Tag Archives: eating

the perfect bread recipe

In my quest for eating better it’s hard to abstain from certain favorite foods.
A staple in my diet has always been bread. I love german bread, the crunchy crusts and the rich taste (seriously, you have to try german bread!).
As a result of my changed diet however I’m trying to stay away from gluten, lactose (often added to bread) and empty carbs as much as possible.
I had already switched to grain/seed bread but I wanted to try and see if I could find a recipe for baking a nice grain bread at home. I love baking at home and it would give me full control over the ingredients. I looked up some recipes and found a winner quickly!

easy grain bread. little home by hand blog.

I deviated very little from the original recipe but since the source is in German, here’s my translation:

  • 500ml lukewarm water
  • 600g flour ( I used half whole spelt flour, half normal spelt flour)
  • 200g seed of your choice (I use a mix of oats, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and flax seeds / linseed)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (can be substituted with honey or other sweeteners)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 packages dry yeast (in german packages that would be enough for 1000g flour)

Dissolve yeast in the warm water with the sugar. Add the flour, seeds and salt. Mix throroughly (the dough is quite wet) and let rise for 30 minutes. Form into a bread shape or fill a loaf pan with the dough and bake at 200ยฐC (ca. 400ยฐF) for 45-60 minutes, until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.
Yes, it really is that easy!

easy grain bread. little home by hand blog.

Let the bread cool before cutting and enjoy a filling homemade bread!

So why is this better than storebought bread?
a. The taste of freshly baked bread is divine
b. I used spelt flour instead of wheat flour. Spelt flour is not gluten free but it is much easier to digest than wheat for most people. I also like the taste better.
c. No additives, no added lactose
d. You get to choose the seeds you like best in your bread

The recipe resulted in quite a large bread, so I froze half of it and ate the other half within 6 days. I don’t know how long it keeps but it was fine for the week.
Ultimately I want to try making my own sourdough starter but right now this recipe feels like a great start!

easy grain bread. little home by hand blog.

 

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healthy eating – lunch

Here’s part 3 of the healthy eating series (read up on part 1 – research and part 2- breakfast).

As a reminder, this was my resolution:

  • drastically reduce sugar intake and sweets
  • eat less empty carbohydrates (white flour products like bread rolls, pasta, etc.), switch to whole grain products where possible and find alternatives to wheat
  • eat a more plant based diet, fruit and vegetables first, everything else second
  • continue to buy local fresh produce
  • grow my own salads and vegetables again on my balcony with a better plan on what I want to grow and actually need
  • build up a collection of tried and trusted healthy recipes that we can return to again and again
  • use less dairy products

LUNCH

What did I change?
I am eating lunch at the office where there is a variety of hot lunches to be had as well as salads, desserts and rolls. I’ve never been much of a meat eater so I usually stuck to pasta, potatoes, anything baked with cheese or fries. I also almost always got a dessert, most often pudding.
Since doing my research I felt I could now make some informed choices and plans for lunch. I especially liked the 5 a day campaign by the WHO (in the US it’s called fruits & veggies – more matters). It basically tells you to eat 5 hand fulls of fruits and veggies a day, ideally 3 helpings of veggies and 2 of fruits. One fruit portion can be substituted by a hand full of nuts.
True to my resolution I am now trying to stay away from the carbs and especially the fries and the foods drowned in cheese (saturated fats). Instead I pick whatever veggies are offered and fill my plate with them. Since I have no say on the menu this is easier on some days than others. I still eat pasta or potatoes when they come with a veggie side or sauce. I try to stay away from fatty sauces and I eat fish whenever it’s on the menu. Often I have a little bowl of salad with my hot meal.
With the salad I choose organic olive oil and balsamic vinegar as a dressing instead of heavier premade dressings. Instead of dessert I get a glass of freshly pressed orange juice with my lunch, which serves as one portion of fruit for my 5 a day plan.
I realize these choices are highly dependent on the environment and may not be possible for everyone but I think we all need to work with what’s there and make the best food choices available to us.

I also always take a 20-30 minute walk after lunch. I need to get out to breathe a bit of fresh air and stretch my legs before sitting down at the desk again. It’s refreshing and especially in spring gives your body a chance to soak up some sunshine and much needed vitamin D.

How did it work?
Man, staying away from fries and cheesy gratins was hard! When you get there hungry those hot, fatty foods look mouthwatering. The veggies and salads look much less appealing and filling.
But I promise once the withdrawal period is over it gets so much easier! It took about two or three weeks for me not to crave fatty foods any more and I now easily and happily choose the veggies. It helps to tell yourself how much better you’ll feel when you make the right choice and how proud you will be of yourself!
Sure I still have days when I crave a certain thing on the menu and sometimes I get weak and give in (it’s ok, we need to love ourselves).
When you switch from fatty foods and lots of carbs to a veggie based diet at first you feel like those still leave you hungry, like they are not as filling. I found that too subsides after a few weeks as your body adjusts to it. Instead I now feel pleasantly full after a meal whereas when I eat fries or heavy foods now they make me feel tired and bloated.
I used to have an afternoon low after lunch when I would get very tired and sleepy and concentration was impossible. Changing my eating habits has made this afternoon slump disappear almost completely!
Overall I feel much better with this diet and that’s enough encouragement to stick to it.

Whatโ€™s planned?
Honestly I think lunch is fine for me like it is now. I could say I planned to do more home cooking to take to work but I know myself and it ain’t happening any time soon ๐Ÿ˜‰
I’ve found what works for me and the challenge will be sticking with it. It’s a choice to make every single day and while it gets easier and easier with time the temptations are still there. I’m looking at you, chocolate pudding dessert with cherry compote.

Stay tuned for the next part which will be afternoon snacks!

healthy eating – the research

We all strive to eat healthy, right? It’s good for us. The problem is that it is such a vague concept. You feel like you don’t really know where to start, what is healthy and what is not and why is healthy food good for us while pizza is not?
I’ve been planning to “eat better” for years without much success. So I decided to really tackle this as a project late last year and just get down to it and do my research.
I took a day off to cram as much research about food and eating in it as I possibly could and hopefully end up with a plan. The good news is, I did and it was not even that hard! I’m going to share with you what I found out and what I changed in my diet.
This is my personal experience. This isn’t going to be a book and I’m not an expert so I strongly encourage you to do your own research since I will try to keep this short and sweet ๐Ÿ˜‰
healthy eating, a plan.
The first thing I found out is that there literally is no general definition of healthy eating. What is good and healthy for a person is a very individual thing. There are government issued guidelines but they change and evolve over time.
There are so many different ideas and diets out there and they all tell us they are the one way to eat to be healthy. Vegan, paleo, Atkins…just to name a few and there are so many more. I got very confused.
Whenever I get confused I try to structure my information. I made a chart and jotted down which foods all (or almost all) sources agreed were healthy or not healthy and which foods seemed to be controversial. This is my list:
—————————————————————————-
GOOD:
Vegetables, fruit, water, herbs, roots, nuts, good fats and oils, fish, meat (if organic and consumed in moderation). Eating as much food raw as possible.

CONTROVERSIAL:
Grain, dairy products, legumes, eggs, coffein, alcohol. Cooking foods.

BAD:
Sugar in any form, additives, bad fats and oils
—————————————————————————-

That seems a lot more manageable, right?
healthy eating, a plan.
I did want to know why some products were bad or highly controversial, such as grains and sugar and certain fats. Here’s where again I strongly encourage you to do your own research (share your sources in the comments!) since I did most of my research on german language sites and will be keeping this very short. If you would like my list of german language sources let me know.

SUGAR
Sugar is present naturally in lots of sources, especially as fructose (fruit sugar). When we eat an apple it contains sugar, but this sugar is attached to lots of fiber, vitamins and minerals. The body can really get to work breaking those down and using them, releasing the contained sugar slowly. Our blood sugar level rises slowly, inducing the gradual release of insulin to transport that sugar to our cells to be used as energy.
When we eat refined sugar (pure sugar which is not attached to anything valuable like fiber) we’re basically flooding our body with so much sugar that it can’t really deal with it all. Our blood sugar level soares way too quickly and lots of insulin is produced which results in a blood sugar level crash again. We are really throwing our body processes off balance continually.
Eating lots of refined sugar can thus lead to permanently confused insulin processes and in turn, diabetes. As I said, I’m keeping this veeerry simple.
What is more, tumor cells love sugar. Empirical research suggests that consuming sugar in the way we do in the western world dramatically incresases cancer rates. Animal research suggests that sugar is also responsible for a range of other negative effects.

GRAINS
Grains are controversial. Whole grain flours contain fiber, minerals, vitamins, micronutrients and unsaturated fats. White flour however has lost most of these nutrients, so what remains are empty carbohydrates which in turn are absorbed way too quickly by our bodies and make our blood sugar levels soar too quickly and unnaturally (see sugar). The starch and gluten get sticky and acidic when digested and can cause problems with the digestion for some people from bloating to serious bowel inflammation.
Some sources also mention that all the good stuff even in whole grain flours and products can be found in greater quantities in fruit and vegetables and advise to quit grains altogether.

FATS
I won’t go into this in great biological detail but fats and oils are not all bad. The right ones help us absorb vitamins, protect our organs and even help our blood flow better. Good for us are unsaturated fats and oils, such as walnut, rape seed, soy and linseed oil. Some are better used cold (like olive oil) because heat damages their good properties. Rape seed oil is recommended for cooking as it can stand the heat better.
Saturated fats are present in animal products like butter and cream. They are usually solid at room temperature and should only be consumed in moderation as they bump up our blood cholesterol levels. Industrial food products such as chips should be avoided completely because the hardened fats in them are much worse than other saturated fats like butter.

That doesn’t sound so hard at all does it? After my day of research the picture has grown a lot clearer and while I will probably never understand the biological intricacies in detail, the general direction is clear.
The boyfriend was impressed by this compilation as well and we have made an effort to incorporate these findings in our daily eating habits for the last few weeks. As this post is already very long, there’ll be another one one detailing what simple changes we have made and how it has affected us.
I hope to also share some recipes and tipps for healthy eating with you throughout the year. Please leave your thoughts in the comments section, I’d love to know what you think of this and if you struggle with eating better too!

eating in

The peppers are coming in and the salad is thriving in all this rain.

We picked each and every tomato that was ready and are still amazed at our bountiful harvest.

I have to say our gardening went great but we failed with cooking (again). We left all those tomatoes to ripen until we had so many of them that we couldn’t eat them all. So we made tomato cream soup with basil and parmesan chips, which turned out to be one easy way to a delicious meal! We even had a generous portion left to freeze.

The lone first pepper went into a small side salad with feta cheese. Easy and yummy.
I think working on our cooking skills will be a winter project.
On to something else completely: Our apartment hunting is really stressing us out. We saw a lovely apartment on thursday and sent in our details to the agent. They had us as their first choice but pressured us to make the decision right away, hand them over a lot of money cash pretty much right away and move in next week – no negotiation. We had some hectic talks with our landlady who was very understanding and we initially said yes, though feeling completely overwhelmed. But after sitting down and hectically weighing the pros and cons and looking at the map we found out that the nicely sized balcony was not in fact facing southwest (as indicated in the offer) but northwest! Add that the rest of the apartment was facing north and my priority of having sunlit rooms and a balcony to grow food went out the window. So we called everyone again and cancelled and just went to bed, pretty much drained emotionally and physically.
Boy will I be glad to have this search be over. Finding a nice, affordable place that meets our criteria is proving to be quite the challenge.

eating homegrown a.k.a gardening 2011 – part 4

Our balcony is overflowing with green and it changes so rapidly all the time that I barely get a chance to photograph it all!
The peas and beans and strawberries are done for the year but the melons and zucchini and cucumbers fill every available space with pretty yellow flowers.

The big surprise success have been the sugar snap peas. Boy, were those delicious! I have never been a big fan of peas but there really is nothing comparable to the taste of a freshly picked sugar snap pea, their sweetness is out of this world!

We will definitely be growing 3 times as many next year.
A big motivation for growing a balcony garden this year has been that we want to eat better and fresher. And we find that we do which is a bit of a surprise to us. We don’t so much try fancy new recipes but we tweak the simple dishes we know with homegrown produce. The snap peas we ate raw or cooked with pasta and parmesan cheese. Topped with fresh italian parsley it makes a simple dish a delight.

The addition of fresh herbs makes a lot of difference I find and we are trying out lots of new things this year. My favourite to look at and smell is this real italian peppermint plant, brought all the way from southern Italy by a friend whose family is from there. Even just brushing against it the scent is intense and wonderful. It’s a perennial too so we will have lots of peppermint in the years to come ๐Ÿ™‚

The zucchini plant has all but succeeded in taking over the whole balcony, it’s that huge!

We ate the first giant zucchini last weekend, putting it in the oven with some tomatoes, onion, garlic and topped with cheese…yum!

And last but not least, all the tomatoes are carrying fruits and while it will be a couple of weeks still until they are ready they are just gorgeous to look at!

I’ll try to get a full balcony shot in the next couple of days, after I get it cleaned up a bit. Right now it’s a bit of a mess, due to having been sick followed by a couple of pretty hectic days at work. But another long weekend has just started over here and I have next week off, so plenty of time for gardening and other stuff.
Wishing you all a great weekend!

gardening 2011 – part 3

Click here for part 1 and part 2.
A lot has been happening on my balcony so I figured you all deserve a little update. This is the view from the door. You’ll see the greenhouses have moved to the other side of the balcony to serve as a rain protection for the tomatoes and catch as much sun as possible.

All of my seedlings have been in their final pots since the beginning of the month (I did have to cover them up a cold night or two). The tomatoes are doing wonderfully, they have grown big and sturdy and I am expecting flowers any day now. In with the tomatoes and peppers grow basil (three types), cilantro, arugula and calendula.

The zucchini and cucumbers are growing at such speed, they double in size by the week (they have doubled again since taking this picture a couple of days ago!). I have mizuna growing with them in some containers.

The view from the greenhouses towards the door.

The space formerly occupied by the greenhouses now hosts raspberries, more pots of strawberries, a lone cranberry plant, mint, lemon, balm, spinach, chives, brussels sprouts, chamomile, lots of salad and a container with sugar snap peas and parsley.


I must admit I did go a bit overboard with the lettuce. We have much more than we can actually consume (seeing as the boyfriend and I both work full time and eat most meals away from home during the week).
The beans are covered with flowers and we are waiting to eat the first sugar snap peas! Anyone know when they are ready to eat once they appear?

And one last shot from the first parsley I’ve ever grown. We only know the curly variety here but this is italian flat-leaved parsley and it has a wonderful, very intense flavor, yum!

All this planning and experimenting has turned out better than my wildest dreams, you really can eat off a balcony very well!
See you with another update once the first veggies are ready for harvest.

gardening 2011 – part 2

*Click here for part 1*
Ok, so far I’ve only shown bits and pieces of my plants, but by now the balcony is looking quite nice so I think it’s time for an overall look.
Here it is, this is the view from the door looking out onto our balcony:

The flower boxes hold strawberries which are just now starting to bloom. In the far end corner by the chair you can see the raspberry plant and the pots underneath the flower boxes hold beans and peas or are waiting for their tomatoes and peppers (they also hold basil and parsley and calendula and bunching onions which had to go in already).
This is the view standing in the corner by the raspberry, looking toward the door and the two greenhouses:

The little wooden box and the small ladder were both thrift store finds. I had actually been looking for something like it for a while and was thrilled to find these! They hold the herbs, which will need to go back into the greenhouse should the nights get colder again. But for now I think they just look so pretty here:

Ok, so much for a general overview, back to the seedlings I’ve been fussing over for the last couple of weeks.
The tomatoes and peppers and cucumbers went out into the greenhouse permanently a week ago and yesterday I transplanted them to larger newspaper pots (look how small the first pots are looking in comparison, it was high time!). I will also need to start fertilizing now.

I hope they continue to do well, at this stage I would honestly be crushed should they die on me. The seedlings get the sunny top shelf in the greenhouses:

The top shelf in the other greenhouse is taken up by all my experiments with starting seeds directly in the greenhouse or sprouting inside and then transferring them outside (I went a little wild experimenting after I got the greenhouses). I was so scared that my first attempt would fail and now pretty much everything has sprouted and is growing and I will have so many plants to give away to friends!

And to really make you tired of seeing baby plant pics, here’s the week by week on the indoor seedlings:

Also, last but not least, the lettuce is also thriving, so much that I really need to thin it (and I can even eat the thinnings as baby lettuce, so nothing goes to waste!):

Ok, this was a marathon post, next ones will be shorter again, promise ๐Ÿ˜‰

happy horses

It’s officially spring…it’s warm and green and flowery and the horses get to leave their winter paddocks behind for the wide pastures.
Spring means freedom

and food…lots of lush green grass waiting to be eaten

and relaxing

But it also means grudgingly coming back in after a while, so they get used to the grass slowly.

Soon they’ll be outside day and night though, one big herd of about 40 geldings, another with a couple of mares, a gang of oldies and youngsters, and one sole stallion.