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Saturday, March 3, 2012

Bread and Other Obessions

I awoke today with bread on my brain. Actually, I take that back, I woke up because I heard my dog make a retching noise as she puked on my comforter. *sigh* But after that rude and slightly disgusting awakening I made my morning smoothie of banana, chocolate protein powder, white chocolate peanut butter, and matcha powder. Weird combo, I know, but it is one of my favorite breakfasts and it really gives me energy. Anyways, I wandered around the house wondering what to do with myself and that was when I remembered that I had eaten the last slice of my whole wheat sourdough bread yesterday. Which I have to say, it turned out to be the best sourdough bread I have made ever. So now I had my mission.  Bread is a staple that must constantly be in our house due to that fact that I eat peanut butter on toast religously. Seriously, literally, honestly....I eat it EVERY day. I get this weird craving that comes on where I just have to have what I call healthified peanut butter cup toast. I swear, Dark Chocolate Dreams chocolate peanut butter by Peanut Butter & Co. is a gift from the heavens that makes my mouth water everytime I think of it. I use this AND Jif peanut butter along with a  good sprinkling of milled golden flaxseed and chia seeds and I go to my happy place located in front of the computer stairing at foodgawker.com while I thank the inventor of the pb and chocolate combination while I eat it. Yes, I like to look at food while I eat food. Wow, I got way side tracked. This post was supposed to be about bread. Ok so I threw together another whole wheat sourdough bread with the same starter I used last time except I used rye flour to change things up because I rarely make the same bread twice. That went into my bread machine. Then I got the urge to make bread by hand too, so I began browsing foodgawker.com and I found a good looking yeasted pumpkin bread from meringuedesserts.com. The pumpkin bread is rising as I type this. As I was kneading the gorgeous orange dough, I started thinking and getting inspired (because this is what a good kneading does to me). I wanted to share a poem. I assume that most bloggers share the same love of writing that I do.

Bread
a poem by Hannah Turner

I open my eyes before the morning has dawned
It is early yet I am filled with energy
The urge to create has consumed me
I step dreamily into the heart of my house
The place where my inspiration takes a physical form
The place where love and warmth take over and worry and fear get lost in a sea of flour
I gather my arsenal of ingredients and watch starry-eyed as the yeast foams and mingles with honey
Alone they are mere ingredients, but together they create magic
My hands, which usually cramp with hours of long writing, are strong as they knead the dough with ease
I inhale the yeasty aroma and almost regret not waking earlier
Then I sit back and gather all of my patience to let the yeast take over on its own
you can do it little molecules of life, miniscule bacteria that hold so much power
When my dough has doubled and my oven has heated
In goes my flour child and all in a well-anticipated moment
My beautiful bread emerges

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Easy and Fast Protein Breakfast and the Benifits of Seasonings

After coming to the realization that my usual breakfast of a preservative-laden Pure Protien brand protien bar and half  a banana was not the healthiest thing to begin my day with, I woke one morning and stood in my kitchen pondering what I should eat instead. I needed something with staying power that was low in sugar and not too high on the carb and calorie scale either. I needed something that would hold me through school until I could get the chance to have my mid-morning snack. Which honestly, who knows when that will be, my classes this term are hectic. One of the most important factors though, was that this power breakfast had to be tasty, duh! I know, my standards are high, but I am a very picky person when it comes to the most nutrition for the least yucky-stuff in my food as possible. Enter: Lightning Scrambled Eggs. Why the lightning part? Well, they are prepared in the microwave. Yes, I too think it might be a sin to prepare eggs in the microwave but as a hungry student before school and on the run it is just flat out handy. As for the flavor, it's completely customizable but I really enjoy this combo of seasonings. Salt or no salt, either way it is flavorful. Make as many eggs as you want, make em' scrambled or sunny side up, leave em' plain or add cheese, the possibilities are endless. Below is my creation and the benifits of a few seasonings follow after. Enjoy!


Lightning Eggs
(serves as many as you'd like!)
(add the seasonings to your desired taste)

1 or more eggs
paprika
rosemary
dried minced onion
garlic powder
Nature's Seasonings or Lawry's (optional)
fresh cracked black pepper
sprinkle of your fave shredded cheese (optional)
dash of hot sauce or a sprinkle of crushed red pepper (optional)

1.) Retrieve one ramkin or small bowl for each single serving of eggs.
2.) Crack the desired number of eggs into each bowl.
3.) Sprinkle with seasonings to your heart's desire. Add a dash of hot sauce or crushed red pepper if you're feelin spicy.
4.) Decide if you would like it scrambled or not. To scramble, use a fork or whisk to quickly distribute the yolk. Leave as is if you like it sunny.
5.) Sprinkle with cheese if you're in a cheesy mood.
6.) Microwave on full power for about 30 seconds (note: microwaving times will vary)
7.) Remove carefully, it will be hot. Enjoy along with some fresh fruit and coffee and you have yourself a breakfast with some staying power!

The Benifits of Seasonings

Rosemary~ Traditionally used in Medditeranean Cuisine, rosemary is an extremely fragrant herb that has been shown to reduce mentally degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's, improve memory, reduces inflammation, has anti-fungal, anti-allergenic, anti-septic, and anti-cancer properties. It is also one of the herbs with the highest levels of folates and along with that it contains many minerals such as potassium, calcium, iron and magnesium. For more information on the benifits of rosemary: http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/rosemary-herb.html

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Day 4 Whole Wheat Sourdough Starter

Today I am going to make a loaf with my first whole wheat sourdough starter ever. I have to admit, I'm a little nervous because the smell of it is getting very strong and I'm beggining to wonder if it has gone rancid. There is no mold or off-colored liquid, besides the hooch which I will be pouring off and discarding, so I feel that there isn't any harm in baking it. Has anyone out in the blogosphere gotten poisened from a "bad" starter? If so, please do not hesistate to share. Anyways here is the sourdough recipe I am using. Like my starter, it also comes from George Burnett's "The Breadman's Healthy Bread Book" and it is made for use in your bread machine. Although, it could easily be prepared by hand and baked in the oven.


Sourdough Wheat Bread
(from The Breadman's Healthy Bread Book by George Burnett)
(yields one 1 1/2 lb loaf)

1 cup whole wheat sourdough starter (this can be found on my blog also, Feb.23)
2/3 cup (5 1/2 ounces) warm water (100 degrees F)
1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 tsp liquid lecithin (I used granular and the measurement would come out to 3 tbsp, or a tablespoon for each cup of whole wheat flour)
3 cups whole wheat flour
3 tablespoons powdered whey
2 tablespoons gluten flour (aka vital wheat gluten)
1 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast (I used bread machine yeast in the same amount and it rised up nicely)

1.) Put all the ingredients in the inner pan in order listed, or in the reverse order if the manual for your machine specifies dry ingredients first and liquids last.
2.) Select whole wheat cycle and 1 1/2 pound loaf setting and push start. This loaf also came out well for me when I used the "rapid" cycle, or the cycle that only takes about an hour.
3.) When the cycle ends remove your loaf from the machine and allow to cool 10 minutes in the pan. Then remove from pan and allow to cool completely before slicing. Please tell me how yours comes out! Thanks!


Friday, February 24, 2012

Whole Wheat Sourdough Starter Day 2

Today is the second day of life for my 100% whole wheat sourdough starter. I did not post a picture because there aren't yet any visual transformations yet but we are definitely getting the yeasty smell going. I think the whole wheat flour makes the smell even stronger. I have a little extra blog time today so the following is the recipe for this starter.



Whole Wheat Sourdough Starter
(from The Breadman's Healthy Bread Book by George Burnett)
(makes 2 cups of starter)

2 cups (1 pint) warm water (100 degrees F)
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1 tablespon honey
2 cups whole wheat flour

1.) Put the water, yeast, and honey in  a medium mixing bowl and stir until the yeast dissolves. Let the mixture stand for 10 minutes.
2.) Stir in the flour and beat until smooth.
3.) Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and let stand at room temperature for 2 to 5 days, stirring occasionally. The longer the starter stands, the stronger the flavor. The starter will bubble and a sour smelling liquid may form on top (this is a type of harmless bacteria known as "hooch"). This is normal for a healthy starter, so simply pour the liquid off and discard.
4.) To store the starter, pour it into a sterilized crock or jar. (To sterilize, pour boiling water into the container, let stand 5 minutes, drain, and dry well.) After you have left your starter out for the desired length of time (2-5 days) refridgerate until ready to use.
5.)To use starter, stir and pour off as much as required. To keep your starter going, feed it after each use. To feed, add equal amounts of (the same as what you used in your bread recipe) flour and warm  water. For example, if you used 1 cup of starter then replace it with 1 cup of the same flour and 1 cup of warm water (2 cups of new ingredients added total). Stir and let stand at room temperature until itbubbles again, then cover and refridgerate.

Tips
*VERY IMPORTANT!: Make sure the container you store your starter in is big enough. If there is barely any space between the starter and the head of the jar when you make it, you could find yourself with an overflowing mess the next time you check on it because it is very alive and it will expand. Also it can overflow if you put a tight lid on it, it needs room to breathe.

*To keep the starter from going rancid, use at least 1 cup of the starter every week. The starter may be frozen and thawed in the fridge 24 hours before using. After thawing, pour off as much as require and feed the remainder as described above

*If it begins to look dead and inactive (i.e. no bubbles) don't get discouraged. Be patient and wait another few days. Starters can be intimidating but what I have realized from making them is that you can never really mess it up that badly. The only problem I have ever encountered was that the loaf of bread it produced was not as sour as I would have liked. Just remember that it is your baby and it needs only a little daily attention to be happy. If it goes completely rancid or begins to grow mold then simply discard and start over, no biggy.

*Even though these specific directions do not require a daily feeding, I do it anyways because I have come across others that do, although I don't believe its necessary.  I think you can get away with feeding it once a week just make sure that when you feed it you discard (or use) an equal amount first or you could end up with enough starter for a New York Bakery. I got one of my first starters from someone who claimed they accidently forgot to feed it for 3 weeks and it still survived. I have also heard stories of starters lasting for years and becoming inactive then being revived from the dead and still creating a beautiful loaf.

*Remember to have fun! For me, I almost feel like my starter is a pet....that I eat? Ok thats kind of weird but I really do enjoy caring for it and having the yeasty aroma of baking sourdough wafting through my house.

I will most likely be posting the recipe for the loaf when I make that too, so keep reading!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Starter Has Been Started

I have always been a huge fan of sourdough bread. I think the best I have ever had came out of the breadbasket at California Pizza Kitchen. Souring dough does not sound appetizing, I know, but for those unconverted to this delicacy that have not tried it- you have to before you can judge the poor smelly stuff. I've actually grown to love the yeasty smell of my starters. This time I wanted to try something a little more wholesome and decided on a starter recipe from "The Breadman's Healthy Bread Book" by George Burnett. He has a simple recipe for a decent looking whole wheat sourdough. I just woke up and had my breakfast smoothie and threw it together in one of my old large ceramic flour jars. I love the recipes in this book because, as the name says, they are all good for you and the sweetener that every recipe uses, including the starter, is honey. Honey happens to be my favorite white sugar alternative because of it's minerals and rich flavor. Another cool bonus of using honey is that if you buy local it can help with allergies. Anyways back to the starter. I will be posting it throughout it's development and hopefully I will get the finished loaf put up here too...that is if I don't forget to take a picture before it ends up reduced to crumbs and in my tummy. No promises...

Saturday, February 18, 2012

My Excalibur!!

My mom bought me an Excalubur food dehydrator for Valentines day!! She is the coolest person ever. We weren't even sure if it would arrive on the holiday but it did and I started using t right away. I've never tried any other dehyrdators so I guess my opinion is a little biased but I have to say the Excalubur works really well. I do have to turn the trays around occasionally but that doesn't bother me at all. I'm so excited to start adding raw crackers and breads to my diet. Thanks again mom!!
Cheesey Kale Chips

Monday, February 13, 2012

Sunday is for Dinner with Family

This Sunday I gave my uncle a break from cooking and prepared our weekly family feast. They live about an hour away from me so it was a bake-and-take adventure that, with a little reheating in their oven, turned out marvelous.
I awoke Sunday morning "dark and early" (I was literally up before the sun came out) and began by making the French bread. I got that recipe from La Fuji Mama's blog: imperfections.blogspot.com. It baked up nicely with a chewy and browned crust.


This was a classic lasagna made with extra lean ground beef, ricotta, mozzarella, and parmesean. Totally not the lasagna I would make if it was just for my mom and I -ours would probably be vegetarian and loaded with extra veggies that would be out-of-the-norm for traditional lasagna, but for "traditional" lasagna this was perfect. It was cheesey and herby and just look at that crisped cheese string pulling delicately from the edge there. My mouth is watering...too bad there are no left overs. Actually that's probably a good thing because besides the extra lean ground beef, this is not waist-line friendly. I got this recipe from the blog canelaycomino.blogspot.com.
Ah, and not the main dish but I belive it became the highlight of our meal, behold: Zucchini Ribbon and Olive Salad. I think the dressing is what really made this and I'm sad to say it was store-bought. I got the original recipe from Chef Louise Mellor at her blog louisemellor.com. Since I adapted the recipe so much I included it in this post. This salad is bright and healthy. It smells sweet from the dressing and the fresh squeezed lemon juice helps to really balance out the flavor. I made the salad several hours ahead of time and it helped the flavors really come together.

Zucchini Ribbon Salad
(adapted slightly from the original from Chef Louise Mellor)
(serves 8)
2 green zucchini
2 yellow zucchini squash
1 small can natural California black olives (whole)
1 large tomato
red onion, to taste (I used about 1/8 of a medium onion because it was very strong)
fresh squeezed juice of one lemon
half of a bottle of Braswell's Vidalia Onion and Summer Tomato all natural salad dressing (I found mine at Kroger next to the other salad dressings)
sea salt and fresh crack black pepper, to taste

1.) Using a vegetable peeler, or maybe one of those fancy-smanshy mandolins if you have one (I didn't), carefully shave the zucchini into ribbons. This can be tricky and I almost got frustrated when my ribbons didn't look pretty at all like Louise's but I just kept going and when I was finished I felt satisfied with the results, even though my slices weren't consistent or very "ribbony". I was serving this for my family, not Anthony Bourdain. Put the slices into a serving dish.
2.) Slice the red onion and the tomato thin. Cut the tomato slices in half. Arrange over top of zucchini ribbons.
3.) Arrange olives over salad.
4.) Drizzle the completed salad with Braswell's dressing and add the fresh squeezed lemon juice. Sprinkle with sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper if desired.
5.) Serve along side a hearty Italian meal or even add a protien source and make this salad dinner!