whole foods kitchen course | nourishing habits

Six years ago, when my oldest child was approaching his first birthday, I all of the sudden had a realization that soon he would be eating the same meals that I was “preparing” for my husband and myself. And by “preparing” I mean pulling out of the freezer and popping in the microwave or oven or stovetop. I didn’t cook. I hated cooking, I didn’t know how and I didn’t know where to begin. We ate out a ton and our diets were filled with processed foods and preservatives. We just didn’t know better. But I wanted to do better for our children and to raise them up on nourishing food.

At the time, I turned to 100 Days of Real Food and participated in her real food challenges. It was a slow process, but over the next 2 years I taught myself to cook and to actually enjoy being in the kitchen.

Almost 4 years ago, in search of a Traditional Soaked Whole Wheat Bread (that I blogged about here), I ran across The Elliott Homestead Blog and quickly fell in love with her REAL food recipes that featured farm fresh foods. She also has an endearing writing voice and is an overall pleasure to follow. Her first cookbook, From Scratch, has been used so often that the pages are falling out.

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She has just released a new cookbook, Family Table, which my dear mom pre-ordered for me for my birthday. It is filled with gorgeous photography and delicious recipes featuring wholesome ingredients.

But the best part? With any purchase of the Family Table cookbook before October 4th, you get FREE ACCESS to Shaye’s new Whole Foods Kitchen Course. Shaye will walk you through learning how to stock a whole foods pantry, how to batch cook and prep, and provide the resources you need to prep and plan.

Shaye will help you:

1. BRING whole foods, health, and wellness into your kitchen through basic recipes, techniques, and tools of the trade

2. FIND joy in cooking and meal preparation

3. PRODUCE delicious food your family will actually eat by sourcing quality ingredients and eliminating the garbage

4. PLAN your meals to bring peace to cooking schedules

5. STOCK your pantry with real food items that will nourish your body

Check out this fabulous introduction video here. Then go order your book before October 4th and you will get access to this course for FREE ($129 value!)!

http://theelliotthomestead.com/bonus/

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Freezer Cooking 2 | Extreme Nesting

So I posted my first installment of freezer cooking before Jeanie was born, but never got around to posting the second, so here we go!

Fresh homemade whole wheat tortillas are amazing. Especially with freshly ground wheat. They are also super easy to make! I use the recipe from 100 days of real food. These are best fresh, but are a bit time consuming (mostly the cooking part- I use a griddle to cook two at a time), so I cook big batches and freeze them flat in bags of 12! To thaw, I either place in the fridge, or microwave them wrapped in a towel.

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I make all of my own bread from scratch and freeze loaves for future use. I wrote a whole post on it, so go check that out! This bread can thaw on the counter or in the fridge, or on a very low power in the microwave if you need it quickly!

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Homemade granola is an easy, yummy snack and an excellent breakfast to keep as back up in the pantry (I’ve found our visitors seem to snack on it the most as it’s most familiar in our ‘real food’ house). I make several big batches with all sorts of different nuts, seeds, dried fruits, oats and honey and freeze them in gallon bags. There are lots of recipes out there with many different additions, but I stick with this one as our basic for real food granola. I just take a bag out of the freezer and let it thaw on the counter when I need it!

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Freezer quiche is one of my favorite staples for our family. So delicious and so healthy, and they freeze really well! The last batch I made included spinach, bacon, onions, cheddar, tomatoes, and mushrooms. I make mine with a simple, quick whole wheat crust, just like this recipe. I then cook them completely and freeze. Don’t thaw them, just pop them straight in the oven at 350 for at least 45 minutes, maybe more depending on the thickness.

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I shared my homemade freezer pizzas in the last installment and mentioned my pizza pockets, but I wanted to share a couple of photos! Once again, if I’m going to freeze, I leave out the sauce. I pop these still frozen into the oven at 350 for a half hour.

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Huuby enjoys a savory breakfast over any granola or cereal, but he (we) also enjoy our sleep and he doesn’t have much time in the mornings. So I cook up big batches of “egg muffins” for him to defrost. He likes them smooshed between some bread or on a tortilla. I add something different in these every time, just throw in whatever I have, but I use this basic recipe. I pop them in the freezer in a big gallon bag and he defrosts them individually in the morning.

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That’s it for now! I imagine there will be a volume 3 eventually!

whole wheat bread | real food

I’ve had many requests for this post, and I am finally getting around to it!!

First off, I know there are LOTS of differing opinions on wheat/gluten out there. Some people do have an intolerance, but like with anything else, I feel that a whole food diet made from scratch with real food and consumed in moderation is generally fine. However, whatever works for you and your family is best for you. A staple in my family is a homemade whole wheat sandwich with natural organic peanut butter and homemade sugar-free jelly. Consumed with a side of veggies and fruit, I’m pretty happy with my kids eating it nearly every day.

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I’ve had a bread maker of some kind since we got married in 2007. I started off with a simple 1.5lb loaf maker and I mainly made premixed boxes of white bread throughout my senior year of college. But it wasn’t cheaper, it took time, and I simply didn’t love it that much. Then we moved *a lot,* and had a kid and I lost the desire to make my own bread. But about a year ago, I purchased a fancy-schmancy bread machine on the recommendation of a friend, and started the process of learning to make my own bread.

I have tried LOTS of recipes and variations and finally found my consistent favorite!

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Now I’m going to preface this with the information that I use organic wheat berries and grind them up into whole wheat flour right before I make bread. This changes the water absorption, flavor, and aeration of the flour, all of which impacts the measurement and production of the recipe. So I have had to do a lot of adapting to get a recipe that works well!

I started with this honey whole wheat recipe in my bread machine. But EVERY.SINGLE.LOAF fell in the middle. We called it cat bread because when you sliced it, it looked like a cat’s head and pointy ears. Not ideal. I tried changing the amount of yeast, the amount of water, changing the adds in, the rising time, etc, but nothing worked. (My sister in law did have success in my machine with this recipe using store bought whole wheat flour.)

I tried a couple of other whole wheat recipes, but I could never find a simple one with real food ingredients that preformed consistently. So I tried switching wheat types. I had been using a hard red wheat berry so I switched to a hard white wheat berry, but I saw very little difference in the bread (besides the color, white wheat berries produce a ‘white bread’ look while red wheat berries are a more traditional whole wheat color.) I now use soft white wheat berries when making anything that doesn’t need to rise (cookies, cake, pancakes, pizza dough, etc) as the harder shell associated with the hard wheat berries are very granulated and noticeable in those items. I still use hard red wheat berries for my breads.

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I finally found this whole wheat bread recipe which had the simple, real food ingredients I wanted, however it wouldn’t fit in my bread machine. So I made it by hand, mixing and kneading. And it worked. I consistently got tasty loaves that didn’t fall. But they still were not rising well (rising can be affected by the length of kneading, temperature of the room, humidity, and length of rising time. It’s trial and error to get it figured out for your particular house.). It was edible but still denser than I would like, a common issue for 100% whole wheat bread.

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Then a friend mentioned I should look into sprouting or soaking my wheat first, to reduce the phytic acid and make the nutrients in the bread easier to digest and more readily available. (By the way, go back and read that soaking article, no really, do, it’s important.) In researching the benefits of soaking I finally stumbled upon this recipe. This traditional soaked whole wheat bread is AMAZING. Like knock your socks off good. And I have yet to have a loaf fail. (I’m not going to write out the whole recipe here as it’s not mine to share, but once again, here’s the link: http://theelliotthomestead.com/2012/08/traditional-soaked-whole-wheat-bread/)

It is not only simple and very quick, it uses very few ingredients and produces a well risen, light, barely sweet whole wheat bread that looks like store-bought but tastes even better! I HIGHLY recommend it. One thing I love is I don’t have to carefully measure the freshly-ground wheat because after letting it sit overnight, I am able to easily add in more flour if the consistency is too wet- something that is not easy to do in a bread machine! (oh, and I do use honey, which might make it denser, but barely, and I use less than she calls for.) This bread freezes wonderfully in a large ziploc bag (I usually have to cut mine in half to make it fit), so I will often make a double batch (four loaves total) and stick the other three in the freezer, but we go through a loaf in about 2-4 days!

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And guess what- I sold the expensive bread machine. Now all I need are a couple of bowls and bread pans. Sometimes simplicity is the way to go!

So pull out your whole wheat flour and go shock someone with your homemade bread!

Freezer Cooking 1 | Extreme Nesting

So I’ve been nesting lately. And since bunny won’t have a ‘nursery’ really, my nesting has been focused in on prepping as much real food for my little family as possible. We try to avoid processed foods as much as possible, and this takes time and forethought. Normally it’s easy for me to sneak in a batch of beans or let a loaf of bread rise during the normal run of my day, but with another bitty newborn taking up most of my time, I know this won’t be feasible. Plus, we are having a rotating door of family stepping up to help us over the next 5 weeks (since a c-section makes it impossible for me to even lift the twins into their cribs for a month!), and I want to make it as easy on them as possible!

I’ve been sharing photos on instagram, and I’ve had lots of recipe requests, so here are a few of my favorites! I started with this goal list, which has since then doubled!

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Homemade refried beans are delicious and a perfect mix in with other grains to help the twins eat them (rice, quinoa, etc). plus a ready source of protein!

d2bd6deab76711e2a27d22000a9f165c_7I freeze the beans in 1 or 2 cup increments, (a can is about 1.5cups) and pull them out to thaw the morning of. I also do this with black beans, which are a huge favorite around here. Same process, just no mashing and a slightly shorter crockpot time.  Here are the beans in freezer containers. (My next goal is to pressure can my own beans to save freezer space! I’ll update on that!)

Freezer waffles are an awesome way to make easy breakfasts that are much better for you than eggo waffles! This carrot cake waffle is amazing. I use maple syrup, double the carrot (shredded or pureed), and leave off the icing. I usually double this even for a normal breakfast, but I made 6 batches for the freezer! I freeze cut into smaller sections in ziploc bags.

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One of my favorite staples is this whole chicken in a crockpot recipe that I then use to make chicken stock! I shred the chicken, freeze it in bags (with about 2 cups of chicken) and it’s easy to pull out for chicken salad, tacos, enchiladas and so much more! I freeze the chicken stock with 2-3 cups in freezer bags flat and simply thaw when needed!

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Another favorite staple around here are these delicious, simple whole wheat cheese crackers. I make them in big batches and freeze them in smaller bags to pull out as needed! These are easy to dress up and make fancy too!

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I’ve recently discovered just how amazing homemade whole wheat bagels taste. I use this recipe, which is a bit labor intensive, but I switch the ratios of bread flour to whole wheat flour so there is more whole wheat. I make big batches and freeze in bags of 6 or so.

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My kids are carb lovers, so about half our mornings start with muffins. These quinoa powerhouse muffins are a favorite, but I am very liberal with the recipe! The last 4 batches I froze (in bags of six) were all made with unused baby fruit purees mixed in! I also added chia seeds for the first time.
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And of course baked french toast sticks with butternut squash or pumpkin added into the batter! These are frozen in bags of 12.

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Homemade mac n cheese is a favorite around here, and I jazzed up my normal recipe with a little bit of BBQ sauce and diced smoked brisket (my hubby’s recipe) for a simple delicious baked mac n cheese. I frequently add pureed butternut squash or pumpkin into my mac n cheese.

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There’s another crockpot chicken cooking and one of my comfort foods, Broccoli Quinoa Casserole. I usually leave out the canned cream of soup and splenda and just add extra milk and some flour, although you could make a cream soup to substitute if you would like, but I think it’s good enough without!

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And of course you can’t forget pizza!! I used to keep 3 or 4 Papa Murphy’s pizzas in the freezer, but now I make my own, and they are the simplest thing to pull out for a last minute dinner, and always a big hit! I use this whole wheat crust recipe, bake the crust for about 3-4 minutes at 450 degrees, let it cool, then load up the toppings, wrap in saran wrap and freeze! I usually add a ton of pureed broccoli or squash or other things into the sauce to give it an extra kick, and we actually think it tastes better. Obviously you can go as fancy as you want with toppings, but we stick with mozzarella and pepperoni for freezer pizzas and save the fancy stuff for the days I make it fresh! I also make pizza pockets and freeze them for easy lunches! Just use less sauce or leave it out if freezing.
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I’ll leave you with those recipes tonight and share some more soon! I still cook lunch and dinner most nights from scratch, but I love that freezer cooking allows me to have back ups that are still healthy and made with real food for my family. Plus, the volume of freezer cooking I have been doing should be a big help after baby #4 makes an appearance next week! And it should hopefully help out all the family who comes to help too!

twins | the smashing of cake

It’s not a first birthday without a little messy cake action, and some photos to document it! Oh, and look for my requested cake/frosting recipe at the bottom!

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They had no idea what they were supposed to do.

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Joelle became irrationally upset that her cupcake had fallen over.

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These babies are supposedly in the under 10th percentile for weight. How’s that possible? Look at the chub!
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Yummy thigh rolls!

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And now, there’s icing on her leg. Poor girl can’t get a break! ha!

cake smash-19Then they finally figured out it was cake. And game on!! (PS, super twin pose… sometimes I think they look like twins!)

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MOOOOOMMMM, this is CAKE!!  (twinkies again)
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We call this McCown style. Shove it in Jonah!

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Baby girl, not to be outdone…

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Properly messy.

And now, after posting the picture of my naturally colored icing on instagram, I had many requests for my recipe. I adapted my favorite whole wheat chocolate cake recipe from 100 Days of Real Food to make it a bit more baby friendly.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups whole-wheat flour, organic pastry or freshly ground white winter wheat recommended
  • ½ cup unsweetened “dark” cocoa powder
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 cups maple syrup, organic recommended
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • 2 eggs, organic recommended
  • ⅔ cup applesauce, homemade recommended
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl whisk together dry ingredients including flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, sugar and salt.
  3. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and drop in the water, eggs, oil, and vanilla. Mix by hand with whisk until well blended.
  4. Distribute batter evenly into the two cake 9-inch pans or cupcake pans and bake for 18 – 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into center comes clean. Let cool before adding frosting.

For the icing, I have been using an easy whipped cream frosting lately and I love the barely-there sweetness and lightness. I simply whip one small carton (about 2 cups) of heavy organic whipping cream in my stand mixer with a dash of maple syrup and about 1tsp of vanilla. It’s delicious and light and pairs perfectly with the rich whole wheat chocolate cake.

For the twins’ cupcakes, I wanted colored frosting but we tend to avoid artificial coloring (do a google search,  yuck!), so I simply pureed a few frozen raspberries with a bit of water to make a pink frosting, and about a cup of fresh spinach leaves with water to make the green frosting. I mixed each of those purees with the whipped cream until I had the desired amount and color!

And no, I did not get any pictures of the finished cupcakes before they were consumed, oh well! Just look at them above!

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