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In addition to packing beef jerky for our backwoods vacation on the lake, I went on a mini baking spree. Oatmeal bars made an appearance, only with dried fruit in lieu of chocolate (a better choice for this recipe). Spiced banana bread also found its way with us, but that’s for a future post. I also used this recipe from Gourmet magazine to make whole wheat berry muffins, mostly as a way to use up the miscellaneous berries that were expiring in the refrigerator.

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I made minimal changes: assortment of berries instead of only blueberries, slightly less sugar than called for, and omission of sugar topping. Recipe:

1 3/4 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup sugar (I used slightly less, and I think you could even cut it in half for something even more breakfast-friendly and healthy)
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 large egg
1/2 cup whole milk (next time I will substitute with lower-fat milk or milk substitutes)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (I may swap for coconut oil next time around if I use a milk substitute)
1 1/2 cups assorted berries (fresh or frozen)

1. Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle. Butter muffin pan.
2. Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl, then whisk in zest.
3. Whisk egg in another bowl, then whisk in milk and butter. Add to dry ingredients and stir with a rubber spatula until just combined (batter will be dense). Fold in berries. Divide batter among muffin cups.
4. Bake until a wooden pick inserted into center of muffins comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool in pan 5 minutes, then unmold onto a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Since I have been given the responsibility of baking bread at work, I have become quite enamored by the process. From the smell of blooming yeast to the lugging of industrial-size mixing bowls to the feel of the dough as you roll and shape it–bread baking has become a welcome part of the day. This, coming from someone who abhorred scales and measuring cups, is quite the transformation. I realize that, though baking–especially breads–is a science, there is a lot more wiggle room and opportunity for creativity than I had always believed.

That being said, I made whole wheat focaccia using this recipe from Anne Burrell on Food Network. I followed it almost exactly, except I substituted one cup of whole wheat flour for one cup of all-purpose.

1 3/4 cups warm water
2 1/4 tsp (1 package) active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
4 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for kneading
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus flaky sea salt, for sprinkling
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus more for coating and drizzling
2 Tbsp fresh herbs, chopped (I used oregano, rosemary, and thyme)

Combine the warm water, yeast and sugar in a small bowl. Put the bowl in a warm place until the yeast is bubbling and aromatic, at least 15 minutes.

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the flour, 1 tablespoon of kosher salt, 1/2 cup olive oil and the yeast mixture on low speed. Once the dough has come together, continue to knead for 5 to 6 minutes on a medium speed until it becomes smooth and soft.

Transfer the dough to a clean, lightly floured surface, then knead it by hand a few times.

Coat the inside of the mixer bowl lightly with olive oil and return the dough to the bowl. Cover it with plastic wrap and put it in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size, at least 1 hour.

Coat a sheet pan with the remaining 1/2 cup olive oil.

Put the dough onto the sheet pan and press to fit the size of the pan. Turn the dough over to coat the other side with the olive oil. Continue to stretch the dough to fit the pan. As you are doing so, spread your fingers out and make finger holes all the way through the dough.

Put the dough in the warm place until it has doubled in size, about 1 hour. While the dough is rising a second time, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Liberally sprinkle the top of the focaccia with flaky sea salt and lightly drizzle a little oil. Scatter herbs on top and bake the dough until the top of the loaf is golden brown, about 20-30 minutes. Remove the focaccia from the oven and let it cool before cutting and serving.

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Notes: this recipe actually made for better croutons than they did bread. Though it wasn’t bad, there was a lack of depth of flavor that I probably could have achieved had I let it ferment for longer (or used a different recipe). All in all, it was a fun weekend project, and I still have a bunch left over in the freezer for whenever the need for croutons arises.

Here’s a spin on these Pumpkin Chocolate Cranberry Muffins, sans cranberries. I doubled the recipe and froze half to send to my brother, who is serving in Afghanistan in the USAF; the other half I froze and will send with my boyfriend, who will be away in DC for a month of lectures.

I used whole wheat pastry flour, which will boost the fiber and nutrient content, but still yield a tender crumb. I also used less honey than the previous recipe. Note: I didn’t have buttermilk, so I combined skim milk with 1 Tbsp of white vinegar.

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup honey
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
2 Tbsp canola oil
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. In a medium bowl, combine the flours, baking soda, spice, and salt and whisk.
3. In a small bowl, combine honey, pumpkin puree, buttermilk, oil, vanilla and egg and whisk.
4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.
5. Stir in the chocolate chips.
6. Divide the batter evenly among muffin cups (standard 12).
6. Bake for 14-17 minutes, rotating halfway, until a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean when inserted.

Notes: Unfortunately, the sides and bottoms got too brown. Next time: reduce heat to 350 F. Also, increase honey back to 1/2 cup. Though I don’t want an overly sweet muffin (nice excuse to have it for breakfast), I feel like it needed a boost. Maybe not. Needs more work!

2 tsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
1 cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 Tbsp fajita or taco seasoning (alternately, use a combination of chili powder, cayenne, cumin, and garlic powder)
Kosher salt
8 medium whole wheat flour tortillas
8 oz pepper jack cheese, grated (can use non-dairy cheese to make it vegan)
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup mayonnaise (can use eggless to make it vegan)
1/4 cup cilantro salad dressing

1. Heat the oil in a pan over medium-high heat.
2. Saute the onion and pepper until soft, about 5 minutes, and then add the corn, spinach, black beans, seasoning, and salt. Stir and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Heat the canola oil in a large pan over medium-high heat.
4. Spoon about 1/2 cup in the center of a tortilla and spread out to about 1 inch from the edge. Sprinkle with 1 oz of the grated cheese and fold like a burrito.
5. Once the oil is hot, place the folded tortillas into into the oil, seam side down, and pan-fry until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes per side. Remove and drain on paper towels.
6. Combine the mayonnaise and dressing and stir.
7. Cut each “egg roll” in half on a diagonal and serve with the creamy cilantro dipping sauce.

Notes: should test it out in the oven, perhaps brush each “egg roll” with oil once it’s stuffed.

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1 1/2 cups brown lentils
kosher salt
3/4 cup rolled oats
1 1/2 tsp onion powder
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup mayonnaise (or vegan mayonnaise)
1 garlic clove
juice of 1 lemon
for assembly and garnish: whole wheat hamburger buns, sliced tomato, sliced avocado, sprouts, arugula, etc.

1. Sift through lentils for debris or rocks. Combine in a medium pot with a pinch of salt and 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a low simmer, partially cover the pot and cook until tender, about 25 minutes. Cool.
2. Process oats into a powder using a food processor or spice grinder.
3. Combine lentils and oat powder in a large bowl.
4. Add salt, onion powder, chili powder, cumin, and black pepper.
5. Mix with your hands until all ingredients are incorporated. Taste for seasoning and adjust to taste.
6. Form patties (this recipe will make about 9-10 large patties) and place on a parchment paper-lined sheet tray.
7. Refrigerate the patties until firm, at least 20 minutes.
8. Combine the mayonnaise with garlic and lemon juice. Season with salt and black pepper, to taste.
9. Heat oil over medium high heat. Saute the patties until crispy and golden brown, about 2-3 minutes each side.
10. Place patties on whole wheat hamburger buns. Serve with sliced tomatoes, sliced avocadoes, sprouts, arugula, or whatever your little heart desires.

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