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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Bread

Whole wheat loaf (from the Vita-Mix cookbook)
    And now for something completely different!  To be honest, I almost don’t want to write about bread after writing about (and drinking) green juice, but I went on a bit of a baking frenzy a couple weeks ago and want to share. Just so you know, up until now I did not consider myself a baker.  I grew up baking cookies from scratch (at least during holidays and special occasions—snickerdoodles, anyone?), and knew my way around a box of brownie or cake mix, but for some reason I never found my way into the world of bread baking.  I eventually came to accept it as an activity reserved for some initiated few.  I do have a few memories of eating bread that my grandmother baked; she would always prepare kringel for birthdays, and I remember biting into slices of her English muffin bread which was best hot out of the oven and smothered with melting butter.  I vaguely recall some starter that she used for baking dark Estonian rye bread, but for some reason I don’t really remember seeing much of the actual baking process.  My brother, on the other hand, has carried on the tradition; he started making pizza dough from scratch years ago, and he often brings sweet braided raisin breads to family birthdays.  Until recently, I continued to shy away from the seemingly mysterious process of bread making.  Like rolling out a pie crust, it was one of those things that I just didn’t do (I can roll out a mean tortilla, though).  So I have baked a few breads over the years, but they have mostly been non-yeasted breads, and I have managed to turn out a decent whole wheat pizza crust.  When my Vita-Mix arrived with the whole grain cookbook, which includes instructions for grinding grains into flour and baking bread,  I had to try it out.  I had some good success with my first couple loaves, and decided to get adventurous when a friend offered me some sourdough starter that supposedly originates from the Oregon Trail.  


My first loaf of sourdough! 



What can I say? I have an affinity for strange cultures and ferments that require occasional attention and feeding. My first loaf came out beautifully! Although it wasn't very sour, it was very tasty.
 I also made some sourdough waffles.  I thought they were pretty good, but my girls were not as enthusiastic. 






Easy Cinnamon Sticky Buns

Since I was on a roll (hahah), I then moved on to these Easy Cinnamon Sticky Buns from Vegetarian Times magazine. They were fun to make, but very, very messy! They came out so dark because I didn't have dark corn syrup, so I added some blackstrap molasses to some light corn syrup I had instead. (I wouldn't recommend doing that unless you are a big fan of molasses). Since these are best hot, I would also recommend making them for a crowd. I gave some away and still ate too many.

Getting Greener....

I was hoping to relieve those of you who have been wondering if I've gone off the deep end with all this talk of raw food, and write a post about the breads I've been (secretly) baking in the meantime.
I will get to that, I promise!

However, I felt inclined to post again about the amazing effect raw greens have had on me. I admit it: even though I have been veg*n for the majority of my life, I have really not been that good about eating dark, leafy greens on a regular basis. There have been times when I bought big bunches of kale with the intent of making it a regular part of my diet, but all too often I would end up with a bunch of wilted yellowing leaves in my refrigerator. I really hate wasting food like that, but I never had a really good recipe for kale. I got excited about a recipe I found for "kale chips" last fall, but I found them unpalatable, so sauteed with a little garlic and lemon remained my go-to, though boring, way to prepare greens.
 I don't think I expressed the extent of my joy to discover a recipe for Raw Kale Salad. Most of the people I mention this to give me a weird look and say, "RAW kale? Really?".  If you massage the kale a bit, it wilts and becomes so tender and tasty.  I posted a recipe in my last post, and you can find another version on my friend Brandy's blog.  I also discovered that green smoothies are also a really easy and tasty way to pack in my daily greens!

A couple weeks ago I was making at least one green smoothie a day, but out of convenience, or perhaps having not gone to the grocery store in a while, I started slipping back to cooked foods again. The first couple of meals were great; they were soft and comforting, but I quickly realized that I didn't feel as happy or energetic as I did as when I was eating a diet of about 80% raw food.  The situation got dire when I ran out of greens for a few days over Memorial Day weekend, and I really started noticing the difference --my body started demanding fresh greens. 

As luck would have it, an old friend mailed me a couple of her raw food books the other day and I got yet another recipe for a green drink.  Apparently this is a pretty common concoction in the raw food world which goes by different names: it's "Green Lemonade" in the Raw Food Detox Diet, and there is a similar recipe in  Raw Food Real World called "Basic Green".

When I get the ingredients out of the fridge to make this, my 1 year old finds a cup and brings it over to me!  She sucks down this juice like it's going out of style! I crave it as well. (My 3 year old prefers smoothies to juice, but she will sip this a bit, too.)

Edited to add:
Since I published this post, this thought has been running through my head: "Basic Green Lemonade" is way too boring a title for this juice.  Let it be henceforth known as:
 
Basic Green "Lemonade"  
Emerald Love Elixir of Life :)
1 head of romaine and/or
a couple stalks of celery
8-10 large leaves of kale, chard, or collards (or a combination)
1 whole organic lemon
1-2 organic apples

Run all ingredients through a juicer. Yum!