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Category Archives: Homemade Staples

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I love baking bread.  I love the whole process, proofing the yeast, kneading the dough…first rise, second rise…the waft of fresh baked bread.  Delicious.  Satisfying.  Time consuming, but fun.  I made the mistake a year ago to buy some yeast so I could have fun making bread.  I bought in bulk…4 total pounds of yeast.  Fortunately, it was in 2 vacuum sealed bag, so one bag is still sealed.  But now, before it expires in December, I need to use some yeast.  So if you have ideas or requests, I’m taking them 🙂  That said, I have been working on mastering sandwich bread for our family.  My favorite recipe to date comes from none other than King Arthur Flour.  Of course those guys have figured out how to make good bread!

We have a few requirements.  My husband wants it to be big enough so he doesn’t have to make 2 sandwiches in order to not be hungry by mid-afternoon.  My daughter prefers “soft” bread.  I prefer name-able ingredients including a majority whole wheat.

Then we have the technique.  We had a lot of failed attempts.  Sometimes the middle fell in…weird shaped bread.  Sometimes it was just too big, we had to cut it to fit in sandwich containers.  Some were too dense, some with too many holes, etc.  But I think we found our winner!  Each time it just gets better.

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I would encourage you to read their blog on this bread,  but I’ve made some modifications, for better or worse…so here’s our recipe!

1 to 1 1/4 cups lukewarm water*
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 Tablespoons honey

2 Tablespoons molasses, or maple syrup
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

1 cup bread flour

2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast, or 1 packet active dry yeast dissolved in 2 tablespoons of the water in the recipe
1/4 cup Baker’s Special Dry Milk or nonfat dried milk
1 1/4 teaspoons salt

Warm the water.  Dissolve the yeast with the honey.  Mix the flours, dry milk and salt in a bowl.  Add water and frothy yeast mixture and molasses.  Knead.  Knead until it is smooth and soft.  Set in a warm place to rise.  My best tip is to turn on your oven when you start and after about 3-4 minutes, turn it off.  Grease and cover a bowl with plastic and stick it in your warm oven until the dough doubles in size (about 1 1/2 hours).  Then shape it and put it in a greased pan.  Now, be patient here.

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Let it rise until it is about 1″ over the edge of the pan.  It may take an hour, it may take 2, just be patient!  I have tried to speed this up by using that same warm oven trick, but it doesn’t work here.  That makes the bread rise too quickly and then fall because there’s not enough structure.  Just let it rise.  Then bake.  Bake about 25 minutes at 350.  Cover with foil and bake another 10-15 minutes.  It should sound hollow when you tap on it.

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Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread – Success!

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Posted by on January 28, 2014 in Breaking Bread, Homemade Staples

 

Homemade (from scratch) Chicken and Rice Soup

Homemade soup intimidated me for a long time, especially making your own stock.  It seemed much easier to just buy chicken bouillon cubes at the store.  I can’t recall why exactly I started reading about making my own stock but I was impressed by the nutritional value.  The idea that we should eat chicken soup when we’re sick is less about a red can of processed soup and is really rooted    in the original soup making, homemade stock and all.  Stock is nothing more than water and stuff simmered for hours.  In this case, it’s chicken bones, onions, spices, carrots and some spinach.  For vegetable stock, it’s lots of vegetables.  By simmering the bones, you release all kinds of nutrients in the marrow.  And with the vegetables, you know how folks say not to overcook vegetables because they lose all their nutrients?  Well, you probably lose some in temperature, but most in the liquid.  So now, that stock is PACKED with nutrients.  So stock is easy – time consuming, but easy.

I recently discovered the easiest method yet of cooking a whole chicken.  Now, buying a whole chicken is the most economical way to eat chicken, not always the most convenient, but definitely the most economical.   Different methods have different flavors and textures, but if your goal is cooked and tender chicken, pull out your crock pot.

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If you can plan ahead, start first thing in the morning.  Stick an onion inside a whole chicken and couple of vegetables in the bottom.  Put your chicken and seasonings in the crock pot (read – NO LIQUID).  Put on the top.  Turn it on.  8 hours later, open the top, pull out the chicken and let it rest.  Leave the liquid (yes, now there is liquid) in the pot.

If you want shredded chicken, start pulling it apart as soon as you take it out, while it’s still warm.

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If you want chunk chicken, try to pull off the skin and pull out the bones, but leave the chicken in tact to cool.

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As you’re pulling off the skin and bones, just dump everything back into the crock pot, leaving it on low.  Add about 2-4 cups of water, more seasoning, if you want and cover.  About 8 hours later, come back.  Strain and reserve the liquid off the wilted vegetables.  Discard bones, skin and vegetables.  Savor the stock!

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After you cool the stock, it should get gelatinous.  This is good, it means you got good nutrients and marrow from the bones.  It’s delicious, nutritious and easy!  To use the stock, you will probably add about 1 cup water for each cup of concentrated stock.  I like to pour mine into ice cube trays and smaller containers so I can pull out a little at a time.

This particular night, I transitioned to chicken and rice soup (printable recipe: Chicken Rice Soup)

1 1/2 cups stock

1 cup brown rice

1 1/2 cups cooked chicken, chopped

4 carrots, peeled and chopped

1/4 onion, finely diced

3 stalks of celery chopped

1 bay leaf

1 tsp ground black pepper

1 tsp oregano

In a large pot, heat homemade chicken stock with 2 cups water.  Add vegetables and cooked chicken.  Liquid should cover vegetables and chicken by about 1/2″. About 1 hour before eating, add 1 cup brown rice and 2 cups water.  Let boil and simmer.  Serve warm.

 

 

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Peanut Butter

ImageWe love peanut butter.  When we first got married, we would buy peanut butter in 4lb containers…and eat it in a month!  Slowly, grocery stores stopped stocking them, so we would check for stores on road trips.  I think one time we bought 10 containers of it!

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Fast forward a few years and we still love peanut butter.  But now we have a Vita Mix!  Possibly the most utilized gift our family has received was the gift of time and labor and resources from our parents to create our wonderful kitchen in our new house.  But the second most utilized gift is probably our Vita Mix.  We use it at least 4 times a week.  During the summer, Brad and the kids make smoothies several times a week, we make soup and sauces, refried beans and PEANUT BUTTER!  The concept is simple enough.  Dump in peanuts, turn it on, tamp the peanuts into the blades and voila!  My mom helped with a suggestion of a bit of coconut oil (2 teaspoons) and I drizzle in some honey.  This is spreadable, delicious, natural goodness!  If you don’t have a Vita Mix, just ask us for some…we love making peanut butter and are happy to share 🙂

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1 lb peanuts (50% salted is great.  If they’re unsalted, you should just add some salt to the peanuts – maybe 1/2 teaspoon, otherwise the peanuts don’t grind as smooth)

2 teaspoons coconut oil

2 teaspoons honey

Put everything in, turn Vita Mix on, slowly increase to 8.  Blend and tamp until peanuts start to grind.  It takes about a minute.  Scrape into a jar and top.  What doesn’t get scraped gets turned into a peanut butter smoothie 🙂

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Posted by on November 19, 2013 in Homemade Staples

 

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Homemade Granola

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Our family loves granola.  We make a new batch about 2 times a month…and it’s not a small batch.  There’s lots of granola recipes out there.  I’ve tried a bunch.  This one just happens to be the easiest.  I’ll probably post later on some others that I love because they cluster or the flavors, but for an everyday easy and delicious granola, this is it!  It takes about 5 minutes to mix up – about the amount of time to heat up the oven.  Then it cooks for about an hour.  Done!

Homemade granola

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7 cups old-fashioned oats

1 cup crisp rice cereal

1 Tablespoon cinnamon (plus other spices as you choose: ginger, cloves, nutmeg, etc.)

3/4 cup honey

3/4 cup maple syrup

1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 275.

Mix together dry ingredients in one bowl, wet in another.  Stir the 2 together until well coated.

Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick spray.  Bake about 45 minutes, stirring once (about 20 minutes in).  If you bake it longer, it gets crunchier and darker.

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Printable version: Homemade Granola



 
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Posted by on November 12, 2013 in Homemade Staples

 

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Tuesdays – Homemade Staples

Sometimes making something at home is just more fun.  It’s convenient to buy it prepared or packaged, but it’s easier for me to keep basic ingredients in the house and just to make our own.  Plus, that way we know all of the ingredients (for better or worse).  Some of my favorite staples are chocolate sauce, peanut butter, granola, tortillas and salad dressing.   I like making these things so that we have them on hand and they are as convenient as the store bought version but with the comfort of homemade.

To that end, here’s my basic chocolate sauce recipe.  Squeezing that brown bottle of chocolate sauce is so convenient, whether it’s a mocha flavored cup of coffee in the morning, afternoon snacks of chocolate milk or hot chocolate – chocolate sauce has that way of adding a little sweetness to the day.

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As hot chocolates go, really, the stovetop version off the back of Hershey’s Cocoa is maybe the best kind out there – way better than any packet of dried milk, cocoa and whatever else.  But, we don’t always have the time for stovetop.  Since I won’t give up the hot chocolate, or occasional cup of coffee with chocolate, my work around is to make some sauce that I can take out by the spoonful.

So take that basic stovetop recipe and just don’t add the milk.
1 cup cocoa powder
2 cups white sugar
1 cup boiling water
1 tsp

Bring to a boil and then simmer until it thickens – at least 5 minutes, as many as 15 minutes.  When you remove from heat, add 1 tsp vanilla.  Let it cool and store in the refrigerator.  Now the creative piece is you can add 1/2 tsp of mint extract for minty chocolate sauce or 1 tsp cinnamon and a dash of cayenne pepper for a more mexican chocolate flavor.

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To make hot chocolate, take 1 tbsp suace for 6oz (an average mug) warm milk.  Sometimes I’ll make a pot of warm milk and add more chocolate sauce.  Then of course, the girls in our house all add marshmallows!  Just make sure you enjoy!

Printable Version: Chocolate Sauce

 
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Posted by on November 5, 2013 in Homemade Staples

 

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