[Sourdough] Pumpkin Donuts

It’s not often that I fill my dutch oven with oil for deep-frying – but this pregnant lady felt like kicking off the Baking Season with a bang this year… and after prepping a big bowl of Insta-Pumpkin, I couldn’t stop dreaming of homemade sourdough pumpkin donuts!

On a perfect rainy Fall weekend morning, this batch warmed our hearts and earned true epic status by featuring three sweet topping options: spiced cinnamon sugar, salted maple glaze, and dark chocolate glaze. Choose your own adventure, or choose all three like me! 

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[Instant Pot] Carrot Cake Steel-Cut Oats

This winter, I found a new favorite cheerful make-ahead weekday breakfast. This golden bowl features whole-grain steel cut oats with no refined sugars, instead sweetened and enriched with lots of carrot (2/3 cup freshly grated root per serving), fresh ginger, warm spices, raisins, juicy pineapple tidbits, and flakes of toasted coconut. 

Top as you please with even more nuts and fruits, and a swirl of your favorite creamy dairy or nut milk. Then revel in the moment of cozy glory you achieved. Then tomorrow morning, reheat and repeat. 

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[Sourdough] Cheesy Kale & Everything Bagels

My latest sourdough specialty is the almighty BAGEL. The technique that makes this bread so classically dense and chewy is a dunk in boiling water before baking. When the dough is boiled, its exterior undergoes starch gelatinization – granules of starch absorb water, they swell, and their tightly packed chains of molecules start to dissolve. This process gives the crust its chewy texture, and because the cooked crust restricts the bagel from continuing to rise/expand when baking, it’s also responsible for the interior’s dense crumb. Baking soda added to the water accelerates the Maillard reaction via increased alkalinity, promoting more browning during baking.

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[Instant Pot] Pumpkin Spice Steel-Cut Oats

Seattle is getting colder, and predictably, my breakfasts are getting warmer. The days of raw fruit & chilled muesli have come and gone, and now my oats are getting the hot & hearty porridge treatment.

A breakfast like this can help you stay strong through the stresses of the seasonal shift. With the growing season coming to a close and colorful summer crops disappearing from the local food system, pumpkins and other winter squash persevere as a shelf-stable source of vibrantly orange vitamin power. And as the weather chills, spices become magical; we love them, and they love us back with their stimulating, grounding and warming qualities. (Don’t forget: spices are powerful plants that humans have selected, valued, and carried along with us through the history of eating. They interface with our physiology in ways that science is only beginning to understand).

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Steel-Cut Bircher Muesli

I’ve been charmed by overnight oats before, but until recently I had never tried what you might call the “original recipe” – bircher muesli. This dish was popularized in the late 1800s by Swiss physician Maximilian Bircher-Benner, who served it daily to the high-profile guests of his Alpine wellness retreat. The doctor’s intention behind this humble and wholesome “little mush” was to find a palatable way to get more raw fruit into his patients’ diets. Homeboy was driven by some puzzling proto-raw-foodism beliefs, but I’ll cut him some slack… You can’t blame the guy for living in what was essentially the dawn of nutrition science (people often forget that nutrition is such a young field; for perspective, realize that humans had no concept of vitamins until 1912). I have to give him credit for being ahead of his time in many ways, especially in making connections between health and harmony with nature. And, of course, for inventing my latest summertime breakfast obsession.

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[Sourdough] Sticky Honey Buns (No-Knead + Overnight)

I baked up these buns as a special treat for Grant’s birthday brunch, and seriously, they were epic. Pillowy, tender, studded with crunchy toasted almonds, and perfumed with the essence of our heavenly freshly-harvested honey. They have just the right amount of richness without overdoing the butter, and like any sensible breakfast bun recipe, they’re designed to hang out in the fridge for a slow overnight rise after being shaped the day before, so they’re ready to sleepily toss into the oven while you start brewing a pot of your best coffee – special weekend treat-yo-self baking at its best.

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[Instant Pot] Creamy Coconut Steel-Cut Oats

Resolving to Eat Better this year? Me too, but I’m not just talking about nutrition… I’m also always looking for new and exciting ways to ENJOY IT. That’s why I make this kind of food: wholesome, real ingredients coming together to make something indulgently nourishing for your “most important meal of the day.” It’s simple, but special. It’s rich, but still provides legit nutrition. And as a bonus, it will warm you to the bones not only by virtue of being a hearty porridge, but also by briefly relieving your winter weather woes with a mental tropical vacation.

So, what makes these oats so nutritious and filling? The winning combination of whole grains and coconut deliver fiber, complex carbs and a healthy dose of fat that provide lasting energy to fill you up and truly satisfy.

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[Sourdough] Whole Grain Pumpkin Pancakes

The Universe has a way of keeping us humble, doesn’t it? Take for example the time I fell hard for The Great British Baking Show on Netflix, and mused contentedly about what an adept contender I could be. Naturally, my next baking session was an epic screw-up. I’m claiming distraction as the reason behind the embarrassing disaster, but seriously: it involved boxed cookie mix, BOTH of my apartment’s smoke alarms, and a full hour spent the next day scrubbing the bottom of my oven. So, right, I was not Star Baker this week.

(Undoubtedly my worst mishap since the Great Kombucha Eruption of 2015.)

Similarly, look what happens when I promise you a newly developed recipe. Here we are nearly a month later, and I’m just now getting back to you because of an extended string of lackluster trials in my test-kitchen. Lucky for you guys, I don’t give up too easily.

Whole Grain Sourdough Pumpkin Pancakes

The plan was to cap off my sourdough baking series with a special weekend breakfast combining the flavor/benefits of sourdough with the seasonal charm of pumpkin spice. But I soon realized that this pairing would require a bit of trial and error, as pumpkin puree and sourdough can both complicate efforts to optimize the texture and density of baked goods. After wrestling with a series of adaptations to the basic sourdough pancake formula from King Arthur Flour,  I decided I might be better off seeking insight from my favorite online community of super experienced and skilled bakers at The Fresh Loaf.

Whole Grain Sourdough Pumpkin Pancakes

Lo and behold, those good bakers know exactly what to do: I was just one blog post away from a foolproof formula. To create my perfect sourdough pumpkin pancake, I spiked the recipe with buttermilk, brown sugar and a sprinkle of spices; I also swapped in whole wheat pastry flour to take advantage of its delicate crumb. The pancakes are tender, lightly sour, subtly spiced… and we couldn’t have done it without that bubbling, fermenting colony of our favorite friendly microbes.

Nothing like a good recipe success to recover from a streak of kitchen fails… What a relief! Happy cooking, everybody. I’m off to put that sparkling clean oven to good use.

Whole Grain Sourdough Pumpkin Pancakes

(No sourdough starter? How about some tasty steel-cut oat pancakes instead?)

Whole Grain Sourdough Pumpkin Pancakes

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes

Yield: Approximately 20 5-inch pancakes

Whole Grain Sourdough Pumpkin Pancakes

1/2 cup sourdough starter ("unfed" starter can be used)
2 eggs
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 pinch salt
spices: 1/2 tsp. cinnamon + a hearty sprinkle each of ginger, allspice and nutmeg (or an equal amount of your favorite pumpkin pie spice blend)
1 to 1 1/3 cups buttermilk (or substitute mostly milk with a dollop of plain yogurt)

Combine the starter, eggs, brown sugar and pumpkin puree in a medium bowl. Then add the dry ingredients and whisk in just enough buttermilk to create a pourable batter (the amount can vary based on the density of your starter), mixing until just combined..

Let the batter rest at room temperature while you heat a large skillet or griddle over medium heat, coated lightly with butter or oil. When the surface is hot, spoon the batter into pancakes of your desired size. When the upper surface is bubbled, and the bottom is golden-brown, flip and continue to cook the second side. Place cooked pancakes in a warmed oven, or on a plate tented with aluminum foil until all pancakes are ready.

https://flavorrd.com/2015/11/sourdough-pumpkin-pancakes/

My Top 5 On-The-Go Weekday Breakfasts

Let’s talk about breakfast. Weekday Breakfast, to be specific, which is an entirely different animal than the leisurely, unhurried, coffee-sipping pleasure-breakfasts that we get to enjoy on the weekends. Weekday Breakfast, for better or worse, is about taking care of business: supplying ourselves with an adequate amount of the right balance of nutrients to fuel ourselves for the workday, and doing it quickly.

To be honest, I struggle with Weekday Breakfast. When I drag myself out of bed for work, I don’t have much of an appetite. It’s just hard to get my morning-brain interested in the fuel that I know my body needs. The good news? Recognizing a problem is the first step in doing something about it. I started with a dedicated Weekday Breakfast Pinterest board to help inspire my efforts. I also took a critical look at my morning routine, and found that although it may not be the best approach for mindful eating, I really have the best success when I schedule my breakfast time either during my commute or at my desk (whatever works!). And there’s one other critical element that should go without saying: that healthy breakfast also needs to be a tasty treat… otherwise, what’s the point? So now, after some brainstorming and field-testing, I’m coming here to share my top 5 healthy, quick, on-the-go balanced breakfasts that keep me powering through my weekdays!

The Mix 'N Match Box

1. The Mix-n-Match Box

This is sort of a DIY version of the protein bistro box from Starbucks; I developed a taste for those during my time-crunched grad school days, but this make-at-home version is a lot easier on the budget. It also works well for my breakfast ambivalence because I can pick at little nibbles of this and that, and I still end up with a balanced meal.

My basic formula is whole grain bread (the seed-packed sourdough stuff pictured above is my current favorite), cheese, fruit, and a boiled egg – but the mix-n-match system is a good way to use up whatever odds and ends you have on hand. Pack it all into a medium-sized tupperware container, and you have a balanced snack-breakfast, wherever your day takes you.

The Quesa-Pita
2. The Quesa-Pita

This is a really common fallback weekday breakfast for me, for two reasons. First, I pretty much always have these 4 ingredients stocked in my kitchen, and second, it’s something that will actually pique my meager morning appetite.

Use a slice (or half slice) of regular or lite cheese of your choice to cover half of a whole-grain pita bread. Place it under a broiler or in a toaster oven until melted/crisp, then add a handful of spinach and a vegetarian sausage patty (I cut mine up into a couple of slices to cover the whole sandwich). Fold it in half, wrap in a paper towel, and you’re good to go!

The PBJ Yogurt

3. The PBJ Yogurt

Have you been disappointed recently by the new PBJ flavored Greek yogurt from Trader Joe’s? If it sounded really good in your head, but didn’t meet your flavor expectations, it’s time to take things into your own hands.

I already talked about this perfect combination of plain yogurt, PB/J, wheat germ and chia seeds in my post on Eating Well After Oral Surgery, but it truly has earned a space among my go-to morning meals/snacks. For an extra-special breakfast, try it with my favorite banana jam recipe!

The Loaded Veggie Bagel

4. The Loaded Veggie Bagel

Here’s another savory sandwich that will help you get a head start on your daily servings of veggies. Baking a weekend batch of my garlic kale & feta bagels will give you an even ‘veggier’ foundation, but most of the time I use the whole wheat sprouted sesame bagels from Trader Joe’s.

Toast a whole-grain bagel (or bagel-thin, for a lower-calorie breakfast). Schmear with light cream cheese or hummus, and top with whatever fresh veggies you like or need to use up. The combination pictured above is a personal favorite, baby spinach + cucumbers + shredded carrots, but other tasty choices to mix and match include alfalfa sprouts, avocado, tomato, arugula or baby kale.

Steel Cut Muesli, California-Style

5. The Mason Jar Muesli

To finish with something sweet, here’s a simple make-ahead breakfast that happened to be the #1 most popular recipe on my blog last year. In this Steel-Cut Muesli, California-Style, the oats are soaked overnight in the fridge and eaten chilled, so they’re a great way to enjoy the benefits of oatmeal during the warmer months. In these photos I used a re-purposed jam jar, but it also works really well with half pint wide-mouth canning jars like these. They’re compact to stack in the fridge, so you can make a whole week’s worth in just one quick prep session!

So that’s what I’ve been into for breakfast lately… but I can’t finish without an appeal to you, readers: come on, help me with my breakfast problem! How do you fuel your weekdays?

Green Eggs + Prosciutto Frittata

Don’t tell me… I know why you’re browsing the food blogs today… because you need a festive brunch recipe to celebrate Dr. Seuss’ birthday next week, duh!

No? OK, well, it was worth a shot. I didn’t actually plan it that way, but I couldn’t ignore the good timing. Really, this is just another easy way to fix ourselves a tasty balanced meal for brunch, dinner, or for packing up lunches for the week. Children’s literature theme optional!!

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