Whole Grain Bread

love making my own bread.  Kneading the dough is so relaxing.  I made 6+ loaves weekly for my large family for years until we moved to Ohio….where my bread failed suddenly and miserably!  Think bricks.  I tried and tried to make it happen and finally gave up.  Years later I discovered why. The water where we live is extremely hard.  It is also possible that the flour I purchased was an all-purpose flour, rather than hard wheat flour, which will also cause loaves to be rather flat. Thankfully, I recently learned that adding some lemon juice to the dough fixes this problem.  I made sure to buy hard whole wheat flour this time, too.  Hallelujah!  Fresh bread again!  My family has decreased in size as the kids have gradually grown up, so I don’t make 6 loaves a week anymore.  I have to admit….it’s a WHOLE lot easier to only knead 2-4 loaves at a time!

  Homemade Whole Grain Bread

Yields 2 loaves, 8″ x 4″ (see note below)

  • 6 c. hard whole wheat flour (hard white whole wheat is even better for a sweeter loaf)
  • ½ c. dry oatmeal
  • 1 T. salt
  • 4 ½ tsp active yeast * (or 2 pkts)
  • 1-2 T. olive oil
  • ¼ c. honey or maple syrup
  • 2 ¼ c. water
  • ½-1 T. lemon juice (optional, only for if your water is quite hard)

Mix 2 c. of flour with salt in large bowl.  Set aside 1½ c. flour in a small bowl for kneading into the dough later (you probably will not use all of this flour.)  Set aside remaining 2½  c. of flour and oatmeal in yet another bowl.

In a saucepan, heat water, honey or maple syrup, oil, and lemon juice, if using, to 105-110 degrees.  Remove from heat and sprinkle yeast into the water.  Stir briefly and let rest 5 minutes, or until a little bubbly.  Pour yeast mixture into the bowl with the flour and salt.  Beat with a wooden spoon, or a whisk, until smooth and for about 1 minute longer to develop the gluten.  Let rest for 5 minutes (if using a spoon, just leave it in there.)  After that, add the remaining flour and oatmeal, mixing well.  The dough should look shaggy.  If it seems too wet still, add a handful of flour from your small bowl of kneading flour.  Dust the counter or kneading area with some of the kneading flour.  Turn out dough onto this and knead** in the remaining flour (give or take, depending on the weather and how dry the milled flour actually is this time and how accurately you measured the flours and water.)  More can be added if the dough seems extremely sticky.  Knead for 10 minutes, gradually adding a little more flour to the counter under the dough, until dough is elastic and springy.  It will slightly push back as you knead it.  If you add too much flour as you knead, the bread will come out hard; if too little is added, it will come out doughy and won’t bake well.

Let the dough sit while you wash the large mixing bowl out and spray or wipe it with olive oil.  Give the dough another knead or two and see if it bounces right back at you.  This will tell you that you kneaded it enough.  Better not enough kneading than too much!  Place the dough inside the bowl, flipping it over so that the top is coated with oil, or you can spray the dough with the oil.  Cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap, and place in a warm (not hot!), draft-free area.  Let rise until double in size.

Oil your 8”x4” bread pans.  Punch the dough down and knead 2-3 times.  Divide the dough into 2 parts.  Form into loaves.  If there is any seam, place it bottom side down in the pan.  Slit the loaves lengthwise and spray or use pastry brush lightly coat with olive oil.  Let rise until double in size – about 1” above the pan. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Bake 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown.  The finished loaves will sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.  Loosen the sides of the bread with a non-metal spatula and tip them out onto a cooling rack.

The bread slices best when it is 12-24 hours old, leaving smoother slices and less crumbs.  It can be sliced, bagged, and frozen for later use.  It keeps bagged on the counter about a week.

*If using fast or instant rise yeast, you will mix the yeast into the first mixture of flour and salt.  Heat the oil, honey, and water to 120-130 degrees.  You do not have to proof the yeast, or wait for it to dissolve in water.   Beat liquids into the dry ingredients and continue with recipe.

** Knead bread by folding the far side of the dough toward you and push down and away with the heels of your hands.  Then spin it ¼ a turn and fold over again.  Keep doing this for 10 minutes.  You can scrape excess dough off of your fingers that clings at the start and knead that into the dough as you go.  As you near the completion, you will add less and less flour to the surface beneath the dough – just enough to keep it from sticking to the counter and you.  It will change texture and turn from a slight messy shaggy heap into a ball, and finally into a tighter ball of smooth, elastic dough, which will spring back at you as you knead it.  This will be at about the 10 minute mark.  Try not to over-knead the bread.  If you have under-kneaded it, you can knead it a bit longer after you prep the rising bowl.

Note:  If you find that this doesn’t rise as high as you would like, you can double the recipe and put it into 3 loaf pans.  This makes a higher loaf.

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Anti-Cruciferous Stir Fry

Today was unusually helter-skelter for the whole family.  Everybody is helping to roof a house (except me ~ I’m holding down the fort doing all the cooking, cleaning, etc.)  Due to the heat, they quit early today, so K and I went to get some much-needed groceries once she showered.  It took us so long that once we got home she had only 20 minutes before she and R had to leave for Vacation Bible School, where they are key staff members!  No time for her to even eat, let alone fix something first.  Hubby came home for 5 minutes before he had to go back out for an appointment.  That left N (my son-in-law) and I at home, because J is out of town.

Now, N has unfortunate allergies to all cruciferous veggies, as well as sesame and sunflower seeds.  It makes K pretty nuts avoiding all those things at the grocery store!  And eating out?  Forget it.  Do you know how much sesame oil and sunflower oil are in things?  Bah.

I knew I needed to make something nourishing for everybody to eat once they landed back at home ~ but no idea what that should be!  I threw on a pot of rice, because at least that could be simmering while I came up with something amazing.  I’ve been hungry for a rice bowl of some sort (whether Chipotle-style or stir-fry-style, I wasn’t fussy.)  I remembered some chik-style strips I bought on clearance, so began to build an idea from there.  Originally, I was thinking lemony-“chicken”-asparagus, but it kinda morphed from there.  It didn’t seem like it would make enough.  So, while I stood at the freezer door digging for the asparagus, I saw some other bags of frozen stir-fry-esque veggies.  I started tossing this and that in until I had a pan full of yummy nutritious veggies!  Overall, it took more time and effort to decide what to fix than it took to throw it all together.  🙂

In retrospect, one of the new kinds of “veggies” I found on sale at the health food store I would not buy again.  Frozen bags of mushrooms just don’t have a marvelous texture.  I believe I would either skip them, use fresh ones (if I had them on hand), or even open a can of random mushrooms (usually I have portabellas in the cupboard.)

Anti-Cruciferous Stir Fry 003

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anti-Cruciferous Stir-Fry

  • 1-2 T. organic virgin coconut oil
  • 1 onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 carrot, julienned
  • 5-8 oz. frozen tri-colored peppers
  • 1 10-oz pkg. Woodstock frozen mixed mushrooms (I recommend fresh or canned, actually)
  • 1 10-oz pkg. Woodstock frozen snap peas
  • 1 12-oz pkg. frozen asparagus spears, cut into 2″ chunks
  • 2 c. of your favorite “chicken” substitute
  • 1 heaping T. cornstarch (or arrowroot)
  • 1 T. chicken-style seasoning
  • Bragg’s Liquid Amino Acids (or soy sauce)
  • 1/2 c. water
  • juice from 1 very small lemon
  • hot cooked brown rice

Melt the coconut oil in a large frying pan.  Toss in the onion and carrot pieces and begin sauteing them.  Open up all of the frozen veggie bags and stir them into the frying pan, along with the “chicken” substitute.  Squirt Bragg’s back and forth across the veggies and stir again.  Turn the heat up to medium-high to get everything really cooking, as frozen veggies take so long to stir-fry.  You should see a fair amount of liquid form in the bottom of the pan ~ this is as it should be.  Stir the veggies often.  When they are to the tenderness you prefer, mix the cornstarch, chicken-style seasoning, and water together, stirring the mixture into the veggies until everything looks a little shiny from the thickened sauce.  Remove from heat and sprinkle the lemon juice over it all.  Stir.  Serve over rice with extra Bragg’s on the table.

Apple Pecan Muffins

I got a message from a friend who is cooking for a group of young people involved in an Christian outreach program this summer.  She needed 2 dozen vegan muffins ~ could I help?  How could I say no?  Especially since this amazing woman is cooking for these kids even though she recently fell and broke her shoulder!

These are some of my favorite muffins and I wanted to share them with you.  But I confess I haven’t made them recently, because hubby and I would be tempted to eat them, wheat and all.  So, this was the perfect excuse to bake them for the recipe photo-op, but with temptation being removed!  🙂

I’ve been making this recipe for a very long time.  I made and froze these before my last baby was born so that once I needed them, hubby could bring them to me in the hospital to eat.  (Hospital food and veganism just don’t seem to dovetail very well.)  That baby is now 15!!  And I’ve been making them longer than that.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I used to.

Apple Pecan Muffins

  • 2 c. white whole wheat flour (King Arthur’s or Trader Joe’s are good)
  • 1 c. quick oats
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon (best if you can get ahold of Saigon or Ceylon, etc.)
  • 2 tsp. baking powder, sieved
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda, sieved
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Ener-G egg replacer powder (do not add water)
  • 1 c. chopped apple (the finer you chop it the softer it will be)
  • 1/4 c. broken pecan pieces (or chop if you want finer pieces)
  • 1-1 1/2 T. fresh lemon juice
  • soy milk added to lemon juice to make 1 c. total**
  • 3/4 c. unsweetened applesauce (or 1/2 c. applesauce & an extra 1/4 c. oil)
  • 1/4 c. extra light olive or melted coconut oil
  • 1/2 c. maple syrup or honey

Preheat oven to 375°.  Spray muffin cups with oil.  Whisk lemon juice and soy milk together and set aside.

Mix flour, oats, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and egg replacer powder in a mixing bowl.  Add pecans and chopped apple, tossing to coat apple with flour mixture.  In a smaller mixing bowl, whisk together the soy milk/lemon juice mixture (which should have curdled into vegan buttermilk) with the applesauce, oil, and maple syrup/honey.  With a rubber spatula, scrape wet ingredients into dry ingredients and fold together until no dry spots remain. 

Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups.  As you can see from the picture of the unbaked batter, these will be very full muffin cups!

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.  Place muffin pan on wire rack to cool for at least 15 minutes.  (Trust me on this, okay?  It’s absolutely necessary, or your muffins will not let go of the pan and you’ll have muffin pieces that are slightly gooey because they haven’t finished setting up in the pan.)  Remove from pans with fingers ~ if they won’t let go with just a tiny tug, then let them cool a little longer (esp. in the summer if you don’t have the A/C on.)  Place on rack to finish cooling.

** I have only tried this with soy milk.  It probably works with other non-dairy milks, but I cannot vouch for how they behave.

Non-Alcoholic Pina Colada Fizz

While I was trying to make a pina colada pudding of some sort, I was doing some tasting as I went.  (Hey, I had to make sure everything was good, right?)  At one point, the creamy stuff in the blender began to taste so yummy that I kept tasting and knew I needed to stop!  Finally, a light bulb went off and I poured a smidge into a small cup and started to play with that, too, in order to make a virgin pina colada.  (I figured at least one recipe was bound to turn out well.)  Just in case it was all in my imagination that my creation tasted amazing, I fixed a similar smidge for one of my willing taste-testers.  When he gave it the thumbs-up, I was content.

Later that evening, my son-in-law was over who likes all things “fancy non-alcoholic drink” and I told him about it.  He burst my bubble.  He told me that pina coladas don’t have anything fizzy in them.  Well…bummer!

It was late that night when I got my next light-bulb moment.  Why not just change the name?  Who cares what it is “supposed” to be ~ this was good and I wanted to share it!  😀  So, here you have it….although, if you don’t want the fizz, just leave it out.  It is decadent and delicious without the sparkling water, too!

Pina Colada Fizz (non-alcoholic)

  • juice from 1 small organic lemon
  • 2 cans Thai organic coconut milk (I used the full-fat version), chilled
  • 1-2 cans pineapple chunks*, undrained, preferably chilled
  • 1/2 tsp. pure stevia
  • 2 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • Canada Dry sparkling seltzer water, raspberry flavor, chilled, optional

In a 56-oz blender, whiz the first 5 ingredients together until very smooth.  Serve in glasses mixed with the sparkling seltzer water to taste. You should probably run a taste test to see what proportion you like best.  Garnish with fresh pineapple wedges and little umbrellas, if desired.  (Unfortunately, I didn’t have any of these pretties on hand.)

The cream in the blender makes about 7 cups if you use 1 can of pineapple.

*If you wish to use fresh or frozen pineapple, you probably will want to decrease or omit the lemon juice, because it will be tangy enough without it.  In making a half recipe, I threw in 1 1/2 c. of fresh pineapple.  It was very good this way.

Vegan Chocolate Cake

There is nothing like the end of May and the first half of June in our family for needing to bake birthday cakes!  (Not sure how we ended up so many of them in a row, but it does nothing for my weight.  Well, at least nothing good.)  This year poor hubby got an awful version of a gluten-free cake that I tried for his birthday in May.  We won’t be trying that one again.

For R’s birthday celebration last night, I took my tried-and-true chocolate cake recipe and tried it with 100% whole spelt flour.  It worked amazingly well!  (It is not gluten-free, but if you are avoiding wheat it works.)  If anything, it was lighter than my usual wheat version.  I like that!  (And there are leftovers for tonight ~ his actual birthday.)

I just frosted it using my Betty Crocker recipe with vegan ingredients (Earth Balance “butter” and non-dairy milk.)  Oh, and sprinkles are a must for R’s cakes.  😀

Vegan Chocolate Cake

  • 3 c. flour (I have always used King Arthur’s or Trader Joe’s white whole wheat, but now I know that 100% whole spelt flour also works well.)
  • 2 tsp. baking soda (sieved to remove lumps)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 6 T. cocoa powder, sifted if possible
  • 1 1/3 c. honey
  • 1/2 c. applesauce
  • 1/4 c. extra light olive oil (flavorless)
  • 2 T. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 1/2 c. water
  • 2 tsp. coffee substitute powder (Roma, Cafix, Pero, etc.) ~ optional

Preheat oven to 350°.  Spray 9″ x 13″ pan with oil, or if you don’t want to cut and serve the cake directly from the pan in my lazy way, cut parchment paper to fit the bottom of the pan and spray the paper and the sides of the pan.

Whisk in large bowl all of the dry ingredients.  In a separate bowl, whisk all of the wet ingredients.  Scrape the wet ingredients into the bowl with the dry and whisk until there are little bubbles forming in the batter.  Scrape into prepared pan.  Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick poked in the middle of the cake comes out clean.  Cool on cake rack for 10-15 minutes before attempting to remove from pan.

Optional pans:  I have made this with round 8-9″ pans in the past.  I decreased the time and watched it closely near the end, checking it with a toothpick.

If you wish to make just an 8″ x 8″ square smaller cake, cut the ingredients in half.

 

General Tso’s Sauce

What do you do when you can’t find an inexpensive bottle or two of General Tso’s Sauce for your supper plans?  Well, either you go without, or spend the big bucks, right?  *BEEP*  Wrong answer.  ;D  You go to the website of your favorite brand of sauce and look at the ingredients list…and then use it to approximate amounts to create your own!  Or…at least…that’s what I did last night.  It was either that or use the veggies I had already purchased to make a very mundane stir fry instead.

My only fear came when I tasted the sauce.  MAN!!…was it salty!!!  But since I had never actually tasted the purchased sauce straight out of the bottle, I really didn’t have anything to go by.  My tofu had nothing flavoring it except the coconut oil in which I sauteed it and my veggies had no salt on them.  I took the risk.  I poured it over the tofu to marinate since it was finished first.  Once the veggies finished cooking I tossed it all together.

SUCCESS!  Best tasting General Tso’s yet!  Now that I realize just how much sweetener goes into it, I think that I will have to play around to make it more savory and less sweet just for health’s sake.  But for wow factor, this is the way to go.  😀

For comparison, here is the ingredients list from Iron Chef’s General Tso’s Sauce:  Sugar, soy sauce, water, vinegar, food starch, tomato paste, fresh garlic, dried garlic, red peppers, soybean oil, dried minced onion.

I made some substitutions and added some minced ginger.  I made a triple batch of this for my crew (and the teens were circling the empty serving dishes whining wishing for more.)  That’s why the measurements sometimes seem a bit odd.  It’s tough to split 1/2 tsp. into thirds!  Just for the sake of those of you who like to make large batches as I do, I’ll put the large batch’s measurements in parentheses after each ingredient.

General Tso’s Sauce

  • 1/4 c. evaporated cane juice crystals (or sugar) (3/4 c.)
  • 1-1 1/2 tsp. honey (1/4 c.)
  • 1/4 c. Bragg’s Liquid Aminos (3/4 c.)
  • 1/4 c. + 2-3 T. water (1 1/4 c.)
  • 1 T. fresh organic lemon juice (3 T. – 1 small lemon)
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch (2 T.)
  • 4 tsp. organic tomato paste (4 T.)
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced (6 cloves; 4 T.)
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder (3/4 tsp.)
  • 1/8 tsp. (rounded measure) dried red pepper flakes (1/2 tsp.)
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp. toasted sesame oil (1 tsp.)
  • 1/4 tsp. dried minced onion (3/4 tsp.)
  • scant 1 tsp. fresh ginger, minced (scant 1 T.)

Measure 2-3 T. water, mix in the cornstarch, and set it aside.  Place all other ingredients in a saucepan (making sure the tomato paste is thoroughly “dissolved”) and heat to just boiling.  Add the cornstarch mixture, stirring constantly until it loses it slightly milky color and begins to thicken.  Remove from heat and set aside until stir fry is complete and ready for sauce.

Makes approximately 1-1 1/4 c. of sauce.