Food Matters
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Barter for Bread!

The idea of trading one product for another – bartering – goes clear back to 6000 B.C. when tribes in Mesopotamia traded goods with Phoenicians. The practice was also used in Babylon.

The origin of the word barter goes back to the 15th century, stemming from the French word “barater,” which, among other things, meant “haggle.”

America’s barter system was very popular during the Great Depression of the 1930s, when many people had little money. Bartering was a means of obtaining food and other necessities. 

When I was approached about the possibility of trading bread for other products – including naturally raised beef – I could hardly say no!

Since I had already calculated the value of a loaf of homemade white bread – which ranges between $1 and $1.50 – it was fairly easy to strike a deal on a fair trade for one pound of the beef. Two loaves of white bread – 100% organic – for one pound of beef, 100% natural.

It has proven to be a beneficial trade on both sides.

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Photo by Loretta Sorensen

Since that trade has been working so well – and I find it so easy to produce a quality loaf of bread – I’ve been pondering more options for making a trade.

In rural areas – and perhaps more often now in urban areas, too – farm fresh eggs aren’t hard to find. If the eggs are organic and laid by free range hens, the cost of a dozen eggs may well be equal to two loaves of bread. Of course, that depends on the flour and other nutrients used in the bread.

When you’re baking 100% whole grain bread, it has a value of at least $4 per loaf. If your recipe includes added nutritional ingredients such as flax, the total cost of a loaf may be somewhat higher.

To calculate the cost of producing your bread, review this article.

Once you’ve determined what you have invested in your bread loaves, compare it with the cost of purchasing the item you will take in trade. Your objective is to complete a trade that’s fair for all parties involved.

When I bartered for the beef, we struck a deal that covered a weekly trade for about 12 weeks. You may want to make a one-time trade or set up a once-a-month agreement. The terms of the agreement are totally in your control.

In the case of bartering for homemade bread, be careful not to overestimate your ability to produce enough bread to cover your trade agreement. If you need to produce multiple loaves of bread in a short time, consider implementing my “Bread Express” method.

You may also want to strike a deal with your bartering party that includes how you will amend the agreement or “catch up” with your trade agreement if for some reason you can’t produce the promised loaves.

One added benefit of this kind of agreement is that you will have ample opportunity to polish your bread baking skills and promote your bread quality and availability if you’re wanting to make more trades or sell some of your bread.


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 her blog site at www.bakeyourbestever.com, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and the Country Store at Our Dakota Horse Tales. Her weekly bread baking posts are featured at Mother Earth LivingGRIT MagazineOur Dakota Horse Tales, and on Pinterest, and Facebook.

17 Ways to Make Every Day Earth Day

Happy Earth Day! Want to help the planet? Cut your plastic waste. The best place to start is the kitchen. Choose one of two of the following steps, get your new routine down pat and then choose more steps.

How to Shop

cloth bags and jars
Cloth bulk bags and glass jars filled with staples from the bulk bins

1. Bring your own cloth shopping bags. Opt for natural fibers when you choose bags. Synthetic materials shed tiny plastic fibers in the washing machine. This plastic ends up in our rivers, lakes and oceans. You can buy cloth shopping bags pretty much everywhere today.

2. Bring your own cloth produce and bulk bags. You won’t want to stuff your reusable shopping bags with plastic produce and bulk bags. I sew very simple bags that last for years. If you don’t want to make your own bags, you can often find them at health food stores and food co-ops. You can also buy them online from various Etsy shops. Again, opt for natural fibers.

3. Bring your own glass jars. Get the weight of these before you fill them up at the bulk bins. At some stores, customer service will weigh them for you and mark the tare (i.e., weight) on them. Other stores set out scales and you weigh the jars yourself. The cashier will deduct the weight of the jar from the total weight when checking you out so you pay for the food only.

4. Make a shopping list and stick to it. With a shopping list in hand, you will not only avoid all those plastic-wrapped impulse buys at the front of the checkout, you’ll also know just how many bags and jars you’ll need to take with you shopping. A little bit of planning will help you eliminate a great deal of your waste.

5. Shop more frequently for less food. If you can do this, you’ll waste less food because you’ll have less perishable food on hand to go bad before you can eat it.

Where to Shop

March farmers market
Spring produce from the farmers' market, bought with cloth produce bags

6. Fill up at the bulk bins. Search for bulk stores worldwide at zerowastehome.com/app. Users can also submit stores not yet listed on this web-based app. Fill your reusable cloth bags, glass jars and other containers with staples like beans, rice, flour, oats, nuts, seeds, dried fruit and so on. Some bulk stores have an extensive selection that includes cleaning and personal care products and pet food.

7. Hit the farmers’ market. When you reduce your waste, you stop eating processed food—it’s almost always packaged in shiny plastic wrapping. At farmers' markets however, you’ll find fresh, seasonal, local, organic produce that you can usually buy unpackaged. Find your local market in the US through Local Harvest.

8. Shop at thrift stores and yard sales. Opt for second-hand kitchen wares (and other wares too) rather than new. New items require energy and raw materials to produce and they almost always feature at least some wasteful packaging.

What to Buy

looseleaf tea

9. Choose fresh, seasonal fruit and vegetables. The best food for you—seasonal vegetables and fruit—is also best for the environment and economy when you buy it locally. It travels fewer miles. You can find much of it unpackaged. More of your money stays in your local community.

10. Opt for foods lower on the food chain. Where I live, cheese almost always comes wrapped in plastic. Meat is often either wrapped in plastic or portioned out on foam trays wrapped in plastic. When you eat lower on the food chain you waste less packaging material (beans are often easy to find in bulk) and you reduce the amount of resources that go into producing food higher on the food chain. Meat requires much more water than vegetables, for example.

11. Buy milk in returnable glass bottles. I can buy milk from a few dairies that sell their milk in glass. Depending on where you live, your local dairy may deliver milk in glass bottles that it later picks up—just like the old days.

12. Buy loose bread in your own cloth bag. Many grocery stores and bakeries stock their loaves, rolls, bagels, pastries and so on, loose in a bin or display case. Put it in a cloth produce bag or hand your bag to the clerk to do that for you.

13. Drink loose-leaf tea. Fabric and mesh tea bags are often made of synthetic material (i.e., plastic). Landfill aside, you don’t want to eat or drink something after it has come into contact with hot plastic. When you heat food—or tea leaves—in plastic, nasty chemicals can leach into what you’re about to consume. Even paper tea bags may contain small amounts of plastic. And most tea bags—synthetic or paper—are individually wrapped, then stuffed into a box that is often wrapped in yet more plastic.

What Not to Buy

14. Cut out the processed food. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store, where you’ll find produce, dairy and the fish and meat counters. In the middle section—the aisles—you’ll find only processed food and products wrapped in plastic packaging (think snacks and sodas, cereal and energy bars, plastic-lined cans of vegetables and shelf-stable pickles). Cut the processed food and you’ve cut most of the plastic coming into—and out of—your kitchen.

15. Ban bottled water. According to The Story of Stuff website, Americans alone “buy more than half a million bottles of water per week. That enough to circle the globe more than 5 times.” Choose tap!

16. Skip the bottled beverages. If you drink more tap water, you’ll drink less soda, energy drinks and juice. Bottled beverages almost always come in plastic bottles and even when they are packaged in glass, they most always have big plastic lids that can’t go in the recycling bin. Not that recycling is the answer. It’s not. Reduction is.

17. Kick the K-cup. In 2014, Keurig alone sold nearly 10 billion coffee pod packs, and that number includes multi-packs, so the actual number of single pods is larger. Use a French press and ground coffee beans. Buy the beans in bulk and either have them ground at the store or grind them at home.

Bread Baking Express!

Need to bake multiple loaves of bread within a few hours? Here are some tips for using a bread machine to streamline the process. 

MULTIPLE LOAVES
Photo by Loretta Sorensen

  1. You could mix all the dry ingredients (except yeast and sugar) for each recipe the night before, even a couple of days before you’re ready to bake. Be sure to label each batch (either glass jars or plastic bags make great containers) to ensure you know which recipe it’s for.
  2. If you don’t mix dry ingredients ahead of time, start assembling all your recipe ingredients to ensure you have the supplies you need and to shave some time off the actual baking task.
  3. Set up a separate area in your kitchen – on the counter or an extra table, etc. – for working with wet ingredients and dry ingredients. This just makes it easy to keep all dry ingredients together and all wet (remaining) ingredients together as you prepare the contents of each loaf. It’s less likely you’ll forget to add something.
  4. Assemble all your equipment and set it up in the appropriate spot to make your “assembly line” as efficient as possible and avoid searching for a necessary item just as you’re ready to start baking.
  5. If you don’t have enough bread pans to use a different one for each loaf, you can easily rotate between two or three pans. Plan to soak the pan in water for 3 or 4 minutes after your baked loaf is removed. It’s easy to clean bread pans when the loaf doesn’t stick!
  6. For easy access, recipes can be attached to your fridge with a magnet or otherwise set up so you can easily read them without having to stop and pick them up. My recipes are enclosed in plastic sleeves to help keep them clean.
  7. A day or two ahead of time, make sure your oven is clean and empty (I often store pots and pans in mine) and racks are properly positioned for baking bread.
  8. If you haven’t prepared dry ingredients ahead of time, it’s wise to prepare all dry ingredients for your recipe before moving on to the wet ingredients (or another task). This helps eliminate time consuming issues such as, “Did I already add that?” or “How many cups of flour did I just measure?” It can be helpful to use a consistent method such as always measuring flour first or measuring salt/gluten, etc. first, then measuring flour.
  9. Be prepared for spills or mishaps by having extra towels, paper towels, dish cloths, etc. ready. The best laid plans can be foiled!
  10. You might consider mapping out and writing down the timeline for each loaf, as in what time ingredients go into the bread machine, what time the first dough should be ready for final rise, etc. This can help avoid under- or over-kneading, under- or over-baking loaves.
  11. Check your bread machine for instructions about run time and any need for cooling down between operations. My machine recommends a cooling period between 10 and 15 minutes to avoid overheating the machine.
  12. Set up an area that’s out of the way for cooling loaves. If your cooling rack won’t accommodate 3 or more loaves at one time, you can use items such as packaged food or pans to suspend the bread (one package on each end of the object while it cools.
  13. Storing your finished loaves will require some space. If you intend to use them within 48 hours, you can store them at room temperature. Otherwise, plan to refrigerate or freeze as many as necessary.
  14. With my yeast activation and “keep it warm from mixing to baking” method, you can have a batch of dough ready to bake every 90 minutes, producing up to 5 loaves of bread in a 6-hour period. Advanced preparation is the key to making it all run smoothly and successfully.

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 her blog site at www.bakeyourbestever.com, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and the Country Store at Our Dakota Horse Tales. Her weekly bread baking posts are featured at Mother Earth LivingGRIT MagazineOur Dakota Horse Tales, and on Pinterest, and Facebook.

Foraging Redbud Blooms In Spring

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The Eastern Redbud tree is a beautiful flowering tree that is native to Eastern North America.  In the Spring, the flowers turn a bright redish-purple that you can easily spot in neighborhoods, along roadways and among other trees.  You may choose to plant a native Eastern Redbud as a part of your landscape for a beautiful addition to your yard and fun plant to forage it’s blooms in the Spring.  From Redbud Jelly to Redbud Syrup and cakes, you can begin your forage by picking the buds and placing them into a glass jar.  Once you’ve gathered your buds, be sure to rinse them with cold water and place on a towel to dry. You can then store them in your refrigerator for up to 3 days, covered. 

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You may then sprinkle your red buds on salads, garnish a pasta dish, add to tacos as a topping, decorate a cake or incorporate them into your favorite recipe.  The buds are a bit sweet and slightly crunchy with similar flavor to a pea.  Share your recipes and pictures in the comments or by email, we would love to see how you use the beautiful redbuds as part of your dishes. 

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Happy Foraging! 

Bread Machine Double Duty

You may be able to cut bread making time in half by mixing and rising two loaves of bread at once.

Depending on the size of the loaves you’re making, your bread machine may be able to handle two batches of bread dough at one time.

This is a fairly easy way to keep up with baking demands. However, the first step in making a double batch of dough work is verifying your bread machine’s flour capacity.

The reasons you want to make sure your machine can handle two batches of dough:

  1. You don’t want to sacrifice bread quality for speed. That would be self-defeating.
  2. You don’t want to burn out your bread machine motor.

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Photo by Loretta Sorensen

To calculate your bread machine’s flour capacity, check the recipes that came with it. If none of them exceed 3, 4 or 5 cups of flour, you know that your adapted recipes should not exceed that many cups either.

I say “should not” because I have gotten away with boosting my total flour capacity by 1 extra cup in a few recipes. I almost never bake in my machine so overflowing the canister with too much dough isn’t an issue for me. However, I don’t want to work my machine’s motor too hard either.

You may consider mixing and kneading the largest part of your flour in the machine, allowing it to go through at least half of the final mix/knead cycle and then finish blending in one cup of flour by hand. Of course, this will mean baking your loaf/loaves in the oven, but a double batch of dough isn’t likely to fit in your bread machine canister anyway.

Making a double batch of dough could also work if you’re making buns rather than loaves. Again, you might allow the machine to work through the first mix/knead cycle and most of the second one before removing the dough to finish adding your flour.

Making a double batch of dough rather than two separate batches will, of course, cut your time in half, which is sometimes key to getting the bread made!

If you plan to add the last of the flour by hand, make sure your work area and utensils are warm enough that they don’t rob heat from the dough. Cold bread dough won’t raise as well as dough that’s been kept as warm as possible throughout the mix/knead and rise cycles.

One way to set up a warm work environment for adding the last of the flour to the dough is to warm a large bowl (crockery really holds heat, but glass or stainless steel could also work). Use either hot water or warm the bowl in your oven before using it.

To finish your loaves/buns, be sure to complete the final rise in a warmed oven or warm area to get the best yeast action.


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 her blog site at www.bakeyourbestever.com, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and the Country Store at Our Dakota Horse Tales. Her weekly bread baking posts are featured at Mother Earth LivingGRIT MagazineOur Dakota Horse Tales, and on Pinterest, and Facebook.

Getting Creative in the Kitchen with Wild Edible Violets This Spring

Wild Violets (Viola Odorata) are a common “weed” found in most lawns, gardens and plant beds across North America.  They are seen by most as a tough, hard to kill invasive weed.  And although they have this bit of a bad reputation, you may learn to love violets after reading and learning how to use them in your kitchen for edible and medicinal purposes. 

Violets are truly such beautiful flourishing plants that are native to North America and can provide for a lovely dish garnish and added nutritious snack.  The flowers and leaves of the plant are edible and can be used in salads, cooked, made into jellies, candied, and can even make a delicious violet simple syrup for baking or making sparkling drinks or cocktails. 

violet flowers
Photo by Kristy Severin

This year, I took my kids outside for a "wild violet hunt" and we found hundreds of beautiful violets and made a delicious violet and blueberry cake.  We decorated the cake with our violets and it was a fun and delicious way to celebrate the beginning of Spring and the lovely flowers that are coming into bloom.  

So, the next time you see a patch of wild violets, grab a few for a quick snack or take some time to celebrate and make a beautiful and fun violet and blueberry cake!

violet and blueberry cake
Photo by Kristy Severin

Wild Violet and Blueberry Cake (Vegan)

Recipe by: Kristy Severin

Ingredients:

• 2 cups all purpose flour
• 1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
• 1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda
• 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 1/2 cup wild violets (save extras for decoration)
• 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
• 1/2 cup hot water mixed with 1/4 cup sugar (dissolved)
• 2 Tablespoons Nut Milk or Soy milk
• 1/4 cup melted coconut oil
• 3 Tablespoons Aquafaba (bean juice)

Icing ingredients:  

• 3/4 cup room temperature vegan butter
• 2 cups powdered sugar
• 1 teaspoon nut milk or soy milk
• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Preheat over to 350 degrees and coat cake pan with coconut oil or non stick spray
  2. Mix dry ingredients, flour, baking powder and soda, salt, sugar, wild violets
  3. In a blender, blend blueberries and hot sugar water.  Add remaining wet ingredients.
  4. Slowly pour wet mixture into dry mixture and stir until all blended together.
  5. Pour mixture into cake pan and bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, or until cooked all of the way through.  
  6. While cake is baking, prepare icing.
  7. Whisk all icing ingredients together with electric mixer until light and fluffy (about 5 minutes).
  8. Once cake is fully cooled, ice and decorate with wild violets!  Enjoy!

Recycle Stale Bread!

Has your beautiful bread gone stale? Or become dry? Recycle it!

There are many ways to use the healthy, wholesome pieces of bread that sit too long in the fridge or are left outside the bag too long. Here are a few ideas.

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Photo by Loretta Sorensen

Bread Crumbs, Croutons, and More

I always need bread crumbs for something: filler for meatloaf, foundation for stuffing, croutons, etc.

Bread doesn’t have to be dried in order to work as a filler or stuffing, but it can be very convenient to have some fine bread crumbs stashed so they’re ready in a hurry when you need them. 

You may not have a lot of bread left over very often, in which case you can bake some bread just for use as crumbs or stuffing. You can also recycle a loaf that didn’t rise very well or was otherwise unsatisfactory.

If you want to make croutons, cut your bread into crouton-size pieces before drying it.

You can also tear the bread into small pieces prior to drying it. This makes processing the dried product a little easier.

To thoroughly dry the bread before grinding it into crumbs (I use a food processor for this), use these simple steps:

  • Slice the bread, the thinner the better. It will dry more quickly.
  • Lay it out in a pan or across a plate. You can cover it with a towel to keep flies, etc. off. It will just take a bit longer to dry.
  • Turn the slices at least once per day. It can take a couple of days to completely dry it.
  • You can speed up the drying process by warming your oven a bit and setting your pan/plate in the oven. Don’t forget to turn the bread over.

Once the bread is dry, you’ll want to process it to create bread crumbs. I use a food processor. However, you could also use a simple grater or process it in a blender. For any of these methods, break the dried bread into pieces

Once the bread has been processed, store it in an airtight container as you don’t want it to attract any moisture. If it does get wet at all, it will quickly mold. 

If you don’t want to store the dried bread crumbs at room temperature, freeze it. If you place it in the refrigerator, there’s a good chance it will collect moisture and spoil before you can use it.

I recommend labeling and dating your dried crumbs once they’re in a container. This ensures that you know exactly what you’re using once the time comes. 

If you’re creating stuffing or croutons, you can add your seasonings right away. I highly recommend storing croutons or stuffing mix in your freezer to avoid any spoilage issues.

By seasoning croutons or stuffing right away, you give the flavor time to permeate the dried bread and enhance the quality of your end product. 

There are many other ways to make use of or recycle stale bread, including bread pudding, as toppings for casseroles and for feeding birds and chickens.


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 her blog site at www.bakeyourbestever.com, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and the Country Store at Our Dakota Horse Tales. Her weekly bread baking posts are featured at Mother Earth LivingGRIT MagazineOur Dakota Horse Tales, and on Pinterest, and Facebook.







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