Wow, it’s June already. Since we are tied in to the school year schedule, this is an exciting, exhausting, transitional time. The school is packing in all the last learning, field trips, fun days, evening activities – more than seems possible. The weather is calling up excitement and readiness for pools and beaches and ice cream and steamy streets. And cook outs, of course. We cook on the grill for just about every dinner throughout the summer to maximize outside time and minimize hot kitchen time. It couldn’t be easier – pick a protein or two, some veggies, a marinade or just oil, salt and pepper, and dinner is on. A great addition, though, if you want a little something else, is to have a stack of flatbreads on the table for folks to pile their grill goodies onto. Last week in the Meal Plans by JuliaCooks plan I included this recipe for flatbreads that is super easy and can be made in batches so they are available practically anytime. When you want to mix it up, add fresh herbs or spices!
2 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp oil of your choosing (I usually use olive or avocado)
1 cup (or a little more but start with this) water
Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Add more flour or water, if needed. You want it to come together but not be sticky or with a bunch of flour at the bottom of the bowl. Turn out onto a lightly floured counter and knead for 2-3 minutes for it to come together into a smooth ball. Let this rest for 5-10 minutes. Cut the dough into 8 equal pieces for large breads, 10-12 for smaller. Roll each piece out into a rough circle shape (no worries about it being perfectly round). Roll it thinner than you think you should as it puffs a bit with cooking. Heat a skillet over medium high heat. If you are using non-stick, no need for oil. If not, brush a small amount of oil over the bottom of the pan. Place one bread at a time in the pan and cook for about a minute and a half – 2 minutes on the first side and a minute to a minute and a half on the other. Be sure not to stack them as they come off the pan and cool, so they don’t get soggy. Serve with your choice of toppings, or enjoy as is.
Right, so, obviously Meal Plans By JuliaCooks has you covered for dinner, but I am assuming you and yours eat breakfast, too.
When I was a kid, breakfast was simple – eat the bowl of cereal and be on your way. And from the open box, only. Do NOT open a new box before one was emptied. Forbidden.
Things are different these days, and folks want more out of breakfast. I know my kids do, and I want to give it to them. They are especially happy when they wake up to fresh muffins that I threw together that morning. Now, I know what you are thinking – who is going to lookup/pull out a recipe and who knows if I will have all the ingredients and I can’t plan ahead for that and even if I have a regular recipe memorized, no one wants the same old same old every time. Ok, yes, but I have the perfect solution: Infinitely Adaptable Basic Muffin Formula. It’s brilliance lies in the fact that as long as you know the general ingredients and amounts, you can craft it anyway you like and adapt it to whatever you have on hand.
First, the general recipe:
½ c fat
¾ c sweetener
2 cups flour and flour-like things
2 tsps baking powder
1 tsp vanilla or other flavoring
1 1/2 cup liquid and liquid-like things
1 cup add ins (more or less)
Now, how does this look in real life?
One morning recently I got up early and decided to make muffins for the kids. But then I realized the cupboards and fridge were kind of bare. I trudged forth, regardless. My preferred flour for morning muffins is whole wheat. I had less than a cup. Ok, fine, I just mixed it with white. For the fat I usually use butter but, honestly, I was just too lazy to work the butter in the mixer or go through the effort of melting, so I took out the avocado oil. Out of vanilla – just left it out. Sweetener of choice was brown sugar. Out of baking powder?! Expletive! Ok, no problem, heaping ¼ tsp baking soda and a squeeze of lemon juice from the half lemon in the fridge. I had eggs, yay. For the liquid I like to use some yogurt and milk – out of both. I did, however, have some Blueberry Lavender Almond milk. In it goes. Also, 3 small overripe bananas were sitting in the fruit bowl on the counter. Score.
The result? I kid you not, the children were nuts for them. Direct quote, “these are the muffins you should sell to everyone.” Well, ok then (if you like you can buy these delectable muffins on the other side of this link). In other words, you don’t always have to have an exact recipe. As long as you have the framework, change and embellish as you like.
Here are lists of possible choices for each ingredient category:
Fat: butter, creamed or melted; vegetable oil; avocado oil; coconut oil; olive oil (yes, even in a sweet!)
Sweetener: white sugar; brown sugar; honey; maple syrup (you will need less other liquid if you use a lot of liquid sweetener); agave; brown rice syrup; coconut sugar
Flour and flour-like: white flour; whole wheat flour; sprouted wheat; corn meal; buckwheat; almond flour; flax meal; wheat germ
Other flavoring: almond; lemon; mint; bourbon (really – great sub if you are out of vanilla); orange
Liquids and similar: milk; soy milk; almond milk; cashew milk; rice milk; oat milk; juice; yogurt; sour cream; kefir; apple sauce
Mix-ins: mashed bananas; chopped apples; raisins; nuts of any sort; dried fruits; pepitas; sunflower seeds; chia seeds; flax seeds; chocolate chips; citrus zest; blueberries; raspberries
Here are some of my favorite combos:
Honey whole wheat
Endless possibilities, rarely necessary to say, “sorry, I can’t because I don’t have…”
Get in there, bake fearlessly.
You know the drill – you see that lovely bunch of greens or the sausages are on super sale or you just make too much dinner and then no one will remember to look for the leftovers at lunchtime the next day. The food comes in and then gets lost in Refrigerator Neverland.
Gah. I know you feel me.
For us, the contributing issues are many: very busy family of 7; one member who cooks and works with food, so there is a need for lots of it around all the time; a refrigerator that is meant, basically, for a small mouse family (really need a new fridge – oh, hey, by the way, have you thought about subscribing to MealPlans by Julia Cooks? Get a free sample, or just go ahead and sign up – it will help with the new fridge ;-)).
Even for me, a relatively well organized person who thinks about food all the time, it can creep up. Here are my three best strategies to keep it at bay:
- Always have a plan. This cuts down on the chance that you will be dazzled by the pretty produce aisle or that super dreamy looking new farm stand. If it is not on the list for the meals you are planning, don’t buy it. Of course, I am always a fan of taking advantage of a good sale, but be sure you are actually going to use the tasties that beckon.
- Prep produce right when you get home from the store. This one can be difficult – I often find it is – but it can have a big impact on whether food gets found or forgotten. When I buy some snacking veg like carrots or cucumbers, they are much more likely to be eaten if I cut them up and have them ready to go in a sealed container then if I toss them in the refrigerator to be cut just before eating. If I buy radishes for sandwiches (we are big fans of radish sandwiches here), I slice them and store them in a little water until I am ready to use them. This makes it much less likely that they die at the bottom of the produce drawer.
- Embrace the “clean out the fridge” meal. This one, I love. It is satisfying, productive, and gets my creativity rolling. And it’s not hard to do! I know it can seem daunting to think of whipping up a meal with 4 or 5 seemingly random things but a great strategy for framing your thinking is to keep some go to blank canvases in mind. Soups, pastas, stir frys, pestos – these are all great places to plug in your random bits. For example, I had half a bag of arugula, some parsley, and a chunk of parmesan. I also had some pignoles and pasta in the pantry and half a bag of sliced salami. Arugula pesto pasta with chopped up salami – the whole family was happy. I saved the chunk of parm and I am going to add it to broth for soup that I am putting all the random bits of veggies and a few leftover sausages into. Suddenly those disparate pieces that couldn’t be used for a meal on their own have turned into two great dinners! Go me!
I do still need the bigger refrigerator, though, so you should sign up for MealPlansByJuliaCooks, and tell all your friends (I know, sales-y, right? But when one is in love with a new fridge, one does what one must…) This is the one I dream about: https://twitter.com/yolandasfridge (Yes, I admit, I am kind of nutty for the Real Housewives, total guilty pleasure that I previously would never admit to!) But mostly check out the meal plans because you want to get a handle on this food thing and I am here to help.
Dinnertime is looming and it has been days since a decent trip to the grocery store has happened. I just walked in from bringing some one to or from some thing and all I see in the fridge are a few random leftovers. The cabinet offers no help as all rice/grain/dry pasta coffers are empty. What to do? Think, think, think…
Well, I have these.
And this good friend.
So I did this.
And ended up with this.
Home made egg noodles with leftover roast, veg and gravy from the previous night. Quick and easy. Full, happy bellies. Crisis averted.
Recipe, from King Arthur Flour:
note – I had never seen a recipe with baking powder before but was happy with the results here. Also, I didn’t have the time for it to rest the full 30-60 mins but it was still delicious.
- 2 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 large eggs, whisked well
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1) Place the flour, salt, and baking powder in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to aerate and combine.
- 2) With the machine running, drizzle in the eggs. Process for 20 seconds, or until the mixture looks like fine cornmeal.
- 3) Turn the machine on again, and drizzle in the milk. You may not need all of it, so hold back on the last tablespoon or two, adding only if needed to make a smooth, firm dough.
- 4) Remove the dough from the processor and knead it briefly by hand to smooth it out. Wrap in plastic wrap, and let sit for 30 to 60 minutes at room temperature. At this point you can place the dough in the fridge for up to 24 hours; longer than that, though, and the dough will oxidize, turning an unattractive gray color.
- 5) With a large rolling pin or your pasta machine, roll the pasta about 1/16″ thick. Cut long strips 1/2″ wide, then cut those strips into 3″ pieces. Dust with a touch of extra flour and let dry at room temperature while you bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil.
- 6) Drop the noodles into the boiling water by the handful. Be sure to stir the water to keep the strands separated. Cook for 2 to 4 minutes, or until tender. Test a noodle every minute or so until done.
- 7) Drain the noodles, and serve them hot, with butter, salt, and pepper.
- Yield: 4 to 6 servings.
We are so glad that you are here! Julia Cooks has one goal – to put the best REAL food in your tummy. We obsess about food so you don’t have to. From the minute we wake up in the morning, creating tasty food is what we think about. We use fresh, wholesome ingredients (we use organic foods whenever and wherever we can!) to create the food that you would create if you had the time and inclination. From our baking on demand (send an e-mail and you get chocolate chip cookies delivered to your door – how awesome is that?) to our elegant tea parties (perfect for your mom!) to our personal chef services, we want to give you the very best food, made with love and care. Go ahead, eat, it’s good for you!