Saturday, August 21, 2010

Our Own Ground Flour

A quick reflection of this past year: it was busy. We became parents. We were both working full time (thankfully), and my husband was working on finishing his degree online...full time. I loved our conversations about making healthier choices, growing our own food and being more environmentally conscious, but I honestly wasn't prepared for a particular idea brought up by my husband.

So here it is: one random day, he's all excited about a new idea. He wants to order a bulk shipment of grain and start grinding our own flour. He already priced out the grain and a manual, hand crank grinder and was ready to go. The electric grinder was too much money to fork out for an idea that we were just starting and didn't even know if we loved it or not yet. I didn't think he was serious....and I laughed. He was understandably offended at my reaction. My perspective on this idea at the time was that we were clearly already feeling time constraints between work schedules, school demands on him, child care and not enough sleep. I thought that there were many smaller steps we could take on our quest for some healthier, earth conscious decisions that wouldn't be quite as time consuming. I mean, we weren't even making our own bread yet...never mind grinding our own flour.

I realized I was being inappropriately unsupportive and we went for it. A giant barrel of grain came to the house (oh god, the UPS guy thinks we're nuts)....followed by the grinder. My husband started grinding flour immediately. I was still skeptical. I was proven wrong and yes, I have here and now put it in writing. So, let me tell you the reasons this freshly ground flour is awesome:

  1. It smells fresh! This might sound crazy but I stuck my nose in the bag of whole wheat flour I bought at the grocery store and then stuck my nose in the canister of freshly ground flour and there is a significant difference!
  2. It’s amazing for baking. When using store bought whole wheat flour, I have found that I have to combine the recipe with white and whole wheat flour to avoid dry, hard baked goods. Not so with this flour! Whole wheat all the way baby!
  3. Minimal processing. This stuff goes from grain to flour to baking- all in our kitchen. 

Eventually, I think we will look into an electric grinder now that we know the idea is a hit....and I was wrong. The manual grinder can be time consuming. In the mean time, maybe I’ll get some super toned arms and shoulders from this grinding :) .
And for those of you pizza lovers out there (I could not live without pizza!), here is my bread machine whole wheat pizza dough recipe that I have tweaked to work with our flour:

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups freshly ground whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons of bread machine yeast

Place all ingredients into the bread machine in the order listed, set on the dough cycle and there you have it!  When it comes time to top and bake your pizza, set the oven to 400 degrees and wait just 18-20 minutes for pizza bliss!
Friday, August 13, 2010

On Organization....Or Lack of it....

Local Triathlete Caught at Drive-Thru

True Story.  Well, mostly true.  In a quest for a healthy life, activity has to be part of the equation.  In my case, I have been lucky to find a sport that I love: triathlon.

So, onto my story.  It was about 9:30 pm on a Tuesday night and I was just driving home from work...we had a special event in the evening that extended my work day by about 4 hours.  I'm driving home and I'm hungry! I haven't had dinner yet, I'm tired and I realize that I left absolutely nothing out to defrost for when I got home...not that I was much in the mood to cook anyway.  What's a tired, hungry girl to do?  Well, I saw the golden arches.  My husband happened to be on his way home too.  I called him on the cell....and made him go through the drive thru to get me dinner.  So, no I didn't get caught at the drive thru but that's only because I made my husband do the dirty work.  Here I am talking about minimizing processed food I lick the sweet and sour sauce of that last french fry. 

I want to be clear here- I firmly believe that life is too short to not indulge from time to time; however, I think there is a big difference between making a planned, proactive decision to enjoy a food that you truly think tastes great versus a tired, stressed reaction to just fill the hole in your stomach.  On that Tuesday night, I was totally reacting and it got me thinking.

Eating healthy requires organization.  When I'm on my game, it's great.  Food is planned.  Meals are ready to go.  Healthy snacks are within reach.  Unfortunately, every now and then there are those weeks where life takes over and the organization get missed grocery forgot to leave that chicken out to defrost.  These days, people are leaving their houses early in the mornings and returning late in the evenings to a pile of chores to help get the family ready for the next day.  I firmly believe that proper fuel and nutrition are essential to keep the pace! So, when I am on my game, these are some of the things that have worked great for me. 

1) Frozen veggies- during my trips to Trader Joes, I stock up on frozen, organic veggies.  I throw them in the freezer and don't have to worry about them going off or being wasted.  They are like "on-call" nutrition, ready to go whenever you need them.  They have been particularly helpful for baby food over the last year. 

2) The whole chicken- Purchase an organic, free-range chicken for roasting.  I find that the chicken gives me healthy meals for 2-3 nights.  The first evening, we have roast chicken, potatoes and veggies.  For the next 1-2 evenings, there are a lot of different options such as healthy chicken soft tacos, stir fry curry chicken with brown rice and veggies and don't forget about sandwiches!

3) Bake a healthy dessert once a week-  if you are like me, you have a vicious sweet tooth.  There is nothing worse than a sweet tooth and not being prepared to handle it when it acts up!  Life is too short to not eat dessert.  When you have some time at the weekend, whip up a batch of healthy, protein packed brownies or chocolate chip cookies.  Keep them in the fridge and you will have portion controlled, sweet bliss at your fingertips for when that sweet tooth acts up...instead of running to the convenience store for a pint of ice cream.

4) Have a "No-Cook" night once a week- it seems that we put a lot of pressure on ourselves and we need to give ourselves a break sometimes.  So, once per week don't cook!  This could be an evening where you order in.  It could be an evening where you enjoy food such as salads, sandwiches or even sushi from the local market. 

My goal is to stay on my game as much as possible.  It's important for me and my family.  There will definitely be more on this issue to come....and I would LOVE to hear any ideas you have.  Got a recipe? Time saving tip? Let's hear it so we can make the healthiest food possible for our families!