Monday, March 29, 2010

How to make Pita Bread

If you have ever had freshly baked pita bread, you know that it is far superior to anything you can find in any store. We love to prepare these and serve with hummus or tahini sauce as a snack or even a meal. I also use it to dish up a bowl of fava beans to take me back to breakfasts in Egypt or make into gyros I am feeling adventurous.

Whole Wheat Pita Bread 

1 T active dry yeast
1 tsp raw honey
1 1/4 cups warm water
3 cups whole-wheat flour
1/4 olive oil
1 tsp sea salt
Cornmeal if using baking sheets (see below)
here the dough has clearly doubled in
in size and is ready to punch down
and divide into pieces.

dough has been kneaded and is ready
to have its rising time.
Stir together yeast, honey and water in your mixing bowl. Let stand until foamy. Add flour oil and salt and mix well. Knead for 10 minutes or until dough is smooth and elastic.

Cover bowl with a moist towel and set aside in a warm draft-free place until dough is doubled in bulk.

dough balls will be small when divided
Punch down the risen dough and turn dough out onto a lightly floured wooden cutting board and divide into 8 pieces using a knife or dough cutter. Roll up each ball removing air and cover with the towel. Allow to sit until dough starts to soften from rising again.

Preheat oven to about 485-500 degrees. Most ovens, when turned to somewhere near 500, will use the top heating coils (like in broiling). You want to use the lower heating element only so that the bottom of the oven has the bulk of the heat and your pitas will puff. If you have a baking stone, place on the oven rack on the lowest position in the oven. If you do not have a baking stone, see the baking sheet method.

Baking Stone method:
the dough on the stone has been
pressed down with my fingers. Notice
the large air bubble forming on the
one on the right.
While your stone is heating you can prepare a smooth surface to pat or roll out your dough balls. You can use a rolling pin for this part, rolling each piece to approximately 1/8 inch thick. I like to use my hands to gently push out the air and form the round pieces gently with my fingers. (see photo) Either method works fine. Allow the dough to rest where you pressed them out for about 10 minutes. The first ones you make should be ready when the oven is preheated. Place one or two directly on your stone if its ready. Watch the rounds and when they have started to puff; you can flip them if you would like even browning on both sides. I don’t typically time them as I watch them the entire time, but baking time is approximately 5-7 minutes.
these were rolled out with
a rolling pin. Note the even
surface of the pita.

Baking sheet method:
If you are using a baking sheet, lightly grease it and sprinkle lightly with corn meal to prevent sticking. Prepare a smooth surface to pat or roll out your dough balls. You can use a rolling pin for this part, rolling each piece to approximately 1/8 inch thick. I like to use my hands to gently push out the air from the center and form the round pieces gently with my fingers. (see photo) Either method works fine. Arrange the flattened dough rounds on the baking sheet so that they are not touching. Allow them to rest for about 10 minutes. Place the baking sheet on the bottom shelf of the oven and bake for approximately 5-7 minutes. Watch them so they do not burn as cooking times can vary depending on how thin you rolled the dough. You can turn them over halfway (4 min) through cooking to get the tops to brown as well if you like. If you do flip them over, use care not to burn yourself.

And there you have it. These freeze really well. I try to have a bag of them around for when we have hummus or fava beans. Pita is the perfect accompaniment!

This post is part of Fight Back Fridays, hosted by Food Renegade.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Granola using Soaked Oats

This recipe is for Granola using oats that have been soaked. It would not work well if you did not plan to soak in advance. Soaking grains makes digestion easier on your body. For more on soaking grains see my post here.
8 cups rolled organic oats 
3/4 cup coconut butter
1/2 butter
1 1/2 cups whey
1-2 cups water
1/2 cup raw honey
1/2 cup agave syrup
1 tsp sea salt
4 tsp cinnamon
4 tsp vanilla extract
The day before you plan to make your granola, put the oats in a large crock pot. I buy my oats in bulk from Bread Beckers. It's far less expensive to purchase grains in bulk if you use them as frequently as we do.

In a measuring cup, put the coconut oil and butter in and then place in a saucepan half full of simmering water. On a low heat, simmer the water. Stir the oil and butter in the measuring cup until completely melted.  **note: do this on a low heat and bring up to temperature slowly so you don’t break the glass. Use an oven mitt to remove the glass measuring cup so you don’t burn your hand.

Pour the melted butter and oil, and then the whey and water into the crock filled with oats and stir well. You don’t want the mixture too wet as to create mush, but you do want everything wet so that the soaking process will remove all the phytic acid. Allow to sit, covered for 24 hours as it takes this long when you are soaking oats. For more on soaking grains, see my post on soaking.

The next day, mix the honey, syrup, sea salt, cinnamon and vanilla extract into a glass measuring cup. Place in a pot of simmering water and stir until melted. Pour over the soaked oats and mix to incorporate everything well. Your oats will be somewhat lumpy(see above). Its okay not to completely separate all the grains as the lumps will produce “clusters” later. Spread on two large baking sheets that have been lined with parchment or are well-oiled. Do not pack the granola down, just spread it out evenly in the pans.

Bake at 200 degrees for 2 hours and check. Bake for an additional 2-3 hours, checking every 30 minutes until granola is dry and crisp. 4 hours usually produces a soft granola, 5-6 will give you that traditional crunch but watch it so you don’t burn it around the edges. You can also do this in your food dryer, just make sure you make the layers thin enough so that you don’t have to cook for so long that your oats become unrecognizable dough.  When it is done, remove the pans and loosen the granola with a spatula. Then, allow to cool completely on the sheets before removing to a large bowl. As the granola cools it will become more crisp.

Once it is cool, add additions to your liking. Mix well to incorporate the additions into your granola. Store in an airtight container and keep in a cool dry place. Makes approximately 5 quarts.

The nuts and dried fruit can be mixed and matched to create the flavor your family loves the most. We have experimented with many combinations using all fruit, all nuts or combinations. Recently I got a really good deal on coconut so this batch(above) has quite a bit. This particular version tastes great served with warm milk. At the bottom of this post are some examples.

1 cup dried shredded coconut
1 cup  raisins
1 1/4 cup dried fruit (chopped dried apples, cranberries, figs, pineapple, etc)
1/2 cup seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, flax, etc)
1 cup chopped nuts(almonds, walnuts, pecans)

Tropical  Additions
1 1/4 cup dried shredded coconut
1 cup  raisins
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup dried chopped pineapple
1/2 cup dried banana chips
1/2 cup chopped macadamia nuts

Nutty Additions
Prior to baking, stir in
1/4 cup flax seeds (mix in with honey and agave syrup prior to baking)
2 T tahini
2 T peanut butter
After cooling, stir in:
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup chopped peanuts
1/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1/4 cup sliced almonds

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Favorite Herb Books

I recently took an herbal class with a wonderful homeschool mom in Tennessee. She owns Sweet Hollow Farm and in addition to a great blog, offers different classes on making herbs and soaps. It was a great class and seeing someone else make the things that I learned in books was not only reassuring but also empowering...I realized I have learned a lot just from working on it over the years. So, I wanted to share some of my favorite herbal reference books with you...
Holistic Herbal 4th Edition: A Safe and Practical Guide to Making and Using Herbal Remedies
Natural Alternatives to Antibiotics by Dr. John McKenna
Herbal Drugstore
The ABC Clinical Guide to Herbs

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Coupon Adventures 3/23

Okay, I admit I haven't been adventuring in the coupon arena lately, or in the blogging arena these days for that matter, but Harris Teeter triples are starting tomorrow and a freebee is a freebee...I don't really look at anything over $1 these days, but hopefully this list will get you going!

Frank’s RedHot Sauce: 1.25 - .50/1q = FREE (1/24 or 3/7 SS)
Gatorade G2: 1.35 - .50/1q = FREE
Mahatma Rice, Various: Many frees both with the .50/1q and the .75/2q (2/7 RP)
Mission Tortillas, various: 1.49 to 1.99 - .75/1q = FREE (3/7/10 SS)
Nescafe Tasters Choice, 7ct: 1.19 - .50/1q = FREE
Pillsbury Sweet Rolls: 1.79 - .95/1q = FREE
Ortega products, various: .99 to 1.55 - .75/2q = FREE to .85 for 2 (1/24 SS)
Mentos Gum: 1.49 - $0.55/1 = Free (2/21 SS)
Quaker True Delights: 2.19 - .75/1q = FREE (2/14 Red Plum)
Trident Layers Gum: 1.19 - .75/1q = FREE
Yakisoba Noodles: 1.00 - .50/1q = FREE
ZonePerfect Bar: 1.25 - .55/1q or .50/1q = FREE
Lifesavers sweet strings & rings $1.50 .50/1 = free (
Coffeemate: 2.00 - $.75/1 = FREE (
Stride Gum $1.35 - $.50/1 Stride MEGA MYSTERY gum, any single pk =FREE (3/14 SS)
Trident Layers – 1.55 - $0.75/1 = Free (2/7 SS)
McCormick Spices prices vary but on sale through 4/6 - $0.75/1 = Free (3/14 RP)
*Catalina Buy 2 get $1.50 OYNO, Buy 3 get $2.50 OYNO
Martha White Muffin Mix - .65 each - $0.55/2 = Free (2/14 RP)
Barilla Whole Grain Penne – 1.55 - $0.55/1 = Free (3/7 SS)
Lysol Cleaner - Various prices - .50/1 or .75/1 =FREE (3/14 SS)
Sara Lee Soft and Smoth with Omega 3 - $1.99 if still on sale - .75/1 = free WITH COUPON or (2/21 SS)
Bumblebee Tuna Chuck Light Pouches $1.39 - $0.55/1 = Free (02/21 SS)
Diet Coke 20 oz – 1.49 $0.50/1 Gas Station Tearpad = FREE

$.50 and Under
Birds Eye Spinach, 10oz: 1.75 - .50/1q = .25 (3/21 SS)
Bounty Basic, 1ct: .84* - .25/1q = .09 (3/7 P&G)
Breakstone Sour Cream, 16oz: 1.99 - .55/1q = .34 (3/21 SS)
Carnation Evaporated Milk: .85 - .50/2q = .20 for 2 (3/21 RP)
Charmin to Go, 55ct: 1.00 - .25/1q = .25 (3/7 P&G)
Comet Cleanser: 1.39 - .35/1q = .34 (1/24 SS) EXPIRES WEDNESDAY
DanActive, 4pk: 2.50 - .75/1q = .25 (2/28 SS)
French’s Mustard: 1.59 - .50/1q = .09 (1/24 SS)
French’s Worcestershire Sauce: 1.79 - .50/1q = .29 (1/24SS or
House Autry Breader: 2.65 - .75/1q = .40 (
Joy, 12.6oz: 1.39 - .30/1q = .49 (3/7 P&G)
Mt Olive: 1.89 - .55/1q = .24 (hangtag)
International Delight 16 oz: 1.99 - $.55/1 =.34 (3/7 SS)
Dial hand soap $1.50 - .35/1 (3/7 RP) = .45 (3/7 P&G)
Texas Toast Croutons: 1.85 - .55/1q = .20 (3/21 SS)
Welch’s Jelly, 22oz: 1.67* - .55/1q = .02 (1/3 SS)
No Yolks – 2.29 - $0.75/1 = .04 each (2/21 SS)

$.51 - $1.00

Birds Eye Steamfresh: 2.15 - .50/1q = .65 (3/21 SS)
Crest Kids Toothbrush: 2.49 - .50/1q = .99 (3/7 P&G)
Crest Toothpaste, 6.4oz: 2.99 - .75/1q = .74 (3/7 P&G)
Dole Pineapple, 8oz: 1.15 - .55/2q = .65 for 2 (.33 ea)(this was a jello booklet)
Fleischmann’s Yeast: 1.79 - .40/1q = .59 (3/21 SS)
McCain Potato Products: 3.00* - .75/1q = .75 (2/28 SS)
Nature’s Own Thin Bagels – 2.99 - $0.75/1 = .74 each( )
McCormick Vanilla Extract $2.99 - .75/1 = .74 (3/14 RP)
*Catalina Buy 2 get $1.50 OYNO, Buy 3 get $2.50 OYNO
JFG Coffee 13 oz. $2.99 - $0.75/1 = 0.74 (3/21 SS)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Using Herbs

I went to a great class today, we made tinctures, salves, syrups and filled capsules. I have done some of this before, but participating in a class setting with other like-minded mommies was a great experience. I drove up to TN with two dear friends to visit the farm of Cheri Shellnut, the tnfarmgirl.
Cheri teaches her skills to interested mommies and is a wealth of information. She has been raising her boys using herbal medicine for many years. Anyone that has boys, knows that raising boys without a doctor is a handful. HAHA! Anyway, her class is very reasonable ($40) and you walk away with a salve, a tincture and a syrup that you made yourself and a wonderful little book FULL of information, how-to's and resources. Cheri is not stingy with her information, so unlike other classes where you learn, but you don't find out where to get what you need or what to combine, she helps you along with recipes that she has used and that work.
She is a warm, beautiful Christian woman and I highly recommend that you look up her blog and attend one of her classes if you can make it out her way. You won't be disappointed!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Let's Talk Sweets...

Now that beets are grown from Monsanto Franken-seed, I make sure that I only purchase cane sugar. Better yet, I purchase one of the many forms of evaporated cane juice. Evaporated Cane Juice is better than cane sugar because it has gone through less processing to get the end product. You can use the cane syrup instead of corn syrup or use Agave Nectar if you need a thicker product.

Evaporated cane juice is desirable because it is just like sugar, so you can use it for sweetening foods and beverages as well as in cooking. Since it is considered to be more wholesome, it is also used as a sweetener in a host of processed, natural foods. It may also be known by a variety of other names including dried cane juice, crystallized cane juice, milled cane sugar and direct consumption sugar. In Europe it is known as "unrefined sugar". While sugar is not good for your body, unrefined sugar has far less to be worried about. Refined sugars are stripped of anything that resembles nutrition while evaporated cane juice has some nutrients that you should be aware of:
Nutrients in 1 oz of sugar



% of DV





0.20 g



27.40 g


insoluble fiber

0.71 g

   sugar – total

25.71 g


0.19 g


0.66 g


riboflavin - B2

0.16 mg


niacin - B3

0.20 mg


pantothenic acid

0.09 mg




32.57 mg



0.09 mg



0.57 mg



2.49 mg



0.09 mg



0.01 mg


162.86 mg


*This nutrient profile, while not complete, is derived from Food Processor for Windows, by ESHA Research in Salem, Oregon, USA.

Evaporated cane juice is available in a variety of forms that vary in texture and flavor, although they share the characteristic of being darker in color than white refined sugar(the darker color, just like in wheat means there might be some nutrition involved!):

Rapadura: Is the pure juice extracted from the sugar cane (using a press), which is then evaporated over low heats, while being stirred with paddles, then sieve ground to produce a grainy sugar. It has not been cooked at high heats, and spun to change it into crystals, and the molasses has not been separated from the sugar. It is produced organically, and does not contain chemicals or anti-caking agents.

Sucanat: Stands for Sugar Cane Natural. It's made by simply crushing freshly cut sugar cane, extracting the juice and heating it in a large vat. They do separate the sugar and molassas during evaporation but it is reunited in the end. It is very similar to sugar in texture but has a light brown color like Demerara. It has less nutrients than Rapadura since it is processed a bit more but it is a product that is easier to find in stores.

Demerara: This sugar is light brown and has irregularly grained, slightly-sticky crystals that feature a noticeable molasses flavor This sugar is made by crushing the freshly-cut sugar cane to squeeze out the juice, rich in, vitamins and minerals. The cane juice is evaporated and spun in a centrifuge, or turbine, to produce the large sparkling golden crystals. It can be used just like regular sugar in your recipes. It is sometimes referred to as Turbinado which has slightly different processing

Turbinado: The crystals tend to be large and have an off-white color. Sugar in the Raw is this type of sugar and you may have seen it at coffee shops, even if you haven’t noticed the name “turbinado” before. It works in place of plain sugar in just about all recipes. This sugar is made by crushing the freshly-cut sugar cane to squeeze out the juice, rich in, vitamins and minerals. The cane juice is heat-evaporated and spun in a centrifuge, or turbine, to remove the molassas and give it a dryer texture. It can be used just like regular sugar in your recipes.

Muscovado: A very fine crystal sugar that has a very distinctive molasses flavor. It is pure, unrefined, non-centrifugal cane sugar. It is dark brown in color and is sticky. Muscovado retains all of the natural ingredients of sugar cane juice making it an unrefined sweetener. Although commonly used in Latin America and Southeast Asia, these products are relatively difficult to find in the US. Many people compare muscovado to brown sugar, and while there are similarities in its flavor and use, they are two totally different products. Muscovado still contains the original components of the raw sugar cane plant while brown sugar is made from refined white sugar with a small amount of molasses added to it. This makes it a great substitute for dark brown sugar in recipes.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Hows and Whys of Soaking Grains

If you have been incorporating whole grains into your diet because it’s nutritionally better, but you have trouble digesting them, soaking may be the answer.

All whole grains contain phytic acid in the outer layer or bran of the grain. It is where phosphorus is bound. There is much debate over the untreated phytic acid and it is argued that this can combine with other minerals like calcium, magnesium and iron in the intestines and block absorption of those very minerals. However, there is also good argument against this as well. Sue Becker has a very good article on this very subject  called Phytic Acid- Friend or Foe. I personally soak grains because it eases digestion and it improves the outcome of my whole grain products. My oats cook really fast in the morning when I soak them and my wheat bread is softer and fluffier after soaking.

There is much talk about hard-to-digest proteins that cause additional problems. According to the book Nourishing Traditions, while these “anti-nutrients” are part of the seed’s system of survival. No farmer wants their stored grains to get wet because they will rot. The notion that we must soak before we can eat due to nutritional requirements has been refuted. In fact it has been shown that the presence of phytic acid stimulates the small intestines to create phytase, which digests those very proteins. Thus the ability to process grains are already in our systems. It is harder on some people and soaking does help them to digest, but it by no means prevents us from getting nutrition if we do not soak.

By preparing our grains with soaking, we prepare the grains for digestion before we even eat them. In the same way that a cow has multiple stomachs to process the grains, pre soaking grains in a acid or lactobilli environment breaks down the digestive barriers and prepares the grains to be utilized by our bodies.

Soaking Wheat
Our ancestors and many third world countries soak their grains. Grains are soaked for days prior to preparation in various ways. The simple tradition quickens the cooking process and aids in digestion. The fermenting process lengthens the storage of the food. Ogi is a fermented cereal porridge from West Africa, typically made from corn, sorghum, or millet. The grains are traditionally soaked in water for up to three days, then filtered and allowed to ferment for up to three days until sour. It is then cooked to make a stiff porridge. (It should be noted here that there is actually a loss in nutrition in the grains during this process) In Asia, rice and beans are fermented to make a batter called vellayappam which makes a crepe type pancake served with breakfast. Ethiopians make their distinctive injera pancake like bread by fermenting a grain called taf for several days. In Spanish cultures posole, a traditional soup, is made from fermented cracked corn (essentially Hominy). In Europe, grains were soaked for days to make porridge and in early America, sourdough pancakes, biscuits and bread required the extended soaking of part of the grain to leaven it.

Soaking grains to make bread at home is simple.
If you were to take the Whole Wheat Bread Recipe I use, it would look like this:
Take the freshly ground wheat, all the water, oil and honey and add 2 T of whey to it. Mix this together and allow it to sit overnight, covered, in the bowl you will make your bread in later. IN the morning, add the remaining ingredients and mix, knead and bake as usual. If you make your bread in a machine, add the first part in the bread maker pan. Add the remaining ingredients in the morning and turn the machine on. Your bread will rise much higher and be much better for you. While whey is ideal, if you do not have access to it, you can use lemon juice. You will get a sourdough taste in your end product. The longer it soaks, the more "sour" the flavor. I do not recommend soaking longer than 24 hours you may be breeding bacteria. Wheat does not need to soak nearly as long as oats.

Here are rolled oats ready to soak for the night

Soaking Oats…
Oats require an extended soaking time of several more hours to get good results. I typically soak them overnight ensuring they have soaked for about 24 hours.
The morning before I intend to have the oatmeal ready, I put my oats in a bowl and add the water, whey and some flax and/or freshly ground wheat and mix it well to ensure all the grain is wet. I then cover and leave for approximately 24 hours. When I wake the next morning, I add additional water and cook it. It will be ready very quickly and it tastes wonderful. I store the extra in the fridge for the following morning.

Here is an easy recipe:
Soaked Oatmeal
3 cups of organic rolled oats
3 cups of water
1/4 cup of whey
2 T flax seed
2 T whole wheat flour
1/2 cup dried fruit(optional)

Mix well, cover and leave to soak for 24 hours.

In the morning add
1/2 tsp sea salt(optional)
1 cup water

Heat till water is cooked off and oatmeal is done. I actually do this in my rice cooker and it's very convenient. I soak and cook in the same pot.
Serve with agave syrup or stevia and a dab of butter or cream.