Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Wheat Berry Cinnamon Porridge – Superfood Breakfast

Wheat Berry Cinnamon Porridge – Superfood Breakfast

When I wake up in the morning, I’m hungry. Maybe, like my dog, I phantom-chase teasing squirrels while I’m sleeping, working up a giant appetite. My morning hunger is calmed with a flavorful healthy green smoothie, or a light whipped yogurt splash, but honestly what I really want is a big fat muffin.

My compromise is grain. I’ve been experimenting with whole grains for breakfast and learning about a few I’ve never cooked. I’ve loved Quinoa for a while, Oatmeal since childhood, but this week I’ve fallen in love with Wheat Berries. Ever hear of them? They look a bit like Barley, but darker and harder. Most of us have eaten them only after they’ve been ground up, hulls removed and turned into flour.

Wheat Berries are the actual seed from which the wheat plant grows. It has three parts: the endosperm, the bran, and the germ. Each part has it’s own super nutrients, vitamins and fiber. A lot of those qualities get pounded out by the time we use the flour for bread.

The kernels are so easy to cook: Pour them into a pot, add two and half times the water, stock, soup or milk, bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for about 45 minutes and fluff with a fork. For this recipe I used a package of Wheat Berries that had been par-boiled and it only took 15 minutes to prepare.

While they were cooking, I already knew I had found a new favorite. The whole kitchen became cozy and the fragrance was like roasting nuts. When they were done, I scooped some out into a container to save for a savory dinner or salad (cooked Wheat Berries can last in the refrigerator for several days.)

Then, I filled a bowl with the rest of the warm Wheat Berries, poured in the milk I had infused with a cinnamon stick, vanilla and honey, and topped it with toasted pecans and chopped dried apricots. I ate my breakfast by the window, watching my dog being taunted by those pesky squirrels and dreamed of all the ways I was going to use Wheat Berries in the future.

Recipe: Wheat Berry Cinnamon Porridge

1 cup Wheat Berries

2 ½ cups water or Vegetable Stock


1 cup Non-fat Milk

1 Cinnamon stick

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 Tablespoons Honey

¼ cup Chopped Pecans (toasted)

¼ cup Dried Apricots (chopped)

1) In a deep sauce pan, add the Wheat Berries, water or stock and season with salt.

2) Bring to a boil, cover and reduce to a simmer.

3) Cook for about 45 minutes, remove from heat and fluff with a fork. Allow to sit for a few minutes to soak up the remaining liquid. (*If using par-boiled Wheat Berries cooking time is reduced to 15 minutes.)

4) While the Wheat Berries are cooking, pour the milk into a small saucepan with the Vanilla and a Cinnamon stick. Bring to almost a simmer, remove, stir in the honey and cover to allow the milk to infuse.

5) To serve: spoon the Wheat Berries into a bowl, discard the cinnamon stick and pour in a desired amount of spiced milk, top with pecans and apricots.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Baby On The Way! (So, I'm Cooking) + Baby Shower Food Ideas

Baby Shower Food and Ideas~
(Nutella Milk & Cookies, Teddy Bear Braised Short Rib Sliders,
Paper Baby Shoes Filled with Cheese Crackers, and S'mores on a Stick)

If you came to this page for a recipe only, that's cool. However, you may want to just scroll on down to it because, in the teen vernacular words of my very teen vernacular-worded son, "shiz is about to get real in here."

I'm typing this as my daughter has gone into "pre-labor", so her husband and she have gone to the movies. I know, right?!? What the..?
Shouldn't she head to the hospital?

She's having a home birth with Mid-wives. Quite frankly she and her loving husband know more about the whole process of her body and her baby's body than I did with all 3 of my children, even though I tried.
When I was pregnant with my daughter I was in North Carolina and barely over 20. I definitely read every book I could find. I did the whole "no drugs", baby into a warm bath, husband leading the "hee hee hee" and the "hee-ho-hee" routine of breathing. My birthing room was decorated like a nice guest room (that just happened to have a bed complete with stirrups attached.) And, I was blessed with a crew of patient and intelligent nurses. The doctor showed up in time to catch and complete, and was perfectly accommodating to my preferences.

The second child was born effortlessly, and I also was fortunate to have a wonderful doctor and a similar experience in Santa Monica.
A second marriage and 10 years later, that same incredible doctor delivered my third and pre-mentioned son into the world, into mine and my husband's arms first, and with no rush or cold attitudes that many women have told me about with their deliveries. I'm sure, like everything, there are good and bad examples.

There are many caring doctors, nurses, hospitals and there are some who are buckling under the stress of the system. Some have become more of a money making "get her-in, get her-out" surgery cafeteria of labor and delivery. We have a flawed health care and insurance system and the rushed labor and delivery stories are often bearing witness to the problem.

And for some, there is no choice. So, for this moment I pause and become keenly aware of how thankful I am to be living in a situation that offers choices. I sincerely pray that this country does not lose sight of the freedom to make choices in all personal matters, but instead works to make the opportunities equal. Of course, that starts with me.
I will admit that I have both reveled and anxiously paced during my daughter's pregnancy, but with full respect for her intelligence and fortitude. She didn't make the decision to have a home birth out of any anger or fear. It was only after educating herself, weighing her beliefs and doing her work. It's not for everyone, and there are many wonderful ways to add to a family.

But for now, I'm getting ready to pack up my groceries and head to her house. I'm part of her "birthing team", I'm the one that will keep everyone fed when the "shiz starts getting even more real."

I'm nervous. I'm thrilled. I can't wait to meet my new little granddaughter, ya'll.
Send me good vibes/prayers/energy/light. :D

The recipe part:
Several weeks ago we had a baby-shower for my pregnant daughter. Many of her friends and our friends attended, including family who traveled just for the weekend. My mom was on Skype for the whole party, so we even had her "virtually" there. The food was plentiful and never-ending. When I get happy, I cook (okay, when I get sad I cook, when I get nervous I cook, when I'm cooking I'm thinking of what else to cook.) I was cooking and planning this for weeks.

I thought maybe others would like the recipe or ideas for a couple of these things, too.

Nutella Milk and Cookies:

This is simply made with a ratio of 1 Tablespoon of Nutella for every Cup of Milk. I put that in a large jug and used an Immersion Blender to mix it all up. I held it in the fridge until ready for pouring into these cute milk bottles, purchased from (click) here.
The cookies are a basic Butter Sugar Cookie dough, then cut out in rounds followed by a smaller cutter for the center, before baking them. I've used a similar idea in catering dessert buffets, but with plain milk.

Teddy Bear Braised Short Rib Sliders:

A picture of Teddy Bear buns was floating around the internet for a long time, but without a recipe. I simply made the One Hour Bread dough I often use. I measured pieces of dough (.25 ounces each) and rolled them into small bun shapes. I used scrap dough to make tiny balls for ears, and attached them to the side of the dough buns with a little brush of water.
I let the bread rise for about 1 1/2 hours, then brushed egg white on top and baked in 350F. oven for about 18 minutes. The faces were drawn on with Wilton Food Markers. The Braised Short Ribs were my recipe found (click) here. The meat was pulled off the bones (or it fell off, they were so tender, Mmmm), and a fork-full was used for each slider. I also spread a little Jalapeno Jelly on the inside of each bun, first.Paper Baby Shoes Filled with Cheese Crackers:

The shoes were made from card stock using this template (click)
I made those a week earlier while talking on the phone, or waiting for pictures to download. It takes a bit of time, but it moves faster once you have the hang of it. The crackers were my Go-To Eazee Cheezees.
S'mores on a Stick:

I was super excited to use this idea, just one of many found in
Food On Sticks. It's a fun and exciting food book with recipes and inviting pictures by Matt Armendariz. I used my own homemade marshmallow recipe (there's also an easy recipe in the book) and incorporated his brilliant idea for Party S'mores.
You can buy Food On Sticks from Amazon right (click) here.

I'll try to post some of the other recipes and ideas in a later post. I also served Mini-Grilled Cheese Sammies on a skewer over Tomato Basil Soup Shooters,
Mushroom and Gruyere Risotto Balls, Chicken Cherry Mole in Filo Dough Shells, Momma's Mini Apple Pies, Pomegranate Lemonade, Rose Sangria, Baby Chocolate Cupcakes with Rose Butter Frosting, and Blueberry Macarons with Lemon Curd Filling.

Just for fun I made my own Pixie Sticks by grinding dried Pomegranate into a dust and mixing with double the amount sugar, plus a teaspoon of Tartaric Acid to make it like a Sweet Tart.
We played several games that my daughter's friends designed, and each guest also decorated a Onezie using Fabric Pens and Stencils. I had several sizes of the Onezies, so her baby will be wearing the party for the first 2 years.

We did a book lottery: Each person who brought a copy of their favorite children's book had their name put into a lottery for an Amazon Gift Card.

It was a fun-fun, laugh filled day. I wish many of those for my daughter and our ever expanding family.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Matcha Green Tea Cupcakes with Matcha Green Tea Butter Frosting

Matcha Green Tea Cupcakes with Matcha Green Tea Butter Frosting

The Matcha Green Tea Powder in these cupcakes and frosting make these baked goods a healthy way to have dessert. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.I've been enamored with Matcha Green Tea powder for a few years. I've used it in many meals, catering menus and food gifts. In this blog I've posted recipes for Matcha Green Tea Donuts, Green Tea Croquembouche, and Ice Cream Bombe. I also contributed a recipe for Matcha Green Tea Marshmallows in the cook book to benefit Japan's rebuilding, called Peko Peko.

Recently I made these Matcha Green Tea Mini-Cupcakes for a "Hollywood Benefit" and topped them with edible gold for a little glamour.
Then, oops, I made a few too many, what will I ever do with the extra? I guess I'll have to just keep them here in case someone at home (ME) would want one (SEVERAL) for lunch (and ALL DAY.) It's okay, they're a "healthy" dessert. Sorta. Here's the true healthy part:

Matcha Green Tea is a special crafted tea from Japan. It is grown in an elaborate process involving tender plants covered at a certain time to protect the chlorophyll and keep the leaves soft and dark green. Then it's steamed, dried and ground by stone (and sometimes machine) to create the fine brilliant green powder. Matcha Green Tea is not just tea made from brewing the leaves in water, but you are actually drinking the powdered tea leaves, so the benefits are multiplied.
Matcha is full of antioxidants, nutrients, fiber and chlorophyll. It can be used as a tea, or as an ingredient for baking, sauces and other drinks.

Matcha has a long history in Japan that includes traditional ceremonies and the correct way to whisk and serve Matcha Green Tea. As with all teas, there are degrees or grades of Matcha based on the age and processing of the ground tea leaves.
Many people drink Matcha Green Tea every day. If you have never tried it, or think you didn't enjoy it the first time, keep one rule in mind: Preparation is crucial. Like all fresh quality tea, the temperature of the water, the timing of the brew and the handling of the preparation can make the difference between a delicious cup of tea or a bitter misunderstanding of the libation.As luck would have it, these were also made just in time for this month's LET'S LUNCH bunch. The theme is GREEN and you can't get much greener than Matcha Green Tea Powder. My growing group of virtual lunch pals from all across the globe have even more inventive GREEN food in store for you, so check them out on twitter at #LetsLunch (and a list to be here soon):

Monday Morning Cooking Club - Avocado Dip
A Cook and Her Books - Green Bean Soup
Cowgirl Chef - Notos Pesto
Hapa Mama - How To Brew a Better Pot of Tea
Spice Box Travels - Eat More Kale Chips
Burnt Out Baker - Even Greener Green Chorizo
Wok Star - Honey Ginger Wok Brussel Sprouts
Zest Bakery - Pandan Tapioca with Coconut Cream
Geo Fooding - Asparagus with Poached Egg
Maria's Good Things - Brussel Sprouts Slaw
Joe Yonan - Winter = Wood

Recipe: Matcha Green Tea Cupcakes
(makes about 48 mini-cupcakes)

2 cups Flour
1/2 Tablespoon Baking Powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 ounces Butter (soft or room temperature)
1 1/2 cups Sugar
2 Eggs + 1 Egg Yolks
2/3 cup Milk
2 Tablespoons Matcha Green Tea

1) In a bowl, sift the flour, salt and baking powder together. Hold.
2) In a cup, mix the milk and Matcha together. Hold.
3) In a Mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until creamy and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
4) Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each one.
5) Add the flour mixture and the milk/tea mixture to the batter, alternating and beating well after each one.
6) Spoon out into cupcake papers placed in muffin baking tins, filling 3/4 full. Bake at 350F for about 20-25 minutes (a little less if making mini-cupcakes)
Recipe: Matcha Green Tea Butter Frosting

1 Cup Butter (2 sticks) soft
1/4 Cup Cream
4 Tablespoons Matcha Green Tea
4-5 Cups Powdered Sugar

1) Mix the Matcha with the Cream into a paste.
2) Beat the butter until light and smooth, then add the Matcha paste.
3) Sift the Powdered Sugar and beat into the butter mixture 1 cup at a time until it reaches the spreading consistency desired.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Loving Lunch with Joy the Baker, Cristina Ferrare, Kitchen Aid and White On Rice Couple ~ (recipe: Single Girl Melty Chocolate Cake)

If you're reading this because you'd like the recipe for a simple, chocolate filled, melty-in-the-middle single serving cake from Joy the Baker's new book - keep reading.

If you're reading this because you'd like to know more about Cristina Ferrare's new cook book - keep reading.

If you're reading this because you've started feeling like people are fake, selfish, celebrity driven a-holes, then I don't know how you got to this page, but keep reading because I have great news for you.

This past week I was invited to a casual luncheon given by Diane and Todd (photographers/writers/teachers and artists of the blog, White On Rice Couple .) It was so exciting to get their invitation because I know them to be talented, inspiring, authentic and truly giving people.

Cristina Ferrare (whom I've adored since her modeling/television days), and her daughter, Alex Thomopoulos (with a standup comedy background turned culinary artist - after my own heart), would be joining other food writers, bloggers and food fans at the lunch.

Also giving her time and talents would be Joy from Joy The Baker, (one of the most down-to-earth, beautiful and funny food gals I've ever met). It was sponsored by KitchenAid (I've never received any free equipment from them, but I would sing their praises 'til the cows came home because I have products that are over 20 years old that I still use.)

So, for those of you with dampened spirits about humanity, let me address you first:

In a time of tiresome vile political discourse and reality television assuring us that almost every gathering evidently breaks into name calling, table toppling and crying - this luncheon was full of friends and strangers laughing together and being moved by the video created by Diane and Todd. It wasn't a video selling a product. It was a video reminding us to open our eyes to all the moments in life and appreciate our own story. With their very personal images, they urged us to stay connected with the people, animals and details that matter most to our hearts. The best photography is the capturing of those stories.

With that vulnerable and emotional beginning, who wouldn't be moved to chat and stretch out of your own comfort zone? With a soft white light streaming across their studio, the 30-40 of us milled about meeting new people.

Diane and Jenny (Picky Palate)

We munched on smoked salmon-topped Potato Plates from Cristina's new book (Big Bowl of Love),
and Alex's (KitchenAid-sliced) Zucchini and Cucumber Carpaccio, and Marshmallow Fluff Frosting demonstrated by Joy from her new book (Joy The Baker). We used the frosting to decorate our cupcakes.
Me and Rachel (Fuji Mama)

I've worked in the entertainment business for years. I've seen "celebrity" go to people's heads whether they were starring in a box office hit, writing the next straight-to-dvd knock-off, or reading lines into a camera about this week's mattress sales. It happens and it's weird.

Then there are people who really have the right to be patting themselves on the back and you'd never know they were in the room; their feet are firmly planted on the ground and they're always ready to help. Cristina and Joy have created wonderful cook books, Diane and Todd have an enormous following and the talent to back it up, yet all of these folks are the kinds of people you'd like to hang out with and have over for dinner.

I was fortunate enough to be given a copy of their cookbooks that day, but I've honestly purchased a copy of both just to share with a couple of my friends far away.Okay, now the recipe (but if you skipped to this part, you missed out on a story about hope, just saying. :D )

Within hours of returning from my luncheon, I was already thumbing through both cookbooks, leaving sticky tags on pages to study later. Then, standing alone in my kitchen knowing my husband wouldn't be home til the wee hours from work and my son off on a school trip to New York, I gave in to a picture of chocolate staring at me from Joy's cookbook. I had to make it.

The recipe was just too easy to not whip up and eat - all of it - all by myself. I killed this so fast~

In the book, it's called "Single Girl Melty Chocolate Cake", but really "single" is just a serving size on any given day, right?

Recipe: Single Girl Melty Chocolate Cake
(given with permission from Joy the Baker)

serves 1

1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 large egg
4 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
* Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place a cookie sheet in the oven as the oven heats.
* Generously butter and flour a 3/4 -or 1-cup ramekin. Set aside.
* In a small pot, bring 2 inches of water to a simmer
* Place butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl and place over, but not touching, the simmering water. Stir until chocolate has melted. Allow to cool slightly.
* In a small bowl, whisk together egg and sugar. Pour in the melted chocolate mixture, and whisk together until well incorporated. Add the salt and flour and stir until just combined.
* Pour batter into prepared ramekin and place in the oven atop the cookie sheet. Bake for 7-10 minutes. The less time in the oven, the more gooey the cake will be.
* Remove from the oven. Allow to cool for 2 minutes. Using pot holders, carefully invert cake onto a plate and dig in.
Cake will be gooey and melty and slightly underdone -- super delicious!This cake is intended for immediate consumption (duh).
It was immediately consumed, thank you to Joy.