Food Matters
All about fresh, flavorful food


Trash the Bread Bags!

Many years ago, I was enthralled with wooden bread boxes. It was all I could do to discipline myself to wait until I had enough expendable income to purchase one. After all, a bread box of any kind is really a luxury, right?

While there may be some truth to that statement, if you’re baking your own bread, you know that leaving it at room temperature in any kind of container will hasten its spoilage, especially in summer’s heat and humidity.

While storing bread in bags in the refrigerator is an obvious choice and age-old practice in my realm, it’s not the storage method I now recommend to my bread-baking peers. 

breadkeeper 

Here are some reasons I decided to trade bread bags for one of today’s bread keepers:

  1. No matter how I tried, as I moved bread in and out of the refrigerator to use it, the bag gathered moisture. Besides spoiling several slices of bread, it greatly increased the likelihood that the bread would mold before we could use it.
  2. My loaves were large enough that one-gallon bags wouldn’t hold a loaf. If I wanted to avoid cutting my loaf into two or three pieces, I had to purchase two-gallon bags. Not a huge extra expense, but still an added bread-baking cost.
  3. Bags don’t offer the loaf any protection from whatever is stored beside them. Dented and crushed loaves did occur. 

While these are hardly earth-shattering reasons to invest in a bread keeper, it seemed logical to me to take good care of my bread once I went to the trouble to bake it. 

To explore the bread keeper options, you might search the Internet with key words such as, “Top 5 bread keepers 2019,” “Best bread keepers,” etc. This type of search will bring up some popular options.

My personal bread keeper choice was the Progressive Adjustable Bread Keeper. “Adjustable” was the key feature I appreciated. This item easily holds my entire fresh loaf and slides down in size as we use the bread. It also has an integrated cutting board that’s very handy. Even though it’s dishwasher safe, I prefer to rinse it out each time I use up a bread loaf. It’s clear plastic, making it very easy to see that every corner is clean and crumb-free.

I rarely store my bread at room temperature. In winter months, I may leave a freshly-baked loaf in the bread keeper on the counter overnight. Otherwise, I keep it in the refrigerator. It stays quite fresh and tasty for up to two weeks. 

If you prefer to store your bread in the freezer, you can slice it, use a sheet of parchment or plastic to keep slices from freezing to each other, slide it into a plastic bag and place it in the freezer. 


Long time journalist Loretta Sorensen is the author of Secrets To Baking Your Best Bread Ever! and regularly shares information about whole grains and bread baking. You’ll find her book on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and the Country Store at Our Dakota Horse Tales. Her weekly bread baking posts are featured at Mother Earth Living, GRIT Magazine, Our Dakota Horse Tales, and on Pinterestand Facebook.

Deciding If the Keto Diet Is Right for Me

I have suffered with chronic pain and stomach issues for as long as I can remember. My weight has been a real struggle, too. I have been up and down multiple times. I lost 40 pounds in the past year doing a Paleo-ish lifestyle and I am really working to keep the weight off this time. But my biggest goal is to find something that helps me feel better overall. With all the press lately about the Keto diet, it definitely has my attention.

The appeal of Paleo, for me, was the elimination of so many foods that had been a staple of my diet for years. I hoped that by eliminating so many things from my diet, that I might have relief and get to the root of my stomach issues. However, I still continued with the stomach issues. I did lose weight and that was great for my mental health. I also noticed that the arthritis in my knees became barely noticeable. So, there were some benefits.

I am becoming more convinced about the benefits of a low carb diet for me because of my health issues. I have gallstones and always hear of a low-fat diet as the way to go for gallstones. This goes against all the latest information I am reading about fat being good for you and not the enemy it has been made out to be for the last several years.

I was interested to read, in the magazine Health e Times issue 1. Vol 12 2019, that it was excess dietary carbs that promote gallstones and not fat; the article was written by Dr. Ronald Hoffman and taken from his website. This further was convincing me that a low-carb diet is good for me and also that maybe I should not be afraid of fat in my diet. I can’t do keto if I am worried about the fat.

I always pick up the free magazines at my health food store and several of them talk about the keto diet and the benefits of it. I picked up Paleo magazine’s special issue on the topic, as well. I find the information very convincing about the benefits of a keto diet. Everyone claims to have science on their side, so I do my best to find what works for me.

keto reset book cover

I feel like the Paleo diet has prepared me for keto. I have not dived right into it because I want to do it the right way. I know that doing it the wrong way can lead to problems. Doing it the right way involves clean eating. Lower carb vegetables are an important part of healthy keto, as are quality meats like grass-fed beef and pasture-raised poultry.

In preparation for keto, I have been reading The Keto Reset Diet by Mark Sisson. His name was familiar to me because of the Paleo diet and I am a fan of some of his Primal Kitchen products. I think he has a sensible approach. It starts out with a 21-day metabolism reboot where carbs are kept to under 150 instead of the 50 needed for keto. It also focuses on exercise, sleep and stress management.

I have some events that I want to get past before I dive in fully to the 21-day reset, but in the meantime, I am sticking with a mostly Paleo lifestyle. The biggest concern I have about trying keto is keeping track of everything. I don’t like to put too much math into my diet, other than weighing out portions. I always hold out hope that I will finally find the right diet lifestyle that will bring me the relief that I am always longing for from my digestive issues. May it be keto!


Faithful Homesteader resides in North Texas with her husband, cat, dog, chicken and fish. She likes growing her own food and learning new skills. Self-sufficiency and simplicity are important to her. She likes to share her passion for healthy living.

English Muffin Bread Recipe

Here in our home we love the smell, taste and freshness of English Muffins. There is only one problem, I could never keep enough on hand to satisfy everyone. We would go through a package of English Muffins for breakfast every morning if everyone in the family had their way. They just can’t eat one, oh no the double toaster was getting a work out believe me.

The simplest way to solve this hunger for English Muffins was to come up with a recipe that everyone would enjoy.

After many trials and errors, the perfect English Muffin Bread was born. You can slice it as thick or thin as you like. Enjoy the English Muffin Bread sliced with fresh butter and jam or pop it into the toaster for a crisper taste. Add some fresh butter, honey or jams and grab yourself a tall glass of milk, cup of hot chocolate or mug of coffee and sit back and enjoy your homemade English Muffin Bread.

sliced bread on cutting board
Photo by Candace Kage

English Muffin Bread Recipe

• 5 cups all-purpose flour
• 5 teaspoons yeast or 2 packages
• 1 tablespoon sugar
• 2 teaspoons salt
• 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
• 2 cups warm milk (120-130 degrees)
• 1/2 cup water (120-130 degrees)

1. In a large bowl add 2 cups four, yeast, salt, sugar and baking soda. Stir for 3 minutes. Add remaining flour. Batter will be stiff. Do not knead!

2. Grease two loaf pans, 8 x 4 is perfect size. Sprinkle with corn meal. Spoon batter into bread pans and smooth out. Sprinkle with cornmeal on top of batter.

3. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour.

4. While dough is rising, preheat oven to 375.

5. Bake for 35 minutes.

NOTE: If you would like your English Muffin Bread to be round and not square, use a clean coffee can filled halfway full and bake as directed.

Customize Your Bread Machine

Bread machine settings vary from brand to brand, but most allow you to interrupt kneading cycles (without disrupting the entire cycle), customize cycle times (with the possible exception of baking times) or otherwise manage the machine to your baking project/time frames.

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As I visit with bread bakers across the nation, it’s amazing to learn that many of them are hesitant—as I certainly was—to even peek at their bread dough once the bread machine cycle begins.

While every bread machine has its own features/settings, all the brands I’ve used or seen allow for opening the bread machine lid for a variety of reasons. Don’t misunderstand. Too much peeking or disruption of the bread machine cycle could derail your bread making. But when it’s necessary to check or peek, it’s okay! Many bread machine brands also allow users to customize cycles as necessary.

Why would you want to peek at your dough while it’s mixing/kneading?

  1. To produce soft, moist bread you want to avoid using too much flour. However, using too little flour will cause your dough to be so sticky and formless that it won’t develop the eye-catching dome-shape so typical in traditional loaves. To avoid overly-sticky dough, check early in the first mix/knead cycle to ensure that the dough is pulling away from the side of the bread machine canister. Indicating that it will form the desired shape during baking. If the dough is sticking to the canister, add 1 or 2 tablespoons of flour at a time until the dough stops adhering to the side of the canister. Some machines pause while the lid is open; others continue mixing. Either feature is fine.
  2. You may also want to check on your dough during the rest period to see if it’s rising properly. This first rise may be minimal, but you want to see some indication that the yeast is working.

Why would anyone want to change the kneading and resting cycle times on their bread machine? For a variety of reasons:

  1. Once you find a knead/rest/knead cycle that gives you the results you want, it makes sense to keep using those time frames. If you’re using a different machine, the default settings may be different, but you can alter them, either with the machine’s optional programming or manually stopping and starting each cycle.
  2. As your bread baking skills develop, you may want to bake different kinds of bread, which may do better with different knead and rest times.
  3. Time restraints may dictate that you have to bake bread in a shorter time frame; reducing knead/rest times can still result in satisfactory loaves.
  4. If necessary, when manually managing your bread machine, use a timer to track knead/rest cycles. 

Regardless of your reason for checking your dough or altering your kneading and rest cycles, just know it’s okay to pause that bread machine and use all its wonderful options to suit your personal needs!


Long time journalist Loretta Sorensen is the author of Secrets To Baking Your Best Bread Ever! and regularly shares information about whole grains and bread baking. You’ll find her book on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and the Country Store at Our Dakota Horse Tales. Her weekly bread baking posts are featured at Mother Earth Living, GRIT Magazine, Our Dakota Horse Tales, and on Pinterest and Facebook.

Homemade Vegetable Broth Made From Scraps

I love to make all kinds of soup but I dislike buying broth for several reasons:

So, I make my own broths.

My vegetable broth recipe cuts down on waste on two fronts—the packaging and the ingredients. Throughout the week, as I prep my vegetables, I throw very little into my compost bucket. Instead, I save all of these little bits for making broth. Because I chop more onions, carrots and celery than anything else, my scraps contain a lot of these mirepoix elements. They make tasty broth.

I also include the tops of celery—but not the green leafy carrot tops as they may lend a bitter flavor to my broth. I do add members of the brassica family in small amounts, such as cauliflower cores, broccoli that has seen better days or a bit of cabbage. However, too many of these can make your broth taste a bit bitter. Garlic cloves that have begun to dry out, the ends of green beans, tomato cores, corn cobs, pumpkin pulp, squash innards and leek tops all make excellent additions also, as do excess herbs.

I collect these bits in glass jars and containers and freeze them. As I collect more scraps, they go into the jars. Once I have amassed at least a few jars’ worth, I make broth using the recipe below. (Go here for more information on freezing food in glass jars.)

vegetable scraps broth frozen MEL
This large amount of frozen scraps will make several jars of vegetable broth

I use my homemade broth to make soup, stew, dal, pot pies, risotto and so on. It tastes delicious and costs essentially nothing to make.

Ingredients

  • Vegetable scraps
  • Water

Directions

1. Throw the scraps into a large pot and add water. I don’t completely cover the scraps with water because after you cook them for a few minutes, they shrink down and become immersed in liquid.

broth from scraps MEL
A small amount of scraps

2. Simmer the scraps for about 20 minutes to half an hour. I prefer to make this unsalted and add the salt later to whatever I decide to cook with my broth. Because the liquid cooks down, if you add salt now, the broth may become too salty and it becomes more concentrated.

simmering vegetable broth MEL
A large pot of vegetable scraps simmering

3. Strain the scraps. I set a metal colander inside a large metal bowl and dump everything into the colander. Lift out the colander and reserve the scraps for the compost pile.

4. Store the broth in jars in the refrigerator for about a week. This also freezes well. Either pour into a wide-mouth jar to freeze—leaving at least an inch of headspace to allow for expansion—or freeze in ice cube trays and transfer the ice cubes to jars for easy retrieval.

broth in a jar
Finished broth, ready to use

Whole Wheat Bread Bakers Rejoice!

Baking bread at home takes time and energy, but advancing research is confirming the multitude of nutritional benefits found in whole grains.

Wheat berries, the whole grain form of wheat, is made up of wheat germ, bran and endosperm. About 6 grams of fiber are found in 1/4 cup of wheat berries. If you’re grinding about 3 cups of wheat berries to produce flour for your bread, you’ll find some 72 grams of fiber in one loaf.

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Photo by Loretta Sorensen

Those unprocessed wheat berries also contain a concentrated amount of protein and micronutrients such as manganese, selenium, thiamine, phosphorus, magnesium, niacin, copper, iron, zinc, vitamin B6 and folate. Small amounts of potassium, pantothenic acid and vitamin E are also found in wheat berries.

The 2018 research conducted by University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences Undergraduate Research Program included evidence that dietary fiber promotes growth of good gut bacteria, resulting in production of byproducts important to health.

On average, men under 50 should consume 30 to 38 grams of fiber per day and women should take in 21 to 25 grams (Mayo Clinic). Other whole gain foods with significant fiber content include graham flour, oatmeal whole oats, brown rice, wild rice, whole grain corn, popcorn and whole grain barley.

In recent years, researchers have learned that fiber not only contributes to brain health, it also aids the following:

  • Can help prevent chronic diseases
  • Delays brain aging
  • Decreases the risk of diverticulitis
  • Promotes healthy gut bacteria
  • Promotes healthy bones
  • Prevents hemorrhoid pain

Additional benefits of fiber:

  • Helps add volume to meals to help you feel full faster.
  • Helps stave off hunger.
  • Reduces fat absorption from food and drinks.
  • Provides sustained energy by stabilizing blood glucose levels.
  • Reduces the risk of cancer by moving foods through the gut more quickly.
  • Helps the body absorb certain vitamins and minerals during the digestive process.
  • Soluble fiber helps lover blood cholesterol.

Some studies have shown that fiber may reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease (CVD), metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers.

In addition to its nutrition benefits, wheat bran positively impacts the gastrointestinal tract and provides antioxidant effects, helping slow or limit damage caused by free radicals.

Wheat bran does contain phytates, which consumed in significant amounts can bind to certain dietary minerals that include iron, zinc, manganese and to some extent, calcium, slowing their absorption in the body. This can be overcome by eating a balanced diet, cooking the wheat berry, or soaking (sprouting) prior to using/eating them.

Enhance your success in making home-made whole wheat bread by managing the temperature of your recipe liquids to support yeast activity (heating them to a range of 105- to 110-degrees Fahrenheit) and keeping your dough warm throughout the mixing-kneading-rising process to achieve a high, light rise.

Sources: 

Fiber Matters

Dr. Axe

Surprising Ways Fiber is Good for You

Dietary Fiber Reduces Brain Inflammation During Aging


Long time journalist Loretta Sorensen is the author of Secrets To Baking Your Best Bread Ever! and regularly shares information about whole grains and bread baking. You’ll find her book on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and the Country Store at Our Dakota Horse Tales. Her weekly bread baking posts are featured at Mother Earth Living, GRIT Magazine, Our Dakota Horse Tales, and on Pinterestand Facebook.

Homemade Sauerkraut is Easy and Good for You!

Today I made sauerkraut. Actually, today I finished my sauerkraut and put it in a glass container for the day when I make the greatly anticipated meal of sauerkraut, bratwurst and new potatoes. Sauerkraut is so easy to make and is really good for you! My grandmother Frieda claimed she never got sick a day in her life because she always ate a tablespoon of sauerkraut when she felt like she might be getting sick. Back in those days no one knew about probiotics and how they are so very good for your health.

homemade sauerkraut
Crunchy yummy cabbage kraut. Not the insipid mushy canned kind. Which is good, too! But this is much better! Photo by Renée Benoit

The fermentation process that transforms the salt and cabbage into sauerkraut increases the vitamins, particularly vitamin C and B vitamins, and food enzymes that are already in cabbage.  Homemade sauerkraut is also very rich in beneficial bacteria that help make our immune systems strong and create essential vitamins in our digestive tracts.  At any time of year, but especially winter when fresh food can be hard to come by, homemade fermented foods are really good to have.

The key to making sauerkraut successfully is to have a crock or container that can be completely closed off to the air. I have a large stoneware crock that has a tight-fitting plate to cover the fermenting kraut. I put a big bag of water on top of it so the kraut is completely submerged under its juices. Bacteria in the air, which can cause spoiling, cannot penetrate. So whatever does penetrate is neutralized by the salt.

Homemade Sauerkraut Recipe

You need:

• 1 head of organically grown cabbage about 3-5 pounds
• 1 tablespoon of pickling or unrefined sea salt (Read labels! You'd be surprised what they put in sea salt these days!)
• 1 teaspoon of caraway seed (optional)

Instructions

1. Core and shred your cabbage. I used a food processor with the shredding blade.

2. Wash your hands thoroughly. Toss the cabbage and the caraway seed (if you're using it) and salt together in a large mixing bowl and begin to squeeze the cabbage and salt together with your hands, kneading it thoroughly.

3. When the cabbage starts to releases juice, transfer it to your crock. Some people feel better investing in a fermenter. It's up to you. One thing I keep doing during the process is wash my hands. If I go off and do something, when I come back, I wash my hands. We're taking precautions to prevent naughty, inappropriate bacteria getting in with the kraut.

4. Pack the salted cabbage into the crock or fermenter as tightly as you can, eliminating air bubbles. I use a clean wooden mallet or pestle and mash, mash, mash until the juices come up enough to cover the kraut. Sometimes my cabbage doesn't produce a lot of liquid. It just has to cover the shredded cabbage so don't worry. If you don't get enough liquid to cover, mash more. You might have to mash a lot for a few minutes. Put on some mashing music to help make the job more fun! I'd also say make sure that your cabbage has been shredded pretty fine. It doesn't have to be shredded into a pulp but it has to be cut up quite small. Otherwise just mash and mash some more. Keep those hands clean!

5. Then I put my clean plate that fits into the crock—so I almost can't get it out—on top of the shredded cabbage mixture. After that I take a new clean zip lock bag filled half full with water sealed shut and put it on top of the plate to hold the plate down. Juices may leak over the edge but that's OK. The bag will seal it from the air.

6. Cover the crock with cheese cloth or a light cloth, secure it with a rubber band and allow it to sit at room temperature, undisturbed, for at least 1 week. You can try some after a few days to see if it is done to your liking. If it's too salty you can rinse it in cold filtered water when it's done. This is good for people who may have high blood pressure. Then eat it right away or put it in the fridge or other cold storage. It should keep for at least 6 months and up to 1 year—but it won't because you'll have eaten it all way before that!

If scum appears on the brine of your homemade sauerkraut, just spoon it off. You won't be able to remove it all but spoon off what you can and don't worry about. The real key to preparing homemade sauerkraut, and any fermented food, is that the liquid covers the cabbage.

I love this project because I get healthy probiotics for a fraction of the cost of store-bought!







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