Jul 26, 2012

Homemade Crackers (using Artisan Bread Dough)

Want to make your own crackers? I have another recipe I typically make, but I think I'll switch over to this one for good because it uses dough we already make regularly for so many things. I also make sticky rolls, english muffins and crescent rolls with the same basic dough. It's amazing!

We make a batch of Artisan Bread dough every other week or so it seems. It's so easy and we do half white/half wheat so it's not totally nutritionless or hard on the digestive system--one or the other.

So we just pull off an orange size lump of dough and roll it as thin as possible (use flour underneath so you don't go crazy...even if you have a silpat there too). Then throw it straight into the 375 degree preheated oven on the baking stone and make sure to prick with fork and draw hatch marks with back of knife (to indicate cracker pieces, then sprinkle with salt and possibly other seasonings if desired) and put a pan of water undearneath the stone. The crackers cook super fast and should be done in 5 minutes. Watch so they don't burn. Here is the summary chart from the Artisan Bread post-- a cheat sheet I made after reading the book so I know how to do all sorts of other recipes with the same dough, just by checking my cheat sheet. So if it's confusing....go to original post and work from there.

Orange size, paper thin
375 degrees
2-5 minutes
Yes use water
Prick with fork and salt before cooking; Pop bubbles during cooking

Homemade Croutons

I guess we're crust snobs....but in the sense that we don't eat crusts very often on our homemade Artisan bread. So, I always use them for bread crumbs or croutons for a small salad. Here's typically what I do for the croutons--to taste, as usual.....
photo from laura's blog

artisan crusty bread, cubed (doesn't have to be the end pieces; or can be day old other bread)
garlic powder
parmesan (opt. but delicious)
Seasonings (opt. Italian if doing Ceasar type salad, etc.: parsely, basil, oregano, etc)

Just throw everything in a bowl and mix with hands.
Then lay out on sheet in oven (we just use toaster oven setting) and bake for a few minutes--about 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes. (Our toaster oven does 5-10 minutes at about 380 degrees. But watch them, because they can burn fast. You can just broil and mix them around too.)

The last time I made them Paul said they were better than the store-bought Ceasar ones he typically likes. (prob. because I added parmesan and Italian this time) :)

Celery: Is It Worth Anything?

Celery gets a bad rep for being worthless, does it not? Well, it's actually a good addition if you've got it laying around. Here are some highlights:
  • contains Vitamins B3, B5, C, E, K biotin, folate, magnesium, manganese, calcium, iodine, molybdenum, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, sodium, zinc, and fiber
  • strengthens the immune system and at the same time makes the body more resistant against diseases
  • has ideal quantities of iron and magnesium to stop diseases from progressing
  • detoxifyies the body
  • known to help alleviate the effects of anemia
  • combats bad-breath because it stimulates saliva secretion in your mouth, which helps to flush out debris and bacteria.
Here are more benefits based on the nutrients:

§ Lowers Blood Pressure-Celery contains a compound called Phthalide, which is what gives celery its unique taste. This compound has been shown to help relax the muscles around vessel walls, allowing them to dilate and therefore the blood flows through the vessels more easily.

§ Vitamin K-Vitamin K may be one of the lesser known vitamins, but its health benefits should not be overlooked. It is a fat-soluble vitamin that plays a vital role in regulating blood clotting. It has also been shown to aid the body in absorbing calcium – a crucial mineral for bone health – so try eating foods rich in vitamin K (such as celery) along with calcium-rich foods to help increase your calcium absorption (and as a bonus, celery is also a good source of calcium).

§ Vitamin C-Celery is a very good source of vitamin C, one of the most well known vitamins, which offers a wide array of benefits. It is a powerful antioxidant that helps to boost the immune system, protect against cancer, regulate blood sugar, protect your skin from free radical damage, and plays a part in the growth and repair of body tissue.

§ Dietary Fiber-One serving of celery contains over 8% of your RDA of dietary fiber. Fiber is a very important part of a healthy diet, offering a wide variety of benefits, such as regulating blood sugar levels, helping to lower cholesterol and helping to protect against heart disease.

§ Potassium-This mineral should be an essential part of any active person’s diet, and celery is a great source of potassium. Potassium helps muscles to contract properly during exercise and reduces muscle cramps – it also plays a role in regulating blood pressure, water content in cells, digestion and in some metabolic processes.

§ Rich in Calcium-Calcium in a very important mineral and one that many of us don’t get enough of. Calcium is essential for strong bones and teeth, but it is also necessary to ensure proper functioning of muscles and nerves. When we don’t get enough calcium to supply the body with what it needs, your body will ‘borrow’ this mineral from bones, leading to a variety of problems, such as Osteoporosis or other bone disease.

For pregnant women the consumption of celery should be made in very small quantities.
While many foods lose nutrients during cooking, most of the compounds in celery hold up well during cooking. And it's slightly salty character lends well to adding with fruits and fruit juices.

So why not throw it into your soups, salads and casseroles as an added benefit. Or snack on it with peanut butter or our family favorite: cheese (we use to do shredded cheese and mayo, but now we just do sliced cheddar without mayo). Or make a cream of celery soup if you have too much (just cook with onions and garlic and blend it all, then throw in ham, peas and potaoes for more fill--don't forget to salt and pepper).


*info from www.liveandfeel.com/medicinalplants/celery.html

Jul 17, 2012

Notes: Healthy Eating 101

What do various good diets have in common?
If you look at a lot of diets, they vary a lot. Some mainstream real food diets include GAPS, Paleo and the Nourishing Traditions stuff--Weston Price. But what do many of these best "diets" have in common? (I'm talking about ways of eating, not  "losing weight/fad" diets) Here are four commonalities through various diets about what it means to eat well.

1. Whole Foods diet
- unprocessed foods
- whole grains
- non refined sweetener

2. Plant Based diet
- majority of food is plant-based (maybe 75%)

3. High raw diet (not completely though!...maybe 50-75%)
- fresh, uncooked
- minimal cooking: low tempuratures

4. Probiotics

How to build healthy cells--to combat diseases/sicknesses?
The best, long-term way to build cells is through food in it's most natural state. Since food nourishes your cells, it heals your cells. Your cells need to be repaired and boosted to combat any ailments or sicknesses your body is going through. You wouldn't build a house out of cardboard and scraps, and it's the same with how you treat your body.

A) Use good quality foods
- local
- organic
- whole grain
- nuts and seeds
- legumes
- minimal animal fats/meats

B) Minimally Prepare Food
- Make sure food is full of Enzymes (which help with digestion)
- low temperatures

C) Maximize Digestive Process (if having digestive difficulties, you need daily probiotics!)
- enzymes breaks down cells so nutrients are easier to digest
- best to drink before or after meals, not during, because it slows down digestive process
  1. Mouth: saliva enzymes start the digestion process, so chew well
  2. Stomach:
  3. Small intestines: nutrients get to your blood and cells through vili
  4. Large Intestines: water absorbed back into body and waste moves out (bacteria and undigestible fiber, etc.)
D) Eliminate Toxic Overload
  1. Stop putting toxins in body: body, skin, mouth, air, etc. (food, body products, cleaners, etc.)
  2. Drink Water: water cleanses cells flushes out bad stuff, as well as keeps you hydrated (soda dehydrates; it takes 32 times the amount of water to neutralize the toxic overload of one soda)
    • drink 2-4 cups room temperature water per morning, peeferably 1 hour before eating
    • add citus, like organic lemon: cleanses liver, alkalizes body and gives minerals, starts digestive process in stomach
    • how much a day? Divide weight in half and drink that many ounces per day
  3. Put minerals into body:
    • if we don't get enough minerals our body pulls it from our bones (osteoporosis).
    • Processed foods, stress, soda, lack of exercise, certain medications, etc. take away the minerals in our bodies.
  4. Make sure our enzymes are adequate--from both sources
    • from food: fresh produce, raw nuts and seeds, probiotic foods
    • in body
  5. Create Healthy Flora in Body--probiotics
    • need it every day, long-term; probiotics go in and out and don't stay in body
    • processed dairy/yogurt isn't ideal because it's not local, organic, minimally processed, etc.
    • cultured foods: homemade sauerkraut (not store-bought), kefir, etc.

*these are my notes from a Cellular cleansing class from cafe Janae.com

Jul 16, 2012

Tomato Basil Parmesan Soup

This recipe is from the 365 days of slowcooking blog. Cheryl thinks it's great, so I'm posting it. :)

Crock Pot version
Makes about 2 quarts (about 8 servings)
2 (14 oz) cans diced tomatoes, with juice
1 c finely diced celery
1 c finely diced carrots
1 c finely diced onions
1 tsp dried oregano or 1 T fresh oregano
1 T dried basil or 1/4 cup fresh basil
4 c chicken broth
½ bay leaf
½ c flour
1 c Parmesan cheese
½ c butter
2 c milk, warmed
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper

1. Add tomatoes, celery, carrots, chicken broth, onions, oregano, basil, and bay leaf to a large slow cooker.
2. Cover and cook on LOW for 5-7 hours, until flavors are blended and vegetables are soft.
3. About 30 minutes before serving prepare a roux. Melt butter over low heat in a skillet and add flour. Stir constantly with a whisk for 5-7 minutes. Slowly stir in 1 cup hot soup. Add another 3 cups and stir until smooth. Add all back into the slow cooker. Stir and add the Parmesan cheese, warmed half and half, salt and pepper. Add additional basil and oregano if needed (the slow cooker does a number on spices and they get bland over time, so don’t be afraid to always season to taste at the end).
4. Cover and cook on LOW for another 30 minutes or so until ready to serve.

Stove-Top Version
If you want to make this recipe on the stove-top you can! Here is the adjusted recipe:
3 c diced tomatoes with juice (you can use canned)
1 c finely diced celery
1 c finely diced carrots
1 T fresh oregano or 1 tsp dried
4 cchicken broth
1/2 c flour
1 c parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 c vegetable oil
1 c finely diced onions
4 T fresh basil or 1 Tbsp dried
1/2 bay leaf
1/2 c butter
2 c milk
1 tsp salt
1. Heat oil in 4 quart soup pot. Add celery, onions and carrots. Saute 5 minutes. Add basil, oregano, bay leaf, tomatoes, and chicken broth. Bring it to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until carrots are tender (15 minutes).
2. While soup simmers, prepare a roux. Melt butter over low heat, add flour and cook, stirring constantly, 5-7 minutes. Slowly stir in 1 cup hot soup. Add another 3 cups and stir until smooth. Add back into soup pot.
3. Simmer, stirring constantly, until soup begins to thicken. Add Parmesan cheese and whisk to blend. Stir warmed half and half, salt and pepper. Simmer over low heat 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.