Monday, September 14, 2009

Surely the Dough has Risen by Now.....

My, it's been a while. I bet you're wondering why. And, you may also be wondering just why it is that the nutrition of my family is so gosh-darn important to me. Here's the thing. We have some health issues. My husband was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis many, many years ago. No one really knows what causes it. And the only recognized treatments involve some less than satisfactory medical intervention. But while reading and learning and wondering, we realized that diet may have a lot to do with preventing it. Heck, diet may have a lot to do with everything, right? Your heart, your guts, your chances of getting cancer, your weight, your energy and if you're a flamingo, even your color.
This whole "making a person" thing freaks me out a bit, so I decided to use the best materials available in building the two my fella' and I started from scratch. Real food, close to the source. And if I'm going to make such long-living healthy people, I might as well make sure they have a nice place to live, so we try to eat as sustainably as is practical for us. We haven't transitioned to a wholly sustainable diet, but we're doing what we can. Balancing the demands of work, health, happiness and housework (not necessarily in that order, although for sure, housework is last) means we don't come anywhere near any one's version of perfect. But we do eat some yummy food!

Speaking of, I bet you're wondering about the "filling and baking" of the lunch pockets I promised. So here we go:
I believe I left you with some rolled out dough, and some braised and cooled chicken. The idea is to fill the pockets with a combination of a protein of choice, a veggie of choice, and a viscous element of choice. (Sauce, cheese, mustard, pesto - something with moisture and flavor).
So, once you've rolled out the dough -
Spread your sauce or cheese or other condiment around the surface of the dough. Really, this is like making a pizza, but you fold it over at the end.
Then, add several tablespoons of shredded chicken, pepperoni, kidney beans, or whatever you'd like.
After that, some spinach, diced tomatoes, shredded zucchini, or steamed broccoli. Again, whatever you think your kid will either enjoy, or not notice. With the veggies, I tend to go for "accept" - enjoy is often too much to ask.

Once you have all your fillings in place, brush an egg wash* around the edge of your dough, very lightly, and then fold the dough over.
Crimp the edges together, and bake in a HOT oven until golden brown - about 7 - 10 minutes.
What do I mean by HOT? I use a pizza stone for this (and pizza...), and it works best if I turn my oven on ALL the way up, and preheat for at least 20 minutes.

If that's not your style, a greased cookie sheet in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes should work, too. (This one is covered in cornmeal - that's my trick for getting them to slip off the sheet, and on to the pizza stone. Well, not "my" trick - this is why so many really good pizzas have cornmeal on the bottom.)
Here are some fillings we tried and liked:
  • Pepperoni (I use natural, nitrate free. I really, really avoid nitrates), mozzarella cheese, and pizza sauce (often knows as spaghetti sauce)
  • Shredded chicken, goat cheese, and defrosted frozen spinach. (Fresh works too, but you have to watch out for the moisture.....)
  • Shredded chicken, finely chopped broccoli, and cheddar cheese
  • Black beans, roasted red peppers, and pepper jack (my boy LOVES beans)
  • Sliced, cooked sausage (like a Polish sausage) with mustard, sauerkraut and Swiss cheese.
Be creative. Have fun. Start with familiar ingredients if your kid/spouse/self doesn't like new stuff. Or hey, fill 'em with leftover stew or pot-roast or chili, and call it a night.
These can be wrapped in freezer paper and/or foil, and frozen for several months. They'll keep your kid's apple cold, while defrosting in their cubby.
And remember both the bread dough and the braised chicken in this post? The dough works great for pizza, too. And the chicken? Once you have some good, cooked chicken around, the possibilities are nearly endless.....
(Some day soon - a post about chicken tacos!)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

No More Turkey Sandwiches

Tomorrow is the first day of school! Hooray! Back to my favorite thing, making lunches every night before bed. I love it! Especially the part where I'm done cleaning the kitchen, and folding laundry, and I'm trying to remember where I was in my book and then I remember - I still have to make the #%$& lunches before I can go to bed. So I drag my tired butt into the kitchen, slap some turkey and chees on some bread, and call it a night.
Only, Lydia has suggested that she almost doesn't even like turkey and cheese anymore, because she is so sick of it. So like many moms this time of year, we're trying to rethink lunches.

"What if, " I asked Lydia, "we cooked some chicken, and filled some bread dough with chicken and cheese, or pizza fillings - like kolache or calzones. We could freeze 'em, and you could heat them at school."
This idea was met with much enthusiasm. And after we discussed all the possiblities, Lydia pointed out, "And, I won't even know which filling I have until I bite into it at school!"

Clearly, these are just a take on the age-old pocket pie. A somosa. An empenada. A calzone. But they're also something I can do in batches, during the weekend, and freeze a month-long supply at a time. And so a new lunch tradition has been born.

You can use any bread recipe you like. I used a pizza dough, since that's what Lydia asked for, but you could use a yeasty dinner roll recipe and make these a bit flakier if you like.

We were lucky enough to find a 10 grain bread flour in the bulk section of whole foods, so that's what I used, but any good wheat bread flour will work.

For our dough:

3/4 cup warm water (body temp - not too hot to touch, or it will kill the yeast)
2 tsp active dry yeast
1 1/2 - 2 cups bread flour
2 Tbs olive oil

Dissolve yeast in warm water. When it's nice and foamy, add 1 & 1/2 cups flour and the olive oil, and mix until all the flour is absorbed. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, OR use the hook attachment on your mixer, and knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic - about 10 minutes. You may need to add more flour. The dough should be moist, but not sticky.

When the dough is all nice and elastic-y, rub it lightly with more olive oil, place in a clean bowl, and cover the bowl (not touching the dough) with a damp towel, and place in a warm, dry place. (A cool oven, with the interior light on, works lovely. The heat from the light bulb is just enough warmth, and the closed oven door prevents drafts.) Allow the dough to rise until double in size - about an hour. Then, punch it down, and divide it into 4 pieces.
NOTE: Double or even triple the recipe to make more dough. Next time, I'm going to QUADRUPLE it, and make enough of these for a month.

Roll each piece out, and fill with the fillings of your choice.

For the chicken, I preheated my saute pan over medium heat, added olive oil, and when it was hot, I added a couple of thighs and breasts, which I had lightly seasoned with salt and pepper. Then I added a smashed garlic clove, some crushed red pepper, dried oregano and a bay leaf, plus a few inches of chicken stock - just enough to come about half-way up the meat. Cover, and allow the meat to simmer for about 5 - 7 minutes, then turn the meat, and simmer for 5 - 10 minutes more, until cooked through. Remove from heat, and allow the chicken to cool IN the broth. This is very important. Keep the chicken in the broth while it cools, and it won't dry out.
Next time - fillings and baking!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Simple Eating

This isn't a particularly fancy dinner. It's a pretty funny first post, really, for a food blog. But it was a goooood dinner, as I recall. And perfect for an easy summer evening. Plus, it followed a couple of my favorite food philosophies, including local and seasonal eating. But, that's not why I picked it. I picked it for this face.
This one.
You see, Lydia put this plate together herself. She treated her meal as art, and then ate all of it. And I have to admit, my kid's not much of a salad eater. But when the planets align, and she gets excited about the spirit of a meal, she dives in. And that willingness is how I know that what I'm doing - well, it's working. And that's why this is our first Mindful Bellyful blog together. Lydia was mindful of this meal, and where the ingredients came from, and everything it took to put this simple dinner together, and she dove right in.
So, what do we have here?

Turkey Reuben with a salad of summer greens and avocado, and some oven baked fries. Which yes, are purple. We'll get to that.
The olives and ketchup? That's all Lydia. You should, of course, garnish as you see fit. *wink*

Do you ever make Reubens for dinner? They're pretty easy. We like them with turkey instead of pastrami, simply because our kids like turkey, and we can get some pretty good nitrate free turkey around here.

Apply in this order:
Bread, mustard, cheese, turkey, sauerkraut, tomato, cheese, mustard, bread.
On either a griddle or a panini press, grill sandwiches until cheese melts.
Oh, and I find it helps to warm the 'kraut a bit first, so the sandwich warms up more quickly.

The salad is just the mixed field greens with a simple vinaigrette, and some avocado for creaminess, and healthy fats, and because I can't even begin to tell you how much I love avocado. And there may be some goat cheese in there, too. Yum.

And now, those purple potatoes. They came from our weekly farm share in the middle of the summer. And they made the most beautiful home fries ever. Just cut them into wedges, coat with olive oil and sea salt, and bake in the oven at 425 degrees until soft on the inside and crispy on the outside - about 25 minutes.

When they were done, they looked like jewels, I kid you not. The variation in the coloring - the striping? Gorgeous. We had a total of kids around the table that night, and the purple potatoes were gone quicker than an ice cube in Phoenix in August. So I don't have any other pictures of them. But don't they sparkle next to those ketchup "rubies"?
Keep an eye out for heirloom potatoes at your local store or farm stand. The colors and flavors are amazing.
The recipes will get more complex, and the photos more detailed. For now, though, I'm just going to keep thinking about that beautiful, proud face.
Full belly. Happy heart.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Here We Go!

I have this amazing friend, Ellen. As good friends often do, she makes me feel special. She makes me feel like I have something unique, and of value, to offer to the world. And because she is so smart, and funny, and wise, and has such amazing taste, sometimes I actually believe her. This blog is dedicated to Ellen.
And the thing about Ellen is, she sends me all kinds of amazing blog links. I think Ellen is the person who introduced me to P-Dub. And I know Ellen is the person who introduced me to Kathie Sever and Cynthia Lair . And The Mamas! Oh lawd, The Mamas. Austin has this amazing community of women who congregate in a Yahoo Group. These are some spectacular women. Writers! Bloggers! They believe in slow living. And crafting. I cannot begin to tell you how much I respect and admire the women behind these websites. They love what they do, and it shows.

I've been thinking about my life lately. And as usual, I've been thinking about food. And, I'll admit, I've been wishing that my life revolved around food even more than it already does. For a while I've wished I could work around food, somehow. I could open a restaurant! Except I hate getting up early. I could start a catering business! Except my kitchen is too messy (and too doggy, okay?) to pass an inspection. And besides, I’m not in a position, financially, to open a business. I could write a book! But first I’d need to build an audience. And content. Maybe a blog…..
And so the idea just sat in the back of my head, while I continued on in my life, cooking healthful meals for my family, loving my farm share, having a great time at the farmer's market, religiously monitoring what my kids eat, etc., etc.
Because the truth is, I don't have much free time. I work. I take care of two kids. I worry about my husband. I try to exercise from time to time, and I already wish I had more time to sew, and to cook. And my income is far too important to my family for me to NOT work.
But this morning, it hit me. I do ALL that, and I still take the time to prepare healthful meals for my cute family. Many of the books and blogs I love? They all started somewhere, right? And yet, none of them have exactly my passion. Yes, there are blogs about seasonal cooking. And slow family living. And balancing a career and motherhood. But how about the space in which those combine? The kitchen space, specifically, in which those combine. My space. And there is was.
So I give you, ladies and gentlemen, my first tentative step towards fulfilling a dream. This is it.
I hereby announce my intentions to blog about food MY way. Healthful, whole grain meals prepared at the end of an already long day. Healthy, balanced lunches prepared, simultaneously, with love and exhaustion. Parties thrown in a not-quite-clean house. Local food. Seasonal food. Plus, the activities that bring it to our home.
It's my hope that folks will find inspiration here, and learn about building healthy little bodies and full productive lives. I want to romanticize trips to the farmers' market as the mini-festival days they feel like to me. And by bearing witness to my own life, I intend to embrace the lovely tradition of mindful living. I think about what we eat. We eat with a purpose. We eat to nourish our bodies, and to cherish the earth.
So, you'll see healthy, seasonal recipes. You'll read stories full of humor and love. And together we'll share the expression of love that cooking is to me.
Our lives. Slightly off kilter, but still full of love and nutrition. That's what I'll share.
Full belly. Happy heart.