Star Valley Scuffins

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Scones or muffins? Sometimes on Sunday morning with a hungry family ready for brunch, it’s a hard choice. This past Sunday, the best choice was BOTH.

Ingredients
4 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup sugar
1 cup milk with 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar (let sour for 5 minutes)
2/3 cup coconut oil
2 flax eggs (a total of 2 tablespoons flax seed meal mixed into 6 tablespoons water)
2 apples peeled and diced

Directions
Mix the flour, baking soda and spices.
In a separate bowl mix the milk, sugar, oil, and flax eggs.
Mix the dry ingredients into the wet.
Add in the apples.
Scoop the batter onto parchment paper or a greased pan (an ice cream scoop works well).
Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
Bake at 375 degrees for 12-15 minutes.

Makes 12-14 medium-sized scuffins

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Sourdough Summer

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This summer we’ve had an extra mouth to feed everywhere we’ve traveled throughout the Yucatán peninsula. It’s not all bad, though. This constant companion is silent, housebroken, and never whines or complains. And perhaps best of all, it makes a delectable pizza crust.

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In an effort to improve our digestive health, we began our first sourdough starter almost three months ago, and our kitchen has never been the same. After looking through several online directions, we settled on the tips provided by King Arthur Flour (given our Vermont roots, we’re probably a bit biased). All you really need is a dedicated container with a lid (most people use glass, but we already had a plastic jar) and a steady supply of whole grain flour. One cup whole wheat flour and a half cup water gets things started. Then every day we “feed” the starter in the same way, one cup flour and a half cup water.

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One part of the instructions did make us feel uneasy, though. Once a day, you need to remove half of the starter before you feed it. Many people just compost or throw out the discard, but that felt pretty wasteful. Fortunately, there are a wealth of recipes available to turn the cast-off starter into everything from muffins and pretzels to biscuits and pancakes. Basically, every time we feed the starter we use whatever we take out in a recipe. It is a bit of a commitment, but it helps to know we always have the option to stick the starter in the fridge and just feed it once a week instead.

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For the moment at least, our sourdough starter is making its way into at least one baked good every day. Our favorite recipe, which we find to be the most versatile, is a flatbread recipe from King Arthur. We use just the flatbread (not the topping or filling) part, minus the dry milk. The recipe makes a tasty bread for sandwiches, and also serves as a spectacular pizza crust!

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With fall around the corner, our sourdough summer shows no signs of letting up. While the exact starter we are using at the moment won’t be leaving Cozumel, part of our new ritual upon moving into a rental will undoubtedly now include beginning a new one. Six mouths to feed is really not that bad in the end, especially when one helps to feed the others 🙂

 

When It’s Too Hot for Oatmeal…There’s Mérida Muesli

We are an oatmeal family. Just about every morning, we grind up oats and make an oatmeal on the stove top. However, during the summertime, especially here in the heat and humidity of Mérida, oatmeal doesn’t always seem so appealing. Five Spice tinkered with a few different creations to come up with a refreshing solution: Mérida Muesli.

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The Recipe

4 cups oats, slightly processed in a food processor
1/2 cup toasted amaranth
3/4 cups almonds and pecans, processed
1/4 cup ground coconut
1/4 cup chopped dried cranberries
2 tablespoons sunflower seeds, processed
2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds, processed
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 cup sweeter (we use a mix of agave and piloncillo syrups)
3 tablespoons coconut oil

Mix all the dry ingrendients together, then stir in the wet ingredients.
Thinly spread the muesli onto a greased baking sheet.
Bake in the oven for 20 minutes at 325 degrees, stirring half way through.
Note: We process many of the ingredients in the food processor to make it more kid-friendly. Skipping the processing can make a heartier muesli more appealing to adults.

 ¡Buen provecho!

Two Minute Treats

Our family is really spoiled when it comes to baked goods. I love to bake and being vegan and having a child with food allergies, I find it easier to make all of our own breads, muffins, cookies, etc. However, for some reason we booked a rental house for a month that doesn’t have an oven (everyone is blaming Dad for this slip-up). I think that maybe at the time we figured that we have camped for long periods without an oven and survived. The only problem being that here in Mexico it isn’t so easy to find vegan and allergy friendly food. There are many bakeries (panaderias) but most every item contains milk or butter, and if not then it is usually always topped with an egg glaze. The more traditional supermarkets offer sandwich bread and a huge assortment of cookies (galletas) but again these either contain animal products or high fructose corn syrup, and often food dyes.

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For the past few weeks the kids have been craving a treat. Their little mouths drooling as we pass delicious looking baked goods at the market that they can’t have. So finally, I looked around the kitchen and decided that the microwave might work as a substitute for our baking needs. Our rental doesn’t offer much in the way of microwave friendly dishes but it does have tea cups that I figured could do in a pinch with the right recipe. Surprisingly it turns out that there is actually a large number of vegan friendly microwave recipes on the Internet.

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The kids picked out two to try and both were pretty successful. The first was for a 3-Minute Microwave Brownie that we found on the blog Vegan Heartland. We haven’t been able to find coconut oil in San Cristóbal de las Casas so we substituted part olive oil and the other part applesauce. We also added a dash of baking powder to help it rise, but it probably didn’t need this considering a couple overflowed. The second recipe we tried was for a microwave oatmeal cookie that we found on the blog Living Well Kitchen. Both recipes were huge hits with the Younger Fives, happily devouring every bite. I definitely wouldn’t say that these treats rival what can come out of an oven, but in a pinch they work fine and will keep the kids happy until we get to Mérida where we all can’t wait to fire up the oven and get to baking.

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Chili for the Faint of Heat

Traveling as a family means that we can’t always eat our favorite meals. The reality is that certain ingredients just won’t be available (or affordable) in every area that we visit. So, we do our best to strike a balance between cooking some of the kids favorite meals and trying new regional foods that are abundant and inexpensive. However, there is always an adjustment period, which lasts much longer for some of us than others:)

When we first started traveling we made incorporating beans into our recipes a priority. Beans are usually abundant in most grocery stores and they are a great source of nutrition. As a family we were evenly divided in our fondness of beans (2 for, 2 against, and 1 undecided). However, after spending a few months in areas with very few vegan friendly protein sources those of us on the opposing side had no choice but to adapt, accept, and try to enjoy.

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While it wasn’t always easy we discovered some ways to help make the transition go more smoothly. Hopefully these tips will work with other new foods that we encounter in our travels.

1. Incorporate the new food type into an already familiar and popular dish.

2. Try changing the texture of the product. Five Ball refuses to eat a whole black bean but he will happily wolf down a black bean burger, provided that the beans aren’t recognizable.

3. Get everyone involved in the process. Taking ownership of creating the food helps when it comes time to taste the finished product.

4. Make sure meals are balanced between “safe foods” or “favorites” and the new product.

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This week we put our tips to the test to create a family dinner of chili. Instead of using a recipe heavy on the spice and beans we came up with a recipe that more closely resembled our favorite minestrone soup. Lots of vegetables, just a cup of beans, very little spice, and a couple of tablespoons of chocolate thrown in to entice reluctant eaters. To get everyone excited by the meal we prepared a batch of tortillas, a bowl of some nice “safe” rice, and fruit slices for desert.

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While we didn’t convert our 100% die hard “bean resister” we made some headway. So, for now we will keep trying, experimenting, and traveling forward. Who knows someday we might watch Five Ball wolf down a big bowl of super spicy, bean abundant chili, and say “remember when…”. Or maybe not, but at least we tried:)

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Chili for the Faint of Heat (and beans) 

1 Onion Diced

4 Cloves Garlic Diced

3 Stalks of Celery Diced

1 Carrot Peeled and Diced

28 oz Can of Diced Tomatoes

1 Cup of Pre-Cooked Pinto Beans

1 Small Can of Corn Kernels

1 Cup Vegetable Broth

1/2 tsp Chili Powder

1 tsp Cumin

1 tsp Coriander

1/2 tsp Oregano

1/2 tsp Salt

1/4 tsp Black Pepper

1/2 tsp Garlic Powder

1/2 tsp Onion Powder

1 tsp Brown Sugar

2 Tbs Cocoa Powder

1 tsp Soy Sauce

Directions:

– Saute diced vegetables in olive oil (1 Tbs.) over medium heat.

– Add can of diced tomatoes and all spices, sugar, and soy sauce.

– Add vegetable broth and bring to a boil.

– Reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes or until vegetables are soft.

– Add in corn and pinto beans and simmer for 10 more minutes.