Friday, April 27, 2012

Healthy apple-berry crisp (almost NO sugar added!)

Apple crisp has always been one of my favorite desserts, especially my mom’s recipe.  However the first time I made it and saw how much butter and sugar was in it was also one of the last times I’ve made it! 

Baked apples, in my opinion, are so much tastier than fresh and simply cooking them without ANY other ingredients makes them taste like a dessert because they are as sweet as can be.  It is hard for me to justify adding so much butter and sugar to apples when they are naturally delicious (although I will admit that butter and sugar makes it irresistible). 

I (and the rest of my family) LOVE this creation, but it is definitely not going to taste like your traditional apple crisp.  Once you get used to eating things with less sugar and fat, things like this become a delectable treat!

The berries added to the apples make this more moist and syrupy, without the extra sugar and butter.

3-4 apples, peeled and sliced
2 cups frozen mixed berries
2 tsp cinnamon, divided
1 1/2 tbs brown sugar
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)
2 Tbs butter
1/2 cup mixture of flour and oats (last time I just used fresh ground oats)
1.  sprinkle fruit with 1 tsp cinnamon (and a little sugar if you want a little extra sugar) and pour into pie dish
2.  add walnuts
3.  chop butter into small pieces and mash with flour, oats and brown sugar and sprinkle on top of fruit
4. bake at 375 for about 35 minutes (or until fruit is soft)
5.  Top with whipped cream (this is very important since there is hardly any sugar in this dessert, the whipped cream or cool whip really makes it yummy!)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Time to make yogurt

About a year ago, a friend of mine was really surprised that I didn’t make my own yogurt.
Of course this prompted my interest, and when I realized you can make yogurt on the stove (instead of a yogurt maker) and with lowfat milk instead of whole milk (by adding nonfat dry milk in step 1), I was psyched!

The other thing I was excited to learn was that you don’t have to buy a “starter” every time you make it.  As long as you save one cup of yogurt before running out, you have your starter. 

The hardest part was finding quart sized jars at a reasonable price.  I felt like I should be able to find these used at Goodwill or at a yard sale, but I couldn’t find them anywhere, and I didn’t want to have to buy a whole case of quart jars.  I finally found these at Home Goods for 2.99 each, and was super excited about it. 

Supposedly, you are supposed to sterilize your jars before making yogurt, but I usually wash them in the dishwasher and put them in a cabinet until I’m ready to make yogurt.  The final jar I usually wash by hand, and my yogurt has always turned out just fine without the sterilization step.

1.  Heat 1 gallon of milk over medium heat until it reaches a temperature of 185-195.  (If using 1% milk,      add 2 cups of nonfat dry milk during this step).
2.  Cool on the counter until the temperature drops to 120.DSC09938
3.  Add starter yogurt (1 cup of plain yogurt with live active cultures) and mix thoroughly.
4.  dump into your 4 jars, put lids on and put the jars in a cooler surrounded by 120 degree water.   I heat a large pot of water (about 16 cups) to 120 degrees, and dump the water in FIRST, then put the jars in and close cooler.  Let them sit for about 4-5 hours, then refrigerate. 

Planting time!!

This time of year is SOO exciting, but also a little stressful at times, because I have so much to get done outside!  The seedlings are officially in the ground and covered with milk jugs (a tip from a friend of mine to protect them and create a sort of “greenhouse” effect while young.)

 I learned how to do a garden about 6 years ago (from the same friend who told me how to make yogurt), and every year my garden is a little better than the year before.

I LOVE tomatoes so there is nothing better than a home-grown summer tomato which is why I became interested in gardening in the first place.  A garden is also the best way to ensure your family isn't getting any pesticides and eating all natural fruits and veggies.  I've been told that when you grow your own tomatoes, they always taste great, but that just isn't true. 

My first year with tomatoes was dreadful!  I have just a few tomato plants, each of which had about 7 green tomatoes from august until about mid-september when they finally turned light pink (not the pretty heirloom pink, but hot-house-store-bought-pink), and they were some of the most mealy, flavorless tomatoes I've ever had!  

I'm not sure what happened that year, but after that, I began to go to the local farmer's co-op to get my soil tested so they could tell me exactly what I needed to add to my soil.  This was SOO helpful, although my second year of tomatoes were only a little better than the first.  I've learned new things each year, but I mainly enjoy the fruits of my labor more than the labor itself.  

It has become a favorite time of year for me to watch a little seed turn into a seedling, into a huge plant that bears beautiful fruits. My mouth begins to water as I see the first fruit hanging on the vine, just thinking about slicing, salting, and eating that first ripe tomato!

Last year’s garden was the best ever!  Although I usually just like to hoard them and eat them all by myself, I actually had so many that I could share them this year, and even can my own salsa!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

100 % fresh ground whole wheat bread

Ever since I got my grain mill, I had been looking for a good sandwich bread made entirely from fresh ground wheat.  A lot of people recommend Peter Reinhart's method of making a "biga" (whatever that is) and letting it soak overnight, yada yada.  It seemed a bit too involved to me, so as I continued my search, I read many blog posts or comment threads and in a comment thread on The Fresh Loaf, someone suggested a similar method, but very simple.   It still involves soaking overnight since whole wheat flour develops more gluten as it sits, creating a better consistency to the bread (not as dense).  So this recipe is not a perfect sandwich bread, and is still a heavy loaf, but it is absolutely delicious, simple, and it works for sandwiches too! 

I use hard white wheat because it is what I have right now, but I would prefer a blend of red winter wheat and spring spring wheat because it apparently has a more complex flavor with the red wheat.  I used to make it with both grains, but I would need to compare them side by side to really know what the difference is. 

2 cups fresh ground wheat flour
just under 1 cup of water
1 TBS yogurt
sprinkle of salt
sprinkle of yeast

Mix all of these ingredients together, cover and sit overnight (about 12 hours, although less than that will still work).

The next day, add:
 2 tsp yeast
 just under 1 t salt
 1 T honey or agave syrup (or sugar)
 1 T oil

 put it in the bread machine to do the kneading (for about 10 minutes- I always set the timer, otherwise I will forget about it.)  When it is finished kneading, arrange dough in a loaf pan coated with oil and flour mixture, let it rise (about one hour) and bake for about 20-25 minutes at 350.

*For a quicker rise, put dough in a warm oven (that has been turned off) and cover with towel for about 45 min-1 hour, take the towel off and allow the oven to preheat with the dough in there.  I've found that this helps prevent the bread from collapsing during baking. 

This loaf will turn out kind of shorter than typical sandwich bread, but it is just the right amount for my family every 1-2 days. It is no big deal to slice the bread on a bit of an angle for bigger slices if you need them for sandwiches.   You could also make 1 1/2 of this recipe for a larger loaf!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Home made Tacos (America's Test Kitchen)


I never realized you could make good home made tacos (without the salt-laden seasoning packet) until I tried this recipe.  This has to be the best taco recipe out there!

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt
1 pound lean ground beef
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
2 tsp cider vinegar
1 tsp brown sugar
8 flour tortillas
1/2 head lettuce
1/2 pound cheddar cheese
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup salsa
6 ounces olives
  1. Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, spices, and 1 teaspoon salt and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  2. Stir in the ground beef and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato sauce, broth, vinegar, and sugar adn simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes. Season with salt to taste.
  3. Divide the filling evenly among the taco shells and serve, passing any desired accompaniments separtely.