No Fear Homemade Whole Wheat Bread

While I love may of the joys of summer, in truth I revel in these late summer/early fall days.  Slightly cooler temps, garden and yard changes, wildlife waking up out of summer stupor, and FINALLY my kitchen feels cool enough to bake. Hallelujah, baking season is here.

For the last few months, the only baking I’ve done has been brief and out of necessity for the purpose of providing the little people with some less sweet treats, but now, now that I can bear to have the oven on for longer than 15 minutes, it’s time to get serious, make some bread and be Miss Picky Pants’ hero. Despite all the guff she gives me about food, I do so love being her homemade bread hero. Yes, I am a masochist. Moving right along.

A few days ago I was envisioning a little homemade tapas adventure – plant based small plates for nibbling and tasting.  I knew the way to ensure some level of success was to have bread to tie it all together.  Having no decent bread in the house and having already decided I could not justify a store trip, I faced the fact of returning to baking bread at home. Continue reading

Carb Attack – Another Warm Loaf for Ya

Gosh I can’t tell you how many nice comments I got from you folks about our recent weather situation.  We lost power for a few days.  Words of encouragement were a little light in the cold darkness during those days.  Our situation was nothing, I mean nothing, compared to what is happening in so many places north of us.  The Red Cross is collecting donations to assist the folks of the Northeast in their recovery which looks to be long and heartbreaking for so many.  I am humbly aware that we were lucky and that our luck was not shared.

Given the relative brevity of our power outage and the lack of damage to our health, hearth and home, I have to admit that there were parts of our little house in the prairie experience that I didn’t mind so much.  I’m down with lantern light, going to bed earlier, more blankets and cooler temps at night, and less noise from the outside world in my home through screens and such.  I did learn some lessons, a few of which are relevant to our food related endeavors.

First and foremost, when a major storm is predicted in your area, follow each and every dishwashing/kitchen cleanup with a resounding and thorough round of garbage disposal running, no matter who is already in bed.  Run that puppy until rocks would be gone.  Several days worth of sticking my hand in there to get whatever was still blocking the holes and clogging the sink was gross and became more so as time marched on.  Secondly, I learned that I use the oven to cook far more than I realized.  We are lucky enough to have a gas stove, so with the old fashioned magic of a match we were able to cook the food that was on the verge of spoilage, but I kept walking to the oven to turn it on.

And so, in celebration of having power (and I don’t mean to brag if you don’t have it yet and are only online through some sort of bizarro iPad WiFi hotspot like we had rigged), I’m spending this week on comfort food.  And with the news of a Nor’Easter getting ready to power its way up the coast on Wednesday, I admit to a desire for a little comfort and a ready supply of deliciously simple food.  Today I offer you a rustic expression of my eternal devotion to the carbohydrate.  Say what you will, but I believe in bread, bread with limitations (whole grains, no dairy), and maybe not so very much bread all the time, but I believe in bread.  They don’t call it the staff of life for nothin’ friends.

While trying to choose what to bake, I remembered a super yummy loaf that I made last year, when I still ate a lot of cheese, and began to wonder…  and play.  I dug out my cookbook to find the recipe that prompted the previous yum and a few hours later (in time, not effort, this is the joy of homemade bread) yum again, and this time with no ill effects for me.  Yay!

Peppery Cheeze Bread – inspired by Peppered Cheese Bread in Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone (yes, you should get it)

  • 1 1/3c warm water
  • 2 1/4 t active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 t salt
  • 1 t fine ground pepper (I used white in a foolish attempt to hide it)
  • 1 t red pepper flakes
  • 1 beaten egg (I used flax)
  • 4 c white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 c sunflower cheeze

Pour warm water into large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer) and stir in the yeast.  Allow to sit about 10 minutes or until slightly foamy.  Add salt, pepper, pepper flakes, all but 1 T of the egg and all but one cup of the flour.  Mix or stir until smooth.  Add sunflower cheese.  Mix or stir to incorporate.  Add remaining flour in bits and mix until incorporated or stir until too heavy for the spoon.  For stand mixer, change over to dough hook and knead for about 5 minutes.  If mixing by hand, add the rest of the flour and knead by hand to incorporate.  Continue to knead by hand (folding the dough in on itself repeatedly and pushing it flat) for about 5 minutes.  Put the dough in an oiled bowl, turn over once, cover and place in warm spot to rise for about an hour (until doubled).

Push the dough down, turn it out onto the counter or a floured surface.  Shape into a ball.  Cover until doubled, another 45 minutes to an hour.   Preheat to 375 during the last 15 minutes of rising. Slash an X on the top, brush with olive oil.  Bake on a preheated stone or pan for 45 minutes and cool on a rack.  Allow to cool at least 10 minutes before you cut in and devour it, wisely dipping it into some amazing soup I’ll share in a few days.  Delish.  Warm, flavorful and deeply comforting.

Interested in more whole grain bread?

Interested in a gluten free side for soup like dosas or soccacia?

Wondering what’s in our pantries…. it’s coming, I promise.

What’s for Lunch? Grand-wiches and Expand-wiches

So you think you’re stuck with fast food or bologna for lunch, eh?  That is a bad place to be stuck my friends and I’d like to help you out.  Lunch is problematic for a lot of people because the traditional lunch repertoire is rather narrow, i.e. gets boring, i.e. forces you to not make it – settle for mediocre – go out for evil fast food.  It is a mire of danger, despair and disease awaiting you at noontime everyday!  Yikes, this is getting scary.

So in the tradition of Baby Steps and Riffing on a Theme in the Kitchen (I hope you were singing while you made that incredible orange hummus yesterday Little Sis)… I’d like to offer the Grand-wich and the Expand-wich.

Expand-wiches are what you make when you consider and include non-traditional layers for sandwiches.  Look in your fridge and find something that would taste good between slices of whole wheat bread, or rolled into a tortilla or heaped on a flat bread.  Really… most anything:

Sunday I looked in my fridge and found a humble eggplant, bought on sale with several vine mates that would soon be going bad because I bought too many.  I thought, “Gee wouldn’t a roasted eggplant sandwich be good?”  “Yes it would,” I answered myself, “But I don’t have time to roast any eggplant right now!”  So I nuked it instead.

Slice veggies about 1/4 – 1/2″ thick.
I drizzled one with homemade oil and vinegar/tahini / Bragg’s / lemon juice dressing  – I’d recommend about 2 – 3 tsp spread out onto the slice.  (You can use this dressing recipe until I get my act together and quantify the above.)
The other I drizzled with olive oil, rice vinegar and Bragg’s – again maybe a total of 2 – 3 tsp, but this one is meant to be super easy and fast / not really necessary to mix or  measure : just drizzzzle.
Nuked for a total of 2 minutes, covered

Placed my eggplant on a slice of Ezekiel bread that I’d spread with artichoke spread.

I ate it just like that and it was really good, but I highly recommend adding more items from your frig :
lettuce, tomato, cheese, other veggies (hot or cold) or if you eat meat – some roast chicken or turkey left over from another meal.

Expand-wiches expand the list of items you can use in a sandwich.  You can take this idea to either roast,  nuke or go raw with the following items that I think are amenable to sandwiching:
Portabello mushrooms
zucchini or yellow squash
Long way sliced carrots
green beans
sauteed greens : swiss chard, kale, collards, bok choy
Namul (as described by Little Sis)
apple slices
sauteed greens

Now to make it a grand-wich you add a new and different topping!  See beyond the mustard or mayonnaise in your fridge (although as Baby Steps are still encouraged if you eat more vegetables with your mustard and mayo that is a VERY good thing).  The artichoke spread I used above has a very mayonnaisey consistency.  I described a veggie and bean dip and Little Sis described a scrumptious sounding orange hummus in our most recent posts.  Veggie and bean spreads make your lunches healthier and more interesting.  Worth packing.  Worth eating and worth investing a little time in.  But really is it any more time to make a lunch the night before than it is to leave your place of work to go spend too much money on food that is not very good for you?

If you don’t like sloppy or a sandwich that is too thick, try wraps and tortillas.  You can really just throw stuff in these babies and roll with it ; )

Combinations I’ve tried:

Salad in a wrap with feta cheese or hummus

leftover roast chicken with leftover roasted potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes and beets – with mayonnaise, hummus or artichoke dip, or lettuce for some moisture.

leftover roast chicken with leftover pasta sauce – preferably that has big chunks of vegetables like zucchini or eggplant or spinach or swiss chard or onion… you get the idea.  You can top with cheese if you like!

leftover veggies with hummus or bean dip

veggies and fruit

leftover greens sauteed with garlic and cheese….or hummus…. or other bean dip.

tofu with salad in a wrap

tofu, apples, walnuts and artichoke dip

So you see, the bread or tortilla or wrap is your canvas and a great variety of foods are your colors… and as simple as it is, the combinations are endless.  Let us hear about your Grand-wich and Expand-wich creations!