Cantaloupe Bread

My mom’s friend Sandy and her husband have a farm stand in Virginia. He does the farming; she runs the stand. My husband and I visited it this summer. They had a couple of large bins filled with cantaloupe. I asked Sandy to help me pick out a good, sweet one.

She started picking up the melons and sniffing them. She handed me one and said that it seemed like a good one but she wasn’t sure. She picked up another and gave it to us in case the first one wasn’t sweet. We picked out beautiful tomatoes, green beans and blue potatoes. We must have gotten the friend discount because she only requested a 10 spot.

On the way out, she ran to our car with yet another cantaloupe. “Just in case,” she said. With that, it became our favorite farm stand.

Smelling a cantaloupe is the best way to tell if it is ripe. It should have a pleasantly sweet aroma. If it has too strong of a fragrance, the melon most likely will be overripe.

Also look at the color underneath the netting on the skin. A ripe melon will be creamy white or yellow. Green indicates that the melon isn’t completely ripe. An unripe cantaloupe will ripen on your kitchen counter, but it doesn’t get sweeter. My understanding that for the sweetest melons, it is best to pick ones that have ripened in the field.

You’ll also want a melon that feels heavy for its size, is firm and doesn’t have any soft spots. Soft spots are a sign that it is overripe or has been bruised.

When preparing cantaloupe, it’s important to wash the outside before cutting. Whatever is on the outside can be transferred to the melon’s flesh when it’s cut. Wash the melon under running water and use a vegetable brush to gently scrub it.

Cantaloupes sport a bit of health prowess. One of my favorite sites for nutrition information is the World’s Healthiest Foods. It is well-sourced and gives nutritional profiles on everything from soy sauce to lima beans. It also makes me want to eat whatever it is I’m researching.

For example, the site gushes about the health properties of cantaloupe. Cantaloupe is an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C, a very good source of potassium and a good source of vitamin B6, dietary fiber, folate, and niacin (vitamin B3). According to the site, eating cantaloupe promotes lung health, protects your vision and reduces risk of death from heart disease, stroke and cancer. Wow, it’s a veritable wonder drug! Give me some!

As I was looking for recipes, I started wondering why you rarely see any recipes for cooked cantaloupe. I’m guessing it’s because cooked cantaloupe doesn’t sound appealing. I imagined that it would tastes a bit like overly ripe cantaloupe, which, in my opinion, can be summed up in one word: yuck.

Actually, cooked cantaloupe tastes a bit like cooked pumpkin. That’s no wonder since they are close cousins both haling from the Cucurbitaceae family. This explains why cantaloupe worked great in a sweet quick bread but my cantaloupe cobbler experiment didn’t go so well. My husband said that he liked it but I wonder if that is just something a sweet husband tells his wife to keep on her good side.

Ingredients:

1 3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/3 cup coconut oil or melted unsalted butter
1 egg
2/3 cup honey
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup walnuts, chopped
2 cup cantaloupe, peeled, seeded and chopped (see note)

Method

  • Heat oven to 350º F.
  • Greased and flour an 8 x 4 inch loaf pan.
  • In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.
  • In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together coconut oil, egg, honey, milk and vanilla and add to flour mixture.
  • Place cantaloupe in a food processor and pulse a few times, until finely chopped. You may also either finely chop the cantaloupe or mash it with a potato masher.
  • Add cantaloupe and nuts to mixture and mix until combined.
  • Turn mixture into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 45-55 minutes.
  • Cool and serve.

Note: Cantaloupe 101- After washing the melon, slice it in half and scoop out the seeds. Slice into wedges then carefully cut the orange flesh away from the rind.

I’m sharing this recipe on:
The Nourishing Gourmet

Soaked Flour Honey Wheat Bagels

I look forward to Tuesday nights for two reasons. First, we watch Lost. We are helplessly addicted to the show. It is the one show we plan around. Second, it has become bagel and lox night. It’s an easy, healthy dinner. We use wild salmon lox, cream cheese, red onions, tomato slices (in season) and a squeeze of lemon, all on a homemade bagel. We round out the meal with a salad or whatever vegetables we have on hand.

Yes, I did say homemade bagel. I’ve started making my bagels from scratch. And yes, I still consider it an easy dinner. This dinner is not as quick as it would be if you used already made bagels, but homemade bagels are easy and much healthier for you than store bought bagels.

As with all things you make from scratch, you know exactly what is going into it.  Bagels from a bakery probably have less junk than pre-packaged bagels (find a bag and see if you can pronounce all of the ingredients), but those jumbo bakery bagels can pack 400 calories (before you add the cream cheese). Make your own and you know exactly what you are eating and you can make normal sized bagels. These bagels have about half as many calories (even less if you make 3-ounce bagels) than a bakery bagel.

There are bagel recipes that you can make from start to finish in less time than my recipe, but since I like to do things the long way, you’ll need to start my version the night before. Don’t be afraid, this actually saves time. I can get home from work, shape and bake the bagels in a jiff with the already-risen dough.

There is also an extra benefit to letting your dough rise overnight. The yogurt helps breaks down the phytic acid. According to the Weston A. Price Foundation, soaking grains, “… neutralize phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors. Vitamin content increases, particularly B vitamins. Tannins, complex sugars, gluten and other difficult-to-digest substances are partially broken down into simpler components that are more readily available for absorption.” Sounds good to me, especially if all you really need to do is add yogurt to your dough and let it rise overnight.

There is more than one way to roll out a bagel. I’m always impressed with the speed and grace of a professional bagel baker. It’s like some sort of slight of hand trick. They roll a long rope, cut with one hand and somehow make a perfect bagel with the other. I have neither grace nor speed when I’m forming bagels. I use a more pedestrian method of rolling a ball and poking a hole through it. It works just fine.

It may take more than a few tries before you can pull off H&H quality bagels (and you would probably not be able to do that using my whole-wheat-only recipe). But in my book, I’ll take a hot out of the oven bagel over a store-bought one any day!

Ingredients
2 cups water
1 cup yogurt
3 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 tablespoon ground flax seeds
2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons honey plus 2 tablespoons honey (for the water bath)
5 to 6 cups whole-wheat flour (if you want a less dense bagel, use half regular unbleached white flour or white wheat flour)
Oil for coating bowl and baking sheet

Method

  • Combine the water, yogurt, yeast, flax seeds, salt and 3 tablespoons of the honey. Mix by hand or in a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. I just mix it by hand.
  • Gradually add 5 cups of the flour and mix until the mixture comes together.
  • Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and no longer sticky, about 5 minutes. If the dough is too sticky, add more flour.
  • Grease a large bowl with oil. Place the dough in the bowl, turning to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm, draft-free spot for 12 to 24 hours. The dough should almost double in size.
  • Remove from the bowl and punch down the dough. Divide into 12 to 14 equal pieces.
  • Form each piece of dough into a smooth ball. The smoother you make it, the smoother your bagel will be. No worries if it is a bit lumpy, it will still taste good.
  • Punch a whole in the middle of each ball and widen the hole to about 2 inches. Repeat with the remaining dough. Place on a lightly greased surface, cover with a clean cloth and let rest until risen, but not doubled, for about 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Lightly grease or line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • In a medium sized, heavy pot, bring 1 quart of water to boil. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of honey.
  • In batches, add the bagels to the water and boil for 30 seconds on each side.  I use a smallish pot, so I only do one bagel at a time. You don’t want to crowd them. Place bagels onto the prepared sheet pan and place in preheated oven.
  • Bake for 25 to 30 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack.

Want to make your our cream cheese? Go to Cream Cheese and Whey.

Maple Syrup Bread Pudding

Often referred to as “Poor Man’s Pudding,” bread pudding is the epitome of a frugal cooking. Rather than throwing stale bread away, it can be transformed to a wonderful ending to a meal.

Ingredients
5 cups of bread (any bread will do but a stale rustic loaf is best)
1 cups of milk or cream
1 cup of maple syrup
3 tablespoons of butter
2 eggs
1/4 cup of walnuts
1 teaspoon cinnamon
dash salt

Method

  • Preheat oven to 375º
  • Butter a 9″ x 5” loaf pan.
  • Cut bread into one-inch cubes.
  • Add bread to pan and dot with 3 tablespoons of butter.
  • Bake for 15 minutes.
  • Mix milk, maple syrup, eggs, cinnamon, walnuts and salt and pour over heated bread.
  • Return to the oven and bake again for 30-40 minutes

Serve warm or cold, as is or top with fresh whipped cream.

Serves 6

Whole Wheat Bread in a Slow Cooker

My sister gave me a slow cooker (aka crock pot) a couple of years ago. She uses hers all the time. She is a very organized person and will whip something up before she heads to work and come home to a ready-to-go one-dish dinner. I’m not that organized in the morning and since we don’t have the counter space, mine is stored in the back of a cabinet and I often forget about it. This week, I pulled it out.

I have made various soups and casserole-type dishes in mine, but I wanted something new. While searching for recipes, I came across a couple things that I would have never thought you could make in a slow cooker — bread and cakes. How cool is that?

I make bread all of the time and I was excited to see how fast and simple the slow-cooker bread was. It didn’t have the delicious crust that I get with my standard recipe, but it is great for sandwich bread.

If you want to see all of the crazy things you can cook in your slow cooker, check out A Year of Slow Cooking. Good stuff.

The biggest challenge is finding an oven-proof dish that fits in your slow cooker.

Ingredients
1 tablespoon yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 cup warm milk or buttermilk
1/4 cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
1 whole egg
1/4 cup millet
2 tablespoons ground flax seeds
2 3/4 cups whole wheat flour

Method

  • Grease a deep ovenproof dish (I used a 1.5 quart Corningware dish). Make sure it fits in your slow cooker.
  • In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water; mix and let sit for five minutes.
  • Add milk, oats, salt, oil, honey, egg and ground flax seeds. Mix well.
  • Add flour and knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.
  •  Turn dough into the prepared oven-proof dish.
  • In bottom of the slow cooker, place 1/2 cup of water and a trivet or something to elevate the dish off the bottom of the cooker.
  • Place dish on the trivet; set a piece of oiled foil over the dough. From what I can tell, the foil is to keep the condensation from making the top soggy.
  • Cover and bake on high for 3 hours.
  • Remove and let cool on a wire rack.

Shared in Whole Foods for the Holidays.

Curried Cauliflower Flatbread

flatbreadThis delicious flatbread is a variation of a recipe from New York Times writer Mark Bittman. Serve it with a meal or as an appetizer.

Ingredients:
1 medium cauliflower head, finely chopped
4 tablespoons olive oil (divided)
1 teaspoon each salt and ground black pepper
1 cup whole wheat flour
I can of coconut milk (or substitute 2 1/4 cups of regular milk)
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 clove garlic, minced

Method:

  • Heat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Toss cauliflower with two tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper and place in a roasting pan. Spread into a single layer and roast until tender and nicely browned (10 to 15 minutes). Stir occasionally.
  • Place flour into a bowl. Add coconut milk and whisk together. The mixture should be about the consistency of pancake batter.
  • Sprinkle the roasted cauliflower with curry powder and turmeric and toss. Add garlic and fold cauliflower into batter.
  • Add two tablespoons of olive oil to a 10-inch oven-proof skillet and put in oven. Heat for a few minutes.
  • Once oil is hot, remove skillet from the oven and add batter. Spread evenly.
  • Return skillet to oven and bake for about 45 minutes, or until flatbread is well browned and the edges are crispy.
  • Let it rest for five minutes, then cut into wedges.

Serve warm or at room temperature. Serves six to eight.

Pita Bread

pitabreadI made another big batch of baba ganoush. Nothing suits it better than homemade, hot-out of-the-oven pita bread. Seriously.

The key to getting a pocket to form is a really hot oven. Mine didn’t form perfect pockets by any means but I didn’t care. They were delicious anyway. This recipe is adapted from the Moosewood Cookbook.

Ingredients:
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 1/4 cups warm water
1 tablespoon sugar or honey
3 cups flour (1/2 white; 1/2 wheat)
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
olive oil

Method
-Dissolve yeast in warm water; with sugar/honey, stir and let stand for 5 minutes.
-Mix flour and salt in a large bowl.
-Add yeast/water mix to flour and mix well.
-Turn dough to a flour surface and knead for about 10 minutes.
-Place dough in a large oiled bowl, cover bowl with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm place until double in size (about an hour).
– Punch dough down and knead for a few minutes then divide into 6 balls. Let stand for 15 minutes.
-Heat oven to 475ºF. If you have a pizza stone, place it in the oven to heat.
-On a lightly floured surface, roll balls into circles 1/2 thick and about as wide as your hand.
-If using a pizza stone, place the dough two at a time on the stone (or as many that will fit). If using a baking sheet, place the rolled out dough on an ungreased baking sheet. You can also place the dough directly on the oven rack. Cook for 8-10 minutes. The dough should puff up.
-Remove pita bread from the oven, wrap in a clean towel and place in paper bag for 15 minutes. This will deflate the bread and create the pocket.

Naan

I’ve been experimenting with naan recipes. Some of my batches would be great for pizza dough, but tasted nothing like naan. This recipe is close to restaurant-style naan, but I think you need a tandori oven to really pull it off. Apparently if you have a pizza stone, you can get close to tandori-made naan. I don’t have a pizza stone, so I just used a baking sheet.

Ingredients
2 cups of flour (white or whole wheat)
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
3/4 cup lukewarm water
1 teaspoon melted butter or ghee

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 500ºF with pizza stone or baking sheet on the lower rack.
1. Dissolve yeast in lukewarm water and let it sit for about 5 minutes.
2. Sift together sugar, salt, baking soda and flour.
3. Add the oil, water/yeast mixture and yogurt and mix well.
4. Knead until the dough is smooth, about 5-6 minutes. Add more flour if the dough is too sticky.
5. Place dough in an oiled bowl, cover and let rise until doubled in size, 3-4 hours.
8. Gently knead the dough for a couple minutes and divide it into six equal parts.
9. Take each piece of dough, and hand-flatten to a disk about 1/2 thick. Don’t worry if it isn’t even, that gives it character.
10. Place two pieces on the pizza stone/baking sheet at a time. Cook for 3-4 minutes, or until puffy and light golden brown.
11. Allow the stone/baking sheet to heat back up for a few minutes before making the next batch. Since I am impatient, I use two baking sheets. One sheet is heating up while the other is cooking the naan.
11. Remove naan from oven and brush with butter or ghee.
Serve hot.
Yu-umm.

Whole Wheat Hamburger Buns

These are not quite as fluffy as store-bought ones, but are delicious and quick…only 40 minutes from start to burger.

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water (110° F to 115° F) 1/3 cup olive oil or melted butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon ground flax seeds
3 to 3-1/2 cups wheat flour (for a lighter bun, use white flour or a combination of wheat and white)

Method:
In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add oil/butter and sugar; let stand for 5 minutes. Add the egg, salt and mix enough flour to form a soft dough.

Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 4-5 minutes. Do not let rise.

Divide into 8 pieces; shape each into a ball. Place on greased baking sheets and flatten. This dough tends to rise upward not out, so be sure the diameter is the size you want the bun. My first batch looked like golf balls.

Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Bake at 425° for 8-12 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pans to wire racks to cool. Makes 8 buns.

Cheddar-Millet Crackers

I’ve become a big millet fan. I love the crunch it adds to baked goods. According to The World’s Healthiest Foods, millet is a good source of magnesium and like other whole grains has heart-protective properties and can lower the risk of type two diabetes.

I also added flax seeds and turmeric for an extra nutritional boost. Heck, unlike store bought crackers, these are actually good for you!

You can pretty much add whatever you want to crackers. You just need to keep a balance between the dry and wet ingredients so that you are able to roll them out thinly. (Too sticky? Add more flour. Falling apart? Add more liquid).

Ingredients
1 cup wheat flour (more if needed)
1/4 cup millet (rinsed)
2 tablespoons ground flax seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
3 tablespoons coconut oil or unsalted butter
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 tablespoon water (or more if needed)

Method
1. Heat oven to 400º F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (thanks Christine!).
2. Add flour, coconut oil or butter, salt, cheese in bowl of a food processor. Pulse until flour and butter are combined.
3. Add yogurt and pulse until mixture holds together but is not sticky.
4. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface until 1/4-inch (or thinner) add flour as needed to keep from sticking.
5. Transfer dough to prepared baking sheet. For a crispier cracker, roll the dough out a bit more on the baking sheet. I like them 1/8-inch. I find it easier to thin them out on the baking sheet rather than transferring the flimsy dough.
6. Score lightly with a knife or pizza cutter. Sprinkle with salt, fresh cracked pepper or other topping if you like (poppy seeds?) .
7. Bake until lightly browned. Start checking at 10 minutes. The thicker the cracker the longer they take. My last batch took almost 20 minutes.
8. Cool on a rack; and break apart. They should stay fresh for a few days.

Homemade Baking Powder

Did you know you can make baking powder? The benefit is no aluminum, which for a discerning pallet can be off-putting. Plus, who wants to eat aluminum?

1/4 cup cream of tarter
2 tablespoons baking soda

Sift all of the ingredients together a few times
Store in a tight-sealing jar, in a cool dark place. It only keeps for a couple of months, so don’t make too much at a time.