Better For You Bread

If you’ve been following my posts for a while, you’ll remember my obsession last year with sourdough. I still love it, but the care and feeding of an infant dough all the time can be kind of time-consuming. I still follow my “no store bought loaves” rule pretty well all the time (even hamburger buns, although I don’t know the last time I actually used them for burgers). Yet I will admit to using store-bought yeast as it does speed up the process.

I’ve made lots of changes to bread that really help it be healthier than what we buy in the store. Of course, eliminating salt really helps. Yes, salt can be a regulator of the rise, but frankly, with modern yeasts, that is really rarely an issue. Keeping the amount of sugar down is just plain good for you, and using something more natural, like maple syrup, is better than a refined version. What else can I do to make the break healthier?

Recently I needed chickpea flour for a recipe – and in my neighbourhood, we have lots of neighbours from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and the Middle East – all of whom rely on this staple in their cooking. That means we can get it in huge bags, very cheaply. But what to do with the rest? I tried an experiment a couple of weeks ago with my bread, and it turned out really well. The texture was not compromised; if anything it was better, and the added bonus was to increase both the fibre and protein content of the bread.

Here’s what I did:

I always start with water that has been boiled then cooled to lukewarm, because that gets rid of some of the chlorine, which can inhibit the yeast. Begin with 3 cups.

I added a tablespoon of maple syrup and sprinkled on two tablespoons of traditional yeast, not the breadmaker or instant kind. This should sit in a warm place for about 10-15 minutes until it is good and foamy. Stir it with a fork and add to a large bowl. You can mix this bread with a mixer and dough hook, or by hand with a spoon and your hands, but the batch is a little large for a food processor. You could cut the recipe in half, but it seems a waste to heat the oven for a single 8″ loaf

Many traditional recipes have fat – butter, lard, or oil, but I added none to this. I did add a cup of chickpea flour, and then 5-6 cups of 100% whole wheat flour. Add the flour a cup or two at a time, with the machine running, or with the spoon, stopping to knead in by hand when it becomes difficult. About halfway through add tasty treats if you want – this batch had sunflower seeds, but I’ve also done raisins and cinnamon or other kinds of nuts or seeds.

Knead until the flour is incorporated and you’ve used just enough that it feels elastic and not sticky – or if using the mixer, until it cleans nicely away from the sides of the bowl. Remove it from the bowl, spray the bowl with cooking oil or wipe gently with cooking oil, and put the dough back in, turning to coat. Let it rise, covered with a clean tea towel, for an hour or so (not much more, or it will deflate).

Then shape it into two loaves, or a loaf and a cookie sheet with 12 buns (divide the second half of the dough into 12 even pieces, and press or roll into discs, about 4″ or 10cm across). Cover with clean cloth and let rise for another hour. This is a great project for when you are also making soup, when you are snowed in, or when you have a long project you’re working on at home.

About 20 minutes before the end of the rising time, heat the oven to 400F. Bake your loaves about half an hour; if you make rolls, check them about 20 minutes in. Tap on the bottom and listen for a hollow sound to be sure they are done. Remove from the oven and take them out of the pans to a wire rack immediately.

The “no store bread” rule has meant I can enjoy my bread without eating too much of it, and that’s a compromise I’m willing to work for.

Alterations and substitutions: 

I have also substituted 1c/250 ml old-fashioned oats, soaked in an equal measure of hot water, for 1-1/2 c/375ml of the wheat flour.

I have used 1 c/250 ml of dark beer instead of the same amount of the water – this can make a very light loaf with a lovely flavour.

Any kinds of nuts, seeds or dried fruit can be added, about a cup or 250ml in total. Herbs, olives, or sundried tomatoes also make a very interesting bread.

 

Veggie Mushroom Chili, Step-by-Step

I love a traditional, spicy chili, slow-simmered. This is a vegan-friendly version, designed to simmer in the oven while you watch a movie, chase your kids around, or finish that report you need to get written. I hope you enjoy it. Since I get requests for recipes, I’ll walk you through it. You can most definitely adjust the proportions – this makes a large Dutch oven full, which is dinner, plus lunch, for two, and several more meals’ worth for the freezer, or just enough for a big crowd for dinner.

You’ll need:

Olive or canola oil (I am using canola these days because it is produced in Canada)

2 onions

2 cloves garlic

3 stalks celery

2 large carrots

1 green and 1 red bell pepper

1 jalapeno

2 cans or l large bowl of cooked beans, as you like (kidney are traditional, but we had chickpeas and black-eyed peas on hand)

2 cans diced tomatoes stewed without salt (large cans, 28oz.)

1 T/15ml each of chili powder, oregano, smoked paprika

1 chopped chipotle in adobo (or another jalapeno and a bit more smoky paprika)

1/4c/60ml red lentils (split peas will also work, but take longer to cook)

If you’re working alone, chop everything, then start. If you are working as a duo, chop the onions and garlic, and the other can stir and manage the cooking while one chops.

Heat the oil over medium heat. Turn the oven on to 350F

Add the onions and garlic:

Stir and sweat these until they start to get shiny, then add the celery:

 

 

 

 

 

You can use a machine to chop, but honestly, the time to chop each vegetable gives just about the right gap for the prior one to cook a little. Now for the carrots – these aren’t a traditional chili vegetable, perhaps, but they have the tremendous effect of adding a little sweetness to the chili, as do the onions as they sweat down more and more.

 

After the carrots, the peppers, the most tender of the vegetables, come last. Use any colour, but red and green give a great combination. Continue to cook until this mixture of vegetables (the “holy trinity plus” or a mirrepoix) have begun to soften nicely. Now you’re ready for the rest of the ingredients.

Tomatoes come first, then the beans. Stir everything well so you get a good mixture.

Canned beans are easy and fast, but they often have a lot of added salt, which most of us don’t need any more of in our modern diets. We get enough naturally. In the EAT section of this blog you can find a recipe to cook your own; they can also be prepared very nicely in a pressure cooker.

Adding a few red lentils will help it thicken and contribute to the meatier texture some people prefer. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bring this to a simmer over medium heat, then put it all in the oven uncovered for at least an hour. 

 

It will cook down and thicken considerably; you can let it carry on for as long as it takes until you are ready to serve. Sometimes we will make a batch of cornbread on the side, but it really didn’t need anything else. Enjoy!

I’m always grateful for the opportunity to cook together with friends or family and to have a warm, low-maintenance dinner at the ready. Freeze whatever you don’t need, and remember it’s always better on the second day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get Your Veggies with All-Season Salads

There’s a tendency, perhaps precipitated by cooking magazines, to move off of salads this time of year, and focus on warmer fare, like soups or stews. I know that this seems logical, but there are so many great veggies available now, that it seems a shame to only eat them cooked. Sure, local lettuce may be less available. What I’m suggesting is that if you have the privilege of accessing fresh fruit and veg in your local market, please do take advantage.

What I am not saying is that everyone is as fortunate as we are in Toronto. A head of hydroponic Canadian lettuce is out of reach for many families. Heck, there are some places (not in far-off lands, but here in our own country), where fresh produce of any sort is just not in the store, or it costs so much that you can’t possibly afford se it to feed your family. This is a travesty. Please speak out about this.

And while we are on the subject of hunger, if you do have enough, do support your local food bank or soup kitchen. You would be amazed how far they can make a dollar go. I learned from one of them that they can get wholesale prices, making better use of their money, although I’m a big advocate of having your kids choose foods from the store, so they learn about sharing and healthy choices). When our kids were small, we started emptying our coins into a jar at the end of the day. Once a month, we would use this money to buy food bank food. We still give regularly, even though the kids are grown.

If you have all these ingredients, make a great salad. If you don’t, I’m not giving a recipe. Try using whatever veg you can get. If you have frozen veg, give them a quick refresh under cold water rather than cooking. Or if you have “winter veg” (beets, carrots, turnips, cabbage), shred them. Use leftovers. They’re all good. Here is what I did today:

Chopped some hydroponic butter head lettuce onto a plate.

Diced celery and yellow pepper (both “ugly vegetables”  ). Use whatever veg you have, truly. Serve in a bowl if necessary, and use a spoon instead of a fork.

Drizzled with this dressing:

2t/10ml Dijon – it emulsifies, thickens, adds flavour

1T/15ml vinegar

2t/10ml canola oil (it’s Canadian!)

Next add some protein. I had cheddar. You might have hard-boiled egg, tofu,  beans, nuts, seitan, or leftover pork chop. No matter. Protein builds muscle and helps your blood pressure stay regulated. Not too much! A couple of ounces. It’s lunch!

Here’s what it looked like, when it was done. Enjoy. Use stuff up. Appreciate what you have, and give someone else a hand.

Have an awesome day!

Crunch Fall Salad

 

Turkey Soup, Two Ways

Turkey Chickpea Curry Rice SoupSoup season has arrived! (Okay, to be fair, it is always soup season at our house). Each time we have a bag of parings, ends, and leftover veg bits, we make stock. And the same goes with something like the Thanksgiving turkey. We don’t eat much meat these days, but when we do, we are conscious of using every bit.

This starts with putting some sliced onion (skin and all) or other vegetable parings underneath the bird as it cooks. These will add flavour to the stock. We like to use a large roaster with a lid, and cook the stock right in the same pan, or otherwise put some parchment underneath so every bit can be transferred to the stock pot. We always keep stock on hand, and we love to make traditional soups, like Traditional Turkey, or new ones, like Turkey Chickpea Curry Rice soup.

What’s your favourite soup?

Now what???

  
We arrived home Tuesday night from beautiful San Francisco, after an exciting week of learning, volunteering to practice our skills, sightseeing, and eating and drinking lots of delicious food and wine. It was snow, rain, and freezing rain all around us when we woke up. Back to reality with a thump!

We’re pretty grateful de such opportunities – and to be back home – so no complaints. The fridge was pretty bare. We did hav lots of carrots, and some ginger and apples. There’s always a stock of broth on hand (pardon the pun). So before rushing out to shop, I considered what was at hand. Plenty of fixings for a tasty carrot soup. While I got ready for work, I chopped and roasted three large carrots at 400F with a quartered apple, a little walnut oil and some maple syrup (about a tablespoon or 15ml of each). It doesn’t matter if they are fully cooked – they’ll finish off in the soup. 

When you’re ready for soup, bring the carrots to the boil in a litre (4c) of water with 2 or 3 coin-sized pieces of fresh, peeled ginger. When the carrots are soft, purée the lot with an immersion blender, or in batches in a regular blender. Add 2 cups of cooked chickpeas (or one can, drained) and stir over low heat, just until hot enough to eat. 

Serve with a sprinkle of cinnamon and a dollop of fat free yogurt, or some fresh chopped herbs.

Something from nothing…

The fridge is starting to look a little bare as we get ready for a cleanup and refresh. Whether it’s because you’re going away, there’s a change of season, or your cupboards and fridge just need a good sorting, it helps cut down on waste if you take one day a week to cook just with what’s on hand. 

Here’s what I saw that needed to be used:

3 homemade sourdough buckwheat buns – I keep these in the freezer because with whole grains and no preservatives they spoil easily.

Sundried tomatoes in oil – bought for a recipe; I prefer the dry-packed, as they keep longer without electricity.

Green olives – good for martinis but alas, we are out of gin.

A can of tuna in water.

Kozlik’s Tripke Crunch mustard, which I love but which has, of late, been ignored in favour of Old Smokey.

Some cheese bought “off list” on last week’s market excursion and needing to be finished off.

I chopped the tomatoes and olives, mixed with the tuna and mustard, and spread this on the buns (sliced in half). Next I grated the cheese and put it on top, popping under the broiler just until melt-y.

That’s it! Another weekend use-it-up assignment complete:

  

Grammy's Onion Pork Chops – 2016 Style

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It starts with some simple sliced onions – in this case a yellow onion, but any colour or type will do. For two, we used half a very large onion.

These are browned in a pan with some olive oil (Grammy would have used butter, but it’s much more inclined to burn).

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Don’t be afraid to use a regular (not non-stick) pan – it will give much better colour to the dish. Cook the onion until it is a little more caramelized than these, then add the pork chops. We bought the onion and the chops from our local butcher, Mark, at St. Jamestown Steak and Chops. We don’t eat much meat any more, so when we do, we like to make sure it’s good quality.

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Raise the heat a bit, and brown the chops on both sides. When they have some good colour, and the bits in the bottom of your pan are turning a nice brown, deglaze with 1/4 to 1/2 cup of wine or vermouth. We used vermouth. Grammy would have used neither. She also would have used a lot more salt, but we love the natural taste of the meat and the onions.

Next, add about 1/2 a cup of water, cover and simmer about 20 minutes over low heat – your chops will relax and become very tender.

Stir in a tablespoon or so of cornstarch that you’ve dissolved in a bit of water. Raise the heat to medium and stir, just until the juices become clear again and a delicious, oniony gravy has formed.

We served ours with mashed sweet potatoes and a simple salad of local hothouse mixed greens and cucumber, dressed with equal parts walnut oil, Kozlik’s Old Smokey, and homemade white wine vinegar.

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Don't Waste the Taste!

As part of our “use it up” series, today’s lunch is the remainder of last night’s fish pie.   
It started with leftover celeriac gratin, to which we added some steamed carrots and sliced mushrooms. Any leftover veg would do, though. We also had part of a container of whipping cream, and of course, the last of our amazing roast haddock from Hooked. Again, if you have other leftover fish, or even a tin of wild-caught salmon, this will work nicely. No whipping cream? Try regular milk with a tablespoon of cornstarch stirred in. 

Heat all of this to bubbling over gentle heat in an ovenproof dish, while you heat your oven to 400F

Meanwhile, make the biscuit topping like so:

In a medium bowl, combine 1 c each white flour and whole wheat flour. This makes a thick topping for four, otherwise feel free to halve it! Stir in 1/2 T brown sugar, 2 t baking powder and 1/2 t baking soda. Give a grind of salt and pepper. Quickly stir in 1 c fat free yogurt, just until blended. You may need to knead a couple of times by hand. Turn out onto a floured surface and pat to the size of your casserole. Place on top of the fish filling.

After 15 minutes drop the heat to 350 and bake another 15 minutes. At this point you can turn the heat off and it will stay warm in the oven for another 15-20 if someone is running late. 

Leftovers? Reheat from refrigerator cold by placing in a cold oven. Turn heat to 350. When your oven comes up to 350, time for 15 minutes and you’re set.

Also, the same topping can be rolled into biscuits – skip the pepper and follow the method as given. Roll 1″ thick and cut into circles. Bake on a cookie sheet w parchment at 400 for 20 minutes.)

Saturday, and the Living is Easy

Weekends are a great time for a relaxing breakfast – but this easy oatmeal recipe takes so little effort, we often have it on weekdays, too.

  
For two:

Put in a microwaveable glass  or ceramic casserole:

1 diced Apple

3/4 c large flake or steel cut oats 

A sprinkle of cinnamon 

1/2 c chopped nuts or seeds (we used hazelnuts and black sesame seeds for this version)

1-1/2 c water

No need to stir!

Microwave uncovered on high for 3 minutes, and on 50% power for 5 more minutes.

Stir and serve with maple syrup and some milk or nut milk.

Delicious!

Using it Up, with Flavour!

  
We had some roasted tofu in the fridge (for you vega phobics it almost tastes like chicken). The roasted root vegetable and red lentil soup was in the freezer from last week. (Abridged version: cook red lentils, add leftover cooked veg and a little water or broth, purée with a hand blender and a tablespoon of curry powder).

I diced the roasted tofu leftovers, in my fridge for a couple of days, and stirred into the soup. Excellent for a partner or roomie with a cold!

BONUS: 

Here’s how to roast the tofu: Press unwrapped firm tofu on a plate by weighting another plate on top with a can for 20 minutes, drain and cut into 1″/2.5cm cubes. Drizzle w soy sauce, sesame oil and grate over some fresh ginger. Bake at 400F for about 20 minutes, turning occasionally until golden brown.