Have you ever baked your own bread?

No-Knead Bread - Finished Loaf (294068096)

No-Knead Bread – Finished Loaf (294068096) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve baked bread for years…learned to do it when I was a kid and my grandfather loved the basic white bread I made for him.  He would just rave about it (and what kid doesn’t enjoy that?) and talk about how it was just like what his mom used to make.  For many years, that was the only bread I made…well, that and corn bread.

I love artisan style breads, but always bought them from a bakery.  Sheesh…do you realize how expensive that is?  And being on medical leave has caused me to be just a bit more cautious with my spending.  Who really knows how long I’ll be off work?  I sure don’t want to waste money on things I don’t need, especially things I can make for myself.

I’m on Pinterest and have a bread pinboard…have pinned a ton of recipes but hadn’t tried very many of them.  Until earlier this week when I was out of bread and didn’t feel like going to the store.  Yes, I certainly could have asked someone to pick up a loaf of bread for me, but I hate to ask people to do things like that.  So…I started searching through the recipes I’d pinned.  There were a lot of them that required ingredients I didn’t have on hand…again, didn’t feel like getting out, so I kept searching.  And then I came across a recipe for peasant bread…an easy to mix up recipe with only basic ingredients…and no kneading.  Now there are times that I find kneading bread to be therapeutic, but not when I don’t feel well.  So I decided to give this recipe a try.

It really was so easy…the bread dough was a little stickier than I’m used to, but it didn’t matter.  Let it rise in the mixing bowl, divide it into 1-quart glass baking dishes, let it rise again and bake.  And it’s delicious.  How can you go wrong with a recipe that’s quick and easy and then turns out to be yummy as well?

I’ve been exploring the blog where the recipe was originally published…love it…check it out for yourself…

http://www.alexandracooks.com/2012/11/07/my-mothers-peasant-bread-the-best-easiest-bread-you-will-ever-make/

I’m always amazed at the various talents that people have…this woman is an amazing cook and writes a blog that makes you wish you could be in the kitchen with her.

So…I’ve found another go-to bread recipe..I have a feeling I’ll be making this frequently.  Let me know if you try it, okay?

Bread baking

trio of bread

trio of bread (Photo credit: kidmissile)

First, let me say, I love bread…but not just any old bread.  I like the artisan style breads…homemade breads…breads with some texture.  So you won’t see me buying a loaf of pre-sliced pre-packaged fluffy, spongy white bread…you know, the kind that is so loaded with preservatives that it will keep for a couple of weeks.  I couldn’t tell you the last time I ate that stuff (see, I can’t even call it bread).

I like the bread made with whole grains and seeds, but have you ever noticed how expensive that kind of bread is?  Well, I have.  That got me thinking about making my own bread.  I used to do that a lot, then working a lot of hours kind of got in the way.  But now I’ve decided to go ahead and start baking bread again.  That decision led me to wondering about bread machines.  I’ve never used one, don’t own one, am not sure that I really want one.  Yes, it would be convenient to be able to just throw the ingredients in and have the machine do all of the work.  But…there again, there’s the cost involved.  So what’s a girl to do?

I’ve looked online at the local “yard sales” on Facebook as well as some of the trader sites…so far nothing.  I’m going to stop at Goodwill one of these days and see if they happen to have one.  See, I’m kind of hesitant to spend much on something that I may not like…so looking to go the cheap route until I’m sure.  So, I guess my question for you all is, do you use a bread machine (if, of course, you bake your own bread) and what kind do you recommend?

Oh…I did bake some bread when I got home from work today.  Corn bread with stone ground cornmeal from Spring Mill State Park in my old home town of Mitchell, Indiana…stop by if you’re in the neighborhood…very cool place to visit.

On blueberry muffin hill

Blueberry muffins…yum!  Who doesn’t like a good moist blueberry muffin?  But don’t most of us also want something that’s at least somewhat healthy?  I try to make my muffins from scratch using whole grains and fresh fruit, but when time is short (or I’m feeling kind of lazy) I’ll resort to the boxed muffin mixes.  Fortunately I found this…

Is it as good for me as what I would make using one of my healthier recipes?  Mmm…no.  Is it better for me than something sweet and sugary from the vending machine?  You bet it is.

These muffins, baked according to the package directions, still have 210 calories per muffin.   I make them smaller by making 18 instead of 12 and that reduces the calories to 140 apiece.  This is just one more indication that what we now consider to be a serving size is much larger than it was in the past.  So I still get to enjoy a freshly baked muffin without going overboard on calories.

Can I make a lower calorie, healthier-for-me muffin?  Yes, I can.  But there are times in life where we make trade-offs, this is one of those times…calories for convenience.  I don’t do this all the time, but it’s nice to know I have the option.  Now I have a good supply of muffins in the freezer.  I can pull one out in the morning, put it in my lunch bag and it’ll be thawed and ready to eat for my morning or afternoon snack.  If that can keep me from putting that dollar in the vending machine, I think it’s worth it. 

The long and winding road to fitness, day 55

I did a little cooking today…had some adventures with zucchini…found a way to make fried zucchini (and probably other veggies would work as well, mushrooms, eggplant, green tomatoes)in the oven with no oil…yea me!!

I walked for about half an hour this morning…unfortunately that’s all the exercise I managed to get in.  I’m a little disappointed with the amount of exercise I’ve put in while I’ve been on vacation. I really meant to do a lot more than I’ve done.   It’s  been nice walking at sunrise every day, the sky has been gorgeous.

Today I didn’t  get much done around the house.  There are so many things I want to do, but I couldn’t seem to get motivated to do any of them.  I’m not even really sure where the day went…oh well, is that so terrible when you’re on vacation?  I fooled around on the computer (how do you like my new background color?  the very pale grey/green rather than the bright green?  I’m playing around with the look of my blog…let me know what you think, what suggestions you have for me…).  I read for a while…and snuggled with Spooky while I was reading…she loves that.

My eating today was decent…had that oven fried zucchini for lunch along with a slice of zucchini bread.  Dinner was a couple of pieces of focaccia and a glass of milk.  I also had oj and half a banana today, peanut butter on frozen waffles with skim milk for breakfast.  As far as calories are concerned, I did fine.  But I know I could have eaten more fruit and veggies.  Tomorrow is grocery shopping day (very early in the morning) so I’ll come back with some fresh produce…that should help me take in a few more servings each day.

I may not come home with all of that, but I want to have a little variety for when I go back to work.  How does vegetarian taco salad sound?

What in the world am I going to do with all of this zucchini?

I’ve been gardening long enough to know that even one tiny (?) zucchini plant can provide you with more zucchini than you can possibly eat.  All week long I’ve been saying I was going to do something with the zucchini on my one plant.  The abundance of zucchini on my one plant.  After being shamed (thanks, Patti) for not following through with my zucchini plans, I decided to tackle it today.  I only picked the two largest fruits on the plant, knowing full well that those would be more than what I needed for my purposes today.

So the plan was to bake a loaf of healthier zucchini bread and freeze the rest of the shredded zucchini in 2 cup freezer bags..then I can have zucchini bread all winter long.  I had printed a recipe for a healthier type of zucchini bread from backtoherroots (thanks, Cassie), so figured I’d give that a try.

So I set about shredding those monster zucchini, ended up with enough for the bread and three bags to put in the freezer.  I had some left over and decided to try oven “fried” zucchini.

The bread recipe was easy to follow and used ingredients I already had on hand…I love it when I don’t have to buy special ingredients for a recipe, don’t you?

Now on to the oven fried zucchini…when I was a kid, we ate a lot of fried foods.  That’s something I’m trying to get away from in my quest for a healthier lifestyle.  But fried zucchini sure did sound tasty to me.  Soooo…how can I get that taste and texture without all of that fat? 

I bought Panko bread crumbs a while back and had yet to open the box…so that’s where I started.  I read the box and saw a recipe for baked breaded shrimp…figured that would probably work for zucchini too. Why not?  Took a couple of eggs and beat them in one bowl.  Mixed some flour, salt, pepper and Parmesan cheese in another bowl.  Then poured some of the Panko into another bowl…Dredged the zucchini rounds through the flour mixture, then dipped into egg, and patted Panko crumbs over that.  Placed on a baking sheet, baked in a 350 degree oven.  I checked them after 10 minutes, decided to leave them in for another five minutes.  Then I turned them and put them back in the oven for another 10 minutes.

I can not believe how seriously good these things are…crispy, tasty and so not fried…wow!!  Will I be making these again?  You betcha!!

I feel like I accomplished what I set out to do with my zucchini…that and more today…I’ve got a lot of little zucchini on that one poor plant…there has to be more oven fried zucchini in my future!

My version of focaccia

I read a blog yesterday where the writer had made the most beautiful focaccia…  http://foodblogandthedog.wordpress.com/ Did I ever mention how much I love good bread products?  Or how I find baking my own bread, kneading it, the aroma, one of my greatest cooking pleasures?  Or how my dad actually taught me to bake bread (between his leaving us and coming back multiple times)?  That’s one of the only pleasant memories I have of him, but hey, at least I can dig one up, right?   So anyhow, after reading that lovely blog, I decided I wanted to make my own focaccia today.  I’m going to use it as the base of some mighty tasty veggie sandwiches for work this week.

One of the things I’ve discovered about bread making is that you don’t really need a recipe.  Provided you don’t kill the yeast but do get the liquid used to the correct temp (warm to the touch), your bread will turn out fine.  So…today’s focaccia consists of whole wheat flour, a little white flour (I’ve never tried whole wheat bread flour, but have heard wonderful things about it, let me know if you’ve incorporated this in to your bread recipes), a small amount of sugar, oil, yeast, and warm water.  I also added some dried basil…the blog I referred to earlier showed the basil cut into strips and placed over the top of the focaccia before baking…I told you it was beautiful.  Mine isn’t as aesthetically pleasing, but oh my, did it ever taste good.  I mixed everything together, then kneaded it for a while.  Once it was the right consistency, I put it on a pizza stone and spread it flat to cover the stone.  I then covered it with a towel and let it rise for 45 minutes or so (I told you this isn’t exact, didn’t believe me?).

Once it had risen, I uncovered it and poked holes in it using my finger.  I then spread a little canola oil (olive oil would have been good too) over it, sprinkled more dried basil and grated Parmesan cheese (the real deal, not the stuff in the green can) over the entire focaccia. 

 Then baked it at 350 degrees for 10 or 15 minutes.  I didn’t want to overbake it, and the time was closer to 10 minutes than 15.  Took it out of the oven and placed the baking stone on a wire cooling rack…this is totally unscientific, but I think things continue to bake when you leave them on the baking stone, even out of the oven.  Anyhow, this turned out nice…soft, fluffy, not too dense, great taste.

How’s that for a quick bread that is oh so much better than what you can buy at the grocery store?

 I do have one little question…I’ve seen it spelled both foccacia and focaccia…is one right and one wrong, or are both acceptable? (Spell check here at word press doesn’t even recognize the word…hmm…)

The long and winding road to fitness, day 18

Breads and Bread rolls at a bakery

Image via Wikipedia

I had the day off work today.  It was nice early, then a little hot later on.  Fortunately, I did all of my running around early in the day and spent most of the rest of the day working around the house.  I didn’t get in a lot of exercise today (walked for 20 minutes), but I did work up a sweat cleaning house.  I managed to get everything done on my to-do list and, believe me, that doesn’t happen very often!!  So now I have a (relatively) clean house and can face the next few days of work before I go on vacation (woohoo!!  I love vacations!).

I had to go grocery shopping.  I was out of bread and close to being out of fresh fruit and milk.  So I took my list and my coupons and headed out to Kroger.  I ended up spending way more than I wanted to, but I bought some things to take to work for healthier alternatives to the junk in the vending machine.  Now I need to package them up in individual serving size bags, then they’re ready to just grab and go. Better for my health and for my wallet.  I bought a bag of prepared popcorn from Popcorn, Indiana…seriously…it’s just down the road from where I live.  I’m going to have to make a road trip and check it out.  Anyhow, I’ve had the popcorn from Popcorn before, and it’s really, really good!!  I also bought some dried pineapple to use in my trail mix.  That’s probably my favorite dried fruit.  So now I’m all set as far as food for work is concerned. 

You’d think, having the day off and running around in the morning then doing all of those chores in the afternoon would have kept me from eating too much, but you’d be wrong.  I bought a baguette from the Bakehouse ( a local bakery).  All of their breads are so tasty and I’m a huge fan of fresh bread.  So, yes, you’ve figured it out already, I ate too much bread today.  Combine that with a bowl of ice cream and you’re looking at a nutritional disaster of a day.  Oh well, tomorrow’s meals and snacks are already planned.  It’s truck day, which means a day full of running around like a maniac, lugging boxes around, climbing ladders…so plenty of exercise.  I’ll just let today fade into the sunset and move on with increased determination tomorrow.

How’d everyone else do today?  Anything fun and exciting to report?  Any great recipes to share?