Thursday, January 31, 2013

30 Day Challenge: Week 1 Update

1 Week Down

Last week I issued myself  a 30 day no sugar or junk/fast food challenge.  It is now a week later and I have done well.  I have had zero soda, zero fast food and almost no sugar. I did slip on the sugar but not as bad as you would think.  I did have some homemade jam on toast and some yummy honey too, no problem there, but I also had a couple of swigs of chocolate milk while waiting on dinner one night.  So all in all not bad but, still room for improvement.

How do I feel?  

Well, I have started fighting a sinus infection this week which kind of sways the answer.  Over all I feel great, I really haven't had to fight any crazy cravings, though I do find it important to eat at more consistent times regularly.  It is also helpful to have some type of healthy snack about; since I can't just grab a candy bar and a root beer if I am felling a bit snackish.

Water is Very Important

I have noticed that late in the day I feel very lethargic and start to have a bit of a headache. My first though was either blood sugar or a caffeine headache. It would be far to easy to justify grabbing a Dr. Pepper or something.
Turns out it is because I am getting dehydrated.  I keep a few bottles of water around that I drink and refill, though I haven't bee drinking enough.  Just goes to show you how much soda pop I was drinking... In the past when I got thirsty I would pull into a gas station and grab a fountain drink.  Now all I have to do is reach over and grab a bottle of water.  I need to add a couple more bottles and drink more regularly not just when I am feeling really thirsty.  

Any Weight Loss?

Its hard to say, my scale is not great and it's only been a week.  Since we all have been sick a little this last week I have missed 4 days of exercise.  That being said, I would say I have lost maybe 2+ lbs.  Weight loss is not not goal here, I want to see how I feel without these things in my daily diet.

What's the plan for next week?

I am working on pulling together some other options for breakfast and for snacking.  I am working on a recipe for a granola with sprouted grains and nuts.  I expect it will be very tasty and yet also very nutritious.  I also plan to avoid chocolate milk and try to work in some more veggies during the day.

I'll check back in and update you how it goes...


Monday, January 28, 2013

Honey Oat Bread

One of the homemade breads we make a lot is our Honey Oat Bread.  It is a very delicious and light bread, it is great hot but we also use it  for sandwiches, french toast etc.  If you take it out of the oven when there are hungry mouths about the loaf can disappear by half in no time especially with some butter and homemade jam or honey on hand.

Honey Oat Bread with Sprouted Grains
This recipe also can be boosted up adding some other whole grains or even spices.  I have used this a a base recipe many times including adding sprouted grain, and adding a variety of whole grains

This recipe has some uses regular bread flour and a cup of whole oats.  You can also replace some of the bread flour withe some wheat flour to kick up the whole grain content.

Honey Oat Bread

1 Cup + 2 Tbls.  -   Water
2 Tbls.    -    Honey
2 Tbls.   -    Butter (we often use olive oil)
2 1/4 Cups   -    Bread Flour
1 Cup   -    Oats (whole not instant)
2 Tbls.   -    Dry Milk
1 1/2 tsp.   -    Salt
1 3/4 tsp.   -    Active Dry Yeast

Bake at 350 for 40-50 Minutes, will be golden brown.

3 Loafs of Bread

Yesterday I stayed home from church with our youngest who was sick. I decided to make the most of my time at home and do something I enjoy but don't always have time for; Baking.  Most of the bread we eat each week is homemade bread, I like to make it but don't always have the chance.  Shaun-ta' has posted our 50/50 white/wheat bread recipe before, I just posted one of our favorite bread recipes Honey Oat Bread.  Two of the loafs I made today was based on that recipe.

3 Whole Grain Loafs of Bread
So I set forth to make some bread, I ended up with 3 loafs of different breads.  In each I used a different combination of whole grains.  It is really easy to add whole grains to your existing bread recipes.

The first loaf was a loaf of honey oat bread with buckwheat flour and amaranth grain.  I ground up a 1/2 cup of buckwheat groats in a blender, this yielded about 3/4 of a cup of flour, I replaced and equal amount of the bread flour with this flour.  Amaranth is an ancient grain that is very nutritious and also grows very well in the garden too.  Amaranth seeds are tiny seeds about the size of poppy seeds and just as crunchy.  I added 1/2 cup of amaranth to the dough.  We often add millet to our breads including our pizza dough.  It adds a nice crunch, amaranth is very similar in texture.  I did have some troubles with this loaf though, the honey oat bread is kinda fragile, if you let it rise too long it will fall and loose some of it's fluff, though it still tastes great.

The second loaf is a HoneyOatFlax bread was also based on the Honey Oat Bread recipe though instead of adding the 2 Tbls. of oil I added 6 Tbls. of ground flax seed and 2 Tbls. of water.  When using flax seed you can omit the oil in your recipe, Flax seed is very high in oil (the source of linseed oil) and it contains a type of Omega 6 Oils, not the exact same ones you find in Salmon but still good for you in moderation.  I also added 2 Tbls. of whole flax seed to add some texture and crunch.  This loaf turned out really nice, crusty outside, nice and moist inside.  I think the inside texture is even nicer than the oat bread by it self.  You can buy it in many grocery stores or find Ground Flaxseed here.

The third loaf is a 50/50 bread with wheat berries, I used a recipe almost exactly like our 50/50 Bread, the way I changed it up was by adding a 1/2 cup of soaked wheat berries, like you would use for Wheat Berry Porridge.  I had made some for breakfast the other day and had some extra.  This adds a nice chewy bits to the bread.  I think though that using sprouted wheat makes for a better bread, it is sweeter and a bit softer to chew.  I make a loaf recently with 3 types of sprouted grains check it out here: 3 Sprouted Grain Bread.

Most recipes can handle adding a few extra items, adding whole grains not only make for more interesting, delicious but also more nutritious.  Give it a try in your home.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

My 30 Day Challenge: Cutting Out the Sugar, Soda...

Refined White Sugar
I have issued myself a challenge, for the next 30 days I will be skipping the following
  1. Sugar, HF corn syrup, etc
  2. Soda pop
  3. Fast food
  4. Store bought prepared foods
I am posting this here publicly, because I will have added incentive to complete it because I committed here.
 The last 3 weeks Shaun-ta' and I have been starting a new exercise and fitness routine, we are 3 weeks into a 9 week cycle of the Insanity workout program.  This is a part of my 13 Skills in 2013 plan.  Increasing my fitness is important to me for several reasons, firstly I am sadly out of shape, I do not feel healthy, I also do not want to develop any health issues like diabetes.  I expect to lose weight in the process but that is not the focus for me, it will come off in the process.  I just desire to be healthier and increase my fitness level. 

Soda made with Corn Syrup
This change in my diet will be helpful in supporting my new fitness efforts, by feeding my body with good wholesome food and not empty calories.  I have to admit, I do drink a lot of soda, more than a year ago I gave up drinking diet soda's due to my discomfort with aspartame.  I still drink a lot of soda, but the full sugar stuff (rather full hf corn syrup), this is a lot of calories that do nothing for me but add to my waist and spike my blood sugar levels.    

I will still eat honey and some of our own homemade jam, though I will keep the jam to a minimum.  We typically will use honey in our bread recipes in place of sugar anyway.

I am hoping for a couple of outcomes.  I hope to gain a better idea of what these foods are doing to my body and how I might feel by removing them from my diet.  It will expand our number of healthy recipes.  I will also be able to use more of our stored, canned and homemade foods.  I anticipate sleeping better, and having more energy through out the day.  I also expect to feel pretty crappy for a week or two.

I also expect to gain a better understanding and appreciation of the Word of Wisdom as I better align my diet with what it teaches. 

I will check in and post each week to report how it is working for me.  So check back and see how I am doing.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Mom's Homemade Noodles

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup, in my opinion, is not as good without homemade noodles in it. The noodles are in fact my favorite part of the soup and therefore they must be homemade. So I am going to share with you my Mom's recipe for homemade noodles. They are delicious!

1 Beaten Egg
2 Tb. Milk
1/2 tsp. Salt
All-purpose flour (or a combination or white and wheat flour)

Combine egg, milk, and salt in a medium bowl. Add enough flour to make a stiff dough (about 1 cup). Roll very thin on a well floured surface.

FYI: I usually make a double batch of noodles because well, we love them. So the amount pictured is doubled this recipe.
Use a pizza cutter to easily cut your noodles.

 Now you can do one of two things, you can either roll up your dough loosely and slice it into noodles or you can use a pizza cutter. The later is the method I use and it works really well. Depending on how long you want your noodles, cut your dough in half and then into strips.

It should look something like this.
Homemade Egg Noodles

Toss your noodles with a bit more flour and let them dry on your floured surface for at least 20 minutes before dropping into boiling soup.

I love homemade noodles. They are just so delicious! I also like the fact that I can use whole wheat flour in them and make them healthier for my family. 

Mom's Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

I am a bit slow at posting this, but as promised I wanted to show you what I did with what was leftover from the Whole Chicken that I roasted last week. I was pretty tired on Sunday night and I didn't want to deal with the rest of the chicken that night so I stuck the leftover meat in a bowl in the fridge and then I just took my chicken carcass and drippings and covered it with saran wrap and tossed it in the fridge for the night. This actually works well because in the morning it is very easy to skim off any unwanted fat. Mine didn't have a lot because I had removed most of the skin from the chicken before roasting it.

I dumped the whole carcass and drippings into a big stock pot along with everything else I had roasted my chicken with and then added enough water to cover my chicken well. You can add more carrots, celery, and onion if you like at this point and you may want to if you are going to freeze or can the stock, but I didn't because I planned to use it right away for soup.
Bring your stock to a boil and allow it to simmer for several hours. When it is done simmer strain out the chicken and other bits, leaving only the stock. I love using my stock pot that has the colander that fits inside of it for this because when it is done simmering I can simply lift it out of the stock.

When you are done simmering you should have something that looks like this. You know you have good stock when it has a rich yellow color to it. It should also smell and taste very chickeny.
Save your chicken carcass to the side and let it cool while you work on cutting up veggies for your soup.

My Mom's chicken soup always had carrots, celery, and potatoes in it. I loved it! It was my favorite meal that she made. One thing that I add to my soup is sweet potatoes. They really make it yummy! I don't really know amounts to tell you. I just chop and dump stuff in. But I had a large stock pot and pictured to the right is what I put into my soup.

About 5 large carrots, 4 stalks of celery, 5 medium sized red potatoes, and 2 medium sized sweet potatoes. Peel them, chop them, and drop them into your broth. Bring it all to a boil and then let it simmer until your veggies are tender.

While your veggies are cooking tackle your chicken. Take your cooled chicken carcass and remove any remaining chicken.

Mine didn't have much left, because I had removed most of it the night before. On the plate is what I removed from the carcass and in the bowl is what I had removed the night before.

Overall I ended up with quite a bit of chicken left over though. I dropped all of it into my yummy soup. But you could also make a smaller pot of soup and only use half of the chicken and use the other half in a casserole or enchiladas and then you get three meals out of one chicken. At this point it is really easy to stick the chicken in a freezer container to be used for later if you want.

Take your homemade noodles that you made earlier - find out how here- and drop them into your boiling soup. 

Let your noodles cook for about 20 to 25 minutes. You can see how they all float up to the top as they get cooked. At this point your soup is done and ready to enjoy!
Mom's Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

Here it is hot and delicious! It really is my favorite winter time meal.

 Now just a few things I wanted to mention in case you want to make this delicious soup without using a whole chicken. Any type of chicken on the bone will work. But remember that it is the bone that makes the broth rich and delicious and imparts that wonderful chicken flavor. So boneless skinless breasts will not cut it. But you can use thighs, wings, drummies, breasts, or a combination. A whole cut up chicken works great. You don't need to roast the chicken ahead of time either you can just dump it into your stock pot and allow the chicken to cook in your stock water, and remove the meat from the bones later. I will often do it this way and then divide the cooked meat up into several freezer containers for future meals.

Even if you are not going to make soup this is a great way to cook your chicken for other meals, because you can make a stock by adding carrots, celery, and onion to the water you cook your chicken in and then you can can or freeze the stock to be used later. I use tons of chicken stock and it is very expensive to buy in the can and is loaded with salt and preservatives. Much healthy and yummier to make your own!

I promise to do future post on canning and freezing stock. I use several methods depending on what I want to use it for.

That is all for now, I hope you enjoy making and eating my favorite meal of all time! Thanks mom, for teaching me how and always making this for my birthday when I was a kid!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Using a Whole Chicken

Whole Chicken ready for Roasting
When I got married over 8 years ago, bone-in chicken was foreign to me. I don't remember my mom ever using it very much. We usually had boneless skinless chicken.  At least that is what I remember having as I got older and started learning to cook. Now in my home you rarely see boneless skinless chicken it is bone-in all the way baby. Over the years I have become more accustomed to cooking and utilizing a whole chicken. I try very hard to get the most out of one little bird.  One chicken usually provides two to three meals for my family of five and costs me between $3 and $4. It is much more cost effective than using boneless skinless chicken and I think it is actually a lot tastier too!

One way that I prepare a whole chicken is just to roast it up in the oven. I clean the bird out well and then stuff it with some yummy aromatics that usually include celery stalks, carrots, a quartered onion, 2 to 3 cloves of garlic, and some fresh herbs from the garden ( parsley, basil, cilantro, etc.) I usually remove most of the skin from my chicken too, this just makes it a bit healthier, and I have never had a problem with dry chicken. I rub down the top with olive oil and then add some seasoning, whatever you like. I am a fan of sage, season salt, black pepper and thyme. But I change it up depending on my mood. Cover the whole thing with foil and pop it in a 350 degree oven for a couple of hours, depending on the size of the bird. Just check it with a meat thermometer, but don't cook it too long or it will get dry. It comes out delicious and yummy. We usually eat this chicken along with some roasted or mashed potatoes and some steamed carrots or cabbage. But we never eat the whole chicken so then I use the leftovers for another meal or sometimes two depending on what I make. In addition, the chicken carcass along with the juices and aromatics are further cooked down into stock to be canned, frozen, or made into soup. One of my favorite second dishes to make with this chicken is my mom's Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup. In the next couple of days, I will share my recipe for this tasty soup along with some other ideas for utilizing your leftover chicken. If you haven't ever tried using a whole chicken give it a try.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Sprouting: 1974 Wheat

Wheat Canned in 1974
I often refer to a bunch of 1974 wheat as my inheritance.  It was canned in 1974, this wheat has been moved countless times over the near 40 years of its existence.  About 4 years ago it my wonderful parents shared a bunch of their old food storage with us (not as many mouths to feed anymore).  We were happy to receive it, in fact at first we though it was too old and decided to open up a bunch of it and spread it in our garden to add some extra nutrients.  Funny thing happened, a wheat started popping up all over in the garden.  Surely if wheat will grow, then the 1974 wheat still has some life to it.

Around this time the LDS Church came out with a study that showed that these long term storage foods have a even great shelf life than was originally thought. Foods Lasting 30 Years or More.  Needless to say we didn't dump all of the food storage in the garden (only a few cans).  We held onto it and later received some more, unfortunately with our current house layout there is not a lot of room for storage (no basements in Texas), so I am sorry to say that this wheat has spend probably 2 years in the garage outside of the ideal storage ranges.  This will affect the quality and nutritional values some. 

Wheat sprouting in cotton bag
So as I have been experimenting with sprouting grains I have used this old wheat and new wheat to compare.  Now both wheat's are Hard Red Winter Wheat's though they probably generations removed with all of the GMO and other cross breading it is still a reasonably fair experiment.

The new wheat sprouted almost 100%.  The older 1974 wheat sprouted at about 20%.  While this little experiment was just tossed together, I think there is something to consider.
  1. Even old wheat still has value, while only at 20% sprouting, this does not mean only 20% nutritional value.
  2. Long term storage foods need to be rotated.  This wheat should have been used years decades ago.
  3. Long term food storage needs to be stored in a cool, dry place. (easy with a basement)
  4. Use your old wheat, even if not stored in idea conditions.  Mix it with newer wheat if you must.
Sprouted 1974 Wheat
We will continue to work through this older food as we continue to integrate these long term food storage items in our everyday life.  Every can we open is fresh and still full of nutrition.  Make sure you are implementing these foods in your diet, and rotating your foods to avoid waste.

I will be putting some posts together in the future, showing some food storage solutions for small houses.  This is often a reason given for not having food storage, no room...

Monday, January 7, 2013

Sprouting: How to Make a Sprouting Jar

Homemade Sprouting Lid
When searching for ways to sprout grains,seeds and nuts, you will find many products for sale from special bags, trays and containers.  All of those seem to work well, though you probably have almost everything you need at home to make your own sprouting jar for next to nothing or even for free.

In a previous post I discussed how I had troubles sprouting in a Jar.  Well after further success with a cotton bag I decided to look back to the jar and figure what I did wrong.

Turns out I not only didn't drain it well but also denied it adequate air circulation.

So lets get to it, making a Sprouting Jar.

A Jar, any jar will work well, though a canning jar is well suited since it's lid already has a large hole in it.  Many jars you buy at the store, jam jar etc will often take a canning ring as well.

Mark Screen with Soap
Next we need some type of screen, window screen works well for this.  Window screen comes in several flavors including aluminum, fiberglass and if you can find it stainless steel.  All of these materials are easily cut with kitchen shears.  I used the fiberglass type, turn a jar upside down and mark the shape.  Black screen is hard to see your mark so cut a sliver of bar soap an use that as your marking tool.  Then cut out your circle, it can be a bit larger than the jar, no worries.  If you are using the fiberglass type you can also set the screen material on a board, place the upside down on the screen and then cut around the jar's mouth with a razor knife or sharp knife.

Cut with scissors or razor knife
Tilt jar for a time drain excess water
Screen is one thing you will probably have to buy.  Though a call down to your nearest window shop might net you some scraps for free.  Screen is pretty cheap, a roll is about $10, but you only need a small piece a few inches square.  The screen I used came off a job where the homeowners installed solar screens to keep some of harsh sun's rays out, there was a large piece discarded.  This screen is a little thicker but it was free.99, my favorite price.  I think I probably have enough screen for a couple hundred sprouting  jar lids...

Sprouting with a Jar is pretty simple, just follow normal soaking, rinsing and draining instructions.  After your draining efforts, lean the upside down jar up against something on an angle so the lid isn't sitting flat.  This allows excess moisture to drip out but also keeps the seeds open to the air.  After a while you can then turn the jar back around and set it out of the way, till your next round of rinse and drain.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A Winter Favorite: Italian Farmhouse Soup

Italian Farmhouse Soup: Winter Vegetarian Favorite
A few weeks ago we had some friends for dinner and I made this wonderful winter favorite. We absolutely love this soup. It is hearty, warm, and delicious. Give it a try, you won't be disappointed.  I am sure it will become one of your favorites too.

Italian Farmhouse Soup

2 Tb. Olive Oil
1 Onion, Chopped
2 to 3 cloves Garlic, minced
3 to 4 Carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
6 oz. Rutabaga, peeled and cut into large chunks
7 oz. Turnips, peeled and cut into large chunks
2 Quarts, canned diced tomatoes
2 tsp. Oregano
2 tsp. Basil
1 tsp. Thyme
1 tsp. Salt
6 & 1/2 Cups Vegetable Stock
1/2 Cup Dried Small Macaroni
1 - 14 oz. Can Red Kidney Beans, drained and rinsed
2 Tb. Italian Flat Leaf Parsley, chopped
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese

Heat the olive oil in a large pan, add the onion and garlic, cook over low heat for about 5 minutes until softened. Add the carrot, turnip, rutabaga, tomatoes, herbs, and salt. Pour in the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and allow to simmer for about 30 minutes or until veggies are tender. Add the pasta and kidney beans to the pan and simmer for about 5 minutes until pasta is tender. Remove from heat and stir in parsley and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot with freshly grated Parmesan cheese on top.

After we discovered this amazing soup we started growing Rutabaga in our garden. It is so delicious! We also usually have turnips growing too, but if you don't have either of these just use whatever root or winter vegetables you have available.

I didn't have any turnips when I made this batch. So I threw in a small butternut squash and a large sweet potato, along with my rutabaga and carrots. It turned out awesome! So yummy! Served with homemade French Bread, it makes the perfect winter time meal.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Bread: 3 Sprouted Grain

Yesterday I wrote about my first couple of attempts at sprouting grain and the troubles I had.  Well I squarely won round 3.  In fact I mixed 3 types of grain to sprout together and added them to some bread.

I used Millet, Buckwheat and Red Winter Wheat.

Sprouted grain, Buckwheat, Red Winter Wheat and Millet
We add millet a lot to our bread and pizza dough.  It adds a nice crunch and boosts nutrition.  Millet is not actually a grain but a seed. it packs a lot of nutrition and fiber.  It is very high in Magnesium.
Buckwheat is also not a grain but is a seed from a plant in the Rubarb family.  I grew up eating buckwheat pancakes, which are delicious.  Buckwheat is high in antioxidants.  The seeds have a interesting triangular shape.
Red Winter Wheat is a type of wheat that is planted in fall and harvested the following spring/summer. 

When sprouted each of these "grains" get an additional boost in their nutrition including higher vitamin C, E, Folate, and fiber.  They are also high in antioxidants.  During the sprouting process there is also a decrease in some of the enzymes that make whole grains hard for our bodies to digest.  Basically the process of sprouting converts the parts of the seed to simpler compounds that the young plant can use to grow.

Spouting in a Bag

Sprouting in a Bag  

After my failure with the Jar, I remembered these Norpro Jelly Strainer Bags I used early in the year to strain my hot pepper mash for Hot Sauce.  These are cotton bags with a draw string.
  1. I placed a 1/4 of a cup of each of the three grains into the bag.   
  2. Rinse the grains well
  3. Place bag in a bowl of water covering enough to allow for some expansion
  4. 8-12 hours later, rinse, and re-rinse till water is clear and no longer cloudy
  5. Spin/swing bag around in sink to draw off moisture.
  6. Every 8-12 hours re-rinse and drain 
Our 2 year old loved eating the sprouts right out of the bag.

 Sprouts being to Emerge

Sprouts will start to come out after about 2 days, I suggest you taste the sprouts each time you rinse to gain an idea of how the taste changes.    The wheat grows sweater the longer you let it grow.  The buckwheat is really good, it is also a bit sweet and the texture reminds me a bit like small corn kernels.  The millet stays somewhat crunchy which is good for texture.  Most people will use the grain when it is just barely emerged or when it has a tail(root) about the length of the seed.  I let mine go to a midpoint between theses two lengths.  

3 Sprouted Grain Bread

Adding Sprouts to Bread

I used these sprouts in a 50/50 white/wheat bread recipe.  The loaf took a little longer to cook rather than the 45 minutes it will take 50-65 minutes depending on how much  moisture is on the sprouts when you add them in.  The bread was very moist and the sprouted grain added a really nice texture and flavor to the bread.  This was only a 3 sprouted grain bread, next I think I will go for a 6 grain bread.