Archive for January, 2012

January 25, 2012

Making the Food Nanny’s French Baguette

If you haven’t heard of the Food Nanny, she is a spunky, energetic, mother of 7 grown children who is on a crusade.  Her crusade is to put family dinner back on the table.  She has a television show on BYU-TV that my children love to watch.  Imagine our surprise when we noticed an advertisement at our local library that she was coming to speak!  Although it started close to our kids’ bedtime, we all went.  It was not what I would call ‘easy’ getting my husband to come along.  But he now has no regrets, and I’ll tell you why.  Not only did she talk about her ‘crusade’ and her ‘Nanny Plan’ but she also demonstrated how to cook her famous pizza dough and French baguette.  After seeing her work with the dough in person, I became much more confident about my ability to do it myself.  I went ahead and bought her book The Food Nanny Rescues Dinner: Easy Family Meals for Every Day of the Week and have not been disappointed.

The Nanny Plan
Liz Edmonds, the Food Nanny, has created a plan to help give families the tools they need to have regular family dinner.  This is the plan she developed many years ago, when she had 7 children at home and a husband who was around only half of the time due to his service in the Air Force and later as a commercial pilot.  When she was signing my book, she shared with me that this plan is what kept her going.  She has a theme for each night of the week: Monday – Comfort Food; Tuesday – Mexican; Wednesday – Fish, Meatless, or Breakfast; Thursday – Italian; Friday – Pizza; Saturday – Grill; Sunday – Traditions.  She uses these themes to help determine what she is going to make for the next two weeks, makes a shopping list, and goes to the store so everything can be bought and ready for the next two weeks.  Having the themes not only helps vary your diet, they also give the family something to look forward to every night.

Balancing Making Yummy Food with Nutrition
The Food Nanny would be the first to admit that she is not really a health nut.  She definitely believes in portion control and having lots of vegetables available at every meal, however she uses more oils, fats, meat, and white flour than I would use.  She does make a compelling argument that I believe has some truth.  She says when you have yummy food to look forward to every night, you do not overeat because you know more is coming the next night.  Food is the heart of the home, and it should be something that everyone looks forward to.  I believe there is a lot of truth in this and will say that this concept has helped me ease up a bit (which my husband is so happy about).  I am adding a bit more white flour into our diet by including recipes like the blessed baguette.

Making the Food Nanny’s Baguette
Turns out when I bake bread, I have been adding way too much flour.  This is probably why I am never very happy with the end result of my baking.  While watching the Food Nanny mix the dough for the Baguette (a recipe she learned in France from a French Women), she taught me a really important lesson.  Never add the complete amount of flour at the beginning!  Start with at least a cup less than the recipe says and work from there.  You may not need to add any more.

She normally makes enough dough for two baguettes at a time (for her large family), but I just make one since a baguette becomes very dry by the next day (due to the fact that there is no oil in it), and is best eaten that night.  This recipe is for one baguette, so just multiply it if you would like to make more.  Also, she uses an actual baguette pan, but I have found that cooking it on a baking sheet works just fine, so no need to add another piece of cooking equipment to your kitchen.

* Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Set a casserole dish halfway full of water on the bottom shelf.  The added steam will help the baguette become more crispy.

* Mix 1/4 c of warm but not hot water (105 degrees), 3/4 T yeast, 1/2 t sugar, and cover with a plate.  Let mixture stand about 5 minutes or until it is foamy.

*  Grease your baking sheet (which could fit up to 2 baguettes)

* In a large mixing bowl mix 1 to 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose unbleached flour (so start out with 1 heaping cup), 1 t salt, and 1/2 t sugar

* Add the yeast mixture and up to 1/2 c of additional warm water

* Mix until it starts to pull away from the bowl, starts to form a ball, and is not too sticky to handle (that is the trick: the moment it starts to pull away from the bowl, you do not need any more flour).  If it is too sticky, then you can add more flour a little at a time.

* Then turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead briefly until the dough is smooth and elastic and not sticky.  You can add a bit of flour if it is too sticky.  And you guessed it, the moment it stops being sticky there is no need to add more flour.  I have found this is the trick to really good bread.

* Do your best to form the dough into a long sort of shape that resembles a baguette (not as thin and long as those atrocious things they call baguettes at the super market that cut the top of your mouth).  Good luck–my shape still looks pitiful, but it all works out after it is cooked.

* Place the shaped dough onto the cookie sheet  and score with a knife (cut a shallow cut looking like a long line) down the middle.

* Cover with a dish towel and let it rise in a warm place (I set mine on the stove) for 30 minutes or until the dough has risen up to double in bulk.  She said that you can press your finger into the side, and if the indentation sticks and does not pop back up you will know it is ready.

* Place the baguette in the oven to bake for 15 minutes.  You will know it is done if it makes a hollow sound when you tap it with the side of a knife.

* If you like, you can brush butter or olive oil on top of the loaf after baking it, but this can make a softer crust.

And there you have it, a French Baguette made with 5 ingredients and your own hands.  Your family will love it, and is a great addition to your meals.  I made a giant Chef Salad to accompany our baguette and there were no complaints about having salad for dinner.  And during those cold winter months this baguette will be a yummy addition to warm soup.  Bon Appetit!

To see Food Nanny episodes go to BYU-TV.  And to watch an episode specifically teaching how to make her Honey Oat Wheat Bread click here.  I made it last Sunday with her honey butter recipe.  I let my family rip into a loaf for our lunch.  It was a fun memory and very yummy. 

January 21, 2012

“Mom, can you take these Legos apart for me?”

My daughters have been given a Lego set two Christmas’ in a row.  They love Legos, and I have to admit they are pretty awesome.  However, secretly they are a bit of a pain.  If I am not accidentally stepping on one, vacuuming one up, or helping my child find a specific piece that is probably lost, I am being asked “Mom, can you help me take these apart?”  You know what I’m talking about – those two pieces stuck together by what seems like super glue.  I have tried using my nails, my teeth, and my brute strength, all producing mediocre results.  That is until my husband thought up a fabulous idea requiring a cutting board and a knife.  Place the cemented Legos on their side.  Gently ease the point of one of your least favorite knives into the space between both Legos and they will pop apart every time.

So next time your child asks, “Mom, can you take these Legos apart for me?”  You can say, “Bring it on!”

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January 13, 2012

Introducing New Grains to Your Family

I think that most of us can agree that white rice is pretty yummy.  But how do we balance that with the fact that it is nowhere near the powerhouse of nutrition that whole grains are (e.g. brown rice, quinoa, bulgur wheat, and millet)?  These whole grains are not only a good source of dietary fiber, but also contain important vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals.  All of these components work together synergistically to produce health benefits, which is why it is important to consume grains as a whole food rather than as a stripped version of themselves like white rice.  There are many wonderful grains out there to try, and I think I have figured out a good way to try them, while still being excited about what’s for dinner and tricking my kids into eating them as well.  It is as simple as this–cook them with white rice.  I would start out with a 1:1 ratio, and then you can lessen the amount of white rice as you become more accustomed to the tastes of the other grains.

In this picture, I cooked 1 cup white rice, 1/2 cup quinoa, and 1/2 cup bulgur wheat (totaling 2 cups).  Normally when you cook 1 cup of white rice, you add 1 and 1/4 cup water.  But when you cook a whole grain the ratio is usually more one part grain to two parts water.  So in this case, you will want to add around 3 cups of water — a little less if you are using a rice cooker and a little more if you are using the stove.  I was so impressed with how much my kids liked this that I thought I should share the trick just in case it would be helpful to you or your family.

About Quinoa: (1/4 C dried = 170 calories, 3 g fat, 30 g carbohydrate, 3 g fiber, 5 g protein, 10% Iron)
Pronounced keen-wah and used by the ancient Incas, quinoa is known for its high protein, soft texture, and nutty taste. Some quinoa has to be presoaked or at least rinsed; simply refer to your directions (you may have to buy a wire strainer so you do not lose any of the small seeds through holes while rinsing). You will know it is done when the germ has separated to show a tiny curl.

About Bulgur: (1/4 C dried = 140 calories, 0.5 g fat, 30 g carbohydrate, 7 g fiber, 5 g protein, 6% Iron)
You can buy it in bulk at certain stores or from ‘Bob’s Red Mill’ near the rice or in the health food section. It looks like a broken-up wheat berry, and it is basically just that. However bulgur is usually parboiled (which basically means blanched), dried, and then ground. You can see it has a very impressive amount of fiber and protein.

About White Rice (California Calrose): (1/4 C dried = 155 calories, 0 g fat, 35 g carbohydrate, 0 g fiber, 3 g protein, 2% Iron)
White rice is milled rice that has its husk, bran, and germ removed (to help prevent spoilage) and is then polished, resulting in a shiny appearance. This process removes so many important nutrients that the US actually requires the enrichment of all white rice with B1, B3, and iron. The California Calrose variety is known for its taste and ability to stick together and can be used for sushi.

January 7, 2012

Tasty Tortellini Salad

I got this recipe from my dear friend Loni.  It is simple, light and diet friendly, stores well to eat later (if there is no dressing on it), and tastes so good!  All you do is mix the following ingredients:

* 1 bag cooked cheese tortellini (I find the cheapest brands in the freezer section)
* 1 bag raw spinach
* 1/2 – 1 diced red bell pepper
* 1-2 diced tomatoes ( I like to scoop out the seeds)
* Parmesan cheese (to taste)
* Your favorite Italian or Vinaigrette dressing

Literally, that is it!  I like to use my chopping method before serving. Enjoy!