Wheat Sandwich Bread

Thanks to a little light reading of my new Michael Pollan books, along with some good talks with my husband, we have decided to start trying to change our diet. How? Eating more local foods (the switch to local beef and hopefully to all meats soon) and eating more whole foods. We’ve been cutting processed foods out of our diet one item at a time and replacing them with homemade versions. Although some of it can be challenging (snack foods remain the last item we’ll address) it’s working out pretty well. It helps that I love cooking and that every homemade version we make tastes 10x better than the store-bought junk.

The one item that remained a challenge was bread. Sounds funny, right? Well, my husband is very particular when it comes to his sandwich bread. He likes his bread really soft, but he likes wheat bread. So pretty much any homemade bread I’ve made in the past has been too dense. Sure, he’s liked it all, but it never passes the work week sandwich test-until now. Ryan came home from work today and this batch passed!

 How good was it? See that empty plate there? There was a sandwich on that at one time. And the fact that he likes it AND I like it and approve of it is HUGE! So without further ado, I’d like to share with you the ultimate, soft, sweet, light wheat sandwich bread!

Light Wheat Sandwich Bread
*All the credit goes to the amazing Beauty that Moves*

NOTE: This recipe has been adapted for a bread machine. If you are going to make this recipe by hand, please use the original recipe found at the “Beauty that Moves” link above.

1 1/3 c. warm water
1/3 c. honey (or sugar, or agave nectar, or anyone want to try maple syrup?)
1 Tbsp. active dry yeast
1 tsp. sea salt (regular salt will work just as fine)
2 Tbsp + 2 tsp. vegetable oil
2 2/3 c. white bread flour
1 1/3 c. whole wheat flour

*Makes two loaves*

Add ingredients according to your bread machine’s instructions (usually liquids at the bottom, followed by additives, flour on top, then yeast on top of the flour in a depression). Select dough setting. As with any bread batch, watch it carefully. After a few minutes, check to see if you need to add a pinch more water or flour to allow one nice ball of dough to form. After the session is complete, turn dough out onto a floured surface. Cut into equal halves. Shape into loaves and put into two bread pans. Cover and let rise in a warm area about 30 minutes or until doubled in size. After, bake in a 350 degree F oven for 25 minutes.

Enjoy! If anyone tries this, let me know what you think!

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Frugal Food Friday: Kitchen Sink Soup

Frugal foods; because everyone’s wallet needs a helping hand now and again.

Frugal food is all about using every scrap of food that you have- and having it come out tasting good too!  One of the simplest and most sensible meals to make on a budget is soup. I don’t care who you are, you can  make healthy, delicious, wonderful soup for next to nothing!

My kitchen sink soup constantly changes depending on what I have on hand. This batch here consisted of leftover veggies found in the fridge (parsnip, carrots, kale, onion), freezer essentials (I always have frozen corn and beans on hand), and pantry supplies (brown rice, diced tomatoes, potatoes).  I didn’t have any homemade stock at the time, so I started with some sautéed onions in olive oil, added some garlic, the diced tomatoes, and some water. As the vegetables cooked, they all added their flavors to create a stock of sorts. Oh, and don’t forget to add your favorite herbs and spices. Anytime I’m making a soup or stew, I throw in a bay leaf and usually, some oregano. But put in whatever you like. And just as it’s finishing up, add your salt and pepper. That allows your flavors to develop and mix, allowing you to figure out at the end how much you may need. As for how much to make, don’t worry about making too much! The best thing about soup is that you can make a lot so you have leftovers for the week and to freeze for later. It’s great being able to reach in the freezer and pull out a meal that’s ready to go. Save yourself some time and freeze it in portions that are right for you (one serving, family serving, etc.).

Another time, I had some stock from a boiled ham dinner that I had frozen and used that for a soup base. I threw in some of the dinner’s leftover ham, lentils and barley from the cupboard, and mixed leftover veggies I had in the fridge that had seen better days, and let me tell you, THAT was good! If you ever are making a boiled ham dinner, do NOT throw that stock away! I can’t believe I’ve missed out on something as awesome as that!

That’s it. Soup doesn’t have to be well planned out. I’m sure if you ask your grandmother about making soup, she’ll tell you the same thing. It’s a beautiful meal that keeps you warm and uses whatever you have on hand. So stop worrying about what you need and plan a soup tonight with whatever you have on hand!

Satisfaction

A quick post just to announce how satisfied I was with last night’s first taste of beef. We decided to try the hamburger patties that came with the package on some homemade buns I made this weekend. With the first bite, I realized what I was eating, and it tasted great. Ladies and gentlemen, it tasted like beef. It was lean, strong, and beefy. To be honest, it reminded me more of a wild game taste than beef.  I’m going to let you in on a little secret: my husband is a supportive guy, but he’s not always willing to try anything that gets labeled “green”, “good for the environment”, or “animal friendly”. Actually, any use of those words with a product usually causes him to immediately be against it.  Yes, yes, I admit it, I married a Captain Planet villain of sorts (opposites attract, right?), so I have to be careful about what tangents I go off on and how I label something. But for him last night to make mention of how good it was, THAT means something! It’s a good change for us.

And as you’ve probably noticed, my blog appearance has changed, and I owe all that to my website guy. He made my header, and has spent many hours fiddling with the workings of annoying CSS programing that I don’t have the slightest idea about, all to create something unique for me. Thanks hun! Just goes to prove that Captain Planet villains aren’t all bad. 🙂

Winter Garden Planning

It’s the middle of winter, but I have spring greens on the brain. I can’t stop thinking about that newly tilled and expanded garden sitting under that layer of snow.

That fresh  upturned soil, I can’t wait to dig into it. Anyone want to share their choices for their garden this year? This is what we’re thinking of:
Veggies-
     String beans- “Provider” (new to us)
     Dry beans- “Jacob’s Cattle” (new to us)
     Carrots- “Danvers”
     Swiss Chard- “Ruby Red”
     Cucumbers- “National Pickling”
     Potatoes- “Red Norland” (new to us)
     Pumpkins- “New England Pie” (new to us)
     Turnip- “Joan Rutabaga”
Herbs-
     Basil
     Cilantro
     Oregano
Flowers-
     Purple Coneflower (new to us)
     Sunflowers

It looks like we’re trying a lot of new stuff this year, but we’re keeping all the successful crops from last year and replacing the not so lucky crops with the new guys. Plus, we have a lot more room than last year and look forward to working with more.

Team Violette-Giroux hard at work this past fall. I think they probably doubled the size of last year’s plot. You can see we don’t have a lot of space to work with (the large fields are not ours) but it’s more than what some people have, so we are working to make the best of it. Our first year was a rough one, but it hasn’t scared us away!

Local Beef

This weekend my husband and I made the change to local beef. We found Black Watch Farm, a local farm about 20 minutes down the road that raises Highland Cattle. We placed a mixed order of about 20 lbs. of beef, then went down to pick it up on Saturday.

So why did we decide to make the change?
1.) Dissatisfaction– I’m dissatisfied with our current food system. I am sick of having to worry about the food in my freezer  there is a nationwide beef recall and the fact there have been times where I had to throw away meat because of contamination risks. I’m dissatisfied with the way the beef gets to my table, with the hell beef cattle go through just so they can make it alive to the slaughterhouse. (I will not go into graphic detail here, but look into it and you’ll see what I am referring to.) I’m sick of not knowing where my food comes from, what it had to eat, how it lived, etc. Our whole system is messed up, and this is just one more tiny step I can take in the right direction.
2.) Health– I’m a meat eater, and although I know it’s healthier in many respects and better for the environment to be a vegetarian, I’m always going to eat meat. So, the least I can do is to make sure the meat I am eating is the best I can get. The beef we bought is leaner than store-bought beef (90%), lower in cholesterol, and the cows are grass-fed meaning more Omega-3 and more nutrition.
3.) Local Support– I’m supporting local business at it’s best. I’m not giving my hard-earned dollars to the supermarket which then allows that money to trickle down through stacks of middlemen, all taking their cut, leaving the actually producer with a ridiculously small and unfair part of what I originally paid. Instead, I’m giving a fair price directly to the producer, helping support our local economy and farmers. Where you spend your food dollars translates into a vote for what you support.
4.) Environmentally Friendly- Because I’m buying my beef locally, I’ve substantially reduced the food miles my beef consumed to get to my plate. I’ve cut out all the massive energy consumption of transportation from across the country. And it’s as animal friendly as you can get for eating meat- the animals no doubt live healthy and respectful lives.
5.) Economical– Although it may initially seem more expensive than what you might be able to get at the supermarket when it’s on sale, the more you buy, the less you pay. At $75 for 20 lbs. of beef, I was paying $3.75 a lb. That may seem high for ground beef, but consider I also got stew beef, several different steak cuts, burgers, nitrate-free hotdogs, and a beautiful roast. Try finding a tasty, safe, grass-fed cut for less in your supermarket. You wont. With the gift of our freezer chest for Christmas, we’re able to store the surplus with ease.


And now, with all the beef, a huge local turkey, two hams, extra chicken, and a basket full of summer strawberries, our freezer is half full. With the thought of my husband’s “Furlough Fridays” of this past summer still fresh in my mind, that we have so much at hand is a huge relief.

A New Year

I’ve never really been one for New Year resolutions (I tend to break them in a matter of weeks) but every year a look forward to trying to do something. As always, in the middle of winter,  it’s hard to eat as many fresh fruit and veggies as in summer, so healthier eating gets squeezed in every year, usually lasting well into Spring. But this year’s “try harder” is based on a single quote I found in my Real Simple magazine. 
                                              
“Wealth consists not in having great possessions but in having few wants.”
      -Esther de Waal,
Seeking God: The Way of St. Benedict

How beautifully put. I am going to try hard to remember this every time I get stressed or frustrated with issues regarding finances. That, and maybe when I get really annoyed with the
“rich” and nasty out-of-staters who think they own the area. 😉 We’ve got a beautiful little frugal life going on here, and it works for us. So, I hope this year finds all of us “Healthy, Wealthy, and Well”.

We had a wonderful Christmas visit with all of our families back in Maine. As always, we were showered in love and gifts. This year, the favorites were an impossible to find old bean pot for making New England baked beans, overly generous donations to our favorite vacation spot, a cute and quirky candle melter, and a small freezer chest. After some heavy head scratching, my husband and I have decided to try to break into the attic space we have available to store some seasonal boxes and “not in use” art supplies in order to shuffle things around and get the freezer into the art studio. And after we get the mini-beast up and running, we have much to move into it and I’m considering a visit to a local farmer to purchase a large portion of grass-fed, humanely raised, beef. It would be a lie to say that I haven’t been dreaming about the increased amount of fresh fruit and produce we’ll be able to freeze and store this summer.

So far, it sounds like our homemade jams were a big hit this year. We’ve had tons of notes and emails regarding how great they were and how fast they disappear which thrills me! There’s nothing like sharing a sweet shimmer of summer deep in the cold winter months. I think I’m going to do more with the experimented peace doves next year. And the art that my husband gifted was warmly received.

*A hand-stitched felt peace dove*


*”Rooster With Landscape” – A very large oil on canvas for my Mom and Tom. There was a large empty space above their washer & dryer in the kitchen that my Mom was wanting to fill. She made the comment to my husband this past summer that she wanted something there, something country and similar colors to what she has in her kitchen. It was a perfect fit and a perfect color match. The small photo doesn’t do it justice.


*”Portrait of Man and Woman” – Oil on small canvas board done in the “Caravaggio” style. My husband had started it late spring as an experiment in this new style or portrait making, never intending to give it away, but rather lock it away with all the others (artists can be so finicky). So when he approved of how it came out, he decided he felt comfortable gifting it to my Dad and Jamie. I’m impressed beyond words how impressed I am with his abilities. I think there will be more portraits in the future because his new technique is so successful.