Saturday, May 8, 2010

"How can a nation be great if its bread tastes like Kleenex?" Julia Child

Maybe that's where we went wrong. But, this blog isn't about the state of our country's agriculture and eating culture. It's about food, and more specifically, Matt's and my food. And today, it's about bread. And why you should make your own.

You always have the ingredients on hand (at least once you buy the yeast).

It's a great outlet for stress and anger.

It makes your house smell incredible.

It really, truly does taste better than what you're buying in the store (unless your store is a boulangerie or proper bakery).

It is just so damn satisfying. No, really; there is nothing that compares to the satisfaction of making your own bread.

Honey Whole Wheat Pan Bread
by Nick Malgieri, from How to Bake

2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 cups warm tap water (about 110 degrees)
3 to 3 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour (though I have used bread flour in the past)
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 Tablespoon salt
2 Tablespoons honey
5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Whisk the yeast into the warm water and let it stand while preparing the other ingredients. (After about five minutes, you should notice a mushroom cloud go off right under the surface of the water. In my head, and I don't know where I got this idea from, this means that the yeast is good and everything is going to turn out ok--so keep an eye out for that mushroom cloud! Even if for no other reason than it's cool to see)

Whisk the honey into the butter.

Place 5 cups of the flour and salt into a mixing bowl. Stir in the yeast mixture, honey and butter. Continue stirring until you have a rough ball, then turn the dough out onto a clean counter and knead for about five minutes. If the dough is really soft and sticky, add a tablespoon of the remaining flour.

Place the dough into an oiled bowl, turn to oil all surfaces, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for an hour, until doubled. (A warm place, by the way, means somewhere in the 80s. If your apartment is cooler than that, like mine, you could either a) cover it with an additional tea towel and then stick it in the warmest spot in your house, or b) stick it in the oven--the oven is off, by the way--with a pan of boiling water on the rack below)

Turn out the dough, deflate and separate into two equal pieces. Stretch each piece out to a rectangle, fold in the short sides to the middle so that the length is approximately that of your pan, then fold over the long edge to the middle. Fold over the other long side and compress to form a tight cylinder. Place in the oiled loaf pans (2 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 3/4-inch pans) seam side down and let rise for another hour. In case that didn't make sense:

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Bake the loaves for about 30 minutes on a middle rack. They should be golden brown, firm and 210 degrees on the inside. Unmold and cool on a rack on their sides.

Now, since this isn't store-bought, and is missing all those preservatives (hooray), it can't sit out on your countertop for days on end. I keep mine in a zip-loc in the fridge. I wrap the other loaf (cause this recipe makes two!), first, in plastic wrap, then foil, and throw it in the freezer.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

What happens after a month...

I know, we haven't posted in awhile. Matt started finals, and I got a 9 - 5 that's keeping me busy. I'm still trying to figure out how to balance it with the rest of my life. I did want to report a few things, however...

Overall, we were pretty successful in cutting out processed food (other than that one oops we posted). It's quite easy to stay out of the middle aisles of the grocery store (that's the meaning of our blog title, by the way). We realized that what we bought most from that area were snacks. And those snacks were replaced with fruits and veggies, and amazingly, it was not a big deal.

That's one of the changes I wanted to report: sometime halfway into the month I realized that I don't miss my 100 calorie packs and whatnot that I had been eating. I was enjoying having fruit as a snack and as part of my diet and though I couldn't prove it with a tape measure or a scale, I was feeling better too--lighter, somehow.

The other development is that if, for some reason, you do choose to indulge (say,Black Pepper KettleChips would be the perfect accompaniment to shrimp sandwiches), you really, really regret it. My stomach was NOT happy with me eating those chips (and I ate only a serving). Black Pepper KettleChips are my favorite. If I'm going to eat chips that's usually the one I reach for, or none at all. But after a month of not eating anything that oily, my body couldn't handle it anymore. And it told me so, loudly. Of course, being the type of person who constantly pokes at a tooth that's hurting, I had some again the other day. Not only did I regret it, again, I regretted it all day and all night rather than just a few hours. Yet the thought of dropping KettleChips, and all other manner of chips and similar items, from my diet doesn't bother me the way it used to (I was very big into "eat anything you want, just in moderation).

So though our experimental month is over, Matt and I are going to continue avoiding foods that come with a nutrition label (with the occasional exception of course--like bacon). However, we will be eating out more than once a week--kind of a crimp in one's social life otherwise. We will ALSO learn how to balance our lives and do more posts. If for no other reason than I've made a bunch of meals and foods that I'm really excited about and want to share.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


We'd been going for two weeks. We were going strong. As I mentioned before, our snacking habits had changed. Dessert was no longer present (scooping rock hard sorbet is more of a deterrent than one would expect). And I gotta admit, I was getting cocky. This whole cooking every day except for the one day we let ourselves eat out? Not so bad. Fruits as snacks? My mother may have had a point! But at the beginning of the third week, well...I'm ashamed to say it, but Matt and I, we failed.

I had already planned what we were going to eat. I had already bought everything we needed. But my schedule shifted a bit and I wasn't able to get started on dinner when I wanted. Instead, it was a glass of wine, and much, much later by the time I made it home and into the kitchen. And by then, well, I didn't want to cook. And Matt, buried as he is with law school, couldn't either. We had already used our "eat out once" option. What to do?

We broke. We ordered pizza. And you know what, it was delicious (and fast! and convenient! and easy!).

As much as I truly do believe that everyone should know how to cook (and actually do it), there are those nights when, for whatever reason, it is so much easier to pick up the phone, or click-click-click on the Internet and have something delivered (or swing by the grocery store and pick up something already made).

Though I have to admit, the pizza we ordered was nowhere near as delicious as the one we made a week ago (using The Pioneer Woman's recipe).

And for those of you wondering, we're not giving up. We've picked ourselves back up, planned out new menus, and we're planning to finish the month strong!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Chocolate Sorbet

Before, when we were hungry in between meals, we'd grab a 100 calorie pack or some other snack that came already made from the store. However, with those options gone, we have now been munching on fruits, nuts or vegetables (my mother is thrilled).

At the end of the first week, I thought about the food that was in the kitchen, and what I had observed us eat. I noticed that our food intake has improved dramatically. I also noticed that we went through oranges like nobody's business. We were definitely being healthier.

But, Matt and I both have a sweet tooth. I won't deny it. Usually after dinner (or lunch, or in the afternoon), one of us would grab some ice cream. More often than not, it was either some low fat fudgcicle or a Weight Watchers 6 oz ice cream cup. Because, you know, we were "watching what we ate." After about a week with no ice cream, no chocolate, no type of sweets at all, I couldn't take it any longer. I had to have SOMETHING sweet in the house.

This chocolate sorbet is intense. No joke. You truly cannot eat more than a half cup serving whether you want to or not. By the time you get to the bottom of the bowl (and sometimes even before then), you feel like you've indulged to the point of gluttony. But that's the point of the good stuff, right? So intense, so good, all you really need is a small amount to feel satisfied. Oh, and the other upside to this sorbet? Since it's pretty much just a combination of chocolate, water and sugar (barely no fat at all to keep it soft), it freezes completely solid and you get a great arm workout trying to scoop it out of the container!

Chocolate Sorbet
Barely adapted from David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop

2 1/4 cups water
200 g sugar
75 g unsweetened cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
4 oz semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a large saucepan, whisk together 1 1/2 cups water with the sugar, cocoa and salt. Bring it to a boil, whisking frequently, and keep it there for about 45 seconds (when he says a large saucepan, he's not kidding--this mixture starts to rise!).

Remove it from the heat and stir in the chocolate until it's melted, then the vanilla extract and the remaining 3/4 cup water. Transfer to a blender and blend for 15 seconds (and don't jump when the warm mixture hits the top and somehow sneaks out a bit to cover your hand--just lick it up and keep going). Chill the mixture thoroughly (I just went ahead and stuck the blender in the fridge), then run it through your ice cream machine.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Leggo that Eggo!!

We are halfway through the month of no-processed food. One area that has definitely been affected is breakfast. Usually Matt and I don't have a lot of time in the mornings. There's just enough to get the coffee pot going, pop a couple of bagels in the toaster oven, put on some cream cheese and get going. With those options gone, I've made muffins and we've been eating a lot of eggs. But this morning, I wanted something more.

Waffles have always majorly appealed to me. The ones in restaurants served during brunch are just so lovely: big, fluffy and golden brown, they are delicious. And the stuff that comes in the box that you pop in the toaster...well, it looks similar. Kinda. A more pale, smaller, not quite as crisp or fluffy version. Basically, a version that doesn't really satisfy, but when you really have a craving, you just eat it and convince yourself it's delicious. Well, no more!

I adapted this recipe from one found on smittenkitchen. I didn't have any buttermilk on hand, and, seeing as the weather has plummeted back down into the 30s, I wasn't about to send Matt to the store. However, I did have plain yogurt, which the recipe said I could use, provided I thin it out with some milk. I also halved the recipe since it was just the two of us this morning.

The resulting batter is very, very thick, almost like that of a muffin recipe, even after I folded in the whipped egg white. The resulting waffle was delicious, if a little bland. Also, because the batter was so thick, it turned out quite chewy. When I make this recipe again, I'll probably throw in a second egg white and see if that helps lighten the batter. I think it might also help to cook it on a lower setting a little bit longer. Another option would be to add more milk. As for the blandness, I think I might try Greek yogurt next time instead of plain. I wouldn't add more sugar as I particularly don't want my waffle to be super sweet. It would make maple syrup superfluous and that's just sad.

Yogurt Waffles
Adapted from smittenkitchen

1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup plain whole milk yogurt
1/8 cup milk (I used 1%)
1 egg, separated
2 Tablespoons butter, melted & cooled
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Mix all of the dry ingredients together.

Mix together the yogurt, milk and egg yolk. Stir in the yogurt & vanilla.

Beat the egg whites until you get soft peaks.

Stir the wet ingredients into the dry. Fold the egg whites into the batter.

Cook in a waffle iron according to manufacturer's directions (for mine, I'm supposed to use 1/3 cup batter; though you can see from the batter that to get a perfect circle I would have needed 1/3 cup batter and a little bit more).

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Chicken Noodle Soup

One of my go-to lunches is soup. When I'm home by myself, I like to avoid a fuss, stick something on the stove, and five minutes later, presto! Food! Depending on the kind of soup, I pair it with some kind of bread (or cracker) and call it a day.

Though I wouldn't necessarily put canned soup into the same category as chips or cookies, it's hard to argue that it's not a pre-packaged food, especially when you get to the middle of the ingredients list and you no longer know what you're reading. So for the next month, my easy go-to lunch is gone. If I want soup now, I'm going to have to cook up big batches and store them in the fridge. Enter the homemade chicken noodle soup!

One of the things I like about chicken noodle soup is that, at its base, it's really quite easy. You basically throw everything into the pot, let it boil a bit and then it's good to go. If you wanted to, you could use store bought chicken broth/stock, buy a cooked chicken from the store and pull the meat off the bones, and chop up whatever veggies you want. Or, you can make it more "complicated": make your own stock, cook your own chicken, thicken it up with some flour, whatever.

As I already had stock made, I picked up a chicken breast with skin & bone from the store (since I can't stand the flavor of the rotisserie chickens available to me at my Whole Foods, just not my combination of herbs). I added the veggies I like (not a big fan of celery--especially since the organic ones seem to be so salty! Anyone else have this problem?), threw in my egg noodles and herbs and had soup.

I enjoyed a bowl...and then Matt got home...and ate all the rest (though not at one sitting!).

So since the weather is changing, and spring is on its way (yay!!), I encourage all of you to sneak in that one last bowl of soup before it gets too warm.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Matt just told me that he believes frappuccinos from Starbucks count as prepackaged food and I can't have them unless I want to use my once a week dining out for them. But, but, but...crap!!

I'm over this.