RECIPE: Traditional white bread (mixed in a stand mixer)

(makes 2 two-pound loaves)

3 cups warm water
1 1/2 tablespoons sea salt (or kosher salt)
1 1/2 tablespoons dry yeast
6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1.  Pour three cups of warm water into 5 quart capacity stand mixer bowl (you will be using the dough hook attachment.)  Add the tablespoon and a half of salt.  Gently pour in the tablespoon and a half of yeast.  Add flour.

2.  Turn on mixer to lowest speed until ingredients are blended.  Turn up speed one notch.  Dough will start to form a ball.  Turn off mixer and remove the bowl. Scrape remaining dough off the hook.  This mixing process will take approximately one minute.

3.  Cover the bowl with a lid that doesn’t seal completely.  Let the dough rise for approximately two hours.  Dough will be sticky.

4.  Prepare your baking containers.  You can use a stone or bread pans, etc.  To prevent the bread from sticking, cover the bottom with cornmeal, flour or oatmeal. You can also use parchment paper.

5.  Remove a large chunk of dough, about the size of a small cantaloupe.  (You can also weigh the bread on a simple kitchen scale.  It should weigh roughly two pounds.) Pull the dough together with your hands, making a rough ball and place it in or on the container.

6.  Let the bread rest for approximately 60 minutes.

For bread pans:

7.  Heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Place a broiler tray/pie pan/casserole pan on the lowest shelf.  Take a serrated knife and cut slashes into the top of the dough.

8.  When the oven is ready, pour a cup or more of hot water into the broiler/pie pan, etc. Then add the bread pan. Bake for 60 – 70 minutes.

9.  Cool bread on a cooling rack.

For stone:

7.  Heat the oven to 450 degrees.  Place a broiler tray/pie pan/casserole pan on the lowest shelf.  Take a serrated knife and cut slashes into the top of the dough.

8.  Bake bread for 30-35 minutes.

9.  Cool bread on a cooling rack.

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  • You can substitute different flours, etc. in for the 6 1/2 cups of white flour.  To do substitutions, add 4 cups white flour and then 2 1/2 cups of other flour, etc.  For example add 4 cups white flour and 2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour.  Or 4 cups white flour and 2 1/2 cups oatmeal.
  • You can also subsitute in one of the cups of warm water with one cup of warm milk.
  • You can also add dried herbs when you add the flours.  Oregano, rosemary, thyme, etc. are all nice additions.

You can also make several batches at a time.  You will have to mix each batch separately, but then you can let it rise in a large container, and then either bake them or you can refrigerate the dough until you are ready to use it.  The dough can be refrigerated for up to two weeks.  When you go to bake the bread, let it rest for 60 minutes to warm up before baking the bread.

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RECIPE: Brown Rice (Gluten Free) Bread

1 ½ cups warm water
1 teaspoon whole cane sugar
2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sea salt
¼ cup agave nectar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 cups brown rice flour
½ cup tapioca flour
2 teaspoons xanthan gum

  1. In a large bowl, combine the warm water and sugar; add the yeast and whisk together until yeast is dissolved.  Let stand 5 to 10 minutes, or until the yeast begins to get foamy and bubbly.
  2. Add the sea salt, honey, and oil. Stir well.
  3. Next add the brown rice flour, tapioca flour, and xanthan gum; mix well with a wooden spoon.  Continue to mix the dough with spoon for another 1 to 2 minutes.  Dough will still be a bit moist and sticky.
  4. Place dough into an oiled 9 x 5 inch bread pan and cover with waxed paper.  Place pan in a very warm spot (at least 85 to 90 degrees) and let rise for about 60 to 70 minutes.
  5. Remove waxed paper.  Bake at 375 degrees F and bake for 35 to 45 degrees.

RECIPE: Traditional white bread (that is mixed in a bread maker)

1 ½ cups water
3 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour OR white bread flour
1 tablespoon skim milk powder
1 ½ teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter, diced
1 teaspoon instant dry yeast

  1. Pour the water in the bread maker pan.  Sprinkle the flour over, covering the water completely.  Sprinkle the milk powder over the flour.  Place the salt, sugar, and butter in separate corners of the pan.  Make a small indent in the middle of the flour and add the yeast.
  2. Close the lid and select DOUGH (you may need to select loaf size and crust type before or after this, depending on your bread maker.) Press START.
  3. Put a little bit of flour on a pastry mat or cutting board.After the bread has gone through the dough cycle and it is raised in the bread maker pan, remove it from the pan.  The bread will lose some mass as you remove it from the pan.  Place it on the mat or board.  Knead the bread a few times.
  4. Place the dough in a well-oiled regular bread pan, and place in a warm (at least 80 degrees) spot until it doubles in size.
  5. Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes.  Let cool.

RECIPE: No Knead Bread

No-Knead Bread

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1 ½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups water, room temperature

Step 1. In a medium stainless steel bowl, combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 ½ cups water, and stir until blended ( less than a minute); dough will be sticky. Cover bowl with lid. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at room temperature.

Step 2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. With a flour shaker, sprinkle a pastry mat/cutting board, etc. generously with flour.  Take the container with dough and turn it out on the mat using a pastry scraper. Sprinkle some more flour over the dough, and gently press it down.  Fold the dough onto itself by taking the top end and fold it 1/3 way over, take bottom and fold it 1/3 way over, and the same with the 2 sides. This whole step takes about 30 seconds. Knead a few times until the dough isn’t sticky.  Shape into a loaf approximate 10 x 6.   Place a piece of parchment paper into bottom and slightly up sides (1 piece approx. 10 inches long) of a deep dish baker or 3-3.5 quart dutch oven. Place dough on parchment and cover with lid.  Let it stand on the counter for 2 hours to rise.

Step 3. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Bake for 30 minutes and then remove the lid. Bake for another 8 to 15 minutes until the bread is golden brown on top. Cool on a rack.

You can make all sorts of modifications to this basic recipe.  You can do 2 cups white flour and 1 cup whole wheat; add 2 teaspoon oregano, 2 teaspoon basil.  2 tablespoons dill; 1 tablespoon rosemary and 1 tablespoon onion powder.  Be creative!

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle (and Repair!)

I am teaching a series of free workshops this week at my local community college for Earth Week.  Today, the subject was Reduce, Reuse, Recycle (and Repair!)

Reduce
If you do nothing else but just reduce the amount of things that you buy/own, etc., you will be helping the environment.  We try to only have one trash bag per week for our trash (for two adults and three children.  And a dog.)  Here are some of the ways that we reduce:

1.  We try not use things that aren’t recyclable.  We use cloth towels instead of paper towels, and cloth napkins instead of paper napkins, and reusable cutlery, plates, glasses, etc.  We also try to eliminate our use of plastics as much as possible.

2.  Eliminate packaging as much as possible. I bring my own containers to the grocery store and fill them from the bulk bins, and I use my reusable produce bags, reusable drawstring bags for bread, reusable bags for shopping.  I also use drawstring bags for gifts, and I often make gifts or give the gift of an experience.  This eliminate much of the excess packaging that comes with store-bought items.

3.  Compost.  We strive to not put anything food related into the trash.  It is either put in the compost pile or vegetable scraps are used to make vegetable stock.  We use leftovers.  I buy whole chickens and after I remove most of the meat, I use the bones, etc. to make chicken stock.  Our next step is to do vermiculture (worm composting.)

4.  Just buying less. Concentrate on only buying what is really needed.

Recycle
Our city just approved curbside recycling (yea!) but we have had drop-off locations in our city for many years and that program has been quite successful too.  There are two locations in town for battery recycling, and we have a Habitat for Humanity ReStore for used furniture and appliances, etc.  We also have a place to recycle construction materials. Our Ecology Action Center is trying to organize a Household Hazardous Waste Event for the fall, but it costs $150,000 to host such an event.  The Ecology Action Center is currently accepting donations, and has gathered almost half the money needed.  We also have several thrift and consignment stores for donating used clothing, household, books, games, etc.

Repair
There are many products that are cheaply made and designed to be “disposable” (cost more to repair than get a new one.) To combat this problem, we try to buy quality items and take good care of those items.  It is helpful to know how to hand sew so you can do basic clothing repairs, and it is also helpful to have basic knowledge of construction/plumbing/electrical so that you can make simple household repairs.  Before discarding an item, check to see how much it would cost to have something repaired.

Reuse
I am someone who prefers functional items.  I do not have much in the way of decoration/art around my house.  So the items that I reuse are items that are functional and serve a purpose in our home.  And because I’d rather reuse something than have to buy something. 🙂

1.  We purchase most of our clothing and housewares items at thrift and consignment stores.  I keep a list of our current needs in my purse, and I also keep a current list of sizes for everyone.

2.  We use cloth napkins, cloth towels, microfiber towels for cleaning.  I put baking soda in a glass & metal cheese shaker for scrubbing.  I use glass jars (leftover applesauce or mason jars) for storing beans, rice, dried fruit, nuts, etc.  I also use glass jelly jars to store most of my children’s art supplies.

3.  I reuse sheets for fabric.  I felt wool sweaters and make other items like mittens, hats, rice bags, etc.  I made a t-shirt quilt out of old t-shirts and leftover fabric.

Cooking Essentials

This is a list of essential cooking equipment.  I have most, but not all, of the items listed.  I have included pictures of the items from my own kitchen.

Pots and Pans

Look for 18/10 stainless steel pots and pans.  (18/10 refers to the proportion of chromium to nickel in the stainless steel alloy.)

Stainless steel cookware, colander, and strainer

My cast iron cookware - I store it on the stove

  • 12 inch stainless steel skillet
  • 1.5 quart stainless steel saucepan with lid
  •  3 quart stainless steel saucepan with lid
  •  6 or 8 quart stainless steel stock pot with lid
  • 12 inch cast iron skillet
  • Cast iron (bare or enamel-lined) dutch oven

Baking Dishes

Baking dishes (bottom shelf) - Stoneware pieces as well as stainless steel cookie sheet

Baking cabinet (top shelf) - cooling racks, pie plates, round cake pans and deep dish baker

  • 10 inch x 14 inch glass or stone baking dish
  • 9 inch x 13 inch glass or stone baking dish
  •  8 inch x 8 inch glass or stone baking dish
  • Stone, stainless steel or cast iron muffin tin
  • 2 stone and/or stainless steel cookie sheets
  • Stone or stainless steel jelly roll pan
  • Stone, stainless steel or cast iron bread pan
  • Baking stone
  • 2 9-10 inch glass or stone pie plate
  • 2 stainless steel round cake pans
  • Glass or stone casserole/deep dish baker dishes

Small Appliances

Blender and Yogurt Maker – These are stored on the counter

Small appliances, mixing, and storage containers - bottom shelf has cutting boards, mixing and salad bowls, salad spinner, lunch containers, glass storage containers with lids, and measuring cups. Top shelf has appliances, bread cutting guide and funnels.

  • 10 to 14 cup Food Processor
  • Blender with a very sharp blade
  • Immersion Blender
  • Hand Mixer or Stand Mixer
  • Yogurt Maker
  • Ice Cream Maker (not pictured; I keep the inner canister stored in the freezer, and the rest of it stored on top of the refrigerator. I have a Donvier Ice Cream Maker.)

Baking

Baking/Gadget drawer - pastry cutter, medium scoop,measuring spoons and cups, small whisks, vegetable peeler, cheese cutter, thermometers, apple corer, canning supplies, salad claws, and rolling pin, etc.

  • 4 cup and 1 cup liquid measuring cups
  • Stainless steel dry measuring cups
  • Stainless steel measuring spoons
  • Stainless steel measuring scoops
  • Stainless steel mixing bowls (mixing bowls are pictured in the same pictures as the small appliances, etc.)
  • Glass mixing bowls
  • Pastry brush
  • Stainless steel pastry cutter
  • Wood rolling pin

Cutlery

Invest in high quality paring, carving, and chef knives.  It is easier to buy what you need if you purchase your knives separately instead of purchasing an entire set.

Knives out of block - Chef knife, carving knive and paring knives are MAC knives. Santoku knife is a Pampered Chef knife. Bread knife, boning knife and bird's beak knife are from my previous set and I hope to replace within the year.

Knives in block - I purchased the Wusthof knife block separately. It came with kitchen shears and a knife sharpening tool.

  • Paring knife
  • Birds beak paring knife
  • Boning knife
  • Bread knife
  • Carving knife
  • Santoku knife
  • Chef knife
  • Knife block

Utensils

Most commonly used utensils - bamboo and stainless steel spoons and spatulas, etc.

Some of my utensils are in the utensil/gadget drawer pictured above, but some are in a pitcher next to the stove.

  • Garlic press
  • Microplane (fine)
  • Citrus juicer
  • Fine mesh strainer with handle
  • Colander
  • Long stainless steel spoon
  • Long wooden spoon
  • Slotted stainless steel spoon
  • Slotted wooden spoon
  • Stainless steel tongs
  • A variety of wood and stainless steel spatulas
  • 1 large wooden cutting board for cutting vegetables and fruits
  • 1 cutting board for cutting meat and fish

Food Storage Containers

Beans/Whole Grains/Candles cabinet

  • Glass storage containers in a variety of shapes and sizes
  • Wide mouth, quart-size mason jars
  • Glass beverage containers (for lacto-fermented beverages – a two quart glass container with airtight seal; for ginger beer – bottles with wire-hold corks or stoppers.)
  • Clean, used glass jars

I keep dishes for leftovers in the mixing/small appliances cabinet (see picture above – these containers are on the bottom right side), and empty wide mouth quart-size jars downstairs in my studio along with any unused glass beverage containers.  I use clean, used glass jars to hold my whole grains, rices and beans.

Cast Iron Cooking

My cast iron cookware

lid/10 inch skillet from combo cooker

I grew up in the 1970s.  My mom did a fair amount of cooking, and she used quite a bit of aluminum pots and pans. She also used some Teflon (non-stick) pans.  When I got married back in 1995, we got a 10 piece Teflon cookware set.  Over the years, I replaced a few of the pieces, but I would just replace it with another non-stick pot or pan, and almost all of my bakeware was non-stick aluminum.

Then back in 2007, when I started to live a more simply life, I decided to start replacing my pots and pans, but I did it very gradually.  (I actually recently got rid of the last few pieces of aluminum/teflon cookware and bakeware that I still had.)  One of the first pieces that I picked up was a Lodge Logic Combo Cooker.  It is a 3 quart dutch oven and the lid also serves as a 10 inch skillet. It is a very versatile pice and I’ve used it countless times over the years.

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History of Bare Cast Iron

Cast Iron cookware has been used in cooking for hundreds of years.  Before kitchen stoves were used, cookware was made for being using over a hearth or open fire, and cast iron was durable and retained heat well.  Since much of the cooking was done in a fireplace, cast iron pieces often had handles to suspend over the flames or feet so that it could be placed in the coals (a three-legged cast iron pot was often referred to as a spider.) Cooking pots and pans with legless, flat bottoms were designed when kitchen stoves became more commonplace and were referred to as skillets.

(Bare) cast iron can withstand and maintain very high heat which makes it useful in searing and frying.  Cast iron also retains heat well which makes it an excellent choice for stews and braised dishes.  Cast iron, when properly seasoned, will develop a non-stick finish and is an excellent option for baking and cooking eggs.  Cast iron can be used on the stove and in the oven.

The main manufacturers of (bare) cast iron cookware include Griswold and Wagner (now both owned and manufactured by the American Culinary Corporation), Lodge,and John Wright.

Seasoning Bare Cast Iron Cookware

Many bare cast iron pans now come preseasoned, but some cast iron pans still needs to be seasoned before use.

To season a pan, you will follow a three-step process:

1 – Scour the pan with hot soapy water to remove the protective coating of wax and shellac.

2 – Apply a layer of lard or bacon grease.

3 – Place cookware in an oven at 250 – 300 degrees for 15 minutes.  Take the cookware out to remove any excess grease.  Return cookware to the oven for two hours.  You will need to repeat the process a few times to fully season a pan.

If a pan was not seasoned properly, or if food is sticking, or if the cookware has rust, you can re-season a pan.  To re-season a pan, remove any food residue by washing pan in hot water and a scrubbing the pan with scouring pad.  Food may be easier to remove if the pan is heated to a temperature that it is still safe to touch. Dry the pan with the towel. Proceed with the steps above for seasoning a pan.

Care of Bare Cast Iron

Bare cast iron does require some care that you don’t need to follow with other types of cookware.

1 – A seasoned pan/dutch oven should not be used to cook acidic foods (tomatoes, vinegar, etc.) These type of foods will damage the seasoning.  Newly seasoned ovens should be used to cook foods that are high in oil or fat such as chicken, bacon, or sausage.

2 – Cast iron should not be cleaned with dishwashing or dishwasher soap.  These soaps will damage the seasoning.  To clean cast iron, just wipe out the pan/dutch oven or use hot water and stiff brush.  You may use a salt scrub for stubborn food residue.  After cleaning, dry the pan completely.  If you do not dry it completely and soon after washing, the pan will rust. Wipe a small amount of oil/shortening/lard, etc. over the surface of the pan.

3 – Some people recommend only using wood or silicone utensils, but I do often use stainless steel, and I haven’t had any problems with scratching, flaking, or damaging the seasoning.

Enameled cast iron

Enameled cast iron is cast iron that has an enamel glaze.  The enamel coating prevents rusting and eliminates the need to season the metal. It also allows for more thorough cleaning.  However, enamel coated cast iron does not have some of the benefits of bare cast iron.  There can also be issues with the chipping of the enamel glaze.

Some of the large manufacturers of enameled cast iron cookware include Le Creuset, Le Chasseur, Lodge and Staub.

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My childhood household’s cookware and bakeware was typical for the time – cast iron cookware fell out of favor beginning in the 1960s, and lighter, non-stick cookware became popular.  However, in the past 10 years, there have been concerns about the safety of Teflon, and there has also been a movement to return to “back to basics” and materials that have been used for centuries.  Because of these and other reasons, cast iron cookware has recently seen a huge resurgence in kitchenware sales.

I have 4 pieces of cast iron (3 of which are pictured at the top of this post.) – I have my 3 qt. combo cooker, a 12 inch skillet, and a 5.5 enameled dutch oven.  I also have a cast iron aebleskiver pan (not pictured).  I would like to add a small skillet for cooking a single egg, a square grill pan, and a square grill press.