Maui Girl Cooks

“One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.” Luciano Pavarotti

Cultured Foods {aka Bugs, Who Needs ‘Em?}

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“Fermented foods help people stay healthy,” Sandor Katz author of New York Times best-selling book “The Art of Fermentation.”

Before we get to the heart of the matter of cultured foods, here is a photo of yesterday’s sky.  I was at the pool and the sky was so beautiful I had to take a picture.  The picture doesn’t do it justice, but you get the idea.

October sky

My husband and I do a good job of learning about what constitutes a healthy lifestyle in terms of eating and exercise, and then we implement what we have learned to the best of our abilities. Our latest foray into healthy eating is fermented {cultured} foods. Please understand that in no way do I consider myself an expert on cultured foods; I am far from an expert, and know just enough to be dangerous. We have been eating cultured foods for years, because we enjoy them, but have intentionally added more into our diet because of the health benefits. Here are some of our favorite cultured foods, all of which we buy at Mana Foods, for those of you on Maui:
~ YogurtNancy’s Yogurt {contains 11 different culture strains} has been a staple for more than a decade.
~ Sauerkraut and Fermented Pickles- We have recently started purchasing sauerkraut that is raw and unpasteurized, so that the beneficial microbes are available to us. One of our favorite brands is Sonoma Brinery. Farmhouse Culture makes fantastic sauerkraut as well. I LOVE their Smoked Jalapeno Kraut; I don’t find it at all smoky, but perfectly spicy! My husband prefers the Ginger Beet flavor, which I also like, but not as much as the Smoked Jalapeno. Both of these companies offer excellent products that are reasonably priced.  If you want sauerkraut, these are a must try!
~ Kombucha We drink a little kombucha most days. Our kombucha comes from Maui Kombucha.
~ GoodBelly Probiotic Drink This is a delicious nondairy nectar-like drink. My favorite flavor is Mango.  If you sign up for their Goodbelly Challenge, they will email you some coupons!
~ Sour Cream- We often spoon a bit of cultured sour cream on our quesadillas. Sour cream is always a yummy addition to a spicy dish.
~ Tempeh Tempeh is a fermented soy product from Indonesia. Our current favorite way to eat tempeh is seasoned with freshly ground salt and pepper and sautéed in a bit of coconut oil until golden brown.   Eat with ketchup and you have something that resembles French fries. A heavy drizzle of Sriracha Sauce is a great addition, if you like a little mouth burn, like I do.  We also make a delicious sandwich that we call a “TLT” meaning Tomato, Lettuce and Tempeh.  It is fantastic on toasted ciabatta bread.  Our tempeh is in the freezer until we are ready to eat it, and then it thaws very quickly.
~ Miso- I like kale salad with Outstanding Miso Sesame Dressing. There is also miso soup, which is delicious!

Here are a few of the cultured foods we’ve enjoyed in the last few days:

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Tempeh Sautéed in Organic Coconut Oil

Slice tempeh into approximately 1/2 inch slices.  Spray skillet {we use cast iron} with pan spray, then melt about 1 tbsp. of coconut oil.  When the oil is hot, add the tempeh slices.  Season with freshly ground salt and pepper to taste. Sauté, turning occasionally, until golden brown.  Serve hot with ketchup and Sriracha Sauce, or whatever you like.

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Yogurt with Pineapple, Peach and Cranberry Preserves

Put some yogurt in a bowl, and top with homemade preserves, and your choice of any or all of the following toppings:  unsweetened coconut, maple syrup {the real stuff please, preferably Grade B}, good quality honey, cinnamon, cacao nibs, nuts, hemp seeds, ground flax seeds, Buckwheat Chia Crunch  or anything else you’d like.

Pineapple, Peach and Cranberry Preserves

**This is really more of a guideline than a specific recipe.  You can adjust everything to your taste, including changing the fruits to what you have available.

1 Maui Gold pineapple
1 quart chunked fresh or frozen peaches
2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cinnamon stick
approximately 1 tbsp. good quality honey
Juice of 1/2 a juicy lemon
Grind of salt

Get a Maui Gold pineapple if you can {we buy ours at Costco, maybe Mainland Costco sells them also-I think they do}, otherwise a “regular” fresh pineapple will do.  Cut up the pineapple into chunks {see previous pineapple blog post}.  Put all of the pineapple chunks into a wide-mouthed saucepan {for better evaporation of the liquid}.  Add 1 quart of peach chunks {we used the peaches we froze in August} and 2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries.  You can certainly use a different berry if you are not a cranberry fan, but you can’t really identify them as cranberries as far as taste goes .  Squeeze half a lemon and add the juice, and then throw in a cinnamon stick and a grind of salt.  Spoon in some good quality honey to taste.  We used about 1 tbsp.  Bring to a boil, and then turn down the heat and simmer on low until thickened.  The timing will depend on how juicy your fruit is.  The  preserves will thicken as they cool.

These preserves are meant to be made and eaten within a week or so; they are not preserved, so will not keep.

These preserves also taste great with one of our new favorite breads, from 101 Cookbooks.  I have made several of her bread recipes, and we have loved them all.

easy_little_bread_recipe 1000Photo from 101 Cookbooks

Easy Little Bread
from 101 Cookbooks
1 1/4 cups / 300 ml warm water (105-115F)
2 teaspoons active dry yeast (one packet)
1 tablespoon runny honey
1 cup / 4.5 oz / 125 g unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup / 5 oz / 140 g whole wheat flour
1 cup / 3.5 oz / 100 g rolled oats (not instant oats)
1 1/2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt
2 tablespoons butter, melted, for brushing

In a medium bowl, sprinkle the yeast onto the warm water and stir until the yeast dissolves. Stir in the honey and set aside for a few minutes, until the yeast blooms and swells a bit – 5 – 10 minutes.

In the meantime, mix the flours, oats, and salt in a large bowl. Add the wet mixture to the dry and stir very well.

Brush an 8-cup loaf pan {9″x5″} generously with some of the melted butter. Turn the dough into the tin, cover with a clean, slightly damp cloth, and set in a warm place for 30 minutes, to rise.

Preheat the oven to 350F / 180C, with a rack in the middle. When ready, bake the bread for 35-40 minutes, until golden and pulling away from the sides of the pan. I finish things up by leaving the bread under the broiler for just a heartbeat – to give the top a bit deeper color. Remove from oven, and turn the bread out of the pan quickly. Let it cool on a rack so it doesn’t steam in the pan. Serve warm, slathered with butter.

Makes 1 loaf.

Adapted from Gran’s Kitchen: Recipes from the Notebooks of Dulcie May Booker.

Prep time: 10 min –    Cook time: 35 min

My Variations of Easy Little Bread {follow the same mixing instructions as the original recipe}

Variation #1:  Oat Rye Bread with Sunflower Seeds

1 1/4 cups / 300 ml warm water (105-115F)
2 teaspoons active dry yeast (one packet)
1 tablespoon runny honey
140 grams whole wheat flour
100 grams oats {not instant}
65 grams dark rye flour
60 grams unbleached white flour
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt {I used kosher salt}
2 tablespoons butter, melted, for brushing

Variation #2:  Cinnamon Date Bread with Walnuts

1 1/4 cups / 300 ml warm water (105-115F)
2 teaspoons active dry yeast (one packet)
1 tablespoon runny honey
140 grams whole wheat flour
100 grams oats
125 grams unbleached white flour
3 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt {I used kosher salt}
2 tablespoons butter, melted, for brushing
5 dates, snipped into small pieces

Have you added any delicious cultured foods to your meals?  If so, which ones?

If you are in Maui, you may want to visit the Upcountry Farmer’s Market.  They sell many different kinds of cultured foods there.

Additional Reading:
http://michaelpollan.com/articles-archive/some-of-my-best-friends-are-germs/

Cultures for Health

The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz

Video of Sandor Katz talking about fermented foods

Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation by Michael Pollan

Bon appetit!

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A Favorite Lunch

Did you know. . .
. . . that sardines packed in their own oil or extra virgin olive oil are full of good for you omega-3 fats?  It is thought that just 1/2 gram of these fats can significantly reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.  Avoid sardines packed in vegetable oils, as they are not healthy fats.

Anyone for anchovies?  How about sardines?  I know, I know, these are a couple fish that cause many people to turn up their noses.  Not me though; I love them both.  My intention was to write only about sardines, but I figured as long as we are on the subject of unpopular fishes, I may as well tell you how we like to eat anchovies.  Perhaps our way of eating anchovies will work for you as well, that is, if you want to give them a try.

Once upon a time, I too was among the myriad of folks who did not care for anchovies, as was my husband.  One rainy evening, we were eating pizza at Tony’s Pizza & Italian Restaurant, a favorite Italian restaurant of ours in Bremerton, WA.  That is the night we learned how to eat anchovies.  The secret to liking/loving anchovies on your pizza, according to our waitress, is to order them on the side.  Wow, that really makes a difference!  The salty, fishy flavor permeates the pizza if you bake the anchovies on the pizza, but if you have a little plate of anchovies on the side, it tastes pretty good.  You get an occasional salty punch from the little bits of anchovy.  We have happily eaten anchovies on our pizza ever since!

I have been eating sardines for as long as I can remember.  We had tins of sardines in our pantry when I was growing up, and I admit that even though I ate them, I thought they looked kind of gross.  My recollection is that they were not like the nice sardine filets that we eat now, which are every bit as nice looking as a beautiful piece of fresh salmon {except they aren’t pretty pink}.

Wild Planet Sardines

One of my favorite quick lunches is a “fish cracker” and a salad.  And no, by “fish cracker,” I am not referring to those fishy-shaped crackers that you are probably familiar with. . .the ones with no redeeming nutritional value.  My idea of a “fish cracker” is a Ryvita cracker with a plump, meaty and delicious sardine on top.  Of course, there are additional toppings to make it extra tasty.  This is a favorite lunch of mine because it is quick, tasty and super healthy.

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I understand if you don’t like anchovies, and don’t want to give them a second {first} chance.  But if you like fish, and haven’t gotten into sardines, I highly recommend them.  The health benefits of sardines {& anchovies} are many:

  • They are low on the marine food chain, so toxins like mercury do not accumulate in them.
  • Anchovies and sardines are chock full of healthy omega-3 fats, which impact mood, circulation, glucose, insulin metabolism, blood pressure and heart health.
  • In particular, sardines are high in protein, B vitamins, selenium, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper and manganese.  Talk about a powerhouse of nutrition in one little can!  They are my idea of a great “fast food!”

Sources:

The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth, Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., C.N.S.

The Perricone Promise, Nicholas Perricone, M.D.

A simple salad of arugula {aka “rocket”} and thinly sliced onions, dressed with fresh lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, freshly ground salt and pepper, goes well with fish crackers.  It’s one of our favorite salads.

Arugula Salad with Onion and Lemon Vinaigrette

Arugula Salad with Onion and Lemon Juice & Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Life is too short to eat mediocre bread, and there is a lot of it out there.

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Bread baked and cut final

One of life’s great pleasures is the aroma of yeasty bread dough in the oven, transforming itself into a beautiful, delectable, crusty loaf of bread.  If you have never baked homemade yeast bread, you are in for a treat.  It really doesn’t take a lot of time; you can have delicious bread from start to finish in 3 hours or less, depending on the bread.  Much of that time is rising time, so you can be doing something else, like making soup or salad to accompany your freshly baked bread.

It isn’t just the smell that is enticing though.  Bread dough feels good in your hands.  Not so much at the beginning, when it is a sticky, shaggy mass of dough…

Rough shaggy dough final

but when your mindful kneading transforms it into a silky, supple ball of dough, it is a pleasure to behold.  I find kneading bread to be therapeutic and calming.

Kneaded bread final

I have been making yeast breads by hand for many years, although I am certainly not an expert on the subject.  I will say that I am not a fan of bread machines.  Perhaps I had a bad experience with one.  My mother-in-law had a bread machine when they first came out, and she made some tasty breads.  She enjoyed hers so much that she gave one to us.  I used it a few times.  It was nice to wake up to freshly baked bread courtesy of the bread machine, but it had a hole in the middle of the cylindrical loaf.  I could live with that, but the outside of the bread was slightly burned when the inside was undercooked.  So I decided to try letting the bread machine do the kneading, and I would bake off the loaf the “old fashioned” way.  Doing that deprived me of the pleasure of getting my hands into the dough and experiencing that lovely change in texture from rough to silky smooth.  Bread machine?? Not for me, thank you very much!  I gave ours away to an appreciative uncle.

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Whole Wheat Rye Potato Bread

1 medium sized potato
reserved potato cooking water
2 packages dry yeast
2 tbsp butter, cut into small chunks
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 cup warm milk {low fat is fine}
3-4 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups dark rye flour
3 tbsp coarse cornmeal + 3 tbsp ground flax seeds + whole wheat flour to make 1 cup
3tbsp caraway seeds {or fennel, anise or a combination of them}

Peel & dice the potato.  Cover with water & boil until potato is tender, about 15-20 minutes.  Save 1 cup of the potato water {add hot tap water if you do not have enough}.  Mash the potato & set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together 3 cups whole wheat flour, rye flour & cornmeal/flax seeds/whole wheat flour mixture.  Keep the additional cup of whole wheat flour in case you need to use it.

Pour the {not too hot} potato water in another large bowl, then sprinkle in the yeast & stir with a wooden spoon.  Add the butter, honey, caraway seeds and salt, and then stir in the mashed potato {approximately 1 cup}, warm milk & 3 cups of flour mixture.  When you add the yeast to the warm potato water, it will begin to activate.  It will begin to get bubbly as you add the remaining ingredients & will look like this. . .

Bubbly yeast final

Beat until smooth, and then add enough additional flour to make a stiff dough.  When it gets hard to incorporate any more flour with the spoon, turn the dough out on a lightly floured counter.  Knead the dough until smooth and elastic, about 8-10 minutes.  Wash the bowl in which you mixed the dough, butter it and then place the dough back in the bowl, turning to coat all sides with butter.  Cover with a clean kitchen towel & let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk.  This should take 45-60 minutes.  I like to turn on the oven for 2 minutes, turn it off and then put my bowl of dough in the toasty warm oven to rise.  Don’t forget to turn off the oven or you will bake your bread prematurely!  I have heard that the pilot light in a gas oven has enough warmth to be a good place to let bread rise, but I have never had a gas oven, so can’t vouch for that one.

How do you know when your dough has doubled in bulk?  It is difficult to “eyeball it” so there is a little test you can use.  Poke 2 fingers into your dough after it has risen for 45 minutes; if the indentations remain, your dough is ready for the next step.  If not, cover it back up for 15 more minutes & repeat the test.

Indentation test to see if dough is finished rising final

When doubled, punch the dough down, cover and let rise again in a warm spot for 20 minutes.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter & knead for 1-2 minutes.

Now you are ready to shape your loaves!  Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces {I use my kitchen scale to do this} & shape.  You can either sculpt the dough into a loaf with your hands, or you can do it jelly roll style, as shown in the slideshow {right before the recipe}.

Note about yeast:  When you are adding warm liquids to yeast, make sure the temperature of the liquid is between 100 & 115 degrees Fahrenheit.  If your liquid is too hot, you risk killing the yeast & your bread will not rise.  Be sure to check the expiration date on your yeast to verify that it is not outdated.  It may still work. . .or it may not.

Enjoy the kinesthetic, aromatic & flavorful joys of baking your own yeast bread. . .and don’t forget the butter!