Monday, November 22, 2010

Sourdough Crackers

 Since I started taking the sourdough course at GNOWFGLINS, I have attempted several different sourdough recipes. One of our favorites so far is crackers.

I had been in such a cracker conundrum. Years ago I bought crackers like Wheat Thins, Triscuits, Ritz, Saltines, Cheez-its and Goldfish. Since we have turned to more natural and organic foods, we have not found a decent replacement for these crackers. There are some that are alright, but they sure are expensive! As a result, we pretty much just didn't have crackers in our house. The only crunchy snack type food we had was Kettle Chips.

Until now.

These crackers are wonderful. They are perfectly crunchy and salty. What more could you ask for in a cracker? The recipe is very versatile as well. Whatever flavor you would like, you can make!

Sourdough Crackers
(Original recipe from GNOWFGLINS e-course, labeled as "Erin's Crackers")

1 cup sourdough starter
1/3 cup melted butter
1 - 2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 1/2 tsp. salt, divided

1. Combine 1 cup of sourdough starter and melted (but not hot) butter. Stir in 1 cup of flour (I used white whole wheat). Add in more flour 1/4 cup at a time until you have a stiff dough. Knead in flour until the dough is pretty stiff and no longer sticky. (I go by how the dough feels and not the amount of flour added.

2. Cover cracker dough in bowl and let sit for at least 8 hours to sour. (I generally make the dough sometime in the morning and then make the crackers in the evening. So mine sits about 12 hours.)

3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

3. Break dough in half. This ball in my hand is about half.

4. Smash the dough open on a clean counter or table. Sprinkle 1/4 tsp. baking soda and 1/4 tsp. salt on dough. (This is where you can get creative as well. I have added chopped rosemary, a cheese and spice blend, and a spicy cheese blend.) Knead in your ingredients to combine.

5. Cut parchment paper to the size of your largest cookie sheet. (If you don't have a very large cookie sheet, try breaking the dough in half again.) Place dough on parchment paper. Squish it down a little bit to make it easier to roll out. Place plastic wrap over dough. (The dough is pretty sticky and WILL stick to a rolling pin!) Roll out until paper thin.

6. Sprinkle about 1/2 to 1 tsp. salt evenly over the top. I use my hands to spread it around a bit and to make sure it all has salt. No one likes a cracker that isn't salty! Use rolling pin to gently push salt down into the cracker.

7. Use a pizza cutter to cut into cracker sized rows.

8. Slide a cookie sheet under the parchment paper. Place in preheated oven. Cook for about 15 minutes. (While this batch is cooking, repeat steps 4-7 with the second half of your dough.)

9.Pull crackers out of the oven. Check the edges as the thin edges cook fastest. Remove the edges and place on a cooling rack.

10. Cook crackers until lightly browned and crispy. Cool on cooling rack.

11. Enjoy!!!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Sourdough Adventures

For quite some time I have known about the health benefits of soaking, fermenting and/or souring grains. About 5 or 6 years ago, a good friend of mine let me borrow the Nourishing Traditions cookbook, which covers this subject very thoroughly.

Whole grains are full of wonderful vitamins and minerals, but they are not ready to be absorbed without preparation. Wheat is basically a seed: if you plant it, you will grow more wheat. All seeds have a protective "coating" which help the seed store for a long period of time and essentially "holds" most of the nutrients. So how do you prepare wheat in a way that your body can absorb all these vitamins and minerals?

The answer is fermentation or sprouting. This was the traditional means by which grains have been prepared for pretty much all of history up until modern processes have made food both more readily available and less nutritious

"Sprouting, soaking and genuine sourdough leavening "pre-digests" grains, allowing the nutrients to be more easily assimilated and metabolized. This is an age-old approach practiced in most traditional cultures. Sprouting begins germination, which increases the enzymatic activity in foods and inactivates substances called enzyme inhibitors. These enzyme inhibitors prevent the activation of the enzymes present in the food and, therefore, may hinder optimal digestion and absorption. Soaking neutralizes phytic acid, a component of plant fiber found in the bran and hulls of grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds that reduces mineral absorption." (Excerpt from What Happens to Wheat, from Seed to Storage)

Even though I knew and understood the information, the thought of taking so much time to prepare our grains just overwhelmed me.

Sourdough Starter
And then I saw this e-course on sourdough. Maybe I could do this after all! The list of what you could make with sourdough was extensive and the e-course is "pay what you can". So I signed up and got started. The first thing I did was create my sourdough starter culture. This is quite simple to make with flour and water.

After my starter was established, I started experimenting with the sourdough goodies. The first things I made were pancakes and waffles. The waffles were definitely our family's favorite. They are so fluffy, crispy and we couldn't even taste any "sour"! (I never thought anything could rival my mom's recipe, but I think these do.)

Rosemary Crackers
Next I made crackers. Oh my. These are so good! We have now made them 4 times. This last time we made several varieties: rosemary, sea salt, cheese, and spicy cheese. My 6 year old daughter loves these and everyone who has tried our crackers loves them! I don't think we will ever be able to return to regular, store bought crackers.

I attempted sourdough bread (pictured above) and I would say it turned out alright. It was pretty dense, but still very tasty. I also made these cinnamon rolls. Oh yum! They were so gooey and delicious! Again, there is absolutely no sour flavor. You wouldn't know they were sourdough unless I told you. (They didn't last very long in our house...)

I have also made chocolate cake (yum!), pizza dough, artisan bread, and these English Muffins. The English muffins are so good and moist, I ended up making them two days in a row.

I never thought I would be able to make such delicious and nutritious food for my family so easily. Who knew that sourdough is so versatile and simple?

My sourdough adventures are just beginning. I am sure you will read much more about sourdough (and maybe even a few recipes) in my posts to come. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Chunky Applesauce

Last week I received a phone call asking if I would like a box of apples. Well, what could I say? Of course I would like a box of apples! We go through so many apples in our house; we could handle a box of apples, right?

This box was not your standard box of apples. I have seen boxes of apples at the farmers market, but this box was so large it was in a league all of its own. Oh my. I don't have room to store that many apples! What to do with all the apples?

In the end, I decided it must be time to make applesauce. I don't have any fancy applesauce making equipment. I have a vegetable peeler, a knife and stock pots. What else do you need?

I set to work peeling, coring and slicing apples. Fuji, Pink Lady, Golden Delicious and Red Delicious flew threw my hands. After a generous dumping of cinnamon and some mashing with my potato masher, I called it good. It was still a little chunky, but that just adds texture. Yes, texture, that is what we will call it.

After cooking, I proceeded to can the applesauce. It was amazing how the applesauce seemed to grow as I ladled it into pint sized jars. My water-bath canner could handle 7 pints per batch. I ended up doing 3 batches, resulting in 19 jars of applesauce. I think we will be set for quite some time.

Now what to do with the remaining 5 Granny Smith apples. I think it is time for an apple crisp...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

My Tea Fetish

I love tea. There is just something about drinking a nice hot cup of tea on a cold day that hits the spot like nothing else. In fact, it seems to be the cure for many of life's problems. Stressed? Can't sleep? Cold? Have a cup of tea. Problem solved. A few days this last week I wasn't feeling very well and tea came to my rescue again. I think I probably drank 10-12 cups of tea yesterday. I sure was glad that I have this obsession with tea.

When I am shopping and see tea on sale, I have a hard time resisting buying just a few more boxes of tea. Who knows, this flavor may become my new favorite! And so, I buy the tea. When I arrive home a new problem arises. Where will I put the tea? You see, I already have a lot of tea and it seems to be taking over much of my kitchen. At times, my over-zealousness in purchasing tea requires that it temporarily be stored on my kitchen counter. Oh well, at least it is accessible in case I need a good cup of tea.

Many tea purists seem to be convinced that tea is far superior in the loose leaf form. I admit this may be true, but I have already confessed that I am lazy. If I must go to the effort to put tea in a ball or bag before placing it in my cup of hot water, then I probably won't bother doing it. I am thankful that they make tea pre-bagged for those lazy tea lovers like myself.

What are my favorite teas? Well, glad you asked! I love peppermint tea. My current favorite peppermint tea is by Traditional Medicinals. Yum! All other peppermint tea tastes bland and boring in comparison now. I also love Traditional Medicinals' Nighty Night tea. I don't know if it actually helps me sleep or if it is just the placebo affect, but I enjoy it. For a nice morning pick-me-up I really enjoy some Yerba Mate or green tea. (Those both taste better with a bag of peppermint tea thrown in as well.)

I should go now. My tea kettle is hot and I am ready for a good cup of tea.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Homemade Ricecakes

What comes to mind when you hear the word "ricecakes"? Probably those bland, puffed rice things people eat when they are trying to lose weight and still feel like they are eating something. If you were to ask my kids what comes to mind when they hear the word "ricecakes" it would be a different story altogether.You see, in our family, a "ricecake" is a breakfast food, kind of like a pancake.

What? You mean you have never heard of these before? There is probably good reason for that. It would have to do with the fact that you were not raised in the same house I was. (Sorry.) This is a family recipe. In fact, my mom ate it growing up as well.

I believe my grandma came up with ricecakes when she had 5 little kids and a very small budget. White rice was cheap and this was just another way she could use it in a meal.

In our home, we eat brown rice and so I make brown ricecakes. I think I have made some modifications to the way both my grandma and my mom made them. This recipe is a great way to serve my kids whole grains and protein. And my girls LOVE them!

Today, I will be sharing with you my version of ricecakes. Keep in mind that this is one of those "dump" recipes. It is based more on how the ricecake batter looks than the exact amount of ingredients. I will try to give fairly specific measurements and instructions for those of you who didn't have the opportunity to learn this alongside your mother as I did.


3 cups cooked brown rice
3 eggs
1-2 Tbsp. oil (I generally use olive oil.)
1 Tbsp. sweetener (I used honey today, but have used agave and sugar in the past.)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup milk

1. Preheat griddle. I have a gas stove and preheat my griddle on medium heat.

2. Add rice to a bowl. Break up rice if it is stuck together.

3. Add 3 eggs. Mix together. The consistency should not be runny, but the eggs should be able to easily coat all of the rice.

  4. Add remaining ingredients. I let my kids dump in as much cinnamon as their little hearts desire. I actually have no idea how much milk I normally add. This is not a very runny batter. It should still be fairly thick. If it is too runny, I have added a little ground flaxseed or flour before and that still turns out great.

5. Oil griddle. (I use butter on mine.)

6. Give the batter a quick stir; scoop 2 spoon fulls of batter per rice cake. (I just use my large regular flatware spoon for this.) Squish and flatten into a circular shape. It should be around 3/8" thick.

7. Allow to cook until the edges look cooked and the ricecake is thickening up. These take longer to cook than regular pancakes and will fall apart if you try to flip them too early. Flip ricecakes.

8. Allow to cook on second side. This side does not take very long, maybe one minute.

9. Remove from pan. Give the batter a quick stir and start more ricecakes cooking.

10. Serve with butter and real maple syrup. Makes about 9 - 4" wide ricecakes. (This morning I had to make more than this amount. My girls ate 4 each!)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


There are several things I do not do well at all, some things I do alright at and a few things I do very well. Sadly, procrastinating is one of those things that I do very well. You see, I have practiced this art form long and hard.

I don't know when it started, but I have always said that I "work well under pressure." In high school I would wait to do a big paper until the night before it was due and then stay up until some horrendous hour finishing it. (Don't tell me you never did that.) I liked to think that I just did better finishing the project all at once. That might be part of it, but I think it comes down to the fact that I am both a procrastinator and a perfectionist. How can I be both a procrastinator and a perfectionist? I don't know, but they somehow work together.

This last Tuesday, the teacher in my Bible study shared a cartoon about procrastination during her teaching. I think it describes me perfectly, so here it is:

Yes, that is me. Generally, the enthusiasm factor is not at its maximum effectiveness until I realize that I may or may not have time to finish the project.

In fact, recently I was so frustrated with my messy house that I invited company over just so that I would clean my house. I had about 2 weeks to clean my house, but did I use those whole 2 weeks to do that? No, of course not. Why would I do such a logical, self-disciplined thing? Thankfully, I did a couple of things early on in the week, but later in the week I definitely implemented the energy-intensive phase of cleaning my house.

It is not only in cleaning my house that I procrastinate, but that is certainly the area that is most visually obvious to anyone unfortunate enough to witness my procrastination in action. Hm, I suppose my house does need to be cleaned again. Anyone want to come over for dinner?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Tortilla Soup

Nothing says soup weather like wind, rain and cold temperatures, which made today perfect. But there are so many soups from which to choose. Chicken noodle is always a favorite. I made both lentil soup and corn chowder not very long ago. What to make?

In this situation, I tend to fall back on my most reliable soup. Tortilla soup is much loved by my whole family. I know that when I make this soup, there will be no complaints, only requests for seconds and thirds. And, as you can see from this picture of my 4 year old, bowls will be cleaned!

I have discovered that most everyone loves this soup as well. It is always safe to serve to company, bring as a meal to a friend who has had a new baby, or bring to a potluck. The only problem might be that I won't bring home as much leftover soup as my family would like.

So here is my recipe, the way I make it. Feel free to experiment and modify according to your own likes. Enjoy!

Tortilla Soup

1 container Pacific Organic Chicken Broth
1 - 29 oz. can Hominy, drained (I used Juanita's - find it the Mexican section at the grocery store.)
1 - 4 oz. can Diced Roasted Green Chili Peppers
Spices to taste (I throw in chili powder, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder and oregano. Instead of spices you can throw in a can of enchilada sauce.)
1 chicken breast, cooked and cubed
1 quart sized jar of pinto beans (So maybe you don't can your own beans like I do; probably use 2 regular sized cans from the store. This is also really good with black beans.)
Several handfuls of frozen corn (I would guess 1-2 cups)

1. Add Chicken Broth, Hominy, Diced Green Chili Peppers and Spices to your soup pot. (This soup barely fit in my 4 quart pot.) Bring to boil then reduce heat and simmer 20-30 minutes, until Hominy softens.

2. Add chicken, Pinto beans and corn. (I have thrown in some cooked brown rice before as well.) Cook until heated through.

3. Dish up! We love this soup with cheese (cheddar or pepper jack) on top. Some people really like a good spoonful of sour cream too. Serve with tortilla chips either crunched up on top or used to scoop up the soup.