Sunday, August 28, 2022

Eating Whole Grains

After years of compromise and yearnings I finally purchased a grain mill!
 I knew I wanted to grind my own grains for years, decades even. When an older German-American lady showed a group of teenage girls and myself how to make bread from fresh milled wheat; I was reminded of this childhood desire. The bread was fluffy, soft, fragrant and delicious! 
I grew up during the 80's and 90's when there was quite a lot of push about eating whole grains. This was before anyone had ever heard much about gluten intolerance, sensitivity or celiac disease. Not that these digestive issues didn't exist, they just weren't very commonly heard or thought of. My mother wanted a grain mill while I was growing up and eventually obtained one, but before that she always bought 'whole grain bread' at the store. I don't think any of us enjoyed that bread. It was acidic, the texture felt scratchy in my mouth and it was not satisfying. My mother bought whole wheat flour and tried baking with it, but everything she made was dense, heavy and the flavor was not enjoyable. The "whole wheat" took over the flavor of the whole baked good and nothing was enjoyable. With such a waste of effort and flour my mother soon gave up baking what her family would not eat. 
In contrast; later when my mother aquired a grain mill, it was a much different story.
I left home thinking I wanted a grain mill of my own, so I could store grain and mill it fresh myself when needed. But, I soon forgot all about my milling aspirations when I found I could not make a proper loaf of bread, even in a bread machine, as it was.
After collage I was too busy trying to stay slim and trim and dating, to think about baking bread. After I married; I began to think about cooking nutritious foods for my family, milling grain and baking bread again. I took a class on bread baking in addition to the kind German-American lady's instructive visit. Fourteen years later I settled on which electric mill I wanted and made an order. It took four months for my mill to arrive (it was delayed further than projected.) But, finally it arrived on my doorstep and I was thrilled! I immediately set it up and was milling flour the next day. I had some Einkorn wheat berries I had been saving since my Kitchenaid Mixer seized up while mixing a loaf of bread after using an attachment mill to grind flour. The attachment grinder had been a "cheap" compromise and eventually took its tole on my mixer's motor. I purchased a high speed blender (the Deluxe Cooking Blender by Pampered Chef) to grind the remaining wheat berries, but I felt it heated the grain too much, and would even make it sticky and clumpy (activate the gluten? I dunno.) So I had just waited, coarsely grinding a bit to make a porridge cereal from time to time. I was frustrated and disappointed.
The first thing I baked when I recieved my proper mill was muffins. Sourdough English Muffins and my 8 year old's favorite banana muffins. I suddenly realized I didn't have many recipes for fresh ground flour, so I got out all my recipe books to take stock. Then I went in search online. Even the bloggers I knew milled their flour didn't have many recipes using fresh milled grains. I was disappointed again. Then I found The Bread Beckers on YouTube! 
The Bread Beckers are a family owned business in Woodstock, GA, who sell grains, mills and much more, but also teach classes about the importance of whole grains, digestion and baking. It's amazing and wonderful and you can find them at breadbeckers.com. They are too far away for me to buy grain from them, but they have the best prices. I did order their Red Cookbook and Sue Becker's recently published cookbook The Essential Home-Ground Flour Book because I didn't know which to get. Many recipes from the Red book are in Sue's published book and on their website, but the Red book also has recipes for dehydration and sauces that I didn't see in the published cookbook. The published cookbook has many more recipes in it. I love Sue's recipe for basic bread dough using both red and white wheat, but I decrease the sweetener and use SuCaNat instead of honey. It is delicious.
The basic muffin recipe is good, but I think has too much baking soda. I will try ½ tsp instead and see how it goes.
The recipe for Rich Peanut Butter Bars are a huge hit in my family, and so easy to whip up I don't mind making cookies every week to keep them away from peanut butter cups. I grind a whole cup of Einkorn berries for this recipe, sprinkle Guittard milk chocolate chips on top and press them down before baking. My 8 year old doesn't like the chocolate chips, but eats them anyway. They are soft and chewy.
We love the Barley Flour Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe too, they make a great, almost guilt-free snack. I use all SuCaNat in it and grind about 1 ½ cups of barley that makes 3 cups of flour. They are a thick almost cakey cookie. I usually like my cookies chewy and crisp, but these are very satisfying and some chopped pecans go really well in them!
I have been using a recipe from King Arthur Flour that makes really nice chewy brownies. I weigh my Einkorn berries and then grind them right into the mixing bowl. I use much less cocoa powder because when it comes to Cacao powder I do feel less is more! 
I wanted to share these finds because I feel like eating fresh milled flour in baked goods is important in most people's diet and needs to be encouraged. Baking with fresh milled flour is so easy, yummy and an investment in our health. Once you have a mill the rest is economical and so worth it. Like any change we make in life, we just need to be convinced we are right and committed to our work. Sue Becker is a great inspiration if you need motivation! I feel like God led me to her on YouTube and I am so greatful for all the work she has done.
I just had a baby and my house is a wreck, but I still clean up the kitchen and bake with whole grains, because I am convinced it is the best thing for my family and I am committed to maintaining and improving our health. I continue to find more and more recipes and bake the same cookies, bread and muffins my family loves because I do continue to see our health improve.
So now we are eating fresh milled whole grain bread, muffins, cookies, tortillas, buns, and porridge cereal. I also make up an easy no fuss granola that is mixed and baked without stirring. I also recently purchased a bag of Lundberg Short Grain Brown Rice at my nearest Costco. I cook the Brown Rice in the Instant Pot for 20 minutes on high and it turns out soft and tasty. I love Brown Rice now! I cook a big batch and freeze part and I put it in stew and stir-fry where my family might not notice as much they are eating brown rice. It is funny to me how whole grains have such a bad rap. If you don't like brown rice it probably hasn't been cooked enough. If you don't like whole wheat bread, the flour probably hasn't been fresh ground before baking. Einkorn makes sooooo delicious Cream of Wheat-type porridge just coarse ground and a super easy and fast breakfast item. I have yet to make pancakes and waffles, but I know my children will love them. I feel excited to bake again and to eat the food I make, I told my mother I didn't know why I was so excited about this! She said, it's because you know you are doing something good for your family's health and you are prepared and have good food to make for them. I think she is right, but I also feel like part of it is because I know I am eating something God intended for me to eat and I am being blessed. I feel those blessings every time I eat those whole grains. Might sound crazy, but I say try it and see for yourself!

Friday, August 5, 2022

Homemade Beverages

I have been trying to keep my family from sodas for a long time. One night after dinner, my husband expressed how much he enjoyed a sweet beverage with dinner rather than plain water. I thought about it and had to acknowledge that a tasty beverage does improve a meal. What is a picnic without Lemonade? I immediately thought about meals prepared by retro housewives. Their dinners spread out on the table for the family to sample and choose from. The old refrigerator ads that always had a jug of something in it even with the bottles of Coca-Cola. I had assumed they were jugs of canned juice like my Momma usually kept. But, what could a person make for a beverage that would be just as good as kool-aid, soda or bottled juice, but much healthier? That is when I thought of Lemonade. Well sure, Lemonade is nice, but my family is sure to be tired of it in three days. Then I thought of flavoring the lemonade with fresh or frozen fruits to change it up! They do it at restaurants and my family loves it, so why couldn't I make it myself? So I did, and they liked it and I did too! 
As a society, we have gotten so far away from carefully prepared meals at home, we think we need to go out to eat in order to have a nice relaxing experience, but really it only takes a few thoughtful finishing touches to create that experience at home. Even better actually. Like adding a tasty beverage, maybe a bowl of celery and carrot sticks and some dinner rolls! That would liven up any dinner I say! Who doesn't like dinner rolls?
So I decided part of dinner preparations should include a beverage. I bought a big bag of limes at Costco and started experimenting. I plan to buy a bag of lemons next and just rotate flavors so we always have a refreshing tasty homemade beverage in the fridge that is versatile. Bonus; I know my family will be getting their vitamin C and antioxidants on a regular basis and no more artificial flavors and colors not to mention added sodium! It helps that this beverage is very fast and easy to make up ahead of time and keep making it whenever it runs out. I use a Citrus press and a half gallon mason jar with a pour and store lid and just rinse it inbetween batches, so there aren't many dirty dishes created. Since lemon or limeade has a fresh citrus base, it doesn't have much chance to harbor any bad bacteria and we go through it in a couple days so it doesn't ever go bad. I just quickly wash the citrus press after I use it and it's ready for the next batch!

Fresh Homemade Beverage
½ cup Fresh Pressed Juice 
(I use 3 Limes or 2 Lemons)
¾ cup Organic Cane Sugar
7 cups Purified Water
1 cup Berries or Fruit of choice, fresh or frozen (optional)

Press juice and pour sugar into a half gallon jar; add water until it almost fills the jar, then add the fruit or berries to top it off. Screw lid on tightly onto jar and shake till all the sugar is dissolved (About 1-2 minutes). Enjoy chilled.
I make this up in the afternoon long before dinner, so it is nice and cold at mealtime especially for the summer!

Thursday, August 4, 2022

Spring and Fall Cleaning Guide

Soak Make-up Brushes with a Natural Homemade Cleaner.
Boil Menstral Cup for 5 minutes.
Strip clothes, sheets and towels by soaking in hot water with shampoo before washing.
Clean, freshen and polish Shoes, Jackets and Belts.
Air, freshen and vacuum Beds.
Scrub, clean out and pour boiling water down Drains.
Wash Windows and Windowscreens.
Wash Curtains and Blinds.
Clean Carpets and Rugs using Vacuum and Carpet Cleaner.
Clean Vacuum and Carpet Cleaner.
Clean and fluff Dusters.
Clean Mop Head.
Vacuum Sofa, chairs and Pillows.
Wash pillow covers.
Wash Dining Chairs.
Treat and polish Wood and Leather Furniture.
Wash Refrigerator and Freezer.
Remove expired or freezer burned foods.
Wash Pantry Containers and Shelves.
Wash Kitchen Cupboards and Drawers.
Wash Oven.
Wash Toaster and Microwave Filters.
Freshen Garbage Disposal.
Deep Clean Dishwasher.
Deep Clean Washing Machine.
Wipe out Dryer.
Wash and Dry Lint Trap completely.
Scrub Grout.
Wash Bathroom Cupboards and Drawers.
Declutter, dust and vacuum Closets.
House Vents and Floorboards.
 Change or wash filtering systems (water filters and air filters)
Declutter, dust, sweep and wash Garage.
Change oil, tune up, Car Filters, dust, vacuum and wash Vehicles and change Windshield Wipers.
Fertilize or transplant houseplants.
Clean Houseplants leaves.
Fertilize and freshen the Garden.
Wash, treat and polish Outdoor Furniture.
Freshen bird feeders and bug hotels.
Trim trees and bushes.
Airate and fertilize lawn.
Weed rocks and driveway.
Sweep porch and walkways.
Uncrowd flower beds.
Scrub and clean Barbecue and Cover.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Good Gravy!

When I was about to spread my wings and go out into the world, I asked my parents to teach me how to cook for myself. My mother told me I already knew how to read recipes and she gave me a cookbook. My Dad taught me to cook one thing that has served me my whole life, and that was gravy. I wasn't great at it at first, but then I read Julia Child's cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking in which, there is a whole chapter about gravy! Not called gravy, but none the less it took my gravy making to new levels and broadened my understanding.
Here is why you should learn to make gravy too! Gravy is a sauce which is based on a rue, just flour, seasoning and fat. With rue you use the same principles in making gravy to make; cheese sauce for Mac 'n' Cheese or Alfredo, white sauce for any casserole, thicken any kind of soup or stew, cook pudding and even nacho sauce! Some people say that gravy isn't healthy, but I beg to differ. When making Hamburger Gravy, for instance, you add flour and salt to the ground beef you just browned (garlic and onion, if you have it!) and then milk to form the gravy. There is no added fat, if your meat is from a healthy source you are getting good saturated fats and there is no messy waste or extra grease down the kitchen drain.
Gravy makes a meal more delicious, it's a simple addition to jazz up any boring meal you throw together quickly and it has minimal clean up. If you are having roasted chicken breast, rice and steamed veg, a simple chicken stock gravy takes the meal from 3 to 10 on the yummy scale! The French who are renouned for their cooking, apparently cover everything with sauce; hollandaise, bechamel etc.
I guess what I'm saying is, if you want to make delicious food on a budget, you should learn to make good gravy! Gravy is a sauce and basically makes everything taste better; from a can of tuna, to a veal cutlet. Doesn't matter how much is in your budget. Hollandaise is just eggs lemon and butter, aolli is just a fancy word for a well seasoned Mayonnaise that is also just eggs, fat and lemon. Bechamel is half a step from Sawmill Gravy and it is so easy to make once you understand the basics.
So if I have little money and no idea what to cook for dinner; I think of a gravy or sauce I can make, and what can go under it and next to it. No one ever complains about a meal of potatoes, egg noodles or rice and gravy. I recommend reading the Sauce and Soup section in Julia Child's book, but I have read good Home Economics books that explain it well too (although not as thoroughly or entertainingly.)
2 Tbsp Fat
2 Tbsp Flour
2 cups Liquid
-makes a thin sauce or gravy.
4 Tbsp Fat
4 Tbsp Flour
2 cups Liquid 
Yields a thicker sauce or gravy and you can play around to see how thick you prefer it, but once you add the liquid you will not want to fuss about thickness anymore.
Once the fat it hot, add the flour and salt before the fat gets too hot or starts to smoke. Let the flour cook a minute, but don't let it over cook either or it will taste burnt and won't thicken. I like to have my liquid already measured and at hand so I can quickly add it before there is trouble. Stir out any lumps while the flour cooks, add liquid and stir continuously until it starts to thicken and there are no lumps. Once it starts to thicken turn heat way down or off.
And those are my tips! Enjoy your new super-power!

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

How to Create a Perpetual Fridge-Full-of-Food!

Have you ever gazed at those Refrigerator advertisements vintage or modern and wondered if you could fit that much food in your fridge? You know the photos; there is usually a Roast or two, a cake, fancy cups of pudding or parfaits, a beautiful fruit gelatin ring as well as a bowl of salad, a bowl of fresh fruit a boat of gravy or dressing along with the usual coke bottles, eggs, milk and juice bottles? Not to mention produce drawers packed to the brim... Sigh. Just me? Okay, but I'm sure I'm not the only one who was wishing I could have more ready-to-eat healthy food in my fridge, even for a party!
I have struggled to keep fresh ready to eat food in my fridge ever since I left home for college. Wouldn't it be nice to just open the fridge, warm or chop a few things and have a nice full meal within a few minutes.
After staring at dozens of these Refrigerator advertisements for several days, I had a light-bulb turn on in my brain. What if I always made sure there was food ready to eat in my fridge, not just ingredients, but already prepared food. (I'm not talking about ready-made prepackaged preserved substances that grace the groceries isles.) If I always had a bowl of washed fresh fruit in my refrigerator, why wouldn't my family and I be more likely to eat it for lunch or as a snack. Likewise, if I were to always prepare vegetable tray items such as celery and carrot sticks, green onions and sliced peppers, wouldn't I be more likely to add it to my lunch or throw together a snack? A few more items would easily keep a few days and allow for easy meal options. First I noted what kind of foods could be cooked or prepared and last several days in the refrigerator and still be good to eat. Next I thought about the versatility of such foods and soon I came to realize not too shockingly that most of the foods in these vintage advertisements were smart things to have in refrigerators at any given time.
As for the bowl of salad, well that could be easily put together after lunch clean-up and be just ready for dinner so that one would not have to scramble to add a salad to the main course while one was cooking it. All that chopping could and should be done ahead of time so that dinner really could be on the table when the main bread-winner returned home famished. What a delight to come home wash hands and sit down to eat a well rounded meal with a family that is not hurried or stressed, but comfortable and happy to see you. I understand both sides of this equation and I feel very certain, this is the a great way to run things smoothly. The more I learn the more I realize my Grandmother and Great-grandmother were not naive about this part of life at all, but I and my mother (as many others) have been. Because I didn't learn to efficiently run a home, because I thought I didn't need to do things the old-fashioned way, I have had to struggle along and learn it on the job. Trial and error of a craft that was organized long before I was ever born, what a waste.
Well all that to say, I figured out I should start shopping for what I wanted to have ready to eat in my fridge, instead of just getting ingredients I knew I could cook into a meal.
By doing this, I have a perpetual gocery list I can quickly see what needs to be replenished and be on to the shops in minutes. I no longer have to meal plan because I can put together whatever we feel like eating with little forethought, because the forethought has been systemized and streamlined!
Here is the list I came up with, of course, yours may be different since everyone's diet is personal.
#1 Eggs. Hard boiled eggs can be peeled and kept submerged in water for several days without spoil. I peel them because I am more likely to eat them that way instead of letting them go to waste. I also keep them in a clear jar in the front so my son can see an easy snack right away. Hard boiled eggs can be made into egg salad sandwiches especially nice on fresh baked dinner rolls, they can be made into devilled eggs for a nice side for lunch or a snack. The hard boiled eggs may also be quartered and added to a salad (love me some cobb salad!), or just eaten whole with a sprinkle of salt and pepper.
#2 Vegetables. Duh, right? But if I buy vegetables I want to get ones I can keep in the freezer until dinner-time or lunch (novel idea) and steam in a few minutes. In addition; I want to get vegetables I like to eat fresh, like what I would find on a vegetable tray to munch on. So I can buy celery and carrots and immediately wash and cut them into sticks when I get home. I stand them on end in jars with water to keep them crisp and they will easily keep a week or two. Peppers are different, but I will still wash and slice them so they are ready to eat for the next few days. Likewise I can slice a large onion and keep it all week and us it as I need it on sandwiches or in main dishes. This also cuts back on prep time later because I can easily grab a handful of this and that and dice them into soups, salads, stir-fries and casseroles. It becomes easy to add more vegetables to just about anything.
#3 Fruit. I can have a drawer full of fruit and not touch it for weeks, but if it is washed and ready to eat I will grab it day after day. If I put washed and dried apples, pears, grapes and what-have-you in a bowl, I can easily pull it out and put it on the table to entice everyone at any meal! Not to mention add to the landscape. Bowls of fresh berries, cherries, chunked watermelon or pineapple in season have the same value. 
#4 Lettuce or Greens. I know you can make a salad without lettuces, but I don't really like to. So when I get home from the market I can chop and  submerge lettuce in water for ten minutes, drain, dry and keep it in a glass container for a week or two... or three if I'm lucky. Likewise a quick dressing should be made right away to go with it so that even if you have nothing else but greens your salad will taste delicious.
My favorite vinegrette recipe is one my mother taught me.
Equal parts Balsamic Vinegar and fresh squeezed Orange Juice, add the zest of said Orange. Maybe a tsp of brown sugar, or not- just as you like. So yummy.
Easily done and now it is easy to throw together a side salad even if all you have is lettuce and dressing. (Dried Cranberries, Cherries, or blueberries and a little cheese and nuts is nice to have in the pantry and fridge in these emergencies.)
#5 Cheese. One you can cube and snack on, or put on a charcuterie board.- I like Gouda. A few you can shred and put on anything (mac and cheese, top carreroles make pizza.)- I like Cheddar, Parmesan and Mozzarella. One or two you can slice or buy sliced for sandwiches.- I like Cheddar, Havarti or Swiss. 
#6 Roasted Meat or Alternative. Whether it's beef, chicken or ham it can always provide some protein to whatever you are eating. Add it to stir-fry, soup, salad, sandwiches, charcuterie, snacks casseroles, it will keep for only a few days so freeze whatever you can’t eat in that time for up to a month. It cuts back so much time to have meat already cooked and ready to eat. This is an art I am working on mastering.
A few neccessary pantry staples to compliment your fridge would be Pasta, Rice, Potatoes, Olives, Nuts, Dried Fruit and baking supplies.
Then a meal can be made in about 20 minutes which is just the amount of time it takes to cook rice, potatoes or dinner rolls. (Especially if you made up the bread dough at lunch.) I like to make up my own Biscuit, Cornbread, Pancake and Pie mixes. Homemade mixes come together quickly in jars I keep in the cupboard so it takes care of measuring time when I want to quickly add a baked good to a meal. I just add butter, milk, eggs or water and mix it up and bake it quickly. I can mix these up on a weekend measuring them all out at once and cleaning up one time.
When thinking in these terms it is also a snap to make a grocery list after a quick inventory of fridge and cupboard.
Milk
Juice and other beverages
Eggs (some to boil and some to cook with)
Cheese (to shred, slice and cube)
Butter and/or Oil
Vegetables (to cook and some for a tray)
Salad Greens
Potatoes
Pasta
Rice and Beans
Fruit (for a bowl, salads and/or pie)
Meat (something to slice and special cuts for dinners.)
Bacon or Sausage for large breakfasts
Nuts, Seeds and Dried Fruits (for snacking and baking)
Crackers or Chips (unless you bake them)
Olives or Pickles
Baking Supplies (flour, sugar, salt, yeast, baking soda, etc.)
Special items for planned recipes or Condiments

If I keep a running inventory of these things as well as soaps, paper goods, garbage can liners, batteries, lightbulbs and other consumable household items. With this kind of organization, I only have to shop every two weeks, there is always something to eat when I look in the fridge and I have more time to keep the house clean and orderly as well!

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Homemade Lunches 'Look Book'

Turkey and Vegetable Wrap with Stone Ground Mustard
Koyo Ramen with Ham, Boiled Egg and Green Onions
BBQ Sandwiches with Red Onions, Homemade Coleslaw and Bubbies Pickles
Grilled Cheese, Kale Chips and Homemade Tomato Soup
Mini Sausage Stir-fry with Gochujang
Homemade Chicken Salad Sandwiches and Watermelon
Kimchi Fried Rice with Boiled Egg and Seaweed

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Homemade Dinners/Suppers 'Look Book'

Corned Beef and Cabbage Stew
Chicken Pot Pie
Taco Salad with Limeade
Sloppy Joes with Coleslaw on Sourdough Toast
Sausage Pizza
Chicken Curry with Rice, Tzatziki and Crispy Chickpeas
Korean Hot Wings with Marinated Spinach and White Rice
Chicken Soup
Hamburger Gravy, Mashed Potatoes, Candied Carrots, Salad and Homemade Dressing