Category Archives: Baking

Roasted Pumpkin Pie

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pumpkinpies

Last year’s pies made from home grown organic pumpkin made into pumpkin pies

Every year my sons (and daughter when she is here) declare that my pumpkin pie is the best in the world. I must confess: it is delicious.

Yesterday, after forgetting to get celery and pumpkin pie fixins’ I was planning out my Monday shopping trip to pick up the items I forgot yesterday.

My 20-year-old son buys organic pumpkin puree and keeps it in the pantry as a reminder that he wants me to make pumpkin pies whenever I can.

But I don’t use canned pumpkin puree in my pies.

I use something better: roasted sugar pumpkin.

pumpkin

Sugar pumpkin ripening

And then it hit me; it is the roasting of the pumpkin that gives it that rich, most amazing flavor.

The years that I grew my own organic sugar pumpkins (above), of course, resulted in the best-tasting pies of all.

But this year I must locate a farm-grown sugar pumpkin for my Thanksgiving pies.

For those who don’t know, sugar pumpkins are a specific variety of pumpkin that has just what it says it has: more sugar in the flesh.

A few years ago I paid $.79 a pound for a sugar pumpkin. I have no idea what it will cost me this week.

Roasting a pumpkin

Prepare the pumpkin

Wash the entire outside of the pumpkin with room-temperature water and a vegetable brush. Dry with paper towels (or a clean cloth towel).

Cut the top of the pumpkin around the stem out, but not large as you would for carving a Jack-o-lantern. You want as much of the flesh to remain on the pumpkin as possible (it is precious, delicious, wondrous).

Cut the pumpkin in half down the center from top to bottom (not side to side). I use a large carving knife for this job.

Scrape out the seeds and strings, leaving as much flesh as you can. Do not be afraid of a few strings remaining.

Roasting time

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

 

  • Large baking dish (13×9 inch)
  • cup of water (or more so there is about 1/4 inch of water in baking dish)
  • 2 pumpkin halves

 

Pour water in baking dish and place pumpkin skin-side up, flesh facing down in the dish. (No need to oil the dish.)

Roast the pumpkin for an hour or more until the flesh is tender. It will change to a darker orange color throughout when it is completely cooked.

Allow to cool for 10 minutes (or until it is cool enough to handle).

Scoop out the flesh. It is easier than cutting off the skin which can result in wasted pumpkin (again, it is precious, delicious and wondrous).

Refrigerate until ready to use.

Pumpkin pies made with this roasted sugar pumpkin will knock your socks off. The recipe I use is below (comes from Joy of Cooking 1975 edition – a gift to me from my mom when I was 15 years old).

Pumpkin Pie

Makes one 9-inch pie (so I double the ingredients and make two pies, always).

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  • Pie shell (unbaked) in pie plate.
  • 2 cups cooked pumpkin
  • 1-1/2 cups cream, condensed milk or whole milk (I always use whole milk)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg or allspice (I use nutmeg)
  • 1/8 teaspoon cloves
  • 2 slightly beaten eggs

Directions using a mixer: Beat the cooked pumpkin first to break it down a little (I don’t puree it ). Combine all ingredients with a mixer. Pour mixture into pie shell(s) and follow the next part of the directions CAREFULLY:

Bake at 425 degrees F. for 15 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F and bake for 45 minutes more or until knife comes out clean.

Serve with fresh whipped cream (whip heavy cream adding in teensy bit of sugar and vanilla after the initial whipping).

Give roasted pumpkin pie a try and let me know what you think.

Happy Thanksgiving to those who celebrate, and Happy holidays to all!

[Use any leftover pumpkin to make pumpkin pancakes. Yummy!]

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Comfort is . . .

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the smell of freshly baked bread . . .

it smells so good . . .

it smells so good . . .

Refrigerated bread dough: Quick flatbread

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Yesterday after I got home from school I remembered that we had no bread for the next day’s school lunches. So I put ingredients in my bread machine and set it on the dough setting. I then completely forgot about it. I was very tired after a day of back pain, two nights of poor sleep (from back pain), class, and even a quick stop at the grocery store; by the time I got home I had just enough energy to do homework and then I was done for the day (after getting that bread dough started). My 19yo usually makes dinner on days when I have afternoon classes so I didn’t need to worry about that. I managed to make it to 8:15 p.m. before I knew I couldn’t stay awake any longer. I went into the kitchen, got youngest off the computer (he spent the evening working on a texture pack for Minecraft) and on his way to bed, saw that bread machine and then remembered that I had started bread dough. I forgot to form and bake it. I was so tired that all I managed to do was dump it on my bread board, wrap it in plastic and put it in the fridge. I figured I would bake it in the morning.

5 a.m. this morning I pulled out the dough and realized that there is no way it would come to room temperature and rise with enough time to actually bake so the boys would have bread for sandwiches and breakfast. Not to worry. There is always a way to make bread quickly in a pinch. I have done it before.
flatbread1
I sliced and rolled out one at a time, plopped it into my large cast iron skillet (ungreased) and let it cook on medium-low while I worked on lunches, breakfast and getting the boys up. Soft, yummy flatbread it was. I ended up with the temp on 3 (electric stove) for a softer bread, about 3-4 minutes per side.
flatbread2
I brushed them with olive oil when done and allowed to cool on the large wire rack. By the time I was finished making 6 (I left the rest of the dough for later) the first few were cool.

Quick, soft flatbread made from refrigerated whole wheat yeast dough

Quick, soft flatbread made from refrigerated whole wheat yeast dough

Whole Wheat Dough

Combine in 2 cup measuring cup:

  • 1-1/2 cups warm water
  • 1 Tbsp instant yeast
  • 1 Tbsp sugar

Stir until yeast and sugar are dissolved. Put aside.

In bread maker pan place the following ingredients:

  • 4 cups flour (3 cups whole wheat/1 cup bread or unbleached flour or all whole wheat flour)
  • 1-1/2 tsp sea salt

Start dough cycle to combine flours and salt. After a minute or two add warm water/yeast mixture and 1 Tbsp olive oil (or any other non-GMO oil).

After dough has risen remove from pan, punch down, bag up and refrigerate until ready to use.

Sugar, Oh So Sweet!

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For those who aren’t familiar with of the acronyms that accompany articles and discussions on GMOs here is a quick rundown:

  • GMO – genetically modified organism (most common usage)
  • GM – genetically modified (adjective)
  • GE – genetically engineered (most accurate but not as common)

Let’s talk sugar. I remember in the late 80’s and early 90’s when fat was demonized. Sugar sales skyrocketed. People started consuming many more carbs thanks to the USDA and its ridiculous food pyramid advocating lots and lots of bread consumption. “Fat makes you fat.” I don’t know how many people celebrated cutting fat out of their diet while increasing their sugar intake because fat makes you fat, not sugar. Well, they were wrong. Diabetes skyrocketed. Obesity skyrocketed. And people were addicted to sugar like never before. Let’s look at that sugar now.

When we see “sugar” in the ingredient list of a product we think we are getting cane sugar from the sugar cane plant, right? Not in the US. If it says “sugar” but not “cane sugar” it is most likely GMO beet sugar. Beet sugar has become very common here in the US since it is an easy-to-grow GMO crop with lots of RoundUp sprayed on it. So what’s the difference, we ask? Side by side they will look identical, granulated, sweet, and sold for the nearly same price. For those of us who are avoiding GMOs, beet sugar is not allowed. For those who bake, the differences are obvious. In a San Francisco Chronicle article dated March 31, 1999, beet sugar was exposed and compared to cane sugar by a professional baker:

Carolyn Weil and her crew at The Bake Shop in Berkeley were hard at work one morning, boiling down large pots of sugar syrup to make buttercream for the day’s buns, cakes and confections.

It was a task the staff had done hundreds of times. But this morning the normally silky syrup crystallized into large, chunky granules (Morgan).”

Weil’s supplier had substituted beet sugar for cane sugar without her knowledge, completely sabotaging a day’s baking. It was all thrown away. Professional bakers and chefs snub their noses at beet sugar saying the flavor of cane sugar is far superior. I’m not sure about that, but since any non-organic beet sugar is GMO, it makes a difference to some consumers as well.

That article was written in 1999. It looks like sugarbeet production leveled off before 1999, and even with the advent of GMO sugarbeets it appears that sugarbeets are increasingly used in the production of ethanol (Jacobs). I could not find particular statistics on what percentage of sugar in the US is from sugarbeets.

According to an article in The Organic and Non-GMO Report, non-organic sugar beets have been 90% converted to RoundUp Ready GMO and threaten to contaminate chard and beet crops with their transgenic pollen, at least in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. Organic farmers were forced to file a lawsuit. Organic seed producer Frank Morton saw a deliberate attempt by Monsanto to destroy the non-GMO sugarbeet seed supply in the United States:

Three years ago, these processors decided to convert the entire US sugar beet production to Roundup Ready genetically modified varieties, developed by Monsanto Company. The industry said farmers needed the GM beets for better weed control.

Some of us are not in the least surprised by Monsanto’s move to convert the entire sugarbeet crop to their product. Not at all. This is typical of their marketing and growth strategies, and some go so far as to declare their desire to control the world’s food supply. I am leaning that way myself after all of the reading and research I have done. One organic seed producer in the Williamette Valley, Frank Morton saw a serious threat to his business and the organic industry overall. Monsanto’s GM sugarbeet field trials were begun in the area in 2005 without any public notice, public comment or environmental studies.

Seeing no other recourse, Morton joined a lawsuit organized by the Center for Food Safety to sue the US Department of Agriculture for failing to conduct an environmental impact statement (EIS). “USDA didn’t consider the impact on all these farms and markets to where we sell seeds. My markets have zero tolerance to GMOs,” he says. “If there is any GMO contamination, my customers won’t buy the seed. Who is going to pay for that?”

Morton and the other plaintiffs hope that a judge’s ruling last year requiring USDA to conduct an EIS for Roundup Ready alfalfa will set a precedent for their case.

They won their lawsuit (Egelko). This past summer Monsanto tried the same thing with GM canola in the Willamette Valley. They have been temporarily blocked from planting but Monsanto usually wins all the way up to the Supreme Court.

I avoid GMOs for two reasons: health and principal. The entire GMO industry is about controlling agriculture not only in this country but all over the world. Monsanto threatened to sue the EU for banning some GM crops in Europe. They do that a lot: threaten to sue. A lot. And then they sue.

If you want to avoid GMO beet sugar you must look for the words “cane sugar” on the package. If those words are missing then that sugar is most likely beet sugar.

Sources:

Morgan, Miriam. “Sugar, Sugar: Cane and beet share the same chemistry but act differently in the kitchen.” San Francisco Chronicle. 31 Mar 1999.

Jacobs, James. “Ethanol from Sugar.” Rural Cooperatives. 73:5. Sep 2006.

Sugar beet industry converts to 100% GMO, disallows non-GMO option.” The Organic and Non-GMO Report Jun 2008.

Egelko, Bob. “Court rejects genetically modified sugar beets.” San Francisco Chronicle. 23 Sep 2009.

Additional information:

USDA US Sugar Outlook.” Agricultural Outlook Forum, 24 Feb 1998. PDF.

GMO Sugar Beets Account for Large Percentage of Sugar.” Genetically Engineered Food News. ND.

Main, Emily. “USDA: Farmers Need to Feed Americans More Sugar.” Rodale.com. 2011.

School Lunches: Snacks, Desserts, and more

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As a part of our avoidance of toxic foods and at the top of this list are genetically modified ingredients, typically called GMOs, the boys go to school with homemade lunches. Although Michelle Obama has the right idea and her goal to improve school lunches for all children by including whole grains and fresh fruits and veggies is valiant, they fall short with all of the chemicals, GMOs, low-fat and no-fat conventional milk that could have hormones and antibiotics and definitely has other additives due to its low fat content. The calorie count is also low for teenagers. While my overweight 12 year old does just fine with a healthy half sandwich, fruit and maybe some veggies for lunch my very, very skinny 17 year old (he went from 16 to 17 yesterday, so new age reference) needs a lot more calories in his school lunches, and calories that last until he can get home and eat a second lunch or early supper before the real supper. There is no one-size-fits-all school lunch.

Homemade, healthy muffins

Homemade, healthy muffins


I have talked about making bread for sandwiches and then what you can put on those sandwiches (and I left out sliced hard-boiled egg sandwiches or just hard-boiled eggs themselves — so sorry), today I want to talk about all of the other stuff you can put in school lunches and, for younger children especially, snack foods.

The absolutely best foods to put in school lunches are fresh fruits and vegetables. Really, it is so simple. Low in calories, high in vitamins and minerals, some trace minerals that they just won’t get anyplace else, organic fruits and vegetables are a great choice for school lunches.

Paw paw we got at farmer's market

Paw paw we got at farmer’s market


Again, we have preferences between my two school-aged children: one loves carrot cucumber sticks and the other doesn’t really care for those without a dip of some kind (and I don’t send a dip to school, though I could if I had it prepared and pre-packaged the night before — especially a yogurt cheese dip — getting ideas while I type). They both love oranges and apples, but oranges the best. One like fresh lemons and grapefruit a lot — pucker up! They both love bananas. One loves my homemade yogurt with wild blueberries and the other just wants a small container of fresh berries.
Homemade yogurt, wild blueberries and raw honey

Homemade yogurt, wild blueberries and raw honey


Again, involve your children in their school lunch preparations and they will not only eat those lunches at school but you are teaching them to make healthy lunches for the time when they are in college and eventually enter the workforce. You don’t want them eating fast food every day as adults, do you? They need to learn how to do this themselves for the future.

GMOs: avoid non-organic corn, soy, zucchini squash, papaya, vegetable oils such as canola, soy, cottonseed, and corn, non-organic dairy products, anything with corn syrup, maltodextrin, soy lecithin.

Snacks and Desserts

Chocolate cupcakes freeze well for school lunches

Chocolate cupcakes freeze well for school lunches


Please, please, please buy organic produce and dried fruit and nuts as much as you can to reduce the amount of pesticides and chemicals your children are exposed to each day. They are bombarded wherever they go so doing what we can at home just makes sense and gives their little bodies a better chance to survive and thrive.

  • Crudites: carrots, cucumbers, peppers, broccoli, celery, radishes, snow peas, sugar snap peas, tomatoes (grape, cherry, quarters)
  • Yogurt or yogurt cheese dip/spread
  • Fresh fruit: peeled and sectioned oranges, grapefruit, lemon, clementines, sliced apples, peaches, pears, half a banana, grapes, plums
  • Dried fruit: mango, raisins, dates, pineapple, bananas
  • Homemade fruit leather (use dehydrator)
  • Berries: blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, whatever is in season and local especially
  • Apple and pear sauce, unsweetened
  • Yogurt
  • Healthy Muffins: whole grain, fruit, chia, yogurt, goat cheese, oatmeal, nuts
  • Homemade cupcakes
  • Organic crackers
  • Cheese chunks (especially delicious paired with apples or grapes)
  • Trail mix with variety of dried fruits and nuts and seeds, even organic dark chocolate chips
  • Nuts, seeds: sunflower, pecan, peanuts*, almonds, pistachio, walnut, pepitas
  • Organic popcorn: pop in the morning, allow to cool and bag up
  • Homemade and store bought organic cookies (make sure they are truly organic to avoid GMOs)
  • Organic chips: tortilla, potato, veggie
  • Homemade pies, cakes, quick breads (though muffins and cupcakes are easier to eat)

These are just a few suggestions. There are so many healthy choices for school lunches and school snacks. Prepackage after baking or cooking (fully cooled first) and throw them in the freezer. Then you can just pull out what you need in the morning and those frozen snacks help keep the lunch cold. Occasionally I will buy the boys organic cookies. I open the packages as soon as I get home, package 4-5 cookies per snack bag and hide them away (otherwise they get eaten within hours by the hungry horde in my house). You can do this with chips, crackers, trail mix, etc.

*Peanuts: our middle school has a rule that no peanuts or any tree nuts of any kind are allowed in the classrooms. They can have these types of foods in the cafeteria. Know what your school’s policy is on foods that can cause deadly allergic reactions, and be very careful and respectful of this policy. Some of those kids can die in minutes if exposed to tree nuts. There are too many choices that do not include these allergens to get upset if your child’s school has a peanut-free classroom policy.

School Lunches: Sandwich Bread

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Okay, it is time to discuss what healthy foods we can put in our kids’ school lunches: non-GMO, organic, tasty and filling. I have two to prepare each school day, and it can be a challenge. The school lunches that the kids can buy are low in calories, full of chemicals and GMOs, and just not satisfying to my boys at all, especially the high schooler. He will skip lunch instead of buying one of his school’s lunch offerings. This post will be about the bread for homemade, hearty and delicious sandwiches, the standard entree for school lunches.

Curried chicken sandwich with provolone cheese, onions, baby lettuce and homemade whole grain mustard

Curried chicken sandwich with provolone cheese, onions, baby lettuce and homemade whole grain mustard on a whole wheat sandwich roll

Bread

I occasionally buy organic bread but most of the time I make the bread used in school lunches. There are a lot of choices: bread machine, baguette, Italian, regular loaf, flat bread, tortillas, and rolls. I have actually started making sandwich rolls that are the new favorite around here. No slicing a loaf (which I am terrible at doing), no strangely shaped sandwiches due to bread machine bread (which makes oversized loaves that are impractical for sandwiches), and they are just the right size for kids’ hands.

For step-by-step instructions on making bread by hand I created a very long, photo-driven tutorial that I have not moved to this blog yet: The Baking of the Bread.

Typically, I make bread dough in the bread machine, let it work through to the end of the first rising and then remove it for shaping and second rising. This works perfectly and saves me time (which I have a lot less of since starting school). But if you have a few hours, handmade bread is amazingly rewarding to make. And everyone should know how to make good bread by hand without the use of machines.

When I made bread by hand I made two 1-pound loaves and typically baked them in a 9×13-inch glass baking dish. This resulted in a great size for making school lunch sandwiches, one for my 12-year-old and two for my 16-year-old.

2 1-lb loaves baked in 9x13-inch glass baking dish

2 1-lb loaves baked in 9×13-inch glass baking dish

1-lb loaf sliced

1-lb loaf sliced

I slice my bread, bag 4 small or 2 large slices in zipped sandwich bags, place in a larger bag and freeze.

When I make dough in my bread machine I make a 4-cup flour recipe that results in a slightly larger loaf. You can use my Chia Bread Recipe (chia seeds and coconut oil are optional — you can use olive oil if you prefer).

Beautiful loaf of chia bread

Beautiful loaf of chia bread

For sandwich rolls I divide the dough into 12 pieces, make into circles, flatten and allow to rise (I used a 9×13-inch glass baking dish for 8 and a round cake pan for the other 4) about 15 minutes or until doubled in size. For a lighter, softer crust I bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees F and for a brown, slightly crispier crust I bake at 400 degrees F for about 18-20 minutes. Allow to cool completely before bagging.

Homemade whole wheat sandwich rolls

Homemade whole wheat sandwich rolls

Again, I bag two of the rolls in each zipped sandwich bag, place the smaller bags in a larger bag and freeze (always double bag anything you put in the freezer whether it be meat, bread or veggies). I can pull out bagged bread and rolls as needed either the night before or in the mornings. If in the morning, I defrost the rolls by placing in the toaster oven on the lowest setting and then leaving them in after the timer goes off. Within 10 minutes the rolls should be defrosted, or enough to slice.

A dozen sandwich rolls double bagged and ready to go in the freezer

A dozen sandwich rolls double bagged and ready to go in the freezer

Next I will discuss what we put on those sandwiches, and hope to also create a flat bread post soon. Stay tuned . . .

Pizza Night!

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pizza1Around here Friday just screams, “Pizza night!” And while a few years ago that might have meant a call to the local pizza place these days it means we make that baby ourselves to save a lot of money. And let me tell you that the pizza I had Friday night was amazing. My son has pizza making down to an art.

When we began making our pizza at home, seriously pursuing the art of pizza making, I would make my 4-cup crust recipe and split it into two medium-sized pizzas. The boys decided that they preferred a really thick large pizza instead. So I make the same recipe in my bread machine and my 19 year old son hand tosses that dough into one delicious, awesomely amazing pizza crust.

Pizza Crust

Prep Time: 30 min – 2 hours
Makes 2 medium crusts or one large thick crust

Ingredients

  • 2 cups organic whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups organic unbleached bread flour
  • 1-1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 2-3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1-1/2 cups warm water
  • 2-1/2 tsp instant yeast
  • 1 Tbsp sugar

Bread machine time

  • In glass measuring cup, dissolve sugar and yeast in the warm water and allow to get bubbly
  • Measure into bread machine pan: flours and salt
  • Set bread machine for “Dough” setting and “Start” to combine flours and salt
  • Add liquid and oil
  • Let bread machine do its thing

Once the dough has finished kneading and started rising you can use it any time. If you have time allow it to go through its full cycle for the best texture, but it isn’t necessary if you are in a hurry. We have pulled the dough out at various stages and it is all good.

Making of the Pizza

Pizza Toppings

Let’s talk about toppings for a minute or two. You can put anything you like on top of your pizza — well, almost anything. On Friday night we had onions and orange bell peppers because that is what we had on hand. We didn’t even have any type of sauce. Saturday I went to the grocery store and had a list of requests from my 19 year old pizza-making genius son. I was only too happy to oblige him. Saturday’s pizza had bacon, Italian sausage, pepperoni, onions and red peppers with our quick sauce we make from organic canned tomato paste. Here are a few of the toppings that we have used at different times and in varying combinations. In the spirit of “making do” use what you have on hand or make your pizza ingredients a new part of your grocery list. It is up to you.

  • sliced onions: yellow or red
  • peppers: bell, Italian, sweet, hot
  • broccoli
  • spinach
  • fresh basil
  • fresh tomato slices
  • fresh, chopped oregano
  • sliced or chopped garlic
  • pepperoni
  • Italian sausage (cooked)
  • Hamburger (cooked)
  • Bacon (cooked)
  • Salami
  • Ham
Thick crust cheese and veggie pizza

Thick crust cheese and veggie pizza

Putting it All Together

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F

Take your pizza dough from the bread machine and either roll it out or hand toss. We have a pizza stone but you can use a cookie sheet, cake pans, baking dish, anything you like for your pizza. Do not grease your pizza stone but any other dish or pan should be greased.

Brush the entire crust with olive oil (infused with fresh garlic if you have any). My son uses my oil spray pump. Then sprinkle with garlic granules, a little salt, oregano, parsley, whatever you like. My youngest son has even rolled some mozzarella into the crust. Have fun with this. Spoon and spread your sauce onto the crust avoiding the outer edges (sauce on the outer crust will burn). How much sauce should you use? I like just a little bit of sauce. My 19 year old likes more sauce. If you can’t have tomatoes because you are avoiding nightshades or salicylates just leave it off, or spread a little ricotta before continuing.

Cheese time! We love fresh mozzarella, a lot. We also buy mozzarella by the pound and have stopped buying packaged shredded cheese*. So grate 3/4 pound of mozzarella and sprinkle that over your sauce. Now it is time for some toppings.

Put as much or as little as you like. We often do 1/2 all veggies and the other half with meat. Here in Connecticut the pizza places sprinkle everything with pepper. We sprinkle with parsley and/or oregano.

Fresh mozzarella, sliced red peppers and onions

Fresh mozzarella, sliced red peppers and onions

Bake at 400 degrees F for 18-23 minutes, or longer until the cheese is melted and the crust is golden brown. Allow to cool for at least 5 minutes before slicing. Mangia!

*I was not able to find much information on what packaged shredded cheese is coated with. I believe it is cellulose (does not disclose plant source so might be GMO corn — we have no way of knowing), potato starch, and often an anti-fungal to hinder mold growth. The safest choice is to buy block cheeses and spend three minutes grating it yourself.

Moist, Tender Chia Bread

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Beautiful loaf of chia bread

Beautiful loaf of chia bread

Over the summer I made most of my bread by hand, two loaves at a time. Since the holidays my life became much busier and I was so thankful for my trusty bread machine. But, to be honest, my regular bread machine bread was just so boring. It was nutritious, yes, but boring. The other day I had an impulse to try something different and poured some chia seeds in my bread machine while mixing the dry ingredients. Then I thought: “Why don’t I try some of the organic coconut oil I have in my pantry?” So that’s what I did. Oh, what a delicious combination. I just had to share my simple recipe. I do not scrimp on my bread ingredients: they are all organic. I pay $3.29 for organic bread at the big box store, and upwards of $5 a loaf in the health food store. I can make a loaf of organic bread for less than $1.

Although the recipe indicates 1/2 whole wheat flour and 1/2 bread flour, you can change the proportions a bit with just a slight difference in texture. I made a wonderful loaf with 3 cups of whole wheat flour and 1 cup of bread flour. I will be experimenting with all whole wheat flour and adding gluten in the future.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups sifted organic whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups sifted organic bread or all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1-2 Tbsp dry chia seeds
  • 1-2 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1-1/2 cup warm water
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 2-1/2 tsp dried yeast
Baking in Bread Machine
  • In a glass measuring cup combine warm water, dried yeast and sugar; stir until dissolved. Allow to sit while adding the rest of ingredients to the bread machine.
  • Do not use whole wheat setting. I set my bread machine for a regular or large loaf. This is more than a 1-lb loaf, so you might want to set it for a large loaf.
  • Place flours, chia seeds and salt in bread machine and allow it to mix for a minute or so. Add coconut oil (mine is solid since it is cool in the house — I do not melt it before adding). Allow to mix for another minute or so and then add the proofed yeast mixture.
  • Check your dough: After the kneading cycle begins, let it knead for at least 2-3 minutes, pause your bread machine and check the dough ball for consistency. It should be formed into a dough ball, soft and just slighly sticky but not too sticky. If it is really hard add a 1/4 cup of water and restart. Flour in the winter is drier than flour in the summertime so adjusting the amount of liquid might be necessary.
  • When machine signals that bread is done, remove from pan immediately and allow to cool on its side before slicing, if you can.
Baking in Oven
  • In a glass measuring cup combine warm water, dried yeast and sugar; stir until dissolved. Allow to sit while adding the rest of ingredients to the bread machine.
  • Set bread machine for dough setting.
  • Place flours, chia seeds and salt in bread machine and allow it to mix for a minute or so. Add coconut oil (mine is solid since it is cool in the house — I do not melt it before adding). Allow to mix for another minute or so and then add the proofed yeast mixture.
  • Check your dough: After the kneading cycle begins, let it knead for at least 2-3 minutes, pause your bread machine and check the dough ball for consistency. It should be soft and sticky but not too sticky. If it is really hard add a 1/4 cup of water and restart. Flour in the winter is drier than flour in the summertime so adjusting the amount of liquid might be necessary.
  • When machine signals that dough cycle is completed, remove dough onto a floured surface (this will naturally punch it down) and begin to form into a loaf. It is not necessary to knead the dough at this point. Place in a greased* bread pan, brush or spray with oil**, loosely cover with plastic wrap, and place in warm, draft-free place for final rising. I place my pan near the stove and turn it on to preheat to 350 degrees F.
  • When dough is above the edge of the pan, remove plastic wrap and place in oven. Bake for 30 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and immediately remove from pan. Allow to cool on its side.

*Solid fat is the best choice for greasing the bread pan. I use lard but there are organic vegan alternatives. Just don’t use GMO Crisco, please.

**Most baking sprays are made with GMO canola. I use a pump oil sprayer but you can find organic baking sprays in health food stores.

Easy, Fluffy Whole Wheat Pancakes

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Pancakes are so easy to make from scratch that there is no need for a mix. If you have a decently-stocked baking pantry you are good to go for a quick, impressive breakfast for you and your family. If you live alone and are cooking for one, consider just slightly undercooking the cakes and freezing. You can pop them in the toaster or toaster oven whenever you like.

Nutritionally, please serve a high-carb breakfast with some protein and fat: ham, sausage, eggs (especially eggs). Yes, put that butter on those pancakes to help your body deal with the sugar in the pancakes. I know this is opposite of what has been taught in the past decade about the American diet: “must be low fat to be healthy.” That is a huge mistake. Diabetes is out of control in this country. Obesity is out of control in this country. Wonder why? Low-fat foods are a huge contributor to this phenomenon.

Note: You can use all whole wheat flour if you prefer (which I do). But if you are transitioning from a white bread diet to a whole wheat diet, these are so nice and delightful you won’t complain.

If you add 1 tsp vinegar to the milk it will “clabber” it giving it a buttermilk-like flavor. But don’t use regular white vinegar: that is made from GMO corn. Use apple cider vinegar or organic white vinegar instead.

Makes 4-6 medium pancakes. Double or triple the recipe depending on the number of people you are feeding. I always triple the recipe for my big sons.

Ingredients

  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • dash of salt
  • 3/4 – 1 cup milk
  • 1 Tbsp oil

Heat up a cast iron or other griddle on medium heat, lightly oiled

In a batter bowl (or mixing bowl):

  • Beat egg until fluffy
  • Add the remaining ingredients and stir until just blended (do not overmix batter or pancakes will be tough).
  • Adjust the liquid until the batter is the consistency you like (I like my batter a bit thick, spread it out with my spoon which takes less time to cook.
  • Test griddle by sprinkling a tiny bit of water onto surface; if the droplets dance and sputter, immediately evaporating the griddle is hot enough. Be prepared to reduce the heat as necessary.
  • Pour or spoon batter onto griddle making the pancakes any size you like, from silver dollar size to monsters.
  • When edges of pancake are dry and the pancake has a lot of bubbles it is time to flip. If you gently press on the center of the pancake you can immediately feel the soft center. In a couple of minutes press again; it will not give nearly as much when it is cooked. Watch them carefully (again, be prepared to reduce the heat).

Serve with delicious organic butter and your homemade syrup (or maple or agave). Enjoy!

Pancake Syrup — No More Corn Syrup

Standard

If you take a moment next time you are in the grocery store (or look in your pantry or fridge) to read the ingredients on pancake syrup bottles you will be shocked at what it contains. Chock full of corn syrup (which is GMO), artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives.

Yes, you can use maple syrup (only buy organic — non-organic can have chemicals added during processing) or agave syrup.  I use organic agave syrup in the place of pancake syrup myself, but my kids prefer sugar syrup so while making pancakes I whip up a batch of homemade syrup.  It only takes a few minutes and there are no GMO ingredients. I use organic cane sugar crystals myself. Did I mention that this syrup costs only pennies?

Combine in a small saucepan: 

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • dash of salt

Cover and allow to gently boil for a few minutes (the goal is to sweat any sugar crystals off of the side of the pan).

Uncover and allow to boil for a few more minutes. If you have a candy thermometer, boil until it reaches 225-230 degrees or a bit below Soft Ball Stage. Remove from heat; add 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract or any other extract you like (orange is nice). Stir. Pour into a serving container (glass measuring cups work great for a casual breakfast, or a pretty creamer). Use hot. Refrigerate leftovers.

Corn Syrup Substitute

This is a basic simple syrup above. For Corn Syrup Substitute, reduce the water to 3/4 cup, combine all of the ingredients and follow the same procedure. If you continue to boil until it reaches the Soft Ball Stage, you will have a healthier corn syrup substitute for recipes. I use this in pecan pie, fondant, any recipe that calls for corn syrup. Refrigerate unused portion.