Friday, November 12, 2010

Zuppa Tuscana

My father-in-law loves Olive Garden's Zuppa Tuscana and raved about it so much that my husband (who would only eat potatoes in french fry form) decided to give it a try-----and LOVED it too! I must say that my husband has now branched out to eating a baked potato on occasion and has even ventured over to the once-off-limits sweet potato. This may sound tame to most of you, but when I met this man of mine he would eat raw carrots, french fries, and corn....oh, and sometimes a cucumber. That was it. He was mostly a carnivore. So, this real food challenge has been quite a challenge. It's been difficult to find dishes that aren't meat centered. He's finally beginning to slide toward omnivore. Imagine my surprise tonight when I made this delicious soup and he ate not only the potatoes, but also (Gasp!) the kale!!

Zuppa Tuscana
1 lb. ground italian sausage
1 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 large diced white onion
4 Tbs. bacon pieces (I didn't have any bacon tonight, so I omitted this...still good, but probably better with bacon!)
2 tsp. garlic puree (I pressed 3 cloves of fresh garlic)
5 cups chicken broth
5 cups water
1 cup cream (I used half & half)
1 lb. sliced Russet potatoes, or about 3 large potatoes
1/4 of a bunch of kale

1. Saute Italian sausage and crushed red pepper in large pot. Drain off excess fat.
2. In the same pan, saute bacon, oinons, and garlic over low-medium heat until onions are soft.
3. Add chicken broth and water and bring to a boil.
4. Add sliced potatoes and cook until soft, about 30 minutes.
5. Add heavy cream and cook until throughly heated.
6. Stir in sausage and kale and cook until heated.

Shared on Fight Back Friday

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Homemade Chicken & Dumplings

Chicken and Dumplings are practically a southern staple. A few years ago I found a recipe that was quick & easy and that our family really liked. However, it is full of low fat "cream of" soups, and uses refrigerated biscuit dough. I've decided to rework the recipe to be REAL food friendly. It will require a few more moments of hands-on time, but the result will be worth it! I've shared this on Real Food Wednesday and Fightback Friday

Chicken & Dumplings
6 c. chicken broth
3 c. shredded, cooked chicken
1 1/2 c. cream of (whatever kind you want, chicken, celery) soup (see recipe for homemade below)
1/4 tsp poultry seasoning
Thinly sliced carrots & celery to taste
biscuit dough (see recipe below)

Stir together all ingredients except biscuits in dutch oven over med-high heat, and bring to boil.
Reduce heat to low and simmer about 15 minutes.
Return mixture to a boil.
At this point you can either drop small balls of dough in the simmering pot or roll biscuits very thin (1/8") and slice into strips. I've done it both ways and either works well. I prefer really small drops/slices because I like my dumplings to almost melt in my mouth. You can make them larger if you prefer.
Return to simmer and simmer 10 minutes. It can be a bit soupy at this point. The longer it sits the thicker it becomes. It is really good as leftovers as well.

Homemade "cream of" soup substitute
4 Tbl. butter
4 Tbl. flour
1/2 c. whole milk (I'm sure cream would be even better)
1/2 c. chicken broth
Salt & pepper to taste

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir in flour; keep stirring until smooth and bubbly. Remove from heat and add the chicken broth and milk, a little at a time, stirring to keep smooth. Return to heat. Bring sauce to a gentle boil; cook, stirring constantly, until it thickens. Taste and add salt and pepper, as needed to taste.

See this post about other variations of homemade "cream of" soups

Homemade Biscuits (courtesy of Old Fashioned Living)
2 c. sifted flour (I must admit I do use all-purpose)
2 tsp. baking powder
4 Tbl. butter
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 c. whole milk

Sift flour once, measure, add other dry ingredients, and sift again. Cut in butter. Add milk, gradually, stirring until soft dough is formed.
If baking, roll to 1/2" thickness and cut with 2" biscuit cutter. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet at 400*F for 12-15 minutes. Yields 12 biscuits.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Whole White Wheat, Who Knew?

Back in my store bought bread days, I had noticed certain breads containing the ingredient: whole white wheat. I thought that was an oxymoron. I didn't understand the meaning of whole white wheat. I thought it was some kind of gimmick or ploy to get us to think it was healthy when it was still "white".
Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago. A bread baking friend of mine tried the recipe for a fluffier whole wheat bread. Afterward, I asked her how she liked it and she said that her family still preferred the recipe they had been using. I felt compelled to try that recipe since I'm on the quest for the perfect wheat bread that my family (including a 2- and a 5-year-old...not to mention my picky hubby) will eat and enjoy. She introduced me to Bread Beckers, where she buys her wheat berries, (Unfortunately, I don't have a grain grinder...maybe Santa will bring me one this year...hint...hint) and she uses their bread recipe.
It simply states 5 cups flour, and I thought she must use some bread/all-purpose flour to make this a soft and less dense bread. However, she said she uses hard red wheat, hard white wheat, and spelt. NO all-purpose or bread flours!! I looked up hard white wheat and found that it contains the same health benefits as hard red, but is sweeter and lighter than hard red. It is very popular in bread making.

I decided to give it a try and it is VERY soft and delicious!

2 cups hot water
1/2 cup oil (I made a batch using butter and another one using extra light olive oil. Both worked well)
1/2 cup honey (may use 1/4 cup)*

5 cups flour (I used 2 c. hard red, 2 c. hard white, and 1 c. spelt)
3 1/2 tsp. instant yeast
2 tsp. salt
1/2 Tbs. lecithin (optional--I left this out)
1/2 Tbs. gluten (optional--I added this since I already had some on hand)

Combine water, oil, and honey. Add 3 cups of flour, yeast, salt, lecithin, and gluten. Mix thoroughly. Add the remaining flour and knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 min.).

Let rise until double.

Shape into loaves or rolls, place in greased pans, and let rise again.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 min.

Makes two 1 1/2 lb. Loaves.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Q & A with a Beef Farmer

I have an uncle (by marriage) who is a lifelong pig farmer. His son, my cousin, is a cow farmer. They both have college degrees in their fields and many years of experience working with these animals. Both are now employed by a state university's agricultural college in their respective departments and work directly with animals and students on the college's farm.

I spent this past weekend in the mountains with them and I had an opportunity to ask them some questions regarding corn fed beef, raw milk, hormones in cattle, etc.

The discussion began when I asked my cousin's wife (who eats very little processed food) where she buys her milk and eggs. (I should also mention that she also has a degree in something agricultural dealing with animals and feed. And, I should also mention that all of their agricultural genes skipped my branch of the family tree and agricultural jargon is like a foreign language to me. At one time I knew their specific degrees, but I forgot and I failed to ask them this weekend) While she grew up drinking raw milk from her family's farm, she now buys pasteurized milk from the store. And, while visiting her family's farm, will heat up the raw milk to pasteurization temps before serving it to their child. I asked her why and she said that salmonella will occasionally break out within the herd without warning and that is a risk she doesn't want to take. She buys regular, store bought eggs.

Then, the discussion turned to my cousin, the beef farmer. He is definitely a meat and potatoes kind of guy and at one point stated, "vegetables are what food eats" in his normal wise cracking way. He worked on a beef ranch in Nebraska for a few years before moving back to his home state to work for the college. I asked him about grass fed vs. grain fed cattle. He discussed the taste benefits of grain fed cattle such as marbling, texture, etc. We discussed acidosis and he said that corn has to be introduced slowly to prevent acidosis and if fed the proper amounts of corn and hay, a cow should not suffer from acidosis. I knew that there was a difference between grass fed and grass finished beef, but he informed me that grass fed beef, by USDA standards require 80% of feed to be grass and up to 20% can be grain, so many farmers initially feed the cattle grass, but pour on the grain to increase weight just before processing.

I brought up the subject of feed lots and cows standing around in manure. He said there are dirt mounds in the feed lots for the cows to have a dry place to lay, but that even grass grazing cows will find the coolest spot to lay, most often under a tree and in a pile of manure. I asked about processing plants and he said that when plants follow the rules, meat should be safe and free from contaminants. He informed me that cows go through a vinegar wash which cleans the hide before processing.

Then, we discussed the use of hormones and antibiotics in beef cattle. He said female cows naturally have a very high estrogen level, much higher than hormone treated male cows. He went on to say that he doesn't have a problem consuming antibiotic treated meat because cows treated with antibiotics have a wait period between antibiotic treatment and processing. For example, many antibiotics require a 60-day wait between treatment and processing; therefore, the antibiotics should already be out of the animal. He said he feels that organic animals are often sick and untreated. Both he and his wife recalled viewing a specimen of organic beef under a microscope and noted that it was full of bacteria, whereas conventional meat had quite a bit less.

Finally, he said that from a health perspective, grass fed (and finished) beef is healthier and I'll continue to buy my beef from a local grass fed source. I will, however, find out if the beef I've been buying is grass finished.

Then, I asked my uncle, a man of few words, how he feels about eating pork after working with pigs all of these years and he said, "I like it." Again, I plan to continue buying my pork from a local farm.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Fluffier Whole Wheat Bread

I ran across another recipe for homemade whole wheat bread. Musings of a Housewife's bread recipe had great reviews so I decided to give it a try. I have a smaller kitchen aid stand mixer than she does so I decided to cut the recipe in half and make a batch of dough for 2 loaves of bread. She also suggests freezing the dough, allowing it to thaw & rise and then baking so you always have freshly baked bread as opposed to baking & then freezing. This bread is extra light & fluffy...very reminiscent of our days past with store bought bread. So far the girls really like it!

Here are the ingredients for the half-recipe (2 loaves) See the original post for all of the instructions.

3 cups whole wheat flour

1/3 cup honey

1/4 cup coconut oil or butter, melted (I used butter)

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon, 1 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast

2-1/4 cup very warm water (120°F to 130°F)

1 cups Spelt or white flour (I bought spelt which is an ancient cousin of whole wheat, and I probably wouldn't bother with it again. I really can't see what difference it would make)

2 to 3 cups all-purpose flour

This bread is delicious and not dense like other wheat breads. I'm sure that has a lot to do with the amount of white flour and probably the amount of yeast (which seems to be more than other recipes). Try it and let me know what you think.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Did I ever tell you.....

how much I dislike Wal-mart? And I mean REALLY DISLIKE! This feeling of disdain was not a result of my food conversion. I've actually felt this way for years. I will occasionally go there for something that I can't find somewhere else in town or if for whatever reason I don't have time to go the extra 5-10 minutes to Target. Wednesday's trip to Wal-mart was a result of the latter reason. I needed to pick up a couple of library books that were being held at the library (about a 10 minute drive from our house). Then, I really needed to print out a few pictures for a project for my class. I felt like the easiest thing to do would be to run in Wal-mart (which is about 5 minutes past my house going the opposite direction of the library) and use the automatic photo kiosk. This should have been a quick in and out situation, but I had both girls in tow and, as young children do, they wanted to look at the toys. I also needed to run in the grocery store and pick up bananas, pasta, and (I'm almost afraid to mention it on a real food blog) heavy whipping cream (since we don't yet buy raw milk). The longer the girls looked at the toys I thought it would just be easier to buy the 3 items at Wal-mart rather than make an additional stop.
We first went to the dairy section and got the cream. Then, we headed to the pasta aisle. With each step, I felt more and more depressed. These "food" aisles seemed so foreign to me. I realized that I couldn't remember the last time I bought food at Wal-mart. I couldn't find many of the better brands I've been buying lately and I had a hard time finding any REAL food. I quickly grabbed the pasta and headed to the produce section for bananas.
On the way, I passed a mom and daughter standing in front of the frozen section debating whether to get lasagna or enchiladas. And, it occurred to me, this is what our culture is all about. Stop by the grocery store and pick up something pre-made without ever giving a second thought to the ingredients you're actually eating. Sometimes, one might turn the box over to read the nutritional information, but how many of us read the ingredients labels? This was one of the first changes I made during my food conversion. Now, I ALWAYS read the ingredients label. You never know what you'll find lurking there.
I got to the banana display, selected a bunch and headed toward the checkout. I left there with a sick feeling and a sadness for our culture. Bigger, faster, cheaper doesn't necessarily mean better.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Homemade Bagels

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, I've stopped buying store bought bagels that are laden with artificial ingredients and added preservatives. I decided to go with this recipe and for my first batch I decided not to change anything (well, I did substitute light olive oil for the recipe's vegetable oil). Yes, it calls for bread flour, and no, that isn't a "real" food, but these bagels only have a total of 6 ingredients, which is a HUGE improvement over store bought bagels.

Homemade Bagels

4 c. bread flour
1 Tbl sugar
1 1/2 tsps salt
1 Tbl oil (the original recipe called for vegetable oil, but I used light olive oil. I assume coconut oil would work as well)
2 tsps instant yeast
1-1/4- 1-1/2 cups of warm water (I had to add just a little more)

Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Once all flour is incorporated, knead on a flat surface for 10 minutes (I highly doubt I kneaded this long). Cut dough into 8 balls (or you could do more for smaller bagels) and let rest 10-20 minutes.

The orginal recipe gave instructions for hand rolling the dough, but I since found another recipe that suggests rolling the dough into a tight ball and then poking two fingers through the middle and stretching the dough a bit to form a hole. (I'm going to try this next time, I think it might be a little easier and create a more uniform bagel).

Let bagels rest about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425* F, bring a pot of water to a boil, and lightly grease a baking sheet.

My bagels resting before their water bath

After 20 minutes, add bagels, a few at a time, to the pot of boiling water. Boil for a minute or two on both sides. Remove from water, allow to dry for a moment, and place them on your baking sheet. Repeat until all bagels have boiled. (This is the time to add any desired seeds or toppings to your bagels.)

Place baking sheet in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes (the orginal recipe said to flip the bagels after 10 minutes, but I thought this would create a flat bagel on both sides, so I skipped this step and mine turned out just fine).

Allow to cool and enjoy!

Next time I want to try making blueberry bagels, and I might start incorporating whole wheat flour, as well as using honey or sucanat instead of refined, white sugar.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Planning Ahead

After 7 years as a stay at home wife and mom, I have re-entered the work force. Earlier this week, I became a preschool teacher. I believe this job was a direct answer to prayer. It fits beautifully into our family's schedule without the need for outside childcare. My oldest daughter won't even know I'm working since she's in full day school, and my youngest daughter will go to school where I teach (in fact, she was already attending 2 days per week).However, I must admit that I quickly realized how hard it is to eat real foods when you get home from a busy day at work, you're tired, already hungry, and you haven't prepared anything in advance (and I'm only part-time...I don't know how those with full-time jobs do it!).
Real foods are not always convenient, but I also don't think thy have to be all that difficult either. I quickly realized that I'm going to have to be super organized, plan ahead, and keep convenient foods in the house.
I'm going to go back to planning a weekly menu. I used to do this, but at some point I got out of the habit. I never designated a meal for each specific day, but merely made sure that I had all ingredients on hand for 5-7 meals to be prepared that week. Also, now that we're eating real foods, I've got to prepare foods in making sure we have bread, yogurt, etc. Sandwiches are a great convenience food, but if you've forgotten to bake bread, it doesn't really work.
Other items I would consider convenience foods are fresh fruit, cheeses, nuts, salads, vegetables, etc. (those things that you can grab and eat with little to no preparation when you come home already hungry and too tired to cook). But, that means I've got to keep those items in the house.
I quickly realized that dinner isn't my only problem. Breakfast is proving to be just as challenging. The likelihood of me cooking eggs, bacon, or anything other than toast for breakfast is slim to none. The girls are usually happy with fresh fruit or yogurt (or both). I love a good bagel or English muffin. However, after reading labels on the store bought versions, I've crossed them off my grocery list. I decided to find a recipe and make my own. And, since they won't keep as long as store bought, I will store them in the freezer so they will be available when I want one. Today I made my first batch of homemade bagels and they are delish!! I must admit, I used all bread flour and no whole wheat, but, with only a few ingredients, they are a much better alternative to store bought bagels. I might try them with whole wheat in the future, but wanted to see if it was a good recipe to work from. I can't wait to try them with some of the goat cheese I bought from the farmers market this morning! I also made hamburger buns using the pita dough recipe, yogurt, and granola.
Homemade Bagel recipe Goat cheese from Coles Lake Dairy. It is fantastic!! Clockwise from top left: cranberry, peach, and strawberry.
More goat cheese from Coles Lake Dairy. I've bought this variety pack twice and it only lasted a couple of days last time!! Clockwise from top left: onion & chive (?, I can't remember), roasted garlic, Mediterranean, and herb.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Homemade Grahams

My kids love graham crackers (and I must admit I really like them too...when they're dipped in milk and all soggy....yum!). However, I just can't buy graham crackers now that I'm reading labels. I recently found a recipe for graham cookies. I adapted it to fit our new real food conversion. I realized my family liked them when my 5 year-old asked me to make them for 4 consecutive days. I finally took the hint and made another batch.

Graham Cookies

2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup sucanat
3 Tbs. toasted wheat germ
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cut up
1/4 cup honey
2 Tbs. milk
1 tsp. vanilla

In a food processor, combine dry ingredients. Add butter, cover, and process until fine crumbs form. Add honey, milk, and vanilla. Cover and process until mixture starts to hold together. If necessary, place in a bowl and work with your hands until dough is smooth. Divide in half and flatten each half to a disk. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough and cut into squares. Arrange squares 1" apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake in a 350* oven for 8 minutes or until lightly browned. Transfer to cookie sheets and let cool.

Unfortunately, these aren't a replacement for those crispy, crunchy Honey Maids, but they are a much better alternative. Possibly cooking at a lower heat for a longer time will make a crunchier, drier, cookie/cracker. A friend mentioned using a cracker dehydrator. I've never heard of one of those before. Any other thoughts on producing a crunchy cracker?

Shared on Fight Back Friday and Real Food Wednesday

Update 4/2/11: I made these again tonight and was having a difficult time getting the mixture to stick together. I added a couple more tablespoons of milk and it seemed to fix the problem. Also, my hubby was in charge of removing the first batch from the oven and he left them cooking for a few minutes longer than the recommended 8 minutes. These produced a much crunchier graham cracker.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Amazing Grace

One of my favorite perfumes is Philosophy's Amazing Grace. On the label it states:

how you climb up the mountain is just as important as how you get down the mountain. in the end, it all comes down to one word. grace.

As a Christ follower, I try to extend grace to others, remembering that they are just dust ("As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust" Ps. 103:13-14 NIV). I think I'm pretty good about extending grace to others. But, giving myself that's another story.

A few days ago I felt guilty for feeding my children cheerios because of some of the articles I had been reading about extruded foods. Then I was feeling guilty for using granulated sugar when making cookies. One of my biggest challenges during this food conversion is the feeling that I'm failing, that I'm a hypocrite, that I'm not "all in."

Is it enough to just make the switch from industrial meats to organic meats, or, in order to be a "true food convert" does that mean we only eat pastured meats?

Are cereals OK, or should we avoid cheerios like the plague?

What do I do with all of this new information I'm finding that I've never heard and is so completely foreign to me? Soaking grains? What is that?

What about budget constraints? We're just a typical family with 2 kids and a house payment.

To say that this conversion has been easy would be a complete lie. At best, it's been a challenge. At worst, it's been difficult.

Eating real foods takes a good bit of planning, and this is a big adjustment for our instant gratification society. Baking bread takes time. Home baked foods (without preservatives) don't last as long as store bought foods, and therefore, you're baking again....and again....and again. Fresh fruits and vegetables perish, unlike the boxed goods from the grocery store. Dinners from scratch usually take more than 15 minutes of prepping and cooking...and dirty up more dishes.

But, I will say that I find it extremely rewarding. I know what my children are eating because I control the ingredients I put into our foods. I've found that I actually enjoy baking. And, the praises I receive when my family likes what I've prepared makes all the extra effort worthwhile.
We've made some amazing changes. I'm reading food labels. I bake my own bread. I make my own yogurt and granola. If we want a cookie, I make our own. I buy local when I can, organic when I can, pastured when I can. I try to keep fresh fruit in the house for the kids to snack on rather than processed cookies or crackers. I encourage my oldest to take her lunch and, when she does, I pack healthy meals. My husband has branched out and tried several new vegetables (and let me tell you, he is PICKY!!!!!).

So, if it all comes back to grace, I'm going to start extending some to myself.

Will I ever buy cheerios again? Probably so. And, I'm OK with that.

(Check out Sorta Crunchy's post "Heavy on the Sorta." I thought it was full of grace)

Shared on Real Food Wednesday

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Where's the Beef?

(Or maybe more accurately, where's the beef from?)

For the vast majority of my life I have trusted our government to protect its citizens whether from war, crime, disease, or shady food industry practices. In the case of the USDA and FDA, I believed that inspectors and top officials had the citizens' health and safety as their primary concern and would do everything in their power to protect the consumer. However, since beginning the quest for real food, my eyes have been opened to the power of money and special interests even in regard to our nation's health. Watch Food, Inc. (or do a little digging) and you'll see for yourself that throughout the past several presidential administrations (and on both sides of the political aisle) the top officials within the USDA and FDA have either been previously employed by or been on the legal team for one of the major food corporations. Therefore, I believe that their loyalties are not to the American consumer.

When the food chain becomes so long that we do not know where or who our food comes from and the producer does not know (or care) who consumes their food, we have a major breakdown in food handling and safety. Unless you've been hiding under a rock for the past few years, you understand the dangers of tainted meat (and now even eggs). A few days ago , I saw this article about yet another discovery of E. coli contaminated ground beef. So, do we play Russian Roulette with our meat, or avoid beef altogether? Or, maybe there is another option.

Since my conversion, I buy grass fed beef from a local source. I have met the man who owns the cows and who also consumes this meat. He cares about the quality of his food because his family's survival depends on it.

What's so bad about grain fed beef?

Cows were not designed to eat grain. Our industrialized food culture has trained cows to eat grain in order to fatten them up more quickly and ensure greater profits. There are also a number of health and safety benefits to eating grass fed beef over grain fed feed lot beef. This article does a great job of explaining those benefits.

For a while I thought grass fed beef wasn't an option for us because we don't have a deep freeze and cannot house a side of beef in our fridge's freezer. This particular farm sells beef by the cut, and it isn't much more than what I was previously paying for beef at grocery store (about $1/lb.). For me the quality (and safety) of the meat I feed my family is worth the additional $1/lb!

Shared on Fight Back Friday

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Do you know what you're eating?

In light of my previous post, I wanted to share a few things I read yesterday in Michael Pollan's book, In Defense of Food. Mr Pollan states that for those of us eating a Western diet, 75% of oil in our diet comes from soybeans, and over 50% of our sweeteners are corn derived "(representing about 10% of daily calories)!" He goes on to say that "corn contributes 554 calories a day to American's per capita food supply and soy another 257. Add wheat (768 calories) and rice (91) and you can see there isn't a whole lot of room left in the American stomach for any other foods."(pages 116-117)

And, this is just too good for me to butcher, so I'll just quote him from page 122:
"Since 1980, American farmers have produced an average of 600 more calories per person per day, the price of food has fallen, portion sizes have ballooned, and, predictably, we're eating a whole lot more, at least 300 more calories a day than we consumed in 1985...Nearly a quarter of these additional calories come from sugars (and most of that in the form of high-fructose corn syrup); roughly another quarter from added fat (most is in the form of soybean oil); 46 percent of them from grains (mostly refined); and the few calories left (8 percent) from fruits and vegetables." (He got these USDA statistics from FoodReview, Vol. 25, Issue 3, a publication of the Economic Research Service at the USDA.)

All I can say is WOW!

Honey Nut Granola

I love crunchy foods. Chocolate is better with nuts, I like nut topping on my ice cream, and I love nutty granola. My cousin recently sent me a recipe for homemade granola. I tweaked it a bit to suit my taste, and you could tweak the basic recipe to suit your taste as well.

Here's the recipe I've been using:
2 c old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 c raw sunflower seeds
1 c almonds (I prefer whole almonds)
1/2 c toasted wheat germ
1/2 c flax seed
1/4 to 1/2 c honey (I like it with 1/4 c which provides a dry, crunchy, fall apart granola. My husband prefers the 1/2 c version, which results in a sweeter, stickier, bar-like consistency.)
1 oz unsalted butter, plus extra to butter the pan
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 c packed brown sugar/turbinado sugar/sucanat

Preheat oven to 350* F and toast oats, nuts, and seeds for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. (Make sure you at least toast the oats, otherwise they turn gummy/gooey from the wet mixture--I made this mistake last time thinking it wasn't an important step)

In the meantime, combine honey, sugar, butter, vanilla extract, and salt in medium saucepan and place over medium heat. Cook until sugar is completely dissolved.

Once, oat mixture is toasted, remove it from oven and reduce heat to 300* F. Immediately add the oat mixture to the liquid mixture and stir to combine. Turn mixture out onto buttered dish and bake 25 minutes.
You could use a 9"x9" glass baking dish to form bars or I just spread mine out into a thin layer on a baking sheet for loose granola (using the 1/4 c honey version) or "sheets" of granola (using the 1/2 c honey version).

Making this recipe your own:
From what I have read/heard about granola, it is all about the wet to dry ratio. Therefore, you could use whatever nuts/seeds/grains you want, just keep the dry ingredients to around 4 cups. You can even add dried fruit (the original recipe called for 6 1/2 oz, but that isn't really my thing), but don't worry about factoring this into your dry to wet ratio.

Let me know if you make it and what variations you try.

Shared on Real Food Wednesday

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Paying Attention to Food Labels: HFCS

My former self would go to the grocery store, go up and down aisles placing all manner of "foods" into my shopping cart. I would see the "heart healthy," "no trans fats," "made with whole grains," etc. labels on the foods and would think "I'm making a good choice" without actually turning the package over to see what ingredients were listed. If you are paying attention to food labels, you will know that it is very difficult to find items in the regular grocery aisles that do not contain high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). It is in just about everything including juice, soft drinks, breads, cereals, and condiments (many condiments have HFCS listed as the first ingredient!). The Corn Refiners Association would lead you to believe that HFCS is natural and that our body reacts to and metabolizes it the same way it uses regular sugar. However, calling HFCS "natural" is a stretch since it takes quite a bit of processing to produce. As far as how our body metabolizes HFCS, this study reveals that fat cells do respond differently to HFCS than to regular sugar. HFCS has also been found to contain traces of mercury. Either way, as I try to transition our family to a less-processed, more traditional way of eating, I'm going to avoid HFCS as much as I possibly can. This seems to be a growing trend, as many of the larger food companies are beginning to remove HFCS from their products due to consumer requests. I recently noticed that both Hunts and Heinz ketchups are producing HFCS-free ketchup and going back to sugar as the sweetener. As of last week, Sara Lee announced that they will be removing HFCS from some of their breads.
While I'm very happy to see food manufacturers removing HFCS from their products, this doesn't mean I'm going to buy their products. Many of these products will still contain large amounts of refined white sugars, which aren't all that good for you either. The American diet fills us with sugar (in various forms) during every meal, snack, and drink. Most of us don't even think about our sugar consumption unless we're eating dessert, and I think our desserts have to be sweeter and sweeter for our sweet tooth to be satisfied. Once we cut down our sugar intake in everyday foods that we don't think of as "sweet", I think we'll be able to better satisfy our sweet tooth with more subtle flavors.
So, what sweeteners do I use? I'm mostly using pure maple syrup (pay attention to pancake syrups at the grocery store. Most are HFCS with maple flavor), honey, and rapadura/sucanat (unrefined, unbleached whole cane sugar--pictured in the bowl). I do keep refined sugar on hand for certain things, but I don't use it very often.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

It's Not Delivery And It's A Heck Of A lot Better Than DiGiorno

Shared on Fight Back Friday
We've been making homemade pizza at our house for years, but I've always used store-bought sauce, white flour, and pre-shredded cheeses. Now I'm tweaking the recipe to better fit our quest for real food using whole wheat flour, and real (even raw) cheese. Tonight I made a margherita style pizza for myself and a salami pizza for the hubby. For my margherita pizza I used the crust and sauce recipes below as well as sliced mozzarella, some shredded raw colby cheese I picked up at the farmer's market, fresh basil from my own plant, and some tiny little tomatoes (Matt's Wild variety) that I also picked up at the farmer's market. For the hubster's salami pizza, I used the same crust and sauce, shredded mozzarella and raw colby cheeses, and all natural, nitrate-free salami. I would have taken a picture of the salami pizza, but it was completely consumed before I had a chance.

For the crust (This recipe is an adaptation of Bobby Flay's recipe):

3 1/2 to 4 c. flour (I used about 2 c. whole wheat and 1 1/2 c. bread flour)
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp dry yeast
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 c. warm water
2 Tbsp plus 2 tsp olive oil

I combine all dry ingredients in my Kitchen Aid stand mixer with the dough attachment. Then add water and 2 Tbsp olive oil. I increase the speed and until a ball forms and sticks to the dough hook. You may need to add more flour if the dough sticks to the sides or more water if the dough does not incorporate all of the flour. Grease a large bowl with 2 tsp. olive oil, add dough and cover with a damp towel. Allow to rise until doubled (about 1 hour). Divide and allow to rest on floured surface 10 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 450*F and place your baking sheet/pizza stone in the oven. After the oven is preheated and/or your dough has rested remove the sheet/stone and (carefully) roll out your dough on the hot sheet/stone. Add desired sauce and ingredients. Bake for approximately 10 minutes or until cheese has melted.

For the sauce (This recipe is Bobby Flay's recipe):
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Pinch of red pepper flakes
28 oz tomatoes (I used one can of sauce and one can of petite diced, but you can adjust according to your desired texture)
Basil or Italian Seasoning to taste (if desired--I actually forgot to add this tonight)
Salt & Pepper (again, I forgot to add this tonight)

Heat olive oil in sauce pan over medium heat, add onions and cook until soft , about 5 minutes. Add garlic and chili flakes; cook 1 minute. Add tomatoes, and simmer until thickened, about 20 minutes. Stir in seasonings.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

HealthIER Chicken & Stars

My girls LOVE chicken noodle soup, particularly the chicken & stars variety. This has also been one of my favorites as well because it was quick, easy, and no one complained when it was served! Then, I began reading food labels. Bye, bye 27-ingredient (not including the ones in parentheses) soup full of modified ingredients, corn starch, corn oil, etc. I decided I would just begin making my own chicken noodle soup, but the girls weren't buying it. It looked "tasted" different. I decided to keep trying. Last week at the grocery store, I noticed a box of pasta (Ronzoni Pastini) that I thought had dots or bits of pasta and I decided to take a closer look. I realized that the bits were actually stars! I must admit that these stars are an enriched pasta product...and even though I'm trying to buy only, or mostly, whole wheat pastas, I decided that my soup made with enriched pasta would still be a huge improvement over the alternative.

My HealthIER chicken & stars has only 6 ingredients: chicken, chicken broth, pasta, carrots, thyme, and poultry seasoning. I cooked the chicken and carrots in the broth until the chicken was cooked through, then I removed the chicken and chopped it into small pieces, returned it to the pot along with the pasta, thyme, and poultry seasoning, and simmered until the pasta was tender.

I made my first batch one evening while the girls were asleep so they wouldn't know it was another one of my attempts to get the to eat better. I packed it in the firstborn's lunchbox the next day and it came home practically empty. It was a hit with the 2-year-old as well, she even wanted it for breakfast.

Lunchbox Ideas for Picky Eaters

This post has been shared on Real Food Wednesday

A few weeks ago, I took the firstborn back to school shopping. We bought a lunch box and all kinds of neat contraptions to keep food hot or cold. I bought all of this thinking she would take her lunch on occasion, but that was before our food conversion. Now that we are making better choices, I knew we would be mostly packing our lunch and occasional eating school lunch. However, she is PICKY. She eats a lot of what she likes, but she doesn't like a lot! It is sometimes difficult to keep menu choices interesting when the list of "approved" items is so slim. She's most adventurous when it comes to fruit, but vegetables are a hard sell. We've just begun week 2 of school and I'm already running out of ideas for her lunches and snacks. Here are some of the ideas I came up with (and I'll be making most of these items myself):

Turkey & Cheddar (sandwiches, pitas, etc)
Roast beef & mozzarella (sandwiches, pitas, etc)
Bean Burrito
Chicken Nuggets
HeathIER chicken & stars soup
Mac & Cheese
Hot Dog (I read that Tori Spelling's mom would put a hotdog in a thermos with boiling water & it would still be warm at lunchtime. We tried that today. Also, I buy Applegate Farms hot dogs that are 100 % beef, antibiotic, growth hormone, & nitrate/nitrite free.)

Here's my snack list:
Cereal Mix
Graham Crackers
Frozen fruit

I would love to hear any other suggestions!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Backyard Harvesting and How to Make a Pita "Puff"

This year I planted a small garden in the flower bed along the back of the house. I started out with bell pepper, okra (a southern staple), squash, and a potted tomato plant. Unfortunately, my squash plants fell victim to an infestation of the infamous squash bug! I was only able to harvest a few squash before the plants stopped producing and died off. The bell pepper plants have done fairly well. They've produced quite a few bell peppers, but the peppers are a little on the small side. My okra, on the other hand, has THRIVED! The plants are now taller than me! The pods grow so quickly that I have to check them everyday or they'll get too big and become too hard to slice. I didn't check on the yesterday and might have even skipped my visit on Friday. My husband was outside working in the yard and brought in a couple of okra pods that were at least 5-6" long and said there were more. To my surprise (and delight) the longest okra pods were still soft enough to slice! Here's what I picked today:

I also made more pitas tonight (per the firstborn's request before packing lunch in the morning). Last time, I cooked them for 3 minutes as the recipe indicateS. This time I decided to leave a few pitas in for a couple more minutes. I opened the oven door and discovered that my pitas had puffed! I was so excited that I called for my husband (who thought that something was wrong) to come see my puffed pitas! They deflated after taking them out of the hot oven, but still have the pocket I was hoping for.
Can you see it?!?!

Pita Loaf

My previous attempt at finding our bread of choice resulted in a decent loaf of bread, and was initially accepted by the girls. However, the firstborn began to tell me she didn't like the bread and I assumed it was because the result was more dense than storebought, so I kept my eyes peeled for something light & fluffy (while still using at least half whole-wheat flour). We liked the Pita Bread so much that I decided to see if it would work as a loaf bread. And, IT DID! I am extremely happy with the results. It produced a nice crust, a soft, light, and fluffy crumb, and has a hint of sweetness. Another bonus is that there are only a handful of ingredients and almost everyone has them in their pantry already.

Pita Loaf (adapted from Pita Bread)
3 cups flour (I used 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour and 1 1/2 cups unbleached white all purpose flour)

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 Tablespoon sugar or honey ( I used local honey)

1 packet yeast (or, if from bulk, 2 teaspoons yeast)

1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups water, roughly at room temperature

2 tablespoons olive oil, vegetable oil, butter, or shortening (When I made the pitas, I used light olive oil because I didn't want it to have an overwhelming olive oil taste. This time I wasn't paying attention and used extra virgin olive oil. I was a little concerned that we would be able to taste the difference, but I didn't notice a difference at all. So, feel free to use either oil.)

Mix together all dry ingredients, then mix in wet ingredients using a wooden spoon until a ball forms. If some of the flour will not stick to the ball, add more water.
Once a ball has formed, place dough on a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes ( I don't think I kneaded quite that long because the dough was pretty sticky and I stopped kneading when the dough stopped cooperating).
After kneading, place dough in a bowl that has been lighly coated with oil. Roll dough around until it has been coated with the oil on all sides. Cover with a damp towel and set aside until it has doubled in size, about 90 minutes.
After the dough has risen, place the dough in a buttered loaf pan. At this point, I broke the cardinal rule of bread making....I immediately popped the pan into the oven....without letting it rest! It still turned out great, but I think if I had let it rest it might have risen a little more and been a taller loaf. Next time I will let it rest in the pan for about 40 minutes.
Bake in a 350*F oven for approximately 50 minutes. Allow to cool completely on a cooling rack before slicing.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Kid Tested, Mother Approved

Now that school is in session and I'm pushing homemade lunches over cafeteria food, I have to find things that the firstborn will eat. She's the picky one. Her idea of a vegetable is fried okra, or carrots in chicken noodle soup. Fruit, on the other hand, is her real food of choice. As long as I have plenty of fruit choices on hand, I feel like she's getting the vitamins and minerals that she would otherwise get in vegetables (I'll post soon about the raw applesauce I've been making). And, she's usually happy with turkey and cheese, with or without bread. However, she hasn't cared for any of the bread I've made recently and I have vowed not to buy any more bread with HFCS (high fructose corn syrup). A friend of mine sent me this recipe for pita bread. When I told Madeline how she could stuff her turkey and cheese into the pocket of pita bread, she was sold on the idea, now we just had to test the taste of the bread.

Pita Bread

Makes 8 pitas

3 cups flour (I used 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour and 1 1/2 cups white all purpose flour)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 Tablespoon sugar or honey ( I used local honey)
1 packet yeast (or, if from bulk, 2 teaspoons yeast)
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups water, roughly at room temperature
2 tablespoons olive oil, vegetable oil, butter, or shortening (I used olive oil since it is the most traditional oil used in making pita bread---and I'm trying not to use shortening or any other vegetable oils...I'll get around to posting about this in the future.)

**Refer to the original post for recipe instructions**

My bread did not puff up like the photos shown in the original recipe post (nor were they as nicely rounded), so I was immediately concerned that I had messed up the recipe (maybe it was because I used whole wheat flour). However, once cut in half, the pitas pull apart easily to produce the pocket I was hoping for. I tried a bite while it was still warm and I thought it was delicious. I gave the firstborn a bite and she immediately said "yum!" This has become the bread that she asks for and she has packed a pita sandwich twice this week. The result was an extra soft, moist, fluffy, and slightly sweet flat bread. I'm debating trying this dough to make a loaf of bread. I'm not sure how it will turn out and I'm afraid it might overflow out of the loaf pan while baking, but I'm thinking of giving it a try. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Crock Pot Yogurt

About a year ago, I saw a Facebook friend's comment about homemade crock pot yogurt. I was intrigued, but never took the initiative to make it myself (and I was afraid of a soured milk smell wafting around the house, but my fears were unfounded...there is no spoiled milk smell). Also at that time, I wasn't thinking about a food conversion, and store bought (even highly sugared) yogurt was fine with me. However, as I started reading labels, and paying attention to the foods I'm feeding our children, I decided homemade might be the most cost-effective way to provide healthy yogurt for the girls. As I said in a previous post, we're going through a batch (it makes about a half-gallon) each week. It immediately became the firstborn's snack food/breakfast food/anytime food of choice. Here's the rundown on how to make it (click here for the real recipe):
1. Heat a half-gallon of whole milk in your crock pot (with lid) on low for 2 1/2 hours (but don't use ultra-pasteurized as UHT (ultra high temperature) milk won't firm up. Where I live all organic milk except Publix Greenwise milk is ultra-pasteurized so make sure you double check.) .
2. Unplug or turn off your crock pot and wait for 3 hours (don't remove the lid).
3. Scoop out 2 cups of warmed milk and mix with a 1/2 cup of plain yogurt (I've been using a whole cup...not sure what difference it makes). Return this mixture to the crock pot and stir.
*You can either buy a cup of plain yogurt (try to get one with multiple cultures. I used Stonyfield Farms the first time because it has 6 active cultures) or after the first batch, you can reserve a cup of homemade yogurt to use on the next batch.
4. Return the lid to the crock pot and wrap with a thick towel to insulate. Allow to sit for at least 8 hours. Voila! You've made your own (healthy) yogurt.

The result is a little thinner than most store bought yogurt (although if you've ever bought Stonyfield Farms' Yo-Baby it is about the same consistency). I've heard it will continue to thicken the longer you allow it to sit, but I'm not sure how long is too long as far as spoilage is concerned. And, you'll notice the whey on the top, which I mix back into the yogurt. I make sure to scoop out some to use as my starter the next time as well as some extra that I use instead of sour cream. Then, I stir in some vanilla and a little sugar, although I think I'll start using honey in the future. Depending on the firstborn's mood, she'll eat it just like this or with fruit mixed in. I've also started blending it with fruit in the blender and pouring it into Popsicle molds, which the girls think is really cool to eat "Popsicles" for breakfast. The original recipe says it can be stored in the fridge for 7-10 days, but ours is always gobbled up before then.

Another thought: Haven't tried this but my friend says she uses unflavored gelatin to thicken her yogurt. I assume you would need to put the gelatin in while it is still pretty warm.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Farmers' Market Finds 8/7/10

The girls and I (along with my friend and her baby girl) headed off to the farmers' market on Saturday. I decided to step out of my comfort zone (after some encouragement from my friend) and purchase the eggplant (I bought more than just these 2, but ate the others for dinner tonight). I loved that they were small and not too fleshy. The lady we bought them from told us she slices them in half length-wise, drizzles them with olive oil, and grills them or roasts them in the oven. We grilled mine tonight. I realized I'm not a huge eggplant fan, but they weren't bad and I'll try them oven roasted next time. I also got some small onions because I'm the only one that eats them and I hate wasting a large onion. The girls picked out the apples. Not the prettiest, but they tasted good. I thought they would be in the family of a granny smith or something, but the lady said they were golden delicious. The first born starts kindergarten tomorrow and will be taking one of the apples as well as some of our homemade yogurt for her snack.
Again, my most exciting purchase of the day was meat! The lady from Little Red Hen Farm was there and I ordered 5 lbs. of chicken breast that is pastured, never given antibiotics or hormones, and never fed GMO grains! I'm loving buying our meats directly from the farmer! Can't wait to get a deep freeze so we can buy in bigger quantities, especially since they stops processing their chickens during the winter. They will also begin selling pork in the fall and I'm planning on purchasing from her because her bacon is uncured and cheaper than the other guy's. I'll probably start buying my eggs from her too!

Friday, August 6, 2010

I'm Afraid I'm Becoming "That" Mom

I never thought I'd be anywhere remotely close to being "that" mom. I thought "those" moms were quirky at best, and somewhat of a quack at worst. However, today I realized I am leaning toward becoming "that" mom.
Today was my firstborn's meet the teacher day for kindergarten. She is so excited, and I am too! We have all of her school supplies and bought all kinds of neat containers that will keep her food cold or hot when packing her lunches. She's excited about eating in the cafeteria as opposed to eating in her classroom like she did in Pre-K. She's even memorized her student ID (a 6 digit number) that she must enter to "pay" for her cafeteria lunches. However, with all of my new convictions and awareness to our industrial food system, I'm concerned about her eating school lunches. Within our back to school packet I came across the form for free or reduced price lunches. The first 2 sentences say "children need healthy meals to learn. [our county] offers healthy meals every school day." Then I was looking over the menu this evening and noticed things like corn dogs, rib-b-que sandwiches, etc. But, I think what I thought was the worst was the "funnel cake" on the breakfast menu. I thought funnel cake was fair food, not part of a "healthy" school menu. Soooo...after looking over the menu and in the interest of not being "that" mom, we're planning to let her choose a few days she wants to eat the school menu (thankfully there a ton of days she won't like either of the offerings anyway) and we'll provide our own lunch most of the time. We are also required to provide a snack for her each day (or if we forget she'll receive one out of the "snack box," so we just won't forget) and I'll plan to pack something that is found in nature or consisting of "real" ingredients. And, we're planning on letting her do "Ice Cream Thursdays" with the rest of the class. So, maybe I'm still quite a ways off from being "that" mom.
So far I think we're doing pretty well with our feet-first jump into the real foods movement. We had a few products in the freezer that weren't organic or grass-fed and I must admit we finished those off....I even admit that tonight we had hotdogs (but from now on I'm buying the kind in the organic section without nitrates/nitrites!). This week, I made stovetop mac & cheese and it really was a hit! I baked more bread from the Healthy Bread in 5 book. This time I tried the Soft Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread and even made buns/rolls in addition to the loaf. I also made another batch of crockpot yogurt, which I really will have to blog about next because the girls are eating about a half gallon per week (NOT A JOKE!). And, tonight, I made a delicious peach crumble (the original recipe is for organic peach crumble; mine wasn't completely organic, but still consisted of all REAL ingredients)! Tomorrow morning, we're planning on eating some of the bacon I picked up at the market on Wednesday and will probably head back out to the market to see what else we can find (I hear there are quite a few more vendors on Saturdays)!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Farmers' Market Finds 8/4/10

We went to the local farmers' market this morning. This is our second Wednesday in a row and I'm loving it! Haven't been able to make it on a Saturday yet, but I've heard there are twice as many (or more) vendors on Saturdays. I bought local wildflower honey, two ginormous cucumbers, tomatoes (I have a plant, but the last two ripe ones were eaten by some critter and all the others are still green), a cantaloupe (which will be gone tonight once the hubby gets home and cuts it open), and my most exciting purchase....pork.....from a local farm! This pork was pastured, not given any steroids, hormones, or antibiotics and I bought the pork from the man who owns and raises the pigs. Today I only bought a pound of bacon and a shoulder roast, but I hope to buy much more from him in the future and once we get a deep freeze maybe we can even buy in bulk. I spoke to him briefly about this option, and he even mentioned us coming down to the farm to see the pigs. After watching Food, Inc. and as I'm reading The Omnivore's Dilemma, I'm learning more and more about how our industrial food system is cloaked in secrecy. I love buying local, knowing that I can go directly to the source and see how they are treating their animals (also known as my food). I love knowing that the money I pay for my food is going directly into the pockets of the farmer to provide for their family instead of helping some CEO becoming richer and richer, while the farmer grows poorer and poorer. Check out to find farmer's markets in your area.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

My Meeting with the Kroger Execs

Well, it wasn't really a meeting (since they just happened to be in the dairy section when I was) and they weren't really executives (more like a shift manager or store manager, although, I don't know who they were or what title they hold other than they were dressed in slacks and wore a tie and had a nametag). I was there looking for cream or half and half for my coffee (I've quit using my beloved liquid non-dairy creamer since it is just about the most unnatural "dairy" product out there) when I realized that EVERY single organic milk product, as well at the nonorganic creams, half and halfs, etc. were all utra-pstuerized! Not a single one of them was just plain 'ol homogenized, pastuerized. The Kroger guys could tell I was spending way more time staring at the case than their normal customer and made a comment about the variety of products they carry. I decided that since I had their attention, I would ask them why they only variety they carry is this case full of worthless milk product...except I didn't say that. I merely asked why all of their organic and even nonorganic was ultra-pastuerized (with the exception of their regular store brand milk). They were apparently surprised by this as well. It seems they had never even noticed this was the case. Then they proceeded to tell me what I already knew. Ultra-pastuerization extends the shelf-life (by months even...months!!! Milk SHOULDN'T last months!). They also said it might be due to state laws since many of these products cross state lines. So why do I care if it is ultra-pastuerized, you ask? Ultra-pastuerized or UHT (ultra high temperature) milk is heated to 275 degrees F, which kills over 99.9% of the bacteria found in milk (both the GOOD, and bad stuff). What is left is basically just white liquid. Liquid that has an extremely long shelf life for milk, up to 3 months or more. Liquid that doesn't even need refrigeration. In fact, there was an entire display of Horizon Organic individual serve ultra-pasteurized milk unrefrigerated as I entered the store.
The purist wouldn't even drink pasteruized (heated to 161 degrees F) milk, or homogenized (which keeps the fat content equally distributed throughout the milk) for that matter. The purist would drink raw milk, and I'm quickly moving that direction.
However, I was pleased that the Kroger guys took my contact information and said that they would find out if it was possible to carry items that are not utra-pastuerized and let me know.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Healthy Bread

I first heard about Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day from SortaCrunchy. The concept is that you only have 5 minutes of hands-on time with the bread on any given day; around 5 minutes to prepare the dough, and 5 minutes of prep time the day that you want to bake it (of course more time is necessary for rising, resting, and baking, but you're not actually doing anything with the bread while this is happening). While at the library this week I decided to get the book and give a few of the recipes a trial run before investing in the book. All of the recipes are written to half or double in order to make as many loaves as you like and the dough is stored in the fridge until ready to use. Oh, and there's an entire section of gluten free recipes as well. The first recipe I tried was their master recipe (the loaf of bread pictured on the cover), and I'll blog about it another time, but it didn't quite turn out like I had hoped, most of which was my fault so I will try it again. This time I went with the recipe for Soft Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread. This recipe only calls for 9 ingredients, none of which are corn-derived. They also provide instructions for making hotdog and hamburger buns from this dough (the Publix hamburger buns I bought yesterday had 17 ingredients, not including the extra 7 listed under "enriched flour bleached." This recipe is a keeper since Matt and the girls liked it! Guess I'll invest in the book after all!

The Quest for Real Food

Our family has just begun a new journey. A journey to REAL food. A journey that takes us out of the supermarket aisles consisting of boxes upon boxes of fillers, additives, and unpronounceable chemicals that our culture has led us to believe is food. This journey will prove challenging at times and I'm not sure where we'll finally end up. But, I believe we will be healthier and happier in the end.

I've known for a long time that our American diets aren't really good for us, but I'm recently finding out just how BAD these foods are for our bodies. We're not necessarily going organic, or health food. We're going Little House on the Prairie, using ingredients my great-great grandmother would have recognized. Eggs, butter, milk....not maltodextrin, MSG, high fructose corn syrup, and hydrogenated oils. I'm realizing that I'm going to need to make things myself if I want to keep these (and other) ingredients out of our foods.

The first step was reading food labels....and more labels...and more labels and choosing the one with the least processing, least artificial ingredients, or even choosing not to purchase the product at all. My first real food purchase was organic maple syrup. No more high fructose corn syrup masquerading around as pancake syrup for us.

So here's the challenge, pay attention to what you're feeding yourself and your family. Read the ingredients label, and do a little research to understand exactly what all of those abbreviations mean.