My Sister’s Pantry Loafing Around with the VVP

How wonderful to share a recipe and our usual appreciation of our own humor, with my Little Sis… and now with you!  My very persuasive and brilliant Little Sis’ decisions regarding not eating animal products are pushing me a little more and more in the direction of vegan-ism.  One Baby Step at a time is the surest footing for adults … baby steps.  Little Sis is very inspiring 🙂

Our joint offering for the VVP: virtual vegan potluck, (thank you An Unrefined Vegan for including us), is a lentil based meatless-loaf that includes apples, raisins and a delicious BBQ-like glaze that we adapted from Angela Liddon.  We both made it and offer our variations which don’t vary much from each other, but are gluten free and have been praised by meat-eaters and non-meat-,eaters alike!  Little Sis says… Continue reading

Leftovers and Spooky Desserts

Once a month my father-in-law joins us for one of our Sunday homemade pasta extravaganzas (and yes, I count myself very fortunate to have Sunday homemade pasta extravaganzas). We always have dessert on Sunday night, but when Poppa comes, we try to make it a little more special in some way. Needless to say the kids have caught on to this particular trend and thus their expectations are always pretty high on Sundays, all day, in anticipation of football, homemade pasta, and some special dessert.

This past Sunday, my husband and I were pretty spent. We used the better part of our weekend preparing for Hurricane Sandy (who I shall now be referring to as the blowy b*&^%) and while my husband trudged valiantly on and made his homemade pasta (green no less, with chard from my garden, yes he is awesome), I was rather unmotivated as regards dessert. And then I realized that I had a secret weapon. In my freezer I had leftover ChocoNana Pancakes. I also had an ample supply of frozen bananas. You see where this is going, right? I warmed up the pancakes. Then I threw frozen bananas, coconut milk, and a splash of vanilla in the Vita-Mix and blitzed the stuffing out of it. I got the ratio a little on the too liquidy side, so I added a fresh banana and some ice cubes. While I blended, the kids used a nifty new cookie cutter to cut out ChocoNana bats. And so a seasonally appropriate, reasonably healthy and super yummy dessert was born. All were happy and satisfied and the kids REALLY enjoyed the chocolate bats. The grown ups enjoyed dipping their bats in their shakes, following the kids’ extremely wise example. Delish… and Boo!

Piccadillo – Cuban Chili with or without meat

This recipe is  beloved as you can see from the spatterings of tomato, sauteed onion, olive oil, brown sugar, smushed raisin, and olive juice decorating it.  I lost the piece of paper it is on (how about that a recipe on a piece of paper instead of on my kindle) and recently found it just where I’d left it! 🙂

The smushed and splattered ingredients sound interesting, don’t they?  My Sis-in-law introduced me to this recipe many moons ago and it was my go to recipe for guests.  It is ‘company good‘ as Little Sis would say.

Originally I made this with ground turkey, but I’m telling you that ground organic turkey costs about as much as caviar!  AND since we’re trying to eat less meat anyway… I thought I’d re-do the protein factor of this dish with my favorite legume – the humble lentil.  Lentils cook faster than many beans, do not need to be soaked overnight, do not overpower the flavors they join and are cheaper than a dozen new chicks.  Get it?  Cheep-er?  (My husband says if you have to explain it, it isn’t funny.  Ah well.. I amuse myself)

On to this yummy recipe that creates a fulcrum where interesting and tantalizing flavors meet in a beautiful balancing inter-dependent dance of delish.   Nuff said?  Too much said.

How’s about a picture?

This is what, in my opinion, along with the great spices, makes this dish so great:

Do you really need anything else? Shall we just eat now?

Picadillo (Adapted from a recipe given me by my Sis-in-law, from a friend of hers – tried to find it online and couldn’t find this one)

1 & 1/2 lbs. ground turkey
3/4 cup lentils cooked in 2 cups of broth.  Boil water, add lentils, loser heat, simmer until soft.  Add a little more water if it disappears entirely, but don’t leave it soupy in the end.
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves crushed garlic
1 large onion, chopped
1 large bell pepper of any color
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes undrained – or about 1.5 cups diced tomatoes if you have fresh.
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
1/2 cup dry sherry
3/4 – 1 tsp ground cumin – I like things spicy, so all of these are higher than the original, but with a range for ya!
3/4 – 1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/2 -3/4 tsp cinnamon
pinch of ground cloves
1 – 1.5 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup coarsely chopped stuffed green olives (In all my coarseness, I simply chop in half)
1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds (I use whole almonds from Costco and also cut in half – WAY cheaper than slivered almonds.  I also do not toast out of laziness but it would probably make it even better to do this step)

If using turkey, brown in olive oil
If using lentils, cook them – allowing about 20 minutes for this – a great time to chop!

Add in to turkey (or start fresh with olive oil) onion, garlic and pepper and saute 3 – 5 minutes
Add lentils in to the saute pot, or the saute pot contents into the lentils
Add remaining ingredients and bring to a slow boil.
Simmer for 15 – 20 minutes, uncovered.

The lentils can thicken things up a bit, so if you need to, add a little more broth or water or more diced tomatoes with juice to reach the desired thickness.

I serve this with either rice or cornbread.  You don’t have to serve it with anything because it totally rocks to quote my 1 year old.

Any other entree dishes out there with raisins in them?

Frankenstorm Frankenpatties Frankengood

There is a fine line between preparedness and panic and while I’ve not yet swung into panic, I confess that weather events get me a little looney.  The unpredictability, the noise, the fact that I’m responsible for small people and a VERY neurotic dog…  I’m not a good storm buddy.  If you live in the U.S. and don’t have your head planted firmly under a rock, you’ve likely heard that the East Coast (coast being used VERY broadly here) is taking a beating, and we are about 36 hours out from the most intense part of the storm.  

I’ve tried not to act as though there the ZombiePocalypse is imminent; however, I did see some wisdom in loading up on lighting devices, getting some bottled water, some food items that will be easily dealt with in low power situations, and a few craft items for the kids to interrupt anxiety.  I’ve also made an effort to eat up items that would be unlikely to make it through a power outage of any duration.  THIS is how I come up with a recipe friends.  I’m not proud, but near panic and a desire not to waste food can really get me moving in the kitchen.  So, I’ve pulled together a strange assortment of items to make fabulously green patties (just in time for Halloween :-)) that we ate like burgers, but that if I made again I would likely serve more like falafel – smaller patties rather than one large one. Perhaps like my daughter, I admit to a certain appreciation for small food.

Given the landscape of my fridge, I must concede that this is a strange assembly of ingredients, but I’ll give some suggestions for replacements if you’d like some good green eating for the monsters in your tribe and don’t have the same sampling currently available.

Gluten Free Frankenpatties

  • 1/2 onion chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic, smashed
  • 1 1/4 c chickpeas (I suspect any bean would work)
  • 3/4 c almond milk mash (leftover from making almond milk, alternatively I would suggest using mashed potatoes)
  • 2 oz kale (a couple of generous handfuls, any hearty green would work)
  • 2 T sunflower cheese (or mayo)
  • 3 T almond milk (or other liquid)
  • 2 T tahini (or other nut butter)
  • 1 1/2 T Bragg’s or soy sauce
  • 1 t salt
  • 3/4 t dry yellow mustard
  • 2/3 c garbanzo flour (you could probably use just about any flour here, although I like the flavor, and the gluten free-ness of the chickpea)
  • 1.5 c cooked quinoa (or rice or whatever other grain you have leftover)

Preheat oven to 325.  In pan on stove, warm pan with a splash of olive oil.  Add onions and cook on low-medium until onions are soft.  Add garlic and cook until you can smell it (about 30 seconds).  Put contents of pan and ingredients up until the garbanzo flour into a food processor.  You may need to add the kale a little at a time.  Add the flour a bit at a time until the mixture is wet, but will hold shape.  In a bowl, add the quinoa and stir to distribute. Form dough into patties. If the mixture is too wet, add bit more flour.  Add olive oil to pan and warm over medium heat.  Cook patties about 6-8 minutes per side and then move to oven for about 10 minutes to cook through.  There you go.  A perfectly spooky green dinner, delicious with burger fixings, or as I had mine, with a nice big dollop of smoky baba ghanoush.  Delish.

Strategies for Sugar and Step 2 Check-In

While strolling around some of my favorite blogs I cam across this article from our friend Sarah at The Healthy Home Economist who has some straightforward advice on how to kick the sugar habit.  She does a great job of explaining how each step will decrease the cravings that help drive our need for the sweet beast and lays out 4 steps for kicking it. Honestly, for me these steps would be ambitious, but they are still great steps. The wonderful thing about approaching a diet upgrade with baby steps is that you can always take a change that feels overwhelming or difficult in smaller steps.

Sarah suggests replacing ALL refined sugar with natural sweeteners. A great idea, to be sure, but I have to say for ME that would be a big step. So I might identify some part of my cooking routine that I regularly use sugar in and first replace THAT with a natural sweetener. If, for example I use refined sugar in baking, I might begin to cut the refined sugar and mix in some honey or maple syrup. If I sweeten my beverages, I might likewise try replacing sugar with honey or syrup (it’s really good in coffee – no lie). Breaking that leap down allows successes that you can build on.

So I’m with Sarah – let’s cut that sugar. If you think her steps are do-able, go for it. If they seem extreme, take control of those steps and turn 4 steps into 8 steps or 12 steps. It’s YOUR road, your sugar, your body. If you’ve not found a food swap (see Step 1) to make to get your Baby Steps to Better Health underway, maybe some honey or maple syrup should find their way into your grocery cart… It’s all do-able if YOU name the step and YOU decide how big to make it.

By the way, Baby Steppers, how’s that food journal (see Step 2) coming? (Okay, okay, you don’t have to THROW things at me.) In the event you’ve not yet started, I just wanted to remind you that every day is a good day to make a healthy choice. 🙂

For more advice on kicking the sugar habit, see our Sugar Busting series.

Smoky Baba Ghanoush

I like vegetables a lot. And there are many, many vegetables that I like a lot. There are others that I will confess I have no use for (lima beans are at the top of this list – don’t judge). Then there is a category of vegetables that I have often disliked, but for some reason keep trying to find a way to love. Eggplant falls into this category. I did not care for it and yet the eggplant itself is so beautiful that I kept being drawn back to it. The deep purple skin gets me every time.  I’ve tried it a variety of ways, including the French classic ratatouille, and just couldn’t get anywhere with it. And then I found baba ghanoush.

It’s no secret to those of you who’ve been with us for a while that I am a fan of versatile condiments. I love turning on the food processor and then finding myself with a bowl full of yum that can serve as dip, spread, flavoring for veggie burger, spoon filler. You get the drift. Baba ghanoush makes eggplant work for me AND it serves beautifully in every nibbling and lunching application I throw at it.

Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately if you think about it, the store where I used to satisfy my baba ghanoush jones stopped selling it and so I was forced to venture out on my own. Who knew it would be so easy and so delicious freshly prepared and served with humble crackers and olives?  Ready to get your snack on? I usually am, and a veggie based dip sounds like just the ticket for my persistent munchies. Take a little dip; take a little dip; take a little dip with me.

Smoky Baba Ghanoush – method and starting point borrowed from The Joy of Cooking

      • 1 eggplant (mine was about 2 lbs, big and VERY purple, just beautiful)
      • 1 T tahini
      • 2 large cloves of garlic
      • 1/2 lemon juiced
      • 1 t salt
      • 1/8 t chipotle pepper powder (you could also use an actual pepper, but be VERY sparing, you’re going for the smokiness, not the heat, you could also use Liquid Smoke I imagine)

Preheat the oven to 400.  Poke holes all over the eggplant with a fork.  Roast the eggplant (and garlic cloves (skins on) in a roasting dish or on a baking sheet.  Take the garlic out after about 15 minutes.  Leave the eggplant in for about another 45.  You’re looking for very dark skin and more importantly, soft flesh.  Allow eggplant to cool to handle it.  Scoop the flesh of the eggplant away from the skin of the eggplant and place in a colander.  When all the eggplant is in the colander, press down with a spoon or other flat utensil to squeeze the extra water out of the eggplant.  The hard part is now over.  Throw all of this with the other ingredients into the food processor.  Blitz.  Place in lovely bowl and garnish with olives.  Serve to your generous mother who has been playing with your children for several hours… or to whomever you like.  Delish.

Eggplant drawing a big zero for you, but you are intrigued by my take on condiments?  We’ve got plenty to spread around….

Big Sis serves up some artichoke dip and white bean and greens spread to give sandwiches a kick.
Craving another Middle Eastern favorite? We’ve got hummus galore.
And last but not least, my perpetual favorite sunflower cheez spread.

Baby Step 2: Be Fearless. Be Honest.

The Sis sisters want you to feel good, to eat well, and to enjoy your food.  We do not want you to go on a diet.  There are so many diets out there, so many plans that will tell you exactly what you will eat and will give you a variety of ways of measuring, quantifying, and analyzing your food so that you can be sure you’re staying on plan.  This is not what we’re about.

Baby Steps to Better Health is a way to learn how to eat real food, healthful food; to learn how to change your relationship with food and to move from a place of deprivation to a place of healthful and satisfying abundance.  So the first step asked you to make a switch, to find one unhealthy item in your diet and switch it out for something healthier.  Didn’t do it yet?  Didn’t go so well?  Went great?  It’s all good.  You can jump in where we are, start from the first step, whatever you like.  Any step you take towards healthier eating is a good one.  Today, we’re going to get started on Step 2: Be Fearless. Be Honest. Huh?

I used to teach and one of the things my colleagues and I constantly reminded ourselves was that you have to teach where the student is.  You have to figure out what they know if you want to teach them something new.  The same is true for any habit or change that we are trying to make, isn’t it?  If I want to build a table, I need to get real honest with myself about my carpentry skills; I have to see if I have the materials required; I (this is certainly true for me) would have to learn some very specific skills; then I would be ready to start building successfully, rather than making the kind of table I would make if I just started banging away with hammer and nails(and believe me I speak from experience here as I am a long-time bang away at the unknown kind of gal).

The next few baby steps are prep work, getting honest with ourselves about what we eat, investigating the materials we have on hand, and learning some new skills.  Rather than thrashing about and banging away at our food, our self-esteem, our bodies, and our nerves, it seems wise to take some time to gather our resources and suss out exactly where this road starts so we can get on with making it go somewhere healthy and delicious.

What I’m going to suggest here may put some of you off, and perhaps that’s why I’ve been jabbering (stalling) here.  I want to suggest that you keep a food journal… NONONONONO don’t click away.  I’m not talking about THAT kind of food journal.  I don’t want you to measure your stuff and write down how many calories are in things.  I don’t want you to assign numbers to your food.  I don’t want you to categorize your food and check things off.  I don’t want you to freak out about writing these things down.

I just want to suggest that you make a note of what you’re eating (including snacks).  Why?  So we can post them and judge each other?  I’m hoping you know us better than that, but in case you’re concerned, no, there will be no judging.  The Sis sisters both know from experience that a lot of eating is driven by habit and convenience.  A great deal of our munching is not really considered, it may be reflex, it may be habit, it may be a lot of things, but getting it on a piece of paper makes it really easy to look at our choices and find some places to begin, to set some goals for ourselves, to identify good candidates for the kinds of switches that we’ve suggested in Baby Step 1.

Be Fearless. Be Honest. Write It Down. 

A few months ago I realized that I was putting on a little weight and was feeling a bit lethargic, weighed down, a little slow and unmotivated.  I began to pay attention to, and to write down, what I was eating.  I realized that every day while I was making dinner, there was quite a bit of snacking going on.  The exact contents varied, but more often than not a fair amount of salt and fat worked their way in there.  Some days I nibbled so much that I wasn’t even hungry for the delicious, healthful meal I had prepared for my family.  It took my attention to identify that habit, to realize that I was letting myself get too hungry at that hour and to be sure to listen to the call of the wild stomach before I became a ravening beast.  I needed to see it to make the change.  Once I saw it, it was very easy to identify some changes that I could make.  I didn’t need anybody to tell me what to cut first – I knew it.  I could see it right there on the page.

Be Fearless. Be Honest. Write It Down.

So what should this food journal look like?  You know what I’m going to say, right?  I don’t care what it looks like.  I don’t care what you write it on.  I don’t care if you use shorthand.  I don’t care if you write it with a crayon with your toes.  My only recommendation is that you put it together in such a way that you will be able to look at a whole week or so without a lot of effort – so writing each day on the back of a receipt that is in your wallet full of receipts from the last 4 months (is this just me?) is probably not the way to go.  Beyond that knock yourself out.  Write it wherever, however, this is YOUR exercise.  You are finding the real starting point for YOUR road to healthier eating.  No numbers, no measuring, just a log of what you are doing.  No judgment, no fear, no recrimination.  You can do this.  Just take a step, with a pen (or a crayon) and a piece of paper.  We’ll take it with you.  We can be fearless and honest together.  Okay, GO!

Throw Some Sauce on What You’ve Got

It’s all in the sauce Sister!  I mean where would pasta, rice, noodles and life be without it?  Having sauce on hand is a great tool when you need a quick meal.

Here are 2 that I have come to depend on.

Pesto is not just to zip up some pasta!  Not if you add nuts and veggies to the mix.  That, my friends is a zipped up meal that takes very little time.  Pesto is not cheap, but be aware that you don’t need nearly as much pesto for a pound of pasta as you would tomato sauce.  Pesto packs a punch!  You only need about 4 – 6 ounces of pesto to a pound of pasta, and although that’s likely to cost you about $4-6, … it is still cheaper than eating out – and better for you, and you might even have some leftovers.  And it’s quick!  Did I mention quick?  Back to the quick part, which is a BIG factor in the choice to eat out, isn’t it?

(Before the quick part – if you have some fresh basil, you can make a batch of pesto and freeze it.  Even better you can make Little Sis’ Sunflower seed pesto which is cheaper than using pine nuts and parmesan – and is totally plant-based and even is she wasn’t my sister, I’d tell you it is truly yummy.)

So cook your pound of pasta (preferably whole wheat, but maybe that’s a baby step you will take a little further down the road)

When it’s done – drain, add your pesto and then add or offer the following:

We don’t eat at the windowsill, but there is nice light there!

a choice of nuts: I recommend walnuts or cashews… but hey – you can add whatever you want 😉

a choice of vegetable: (fresh or frozen that you’ve heated up): I recommend frozen green beans or peas since we’re talking speed, but if you want to add sauteed peppers or greens, or zucchini… you can add whatever you, or your peeps want!

If you don’t add to the whole mix then everyone can choose what and how much they want.  My son doesn’t like the walnuts in the pasta but he eats them on the side which works for me.

So if you use frozen veggies like I did on this particularly crowded evening full of schoolwork, TaeKwonDo and baseball, this takes about as long as it takes to cook the pasta.  It made me happy, and when Momma is happy, everybody is happy!

And now for the second sauce…and last recipe that I will share from Meals That Heal Inflammation, because certainly this wonderful book should be purchased!! (Actually, the book is FULL of very interesting information about food and inflammation with recipes at the end.  I highly recommend it.)

This is a Pad Thai sauce that uses almonds instead of peanut, and got my son to eat raw zucchini.

Wait – did you miss that?  This sauce gets my son to eat raw zucchini. This boy does not like zuchhini, but he digs the sauce Baby!

Raw Pad Thai Sauce (Meals that Heal Inflammation, p. 306.)
2 Tbsp. (30ml) tahini
2 Tbsp. (30ml) almond butter (use peanut butter if you don’t have almond)
1 Tbsp. (15ml) lemon or lime juice
2 Tbsp (30ml) wheat-free tamari (I used Bragg’s liquid aminos – you could also use soy sauce, maybe a little less though and taste)
1 Tbsp (15ml) raw honey (I used un-raw? honey)
1/4 tsp. (1ml) garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. (2.5ml) ginger root, grated

Difficult instructions: Mix all that there stuff together.  I do it in a 4 cup measuring cup with a fork.

I usually double or triple this recipe.  It is quite thick but it thins out when you put it over raw vegetables or raw vegetable and rice or raw vegetables and noodles.  I used my mandoline to make long thin noodles out of zucchini which could also just be cut.  I also used grated carrot and red cabbage (very fast and easy in a food processor if you have one).  You could also use green onion, cauliflower or broccoli, bean sprouts, peppers or romaine.  Adding rice or noodles beefs it up a little. And of course you could add some leftover chopped meat if you like.  Whatever you have is the key because one evening when you get home, you’ve got what you’ve got, and the choice is throw some sauce on what you’ve got or go out to eat.

Throw some sauce on what you’ve got
To make what you’ve got hot-ter
It’s meant to be, just mix and see
A smiling son or daughter

Sauce on hand at your command
For a bowl full of vitality
Be sauce-y sisters be sauce-y
Go sauce-y brothers – Go Sauce-y!

Sorry.  I need my 11 year old looking over my shoulder to edit my silliness, but he’s cleaning the guinea pig cage, so you’re stuck with my extra sauce 🙂

PS – here are a few other sauces to try:
Easiest/Fastest tomato sauce ever
Fabu Asian Peanut Sauce
Basil Avocado Cream
This is a fast mac & cheese sauce that can be frozen and used on other things… or for fast mac & cheese!

Please share links to your favorite go to sauces that will keep in the frig or freezer for nights when you’ve just to throw some sauce on what you’ve got!

This post was featured on…

Craft Junkie Too Friend

Baby Step #1 Check-In

So…. how’s it going?  I only ask because I know, from first hand experience, that changing your eating habits can feel a little daunting at times.  We eat the way we eat for a reason.  This is how we ate as children.  This is what we know.  This is what feels comfortable.  We don’t think we have the time, the money, or the knowledge to do something different.  We think our kids won’t eat and meals will be too complicated.

I know.  I hear you.  I just wanted to take a moment to remind you.

This is not a test of your character.

This is not a one time opportunity.

This is not an indication of your ability to lead a meaningful life.

This is a choice, that you get to make several times a day.

Step 1 of Baby Steps to Healthy Eating suggests that you choose one item that is not as healthy as it could be, and switch it out for something healthier.  One item; one switch; as often as possible.  Didn’t work out so well?  That’s okay because you can start again right now.

One item; one switch; as often as possible.

Perhaps your enthusiasm waned after a couple of days… perhaps you got discouraged looking at your pantry and trying to choose… perhaps you’re like the Sis sisters and you decided you would give up 20 things right away and you imploded.  It’s all okay because it’s always a good day to make a healthy eating choice.  What’s your switch?

I’ll do it with you.  My switch out is trading all purpose flour for whole grain flour – you say WHAT?!  She bakes?!  Look, that’s the thing, your road is your road, my road is my road; we can all identify one item, one switch, as often as possible. So if you pulled off a switch, congratulations.  We’d love to hear how that went for you.  If it didn’t go so well, that’s okay.  Try again.  We’re still here.  If you need suggestions for where to start, take a look at Big Sis’s awesome pantry upgrades.

One item, one switch, as often as possible.

To Life, L’Chaim

Chuck was my Uncle-in-Law, if there is such a thing.  Forget that.  Chuck was my uncle, and he was a wonderful, wonderful man.  He made quiet and persistent efforts to connect with everyone around him and was uncompromising in his determination to enjoy his life and spend time with his family.  Chuck took us to his favorite places, sent us his favorite books (hand chosen for our tastes), and taught my children tricks with coins that they think are really cool.  After my first visit with Uncle Chuck, in which I was overdressed all of the time in an effort to make a good impression, I began to pack my Chuck shoes.

These are my Chuck shoes.  My Chuck shoes can go anywhere.  I’ve worn them in the woods of New England while Chuck showed me a trail that runs where a colonial road and Native American trail had gone before us.  I wore them while Chuck walked with us to the historic family farm and walked us over the stone bridge, sharing the history of each element as we walked.  I wore them when we went to the beach in Rhode Island and discussed the complexities of seabirds, decking, and cedar shingles.  I wore them when we visited one of the greatest small zoos in the U.S. and I wore them to the New Bedford Whaling Museum.  I wore them in a rock garden that Chuck wanted to share with me because we were both in the process of building stone walls.  They are my Chuck shoes because Chuck would go anywhere to find commonality and explore shared interests and these shoes went the distance with us.

My dear Uncle Chuck has passed away and I have had the privilege of being counted as part of his family as we grieved the loss of him.  I was lucky enough to watch a remarkable family and a stunning community draw up and surround the grieving with love, support, and, out of sheer necessity, food.  As soon as the funeral service ended, the food began to arrive.  And what a relief it was to know that this was a worry that was taken care of.  And what a comfort it was to receive massive containers of food from the kitchens of community members who hoped only to ease the difficulty that Chuck’s family was forced to bear.  A small joy to be found in being released from the responsibilities of food preparation in order to enjoy the fleeting pleasure of the youngest generation running laps around Uncle Chuck’s home and marveling at his stone walls and pathways.

Uncle Chuck’s Hebrew name was Chaim, life.  And so, in honor of my beloved Uncle, who I was lucky enough to gain through marriage, I shall return home to the basic task of baking.  We shall celebrate our continuation of life with the staff of life.  I will toast Uncle Chuck with bread (it’s okay to laugh at that; he would have).

Today I want to share the multigrain bread that I took with us on our recent trip and warmed in the toaster in the continental breakfast room (and I will save my rant on what passes for travel breakfast for another day), topped with a little peanut butter (yes, I checked the recall list for the brand) and a sliced banana.  This bread is easy to put together and has a great texture.  If you’re not experienced with bread, I promise you will be okay.  This bread turned out to be the perfect way to start our days in New England – the nutty heartiness of the bread and the banana for my achy back and legs.  Who else could provide the key to such a perfect loaf but my favorite chef, Deborah Madison.  The recipe is in her massive and incredibly useful Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.  I will write it up as I made it -a few vegan adaptations and flour choices based on my desire to give up all purpose flour as part of my own Baby Steps to Healthy Eating program.

Multigrain Bread with Sunflower Seeds – adapted from Deborah Madison

The Sponge

  • 1 cup uncooked multigrain cereal (I used Bob’s Red mill hot cereal, I’ve no idea if this is what she meant, but it worked)
  • 1 1/2 cups hot water
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour

The Bread

  • 2 1/2 t salt
  • 2 T safflower oil (or as you like) plus extra for glazing
  • 3/4 c sunflower seeds
  • 4 cups whole wheat flour (I used 2 whole wheat and 2 white whole wheat as this was what I had)

Mix ingredients for the sponge in a bowl (If you have a stand mixer, use the bowl for it).  Cover it (I used a clean dishtowel) and let sit for an hour.  Your sponge should become bubbly and should smell, well, yeasty.  Stir the sponge to release the air and add the salt, oil, and sunflower seeds.  Begin stirring in the flour (move to stand mixer for this if you have one, if not no worries, totally doable by hand).  If using a mixer, switch to dough hook if you have one as you get down toward the end of the flour to add.  When all flour is in, allow mixer to knead for a couple of minutes.  If mixing by hand, stir flour in until it is too heavy to manage, then put the bread onto a lightly floured cutting board or counter and knead in the remaining flour by adding a little at a time and folding the bread dough over on itself until the dough is tacky but not wet or overly sticky. Put dough in oiled bowl and allow to rise to double size, about an hour and a half (a warm but not HOT location will help this process).  Push down the dough, divide into two and shape into loaves (I’m sure there are right ways to do this, I just fiddle with it until it looks loaf-ish. Place in oiled and floured 4 1/2 x 8 1/2 inch loaf pans and let rise again for about 45 minutes. About 25 minutes into this rise time, preheat your oven to 375.  Cut the top of the bread and brush the top with oil to glaze. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 45 minutes or until brown and awesome. L’Chaim Uncle Chuck.