Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Day 3: Whole Wheat Buttermilk Bread

I knew I should have finished these blog posts before I started school again! Oh well, my posts may be a bit delayed, but I do plan to write about my 7 days of home cooking. For Day 3, I wanted to try my hand at baking bread. It is not something I attempt often, maybe twice a year, but I always love the smell of bread baking in the oven. Baking bread can seem very daunting, what with the kneading and the rising and then kneading and more rising. Who has time to cook let alone bake bread? But aside from the time needed to rise, baking bread isn't all that complicated. I suggest baking on a Saturday or Sunday when you don't have much to do. It can be so relaxing kneading dough and then there's the final product - fresh baked bread!

I decided to peruse some of my cookbooks that have been collecting dust on the shelf. I settled on a book that my mother used when I was growing up called "Nikki and David Goldbeck's American Wholefoods Cuisine"published in 1984. The cookbook contains 1300 meatless wholesome recipes and may become a book I use more in the coming year. Although this buttermilk whole wheat bread was not something my mom made often, baking this bread makes me feel connected to my mom (and that just makes me happy).  In my family we have recipes that my mom made again and again and have become almost part of the family. I guess that's why I like cooking so much, because it becomes a centerpiece around which family and friends gather. Baking bread seems like a new tradition I could incorporate into my family.

This recipe makes 2 loaves, I made one in the standard bread pan and another freeform boule in a cake pan. While my technique may need some refining (I don't think it rose as much as I would have liked) the bread was tasty. I used it in grilled cheese with turkey sandwiches for dinner and toast the next morning (as well as several other sandwiches during the week)! So the next time you have a few hours to kill give this recipe a try.

Buttermilk Bread
Makes 2 loaves.

2 tbsp yeast
1/2 cup warm water (should be between 100-110 F)
2 cups buttermilk (I used 2% and added 2 tbsp vinegar)
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup honey
2 tsp salt
about 5 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

Soften yeast in warm water. When dissolved stir in remaining ingredients, adding as much flour as possible in the bowl and kneading in the rest as necessary. (Note: This dough is a little sticky so I added a little more flour which may be why my bread was a little denser). Knead for 5-10 minutes.

Cover dough in an oiled bowl and let rise for 1 hour or until doubled. Punch down and let rest for 10 minutes.

Shape into two loaves; cover and let rise for 45 minutes until doubled (Note: you can wet a towel and use that to cover your loaf to prevent it from drying out). Preheat oven to 375 degrees F near the end of the second rising.

Bake for 35-40 minutes until nicely browned. Removed from pan and let cool completely until slicing.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Day 2: Vegetarian Quinoa Chili

Courtesy of 
Day 2 out of 7 of Ariel's home cooking adventure. Day 1 was a great success, providing me with delicious leftover pork chops with apples and onion for lunch on Day 2. Continuing with the healthy, simple meal theme, I decided to cook up a new favorite chili recipe of mine which I discovered on Two Peas and Their Pod. I love that this chili is packed full of veggies and protein rich quinoa. One of my problems with other veggie chili recipes is that it can be more soup-like due to the lack of ground beef. The quinoa comes in and adds this great texture, in addition to the protein punch. It really mimics that chunky beef chili consistency. I love that quinoa is being incorporated into more and more recipes (ancient grains revolution)! And not all quinoa recipes "taste like a dirty old tree branch" (see video below).

This recipe includes a plethora of veggies: carrots, celery, zucchini, onion, and peppers. This recipe is great in that you can totally swap out any veggies for others that you prefer (I omitted the celery). And it really comes together in a cinch. Plus you have leftovers the next day (which tastes even better). I think one of the keys to successfully eating at home is to cook meals that will provide you with some extras, so you're not constantly cooking every night or making lunches everyday. 

This quinoa chili really hit the spot on the cold winter night. I served it up with some blue corn chips (whole grain party!)

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Another Year, Another Resolution to Cook More: Day 1

Pork chop with apples and onions
Over the holidays I got to talking with my family about New Year's Resolutions. So many of us attempt the same resolutions: to eat healthier, to exercise more, etc. Such resolutions can seem so daunting. How will I keep up with my resolution when I didn't last year? I personally feel the same way. However, I like that a new year provides an opportunity to reflect and make new goals. Doesn't the word "goal" sound much nicer than "resolution"?  So I decided to make a small goal for myself and a larger goal. Studies have shown that when we make small weekly goals for ourselves, we stick to them better. My larger goal is to cook more at home and dine out less frequently. In addition to being a healthier and more cost-effective means of eating, I also love cooking. Cooking is a huge stress reliever for me, but I often convince myself that I don't have the time. However, within the 45 minutes it takes for the delivery guy to show up, I know I could easily have cooked a meal. 

But how to commit to such a task? I decided to start with a small goal of eating all of my meals at home for 1 week. This goal was a little more feasible for me because I have been on break from school. However, I am hoping that this week-long exercise will become more of a habit and will trickle over into the next weeks and months. So I plan to blog about my progress during this week-long experiment. This won't be in real-time (I started Wednesday, January 8 after I got back from traveling), but I hope you enjoy reading about my "home cooking adventure".

When I got home from my 2 week holiday spent in Virginia and Miami, where I indulged in good food, drink and company, I really wanted to cook some simple meals with plenty of veggies. While some might try to balance their holiday diet by eating several salads a day, I prefer a fuller meal. I wanted a lean protein and some veggies on the side. Wanting to try something other than chicken or fish, I looked to pork. Boneless loin pork chops are actually fairly low in fat (see image to right). Something about pork chops and apples sounds so comforting. I came across Martha Stewart's simple recipe, which was super easy to makeAll you need is pork chops, apples, onion, beer, oil, butter, salt, and pepper. I used granny smith...

You start by seasoning the chops and then browning them in a pan over high heat for 5 minutes on each side. You set them aside and then saute apples and onion for 8 minutes. You deglaze the pan with some beer (I chose an IPA that I like so I could drink the rest) and then return the chops to the pan to finish cooking. Et voila, succulent porks chops with delightful apple and onion mixture on the side.

Browned pork chops just out of the pan.

Sauteed apples and onion.

Pork chops returned to the pan to finish cooking.
While the pork chops are cooking, you can roast some veggies to go alongside. I've said it several times before, but this is my favorite way to cook vegetables. Roasting caramelizes the vegetables, bringing out sweetness. I added some rosemary, salt, and pepper to my brussel sprouts and carrots. 

Roasted brussel sprouts and carrots with rosemary.

Final product. 
And while this isn't an Ina Garten recipe, I have to steal her trademark, "What could be better than that?!" Day 1 was complete and I was feeling good about having these leftovers for lunch tomorrow.