Monday, September 1, 2014

Harvest Wheat Bread

KAF Harvest Wheat Bread -- Fresh from the Machine!

This is my new favorite bread. I've made it several times now, and I just can't get enough of it. It's hearty, tasty, and filled with good things. Plus, it's a recipe that's made for a bread machine (although it can also be oven baked). It's from the good folks at King Arthur Flour.

I don't know why it took me so long to find it, but I'm sure glad I finally did. It's got my favorite bread ingredient -- cracked wheat. Plus whole wheat flour and sunflower seeds.

I've changed it a bit to make it low sodium and to accommodate my preferences. To keep the bread from staling quickly, I use coconut oil and honey instead of olive oil and sugar. I also add a tablespoon of lecithin granules with the liquid to help slow staling and a tablespoon of orange juice concentrate to counteract the bitterness sometimes found in whole wheat breads. I only use 2 tablespoons sunflower seeds and add 1 tablespoon each of golden flax seeds and sesame seeds. I also substitute 1 cup of white whole wheat flour (minus 3 tablespoons) for one of the cups of bread flour. And, I halve both the yeast and salt measurements. (To make it completely salt-free, I'd suggest using no more than 1 teaspoon of yeast and watching the rising dough carefully to avoid over-proofing.) For more tips on low sodium bread baking -- in a machine or not -- check out this link to an earlier post. Or this link.

Because I use more whole wheat flour than the recipe calls for, I make sure I have a spray bottle filled with water nearby and check the dough several times during the kneading process. Whole wheat flour is notorious for soaking up liquid, so I often spritz the dry dough while it's kneading.

This bread makes great toast and fabulous summer tomato sandwiches. I bake it in my Zojirushi bread machine because it's summer and hot. But I'm sure it would turn out just as well baked in an oven.

Here's the recipe.


1/4 cup (1 3/8 ounces) cracked wheat
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) boiling water
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) olive oil (I use coconut oil)
3 tablespoons (1 1/4 ounces) sugar (I use either 3 tbsp. honey or 2 tbsp. hone & 1 tbsp. molasses)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt (I use 3/4 tsp.)
2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour (I use 1 c. bread flour & 1 c. white WW)
1 cup (4 ounces) King Arthur Traditional Whole Wheat Flour
1 tablespoon vital wheat gluten (optional) (I use the gluten)
1/4 cup sunflower seeds (or whatever combinations of seeds you prefer)
2 teaspoons instant yeast (I use 1 tsp.)
(I also add 1 tbsp. each of granular lecithin & orange juice concentrate)

Combine the cracked wheat and boiling water in the pan of your bread machine, and let the wheat soften for 30 minutes.

Place the remaining ingredients into the pan in the order recommended by the manufacturer. Program the machine for the basic cycle, and press Start.

Check the dough's consistency about 10 minutes before the end of the final kneading cycle, adding additional water or flour to form a soft, smooth ball of dough. Allow the machine to complete its cycle. Cool the bread completely before serving. Yield: one loaf.

KAF Note: To bake bread in the oven, program your machine for the dough or manual cycle. When the cycle is complete, remove the dough, and place it in a lightly greased 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan. Allow the dough to rise, covered, for about 1 hour, or until it's crowned about 1 inch over the rim of the pan. Bake the bread in a preheated 350°F oven for 35 to 45 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the loaf registers about 190°F. Remove the bread from the oven, turn it out of the pan, and let it cool on a wire rack.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Homemade Baking Mix (Bisquick)

Impossibly Easy Pies, Vegetable Fritters, & Fried Green Tomatoes

Sometimes convenience makes all the difference in the world. I always liked having a ready-to-use baking mix in the pantry, especially during the summer. It’s a major ingredient in my favorite zucchini pancake recipe. And although “Impossible” pies don’t really make a crust, they’re a good vehicle for summer vegetables. But most grocery store baking mixes are too high in sodium to actually use.

I thought back to my early years of marriage and motherhood and remembered that I made a whole wheat baking mix with oil. So I figured I should try it once again. But this time using sodium free baking powder and not adding any salt. I used a couple of recipes I found at different sites but finally settled on the one from King Arthur Flour. I’ve made it several times now and am quite happy with it.

Usually, I halve the recipe, just because I don’t use it that quickly. I also use half whole wheat and half all purpose flour. Actually part white whole wheat and part whole wheat pastry flour. Some recipes call for oil and other use butter. I’ve done both but now use Spectrum Organic non-hydrogenated shortening.

So what do I use it for? Well, zucchini or summer squash patties. My absolute favorite way to eat summer squash. Zucchini Impossibly Easy Pie and Spinach Impossibly Easy Pie. Corn fritters. Dredging fried foods. Quick and easy Banana Bread. I even made peanut butter cookies. Basically, I just look up Bisquick recipes and substitute my homemade baking mix.

Here’s the full King Arthur Flour recipe:

9 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
5 tablespoons baking powder
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup vegetable shortening

Here’s the halved recipe that I use:

4 1/2 Cups flour (I use 2 Cups AP, 1 cup white whole wheat, and 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry)
2 1/2 tablespoons baking powder (I use Hain’s Featherweight Sodium Free baking powder)
1/8 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup vegetable shortening (I use Spectrum Organic Shortening)
(For a low sodium baking mix, use no more than 1/2 teaspoon salt or omit altogether)

Because I’m making only half a recipe, I mix it all up in my food processor. Some use their hand or stand mixers. And because of the whole wheat, I store the mixture in my refrigerator. I keep it in a plastic container with a tight fitting lid.

The King Arthur recipe includes directions for biscuits, dumplings, scones, muffins, coffee cake, pancakes, and waffles. It also has variations that include other whole grain flours and even whole grain flakes.

I’m really glad I started making this again. I have convenience but without the sodium content. And it’s 50% whole wheat flour too.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Tortellini Soup

Cheese-Filled Tortelllini with Vegetables

I really like tortellini – pasta pillows filled with cheese, meat, or vegetables. Unfortunately, they usually don’t make appearances at the low sodium table. That’s because most of the time, they’re smothered with salty sausage-flavored meat sauce and topped with copious mounds of cheese. But when used in a flavorful soup, redolent with onion, garlic, vegetables, and lots of Italian herbs, you get a similar flavor but without all the sodium. Plus the soup is super easy to put together quickly.

I encountered this soup a few months ago at a local diner and wondered if I could make a low sodium version suitable for my husband. So the next time I went shopping, I spent time in the freezer section checking all the frozen tortellini. I was pretty happy when I found Armanino brand cheese tortellini. The label on the package said a serving size of 25 tortellini was 105 mg sodium. (Note: Some websites show 230 mg sodium per serving. I can’t explain the difference between the package label and the website information.)

I assumed that I wouldn’t be able to pack 25 tortellini into one bowl of soup and figured the final serving would be closer to 10-12 tortellini. So I bought a package and headed home to make soup.

It couldn’t have been easier. I used one carton of Kitchen Basics unsalted chicken stock and a can of no-salt-added petite diced tomatoes. To the pot I added one finely chopped onion, a couple of minced garlic cloves, a bay leaf, two peeled and sliced carrots, two sliced celery stalks, a tablespoon of salt-free Italian herb blend seasoning, and a couple grinds of black pepper. I simmered the vegetables in the broth until just tender. Then I added 20 – 24 tortellini. Once the tortellini was cooked through, I served the soup with some homemade low sodium bread. The soup was everything I had imagined – flavorful with enough chewy and cheesy tortellini to satisfy. As an added bonus it was unbelievably easy to prepare.

I’ve made it several times since that first experiment adding other vegetable with good results – coarsely chopped cabbage, sliced mushrooms, sliced leeks, frozen Italian green beans, chopped zucchini, and chopped fresh basil. (My favorite additions are leeks and fresh/frozen basil leaves.) However, I only use one or two additional veggies. I don’t want to distract from the brothy goodness. And when I have the time, I usually lightly sauté the onion and garlic. If I use extra vegetables, I sometimes use less than one serving’s worth of tortellini. That means even less sodium per bowlful.

It’s now my go-to quick meal when I don’t have anything planned, thawed, or am feeling under-the-weather. I make sure I always have a carton of chicken stock, a can of diced tomatoes, and a package of frozen tortellini ready for a last-minute yet satisfying meal. Leftovers are good the next day as part of lunch, and the recipe can easily be doubled.

Here’s the recipe, if you can call it that. It’s more a method rather than an exacting recipe. Feel free to add vegetables you enjoy. And good luck finding a fairly low sodium tortellini product in your grocery store.

Low Sodium Tortellini Soup
(Serves 2 with leftovers)

32 oz. no-salt-added chicken stock
1 14-1/2 oz. can diced/petite diced no-salt-added tomatoes
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 onion chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1-2 carrots, peeled and sliced or chunked
1-2 celery stalks, sliced or chunked
1 bay leaf
2 tsp. or more Italian herb blend (no-salt-added)
Freshly ground black pepper
1 package frozen cheese toretellini

Chopped fresh herbs such as basil, oregano, thyme, parsley
Additional vegetables such as coarsely chopped cabbage, thinly sliced mushrooms, thinly sliced leeks, frozen Italian green beans, and chopped zucchini (use only 1 or 2 additional vegetables)

If desired, sauté onion in olive oil until translucent. Add garlic and continue sautéing for another minute or two.

Add broth and tomatoes, bringing to a simmer. Add the vegetables and herbs; simmer until vegetables are just tender.

Add the number of frozen tortellini for one serving or less. Bring soup to a boil; lower heat; and simmer until tortellini is completely cooked.

Serve with an additional dusting of freshly ground pepper, a sprinkle of chopped fresh herbs, and a swirl of regular of flavored olive oil.