Tag Archives: recipe

The Brown Sugar Deception! Don’t Buy It. Make It.

IMG_0088Buying brown sugar at the store is not worth it. Don’t do it. Do not be deceived that it is more natural or better than white sugar. If it is labelled brown sugar – then it is just regular refined white sugar with a bit of molasses mixed into it.  Light brown sugar has less molasses and dark brown sugar has more. And yet brown sugar is more expensive in the store than it needs to be and then it will dry up on you or you’ll have to buy some special gourmet nonsense thing to try to get it to stay soft – but it will inevitably turn into a giant brown rock.  Don’t buy it!  Make it.  It’s simple.

You can produce small batches just enough for your recipe ( or for baking save yourself the trouble of blending and just toss both the molasses into the bow and stir as the recipe requires).

Turbindo sugar or Demerara sugar – which look brown – are speciality sugars and are produced differently – but if your recipe calls for brown sugar then here is what you do.

What you will need:

a bowl

a spoon

molasses (fancy or cooking – or other type)

refined sugar

If your recipe calls for a a cup of packed brown sugar – then get out you molasses and add a tablespoon of molasses to one cup of white sugar. Stir and stir – smush any slumps with the back of the spoon.  If you want light brown sugar add less than a tablespoon. the best bet I find is to start with less and then add to it as needed.

I keep both cooking molasses and fancy molasses around the house so I did the process with both – cooking molasses produces a much darker result with the same amount of molasses  is less sweet and has a touch of bitterness to it whereas the fancy molasses is what I prefer  – it has a complex flavour and richness, and it is sweeter with almost no bitterness.

This is the process and result with fancy molasses and white sugar:

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This is the process and result with cooking molasses and white sugar (to make it darker I just added a bit more molasses) :

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For more info about sugars: http://www.sugar.ca/english/consumers/sugarfromfield.cfm

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Weekly Cooking Day and Blog Recipe Preview!

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Update – it has been a busy week so I’ll post a couple of the recipes today and then throughout the next few weeks – also coming soon: vegan caramels!

So here, in my life and home, cooking delicious healthy meals from scratch every single day just isn’t feasible. It isn’t feasible in most of yours either, I presume. What I can do and I love to do is to spend part of one day a week cooking yummy things to eat all week long.  I store everything in the fridge in giant containers and pull it out and warm it up. So easy. And I get to sit , maybe watch a movie (today Outsiders: The Complete Novel), get a few things organized, do some tai chi, read internet gossip and prep a few blog posts while I do the cooking.

On the menu for this week’s lunches and dinners:

  • grains:  brown basmati rice with garam masala spice, whole-wheat rotini pasta, seet potato dumplings
  • fish and poultry : roast duck, fajita-spiced chicken breasts, steamed tilapia loins
  • one bowl meal:  3 bean chili with rice
  • sauces and soups:  basic tomato marinara and butternut squash soup,  sweet potato soup and guacamole.
  • spice mixes – Italian, garam masala, fajita, and cajun

(Some are pictured above. Every recipe with the exception of the proteins section will be vegan friendly!!)

This kind of mass-cooking may sound daunting but it really isn’t. These are simple recipes that can be adjusted to use you what you have on hand. Personally, I don’t go out and do a giant grocery shop each time. I just use what I have on hand and get a little creative. But I have been cooking for my family and household for over 15 years now so I look in my fridge and see recipes; I am told this might not be the norm for everyone else.  If it isn’t the norm for you and you want to cook at home and have it taste as good as restaurant food but be much cheaper (and without any mystery ingredients) then keep an eye on the blog, do a little grocery list – I will post you will need sections right up front-  and get what you need. ( If requested I can do a post on stocking a pantry/fridge/freezer to make this sort of cooking as simple as possible.)  I’m sure some of you already have basic cooking skills and then it’s just a matter of sizing up the portions you make.  If you are a beginner cook then hopefully, this will be a good place to learn. I will do my best to be simple in the instructions and provide as many pictures as possible.

I will be posting the recipes in bold above on the blog this weekend and this coming week; Including recipes for the spice mixes I use to make my life in the kitchen even easier!

Oh and one last added benefit to this weekly cooking: fewer dishes to wash during the week! Squee!

Guten Appetit!!

 

Bread Baking 1: Yeast Breeding Day!

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I’m not particularly in the kitchen project starting/baking mood today but we have run out of bread.  And as I revived my starter a few days ago and it’s  all ready to go, and  I can make an extra loaf for my mother and etc etc. I have spent the morning reasoning / “guilting”  myself into bread making this weekend.

I don’t love baking bread  as a regular obligation, but it is a baking project filled with a lot of personal satisfaction: “Woo! I made bread! Bread that I can eat!”   It also makes those I share it with very happy. And if you are so inclined you can go on social media and brag. Or the next time you go to a restaurant and your friends exclaim, “Mmmm fresh bread!”  You can reply smugly, “Yes it’s fine but the one I bake at home is sooo much better!” or “I’ve started making my own bread at home -from scratch- so I have this all the time.” and enjoy the resulting eye roll.

The bread I work with is very simple.  It’s a traditional German Rye Bread  – a whole grain sourdough with a thick chewy crust. It has only 3 main ingredients:  Flour, salt, water. I love added caraway seeds so I add them. No sugar.  No dairy. No eggs. Vegan friendly ( as long as they don’t count eating yeast as a problem ;).  Most importantly: NO KNEADING.  You stir and form it and then leave it alone over night or all day and then stick in the oven. It’s a low maintenance loaf. But looks brilliant  when finished.

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I am making 4 loaves this time 1 to eat and 2 to freeze and one to give away.

What I need for 4 loaves:

Non-food supplies:

  • a leftover glass jar with lid ( about 250ml in volume)
  • 1 large glass bowl (no metal) or 4 bowls for convenience
  • 4 dollar store plastic colanders ( or professional boules or untreated plain wicker baskets or seriously just the colander you use to drain pasta)
  • 4 clean cotton tea towels ( no fabric softener etc)  (Ikea ones work beautifully)
  • a wooden spoon
  • clean counter space or large cutting board
  • an oven
  • 2 or more baking sheets/cookie sheets or two dutch ovens
  • 2 minutes every night for a week ( for the first loaf less later)    then a 24 hour period  that has a few hours free every 10 hours to do a few minutes of work

Food supplies:

  • 2.5 kg of Dark Rye flour (I use Rogers)
  • Water  (I use Vancouver tap water)
  • 20-40 grams of sea salt
  • 2-3  tablespoons of Caraway seed (optional)

Optional:  a few cups of all-purpose flour (Canadian)  or specifically labeled bread flour if not Canadian

Rye Bread Step One:

For this bread, a sourdough,  the process of baking begins with a starter- the one I referenced earlier. For new and seasoned bakers alike this may be a first adventure into the breeding of yeast! Do not be afraid! Yeast is a friendly funghi!  (I will spare you the writing of the pun). Generations tracing back to the ancient Egyptians did this. And yeast you breed yourself has a distinct flavour that you just don’t get with commercial yeast. Plus it is fun to watch grow. oooooo bubbles!

A simple rye starter begins with an empty glass jar – I use a leftover jam jar – and a tablespoon of rye flour and a tablespoon of water. So go get those things.  Dark rye flour is available at Safeway, or your local health/natural food/ bulk grain store. Get it as fresh as possible ( check expiry dates) and only buy what you need for a month or so – you don’t want old bad rye – it can lead to mania and bouts of witch burning (google ergot and Salem)    And then watch this beautiful video:

http://www.rootsimple.com/2012/11/new-root-simple-video-how-to-make-a-sourdough-starter/

This video is genius – I followed it exactly and got a wonderful result.   I know many internet sites will tell you to be careful of the water and be fancy about it but really it’s not necessary.  I live in Vancouver- the water is fine.  I find I get the best results if the water is room temperature or lukewarm – because yeast loves warm.  Which will give you an idea of the best place to store your starter – it likes warm and shady places – I keep mine on top of the fridge ( my kitchen is windowless).

This is what mine looks like right after I feed it (take out half and add new four and water):

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a few hours later bubbles!  and smells sour/alcohol/fruity. this is a healthy starter

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You can use the starter after 7 days. It should grow to almost double in size within 8 hours of feeding.  If you are impatient then ask  someone you know if they have a starter around. Seriously it surprised me when I posted on FB that I just made a starter how many people congratulated me and said they had one too.

Now to the days before baking:  I increase the amount of starter so that I have one tablespoon per loaf and one left over in the jar.  So for me that is 5 tablespoons.  I added 2 tablespoons to my starter a few days ago, then three etc.   Also make a note of how much flour I have as well as other ingredients. This bread takes a surprising amount of flour- 625 g per loaf. I have started making my bread 100% rye.   But if you run out of rye or you want a lighter flavour you can use a portion of of all-purpose/bread flour or so for each loaf.

So now you have 5 tablespoons of starter and everything else you will need so  here is the  night before / day before process-

Take one tablespoon of starter and put it into a glass bowl  – I use the large bowl will stir the full loaf in –  add  ½ cup of water and a little less than 1 cup of rye flour ( or if you have a scale 125g of each water and rye flour) Stir, and cover with a lid or plastic wrap and leave overnight  (8-10 hours is fine). This gives time for the yeast to eat and multiply.   This is where the 24 hour time period comes into play – started my 4 bowls of starter this morning ( you can use one big bowl and mix the whole amount if you prefer)- I will stir and form in 10 hours and then I will bake in the morning.  You can also make the larger starter the night before, form loaves in the morning and bake in the evening.

These are mine:

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Tomorrow Part 2: Forming and Baking