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Awake at the Whisk: February 2011

Sunday, February 27, 2011


Honey Whole Wheat Micro-Brew Bread Recipe

I seem to be drawn to things made of yeast: bread, beer, pastries. As my fair city celebrates Sacramento Beer Week with a host of yeasty festivities, I thought I’d throw in my support with a tasty combo using micro-brew ale in a honey-sweetened whole wheat bread recipe.

Honey Whole Wheat Micro-Brew Bread

Growing up, my parents stretched the food bill by serving bread with every meal. We would slather each slice in butter and some of Dad’s homemade jams (grape most often, cherry if Dad felt like sharing, and raspberry—all made from fruit we grew in our yard).

Our bread of choice: Hillbilly Bread. I kid you not. It’s a real brand—and apparently, they still sell it in Ohio. It’s whole wheat bread, and I’m sure Mom picked it because it had more nutrients than some of the other breads at the store. (She never bought any of the bright white kind.) And it was cheap.

Image found at:

I no longer eat Hillbilly Bread (haven’t seen it in the stores since I was a kid), but I do still love bread of any kind. I stumbled upon the following recipe, which I adapted slightly, from my King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking cookbook. As soon as I saw the word “micro-brew,” I was ready to start baking!

This loaf is soft and slightly sweet. I cut it into thick slices, toast them for a warm breakfast, and spoon on honey from my farmers’ market.

This bread is wonderful when served warm. Even when toasted for breakfast, it stays soft.

Honey Whole Wheat Micro-Brew Bread Recipe

¼ cup orange juice
3 Tablespoons mountain wildflower honey (or other dark honey)
2 ½ teaspoons instant yeast
½ cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup all-purpose flour (unbleached)
1 ½ teaspoons salt
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon walnut oil

Farmers’ Market ingredients: honey, whole wheat flour, butter
Garden Grown ingredients: oranges for o.j.
California-made or Locally-made ingredients: amber ale
Supermarket ingredients: yeast, oats, all-purpose flour, salt

Pour the beer, o.j., and honey into the bottom of a large mixing bowl. Add the instant yeast and let sit for a few minutes while you measure the flour.

Add the whole wheat flour to the yeast and liquid and stir to combine.

Add the oats, all-purpose flour, and salt to the bowl. Before mixing, use a cheese grater to grate the cold butter into the bowl. Mix all the ingredients together to form smooth bread dough. Knead for about 8-10 minutes. If the dough is a little sticky, that’s okay. Adding extra flour will dry it out.

Lightly coat the dough with a tablespoon of walnut oil and cover. Set in a warm place for 1-2 hours, until nearly doubled in size.

Grease a 9 X 4 inch loaf pan. Gently deflate the dough. Shape to fit and place it in the loaf pan. Cover and let rise again until the dough rises above the rim of the pan—about 1.5-2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Uncover and bake the bread for 35 minutes. For a softer crust, tent the pan with foil during the last 15 minutes of baking. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then remove from pan and cool for another 25 minutes before slicing.

Yield: One loaf

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Monday, February 21, 2011


Irish-Inspired Vegetarian Recipe Contest

Butter. Cheese. Cream. These are the reasons I’m not a vegan.

I once tried to be a vegan. I started on a Monday. I gave it my best shot. By Friday I was eating pizza. I just can’t live without my cheese. Or butter. Or cream.

When I was an exchange student in Denmark back in the 90s, my host brother would bring freshly made butter home from the cheese factory where he worked. That was the best butter I’d ever eaten.  

How Kerrygold Butter Won My Heart
I recently discovered the next best thing: Kerrygold butter. It now shares a buttery place in my heart right there with that Danish butter—thick, creamy, salty, slightly sweet (must be the clover!,) and soft against my tongue.

You can imagine my joy when I attended Food Blog Camp back in January, and it was tastily sponsored by Kerrygold. We campers vied to take the best butter photo in the hopes of winning a richly filled basket of butters and cheeses from the sponsor.

Taken after getting some food styling tips from legend Adam Pearson, this is my butter photo from camp.

Over the course of five short days, many sticks of butter were unwrapped, spread, and eaten—all for the sake of photography, of course. Bite after bite, we became a little more addicted. Kerrygold makes incredible butter!

In addition to making my camp experience memorable, Kerrygold is a stand-up company. They never use preservatives, hormones, or unnatural additives. That’s important to me.

Let’s Celebrate the Irish!
As St. Patrick’s Day draws near, I thought it would be nice to celebrate all things Irish. My husband celebrates his Irish heritage every March with Guinness ale and a Reuben sandwich. His mom will make corned beef and cabbage and soda bread.

Since marrying him, I have learned to love some of my husband’s Irish foods. As a vegetarian, I don’t eat many of the aforementioned classics. But I have been perfecting my vegetarian version of the Reuben. Mostly, it’s just a sauerkraut and Swiss cheese sandwich. But in my opinion, those are the best parts!

My Vegetarian Reuben Sandwich: rye bread, stone ground mustard, Kerrygold Swiss, and Farmhouse Culture sauerkraut.

What Irish foods do you enjoy making to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day? Do you have any great vegetarian spins on the classics?

Want to Win Some Butter?
In celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, and of Kerrygold’s sustainable dairy practices, I’m holding a recipe contest. Over the next three weeks, I invite you to submit Irish-inspired vegetarian recipes containing Kerrygold Butter or their Dubliner cheddar cheese. (And hello!--they now have a version of their Dubliner that's loaded with Irish stout!) 

I’ll randomly select one winner and one runner-up. The winner will receive a prize package gift basket of Kerrygold butter and cheeses and the James Beard best cookbook of the year for 2010, The Country Cooking of Ireland by Colman Andrews. Estimated value of the prize package is $350.

The runner-up and the winner will both have their recipes announced on my blog with a link to their original post. Or, if you don’t have a blog, I’ll post your recipe on my site.

How to Enter:

1)      Create an Irish-inspired vegetarian recipe using Kerrygold Butter and/or Dubliner Cheese.
2)      If you’re posting the recipe on your blog, you must tag your post using “Irish-Inspired Vegetarian Recipe Contest,” and leave the link in the comments section of this story, below. If you don’t have a blog and want to be part of the contest, you can post your full recipe in the comments section of this story, below.
3)      All entries must be submitted by Friday, March 11 at noon.
4)      Winners will be announced on my blog the week of March 13.
5)      The winner of the prize package must have a U.S.-based mailing address where the package can be shipped. No out of country addresses are acceptable.

Disclosure: As part of our Food Blog Camp butter battle, Kerrygold threw down a challenge: the first 10 campers to submit a recipe contest idea that they liked would receive a small stipend to administer said contest—plus Kerrygold provides the goodie bag to the winner. As you can see, I was among those who won the challenge!

Now, let’s see who will win that butter and cheese-filled basket! Let the contest begin!

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Saturday, February 19, 2011


New at the Farmers' Market: Whole Wheat Flour & Orange Juice

Organic Whole Wheat Flour
Can you cook a complete meal from the Sacramento farmers’ market? Absolutely! What about baking an entire recipe? Yes, indeed! Our market has butter, milk, and now whole wheat flour, too. Hello, locavore baked goods!

Massa Organics whole wheat flour from the Sacramento farmers' market

Having local whole wheat flour at our market is the holy grail of locavore eating. The meals you can make without ever leaving the region for ingredients! Just a few examples:

Massa Organics has been selling this flour for at least a year now, so it’s not technically “new.” But I have several friends who hadn’t yet stumbled upon this amazing market wonder, so I wanted to share the secret.

I’ve been using this flour since it hit the market, and I’m a big fan. It’s light and has proven successful in all my baking endeavors. I now prefer this flour over other quality brands sold in the supermarket.

Flour this fresh and this clean comes at a price. You’ll pay $8 for a 5 lb. bag. But it’s worth it!

Orange Juice & Blood Orange Juice
I once made it my mission to consume California oranges exclusively for my morning juice. My husband and I own an orange tree, and use every last fruit it grows to produce fresh juice during the winter months. When our harvest is over, I try to buy oranges in bulk at the market to get me through the rest of the year.

But lately, my life has been getting busier and busier. While I still juice every last orange that falls from my tree, in the off months I have been cheating occasionally, buying the oh-so-easy plastic jug at the grocery store. I hate this, because I don’t know whether the oranges come from California or someplace far away. It’s not my first choice, but I don’t always have the extra 15 minutes to make juice before I head off to work. Sigh.

Thankfully, it just keeps getting easier and easier to live la vida locavore here in California!

Freshly squeezed orange juice from Ferry Farms--now sold at the Sacramento farmers market.

Ferry Farms has taken away my guilt and provided me with a local outlet. They are now selling unpasteurized, freshly squeezed juice at our farmers’ market! Hip-hip-hooray! For conscientious, but busy gals like me there is nothing better than the feeling of grabbing a jug of juice that you know is made from local fruit.

Ferry Farms isn’t just selling the orange stuff. They’re selling blood orange juice, too. Dark with a touch of sour, the bright flavor perks up your mouth—and your mood. When mixed with a little apple juice (also purchased at the market), you’ve got a delicious morning beverage.

Thanks to our many local farmers who are doing the amazing things they do so we can eat locally!

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Thursday, February 17, 2011


New at the Farmers' Market: Walnut Oil

Walnut Oil
Glashoff Farms is quickly becoming one of the most innovative spots at the downtown Sacramento farmers' market. This summer, they delighted us with spicy homemade pickles nearly the size of a pint glass. Now, they’re selling liquid gold: walnut oil.

Glashoff Farms walnut oil at the Sacramento farmers' market.

Imagine the scent of freshly baked cookies brimming with chunks of bold walnuts. Opening the jar of Glashoff’s walnut oil releases a similar sweet aroma that’s reminiscent of chocolate and golden brown sugar. The best of this richly flavored nut is released through the oil. It’s absolutely decadent. You’ll be tempted to pour yourself a shot—it smells that good!

I bought my first jar of walnut oil in early winter when Glashoff first started selling it. For $14, I got a 16.9 oz. tin, which I quickly depleted. Instead of canola oil, I have been substituting walnut oil in all my baked good recipes—with outstanding results. The aroma soaks delicately through the recipe, adding a balance that brings the finished product to a heightened level.

For example, I have used it repeatedly in my pumpkin waffles, which are already rich with warm spices, a whisper of brown sugar, and served joyfully with grade B maple syrup. Tucked ever so subtly inside, the walnut oil murmurs its flavor into each unsurpassed bite. My waffles made me swoon before. With walnut oil, I need a moment to recover from each incredible bite.

Yet, walnut oil shouldn't be reserved for those with a sweet tooth. In fact, it brings a nutty brightness to caramelized onions, and a rounded umami finish to sautéed broccoli (to which you can also add a handful of lightly toasted whole walnuts and finish with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese). It also makes delicious and unique salad dressing. Or, simply tear slices of your favorite bread and use the oil as a dip.

As if these aren’t enough great reasons to start using walnut oil immediately, don’t even get me started on the mountains of research that point to walnuts and walnut oil as a healthy source of omega-3 fatty acids to fight any number of ailments, including stress, cancer, bone health, and motor skills.

These nuts are impressive! So, too, is Glashoff’s brilliant idea to start selling this honey-colored oil.

Here are a few other stories about Glashoff’s farm:

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Monday, February 14, 2011


Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine's Day! 

Springerle Valentine cookie made by Cynthia Cooks.

This organic Meyer lemon and anise seed cookie is almost too pretty to eat! But you should. Luscious tart lemon  falls deeply in love with vibrantly licorice anise in these elegant and picturesque sweets. Let them melt on your tongue while cupid pierces your heart with a newfound adoration.

Cynthia Cooks, the baker, also makes a sturdy panforte of chocolate and warm spices that will set your heart thumping. These exclusive treats can only be found at Elliot's Natural Foods in Sacramento--if they can be found at all. Call ahead and cross your fingers.

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Sunday, February 13, 2011


New at the Farmers' Market!

California farmers make living la vida locavore easy. And it just keeps getting easier. In fact, the Sacramento farmers’ market is practically a complete grocery experience. We’ve had tortillas, bread, olive oil, produce, jams, almond butter, cheese, meats, and eggs for years. Yet, just when you thought life couldn’t get much better, the farmers add even more to their wares. The joy just keeps coming!  

Behold the latest additions to the Sacramento downtown farmers’ market. Throughout the week, I’ll bring you four new must-try items. So keep reading! Come Sunday, you’ll be itching to get to the market and be first in line.

Raw Milk
Don’t let the word “raw” scare you. This is fresh milk—and as good as it gets.

Raw milk from Organic Pastures now sold at the Sacramento farmers' market.

When I was 16 years old, I lived in Denmark for a year. My Danish host family ate seasonal produce, baked homemade bread daily, and visited a farmer down the road weekly to purchase fresh milk. This rested in a bucket in the fridge until the cream rose gently to the top. We would then skim off the cream (for later use), saving the lighter, whole milk for our morning muesli or our afternoon tea.

This is the kind of milk now being sold at the farmers’ market by Organic Pastures based in Central San Joaquin Valley. It comes straight from the cows to you. Their milk is never pasteurized, which is said to help maintain the natural balance of vitamins and beneficial bacteria so rich in cow’s milk (and which pasteurization can kill). Their cows eat grass—not feed—and are never given controversial hormones or antibiotics.

Bonus for home cheese makers: the active bacteria found in raw milk makes a superior product when compared to cheese made from pasteurized dairy.

At $4 for a half gallon of skim milk, prices are competitive. The thicker the milk, the more you’ll pay. It can run up to $9 for a pint of raw cream. They also sell raw butter (unsalted) and kefir (a raw dairy product with yeast cultures similar to those found in yogurt).

Best of all: it tastes good!—silky with the sweet tang of rich refreshment that only a grass and clover-fed cow can make. 

Don't forget to tune in later this week to find out about three other new finds at the Sacramento farmers' market! 

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