Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Double Dutch

Ever get the craving for a real brick of a bread? I'm sure you know what I mean - the rich, dark, heavy and seed-filled rustic loaves that can serve as a meal paired with strong cheese, mustard and maybe a touch of jam. The deep brown, vacuum-packed sourdoughs in the deli section of the grocery store are the perfect example of the artisanal breads I adore - except for the fact that those are pasteurized (!?) and often hard as a rock. I don't have an issue with storebought bread, if it's decent... but it's becoming harder and harder to find a nutritious, tasty option that you don't need a chainsaw to slice.

My mom is as much of a bread addict now as I used to be (in a past life, before wheat and gluten began making my life Hell), and has reawakened her love for my homemade, rather unique creations after a few months on an *ahem* nutritionist-mediated weight-loss diet. Now that I'm back in the breadmaker's apron, making an incredibly healthy, preferably sourdough-based, loaf was first on my list. I'm not entirely sure how I came upon the blog Bochenkowo / Bread at Home and their recipe for this traditional Dutch loaf known as Frisian Rye, but once I set my eyes on it I knew I had to make it ASAP. Like all good things (especially sourdoughs!), making this bread is a bit of a process. There are three rest / rise periods and a fairly lengthy stint in the oven, not to mention the weeks (or months or even years) of sour starter maintenance to keep the wild yeast alive... but I promise you, it's not hard labour, and the hours are more than worth it! This is definitely not a recipe you can get away with chomping on right out of the oven, the middle will still look raw if you try! For the ultimate flavour in this bread, let the cooled loaf sit on the counter covered lightly with a tea towel for 24 hours before cutting into it.

Because this bread is not shrink-wrapped, preservative filled or otherwise antiseptically treated, once it's been cooled and aged it's best to slice it, wrap it well in plastic and heavy-duty foil, and stash it in the freezer. Then all you have to do is separate as many slices as you need from the frozen loaf and tuck them into your lunchbox with the rest of your ploughman's feast.

Friday, August 26, 2011

How Epic

This is one of those posts that may sabotage your waistline while making you feel healthy doing it. Don't get me wrong, these things are nutritious almost to a fault - a gluttony of whole grains, flaxseed, molasses, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, nuts and dried fruit - but there's also the little "devil" indugence of sugar, chocolate and candied ginger tucked away. When I started making these big beauties (because there is no way you'll fit everything into a dainty two-biter), it was because I had some soymilk to use up. That little experiment I based off of these from quickly morphed into a case of "ooh, I have this, and this, and... I forgot I had this!" filling up every available bit and blob of dough they could latch onto.

The delicious, not-too-sweet result of all those bits and bobs was epic, in every sense of the world. There is no denying that one (or half of one, according to some testers!) will fill you up and fuel your system for hours. Like one of those sports supplements designed for meal replacement, these are a great source of carbs, protein and healthy fats and is easy to grab and go. But unlike most of those (which have their place in elite athletics, but are not for most people!), these are also an excellent source of fibre, vitamins, iron and trace minerals needed for energy and detoxification! Another bonus is that the amount of sodium that is in these cookies is outshined by the opposite electrolyte, potassium - translation: it won't mess with your blood pressure! You could definitely use a whole one as a meal replacement, or half as an afternoon pick-me-up or pre-gym nosh.

And if you're still feeling guilty about making and eating a cookie for breakfast, you can always leave out the chocolate chips... as if! Just think of it this way: there's no preservatives or weird fake additives in the mix, and you were going to work out anyways... right?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Super Fresh Salsa

I doubt it's any sort of secret that' I'm fiercely proud of our backyard garden. You only have to take a quick gander at my FlickR garden photostream to see that we've got something on a pretty impressive scale going (and growing!) on, and if you know me personally chances are you've been the recipient of one form or another of that year's harvest. While my "side" of the garden is usually more tuned towards the unique and heirloom veggies and herbs (like my yearly planting of chioggia beets, heirloom carrots and tomatoes, the perennial Egyptian onion, horseradish and figs, and this year's Meyer lemons, borage, pineapple sage and Jerusalem artichokes), we've got the vineyard, "regular" veggies like pole and flat beans, plum tomatoes, rhubarb, zucchini and peppers and the rest of my herb garden too!

So it's really no surprise that come September when everyone is back at school, work and generally out of that "vay-cay" mindset that we wind up with way more produce than we can handle as a family of five (especially when only two of us are true veggie lovers!). Remember last year's pickle-making explosion? We still have sealed jars of dilly, garlicky cukes and sweet-sour radishes in our cold cellar (nestled in with the wine!). I only just finished off the last of the tomato passata, and some of the carrots are lying in the freezer waiting on my mom to make one of her favourite recipes from one of my upcoming recipe booklets (a rag├╣ she lovingly calls "Chicken Thigh Thingy"). This year, I was kind of at a loss as to what to do with all the pineapple sage and lemon balm I had on the go (the borage too, but we wound up pulling a few plants and composting them instead), along with the monster rhubarb and the glut of peppers and tomatoes from our - shall we say - overzealous plants.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Apples and Nuts and Bran - Oh My!

You know, we're always being told to eat more fibre, both soluble and insoluble, as well as boosting fruit and omega-3 intake while cutting down on fat, sugar and cholesterol. Honestly, while I can appreciate the need for moderation and control of the chronic excesses in the modern Western diet (being a holistic nutritionist and all), too often it seems like healthy eating and living is all about what we can't eat or do rather than what we should be relishing! For instance - I adore my chocolate, sushi and starches, but I also eat piles and piles of fresh fruit and veggies, use spices instead of the bulk of my salt, and drink gallons of water and herbal tea every day. I'd rather have a heaping spoonful of unsweetened cocoa powder mashed into an overripe banana than a gooey, frosting-laden cake. I allow myself a daily "dessert" or two, eat carbs at almost every meal, and never feel like I'm missing out - if anything, I feel like I've been overindulging. It wasn't always that way - having struggled with being an overweight child and teen where sugar, carbs, fat and pretty much anything I loved was verboten, but now that a healthy existence is part of what makes me me I couldn't imagine anything else.

So when I stumbled across a fruit and bran-laden snacking cake at the Prepared Pantry, I knew it would be a great jumping off point for an even more healthful treat to share. The original was nowhere near guilt-trip city, but I definitely knew I could improve the stats on it by throwing in some extra whole grains, lowering the sugar (thanks to the Krisda stevia I received from winning Kristine Fretwel's giveaway) and added fat, nixing the cholesterol entirely and adding in some nutrition-laden sources of healthy, flavourful oil via ground and chopped nuts. I did stick to Lydia's suggestion of grating the apples - and I highly suggest it, since it really helps distribute the moisture and flavour through the batter (or dough, as it really turned out being) and makes for a truly tender crumb. The other suggestion I would make is to go absolutely no smaller than a 9" square pan - even with the 9" I used, it took my hands and a lot of spreading and pressing to keep it all in there! The end result was incredibly rewarding, in every sense of the word - and it was amazing to get back into the baking kitchen again after massively throwing out my shoulder a few weeks ago (it's still a little sore and stiff, but it's cake - you can't argue with the need to bake cake!). One thing's for sure - if you make this cake, you will never feel "stagnant" (you know what I mean!) again.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

For Mikey and Jennifer - A Global Community Unites

It is one of life's realities that a community's bonds never shine brighter than after a tragedy. As depressing as it may seem, it is also a blessing to know that no matter what, when or where an unbelievably horrible circumstance happens that a support system hundreds, if not thousands, strong is right behind you to help you pick up the pieces and begin moving forward.

I'm sure that many, if not all, of you reading this are aware of the sudden death of

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Upside of Outside

I woke up yesterday morning to a rather dreary scene outside.

While I know we (and the gardens and lawns) needed the rain, the grey, damp clamminess of it all really puts a damper on any inertia you may have had before peering outside. It’s hard to get excited about the day when you can’t enjoy it to it’s fullest, especially in the case of the summer where we wait so long for the sunshine and warmth to thaw our frozen toes (or maybe that’s just me... but this is my post so I’m claiming the rest of the year is too cold!). It was even that kind of day where the blahness of it all was putting a damper on my yearning to bake... but if life’s taught me anything, the best way to fight that feeling is to face it head on!

I had a carton of soymilk taking up space in the fridge, and since I don’t drink it myself (I was using it for recipe testing for my upcoming NEW-trition cookbooks) I was looking for ways to use it up before it went off. I can’t even remember what I was Googling at 8:30AM yesterday, but I came across a Project Pastry Queen submission by Tara (of Smells Like Home) where she made a blueberry upside-down cake with buttermilk, reminiscent of a recent Blackberry Buttermilk Cake recipe from Bon Appetit. Looking at the BA recipe, I was intrigued by the whole concept – but like almost all cakes out there (especially in the “foodie” magazines) it was packed with white flour, butter, sugar and eggs. Hm. Well, that I could fix.