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!

soaked bread

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.

double loaf

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.

soaking bread

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!

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!

cake smash-1

They had no idea what they were supposed to do.

cake smash-2

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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Real Food | Part 1

I am a real food convert! I have had lots of family and friends who are confused about our ‘diet’  or how I am now feeding our family. For us, it has been a journey of educating ourselves, breaking old habits, and changing our priorities. (This is a long post with lots of information, so bear with me!)

A year ago, I didn’t cook. We ate highly processed foods, quick fix meals, and lots of sugar and fake foods. Jarvis ate very well. I made all of his baby food from scratch and I prepared him his own easy meals of real food while the hubs and I ate pretty horribly.

I will be the first to admit I was a very picky eater, and I just couldn’t find any joy in cooking or food prep. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVED eating, but I wanted someone to place the food in front of me RIGHT NOW.

I couldn’t seem to make the effort to eat better or learn to cook for just myself and the hubs. But children, boy, they can be a big motivator!! I knew when Jarvis started eating what we did (and not just homemade baby food and pieces) then I would change. Sure enough, I did!

I’m going to share some of my personal tips and favorite recipes as well as some resources. Know that I am NOT a nutritionalist nor do I claim to be doing it all right. This is a learning process, and though we are miles from where we started a year ago, we still have lots to learn and change. This is simply to hopefully inspire someone that learning to cook real food for your family is possible. I started with basically no knowledge of cooking or nutrition other than mainstream information, and I now cook from scratch with real foods and barely buy any processed, fake foods. And I did it with a toddler and having twins! The key is baby steps!

I seem to get most of my inspiration from the 100 days of Real Food blog. Although we did not do her challenge, I follow a lot of her rules and ideas and I love her recipes. One of my favorites is her Bell Pepper Fajitas on homemade Whole Wheat Tortillas. A year ago, a NEVER would have eaten any type of bell pepper or mushrooms. In fact I had a ‘mental allergy’ to mushrooms. I hated them so much it made me break out when I ate or touched them. yeah. Now I will eat them, although I do dice them up smaller usually because the texture is still not my favorite. I occasionally add shredded grilled chicken to these, but we usually just have them vegetarian style! More on the homemade tortilla below.

Although we have a fairly large garden, we still went in with a friend for a full share of a local organic Crop Share program. For $20 a week (paid up front), we get a HUGE bag (or two) of whatever is ready to be harvested that week! This meal was a delicious Garlic and Lemon Chicken Bake with green beans and potatoes from the Crop Share and the garlic was out of our garden! We have reduced our animal product consumption greatly, after watching several documentaries, including Food, Inc and Food Matters (keep in mind that all documentaries are one-sided and may not have all accurate information!!) Instead we try to get the majority of our nutrition and calorie needs from fruits, veggies, and whole grains. We will never be completely vegan or vegetarian most likely, but we do believe reducing our animal product consumption is best for our health.

And in case you are wondering, here’s our 2.5 year old eating the same meal pictured above (along with a banana). The majority of the time he eats exactly what we do, with a few exceptions occasionally. He doesn’t always like all of it, but he has to take at least one bite of everything and give it a fair try. It can take offering something to him 5-10 times before he eats it consistently, but we keep offering. I rarely offer another substitute but make sure he has fruits and veggies he will eat on his plate as well as the new food so that he always gets something.  He is only offered more of any food or another food if he gets a ‘happy plate’ (finishes everything). I figure if he is hungry and wants more fruit, then he’s hungry enough to eat what’s on his plate! He really is an awesome eater and although reluctant to try new things most of time, I can usually win him over.

As part of our eating well, we have switched over to all WHOLE grains. Part of this is whole grain pasta. We actually don’t have pasta very often, so as soon as I finish off the whole grain we already have in the pantry, then I am using my new pasta roller
to make some fresh pasta, can’t wait! This Peanut Thai Pasta is another from the 100 Days of Real Food blog and has an amazing taste and texture. It also has cucumber from our Crop Share. We try to eat a mixture of raw and cooked veggies, as you lose/alter some nutrients when the veggies are heated. Usually I do raw veggies at lunch (our favorite raw veggies are broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, zucchini, cucumber, peas, celery and mushrooms. Jarvis will chow down on any of those!) and we usually do cooked veggies at dinner. We try to do a serving of fruit with lunch and dinner, or as a snack.

For this dinner, I did Italian Baked pork chops (1/2 of one for each of us) which are just dijon mustard, Italian seasoning, and Parmesan cheese. We also had a cold Quinoa Lime Zucchini Salad which was delicious. I used to cook only with white rice, but now we  use brown rice, quinoa, and other whole grains like barley and cous-cous. Quinoa has got to be my favorite grain of all time and I love it in every recipe I have ever made! It is very high in fiber though, so be careful as you make the switch!

Here’s an example of a night that daddy was night flying and I was alone with the kiddos. I didn’t feel up to cooking and plain just didn’t have the time. So we had organic natural peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on homemade whole wheat bread. I make all of my own jelly with fresh fruits (this was strawberry and blackberry jam) and just a bit of honey in my bread machine. As you can see, we also had an assortment of fresh, raw fruits and veggies. This is Jarvis’ favorite meal and he picked out/requested every single thing on his plate and finished it all off!

We have been getting eggs from a local friend who has chickens (and we plan to have them at our next home!), so I made this Avocado Egg Salad on homemade tortillas for a quick and easy dinner one night. One of my favorite things that has come out of our switch to real food is homemade Whole Wheat Tortillas. Oh my goodness, I will never eat another store bought tortilla. Homemade ones are amazing!! A couple of months back, we bought a wheat grinder and have been grinding our own organic wheat berries. Whenever I make something I take a bag of wheat berries and a bowl out to the garage and use the wheat grinder, which we have hooked up to a drill! It usually takes me less than 15 minutes to grind up the wheat I need and the bread or tortillas or crust is always so light and delicious! I make the tortillas in triple batches and freeze them in bags of 6, because my hubby goes through those like crazy, he loves them!

This is another of my favorites, Cheesy Zucchini and Squash Bake, with zucchini from our garden! This is quick and easy and very flavorful. I also made some zucchini ‘tots’  and lime bulgar wheat. (and can you tell that strawberries are my favorite fruit yet? haha… I’m still not a huge fruit fan!)

As far as drinks go, I have completely given up sodas (before I had an addiction to Diet Coke!) and drink mostly water. The hubby is learning to make kombucha- he will post on that soon!  However, I can’t give up coffee completely! I love my Keurig and I use ground organic coffee in a reuseable k-cup for hot/iced coffee, and occassionally a k-cup for iced coffee. I add a splash of organic caramel syrup (yes, it has evaporated cane sugar, but much less than creamer!) and a splash of plain almond or coconut milk. yummy, yummy!!

And of course, I can’t end this post without talking about the treats! My favorite indulgence is homemade ice cream using my ice cream maker. I use very basic recipe, but I substitute vanilla for the mint, coconut milk  for the 2% milk and use about half the sugar. I then mix in whatever I am in the mood for, pecans, walnuts, cacao chunks, etc. I also make a homemade chocolate sauce using cacao powder which is delicious!

  And just for fun, here is Jarvis chomping down on kale, straight out of our garden! He also loves to pick tomatoes off and pop them in his mouth!

I turned around the other day and he had grabbed the zucchini we had just pulled out of the garden and was eating it like an apple! I love that he is learning where food comes from and eating real food.

This is by no means the only post I will do on our changed eating habits, but it’s a start. I hope to do a post featuring some of our favorite tools/gadgets, and one with sample meal plans and more information on snacks/breakfast!