Monday, February 15, 2010

Homemade Sourdough: Starter and Bread

DD have been buying "When Pigs Fly" sourdough bread lately -- When Pigs Fly bakery is regionally located in the northeast, and they make some of the yummiest and most healthful bread there is. You CAN order it online if you're interested.

In any case, while their bread is fantastic, it doesn't come cheap (what truly good thing does?) So DD and I decided to try to make our own.

First... you need starter. And IT needs about 5 days or so to get really good and ready. There are many options for making sourdough starter, but I chose the simplest:

1 cup milk
1 cup flour (I used oat -- whole grain but white)

Mix together in a container that isn't metal and let sit out for about 5 days, until it's got a good "sour" smell... you can't put a lid on this or it will explode as it ferments. I put mine in a glass jar with a cloth over the top, stirring it once a day.

Edited to add: After your starter is "sour", you can cap it and store in your fridge. If you don't use it after a couple of weeks, scoop a little out and add new flour and milk, and leave out to ferment again.

Once you have your starter, you're ready to make bread.

Here's the recipe I used:


Combine and set aside until bubbly (do not stir):
1 1/2 c warm water (about 105 degrees)
1 package (2 1/2 tsp) active dry yeast

Mix and stir for 3 minutes with the above mixture - let set until double in bulk:
1 c sourdough starter
3 1/2 c whole wheat flour
1 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp salt


1/2 tsp baking soda
2 cups whole wheat flour

Mix until satiny

Shape into 2 oblong loaves and place on lightly greased cookie sheet. Cover and let rise until double in bulk. Just before baking, brush with water or egg whites.

Bake at 400 degrees for 30 - 40 mins

I made a few changes -- the biggest being that I substituted unbleached white flour for half the whole wheat flour so I'd have a little more "fluff" to my bread.

Gather your ingredients and tools:

Proof your yeast (yeast in warm water):

Mix your starter into the yeast and add other ingredients (sugar, flour, etc):

Next, knead your bread a bit until all the flour is mixed in. I don't have a pictures, because DH came by to chat while I was working, and I plumb forgot!

Then shape into loaves and put on the cookie sheet:

Cover and let rise (about an hour, if your house is warm):

When they're HUGE, brush with water:

Put in the oven:

With a pan of water for a crunchier "french bread" crust:


When they're done, brush the tops with a bit of butter:

Then immediately cut into them

and eat because nothing tastes quite as good as fresh baked bread...

DD ate three pieces... it was lunch for her that day.

In conclusion: The bread *tasted* fabulous. It was still a little heavy, but the flavor was perfect. Next time, though, I'll probably use bread pans so they'll rise UP instead of OUT -- these loaves got fatter, not taller.

But this is a definitely make recipe. We'll be having this quite often, I suspect. It's my favorite homemade bread yet.


Sunday, February 14, 2010

What $40 of Healthful Food Looks Like

I have to admit, this "living healthy" thing I got going on this year isn't easy on the pocketbook -- I can't wait until I can start growing stuff (and participating in the local CSA) because this is ridiculous.

Behold -- $40 of food:

I admit to splurging on the rotisserie chicken (I love them -- I'm considering buying a machine to do them myself), but nothing else. Even the sliced mushrooms were the same price per pound as the unsliced ones.

So: apples, celery, carrots, peppers, mushrooms, an onion, cabbage and lettuce chicken and cottage cheese.

Forty Dollars.

Makes me crazy...


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Healthful Dog Food

I've talked about my dog, Dakota, on my writing blog -- and those of you who've been reading awhile know she has digestive problems that have led to me making her food from scratch. I've received emails from several people asking about it, and have had folks IRL interested as well, so decided that a post is in order. After all, our pets are kids, too, right?

I used the recipe for Spot's Stew from the Halo Pets website (actually, I found it in the book, "The Whole Pet Diet", but it's on the site as well.

Halo Pet's Spots Stew

Yield: About 8 Cups

2 ½ pounds whole chicken
¼ cup chopped fresh garlic
1 cup green peas
1 cup coarsely chopped carrots
½ cup coarsely chopped sweet potato
½ cup coarsely chopped zucchini
½ cup coarsely chopped yellow squash
½ cup coarsely chopped green beans
½ cup coarsely chopped celery
1 tablespoon kelp powder
1 tablespoon dried rosemary
11 to 16 cups spring water

For dogs only: Add 8 ounces whole barley and 6 ounces rolled oats, and adjust the water content to a total of 16 cups or enough to cover the ingredients (According to Halo Veterinarian, Dr. Donna Spector, cats require zero carbohydrate content in their diet, so this would be an unnecessary addition for cats).

Instructions: Combine all of the ingredients in a 10-quart stockpot (stainless steel, please) with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat as low as possible and simmer for 2 hours (the carrots should be quite soft at the end of the cooking time). Remove from the heat, let cool, and debone the chicken. With an electric hand mixer, or using a food processor and working in batches, blend all the ingredients into a nice puree; the stew should be slightly thicker for dogs and more soupy for cats. Using zip lock bags or plastic yogurt containers, make up meal-sized portions. Refrigerate what you’ll need for three days and freeze the rest. Be sure and seek your pet’s advice (and your vet’s) on ideal meal sizes.

Serving Size: Amounts will vary depending on age, activity level, current health, weight, and season, but here are some guidelines: The average adult cat will eat roughly 1 cup a day. Because dogs vary so much in size, consult the table below. The amount shown should be split into at least two meals daily.

Dog’s Weight Total Daily Portion
Up to 10 pounds 1 to 1 ½ cups
11 to 20 pounds 2 to 3 cups
21-40 pounds 4 cups

For each additional 20 pounds, add 2 cups. Remember, all pets are individuals, so let your intuition and observations guide you, and always consult your vet.

As always, I changed things up slightly. Here's what I do (I spread this out over two days because it's easier).

Start with two whole chickens (they weigh approximately 9 lbs)

Boil until cooked then remove from broth. I put them in a HUGE bowl with a lid I have and put them somewhere to cool (currently this is the garage). I put the broth into containers and let it cool, too, in my outdoor refrigerator (the only good part about winter!):

The following day, I cook the rest. I scoop the fat off the now cooled broth, and dump the broth into a pot. I add some of the hardest veggies (I frequently use sweet potato in place of the pumpkin, and use whatever type of summer squash I can easily find. I also use potato in place of the barley or oatmeal sometimes) -- celery, carrots, sweet potato, white potato.

I'm a big believer that raw food is healthier, so the stuff I can mush without cooking, I leave uncooked: the peas, green beans and squash.

While that is cooking, I debone the chicken and make sure it's in fairly small pieces.

Then... when it's all cooked and ready, I feed it all through my Kitchen Aid meat grinder (after pouring the broth into the bowl). Dogs have a shorter digestive tract than humans do ... if you don't grind up the veggies, they won't digest them as thoroughly, therefore missing out on some of the nutrients.

This is what it looks like when I'm done.

Now I pull out my other additions.

And scoop a day's worth of food into several containers, then put the correct amount of vitamin, oil, kelp, probiotics, etc., into each one.

(As an aside, I'm looking for appropriately sized glass containers to use, since it appears I'll be doing this for the next, oh... eleven years or so. I'm well aware that plastic is NOT a healthful choice to use.)

DD stirs, and we put them into the freezer.

Dakota helps by washing the dishes:


For the cat, I cut back a little on the veggies and add half fish, half chicken (because my cat prefers fish), don't add the starch and then puree it until it's smooth.

It may sound like a lot of work, but I get more than a week's worth of food, and it's only really an hour or so of actually working time (as opposed to the cooking time). And it's worth it. Look at this face and tell me you wouldn't do the same: