Sunday, September 30, 2012

Wheat Berry Porridge (Cereal)

Do you know what a wheat berry is?  Its just a fancy name for a whole wheat seed. With very little effort they can be made into a delicious and filling cereal.  Cooking any grain like this with water or milk is called a porridge, oatmeal is a porridge.  My parents made this all of the time growing up, it is hearty, a bit chewy and sticks with you all morning.  It takes only minutes to make the night before, when morning comes you're ready to eat it. Just warm it up, add some milk, a little brown sugar, and maybe a dash of cinnamon.

Pour desired amount of wheat in pan
Fill pan of water, covering wheat with 1"

Bring to boil.
Turn off heat and cover with lid, let it sit overnight
By morning your ready to roll

Only about 1/2 cup is plenty

Wheat Berry Porridge - Delicious with some milk, brown sugar, and a bit of cinnamon.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Crispy Baked Potato Skins

I would have to say that my favorite food has to be a potato. When Jacob and I were dating he used to ask me where I wanted to go to eat and I would say, "I don't care, just anywhere I can get a baked potato." I just love the wonderful goodness of a potato. My favorites are of course baked and roasted potatoes, but they must have the skin. I love potato skin, especially when it gets all crispy and yummy! So I had a thought come to me recently as I was getting ready to make another round of frozen hash browns. I wondered why in the world I had been throwing away the best part of the potato, the skins. There was absolutely no need to waste such a wonderful and nutritious thing.

So I took a little extra time this round and scrubbed all of my potatoes really well before par boiling them so that I could also utilize the skins. I peeled each potato, just like I did before, only this time I laid those precious skins out on a tray in a single layer just like I did with my shredded potatoes. Between each layer I put a sheet of saran wrap. I put them into the freezer overnight and the next day I put them into freezer bags.

Freezing your skins in a single layer allows them to come apart easily and they don't freeze into a giant clump. This way you can just open your bag and take out the amount of potato skins you want to use and you don't have to defrost the entire bag. 

To prepare them I simply laid out some of my frozen skins on a baking sheet, brushed them with olive oil and seasoned them. We have tried some different seasoning. We like Cajun, lemon- dill, and of course season salt.  Then bake them in a 450 degree oven for about 20 minutes. Just watch them and pull them out when they are golden brown and crispy. Yum! My mouth is watering.
Crispy Baked Potato Skins

Here they are: Don't they look amazing! They are, let me tell you. A little indulgent, but much, much healthier for you than a bag of potato chips or french fries. And once again you have managed to live a little bit more Providently by not throwing out your potato skins.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Bread Makin' 101

I think making bread scares some people. I have never felt that way, I have been making bread since I was a young girl. I love homemade bread! It is so yummy! There is nothing that smells better than bread baking in the oven and nothing that tastes better than a slice of warm bread with butter and homemade strawberry jam. I hope to be able to share with you some of our favorite bread recipes.  We make all types of bread along with homemade bagels, pitas, pretzels, and pizza dough. I make homemade bread for three reasons: 1. It is delicious, 2. It saves us money, 3. It is healthier for us. I use a lot of bread machine recipes, because I use my bread machine a lot. I love it. It saves me tons of time. It kneads the bread perfectly and creates the perfect environment for the bread to raise. I never bake my bread in the bread machine, however, I do not like the giant hole that is created in the middle of my bread from the knead bar. Instead I use the dough setting on my machine and then take my dough out, shape it, let it raise a second time, and then bake it. All of the recipes I use on a daily basis are for the bread machine, but you don't have to have a bread machine to make them. All you have to do is follow basic bread making techniques and any of these recipes can be made by hand. Let me show you how easy it is:

Here is your list of ingredients for a 1 & 1/2 pound loaf of 50% Whole Wheat Bread:

1 & 1/4 Cups Warm Water (75 - 85 degrees)
1 Tb. Honey
2 Tb. Butter or Margarine (melted or softened)
1 & 2/3 Cups Bread Flour
1 & 2/3 Cups Whole Wheat Flour
2 Tb. Brown Sugar, packed
2 Tb. Dry Milk
1 & 1/2 tsp. Salt
1 & 3/4 tsp. Active Dry Yeast
 (You can substitute the warm water and dry milk with 1 & 1/4 cups warm milk if you would like.)

I made two batches of bread following the same recipe here they are side by side. On the right is my bread machine pan and on the left is the batch I plan to mix and knead by hand. First you put in the warm water, butter, honey, and yeast.

On top of the water mixture you put your flours, then brown sugar, dry milk, and salt. At this point the bread machine pan is ready to go into the machine. Simply lock it into place and start it on the dough setting. 

Mix together your dough until all of the dry ingredients are incorporated into the wet ingredients. 

You will end up with a ball of dough that should look something like this. 

Your ball of dough will be a bit sticky and this is how you want it. You might need to add a little flour but not much. Just lightly flour your kneading surface, with a couple of tablespoons of flour. You don't want to use too much flour or your bread will become dry.

Knead your bread for at 8 to 10 minutes. To keep your bread from sticking just keep it moving. Use quick motions pulling and pushing the dough and turning it with each motion. 

Once your dough has been kneaded place it back into a lightly oiled bowl, turn it once so that all sides of the dough are covered with oil. Cover with a light towel and place it in a warm, draft free area, and allow it to raise until doubled in size. 

 Here are my two batches of dough side by side, both have raised once. My batch of bread machine dough fell when I took it out of the machine, but that is okay, you punch it down at this point anyway.  Take your dough out of the bowl, punch it down, and shape it into loaves.

Place your shaped loaves into a greased bread pan. I just use some non-stick spray in my pans. Cover your loaf pans with a light towel and allow them to raise until double again.

 Here are my raised loaves side by side. The bread machine loaf is on the right and the loaf I did by hand is on the left. My bread machine loaf raised a bit faster. At this point I popped that one in the oven and allowed the one I kneaded by hand to raise a bit longer.
Homemade Whole Wheat Bread

Bake your bread in a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes. By the time my bread machine loaf was done the loaf I had kneaded by hand was ready for the oven. Here they are side by side, bread machine on the right and handmade on the left. Easy right! and oh so yummy! and healthy too! - Not a whole bunch of preservatives and junk and made with 50% whole grain flour. Check back for more yummy bread recipes. I will share all of our favorites with you.

As a side note: You can double this recipe and make two loaves at once, but only if you are doing it by hand, a double loaf won't fit in the bread machine. You can also use your kitchen aid mixer to do the work for you. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Vegan Sloppy Joes

So I stole this idea from my sister, who has been following a vegan diet. She made these for herself one afternoon while the rest of us were eating the original thing. Although I didn't taste them, they smelled and looked great and I knew that I wanted to give them a try when I got home. Thanks Sister!

Vegan Sloppy Joes
Here's my recipe:

1/2 lb. Cooked Black Beans
1 Tb. Oil
1/2 Cup Chopped Onion
1 to 2 Cloves Minced Garlic
About 1 Cup Ketchup
About 3 Tb. Mustard
2 Tb. Brown Sugar

Heat oil in a skillet. Add onion and garlic and cook until softened. Add remaining ingredients and heat until bubbly. Serve with whole wheat buns. 

I thought these were really yummy and everyone gobbled them up, even my sweet little 6 year old, who doesn't always go crazy for beans. We will definitely be making them again, so give them a try.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Growing Hamburgers

So a few weeks back we had hamburgers for dinner, our 4 year old son looking intently at the sesame seeds on the bun, he looked up and asked, "Dad, if we plant these seeds will they grow hamburgers?"  Cute kid, huh.  Well we had a good discussion about where the hamburger bun came from and what it's made of and where the seeds on top came from.

We are trying to teach our kids about the food they eat, where it comes from, what went into making it.  We want them to understand the importance of eating good healthy food.  We want  them to know that someone somewhere grew or raised their food, that it doesn't just come from a box at the store.  We are trying to instill in them the love of good and healthful food.

Cute questions like this opens up a dialog with the kids, our son had thought about it and was interested in the answer.  He listened and learned from our discussion.  Had I just started to ramble on about the origins of his food that night he might of listened.  He show interest and really wanted to understand, we helped him to understand.  It would have been easy too just laugh at the comment, though Shaun-ta' and I did share a smile.  We then chatted with him about it.

We have given our kids their own area of the garden to plant last year, they could plant what ever they wanted to, it's fun for them but they are learning in the process.  Just as we learn from gardening they are learning earlier in life.  We can hep them lay out their garden, what works and help them process what is happening throughout the season.  They take ownership and want to learn.  This year they are much more involved in planting the garden, our oldest has helped Shaun-ta' plant a lot of it, especially as we are planting for our fall garden.

Kids want to learn, they want to spend time with their parents.  We are their hero's, they look up to us and want to be like us.  It is up to us to be people they can look up to, and learn from.  It is also vital that we teach them proper principles so that when they are on their own they will make correct choices.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Having a Weekly Menu = More Time & Money, Less Stress

I have been using a weekly menu for quite some time now, but I have gone through some periods where I slack off and am not as diligent at doing it. I can tell you from experience that when I take the time to plan a weekly menu life is a lot less chaotic and I am a much happier wife and mother. I plan a weekly menu for two very important reasons.

The 1st reason is because planning a weekly menu saves me time and money.

Here is what my menu looks like:

Example of our Monthly Menu

I plan week by week. I do a weekly menu so that I can plan according to what the grocery store sales are for that week. For example on week #1 there were good sales on cheese, green peppers, eggplant, zucchini, and cantaloupe. So I try to incorporate some of these items into my menu for the week. This saves money! I also make my shopping list as I plan my weekly menu. Shopping from a list and sticking to your list really helps to save money and time. I also am able to limit the my shopping trips to one per week because I have a plan for the entire week. This is also a great time saver and saves you money on gas.

Planning a weekly menu also helps you to utilize your leftovers. On Week #2 we had Black Bean Sloppy Joes, Beef and Barley Soup, and Black Bean Tacos. On Sunday we combined all the leftovers from these three meals, along with a few other additional ingredients to make a Taco Soup that was delicious. I always use up my leftovers in this way. The amount of leftovers that I throw away decreases significantly when I plan to utilize my leftovers into other meals. This saves money and time!

The 2nd reason that I plan a weekly menu is that it alleviates stress.

When I sit down to do my weekly menu I always take in to account my schedule for that week. Are there after school or weekend activities going on?  For busy evenings I plan to make a crock pot or casserole that I can make the night before or early in the morning.  This makes those busy days run much more smoothly. I already have all the ingredients and the plan for that meal so I don't have to worry about the last minute scramble. Having a plan in place for dinner helps the after school routine go much smoother. There is more time for homework and playing with the kids without the chaos of last minute meal planning.

Having a weekly menu also makes dinner preparation so much easier. Knowing what you are going to be having for the rest of the week allows you to combine preparation for multiple meals. On Week #2, I cooked all of the black beans I would be using for the week on Tuesday. You can cut and wash veggies ahead of time and use leftovers for new meals. All of this can free up a lot of your time, make life a bit easier, and in the process alleviate a little bit of stress from your life.

I love my weekly menu because it saves me time and money and really does decrease the amount of stress in my life.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Sweet Potato Blossoms

Sweet Potato Blossom
Our Sweet Potatoes have had a couple of blooms these last couple of weeks.  The blossoms are very pretty and are not very common.  In fact propagators who try to cross various breeds have a hard time with the blooms and have try to force them to bloom.

So my first thought, "I want to collect the "true seeds" they will produce, and then next year just plant the seeds rather than starting slips ".

It turns out that if the bloom becomes pollinated its seeds if planted will not be true to parent, or will grow "junk" tubers.  Just like if you plant the seeds from an apple core you may end up with 1 in 100 or 1 in 1000 that makes a good eating apple similar to it's parent.  This is why apples and so many other plants are propagated with cuttings, grafting or in the case of sweet potatoes, slips.  For now I will stick to growing my own slips for sweet potatoes, but I will enjoy the blooms when they come.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Why Whole Grain?

We have all heard that Whole Grain is good for us. There are studies showing that whole grain helps with weight loss, glucose control, heart disease, certain types of cancer, hypertension, etc. Everyday there is new information and studies being done about the health benefits of whole grain. So what exactly is whole grain? I think the best way to describe it is, whole grain is the grain in its natural state or the way God made it.  Each kernel of grain contains three parts: the bran, the germ, and the endosperm. When grains are refined the bran and the germ are stripped, leaving only the endosperm. This also strips the grain of about 25% or its protein and at least seventeen of its key nutrients. Some of these nutrients are added back in by processors to enrich them, but whole grains are by far healthier containing more protein, fiber, and valuable vitamins and minerals. It is so important for us to implement and eat more whole grains into our diet.
Whole Grain Wheat Bread
As with all things that are more healthy for us, whole grains are often more expensive to buy at the grocery store than those that are refined. We try very hard to eat mostly whole grain. In order for us to do this we don't eat a lot of store bought breads, because we simply can't afford to buy whole wheat and multi-grain breads at the store. We make homemade breads, including bagels, pitas, hamburger buns, rolls, etc. We also make a lot of our own snacks including homemade granola bars and cereal bars. We grind our own wheat, this saves money, and helps us to utilize and incorporate our long term food storage into our everyday cooking. We use a lot of whole wheat, whole oats, and brown rice and we also enjoy experimenting and using other grains we are not as familiar with or use less often like quinoa and barley. I am always trying out the alternative white flour, which is made from whole grains, in different recipes to see how it works and if it is successful.
Whole Wheat Cinnamon Raisin Bread
Not only does grinding your own wheat, making your own bread, etc. save you money and help you to live more providently, it also helps you to become self sufficient in yet another area. In future posts, we will be sharing with you some of our recipes for whole grains, things we have tried and loved and things we have tried that we probably won't try again. We hope you will look forward to these posts and that they will help you to bring more whole grains into your diet and help you live life a bit healthier. 

To learn more about whole grain and its health benefits check out this site: