Finding a healthy snack to keep you going during the day can sometimes be difficult. You can only eat so many almonds before you start feeling more like a squirrel than a person. What about dark chocolate you say? Oh sure, pounding down one or two dark chocolate peanut butter cups is pretty awesome. Right up until the sugar rush wears off and you find yourself needing a blankie and a nap. You can’t be napping when you’re in a killer Fit Bit step challenge with your girlfriend, who happens to be high energy and very motivated. What you need is not just two great tastes that go great together, but maybe eight great tastes that happen to also be very good for you and give you lots of energy.
We’re talking Energy Bites. A protein packed combination of old fashioned oats, almond butter, dried cherries, pistachios, orange zest, toasted coconut, honey, mini dark chocolate chips with some chia seeds and ground flax meal for added protein. These tasty bite size balls taste delicious, and are guilt free. They’re also very easy to make. 15 minutes from start to finish. As a matter of fact, I was craving some while writing this article, so I went down to the kitchen, made a batch and ate two before coming back up to finish writing this article. Want a healthy snack for the kids? Check. want some homemade energy bars for your next camping trip? Done. Need that boost of energy to get you to 10,000 steps so you can keep up with your motivated girlfriend? Got it.
Don’t thank me, thank the ancient grains. Because once again they came through in the clutch. See you next week, when we’ll show you how to use that leftover oatmeal with a popular herb to help rid your body of heavy metals. Until then, remember to cook with love and live to cook.
It’s week two of ancient grains month, and for this week we are showing a few examples on how to use that leftover ancient grain meal you made last time. In case you forgot, we discussed how easy it was to add some basic ingredients to a slow cooker before you go to bed and by morning, you have creamy quinoameal, oatmeal or buckwheat meal.
I made some buckwheatmeal recently by mistake and found out it tasted pretty darn good. Buckwheat groats, when cooked like oatmeal, has a very hearty and nutty flavor. It’s also very filling. So I wasn’t surprised when I had some left in the crockpot. Leftover buckwheat meal does not reheat very well. Once it cools, your more likely to have success using it as mortar for building a house, then enjoying a warm, creamy bowl of it.
I was just getting ready to throw it away, when I thought to myself “self, why not add some eggs, and a few other ingredients, and make little soufflés with it?” A filling, healthy breakfast again sounded like a great idea. Especially since the outside thermometer was showing 5 degrees above zero. In the past, I would prepare individual egg strata’s for the kids in the winter. They are leftover cubed bread, eggs, cream, cheese, sausage and bacon. The mixture gets baked in small soufflé cups, then drizzled with maple syrup. They are in no way healthy. But what if the bread, cream, cheese, sausage and bacon were eliminated and replaced with ingredients such as brown rice flour,a little baking powder and a few other items that would give these updated stratas flavor without the fat or calories?
Jena and I experimented with a few versions. We used ingredients like olives, fresh basil and sun-dried tomatoes for an Italian version. Green onion, cilantro, green chiles, pepper jack cheese and Mexican seasoning for that south of the border flair. Canadian bacon & pineapple for a Hawaiian treat. Generally, you can put anything you want in this mix, and it will workout. Spoon the mixture into well greased muffin cups or molds, then bake them in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes or until puffed and golden brown. Top with assorted coniments and enjoy.
Sometimes, it just takes a little thought to turn a cardiologists nightmare into a healthy, satisfying and inexpensive breakfast or brunch treat that will keep your whole family full and happy. We’ll be back next week when our ancient grains go into snack mode. Until then, cook with love and live to cook.
These protein packed egg soufflés are similar in texture to muffins, but without any gluten. It's a great way to use up leftover oatmeal or any grain meal you have leftover.
Author: Little Rusted Ladle
Recipe type: Breakfast
⅔ C. Leftover quinoameal, oatmeal, or buckwheatmeal
4 lg. Eggs, beaten
½ C. Brown rice flour
¼ tsp. Sea salt
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Combine leftover meal and eggs in a medium bowl until well blended. Stir in rice flour, baking powder and salt until well blended. Pour mixture into well greased molds, soufflé cups or custard cups until half full. Add desired ingredients such as cheese, meat, veggies, herbs, or seasonings to each cup until almost full. Place filled cups on a baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes or until cooked through and golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool until cool enough to remove. Run a knife around the edge if they stick. Serve.
These can be made in advance, cooled and frozen until needed up to two months ahead.
Ancient grains have been around a long time. I’m sorry, but that’s funny; of course they’ve been around a long time. You don’t get the title,“ancient grains,” unless you’ve been around a few hundred millennia. Those words have been showing up a lot lately. It’s kind of the new “all natural.” Food companies are throwing those words onto their products as a way of attracting those consumers who are looking for healthy options in the grocery store. In order to understand whether “ancient grains” are good for us, we need to look closer at what is considered an ancient grain.
Basically, any grain that has gone unchanged for hundreds of years can be considered “ancient.” For example, einkorn wheat is considered ancient, but the wheat we get in products today is not because it has been bred, changed and altered over the years. So, in general, things like barley, millet, amaranth, buckwheat, quinoa, oats, black, red and wild rice, farro, kamut, teff, and a few others are all considered ancient.
Well, Jena and I decided to highlight a few of these ancient grains this month. Since many people out there, including myself, are supposed to be eating a more healthy diet due to those annoying New Year’s resolutions, we should of course be interested in these grains. Funny, I don’t remember seeing any ancient grains in those blood orange margaritas or the Chicago style hot dog I had last week during my week of food debauchery. Oh well, I’m sure they were there or I wouldn’t have ordered them.
We are starting the month of February off with a basic recipe for crockpot oatmeal that I’ve been using for about two months. I love crockpot oatmeal, because you put all the ingredients in a small slow cooker at night, before you go to bed, and when you wake up, you are greeted with the wonderful smell of fresh oatmeal and everything you decided to embellish it with. Personally, I like apples, cinnamon, maple syrup and walnuts. It tastes like apple pie. Yummy!! Because it takes about seven hours to cook completely, it becomes necessary to plan this in advance. I’m not always big at planning and sometimes just want to eat. I came up with a good alternative: using quinoa instead of oat groats (the whole version of oats) for the oatmeal. I guess you could call it quinoameal. Quinoa, which comes from the Incas in India, cooks quicker than oat groats or steel cut oats. In fact, it cooks similar to cous cous, another ancient grain, which cooks in about five to ten minutes. We used a Bob’s Red Mill Tri-Color Quinoa, which has a nice color and taste to it. Feel free to use whatever quinoa you prefer though.
Simply add all your ingredients to a small crockpot. One part quinoa, two parts liquid. I used a combination of almond coconut milk, water and apple cider because I love apples, and dairy is not nice to me. However, you can use water or regular milk instead. Maple syrup, cinnamon, a pinch of sea salt were added, as well as some chia and flax seeds to boost the protein. I skipped the nuts, but feel free to add almonds, pecans or walnuts. They are all tasty. Stir up the mixture with a spoon, cover and cook for about one hour on high or until the quinoa has been soaked up and is cooked through. One last stir and you have a delicious alternative to oatmeal. Top with fresh berries, a little cream and a drizzle of honey or syrup and a few pistachios and you’ve got a delicious, healthy breakfast that took you five minutes to make and cook as long as it took me to write this article. Thanks to being a hunt and peck kind of typist, that means about an hour and some change. Of course you can make it much quicker if you make it on the stove top or in the microwave. That’s your choice; don’t sweat it.
So you say you don’t like quinoa? No problem, the recipe below works with oats and buckwheat too. There, now you can say you know how to cook with ancient grains. It will make you sound smart in front of your kids and friends. Plus, it will make you feel better following that night of chicken wings and beer with a nutritious breakfast of ancient grains, fruit and nuts.
See you next week, when Jena and I will show you what to do with that oatmeal/quinoameal/buckwheatmeal you have left over from this week. Enjoy and don’t forget to cook with love and live to cook.
This slow cooker quinoa recipe is great for those looking for a healthy breakfast, but might be sick of oatmeal.
Author: Little Rusted Ladle
Recipe type: Slow cooker recipe
1½ c. Quinoa
2 C. almond milk
2 C. filtered water
2 C. Apple cider
1 Tbsp. chia seeds
1 Tbsp. Flax seeds
2 Tbsp. Maple syrup
1 tsp. Cinnamon
½ tsp. sea salt
1 C. fresh berries (blueberries, blackberries, raspberries or strawberries), optional
½ C. chopped or whole nuts(almonds, walnuts, pecans or pistachios), optional
⅓ C. fresh cream, optional
2 Tbsp. honey, optional
Combine all ingredients in a 2 qt. slow cooker. Stir to combine. Cover, then set cooking level knob to low. Cook for 7 hours or overnight. Stir mixture. Spoon into bowls and sprinkle with fresh fruit, nuts or a little cream, a drizzle of honey and butter. Serve.
You can substitute oat groats, steel cut oats or buckwheat groats for the quinoa.
Feel free to experiment with different additions like dried fruit, fresh apples or pears,
Adding a touch of pure vanilla extract at the end adds great flavor
Brown sugar, raw sugar or maple syrup can also be drizzled on top.
In the three years since Jena and I have been doing LRL, we have been fortunate enough to have other businesses so happy with our blog photography, that they hire us to do the same for them. Companies like Fromm Family Foods, Rhodes Frozen Bread Dough, The Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, and Harvest Mill Grain Company are a few that come to mind. Recently, we were also asked to do a calendar project for a local company in Beloit, Wisconsin. Kerry specializes in ingredients, flavorings, and services catering to food companies as big as Tyson, or as little as a start up mom and pop company. They asked LRL to help them create a new look that would not only show their capabilities, but would also do it in a way that was real world and not too product driven. This was a fun project, because it involved some organization, planning and feedback from clients. I thought it might be fun to go through that process for this project while showing off our work at the same time. As a professional food photographer and stylist team, we sometimes assume that every aspiring blog writer knows what is involved with doing food photography of great quality, and maybe they do. However, we thought we’d share some of the behind the scenes thoughts that went into the making of this calendar so people can get a sense of what we do as a food blogger team. I’ll go first with my thoughts, then Jena will add her own thoughts on the same project from a different perspective.
Since it was a calendar, every month was represented. Although January is first in the year, it was one of the last shots we did. For this shot, the focus was breakfast, so we wanted to show variety. Waffles with berries muffins, coffee, milk, breads and baking ingredients were shown to emphasize Kerry’s vast capabilities. The breads and waffles were all made the day before. When styling baked goods, it doesn’t matter if it is fresh. It matters if it looks fresh. Making them fresh the day of the shoot was not an option due to shoot schedules. Plus, when it comes to styling waffles, you never want to show them hot. Powdered sugar melts immediately on hot waffles, so cold waffles are used and cornstarch is used in place of powdered sugar so it lasts longer. The berries are places exactly where we want them, but with a sense of casualness to give the appearance of a “real life” look. Adding a few bubbles on top of the coffee at the end adds to that feeling. We also add a few crumbs coffee beans and spilled powdered sugar to make it look like mom made it all that day.
The goal of this shot was to give it a restaurant feel. Like plates were being prepared and served by chefs. Actually doing that kind of a shot at a restaurant can be almost impossible in a casual restaurant because the food rarely looks good enough to photograph, and chefs are rarely willing to have people in their kitchens during open hours. Plus, lighting in never ideal in “the real world”, so in this case, we created the atmosphere in a test kitchen. All the food was in place for quite awhile before we were ready to shoot the final image. Melting the cheese, adding drops of water to the condiments and mayo on the burger were all added at the last minute to maintain that fresh out of the kitchen look. The end result is fabulous. Jena really captured that live feel of a restaurant by showing action in the background but still emphasizing the beauty of the food in the foreground.
Photographing this calendar we did a mix of shooting outdoors, natural window light and strobe. This one was taken using strobe lighting from one direction. A fill card was added to wrap around the light and highlight the yogurt. We loved adding the human element to this shot! Rusty did a wonderful job modeling for us while we did multiple takes to get it just right.
From a food stylist perspective, this shot was the most challenging of them all. We all wanted to capture the feel of a backyard barbecue, by showing various smoked meats and foods that one would find in a backyard barbecue. The problem was that it needed to be shot on location first thing in the morning and it was the end of October, so it was fairly cold. There was no power, grill or tables anywhere near where we shot it, so everything you see in the shot had to be transported by car, then unloaded and set up. This meant that all food needed to be made in advance, yet look like it was fresh off the barbecue for the final shot. Since it was shot in October in Wisconsin, we could not get smoke to naturally appear in the final shot due to temperatures and timing, so we used a smoke machine to give the appearance of smoke. It adds motion and that real life barbecue feel that really sells this shot. Homemade pickles, corn, onions, water and beer added enough color and visuals to help tell the story.
Photographing this rustic fall image was one of my favorites. With our tight schedule we realized we would not be able to go to a location with this look and feel. I brought in the windows, table as well as the other props to set the stage. Our assistant, Rusty and I placed the windows in front of the existing window and blocked the rest of the light coming in with black cards. The afternoon light was beautiful but we had to be quick on the trigger as the sun was setting.
Have you ever made an entire Thanksgiving meal in less than four hours from scratch? Me either, yet we needed to achieve that goal when we did the shot above. Luckily, I had a staff of talented chefs from Kerry at my disposal, or it would have never happened. In order to create a photo worthy turkey it requires a fair amount of time, coloring and luck. Having styled many a turkey for companies like Jenny O Turkey and Taste of Home, it is pretty easy to me. However, when you add mashed potatoes, stuffing, and all the other trimmings, it can be a little overwhelming. It is always a lot of fun collaborating with corporate chefs when working on a project this big. Their talent and help are what made this shot look so great. That and Jena’s incredible propping and photography, which make the whole shot come together. The added motion of people serving the dishes give it that real look. Makes you want Thanksgiving all over again doesn’t it?
Parsnips are so great that we decided to do another article about them. That and maybe we’re feeling a little guilty that we haven’t been posting recently. Also, we have this really cool gadget that we are giving away. Since you have probably already looked at the photos(I would too), I guess I can discuss the fancy gadget we used for this articles parsnip recipe, which is parsnip and pumpkin seed bread. Awhile back, I started eating healthier and began thinking about getting a grain mill for grinding my own flour. Since most of the flour today doesn’t contain much nutritional value, and even store-bought products labeled “whole grain” usually aren’t, I thought I’d look into it more. A client of mine grinds his own wheat, and said the quality of bread made with flour ground from whole wheat berries is far better than any commercial bread. About the same time, the wonderful people pleasanthillgrain.com asked if we could review a new product they carry called the Mockmill for Kitchen Aid mixers. Mockmill is known for making very high quality grain mills. It sounded like a match made in heaven. I was looking for a grain mill and they had one to review. The best part is that this new product attaches to a standard Kitchen Aid mixer. Simply attach the mill to the front, add wheat berries, corn, rice, etc.. to the hopper on top and turn on the mixer. Out comes your own home ground flour. You can also adjust the size of the grind from coarse to fine.
Milling my own whole wheat flour made me feel like an amish farmer. Next thing you know Jena and I will be wearing straw hats and riding in a horse drawn buggy. O.K., maybe not, but the Mockmill is easy and fun to use. I experimented with the mill by making cookies, crackers and bread. What I found out was there is a learning curve with using fresh ground flour that takes some time to get used to. It’s a little too technical for this article, but maybe in the future we can do an article just on home milled grain. Regardless, I’m very happy with my new Mockmill for Kitchen Aid. It’s great knowing where our food comes from. Flour was one of those ingredients that you just never know. Until now that is. Would I recommend a grain mill to grind your own grain? You bet. I bought twenty pounds of Einkorn wheat berries to prove it, which are the first plants to be domestically cultivated, dating back over 10,000 years ago. How awesome is that?
The recipe chosen for the second part of our parsnip and parsley root series is a delightful parsnip bread. Sweet parsnips, brown sugar, eggs, yogurt, carrots, and of course whole wheat flour are the foundation. I decided to make it and substitute some whole wheat flour that I ground in the Mockmill. The bread is sweet like banana bread, but has a nice nutty, full flavor from the whole wheat that diffuses the sweetness. Added pumpkin seeds gave it a nice crunch, while the addition of a little sea salt and melted butter on top really made it all come together. I used 2 cups of cooked parsnips that we used to make the soup from our Parsnip and Parsley Root Bisque article a couple of days ago. It’s a great way of doing the prep for two recipes at once. Cooking the parsnips in the milk and broth gave added flavor to the soup, and the liquid also flavored the parsnips better than cooking them in water.
Since Jena and I like to mix it up a little, we decided to make the bread in a cast iron skillet. Feel free to use any kind of pan you’d like. Remember, it’s a quick bread, which uses baking soda instead of yeast to make it rise, so it works in just about any kind of pan you want. We even made some in small mason jars that were cute as a button. I love parsnips and I’m sure after trying this bread and our soup, you will too. As far as the Mockmill goes, I find it very useful and fun, as well as being a great way of Getting added nutrients to my food. It’s so fun, I’m headed to the kitchen to get some more bread going. Now for the fun part. Here’s your chance to win a Mockmill of your own thanks to Pleasant Hill Grain. Simply fill in the entry form below by Friday January 15th. One winner will be chosen, and you will be sent a new Mockmill valued at $199.00 free of charge. It’s January, which means diets and exercise. Adding home ground flour to your cooking will give added flavor and nutrition to your breads, polenta, and custom flours. Until next time, remember to cook with love and live to cook.
Jim & Jena