April 14, 2013

Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day: Why I love this book

Alright, so you already know I love whole grains and that I stick to them whenever possible. So it should come as no surprise that I like to bake my own whole grain bread. My favorite shortcut? Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day, by Jeff Hertzberg, M.D. and Zoe Francois.

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This great book really does stand up to it’s claim – although maybe sometimes that 5 minutes is really more like 10, but with bread baking, what’s an extra 5 minutes anyway? Now, some of the recipes are pretty dense, some less so, but I know I can always feel good about eating what I make. Also? Making your own bread can save you some serious dough… ahem.

The basic concept? Mix up a batch of dough, let it rise, stick it in the fridge, pull off a chunk when you want to make something. No kneading, not ever. Your active time in this whole process? Very little.

Do you like pizza?  We have found that one of the best things about this book is using the dough for pizza crust. You can throw together a pizza and bake it in less time than it would take to drive to the pizza place and get one (although I guess this depends on where you live…).

What I have done so far:

The Master Recipe: great for basic, hearty whole wheat bread, pizza crusts and flatbreads.

Soft Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread: My new favorite – slightly sweet, nutty, and fluffier than the other recipes. Good for sandwiches and toast, and pickier eaters who may not like the denser Master Recipe…

Whole Grain Rye Bread: Perfect for dunking in soups.

Buckwheat Bread: For a little variety. Makes good pizza crusts too.

100% Whole Grain Brown Rice Bread: Leftover cooked brown rice and 1/2 cup of ground flaxseed make this healthy bread more moist and tender than it otherwise would be. This is one of my favorites, and it makes excellent pizza crust too!

So, if you want to bake your own healthy bread, you like bread you really have to chew and you want to save money (seriously!!), give this book a try.

Ingredients for 100% Whole Grain Brown Rice Bread

Ingredients for 100% Whole Grain Brown Rice Bread

About to mix wet and dry ingredients

About to mix wet and dry ingredients

Mixed up, ready to rise...

Mixed up, ready to rise…

 

My fabulous and cheap dough container.

My fabulous and cheap dough container.

Soft Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

Soft Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

For those of you who have this book – do you like it? What are your favorites? Do you have any tips?

 

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March 31, 2013

Whole Wheat Buns – Worthy of the best brats around…

I do like a good burger or brat, especially fresh off the grill. What I don’t like are the pale, sad, burger and hot dog buns available at the store.

Now, if you know me at all, you probably know that I am a bit of a stickler when it comes to whole grains. No pasty white bread in this house – no way!

Last week – entirely fed up with winter – Chris decided to shovel out the grill. We had family in town, and we decided that delicious brats from our friends at Boyum Farms would be a crowd pleasing meal. We had to ask our guests to pick up whole wheat buns from a store in the Twin Cities to ensure we would have good buns, as we have not yet found any around here.

This week, eager to use the grill again on such a gorgeous day, I resolved to make my own buns. I used a whole wheat bun recipe from Heavenly Homemakers , and shaped them for hot dog buns. They turned out great, as you can see by the happy faces! And even though they are 100% whole wheat – these are not bricks! They are fluffy, yeasty and delicious.

Happy eaters :)

Happy eaters 🙂

100% Whole Wheat Hot Dog Buns

1 batch Heavenly Homemakers Whole Wheat Hamburger Buns

Follow instructions for the hot dog bun version – although I shaped mine differently so as not to have to roll out the dough, or have any waste around the edges. I cut the dough into 16 equal pieces, and rolled each piece into a bun-length snake.

I think next time I would make the buns just a bit smaller – maybe 18 buns instead of 16.

Before second rising

Before second rising

Just out of the oven!

Just out of the oven!

All dressed up!  With sweet potato fries, tarragon aioli, and asparagus.

All dressed up! With sweet potato fries, tarragon aioli, and asparagus.

 

 

February 25, 2013

Winter Greens – how a low-input winter greenhouse could make for better local eating…

I love living in Minnesota. I don’t think I’ve really seriously considered moving anywhere else, by choice anyway. I also love food, and in particular, I love to find local sources for food. Being a resident of Minnesota, this can present somewhat of a challenge in the long winter months.

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Too cold for a garden…

During the 2010/2011 school year, I had the pleasure of being a student in the Sustainable Food Production Program at MState Community College in Fergus Falls, MN. This unique, hands-on sustainable agriculture program is a crash course in how to produce local and sustainable food. Courses on diverse topics such as artisinal food, grass-based livestock systems, and farm skills are taught by practicing farmers. During the course of the year, we visited many farms to get exposure to a wide range of models for sustainable living and farming.

One of the highlights of those farm visits was meeting Carol Ford and Chuck Waibel. Together they run the Garden Goddess winter greenhouse CSA out of Milan, MN. Using a unique system for storing and subsequently releasing heat, Chuck and Carol designed a low-input winter greenhouse that requires very little energy to heat, even in the depths of a Minnesota winter. This model may be one of the best ways I’ve seen to produce local fresh greens in the winter. Chuck and Carol estimate heating costs for the greenhouse to be around $100 – for the entire winter. For those of you familiar with greenhouses – that number is amazingly small. And although you can’t grow hot weather crops such as tomatoes, cold hardy greens and sprouts do very well in this design.  Check out Chuck and Carol’s website, as well as their great book on this topic:

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This kind of low-input winter growing is exactly what we need to move forward with a truly local diet. I recently observed the construction process on another greenhouse of this design built by my farm mentors and teachers – Sue Wika and Tom Prieve. Lucky for me – because I just got a bag of fresh winter greens from their new greenhouse!

Lunch today, on the 25th of February in Minnesota? A yummy salad made with fresh, local greens. And for me – that is something worth celebrating! We hope to build our very own low-input winter greenhouse someday soon, so stay posted…

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February 11, 2013

Thanks girls!

Today is a sad day for our chickens. I’m sure that winter is not their favorite season, and we just got about 12 inches of snow in the last day. Their favorite winter hangout – underneath an old truck by their coop – is now completely drifted in. They don’t like standing on the snow, so they are inside their little coop, complaining loudly about this most recent weather development.

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In spite of their disgruntled attitude, they are still producing. In the depths of winter, I am feeling particularly thankful for fresh eggs from the girls – no matter how testy they get!

Three lovely brown eggs today!

Three lovely brown eggs today!

 

And, hey, what do you know – it’s snowing again…

 

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February 7, 2013

Heart Healthy Granola Bars

Granola bars are a great on-the-go snack or treat. They are also incredibly easy to make. The fiber in the rolled oats and the healthy medium-chain fatty acids in the extra virgin coconut oil make this recipe heart-healthy as well as delicious!

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Since February is Heart Health Month – whip up a batch to share with your friends and loved ones!

 

Preheat oven to 300˚F.

Combine:

1 ½ cup rolled oats

¾ cup flaked coconut

1 ¼ cup nuts (almonds, pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, etc. Larger nuts should be coarsely chopped or flaked)

¼ tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

3 tbsp flaxseed meal

½ – 2/3 cup dried fruit pieces (cherries, raisins, craisins, chopped apricots, dates, etc.)

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Melt and combine in a small saucepan over low heat:

Generous 1/3 cup honey

4 tbsp extra virgin coconut oil

1 tsp vanilla extract

Stir wet and dry ingredients together well. Line a 9×13 cookie sheet (one with sides) with baking parchment, leaving some parchment sticking up on edges. Distribute mixture evenly and press down firmly with a spatula.

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Optional – sprinkle 1/4 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips over the top of the bars and press in firmly.

Bake bars for 35 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Lift off of the pan using the parchment edges and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into small squares. Store in an airtight container.

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Variations: try different combinations of nuts, dried fruit and spices. Some good combinations are craisin and chocolate chip, apricot and cardamom, cinnamon raisin, or dates with cinnamon and an added ¼ tsp ginger, nutmeg, or allspice.

Note: If you are having trouble with burning, check your oven temperature. Many ovens do not hold an accurate temperature, or are off by up to 25˚! Also, finer ingredients will require more moisture, so if your bars are not holding together, or you are substituting finely chopped nuts, increase the honey by a tablespoon, or until desired texture is reached.

January 30, 2013

Easy Whole Wheat Crackers

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Trying to avoid trans-fats, corn syrup, processed white flour, preservatives, or other “junk” in most store-bought crackers? Try making your own!

These easy crackers are hearty and delicious – you may never need to buy a box of crackers again!

Easy Whole Wheat Crackers

1/4 C. Flaxseeds or Sesame seeds (whole)

1/2 C. ground Flaxseeds

1 ½ C. whole wheat flour

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1 tbsp brown sugar (maple syrup, molasses, or honey work great too)

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 C. milk

4 tsp. softened butter or olive oil

Optional seasonings: dusting of cayenne, thyme, any herb mix, ground pepper, chili powder, curry powder, garlic powder, dill, fancy coarse salt, poppyseeds, or whatever strikes your fancy. Mix into the dough or sprinkle on top and lightly press into the crackers before baking. I love using sesame seeds in the dough, 1/2 tsp black pepper in the dough, and coarse sea salt on top.

Preheat oven to 325˚F.

Mix flaxseeds (or sesame seeds), ground flaxseeds, flour, baking powder, salt, sweetener, and butter (or olive oil) together in the bowl of a stand mixer or a food processor.

Note: If you are using a natural sweetener, add it to the milk and stir well to make sure it combines evenly with the other ingredients. If you are using olive oil, mixing by hand works fine – no fancy equipment necessary!

Add milk and continue mixing until it forms a ball. Rest dough for 10-20 minutes (to allow gluten to relax). Split the dough into two portions and roll each out until it reaches a thickness of approximately 1/8”, or less. Cut into 2” squares or other desired shape with a knife or pizza cutter. Sprinkle with salt and/or seasonings and bake for approximately 30 minutes or until slightly browned. Let cool and store in an airtight container.

January 18, 2013

Banana Smoothie – Breakfast, lunch, or desert!

What happens when you put a banana with chocolate and peanut butter?  Deliciousness, without a lot of added sugar or other junk.

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1 ripe banana

1/2 cup vanilla yogurt

1/2 cup milk (soy, coconut, almond, cow, whatever)

1 heaping tbsp ground flaxseed

1 heaping tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

2 heaping tbsp peanut butter

 

Combine all ingredients in a blender or the pitcher of a Cuisinart SmartStick Hand Blender.

Blend until smooth.

Makes one approximately 14 oz smoothie.

Enjoy!

January 18, 2013

My new favorite tool – The Cuisinart SmartStick

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One of my favorite Christmas gifts this year was a Cuisinart SmartStick Hand Blender. (Thank you mom and dad Walters!) This handy kitchen gadget is very multi-purpose. In addition to making puréed soups a breeze (no more transferring multiple small batches of hot soup through the blender!), it   makes smoothies in a jiffy. Also, it comes with a whip attachment for whipping cream, egg whites, etc., and a small small chopping blade in a mini cuisinart hopper.

I would highly recommend adding this to your birthday/Christmas wish list.

Also, check out my new favorite smoothie recipe that I’ve been blending up for the past few days, thanks to this great kitchen toy!

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January 15, 2013

Easy Whole Wheat Crust

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I’ve never really gotten into making pie crusts, so whenever I needed a crust, I bought a crust or found a way to make something without one. I think those days are over.

Last night, I thought about looking up a whole wheat crust for quiche, and I found a really easy recipe on a really great website!

Lisa Leake’s blog – http://www.100daysofrealfood.com – is a great resource for anyone trying to eat a whole foods diet.

Find her recipe for a super easy whole wheat crust here, and check out the rest of her website while you’re at it!

January 9, 2013

My Pressure Cooker – A Love Letter

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We all have kitchen tools we like, and a few of us have kitchen tools we love. I love my pressure cooker maybe more than any other kitchen item I possess. Or rather, that my husband possesses.  Several years ago, as we opened Christmas presents, my husband Chris was presented with a rather large package, which upon opening turned out to be an 8 Qt Presto pressure cooker. He was slightly confused about why he might be receiving this gift instead of me – the obsessed cook. Neither one of us had cooked with a pressure cooker before, but he thanked my parents for a gift he was probably secretly thinking would never use. Although he did not know it then, the pressure cooker was the best gift he got that year. As the saying goes, “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach,” and although there are probably several other ways to a man’s heart, good food is somewhere at the top of the list. And so over the next few years, we developed a wonderful relationship with our pressure cooker.  Even though I was the main user of the pressure cooker, Chris was definitely a main eater of the results.

If you are not familiar with the benefits of a pressure cooker (although many of you who know us are now maybe overly familiar with its benefits as once we start talking about it, we can’t seem to stop) there are several:

First, it makes cooking fast, as in a soup cooked in minutes fast;

Second, it makes dishes taste like they have been cooked slow;

Third, it preserves the nutritional content of the food better than slow cooking methods;

And last but not least, it can be used to make soups, stews, grains, beans, mashed potatoes, roasts, and many other kinds of dishes.

I must also apologize to our pressure cooker for the many times it has been used to boil water or carry out some other lowly kitchen task for which it is obviously over-equipped. Our pressure cooker makes lovely soups, stews, brown rice risottos, and hashes on a regular basis—and for that we love it! Celery, corn, and potato chowder cooks in three minutes, as do garlic mashed potatoes. Meat stew I cook for four minutes, brown rice for twenty-five.

Now, when I mention my pressure cooker, I’ve had many people say “Oh! I would be scared to use one of those! Aren’t they dangerous?”  I think every grandmother can tell a horror story about an exploding pressure cooker, third degree steam burns, or the lid flying from the pot. I also encounter those who have only heard about using a pressure canner for preserving, which although that is a worthy task, freezing is now a more healthful way of preserving meat and vegetables. I believe there is no need to fear a pressure cooker—modern versions are now equipped with at least a couple of safety release valves, which, when accompanied by safe and responsible use, make it safer than a microwave in my opinion.

So don’t be afraid – go get that pressure cooker! Soon your friends and family will be tired of hearing how great it is…