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Okey-dokey, after some experimenting, I think I finally came up with a pretty good chia-brown rice bread. I got the idea when I came across Nuchiafoods.com, which sells a chia-brown rice flour product for wheat-free baking. ‘Course, they don’t tell you the ratio of chia to brown rice flour they use, so I had to kinda take a gander. First I got crazy and tried a cup and a half of chia flour to one cup brown rice flour, but, because chia has the tendency, like flaxseed, to quickly absorb liquid and get all gelly-like, the consistency, even when baked was a little odd, plus it was really way too dense. So then I kept reducing the amount of chia flour until I got what I think is the right ratio of chia to brown rice flour, and the right amount of liquid.

In any case, I think that this is a pretty suitable wheat-free, gluten-free recipe for folks who are trying to stay away from wheat and/or gluten. I don’t have a particular problem with either, but I am doing an anti-candida yeast cleanse and one of the specifications is to stay away from wheat (as well as sugar), hence all the wheat-free and sugar-free experimentation that’s been going in my kitchen lately. And, of course, vain chick that I am, the only reason I’m doing this cleanse is because somebody said I’d lose my unhealthy cravings and lose weight. So, what the heck and tarnation! I am losing my unhealthy cravings, and I think I’m losing some weight, though I threw out my icky nasty groddy scale when I moved and haven’t bought a new one yet. But I feel thinner in any case, and I’m finding that I’m not hungry all the time like I was before. Interesting.

Anyway, more on that later, but now onto the chia-brown rice bread recipe!

Ingredients:

1 ½ cup brown rice flour + 2 tbsp flour to flour yer bread pan
½ cup chia seed flour
2 cups soy milk, or other milk
3 tsp baking powder
3 ½ tbsp tapioca flour (optional)
¼ tsp salt
1/8 to ¼ tsp stevia powder or 2 tbsp agave (see comments below on the eevels of agave) honey (preferably raw) or sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and butter and flour a bread pan (you can use rice flour to flour it – it works just like wheat flour on a buttered surface and keeps yer bread from sticking to the pan, just like wheat flour).

If you don’t have any brown rice or chia seed flour, or want to save money, you can grind your own, like I did. I ground each flour separately in a blender, with the speed set to grind. The brown rice takes longer to grind; I let it grind approximately 5 minutes; chia seed doesn’t take nearly as long; I estimate it got ground to flour in less than a minute. Keep in mind that your mileage may vary according to your blender. I now have a fancy-dancy modern Oster blender that my dad gave me for Christmas a couple of years ago (at my request) to replace my ancient, but still usable Oster blender that my dad got me for Christmas twenty years ago  (also at my request). Even though that ancient Oster blender had a cheap plastic blending container, compared to the glass one I have now, I swear it ground flour much finer and faster than the modern one does. I used both blenders to grind whole wheat, and the ancient one wins, hands down. I mean, the modern one does an okey-dokey job and it’s good enuf for what I need it for, but the other one just ground flour much finer and in far less time, at least as I remember, but my memory is faulty, so who the heck knows? I do still have that ancient blender – I was gonna use it to make things like hypertufa containers and papercrete, but I may have to dig it up to use it for flour!  ‘Course, I recently received my Wondermill Junior hand-operated flour mill that I ordered from USA Emergency (check them out, they’ve got great stuff, decent prices, and very, very helpful customer service), but I’ve been too lazy to try it out.

Anywho, back to the old recipe. After ya grind yer flour, put it all in a mixing bowl and add the baking powder, tapioca flour, salt and stevia. You can also use honey (raw is best, if you can get it ). I previously said you can use agave, which I thought was  a honey-like healthful sweetener made from agave plants. Supposedly it’s suppose to not spike yer blood sugar levels like sugar does, but now it’s thought to be no better than high fructose corn syrup – yikes! See Donna’s comment below for the link to Dr. Mercola’s info on agave.  Or what the heck, use sugar if you like, I ain’t the health police! But you’ll probably need to use at least 1-2 tablespoons of honey or sugar to give the bread a little sweetness. If you don’t like a little sweetness to yer bread, then leave it out!

In any case, mix all yer dry ingredients real good before you add the milk. And if you use honey, mix it when you mix in yer milk, since it’s all syrupy and stuff. BTW,  if you use stevia, the best stevia powder in the whole world is NuNatural’s NuStevia Pure White Stevia Extract. It doesn’t take much at all to sweeten stuff. Other kinds of stevia do the trick, but it takes more to sweeten, IMHO. It’s a little more expensive, but you don’t need as much so it lasts a lot longer than other kinds of stevia powder.

Now comes the slightly tricky part: as I said earlier, chia, whether left as a seed or used as a flour, when introduced to liquid, has a tendency to absorb water quickly and gel up. This is just to say that ya gotta be careful when ya start to pour in the milk, cuz yer gonna need to mix it just as quick as you can before the dough gets too sticky to move.

Mix the milk in quick and when it starts to become a sticky blob, toss it in yer buttered and brown-rice floured bread pan. You may have to stretch it a little to fit the pan. The interesting thing I found, though, is using the chia flour makes the dough of this quick bread much the consistency of yeasted, whole wheat bread dough, and I swear even the dough kinda tastes like whole wheat bread dough!

Now ya put it in yer preheated 350 degree oven and let it bake for 40-50 minutes. Then ya got ya some great wheat-free bread! I myself think that it does taste like a whole wheat quick bread, especially with the sweet stuff in it (whether you use stevia, sugar, honey). However, if yer lookin’ for a wheat-free sandwich substitute, this probably ain’t it. It is rather dense, like a quick bread, and it doesn’t really rise like wheat bread does. But I have put peanut butter or tahini on it with some stevia-sweetened jam, and kinda do an open-faced PBJ (or TBJ if I use tahini).

In any case, if yer in the mood for adventure, give this recipe a whirl and see if ya like it. Lemme know if ya try it and what ya think of it!

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From left, strawberry jam, soymilk, quinoa-brown rice bread, with okara toasting in the toaster oven

From left, strawberry jam, soymilk, quinoa-brown rice bread, with okara toasting in the toaster oven

I sit down tonight with a glass of merlot and say to you, “Salud!” And boyohboy, are my feet tired after a busy, busy day of prep work for my fall SFG installation and especially, doing a lot of experimental cooking, which is mainly what today’s blog is all about. It’s experimental, because I haven’t made most of this stuff before, and some of it is a little different than what most folks are used to.

So what did I make today? Well, first of all, I made some yummy, easy and organic strawberry freezer jam made with stevia instead of sugar. The Ball folks (ya know, the ones that make the Ball jars for homemade canning), have come out with pectin that you can use to make freezer jam that requires absolutely no cooking. You just crush yer fruit, toss the pectin with some sugar (and in my case, stevia), mix with the fruit, put it in some half-pint jars, let it set for 30 minutes et voila – fruit jam! No cooking fruit, no sterilizing jars in boiling water, nada of the sort.

Specifically, what I did was I bought three 10-oz bags of frozen organic strawberries. You can also get 4 lbs of strawberries, but even if ya don’t buy organic strawberries, it’s still more expensive than buying them frozen. Here in Austin, TX, you can go down to yer local HEB and buy organic frozen strawberries for $2.49 a bag, which is pretty dadgum good for organic frozen fruit. Mind you, next year I plan on growing my own strawberries and making jam from that, but for now, I gotta get them from HEB, or some other grocery store with organic strawberries. It’s still cheaper than buying organic strawberry jam (that has extra sugar), which costs between $3 and $4, depending on where you go. I made organic, sugar-free jam for $2.37 each for 4 jars of jam!

In any case, I let the frozen strawberries defrost in the fridge for a day, then I ground them up in my blender and put them in a bowl. Then I mixed the freezer-jam pectin with a teaspoon and a half of pure stevia powder, mixed that into the strawberries, ladled the stuff into 4 half-pint jars and let them sit for 30 minutes. EASY!

 In case yer wondering what the heck is stevia, it’s an herb from South America that is very sweet, but has no calories, and no bad effects that chemical-based artificial sweeteners have, plus it helps balance blood sugar, which is helpful especially for diabetics. Read more about it at http://www.steviainfo.com/.

The next interesting thing I made was soymilk. Now, a few years ago, I thought the only way I could make soymilk at home was to buy a fairly expensive soymilk maker. I bought one, on sale for about 85 bucks or so. It worked great, but it was a bee-ach to clean. The filter inside it would get all clogged with little ground soybeans. Even with the special detergent the company that sold it provided, it was still challenging to make soymilk. I wound up not using the soymilk maker much, and finally sold it on Craigslist for 50 bucks back when I was a struggling graduate student and needed some money.

Well, turns out ya don’t need a fancy-dancy soymilk maker, and the clean up isn’t quite so bad, at least in my humble opinion. Here’s what ya do to make ya some good old fashioned homemade soymilk:

Soak 1 cup of organic soybeans 12-24 hours in at least 3 cups of water. Drain and rinse the soybeans after the soaking period. Put them in a blender with 4 cups of water, and blend until creamy. Then get you a big, deep pot and dump the soybean mixture into it and add 4 more cups of water.

Set the pot on the stove and turn the burner on high. Now, PAY ATTENTION! Keep yer eyes on the pot, because believe me, if ya don’t, that puppy is going to boil over, and yer going to have a big hairy mess on your hands (believe me, that’s what happened to me tonight — I didn’t pay attention and it boiled over, and I had a big friggin’ mess to clean up on my stove). Now, you do want it to boil almost to the point of boiling over, but not quite. When it gets to that point, turn the heat down to low and stir it til it goes down. Then turn the heat back to high, stand there and watch it, cuz it immediately will try to boil over again. When it does, turn the heat down to low again, stir til it goes down, then turn the heat back up to high, repeat, and repeat, and repeat, until it stops almost boiling over. It will take about 10 to 15 minutes to get to this point. If it doesn’t try to boil over for a couple of minutes while it’s on high heat, you are at this point. Then turn the heat to low and let it simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.

When this is complete, you need a colander with a metal screen and two layers of cheesecloth. I put this over the blender, and then I poured the milk through the cheesecloth and colander. What you are straining out is the soybean pulp, or okara, as it’s known in Japanese. You may want to put on rubber gloves to protect your hands from the hot pulp and squeeze some more milk out of the okara. I just took a spoon and pushed the okara with it to strain out extra milk.

Once you have strained out the milk, you can put it in a glass jar or bottle. I have a couple of actual glass milk bottles that I kept from some Promised Land milk I’d bought this summer when I needed some cow’s milk, and I put my freshly made soymilk into one of those glass bottles (cleaned in the dishwasher, of course!).

Now the next question is, wotta ya do with all that leftover soybean pulp? Well, first of all, fer heaven’s sake, don’t throw it out, or at least, if ya do, throw it out into yer compost pile, cuz it’s supposed to help make some really good compost! However, there are a jillion food items you can make with it. For more on what you can do with it, see http://ellenskitchen.com/clearlight/okara/okara.html and also, http://www.motherearthnews.com/Real-Food/1983-09-01/Okara-A-Meal-for-the-Asking.aspx and, one of my new favorite blogs, http://okaramountain.blogspot.com/. Just make sure that if you aren’t going to use it right away that you freeze it, because it is suppose to go bad fairly quick. And it’s probably best to toast it in the oven first to take out some of the moisture and then freeze it.

I’m experimenting with plain toasted okara, from which I can make any number of things, as well as the flavored toasted okara from the Ellen’s Kitchen site, which can be eaten like cereal. I plan also on making okara sausage patties and veggie patties, and using it in other ways as a cheap meat substitute. Apparently okara can be used much the same way TVP (texturized vegetable protein) can, but it’s much cheaper, and you have more control over how it is made, using organic, non-GMO soybeans. With a lot of TVP, you can’t usually get organic, and unless it says on the package, it probably isn’t non-GMO, and I just think that GMO products are pretty scary. Now that I know this about okara, and now that I’ve made soymilk, I’ll probably be making a lot more soymilk and okara-related food items. And I can get organic soybeans from Wheatsville for about 99 cents a pound, so I can have lots of cheap organic soymilk and okara meat substitutes!

The next wild thing I made tonight was quinoa-brown rice bread. It’s an interesting, gluten and wheat-free bread that tastes very similar to cornbread. Of course I love quinoa, and have used it often as a quick substitute for brown rice, as it cooks in about 10 to 15 minutes, and tastes (at least to me) much like brown rice. It’s the only grain that is a complete protein, and contains all the amino acids, plus it is also rich in iron and B-vitamins. It has been a staple in South American cooking for thousands of years, and was prized by the Incans who valued it for their warriors’ stamina. For more information, check out http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=142.

Anywho, I got the recipe for the quinoa-brown rice bread at http://pattycake.ca/recipes/quinoaricebread and didn’t vary it much except to use about ¼ tsp stevia powder, as opposed to agave. I think it turned out reasonably well. It is of course much flatter than wheat bread, but definitely tastes a lot like cornbread. It’s a great bread for those on gluten and wheat-free diets, and for those that don’t tolerate corn very well but love cornbread.

Well, that’s it for tonight’s blog segment. The next segment will likely be (though, no promises, it all depends on my mood, folks) on my fall SFG, where I’ll be planting lots of greens like kale, mustard greens, bok choy and spinach. Stay tuned!

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Well, so much for starting the square foot garden today. I set my alarm for 7:45 a.m., and somehow in utter sleepiness, I turned it off and didn’t wake up again until 10:17 a.m.! Oh well. I probably wouldn’t have been able to start it anyway, because I still needed to pick up some items from Home Depot before I could start, and I wound up ensconced in the aisles of home improvement wonderland for two hours! And I still needed to go to one of our local organic gardening centers, the Natural Gardner (http://www.naturalgardner.com) for some environmentally friendly spaghum moss. This is not to be confused with spaghum peat moss, which is a non-renewable source and is taken from peat bogs where ancient moss has incubated for probably thousands of years. The harvesting of this moss greatly upsets delicate ecosystems in places like Ireland and England, where it is becoming endangered, and Canada. It is not environmentally friendly.

Mel Bartholomew advocates 1/3 peat moss for his Mel’s Mix, arguing that you only need to use a little, and then you never need it again (unless of course you create another 4×4 garden). However, I got to thinking that, even so, if even thousands of people using SFG used the peat moss each year, we’d all still be endangering peat moss and the ecosystems in which it resides. Coir, which is coconut hull fiber, is another eco-friendly option, but it seems a little harder to find, at least locally, and I didn’t want to wait to get it off the Internet.

I was debating about just using potting soil, but good ol’ Natural Gardener came to the rescue! Spaghum moss is a renewable source from live spaghum moss that is harvested and dried and is not taken from peat bogs. It is suppose to work as well as peat moss. Peat moss, as I understand, is used in Mel’s Mix for its water-retaining qualities, and dried spaghum moss is suppose to do the same thing. Anyway, works for me!

But I digress. Anywho, because of my late start today, I’m going to shoot for SFGing tomorrow in the morning. It’s just too dang hot now to do anything here in Central Texas in the afternoon – and it’s only May – yikes! But what I did do this evening was bake my own whole wheat bread and whole wheat tortillas! Now I have made whole wheat bread many times in my life, but had not baked much in a long time. So after a long hiatus, I have been making bread more often in the last month or so. It’s certainly a lot cheaper. I like to eat organically as much as possible, and even at 99 cents a pound for organic whole wheat flour in the bulk section of Whole Foods, it’s still cheaper than buying organic whole wheat bread for $3 or $4!

Bread dough in the panTo the right is my lovely loaf of bread dough in the pan. Now, I have a bread machine, but I got tired of the bread sticking to the little paddle at the bottom. So I decided to make the dough in the bread machine and let it knead the dough, and then I put it in the pan to rise!

If you’re interested in the recipe, it is as follows:

4 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups warm water
2 tsp yeast
2 tbsp molasses
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp wheat gluten (just tried this for the first time, and I think it’s a great addition — makes the bread less dense)
Warm up water (not hot or you’ll kill the yeast), stir in molasses and then dissolve yeast and let sit until the yeast is foamy. This proofs the yeast. If you’re using a bread machine, you can combine all this in the loaf pan. In the meantime, combine flour, salt and wheat gluten. Add flour to water/yeast/molasses mixture. Let the machine mix and knead the dough. You may need to add extra water if the dough looks too dry, or more flour if it’s too wet. Add either one tablespoon at a time, and let the machine do its thing for about a minute or so before you add more. If you put your finger to the dough and not much dough comes off on your finger, it’s good. Too much dough and it needs more flour. If it looks crumbly, it needs more water.

After the machine finishes kneading, go ahead and take the dough out and put it in a buttered and floured pan and let it rise for an hour, or until it has doubled. Put it in an oven heated to 375 degrees and bake for 35 to 45 minutes. Then Voila! Bread! Slice you up a piece and slather it with butter! It’s also good for sandwiches, toast, etc.

Remind me, and I will share with you a special no-knead whole wheat bread recipe, for those of you who don’t have a bread machine and hate to knead yer dough!

Now, I also decided to be extra industrious while I had the whole wheat flour out and make some more whole wheat tortillas. I made these for the first time last weekend, and I’d already run out. They’re pretty easy to make, though I must say the hardest part is rolling them out, especially if you’re like me and don’t have a rolling pin! A glass works in a pinch, but a rolling pin would be easier — or I think I’m going to try to find a good tortilla press to help me out with the pressing part. I read somewhere tonight about using a plate to flatten the dough, but it didn’t work that great for me, though it made it easier to use my glass to roll it flatter.

Pressed tortilla doughYou can see my experiment with the plate to the left! The recipe I used for the tortillas can be found at http://www.asksasha.com/Healthy-Cooking/Homemade-Whole-Wheat-Tortillas-Recipe.html

However, you may want to use a little extra water for the tortillas. And I substituted about a half cup melted Smart Balance Light margarine to make it low fat, though knock yourself out if you want to use olive oil — it’s a healthy oil. I’m just trying to save calories.

You can also freeze the tortillas after you’ve cooked them, since they probably last just a week in the fridge. I wouldn’t leave them sitting outside of refridgeration, unless you want mold on them in a couple of days — but then I live in hot and humid Central Texas, so that’s not an uncommon occurence!

Whew! I’m tired, and now it’s 10:30 pm! I guess if I want to get up early tomorrow to plant my SFG, I’d best hit the hay!

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