Sunday, February 27, 2011

Spaghetti Squash Casserole

We really like spaghetti squash in our house.  It really does serve as a great replacement for pasta and we all really enjoy it, even Kevin, who is a huge pasta/spaghetti fan.  Anyway, I stocked up on spaghetti squash through the CSA before they sold out, so I've got a few on hand now.  We used one last week for dinner in a casserole.  I didn't use a recipe, just put some things together, similar to the spaghetti squash lasagna we had a few months ago.  It turned out very tasty!  We all really liked it a lot and it was just as tasty as leftovers (a huge bonus for me... I don't enjoy many things leftover).  I prepped everything the night before so that it was ready to just pop in the oven when we got home from work.  That really helps us out a lot. 

Spaghetti Squash Casserole

1 spaghetti squash
1 pound ground beef, grassfed is best
1 small sweet onion, diced
1 jar of your favorite pasta sauce, homemade is best
1/2 cup shredded cheese

Cut the spaghetti squash in half and scoop out the seeds.  Place face up in a glass baking dish with some water in the bottom of the pan.  Bake in the oven at 375 for about a half hour.  Remove from oven and let cool for 15 minutes or so.  Then use a fork to scrape the sides of the squash into spaghetti strands.  Scoop the squash strands into the bottom of a casserole dish and pat down. 

Meanwhile, add the ground beef and onion to a sauce pan and cook over medium-heat, until beef is done.  You could also add more veggies, if you'd like.  Diced bell peppers, mushrooms, or spinach would be really good additions.  Add a jar of your favorite pasta sauce and stir.  Pour over the layer of spaghetti squash. 

Sprinkle lightly with the shredded cheese.  You can prep the entire casserole 24 hours prior to baking and it turns out great, as well.

Bake in a preheated oven at 375 for 20-30 minutes, or until cheese is melted.

This post is linked up with Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist.

Meal plans and the week ahead

We have a little slower week this week than the weeks past, but we still have plenty of things going on. Plus, we didn't get as much done in Carson's new bedroom as we had hoped last week. So, hopefully we can make some good progress this week. We did get the floor waxed and polished and the little closet doors primed, at least.

Today we'll be going to church and making a stop at Home Depot afterwards. We need to get some caulk for the windows in Carson's new room and a closet organizer for his new closet. We might go pick up his dresser from my parents' house, too. We'll see what we feel like doing. Wednesday we have soccer. Friday is my flex day. Carson and I will be taking Jet to the vet in the morning for his annual visit. Then we'll go pickup the milk. We're planning to go to my niece's and nephew's basketball games on Saturday morning. And we're going over to a friend's house for dinner on Saturday night.  Otherwise, that's it for the plans this week.

Here's the plan so far... I'll be updating some of the linked recipes later this week to bring them up to WAPF standards, as well. 

Sunday - church; Home Depot
(hang soft cheese; pick up dresser?; install closet organizer?; prime bedroom door headboard and footboard and paint first coat of blue; put rug in room; bring box springs and mattress upstairs; roast squash; shred leftover pork for enchiladas)
B: blueberry french toast casserole
L: misc. leftovers; kefir smoothies
D: pork roast; roasted potatoes; green beans

Monday -
(soak black beans; paint little closet doors and bedroom door paint final coat of blue on headboard and footboard; remove bedroom door and take to basement; wash new waterproof mattress pad/sheets/bed skirt/quilt; make kefir)
B: soaked raisin-pecan bread; kefir smoothies
D: butternut squash lasagna; peas

Tuesday -
(paint little closet doors and prime bedroom door; take bookshelf to basement, rough sand and prime; wash blanket; put bed together and make bed; thaw round steak)
B: soaked raisin-pecan bread; yogurt
D: pork-black bean-corn enchiladas

Wednesday - soccer
(hang doors paint one side of doors; paint first coat of blue on bookshelves)
B: yogurt and granola
D: crockpot beef stroganoff with homemade noodles; asparagus; corn

Thursday -
(make kefir; prime dresser, bed and bookshelf paint 2nd side of doors; paint final coat on bookshelves; thaw chicken)
B: soaked raisin pecan bread; yogurt
D: salmon cakes; green and yellow beans; broccoli

Friday - flex; Jet to vet; p/u milk
(paint 1st coat on dresser, bed and bookshelf hang doors; move bookshelves to bedroom; pick up dresser?)
B: fried eggs; bacon; kefir smoothies
D: roast chicken; stuffing; veggies; soaked biscuits

Saturday - niece's and nephew's basketball games; dinner with friends
(make chicken stock; prime dresser?)
B: pancakes; fried eggs; bacon
L: leftovers
D: at Adam's and Melissa's house, I'm bringing dessert

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Meal plans and the week ahead

One birthday party down and one to go. Yesterday we celebrated Carson's birthday with Kevin's family and friends. Today we are celebrating with my family... at least assuming the winter storm holds off until tonight... I still need to watch the weather this morning and see what the latest is. Its a lot of work doing two parties, but its honestly more enjoyable for us. It is chaotic enough having the families together separately, let alone everyone all together at once. It allows us to interact with everyone this way and actually have a good time.

This week is going to be pretty busy. Today is the birthday party with my family. Tomorrow I am off for President's Day. Carson and I are just planning to spend the day at home at this point. We'll have fun playing with all of his new toys and I should be able to get some painting done while he naps. Tuesday I am flying up to Sault Ste. Marie, Canada. I'll be coming back Wednesday afternoon. Wednesday night we have soccer. We don't have anything going on Thursday. Friday I work and have to pick up the milk and CSA order. And Saturday we are planning to make a trip to Grand Rapids to visit Kevin's grandparents and cousins that will be in town from New York.  If timing works out, we may get some extra play time and visiting in at my BIL's and SIL's, too.  We still need to figure out plans and whatnot. 

We are hoping to finish some things up in Carson's new bedroom this week. We are hoping to paint the upper closet doors, paint the main door, paint the trim around the door, hang the blinds, and wax the floor. I also want to get his bed painted so that we can get it put together and in the room next week. I also want to get our taxes done... or at least started.  We are really hoping we don't owe again this year... it'd be great to get a return again.  I haven't really decided what all I am going to do in the kitchen this week. I know I'll be making kefir and yogurt. I haven't made yogurt since before we went to Arizona, so I am really missing it.

Sunday - Carson's birthday party
(prep food; wax floor after party?)
B: scrambled eggs; broccoli
L/D: pistachios; crispy pecans; candy; cheese, pickled bologna, summer sausage with crackers; carrots and cukes with ranch; cheese dip with chips; fruit; salad; pizza; cupcakes; ice cream

Monday - President's Day
(make kefir; paint bed; prime upper closet doors and door to Carson's orange room; prime trim; do taxes?)
B: cornbread in milk
D: butternut squash soup; veggies; grapes and pineapple if there are any leftover

Tuesday - leave for Sault Ste. Marie
B: cornbread in milk; kefir smoothies
D: leftover goulash; veggies; cornbread; jello

Wednesday - return from the Soo; soccer
B: cornbread in milk
D: misc. leftovers

Thursday -
(paint back side of upper closet doors and door to room)
B: kefir smoothies
D: whitefish with veggies in parchment paper

Friday - p/u milk
(paint front side of upper closet doors and door to room; make yogurt)
B: dutch baby pancakes
D: stir fry with chicken, zucchini, peppers, onions, broccoli, edamame

Saturday - Grand Rapids
(paint trim around door in Carson's orange room; hang upper closet doors; hang blinds)
B: breakfast casserole
L: tbd... we'll see what our plans end up being
D: tbd

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

2011 Veggie Garden - Heirloom Tomato and Pepper Transplants

Ok, so yesterday I told you I was going to order all of my vegetable transplants from my CSA Farmer's Market.  Well, I changed my mind... at least partially.  I will still definitely be ordering some transplants from the CSA, but I decided last night to put in an order for live plants through Seed Savers Exchange after seeing their offerings.  Just like I did last year, I'm only going to grow heirloom tomatoes and peppers.  I just think the taste and quality are far superior to any non-heirlooms I've ever tasted or grown.  I know my CSA will offer Brandywine tomato transplants, so I'll definitely pick up a couple of those plants, as well as a few other varieties, I'm sure.  But my mouth seriously started watering when I was reading the descriptions on the Seed Savers site.  And I knew I had to order some...

Gold Medal Tomato

Amish Paste Tomato

Italian Tomato

King of the North Bell Pepper

This is posted as part of Real Food Wednesday at Kelly the Kitchen Kop.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

2011 Veggie Garden

I finally submitted my seed order. I kept debating on the size of garden I want to tackle and maintain this year. I decided to go with a medium-sized (for me) garden. I'll probably fill the whole garden space this year, though, even with less variety than I've had in years past, since I'm doing pumpkins and melons and they take up a good deal of space. I also kept debating whether I wanted to start my own plants indoors or just get them from my CSA Farmer's Market again this year. I decided on the latter. I'll pick up some broccoli, tomatoes, peppers, and basil plants from the market. And I think I'll call it good for this year's garden. What I don't grow myself, I'll get from the CSA.

As I have in years past, I ordered all of my seeds from Fedco. I'm trying out quite a few new varieties this year. Here are the choices I went with for the 2011 season.

Beets - Chioggia and Touchstone Gold
Cucumber - Marketmore 76 Slicing
Green Beans - Provider
Leeks - Lincoln
Lettuce - Blushed Butter Oaks and Black Seeded Simpson
Melon - Halona Muskmelon and Dark Star Watermelon
Peas - Progress #9 Shell and Blizzard Snow Pea
Pumpkins - Baby Pam
Shell Beans - King of the Early
Spinach - Space
Summer Squash - Gentry
Zucchini - Costata Romanesca

This post is shared as part of the Tuesday Twister at GNOWFGLINS.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Meal plans and the week ahead

Happy birthday, Carson!! It's hard to believe that my baby is turning 3 today! He is growing into such a great little boy that just lights up our lives. We love him so much! We'll be making as much of today special for him as we can.  I have to go to a good friend's baby shower this afternoon, so that kind of stinks, but it'll be ok.  We'll still do some fun stuff and have a small cake with candles tonight.

We're having his birthday parties with family and friends next weekend, one on Saturday and one on Sunday. So much of the week will be spent preparing for those parties.  I'll be heading down to Rochester for Kati's baby shower this afternoon.  Tuesday afternoon, I'll be leaving work early to take Carson in for his 3-year well-child visit.  I'm going out to dinner with some friends from high school on Tuesday night.  Wednesday is soccer.  Friday is my flex day and milk pickup.  Saturday is Carson's birthday party with Kevin's family and friends.  So here's the plan...

Sunday ~ Carson's birthday; Kati's baby shower
(make dairy kefir; make steel cut oats)
B: Mickey Mouse pancakes; fruit
L: S - at baby shower; K&C - leftovers
D: beef roast; cheesy ranch potatoes; peas and carrots; chocolate-banana smoothies

Monday ~
(make dairy kefir)
B: kefir smoothies
D: spaghetti squash casserole

Tuesday ~ Dr. Akrawi; dinner with friends
B: steel cut oats with bananas and walnuts
D: S - Casa Real with friends; K&C - leftover spaghetti squash casserole

Wednesday ~ soccer
B: kefir smoothies
D: baked chicken; green beans; squash

Thursday ~
(make ranch dressing; thaw sausage and ground beef; make jello)
B: steel cut oats
D: grilled salmon paprika; asparagus; applesauce

Friday ~ flex day; milk p/u
(cook sausage; cook ground beef; prep veggies and fruit; bake and decorate cupcakes for Sunday)
B: fried eggs; toast; sauteed veggies
D: grilled cheese; tomato soup

Saturday ~ Carson's birthday party with Hollebooms
(prep food; make whipped cream; last minute cleaning)
B: avocado and cream cheese frittata
D: pistachios; crispy nuts; candy; carrots and cucumbers with ranch; cheese dip with chips; goulash; cornbread; veggies; fresh fruit; jello trifles; cake; ice cream

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Organic Gardening - Some Basics

It's that time of year again... time to start planning your gardens! I love this time of year! Actually, I've had my garden mostly planned now for some time (though I haven't submitted my seed order quite yet), but most people start planning now so they have time to order seeds and get your cold-weather seedlings started in mid-to-late March. I started my own seedlings two years ago for the first time. We put in some grow lights and set up some tables with heating pads under some of the flats. It was a lot of work, though, and I did not do it again last year. I keep debating whether I want to start some this year, or not. I'm leaning more towards not.

So anyway, I'm hoping to get my seeds ordered in the next week or two. Once I do, I'll post what we've decided to grow this year. For now, I just wanted to post some basic things that I heard at our local WAPF chapter meeting on Tuesday. The topic this month was Organic Gardening and we heard from one of the local organic farmers. I've heard most of these tips before... and actually do most of them already. But I figure they're always good reminders... and I did learn a few things, too. I'll just include some highlights below.

Garden Planning. You will need to consider many factors when you begin thinking about your vegetable garden... what you want to grow, how much of each veggie or fruit you want to grow (enough to eat fresh, enough to preserve, enough to share with others, etc.), your soil type and test results, how you will lay out your garden, whether you will use raised beds, how you will work your soil (tiller, by hand, etc.), how you will deal with weeds (if using mulch, where will you get it?), how you will build soil fertility (blended organic fertilizers, minerals, foliar feeds), whether you will use manure or compost, whether you will be away during times of harvest, etc.

Ordering Seeds. You want to order your seeds from a good, respectable source. Some of the companies we discussed on Tuesday were: Fedco, High Mowing, Seeds of Change, Baker CreekJohnny's, Seed Savers Exchange, Territorial, Turtle Tree. There are lots of seed companies out there and I know this is not a comprehensive list of all the good ones... they're just the ones we quickly discussed.  Beware of the seed companies controlled and/or owned by Monsanto, though!  I will never (knowingly) buy seeds from one of those companies.  I have used Fedco for the past few years and have been extremely satisfied with them. I really like the fundamental values of the company, the quality of their seeds, and enjoy supporting them. Plus, their prices are great! They don't spend lots of extra money on fancy catalogs and they limit the time that they are open for orders and shipments.

Soil Testing. You need good soil in order to grow nutrient-dense food! The first step in growing a successful garden is having your soil tested. Make sure you ask for a trace minerals test, too. You'll pay extra for this, but it is very useful information to know. You can get your soil tested through your local university extension office, or you can send it away in the mail. MSUE has some helpful information online. The report you receive back will provide the necessary information to growing nutrient-dense foods - type, pH levels, nutrient levels, fertilizer recommendations. If your soil life isn't great, you will not get the optimal levels of nutrients in your vegetables and fruits.

Bacteria. Wait, you need bacteria in your garden? Yes, you do... in your soil! You will need to add bacteria, especially if the space you have your garden was previously a lawn or field. You can add bacteria by adding manure or compost. Remember that not all manure is good, though. Horse manure is pretty safe, overall. You should ask the farmer if the food they feed their horses contains any pass-through pesticides to kill horsefly larvae in the manure... if they do, you obviously would not want to use their manure. You really shouldn't run into this on your average backyard horse farm, though. If you are using manure from animals other than horses, only use manure from organic farms. Also, if the manure has wood chips in it, you'll want to leave it to compost for at least 2 years. If the manure has only sawdust in it, the best time to apply is in the fall. Till it in when you till your garden in the fall and it will break down over the winter and be ready for spring.

Mulch. Using mulch is a great way to keep weeds at bay in your garden. I use a straw mulch every year. Just beware that you should not just till it into your soil at the end of the season. Straw takes a while to break down. You need to rake it off in the fall and send it to the compost pile. You could also try saving it for the following year after you rake it off, but I normally just send it to the compost pile. You can also use grass clippings... as long as they are from a "safe" lawn. Don't spread grass clippings too thick, though, as it will create an anaerobic environment. Grass clippings break down quickly, so you will need to replenish regularly throughout the growing season.

Cover Crops. Cover crops are a great way to improve your soil. Use them to keep weeds at bay, or in the area between rows on which you walk. Any cover crop that lives through the winter will need to be tilled in at least three weeks in advance of planting your garden to allow enough time for them to break down into the soil.  I have not used cover crops yet, though I seriously considered it last year and am again this year. 

Raised Beds. Some people use raised beds for aesthetic purposes - they do look pretty nice! Others use them because their soil is poor. Regardless of why you use them, make sure you are using the proper materials to build them. NEVER use treated lumber or railroad ties. That is the easiest way to poison yourself and your family! It is best to use concrete blocks, bricks, stones, raw cedar, or raw pine (pine will break down fast, though). If you choose cedar, you really want to make sure it is truly raw and untreated. Many places will label it as such, but it really isn't. Your chances of finding untreated cedar at your local Home Depot or the like are VERY slim. You will most likely have to go straight to your local lumberyard.

Records. Keep records of what and when you plant each year. Also include weather and climate details so you can track patterns.

Gardening Newbie?  If you are new to gardening, here are just a couple more things to remember...
- Miracle-Gro does not replace nutrients in your soil or plants... it will not create nutrient-dense food.
- Beware of potting soils, as most of them contain fungicides.
- Beware of using grass clippings in your garden if your lawn has ever been sprayed with chemicals (Tru-Green, etc.) or you have used conventional fertilizers. This is dangerous stuff and you don't want it seeping into your food!
- Beware of turning any land previously used as lawn (that has been sprayed/fertilized/etc.) into a garden, as the chemicals are in your soil. Your best bet in this situation is to use a raised bed where you can create safe, fertile, mineral and nutrient dense soil.

Random Tidbits.  Some other random tidbits of information that I wrote down...
- All peat is mined. It is a non-renewable resource... just something to keep in mind.
- Black walnut trees are bad for gardens, do not plant any where near them.
- "No Spray" means nothing. Spraying is a method and has nothing to do with the safety of your food. Organic farmers spray, but they use safe stuff. Even if conventional farmers don't spray, it doesn't mean they're not adding nasty granules to the soil.
- Commercial fertilizers are a dumping ground for toxic wastes. Companies don't want to pay to dispose of their toxic waste, so they turn it over to fertilizer companies to make fertilizers. It is really bad stuff!
- Aim for all minerals coming from your soil, not from topical applications/feeds.
- Soap sprays work well for japanese beetles (I had great luck with this last year).

Helpful Websites.  Just a couple that I wrote down. 
The Organic Center - great science-based information. This site is especially helpful if you are trying to convince conventional growers to switch to safer, healthier alternatives.
- National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service - really great information. I've used this site many times in the past.

Ok, I think that's enough for this post. I apologize for this post being sort of random and not really comprehensive. I have plans for more posts to come in the (near) future on gardening, so keep an eye out for those. For now, I hope this helps.

This post is part of Fight Back Friday on Food Renegade.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Dairy Kefir

I've been making dairy kefir for quite some time now, but realized that I never have posted about it.  So here goes!  Dairy kefir is made by adding dairy kefir grains to milk. You can use almost any kind of milk - raw cow's milk, raw goat's milk, pasteurized milk (but not ultra-high temperature pasteurized), homogenized milk, and I've even seen blogs on using coconut milk to make kefir. It is generally recommended to use whole fat milk, rather than low-fat or skim milk.

 The dairy kefir grains, like water kefir grains, are a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast. But don't be confused with the two types of kefir grains... they are different in the way they look and the way they eat sugars. Dairy kefir grains look kind of like cauliflower. They're sort of a pale yellow/whitish color and clump together. Dairy kefir grains feed off of the lactose/milk sugar. The resulting kefir is low in lactose, while rich with beneficial bacteria and yeast. It also contains high levels of vitamins, minerals, and enzymes. Kefir is often compared to yogurt because they have similar tastes. While yogurt does contain some beneficial bacteria, kefir is much better for you. It contains five times more beneficial organisms than yogurt and includes beneficial yeasts as well as bacteria, while yogurt only contains beneficial bacteria. These beneficial bacteria and yeasts are good for digestion and help to keep your gut healthy. They also help your body protect itself against viruses, disease, and parasites.

Dairy kefir has many uses. You may drink or eat it plain; use it in smoothies; use it as your acid medium to soak grains/nuts/seeds; or use it to make ice cream, popsicles, salad dressing, cheese, and so much more, I'm sure. So far, I have really only used mine plain, flavored it with pureed fruit, in smoothies, in salad dressing, and for soaking grains. I have wanted to expand my uses of kefir, but just haven't gotten around to it yet. Hopefully I will soon.

Dairy Kefir

2 tablespoons of kefir grains
1 quart of milk

If your kefir grains are dehydrated when you get them, you should follow the directions that come with them to get them hydrated.

It will take your kefir grains some time to become acclimated to your house and your milk. This could take anywhere from a couple of days to a month, according to some sources. You may want to start with only one cup of milk for the first few batches to get your grains acclimated and not waste much milk. Once your grains are fully acclimated, you can use the full quart of milk to make kefir. Make sure you're not using too many grains for the amount of milk you are culturing. You only need about 2 tablespoons for a quart. If you have more, your chances of it separating into curds and whey are higher and the yeast will be in overabundance in the resulting kefir... which does not taste the best.

I started out with some kefir grains from my sister-in-law and had decent luck with them.  Although I never really got a nice, thick kefir out of them.  Unfortunately, those grains died over the holidays when I stopped making kefir due to just plain being too busy.  Just before New Years, I got some more grains from my dairy farmer.  These have been awesome since they were cultured in the same raw milk that I am using.  My kefir is now nice, thick, and creamy.  This isn't the most appetizing picture, but it shows how thick my kefir now gets after 18 hours.  The cream that has risen to the top is extra-thick.  You can also see the kefir grains, which rise to the top as they culture.

To make kefir, pour milk into a wide-mouth quart sized jar. Add the dairy kefir grains and stir gently with a wooden or plastic spoon (don't use metal as it does not react well with the grains). Cover with a cloth, paper towel, or coffee filter, and secure with a rubber band... or just loosely place a jar lid on the jar.  Leave at room temperature away from other cultures to prevent cross-contamination. Ideal room temperatures are between 65 - 80 degrees. It will take longer to culture/ferment with cooler temperatures (like in the winter) and faster with warmer temperatures (like in the summer). If you have your kefir near a heat source (the stove, oven, crockpot, etc.), keep in mind that it will culture more quickly. 

You may culture the kefir until you are satisfied with the thickness and taste. You may want to try tasting it after 12 hours, then 24 hours, 36 hours, and 48 hours. It will get more thick and more sour over time. If you let it go too long, you will see the kefir separate into curds and whey. You might also see some yellow liquid surrounding the kefir grains, this is the beginning of this separation into curds and whey. Its fine to let the kefir culture to this point, if that is what you like or what you want. We tend to like our kefir after about 18 hours in the summer. I'm finding I have to let it culture a little longer in the winter if I leave it on the counter... usually to between 24 and 36 hours now.  But I generally just turn my oven light on and place my jar in the oven with the light on.  Its done after about 18 hours. 

After about 8 or 10 hours, gently stir the culturing kefir.  You will see the grains floating on top - the bumpy stuff. Stirring after the milk has partially cultured will help achieve a smooth consistency.

When you've decided the taste and thickness are right for your family, remove the grains with a wooden or plastic spoon, or use a plastic strainer... remember don't use metal! Transfer the kefir grains to a new batch of milk, or store in the refrigerator until you need them again. Do not rinse the grains - you really only want to rinse the grains if you fear cross-contamination, or are switching to a different type of milk.

Cover the finished kefir and refrigerate.
Dairy kefir grains may be stored in the refrigerator in a small amount of milk. This will keep for one or two weeks.

This post is posted as part of the Tuesday Twister at GNOWFGLINS and Real Food Wednesday at Kelly the Kitchen Kop.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Honey Whole Wheat Bread

* This is a re-post of a recipe I originally posted in April 2010... I've just updated it to use a healthy oil and updated the instructions to add a little more detail.* 

I have made this bread many times in the last year.  For awhile there, I was making it weekly.  Then I got into sourdough and other breads, so it has been quite a while since I've made this.  I decided to re-visit it this morning and bake a couple loaves.  I switched out the canola oil for a healthy oil (coconut oil), but otherwise this was a great recipe.  It turned out just as delicious with the coconut oil, too.  This is seriously such a soft, yummy bread and is our overall favorite bread. 

I'd like to do some more testing with this recipe since it's our favorite.  I want to try soaking the grains.  I will update and re-post if I'm successful in the coming weeks. 

* Here is the original post.*
I tried out a new bread recipe a couple of weeks ago and made it again this morning. I just haven't gotten around to posting the recipe yet. This comes from Two Peas and Their Pod and it is sooooo good! This is by far our favorite bread so far... and will be our "regular" bread for awhile now. This makes a great sandwich bread. And it is so simple to make. I really liked that it has all whole wheat flour. So many recipes seem to just have partial whole wheat flour in addition to the highly processed all-purpose or bread flour. But not this recipe! Anyway, like I said, this is a delicious bread. This makes 2 loaves, which is nice because you can either freeze the second loaf, or present it as a gift to someone. Perfect!

Honey Whole Wheat Bread

3 cups whole wheat flour
1 T vital wheat gluten
2 packets of yeast (or 4 1/2 teaspoons)
2 1/2 cups warm water

In a large mixing bowl (preferably a KitchenAid), add the 3 cups flour, wheat gluten, and yeast. Stir. Add in warm water and stir until combined. Let sit for 10 minutes.

1/3 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup honey
1 1/2 T lemon juice
1 T sea salt
3 1/2-4 cups whole wheat flour

Mix the oil, honey, lemon juice, and salt in a small bowl. Add to flour mixture after the 10 minutes. Mix until combined. Add in the additional flour and mix.  I usually switch to my dough hook when I'm adding this flour.  Add in the first 3 cups of flour first, continue to mix.  Then, add in about 1/4 cup of flour at a time until the dough is no longer sticking to the bowl.  You don't want the dough to be too wet so that it sticks to the bowl or your hands.  Dough that is too wet makes a dense bread.  You don't want it to be too dry, either... else you'll get dry bread.  If you stop adding flour once the dough is pulling away from the sides of the bowl, you'll end up with a perfect loaf of bread... not dense, not dry, but moist and soft and airy. 

Next, knead the dough for ten minutes with the dough hook. When it is done divide the dough into two loaves. Make sure they are even. Shape them into loaf form. Place the dough into 2 loaf pans that have been sprayed with cooking spray. Cover with a clean towel and let rise for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. After the loaves have risen, bake them for 30 minutes. They should be golden brown. Let cool before slicing, if you can wait. You can freeze one of the loaves if you wish.

This post is re-posted as part of Monday Mania at Healthy Home Economist and Tuesday Twister at GNOWFGLINS.

Meal plans and the week ahead

Back to reality this week.  Our vacation last week got extended unexpectedly due to the blizzard that blew through Michigan on Tuesday/Wednesday... right when we were supposed to be flying home.  We flew from Tucson to Denver to find out our flight to Grand Rapids had been canceled (again).  Thankfully we have some  friends in Denver who took us in for three days until we could get a flight to Michigan.  I have to say that we are pretty lucky to have such awesome friends - both in Arizona and Colorado!  And I am pretty lucky to have spent some time with both of my best friends in a week's time!

So this week is going to be pretty busy. We have a lot of catching up to do since we've been gone.  Especially since we just took it easy and relaxed most of the day yesterday.  I have a lot of prep to do before Carson's birthday parties in two weeks.  I'll be doing a lot of prep this week.  I still need to finalize plans for food, but I think I've figured out what we'll eat at the parties.  And I bought most of the decorations and accessories for the party before our trip.  I am going to go through everything today and see if I'm missing anything.  I'll also be getting the silverware wrapped with the napkins and the favor bags for the kids put together.  I still need to figure out if we'll play any games and get those prepped, too.

I'm very glad I made some kefir before we left.  Since we didn't fly in until late Friday night, we missed our milk pickup again last week.  So I can't make kefir again until I pick up our milk this Friday.  I am craving our raw milk!  So is Carson!  I'm not entirely sure what else I'll be making this week.  I have some ideas, which are included below. 

Sunday ~ party prep; cleaning; dinner at in-laws'; Super Bowl
(bake honey whole wheat bread; make meatballs and freeze?; roll party silverware; make favor bags; determine party games)
B: kefir smoothies; pancakes (for Kevin and Carson)
L: crockpot chicken noodle soup with homemade stock and noodles; fresh baked bread
D: tacos dinner at in-laws' house for father's-in-law birthday

Monday ~ 
B: muffins from freezer
D: lasagna from freezer; garlic toast; steamed broccoli

Tuesday ~ WAPF meeting
B: apples with peanut butter
D: nachos with leftover taco meat tacos and nachos

Wednesday ~ Carson's soccer
B: toast with peanut butter
D: portable... peanut butter sandwiches; carrots with ranch; apple slices

Thursday ~ 
B: apples with peanut butter
D: loaded baked potatoes with leftover taco meat; side salads; broccoli and cauliflower

Friday ~ milk/CSA pickup
(make dairy kefir; make yogurt; make granola)
B: pumpkin scones from freezer
D: tbd

Saturday ~ Carson's pictures; Calvin basketball game; birthday celebration
(finish yogurt)
B: kefir smoothies
L: peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
D: Olga's in Grand Rapids