brown sugar and orange juice) for a delicious treat. It was fantastic! Of course then the end of the week hit, I was tired and sick of repetition and resorted to plain old quinoa this morning, not bad in my eyes, but not terribly exciting for a culinary student to be cooking up!

I love pairing my breakfast grains with veggies, something I picked up on a detox diet when I was first introduced to the world of whole grain goodness. This meal planning habit is now second nature to my AM food ritual. When I allow time to actually make something tasty, these are some of my favorite combinations:
Quinoa with Broccoli or Peas
Barley & Acorn Squash (new favorite!)
Amaranth & Zucchini
Corn Grits & Sweet Potatoes (this one was a Karen invention and I love it...and she does a better job than me too!)
Buckwheat & Peas
Millet and Steamed Carrots

The list goes on and on. Fresh herbs & Homemade Seasoning salt (Yum!) add another flavor dimension to experiment with.  Keeping prepped grains, along with frozen and/or pre-roasted veggie options will help you toss together a quick and nutritious breakfast. Even if you're barely awake, the sun hasn't rose and you're tiptoeing around the house, so as not to wake the still sleeping roommates...my daily routine ;)
OK, I've actually made several dishes from the grain book lately too, so more to come!  The kids loved the Kibbeh too, so I'll be making that again.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Popcorn-Crusted Fish, Pg. 174

Vicki and I have great chats about our weekly cooking adventures.  The conversation usually end how we wish we could be more like the other.  Vicki can be described as the A+ chef.  Instead of barely reading a recipe, Vicki reads it three times.  If a recipe calls for an exotic spice, she refuses to skimp. Vegetables are cut perfect, presentation is everything, serving dishes are used and garnishes are added. Vicki goes all 9 yards.  Her recipe looks like the magazine example.  I, on the other hand, tend to be the unpredictable cook.  I barely read the entire recipe, add three spices in substitution instead of buying a new spice, my vegetables are cut to various sizes, and additional strange ingredients are added.  My finished product looks nothing like the published picture. My husband is asking, "What did you make?"

Let me explain why I needed more "Vicki" in me this week.  I decided to make the popcorn-crusted tilapia from Lorna's book.  I already freak out every time I make fish due to it turning about bad. My husband insists he's not a huge fan, I insist he is!  Popcorn fish sounded like the perfect dinner.

The recipe called for 2 cups of "POPPED" popcorn, flour, and spices.  Here's where the #1 Vicki rule comes into place....read the recipe again.  I GROUND whole popcorn kernels in my Magic Bullet.  What the heck was I thinking?  I battered the fish in hard kernels and proceeded to then brown the fish.  The kitchen started stinking like burnt popcorn, the coating turned black, my fish was still raw, and small pieces of popcorn were popping everywhere.  At this point, I panicked and put on my safety goggles (jk).  Not once did I think to reread the recipe, I just kept on cooking.  Finally I had blackened fish with a gravel-like texture, all fans in the kitchen were on high, and bits of popcorn pieces covered my stove.

 "Shoot, I ruined another fish night!"  I resorted to the taco fish idea and scraped some of the kernel crust to dispose of the burnt evidence.  I layered small pieces of fish on the bottom of a tortilla and turned to my fridge to add every taco-like ingredient I could find on top.  Ben's seemed to not notice, and recipe was completely edible.  (For viewers sake, no pictures will be shown.) Vicki, I can't wait for you to cook this recipe the correct way!!

For a fast snack Ben and I enjoy popcorn in the Stir Crazy Popcorn Popper  with lime and salt or fresh popcorn with nutritional yeast and salt.  Enjoy.  -amy w.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Garden of Greatness - Amy's Organic Garden (AOG)

I started a garden on our patio back in May.  After talking this through with Ben, he was pretty convinced it was not one of my best ideas.  I'm the type of person that will start something without thinking about the entire process.  My husband on the other hand addressed several questions, but will support my decision either way.
"Amy, I'm really busy with school and I don't want this to become one of those WE projects."  No worries, I've read a few people's blogs on container gardening.  I know exactly what I need to do.  Shortly after, Ben is drilling holes in buckets, carring large bags of dirt to the patio, and helping me dump soil into the buckets.  WE started a garden together!!!  

"Amy, maybe you should wait a few weeks to start your garden.  It's still pretty cold at night." Naaa, I think the weather is fine, besides it's starting to warm up.  After planting all of the containers, I realize it's a bit early.  My nightly routine consisted of hauling 7 containers into the living room, telling Ben that I need help because the tomato pot is too heavy. 

Amy, I would still like to be able to grill and put our table and chairs out like we did last year.  Yeah, we'll have plenty of room.  Note to self, if you plant pumpkins and zuchinni on your patio, vines will be everywhere. Welcome to our patio pumpkin patch and watch out for the crazy tomato plants.  October 9th, our table and chairs are still in the storage unit.

For the past 5 months, I've watered, our garden. Every morning, I make three trips with the watering can from my sink to the patio.  Here's the output:

Strawberries -15 berries
Lettuce - 4 servings
Spinach - 4 servings
Basil, parsley, and cilantro - plentiful
Cucumbers - 5
Zuchinni - 0
Pumpkins - 2 (fist size)
Cherry Tomatoes - Maybe 7 tiny tomatoes
Regular Tomatoes - 4

Next year, I should stick to herbs and cucumbers.  I also need to read on how to properly grow tomatoes.  As you can see by the pictures, we had a tomato jungle on our porch.  How did my plants not produce tomatoes?  I guess we will see what next year brings!!  - amy w.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Bulgur and Lamb Kibbe

If you're sensitive to onions and chopping them can make you tear up like I do, whirling it around in the food processor does not help!  I definitely thought to myself, the lid on this will help keep the onion fumes contained and I probably won't cry nearly as bad. Somehow the gases seeped out of the food processor and found me!  I'm seriously considering some onion goggles during my next culinary necessities purchase so I can cook without looking like I'm having an emotional breakdown.

These things are delicious, so the tears were worth it :)  Kibbe or Kibbeh (both are correct) are a baked mixture of grain and meat, in this case bulgur and lamb, blended with some onions and herbs.  It's just another country's form of meatloaf, which I'm always a fan of.  When I make them again, I may add an egg.  My mix didn't hold together very well after cooking and that would help bind it together.

I may make a dipping sauce to serve with my kibbe tomorrow, but I haven't gotten that far yet.  I put the meat on skewers, hoping to get the kids excited about food on a stick?! We'll see if they like it as much as I did!  -Vicki

Bulgur and Lamb Kibbe on a Stick!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Raspberry (Peach) Jam Cookies, pg. 284

I won't even try to beat Amy's thumbprint cookies with Homemade Jam!!...they look amazing!  It is ironic that we both picked this recipe in the same week without even knowing it. Great minds think alike ;)

Raspberry Jam was my flavor of choice for me...I have a hard time straying from suggestion?!  The ingredients as a whole are very nutritious, they're like the ultimate fiber cookie.  The kids I cook for thought they were just OK, so perhaps they're not for everyone. But, Britt, an "official tester" gave them a delicious and ate 2 or 3...that's a win for me :) 

Now, I just spent 30 minutes trying to figure out how to upload more than 1 picture and how to keep the photo and next paragraph from running into one another and I can't do it.  Help?! So here the cookies are in raw form. Cookie Parade!
-Vicki ;)

My husband asked for seconds!  Yup, and the cookie didn't contain chocolate.  Lorna made these soft cookies using raspberry jam. I decided to switch the flavor and use my homemade peach preserves that I canned with the hybiscus peaches a few weeks ago.  Click on the highlighted link to view the recipe that I used: Recipe for Peach Preserves
This cookie tasted like I was eating a soft graham cracker with jam spread on top.  The dry ingredients were very unique; rolled oats + walnuts + cinnamon food processed with whole-wheat flour.   The dry ingredients combined with honey to sweeten gives this recipe a 5 grain rating!
Get excited, Vicki just got back from Spain!  I can't wait for her to post a blog or two about her travels.  -amy w.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Preserving Fresh Fruit/ Upside-Down Peach-Berry Cobbler, Pg. 291

Aren't they beautiful! The pink colored sauce is due to adding dried hibiscus. This is the second weekend in a row I've canned peaches.  Last Saturday, I decided to do a trial run to make sure everything turned out.  This past weekend, a good friend Tom from the yoga studio joined the fun. I strongly advise 2  people when canning. We canned preserves and peach halves in 3 hours.  Click on the following link to view the canning recipe -  Hybiscus Peaches

I baked Lorna's upside-down peach-berry cobbler. I had almost everything on hand except buttermilk and anise.  I made the buttermilk by adding a bit of vinegar to regular milk and I left out the anise. 

For the fruit mixture, peaches, mixed berries, peacns, brown sugar, cornstarch and freshly squeezed lemon juice were mixed together. 

The cake layer was a bit more interesting.  Whole wheat flour and cornmeal were the base mixed with the regulars.  This was a definately a new combination.  I liked the grainy stone-ground taste.  Peach season has arrived! 

-amy w.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Buckwheat Meets Tilapia Tacos

I think Lorna and our followers are going to fire us! Maybe we'll post once a week or maybe we'll skip a few weeks, you just never know!  If only we weren't soooo tempted with the outdoors, traveling, and summer fun. I guess until we go on Oprah and become famous, we have some time to slack!

This past week, Ben's dad was in town.  Before he arrived, Ben told me that I should cook "normal" food.  Within the first hour of his arrival, Sid asked me if I was going to try "one of those" recipes on him this week and post.  This is when I give Ben my evil I told you so eyes!  Thank goodness for bags of random grains in my fridge. I'm tyring to become a master at whipping up recipes and spiking them with grains!

Tilapia Mango Buckwheat Tacos
2-3 tilapia fillets
1 mango
6-8 corn tortilla shells
1 can of black beans
shredded cheese
lemon and lime juice
sour cream

Guacamole - My rule, no guacamole recipe should be the same.  Tonights creation was simple, mashed avacodo, 2 tablespoons of sour cream, a handful of chopped tomatoes, salt, pepper, and several squirts of lime juice. 

Tilapia - Season tilapia.  I make and store an all purpose seasoning in bulk thanks to Vicki's great find.  Cut small slices of mango and spread over fish.  Top with fresh lemon juice.  Bake fish.

Bean Spread - 1 can of black beans pureed in the "Magic Bullet" with cumin, a handful of chopped tomatoes, and a spoonful of sour cream.

Buckwheat - Ohh yes I did cook buckwheat in my pressure cooker and stuff it in the tacos! One of my favorite pages in Lorna's WHOLE book is page 112 consisting of a whole grains timing chart.  I will admit that I was pretty stumped when I turned to the page and buckwheat was not on the timing chart.  I examined the grain and decided it needed to cook for 20 minutes.  YIKES.....apparently Lorna was NOT being forgetful, buckwheat is not supposed to be pressure cooked due to it being such a quick cooking grain. 

Corn Tortillas - Fry tortillas shells on both sides in shallow hot oil.  Pat off any extra oil with a paper towel.

Taco Assembly - Smear the entire torilla shell with the bean spread, add the fish and cut mangos.  Sprinkle buckwheat, cheese, tomato and lettuce over fish.  Add a dollop of guacamole.  Enjoy!  amy w.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Oh dear...I'm behind!

Do you ever have those moments where you suddenly realize you completely forgot a part of your life for a period of time? Like missed a credit card bill for 2 months straight, haven't checked an email account in weeks or (like me!) forgot you were writing a blog with a partner?! Haha... well, I do those sorts of things. For as organized and habitual I attempt to be, I have these memory lapses in my life. So, here I am weeks since my last post and no grain practice to share!

Over the last few weeks I have finished my summer quarter of school, begun a workout routine (with the help of my great roommate and workout motivator Brittany!) and planned several trips that will begin this coming Sunday morning precisely at 7 am.  I leave for Farm School (yes Farm School!) for 7 days in Eastern Washington, followed by a reunion with my Sisters and Mom and some solo camping sprinkled in between.  Then I'm home for a few days and off for my first big European adventure in the wonderful country of SPAIN!!  I'm going on a guided culinary tour of the Castile-Leon region, northwest of Madrid for 8 days.  Yes you should be jealous because it is going to be amazing!

What I haven't done much of is grain cookery, well...creatively anyway. This morning I had cooked roasted buckwheat with two eggs on top...notthing too exciting, but definitely inspired by Lorna's buckwheat hash recipe which I absolutely love. I've made it a couple times since that first recipe test back in January.  I've also had a few servings of plain old quinoa, going back to the basics!  I'll be back in a couple weeks and promise to make something new from our book and share my new domestic skills knowledge. Until then, I'm sure Amy has more great Utah foodie stories to share...and maybe even another cat picture or two  :)
Cheers and happy Summer! -Vicki

Monday, August 9, 2010

Raspberry Muffins, pg. 268

Ahh yes, the time of year when grocery shopping becomes fun! The Farmer's Market has fruits and veggies galore, I can barely wait until Saturday.  After buying fresh raspberries, I couldn't resist Lorna's recipe where the muffin meets fresh fruit. 

Lorna uses only 1/2 cup of brown sugar trying not to defeat the purpose of a healthy muffin. Ohh, and make your own brown sugar it's simple, fast, and cheap! (sugar + molasses + a whisk to mix = fabulous brown sugar)

After making a double batch of sugarLESS banana bread by accident last week, I've really been rethinking the cup(s) of sugar mixed into baked goods. I'm on week two of cutting the sugar in all baked goods by half - Ben has no idea!

Do I like frozen rasberries in my morning smoothie? YES!  How about on my ice cream? Ohh yeah!  However, I do not like raspberries in my muffins.  Too mushy!  I don't think I did anything wrong it's just what happens. I'll be sure to use the several options Lorna suggests in her book.

Check out the following website: http://www.gardenguides.com/416-freezing-vegetables.html. This is a wonderful tool to save money and time.  My freezer is empty and it's about time to stock up.  This past weekend I pitted and froze 2 large bags of cherries, blanched 7 small bags of green beans, and froze a batch of oat zuchinni muffins for breakfast on the run.  This coming weekend, I hope to stock up and prep onions, carrots, zuchinni, and potatoes.  How great would that be, I'll chop for a day but have items prepped for weeks to come.   -amy w.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Wanderlust Yoga Music Festival

We've been super busy!!!  Stay tuned.....

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Brown Basmati Rice Custard Pudding, pg. 298

"Rice is NOT a dessert food!"  He we go again, Ben at his finest.  He told me to not make this dessert unless I enter the worst dessert contest...jokingly - 1.2/5 grains.  Yikes, I even put fresh mango slices on top to complement the rice.

I LOVED this dessert, looks like I will have the entire pan to myself!  If you're a fan of creme brulee, this recipe is for you. If you hate pudding like Ben, stay away from this rich, custardy treat. Who knew milk, eggs, sugar, and a bit of honey could produce such a lovely dessert! 

Since Ben can get a bit worked up about SUPER healthy desserts, I caved in and made him dirt cake!  He even ground all the Oreos.  Yup I know, I really mixed pudding, cream cheese, butter, and Cool Whip together and layered it between crushed Oreos.  Ben ate soo much dessert at the party, he woke up with a stomach ache in the middle of the night.  He should've stuck to the rice pudding!  -amy w. 


Friday, July 16, 2010

Whole Wheat and Cranberry Scones

Wow, it's been a crazy busy couple of weeks! I started a new job (yes, a cooking job!!!) and have finished my 3rd week of summer classes. I'm exhausted, but feeling happy and satisfied. I am cooking for a wonderful family of four, 2 to 3 nights/week to take the load off the busy, working parents.  So far I love it! I'm reading countless blogs, magazines and cookbooks, now with a focused goal: 3 healthy, varied meals per week that adults and kids alike will love. It's been a blast so far, and I'll be keeping you updated.

I'm trying to work in the grains here and there so I baked these scones for them this past week with whole wheat pastry flour as directed in the recipe. The pastry flour has a lower protein content than say cake or all purpose flour and will absorb less moisture (right?!).  Having never baked a scone before, or worked to much with a kneaded dough, these types of recipes always intimidate me. For no good reason either, because it's was super simple and you get better every time. Working with doughs, you'll learn how they should feel and how to do it better the next time.

I think my end product was a little dry, but scones are supposed to be a little dry? yes/no? Not sure? I always here the States or at least Seattle, is not a great place for good scones, so I'm not sure I've ever had what the French would call a good one.   Anyway, it was tasty and I did the real milk and butter recipe, no substitutions this time. The family doesn't have a wheat or dairy issue, so I plan to do some gluten free and dairy free stuff, but not all. I'd give this recipe a 4 1/2 out of 5. I think the dryish texture was my fault, but other than that they were great and according to what I've read, this recipe is perfect ;)

Fun and random...I was volunteering at a cooking class called Fast Food for Busy Families at PCC the the other night and the instructor told everyone to save time, you should get a pressure cooker, then recommended a book by none other than, Lorna Sass, "Cooking Under Pressure". In a small class of 15, she got a great review from the instructor and 2 students who have and love the book. Yeah, go Lorna, you've got Sass! Cheers ya'll...now go bake some scones ;)  -Vicki

Monday, July 12, 2010

My Latest Obsession......CrAcKeRs

This recipe is one you can whip up fast without making a trip to the grocery store.  I was inspired to make these crackers after buying a goat cheese spread with apricots and honey from the farmer's market.  Since Saturday, I've made this recipe twice.  The first time following the recipe as listed below and a second time, making adjustments to the bake time and pan type.

The 1st time I didn't roll the dough thin enough and I cooked them for 10 minutes then rotated the pan and cooked another 10 minutes, as stated by Peter.  The cooking time was too long.  On the 2nd try I rolled the dough much thinner and baked the crackers on  an air crisp pizza pan, removing them from the oven after 12 minutes.  The crackers did not burn or turn the rich brown. 

Only cook 1/2 the dough on your first try so you don't ruin the entire batch.  You can make adjustments as needed depending on your oven temperature and pan you are using.    

Thin Wheat Crackers
Taken from Whole Grain Breads - Peter Reinhart

1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons milk, buttermilk, yogurt, soy or rice milk
2 tablespoons honey
4 tablespoons vegetable oil or light olive oil
extra whole wheat flour for adjustments
1 tablespoon kosher salt or sea salt dissolved in 1/2 cup wather for salt water wash

1. Combine the 1 cup of flour and the salt, milk, honey, and oil in a bowl and mix to form a ball of dough.  Add extra flour or milk as needed to make a firm but tacky dough. 

2. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead for 3 minutes, adjusting the flour or liquid as needed; the dough should feel like molding clay and have a satiny surface.  It should not be soft and sticky or crumbly.

3.  If baking the crakers immediately, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Cover the dough with a cloth or towel or plastic wrap and let rest for 20 minutes, then move on to the next step.  If holding the dough overnight, form it into a ball, place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and leave at room temperature overnight.

4. When you are ready to bake the crackers, prepare a sheet pan by lining it with parchment paper or a silicon mat.  Mist the work surface lightly with pan spray or wipe it with a touch of oil on a paper towel.  This makes it easier to lift the dough later.  Transfer the dough to the work surface and working from the center of the dough out to the four corners, roll it out into a rectangle, dusting the top of the dough with flour only if needed to prevent sticking.  Roll the dough out as thinly as it will allow, about 1/4 inch.  If the dough begins to spring back, let it rest for a few minutes, then continue rolling until the rectangle is about 1/8 inch thick.  Brush the top of the dough with the salt water wash.

5. Use a pizza roller or pastry scraper to cut the dough into whatever shapes (small rectangles are suggested).  Transfer the crackers to the prepared sheet pan.  The crackers should not touch.  Bake for 10 minutes, then rotate the pan 180 degrees and continue baking about 10 minutes longer, until the crackers begin to turn a rich brown on both the top and the underside.  (Waiting unil they turned a rich brown made them too burnt for my liking)

6. Let the crackers cool on the pan before serving.  They will crisp up as they cool.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Bulgur and Chickpea Salad w/ Parsley Dressing, pg. 133

WoW.....I really need to start making my own salad dressings!  I continuously pay $4 a bottle at Whole Foods and Lorna's parsley lemon dressing cost less than $1 to make.  The only thing I had to buy was a lemon.  The parsley on my deck is growing out of control so this was perfect recipe to make this week.

In less than 5 minutes, I blended the dressing: olive oil + lemon juice + parsley + yogurt + cayenne + salt.  I'm not a lemon fan so the flavor was a bit strong for me, however, by no means was I dissappointed. When the dressing was mixed with the bulgur, chickpeas, cucumber, onions and tomatoes, the result was a tangy tasty blend. Ben gave this recipe a 3.3/5 Grains.  When asked what he would change, Ben said he didn't care!  That means he liked it!      

Since this was the first dressing I've made, I've since been researching other recipes.  Check out Cheap, Healthy, Good's Blog. They posted 102 light dressing recipes.  A pretty cool resource!   -amy

Friday, July 2, 2010

Wheat Berry Salad with Apples and Mint...

Amy reviewed this recipe back in April which you can check out here.  She loved the recipe and Ben did too, so I'm sad to report I didn't feel the same way.  I am willing to try it again and here's why. My dressing was the whole problem. It didn't emulsify well, and stayed too runny. I used the mint I recently starting growing in my garden, but have only cooked with this one time. And, I didn't use fresh squeezed orange juice. So, I'm hoping the "medicinal" flavor I experienced was more a result of these errors than the actual recipe, because I really want to love it!  Here's hoping 2nd time around will be better, and I will surely let you know :)

Tonight I cooked up some Sweet Onion Risotto (using my first ever batch of homemade chicken stock!!!) and enjoyed it al fresco on our front porch with some Crispy Kale "chips"... my favorite way to chew on the curly, leafy greens.  I have yet to figure out the perfect cooking time and temp for the chips to come out crispy and yet not burned, but this will get you pretty close and it's so simple.  Preheat oven to 400 F, tear the leaves of your Kale into pieces, toss in olive oil & bake them on a sheet pan for about 6-8 minutes, then toss with a little salt or seasoning salt.  Enjoy! -Vicki

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Urban Pantry: Tips & Recipes for a Thrifty, Sustainable & Seasoned Kitchen

A must read for the month of July! 

Urban Pantry holds sustainability at its center: Take advantage of local ingredients, eliminate wasteful kitchen practices, and make the most out of the food you buy or grow.

"Urban Pantry is a smart, concise guide to creating a full and delicious larder in your own home. It covers kitchen essentials, like what basics to keep on hand for quick, tasty meals without a trip to the store, and features recipes that adapt old-fashioned pantry cooking for a modern audience. Avid chef and gardener Amy Pennington demystifies canning and pickling for the urban kitchen and provides tips for growing a practical food garden in even the smallest of spaces. Her more than sixty creative recipes blend both gourmet and classic flavors while keeping economy in mind." -The Mountaineers Book  

amy w.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Farro & Kale Soup with Cannellini Beans

I love how I can spend a couple hours in the kitchen making a pot of soup and yield enough of it to last about 8 meals!  And, this type of soup is so versatile and customizable, I would never get bored of it.

This soup starts with a basic mirepoix (2 part onion to 1 part each carrot and celery) then add in garlic, beans, water, farro, tomatoes, and kale.  You could easily make a new version with wild rice, swiss chard and black beans or even barley, broccoli rabe and cranberry beans. The combinations are endless, just keep the basic components present and you'll have a seriously nutrient dense meal with a pretty simple process!  Basic recipes like this give you the technique to formulate your own creations or adjust to seasonal availabilities.

I seasoned the cooking liquid when I added the beans & included a bay leaf, some onion powder, chili powder & ground ginger. I think some fresh thyme sprigs would be great as well.  Without the spices I think the broth would probably a bit bland for my taste because you use water not stock (very cost affective!).  Amy's right on with the sweet potato, I think that would have been a great modification to copy.

Tonight was one of those food filled evenings in the kitchen for me...oh Friday night! I made my very first batch of homemade chicken stock, froze some chocolate mint ice cream base whipping it by hand and cooked and froze some wheat berries with tomatoes and fresh basil...dinner when the school quarter gets crazy! Tomorrow I'm hoping keep up the adventurous streak and make a wheat berry salad, bulgar salad & chickpea salad and my favorite quinoa salad...all in one night!  I did some prep work today, so hopefully I'll breeze through them all pretty quick!
Cheers & Happy Grains!! -Vicki

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Honey Whole Wheat/Spelt Pizza Dough

Kitchen gadgets...... people seem to have a love/hate relationship with them.  I LOVE my Kitchen Aid Mixer, Magic Bullet, Fagor Pressure Cooker, Stir Crazy Popcorn Maker, Presto Griddle, and Toastmaster Bread Machine. 

The "dough cycle" is what keeps me plugging in my bread maker time after time.  Since I'm continuously grinding wheat and spelt, homemade pizza dough is a must.  I double the recipe and freeze the dough into Ziploc bags.  Towards the end of a work week, I will thaw a pack of dough in my fridge and toss veggies, various cheeses, and leftover chicken/lunch meat onto the pizza that will not be used over the weekend.     

Honey Whole Wheat/Spelt Pizza Crust Dough -recipe has been modified Toastmaster Care Book
This recipe has been doubled.....prepare once eat twice!

2 cups warm water
4 TBL Oil
2 TBL Sugar
2 tsp. Salt
2 cups Whole Wheat Flour
3 cups Spelt Flour
3 tsp. Quick Rise Yeast
1 Scoop of Dough Enhancer and Vital Wheat Gluten
Drizzle honey over ingredients

1. Place ingredients into bread maker in the order listed.  Select the dough cycle and relax!  Since I'm not big into measuring ingredients, I usually keep a close eye on it at first to make sure the consistency looks correct. 

2. Divide the dough and freeze one or both servings.  If making a pizza, roll 1 section of the dough on a lightly floured surface.  Sprinkle the pizza stone with cornmeal and place dough on stone.  Prick dough with a fork.

3. Bake at 400 for 10-12 minutes until edges of the crust are golden brown.  Remove, add toppings and return to the oven for an additional 15-20 minutes.

Fav Tips:
1. No need to buy pizza sauce....I drain 1 can of diced tomatoes and blend in my Magic Bullet. 
2. Leftover cranberry goat cheese tastes AMAZING on pizza!
3. Garnish a thin crust pizza with radicchio lettuce coated in a light vinaigrette dressing
4. Season with fresh basil and parsley
5. Add barley, kamut, farro, or wheat berries...JK haven't tried this one yet!      

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


I have finished 3rd Quarter!!! It was a tough one for me and really kept me from wanting to write, blog or log into any kind of computer.  But, it's over and I'm on a nearly 10 day, much needed break.  I want to share an amazingly delicious recipe I learned this quarter from my Instructor, Chef Atkinson.  Farrosotto is a sort of "Northwest" version of the classic Italian dish, Risotto.  It's traditionally made by cooking Arborio rice and slowing adding stock and stirring while the rice releases it starch, creating a creamy sauce along with it. We can't grow rice here, so instead this version was created using Farro (aka Emmer) which is grown just over the Cascades here in Washington State.  You can keep this really local and buy your cream and onion from the farmer's market when you pick up the Farro from Bluebird Grain Farms. Give this one a try and serve it with a nice piece of Salmon and some Asparagus spears, both grilled with just Olive Oil, Salt and Pepper, for a great combination (we sold 18 of those dishes when we ran it as a lunch special!). Enjoy :)

1 Cup Farro
3 Cups Water
1 Tbl Olive Oil or butter
1 Onion, diced
5-6 Peppercorns
2 Bay Leaves (divided)
1 tsp Dried Thyme
1 Cup Cream
Piece of cheesecloth and kitchen twine
Salt and Pepper to taste

1) Put the Farro into a pot and add the water. Bring up to a boil and turn it down to a simmer. Add a pinch of salt and 1 bay leaf to the pot.  Put the lid on to cook for 35 minutes to an hour, depending on how chewy you like it.
2) Sweat the onion in the oil or butter, just until it begins to soften.
3) Meanwhile, prepare your sachet of herbs. Tie up the peppercorns, the other bay leaf and the Thyme. If you don't have cheesecloth, you can add the herbs directly to the onion, but keep in mind you'll have to strain or pick them out.
4) Add the cream, a pinch of salt and the sachet to the pot with the onions and and bring to a simmer. Let the cream simmer until it reduces by half and becomes syrupy and flavored of herbs and onion. Remove the sachet.
5) When the Farro has finished cooking, stir in the reduced cream sauce and let it sit for a few minutes while the flavors develop.  Enjoy! It's soo tasty ;) -Vicki

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Kale Tales Continued........

"Kale smoothies everyday, kale salad with beets, carrots, avocado, kale currie, kale sauteed with garlic and olive oil, kale in place of spinach in any recipe that has spinach. I tried kale blended with apple juice and that didn't work well, it was really chunky and kind of gross. I think that's it!!"  That's it...haha. My friend Diana has soooo much kale growing in her backyard it's unreal.  She just told me that the "curly leaf" kale is now ready to be harvested.   

When I saw this recipe, I called her immediately to order a fresh bag :)  Farro soup with kale and cannelli beans starts with mirepoix which is comprised of 25% carrots, 25% celery, and 50% onions all roughly chopped.  I learned the exact name of this mixture while reading "Notes on Cooking A Short Guide to an Essential Craft", by Lauren Costello and Russell Reich. 
I made several additions and substitutions to this recipe since I'm pretty bad at following directions.  Instead of farro, I used oat groats.  After the mirepoix softened and the garlic was mixed in, water was added to create the broth.  I mixed in chicken bouillon to flavor the water.  I did not have time to soak the canelli beans overnight so instead I purchased a can of white northern beans.  I added a diced sweet potato for fun which gave the broth a really sweet flavor.  I then followed the rest of the recipe straight from the book adding the can of diced tomatoes, Parmesan cheese, kale, fresh basil and parsley from my garden.

Ben and I really liked the soup!  Diana and Chris though it was delicious stating it was filling with the grains and similar to an Italian minestrone.  Diana said they would have put 20X more kale in the recipe. I was nervous about overdoing it with a vegetable Ben had never heard of.  A repeat recipe for sure!    - amy w.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Kale Tales....Farro Soup with Kale and Cannelli, pg. 124

Over the weekend Ben and I purchased iPhones.  Now dinnertime consists of snapping a picture of the grain meal and sending it to his mom and brother.  The "Kraft/M&M" family CAN'T believe what's happening!  This means more Oreos, fruit snacks, microwave brownie sundaes, and Pez will be sent to our condo!   

Actual Text Message with Brother A
Andy: "Uhh, Amy I don't know what that is, but no one loves that....LOL"
Amy: "Graingirls.com at its finest, kale grain soup....Oreo cookies are scarce in this household!"
Andy: "That's tragic, You may be reported to the authorities (AKA Mamma Whipple) for that one."
Amy: "She already responded with a yuck!"
Andy: "Smother it in M&M's and cheese and send another pic to her, you'll get a better response!"

Stay tuned......did Ben like kale soup??

Monday, May 31, 2010

Quinoa Cake, pg. 271

When I told my husband we were having "cake" for dessert, his eyes lit up.  Notice in the picture, I melted chocolate over his piece and put a bit of carmel on top.  Instantly he knew this was not your Betty Crocker box cake but enjoyed the dessert. 

This recipe was quite simple, quiona, spelt flour, sugar, nuts, eggs, rasins, orange juice, butter, etc.  It called for crystallized ginger but I left this out since I find the flavor too strong.  Next time, I want to make this recipe using couscous.  The quinoa tasted very grassy and I did not get the "light texture"  that Lorna states in the recipe intro.  Marvelous idea! 

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Farro, Asparagus and Prosciutto Salad

My fellow culinary students had a birthday gathering last night to enjoy delicious food and have quality "down time" we desperately needed.  These gatherings are one of the best ways to get me excited about cooking something creative and experimental. I turned to the grain book to present the curious foodies with something new and decided on the Farro Salad that uses Asparagus and Prosciutto, with a mustard and lemon vinaigrette dressing.  The recipe had a number of delicious ingredients I thought would go well together, so I was feeling confident.  Strangely enough, another girl brought an asparagus and prosciutto dish (hers was asparagus bundles, wrapped with a piece of prosciutto and grilled)!

Overall the dish was well received.  Everyone knows how much I love to try new grains and are always curious to see what I'm working with this week.  The farro received some compliments, chewy and hearty, holding up well to the asparagus.  One person mentioned it's visual similarity to rice, doesn't translate texturally, which is a bit strange to discover in the first bite. I had a personal issue with the gooey texture of the prosciutto once it's mixed in with the vinaigrette, so I will probably try crisping it up first if I make it again.

Overall I would give it a 3 out of 5 grains. I think in general I need to start salting my grains more & this came out with this dish in particular. According to my nutrition teacher, grains don't taste very well without sodium. As I try to adjust my normally "bland" preparation of variety grains into something other people will enjoy eating, salting is something I need to work on.  Cold salads with grains though...I love these kinds of dishes ;)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Rhubarb & Barley...in a pudding?!

Aahhhh. Glad that's over!
April got a bit stressful for me between school and extra work and Amy with her travel and visitors also had a crazy month.  After a much needed day off yesterday for studying and sunshine, I am feeling well prepared to end this quarter of school strongly. With that, Amy and I are aiming to do 1 recipe each week instead of the original 2.  It's weird that a culinary student barley has time to cook for herself at home, right? Haha.

I started back up with a Pudding made of Rhubarb and Barley because, well...it's springtime and Rhubarb isn't going to be local for much longer!  The rhubarb is cooked down in orange juice and the barley is used to thicken the whole tart mix of juicy fruitness.  The texture combination (Karen, you might want to skip this part) of squishy/creamy/liquid was too weird, so I pureed the whole bit to get more of a consistent smoothness.  It is an extremely tart "pudding", too strong to eat on it's own.  The flavor is good, but I'm having trouble deciding just how I will eat it?  I'm thinking it would be delicious folded into some yogurt, so I may pick up some plain soy at the store and try that out.

I'm not sure I'll make this exact recipe again, but the principle I picked up here is great! Grain flakes (find em' in the bulk section...only $1.99/lb!) are a great way to thicken a sweet dish. I can imagine a cobbler version of something like this with a sugary crumb topping and extra grains hidden right inside with the sweet stuff. Gotta love that!
Cheers to a beautiful Spring, Seattle is certainly having one. -Vicki

Photos of the blended and unblended versions of tonight's dessert.

Yikes..this was super tart!  Ben and I could only eat one spoonfull and that was it.  He dared me to take another bite but I was not a fan of this dish.  amy w.

We're Back!!!!

Wow, what a busy past few weeks!  Traveling to Florida, Seattle, and having my parents in town for a visit. Now it's back to business!! 

Over the past few weeks,  I've really taken the time to explore cooking with grains and other healthy foods at my own pace without a constant recipe.  I finished reading The Art of Eating In, which fueled my next mission of starting a supper club and continuing the journey of freshly prepared meals at home.  A big thanks to my mom for introducing me to a new magazine called Clean Eating. "The soul of clean eating is consuming food in its most natural state, or as close to it as possible.  It is not a diet; it's a lifestyle approach to food and its preparation, leading to an improved life - one meal at a time." 

Homemade orange stir fry with buckweat-rich soba noodles, whole wheat/spelt mushroom and radicchio goat cheese pizza, and black bean fudge cake dessert were a few of my favorites. Each week,Vicki and I continue to build on our passion of cooking wholesome foods while eliminating the tempting refined processed food.  Thanks to Lorna Sass and ALL of our 14 followers for reading about our journey and staying patient as we break!

Be sure to try the recipe I posted below.  Ben had NO idea black beans made up 75% of this recipe until  he finished the last bite.  I love playing cooking tricks on him.   

Black Bean Fudge Cakes - taken from Clean Eating Magazine (Karen.....this one's for you)
Olive oil cooking spray
1 oz dark organic chocolate (70% cocoa or greater)
1 1/2 cups of soft cooked black beans (I used one jar)
2 eggs
1 egg white
2 TBSP olive oil
1/4 heaped cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup of raw organic honey
1/4 to 1/2 cup unsalted walnuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 and mist an 8 inch square baking dish with cooking spray.  Melt dark chocolate in a small saucepan over low heat with 1tbsp water mixed in. Combine melted chocolate, beans, eggs, egg whites, oil, cooca powder, baking powder, vanilla, applesauce, and honey in a food processor, process until smooth.  Stir in walnuts and pour mixter into baking dish.    Bake for 30 minutes or until the edges start to pull away from the sides.  Garnish with Greek-style yogurt. 

amy w. 

Thursday, April 29, 2010


Stay tuned....we will be back!  2 weeks ago all five college roommates gathered for a fun Seattle weekend.

 This past weekend, I was in Florida for a wedding.  Next weekend my parents will be in town......busy, busy!

Vicki has been cooking away at culinary school and needs a break from cooking 24/7. Check out her cool outfit below.  We promise we will be back. 

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Wheat Berry Salad w/ Apples and Mint, pg. 139

The citrus dressing was simple and speedy to make (fresh squeezed oranges + olive oil + apple cider vinegar + mint + salt). 5 pulses in the Magic Bullet and I had a tasty dressing ready to pour over green and red apples + toasted hazelnuts + cooked wheat berries. This will become my summer potluck dish for sure!

I'm not a big "fresh mint type-of-gal" but today I became a fan. In fact, I'm going to grow mint in my garden which is in the works. Apparently several of my yoga friends have started to sprout seeds and I missed that memo. Instead, I will be starting with small plants while exploring the latest trend of 2nd floor condo gardening. Edible plants will only up the cool factor considering my flashy colored pin wheels, ceramic gnombs, and gazing globe, which provide the appropriate old lady gardener feel. Click on Fern's blog titled Life on the Balcony to view fun ideas and tips!

Lorna creates recipes that "flavor grains to taste like apples". Yup, Ben liked another recipe made from grains.     -amy

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Any-Grain Scrambled Eggs With Salami, pg. 172

Summer hikes + hard salami + a block of chedder cheese = heaven.  Thanks to Diana, (yoga friend), this has become my new favorite hiking snack!  Last summer we went to Zion's National Park for a girl's weekend. Check out the photo to see the how much food was needed for one hike! 
Mr. Ben is going to lose readers.....he's actually starting to like the grain recipes!  His outrageous comments have really settled down.  Rating this a 4/5 grains, he told me that this recipe was like my Sunday morning hash and instead of potatoes there were grains.  The salami gave the eggs and grains a nice flavor, different from the standard sausage or bacon taste. This recipe is fairly simple.  Start with olive oil + onion + garlic, then add the diced salami and cook until it starts to brown.  Add your cooked grains of choice, which was wheat for us, and stir in your eggs to scramble. 

Notice the heap of shredded cheese over Ben's plate!  This has been one creative tactic used to obtain higher grain ratings!    -amy

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Blog & Business Envy!

Check out the amazing website from Jennifer of The Nourished Kitchen
She believes in the same philosophies of food as we do...whole food, real food and local! I love that she's made this passion into a business with "recipe card subscriptions" which you sign up to receive via good old snail mail...Awesome!
Perhaps we'll build off this idea with a focus on Whole Grains...Obviously.  We shall see what our grain future brings.
Cheers and Happy Easter :)

Friday, April 2, 2010

Bulgur Pilaf with Moraccan Roast Chicken, pg. 152

The moroccan spice rub in this recipe (Fresh Ginger, Cinnamon, Allspice, Cloves, Cardamom and Cayenne) is awesome!  It smells amazing and totally evokes a flavor that must be what Moracco tastes like!?!  The chicken is coated in this sauce and roasted with lemons and prunes, then served with a tasty pilaf made with Bulgur...very creative combination!
Did you know that Pilaf is a method of cooking, not a specific recipe or only rice based (although usually).  We studied pilaf in my 1st quarter of Culinary School.  Every day of the school period, we made pilaf...yes, for 10 straight weeks! and every new quarter that starts, there is a new 1st quarter class that will also learn the pilaf method, so we are always tasting and trying new pilaf.  Never once has someone made it without rice.  So, I found this intriguing.
Ok, on to what I wanted to explain, the Pilaf method.  Starting with some kind of fat (oil or butter), add your aromatics (onions, other veggies, etc.) and sweat them in the fat...by sweating them, you're emitting the flavor of the onion into the fat your cooking with.  Then, stir in your grain (rice, bulgur, etc...be creative!) and make sure to coat every grain with the fat and "toasting" the grain a little.  Then add a flavorful liquid (stock, or water with herbs and spices) and bring to a simmer...you can add it hot, so it comes up to temp quicker.  Add a little bit of salt, but not too much.  As the grain absorbs your liquid, if it's too salty, you'll concentrate that flavor. Then cover and let it simmer, not boil, for however long it takes to cook your grain.  White rice & bulgur are about 20-25 minutes, brown rice is closer to 50.  You can also finish it in the oven at 325 if you have an oven safe pot.  Check it when you think it should be done to make sure the grain is cooked all the way through, and season to taste.  Add fresh herbs, toasted nut, etc.  Amazing dish every time.
Go and be creative with your cooking!  Here's a photo of the above mentioned recipe!...err never mind for now... issues with upload.  -Vicki

15 recipes down!  Moraccan Roast Chicken will be a family favorite, even Mr. Ben agrees.  As for the pilaf, I needed to figure out a plan for the leftovers.  The following day, I put a slab of round roast in crockpot and shredded the beef.  I added mango peach salsa to the bulgar pilaf and warmed it up.  The salsa bulgar, steak, fresh mozzarella balls (small), and salad were layered on warm wheat tortilla shells.  Whooolaaaa another grain girl meal! -amy

Monday, March 29, 2010

Recipe Gone Grains - Tortilla-Crusted Goat Cheese-and-Asparagus Quiche

Ohh yes I did take a Rachael Ray recipe and add grains! Go ahead and give it a try.

Four 7-inch whole wheat tortillas
10 asparagus stalks, trimmed and cut into 1-inch prieces
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms
Salt and pepper
4oz. log of goat cheese
3 eggs + ***fresh basil
1/2 cup plain yogurt, Greek-style
*** 1 cup of cooked oat groats

Preheat oven to 375.  In a greased pie pan, overlap the tortillas to make a crust, place on a rimmed baking sheet. 

Steam aspargus for 2-3 minutes.  In a skillet, add the olive oil and heat over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and mushrooms.  Season with salt and pepper and cook until mushrooms are golden, about 3 minutes.  Stir in the asparagus; season with salt and pepper. 

Spread evenly in the tortilla crust and add the cooked grains, then crumble the cheese on top. 

Whisk together the eggs, yogurt, basil, and season with salt and pepper; pour into the tortilla crust.  Bake on the baking sheet until just set in the center and lightly golden, about 30 minutes.  Let rest for about 10 minutes before serving.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Kamut Chicken Salad-pg. 135

I opened an email from Karen, Director of Advertising  for Graingirls.com and she wrote, "Amy, Lorna Sass posted on your website. That's so great!" My first thought was that Karen was playing a joke on the two of us. That was not the case, Lorna Sass REALLY did post on our blog! I told Mr. Ben that he better watch out!

So back to the recipe that recieved a large makeover! With the two of us being olive haters, I had to get creative and substitute. In place of black and green olives, I roasted asparagus and added grapes + cranberries. The original dressing consisted of fresh squeezed lemon juice and olive oil. Since I don't like lemon flavor, I found some balsamic in my fridge and mixed that with a bit of sugar. I added whole wheat tortillas and shredded cheese to make this more of a chicken salad wrap. I know we are trying to eat healthy here BUT I  fried up some sweet potato french fries to compliment the wrap!

Ben gave it 4/5 grains up! This salad made delicious leftovers for lunch! -amy

I was so nervous this morning when I packed this salad into a couple containers to take it to work with me for a luncheon we were having at the Jewelry Store I work at.  I tasted the chicken mixture a couple times and thought it was lacking flavor...combined with the fact that I was bringing some "wacky" grain salad to a group of normal eating office mates who don't know me too well, I thought I might quickly turn into the all too healthy, but not so tasty "Cooking School Girl".  Quite the contrary though, they loved it! (or they were just being nice...but I think they really liked it!).  When you combine the lettuce mix with the chicken salad and the dressing, the combination is full of flavor & texture that everyone enjoyed, including myself.  One of the girls was trying to stash any leftovers for herself for later! What a compliment!

The recipe calls for romaine+raddichio+sage tossed in a simple lemon vinaigrette dressing (I used green cabbage instead of raddichio because I had some to use up) and combine it with a blend of chicken+kamut+green & black olives (to which I also added a seasoning salt blend, olive oil, more sage & green onions). 

I am a big fan of chicken salad and just love the idea of doctoring it up with a plump and chewy whole grain like kamut and tossing with vinaigrette instead of mayo. Don't get me wrong, I won't be giving up mayo chicken salad anytime soon, but this lighter alternative is fantastic!
Thanks for coming through for me on this one Lorna!
Oh, and for fun, I took a photo with our fancy camera "bubble" we use for rings...not bad! This would be fun to have at home!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Fruit-and-Nut Oatmeal Bars, pg. 281

I can be shopping at REI and suddenly NEED a $2 Larabar.   The chewy fruit where sweet meets tart......luv it!  I made a batch last night and now have 15 Lara-like-bars to satisfy my cravings in the days to come. 

This recipe uses honey and orange juice concentrate instead of sugar.  The rest of the recipe consists of rolled oats + apricots + cranberries + raisins + almonds + sunflower + flax seeds.    Tami, a friend at work liked the texture, sweetness of the fruit and crunchiness of the nuts.  She stated, "I think this was pretty good. I am not sure I could eat a lot of it, but I think this is a great morning treat, bet it would be great with yogurt! I give this 3 grains up!"

My husband gaining the nickname "Mr. Ben" decided he liked the bars rating them a 3.2/5 grains.   He described the taste as "eating a handful of trail mix with raisins and grains instead of nuts." (I guess he could not taste the toasted almonds).

I must say part of the fun with this blog comes from Ben stating every night he would like to eat "normal" food.  I then present the dish with my recipe book opened and a pencil in hand.  Before he's done chewing his first bite, I've usually asked him "Soooo, what do you think?" at least 3 times. Usually by mid meal, his comments and remarks become so funny that we can't stop laughing.  If you've met the Whipple's, Captain Crunch is considered a grain, Kool-Aid is 100% juice, and M&M's are a vegetable. 

I feel like I need to apologize to Lorna.  I think that's why Vicki won't let me write the author and tell her about our blog.  Vicki, we could be the next Julie & Julia!!!      - amy

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Chinese Black Rise, Orange, and Avacodo Salad, pg. 131

I made this recipe with Amanda over for dinner the other night.  She has a very optimistic attitude about trying new recipes and openly dislikes bland food...so she's a great grain critic!  We amped up the recipe with additional chili powder and some cumin cooked in with the rice.  Overall the recipe was quite refreshing and a plesant blend of flavors.  Creamy avocado and sweet, citrus of orange mixed in with the rice provided lots of texture and flavors.

Somehow the rice I cooked didn't become as red as Amy's picture shows below, but instead made the mixed a not so beautiful shade of charcoal black.  We discussed afterward that it would be beautiful if plated as a layered salad with torn lettuce topped with the rice and then the avocados and oranges.  Even with the additional spices we added, it needed more flavor.  I think if you mixed up a great vinaigrette dressing and tossed the rice in it, that would be amazing.  Overall, I love the idea of the cool rice salad and think the "Forbidden black rice" is a gorgeous grain I'll definitely use again.  Thanks for this concept Lorna :)
Amy, I love the photo website...and yes, hopefully we'll get on there!  -Vicki

In the mix: Chinese Black Rice + diced oranges + toasted pumpkin seeds + avacodo + lettuce

The perfect snack before an evening yoga class.

After preparing these lettuce wraps, I attempted to set the mood in the kitchen by taking a large bite and saying "YUUMMM, these are soooooo good!"  Failed attempt.  Ben took a bite and in an instant uproar quickly replied, "How are these soooo good?"  He told me to never make these again unless there is no other food.  Between eating vegan once a week and this whole grain girls idea, I think it's taking a toll on him!

Husband Rating: 1/5 Grains

Check out the following site Elizabeth told me about foodgawker.com   Goal: Before Vicki & and I cook through all 150 recipes, one of our pics will be published on this site....get snapping girl!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Farro with Fresh Tomato Sauce and Basil, pg. 173

Hopefully it's ok to post one of Lorna's recipes.  I think every now and then she won't mind!  

Farro with Fresh Tomato Sauce and Basil - Lorna Sass
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large clove garilic, minced (I used 2 cloves)
6 large plum tomoatoes, finely chopped (I used Roma's)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (I dumped around 3 tablespoons)
4 cups of COOKED basic farro (use barley if you can't find farro)
1/2 cup of chopped fresh basil - packed
salt and pepper
Grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

Directions:  Heat oil in a large skillet and add the garlic.  Stir for 30 seconds.  Add in the tomatoes, vinegar, and oregano, cook for 4-5 minutes.  Stir in the cooked farro and season with salt and pepper.  When the farro is hot, turn off the heat and stir in the basil.  Garnish with cheese.

I broke the number one rule and didn't use a grain!  I searched several stores in the valley and could not find farro.  No one even knew what it was when I asked.  I put organic orzo pasta in my cart and decided to go with it! I should've read the note where barley can be substituted for farro. 

What a simple dish full of flavor!  Ben loved the taste and took the leftovers for lunch the next day.     

 Husband Rating: 4/5 Grains   -amy

Last week I cooked the Farro for this recipe with full attention to cook it in the same day, but of course other things came up.  So tonight, when I needed to make a quick dinner, this was perfect.  The recipe came together in less than 15 minutes and tasted amazing!  I'm not sure where the big difference is from other red sauces I've made in the past, but the flavor in this sauce is unique and powerful.  I'm guessing it's the balsamic vinegar?!
It is March, and almost no veggies are in season locally right now, especially not tomatoes.  Instead of paying $4-5/lb for unripe tomatoes, I picked up 1 small organic can of whole tomatoes.  As far as cost goes, this dish is probably the lowest price recipe we've cooked yet...here's how mine breaks out:

$1.69-Canned Tomatoes
$1.50-Basil (I bought more, but didn't use all of it...so this is for about 1/3 of the pack)
$1.50-Farro...have we mentioned whole, dry grains are super cheap!?!
$2-Balsamic Vinegar, Dried Oregano (approximate guess)
Total: $6.69
This will feed me for at least 3 meals which is a great price for super healthy and homemade.
If you're reading this and waiting for a recipe to make...this is definitely one to try.  Go for the Farro and do it...You won't regret it! -Vicki

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Art of Eating In

"Rediscover the joy of home cooking through the eyes of one Brooklynite who swore off restaurants for two years. The story behind the scenes of the blog Not Eating Out in New York, The Art of Eating In chronicles Cathy Erway's journey through the underground of NYC eating, and her favorite recipes along the way. Two years, three apartments, countless food events and some strange restaurant-free “dates” later, she was able to turn eating in into something of an art, rather than mere survival method.". - theartofeatingin.com

Vicki and I love a gal that's passionate about sustainable eating and living.  Maybe she loves to cook with grains like we do.  A spring/summer read for sure. 

Monday, February 22, 2010

Chocolate Chip-Hazelnut Cookies, pg. 280

Yesterday I was feeling an extreme need to cook all day!  I picked up groceries on my lunch and after work and could hardly wait to start chopping, braising and baking.  Sometimes I really need these food filled nights to remind me why I quit my job and dove into cooking school...and I definitely rejuvenated that feeling amidst shredded pork tacos and these delicious Spelt flour cookies.

The cookies are awesome, and wonderful when eaten warm, melting right from the oven.  For this reason, I earned the coveted, "You're the best roommate ever" comment when delivering warm baked goodies to Brittany as she watched Jane Austin's Persuasion on Masterpiece Classics Theater...yes, this is how wholesome girls spend their weekends...cooking and classic movies (and maybe NKOTB greatest hits CD)!  I realized after the fact, that I hadn't toasted the hazelnuts long enough, so don't skimp on that note, especially if you buy raw hazelnuts.  They're much better with a roasted flavor in baked goods.  Also, when baking, don't reach for the kosher salt on the counter you cook with daily...you'll definitely bite into an occasional salty spot in the cookies if you do that (oops, lesson learned!).  Take the extra minute to find the finely ground salt for baking in your cupboard!  I substituted Earth Balance "butter" for the real stuff, so other than the 1 egg, my cookies are almost vegan and still deliciously tasty.

On this beautiful Monday morning, I'm sitting in my room as the sun streams through the window while I put together my daily plans for this week at school.  Today will reach nearly 60 F and I am so excited to have this day off to enjoy the sunshine! -Vicki ;)

P.S.  If you would like to make delicious shredded pork tacos check out this recipe from Tyler Florence.  They're super delicious!

I must say these cookies hit the spot after skiing.  Diana, Elizabeth, Jackie, and I decided it would be fun to ski at Alta.  After the first run, I knew I was in for a workout. Groomers are not an option when Diana is leading on home turf!  At one point I resorted to hugging large boulders and using the butt scoot method because I was not about to jump my skiis off of a 3 ft. cliff.  Cheers to cookies after skiing and a delicious way to end a sunny Saturday!    

Ok, back to the cookies. I agree with Vicki to make sure the hazelnuts are toasted long enough.  I bought whole hazelnuts and pounded them with a meat mallet. This worked well and I enjoyed the flavor and texture of these nuts. 

One thing that really saved time with these cookies was that the butter needed to be melted....AMEN for not needing to let a stick of butter sit on the counter for 2 + hours.  Lastly, I love soft cookies.  I put 2 pieces of bread in the container which kept the chocolate chip - hazelnut cookies soft for several days. 

Husband Rating: 4.5/5 Grains     -amy

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Any-Grain and Honeyed Squash Casserole w/ Hazelnuts, Pg. 207

I usually don't get much of arm workout in the kitchen.  After grating 7 cups of butternut squash my bicept was feeling tired.

Squash Mix - butternut squash + honey + rosemary + dried currants + Marsala + salt + pepper

Topping - cooked grains (wheat berries) + honey + salt + butter + hazelnuts

Next time, I would consider cubing the squash rather than grating it.  I would cut back on the amount of rosemary.  This dish was rockin' a bit too much for my liking.  The casserole could be extremely interchangeble come Farmer's Market season.  Sweet potatoes, zuchinni, and egg plant would make excellent subsitutions.

Husband Rating: 2/5 Grains.  Not a huge squash fan!  - amy

Vicki's Version-With Buckwheat Grain Topping.
The combination of rosemary and butternut squash are delicious!  I was skeptical before making this dish, having most of my squash experience either roasted with butter and brown sugar or in pureed soup, I thought the suggested herbs would ruin the sweet flavor for me.  Completely the opposite happened.  This is one of those dishes that reminds me why I really need to start an herb garden, even if I only grow Rosemary.  I grows exceptionally well in Seattle's climate. There is nothing that compares to the fresh herb taste in a dish like this, so I guess Amy & I disagree a bit on that note :)  I didn't measure any of the ingredients, so I may have been a little light on the rosemary and heavy on the honey, but either way the combination with a little sherry vinegar is so sweet and savory.

I definitely missed the grated part when I prepped my squash earlier in the week.  I automatically cubed the squash without giving it a 2nd thought, assuming that's what the recipe called for, but when I opened up the recipe today (which I've previously read it at least 3 times!) I finally noticed the "grated" part. I thought for sure I had screwed up and this wouldn't turn out.  I added a little water, covered the baking dish well and cooked about 35 minutes total and it was perfect.  I used buckwheat for the topping along with the hazelnuts. I also added about a tablespoon of Onion Powder to the squash, which seemed to have added more depth of flavor so it wasn't all rosemary you tasted.  I will definitely be making this again, and perhaps even for school this week as a vegetarian dish.
Totally agree with Amy's additional veg options as well...I think this is more of a concept to have learned that I will be applying in more ways.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Meet Lorna Sass

LORNA SASS is an award-winning cookbook author, food historian, and consultant. She is considered the country's leading authority on pressure cooking and writes regularly for Vegetarian Times and the Los Angeles Times Food Syndicate. She is author of the bestselling Cooking Under Pressure, and a dozen other cookbooks. She lives in New York City. Taken from randomhouse.com

Lorna's Homepage     

Vicki and I are just getting started. Purchase the book and join us as we continue to cook through Whole Grains Every Day, Every Way!