Week 6: Fun with Kamut

Last week I didn’t even make it to the grocery store, but I did try something new: making bread with Kamut flour.
Six months ago, I didn’t even know there was such a thing as Kamut, but I saw a segment about it on the Fusion Grain Cooking show (which I have mentioned before). That show got me interested in trying some new grains, and I bought some Kamut berries at the health food store back in November. And there they have sat ever since, along with my good intentions.
So finally last week, after we ran out of bread, I decided that now was the time to try it out. Don’t ask me how it worked out that I didn’t have the energy to go grocery shopping, but I had the energy to make bread. Sometimes it just works that way.
Anyway, here’s a look at the berries.

They mostly look like plumper, yellower wheat berries. I ran them through my NutriMill grinder just like I normally do with regular wheat berries. I used this recipe with the following modifications.
1. The recipe says that the resultant loaf is sweet enough that there’s no need to add any “honey or other fancy ingredients.” Well, I am inclined to disagree that it is sweet enough without any fanciness added. I don’t think it needs much, but I added 2 tablespoons of sugar to the yeast and water mixture.
2. The recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of salt. That makes for a pretty salty loaf. While it was a nice salty-sweet combo when eaten with blackberry jam, the bread turned out to be a little too salty for eating alone or on a sandwich. Halving the salt to 1 tablespoon makes a much mellower flavor.
3. I did not knead this dough for 20 minutes. Maybe 8 minutes at the most. I used a light touch, added more flour as needed, and slammed it down maybe 3 times to, as the recipe says, develop the gluten.
4. I checked the loaf after 35 minutes, and it was perfectly done. If I had waited until the recommended 45-50 minutes, it would have been torched.
Here’s how it looked, after all that.

It had a nice crust and a dense but not heavy texture. It did taste slightly nuttier than regular wheat, and the loaf ends up a bit more golden in color than a regular old brown wheat loaf. It’s not a cheap grain, but it’s definitely tasty. Chef Brad says it makes delicious waffles, too, so I may have to try those next.

Week 5: Wherein I allow myself to roam the grocery store.

I have to say that it was a nice feeling to go to the store this week and only need to buy milk. I don’t think I’m super organized about my pantry or food storage (or anything, for that matter), but because I have just tried to pick up essentials here and there when they are on sale, I have a decent stock of food on hand. Now that I think of it, though, I probably should have bought more cheese.

In any case, because I had $20 burning a hole in my pocket and only a $2.50 gallon of milk on my list, I decided to give myself a little leeway at the grocery store this week and see if there was something non-perishable that looked fun or interesting or super cheap. Normally I would have splurged on candy or ice cream or more candy, but this caught my eye (and was on clearance) as I went down the baking aisle.

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It's a friend of the heart--how could I say no?

I have never made anything with graham flour before, so I thought perhaps I would try making some homemade graham crackers. Don’t ask me why. I don’t particularly love graham crackers, unless they are sandwiching a layer of chocolate frosting. Maybe that was the appeal: that graham crackers in my mind necessitate chocolate frosting, and how is that ever a bad thing?

At any rate, I looked up a bunch of different recipes, most of which used a mixture of whole wheat and all-purpose flours (and some included wheat germ). But since I had the graham flour on hand, I decided to use it and come up with a recipe using others as a rough guide.

HOMEMADE GRAHAM CRACKERS

3-1/2 cups graham flour

1 t baking powder

1/2 t baking soda

1 T cinnamon

1/4 t kosher salt

1/2 c (one stick) unsalted butter, softened

1/2 c packed brown sugar (can use a little more if desired)

1/3 c honey

1-1/2 t vanilla extract

1/2 c milk

Whisk together 3 cups of the flour, the baking powder, soda, cinnamon, and salt.

In another bowl (or mixer bowl), cream together the butter, sugar, and honey until light and smooth.

Add the vanilla to the milk. Add the flour mixture to the butter/sugar mixture alternately with the milk/vanilla, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Add up to another 1/2 cup of flour, depending on the consistency of the dough. Refrigerate dough for at least 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Divide the dough into quarters or eighths. Generously flour your work surface (you can just use all-purpose flour) and gently roll out the dough. It can be quite sticky, so don’t be afraid to use the flour. Roll it out very thin (about 1/8″) and cut into shapes with knife or cookie cutters. Place on ungreased cookie sheets (line with parchment or Silpats). Use skewer or fork to poke holes on cookie tops. If desired, brush very lightly with water or milk and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar or sugar crystals. Bake for about 12 minutes or until nicely browned. Cool on wire rack.

Makes about 4 dozen.

They turned out pretty good. They are not super sweet, but for me this is not an issue, as I plan to make chocolate frosting for them as soon as I am done here. Since Valentine’s Day is coming up, I decided to use my heart-shaped cookie cutter, because why make something like this…

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…when you can make this?

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Week 4: Here’s how much I didn’t want to cook this week.

Right now I am eating part of a Totino’s Party Pizza for dinner. Pepperoni. And do you know what I hate? Totino’s Party Pizzas and pepperoni. It has just been one of those days…well, several of those days.
Let’s just say that wondering if you are pregnant and finding out that you’re not (once again) can make you really not care what’s for dinner or want to rummage through your large pile of craft materials to make something. It can also make you not want to go to the grocery store, even though you have been out of milk since Thursday morning.
So this week I am grateful for easy food and a freezer with things like burritos and pizzas for times like this. I am also grateful for cheese–the main component of the one meal I actually felt like cooking this week. Sometimes you need therapeutic chocolate; other times you need medicinal cheese.

The cheese sauce is a simple white sauce with cheese. It was tasty and mood elevating.

Cheese Sauce
2 T butter
2 T flour
1-1/2 to 1-2/3 C milk
About 2 C shredded cheese (I used: 1 C shredded gruyere, 3/4 C shredded cheddar, 1/4 C grated parmesan)
Dash of nutmeg, garlic powder
Melt butter over medium heat in small saucepan and sprinkle in flour, stirring well. Add milk, stirring constantly until the sauce thickens (a few minutes). Remove from heat and add cheese, stirring until melted and smooth. Add nutmeg and garlic powder, as well and salt and pepper to taste. Serve with cooked pasta or vegetables.

I hope next week is better.

Week 3: First foray into the craft stockpile

I decided it was high time to do something crafty so I have something to post other than how much I spent on groceries this week ($16 again).

I was thinking I would maybe make a Valentine’s Day wreath, but I couldn’t find the old grapevine wreath that I was sure I had seen in the basement. Then I came across this basket that had been filled with delicious treats and a jar of homemade laundry soap for Christmas.

I also had a bunch of old t-shirts that I had used parts of to make yarn months ago.

The color scheme of all the shirts together doesn’t really match anything in my house and somehow makes me think of circus-themed bedsheets from the 1970s. But I also kind of like them together. So here’s what came of it all.

You know how you're always thinking, "If only my basket were fancier..."

It was pretty easy–just took time to put it together, but it wasn’t technically difficult. I don’t always like cutesy-type things, but I kind of like how it turned out. Here’s what I did.

1. Cut the t-shirts into strips, making sure to get rid of seams, tags, and printing. I cut them probably about 3/4″ wide and about 4″ long. Cut as many as you think you’ll need, and then cut more, depending on the size of your basket.

Keep the dustbuster handy--these make a lot of tiny bits of lint.

2. Start tying them on to the top two or three twigs of the basket, bunching them as closely as desired. Use tweezers to help get the strips through the weave of the basket. (I just tied single knots, and they seemed sufficient.)

3. Once it’s done, you can trim the pieces if you like.

That’s how it turned out. I think it’s pretty cute for something that was free, or at least close enough, considering the significant depreciation on the t-shirts. And since it came with laundry soap in it and didn’t really match anything else in the house, it has found a home atop the washing machine.

I think something like this would be cute done in seasonal-print fabric scraps, as well.

Best Dinner This Week

Shockingly, it was not the chili dumped on a baked potato that I threw together last night (although that was kind of tasty).
On my lovely friend Kellie’s advice, I checked out Mel’s Kitchen Cafe, which had tons of recipes to choose from. After a few minutes’ perusal, I settled on the Chicken Pillows, mostly because I had only heard tell of such things but hadn’t actually tasted them.
Here’s the glamour shot.

They required a bit of work and planning ahead, but they were definitely worth the effort. I thought, “Oh, I’ll make a bunch and we can freeze half of them.” Except there are only two left.
I will say that the chicken filling in the middle is a bit bland for my taste and could use a little punch of something–curry powder, chili powder, or maybe some veggies. But the crescent roll on the outside is probably one of the best bread items I have ever tasted. Ever. EVER. Find that recipe here.
There are two main keys to the rolls’ deliciousness: 1) a cornmeal and milk base (polenta, basically) and 2) butter.
I used fresh ground popcorn for the cornmeal, which is extra tasty. (Note: While your NutriMill might indicate that you can grind a nearly-full hopper of popcorn at one time, the reality is that it takes a long time, which means that your grinder will actually get hot enough to partially pop some of your kernels. Lesson learned.) I also added the leftovers (not quite 2 cups) of the whole wheat flour I had ground last week for bread, and the rolls were still very light and tender.
Oh, and for the parmesan sauce, I left out the sour cream–I didn’t think it needed it–and added a little cheddar cheese as well, since that’s Greg’s favorite.
So if your find yourself with plenty of time to plan ahead for dinner, this is a yummy option. Or just make the rolls and try not to eat them all in one sitting. Either way.

Week 2: You spend sixteen bucks, and whaddaya get?

This week, it was a gallon of milk, deli ham and turkey (Greg had a hankering for sandwiches), four bananas and two yams.

Yam!

It’s kind of weird, because I haven’t really cooked a lot in the past couple of weeks, but I feel like I have a better handle on what food is actually in my pantry and storage room. Isn’t it amazing how you know what food you have when you interact with it more.
Greg was excited to report that he only ate out for lunch once last week (for someone’s birthday). I am excited to report that I made two of the lunches he took with him–which is a great improvement from zero.
One success of the week was brown rice/red quinoa four ways (one of which was kind of gross). On Monday night, I made this sauteed chicken to serve over rice, so I made a batch of rice/quinoa in the electric pressure cooker. I had seen a recipe on the Chef Brad website where he pressure cooked the grains then added some stuff to make it a breakfast cereal. I figured I could use the plain rice/quinoa for dinner and then find uses for the leftovers.
It was great with the chicken, but since the recipe had called for sweet brown rice, it turned out kind of gross when I tried to make it into cereal. Maybe that had more to do with the fact that I didn’t really follow the rest of the recipe very closely…
There was still a lot of the rice/quinoa left, so when I made pork chops for dinner on Wednesday night, I mixed some of the rice/quinoa with a can of pureed pumpkin, a little chicken broth, milk, and brown sugar. I heated it up and added salt, sage, poultry seasoning, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and apple juice until it stopped tasting like canned pumpkin. It wasn’t great for eating by itself, but it tasted really good with the pork chops.
And would you believe it, there was still more rice left! I mentioned before that Greg had had a hankering for sandwiches, and the loaf of bread I had pulled out of the freezer was pretty sad looking. I got out my “Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day” cookbook, and I happened to open it right to a recipe for whole wheat bread with cooked brown rice in it. Serendipity!
I baked two loaves on Friday and another one today–that is really where the whole “5 minutes” part comes in. The recipes are such that you can store the dough in the fridge for several days and just take out enough for a loaf when you need it. It takes 5 minutes to break off a piece of dough from the fridge, shape it, and put it on the pan. Then it takes another 90 minutes for it to rise and yet another 30 to bake.
This is not to say that I don’t love this book, because I really do, but I just feel like it should have and asterisk after the title.
Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day*
*It will actually take much longer than 5 minutes.
But I digress. My point is that this bread made with leftover brown rice and quinoa was really, really good.

Yum!

It made great sandwiches and great toast–perhaps the two most important bread tests. It also came together pretty easily, and the crust was, well, crusty without being so hard that it hurts the roof of your mouth.
Here is the recipe, with some of my modifications. Next time I try it, I might add some honey for a little sweetness.

Whole Grain Bread with Brown Rice (and Red Quinoa, which makes the nicest specks in your bread)
5 1/2 c whole wheat flour (I used freshly ground hard red wheat berries.)
1/2 c flaxseed meal (Don’t ask me why I happened to have this on hand, because I don’t really know. But it was the Bob’s Red Mill brand.)
1 1/2 T yeast (or 2 packets)
1 T kosher salt
1/4 c vital wheat gluten
3 1/2 c lukewarm water
1 c cooked brown rice (or brown rice/quinoa mix)
Whisk the flour through wheat gluten together. Add the cooked rice to the water and then add to the dry ingredients. Mix (without kneading) until incorporated. Cover loosely and let rest until it rises and collapses (or flattens on top). Can be baked immediately or stored in the fridge for up to 10 days.
Dust the surface of the dough with flour and cut off a piece of dough the size of a grapefruit. Dust with a bit more flour and quickly shape into a ball by stretching and tucking under, then shape into a narrow oval and place on parchment paper on a cookie sheet.
Let it rest for 90 minutes (or 40 if you are using it right after mixing the dough). When the dough has 30 minutes of resting time left, turn on the oven to 450 degrees and put your pizza stone on the middle rack. Also place an empty broiler pan (or baking dish, cookie sheet, etc.) onto another rack where it won’t interfere with the rising bread.
Just before putting the bread in the oven, paint the top of the loaf with water and slash the top of the loaf with a few parallel cuts. Slide the loaf and parchment paper onto the hot baking stone. Carefully pour about a cup of hot tap water into the broiler pan or baking dish.
Bake for about 30 minutes or until nicely browned and firm. Cool on a rack before cutting.

Some things I have learned so far

I’m just ten days into my minimal-spending project, and already I’ve learned some important lessons.
1. If you spend only $15 on groceries in a week, you will have money left over to buy yourself a decent haircut. With color.

I even had little nap on it, and it still looks pretty good.

2. If you leave a 90%-full gallon of milk on the counter after breakfast and don’t remember that it’s out of the fridge until you go to make dinner, it will be gross and you will have wasted $2.50 of your $15. Also, you will feel too lazy to go to the store for a replacement.
3. If you have a husband who thinks that milk is an actual beverage and not just a cereal condiment/cooking tool, you should keep some of this on the shelf in case you ruin the good milk like an idiot and are too lazy to go to the store.

Slightly classier than boxed wine. I assume.

4. I have only used it twice so far, but I love this thing.

FYI, I discovered that 12 minutes might be a bit long for a brown rice/red quinoa mix.

I bought the electric pressure cooker after I got hooked on some episodes of Fusion Grain Cooking on BYUtv. I’m not sure I’m sold on all the Xagave he uses on the show, but he definitely opened my eyes to a million different ways to incorporate grains into meals, and he recommends the electric pressure cooker for many of the recipes. I will post more about my experiences with the cooker–and with the world of grain–when I start to figure out what I am doing.