Saturday, January 30, 2010

Homemade Muffins Even Your DH Will Eat

My DH is the pickiest eater in the world. He doesn't think he is, but I could tell you stories...

Anyway, yesterday I was craving muffins for breakfast, but it was a Friday and my DH was home and would want some, too. Normally, in the "old" days, I would have done one of two things: 1. Make a separate batch just for him using Bisquick or 2. Give in and eat the Bisquick muffins myself. Ick.

DH doesn't subscribe to my belief in healthy, whole grains. He'd rather eat drywall or cardboard. But, I'm determined to sneak healthful foods into his diet somehow. So yesterday, I decided to try out a new recipe for muffins.

Here is the original recipe (and then after, I'll tell you how I adjusted it):


2 c Whole Wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 c brown sugar
1 c milk
2 eggs, beaten
1/3 c oil
1/2 c nuts or sprouted wheat

Mix well. Bake in greased muffin pan at 425 degrees for 15 mins

Yield: 18 muffins

*From "Kitchen Magic" by Deanna Smith Sudweeks

Okay... first off, DH would know if I used all whole wheat flour, so that wasn't going to work. Also, they wouldn't be sweet enough, and I don't like nuts in my muffins, so those would have to change.

I used in place of the 2 cups of whole wheat flour (this was a BIG compromise for me, but ... *sigh*...):

3/4 c all purpose flour, 1/4 c quinoa flour, 1 c whole wheat flour

For sweetener, I used:

1/2 c honey, 1/4 c brown sugar

And I added 1 cup of blueberries

As a side note, I filled the muffin cups nearly to the top, and only got 12 muffins.

They were the best muffins I've ever made. Fluffy, tasty, perfectly cooked and yes, even DH ate them with almost no complaint (DD asked if I'd used Bisquick and I said "NO, I used flour." ... DH responded, "Why don't you just use Bisquick?" and I said something along the lines of, "Just be quiet and eat them." LOL...)

So, I highly recommend this recipe (though I may slowly reduce the amount of all purpose flour to see how far down I can take it before the muffins aren't so light and fluffy) and will absolutely make it again and again.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Good Advice

I recently finished reading "In Defense of Food" by Michael Pollan. It's a fantastic book and I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in eating healthfully.

The best advice he gives is amazing in its simplicity:

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

It sounds basic. But the fact is, much of what we eat isn't "food". And he defines "food" in one of his chapters. Here's what he says about deciding what "food" is:

1. Don't eat anything your Great Grandmother wouldn't recognize as food.

This includes things like "Go-Gurt"...

2. Avoid food products which contain ingredients that are (A) unfamiliar, (B) unpronounceable (C) more than five in number or (D) that include high fructose corn syrup.

He says that none of these is necessarily harmful in and of itself, but they are clear markers for food that has been so highly processed where it is no longer "food".

3. Avoid food products that make health claims.

He has a good point when he says that for them to make health claims on their packages, they must first HAVE a package, which is a good indicator that it's been processed in some way.

Additionally, many of the health claims are qualified, and based on incomplete or erroneous science. After all, does an apple need to scream about its healthfulness? And are Trix really good for you because they "contain whole grain"?

4. Shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle.

This is *mostly* healthful, though you'll still find questionable food products (like "Go-Gurt") there. Still... it's a start.

5. Get out of the supermarket whenever possible.

He very highly recommends shopping at your local farmer's markets. From the book: "You won't find any high-fructose corn syrup at the farmers' market. You also won't fine any elaborately processed food products... what you will find are fresh whole foods picked at the peak of their taste and nutritional quality."

So for example let's compare two different loaves of bread I currently own.

Arnold's Grain Lovers Hearty 100% Whole Wheat bread

Ingredients: Whole Wheat Flour, water, sugar, sunflower seeds, wheat gluten, yeast, cracked wheat, rye, soybean oil, ground corn, salt, flaxseed, millet, amaranth, cultured dextrose and maltodextrin, buckwheat, kamut, calcium carbonate, brown rice, oats, mono- and diglycerides, soybeans, triticale, datem, tricalcium phosphate, vitamin D3, spelt, barley, calcium sulfate, citric acid, quinoa, teff, grain vinegar, soy lecithin, nuts, whey, nonfat milk.

Hmmm... this fails on nearly every level as "food" according to Michael Pollan.

Now this:

When Pigs Fly Sourdough Bread

Ingredients: Unbleached flour, cider, evaporated cane juice, salt, yeast.

Which do you think is healthier for you to eat?

Do you think his guidelines are something that it makes sense to follow?


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Homemade Yogurt

There is a suggestion [that yogurt] may decrease the risk of breast cancer. And there’s very strong evidence it can reduce problems associated with irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory digestive tract disorders -- both conditions that impact women more than men. Additionally, yogurt can help reduce the risk of stomach ulcers and vaginal infections. - Elizabeth Somer, MS, RD (from this online article)


Yogurt (either soy or made with milk) is one of the most healthful things you can eat. However, the flavored ones that you purchase are full of stuff that ISN'T so healthful (see this article for instance or this one -- really.... go read them and I think you'll be surprised at what you find), and it costs about half as much to make your own plain, and add in whatever you'd like to sweeten it.

Also, keep in mind that the cheaper brands of yogurt don't have as many of the healthy cultures in them as the more expensive brands. Stonyfield Farms, for instance, includes six different cultures in their yogurt instead of the legally required three. Even so, their flavored yogurt has stuff in it I don't want to eat.

When I originally decided to make my own yogurt, I tried the crockpot yogurt recipe on Suzanne McMinn's site. It seemed simple enough, but my yogurt flopped -- I don't think I kept the crockpot warm enough over the several hours it needs to set. If you think you CAN, then give it a try -- clearly she managed, so it can be done.

I opted to buy a yogurt maker instead. After much research, I chose this one:

It was fairly inexpensive and highly rated on most sites I looked at. The only "complaint" I saw was that some people's yogurt was runnier than they wanted.

Note: Homemade yogurt is NOT as hard as the kind you buy in the store.

Okay, so now I have my yogurt maker. The rest is easy. You DO have to either buy yogurt starter, or use plain yogurt (I chose Stonyfield Farms plain -- for the reason that they have all those lovely bacteria).

I started by heating the milk -- you bring it to a low boil (the directions state that you should heat it until the milk "climbs the walls" of the pan):

Then you cool it a bit. I use my winter "outdoor" refrigerator -- I left it outside until steam was no longer pouring from the pan:

Next, you add your yogurt:

I also choose to add a little powdered milk (this helps make it firmer):

And... whisk until it's smooth:

Then you ladle into the jars that came with the maker and pop them into the warmer:

Let it "cook" for 8 - 10 hours and VOILA!

You have yogurt :-)

DD likes to eat hers with a little homemade strawberry jam (this batch didn't quite set -- I was experimenting with decreasing the sugar -- and is more like thick syrup):

Stir and eat.

I use blueberries and a little honey.


So... no more high fructose corn syrup or artificial colors for us. And making my own yogurt costs about half as much as buying it. We'll make up the cost of the yogurt maker in no time.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Homemade Wheat Crackers

We love crackers at my house. I buy Tricuits and Wheat Thins by the cartload when they're on sale. And, though Triscuits are pretty healthful, they're still not perfect.

Here is the listing of ingredients for them:


And the ingredients for Wheat Thins:


Of the two, Triscuits definitely wins the healthier challenge, but I still don't like the MSG and Maltodextrin they contain. Besides, I'm trying "why buy it when I can make it", so I gave wheat crackers a try.

I found several recipes, but used this one first. Here it is:

Wheat Thins
(recipe from

1 1/2 cups flour (all-purpose)
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp butter (at room temperature)
2/3 cup milk
salt (or other dried herbs and seasoning) for sprinkling

1. in a large bowl, combine the flours, sugar and salt. cut in the butter and mix until you have a coarse meal.

2. slowly blend in the milk just until you have a dough that will hold together. divide the dough into 2 pieces for rolling.

3. roll the dough out on a floured surface to about 1/8 inch thickness. sprinkle with salt and roll over lightly with the rolling pin again. cut the dough into 2×2 inch squares. poke each square several times with a fork.

4. transfer squares to an ungreased baking sheet and bake at 325 F for 20-25 minutes, until crackers are golden brown.


We started by gathering all the ingredients:

And blending together the dry ones first:

DD carefully mixed in the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder (as a side note, I cut the sugar in half -- something I do in nearly every recipe I use):

Next, she used a pastry blender to cut in the butter:

After adding the wet ingredients, we used a wooden spoon to mix, because it's thick and bread-dough like:

Then we decided that they looked too bland, so we added some various things.

Parmesan cheese:


And Basil:

Then it was time to roll it out.

Cut it into little squares:

Poke air holes in it so they don't make huge air pockets when they bake:

Pop them in the oven:

The finished result:

DD did the taste test:

My overall observations...

I rolled the dough a little too thick, so instead of being crunchy, they were a bit chewy. That was entirely my fault, and easily rectified for next time.

Even with cutting the sugar in half, they tasted too sweet. We use our crackers with cheese or salsa (for dipping) or occasionally spinach dips, etc, and don't like the sweet flavor. I will probably cut the sugar again the next time.

Otherwise, they were very yummy and DD ate a handful every day. It was a snack I could be comfortable with (along with her apple!). The only drawback? Because there are no preservatives, they don't last very long without getting stale, even in a sealed container or a ziplock baggie. They are something I would need to make on a weekly basis.

The good part is that they're simple enough that DD could probably make them on her own without any problem -- so maybe she and I will swap weeks.

I'll also play around with different types of seasonings and see what we like the best. I'd rate this recipe a B.