Meal Planning for Neurotic People

Sorry, this is not a ‘how-to’ post. Mostly I’m just complaining about meal planning & that I’m neurotic so I make it hard on myself. I just finished september’s menu. Added to the usual challenge of:

    I like variety
    Ryan’s not big on variety
    I like exotic things, lots of veggies & trying new things
    Ryan..not so much
    I have outrageous expectations for healthiness

Notice, My requirements are the ones making it difficult. Ryan would be fine if each day of the week got a meal & I just rotated that all month long. That would make life VERY easy. But no….i’m Neurotic. Oh & i like to occasionally include things (along with pizza & a movie every friday) that I know the kids will eat with no complaint. It’s a very short list so I only go for it every other week or so, but those nights sure are peaceful…

Okay, so added to this I’ve been experimenting with the ‘Specific Carbohydrate Diet’ (SCD) and the ‘Gut & Psychology Syndrome’ Diet (GAPS) for myself. I don’t feel up for major details, but: It’s not about weight-loss. Basically I’ve been dealing with some stomach issues as well as increased fatigue, brain fog, mood, increased PMS, ect. The stomach stuff onset about when Grace was born and i realized a few weeks back that it was almost non-existent when we were in florida….and pretty much gluten-free, casein-free. So I decided to trial some gluten-free for myself (not the rest of the fam.) and after a few days things were noticeably better. Darn. ;) Anyhow, then I FINALLY got hold of the GAPS book, of which i’ve read excerpts from and have been ‘meaning’ to read for over a year. It really resounded with me, and from there I read up on the SCD diet (not a weight-loss thing, a ‘heal your gut’ thing) which GAPS was based from. Anyhow TONS of fascinating reading. HIGHLY recommend it. I still haven’t decided which i’m going to do, though for ease i’ve been leaning more towards SCD. A friend let me borrow “Recipes for the Specific Carbohydrate Diet“, which has been VERY helpful (the almond meal muffins passed ryan’s taste test for ‘normal’ & yummy!). For the past 5 days anyhow, I have been totally grain-free and sugar-free (except for honey) and upped my veggie consumption. A big downside was realizing that Asher likely should do this too…cutting out garlic helped his physical symptoms tremendously, but he still has some sensitivities there… from the reading it sounds like he just needs some more time with ‘gentle’ foods to let his gut heal from all the garlic damage from his first 3.6 years. But have i mentioned he’s picky? I’m not sure i’m ready to ‘go there’. Since i will eat darn near anything, it’s been easy for just me to be on the wacko-diet. I need some time to hone my allergen-free cooking skills, so I won’t be pushing it 100% on him yet. Normal pizza is still on the menu. Not for me though…. Seeing as how easy it is to make the pizza crust i use now, I decided normal pizza at the very least will always be on the menu for Ryan. That poor guy puts up with a lot. He deserves his pizza. ;) (unless he decides otherwise).

So: it took me 2.5 hours to make September’s dinner menu. There were a few nights that I just said “to heck with it” and I will just eat something else. Leftovers or salad or something. I’m fine with a quick meal of hard boiled egg & steamed chard. But I can’t quite expect anyone else to eat that.

for the curious I’ll post the menu, note how uninspired i am regarding side-dishes. after all the effort with the main dish i almost never put effort into sides. Warmed up frozen veggies mostly. For those not curious, this is the end. Thank-you and Good Bye.

5 – Beef Heart Kebobs, Green beans, potatoes for everyone but me. (Steak for ryan)
6 – Cookout @ friends’ house. Bringing Honey baked Lentils (from freezer). Not sure yet what I’ll eat.
7 – SCD friendly shepherd’s pie. (mashed cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes)
8 – savory crock pot chicken over rice (not for me) w/broccoli
9 – Spicy Fried Fish, snow pea saute
10 – Beef Stew (celeriac instead of potatoes in there)
11 – Pan Roasted Chicken, cauliflower ‘rice’, green beans
12 – going to a wedding. we’ll see.
13 – Pasta w/bread (I will have either spaghetti squash or thinly sliced zuchinni for mock-pasta)
14 – southwest chicken & black bean stew
15 – Breakfast for dinner: Eggs, nitrate-free bacon (pre-cooked & reheated…i might skip. not sure i’ll find an scd-friendly brand), coconut flour drop biscuits (pre-cooked). — we have ‘soccer practice’ that evening.
16 – salmon…not sure with what yet
17 – leftovers (another soccer night)
18 – Pizza
19 – beef stroganoff (thinly sliced egg ‘noodles’ for me), broccoli
20 – Almond fried Halibut, butternut squash & celeriac home fries
21 – Roast Chicken, green beans, leftover home fries
22 – Mexican (this means quesadillas for kids, burrito for ryan, ‘bowl burrito’ for me)
23 – Jamaican Jerk chicken, lima beans, ‘rice’ (or maybe real rice & i’ll just eat more lima beans)
24 – Steak, mashed cauliflower, green beans
25 – Pizza
26 – Lasagna (salad for me)…contemplated a mock lasagna but I’ll spare the family this month.
27 – Beef Roast, butternut squash french fries
28 – SCD Salmon Patties (uses almond meal instead of bread crumbs). not sure on the side dish yet
29 – Lemon Pepper Chicken w/honey lemon sauce…and veggies for side.
30 – Mexican
1 – Szechuan Chicken (from reserved chicken) w/’noodles’ (zuchinni strips).
2 – Pizza
3 – Hamburgers, squash fries

3 year old Princess

I’ve been writing this post in my head all day, but haven’t had a chance to sit and do it.  …and now of course my brain is in a total fog and I’m exhausted.  But I couldn’t let the day slide away without sharing a few thoughts about my favorite little girl named Grace.

Her smile is sunshine in our house, as is her giggle.

Her facial expressions and dramatic storytelling keep us in stitches.

We might occasionally complain about the non-stop flow of words pouring out of her mouth, but 1) she comes by it honestly & 2) I do LOVE getting to know what goes on in her amazing little brain.

She has taught me that the old adage “each kid is different” is true. There is in fact no ‘one size fits all’ in parenting.

She is a constant reminder that in all I do and all I aim to be, I need God’s undeserved mercy towards me. I need His help. I need His Grace.  Not only that, but it’s all I NEED.  And I can’t ‘add anything to it’.  I can’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it.  Much like the sweet little girl with no middle name that graces my day with kisses and hugs and giggles and singing.

I love you “super”, Grace Burns, and I love that I get to watch you grow up more & more each day.

Subversive Jam

This summer I went through the book, “Feminine Appeal” by Carolyn Mahaney with the women’s group at my church. It basically goes through Titus 2:4-5.  I read it a few years back, I think when i was pregnant with Grace, and I LOVED it then.  So I was excited to go through it with other women. I think i read it the first time in 2 days (staying up almost all night to finish it….i think i was at the end of the pregnancy where you can’t sleep).  This time? I’ll be honest. I didn’t enjoy it as much this time.  I put off the reading until last minute & then skimmed through quick so it would hurt less.  I think the last time I read it I was either blissfully ignorant of the depth of my sinfulness, or I had just not yet reached a stage in life where I was having to put the principles in the book to work.  Most likely both.  More heavy on the latter, since most of my ‘problems’ were the chapters relating to our children.  Anyhow, it wasn’t that I disliked the book, I just disliked the mirror the book held up.  So it was a good thing, I’m just a booger so it was a tough read this time around.  Anyway. What does this book have to do with jam?  Nothing.

One of the things I really enjoyed/appreciated during our bi-monthly discussion group was how Cheryl & Betsy were careful to remind us time & again the concept of, “Principle vs. Method”.  Principle being the overall idea or concept or uh…biblical PRINCIPLE being taught and method being ways that principle can be applied.  Often we get this mixed up.  For example, let’s take the ‘principle’ of saving money on groceries.  Sally might clip coupons and shop at 4 different stores to save money.  She does a great job of it and enjoys it and tells her friends about it.  Her friends hear that and think, “If I’m going to save money, I need to clip coupons and shop in various stores”.  There are other ways to save money on groceries, but many of Sally’s friends might accidentally come to the conclusion the CORRECT way is hers.  That was a lame example but I’m too tired to come up with a better one.  Anyhow, with all things but especially things regarding child-rearing and living out our faith and being good stewards of the things God has blessed us with, it is VERY easy to slip into the ‘principle/method’ mix-up.  It’s always a good thing to be reminded that the way Sally loves her husband or cares for her children and home is going to look different from the way I do.  Just because Sally didn’t make her own jam this year, doesn’t mean she’s not being a good steward., that’s not where jam comes in either.

The last week discussing this book Cheryl took some time to ask whether or not we felt method was being placed above principle during the course of discussing the book.  She used an example about tattoos and we got a tiny bit sidetracked about how one person could be getting a tattoo out of rebellion, while another could be doing it as an expression of love or something equally honorable.  That much like wearing makeup is no longer reserved for prostitutes, tattoos don’t relegate you to delinquent status anymore.  Suddenly it hit me.  Jam.  Can making jam be a sin?

I made a bunch of raspberry and blueberry jam from berries we picked this summer.  In fact, I’m fairly confident we have more than enough canned to float us through till next year.  This was my first time ever making jam & my first time ever canning.  When I realized it was working and we did in fact have jam that could sit in the pantry until ready to use, I did not feel warm and homey like a frontier woman or something.  Nope. I felt like a subversive punk rock D.I.Y rebel.  Down with ‘big AG’.  I don’t need your sugar/fructose/corn syrup laden preserves or overpriced ‘all-fruit’.  I’m opting out.  I’m making my own.  I live in the suburbs in 2009. I do not NEED to make jam.  This was a political protest.  Yep.  You never know what a person’s motives are.  I guess that’s why God says, “It is mine to avenge, I will repay…” (Deut. 32:35 NIV).  Left up to us…well…One would probably assume I’m just being holly homemaker with my hot water bath canner boiling away.

**I’d like to clarify that i’m being facetious, and I do not think my jam rebellion sinful, as I’m not rebelling against God. Though sure, there’s probably some pride mixed in there that would qualify.

Idol Factory Reminders

I’ve mentioned it before and I’ll mention it again. If my experience is any indication, it’s a topic that bears repeating.  John Calvin gave the human heart the claim to fame of being a ‘perpetual factory of Idols’.  With the definition of Idol being anything we place above God in our lives, whether by word or deed, the list of possibilities are endless.  There’s the obvious: money, STUFF…golden calves… and the easily unnoticed: spouses, children, jobs, education….SAVING money…. ect.  This morning I was going through my feed reader and a blog I enjoy for the purposes of helping wrap my mind and day around educating and enjoying my preschoolers had a suprise little reminder for me.  I’m sure it was written mostly for ME, but I’ll pass it on to ya’ll just in case.

Here’s a little snippet of the very short but sweet post by Kendra over at Preschoolers and Peace:

The idols in our lives tend to creep in under the auspices of godliness: Homeschooling.  Family integrated worship.  Modesty.

Ouch.  Did I hurt you?  I didn’t mean to.  It’s just that the longer I walk this path of home education, the more I see people dropping off the cliff of self-righteousness and formulaic spirituality.  Formulas do not save. Ideologies don’t either.

Take your children to the cross.  While there, lay down all of those things that stand in the way of Christ’s redemptive work in their lives.  Get yourself out of His way.  There is only One who saves, and it is for Him we live and breathe.

Putting my Library Obsession to work

My husband has officially worn off on me.  I have a new blog.

Growing up I was a book worm.  Any free chance I got I pulled out a book.  I remember in 5th grade having ‘reading time’ for I think 15 minutes or so between english and history.  I repeatedly got in trouble for not putting my book away when history started.  It wasn’t because I was rebellious. I literally had no idea class had started.  I was that absorbed in the book.  In fact the main thing i occasionally find myself pining for in regards to pre-children days are lazy saturdays (especially in the winter) spent reading.  The ENTIRE day. I would sometimes read more than one book in a saturday.  Anyhow, in regards to my love of reading, I also loved the library.  I was always looking for something new to read, and the library was a never-ending free source to tap my obsession.  For the summers of grades 3-8 my sisters and I took up residence at the neighborhood pool.  We would literally spend the entire day there almost every day of the summer.  At least that’s what I remember.  That pool had a library pretty much across the street from it.  I remember heading over there armed with a backpack during the ‘adult swim’ to return to the pool backpack stuffed to the gills.  Ok, so I didn’t read many classics…I’m pretty sure I read every Sweet Valley High ever in print.  I do remember checking a book out on animal CPR once though…

Anyhow, fast forward to me with children.  I have been taking Asher to the library since he was a newborn in a carseat carrier.  However, there was a period, once he became mobile that I stopped, and seemed to all but forget the library.  It for some reason escaped my memory that it could be a place for kids.  Then I heard a friend mention something about library ‘storytime’ when Asher was about 18 months old and I was inspired.  Then I attempted to go.  Storytime was fun, but beyond that I was SO overwhelmed by the options, and trying to find things while also trying to keep him from tearing the place apart (did I mention I was about 9mo pregnant too?) I fled in terror.  I immediately emailed a friend of mine who (at the time) had 4 kids and I knew she took them regularly.  They always had a stack of library books floating around their house.

“How do you choose? How do you decide while also keeping your children from taking every book off the shelf or wandering off?”  Ect. Ect.   I clear forgot how to use the library too.  In true Rebekah fashion, she gave me great advice and indirectly caused me to fall into a new and ‘worthy’ obsession.  Library Day.

My friend suggested a few things such as, reading the book, “Honey for a Child’s Heart”, and browsing their book suggestions for a jumping off point.  Then when you find books you like, check out others from that same author.  I believe there was some mention of admitting to being ‘that mother’ who had kids dancing on tables while she browsed shelves.  The best tip for library trips with young children was utilizing internet resources such as “putting books on hold”.  I do this weekly.  I sometimes have 7 books on hold at a time.  If i hear about a good book, or read one and want to try another by the same author, I don’t even bother with getting it myself.  I go straight to the website & put it on hold.  That way, if nothing else, we will be able to go pick up our holds and be on our chaotic way.  Speaking of which, I should probably bake some cookies for the librarians.

With the advent of this weekly adventure (we’ve gone pretty much religiously once a week for almost 3 years now), came a new found love for children’s books.  I really do LOVE children’s books.  I don’t read much in the way of adult fiction anymore (though I do enjoy audio books to listen to while working on mindless chores), I read children’s books anywhere from 1-4 times a day.  A normal trip to the library brings home 20+ books.  We don’t always finish all of them, and  2 have gone missing (both eventually found…and I finally devised a system where the library books have their own special bookshelf in the living room), and it’s not rare to only like 5 or 10 of the 20, but when we find ones we like, I can’t help but talk (or type) about them.   This brings me (finally) to the point of this post.  I had the inkling of an idea and Ryan grabbed it and ran with it.  A few days later he presented me with:

On this snazzy little blog it is my intention to tell you about children’s books that we’ve found on our “library days” and want other people to read.  In an effort to make it something I will update regularly (weekly as a matter of fact), I promise not to ramble like i do here. Quick little book recommendations.  An outlet to share the gems we find each week.  I intend to add Asher & Grace’s thoughts when they offer them as well, but I’ll keep mine short & sweet (or short anyway).  Or so I intend…ha.

Delayed Response-tion

I mentioned more than once while on vacation about a month ago, that I had intentioned to write a “what i learned during my lent fast” post.  Figured it was probably so long overdue or so long since i put real thought to it that it would fall into the “mental compost” blog pile…with the one about how I once saw myself as the ‘bride’ in Hosea and am still brought to (happy) tears when i remember Ryan’s response (during early engagement…when he still had an easy ‘out’) to my divulging the shady past that was my-life-before-you-knew-me-and-ok-some-when-you-did…and many more that i’m sure your better off not hearing, mostly about food probably.  Anyhow, a friend of mine emailed me recently, asking about ‘how I found our church’ (or something like that).  She knew there were no step by step or one size fits all instructions, but it’s always nice to hear how it fares with others.  I shared my opinions on how i feel similarly to ‘finding a church’ as i do to ‘finding a spouse’.  A loose analogy, but it works for me.   I’ll leave it at that for now.

Anyhow, you may recall, for lent, for the first time since…I’m not sure when….I participated in that I ‘gave up’ parts of the social media aspect of the internet (i believe it became even more ‘specialized’ toward the end…as in…i was lame & not hard-core about it).  Basically I did not read my feed reader (i.e. other people’s blogs)..least i don’t think i did…did not twitter (think i cheated there too) & did not visit any forums.  Most noteably the traditional foodie forum where I hold the austere title of “moderator”.  I was true to the last one.  I discovered a few things.  Such as: I thought I would have a slew of ‘free time’ to pursue things like…oh…meditation on scriptures?  However, it would seem I was instead usurping time spent at the lunch & breakfast table with my kids…or time while they napped, that i should have been doing chores or prepping dinner so that I could play with them more when they were awake…ect.  Yeah.  Bring on the mama guilt!  ugh.

But there was more.  If I’ve talked to you in person I have probably mentioned that I had approx. 2.5 friends in my 9 months in florida.  ..and I didn’t have opportunity to spend a lot of time with said friends..though it started increasing just before we moved away.  In part I look back appreciatively to the Providential hand i was dealt….being apparently destined to leave….I’m not sure I could suffer again the heartache i felt when leaving Richmond VA.  The first place I have vivid memory of friends that were women and legitimately, intrinsicly MY friends.  Not born of an aquiantence via a ‘boy’ (i.e. making friends through newly acquired boyfriends, as was my MO in high school/college).  They filled a role in my life I realized I had spent most of my life trying to make a boy fill.  I’m sure Ryan is grateful for the discovery.  His nights are free from chatter about cloth diapers, the virtues of pastured animals (ok..mostly..), and ideas on efficiently yet lovingly running a household..among other less savory subjects (he jokes that if i’m left alone with only women discussion of birth control always just ‘comes up’ somehow).  Not to mention that said ‘Virginia friends’ and I had our kids together.  I mean..not TOGETHER…but ya know…they’re similar ages (& mostly genders too).  I had roots.  Don’t get me wrong.  There was no arm twisting on Ryan’s part.  The Army Brat in me flew the coop with fervor.  Always excited about the next new adventure.   I am grateful for everwhere I’ve been, everyone I’ve met and everything those people and places God used to shape who i am.  However, after i eventually get chickens, perhaps someone should suggest I just dye my hair when I announce whatever new plan I hatch after that one.  I can’t help it. I seem programmed for a need for change every few years.

So, here I am, months into the newest locale…a few aquiantences – with some bright prospects on ‘real’ friends on the horizon – under my belt.  Yet still feeling like i’ve hit that socially awkward wall.  I’m putting myself out there.  I talk to people at the park, I chit chat at library story hour. I go to womanly activity things hosted by women from church.  And. I. feel. like. a. dork.  but lonely?  maybe. I don’t know.  Enter “not forums”.  Ouch.  I LOVE the internet. I enjoy ‘social media’. Especially as one who’s family is dotted across the US (ok mostly dotted across the east coast, with one sibling in Illinios, which I’ve come to realize I don’t know where that’s categorized).  I twitter with the idea that my main audience are the kids’ grandparents, peering in across the continent.  Even as an Army Brat brownie (never made it to a full-fledged girl-scout), being trained with the song “make new friends, but keep the old…” I never kept in touch via snail mail.  I kept in touch with 2 people.  Only because both those people put fort the main effort and put up with my months of no response.  Eventually even they apparently decided i wasn’t putting in my share.  I get easily sucked into my own little bubble of ‘here and now’ and can’t be bothered to write and send a letter (or a blog post it would seem).  However, just after our move to Florida it had – unbeknownst to me – become a crutch of sorts.  The foodie blog in particular.  What drew me in initially was trying to figure out what the heck was wrong with my son’s intenstines.  But it became deeper.  Then, as I slowly moved from wandering novice to seeming ‘expert’ (ok, perhaps not expert….’know it all’ perhaps?)…well, somewhere in there I found a family.  As quack as it sounds.  In fact when I realized we were moving here to Washington, I took note of the women on this forum who live in the area.  And I’m happy to say I’ve had one of them over for dinner since we moved here.  So it’s not ALL cloak and dagger anyway.  But it was pulling me away from REAL life.  It was stunting my availability…desire…to really reach out to the inconvenience of figuring out how to fit into other people’s lives.  How to make friends.  Again. Enter the ‘fast’.

I thought it would be a time of being reminded of who God is by the study of his word and hours of naptimes spent deep in prayer.  Instead, I mostly felt lonely…disconnected… and compelled to pick up the…  It was during lent that I began to spend purposeful time with the women here that I’m becoming more and more connected to.  I am a social creature.  Granted, I don’t like a lot of hubub, playdates, and appointments.  But I like to chat with some girls.  it’s more than that though.  I crave community.  I need eyes outside my own nuclear family to peer in and remind me of things like, “well…did you pray about it?” or, “you know that’s normal, right?”.  People who along with my own family, that I can take a deep breath and stop sucking in my stomach around (not entirely analogy).  Praise the Lord that he pressed upon my heart to ‘unplug’.  I did not find Him in the way I was expecting.  But I found Him in the way he tends to work…people.  His people.


It would seem Asher is developing his father’s knack for efficiency. I was just saying that I will have to give them a shower today because we don’t have time for a bath. …The big reason they don’t get bathed regularly being that we often don’t have time for a bath….and they both cry through showers. He was asking why and I explained that when I give them a bath that means I have to sit and pretty much do nothing for 30-45min (quick bath just seems a waste…thus the quick shower. And yes, I do usually read during bathtime, but i’ve got STUFF to do today). He said, “well, you could play your flute.”

This is brilliant! I rarely play my flute anymore b/c the only really good time to do it is during naptime/roomtime. But that would keep Grace awake (not to mention I’m usually doing chores or cooking during that time). Never would have occurred to me, but the next time we have bathtime (again, NOT today kids!) I will definitely practice my flute. Thanks Asher.

Sandwich Bread Nirvana (aka: ‘toot-toot’)!

Ladies & Gentleman….(drumroll)…Children of ALL ages….I bring you: The bread recipe that has taken 7 months to figure out! Granted similar recipes can be found, but I’ve yet to find one that didn’t include a sourdough starter. I have had little patience for babysitting yet another ferment on a regular basis, so I’ve been trying to find a ‘lazy woman’s sourdough’.

First, details: I’ll give details on why I’ve done what I’ve done AFTER the recipe. That way folks that don’t really care about the science can just have the recipe already. Then fellow food-nerds can wallow in my overly detailed explanations that will follow….and those who don’t care at all about my bread making endeavors will have stopped reading by now. I apologize in advance for the fact that my ‘recipes’ are not exact and there’s a lot of trial & error/guesswork involved. I suppose that’s why people say bread-making is an ‘art’. It’s taken me a few years to ‘feel’ it….and it’s still not necessarily the same result twice.

Jenn’s Tweaked Version of the Bread Beckers “Slightly Sweet But Very Simple Whole Wheat Bread”

1 cup cool or lukewarm water
1 cup kefir or thinned yogurt (i use home-made kefir, no idea if this makes a difference or not) *
1/2 cup oil (olive or coconut…or butter, though this last one might be heavier? i’m not sure) (1/3 cup if using egg)
1 egg (optional)
2TBS honey
2TBS blackstrap molasses (can probably use all honey or all molasses if you like..explanation will follow)
1tsp yeast
5+/- cups whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour (optional, but i used it)
2tsp. salt

in a glass, ceramic, or plastic bowl (so, preferably no metal, though if u try it & it works, lemme know), mix: water, kefir, sweetners, yeast, oil, egg (optional). Let that sit while you mill your wheat (heh)…or let it sit for 10 min or so (i didn’t time it, i have no idea…just let it sit awhile…). In the mixing bowl mix: 3-4 cups flour, salt. Turn on mixer (i use cookie hook first, then switch to dough hook when it starts getting thick), pour in the liquids. Add more flour 1/2-1cup at a time till it’s…uh…enough? i’m sorry. i’m not good at explaining bread dough texture. Something about atmospheric conditions and how many legs you’re standing on in any given moment or something. In fact, i typically add just a tad too much, it’s fine, just a bit heavier than hoped for. Anyhow, if you want the 1 cup of white flour (I’ll explain why I’m ok with this later), add it first, then add more whole wheat till it’s no longer super sticky & looking more like dough…it’s all incorporated & rolling around in the mixer**. I ‘knead’ (in the mixer) for 5-7min. It gets loud & the motor warms up a bit. Again…i’m not entirely sure when i’m done. I’ve not perfected kneading. Rumor has it if you knead by hand you’ll know better when it’s ‘done’. I’m too lazy to knead by hand. I think it’s like 15min by hand or something. Some sort of ‘window pane test’. I’ve never experienced this with whole wheat dough, though i guess this is what you’re supposed to achieve. My Aunt Helen could probably shed some light here.

then grease a large non-metallic bowl, turn the dough in it to moisten a bit, cover & leave sit in a warm place for 16-24hrs. I let mine sit on the counter (the thermostat claims it’s 70 degrees lately, but i don’t believe it….i still need a sweatshirt). I started it at about 2pm & at 7am it needed to go into the oven w/the pilot light on for a few hours. Anyhow, when it looks like it’s probably doubled (I’m also really good at forgetting where it started so not sure if it’s doubled), punch it down & shape however you want. This last batch i put into 2 loaf pans (1 in my stonewear which makes a pretty big loaf & one in a metal pan which makes a small/medium loaf). If you want hamburger buns, just form them into roundish mounds. I used to twist them all fancy, but then it made them too thick. Just a smoothed-out blob of dough works better. let rise till doubled, then bake @ 350 for approx. 30min or until you can tap on the top & it sounds hollow.

Here’s the kicker: WAIT! If this is sandwich bread: wait!! If you want it to maintain a sturdy shape (i.e. doesn’t collapse with the slightest pressure while you’re slicing) & a ‘crumb’ (inside texture) with integrity (i.e. can hold up to a sandwich)….WAIT until it is COMPLETELY cooled! it’s sooo hard…nothing’s better than hot bread with butter….unless that leaves you with annoying sandwiches the rest of the week.

Since i make 2 loaves, i like to keep one out & slice as needed, then slice up the other & freeze it. That way I can just take out slices as I need them (thaw in toaster as needed). Ok….this is the first time I’ve done it, but i’ve seen it recommended elsewhere & kept meaning to do it that way.

*for casein-free folk you *might* be able to sub a lemon juice/water mix (like 2-3TBS lemon juice + remaining water), but i make no flavor guarantees…and it’s not likely i’ll put forth the effort to trial it. lemme know if u do!)**

** if you don’t have a heavy-duty mixer (thanks again Pop & Gigi for the heavy duty mixer christmas gift 3 years ago!), i’m not exactly sure what you should do…perhaps mix till it gets to where your mixer seems to be getting angry with you, then hand knead?

The ‘Science’
Um…after all that i’m not gonna go super duper in-depth. If you want to know ALL the details about why phytates are bad…or any of my crazy ideas that follow. google it. :)

Non-metallic bowls: Supposedly metal kills yeast. I have experienced this with killing sourdough starters by stirring with metal spoons. I’ve also had many a sourdough bread not rise in a metal bowl. I do however mix it in my Kitchen-aid which is metal. But I don’t keep it there long.

I added the kefir (original recipe calls for 2 cups water), because an acidic medium helps neutralize phytates. This is the reason I make sprouted wheat flour for quickbreads & cookies. There are soaked recipes for these things, but i don’t like them. Sprouting accomplishes the same thing as soaking does (some might argue more). But sprouting, dehydrating & grinding are far too labor intensive (& buying sprouted wheat flour is far too expensive), so I’m not going to do it unless I can’t find a yummier easier alternative. For bread, this is that alternative. So…phytates in an extremely simplified explanation: Enzyme inhibitors that make digesting the grains/beans/seeds more difficult. It’s good news for ‘seeds’ in the wild because animals gnosh on them, but many pass through undigested….in their own wonderful little pile of compost, to go on to grow into a new plant. Bad news for us though. Best case we’re just not getting all we can out of the grains, worst case it’s wreaking havoc in our intestines. Bread Beckers folks have written an argument against this theory…but i disagree with it. I’ll stop there.

If you want to know why I said said, “olive, coconut oil or butter” see Nina Planck or weston price they can explain why ‘real fats’ are better, and why vegetable oils in particular are not good for high-heat cooking better than I can (& why corn & soybean oils will never be in my pantry). I HIGHLY recommend Nina Planck’s book, “Real Food; What to eat and why”.

The honey molasses mix: It might well work with just honey. In which case, just do a 1/4 cup honey. But yeast likes blackstrap molasses. Not sure if it’s the calcium, magnesium or iron or what. i forget… But it likes it. I however don’t so much, thus I don’t do ONLY molasses….I’ve never been a fan of black licorice which is what it tastes like to me. For what it’s worth, yeast also likes ginger so If YOU like ginger you can add a tsp of powdered ginger to the water mix to make your yeast really happy. Ryan’s not a big fan of gingery bread so I was glad to see that this still worked without it.

The original recipe calls for 1.5 TABLESPOONS yeast. i only used 1 TEASPOON (i bet 1/4 tsp would work too given enough time). The reason for this is that “a little leaven leavens the whole lump”. …It just takes longer for it to do so. This is a GOOD thing because (and again, I’m not an expert, just a crazy person who reads stuff by crazy people too often): 1) it gives the ‘acidic medium’ time to works it’s magic against the phytates. 2) something about the longer the yeast gets to proliferate the more digestible IT becomes (a lot of people are sensitive to commercial yeast…and may or may not know it…it’s usually grown on corn…). 3) The longer it gets ‘predigested’ by the yeast & kefir, the more digestible the gluten becomes (gluten being the protein in wheat, which again, many (some might say most) people are sensitive to & don’t even know it). This is where I’m ok with a bit of white flour. This guy claims that “bran is bull….” well…you get the idea…and that we should only consume slow ferment white bread. I’m not entirely convinced since I want to get as much nutrition out of every bite that I can…and i wonder how fine ‘traditional’ cultures were able to sift wheat on a regular basis. Whole wheat, in it’s entirety I think does work toward nutrient-dense…though I agree I would never purposely add bran in isolation to anything just like i prefer not to use white flour in isolation (though ok ok…i cheat on the latter a good bit). So the cup of white flour can add some lightness but it’s mostly whole wheat, so has all that ‘goodness’….and the long ferment deals with the sugars in the white flour.

As for why I would not use any refined salt (even ‘sea salt’…if it’s just labeled, ‘sea salt’ it’s probably refined. Unrefined salt is more expensive so they’d be putting that pretty info on the label), and why I prefer freshly milled wheat….well….that’s too much for the scope of this already-too-long-post (both info would be found in the “Real Food” book). Store-bough whole wheat would work though. Ryan’s already in bed. I’d like to go join him.

If any of you try this let me know how it goes!

“Death is not Dying”

I just spent the past 55 minutes making liver pate, cleaning the kitchen and and weeping in sorrow, joy, shame, gratitude….listening to the following on my laptop. It is a message a woman named Rachel Barkey gave a couple weeks ago in Canada. She is a wife & mother of 2, and is not expected to live to her 38th birthday. I’m not one to fwd every video I think is interesting or funny (only the MOST funny ones. ;) ), but here ya go. I put my “non-fwding” pride on the line & demand you sneak in an hour to listen/watch. I picked it up from the Girl Talk blog. I also stole this from that blog post:

Many people have asked Rachel, “Why? Why is this happening to you? To Neil? To Kate and Quinn? To your family and friends?”

“I don’t ask ‘why?’” says Rachel. “Because I know.”

Please watch or listen and learn what Rachel knows.