Friday, September 30, 2011

Artisan Herb & Olive Bread

So I finally attempted at baking my own "artisan bread" from scratch! It didn't turn out looking as pretty as I wanted, and I did have a little trouble following the recipe, but things turned out okay! Actually, it was a big hit in our home :)

(Ignore the onion please!)

The recipe is a "modified" version of the "Sensational  Herbed Bread" in the Forks over Knives book. It wasn't my intention to modify it, but circumstances ended up leading me to it, and also that "free cooking spirit" came in, and I had an urge to add some kalamata olives to it-which I didn't have-so I ended up making a trip to the store. So glad I did!

So the recipe calls for 3 cups of whole wheat flour, BUT I only had about 1 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour left (which shows you how good I've been at switching to whole wheat cooking :) and a bag full of unbleached all purpose flour (you see!? ;)  and since my "urge" for the kalamatas only came after the dough was already made, I had to do half and half! 

So here it is! 1 1/2 cups of Whole Wheat Flour and 1 1/2 cups of Unbleached (please!) All Purpose Flour

Then I couldn't take any more pictures because my hands were a big sticky mess!!! 

But basically next step after adding 3 cups of flour is that you mix in the herbs. 
  • 1/2 Tbsp sage
  • 1/2 Tbsp thyme
  • 1/2 Tbsp oregano
  • 1/2 Tbsp basil

I just added a little more of the thyme & basil, because I thought they smelled SO GOOD! Then you just mix it all up!

Next comes adding the liquids and mixing it...or "kneading" I should say. 

First I had to deal with the yeast! The recipe called for 1 1/2 tsp of dry yeast, which asks to mix with the dry ingredients (flour & herbs). But I've had enough "mixed information" about this to get confused.  I'm not sure what the right/best way to do is. I've heard recipes where they ask to first dissolve the yeast with a little bit of water, then add to the flour, and others that says to make a well and then add the yeast at the center with all the liquids, and now this new way: just mix it with the flour! I was totally confused! Since last time I baked a pizza dough I had done the "add it to the well" approach and the crust didn't turn out great, I decided to dissolve in the water this time and see what happens. So that's how I did it! If anyone knows the best way to do it, PLEASE tell me! :)

As for the wet ingredients, you'll need:
  • 2 Tsp of molasses
  • 1 3/4 c lukewarm water
And this is the messy & sticky part! I had no clue what to do with so much stickiness....I mean, it said to "knead" it, so I put my hands in trusting that I would be able to knead something! But the thing was so gooey and sticky that it was impossible to knead anything! So I started adding more and more flour until I was at least able to knead somewhat. I think I may have added a whole extra 1/2 cup to 1 cup! Seriously! Not sure if this damaged the bread and made it denser than it was meant to be. But I just don't understand how one can knead that thing otherwise :-/ I'm new to this whole thing! 

So eventually it looked like a bread dough, and I let it rest in a warm place as the recipe called for. And that's no other place than my yard right now. Here in NC is still warm and humid, although I'm sure it will change any day now.

Recipe called for an hour rest covered with oiled plastic wrap, until it doubled its size. Oh...and it's important to add the cornmeal underneath it so it won't stick to the cooking sheet.

This is when I finished "kneading" it. Looked decent!

Between caring for my 10 month old, and household stuff I ended up letting it sit much longer than called for. Then I had that "urge", so I still had to go to the store.

About 4 1/2 hours later, this is how it looked like! Then I sliced the olives and added on top, then folded the dough on top of the olives, thus why the cornmeal on top (not intentional!). 

 Finally I decided to slice some garlic and brush with some olive oil for taste.

Looked more attractive in the "before" part than after...but looks are overrated anyways, and this was OH SO TASTY!!!

The amazing thing about this bread is that it tasted great for days! It seemed to taste even better the next day, because the garlic flavor seemed to spread to the rest of the bread. It was soft, chewy, and rich! It was really delicious! We loved it straight out of the oven with some balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. We ended up eating half of it in one sitting for dinner! The intention was to be an appetizer, but we couldn't stop eating it. Then we realized if we didn't stop we were going to eat the entire bread, so we closed it in a big ziplock bag! 

We've had this a few weeks ago, and my husband is already asking me for some more :)

Thanks Forks over Knives! 

Monday, September 19, 2011

What's for breakfast?

Oatmeal with rice milk, figs and granola 
& mate lemon green tea

 Since starting this new plant-based lifestyle we've had to change our mainly animal-based meals! The first question we both had was: "what can we eat for breakfast?" Most of our breakfasts included some sort of cheese, milk, turkey or eggs.

This motivated me to research on wholesome, plant-based recipes that would provide a good kick-start for our day! Surprisingly I found a lot more than I expected. I'll be sharing some of those as I begin to try them myself, but so far I'll share the few adaptations I've made the past few days that worked well for me.

 I've always enjoyed my oatmeal, my husband on the other hand has never been interested in even trying. But, he said he is now willing! Woohoo to that!!! :)
So the adaptation I made was to switch cow's milk to fortified rice milk to cook my oatmeal. Of course you could cook it with just water, but I like it better with milk, and rice milk cooked with oatmeal doesn't bring much difference in the taste. Then of course you can add your favorite toppings. I added some figs-LOVE them, and just got some organic ones on sale the other day! And I added some granola on top for some crunchiness. Enjoyed that with a glass of hot mate lemon green tea.
organic whole grain oat bread

 Another great option for a wholesome breakfast is a fresh wholegrain bread loaf (either freshly baked at the store or at home). This one I got it at the store in the morning, so it was still warm when I arrived at home, but the next one I plan on making it myself! You can prepare the dough ahead of time, so that in the morning all you have to do is place it in the oven. If you need to leave early for work and don't have the time to deal with fresh bread, you can always cut them and freeze them in a ziplock bag when you buy them. Then you'll only need to put it in a toaster in the morning. If you keep it wrapped in a plastic bag it will last fresh for a few days. Mine I bought yesterday morning, and this morning was still just as good!

Mine was an organic oatmeal bread!!! SOOOO delicious I have to tell yah!!! Anything made with oat flour is usually my favorite, because they make everything so soft! Baking a cake with oat flour makes it so soft it crumbles. 
So instead of my much loved cheese spread, with jam and a sliced cheese on top, I just used a very good quality fruit spread with a slice of fig on top! Let me tell you, when you have good quality ingredients, you don't need a lot of things to make things taste fabulous! I could eat this bread by itself and be fully satisfied...that's how good it tasted! Adding this wonderful apricot spread and the ripen fig was just the icing on the top! :) So yummy!!!

 Along with this I made my husband and I a juice smoothie with orange juice, 2 cubes of a chlorophyll blend (parsley, mint & collard greens blended together and frozen in ice cubes), 2 cubes of carrots (pureed carrots frozen in ice cubes), 2 cubes of red beets (pureed beets frozen in ice cubes) and some frozen berry mix (blueberries, strawberries and raspberries). This may sound gross to those not used to mixing fruits and veggies, but it tastes awesome!!!

 So refreshing and energizing! Will get you going a lot more than your morning coffee. 

Let's not forget about our fresh fruits!!! They make a great addition to any breakfast meal or could even go solo in a fruit salad mix.Some ideas I love are the famous fruit smoothies, you can substitute cow's milk with a plant-based or nut-based milk. I love smashed bananas with raw honey and oats.
Oatmeal with banana is like a desert to it!

delicious paired with a hot cup of apple cinnamon tea!

Lastly I've done of course the most famous American "meal": peanut butter and jelly! 

But this version is SO much better than the traditional highly processed ones, on processed and refined breads, and processed peanut butters with processed sugary jams! Try buying some good quality, wholesome ingredients, with very short ingredient lists, and taste the difference yourself!

This peanut butter spread I got was the best peanut butter I've ever tasted! So fresh! You look at the ingredient list all you see is: "organic roasted peanuts"! How's that for wholesome? If you check the most popular peanut butter SKIPPY's nutrition facts, it says: "roasted peanuts, sugar, hydrogenated vegetable oils (cottonseed, soybean and rapseed)to prevent separation, salt." Check here yourself!

So that's some of the simple changes we've made, and I feel that these new breakfasts are taking me much longer than the previous ones! I feel satisfied longer and with a lot more energy than before. Now I can't wait to try out the new recipes I've discovered, such as scrambled tofu and baking my own whole grain bread!!!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

FREE COOKING: Red Chard & Sweet Potatoes

  I've always seen red and rainbow chard at the store, but felt hesitant to buy it, because I didn't really know how to cook it. So this time I decided to buy and give it a try! It was actually not as hard as I expected. I approached it as I would collard greens or kale, because they sort of look alike. And it worked! 

So first I cleaned each leaf.

Then I cut off the stems and chopped the leafs. I did chop a little bit of the stem too because it looked so pretty :)

Then I chopped a red onion, a sweet potato and some garlic

Crushed the garlic. I like lots of garlic flavor! :)

Sautéed the onions with a little bit of canola oil on medium/high heat, then added the garlic and seasoning of choice (this time I felt like adding a little bit of ginger powder, cayenne pepper & salt. Sautéed for few more minutes.
(Gotta keep adding little bits of water as needed so it won't burn)

Added the sweet potatoes, sautéed for a little bit then closed the lid to let the potatoes cook a little.
(Gotta keep adding little bits of water as needed so it won't burn)

Once I saw the potatoes were starting to cook, I added the chopped chard & a little bit of water...YES, so it won't burn! me, I've burned food MANY times until I finally learned the trick!

Closed the lid and let the chard cook.

 Once I saw the chard was cooked, but not overcooked (the color should still be vibrant and not too dark), I removed from heat and added some sliced almonds and golden raisins for garnish...just because I had some around and thought would add a little "somethin' somethin'" to the dish!

That's it! 
Hope you like as much as I did.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Forks over Knives: Whole Food & Plant Based Lifestyle

So this past weekend I was VERY surprised by my husband! He came to me and said he watched the documentary "Forks over Knives" and was ready to switch to a plant-based diet. I was like, "really???" I didn't even question him much, I agreed right away to it! This was the moment I had been waiting for, for a LONG time! 

I've always been the one interested in nutrition and eating as healthy and organically as I po$$ibly could, but because of us not being on the same page about the subject, I always ended up eating things I wouldn't necessarily choose to. He was the kind of guy that didn't really give much thought to food, and always said food was food, and people starving in other parts of the world wouldn't care if it's organic or not, so we shouldn't either! We should just be grateful to have food on our table! And his mantra in life has always been "moderation," which I agree is a great one, but given our current messed up food culture, even if we eat in moderation of just the wrong types of food, we will still be harming our bodies and not living to the extent that our bodies were designed to live!  

I believe what got through to him this time (because we've watched many documentaries on food in the past), was the fact that it was focused on medicine and scientific research. Also, he just began his residency in family medicine this year, and preventive health care and public health are his passion and main areas of interest. He's been overwhelmed by the amount of people he treats that are "eating themselves into sickness;" and that's the main focus of this documentary!

The film proposes a very extreme diet, but as they say in the film, one may call having your chest cut open in order to have a coronary artery bypass surgery a little extreme as well! Thus, the "Forks over Knives" case you didn't get it! I was appalled to read that in the US one person is killed by heart disease EVERY MINUTE! A totally preventable disease! And that 24 million Americans suffer from diabetes, with 2/3 of adults being either overweight or obese and obesity in children doubling over the past 30 years!
Something is very wrong with our way of eating, we all know it, but change can be very hard when we are being bombarded daily with marketing, ads and food aisles filled with processed and unhealthy foods that are making us sick!

Yikes...I really went on and on about this! hehehe

Anyway...the point is not to preach to the world about this, but talk about our journey!!! So the Doctors and Scientists in the film advocate eliminating or minimize all animal-based products as well as processed/refined foods, including refined sugars,flour and oils such as olive oil. I'll use future posts to explain in more detail the "why" these products are better off eliminated or minimally consumed, so I don't take too much of your time here today. 

Okay...we WON'T eliminate completely and become vegan any time soon! BUT, we will minimize their consumption A LOT! 

Animal based foods have been the center of our (hubby and I) diet for as long as we can remember! Well, now that I come to think of it, I actually did became a vegetarian for a few years in college but stopped right before we got married. But dairy has always been strong in both of our diets! In fact, milk, cheese and meat have been consumed daily, multiple times a day if not at every meal by us since we've gotten married. So instead of being the center, animal products will now be the "garnish" of our meal! Like the sprinkles on top of a cupcake! And that way, when we do sprinkle that animal-based product, we'll be able to afford the best quality one, that has been grown safely, organically, without added hormones, without damaging our ecosystem and with respect to the life of the animal.

 Forks over Knives, the plant-based way to heath (book)

The olive oil part I'm not sold on it! In the film it does not go into detail about why we should not consume it, except that it is refined/processed; but in their book that includes 125 recipes it talks a bit more, explaining that when processed much of the benefits are removed--so you are better off eating the olives and cooking with other liquids. But we can't ignore the many research that has shown the benefits of olive oil when consumed properly-in its raw form and moderately! Not to mention the flavor it adds to a meal :) here will mark the beginning of our journey! I went and did our first grocery shopping yesterday with this new plant-based, whole-food, lifestyle in mind, and I'm so excited to learn how to cook new ingredients and be creative with these beautiful foods our Creator has made for our enjoyment and well-being! :)

To me, the most challenging aspect of this lifestyle change is the "exercise" aspect! Because good health does not come by simply changing your diet, but also by moving your buttocks! And that I tend to NOT do! So hopefully hubby and I will be able to incorporate that as well.

Come, join us too, as we embark into this journey of eating ourselves into good health! Let's choose forks over knives! :)

Monday, September 12, 2011


This past week I've had a friend visiting from out of state, so I didn't get much of a chance to blog.  But I did learn a new salad recipe from her that I'll be trying very soon!!! 

So Saturday evening after dropping her off at the airport, hubby, baby girl and I were able to catch a little bit of the Bull Durham Blues Festival. Durham is very different from everything we've known, having lived mostly in metropolitan areas in the past such as Chicago and San Francisco Bay Area. Blues Festivals I've gone in the past were all very large scale events, but in a way they all felt a little impersonal. A small town's festival provided me with a different experience. Even though things were not as fancy, and definitely much smaller, I enjoyed a lot more than the previous ones I've gone to! There is something about small town events that seems to make you feel like you "belong", like you are an actual part of the community and not just an spectator. 
I LOVED seeing the great diversity of people, you could find people from all ages, race, social standing, disabled...and most of them look so friendly and approachable! Very refreshing coming from Chicago.

And of course FOOD! Wherever you find people, you'll always find food! There were lots of different food stands from local vendors. Hubby and I LOVE kettle corn, so of course as soon as I saw the stand I went straight for it! They were being prepared there right in front of you. Uhhmmm...the sweet & salty, just a great combination with popcorn! Of course we know it's not the type of food one should enjoy regularly, because it's loaded with unnecessary amounts of sugar. But once in a while it's okay to treat yourself with something you enjoy :)


  We also had some freshly squeezed lemonade! 

And of course the music! 
It was great to see everyone bring their chairs and blankets, some brought a bottle of wine or drinks of their choice and snacks to nibble on while watching the show. There was also a bouncy house for older children to play and enjoy. And did I mention it was a free event? A great event for the community!

Shana Tucker totally impressed us with her beautiful voice and musical talent! She's a great jazz singer and musician.
Unfortunately we had to head home early so we missed most of the other musicians that were actually playing some blues, but it was worth staying while we could :)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

EAT OUT: Guglhupf Bakery & Patisserie - Durham, NC

(photo from Yelp website)
(photo from Yelp website)

 Guglhupf Bakery & Patisserie was the first restaurant we checked out in Durham since moving here. I didn't know anything in the area, so as always I go to my reliable source: Yelp! It had some great reviews about this place, and as always, it was true to its reviews! 

    I was very pleased with the food along with atmosphere of the place! I love great food, but just like drinking a great wine off of a wrong cup, eating wonderful food in a not so pleasant environment can have a tremendous influence in your food experience. To me this place becomes great because of the environment experience!
I ordered the Turkey-Brie-Apple Sandwich with
Potato Salad As Side (second photo above) and my husband ordered the chicken club sandwich (first photo above)but we shared both. The turkey-brie-apple did not meet my expectations, it was good, but not great. The potato salad far exceeded the sandwich itself. The chicken club sandwich on the other hand was very good! The one we ordered came with a very fresh yellow tomato that was simply delicious. All the ingredients in the club sandwich were fresh and perfectly ripen!I normally don't order a club sandwich, but after enjoying this one so much, the second time we returned to this restaurant 
or lunch, I ended up ordering it "not to share"! :)

Following are some photos we took of the place:
 Outside, looking into the patio area
Inside has a mixture of posh and modern decoration, just beautiful!

Outside is very pleasant, with water fountain relaxing sound

  An open skyline with lots of greens! Very relaxing, especially if you luck out and don't get a large crowd.                                    

 Oh, desserts! My "strongest weakness"...if you can say such thing! :) So delicious!!! I left the place desiring to return to try out the luscious coffee drinks I saw on Yelp along with one of the many beautiful desserts they have. Still have not done that yet, but plan to very soon.

Check these photos from Yelp:

Definitely coming back for that! :)