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.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

First Post!

Sooo, this is my very first blog post...

I'm not sure what very first blog posts are usually like, but I'll start with a little explanation of what my blog will be all about.  First and foremost, we'll be talking about food, specifically real food.  I love food.  I love planning food and creating food and eating said created food.  I get really excited about food.  I also believe that one's health is determined largely by what kind of food he eats; I hope to share lots of really healthy, nourishing recipes and some resources and tips, too.

I'm a prolific cook, but I'm a novice gardener and seamstress, and a very novice beekeeper, so I'll be talking about those things every now and again, too...even if it's just begging tips from those more experienced than me in those areas.  If you stick around, you'll probably see a few posts on homeschooling, too, since that's a topic of interest to me.  Other than that, we'll discuss anything and everything relevant to natural homekeeping and parenting.

 Some plans for posts in the very near future:
  • Zucchini-Potato Moussaka 
  • A real food version of Amish Friendship starter/bread 
  • Sourdough Blueberry Cobbler
 Check back soon for those and also some camping related posts!