Whole Wheat Oatmeal Bread

A month.

(Actually over a month.)

That’s how long it’s been since I baked a loaf bread.

Withdrawals had commenced.  Cravings had been squashed.  Life had seemed to move on…

But then I cracked.

Oh, well… at least I made a somewhat ‘healthy’ bread.

(That’s what I’m telling myself as I enjoy slices slathered with butter for dessert.)

The Recipe:

Whole Wheat Oatmeal Bread, adapted from White On Rice Couple

1 c water

1 c milk

1 T active dry yeast

1 T honey

2 T unsulphured molasses

3 c whole wheat flour

1/2 c wheat germ

1 c bread flour

1 c rolled oats

4 T butter, melted and cooled slightly

1 T sea salt

On low heat, warm milk and water to about 115 F.  Combine water, milk, yeast, honey, and molasses in the bowl of a standing mixer.  Stir to dissolve yeast.  Add remaining ingredients and use the bread hook to mix for about 6 minutes on medium speed (or knead by hand for about 10 minutes).  Dough should form a ball around the hook – if it’s sticking to the sides, add an additional tablespoon or two+ of flour until it forms a ball.  Place in greased bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour or until doubled in size.

Lightly grease 9x5x3 bread loaf pan.

Punch down dough and knead into loaf shape on a lightly floured surface.  Place in loaf pan, cover, and let rise for an additional hour or until it just begins to puff up over the sides of the loaf pan.  (While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 400 F.)

Bake for about 40 minutes, rotating halfway through.  The loaf is done baking when the crust is dark brown and sounds hollow when tapped.  Remove the loaf from the pan and allow to full cool on a baking rack.

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

I know it’s been awhile since I’ve made bread when I start to question my own gut-knowledge of bread baking and instead rely on parts of a recipe that just don’t sound exactly right…

First off, in the original recipe, they have the dough rise in the mixer bowl, from just where it’d been mixed.  So I did it… and remembered why you move it to a greased bowl: the rising dough gets sticky again and attaches itself to all the sides of the bowl, making it hard to dump out and knead.  (I did change this in the recipe above).

Secondly, it is suggested to add some oats onto the top for decoration.  But they don’t suggest this until after the second rise and right before baking.  So, as I sprinkled my oats on top and gently pressed them into the dough, I collapsed the middle of my bread.  And then they all fell off anyways after baking.  Grrr.  If you’d like to make a pretty topping, I suggest adding the oats right before the second rise, so they can embed themselves in the bread while rising.

I just hate that I knew better in both instances, but I doubted myself since it’d been a while.

Oh, well.

Even with a collapsed center, it still looks pretty good.

The good news is, neither mistake caused any issues with the flavor of the bread at all.

It’s definitely a wheat bread, but its got a sweet undertone from the honey and molasses.  It’s also a little dense, so not as light as most of the white breads I’ve made in the past – but it’s not dense in a bad way.  Overall, it’s so much better than any store-bought bread – plus you get the bonus of the aroma of freshly baking  bread in the house… which is worth it’s weight in gold to me.

My happy place…

And it’s my new favorite treat – with butter, no less.

(Can I just take a minute to share that this is the first time we’ve used butter in this house in a month!  Before that, I was buying a new box of butter at least once a week.  Yikes!  Probably a good thing we’ve cut back.)

Now to plan out my next bread adventure…

(Because I’m not giving bread baking up.  I just can’t do it.)

Have a wonderful end of the week!

Easy Protein Breakfast Crepes

I am working on fooling myself.

I’m trying to convince myself that I can eat all my regular favorites… with just a little twist to make them healthy.

So far it’s kinda worked.

(I’m not going to lie when I say I still have a mad craving for chocolate.  And homemade white bread.)

Anyhow, when I saw this east recipe at Sweet Samsations for a 2-ingredient crepe, made with peanut butter, I had to give it a try.

(I love me some crepes.)

The Recipe:

Protein Breakfast Crepes, adapted very slightly from Sweet Samsations

2 eggs, well beaten

3 T peanut butter

3 T water

a pinch of salt

Preheat small skillet at medium low.

Mix all ingredients in a bowl until smooth (this took quite a while, but be patient, it will happen.)

Lightly grease pan.  Pour batter in, twisting your pan in a circular motion to cover evenly.

Cover and let cook for about 2 minutes.  Loosen edges with spatula and flip.  Cover and cook for an additional minute.

Remove from pan and serve.

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

I have to admit, I was a little worried about this one… especially since I knew I wasn’t going to cover it up with a ton of delicious goodies.  But really, they’re pretty darn good.  I ate mine with fresh sliced banana (pb & banana are one of my (current) favorite flavor combinations).

I also had a small taste of the boys’ versions: one with 100% pure maple syrup – reminding me of a maple-bar flavor, and one with homemade strawberry jam – giving it a pb&j flavor.  All three were quite delicious.

(Also just think of how great they’d be slathered in Nutella!)

Simple, easy, and able to fool me into thinking I’m having something bad.

A perfect way to start the day.

Banana Oatmeal Muffins

So, as I’ve mentioned the last couple of weeks, we’re trying to eat better.

And for me, that means lots of cooking experiments.

Sometimes they turn out good… sometimes, not so much.

Now, I’m posting this recipe to see if any of you out there might have a suggestion for making them better…

(Though probably actually following the recipe would’ve helped.)

The Recipe:

Banana Oatmeal Muffins, adapted from Keeping Up with the Joneses

2 & 1/2 c oats (old-fashioned kind, not quick cooking)

3/4 c plain low-fat greek yogurt

1/4 c applesauce

2 eggs

1/2 c sugar

1/4 c vanilla protein powder

1 1/2 t baking powder

1/2 t baking soda

1/4 t salt

2 bananas

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.   Spray muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray.

Place all of the ingredients, including banana,s in a blender or food processor, and blend until oats are smooth.

Divide batter among tin, and bake for 15-18 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

These weren’t terrible, but they were certainly lacking something.  I had reduced the sugar from 3/4 c to 1/2 c – replacing the last 1/4 c with the protein powder.  Additionally, I didn’t have a full cup of yogurt, so I added the 1/4 c applesauce.  Perhaps it was those substitutions that made them bland.

They also did not turn out looking too pretty.  They actually looked decent coming straight out of the oven, but they soon collapsed, leaving behind a heavy-looking, flat muffin.

If I’d taken a side view, you’d see how truly flat they are.

There’s a definite banana taste, but it’s just kind of dull.  And the texture is really spongy, which is kind of weird in my opinion.

Anyways, they had mixed reviews in the family.  One of my boys liked them, the other did not.  I thought they weren’t too bad, but Hubs was not impressed.

So, now for your help…

What would you do differently or add to make these better?  I’d love any ideas.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Turkey Burgers and a Camping Re-cap

We’re home!

Finally.

(I know you all missed me… I know I missed you.)

It was quite an adventure, let me tell you.  Here are the 10 most important things I learned while camping:

1.  Just because you’re camping at the end of July does not guarantee nice weather (especially in Western Washington).

2. If you end up in the middle of a downpour that lasts for hours (and the biggest excitement for your boys is watching the water drip off your tarp), it’s okay to have a Plan B.

3.  It’s even better if your Plan B involves a gorgeous house, with a state-of-the-art home movie theater, several drinks, a hot shower, and a warm bed – not located in the same room as your children.

4.  Going back to the campsite the next morning after the rain finally stops shows determination (and proves to your husband that you are not a quitter).

5.  Sticks and rocks can keep boys happily occupied for hours.

6.  We have some of the most beautiful views off the coast of Washington.

7.  Camping near a naval air station is great when watching their jet planes do manuevers over the beach during the day… but not so great when they practice those same manuevers every 20 minutes from 10pm until 1am.

8.  Sleeping all-together in one tent with no dividers is not a good plan.

9.  Baby wipes are a Godsend for any situation.

10.  Even though there’s about an 80/20 ratio of work to play, it’s all worth it to see faces like these:

Now for a recipe. 🙂

The Recipe:

Turkey Burgers, adapted from Cooks Illustrated, July/August 2012

20 oz ground turkey meat

6 oz white mushrooms, trimmed and sliced

4 pieces of bacon, sliced into small pieces

1 T soy sauce

1/4 t salt

pepper to taste

Place mushrooms, soy sauce, and bacon in food processor.  Pulse into a paste. Move into large bowl, adding ground turkey, salt and pepper.  Combine using hands until well mixed.  Form into patties and grill.

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

In all honesty, I did not make these, Hubs did – and I forgot to take pictures. But these are the most amazing turkey burgers I’ve ever had (and they even have mushrooms in them!).  I just had to share them with you all.

Hubs had made these a couple of weeks ago and froze the patties – but you couldn’t even tell.  They were juicy, meaty, and a perfect way to treat the burger craving – they taste almost exactly like beef patties.

~~~~

I’m off now to continue the post-camping recovery – which includes a good book and a comfy bed.  🙂

(Oh, and I’m trying to catch up with all the posts I’ve missed, so bear with me if it takes a couple days to visit you.)

Healthier Cookie Dough Balls

Hi.

My name is Courtney.

It’s been two weeks since I baked and/or ate a real dessert.

(No, these do not count – they are for breakfast.)

I think I might be slowly going insane.  Seriously, the last dessert I baked and ate was our pie on Fourth of July.  And I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed something chocolate-y.

I needed an intervention, stat… so I was very glad when I saw these healthy cookie dough balls.

I was excited to find a way to enjoy something sweet with chocolate, while still sticking (mostly) to our healthy eating (I refuse to call it a diet).

The Recipe:

Healthier Cookie Dough Balls, adapted from Bake Your Day

¼ c whole wheat flour

1-¼ c oats

1 t cinnamon

¼ t salt

1/2 scoop protein powder

½ c creamy peanut butter

¼ c applesauce, all natural/no sugar added

⅓ c all-natural maple syrup

1 T honey

2 t vanilla

¼ c dark chocolate chips

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk the flour, oats, cinnamon, salt, and protein powder; set aside.

Cream the peanut butter, applesauce, maple syrup, honey and vanilla in a large bowl until well-combined.  Add the flour and oats mixture and stir until combined.  Add dark chocolate chips and stir well.

Scoop heaping tablespoons of dough and roll into balls.  (I just used a small ice-cream scooper.) Recipe makes about 12-16 dough balls.

Refrigerate before serving.

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

Yep, this pretty much did the trick.

The dough tastes similar to most (peanut butter chocolate chip) cookie doughs I may have allegedly sampled in the past.  And it so filled my craving for something bad – without being that bad.

They are a little sticky, so be prepared to wash your hands afterwards.  But it’s a small price to pay for a little sanity happiness.

~~~~

We’ll be out-of-town camping this weekend and won’t return until Tuesday… so don’t expect to hear from me until Wednesday.  And wish us luck – a two-year old and five-year old… in a tent… for several days.  Oh, boy.

Good Stuff Breakfast Cookies

I hate change.

Especially when it involves food.

But sometimes, change in food is good, like when you’re trying to eat healthier.  (That’s what I keep telling myself.)

Anyways, Hubs and I are trying to get into better eating habits.  And for some reason, me making at least one, or perhaps two, sweet treats a week has not been very helpful.  So, I’m trying to change.  (And it’s so hard!)

But, I do have to say, today’s recipe was kind of fun to make… mostly because I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.  All I had was this recipe from Blueberry Girl as inspiration – and I just fiddled from there.

I’m actually kind of proud of myself right now.

The Recipe:

Breakfast Cookies, inspired by Blueberry Girl

1/4 c ground almonds

1 T ground flax seed

1/4 c vanilla protein powder

2 c oats

1 1/2 t cinnamon (for me, to obscure the flax seed taste)

1/2 c raisins

1/4 c coconut flakes

1-2 bananas*, mashed

1/4 c olive oil

1 t vanilla

1/4 t salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line cookie sheet with parchment paper.

In bowl, mix dry ingredients (down to the coconut).  In another bowl, mix banana/s, oil, vanilla, and salt.  Add to dry mixture and stir well.  Using a round cookie cutter/mold, press a scoopful of dough until filled.  Remove cutter and continue with the rest of the dough.

Bake for 13-15 minutes, or until the top just begins to get golden.

*I only used one banana, but I think it could’ve used a little more.  You can try another half if you’d like.

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

I seriously just threw things in a bowl, crossed my fingers, and figured if it turned into a complete miss, at least I’d have something to write about.  Instead, these turned out terrific!  They’re chewy, a little sweet, and full of good stuff for you.  I actually loved the coconut-cinnamon-raisin combination which surprised me.  (And a bonus for me, no flax seed taste.)

The kids even adored them, too.

And it’s just crazy to think that there’s no sugar, no butter, no flour, and no eggs.

Maybe I can rock this cooking change!

Fruity Yogurt Power Pops

Yeah, I’m cheating again.

This is not a real ‘cooking’ post.

But it’s just about all I’ve got in me now.

(Not in a bad way.  Just in a ‘it’s still gorgeously warm and sunny out, and I refuse to heat up my house with the oven, plus I’m too busy making sure the boys don’t drown or kill each other in the backyard’ way.)

When I saw this post at skinnytaste.com, I just knew I had to make my own version.

The Recipe:

Fruity Yogurt Power Pops, inspired by skinnytaste.com

(Makes about a dozen + pops.)

For the Blue:

1 c blueberries

1/2 c greek yogurt (plain or vanilla is fine)

1/3 scoop vanilla protein powder

1/4 c 100% juice (I used acai berry for color)

For the White:

1 banana

1 small can of crushed pineapple

1/2 c greek yogurt

1/3 scoop vanilla protein powder

1/4 c 100% juice (apple this time)

For the Pink:

1 c strawberries

1/2 c non-fat strawberry yogurt

1/3 scoop vanilla protein powder

1/4 c 100% juice (apple again)

Blend blue mix.  Fill popsicle molds 1/3 of the way up.  Freeze for half an hour.  Insert stick(s) and let freeze for another hour.

Blend white mix.  Add to molds, filling another 1/3 of the way up.  Freeze for an hour.

Blend pink mix.  Add to molds, filling to the top.  Freeze for another hour or until ready to serve.

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

Let’s just say my boys are obsessed with our small smoothie blender, so even making this recipe was super fun for all.  Even though it’s several steps, the overall time spent working is minimal, and you get several pops out of it.

(We also happened to have some extra, which I just poured into ice-cube trays.  These will be perfect to pop out and add to any regular smoothie any morning.)

Once complete, we were all excited to give them a try… and we weren’t disappointed.  They have a fresh, tangy flavor that was very refreshing while hanging out in the backyard in the sun.  And I knew they were pretty darn healthy, which always makes me feel good.

As you can see, I had no actual popsicle sticks, so lollipop ones had to do.

Refreshing, tasty, and healthy – a perfect combination, if you ask me.

Wishing you all a great end to your weeks.

Strawberry Freezer Jam, Year Two

I had to buy store jam last week.

This is the first time I’ve had to do this since last summer, and it made me sad.

And motivated.

We spent the sunny weekend at our good friends’ house and one of the bonus benefits was that they desperately needed someone to clear out their strawberry patch… we forced ourselves to help.

And, you all know what fresh-picked strawberries are good for… jam!

I’d only gotten one box of pectin, which made 6 cups… I have enough strawberries for about 4 more batches.

So check out last year’s simple recipe.  All it takes is some strawberries, a lot of sugar (which I choose to be in denial about), and quite a few dirty dishes – but it is so worth it.

~~~~

Since we were on the road, I didn’t do a darn bit of cooking… but we did have some fun.

So I’ll leave you with some happy summer thoughts, photography-wise.

Red, White, and Blue – Berry Pie

I’m going for a quick post today, as Summer has finally hit the Northwest.

It never fails – July 5th is almost always our unofficial start to summer around here.

(I have to admit, yesterday was pretty darn perfect, too.  I do believe they said on the news that it was only the ninth Fourth of July since 1948 that it was at least 70 degrees with no rain.)

Anyways, we’re scheduled for 7 days of sun, with our highs in the 70’s and low 80’s – which to me, is pretty darn near perfect.

(Though I am thinking about you all in triple digits… hoping you get some much-needed relief very soon.)

So, I’m going outside.

And I’m staying out there.

Just be prepared, I may not be baking for a bit.

Because these seven days… could possibly be our whole summer.

In the meantime, enjoy our delicious holiday dessert.

The Recipe:

Berry Pie, adapted from Knead to Cook

1 recipe of Pate Brisee, (though you do not need to pre-bake it)

6 c of blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries (your choice of ratios – I used 1 c blueberries, 2 c raspberries, 3 c strawberries)

zest from one lemon

juice from one lemon

1/4 c of all-purpose flour

1/4 c of sugar

1/2 t of ground cinnamon

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

Gently mix all of the ingredients in a bowl together.  Avoid breaking the berries as best as you can.  Fill your pie crust.

Bake the pie for 20 minutes.  Then turn the oven temperature down to 350 degrees and bake for 40 additional minutes.

Remove and let cool.  Then cut and serve.

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

As you probably noticed, I used the Pate Brisee again.  As I told Hubs, I needed to prove I was the boss of that darn recipe (though I may have used some other, um, less appropriate words.)  Anyhow, this time it went very, very, smoothly.  And the berry part was a snap, too.  Seriously, this was so simple and quick to put together.

And when it came out, it looked and smelled like a dream.

Now, I want to let you know that it turned out a little tart – which I loved, but if you don’t, you can add a little more sugar if you need.  We served this treat up with a scoop of good ol’ vanilla ice cream.

And it was the perfect patriotic dessert.

Hope you all are having a wonderful week!

(Oh, and a quick side-rant about Facebook… I just want to let you know that I am still posting things on FB, but they are only allowing small amounts of my followers to see them.  For example, yesterday’s post was only shown to 28 people.  That’s 28 out of more than 800 of you out there.  If I want you all to see the posts, I get to pay them to do it.  And that’s paying them separately for each post.  So… I guess I’m going to encourage all of you out there who follow me on FB, to check back more frequently on the blog itself and/or sign up for email updates.  And I’m still brainstorming what else I can do.  Thank you all for reading – you all are the best!!)

(Boy, my short post got long quick.)

Apple, Gorgonzola, and Bacon Quiche

This was one of those recipes that I so could’ve given up on – at least once or twice – or eight times.

It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t pretty, but I did it.

And the results were pretty darn good, if I say so myself.

So bear with me (and this recipe) if you decide to read through my post or try making this.  (Though many of you, I’m sure, would totally rock this from the start.)

The Recipe:

Apple, Gorgonzola, and Bacon Quiche, a hybrid of Hub’s and my recipe

1 recipe of Pate Brisee:

(2 c all-purpose flour

1/2 t salt

1 t sugar

1 stick sweet butter

4 T vegetable shortening

1 t lemon juice

about 1/4 c ice water

Place flour, salt, and sugar in bowl of food processor.  Pulse to combine.  Break/cut butter and shortening into 1 T cubes and add to flour.  Pulse until the consistency of coarse sand.  Add liquid a little at a time, pulsing in between, until dough begins to come together.  Pour onto clean surface and form into a disk.  Chill 1 hour or overnight.  Remove 1 hour prior to rolling.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line crust with parchment or foil (spraying with cooking spray first).  Prick bottom with fork.  Fill pie with weights or raw beans.  Place weighted pastry in oven.  Cook for about 15 minutes.  Remove weights/lining and continue to cook until crust looks dry.)

5 pieces of bacon, cooked and chopped into 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces

2 red delicious apples, unpeeled and grated (quick tip: squeeze out as much of the extra apple juice from the pieces as possible so your quiche isn’t extra liquid-y)

5 oz gorgonzola cheese, crumbled into small chunks

1 1/4 c half n half

3 large eggs

Cover bottom of crust with a thin layer of bacon.  Top with layer of cheese and then layer of apples.  Add additional layers if needed.

Mix half n half with eggs and beat with fork until yolks are broken and incorporated.  Gently pour over crust, filling to the top.

Place on cookie sheet in oven and bake at 375 degrees for at least 45 minutes, until puffed up and not jiggly in the middle.  (A knife inserted into middle should not reveal any liquid.)

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

So, it all started out with the Pate Brisee.

I’d made this several times before, so I assumed it was going to be a breeze.  Until I got distracted when adding my ice water and accidentally poured in too much.  This made it a little sticky, but I just thought that maybe as it rested in the fridge, it would dry up a bit.

It didn’t.

Let’s just say when rolling it out on my lovely large counter-space using my brand new pastry roller, it stuck.

To everything.

And would not come off.

I thought about giving up (just for the day) and trying again tomorrow, but I decided instead to re-roll it into a ball, let it rest, and try again with a significant amount of flour-dusting on everything.  And hallelujah, it worked!

I placed it into my dish… and promptly realized I didn’t have any parchment paper or foil.

So, I improvised with a lightly greased (on the bottom) ceramic dish and some beans.  And that seemed to work pretty well.  Until I tried to remove it to cook the bottom of the crust.

And it stuck.

After much wrangling, using oven mitts and a little strength, I got it free with minimal damage.  I placed the crust back in the oven to finish baking, thinking all would be well.

And then the bottom of the crust puffed up like a little balloon.

(I was seriously getting frustrated at this point.)

I popped it with a fork, added a few more extra pokes of the tines, and placed it back in the oven until it finally looked dry.  Then I took it out to rest and started prepping and adding the filling.

This is what it looked like heading into the oven.

I cooked it about 40 minutes on convection and thought it looked done.

It wasn’t.  This picture was taken right before I cut out a slice that disintegrated all over my plate.  Sorry no pictures because at that point I was just too mad.

Anyways, I could’ve given up again… but I didn’t.  I placed my crust back in, scooped over the filling, covered the quiche with a pan lid (remember no foil), and put it back in to cook longer.

Finally, about 20 (yes 20) minutes later, it was finally done.

(At this point, Hubs had had to leave for his meeting, and I’d fed the boys since they were starving – and complaining – and all around driving me nutso.)

(Oh, and you get no pictures of the full final product.  Let’s just say it was not pretty.)

I cut myself a slice to enjoy alone… and enjoy it I did!

I’m going to admit here that I am not a fan of bleu cheeses.  At all.  Yet a mild and tangy gorgonzola, paired with a sweet red delicious apple and chewy salty bacon, over a crisp and buttery crust… Mmm-mmm-mmmmmm, it was good!

(Even all alone after a hugely frustrating experience.)

And when Hubs finally got home and had a slice, he couldn’t agree more.

So, if you’ve made it all the way through this story with me, you’ve probably got the patience to make this recipe.  And you’ve already know some of the pitfalls to avoid.

Crazily enough, I’m looking forward to making it again.

(Though probably not for a long while.)