Thursday, May 28, 2015

Multi-Grain Bread

Okay, so I'm pretty sure I told you guys that my absolute favorite homemade bread was a toss up between my Mom's homemade bread and the Honey Oat Bread that I posted awhile back.  I'm here to tell you that I found another recipe that is going to give them a run for their money!  While I still love both of those, this new recipe for a multi-grain loaf is absolutely incredible. 

I really wanted to find a recipe that used more grains and felt a bit "healthier" for us.  I searched all around town for a whole grain loaf of bread that had a lot of texture and nutty-ness. I found a local bakery that had a high fiber, nutty loaf that matched the texture I was looking for....but it was almost $7 a loaf! I'm willing to pay that once in awhile to get a good loaf of bread, but we can't afford to buy that to use as our normal supply.

I searched the web to find a bread that would satisfy my cravings and came upon a recipe for multigrain bread that was posted by Sara at Our Best Bites.  She used a 7-grain mix, but my grocer didn't have it stocked.  I chose an 8-grain instead and I have already used a 10-grain mix, as well. (Because obviously I've already made like 6 loaves of these bad boys!) Both turned out great!  However, I think I preferred the 8-grain over the 10-grain for the simple fact that it seemed "nuttier". 

 I know it seems like more grains would give you nuttier bread, but that's not necessarily the case.  The more grains they put in the mix, the more fillers get added, like oats, corn grits, and soybeans. Both mixes I used contained flaxseed (which I wanted), but the 8-grain had sunflower seeds too, whereas the 10-grain didn't.  Basically, what I'm trying to say is that the 7, 8, and 10-grain mixes all work to make wonderful bread, just be sure to check the bags to see what types of grains you prefer.

Just as an example on how yummy this bread is...a few of my siblings came and stayed with us for a weekend about 3 weeks ago.  I made 4 loaves of this bread the night before they arrived.  (I made 2 regular and 2 with cinnamon raisin. Yum! But I'll get to that in a bit...)  When they left on Sunday, we only had 1 loaf left! My thirteen year old brother, Paul, went especially nuts for it.  He really liked it smeared with my Raspberry Chia Jam!

The following week, I made another batch and froze the loaves.  When I knew my Mom was bringing Paul down to swim in the pool at our apartment, I pulled out a loaf to have thawed and ready.  That evening he ate half of it by himself!  Last night he was here again and asked me quietly if I had "that bread" again.  Looks like I may need to make another batch soon! :)

**I know the directions may look pretty intense at a glance, but it really is a simple bread to make!
I just tried breaking it down into steps that were easy to follow.  You can do it! :)


Multi-Grain Bread
Adapted from Our Best Bites


Ingredients

1 1/4 cup 8-grain hot cereal mix, dry (I used Bob's Red Mill brand)
2 1/2 cups boiling water
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup honey
4 tablespoons butter
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup old fashioned oats, for rolling


Directions

1. Measure out 1 1/4 cups of the dry cereal mix into a medium bowl.  Set aside.
Bring the 2 1/2 cups of water to a boil, then pour over the cereal mix. Stir until moistened.
Set aside to rest for 1 hour.

2. While that is resting, in a large bowl, combine the all-purpose flour and the whole wheat flour.
In a small bowl, melt the butter completely, then allow to rest and cool until needed.

3. Once the hour wait is over, pour the honey, butter, and yeast into the mushy cereal mix and stir until well combined.

4. Add the mush mixture to the large bowl of flour and stir 3 or 4 times.

5. Add the salt.

6. Continue stirring, creating a lumpy mass of floury dough.
Pour onto a clean counter and begin kneading. (It will seem way too dry at first, but keep kneading!)
It will begin to take the form of dough and may become sticky, but do your best not to add more flour. (You can if you absolutely need to, but only a light dusting at a time.)

7. Knead for at least 5 minutes!

8. Transfer dough to a well oiled boil, cover, and let rise for 1 hour.

9. Punch raised dough down and divide into two equal portions.

10. Using your fingers, press one portion into a rectangle (about 1/2 inch thick).
Starting at a narrow end, begin tightly rolling the dough into a log.

11. Turn the seam to the bottom, then pinch the ends and tuck them under. 
Lightly spray the loaf with oil.

12. Sprinkle the oats on the counter and roll the loaf in the oats.

13. Place in a greased loaf pan.

***Repeat steps 10-13 with the remaining portion of dough.***

14. Adjust the oven racks to the middle position, preheat the oven to 375 degrees, then cover the loaves with greased plastic wrap and allow to rise 30-45 minutes.

15. Place in the oven and bake until golden brown and thermometer reads 200 degrees (mine took about 40 minutes).

16. Transfer pans to a cooling rack and let rest 5 minutes.

17. Gently remove bread from the loaf pans, return them to the cooling rack, and let rest about 2 hours before slicing. (If you can wait that long!)
Be sure the loaves are completely cool before wrapping to store.

(I have wrapped them in 2-3 layers of plastic wrap, then a layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil to freeze them. Then, when I'm ready for one, I take it out of the freezer, and place it (still wrapped) in the fridge or on the counter to thaw overnight. Works great!)


**********************************************

This gives you an idea of what the 8-grain hot cereal mix looks like.


After mixing it with the boiling water and letting it rest for an hour, it should look something like this:


Some people don't test the temperature of their bread, and you may not like to.  You certainly don't have to.  I do like to check mine though.  It makes it much less stressful.  You don't have to worry about cutting into a golden brown loaf of bread, only to have it heavy and gooey inside. If a thermometer reads at 200 degrees, you know it's done!


Doesn't that just look delicious!!?
I wish I had something other than the camera on my phone, so I could do it a little more justice! :)


Now, I told you before that I have made some as cinnamon-raisin loaves.  It makes wonderful cinnamon-raisin toast!  When you are at step 10 (pressing it into a rectangle), just melt some butter and spread it over the rectangle (just enough to coat it), then sprinkle it heavily with a mixture of ground cinnamon and cane (or granulated) sugar.  Next, sprinkle on the raisins!
When you begin to roll it into a log, be sure to keep it nice and tight, so it stays together after it's baked. :)







Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Lotion Bars & Lip Balm

When I first heard of lotion bars, I thought they sounded...interesting, to say the least.  I wasn't sure if I would like using a solid bar as a moisturizer, but I figured I could handle giving it a try if it was healthier for our bodies.  I experimented a bit, making a few batches, and tweaking it along the way.

I came out with lotion bars that my husband and I both love!  The bars are in a solid state, but when you rub them between your hands, they warm just enough to coat your skin, creating a moisturizing barrier.  Because of the oil & wax, they do feel a little greasy at first. However, after a few minutes, it's all soaked in and your hands (or whatever you're moisturizing!) is so soft!  Another great thing about these lotion bars is that it doesn't wash away the second you wash your hands.  It seems like I can apply regular lotion to my hands all day long, but as soon as I wash my hands (which is a lot), it's all gone and needs to be applied again.  Not with these lotion bars!  I can use these bars, wash my hands, and the water just beads up, protecting my skin from drying out quickly.  Love this stuff!

You have the option of not adding any essential oils, but I will tell you that the smell of cocoa butter is fairly strong when you do that.  Personally, I love customizing the bars and having a variety of types & scents to choose from.  I have a selection of essential oil blends, so I chose a few and made various types of lotion bars.  These are just a few that I did:

*Muscle Relief (for my husband's back/shoulder pain)
*Tea Tree/Lavender (for healing)
*Goodnight Blend (for a restful sleep)

When I was making these bars, I decided to try the mixture as a lip balm, too.  It was great!  I actually love how it feels when you apply it, giving that moisture barrier, but not feeling heavy or sticky.  Just keep in mind you will want to use essential oils that are safe for your face.  I'm not that educated with EOs so I would suggest doing some research yourself rather than me giving you advice. :)

You can buy the empty lip balm containers on Amazon, as well as any shape of silicone molds for your bars.


I used a kitchen scale to measure the ingredients, which worked perfectly, but if you don't have a scale, measure it out as best as you can.  Just keep in mind, the more coconut oil, the softer the bars will be, and the more beeswax, the firmer they will be.  It worked best for me to have equal amounts of the three ingredients.  1:1:1 Ratio

Ingredients

20 g. organic cocoa butter, raw, unrefined
20 g. organic beeswax
20 g. organic coconut oil, cold-pressed, unrefined
essential oils, optional


1. Measure out your ingredients.


2. In a double boiler (or a glass bowl set over a sauce pan of water-just don't let the water touch the bottom of the bowl), heat over medium-high heat.


3. Let it heat and melt down, stirring occasionally.


*If you are putting the same essential oils in the entire batch, you can stir them in as soon as it's all melted.

*Since I made different types, I poured it into my molds (I used silicone cupcake liners) and dropped the different essential oils in each one, then stirred them up.  It's important to work quickly.  It sets up fast!

*With the leftover mixture, I just put the essential oil directly in the bowl, then used a clean, glass medicine dropper to fill the lip balm containers.

4. Once it's completely melted, remove from heat and pour it into your molds (see notes above about adding essential oils).  If you find that the mixture is setting too quickly, return it to the heat and melt again.


5. Leave them on the counter and let them cool completely until firm.


6. Once set, you can pop the bars out and store them in containers or use them right away!


My hubby and I have one on each side of the bed to use before we go to sleep.  I also apply mine throughout the day if needed, but he prefers to only use it at night so he doesn't have to deal with the greasiness.  He gets a little irked when his hands don't feel clean, so even though these lotion bars soak in quickly, he can't stand the feeling of it on his hands.  He says if he uses it at night, the greasiness is gone by the time he wakes up so he doesn't have to worry about it. :)


If you want my advice...try them.  Even if you don't like "greasiness", I think you will be pleasantly surprised on how great these lotion bars are.  You really only have to deal with the greasy feel for a couple minutes, and the benefits of how great these bars work make those minutes totally worth it! 

They are awesome for any dry spots.  Hands, elbows, knees, even your feet!  
Perfect timing since the flip-flops are back again! :)









Monday, April 20, 2015

Crock Pot Spinach & Artichoke Dip

I'm not really sure why I waited so long to post this recipe.  I made it as a snack for the Superbowl and got some pretty great feedback.  It was just my husband, his brother, and me for the actual game, but I kept the leftovers in the fridge and when my family came to visit, I pulled it out and reheated it.  It was gone in no time and my brother even asked me for the recipe!


This is a super easy dip and well worth the minimal time it takes to make it!  We served it on toasted french baguette slices and with tortilla chips.  Both are fabulous. :)


It's as easy as mixing up most of the ingredients....


...then topping with the spinach and cooking until it's creamy. Easy peasy! :)


SPINACH DIP

8 oz. fresh spinach, roughly chopped
8-16 oz. cream cheese (depending on how creamy you want it)
12 oz. artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
8 oz. mozzarella cheese, grated
1 c. fresh Parmesan cheese, grated
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. white pepper

Combine all ingredients, except spinach, in the crock pot.
Stir as best you can.
Place spinach on top and cover.
Cook on HIGH for 2 hours, stirring occasionally to mix spinach in evenly with melting ingredients.
Once it's all melted and creamy, it's ready to go!
Serve while still warm with tortilla chips or toasted baguette slices.







Monday, April 6, 2015

Antipasto Skewers w/balsamic glaze



Happy belated Easter, everyone! I know, for me at least, this year has been flying by quickly! There are endless things to do and it seems nearly impossible to find the time to sit and blog.  I mean, I definitely get a chance to sit, but by the time I get everything done that I need to do, I'm exhausted and too lazy to do anything other than mindless channel surfing. Unless The Middle is on, then that's where it stays. I have a slight obsession lately. I can't decide if I like it so much because it always makes me laugh, because Axl 's mannerisms remind me of my brother, or because it's just a relatable show that seems more like a reality show than any actual "reality" show. It really doesn't matter, I guess. I just like it. :)


Anyway, back to the blogging bit. I made these for Easter at my parents' house.  They were super easy to throw together, I was able to make them the night before, and then when we were ready to serve them on Sunday, I loaded them on the platter and drizzled 'em with the balsamic glaze.


Super easy and they were a big hit!
 I liked how they were so versatile. You can really just find what you like best and put it together. I decided to make mine with two of each ingredient (besides the basil, I only had one leaf on each skewer) to make it easier for "choosing", but if you know someone hates olives, it's easy to accomodate. :)


As far as the glaze goes, I just tweaked it until it tasted how I wanted it to.  I just kept testing it by drizzling it on a piece and trying it. I may have tested it more than necessary...hehe.


Ingredients

three cheese tortellini
cherry or grape tomatoes
deli-style hard salami, thinly sliced
fresh mozzarella, balled or cubed
fresh basil leaves
black olives
balsamic vinegar
olive oil
skewers

Directions

Prepare tortellini according to package directions.
Set aside to cool.
Choose which order you want things and start skewering!
Cover and refrigerate until serving.
When ready to serve, mix balsamic vinegar and olive oil to your liking. (I did about 1/3 c. vinegar with a splash of olive oil.)
Drizzle over skewers and serve.

(With the extra pieces, I sliced the basil leaves up and tossed it all in a bowl and drizzled with the glaze. Very yummy salad!)






Monday, March 23, 2015

Italian Orzo Soup

My husband isn't usually a huge fan of soups. When we were first married he would always respond to my question "Should we try to make some ______ soup for dinner tonight?" with a resounding "Ugh. No...I don't really like soup". That left me with little options as far as soup is concerned. However, since I'm a soup lover, over the years I've weaseled in a soup here and there. Now when I ask him about soup, his response is generally "Yeah, we can try it." He even asked me to make this particular soup a second time already! I'm okay with that. :)

*My husband noted that this soup would be really good with some Italian sausage thrown in, too. So if you have some and try it, let me know how you like it! 



Ingredients

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 c. carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
5 garlic cloves, minced
3 1/2 c. chicken or vegetable stock
1 can fire-roasted tomatoes
1 c. orzo pasta, uncooked
2 handfuls fresh spinach
splash of heavy cream, optional
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
salt & pepper, to taste

Directions

Heat the oil in a large stock pot or dutch oven.
Saute onion for a minute or two.
Add carrots, celery, and garlic.
Season with salt & pepper.
Saute until celery is beginning to look translucent.
Add the stock and tomatoes. 
Bring to boil.
Add orzo.
Turn heat down and simmer 8-10 minutes.
Add cream, if using.
Stir in spinach.
Cook until wilted (1-2 minutes)
Serve.


We served our soup with a slice of homemade Dutch Oven Artisan Bread. It was pretty tasty. :)










Friday, March 20, 2015

Replacing Wax---the easy way!

"Um...how about No!"
"Please!"
"Ugh...they stink!"
" Honey, honestly, they don't have an offensive smell!"
" Pet stores smell like hamster cages.  Ick!"
"I promise I will keep their cage clean."
"Fine!"

That about sums up my concern when my child at heart husband announced he wanted to get a couple of iguanas.  Expressing my concern was necessary as I really dislike the smell of pet stores. After our discussion :), we agreed we'd give it a try. Although they don't make the house smell like the hamster cages I associate with walking in one of those stores, I still find I am not particularly fond of it of what it does smell like. He was right, it's not a bad smell.  However, I definitely wouldn't say it smells like a bed of roses either. ;) 

With that said, I wanted some "smelly ideas" to keep my living room (yes, they live in my living room) smelling nice. I absolutely love my wax pots, but I don't like cleaning out the wax when the smell is gone.  It's just messy and annoying.

NOT ANYMORE!  I found the following idea and it's fantastic!

Now, we're both happy.  He gets his crazy pet and it smells better!

All you need is:

A wax pot
"Expired" wax
Cotton balls
Aluminum foil (optional)

(Sorry for the horrible pictures ;)

                                                                                                                                                           

1.  Keep your lamp plugged in so the wax stays liquefied.

      

      2. Throw a couple cotton balls in the wax.
           
  

3.  Let sit for a minute to soak up the majority of the wax. 


4.  Use a few more cotton balls to wipe out the excess.  I throw the cotton balls on a little piece of aluminum foil to be sure there won't be a waxy mess, but that's up to you. 


5.  Add your new wax cube. DONE!  The room smells good again. ;)

Monday, March 9, 2015

Curried Chickpea Salad Sandwich

One of the hardest things about quick meals for me is keeping a variety so we don't get bored. We keep struggling with going back and forth from a regular (and somewhat unhealthy) diet to full veganism. There are times when I am so on board with being vegan and we do REALLY well for a week, but then one day, I can't imagine not being able to enjoy a bowl of raspberry cheesecake ice cream after a meal of grilled meats, probably smothered in cheese or sour cream. I'm like a squirrel with bipolar disorder.

When we first made "the switch" last summer, one of the first things my husband and I talked about were sandwiches. At the time he was going through a big sandwich phase. Not that his sandwiches were big (at least not ALL of them), but more the fact that he ate sandwiches almost every day. Sometimes twice a day. As far as vegan options go for sandwiches, we were a bit disappointed. Our minds weren't broadened past veggie sub's and pb&js. His Mom told us one of their favorites was a toasted grain bread with peanut butter, craisins, fresh spinach, and green apple slices. Amazing! And now we have another under our belts. Quite literally, in fact.


This sandwich fills some big shoes when it comes to yummy, filling, and protein packed vegan sandwiches. It has a texture similar to a hearty egg salad sandwich with a dose of crunchiness from the bell peppers and cashews. It is something you just have to try. :)


CURRIED CHICKPEA SALAD SANDWICH
This recipe can vary with each batch. Test yours each time you make it. Adjust the seasonings to your liking and if you need a little more creaminess, don't be afraid to add another dollup of thinned hummus or some mayo. Vegan or not. ;)

1 can garbanzo beans, drained
1/4 c. garlic hummus
filtered water
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 c. raisins
1/4 c. sweet bell peppers, diced
1/4 c. cashews, roughly chopped
1 Tbsp. cilantro, chopped
1 Tbsp. chives, chopped
1-2 tsp. curry powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
salt & pepper, to taste


DIRECTIONS

In a medium bowl, mix hummus with a little water until thinned to the consistency of a thick soup.
Add the lemon juice and your seasonings.
Toss in the raisins, peppers, cashews, cilantro and chives.
Mix well.
Add your chickpeas and mash with a fork until they are mostly mashed. (You still want some chunkiness to it.)
Stir it all together and place between two slices of hearty whole grain bread before serving. 
*Fills about 3-4 sandwiches.


Now that we have another variation to add to our collection of vegan options, maybe we can continue working up to more than one successful week at a time. :)