Saturday, September 29, 2012

Better Than Store Bought Gluten Free Bread

So as not to impinge any particular brand of GF bread (the taste of which my family loves but not so much the price tag at six dollars per loaf), I did not cite the brand in the title of this blog post.

At any rate, I have started making GF bread for my family. The first batch was a bit dry and crumbly, and so I modified the recipe in more than one way. The results was a soft, springy and non-crumbly loaf. Everyone was happy.

This is enough dough to make two small (5.5x7.5inch) loaf pans plus four tuna cans...which is what I use to make GF hamburger buns. So you get two loaves of bread which are the same size as the six dollar store bought loaves plus four buns (which cost about six dollars for I THINK four, but maybe six...but I think it's actually four)...so that's eight teen dollars of bread products that I have made for much less than that.

I buy my GF flours at the local Asian market. I buy big bags of rice flour and big bags of potato starch (tapioca starch works too, they just have not had it in a while), and I do a 50/50 blend of this, and that is my mix. This costs me $1.67 per pound.

Obviously there is a small additional cost for the other ingredients, but (according to a quick google search) four cups of flour is one pound. So this recipe takes 1.25 pounds of flour. That's $2.08. Lets generously round the cost of the rest of the ingredients up to make this batch a three dollar expenditure. Lets say the electricity costs us another dollar. That's four dollars...for what would have been an $18.00 expenditure at the grocery store.

Considering this take about ten minutes of my actual hands-on time to make (no kneading), this is very very much worth doing.

So, here's the recipe:

5 cups of Gluten Free flour blend (50/50 rice flour and potato starch in my case)
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon xanthan gum or 1/2 Tablespoon guar gum
2 Tablespoons dry yeast
2 teaspoons salt
2 large eggs
1/4 cup oil
2 teaspoons Apple Cider Vinegar
2 2/3 cups warm water

Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Mix with a spoon. Add wet ingredients and blend with a mixer on high for 3 minutes until you have a light and smooth batter...this dough should be soft and pourable but not totally runny. If it is stiff enough for you to roll out, you will get a crumbly loaf.

Pour into sprayed small pyrex loaf pans and 4 sprayed tuna cans or burger bun molds, or other baking dish as you desire. Each loaf pan should be between 1/2 and 2/3 full.

Set on back of pre-heating oven and allow to rise for about 30 or 45 minutes. Do not let it overflow your pans.

Bake at 350 for about 40 minutes. check the smaller buns and remove them after about 20 minutes, or when a toothpick comes out clean.

Remove from pans (they release very easily) and allow to cool on a cooling rack for slicing ease. If you MUST eat it hot, you won't be sorry, but you will have to make more sooner. ;-)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Food and Stuff

Last week when I went grocery shopping, something in my brain snapped. I have GOT to find a way to spend less on groceries. Now, everyone is complaining about high prices these days, and with a special needs diet-most of my family is Gluten Free, and two of us are grain free/dairy free, (unless it's pasta night and then I sometimes cave and have some gluten free pasta because spaghetti with meat sauce is, like, my FAVORITE food ever...but I digress)-food is even MORE expensive because we buy certain “speciality items” like gluten free flour and almond milk and way more cans of coconut milk each week than most americans buy in a decade.

And then there's all the kerfluffle about GMO's. I, for one, think they are most likely toxic and vile and very very bad for us. Interesting that it is the year that GMO's were introduced into the U.S. food supply that coincides precisely when my own health started taking a nose dive. I know causation cannot be proven by that, but suspicion can certainly be aroused.

So, someone on facebook asked me where to begin...HOW does a person avoid GMO's? On a budget? Is it realistic?

I would like to outline some very basic rules to follow and steps to take to get going in the direction of GMO free dining.

1. Eat at home. This goes without saying. When you eat out you have absolutely NO CONTROL over what happens in the kitchen. This is true about sugar, gluten, GMO's...anything. Eat at home and you save money AND you can control the ingredients.
2
. Cook from scratch using whole foods. Cooking from scratch does NOT mean assembling a meal from pre-packaged ingredients. It does NOT mean opening a can of cream of mushroom soup and mixing it in with rice and some ground meat and calling it a meal. In order to cook from scratch, girl, you gotta learn how to make that cream of mushroom soup. You gotta learn how to make those crackers. You gotta keep the list of pre-prepared foods that you buy to a bare minimum. Yes. It is a LOT of work. I have teenagers who help me, for whom I am very grateful. But the truth is, if they want crackers, they are the ones baking the crackers. If it were just me, I'd not be making crackers, but as it is, I don't really eat them.

3. Know your ingredients. Use healthy ones. Do some research. I happen to love the food philosophies of the Weston A. Price foundation.
a.)The first BIG step I took in improving the health of what I am cooking is that I switched from Canola oil (a big GMO offender) to using only fats that have been traditionally used by humans for thousands of years. I do NOT use margarine, or partially hydrogenated anything. No crisco. No Canola or Vegetable or Soybean oil (also a big GMO offender). What do I use instead? Palm shortening, coconut oil and olive oil, real butter and Ghee that I make at home...oh, and lard if I can find a beef farmer at the farmer's market who sells it (the lard at the grocery store has partially hydrogenated crap added to it). I read in the excellent book Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon, that one reason we get so many sun burns is that we are eating rancid commercially produced oils...and this has proven true for my family. Since we switched out the fats in our diet, our sunburns have been a thing of the past, for the most part.

4. If you've made it this far down the list, you've come a long way, baby. This (and raw milk) was where we stopped in our food journey for a long time. Then, in the past year (my doctor said no more gluten or dairy and if possible no grains at all) or so I started realizing (after I'd done GAPS for a little bit) that when I eat regular chicken from the grocery, I get gut cramps. Probably all that GMO corn and soy they are fed. I started finding organic chicken and beef at Costco. Yes, it's expensive. I buy it anyway. The other stuff makes me sick and it's a compromise between the cheap regular and the super expensive pastured chicken from the farmer. What can I do? It's expensive. That's how it goes.

5. Read ingredients to EVERYTHING. I started having to read labels to stay off gluten, sugar and dairy...so now it's a firmly ingrained habit. Unless a package is bragging about no GMO's, it probably has them in it. If it is organic, there will be no GMO's in it. There's a website called the NoGMO project, that can be helpful in finding what is what. Avoid Soy and foods that have soy in them and you will be going a LONG way towards doing all of the above mentioned things. This includes practically every food aside form instant mashed potatoes that's been processed. Cookies, crackers, baked goods...those are the biggest offenders. Make your own. It IS possible to find some prepackaged foods that are soy free and sugar free but these are items you can still make easily at home.

6. Condiments: I make my own mayo, ketchup, spaghetti sauce, salad dressings, gravies, sauces...there is NO NEED to buy jars of this stuff. Mayo is not hard to make with an immersion blender it only takes about 30 seconds. I use the internet...I look up how-to videos on you tube and I learn one new thing at a time. Eventually it has all added up.
So what, you ask, DO YOU buy?

I buy raw milk and pastured eggs through a local food coop. I buy a giant bucket of palm shortening for baking. I buy rice flour and potato starch at the asian store. I buy a giant bag of jasmine rice. I get organic veggies and fruits at the food coop. Organic apples and potatoes. Sometimes I buy conventional veggies, too. Sometimes I buy convetional frozen veggies. I can't afford all organic. I grow more organic veggies in my garden, and I have 32 quarts of green beans to prove it. I buy very expensive gluten free oats and brown rice pasta. I buy canned tuna that I've read the label on until I found some that's just packed in water with no soy broth...Costco brand. I buy that organic chicken and beef. I buy almond flour (at Trader Joes because that's the least expensive place to get it), coconut flour and golden flax meal for my grain free baking blend. I buy winter squashes like butternut and acorn, strawberries and grapes. I still buy diced tomatoes and tomato paste because I did not plant enough tomatoes to can my own this summer... I also buy GF pretzels, but those are not eaten often so I will probably stop. I occasionally will buy GF cookies to take to scouts if I know there will be snacks and I'm too busy to bake, but I know it is better for us to bake our own. I buy organic cheese and bulk parmesan at Costco. I still buy Gluten free Alfredo sauce in a jar, and spaghetti sauce (having read the labels). The alfredo is one thing I need to ditch and make myself. I totally can, just have not done so yet. I buy honey, maple syrup, plain almond butter, peanut butter (the crappy kind with hydrogenated crap in it) but it gets eaten only rarely...and I have been known to also buy Nutella. I buy walnuts and almonds and raisins and prunes and dates. Salt, baking soda and powder and apple cider vinegar and balsamic and red wine vinegar. Olive oil. Dry lentils and beans. Curry powder, cinnamon, other spices and herbs. Onions and garlic. Sea salt (did you know Iodized salt has SUGAR in it?). Stevia drops. Organic butter. Tea bags and sugar for the kombucha. Ginger for the homemade ginger ale. Daisy sour cream. Sunflower seeds. ...you get the picture. I'm sure I've forgotten something. But it's basic boring stuff and I cook it and make stuff and we eat.

Convenience foods I still buy: Instant mashed potatoes (yes, I know...), Waffle fries, GF sausage links, Alfredo sauce, Chex cereal (well...we are finishing it off..won't be buying more), All natural brats and hot dogs (no msg etc), nitrite free bacon, spaghetti sauce, and turkey lunch meat. I buy these things because I have a boy with food related sensory issues and he has to eat something...and well, bacon. I read labels and make the bad stuff the least bad as possible.

I'm not perfect. I still probably eat too much "sugar" even though it's from honey and maple syrup.

If you want a good blog to read that goes more expertly into depth on some of these food issues, I highly recommend www.foodrenegade.com

Meanwhile, happy shopping, cooking...and eating. And yes, you will be broke. Broke and hopefully healthier than otherwise.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Find me on Facebook

If any of my readers want to find me on facebook: Alana Juliana Sheldahl. Send me a friend request and if I don't know you personally, just let me know that you read my blog...

A Dying Garden and Chilly Toes

Wes and I went out to the garden last Thursday evening to see if there were any more green beans to pick. We were met with a surprise: Some creatures (herd of deer most likely) had stripped all the leaves and beans off our green bean plants. Honestly, I was rejoicing. I've snapped enough green beans and canned enough green beans to keep me happy for a very long time.

We did gather in all the rest of the green tomatoes from an obviously dying tomato plant of the heirloom Cherokee Purple variety. I'm not enamored with that type of tomato, as they don't seem to ripen well. Additionally we got a huge bowl full of grape and cherry tomatoes picked.

I dug up all the rest of the carrot and beets, as the beet tops had been nibbled as well, and those were obviously done growing, too. We got a LOT more carrots than I expected...about half of a refrigerator crisper drawer full. So, that was a blessing. I feel like our fridge is just STUFFED right now with lots of good things to eat.

The garden, not just our plots, but everyone else's plots as well, is dying. It's the first week of September and it seems like we are a month ahead of schedule on this whole "fall" phenomenon. But that stands to reason, since spring arrived early this year as well.

I'm still getting used to our new house: domestic routines and all that. Additionally I'm dealing with a bit of a fibro flare right now. Felt sick and fat and ugly at Church this morning....sort of a Screwtape and Wormwood morning. But exacerbating all that was that I'd run out of one of my meds, and only had a half a dose this morning...so we snuck out as soon as we took communion today. Not something we usually do, but today, I was doing good to force myself to stay that long. Wes offered to take me home several times during liturgy.

It is lovely to have windows open today and to be getting fresh air into our house. I spent some time reading outside and the air is LOVELY. My toes are chilly. I like it that way.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Canning

He kissed me and thanked me for picking, snapping, washing and canning all those green beans (14 quarts today)

and said he owed me dinner. I said: "If you take me out to dinner it will more than cancel out any savings we might have gotten from this work I did." We laugh. "Well, I owe you something!" he says.


...and I remember all those evenings in June when he swung his mattock into the hard Kentucky clay, to break up the soil.

I remember how he hoed it, and raked it and then carefully planted the bean seeds while I watched from my chair, often too sick to get up and do anything to help.

And long summer evenings when we both knelt and pulled stinky bean beetle larvae off the leaves, and when we together bonded over spraying essential oils on our plants so that the bugs would not win.

I remember last winter all the evenings he spent reading up on gardening, and how it was HIS energy, passion and drive that got me out there in the dirt in the first place.

I remember how he gave me time, and let me fall in love with gardening on my own terms, at my own pace....and if I had not, that would have been fine, too.

No, dearest...we are in this together.

I've been paid in long summer evenings in your company, listening to cicadas and the buzzing hum of life that is a summer-time garden. I've been paid by the relaxed conversations we had driving to and from and the walks we took out at the community garden. I'll be paid again in the winter when we sit down and eat these beans. I've already been paid. You don't owe me anything.

September 1

Well, it's been a busy week for me. I was feeling ill on Monday and went to the clinic. Ended up with antibiotics for two infections I had going on. Tuesday saw me at the endodontist for a root canal...a RE-DO root canal on a tooth that had already been done. Please pray that my dental insurance comes through and covers most of it. It cost a thousand dollars. I need to learn to ask more questions in advance of medical procedures, because that price threw me for a loop. A was expecting a few hundred, not ten hundred, for a re-do. Lord have mercy.

The thing that has me stressed out these days is our need to get our oldest some services. Now that she's 18 she qualifies for stuff regardless of her dad's income level, as she counts as an adult with an income of zero. Finding help and being her advocate are things that are very very difficult for me to do...especially as I balance home responsibilities and home schooling everyone, as well. Stress makes my brain basically shut down, and I've been finding myself shut down pretty much constantly lately. This is not good. I have to take one day at a time, make lists and get stuff done. Lord have mercy.

My husband is also working on her disability application process and he's sort of shut down as well. We are both grieving. If B were well and normal, she would be off at college this year.

Yesterday I went out to the garden and picked loads and loads and loads of green beans and also some beets and tomatoes. So I need to get up off the computer soon and start processing them and canning them. That's my task for this long weekend, as it is going to rain here, according to forecasters.

The leaves are looking fallish outside my window, which is rather unusual for the fist of September in Kentucky. But since spring came six weeks early, I suppose fall will come early this year, too....I wonder if the leaves only have a set number of weeks of green in them.

I, for one, am ready for cooler temperatures. I don't care much for summer. But over all it's been a good summer. We moved. What more can I say?

So, I raise my mug of brown caffeinated bevarage (shhhh...I fell off the no-coffee wagon and am drinking some) to a productive-yet-relaxed domestic Saturday.