Daily Bread

our current loaf

I know I mentioned a while ago that because my darling dearest needed to reduce his sodium intake, I started baking bread. It is amazing how much sodium is in a loaf of store bought bread. Anyway, in our part of the world store bought bread has become a rare commodity with entire store shelves being barren, so even if we wanted to buy bread, we can’t. Also I find baking therapeutic.

So on the off chance you find yourself in a similar situation, I am posting one of my favorite recipes. It came from my Aunt. I have no idea where she got it, but it makes one loaf and is what we have been using. So on the off chance you want to try your hand at this, I’m posting the recipe below. If you have a stand mixer with a dough hook the hardest part is waiting. even without, it isn’t that hard. So here we go,

Ingredients:

3 cups/384 g Bread flour (you can use all purpose, but it tends not to get as good a rise), keep a little extra flour for dusting the surface and in case you need to add more to counteract humidity.

1/2 cup milk

3/4 cup water (warmed to 120 degrees)

2 tsp honey

2 T butter (unsalted)

1 T sugar

2 tsp yeast

1 tsp salt

Directions:

  • place yeast pinch of flour, and sugar and warm water in a bowl. Set aside until foamy (10-15 minutes)
  • put milk and butter into a bowl and put in the microwave for 30 seconds on high, stir and then do another 30 seconds to melt the butter. Once the butter is melted, you can take it out of the microwave. If you don’t have a microwave, put them in a pan on the stove top on medium to heat. If both are taken from the fridge, then when the butter melts, the milk will be warm enough.
  • If using a stand mixer with a dough hook: add three cups/384 g of bread flour to the mixer. Add honey, salt, warmed milk and melted butter and the contents of the foamy yeast bowl (essentially everything goes in). Start the mixer on low so things don’t go flying (abt 1 minute) when they are mixed up a bit set it between two and three on your speed settings and let it go for anywhere from 8-10 minutes or until it forms a ball. It doesn’t need to be a smooth ball just a cohesive dough. If it looks like it is too wet, add a little more flour (by Tablespoons) and continue with the hook until incorporated and it is a still somewhat sticky mass.
  • Then stop the mixer, turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and give it a few final kneads until it is a smooth ball of dough.
  • If not using a stand mixer. Put all of the above ingredients into a bowl, blend with a silicone spatula until it is a dough, then turn out onto a flowered work surface and knead until it is a smooth ball of dough.
  • Once smooth, put into a greased bowl, turning once to oil all sides of your dough ball, then cover with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm spot for 45 minutes.
  • Once the dough has doubled in size, grease a regular sized loaf pan, make sure to get the corners. place the pan next to the bowl and remove the plastic wrap from the bowl (don’t throw away).
  • Lift the risen dough out of the bowl and place it into the greased loaf pan. Shape it so it fills the pan but try not to touch it too much.
  • Cover the loaf pan and dough with the plastic wrap and let sit for another 45 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  • Once dough has its second rise, take the plastic wrap off of the loaf pan and put the loaf pan with dough in the center rack of the oven and bake for 45 minutes or until you hear a hollow sound when you tap the loaf with a knife.
  • turn it out on a rack, making sure it’s right side up, let cool and slice as you want.

I like this recipe because it is super easy and you really don’t have to do much to the dough. You mostly just have to leave it alone. The bread has a good crumb and is substantial enough to support most ingredients. It toasts well and it freezes well. If you freeze it, let it cool completely, then wrap it tightly in plastic wrap then insert it into a freezer bag for extra security.

I know this post is a little out of the ordinary for me, but hopefully you will find it useful.

Weight loss Regime Survival Tip #37: Play with your food

As I know I’ve mentioned a billion times before, my diet plan is based on more exercise and less calories. It’s pretty simple I know. No foods are marked as evil and banned from the house. I do this because I know how my brain works. as soon as I forbid myself to eat something I will start to crave it. hile the cravings will start off small and be easily ignored, over time they will grow. Then when I finally break down and go for it I will not just indulge, I will over indulge. If they aren’t banned then when I want them, I am much more likely to have a sensible amount because I know this won’t be my only chance to have them for a really long time.

Your brain might not work this way, but mine does, so this is my plan.

Whatever your plan, I’m sure it in some way deals with food. There may be a million different diet plans out there but in the end, we all have to eat, even if we are trying to shave some butter off of our bread.

One of the traps I’ve found is that I tend to eat the same meals week in and week out. When I make the meal plan for the week, ince I break out the calories of each meal so I can better plan, I tend to stick to meals where I have already broken out the calories. It is a natural inclination.

To figure out my meals calories, I’ve go through a recipe and figure out not only how many calories are in the version I make (which doesn’t always match the one established by actual chefs either because I couldn’t find the ingredient or it wouldn’t be appreciated in the household) and then figure out how many calories are in the portion size I typically consume from the dish that was made. It can take a while and once I’ve done it for the recipe I like to keep it in rotation a while so that I have at least one meal figured out. At this point I have a bunch of recipes figured out and tend to rotate through them.

The problem is that while it saves time, it gets boring. while I like to cook, making the same set of recipes gets old, not only with the repetition of making the food but in the eating. To change this up and combat the food fatigue I designated one day as new recipe day. While I can fall back on my favorite standards through much of the week if I choose, I pick one recipe that I have never made before and think looks interesting to break out for the following week.

I chose Wednesday for the break out meal because it is a small midweek excitement and schedule wise it is also my slowest day. Or at least the day that generally ends at the end of the workday with nothing planned for the evening.

This week I am making spring rolls. The cold Vietnamese kind, not the fried kind. I’m going with the shrimp version where each roll has one shrimp that has been bisected down the middle so that it can lay flat on the cold noodles and veggies. I am going for this recipe because it is more or less evenly portioned out (I suspect that as this is my first time making them uniformity may not be achieved this go round but there is a limit to how much can be put into one wrapper.) I have never made them so it falls into my new recipe category.

In addition the spring rolls are strangely hard to find here. All of the restaurants offering anything called spring rolls here only have the deep fried versions available and while the grocery story has packaged sushi and fresh spring rolls are usually offered along side them, here they are absent from the offerings. Perhaps there is a local ban I know nothing about.

It gives my dinner plans an air of danger, no?

One of the main reasons that I chose this is that both my baby and I love spring rolls. Despite his meat centric view on what constitutes a proper dinner, he can gorge himself on spring rolls and be sated. The trick is there have to be more spring rolls given to him then he would usually get in a package or a restaurant order. then he is happy, even if it is just one extra.

That appears to be his mental trigger.

I suppose we each have one.

So I am playing with my food in order to avoid meal time burn out. And while I do have to break out one recipe each week, I can fall back on foods I’ve already figured out on the other days. Plus, once I’ve figured it out, the food isn’t new anymore and I have an extra recipe added to my meal time planning stash. The more recipes I add, the wider the variety of my meal times. Plus I get to learn new skills and practice ones I don’t often use. Tonight I will julienne and feel like a professional (as long as I don’t cut my fingers off) and I will learn if wrapping a spring roll is anything like wrapping a burrito. I suspect there are differences.

This is one time when playing with your food is not only acceptable, but encouraged. And if any of you can think of things I might want to try as I branch out of my comfort zone, drop me a comment. As long as they are reasonably low caloric and I can find all the ingredients, I’m willing to give it a go.


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Weight loss Regime Survival Tip #29: Warmth

Sometimes you just need a little something warm

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, I love food. It is partially what got me into a place where I need a weight loss regime in the first place. It has also been quite helpful in some respects as I work on my weight loss.

I actually had a somewhat funny moment early on where I looked at one of my personal food weaknesses, cheese. In an effort to convince myself that I should at least attempt to switch to the low fat, low calorie thing masquerading as cheese from other cheeses, I sliced two identically caloric portions of cheese. One was some variety of the aforementioned pretender which doesn’t bear remembering. The other was a wedge of Humboldt Fog.

If you have never tried it I highly recommend it, especially on a plain water cracker (so as not to distract from the cheese) and possibly drizzled with a thin line of local honey. Yum. Okay my mouth is watering and I am distracted.

Where was I?

Right, the test of the pretender.

Anyway I portioned them out, each portion with roughly the same amount of calories and I told myself that as I was watching my calories now I could either have the small piece of Humboldt Fog or the larger wedge of the other stuff.

Needless to say, Humboldt won and while that doesn’t sound like a diet victory, it actually was, because calorie counting became a lot less onerous once the greedy little part of my brain realized that I could actually still eat some of the things I liked (within reason) as long as I portioned them and could fit them within my daily allotted calories.

Counting calories became a tool by which I could not only control my diet, but justify some of my cravings. Because I knew if I had to give up all of my favorites, then I was destined for failure. Or to put back on everything I worked to take off once I stopped the monitoring. So portion control was key.

I can feel you getting restless out there. I can year you.

‘That’s great Mimsy, but what does that have to do with warmth?’

Patience my darlings, we will soon arrive at something resembling a point.

Promise.

Now, I started really rolling on my dieting adventure in this past Spring. While I technically started when the calendar was arguably Winter, I needed to figure a few details and kinks in the system before I got the hang of things.

By then the first of the early greens were poking up through my garden and let me tell you, if you have never assembled a salad by thinning the garden, you are missing out on a delight. Tiny but tender lettuce leaves, nips of thinned herbs, a few early pea shoots and whatever else you have growing combine to make an exquisite gardener’s delight that taste like nothing else.

Then, naturally, spring fades into summer and, among other things, fresh, just ripened tomatoes of various varieties, still warm from the sun are sliced, topped with freshly picked basil, julienned so it can be scattered over the tomatoes, and then dusted with a sprinkling of crunchy sea salt and a little (measured, thank you very much) drizzle of good balsamic vinegar.

Heaven.

But then the winter comes. And while the freezer is well stocked with sauce and bags of frozen veg in various states of processing, many of the foods that saw me through the warmer months and made the dieting a not so harsh thing are gone.

I know, I can get a version of many of them year round in the grocery, but honestly part of my love of gardening is the little treats that I get once a year. In the colder months I like to think of them as I flip through seed catalogs and decide what I am planting when the time comes. I like the anticipation of the once a year treats as much as I enjoy the treats themselves. I’m okay with limiting that particular indulgence to enjoy the anticipation.

But I still have to eat.

And what I crave when the weather turns is something warm and toothsome.

My solution is soup.

Soup is warm and it contains (at least the varieties I choose) chunkier bits. The warmth and chew make me feel as though I am actually eating something much more caloric than I actually am. And it is that warmth that truly makes me feel satisfied in the winter.

Now sometimes on a weekend that isn’t too busy, I will haul out my stored garden bounty and make a cauldron of soup, potion it out (freezing most of it until needed, and enjoy. But usually when I start making soup, it is January and I am done with socializing for a while and looking to stay in (plus that’s usually when I realize the freezer needs to be cleared out before spring).

So I a lot of the time I go for canned, especially for lunch.

The thing is, cans are tricky.

Even when you read all of the ingredients, the portion size can still get you.

First of all, most cans contain about two portions. So even if you have been conscientiously reading the ingredients, you can be tricked. My solution to that is my lovely little bowl. In case you are wondering it is a ‘Souper Bowl‘ that is stoneware with a plastic lid. It is microwaveable and has a heat vent. I picked mine up at Tuesday Morning although they are sold in numerous places.

The one I use holds exactly one portion of soup. Once I figured that out, I no longer had to measure the soup so I was happy with one less thing to wash. Plus, once I’ve eaten my one bowl of soup, I can place the remaining portion in the bowl and put it in the fridge.

Because that’s how they get you on portion sizing even when you know it is more than one portion, because you read the label. You pour half of the can into the bowl (often a bowl too large for just one cup of soup, the correct portion size) and are then left with half a can of soup. If you have a bigger bowl, you often justify eating the entire can.

After all, you don’t want to stick the can in the fridge, cause you know it will just get pushed to the back and forgotten. And you don’t want to waste it. So the bowl helps. Mostly because I use the bowl often enough that stashing it with leftovers makes me wonder where it went and so I am less likely to forget the leftovers. So I generally have the same soup for lunch two days in a row.

Which is why I often take a while deciding what soups to buy when standing in the grocery and am confronted with a wall of cans.

I know it seems a little strange, but for me at least, having something warm at lunch time when it is cold really makes me feel satisfied. I also like that one bowl of soup (depending on the soup chosen) isn’t all that caloric.

In the winter, my dinners tend to be a little heavier than in the summer, mostly because when it is hot I keep meals lighter. I also live with someone who grew up in Montana and things winters are times to eat mass quantities and hibernate until spring or get as close to that as humanly possible. He also taunts the grass because it isn’t growing and he doesn’t have to mow it, but that’s a whole other issue.

So a lower calorie lunch helps out as well. I know this has sort been of a combination of a few food thoughts, but hopefully for anyone watching their calories it will prove helpful. Personally, until I tried it, I didn’t actually think temperature could make that much of a difference. Turns out it can. Who knew?

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Weight loss Regime Survival Tip #9: Herbs and Spices

Basil

You hear it all the time on cooking shoes. “Fat is Flavor.” You know what eliminates blandness? If you watch any cooking competitions you do. The answer is salt.

Fat and salt, two of the the things that make food taste good. I get it, I do. Fat helps us digest the nutrients in things like vegetables and helps us get the nutrition we need to run these big brains of ours that separate us from the lower primates swinging through the jungle. Salt helps us retain moisture so that our mostly water bodies don’t dry into dust in the hot hot sun.

I get it, I like my big brain and I hope it is many, many years before I turn into a pile of dust. In moderation, both of these things are good. The fact that in the past very little related to my diet was done in moderation is what got me in the shape I am today.

Lemongrass

So fat and salt are cut way back as I work towards finding a more sustainable daily diet. The elimination of those two things are why most people consider diet food to be bland and tasteless.

Actually, my big issue with diet food is usually the artificial sweeteners. Most of them are far too sweet for me even if they don’t have that chemical aftertaste. But as I mentioned before I am not much of a sweet person.

You know what I am though? A gardener.

More importantly I am a gardener who who loves the grocery store’s spice section. I have found that if I bump up my herbs and spices, I can generally cut down on a lot of my salt and fat. In addition, herbs and spices don’t generally have a lot of calories. While I still put a small pinch of salt in my rice when I make it (about half of what I used to use), I make it with water instead of chicken stock and when it is done I mix in chopped cilantro and squeeze a wedge of lime over it. I then top it with peas, and sprinkle with mint. Sometimes I’ll add a bit of feta, but I limit it because of the salt. As long as I appropriately measure the rice, it’s a decent lunch.

The chicken I had last night was coated in a mix of fat free yogurt blended with cumin, dried oregano from my garden, a bit of curry powder and a dash of cayenne before being baked. I served it with a salad with fresh mint and basil mixed in with the romain, cucumbers and fresh tomatoes. Let me tell you, It was yummy. Both the chicken and salad.

Mint gone Wild

Fat may be flavor, but if you are trying to limit your intake, reach for fresh herbs and spices. They can keep you from suffering bland, boring meals and as you mix and match both ingredients and amounts you can find something that is uniquely you and maybe something you haven’t tried before. I know that since I’ve been using more spices I generally search for ways to use up a jar I’ve already purchased.

I’ve found a lot of odd food combos and dishes that I never heard of. I’ll admit, some have proven disastrous. Others have become house favorites. Over all the good have outweighed the bad. Occasionally I still get strange looks at meal time, but the longer I push on, the more used to my experiments the rest of the house becomes. So I get seed packets and pots full of dirt to keep the herbs happy and peruse the spice aisle hoping to spot something I’ve never tried that looks like fun.

Do I still crave the salt and fat? Sometimes. And sometimes I give in. Herbs and spices aren’t better than fat and salt. Well health wise they may be, but not in taste. This isn’t going to taste better, but it does taste good. Its a change, but lets face it, if what I was doing worked, then I wouldn’t be on a diet.

At least with the new recipes and spice quest it is not a bland change. And it may be dieting, but it is also a bit of an adventure.