Saturday, February 28, 2009

An ode to oats - Oatmeal cookie recipe


above pic from here

Oats have become my new best friends now that I try to abstain from as much of the refined products as possible and most of the stuff needed to prepare my favorite desserts, cakes or pies are out. Oatmeal in the morning, or granola and now I've rediscovered an old childhood favorite - oatmeal cookies or actually oatmeal mounds.

In the light of this newly found oats-appreciation I managed to completely overdo it with the oats so my mom told me an old Soviet time joke while laughing at me one morning. It went something like this:

During Leonid Brezhnev's time there were bad food shortages in the Soviet Union, so one morning the aids come to Brezhnev and say.
"There is no more food, what should we feed the people with?"
"Well, are there oats?" asks Brezhnev
"Yes," the aids say.
"Feed them the oats then,"
"We're afraid they might start to whinny,"
"I don't see what the problem is, this morning I had duck for breakfast and I didn't start to quack."

But these cookies won't make you neigh, neither will they make you whinny. Trust me, I ate the whole lot in two days as they were the only thing besides bananas that I could satisfy my sweet craving with. And they're brilliant for breakfast as well. Just crumble up a couple and serve with natural yoghurt and frozen berries.


Oatmeal mounds (dairy and gluten free) (Kaerapätsid):

500 g rolled oats
150g brown raw sugar (preferably with molasses)
4 eggs
125 g butter
flax seeds (or any other kind of seeds, nuts or pieces of dried fruit) (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180 C.
Melt the butter and sugar on low heat and set aside.
Beat in the eggs after the butter-mixture has slightly cooled.
Mix in the oats and the seeds. Set aside for as long as you have time for. The more they soak and drink up the moisture the better the cookies will be.
Cover a baking tin with baking paper and make small mound (about a tablespoon worth of dough per mound).
Bake for about 10-15 minutes.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Stack'em up - a layered vegetable gratin recipe

These layered pot-roasts are a great winter time dish. You can pack so much flavor into each bite without overdoing it in terms of fat or calories. Comfort food without the uncomfortable ass-enlargement factor :)

This particular one demanded some imagination on my part and this is how I reached the bread-crumbs. Namely I had to avoid using any dairy products (so the obvious choice of toping it all off with lots and lots of cheese didn't work).
This is another one of my pre-nursing dishes, but now that I'm thinking about it again, it seems that I might easily be able to modify it so that it'd be baby-friendly. I'd need to get rid of the beans - maybe use zucchini instead, bell peppers and also onion and garlic (ouch) and add more herbs for flavor. Maybe I could even get away with using whole cloves of garlic and big chunks of onion that I could later on pick out after they've left they're flavor. I wonder if flacvor can also induce tummy aches or just the actual eating of onions and garlic.
Any experience with that, anyone?

Vegetable and ham gratin (dairy free) (Advilja ja singigratään (piimavaba):

2-3 medium potatoes, peeled
1-2 large carrots, peeled
a large handful of green beans
1/2 red bell pepper
salt, pepper, dried thyme
1 red onion
1 clove of garlic
100 - 150 gr of ham
2 eggs
1 tbsp oil
2 tbsp of rye breadcrumbs
6-8 cherry tomatoes, halved
3-4 tbsp of tomato juice

Thinly slice the potatoes and julienne the carrots.
Chop the onion and mince the garlic, also chop the ham.
Chop the red bell pepper.
Heat the oil in a pan and fry the onions and the garlic, then add the ham.
Now add the green beans and chopped bell peppers and season with salt, pepper and thyme.

Whisk the eggs with the tomato juice.
Preheat the oven to 170.
Take a deep glass or clay oven-roast pot (needs to have a lid) and start layering the ingredients.
First a layer of potatoes, then carrots, then the ham and veggie mixture from the pan, then some bread crumbs.

And again and again until you run out of ingredients or space. Cover with a layer of potatoes, then some breadcrumbs and the cherry-tomato halves.

Finally pour in the egg mixture.
Cook in the oven for ~40 minutes or until ingredients seem tender when poked with a fork.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Warm lunch salad - warm salmon salad recipe



This is another one in my warm lunch salad's series. I really love making them and eating them, they carry the label of a healthy choice as they're called a salad, but they're so nice and filling and perfectly suitable for winter months :)

They're so easy to make and you'll never run out of new choices as you can season them differently or use any type of ingredients - roast chicken, pork or beef for meat, baked salmon or any other fish, or shrimp. Or some leftover ham. Or baked halloumi-type cheese.
And for the other main ingredient - yesterday's boiled potatoes, or lentils, or beans, or corn. The list goes on. Sky is the limit. Or at least your pantry and fridge are.

Warm salmon lunch salad with avocado salsa (Soe lõhesalat avocadokastmega):

serves 2

1 pot of lettuce
2 eggs, medium boiled
2 medium boiled potatoes
8-10 cherry tomatoes
some fresh cucumber'
1/2 yellow bell pepper
some shrimp in salt water (optional)
1 salmon steak
dash of Worchester's sauce
dash of Mirin
freshly ground sea salt and pepper

sauce:
1 ripe avocado
some parsley
1/2 lime juice

- Peel and cut the avocado and chop up the parsley. Mix the avocado with parsley and lime juice and mash it so it looks like lumpy guacamole.

- Sprinkle the salmon steak with Worchester's sauce, mirin, salt and pepper.
- Boil the eggs, cut the potatoes into wedges, halve the cherry tomatoes, cut the bell pepper into strips, peel and cut the cucumber into strips. Wash, drain and tear up the lettuce.

- Heat a pan with some oil and fry the salmon steak on both sides until nice and browned and breaks up easily. Set aside.
- On the same pan, quickly fry the potatoes, bell peppers, cherry tomatoes and shrimp.
- Lay out a bed of lettuce on the plates, then transfer half of the potato-bell pepper-tomato-shrimp mixture on the lettuce.
- Break up the salmon into nice chunks and arrange it on top.
- arrange the egg-quarters and cucumber strips and top off with a generous dollop of the avocado sauce.

Enjoy!

Monday, February 9, 2009

More home-made granola: Banana-peanut breakfast granola recipe


This is my second attempt at making home-made granola. You can read about the last one here, it was nice, but ended up a little too sweet.

I made it a couple of days before our son was born, which unfortunately means that I didn’t manage to eat it all tha much as it has nuts in it that I'm to avoid now. But it was very nice the couple of times I did have it, so I can say I'm pleased with the changes.

So I was looking for a way to make sure all the ingredients are nicely coated and delicious, yet that it wouldn't be too sweet (and all this syrup and honey didn't exactly bring it to the top of the health-food list).

Banana-peanut breakfast granola (banaani ja maapähkli müsli):

200 g. rolled oats
2 tbsp cocoa powder (can use more, it didn't taste all that cocoa'ey)
2 tbsp oil
200 ml carrot puree
70 g salted peanuts
handful of banana chips
1 large banana
2 tbsp of golden syrup
2 tsp of wheat-bran

Blitz the banana in a blender with the carrot-puree until smooth.

Mix the oats with the banana-carrot smoothie, the oil, the cocoa powder and the syrup.
Preheat the oven to 175 C.

Chop up the banana chips and the peanuts and add into the mixture along with bran. Mix thoroughly, should be the consistency of cookie dough.

Cover an oven tin with baking paper and lay the granola mixture out in a thick even layer (appr. 2 cm).

Use the fan function and bake in the oven for about 15 minutes or until more or less dry (it will dry some more after you remove it from the oven).
Brake it up into chunks after you've removed it from the oven and it's cooled a bit.
Serve with milk or yoghurt and store in a closed container. Should be good for about 2 weeks (not that it'll last this long).

Friday, February 6, 2009

Dilemmas


After a little more than two weeks of parenthood, I have reached my first truism on child-rearing :). It's all about resolving irresolvable dilemmas. All the time. Every day. About everything.
But maybe more than in other areas, this is true for food. Culinary dilemmas all around.
Apparently most of the foods MIGHT (not that they will, but the only way to find out is by doing some human testing on your tiny baby, which is quite heart-wrenching, so one is inclined to just give up everything suspicious) cause either problems for the tiny-ones yet-to-mature digestive system or cause allergies.
And different people (doctors, nursing consultants, reflexologist, the Internet, other new mommies) have their own culprits to add to the list.

This is what I've been told:

No:
1. chocolate
2. sweets
3. nuts
4. citrus fruit
5. apples
6. grapes
7. milk produce of any kind (the lovely cheeses, yoghurts, cottage cheeses, cream cheeses, cheesecakes, desserts, panna-cottas (the plain boring milk I don't miss, as I've never drank it anyway)
8. fresh cucumber and tomato
9. white cabbage
10. peas and beans
11. juices (all are bad except cranberry, but I haven't risked to try)
12. onion (and I LOVE onion)

These I've sworn off entirely. And this already has left me almost starving (anyone who's ever breastfed knows that you're half-starving most of the time anyway).

But the list, apparently, goes on.

I've also learned from a very highly recommended reflexologist that one should also avoid:
- all refined foods (this means no white wheat products - white bread, white pasta, but also white rice, white sugar etc).
- our physician didn't say anything about refined foods (although I must say, it makes sense, that it'd be hard for an 'unbaked' digestive system to work through refined foods), but she said that wheat as such should be used in moderation as it gives some babies allergies (gluten intolerance?). However currently I suspect that it might not be an issue for my little boy (knock on wood:).
- all the half-fabricates as they contain natrium glutamate - well this one is pretty self explanatory. They're not good for grown-ups either. But the tricky bit about avoiding them is, that if you have hardly time to blow your nose - not to mention cook a meal, they might be the only thing between you and complete starvation. So I'm afraid complete abstinence will not be an option here.
- garlic and other spicy stuff (apparently they can alter the taste of milk).

As I understand, however, it might be that some of the stuff will be let back on the menu, it's testing period for us. And even if not, it can always be worse :) - I'm not really complaining (or I am, but just a little). I've heard that there are mom's who're on a boiled potato diet for 6 months, so I've still got long ways to go.


Here however comes in another dilemma. I've read that kid's who get used to many different flavors via breast milk are less likely to be fussy eaters later on. So I'd really like to introduce him to the wonderful, plentiful world of flavor early on.. but will I dare. Or should I just start later on. But will it be too late then.
You see - irresolvable :).

And finally, for a foodie, this all is seasoned with the pitiful understanding that there is no, and for a while longer will be no time to cook nice things, but even if there were time, or someone else does the cooking (S's been starring in the kitchen), the options are limited due to the severe restrictions on ingredients and seasonings.

above photo from here

So - I find my joy in bananas. I eat them like a gorilla :). I only hope that my arms will also grow longer from this as this would come in handy in resolving the irresolvable dilemmas in other areas.

above photo from here
Over and out for now, and sorry that it wasn't a delicious looking meal with a recipe. But soon, I do believe that soon I'll be posting those again. (And I have a tiny backlog of nice stuff that hasn't been posted from before the big day).