Sunday, November 7, 2010

Two for One Menu Plan

Sourdough Pasta

My menu plan last week never made it from my brain to cyber space, or even paper (I did have one, mind you).  For the sake of record keeping and future menu planning inspiration, I'm listing our evening meals from last week before I get into my usual randomness and this week's plan. 

Sunday, 10/31
Leftover chili and pinto beans

Monday, 11/1
Chicken Divan, sourdough artisan bread

Tuesday, 11/2
Beef pizza on sourdough crust, fried cabbage

Wednesday, 11/3 
Beef stoganoff with sourdough pasta, baked sweet potatoes

Thursday, 11/4
Canada Day!
Sourdough crepes with yogurt cheese, strawberries, and maple syrup
Tourtiere (meat pie; my version had a sourdough crust, sprouted lentils & shredded carrots), poutine (french fries with gravy and cheese), and sugar pie

Friday, 11/5
Bible Study Night!
Roast beef sammies on homemade bread with homemade lacto-fermented mayo, gingerbread with spiced whipped cream

Our very first yard egg
Thursday, we finished up our two week study of Canada and marked the occasion by enjoying some really yummy Canadian cuisine (or at least my version of it).  We've also been having tea since apparently they still do that in some provinces.  We've quite enjoyed it; I imagine we'll continue to have afternoon tea whilst using our best manners (and worst English accents) every chance we get.  I guess the most exciting event of the week, though, was my husband picking up our new backyard flock of chickens Friday morning.  We're now the very proud owners of nine Rhode Island red hens and one rooster.  Yes, very soon there will be lots of fresh eggs on the menu!  Speaking of menus...    

Sunday, 11/7
Soaked oatmeal
Lunch out with friends
Beef, lentil & potato stew, sourdough honey whole wheat bread

Monday, 11/8
Toast and eggs
Chicken and dumplings, baked sweet potatoes

Tuesday, 11/9
Lasagna, baby limas

Wednesday, 11/10
Soaked oatmeal
Fried rice with beef & veggies

Thursday, 11/11
Skillet pancakes
Crock pot ragout, sourdough artisan bread

Friday, 11/12
Eggs, hash browns
Crock pot soup

Saturday, 11/13
Sourdough waffles
Leftover buffet 

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Captain Sourdough's Menu Plan for 10/24-10/30

Yep, that's me.  My 8 year old dubbed me "Captain Sourdough" the other day and cracked herself up quite a bit (she KILLS herself sometimes).  I am pretty engrossed with sourdough these days, but it's just SO fun!  I love that my 2 year old has been "making sourdough," too, or at least that's often her answer when asked what she's doing.  I mentioned last week that my older two girls started their very own, real live sourdough starter, so I thought I'd share some pics of their success.  The pictures above are on Day 3, and look how bubbly and active already!  If you're interested in the health benefits of sourdough, but haven't yet taken the plunge, let this be an encouragement to you; even an 8 and 10 year old can get a healthy starter going!  Check out the Sourdough eCourse at GNOWFGLINS if you haven't already and get started!  Did I mention that it's SO fun?  (In case you're wondering, I am not an affiliate GNOWFGLINS and have nothing to gain by recommending the eCourse...I just really love what they're doing over there!)

Sunday 10/24
Soaked oatmeal
Chinese cabbage & rice (this was on the menu last week, but we ended up having leftovers that night), baked sweet potatoes

Monday 10/25
Sourdough biscuits, fried eggs
Pork chops, macaroni and cheese, baby limas

Tuesday 10/26
Breakfast cake
Chicken & rice soup, cornbread

Wednesday 10/27
Soaked oatmeal
Pizza with sourdough crust, broccoli

Thursday 10/28
Banana sourdough muffins
Beef brisket, potato salad, squash, sourdough bread

Friday 10/29
Sourdough cinnamon rolls
Fall party with weenie roast!

Saturday 10/31
Sourdough waffles
Leftover buffet

Saturday, October 16, 2010

What's Been Cooking and Menu Plan for the Week

Long time, no menu plan...

We've been kind of off routine and out of sorts since our trip a couple of weeks ago, and I've just been moseying along with no menu plan.  Even so, I thought I'd let y'all know what's been cooking lately.  I'm still loving the Sourdough eCourse at GNOWFGLINS, so of course we've had lots of sourdough goodies!  My 8 and 10 year old daughters even made their very own sourdough starter last week per Erin's instructions and they cooked up some delicious apple muffins with it over weekend!  Some other things I've made from the eCourse in the past week include:

Cheese and Herb Crackers
Ready to go into the oven
My toddler could live on these things.  They are SO addictive.

 Roast Beef and Cheese Crepe Cake
Mmmmm...beefy, cheesy, melty yummness
Cinnamon Rolls
Before turning them out
Here they are turned out with all the ooey gooey goodness from the bottom of the dish!

Artisan bread


German Pancakes (a modification of the skillet pancakes shared by an eCourse member)

Pumpkin Muffins

Chicken and dumplings were requested for last week, so I made the dumplings from rolled and cut bucket dough from the eCourse.  Sourdough dumplings!  They were really good!  Also on the non-menu last week was Homemade Pizza RollsI followed the sourdough cinnamon roll recipe, omitted the sweeteners, and filled with pizza sauce, ground beef, and cheese!   I also kneaded some herbs into the rolls.  Delicious!  These were a hit!

So, that's what's been cooking in my kitchen during these weeks of blogging silence.  Here's what will be cooking in the week to come! 

Sunday, 10/17/10
Sourdough coffee cake
Leftover Buffet (we've got lots of leftovers this weekend!) 

Monday, 10/18/10
Grass-fed beef sausage, soaked whole wheat biscuits
Nourishing chicken nuggets, french fries, broccoli 

Tuesday, 10/19/10
Soaked oatmeal
Sausage, veggie, and pasta soup 

Wednesday, 10/20/10
Sourdough cinnamon rolls
Slow cooker lentil brown rice casserole 

Thursday, 10/21/10
Lemon muffins
Chinese cabbage & rice 

Friday, 10/22/10
Mexican Fiesta Day*
Breakfast burritos
Homemade tortillas, various fillings, sopapillas   

Saturday, 10/23/10
Sourdough Waffles
Leftover Buffet for lunch
Hamburgers at TrueFields' Farm Day for supper...yes, we're Southern and we have supper : )

*For school we're using My Father's World Exploring Countries and Cultures this year, so we'll be having a different ethnic feast every other Friday as we work through the countries!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Marathon Cooking & Camping Food

1 minivan
1 pop-up camper
4 kids across 6 states and back in 7 days
how many meals is that?
1 very busy mama!   

Yep, we've got a big trip coming up in a few days and I've been cooking up a storm in preparation.  No menu plan this week...I'm winging it since we're running around like chickens with our heads cut off trying to get everything ready!  I've done some marathon cooking today and we've got lots of freeze-ahead goodies to show for it.  Here's a peak...

A batch of regular whole wheat buns,

Homemade breakfast cereal,


11 hamburger patties.  

All of this went into the freezer along side a beefy enchilada bake, a magnificent casserole, a couple of toaster oven sized pre-baked sourdough pizza doughs, and pizza toppings that were already in there (I've doubled a few meals lately to have extra for the trip).  Whew!  Now, we've just got to figure out how to fit all of that food into the van! 

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Menu Plan 9/12-9/18

Sourdough tortillas

 We're in the midst of a gospel meeting, so Sunday's menu is a little different.  We have a fellowship meal after evening worship when we kick off a series of meetings, so I have a simple lunch on the menu plus dishes for the evening fellowship meal.  The meeting will last through Wednesday night, so I'm keeping it simple on those nights:)     

Sunday, 9/12
Soaked oatmeal
Sourdough english muffins, eggs, grits (lunch)
Chicken and dumplings, rolls (for fellowship meal) 

Monday, 9/13
Sourdough banana muffins
Beef stroganoff (homemade sourdough noodles), broccoli 

Tuesday, 9/14
Sourdough skillet pancakes
Chicken and smoked sausage jambalaya, baby limas 

Wednesday, 9/16
Cinnamon-apple baked oatmeal
Beef stew, homemade bread 

Thursday, 9/17
Toast, eggs
Beef burritos (sourdough tortillas), black beans, fixings

Friday, 9/18
Sourdough cinnamon rolls
Chicken fried rice

Sourdough skillet pancakes
leftover buffet

Monday, September 6, 2010

Running Behind Menu Plan 9/5-9/11

I mentioned in another post that I enrolled in the Sourdough eCourse at GNOWFGLINS, and I am loving it!  I've always used my sourdough starter at least a couple of times a week, but I'm inspired to use it even more now.  This menu plan reflects that!  Even if you don't have a starter, check out this eCourse; the first lesson will show how to start and care for one. 

Sunday, 9/5
Soaked Oatmeal
Pork chops, rice, gravy, sweet potatoes, GBC (a.k.a. green bean casserole)

Monday, 9/6
Organic grits, bacon
Chicken divan, sourdough bread

Tuesday, 9/7
Strawberry Banana sourdough muffins
Beefy pitas, hummus

Wednesday, 9/8
Sourdough English muffins, eggs 
Beef pot pie, baby limas

Thursday, 9/9
Baked oatmeal
Chicken noodle soup (made with homemade sourdough noodles), sourdough bread

Friday, 9/10
Sourdough cinnamon rolls
Mini pizzas, sourdough spice cake (bi-weekly bible study time again!)

Saturday, 9/11
Sourdough pancakes
Leftover buffet/sandwiches

Friday, September 3, 2010

9 Tips for Eating Well on a Budget

A few people have expressed to me recently that they'd like to change the way they feed their families, but a) they don't know where to start, and b) they're afraid it will be too expensive.  These are legitimate concerns that many of us have had at some point.  I've thought a lot about the "where to start" subject and I have a few suggestions, but first I want to address the cost of nourishing food.  We live on one modest income and we eat pretty well, so I feel fairly qualified to advise in this area.
  •  Menu plan and budget!  This is first and foremost.  Eating well on a budget absolutely requires planning, especially if you're just starting out toward healthier eating.  Once you get into it and have a good healthy meal rotation, you can afford to be more general in your planning, but I really believe that you need some sort of system when trying to stretch quality foods and your dollars.  I won't go into any depth on money management, but if you don't already have a budget, take the time to make one and stick to it.  You won't regret it!  I highly recommend Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover.
  • Swap the bad for the good.  High quality food may seem expensive, but if you consider the soft drinks, processed snacks, and boxed foods you won't be buying, $4-5 a pound for a pastured chicken probably won't bust the budget.  Start by swapping those expensive, chemical laden cold cereals for nourishing and frugal old fashioned oatmeal or eggs for breakfast (check out this blog post for tips on how to replace breakfast cereals in your kid's diet and why you should do so NOW).
  • Focus on frugal, but nutrient dense food options.  These include homemade bone broth, eggs, cabbage, broccoli, zucchini, potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, and organ meats (such as liver...I know, I know, I'm still trying to talk myself into that one, but it is very nourishing and very inexpensive).  Another great option is wild game.  If you're blessed to have a family member who hunts, you have access to frugal, pastured meat!  Just try to convince your hunter that "baiting" his game with Round-up corn is not a healthy practice (seriously, Dad, bad idea!).
  • Meat:  Choosing quality over quantity and making it stretch.  Quality over quantity is especially important with meat and dairy purchases...It can also be really hard for those of us who pride ourselves on bargain shopping.  Before I knew the dangers of meat/dairy/eggs of unknown origin, I loved stocking the freezer with "bargain" meats from supermarket sales (read about the hidden costs of industrial food).  I didn't have to think much about stretching my meat because it was so cheap!  Now, I roast one pastured chicken every Saturday, debone it, use the meat for two meals during the week, and make a few quarts of broth from the bones. Similarly, you could stretch your grass fed beef by using half a pound of ground beef in chili or casserole recipes and compensate with extra beans or veggies.   
  • Make it yourself.  Cooking from scratch saves a lot of money!  However, if you're new to cooking from scratch, don't overwhelm yourself.  Start by learning to make one thing that you would normally buy packaged.  Homemade bone broth is something that anyone can do and it offers so much nutritionally (The Benefits of Bone Broth).  Consider learning to make soaked whole grain tortillas.  They're frugal, easy, delicious, and much better for you and your little ones than the store bought kind.  Once you've mastered a few recipes, you can graduate to learning to bake bread.  Believe me, unless you were somehow blessed with innate baking skills, it can be a frustrating process; when faced with bread failures, take a breath, take a break from trying if you need to, but do try again.  I've made my fair share of bricks and I've got a freezer full of bricks-turned-bread crumbs to prove it!  If you're already an experienced baker, consider purchasing or starting your own sourdough starter.  Sourdough breads provide for optimal digestion and bio-availability of nutrients from the whole grains, plus not buying yeast means saving even more money.  I highly recommend GNOWFGLINS Sourdough E-course if you're ready to go sourdough (no pre-set fee is charged for the course, but they accept "pay as you can" payments).  I've just signed up this week, and I've learned so much already!  
  • Make your own household cleaners.  There are so many reasons to do this; homemade natural cleaners are better for you and your family than chemical ones, they free up more money that you can put toward good quality food since they cost next to nothing, and it's so nice not having all of those bottles of products that are just for one specific cleaning job.  There's not much that plain white vinegar, baking soda, or a combination of the two can't clean.  I occasionally use oxygen bleach (OxiClean), but I don't have even a fraction of the cleaning product clutter that I used to have.  No chemicals or fumes to breathe is also a major plus if you or your kids have allergies or skin sensitivities (not to mention, you can put those little helpers to work with a cloth and a bottle of vinegar solution with no worries!).  So many pros and I can't really think of any cons, can you?  Get started with these articles for recipes and tips for frugal, natural cleaning:  Top 5 Homemade Cleaners and Simple Routines for Homemade Green Cleaners.
  • Look to the Dirty Dozen, Clean Fifteen.  If you can't afford all organic (I can't), The Dirty Dozen, Clean Fifteen is a great guide for buying produce (there's even a handy iPhone app).  Stick to conventionally grown items from the clean fifteen, but avoid non-organic items from the dirty dozen.   
  • Prioritize.  Make the health of your family a priority.  What's more important, a fancy gadget, a new beauty product, or nourishing food that will keep your family well?  When I'm tempted to buy another cute outfit for one of the girls or a kitchen gadget that I can live without, I have to remind myself of all the good food that I can buy with that money.  It may be hard at first, but in time it will become second nature to avoid buying "stuff" so that you have more money to invest in your family's wellness (the doctor's bills you won't be paying will be further motivation!).
  • Don't stress.  Finally, don't stress about the things you may not be able to change right away, or even at all.  Do what you can when you can and rest knowing that even the smallest changes can improve your family's health in big ways.      
So, these are some of the ways that we make real food work with our budget.  If you follow some of the links to other blogs that I've included and browse around, I'm sure you'll find many more.  I realize that what works for me might not work for you, but I hope that at least something in this list causes you to have a "Hey, maybe we can manage this!" moment!  I'll follow up with a post that addresses where to start when you're ready to take the real food plunge!

This post is part of Simple Lives Thursday at GNOWFGLINS.

    Sunday, August 29, 2010

    New Fave Sourdough Biscuit and Menu Plan

    I've found a sourdough biscuit recipe that we love!  I tried these from Sarah's Musings last Saturday when I had a hankering for some biscuits and didn't want to wait for a soaking period.  The only modifications I made were to sub organic palm shortening for lard (still haven't rendered that pig fat), and I dipped the biscuits in bacon grease on both sides before baking instead of brushing them with butter (yes, I did!).  They were SO good.  I felt sort of naughty using all purpose even though my sourdough is whole wheat, so I decided to modify the recipe a bit this morning to include a soaking period for all whole wheat flour (since sourdough makes quick work of phytates, you wouldn't have to soak as long as you would with other acid mediums, so still not a terribly long wait).  They turned out fabulous, so this may be my new go-to biscuit recipe.  I imagine I'll still make Sarah's white flour version every once in a while, too, when I have a hankering and just can't wait ; ) 

    Sunday, 8/29
    Soaked oatmeal
    Baked chicken, rice, gravy, sweet potatoes, sourdough biscuits

    Monday, 8/30
    German pancakes, pure Grade B maple syrup
    Pizza w/ sourdough crust,  fried cabbage

    Tuesday, 8/31
    Oatmeal raisin muffins
    Tortilla beef skillet, black beans

    Wednesday, 9/1
    Baked oatmeal
    Bar-b-que chicken sandwiches on homemade buns, broccoli

    Thursday, 9/2
    Toasted buns, eggs 
    Chicken and rice, cornbread, cream peas

    Friday, 9/3
    Scrambled eggs, sourdough biscuits
    Goulash, mashed potatoes, baby lima beans  

    Saturday, 9/4 
    Sourdough pancakes
    Leftover buffet 

    Saturday, August 21, 2010

    Back to School Menu Plan

    Technically, we started school Wednesday, but this will be our first full week back...with one tiny interruption; my oldest daughter got braces Thursday and she's already knocked a bracket loose, so Monday we're heading back to the orthodontist for the third time in a little over a week.  I have a feeling they're going to know us really well before long.  School is going really well so far, though.  We've started year one of the multi-age curriculum from My Father's World, and we're loving it!  I especially like that the girls are getting a solid foundation in Creation-based science, and I'm learning right along with them!  It's really fun and I love the structure and routine of school days, but I haven't had as much time to post.  Alas, I do have some recipes coming up soon, plus I'll be posting about my first lard rendering experience!  That is, when I actually get around to doing it!  I've got fifteen pounds of pastured pig fat in my freezer that's been calling my name.  Very, very exicited!  

    Sunday, 8/22
    Soaked oatmeal
    Chicken and dumplings, baked sweet potatoes, purple hull peas

    Monday, 8/23
    Blueberry muffins (a whole wheat, soaked overnight version of these)
    Beef and cheese roll-ups, black beans

    Tuesday, 8/24
    German pancakes
    Nitrate free hotdogs, homemade buns, Creamy mac and cheese, broccoli

    Wednesday, 8/25
    Baked oatmeal
    Italian stew w/ green beans

    Thursday, 8/26
    Scrambled eggs, hashbrowns
    Cheesy chicken & pasta casserole, baby lima beans

    Friday, 8/27
    Toast, nitrate free bacon, eggs
    Deviled eggs, cheddar sourdough biscuits, chocolate sourdough cupcakes w/ cream cheese icing (hosting a bible study, so there will be other finger foods, as well)

    Saturday, 8/28
    Sourdough pancakes
    Leftover buffet

    Saturday, August 14, 2010

    Menu Plan for 8/15-8/21

    We've had family here this past week and we've been wingin' it on meals!  We've had some good ones!  My 3rd daughter's 2nd birthday was Tuesday and I made a delicious AND wholesome chocolate sourdough cake using the recipe at GNOWFGLINS.  Truly the best of both worlds, I don't think I'll ever need another birthday cake recipe!  The cream cheese icing was a little naughty with organic powdered sugar, but it was just a tiny birthday splurge.  It's been a fantastic week with family and the break from planning has been really nice, but I've got to say that I love my menu scheming!  Lots going on this week, so it's a simple one.

    The big girls decorated their little sister's cake with a little help from Meme

    Sunday, 8/15
    Soaked oatmeal
    Roast chicken, rice, gravy, sweet potatoes, broccoli 

    Monday, 8/16
    Eggs, soaked whole wheat biscuits
    BLT's   Fried Rice w/ leftover rice and veggies

    Tuesday, 8/17
    Baked spaghetti, green beans

    Wednesday, 8/18
    French toast
    Tortilla Beef Skillet

    Thursday, 8/19
    Soaked oatmeal
    Casserole from the freezer (appointments in town all day)

    Friday, 8/20
    Sausage, soaked whole wheat biscuits
    Chinese cabbage and rice

    Saturday, 8/21
    Sourdough pancakes
    Leftover buffet/sandwiches

    Tuesday, August 3, 2010

    Chocolate Sourdough Cookies

    If you don't like sourdough, you won't like these cookies.  They have a very distinct tang that works really well with the chocolate (or at least we think so). My kids and even my normally anti-chocolate husband love these!

    I bet you think I really like this plate.  Well, I do.

    1 cup sourdough starter
    1 3/4 cups sprouted or all-purpose flour (I used AP; I can't get sprouted locally and shipping is pricey)
    1/3 cup cocoa powder
    1/2 cup virgin coconut oil or softened butter
    1 teaspoon sea salt
    1/4 teaspoon baking soda
    1 cup rapadura (or sweetener of choice)
    2 teaspoons baking powder
    1 egg
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract

    In a large bowl cream the butter or with the rapadura. Beat in the egg, vanilla, and the sourdough starter. Mix dry ingredients in a separate bowl.  Mix the dry ingredients gently into the wet and you'll get soft, high rising cookies.  Over mix and you'll end up with flat ones.  Drop dough by teaspoonfuls onto parchment paper lined baking sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes.  

    Variation:  I think these would be really good with Amish friendship bread starter in place of the sourdough starter.  I haven't actually tried it yet, but I thought I'd throw it out there.  It might be wise to reduce the sugar slightly if you try it.  

    This post is part of Tuesday Twister at GNOWFGLINS.

    Sunday, August 1, 2010

    Happy Anniversary Week Menu Plan

    This is such an exciting and busy time of year for us.  We're gearing up for school amidst the excitement of several upcoming family and church  events.  This week's big event is our wedding anniversary on Tuesday, August 3rd!  I'm looking forward to celebrating another year with the best husband in the world!  We have an amazing marriage and I'm so thankful for his companionship.  He's been so patient and supportive through our real food transition.  I love him for letting me bore him to tears with dizzying amounts of health information, for eating my sometimes failed food experiments without a single complaint, for letting me get a beehive despite his dislike of buzzing things, for putting up with all the jars of ferments and cultures that live in our kitchen, and for trusting me enough with our family's nutritional needs to stand behind my judgment even when it goes completely against the mainstream health and nutrition grain.  This list could be much longer; he really is the most patient man I've ever known and I thank God for him everyday.

    This is sad, but this is the most recent picture I could find of Nick and me and it's from '07 (daughter #2 took it, hence the up angle).  Ok, I admit's actually the most recent picture I could find of us when I'm not pregnant!  What can I say?  I'm usually the one behind the camera!

    This is what I'll be feeding that sweet man and the crew this week: 

    Sunday, 8/1
    Soaked Oatmeal
    Chicken breasts, mushroom gravy, rice, purple hull peas, cornbread

    Monday, 8/2
    Soaked whole wheat biscuits, eggs
    Beef and veggie soup

    Tuesday, 8/3
    Breakfast casserole
    Barbecue pulled chicken sandwiches w/ soaked whole wheat buns, fried okra

    Wednesday, 8/4
    Soaked oatmeal
    Hot Tamale Pie, lima beans
    Thursday, 8/5
    French toast, blueberries
    Chicken and rice w/ carrots, soaked whole wheat honey rolls

    Friday, 8/6
    Egg and nitrite free bacon sandwiches (on leftover rolls)
    Cheesy Kielbasa Pasta w/ broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots

    Saturday, 8/7
    Chocolate sourdough waffles w/ peanut butter & maple syrup
    Leftover buffet

    (Note:  This is a bit more bread than we'd ideally eat in a week, but I don't plan on doing any major shopping and I'm trying to stretch the ingredients I have on hand!)  

    Monday, July 26, 2010

    Amish Friendship Bread: The Real Food Remix


    Late last summer I received one of those fun baggies of Amish friendship bread starter along with an instruction sheet and basic recipe.  I kept it up for several weeks and made countless variations of really yummy, not so healthy bread.  Fast forward to the fall, and I was still keeping up some starter for myself (I had exhausted the list of locals that were interested in getting their very own baggie by this point), and I had morning sickness.  Yep, 24/7 nausea complete with a hyper sensitive sense of smell.  I couldn't go anywhere near my kitchen without smelling the sickly sweet yeasty smell of Amish friendship bread starter.  Forget about actually opening the bag to feed it or make bread.  So, I put my baggie in the freezer to use another day.  

    Flash forward to early this summer, and we're well into our real food journey.  I got to thinking about that baggie in my freezer and the moist, cake-like breads I could make with it.  Yum!  Then, I remembered the pudding mix and loads of cooking oil the recipe calls for.  Not so yum.  So, I found an Amish bread recipe that didn't call for pudding mix and went from there.  To my neighbors' relief, I decided to forget the whole feed, split, share routine; I just keep my starter in a glass jar with a lid and feed it enough to keep it going for my uses.  I do, however, share loaves of baked bread!      
    Friendship bread starter in a jar.  Looks appetizing, no?
    The Method

    When I decided to thaw my starter, I had trouble finding specific instructions for thawing on the net.  I wasn't sure if I should feed my starter right away or wait and "mush" the bag a few days first.  I finally decided that it really doesn't matter.  Amish friendship bread starter is basically just a flavor enhancer and doesn't really need to be active or mature like a sourdough.  So, I thawed it out overnight, fed it right away with one cup of whole wheat flour, one cup of rapadura, and one cup of milk, and proceeded to make a batch of friendship bread.  Since that initial feeding, I've been feeding 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 milk, and 1/4 cup of rapadura; rapadura is expensive and half the sugar is still plenty to sustain the yeast in the starter.  I feed about once a week.  I shake my jar a little whenever I think about it.  You wouldn't know it by those fussy instruction sheets that get passed around with the bags, but this stuff is really very forgiving.

    The original starter had been fed whole wheat flour and white sugar, so my first few batches of bread did have some white sugar in them.  Not a huge deal to me, but if you want to start a 100% naturally sweetened starter (or you just haven't been blessed with a baggie of late), you can follow the instructions here to start your very own...even if you're not Amish.  Really.  Just substitute whole wheat for all purpose flour and rapadura, or natural sweetener of your choice, for the sugar (I haven't tried it with honey or maple, so not sure how a liquid sweetener would work; it may be okay if you reduced the milk?).  

    The Recipe 

    1 cup starter
    2/3 cup virgin coconut oil, butter, palm shortening, or combination (bread will not be as moist if you use all butter)
    1 tsp. vanilla
    1 to 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
    1/2 cup rapadura
    (the original calls for 1 cup of sugar, but we like it fine with half of that, even with my less sweet starter)
    2 cups whole wheat flour (I sometimes use pastry ww flour)
    3 eggs

    1/2 cup mashed banana, shredded zucchini, or applesauce
    1/2 tsp. sea salt

    1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
    1/2 tsp. baking soda

    Optional mix-ins:  raisins, chocolate chips, berries, nuts 

    If you're not worried about soaking overnight to reduce phytates in the whole wheat flour, you can just mix these ingredients and bake them at 325 degrees in 2 well greased loaf pans for 45 minutes to an hour (I know this seems like a wide range, but it really depends on your oven, mix ins, etc.; mine usually takes 50-55 minutes). 

    If you do want to soak, mix the starter, flour, oil, and rapadura in a non-metal, non-plastic bowl.  I'm not positive that this starter is acidic enough to break down phytates, so I throw in a TBS or so of whey just to be sure I'm not soaking in vain (you could use yogurt or cultured buttermilk instead of whey).  Cover your bowl with a plate, and leave on the counter overnight.

    Expect a really thick batter.
    After the soaking period, mix in the rest of the ingredients except for the optional mix-in's (don't over-mix).  Gently fold in the mix in's.  

    It's still pretty thick even after the rest of the ingredients are mixed in
    Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Cool 10 minutes, remove from pans. Makes two loaves of Amish Friendship bread.

    Caveat:  Don't turn your back on fresh friendship bread if you have a hungry toddler in the house... might just end up with a chunk missing before you even get a chance to take a picture of it out of the pan.

    This post is part of Tuesday Twister at GNOWFGLIN'S!

    Saturday, July 24, 2010

    Menu Plan for 7/25 - 7/31

    With VBS behind us, we're now looking forward to a visit from my husband's parents and grandmother sometime in August, and of course to the new school year!  This week will be all about getting back into a good routine, cleaning to get the house company ready, and organizing our school things.  If I'm feeling really ambitious, we may even start on some school work.  I'll also try to step it up in the kitchen this week.  We're running low on snack and sandwich breads in the freezer and I need to start a new yogurt.  I went a little too long between batches last time and killed the one I've been using since January...oops!  Good thing Cultures for Health sends a double batch of dry starter or I'd have to buy another!  Consequently, we've been doing a lot of Creamy Orange Coolers in lieu of smoothies.  I digress...on to the plan.

    Sunday, 7/25
    Soaked oatmeal
    Leftover chicken, broccoli & potatoes, purple hull peas

    Monday, 7/26
    Scrambled eggs, soaked whole wheat biscuits
    King Ranch Chicken Casserole, candied carrots

    Tuesday, 7/27
    Breakfast cake
    Cheeseburgers, homemade buns, fried squash

    Wednesday, 7/28
    Soaked oatmeal, blueberries
    Venison steaks, gravy, white beans, rice

    Thursday, 7/29
    Irish soda bread, nitrate free bacon
    Italian Cream Cheese Chicken Casserole, sauteed squash

    Friday, 7/30
    Scrambled eggs, organic grits
    Goulash, mashed potatoes, baby limas

    Saturday, 7/31
    Sourdough pancakes
    Leftover buffet

    Blackberry Amish friendship bread 
    Homemade graham crackers

    Tuesday, July 20, 2010

    Heat, Neglect, and Squash Bugs, Oh My!

    With all of the running around we've been doing lately (lately!?  Who am I kidding?), my gardens have been sorely neglected.  I was a little afraid of what I might find when I went out there this morning for the first time in days.  The squash bugs have been really bad this year and about half of my zucchini plants are nearly dead, my pepper plants were a bit wilted, and a few banana peppers were sun scorched.  I also had a few of tomatoes that should've been picked days ago that were basically mush.  Despite the lack of rain, sweltering heat, swarms of squash bugs, and pure neglect, I managed to harvest one yellow squash, an okra, six nice sized bell peppers, several banana peppers, and twenty-seven tomatoes.  Not bad, considering.  I'm really happy with my bell peppers; last year I made a lot of them, but they were all tiny.  I may have to call an audible on the menu plan and serve stuffed bell peppers tomorrow night!  What I'm going to do with that one lonely okra, I don't know.

    Saturday, July 17, 2010

    Menu Plan

    Things are getting back to normal after our camping trip and I'm almost caught up with laundry.  Our VBS starts Monday so we're in for another busy week, just the way we like it ; )  The menu plan will be simple (also, just the way I like it!).  In case you missed it, I don't list lunches because we have leftovers for lunch when possible.  We'll also try to have smoothies every morning for breakfast.  

    Soaked oatmeal
    Crock pot venison & veggie soup, soaked wheat bread in the bread machine

    Sourdough blueberry muffins
    Beefy pinto beans, rice, cornbread

    Magnificent casserole (modified to real food), baby limas

    Soaked oatmeal
    Chicken fried rice

    French toast
    Sticky chicken, potato & broccoli mash

    Scrambled eggs, organic grits, nitrite free bacon

    Sourdough pancakes
    leftover buffet

    Saturday, July 10, 2010

    Plans Change, Camping, and New (Menu) Plan

    So, last week's menu plan was followed as written through Wednesday night, at which point plans changed.  We received a much awaited phone call Tuesday evening telling us that our new pop-up camper was ready to go!

    We brought it home Wednesday, finished off all of our leftovers that evening after bible class, and headed out for an impromptu camping trip Thursday.  As you can see, we've had a great time!

    The New Plan
    We're only home for one night and then we're heading back to the campground tomorrow night after worship, so we'll be enjoying another few days of camp food!  I don't have a menu plan, per se, but once we come back home on Wednesday, we'll likely pick up where we left off and have the meals that we ended up not having from last week's plan.  In the meantime, we'll enjoy some nitrate-free franks, MSG-free smoked sausage, and s'mores while we're finishing up our camping trip.  That's the plan, Stan ; )  

    Our first family camping trip has coincided with the release of a new eBook that I've been really excited about!  Katie over at Kitchen Stewardship has written an excellent Family Camping Handbook,  (which includes, but isn't limited to, tips and information about preparing healthy real foods for/while camping).  I was one of a handful of readers chosen by Katie to preview her book, and it was a great help for us while we were planning our last minute excursion!  She speaks specifically to tent camping, but I can vouch that it is a great resource for RV'ers, too, so check it out!

    Wednesday, July 7, 2010

    Busy, Busy...

    My little friends are working hard...

    in the zucchini,

    in the squash,

    and in the pumpkins.  
    I love these guys.

    Saturday, July 3, 2010

    Menu Plan for the Week

    I don't list lunches for weekdays because we generally eat leftovers for lunch.  On the rare occasion that we don't have leftovers (say, if we ate out the night before), I usually heat up something from the freezer or do some quick sourdough crepes to fill with pb&j, eggs, or whatever.  Also, we tend to wing Saturdays.  Sometimes we do a leftover buffet; sometimes I cook up something that doesn't require any grain soaking or way-ahead-of-time prep.

    soaked oatmeal, strawberries
    Venison steaks, mushroom gravy, rice, skillet squash, fried okra
    leftovers from lunch

    Blackberry sourdough bread, scrambled eggs, smoothies
    Crockpot creamy southwest chicken, sprouted corn tortillas

    Soaked whole wheat buttermilk biscuits, homemade beef sausage
    Sourdough pizza w/ beef & nitrate-free bacon, steamed broccoli w/ butter, banana pepper poppers

    Soaked oatmeal, smoothies
    Bar-b-que sloppy joes, whole wheat sourdough buns, sweet potato fries

    Strawberry turnovers
    Skillet chicken, cheesy squash casserole

    Toast, eggs, smoothies
    White cheese chicken lasagna, purple hull peas

    Blueberry sourdough pancakes
    Leftover buffet

    Power balls (made from Katie's awesome Power Bar recipe)
    Leftover-oatmeal cookies (will have to make more this week)
    Amish friendship bread, real food version (from the freezer)

    Cooking goals for this week
    make cookies w/ leftover oatmeal
    double (or triple) pizza dough recipe to make strawberry turnovers for the freezer
    make soaked granola 
    bake a couple of loaves of Amish bread for the freezer

    No, It's Not the Dad in That Lion Movie

    Funny name, yummy stuff.  Moussaka apparently means casserole in Greek.  I suppose that's fitting, if not very romantic.  Either way, this is comfort food and I happen to love it.  Our favorite little Greek place, The Greek Corner, makes a moussaka with eggplant, zucchini, and potatoes.  I don't have eggplant in my garden, so my version uses just zucchini and potatoes.

    Zucchini and Potato Moussaka

    1 onion, chopped
    1 lb ground beef
    1 cup tomato sauce or 1 can tomato paste (6 oz) plus 2 TBS water
    1 cup of bread crumbs (I used sourdough since I have a lifetime supply in the freezer from many failed attempts at no knead sourdough bread)
    1/4 tsp cinnamon 
    2 zucchinis, sliced thin (or 1 big honking know, the one you should have picked yesterday)
    2 large potatoes, sliced thin
    sea salt to taste
    optional:  parmesan cheese for sprinkling in between layers

    For the white sauce:

    1/2 cup + 2 TBS butter
    1/2 cup all purpose flour
    1/2 tsp sea salt
    2 cups milk

    Cook ground beef and onions in a skillet until done.  I used organic grass fed beef and wouldn't think of draining it.  Salt to taste.  Add your tomato sauce or paste and water (I actually used a cup of peeled, pureed tomatoes from the garden), 1/2 cup of the bread crumbs, and cinnamon.  This part is really important; cook your meat sauce on low until all of the liquid is absorbed.  You won't want to cut corners here because moussaka should be fairly firm.  You should be able to get a perfect square of it onto your plate, so you don't want a liquid-y meat layer.  I was afraid that leaving the fat in would be counterproductive to that end, but it worked out fine; I'm sure the crumbs helped.  Cooking until the liquid is absorbed will take a while.

    In the meantime, salt and lightly brown the zuke slices in a buttered skillet.  Set aside until you're ready to assemble the casserole.  You have two options with the potatoes; you can either brown them the way you did with the zucchini or you may slice them and put them in cold water until you're ready to use them.  I didn't brown mine because I was in a hurry and it turned out delish...I'm sure it would be great browned, too (don't forget to salt them, either way).

    For the white sauce, melt butter in a saucepan and stir in the flour.  Cook and stir until it's kind of bubbly, but make sure not to brown it.  Stir in the salt and then slowly pour in the milk while still stirring.  Cook and stir until it's nice and thick.

    Layer components in a buttered casserole dish with a light sprinkling of bread crumbs between each layer.  The layers go like this:  zucchini on the bottom, then meat, potatoes, and finally, white sauce.  Sprinkle bread crumbs on top and bake in a 350 degree oven for about an hour.  Traditionally, the moussaka would be allowed to cool for at least a half hour or so.  This lends to the hold-togetherness of the end product, too (yes, I realize I just made up a word).  It would still be delicious served hot from the oven, though...just be careful not to burn your mouth ; )

    This is part of Tuesday Twister over at GNOWFGLINS!

    Friday, July 2, 2010

    Orange Coconut Smoothie

    Smoothies are my preferred vehicle for probiotics.  They're easy, yummy, and kid friendly.  Most mornings I throw some variation of yogurt and/or buttermilk that I culture at home, fresh juices, frozen berries, etc. into the blender to serve with breakfast.  This morning's variation was really yummy!  I didn't actually measure anything, so the amounts are approximations.  I also didn't get a chance to take a picture; I didn't know these would be so share-worthy, plus we drink them down fast before all the nutrients in the fresh juice are lost.  Here's the (approximate) formula:

    1 cup (give or take) plain yogurt or cultured buttermilk
    1/2 - 3/4 cup milk (you could omit milk and increase yogurt if you like it tangier)  
    juice of 3 oranges (about 3/4 cup)
    2 ripe bananas
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    1 or so teaspoons of honey or Pure Organic Maple Syrup (grade B is best)
    1-2 tablespoons Coconut Cream Concentrate

    Put all of the ingredients except the coconut cream into your blender and turn it on.  While it's running, spoon in the coconut cream.  You could also super charge these with a pastured egg yolk or two.  This made about 28 oz. for me this morning (as I said, I didn't measure), so it's definitely enough for either two generous adult portions or two adult and a couple of small kid servings.  You could scale up or down to suit your needs. 

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