The gratification one gets from creating a fresh, warm, comforting loaf of bread from scratch is one of indescribable measure.
Amazingly hard working yeasts, fluffy flour, sweet maple syrup, soothing oats, and a little salt of the earth are the basic ingredients in one of the culinary delights of man. Combine these with the raw element of hand mixing, kneading, and rolling the dough, and one feels like a true creator.
Slicing into the bread yields a gentle puff of steam and a whiff of that insanely delicious fresh bread smell. One taste makes your mind stop for a moment to enjoy this simple pleasure of life. Ahhh, and this is the end result of your love, patience, and hard work.
To try your hand at bread baking simply follow the recipe written on the back of a King Arthur bread flour bag, or you can check out their website at http://www.kingarthurflour.com/. They are a great resource for all things baking.
Bread is easy to make. It just takes a little love and patience.
Baking bread from scratch, and I mean no bread makers or Kitchen Aids, is something that everyone should try at least once. The main issues are to make sure your yeast is alive and fresh, that the water you use to dissolve the yeast in is the proper temperature, and that you have patience.
After you mix the ingredients you have to knead the dough by hand for about 10 minutes, or until it becomes as smooth as a baby's bum. Then you let it rest and rise. Next you may have to punch it down and knead it again or simply shape it into a loaf and put it in your bread pan.
Then you let it rest and rise. Once it has risen about two inches over your loaf pan it is ready to bake.
Don't be scared of the dough. Just follow the directions, experiment, release some stress, and most of all have fun!
There are many products on the market that are pre-made for our convenience and budget, but not for our health. These foods generally contain preservatives, food colorings, added salt and sugars, low quality ingredients and many other miscellaneous additives in order to make them tasty and inexpensive.
Most of these pre-made foods are actually quite easy to prepare, and all it takes is little bit of time, initiative, and knowledge. So, let me educate you on some common pre-made foods that are incredibly ease to make and will leave your body, tastebuds, and wallet happy.
Store bought salad dressing is a common item that I see at many friends and families homes. Have you ever stopped to look at the ingredients label in one of these?
One commercial raspberry hazelnut vinaigrette had the following ingredients in it: water, raspberry juice, soybean and olive oil, sugar, corn syrup, vinegar, salt, hazelnuts, onion powder, xanthum gum, sodium benzoate, sorbic acid, calcium disodium EDTA, propylene glycol alginate, citric acid, caramel powder, natural flavor, red #40 and blue #1.
Do you really want to be eating this stuff when you can make your own at home with all natural ingredients?
There are many recipes available on the Internet but one recipe for this dressing is as simple as mixing olive oil, a vinegar, and raspberry jam. Salad dressing is silly simple to make. The Italians simply dress a salad with a good quality extra virgin olive oil and sea salt, and I must say that it is divine.
Basically salad dressing is made with olive oil, a vinegar, maybe Dijon mustard or lemon juice, spices, and a pinch of sugar. Why ingest chemicals to save a few minutes?
Another item I see in a lot of pantries is pre-made trail mix which contains added sugar and salt, food coloring, artificial flavors, and even added oils. Save your body and make your own by purchasing the ingredients separately, from bulk bins at the grocery store, and mixing them together.
It takes a couple more minutes, but you can make a big batch and it will keep for a while. Try mixing nuts, dried fruits, seeds, and high quality chocolate chips for the sweet tooth. Simple and healthy.
I could blog for days on make your own pre-made foods, but that is another project. There are many recipes available on line for easy to make foods such as hummus, pesto, salsa, spaghetti sauce, pizza, hot cocoa, granola, frosting, and cake just to name a few.
I hope to one day have a searchable database on this subject. Until then, feel free to email any questions you have regarding recipes for pre-made foods and I will be happy to help.
We have all heard the quote that “breakfast is the most important part of the day.” So why do we still skip it, rush through it, or eat morning meals that are basically sugar laden desserts? Eating breakfast wakes up your system, jump starts your metabolism, and prepares your body for the day ahead. Therefore why not choose foods that will fuel you with the energy you need to make it a rockin’ day!
Here are 5 ways to supercharge your breakfast:
Remember that you want a good balance of fiber, protein and carbohydrates to supercharge your morning meal and thus supercharge your day. Make the time to fuel your body well and your body will thank you. Now go rock your day!
"Keen what?" seems to be the typical response when I ask people if they know about the highly nutritious food known as quinoa. Apparently, not many people know about this super food that originated in South America and is termed by the Incas as the "mother seed."
Quinoa is associated as being a grain, but is technically the seed of a plant that belongs to the beet and spinach family. It looks like a very tiny pale yellow sphere similar to that of millet, except millet is darker in color. There are also other colorful varieties of quinoa including a lovely autumn red color.
When cooked, quinoa expands and fluffs up to almost triple the dried amount. It is somewhat creamy in consistency yet is still slightly crunchy and has a nice light nutty flavor. The quinoa seed does have a bitter coating that can be removed by rinsing it thoroughly. Also, when cooked you may notice that there is a little white tail that is attached to the seed and that is just the germ of the seed detaching from it. It looks a bit funny to me and adds a bit of character, but it is completely normal.
So, you may ask, why should I eat this strange sounding seed that I keep wanting to call kee noah? Well, quinoa is a nutritional powerhouse that even the natives knew gave much strength and stamina. It is an excellent source of good quality protein and is the only vegan food that has all the essential amino acids.
When combined with another grain its protein and amino acid profile is superior to meat. And, this petite little seed even has more calcium than milk in comparable ratios. Amazing, huh! Quinoa is also a great source of magnesium, manganese, B vitamins, vitamin E, fiber, iron, phosphorous, and essential fatty acids. In Chinese medicine quinoa is considered a warming, bitter food and is excellent for keeping the arteries clean. It is pretty close to a perfect food as it is filled with needed nutrients, tastes good, and is super easy to prepare.
Quinoa can be found in bulk bins at a natural foods grocery store or in prepackaged bags usually in the rice or pasta departments of a standard grocery store. I like to store mine in the refrigerator, but a cool dry place would be sufficient. It is cooked like rice and is 1 part seed to 2 parts liquid. Place the well rinsed seed and liquid in a pot, bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and cover for about 15-20 minutes. You will know when it is done when the seed has grown and fluffed up, and when the water is absorbed. Here are a few examples of ways to serve quinoa:
*serve warm with cinnamon, dried cranberries and walnuts for breakfast
*mix with fresh herbs, spices and chopped veggies for a warm or cold salad
*use the above mix to stuff tomatoes, peppers or cabbage and bake
*serve with curry, lentils, chili, stir-fry or any other dish normally served with rice
*make into croquettes or a vegetarian meat loaf.
It is a new year and maybe you made a resolution to eat healthier or try something new, so why not give quinoa a chance. Quinoa is relatively inexpensive, easy to cook, versatile, nutritious, delicious and just plain fun to say. Enjoy!
This blog entry was inspired by a recent conversation with a good friend of mine who has made the decision to cultivate a healthier dietary lifestyle. I offered to compile a list of basic healthy dietary guidelines with some simple meal suggestions so that he can hopefully make an educated and easy transition. I would like to share these ideas with you and welcome any of your suggestions. So here goes...
Guidelines to a balanced diet:
30-40% of diet to include fresh, local, seasonal vegetables and fruits.
20-30% of diet to include whole grains such as brown rice, oats, whole wheat, corn, and quinoa.
20-30% of diet to include proteins such as tofu, tempeh, beans, and fresh unsalted nuts.
5% of diet to include fats such as olive oil, butter, or sesame oil.
Meat, alcohol, coffee, sugar, and dairy all make the body acidic and a healthy body is more alkaline. Vegetables are highly alkaline and even simply adding lemon to water helps.
Good eating habits include eating whole foods, seasonal fruits and veggies, eating in smaller portions, eating regularly, slowly and while relaxed.
*Chia pudding layered with home made granola and fresh fruit.
*Oatmeal or quinoa porridge with seasonal fruit, sprouted nuts, and cinnamon.
*Whole grain English muffin or sprouted Ezekial bread with all natural peanut or almond butter (no hydrogenated oils!) and sliced banana.
*Fruit salad alone or with a dollop of coconut cream.
*Fruit Smoothies: keep frozen fruit in freezer (berries, bananas, mango) and blend with coconut milk, agave or honey, and whatever spices or healthy compliments you like.
*Tofu and spinach scramble with spicy sweet potato hash
*Smoothie bowls with granola, fresh fruit, chia seeds, and coconut.
**can add wheat germ or ground flaxseeds to most of these meals for added nutrients and flavor. If you eat cereal make sure the sugar content is low and fiber is high.
*Sandwiches made with whole-grain bread (check labels for high fructose corn syrup = not good for you) and fillings such as: hummus, baba ghanoush, and lots of veggies. Serve with tortilla chips, pretzels, or other quality snack chip or be really good and have veggie sticks, salad or fruit.
*Hearty Mexican food: whole-grain or corn tortillas, black beans, brown rice, salsa, chopped lettuce/spinach, nutritional yeast for cheezy flavor.
*Salads with a protein such as garbanzo beans, black bean, or tofu. Be careful of the dressing used. Go for just oil and vinegar, and use just enough to give it flavor. Can add sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, nuts, dried cranberries, etc. Also choose dark leafy green salads over iceberg lettuce.
Italian Chopped Salad (try changing the beans, greens, nuts and dressing to vary):
Canned chickpeas, grape or cherry tomatoes, optional raw vegetarian feta, kalamata olives, pepperoncini peppers, roasted red pepper strips, pine nuts – mix together and marinate in a tiny bit of balsamic vinegar. Serve on a bed of greens and drizzle with olive oil, salt & pepper.
*Last night’s leftovers! See Dinner Ideas for use as lunch dishes as well.
*Lentil sloppy joes with whole grain bread, sweet potato fries, kale vegan caeser salad.
*Fajitas: tofu strips, lightly sautéed peppers/onions/mushrooms/spinach, beans, salsa, whole-grain or corn tortillas (no white flour tortillas).
*Whole-grain or gluten free pasta (or try spaghetti squash) with steamed veggies and either tomato sauce or olive oil; serve with green salad.
*Homemade chili – beans, diced tomatoes, corn, carrots, spices, etc. Serve with brown rice and nutritional yeast.
*Stir-fry: brown rice/udon noodles/rice noodles/whole-wheat pasta, veggies, tofu, tamari.
Spicy Stir Fry (can be served warm for dinner or as a cold noodle salad for lunch):
8 oz. whole wheat linguine noodles, 1 Tablespoon peanut oil, 1 cup thinly sliced onion, 2 small cloves minced garlic, 1 ½ cups bok choy chopped, 1 ½ cup broccoli florets, 1/3 cup halved snow peas, ½ red bell pepper thinly sliced, 2 Tablespoons hoisin sauce, 1 Tablespoon garlic-chile sauce, ¼ cup chopped peanuts. (add or delete veggies to taste, change spices/seasonings to taste) Cook pasta according to directions. Saute oil, veggies, and seasonings. Serve over pasta and top with peanuts.
Get your sweet fix by eating a handful of raisins, dates, figs, or dried cranberries. Enjoy coconut milk whipped cream, fresh fruit, or baked fruit. Or splurge on a piece of organic dark chocolate.
Snacks can be: any fruit; cut up sticks of veggies to have on hand and dip in hummus, organic tortilla chips and salsa; a handful of unsalted walnuts, almonds, or brazil nuts; make homemade trail mix out of nuts, raisins, dried cranberries, and sunflower seeds; smoothies.
Incorporate good fats in your diet such as walnuts, almonds, flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, avocado, flaxseed oil and olive oil.
Look for whole-grains, low sugar, high fiber, low sodium, no food colorings, no high fructose corn syrup, no hydrogenated oils, and especially no preservatives such as MSG, EDTA, BHA, or BHT.
Healthy food should taste good and you should enjoy it. Don’t focus on what you can’t or should not eat, but rather the abundance of wonderful things you can eat. Eat all the vegetables and fruits you want, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. It might take a bit for your taste buds to adjust, but once they do you will notice how funky the fatty, fried, sugary, preservative filled foods taste. Go easy on yourself and do the best you can. Know that it may be a bit challenging, but you can do it!!!
If you have a bad food day, that’s ok, just make a conscious decision to eat better the next time you do. There are many things we cannot control in life, but what we put into our mouths and bodies we can. Take control, fuel your body, feel good, look good, and smile knowing that you are on your way to lots of energy and vitality!
This blog is an exploration of life, love, adventure and art primarily through the medium of food.