Bleary {mid}Morning Boost

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Some mornings around here are, well, just lame. Nobody in this little family of mine are morning people. My two littles generally wake up around 8 or 8:30, sometimes later. And my six month old will sleep until then also. But when you put 4-6 nighttime feedings in the mix, a three year old’s bad dreams and a five year old’s leg aches, plus the occasional (wink, wink) snoring of my slumbering husband, THIS girl doesn’t generally get a very good nights sleep. When that 8am rolls around, it feels like I’ve just crawled into bed. So forgive me if I am not bright-eyed and bushy tailed at the thought of the sun rising and shining her bright rays through my window!

Henry usually clambers into my bed and yells, “MOM! WAKE UP! ITS MORNING TIME!!!”…as if this is a good thing. Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes it is a good thing. Sometimes.

Which reminds me, I need to get blackout curtains. For my entire house.

This morning was one of these bleary mornings and I found myself in the kitchen fumbling around for something to boost my energies. I needed a bleary morning boost.
Time to break out a secret weapon! Hilary Flemming wrote a very similar post back in 2011. It is on this that I draw my motivation to sally forth through this day: armed with a Chocolate Hazelnut Smoothie!

This is so so so good you guys. I hope you will whip it up on the mornings when you feel like you’ve just been sleep deprived tortured, like so many of us do. Fist pump for Parenthood!

And now, the recipe, (adapted from the one linked above):

Add the following to a sexy blender like a Vitamix or BlendTec or Ninja:

4 cups filtered H2O
5 pitted medjool dates (this type of date is much sweeter than others. If you want your smoothie sweeter, add 6, but start with 5.)1/3 cup raw hazelnuts

Blend those three ingredients on high until smooth and then add the following:

1 banana
2 tbsp chia seeds
2 tbsp flax seed meal
1/4 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
1 tbsp raw, unfiltered coconut oil
2 tbsp  raw Cacao nibs (the energy enhancing benefits of cocao, contrary to common belief, do not come from caffeine. In fact there is very little, to no caffeine in chocolate. Read this to learn the whole story. Paying particular attention to data point number 5.)
1 tbsp raw cacao powder
1-2 tsp maca powder (optional. if you are not familiar with this powerful supplement, do your research. I found this page a good starting point. *it should be noted that you should not use this supplement if you take estrogen enhancing drugs due to certain types of cancer.*

Serve chilled. This recipe makes 1.5 quarts of boosting power! Whip it up and sip on it throughout your day or week.

As I type this I am already feeling my body wake up.  And I can face the day…now that its half over.

What is your go-to energy booster? I’d love to know what you do when an energy crisis hits!

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Saving your life, one coconut at a time

It sorta makes my stomach turn to think about the summer I regularly drank Diet Coke.  I drank it because I preferred the taste to a fully-leaded Coke. I drank it for a boost of energy (caffeine) and I drank it socially. ie- “Lets go on a Coke run!”

Now if I even have one drink I get headaches and my stomach is not happy. I know aspartame is only part of the problem in dark sodas like cola and other sugar-free products, but after reading this article, I really don’t see why the FDA doesn’t make it illegal to add to products! I guess it is only a matter of time! Hopefully.

With side-effects like: increased risk for cancer, mental disorders and degeneration of brain cells, headaches, weight gain (WHAT?!) and increased blood sugar, why do we (collectively) still consume this chemical?!

If you eat or drink DIET or sugar-free anything, I hope you’ll take the time to read the article and others like it. It may save your life, or something like that.

In other news, my preferred drink these days is coconut water.  The health benefits of this drink, though not ALL substantiated, are A.MAZING. I’m in love. Have you tried it?!  I’ve tested about 5 different brands and when I get the chance, I stock up on these. Or these. Worth every penny.

The last three days

I’m about done writing about this damn juice fast. I’m so over it.

Only…I’m not.

I’ll be honest, it made me a bit wacky. Like “midlife crisis” wacky. Okay, okay- it wasn’t just the juice fast. It was me. But I’ll tell you, nothing could have prepared me for the emotional junk that just keeps seeping out of me. I haven’t really come back from it all yet…I feel a little on the melancholy side. And I’ve just been letting myself hang out here for a bit. Because maybe I just need to be here and feel. There is something to learn here, and I’ll take what I can get.

I see just how much power over myself I really do have. I have power to decide to eat, or cleanse, or sleep, or exercise, brush my hair, or put on make-up, or smile, or interact with others…or not. Its all up to me. And what I decide has a lot to do with how I feel. Or rather, the things I do have an affect on my emotional state. Duh, right? Ya.

Going on a juice fast has reminded me of this very thing. Let me explain. When we go about our everyday lives, we do so without much thought. We wake up, eat, shower, get dressed…yada yada- we go through our routines as they unfold. We do what works because it always has. And there is little to disrupt that routine (I use “routine” very broadly), unless we decide to change it. Making a calculated change for 10 days (theoretically), even though it was my choice, threw me for a loop. I know, I know- you get it. It was difficult. But really, I don’t think you will understand unless you do this yourselves and realize just how much your being is used to being a certain way. And then, poof! You change your way of being. I think I may now have a greater appreciation for the pain it must be to come off of a drug, or quitting smoking, or overcoming any addiction. Holy moly! I learned compassion for many people I know who have gone through just that. I feel embarrassed for judging.

It is not just food guys. Its a way of being. And choosing that. Yes, the health benefits of doing any type of cleanse are amazing! Detox, weight loss, clearer skin, better hair, clean bowels (I almost wrote clean bowls…and that would also be true, because you don’t use any!). I now realize that a “cleanse” means the Whole Enchilada- your Body, Mind and Spirit. All things physical, emotional and Mental.

So while I’m now enjoying yummy things like this and my amazing veggie tostadas, my Spirit is still on the repair. I’m still sorting and tossing. Still deciding to get back to a better way of being.

It may take me another ten days.

Juice Fast Days 4 and 5

Today is the nearing the end of day five of this Juice Fast. And now that my stomach is sufficiently filled, I can sit down and write more about how things are going.
I know in my last post, I was all gung-ho about finishing the full 10 day fast. Well, my plans have changed. But don’t worry, I haven’t fallen off the wagon 100%. I’ll explain a few of the reasons as to why I am changing directions beginning tonight.

Already we know that even though I chose to do this, I started out with a bad attitude (and have not shaken that attitude until today) which made days 1-4 quite difficult for me at the end of each day.  It was dinnertime that kicked my trash. I was irritable, tired, usually cold and just wanted a bowl of comfortable spaghetti like the rest of the family was having! Being with my own family was causing grief and I was spreading my bad energy all over the place! Sigh. I know better than to do that. But alas, I am weak.

The cheating hasn’t stopped…I’ve been eating little bites of fruit or veggies or the kids snacks all over the place. Not huge amounts, but enough to make me laugh at myself. Its not like what I was sneaking is unhealthy, its just that it wasn’t in the prescribed juice fast plan. What is it about rules that just beg me to disobey?!  To avoid the “rule breaking” problem, I decided to just make my own rules: I’m changing my plans.

When I got home from working this evening, I went straight into the kitchen and had a kiwi. And it was delightful. And instant pick me up. (Didn’t want to wait for the fresh juice!) The new plan is now to continue for another 5 days doing a simple meal plan found on Reboot your life. See it here. I will continue to juice and slowly add in raw, chewable veggies and fruits for another 5 days. Thats 5 days Juice Fast (at about 97% accuracy) + 5 days juicing and eating mostly raw = 10 days of “Rebooting”/cleansing/detoxing. See, I’m not quitting. I’m modifying my original plan so that I don’t go completely crazy and drive my husband to leave me! AND, when I have a dinner date with my lovey sometime next week, I’ll actually be able to order something off the menu without having to rush for the bathroom! I’m planning ahead!…something I should have done before I began this little adventure!

And there you have it.

I feel like I should share with you the positive side to all of this. I haven’t been shedding the brightest light on doing this sort of thing. In fact, if you were considering it before, you probably have been totally turned off to the idea. I hope that is not the case. My fault has been in the lack of mental preparation and clarity as to WHY I am doing it. Plus, it may have been helpful to not being doing it all alone. I foolishly thought that dusting off my juicer and stuffing 200$ worth of fresh produce into my fridge was enough preparation…well, now I know. 🙂
The good thing about this week has been me exercising my will-power. And while it may seem weak at times, I have to be happy that I have made it this far. Just taking it one day at a time has forced me to slow down and enjoy the simple things. In addition to will-power, I have had the opportunity to spend more time during my day for other things I am interested in. I’ve been making valentines, reading more, playing more with my kids. I have felt a clarity in my mind and increased energy due to the high intake of nutrients. I have great ideas rattling around in my head and a little bit of irrational motivation to put them into action. (More on that later…) My colon has cleaned itself out. I’ve had energy to exercise more intensely and I sleep more soundly.

I do feel wonderful physically. I have lost about 5 pounds (probably in water weight and fecal matter. eeew!) which would be great for someone who is wanting to lose weight…I know that weight will come back on slowly- and I welcome it. So for now, while Aunt Flo prepares for arrival, I’ll ease my way back into a well-rounded raw diet and hopefully that will up my spirits, allow for complete cleansing and my heart can be happy again. I can find joy in these next 5 days. Already my body feels yummy and loved with my Raw Carrot Ginger soup warming me up.

PS If you make the carrot ginger soup, I’d recommend backing off on the cayenne pepper…unless you like it spicy! Otherwise, it is VERY tasty!

Juice Fasting days 1-3

I’ve begun it. I finally followed my husband’s advice and quit reading and talking about it and I just did it. Today marks the end of Day 3 of a 10 day Juice Fast.

Why have I decided to do this? Why am I crazy? I don’t know exactly, except that I am in the thick of it now and I can’t stop now! Especially because now I am accountable to you! I am not the type to just give up on something just because it is hard. (At least I think I’m like that.) If you have not read my previous post about juicing, take a gander here and then come on back here and continue reading about the how the last three days have gone for me.

First of all, for those of you who are interested in doing a juice fast, check out this website (affiliated with the documentary “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead”) Whether you are looking for weight-loss or a general “Reboot”, there are many programs, complete with menu plans and support groups to help you on your way.

I stated above that I don’t really know why I am doing this. Let me rephrase that:

Now that I am actually doing this- I don’t know why I ever signed up! Before I began, the thought of 10 days with nothing but fresh juice sounded wonderfully healthy and empowering and cleansing and and and…and it is…but wow. This is not easy. I began day one with the intent of a general reboot of my body. I plan on helping my system clear out and detox with some hydrotherapy and massage (of course).

Let me just say that the difficulty of doing a 100% juice fast is NOT that of hunger. I have not been hungry once since I started. I am in fact, very full about 80% of the time.  What is hard about this that the thing that I love to do has been taken from me. Let me explain. I figure I am in my kitchen the better part of my day. (I am sitting at my kitchen table right now!) It is comfortable in here. There is a lot of light. I like the sound of the ticking clock, the running water and my children at my feet, on the counter helping with food prep or making a mess at the table. Our lives seem to happen in this space.

I find there is a simple bliss in preparing meals and snacks for myself and family. I like experimenting with random recipes. I love baking cookies with Talie and sharing the beaters to lick. There is a certain satisfaction, not just with FOOD, but with my handiwork in it. It takes time and effort and in the end, sitting down to a home cooked meal is satisfying in so many ways. Eating it is MY reward for my hard work. The time spent with my children as well as with the food is very enjoyable. I guess you could also say that my food rewards me. Hot chocolate chip cookie right out of the oven, anyone?

I’m salivating.

But juicing? The whole process takes all of 10 to 15 minutes. Juicing forces you to treat food as fuel. And then you leave the kitchen.  I feel like I have betrayed food, and so there is no reward for me. I suck it down through a straw, fill my stomach and move on with  my day. Which, incidentally, feels very open and void. Ah. The other dilemma. What do I do with all of this time? I never realized just how much time I spent each day dealing with food.

There is still my children and husband to feed. I’ve resorted to left-overs and rice so far. The prep is very difficult to do without the tasting. I made pancakes this morning. It went alright, but it was a modified recipe because I didn’t have any eggs. So I had to taste the vegan batter to make sure they were going to be good. Don’t worry- they were good. 

I digress. Let me take you through Sunday through today.

Sunday was Fast Sunday in my church, so I did that. I fasted with no food or water for nearly 20 hours. It actually felt really good to give my body that rest. Also, I felt pretty good spiritually. And that’s a plus! I am proud to say that I attended a church potluck where Tacos were being served and I abstained courageously from partaking. I sipped on water with lemon with determination.

The rest of the evening went pretty smoothly. I juiced and filled my body with yummy juice and felt grateful for such plentiful veggies and fruits. Day one finished. Hallelujah!

Day two I had a relapse. Everything was going great until my husband came home and I had to make dinner. That was when I reheated the twice baked potatoes I had made on Saturday night. I knew how good they tasted already. I had to keep myself out of the kitchen while they heated in the oven. Too bad the aroma floated through our entire house. I sat with my family sipping my Gazpacho juice (very good, indeed).

I was so conflicted! I was NOT hungry! I just wanted a bite of that cheesy potato! My family left me alone in the kitchen and in a [not so fleeting] moment of weakness, I took a bite from Talie’s plate. It was amazing. And so I finished off both her’s and Henry’s left-over potato while I was clearing the dishes. It equaled about a half of a potato all together and it was good. I just didn’t stop! I don’t regret eating it either! It’s not like it was a candy bar..

In the evening I was grumpy and I questioned over and over again why I was doing this. I felt silly for having chosen this and in the same breath I was holding myself to it. I felt emotional to the point that when Talie accidentally bonked my mouth with her head, leaving me with a fat lip, I cried. Yes, it hurt, but me crying turned into an outlet for my frustration.

There are  withdraw symptoms when you come off of food. I related to the addicted individual coming off their high, knowing they wouldn’t get their next fix.  The battle is in my head. I cannot believe just how connected my life is with food. This causes me much self-reflection as to why and what else I could be doing with my time other than having it revolve around food. Or, another thought, if I even want that relationship to change. If it is GOOD, WHOLESOME food that I am in love with, then what is the harm?

Remember in the previous post, how Chris said he may be on board with me? I knew it was all a farce! Last night I had to leave the house while Chris made himself some yummy chips and cheese with salsa (aka nachos). Those are my favorite. He also enjoyed a Mountain Dew. Today he ate at Cafe Rio. Tonight the kids had rice with fish sticks the GOOD kind, from Costco. I love fish sticks. I enjoy rice. I cheated again and had just one bite of rice. Which turned out to be a bad idea. Totally bloated me out. Yuck. I think I may have learned my lesson. When you go for so long without solids, you have to slowly and gently work your way back onto solids.

Wow- this is turning into a very negative take on doing a juice fast. But I’m just being honest. I’m acknowledging that it is difficult, but am sticking with it. I will not let the little moments of weakness get me down. I mean, I haven’t let them get to me. And I plan on continuing this. If only for the sake of saying that I’ve gone ten days without a solid food meal. Bragging rights? I DO however feel very energized. I am surprised that I have been able to work out two days this week and have not felt shaky or jittery. My blood glucose levels have remained balanced and overall, I really do feel good physically. (Also, I should probably stop reading my favorite food blogs during this…I just found this one!)

Today was day 3. I did better. Good juice. Good workout. I put me and my kids to work making valentines and vacuumed my house. For dinner, I heated my juice and drank it from my bowl. That was a nice change and it was yummy, like veggie broth. I will do that again for sure. I don’t like drinking all of this cold or room temp liquid. I feel cold.

So that’s it for now. I hope that my attitude changes quickly because I don’t want this to be a blah experience. Tomorrow is day 4. That’s great, right? This has actually been going by quickly. Stay tuned! I’ll write again soon as this crazy part of my life’s choices continues to unfold! 

Until then, Cheers!

Green Juice Cleanse

This morning’s breakfast concoction: juice from a cucumber, yellow pepper, celery, parsley, kale, green apple, red apple, carrot and water crest.

Does it taste good? Yes. Actually, it does! (It was the second apple that tipped the scales in favor of not-going-to-gag-me…)

Last week I watched a documentary called “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead” about an Aussie who toured the US in his car eating nothing but fresh juice for 60 days. Crazy, right? He lost about 90 lbs and was able to get off of all the medications he was on due to his obesity. While on his 60 day juice fast, he met a truck driver who was 450 lbs! This man also decides to do a juice fast and changes his life by making a huge alteration in his diet. (Both of these gentlemen were under the care of an MD while undergoing this extreme diet.)
Now, I certainly don’t need to lose any weight, but I am interested in doing something like this for a much shorter amount of time (say 10 days) for the cleansing benefit. I have never done an actual “cleanse” because I have either been pregnant or breastfeeding. And well, now that I am “in between jobs” shall we say, I figure now is the time!
My main concern is that it will be very challenging for me to not chew anything for 10 days. I love food. I really, really love food. Part of the battle is changing my relationship with food from “food is FUN” to “food is FUEL.” They say that the first three days are the most difficult, but then your body adapts and you find other things to do instead of crunching on peanuts or whatever. I have a friend who did a 100% liquid cleanse for 10 days and on the tenth day she was still having a bowel movement! Isn’t that wild?! Its the little details like that, that intrigue me!

Anyhow, I obviously still have a lot to learn about before I venture, but I feel like I am getting closer to actually doing this. Has anyone does this sort of a cleanse? What was your experience? I’d love some input!

So, the question is- WHO IS WITH ME?!

PS- I just cucumber burped.

Following A Recipe

I’ve always considered recipes more of a guideline for creating a dish. A delish-dish.

Most times it works out and other times I think perhaps I should have just followed the recipe exactly. But there is something about doing it just exactly right that bugs me. I want the creation to be mine. Do you ever do that? My sister-in-law has a fabulous chocolate chip cookies recipe that she uses probably weekly. She most likely has it memorized and can whip out those scrumptious, simple cookies in under 30 minutes! Every time, the finished product is the same as the last time. Well, I can honestly say that every time I have made those cookies, they have come out different from the last time. And the unfortunate part is that I am never sure what the differences are each time.

Too salty.
Forgot the salt.
Whole wheat.
Molasses one time not the next.
Cinnamon.
Was that nutmeg?  (What a great name for a spice, by the way!)
Not enough flour. Too much.
7 minutes @ 350.
8 minutes…too long!
Semi-sweet.
Milk chocolate.

I know the basic ingredients and just toss things together to come out with some sort of resemblance to what I know the original to be. They are good each time…they are their own recipe each time, one that cannot be duplicated.

I feel like my whole life is like this. Recipes, rules, instructions…not for me. Some people thrive on following rules. They insist on abiding by the boundaries and guidelines set out for them to follow. Structure, stability and safety are important to them. I have a  hard time with that. I have never been one to stay with the norm. Not that I have been terribly rebellious or spiteful in my decisions, but that I have just followed my intuition and need for self-exploration and growth.

Some may call it thinking outside of the box.

And honestly most of the time, this gets me into trouble.

I ran to the grocery store tonight to pick up a few items for tomorrow’s Sunday dinner. Husband requested Chinese Stir Fry. Easy enough, right? I made a list. Because really, we don’t need anything else…

But I walked through those sliding glass doors and into a place that sparked that creative, inspiring cooking self within me. I was seriously so inspired! The list? Sure. I got the items on it. Found the Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar, the tofu, the fresh stir fry veggies, the spring roll wraps. Found the perfect Thai peanut sauce. And then…it was in the International Foods aisle…I lost it! Never mind that I told dear hubby that I’d be home in 15…

Indian! (with a dot, not a feather) Mexican! Thai! And more! My mind was completely flooded with ideas for yummy meals! How could I NOT?!

I came home with a new taco seasoning sans MSG, taco sauce, yummy tortillas, some veggies that I cannot even pronounce and other very random ingredients that I am sure I’ll be able to incorporate into someone’s recipe! And then it will be MY recipe, because that is just what happens.

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And in a practical life application:

I find it interesting to see people who are Rule Followers and how they expect everyone else around them to also follow the rules. In fact, there is much angst at the sight of people who openly disobey the frame-work that is set. There are some that will take it upon themselves to police others around them in these circumstances, and I just find that funny. Seeing that usually drives me to ‘disobey’ in spite. It is unfortunate that part of me is like that…but it keeps things real for me. And perhaps it will inspire others to rethink why they behave a certain way. Either that, or help them to just let it go!

Do we obey out of fear, out of need or because that is just what everyone else is doing? Or do we obey because we believe in the principle?

Do you follow a recipe to the T out of habit? Do you honestly just not see another way? Are you that trusting that the end product will be perfect? Well, what if it is not? I submit to you that I have the best pancake recipe because of messing around with a basic recipe time and time again to create the best ever Sycamore Girl pancakes. They really are different every time, but I found a secret ingredient that is an Ace in the hole!

I am not advocating that we all become Rule Breakers, I am just observing how I am. I don’t do well with tight structure, rigid itineraries, shopping lists or recipes. I do, however, try my best to be punctual, because despite all of the aforementioned things, being late is a pet peeve of mine.

And to be Devil’s Advocate, perhaps it would do be well to just buckle down and follow a recipe exactly one of these days. Maybe I am ruining a good thing by adding my own twist. Perhaps there is strength in learning to abide by social norms and just trusting that the guidelines are correct.  That it is okay just the way it is.

Okay…I almost just committed myself to follow a recipe exactly this week. But as I started to type it, I just could not do it. I’ve got good ingredients, I’ve got an imagination, a good sense of taste, and faith in my intuition. The way I do things works.

So why change a good thing, right?

The China Study

I’ve been on the wait list to read The China Study by T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D for a few months now. It is finally my turn to read it. I started it tonight while taking a little jaunt on the treadmill and I am very excited to continue it!

Natural Health and nutrition have become sort of an obsession of mine the past few years. I can’t seem to get enough of it!

This book discusses the scientific studies conducted over a long period of time having to do with disease and diet. I’m pretty sure the bottom line is promoting a vegetarian or vegan diet.
I’ll keep you posted on my thoughts and any changes I make along the way.
*****

Have you read it?

Wish me luck!

Making Bread Part II

As promised, here is a photo and video tutorial for making bread the Sycamore Girl way.

Making Bread

I’ve been making my own bread now for a few years. It has taken a while to get my loaves to the point where I feel good about giving them away. They are not bricks of burned yeast anymore. That’s good. I usually bake bread every week and a half. So with so much baking going on around here, I thought I’d write quickly about the things that I have learned through trial and error.

Although I have experimented with many recipes, I always go back to the one I will include at the end of this post. It is simple and has really never failed me.

Yeast: When I first started making bread, I was very intimidated by using yeast. I’ve always been afraid of it. I know, a strange fear…but really, its true. Your yeast and how you handle it will make or break your bread. But over the years, I have come to understand that it is not very hard, really. Especially if the recipe you use does not ask you to proof your yeast first. I do recommend that you experiment for yourself, though, so that you get a feel for the correct temperature for the water and such. There are two types of yeast: instant vs active dry yeast. I have not really noticed a difference in using one over the other (and honestly, I am not versed on the difference between the two…something about the size of the yeast)  I use SAF Instant Dry yeast and it works great. I store my yeast in the freezer in an air tight quart mason jar. It stays dry and since I cycle through it pretty quickly. But in case I go on a bread making boycott or something, the yeast should stay good for at least 6 months or so. I have read in different forums about whether you need to bring the yeast to room temperature before proofing it or using it. The census shows that it really depends on your yeast. For me, I always just use it right out of the freezer and I have not had any problems. However, I should try it at room temperature and see if there is a difference. If you have experience or knowledge about that, let me know! Things to note: Yeast feeds on sugars (honey or sugar work great) and salt slows the growth of yeast. That means its best to add your salt after the yeast has been activated sufficiently. If you shy away from making your own bread because of the yeast, go proof some right now and get over your fear like I did. Its liberating!

Wheat flour:
A few years ago I received a Nutrimill for Christmas. Best gift ever! Since then I have been grinding my own whole wheat. I use anywhere from 50/50 to 100% whole wheat/white wheat in my bread. I have found that it is important to grind my wheat as fine as my mill will allow to get the perfect loaf. I do like the texture of a coarse grind, but if your wheat is too coarse, the sharp edges of the  flour will cut your gluten strands during mixing and kneading. Once that happens you can kiss goodbye to a nice fluffy loaf. I wish I would have known this before I ground up about 5 pounds of wheat berries recently. I made the mistake of just turning my mill on and dumping the whole lot of wheat berries in and walked away. I didn’t even think about adjusting the coarseness or speed of the mill. Now I have a large bucket of whole wheat flour that I can only use for things like pancakes. I think I may be able to use my Vitamix to break it down finer…but that’s just a mess waiting to happen. I’ll let you know how that goes.

dough enhancers:
There are a few things you can add to your dough to help it raise better. Especially when baking with 100% whole wheat, using vital gluten, ascorbic acid or vinegar, ginger root and/or soy lecithin in your recipe can help get a better rise in your dough. (Do your own research for actual recipes…there are a TON out there!)  I’ll be honest here, this is a new thing for me- I have experimented with different enhancers and have not had complete success with any of them. I still just go back to my basic recipe. I am still on my dough enhancing journey. If you want to call it that. I have found that really its the mixing and kneading process that will determine the quality of my bread.

kneading/resting:
There is something about kneading my bread by hand that is very rewarding to me. I get a better feel for the correct texture when I can dig my hands in and get a mini work out while I’m at it! For the sake of time and being more available to my two little tykes running around, I have begun using my Bosch to mix in all of the flour except the last cup or so, then I will knead in the remaining flour right in the bowl that the dough will raise in. Also, using the mixer helps in keeping the dough warm and cultivating a better environment for the yeast to grow. Letting the dough rest for about ten minutes in the middle of kneading helps create a smoother dough too. There are some recipes that you let the dough raise two times, three times, or only once. In my recipe, I knead the dough. Let it rest. Finish kneading it. Let it raise for about 45 minutes (or until it doubles in size- the time varies depending on the temperature of my kitchen and the dough). Then I punch it down, being careful not to work the dough too much. I cut the dough into four parts, shape into loaves and then let it raise again in the bread pans, about 20 minutes. Then it is ready to toss in the oven.

Baking:
When baking, be careful not to over-bake! 20-25 minutes is really all you need. My oven is never consistent, so I really have to watch it.  When I begin to really smell the baked bread smell is about when the loaves are done. Baking time varies also by how many loaves are in the oven at time and also the ratio of white to wheat flour. For some reason I really love that there are so many variables! But in general, I set my timer for 20 mins, and then check the loaves. I take them out just before I think they are done, like I do with cookies. That ensures the loaf stays softer, longer.

Eating:
Yes. Do eat it. But be careful not to over-dose on it! Be wary of eating too many carbs in one sitting and also, consuming a TON of gluten can sometimes be problematic for a few folks (like me…more on that later). Top warm bread with butter, olive oil, flax-seed oil, your favorite jam, natural peanut or almond butter or an egg for a scrumptious healthy snack! Yummy!

Storing:
It’s important that you take the bread out of the pans soon after they come out of the oven or they will go soggy. Place them on a cooling rack and cover them with a dish cloth. The steam that escapes will soften the crust. I like to rub olive oil on the tops which helps keep it soft once it is fully cooled. Store the bread in a plastic bag, eat it immediately or gift it right away while it is still warm! You can also freeze it for a few months, but it’s never as tasty that way. Because there are no preservatives in homemade bread, it will go moldy faster if you don’t eat it within a week. The older it gets, the drier it gets, which makes for great french toast bread or bread crumbs for other recipes!

The Recipe:

4 Cups warm water
2 TBS yeast
1 TBS salt
1/3 Cup oil (any kind will work- I usually use Canola or Olive)
1/3 Cup honey
10 Cups flour (in any combination of white/wheat. You may need more or less flour depending on the texture you like)

Combine the water, yeast and honey. Let it sit for 5 min or so. Add oil, salt and then mix in flour. Knead to perfection. Let rise. (see “Kneading/Resting” above for details) Bake about 25 minutes at 350 degrees F.
Phew! I got it all out…I think. Baking bread is a lot of fun and extremely rewarding for me. Its yummy, healthy and helps me feel a sense of accomplishment as well as saving my family money! You just cannot go wrong! I hope you’ll give it a shot.

Stay tuned for a photo/video documentation of my making bread! I know…you’re SO excited!