Bread Machine Basics: One Good Loaf

Happy Loaf, © Copyright 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

Since my first bread machine post I’ve enjoyed the chance to successfully prepare several loaves of bread. I’ve learned a few troubleshooting techniques, and I’ve settled in to a comfortable groove which begins each Monday with bread baking among my other week-starting activities.

My very first loaf tasted nice enough, but it rose high and then fell in the middle. At first, I wasn’t sure what to think, but then I remembered that the clear, simple user manual includes a useful table at the back: the Troubleshooting Guide. Listed there are several recommendations for adjustments in ingredients, portions, and techniques in order to correct ill-fated bread loaves. I have since reduced the water in my recipes by a few tablespoons, and my loaves come out perfect every time.

I started with the simple white bread recipe offered in the manual, and quickly found that I prefer a modified version of the Italian Herb Bread recipe for my daily bread. This recipe uses olive oil rather than butter, no dry milk, and less sugar. Take out the herbs and add in garlic powder, onion powder, ginger, and nutmeg – all in tiny quantities – and I find myself with a simple loaf that easily accompanies most meals.

Now that I have an easy confidence with loaves, it’s time to try the next step: dough. The user manual for my bread machine includes simple techniques for dough making so that I can try my first homemade croissant: my goal for next week.

Ahead at AppleJade: cold frames have returned to Jade’s house, vegetables are sprouting on the fridge, and affordable home improvements are being planned. I look forward to sharing more!

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AppleJade Returns in June

Cherry Tomatoes, Summer 2007, © Copyright 2008 Jade Leone Blackwater

I am returning to Seattle this May, and AppleJade will be on vacation until June 1, 2008 while I pack and travel.

Once I am settled in Seattle you will be able to join me here at AppleJade as I create a new vegetable garden from seed to table.  Until then, have a wonderful, productive season, and feel free to stop by and consider goal-setting, attitude adjustments, and easy ways to simplify your life.

See you in June!

Book Review: Not Just for Vegetarians

Not Just for Vegetarians, © Copyright 2008 Geraldine Hartman

Not Just for Vegetarians: Delicious Homestyle Cooking, the Meatless Way

by Geraldine Hartman

The book for today’s review was provided by: Geraldine Hartman, Veggies, Yarns and Tails

I write AppleJade because I honor the connection between kitchen, garden, and health.  Geraldine Hartman’s cookbook Not Just for Vegetarians extends the connection between vegetables and cooking to our relationships and traditions of friends and family, and our attitudes toward our food.  Healthy living incorporates more than the mere substance of our food, and Geraldine speaks to the soul of it.

Not Just for Vegetarians reads and functions with the friendliness of a neighbor or grandmother.  Indeed, Geraldine dedicates her book to members of her family, and there is a clear influence among her recipes of friends, traditions, and memories which help to sculpt each dish.  Geraldine tells us that in her journey to a vegetarian lifestyle she has found “that the vegetarian diet can be much more varied and interesting than the conventional ‘meat and potato’ menu.”

I began experimenting with Geraldine’s book by exploring the first segment: bread.  We enter her book as we enter our grandmother’s kitchen, with a warm loaf of bread cooling on the counter and filling the house with honeyed aromas.  I am still in the learning process with breads, but I had no trouble with her “Quickie Oatmeal Bread,” and I am slowly improving with “Grandmother Sabina’s Best Bread You’ve Ever Tasted!!!”

I wander her book like I wander my pantry, seeking out unexpected treasures tucked in the corners.  I do not look in the index for refried beans under “B” for beans; instead I find them under “M” for Main Dishes – “Homemade Refried Beans”.  The result is constant experimentation.  I need only to flip through the pages until I find something that sounds interesting, and I’m off to try something new.

Thus far, my attempts at all recipes have passed “The Yucky Test” in my home.  This says a lot for Geraldine’s down-to-earth, home-comfort style: anything which is too bland, too strangely textured, or too-rabbit-food will not pass muster on our table.  Geraldine’s recipes lend themselves to spicing and modification according to taste, and she offers numerous variation suggestions of her own within the pages.

Not Just for Vegetarians is more than a simple vegetarian cookbook.  Geraldine has crafted her book to be a friendly, helpful voice to inspire creativity and experimentation with healthy food.  Books like Not Just for Vegetarians help move us away from bland, packaged foods and back into the substance and soul of our kitchens.  Regardless of whether you live a vegetarian lifestyle, Geraldine’s Not Just for Vegetarians offers recipes that will delight everyone at your table.

Vegetarian Carnival #13 is now online at VeggieChic

Green Tomatoes, Summer 2007, © Copyright 2008 Jade Leone Blackwater

To those just joining us from the Vegetarian Carnival, Welcome to AppleJade!

This week Jul of VeggieChic hosts the Vegetarian Carnival #13.  The Vegetarian Carnival is held approximately twice a month featuring blog posts around various themes associated with a vegetarian lifestyle.

Jul was kind enough to include a link to our cold frame discussions here at AppleJade.  While I am not a strict vegetarian, I enjoy vegetarian and vegan cuisine, and adore growing my own fresh foods year-round.  At AppleJade you can expect ongoing discussions about organic gardening and cooking as a part of our greater discussion about healthy lifestyles and goals.

If you would like to submit to the Vegetarian Carnival or volunteer to host a future carnival, be sure to visit the Vegetarian Carnival information page for more details.

Fruit Blogging

Summer Apple, © Copyright 2008 Jade Leone Blackwater

The Festival of the Trees is a monthly blog carnival featuring posts about trees and forests.  The upcoming festival #21 is a special-edition festival featuring fruit trees and orchards.

Our hostess Peg at Orchards Forever has invited us to contribute our blog posts:

“I’d like to try and adhere to a theme of fruit trees and orchards… but virtually anything that is even loosely connected to that theme is welcome! Gardening and growing, horticulture, heirloom fruits, food and recipes, environmental and conservation issues, folklore and mythology, travel, what have you!”

If you like to blog about cooking, gardening, health, nutrition, the earth, or your own backyard, then this month you have a great excuse to share your posts about fruits and fruit trees!  Publish your blog posts and then send your links to Peg at amberapple [at] gmail [dot] com, or visit the Festival of the Trees coordinating blog for more details.

Carrot Cake a la Cold Frame

Carrots from the Cold Frame, © Copyright 2008 Jade Leone Blackwater

For the New Year I baked a carrot cake using the last of the carrots from the cold frame.  Moving the carrots gave some much needed light-and-breathing room to the baby greens, and we enjoyed an excellent cake.

Carrots from the Cold Frame, © Copyright 2008 Jade Leone Blackwater

The pictures here do not do justice to the treasure we found when I pulled up the old carrots – one mammoth carrot, which likely weighed a full pound, and was over an inch in diameter!  It comprised half of the 3 cups of shredded carrot needed for the recipe.

I used the “Best-Ever Carrot Cake” recipe in my copy of Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book 12th ed. (p.159), substituting in 1/4 cup of whole wheat flour.  I also added my own spices, which is something I enjoy.  For dishes like carrot cake or pumpkin pie, I find it hard to resist adding a pinch of ginger, a dash of nutmeg, and perhaps a touch of lemon.

New Year Carrot Cake, © Copyright 2008 Jade Leone Blackwater

I was careful to use the finest side on my four-sided grater when shredding these carrots – if the carrot shreds are too heavy, they can sink through the cake. The cream cheese frosting was a snap, but unfortunately I made too much: remember that if you’re doing a single-layer rectangle cake instead of a two-layer round cake, you only need half the icing in the BHG recipe (p.171).

New Year Carrot Cake, © Copyright 2008 Jade Leone Blackwater

Note: If you’re looking for something different, Geraldine Hartman offers “Carrot Cake with a Twist” and “Cream Cheese Icing” from her book Not Just for Vegetarians (p.165), and she also likes “Sam’s Famous Carrot Cake” available at Allrecipes.com.

Coming up in February at AppleJade: we will talk more about cold frames and composting, continue our discussions on health and attitude, and we will also begin exploring the world of Geraldine Hartman’s Not Just for Vegetarians.  I’ll be posting once or twice per week – stay tuned.

Healthy Holidays

If you worry about “holiday pounds” and looming “New Year’s Resolutions” to lose weight, you are not alone.  For many, the celebratory feasts of the winter season aren’t just about breaking bread, they’re about breaking diets with blissful indulgence.

Rather than set yourself up to disappoint and regret, why not try a different approach this year?  Winter feasts are celebrations – celebrations of harvests, of friendships, of community.  Essentially, the winter feasts are an affirmation of life when most life is in deep hibernation.

Feasts can also be an affirmation of health.  Here are a few ways that you can approach your holiday season with a healthy, happy attitude, and wrap a little nutrition in too!

Homemade Health

Whether you’re a master chef or a kitchen novice, you can always make simple, easy meals in your own home.  Connecting with your food can be an important part of developing your personal health and wellness.  Food nourishes our bodies – and its preparation nourishes our souls.

This season, make a little time to try a new recipe, or make something from scratch that you might normally purchase pre-made.  Got kids?  Forget about picture-perfect presentation, and bring those kids into the kitchen.  Cooking with your kids gives you a perfect chance to teach them about nutrition, help them build confidence, and give them a sense of ownership and participation in the family.

(Need some recipes?  Write me or a leave a comment, and I’ll post some delicious ideas!  OR: check out my “Homemade Pumpkin Pie from Scratch” post.)

Healthy Attitudes

We all know that holidays can be stressful, whether you like them or not.  At this season of giving, remember to set aside a little time, space, and/or money to give a little something to yourself!  If you’re feeling stressed or tired, stop what you’re doing for fifteen minutes, and give this a try:

Put on some warm clothes (if you’re living where it’s cold in winter).  Go outside, and find a quiet tree in your yard, or a local park or garden.  Park yourself under the tree, and watch the sky.  As those worries and frustrations bubble around in your head, think them through, and then watch them waft away with the clouds and the breeze.

I can’t guarantee that your problems will go away, that you’ll suddenly feel on top of the world, or that you’ll forget all the reasons you’re so hard on yourself.  What I can promise is that if you take a minute to do this, you’ll open a tiny little window in your brain… and if you listen carefully, you may hear the answer to any number of tough questions whispering through.

(Need some more ideas to help broaden your perspective?  Write me or leave a comment, and I’ll discuss other approaches to healthy attitudes.  Also, check out my post on Goal Setting.)

Adventurous Health

If that little taste of personal freedom gets you salivating, try taking it one step further.  Get away from your TV, your bills, and your normal routine.  Visit a local park, zoo, museum, or garden.  Try a new winter project!

You don’t need a fancy vacation to take you out of your element.  Many cities, counties, states, and provinces have websites these days which provide all kinds of ideas for things to do and see right in your area.  If you try to remember that “Healthy Attitude,” and keep that little window open, you may be surprised by what you find when you just take a look around your own neighborhood.

(Need some more ideas?  Write me or leave a comment, and I’ll post some fun suggestions.  Ever made a wreath before?  I’m going to show you how here at AppleJade).

Healthy Holidays is a huge topic, and these are just a handful of ideas.  If you want to hear more, let me hear from you!  What are your biggest challenges at the holidays?  What solutions have you found to help you navigate a happy, healthy path at such a busy time of year?

Until next time, good health to you!