First Batch of Sourdough Bread

I finally got around to baking some sourdough bread from the whole wheat sourdough starter I made in February during‘s Real Food Challenge. It was pretty much a 3 day process. The first day consisted of letting the starter warm to room temperature and feeding it.

Sourdough Starter

The second day, I made the dough from the starter and let it rise overnight. The third day I shaped it into a loaf and put it through its second rise, then baked it.

The result:

Finished Sourdough BreadDelish! It’s a hearty , dense bread that makes great sandwiches 🙂

I’m so proud of my sourdough starter! (I got mine from Cultures for Health).

In the News, and a Contest!

Two random tidbits for you today…

In reverse order… A CONTEST! Not my contest, but an awesome contest, and even if you don’t win, go check out the t-shirts because they are hilarious!! It’s a Food Tee Giveaway over at Emily’s The Front Burner. These food t-shirts are cracking me up over at Food Tee.

Next up…. CNN has an article about the Nourished Kitchen Real Food Challenge I just finished – “An Inconvenient Challenge: Eat Real Food for a Month.” There are a handful of morons in the comments, but if you like the sideline drama, there are also some good zinger replies for your amusement.

Have a great day! 😀

The Real Food Challenge Goes On!

Well, the Nourished Kitchen Real Food Challenge is actually over, but I’m continuing to work on the various lessons.

I finally found the Farmers’ Creamery organic VAT-pasteurized milk. Thank you, Peapod! I had some with breakfast this morning and, yum! This milk comes from farms maintained with no chemical pesticides or herbicides, from cows fed an organic, non-GMO, natural grass diet – with no added hormones. The milk is NOT homogenized (i.e. it is left in its natural state, where the nutrient-rich cream rises to the top!) and is pasteurized at the lowest possible temperature (145F). You won’t get a 2-month shelf life out of this milk! It’s fresh from the farm.

Here’s a segment on the nutrition of milk from grass-fed cows, from Farmers’ Creamery’s FAQ:

Why is it important to have pasture-fed cows?
Over the past few decades many studies have revealed that pasture-feeding is much healthier for the cows and for the consumer.

Greener Pastures: How Grass-fed Beef and Milk Contribute to Health Eating by Kate Clancy is the first study to synthesize the findings of virtually every English-language study (25 were chosen for analysis) comparing the amounts of total fats, saturated fats, omega-3 fatty acids, and Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) in both pasture-raised and conventionally raised beef and dairy cattle. The report also combined analyses of the nutrition, environmental, and public health benefits of grass-based farming techniques.

The report found that grass-fed milk contains higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, the so-called beneficial fats. Grass-fed milk tends to be higher in an omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) that scientists have demonstrated reduces the risk of heart disease. And grass-fed milk also is higher in CLA, a fatty acid shown in animal studies to protect against cancer. CLA was discovered in 1978 by Michael W. Pariza at the University of Wisconsin while looking for mutagen formations in meat during cooking. The most abundant source of natural CLA is the meat and dairy products of grass-fed animals. Research conducted since 1999 shows that grazing animals have from 3 to 5 times more CLA than animals fattened on grain in a feedlot. Simply switching from grain-fed to grass-fed products can greatly increase your intake of CLA.

Good stuff!

In other news, I’m working on Week 2 of the GNOWFGLINS e-course on preparing food traditionally, and the ingredients for this week’s experiments arrived this morning. Updates coming soon!

Real Food Challenge, Week 4

It’s the final week of the Real Food Challenge! I’m a little sad, but excited to continue experimenting and putting to use everything I’ve learned!

First up: the topic of meat. This is one of the topics that sent me head-first into the world of organic foods, after watching with horror and disgust (and quite frankly, anger) the movie Food, Inc. Just the sight of the labels of the big meat companies makes me want to write a million letters to my government representatives (not to mention, avoid it like the plague!) Thank goodness I have shopping options locally to buy organically raised meats. Grass-finished for me!

Next – eggs! I was so excited to discover a farm literally a couple blocks from my house that sells organic eggs. One of these days (when it gets warmer out!), I may even walk there to get my eggs!

I’m going to need some time before I take the step involving homemade broth…. I have issues with bones in meat! The thought of making a broth from chicken feet makes me want to hide under my desk and claim vegetarianism. I have an odd internal struggle with eating meat. I’m an animal lover, and really the only way I can manage to eat meat is if the meat doesn’t remind me of the animal. I’m over-sensitive in this regard, but it is what it is and I am what I am. I can’t eat chicken on bones, for example, and I’m certain that I will never be able to make a broth from a chicken’s foot!

For this same reason, organ meats are going to be hard for me – though the idea of blending them into a bolognese sauce sounds like it might be possible. It’s on my longer term list of things to do.

I don’t eat seafood, so day #26 is out! Well, OK. I’m not ruling this one out completely. I’ve never really tried most seafood, and while I’ve already blown away my New Year’s resolution of trying 10 new foods this year (finished that up in January!), I might…. might…. try seafood this year. I’m thinking maybe a non-fishy fish. The good news is that if I do, I will definitely be sure it is wild-caught, and with that, the most tasty and nutritious version possible!

Day #27 asked us to give back to the movement. I can’t wait until spring springs here in Chicago, because I have big plans to get involved with my local farmers’ market. I’m also hoping to give back by sharing what I learn via this blog and my Facebook.

This has been an exciting ride! I’m looking forward to trying some of the techniques I didn’t have time to get to during the month of February.

For those who didn’t get to complete the Real Food Challenge, here are the guidelines as described by (Thanks, Jenny!!)

  • Stay natural & unrefined.
  • Avoid modern, processed foods.
  • Sour, sprout, or soak.
  • Love healthy fats.
  • Brew mineral-rich stock.
  • Eat grass-fed, pasture-raised, and wild-caught.
  • Keep dairy raw and fresh.
  • Get your good bacteria.
  • Get involved.
  • Maximize nutrient density.

I’m proud to check most of those off of my list as new habits! Thanks again to Jenny and Nourished Kitchen. This challenge has been fun and eye-opening – and I will continue to work on the lessons in the coming weeks and months.

Real Food Challenge, Week 3

Yes, I’m behind on my Real Food Challenge! The New Mexico trip has me behind on a lot of things 🙂 Here’s to catching up!

Week 3 started out with a discussion of SCOBYs – Symbiotic Colonies of Bacteria and Yeasts. I’m working on getting together the materials required to try and make some water kefir. Since I gave up drinking diet sodas, this sounds like a good replacement!

Next up: homemade yogurt. This is actually something I’ve done many times in the past, with great results. I love homemade yogurt! I make mesophilic yogurt (room temperature). I’m happy to report that my yogurt tasted even better now that I use organic milk and starter. As I shared last week, I have yet to find a good source of raw or vat-pasteurized milk, so that part of the equation will have to come at a later date.

Then came the part I’ve been waiting for: homemade cheese! I’ve been wanting to try this ever since I finished reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (P.S.) by Barbara Kingsolver and family. The labneh recipe on Nourished Kitchen looks doable, and I will be buying the required items this week to try it out myself.

The article on beans really interests me, because I’ve never actually prepared beans aside from using a can opener on the top! A bean recipe is in my future, with properly soaked beans.

Finally, I made some homemade salad dressing to use up the last of the garlic I had in the house before my trip. This is something I plan to do more of, because I haven’t been able to find pre-made organic dressings that I like. The recipe for Day 21 of the Real Food Challenge was easy and tasty! 3/4 cup EVOO, 1/4 cup raw cider vinegar, 2 cloves minced garlic, and minced fresh herbs (though I had to use dried herbs, as I had nothing fresh on hand).

I also learned last week that I won a contest! I was so excited when Jenny from Nourished Kitchen emailed me, because just the day before I’d been looking at this e-course wishing I had the money to take it… but with my trip only days away, I was tapped out. I’m now participating in the GNOWFGLINS e-course on preparing healthy, traditional foods, thanks to Nourished Kitchen!

So, that was my Week #3! I’ll be catching up on Week 4 this weekend and next week!

My Happy Bubbly Sourdough Starter

I am excited to report that my sourdough starter has blossomed overnight into a happy, bubbly sourdough starter! I think putting it next to the heat vent really did the trick. (So what if I’m preparing sourdough starter in the bathroom, right?!)

Tonight, I poured off the “hooch” (thanks to Jenny and Maggie and Marcella for the words of wisdom!) and fed it again. By the time I’d rinsed off my spoon and gone back to put the lid on, my little starter batch was bubbling, right before my eyes!

I squealed with glee and held up the jar like a proud parent 🙂

I’m going to let the starter spend one more night next to the heat vent, then I’ll move forward and try to bake something with it! *happy dance*

Real Food Challenge, Week 2

We’ve wrapped up Week 2 in the Nourished Kitchen Real Food Challenge, and here’s how it went in my world!

First off, I’ve been caring for my sourdough starter this week. It arrived too late to do much Week 1, and it’s taking a little longer than I’d hoped to get happy this week. I suspect it’s because my kitchen isn’t very warm (68F or so). I tried a high cabinet; I tried in the oven – apparently my pilot light isn’t very warm, either. So tonight, I fed my little sourdough buddy and brought it upstairs with me. I put it next to the heat vent in the bathroom. Hopefully the cats will not get curious.

The starter is bubbling a little bit – just not a whole lot. And it keeps separating and forming liquid on the top. I’ve just been stirring the liquid back in, as the instructions that came from Cultures for Health don’t mention anything about pouring it off. I hope I’m not killing the poor thing! (Wow, it didn’t take long for me to humanize my sourdough starter!)

Week 2 kicked off with a discussion on fats for high-heat cooking. I switched to using coconut oil a couple months ago, after reading the book Skinny Bitch. So far, I have no complaints!

Then, we got into the issue of GMO’s – which is actually the topic that led me into this entire organic adventure (including the creation of this blog). I suspect that a certain M company is actually the devil. Some things are just wrong, and blasting living cells with viruses and the like in order to splice in the DNA of different species… that’s right up there on the list. My local government representatives know who I am (and, a tip I heard a long time ago – paper letters are more effective than email, so print out those letters, stick a stamp on ’em, and drop them in the ol’ snail mail!)

For Day #10, it was back to oils – I regularly dip bread in olive oil, but haven’t tried flaxseed oil. I’ve gotten into throwing flaxseed meal into my oatmeal and my smoothies, so why not try flaxseed oil? It’s on my grocery list.

Baking sourdough is on my list of things to do, once my starter is ready! (C’mon, lil buddy!)

Then came the Real Milk challenge. I was pretty stoked about this, as I love milk and dairy products. I drink organic milk. The article mentioned a brand of Vat-pasteurized milk from Farmers All Natural Creamery. I went to their web site to find the locations where it is sold, and was ecstatic to see two things – first, that Jewel grocery stores carry it (because there’s one down the street from me), and second, that Peapod carries it (because that’s where I get most of my groceries, delivered!) I won’t be ordering from Peapod for another couple weeks, so I decided to check out Jewel. (I had been meaning to go there to check out their selection of organic produce anyway). I was quite impressed with their organic produce selection, but pretty bummed out that I couldn’t find Farmers All Natural Creamery products. 🙁 Booo. The customer service clerk that I asked had never heard of it. I’ll have to try ordering it from Peapod next time.

Day #13 looked at fermented foods. I’m a yogurt fanatic (and have just gotten into Greek yogurt too). I used to make my own yogurt a few years ago, but stopped when I moved… it’s something I plan to try my hand at again soon. I’m also interested in trying to make cheese – but that’s a whole nother story. This kefir stuff looks intriguing (particularly the anti-cancer elements). I plan to look into it some more. I saw some at Trader Joe’s the other day, but hadn’t yet read the Challenge note about kefir!

That brings us to today – Singles Awareness Day. I’m not much into chocolate, so there’s no love lost there. The most exciting thing I added to my food repertoire this week was grape tomatoes in my workout smoothie. I’m looking forward to next week and hopefully baking some sourdough bread, or maybe pancakes!

Real Food Challenge: Soaking Grains

Part of this week’s Real Food Challenge (by Nourished Kitchen) was a lesson on the digestibility of whole grains and whole grain flours.

The problem:

Whole grains contain a naturally-occurring plant compound called phytic acid. Phytic acid acts as an anti-nutrient, binding up minerals such as zinc (which you need for immunity and reproductive health), iron and others in your digestive tract and preventing you from fully absorbing them. Source: Nourished Kitchen

The solution:

Prepare grains to mitigate the effects of phytic acid by fermenting, sprouting, or soaking them.

My foray into this art began with soaking some organic oat flour in buttermilk to make some buttermilk biscuits.

The recipe is simple. Last night, I mixed the oat flour and buttermilk, and left it on the counter overnight to soak.

Oat flour soaking in buttermilk

This morning, I added the remaining few ingredients and attempted to roll out the dough. There was just no way. The dough was so wet and sticky that I couldn’t even handle it with my hands, much less roll it out. :-/

Oat flour dough

I knew this problem was a possibility. A few people in the recipe comments mentioned it as a problem. The recipe was written for preparation at an elevation of 10,000 feet. I hardly grasp the logistics of my own lowly kitchen at an elevation of 650 feet – I’m certainly nowhere near the skill to understand what adjustments might need to be made to compensate for that 9,000+ foot difference! This is probably just an Experience Fail on my part. My house is dry as a bone, being the dead of winter (with no humidifier on my furnace), so humidity wasn’t the problem.

Instead of rolling out the dough, I dropped it on a baking sheet in heaping tablespoonfuls.

Dough ready to bake

I decreased the bake time as recommended by another lower-elevation cook, to 21 minutes at 350 degrees F. Here’s how they looked coming out of the oven:

Buttermilk oak flour biscuits

They reminded me of the cheddar bay biscuits I used to serve up in my waitressing days at Red Lobster.

I had a couple with some chili for lunch this afternoon, and they did taste wonderful. I’ll call the recipe a success, even if they don’t look like buttermilk biscuits!

My portioning made 20 small biscuits, so assuming 2 biscuits per serving, the recipe made 10 servings – approximately 300 calories per serving: 8g fat, 47g carbs (4g fiber, 3g sugars), 11g protein.

Real Food Challenge, Week 1

So, how many of you signed up for the Nourished Kitchen Real Food Challenge? Here are my experiences with the first week of the challenge.

The challenge for Day #1 was to clean out my cupboards, getting rid of all processed foods. I spent all of December 2009 and part of January 2010 doing just that (mostly because I couldn’t afford to throw away an entire kitchen of food all at once! All I used to eat was processed foods! Just call me, freezer-to-microwave-girl).

An interesting shift that occurred was in my refrigerator/freezer. Once upon a time, my freezer overfloweth with Lean Cuisines and frozen pizzas. My fridge looked like a bachelor’s fridge – a few cases of Diet Dr. Pepper, a gallon of milk, and occasionally, a tub of yogurt or a loaf of bread. The fridge was bare. Now, my refrigerator is teeming with food – mostly produce – and my freezer is pretty empty, except for some frozen vegetable purees and a variety of leftovers to tide me through the work week. (I cook for one, so I’ve always got leftovers!)

In going organic, I gave up my 8-10 can-a-day diet soda habit. It wasn’t a conscious decision, really – it just sort of happened. I’d look at the can sitting there on the counter, and think, “wow, a can of carbonated chemical water….” Who wants that?! It doesn’t even taste good. It took me an entire 9 months way back when to train my taste buds to drink diet pop instead of regular – I switched because at the quantities I was drinking, I was getting a full day’s worth of calories in soda with no nutritional value whatsoever (and a ton of sugar). Diet has zero calories – that’s gotta be good, right? Not so much. Early calculations indicate that I’ve offset the increased cost of organic groceries simply by cutting out the Diet Dr. Pepper.

One shift I’ve made that coincides with this week’s Real Food Challenge is to regular cheeses and yogurt. I used to buy fat free cheese and fat free or low fat yogurts, but the more I’m learning about how our bodies use foods and how various nutrients work in combination with each other, the chemicals and sweeteners used to replace the fats to make the products palatable to our taste buds are worse for us than the right combos of these animal fats in moderation. Enough with the chemicals, already!

Another new item to my kitchen world is old fashioned rolled oats. I discovered their splendor via KERF’s Tribute to Oatmeal, and I see oats popping up more and more in recipes that I’d like to try. Day #2 of the Real Food Challenge suggested trying Soaked Oatmeal or Baked Oats; both are on my list of things to do soon. This, coming from a girl who had tried every variety of instant oatmeal known to man, and turned her nose up at every one. Oatmeal is wonderfully delicious when you make it yourself from real food ingredients!

My first attempt at Day #3’s recommendation to soak whole grains to improve the nutrient profile and digestibility of them will be in the form of Buttermilk Oat Flour Biscuits. Stay tuned for the write-up! Soaking flour is so… simple – it just takes a little bit of planning!

For Day #4, I ordered a sourdough starter kit from Cultures for Health. I love fresh baked bread, and don’t use my bread machine nearly enough. I’d love to kick the habit of store-bought bread (even if it is organic!) and make my own regularly. Years ago, I used to make my own yogurt and absolutely loved both the process and the end result. That’s something I might have to try again. It sounds like keeping a sourdough starter alive is a lot like making your own yogurt… or caring for the friendship bread starters that come around every few Christmases.

Day #5 includes sprouting some grain. I need to actually get some grains if I want to sprout them, so I’ve tucked this item into my list of Things to Do.

I’m glad I’ve started this Real Food Challenge. I may not be able to convert completely to a traditional kitchen in a month’s time, but I am confident that I will be able to implement a significant number of healthy changes, learning a lot as I go. I will have a lot of catching up to do during Week 4, as I will be traveling throughout the entire Week 3 – but we’ll see what happens!

Good luck in your challenge!

28 Day Real Food Challenge

Nourished Kitchen is kicking off February with a bang, leading the 28 Day Real Food Challenge, with – oooh shiny – PRIZES! As if good health isn’t prize enough, take the challenge and “learn about the principles of a nourishing diet including the importance of grass-finished and pastured meats, wholesome fats, sprouted and soured grains and probiotic foods.” (Source: Nourished Kitchen).

Sign up for the Real Food Challenge, then post about your experiences via comments on the Nourished Kitchen web site, their Facebook page, or via your own blog.

More on the Challenge from Nourished Kitchen:

Designed to introduce newcomers to the principles behind a wholesome, nourishing diet and to reinvigorate the energy of those who’ve been practicing traditional foods for a while, we’ll meet our goals one day at a time throughout the entire month. Learn how to stock your pantry, how to source wholesome foods, how to reduce costs, hot to mitigate antinutrients naturally present in certain foods and how to improve your diet step-by-step through nourishing, real food. Simple as it is, the 28-day challenge is designed to walk you through a transition into real food one step at a time.

What are you waiting for?! Sign up now!