No-Knead Bread Mix

I have been watching recipes for bread for a long time. My mother used to make homemade bread all the time, so I grew up with something that spoiled me. Now that I am older, I have been trying to figure out how to do it more easily.  Below is my first experiment.

The book that contains the unmodified recipe is The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg.  It has some great ideas and recipes but I hadn’t tried anything until this week. The recipe doubles as a quick bread recipe as well as amake-ahead recipe (not as fun as giving brownies in a jar as gifts, but there is some potential).

You Will Need

  • Glass jar (like a Mason jar) and lid if you with to make ahead
  • Parchment paper
  • Baking stone, cast iron skillet, or bread pan

Ingredients

Make this ahead and store in a glass jar if you wish to have it ready for making or give as a gift:

  • 4 ½ cups all-purpose or bread flour
  • 2 t active quick rising dry yeast
  • 2 t salt
  • Optional – 1-2 T vital wheat gluten.  This is added to give the loaf smaller bubbles and a firmer feel, or what they call crumb.  I use this in all my homemade bread so added this.  Your bread may look different than the picture below if you choose not to use it, but it will not change the flavor..

Add the following when you are ready to make bread.  Put the dry ingredients or dump your mix into a large bowl and add the following:

  • 1 ¼ cups warm water
  • 1 T of raw apple cider vinegar.

Instructions

  1. Mix the wet ingredients until all the dry ingredients are gone.  This is only one loaf so you can mix by hand without having to involve a mixer for less clean up.
  2. Place in a warm location and cover the dough with a kitchen towel and let rise 1½ hours (window sill, warm oven, etc.)
  3. Preheat oven to 450 degrees If you wish to use a baking stone to bake your bread, heat it up as well.
  4. Punch down the dough and remove it from the bowl. Using your hands, pull the sides of the dough down and to the bottom until you have a round loaf. Place on a piece of parchment.
  5. Baking methods.  All work well, but the baking stone and cast iron skillet give the bread more of a rustic look.  If you want it to look like a traditional loaf, use the bread pan.
    1. Use a baking stone (any of the larger sizes will work).
    2. Use a large cast iron skillet  (this is the method I tried as I use my pan for deep-dish pizza regularly.   I did pre-heat the pan like was recommended for the stone, but think I would not do it that way next time).
    3. Use a bread pan.
  6. Let the dough rest 40 minutes.
  7. Just before baking, cut the top three times with a knife along the loaf, then dust the top of the dough with flour.
  8. Transfer the dough using the parchment onto the baking stone/cast iron pan/bread pan.
  9. Bake for 24-30 minutes (your oven and personal taste will dictate this.  I used 25 minutes the first time and that was fine for me).
  10. Carefully remove the parchment paper from under the hot loaf.  I have found if you wait for the loaf to fully cool the bread may harden around some of the paper, making removal challenging.
  11. Now, you are supposed to let bread cool before you cut into it, but come one, who can wait if there is butter near by?

Here is what the bread looks like after coming out of the oven.  As I used the cast iron skillet, it tended to spread wider than it would have in a bread pan.  A stone would do the same thing.  Very rustic looking, for sure.

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Here is a picture of what the inside of the loaf looks like.

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The bread has a good taste.  I was thinking the apple cider vinegar might give it a sourdough-like taste, but it did not.  I have found it good for toast and plan to try some sandwiches with it.  By heating up the cast iron I got a very thick bottom, reminiscent of a rye bread, so will try it without that next time.

Enjoy, and let us know your successes and changes.  As my daughter and I say, “recipes are just suggestions”.

No sugar brownies.

Yummy brownies
Can it be?  Can there truly be something good as a traditional brownie but without the sugar you ask?  Yes there can and I did make at least one batch of these sugar free brownies.  I did not use and artificial sugar substitutes as that would be against the theme of this site, that being eat natural.  Instead these brownies are sweetened with honey.

Using quality chocolate and a milder honey results in a brownie that satisfies one’s sweet tooth without damaging ones health.

The recipe is as follows:

Ingredients
•2/3 cup mild honey (I used clover honey)
•1/3 cups natural, unsweetened cocoa powder
•1/2 cup unbleached all purpose flour
•1/4 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
•1/4 teaspoon baking soda
•1/4 teaspoon salt
•1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
•2 tablespoons olive oil
•1 large egg
•3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preparation

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly coat a 9-inch round or square pan with olive oil.

2. Using a glass measuring cup measure out the 2/3 cup of honey and place into a pan of hot water. Put the pan on your stovetop burner and set to medium heat. Might take about 5 minutes or so but the honey will become thinner and easier to work with. You just want to warm it up and not make it boil. Once it is warm enough carefully remove the measuring cup from the water and mix in the cocoa powder into the honey.

3. In a medium bowl mix together the the salt, baking soda baking powder, and flour. Stir until mixture is fully blended.

4. In another bowl, mix together vanilla, oil, egg, and applesauce. Stir mixture well then add the honey-cocoa mixture and stir again.

5. Combine the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients and mix until fully blended.

6. Pour batter in to previously prepared pan and bake for 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

An easy recipe to make and tasty too. I may try and experiment in the future by adding some cocoa nibs to add a little bit of crunch to the recipe. Let us know how yours turns out.

Relaxation and skin rejuvination therapy

Sesame oil to prevent dry skinDuring the harsh dry winters our skin can dry out rather quickly leaving us with cracked dry skin and continual itchiness.  Putting on lotion helps for a certain amount of time but for the most part it becomes a couple times a day routine in order to maintain skin hydration.

In addtion to maintaining proper hydration (as noted in our post “Hydration“) you can nourish your skin on a once (or more than once) a week basis using sesame oil.  Sesame oil has numerous benefits (see this link at Howstuffworks.com and also here at Livestrong.com for details) such as providing nutrients to the skin, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.

A nice way to take advantage of sesame oil is to apply it on a lazy Sunday (or any other day of the week where you have nothing to do but recover and relax  from a hectic week).  Apply sesame oil in sparing amounts to the parts of your body with the most dryness issues.  You can even massage the oil in as part of a pre-bath relaxation routine.  Even better take turns massaging with your significant other.  Once done applying the oil take a bath as usual (be careful in the tub if your feet are oily as slippery when wet will apply).

The idea with the bath being you are taking off the excess oil so you don’t feel overly oil but retaining enough to rejuvinate your skin.  So you don’t want to use soap excessively or scrub excessively.  Just scrub as you normally would if you are taking a post workout rinse off shower.  Do this at least once a week during the harsh winter months and your skin condition should be better than just the multi-day lotion routine.  Let us know how it works out for you in the comments below!

Guest Bloggers Wanted!

Help us add content!

Sorry for the long delay in posting.  Too many projects going on at once.

Anyways do you know anyone who would like to guest write for Truganic.com?  We are looking for talented writers who are passionate about their health, the food they eat and more.  If you meet the criteria and want to write please let us know either via the comments section below or via the Contact link above.

Thanks!

Toxic diets!

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Let’s face it our diet today is loaded with unnecessary toxic ingredients that do nothing to help our health. Instead we are faced with the unknown long term consequences of high fructose corn syrup, bleached flour, artificial colors and preservatives which make for a toxic soup that only serves to damage our bodies.   Many of these toxic ingredients are used to enhance the look, taste or longevity of food products.

So how does one go about reducing the effects of toxic ingredients in our diet? One obvious way is to simply eliminate those ingredients from our diet. I know, easier said than done. If you work a full time job and are like most average humans it is very time consuming and unfortunately also costly to buy all organic. I wish I could do it myself.

But there are plenty of ways to help reduce the effects of toxic ingredients in our diet that are not expensive and could end up saving you money in the long term. One easy way is rather than reaching for that can of soda for your afternoon pick me up instead grab a cup of coffee. You can sweeten that coffee with a pinch of real sugar or honey, but make sure to avoid the artificial sweeteners since those are not good for your health either. You get both your caffeine fix and some sweetener to satisfy your taste buds without all the extra junk associated with drinking a soda.

If you want to drink water for your after lunch pick me up but still need the caffeine use these Water Sensations Water Infusion packs that you can add to your water. The water infusion packs add water, vitamins, and a stevia sweetener to help perk you up without all the added toxic chemicals found on sodas.

Other ways to reduce toxicity in your day to day routine is look at the basic ingredients you may be using for making your food. Most of us don’t actively go out and seek high fructose corn syrup to sweeten our recipes but when selecting other ingredients we do often take the mass produced items that are right there in front of us without thinking of the way in which those ingredients were processed.

For instance how many grab just any old flour off the shelf for use in cooking? I used to be guilty of thinking any flour is fine so let’s look for the best price.   Today I instead look for flour that is not bleached, since the bleaching of flour to make it look lighter saps nutrients and uses harsh chemicals in the bleaching process. Harsh bleaching chemicals include those such as chlorine or benzoyl peroxide (acne medication anyone?).

So look carefully when purchasing your basic ingredients. Rather than grabbing any old baking powder make sure you reach for one that has no aluminum component in it such as Bob’s Red Mill brand. Also for flour select unbleached flours as commonly made by the King Arthur Flour brand.

There are plenty of other creative ways we can ensure the food we eat is healthy for our bodies. Do you have any suggestions on how to improve our diets?

Bone broth.

Bar_Pod_Arkadami_Poznan_tomato_soupConsuming bone broth is a traditional way of getting good nutrients into your body. The broth is made by boiling healthy animal bones with vegetables, herbs and spices over a period of time. The typical broths (also known as stock) found at your grocery store is often time made at very high temperatures to speed up the process. The high temperatures used often results in many of the beneficials aspects of the broth being boiled away or damaged by the intense heat. Traditional bone broth is high in calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and amino acids which helps your skin, hair and nails look and feel better in addition to having other positive health effects.

In making your home made bone broth you should select quality bones from grass fed cattle, wild caught fish or chickens fed traditional chicken feed. You can find quality bones from reputable local butchers or ask the meat sellers at you local farmers market. A seasoned bone broth can be consumed alone or can be used as the base for many types of soup (chicken noodle soup anyone?), pasta or more.

Here is a starter recipe to get you going:

2 lbs. of (chicken, cow, fish) animal bones
1 sweet onion
Vegetables like 1-2 carrots, couple stalks of celery, few sliced radishes, cauliflower or other vegetable you prefer
2 tablespoons of organic unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)
Salt, pepper, other herbs and spices to taste

Chop up your vegetables into medium sized pieces. Beef bones can be roasted for 40-50 minutes at 400 degrees fahrenheit before adding to the water to enhance the flavor (let the bones cool before adding to the water). Place bones, one gallon of water and the ACV into a stock pot. Let the bones and water sit unheated for 20-30 minutes. After letting the bones sit in the water add your vegetables, spices and seasoning and bring to a boil. After bringing to a boil reduce the temperature so the stock is simmering. For the first two hours of simmering you should skim off (do this every 20-30 minutes) the froth from the top of the broth and throw it away.

Beef bones should simmer for 40-48 hours, poultry bones for around 20-24 hours and fish bones for 6-8 hours.
Once done simmering strain the broth with a fine sieve. The broth can be stored in your refrigerator for up to one week or can be frozen for longer term use.

For those that don’t want to simmer the broth on your stove for that long you can instead use a slow cooker. Start off on high to get a boil and then drop the temperature to low for the simmering portion to get similar results.

Let us know how you use the broth in other dishes!

Delicious homemade kale chips

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Here is a healthy homemade treat anyone can make on their own:

Ingredients:

-Kale (one bunch or anywhere from 8 to 15 large kale leaves)
-2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
-kosher salt
-added flavors per your desires (You can use spices like turmeric, black pepper, cayenne powder, fresh garlic, etc.)

1. Preheat your oven to 300F degrees.
2. Wash and dry the kale ahead of time. Cut the stems off if you desire.
3. Brush (basting brush would work best) or rub the oil onto the leaves.
4. Sprinkle on the kosher salt as per your preference. If you chose any added flavors sprinkle those on as well. Certain powdered spices can be mixed directly into the olive oil and spread on directly as noted in step 3.
5. Spread the kale evenly on a baking sheet and put into the oven for about 10 minutes, rotate the baking tray then bake for another 10-15 minutes.
6. Let stand for 3 minutes then serve and enjoy.

A healthy and easy to make treat. Let us know what flavors you added in the comments below.

Vitamin D

As we start to enter the fall and winter seasons, for those of us in the further northern and southern areas of the globe our sun exposure begins to decline.  Longer nights, shorter days, more gloomy overcast weather results in us getting less sun.  Sun exposure is critical in helping our bodies make enough vitamin D.

Vitamin D helps our intestines better absorb calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphate and zinc.  Calcium and phosphate are two minerals that are essential for normal bone formation.  Lack of vitamin D  can result in rickets which is a softening of the bones and is more common in developing countries where vitamin D supplementation is not usual.  Lack of vitamin D can also result in feeling depressed (aka the winter time blues), body aches, and fatigue.

If you don’t spend much time in the sun, have darker skin, wear sunscreen or wear long sleeve shirts and pants when going out into the sun you may be at risk for lower levels of vitamin D.  Diet alone also may not provide sufficient amounts of vitamin D, especially for those on a low or no dairy diet.  To find out where your vitamin D levels are at it is advisable that when you have your routine physicals and blood tests done that you ask to have your vitamin D levels be tested.

Additional sun exposure is one way to ensure your body has enough vitamin D and the benefit of vitamin D made by sunlight is that your body cannot overdose from sunlight derived vitamin D.  But your body can suffer from an overdose of sunlight in the form of sunburn and worse so we must temper our sun exposure time to achieve a proper balance.  Where sun exposure is not possible all the time then vitamin D supplements can prove beneficial.

Too much vitamin D through supplements can be a bad thing.  Some experts suggest 2000 IU of vitamin D per day is a good amount to consume.  This is above the government suggested intake of 400 IU but below the maximum daily amount.

In addition to helping keep away the winter blahs, recent research indicates proper supplementation of vitamin D may help prevent certain cancers, reduce chances of hypertension and alleviate some other conditions.  As with any supplement it is best to take it wisely based on the needs of your own body and to monitor your supplements through blood tests to see if you are where you should be.

How To Make A Bacon Fat Candle

While we know too much bacon is not exactly a diet item, we do know it is great for flavoring (and that it tastes really good). We also know “all things in moderation” is a great motto to live by, so we decided to help you with your leftover bacon fat if you are one who uses bacon.

Many people, whether they use bacon often or not, store the fat in a glass jar. If you want to store it for any future use, whether candles, flavoring or frying, the fat should be cleaned first. This is easier than it sounds, and a clean-bacon fat candle will burn cleaner, yet leave the mouthwatering bacon smell all around the home. Following you will find how to make this candle out of your leftovers.

Instructions:

Some people will fry bacon, while others will cook it on a backing sheet in the oven (in a cold oven, put bacon on foil on a cookie sheet, turn over to 400 degrees and cook for 17-20 minutes). Either source will produce the fat, but the cookie sheet method will produce cleaner fat and consistently good bacon.

While the fat is still warm (not hot) after you have cooked your bacon, pour it into a bowl through a paper towel. Some bacon fat candle makers will tell you to “leave the bits in” and not filter, but this is not a standard rule. For example, lower-quality bacon cooks up darker and messier. Due to this and pan-frying being uneven, filtering is not a bad idea if you want your candle to burn cleanly.

To filter, lay the paper towel into the bowl and pour in the warm fat. Pick up the paper towel, being careful not to let any fat run over the sides. By picking up the paper towel you will help the fat filter faster.

Once the bacon fat has cooled down, but before it sets up, pour it into the glass jar or candle tin you wish to use for your candle. A small pint jar works well with the nice open top if you have some laying around, or you can use nice candle tins with lids. You will need to insert a wick into the jar or tin first. To keep the candle burning clean, we recommend these wicks:

Click here for a nice wick pack.

These wicks are 6”, and you will get enough in this affordable package to make many candles of any size up to 6 inches. The big advantage to these wicks is they will stand up when you pour in the fat. As you pour in the fat, once the fat reaches the level you need (it make take some time to acquire enough fat), let the fat cool. It will take about 30 minutes at a moderate room temperature to solidify. You can short-cut the process by putting the candle in the refrigerator and it will set up in about 5-10 minutes. Once solid, trim the wick to 1/4”. Your candle is now ready to burn. Enjoy your renewable candle source!

Here is an idea for the candles if you do not have any jars laying around you can use. These are small candle tins with lids, making them easier to store as well as gift:

Click here for Candle Tin ideas.

Quick steps:

  1. Render fat by cooking bacon (better not to burn it as it will make your candle stink).
  2. Clean fat by filtering through a paper towel.
  3. Pour cool fat into glass jar.
  4. Drop wick into jar.
  5. Allow fat to cool at room temperature or in refrigerator.
  6. Put on lid and store or gift.
  7. Burn at your convenience.

Reducing sugar cravings

You’ve done your best to reduce your sugar consumption some but are still looking for tips on how to reduce cravings to further yourself along.  Sugar can be an addictive substance, it affects the pleasure center in our brains.  Depending when we ate sugary sweets during life we may associate sugar consumption with positive events (birthdays, anniversaries, and other celebrations) so sugar consumption can be equated with positive emotions in our minds.  Lets not forget the massive onslaught of advertising aimed to get us to buy this sweet or that treat through many means of psychological influence.

It is not an easy and cold turkey process to give up sugar and eliminate the cravings.  There will be the occasional binges of sweets which lead to continued consumption for days, which can lead to relapse into our sugar eating ways.  What’s worse is when you go to someones house for something like a birthday party where cake, ice cream, cookies and nother sweets are expected.  It is hard to resist.

So how do you reduce those sugar cravings?  There are a number of ways we can attempt to counter the intense cravings.  One easy way is to substitute fruit sweetness for refined sugar sweetness.  So if you feel yourself craving a piece of cake or pie then opt for some fruit like oranges, apples, pineapples or other fruit.  The sugar in fruits is easier digested and dealt with by your body.  Most fruits contain good amounts of fiber too which helps your digestive system.  A cake loaded with frosting, sugar and bleached flour is obviously not going to be as body friendly as a fresh piece of fruit will be.

Another way to help reduce those cravings may be to eat a small piece here and there.  This works well when your craving is more based on a psychological need.  Eating that small piece of chocolate or few small bites of cake may be enough to satisfy and not require you to consume anymore.  Of course if you are the type where one bites leads to another and then ten more bites, avoidance would be better.

Don’t buy sweets to begin with.  If you don’t have sweets around then there is less chance for you to find yourself eating them during a moment of weakness.  I know, it’s easier said than done.  For those with kids in the house sweets are inevitably found in the pantry and are an easy target for something sweet to snack on here and there.  If that is the case for you as well then tell other people in your household about your desire to eat less sweets.  Whether it be to improve your health or just to cut back on sugar in general, when other people in your house know about it you will be less likely to grab something sweet to snack on.  In the event you do grab something sweet one of your family members may ask you about it and cause you to rethink/remember that you want to cut back.

These are but a few suggestions to try.  It will take time to wean ourselves away from the sugar rush cycle that our bodies have become accustomed to.  But once you have kicked the sugar cravings and reduce your sugar consumption overall you will start to notice a little sugar goes a long way.  Those donuts you once thought could use a pinch more powdered sugar may now seem too sweet to handle.