Homemade Bread

Tuesdays and Thursdays have become bread baking days in our house. Years ago I decided I wanted to learn how to bake bread. However, I gave up after a few dense loaves. I’ve been trying again this fall, and all my practice is beginning to pay off.

There’s something wholesome and cozy about taking the time to bake a loaf of bread. It’s not quick or simple, but the slow process of mixing and kneading and waiting for the bread to rise makes a small thing like spreading butter and jelly onto slices of bread feel so intentional and purposeful. It also makes our house smell like my grandma’s house, and I love the idea of passing on this baking tradition to my children.

I’ve been experimenting with different recipes and pans. I enjoy kneading bread, but this week I tried a no-knead loaf that turned out beautiful. Here are a few of my bread baking tips I’ve gathered from cookbooks and through the trial and error of my weekly baking attempts.

First, an electric mixer helps a lot. I originally didn’t have a mixer and wanted to learn how to make bread without modern appliances. It’s not absolutely necessary, but the mixer helps smooth out the dough, and makes the whole process easier–and you don’t get a sore arm *mixing on high speed for 3 minutes* by hand. My mom gifted me her vintage (old) mixer, and it has made the bread baking process so much easier.

Use as little flour as possible if you want a light and fluffy loaf. Begin with the measured amount of flour the recipe calls for in step one. When it comes time to add more flour add 1/4 of a cup at a time, trying to add as little flour as possible. As soon as the dough is stretchy and not sticky, stop adding flour. Every single speck of flour the dough touches as you knead it is part of the flour mentioned in the recipe, and it’s really easy to add too much flour– and too much flour makes your loaves too heavy.

While letting bread rise, cover it with a thin towel and place it in an unheated oven along with a pan full of hot water. I can’t remember where I read this piece of advice–probably in a Martha Stewart book–but it’s a warm, cozy place for the dough to rise. It’s also a safe place away from little, curious fingers that like poking and deflating the dough when it’s left out on the counter.

I purchased some mini loaf pans recently, and they’re currently my favorite pans to use. They bake the cutest little loaves, and the kids especially enjoy the small slices of bread. They’re also really easy to bag and give as gifts because each batch of bread makes 6 small loaves: plenty for our family and a couple extras to share.

What about you–do you bake homemade bread? If so, do you have any bread baking tips to share? It’s a process that I’m dedicated to conquering, and any extra ideas are always appreciated!

Red Raspberry Leaf Tea

Drinking red raspberry leaf tea is one of the remedies recommended by my midwife during my third pregnancy, and I was hooked after my first cup. Red Raspberry leaf tea is rich in nutrients and antioxidants and is used to strengthen the uterus.  A stronger uterus can help shorten labor and aid in a healthy delivery and postpartum recovery. Because red raspberry leaf tea may help induce labor, it’s recommended you don’t drink it until week 32*. In the last few weeks of pregnancy, up to 3 cups can be enjoyed each day. It’s something I look forward to each pregnancy! (*always check with your doctor or midwife before trying any natural or herbal remedies as their potency can be surprisingly strong.)

This tea tastes good hot or iced, with lemon or without. I always buy my loose leaf tea at our local health food store where I scoop and measure it myself. Here’s the “recipe”, as simple as can be!

Red Raspberry Leaf Tea Recipe

1 Tablespoon loose leaf red raspberry leaf tea + 1 cup boiling water

steep 15 minutes

drink warm or pour the 1 cup of warm tea over ice and add enough water to fill a large glass

During the last few weeks of pregnancy I like to double or triple this recipe (2-3 Tbs. tea + 1 cup boiling water). After steeping 15 minutes, pour the warm tea over ice in a water bottle and fill to the top with cold water, leaving the tea ball in the water bottle. I’m counting down the weeks to when I can enjoy this tea again!

Double Batch Banana Bread

I woke up today and noticed gnats in our fruit corner, and that normally means it’s time to bake something. I use my trusty 25 year old Better Homes and Gardens cookbook for pretty much everything. While the kids were busy doing their morning schoolwork, I threw together some banana bread for our mid-morning snack. The only tip I can add to a basic banana bread recipe is to double the batch so you can share a loaf with a neighbor!

Double Batch Banana Bread

3 cups flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

2 eggs

2 cups mashed bananas (5-6 bananas)

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 cup cooking oil

Grease loaf pan of choice on sides and bottom.

Mix dry ingredients.

Mix eggs, bananas, sugar, and oil in a separate bowl.

Add banana mixture to dry ingredients; stir and pour into pan/pans.

Bake 35-50 minutes at 350° (more time if you made 1 deep loaf, less time if you divided batter into 2-3 loaves. I used 3 small loaf pans today, and they were done in 35 minutes.)

Barbecue Tofu

I made tofu for the first time today. I decided barbecue tofu was a safe place to begin since I love barbecue anything. For years I’ve been scared to attempt cooking tofu. However, I wanted to try something new for protein after eating an on-again off-again vegetarian diet for about 7 years and never once making tofu.  I’ve eaten tofu prepared by restaurants that has left me more than unsatisfied, and I have assumed if they can’t cook to my liking, why would I ever be able to do any better? I found a few recipes I want to try eventually, but I finally settled on this recipe from ohmyveggies.com entitled Baked Barbecue Tofu (Tofu for Tofu Haters).  This seemed like a good place to start.

To begin, I research research RESEARCH everything to the extreme, and cooking tofu was no exception. I learned from a vegan cookbook from the library that firm tofu cooks best, and all tofu has to be pressed to remove the excess water from it so the blandness of the tofu can be replaced with whatever flavored sauce you choose to cook it in. As the tofu pressed for dinner, I sipped my afternoon tea. I followed the tofu prep directions from the cookbook and the recipe closely, and the flavor turned out delicious. For dinner tonight I paired it with roasted potatoes and a simple oven-roasted asparagus recipe (one of our favorite’s) from the pioneer woman.  I’m still unsure of the texture; I think that’s the number one reason I’ve been disappointed with tofu in the past. However, as far as a meat replacement, it worked. I’ll be trying this recipe again but not before I try crumbling tofu in vegetarian tacos. I’m hoping crumbling it will hide the texture….

Healthy Meals With Kids

I have a secret that I never tell people in person: one of the reasons we home school is so that we can feed our children healthy food. The amount of processed food going into kids these days by the hand of caregivers is ridiculous, and there’s no way to justify it. When the ingredients aren’t even real food, it shouldn’t take the place of food no matter how cheap or easy it is to prepare. We can’t give up and grow unhealthy kids for the sake of convenience!

Children won’t learn lasting healthy habits if we focus on what we shouldn’t be feeding them. If our kids think foods high in sugar and fat are good–even in moderation–they will think we are depriving them of good food when we ask them to eat healthy foods.  When they don’t know any different, they will eat unhealthy foods until they are sick. It’s our job to regulate what goes into their bodies and teach them about how our bodies work. They WANT to eat healthy food when they understand that the food they eat grows the cells in their bodies and each cell creates more cells that make up their bodies. 

Kids don’t want to be tricked; they know we have more power than them and that we can manipulate and deceive them. They’re naturally cautious of our motives and will rebel if they don’t think our reasons are for their benefit. If we aren’t letting them in on the great secrets of how cells divide and grow our bodies, they won’t ever see the importance of eating healthy foods. Because processed foods taste good and are often easy and fun, they’ll only eat veggies if they understand the importance of real food. 

Kids are also brutal bullies, and food is an innocent thing that kids bully each other over. As adults, we often miss kids bullying each other over food, or we miss its power. If we place our kids in a setting where it’s cool to have the newest processed food and uncool to bring their healthy lunch, they’ll ignore our pleas that they eat healthy, and we’ll lose the food battle (a battle that is actually for their health.)    

The main thing I try to do is get as much fruit and vegetables into them as possible and avoid all packaged and processed foods.  Breakfast gets loaded down with fruit, lunch has fruits and vegetables, and we have at least 2-3 different vegetables at dinner.

Protein is also really important for kids. Whether it’s just a handful of nuts or seeds between meals and beans, eggs, or meat with dinner, protein keeps them full and satisfied.   

It’s a glimmer of hope when one of the kids voluntarily asks if a food is healthy or not.  I hope they internalize the why behind healthy eating and continue to make healthy choices for themselves as they get older. For now I think it’s our responsibility to teach our kids that food from the earth is good and anything else should be avoided or eaten cautiously and always in moderation.  

Do you struggle with getting your kids to eat healthy foods? Do you have any tips that I didn’t talk about that help get kids to choose healthy foods on their own? Let me know! I’d love to hear how you teach your kids about eating healthy!