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