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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Perfect Picnic

Justin and I went to the DC zoo on this rainy Saturday, and we packed a perfect picnic lunch for it. We got a bit of a late start, so as we drove around looking for parking, we eagerly looked forward to eating our sandwiches as soon as we arrived. I came up with two different kinds that are a far cry from your typical PB&J. The first was a sunflower seed butter and apricot combo, and the second was fig, honey and provolone. Both were on multi-grain bread (the whole grain kind), and they were delicious! I think the fig, honey, and provolone sandwich would be even better if you toasted it and made it like a grilled cheese. I'd like to give that a try next time. If you have a toaster oven at your work like I do, it would be a great sandwich to bring in.

Along with our sandwiches, we had a gingergold farmer's market apple (nicely sweet-tart, and very crisp) and homemade double ginger cookies. After we found our parking spot, we enjoyed the sandwiches while the rain gently fell on the windshield. It was quite peaceful, and quite a delicious picnic lunch. The zoo was great, too! And can you believe the bird in the picture is a type of pigeon? Imagine if those were strutting around our cities.

Sunbutter and Apricot Sandwich
(Makes one sandwich -- I won't specify how much sunbutter and jam to use, that's up to you, but I like a lot)

Two slices multi-grain bread
Sunflower Seed Butter
Apricot Jam (the good kind, with apricots as the first ingredient and no high-fructose corn syrup)
3-4 dried apricots, minced, and scattered over the jam

Spread a thin layer of sunbutter on the first piece of bread, give a good heaping of apricot jam on top of that, sprinkle with apricot bits, then put
globs of sunbutter on the second piece of bread and top. By putting sunbutter on both pieces of bread, it will prevent the sandwich from getting soggy from the jam if you don't plan to eat it right away.

Fig, Honey, and Provolone Sandwich
(Makes one sandwich)

Two slices multi-grain bread
3 figs, rinsed and sliced into 1 cm pieces
1 slice provolone cheese
about 1 1/2 teaspoons honey

Layer the provolone on the first slice of bread, then place the figs evenly on top, and lastly drizzle the honey over the figs. Top with the second piece of bread.

Farmer's market apples: My favorites have been Gingergold and Honeycrisp. Also delicious are Gala, Fuji, and Golden Delicious. Most markets have descriptions of each apple, so they can help you find your favorite.

Double Ginger Cookies: I warn you, I'll give you the link to this recipe, but either the baking time or the oven temp are off. The directions say to bake the cookies for 18 minutes. I baked mine for 12, and they burned. The second time around I had them in for 9 minutes, and they still burned!! I had to scrape off the bottoms to salvage them. The flavor is very nice if you can get the baking time right, so it's worth a shot. But be aware that they don't get dark, so it's hard to tell if they're done or if they're going to burn. Here's the link, if you're brave enough.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Benjamin Muffins

Happy Autumn! In honor of the new season, I'm posting some very delicious, very Autumn muffins. These muffins were first made in honor of my cat, Benjamin. He had to be put down in August because he was very sick, and the medical treatment was more than we were able to afford. Before he got really sick, the vet suggested that I add pumpkin to his food to give him extra fiber. I had just started doing that before he died a couple of days later. Since I had a bunch of pumpkin in the fridge afterward that I didn't know what to do with, and because I needed a task to bring closure, I decided to make pumpkin muffins and name them after Benjamin. When Benjamin was alive, he used to flop down on the kitchen floor and hang out with me while I baked. He was good company.

These muffins are super moist because the pumpkin adds so much to them. There's no need to use butter when you have a main ingredient like pumpkin. You could also substitute sweet potato. The muffins are very high in fiber, not only from the pumpkin, but also from the cranberries, whole wheat flour, oats, and nuts. I was pleasantly surprised with the combination of flavors. Hope you enjoy them. And do take a moment to think of Benjamin while you make them.

Benjamin Muffins

1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oat flour
1/2 cup all purpose unbleached flour
4 tablespoons turbinado sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
big pinch nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1 can pumpkin
3 eggs
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup plain, low-fat yogurt
1/4 cup applesauce
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts
1 cup cranberries

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and lightly flour a muffin pan.

2) Mix together dry ingredients in large bowl. Make a well in the center; set aside.

3) Mix together wet ingredients, including pumpkin. Add to dry ingredients and stir just until combined.

4) Fold in pecans and cranberries

5) Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until fork comes out clean.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Two Fig Breakfasts

I've discovered a love for figs this summer. Previously, I had truly disdained them because my only experience with them was through Fig Newtons. Ew. I always wanted to like Fig Newtons because they looked so nice and figgy, but they never failed to disapoint me. Also, I had heard about figgy pudding in old Christmas songs and thought it sounded lovely. Then I had flaming figgy pudding one year at Christmas (after it was blown out, of course) and you know, it wasn't all that great. I couldn't get past the burnt taste.

But this summer, I had seen fresh figs looking beautiful at Whole Foods. I was tempted every time. They are a little pricey, though (about $4 for 10 figs), so that deterred me for a few weeks. Then they went on sale for $3! It was time to give figs another chance. I chose Black Mission Figs, and they were pretty good. Then the next time, I bought the light green figs (even though they weren't on sale this time...I couldn't help myself). I love to cut one up and put it on my generic brand of Grape Nuts cereal (called "Crunchy Nuggets") along with a drizzle of honey and some almonds. It's just the best. So hearty and satisfying. And, you know, if you have one fig per day, like I did on my cereal, it's actually not too expensive. They go a long way.

Then the other discovery was with Whole Wheat Fig and Barley Pancakes. Toast some almonds to sprinkle on top and drizzle with warm honey...mmmm. It's not as cost effective as one fig per day, but it's a really tasty recipe adapted from the basic pancake recipe in the Better Homes & Gardens cookbook. Here are the two figgy recipes (Newton- and flame-free).

Figgy Cereal

1/2 cup Grape Nuts style cereal
1 fig, cut into chunks
drizzle of honey, about 2 tablespoons
palmful of slivered almonds
milk as you like

Just throw everything in a bowl, mix around, and add the milk.

Whole Wheat Fig and Barley Pancakes
Yields 10 good-sized pancakes

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 egg
1 1/4 cup milk
3 tablespoons plain low-fat yogurt
1/2 cup chopped figs
1/2 cup cooked barley (optional)

1 cup toasted almonds
Earth Balance or butter for cooking pancakes

Mix together dry ingredients in large bowl. Mix remaining egg, milk, and yogurt in separate bowl. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir just enough to combine. Fold in barley and figs. Pour by 1/4 cupfuls onto greased griddle set at 400 degrees (or, if using a pan, it's probably medium heat) until bubbles form on top. Flip and cook for almost as long on the other side. While the cakes are cooking, heat a wide bottomed pan over medium heat. Add 1 cup slivered almonds and toast for about 5 minutes, shimmying the pan often. Check them frequently to make sure they don't burn. Top the pancakes with warm honey and toasted almonds.