Macaroni and “cheese” and chickpeas and carrots – A Quest for something the kids’ll eat

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Sometimes you gotta break a few eggs if you wanna make some mac.

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Let’s be real.

Kids suck sometimes.

(Ack! That sounded crazed… Back-peddle! Back-peddle!)

I mean, don’t get me wrong, my kids are wonderful and amazing and I love them so much more than words can describe.

But they’re also little twerps who infuriate me.

“Why?” you might ask.

Because they won’t eat “vegables”. Or sleep through the night. Or treat each other with human decency. (Anyone else’s kids know the right pitch of “MINE!” to shatter glass? No, just mine? Sigh.)

If nothing else, I can tackle the “Vegables” thing. Maybe then they will be less prone to blood-sugar-crashing tears of rage. Maybe with a full belly they’d sleep through the night.

(Yes, I’m aware I’m delusion. Give me my moment. Hush!)

My oldest is going through a phase where anything new is poison, half the things she’s seen before are poison, and the only things she can trust are macaroni and cheese, and a few other “golden brown” foods that make my inner mommy (and outer mommy) weep.

Enter my desperate bid to make mac’ healthy.

As with many quests, this one was not successful at first try. Pro tip: Don’t mix cow beans and sweet potato when you’re trying to be stealthy. Pre-schoolers may not be the savviest connoisseurs of the culinary world, but they can taste when mommy goes cray-cray with the “healthy stuff”.

You may have noticed quotes around “macaroni” in the title. That wasn’t an oversight. There’s no cheese in my recipe, but you can add as much as you want and it definitely improves the situation. With this version, I’ve reduced the “bad foods” and upped the vegetable factor by a million, seeing as it composes ninety percent of what my eldest will eat. So if you’re only eating this once in a blue moon: Add cheese.

However if, like me, you’re trying to prevent scurvy and need to eat this stuff for a month, you can leave the cheese out.

Carrots are the “kid approved” vegetable for this one, but I’ve heard that butternut squash works nicely as well. Sub that in for a little bit of variety.

Macaroni and “Cheese” and Chickpeas and Carrots

Bonus: The carrots really give the sauce that “electric orange” colour found with “leading boxed mac brands”!

Ingredients

  • All the water.
  • 4 large Carrots
  • 1 can Chickpeas
  • 750g / 1.5lb Macaroni
  • 6 Tablespoons total of Oil/Butter (I like a ratio of 2 butter to 4 Olive Oil)
  • 4 Tablespoons Flour
  • Seasonings:
    • 1/3 Cup Nutritional Yeast (if you don’t have this, use a little dry bouillon and half the Soy Sauce)
    • 1 Tablespoon Nutmeg
    • 1 teaspoon Onion Powder
    • 1 teaspoon Mustard Powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon Garlic Powder
    • 1/4 teaspoon Cumin
    • 1/2 teaspoon Chili Powder
  • 3 Cups Milk (or milk substitute)
  • 1/8 Cup Soy Sauce or salt to taste

Tools

  • Two large pots
  • Whisk
  • A couple of wooden spoons
  • Food processor, blender or immersion blender
  • Instant pot, steamer, or pot
  • Optional: large baking dish and an oven

Directions

  1. Steam your veggies and canned chickpeas until the carrots are tender. I use my instant pot for 8 minutes. Stovetop takes about 20. If you want, you can boil them instead. Really, the main thing is that they’re mushy for the food processor so you can fool the kids.

  2. Meanwhile, Boil the pasta. If you’re baking the thing, turn the oven to 350F to pre-heat.

  3. Meanwhile, Add the oil to a large wide-bottomed pot and warm it up to medium heat (4/10 on my stove). If you’re using butter, wait until it’s fully melted. If not, give it about 5 minutes.

  4. Add the flour and seasonings to the oil, and stir them around. If they get lumpy and dry, add a drop more oil. You’re looking for a “almost runny oatmeal” consistency. Yes, we’re making a roux.

  5. Give the flour about 4 minutes to brown, then Add the milk, whisking constantly for about 30 seconds. Keep whisking every couple of minutes until the sauce starts to get thicker, then stir almost continuously until it’s even and thick. You can tell it needs attention when the whisk “mushes” across the bottom of the pot. Dig deep and make sure that “mush” doesn’t burn onto the bottom.

  6. Add the Soy Sauce at some point before the sauce is too thick. Most of the time I forget this part.

  7. Drain and set aside the macaroni when it’s cooked.

  8. Puree the veggies and chickpeas. You may need to reserve some of the water from steaming/boiling the veggies to get a puree-able consistency.

  9. When the sauce is thickened, Add the pureed veggies and chickpeas to the sauce. Mix thoroughly.

  10. Add the macaroni to the sauce (or vice versa).

  11. If you have 10 minutes to spare and your kids aren’t clawing at your leg for “uppies” Spread evenly in a baking pan and optionally top with cheese and breadcrumbs (about 1/2 cup). Pop in the oven for 12 minutes.

  12. Serve.

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10-Minute Pizza Toast

Pizza is the best! Pizza-Toast is a close second…

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Pizza has got to be one of the most universally loved foods. No matter what you like, there’s something for you: everything from meat-lovers heaven to vegan-approved artichoke and bean-curd “cheeze”.

Unfortunately, making “real” pizza takes planning to make sure you have the right dough and toppings. But when you’ve forgotten the slow-cooker and have 15 minutes before you have to be out the door again, you need something, anything that won’t elicit grumbles and disagreement from the family.

Hence 10-minute Pizza Toast.

Pizza Toast can be made from pretty much anything you have in the fridge. At a minimum you need sauce, bread and cheese, but anything else can add some variety (turkey pepperoni and mushrooms are a great combo, as are olives and sweet peppers).

10-Minute Pizza Toast Recipe

Make as few or as many as you need all at once. For an adult or teenager, 2 slices, for younger kids 1 slice should do.

Ingredients

  • 1 slice Bread
  • 2 Tablespoons Tomato Sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons Cheese
  • Toppings, for example:
    • Olives, red peppers and feta cheese
    • Pepperoni and mushrooms
    • Hot peppers, sweet peppers and olives
    • Just plain cheese

Tools

  • Oven or Toaster oven
  • Baking tray and Spatula

Directions

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 350F. This makes sure the cheese melts quickly.

  2. Place your bread on the baking sheet.

  3. Add 2 Tablespoons of tomato sauce per slice.

  4. Add your toppings, but don’t overload the bread. You should still be able to see the sauce. Get the family involved, have them make their own. Good combinations include: olives and sweet peppers; pepperoni and mushrooms.

  5. Add the cheese, making sure to spread it out. If you don’t have any other toppings, add another Tablespoon of cheese.

  6. Bake for 5 minutes on 350F, or until the cheese melts.

  7. Serve immediately. Slice them diagonally for a more “pizza” feel.

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Naan Bread

Na-na-na-na-naan Bread!

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Bread is one of those things that’s found in pretty much every culture. One of my favourite non-loaf varieties is Indian naan bread. Naan is a flat bread that’s perfect for picking up curry veggies or for soaking up that last drop of delicious curry sauce.

We make a lot of curries in my home (as you can probably tell by its regular appearance in my meal plans), so naan bread is always in high demand. While a full-time job means I can’t make this during the work-week, when I get the chance to make naan bread on the weekend, my family loves the treat!

You may notice that the basic process for making naan bread dough is similar to making regular ol’ bread dough. The main difference is that naan bread has a bit more milk powder in it, giving it a slightly different flavour than if you just cook regular dough.

However, because of how naan bread is cooked, you can use regular bread dough in a pinch. If you do, just make sure to add a bit more butter to the pan, and you can make up for a bit of that missing flavour.

Naan Bread Dough Recipe

Ingredients

  • 250 grams flour plus extra for dusting
  • 3/4 cups warm water
  • 1+1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (1/2 of an 8-gram pack)
  • 1 teaspoons + 1+1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1+1/2 teaspoons oil or butter
  • 5 Tablespoons skim milk powder
  • butter for the pan.

Tools

  • Mixing bowl and wooden spoon (or stand mixer)
  • Large flat surface for kneading and rolling the dough
  • Rolling pin
  • heavy-bottomed frying pan or large cookie sheet

Directions – Dough only

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  1. Dissolve yeast and 1 teaspoon of sugar in 3/4 cup hot tap water. Set aside for 10 minutes while you prepare the other ingredients. It should be foaming after a few minutes.

  2. Meanwhile, sift the flour, remaining sugar, salt and skim milk powder into a mixing bowl. Stir it together so the dry ingredients are mixed evenly.

  3. Make a well in the centre of the flour and pour the liquid ingredients – the yeast mixture and oil.

  4. Mix until there are no dry spots. Add water 1 tablespoon at a time if the dough is too dry.

  5. Knead for 10 minutes.

  6. Set aside for about an hour in a bowl covered with a damp tea-towel. It should be about double in size after an hour.

  7. Knead the dough again for just long enough to work out any air bubbles.

  8. At this point, you can freeze for later use, or you can make naan bread immediately either on the stove or in the oven.

Directions (The Easy Way) – Oven-baked Naan bread

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  1. Preheat the oven to 450F, with the baking sheet in the oven. You want the baking sheet hot.

  2. While the oven is heating, separate the dough into 4 balls. Hand-squish them and pull until they’re more-or-less flat, about 1/4″ thick.

  3. When the oven is heated, slap two “loaves” of naan bread onto the pan and put it in the oven. It should sizzle.

    2016-03_naan-bread-alt4
  4. Bake for 4 minutes, flip, then bake for 2-3 more minutes. You’re going for golden-brown on each side.

  5. Cover with a dry tea-towel until ready to serve

Directions (The Hard Way) – Stove-top Naan bread

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  1. Heat a heavy-bottomed pan such as a cast-iron skillet. Add a small amount of butter and make sure it coats the pan evenly.

  2. While the pan is heating, separate the dough into balls about 2 inches in diameter. Sprinkle with flour and flatten them out so they’re about 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch thick. Do this one at a time, while the previous one is cooking.

  3. When the pan is heated place a naan “loaf” into the pan and cook until the dough rises a bit, about 2-3 minutes. Flip it over and cook for another few minutes until both sides are a nice golden-brown.

  4. Place cooked naan bread on a plate and cover with a cloth or napkin while the rest are being cooked. Add more butter to the pan as it dries up, and repeat until you have all the naan bread you need. You may have some leftover dough, which you can freeze for later, if desired.

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Slow Cooker Chicken Soup Five Ways

Five ways to enjoy that classic Chicken Soup… with a twist!

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I love chicken soup, and what’s not to love? It’s healthy, curing anything that ails you (so long as what ails you is a cold). It’s comfort food. It’s so easy to throw together in the slow cooker.

Not to mention, my toddler always asks for “more sauce” – something that always lets me sigh in relief. A toddler can never eat too much nutritious food.

Yup, chicken soup great.

The varieties I’ve shared with you below are my five favourite varieties, and while my directions are for a slow cooker, you could adapt this to a stove-top quite easily.

The varieties I’ve chosen are ones that I use in my meal plans:

  • Jiggs Dinner Chicken Soup

  • Mushroom Pepper Chicken Soup

  • Broccoli Potato Chicken Soup

  • Mexican Corn Chicken Soup

  • Tex-Mex Tomato Chicken Soup

Jiggs Dinner Chicken Soup was inspired by Newfoundland Sunday Dinner. Cooked root veggies, plus a dash of Mt. Scio Savoury give this a bit of that sunday dinner flavour, without all the gravy.

Side note: for those of you not from Newfoundland, yes, it’s actually “Savoury” and not “a seasoning which is savoury instead of sweet”. We use it like mainlanders use sage. Because it’s better. There ya go.

Mushroom Pepper Chicken Soup was inspired by my refrigerator. Yes, that’s right, I only had mushrooms and peppers to go with my chicken one day, so that’s what I made. And it was good. So it got put into the meal plan on regular rotation.

Broccoli Potato Chicken Soup was created when I got tired of the same-old same-old. This creamy soup features Broccoli prominently, and the potato and chicken back it up. The secret weapon that makes this so amazing is that ubiquitous vegan delight, nutritional yeast. While this recipe isn’t vegetarian, it’s actually surprisingly improved by nutritional yeast.

Mexican Corn Chicken Soup was inspired by Mexican corn chowder, and while my version is not creamy, it’s still got that tasty Tex-Mex flare that I love. Don’t tell anyone, but I only stumbled across this version because I ran out of cream of chicken soup when I was trying to make Mexican corn chowder. I mean, totally meant to do that… *shifty eyes*.

Tex-Mex Tomato Chicken Soup is another “oops, I don’t have enough ingredients” sort of recipe. What got thrown in the pot smells a lot like chili, and the soup itself definitely has a bit of a tasty kick. The secret to this one is chipotle chili powder, which gives it a slightly different flavour from the Mexican Corn version.

Now that you’re acquainted, here’s how you make the soup:

Chicken Soup 5 Ways Recipe

Ingredients – All varieties

  • 2 large chicken breasts
  • 1 diced onion
  • 3 stalks diced celery
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Litre chicken broth
  • Salt, to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon, or two light dustings)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin

Ingredients – Jiggs Dinner Chicken Soup

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  • “All Varieties” ingredients above
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 1 small turnip, diced
  • 2 small potatoes, diced
  • Seasoning:
    • 2 Tablespoons summer savoury
    • Pepper, to taste (about 1/4 teaspoon, or one light dusting)

Ingredients – Mushroom Pepper Chicken Soup

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  • “All Varieties” ingredients above
  • 1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced
  • 1+1/2 large peppers, diced
  • 1 medium jalapeno, minced (optional – adds a bit of a spicy kick)
  • Seasoning:
    • 1 teaspoon chili powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
    • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
    • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional – also adds spiciness)

Ingredients – Broccoli Potato Chicken Soup

  • “All Varieties” ingredients above
  • 2 cups broccoli florets, in chunks
  • 2 small potatoes, diced
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  • Seasoning:
    • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Ingredients – Mexican Corn Chicken Soup

  • “All Varieties” ingredients above
  • 1+1/2 cups frozen corn
  • 1/2 large red pepper
  • Seasoning:
    • 1 Tablespoon chili powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
    • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
    • 1/4 teaspoon thyme

Ingredients – Tex-Mex Tomato Chicken Soup

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  • “All Varieties” ingredients above
  • 1 large can diced tomatoes (about a Litre)
  • 1/2 large red pepper
  • Seasoning:
    • 1 Tablespoon chili powder
    • 1 teaspoon Chipotle chili powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
    • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
    • 1/4 teaspoon thyme

Tools

  • Slow cooker
  • Knife and cutting board

Directions

The directions below apply to all varieties, except where noted. It’s the same process, just different ingredients.

  1. Season your chicken breast and place it in the bottom of the slow cooker. Drizzle with oil. Make sure all the seasonings dust both sides of the chicken.

    It’s important that the chicken be on the bottom, as this makes sure it’s completely cooked quickly, avoiding food safety issues.

  2. Add the diced onion and celery.

  3. Add the rest of the veggies in layers, dusting with salt, as desired.

  4. Add the broth and cream-of-chicken soup (if applicable). If you’re using a low-sodium broth, make sure to add a bit more salt to the veggies before you add the broth.

  5. Cook on low for 8 hours or high for 3 hours.

And there you have it! Five ways to make chicken soup in a slow cooker, each with their own unique twist.

So, what’s your favourite chicken soup variety? Share them in the comments below!

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Chocolate Pudding

Creamy, smooth, delicious chocolate pudding… Yum, yum!

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Chocolate pudding reminds me of summer day-camp when I was a tweenager. I had to pack a lunch for myself.

So I ate pudding.

A lot of pudding.

Why did I eat a lot of pudding? Because I was old enough to decide for myself, and myself wanted pudding. After all, pudding was perfect! It offered something deliciously cool in the middle of those warm summer days. Plus it was chocolate. Like I said: Perfect!

Now that I’m an adult, I’ve discovered that chocolate pudding does not grow fully-formed, plucked from pudding-cup trees. In fact, I have discovered that I can make it on my own, with ingredients I already have. While wearing pyjama pants. Because that’s how I roll.

Pyjama pants or no, this easy-to-make dessert-slash-snack is a winner. I’ve tried it cool, like the recipe recommends, but I’ve also “taste-tested” it warm (who wants to wait 2 hours, anyway?), and it’s arguably better. Think hot chocolate, but thick, silky and sumptuous. Yum!

While I’m sure “real” chocolate pudding is made with 200%-milk-fat cream, ten pounds of butter and a plantation’s-worth of sugar, this version uses corn starch as a thickener, has a modest amount of sugar and uses no added fat. It has all that deliciousness, and is still so ooey-gooey, but it offers a modicum of pretending to be healthy.

Don’t let that low-fat title fool you, though. This is still chocolate-sugar-snack. And it’s still delicious.

Now that you’re fully informed, you can make this choice of your own free will. We both know you’ll make this choice. Because it’s the awesome-ist choice there is!

You’re welcome.

Chocolate Pudding Recipe

Ingredients

  • 3 cups skim milk
  • 2 heaping tablespoons corn starch
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips or chopped baker’s chocolate
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Tools

  • small saucepan/pot with a wooden spoon
  • measuring cup
  • jar with lid, or a cup and fork

Directions

  1. Add 1/3 cup milk to the jar and combine with the corn starch. Tightly close the lid and shake well. If you don’t have a jar, thoroughly stir the corn starch in the milk with a fork, making sure there are no lumps.

  2. In a cold saucepan, add the milk/corn starch, remaining milk, and sugar, stirring until combined.

  3. Gently heat the milk on a low-medium heat. Make sure to stir often to avoid lumps. The milk is done when it has thickened like syrup.

  4. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate.

  5. Cover tightly and set in the refrigerator to cool for 2 hours.

  6. Serve chilled. Store leftovers for no more than 2-3 days.

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Pasta Alfredo

This easy recipe replaces pre-packaged side dishes, adding a tonne more flavour.

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This was the first recipe I ever threw together without referring to a recipe. Yes, I had made similar recipes before, but all carefully following a step-by-step guide of how to do it. This was the first one where I used my own creativity instead of relying on someone else’s.

That being said, so long as you use a thick cream-based sauce, it’s hard to get Alfredo wrong.

Between how easy it is to make and my nostalgia (being a stepping-stone to greater food improv), this has become a great meal to have in my weekday arsenal. Throw in some steamed broccoli and chicken, and it becomes a balanced meal. Put it with some cod and cauliflower, and it becomes a veritable blizzard of all-white-food yumminess.

I prefer Alfredo sauce on some long noodles (yes, that’s spaghetti in my picture), but you could also use rotini or macaroni and capture the same flavour.

The best thing about this recipe? It replaces that instant-noodle stovetop/sidekick with all its high salt and preservatives, and tastes a bajillion times better (it’s the butter, isn’t it?).

Low-fat, this is not, so if you’re looking to cut back on butter and oil, skip this recipe and go for something lighter, like my Celebration Squash Soup (creamy without the dairy) or Veggie Taco Salad (low-fat and quite tasty, if you enjoy tex-mex).

PSA done! Now onto that sumptuous pasta!

Pasta Alfredo Recipe

Ingredients

  • 4 servings Pasta, Linguini, Fettuccine or rotini.
  • 3/4 cup Olive Oil
  • 100 grams Butter
  • 180 grams white flour
  • 3 cups milk (cream is thicker, but I never have it handy so I just use skim milk)
  • 2 cloves minced Garlic
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 2 Tablespoons Parsley
  • Pepper to taste, about 1/4 teaspoon for mildly spicy to 1 teaspoon for spicier kick.
  • Salt to taste, about 1/4 teaspooon

Tools

  • Large pot and pasta strainer
  • Large saucepan, big enough for Alfredo sauce and the pasta
  • Cheese grater
  • 2 wooden spoons
  • Whisk – make sure it’s safe for the saucepan, especially if the pan is non-stick coated.

Directions

  1. Heat the oil and butter until the butter is melted. Add the garlic and pepper and mix through the butter. This is the base of a roux, so the butter has to be completely melted.

  2. Add the flour and whisk into the oil and butter. Don’t be too vigorous, or some of the hot oil will fly out of the pan.

  3. When the flour is evenly mixed, let the flour fry for a few minutes, making sure not to let it darken more than light golden in colour. Avoid burning the flour, so stir with the whisk occasionally.

  4. Add the milk, whisking the whole time, and make sure the flour is incorporated into the milk. From now on, stir with the wooden spoon. You’re done with the whisk..

  5. Cook the pasta while the milk is heating.

  6. Gently stir the milk with the wooden spoon, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pan so the flour doesn’t stick to the bottom. Mix in any lumps so you avoid lumpy sauce.

  7. Strain the pasta and let sit for 2 minutes to drain all the water. We want to avoid watery pasta as this will water down the sauce.

  8. When it’s thickened up, remove the sauce from the heat and quickly stir in the cheese. Add salt to taste.

  9. Add the pasta to the sauce and stir through.

  10. Serve with a side of cheesy garlic bread.

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Homemade Bread and Dough

Golden, delicious homemade goodness!

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Bread is a staple for many households, and mine is no exception. Even when I’m eating low-carb, bread still gets made for the rest of my family to enjoy.

With that in mind, it probably doesn’t surprise you that I’ve perfected several varieties of bread and bread dough, which I use to great extent in my home. I’ve shared some of my favourites below (white, whole wheat and multigrain), all of which use the same steps, just with different ratios of ingredients.

Now, as much as my family loves fresh-baked bread, it’s hard to find 2-4 hours at the end of a work-day to bake it. Between supper, out-of-house activities and early bedtimes, this is usually a weekend recipe for us. I have managed to pull of a couple of mid-week loaves, but I had to stay up until 11:30 to do it. Not for the faint of heart, that’s for sure!

As for the recipe, the flour measurements I used are in weights because I started with bakers ratios, which are based on flour-to-water weights.

Back in the day, I picked up a cheap ($10) 2kg plastic weight scale and it’s served me well for more than 5 years. If you don’t have a kitchen scale (I highly recommend one), you can approximate the weight as 125 g per cup (so about 4 cups for this 500g recipe).

If you use cups instead of weights, you may need to adjust the amount of water. Make sure to note your differences, so you can make it again.

However you weigh it, the end result should be the same golden-brown deliciousness that is home-cooked bread!

Homemade Bread and Bread Dough Recipe

This recipe takes 2-4 hours start to finish and yeilds 2x400g loaves.

Ingredients

  • 500 grams flour plus extra for dusting
    • 500 g white flour for white bread.
    • 400 g whole wheat flour and 100 g white flour for whole wheat bread.
    • 400 g multigrain flour and 100 g white flour for multigrain bread. Omit 1/4 cup water for this recipe.
  • 1+1/2 cups warm water
  • 2+1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (1 8-gram pack)
  • 1 teaspoon + 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon oil or butter
  • 2 Tablespoons skim milk powder (optional)

Tools

  • Mixing bowl and wooden spoon (or stand mixer)
  • Large flat surface for kneading the dough
  • bread pan, roll pan, or baking sheet (depending on whether you want loaves, rolls, or frozen dough)

Directions – Dough only

  1. Dissolve yeast and 1 teaspoon of sugar in 1/2 cup hot tap water. Set aside for 10 minutes while you prepare the other ingredients. It should be foaming after a few minutes.

  2. Meanwhile, sift the flour, remaining sugar, salt and skim milk powder into a mixing bowl. Stir it together so the dry ingredients are mixed evenly.

  3. Make a well in the centre of the flour and pour the liquid ingredients – the yeast mixture, oil and 1 cup of hot tap water.

  4. Mix until there are no dry spots. Add water 1 tablespoon at a time if the dough is too dry.

  5. Knead for 10 minutes.

  6. Set aside for about an hour in a bowl covered with a damp tea-towel. It should be about double in size after an hour.

  7. Knead the dough again for just long enough to work out any air bubbles.

  8. At this point, you’ll have dough that you can form into bread, or you can freeze it for later use.

Directions – Bread

  1. Grease two medium sized bread pans.

  2. Separate the dough into a manageable size. I find 4 balls for 2 loaves (2 dough balls for each loaf) is a good size.

  3. Fit the dough into the bread pans and cover with a damp tea-towel. Let rise for about an hour or two until double in size.

  4. Preheat the oven to 400F and bake for 10 minutes.

  5. Reduce heat to 350F and bake another 30-40 minutes, or until the loaves sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Loaves should be dark golden brown.

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Veggie Taco Salad

Big taco flavour, without all the badness!

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I really enjoy tacos.

But tacos… they have all that cheese and grease… not to mention those super-delicious, but carb-loaded taco shells.

Fortunately for me, taco-stuffing tastes great on a salad! Add a little salsa and plain Greek yogourt (or caso fresco, if you’re down south), and you’ve got yourself a healthy “dressing” made for tacos, without all the heaviness that usually goes with taco-Tuesday.

If you really want, you can even have your shell to go with it. Just add a handful of salt-free nacho chips (Casa Grande is my locally-made favourite) and you’re on your way to a healthier well-balanced meal!

Now onto the recipe…

Veggie Taco Salad Recipe

Ingredients

  • Taco mix:
    • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
    • 1 medium Bell Pepper, diced.
    • 1 cup of cooked black beans or 1 additional medium Bell Pepper, diced (for low-carb)
    • 1 medium Onion, diced
    • 1/2 lb Mushrooms, sliced (about a can)
  • Seasoning:
    • 2 Tablespoons Chili Powder
    • 1 teaspoon Garlic Powder or 1 clove of garlic
    • 1 teaspoon Cumin
    • 1 teaspoon Oregano
    • Salt, to taste (about 1/4 teaspoon)
  • Salad:
    • 2-3 large handfuls Mixed Greens (spinach or lettuce), rinsed and dried
    • Salsa, to taste (optional)
    • 1 heaping Tablespoon Greek Yogourt (optional)
    • 1 handful of Low-salt Nacho Chips (optional)

Tools

  • cutting board and knife
  • frying pan and spoon

Directions

  1. Heat the oil while you chop the onion. Add the onions to the oil when it’s heated, and continue to chop the other ingredients (multi-tasking!).

  2. Add the mushrooms and peppers once the onions have started to sweat (turn clear) and throw in a dash of salt. This will draw out the liquids and add flavour.

  3. Add the beans to the pan if you’re adding them, otherwise, make sure to double-up on the peppers.

  4. Add the other seasonings once the peppers have started to sweat a bit.

  5. Continue cooking the taco mix until the peppers are your preferred level of done-ness. I recommend waiting until all the liquid has cooked off and you’re left with a slightly gooey delicious taco mix.

  6. Place a handful of lettuce on a plate and top with taco mix. Serve with a dollop of salsa and yogourt.

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Croutons

Crunchy, wholesome, homemade croutons…

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So… I think I’ve mentioned that I’m currently on a brief low-carb thing (6 days left!). Naturally, that means I’ve been thinking about – what else – carbs. And what’s more carb-loaded than bread? Nothin’, that’s what!

While I haven’t actually made these tonight, I did take pictures when I made my last batch, so here we are… My homemade croutons sit in an airtight container, silently waiting for the day they’ll be used in a salad or with soup. I silently sit at my desk, wondering how many bites of delectable croutons would still be low-carb (by the way, if you’re wondering, the answer is “none”).

Oh well, they’ll wait. It’s not like they could go stale or anything. That’s because they are, in fact, made from stale bread. Or regular bread. Whatever’s handy, really. Homemade or store-bought, if it’s bread, and not actually spoiled (as in mouldy) then you can turn any kind of bread into delicious croutons.

All you need is time, a little oil (I like the spray kind) and an oven. And a baking sheet. And some seasoning, if you want it. Maybe a bowl…

Personally, I leave out any extra seasonings, and leave the flavours to the thing the crouton goes in. It usually works out pretty well. If you want to try mixing up flavours, I like pre-packaged sweet pepper and garlic seasoning. Just a dash goes a long way.

Croutons Recipe

Ingredients

  • Bread. Stale, not mouldy works best, but fresh bread will do (it just takes longer).
  • Canola or Olive oil
  • Desired seasonings are optional (for example, packaged seasoning mix like sweet pepper and garlic)

Tools

  • Cutting board and bread knife
  • large mixing bowl and tongs
  • Baking tray
  • Oven

Directions

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200F. Your goal is to dry out the bread, not cook it further.

  2. Cut your bread into crouton-sized chunks. I like ’em about 2cm x 1cm x 1cm. Whatever size you go with, try to keep them roughly the same size, that way they dry out evenly in the oven.

  3. Toss your bread in a mixing bowl with a very small amount of oil. I like to use a light spritz of spray-oil, but you could use a baster brush to lightly baste a bit of oil on top. Shake the bread around until it’s all lightly coated with oil. If you have a lot of bread, you may need to do this in batches.

  4. Spread the bread into an even layer on the baking tray. Make sure the bread is in a flat layer, and not stacked on top of each other. Shake the tray a bit and make sure nothing falls off. You’re going to be doing that a few times, might as well make sure it’s stable now.

  5. Put the baking tray in the oven for 20-minute intervals. At the end of 20 minutes, take the tray out and give it a good shake so everything shifts around. The goal here is to avoid burning any bread by leaving it in one place. Put it back in the oven for another 20 minutes. Repeat until the bread is dry and crunchy, or when it’s golden brown.

    With really stale bread, you might be done in a round or two. Fresher bread might need a bit more.

  6. Let cool for an hour with a dry tea-towel over top, then store in an airtight container.

  7. Use in leafy green salads or as a garnish with soups.

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