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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Grinding your own wheat

When I first started to "really" get in to eating healthy whole foods,  I loved telling people "those are made with organic, whole wheat, pastured, grassfed" whatever.  Upon hearing this one time, my friend Anne said "did you grind the wheat yourself too"?  To which we both laughed and said something along the lines of "OMG, could you imagine"?


Upon realizing how expensive flour was versus the cost of a grain mill, I decided to start saving for one.  I saved, and saved, and saved, and was still probably about four months away from even thinking of being able to purchase one.  Then, a random enormous Amazon box showed up one day, and you can imagine my surprise to open it, find the grain mill of my dreams with a note that said "happy birthday AND Merry Christmas, love Anne".

Before you ask, Anne is not accepting applications for new friends.  Though she may be looking to replace me after I commented that her celeb crush, Adam Levine, looks like a "walking STD".

I've had the mill now for about 8 months and I couldn't be happier.  I never really mentioned the details of it on here, until I received a sweet note from a blog reader last week asking me for information on how to grind her own wheat.  So now, thanks to that reader, you're all about to get perhaps too much information on how a grain mill might be able to fit in to your kitchen.

I am a proud owner of a Wondermill, but there are many options available.  I know Kitchen Aid makes one that attaches to your mixer, but I feared that it would wear out my motor.  Whatever your machine, they all essentially does the same thing - turn wheat berries in to flour.  It can work with other grains too of course (corn, etc.), but mine has only been used as a basic flour mill.

Wheat berries that I purchase from Azure Standard are soft white, and hard white (which Troy tries to convince me was his nickname in high school.  Not buying it.).  Soft white is best used for baked goods like cakes, biscuits, cookies, pancakes, etc.  I also use it for pizza dough.  Hard white is only used in our house for homemade bread.

I get 50 lbs of organic wheat soft white wheat berries from Azure for $19.15.  I used to get organic hard white for about $25, but I see it just jumped to $32.40 on Azure; yikes!  Good thing I have approximately 4 billions pounds of it in my zombie pantry.  The reader who contacted me about more details on wheat grinding also asked how long the wheat berries would store.  To be honest, I don't know.  I've had mine since the fall and keep them in pails with Gamma seal lids (also from Azure) which keep the berries in an air and water-tight environment.

The general rule of thumb is that one cup of wheat berries is equal to 1.5 cups of flour when ground.  I'm not doing the math to figure out how much flour I get from my 50 lbs, but I know that I used to spend A LOT of money on flour every two to three months, and that is a thing of the past.  These mills are pricey, but if you bake like I bake, the "break-even" point is fairly soon.  It's actually immediate if your friend buys it for you as well.  Ha!

In addition to the mill being cost-effective (eventually), there is also the flavor and nutritional factors to consider.  Freshly ground flour is far superior in taste to store-bought.  It has an almost "nutty" taste to it, and anything made with home-milled flour keeps you fuller longer than items made from store-bought.

The oils in wheat start to turn rancid quickly after grinding. So, the flour that is purchased from the store has to be treated or processed to make it shelf-stable.  For the purpose of disclosure, I still buy King Arthur bread flour from time to time, as I put 1/2 cup in each loaf of homemade that I make.  I store big containers of the freshly ground flour in the freezer; it stays soft and fluffy and keeps the oils from getting icky.  And I'm not constantly having to grind flour which is a plus.

I've found that whenever I'm baking with whole wheat, it's best to add 1 tblsp of vital wheat gluten (I get it from Azure Standard) per 1 cup of flour.  Without that vital wheat gluten, baked goods tend to go flat or taste like a brick.  Mmmm...bricks.

So, here is the base of the grinder.
The lid of the grinder goes on the flour bucket.  Flour bucket is not the technical term.  This isn't food mill porn (well it kinda is).  The gray hose goes in the hole.  It's a tight fit.  That's what she said.
Lest you forget, you need to turn on the mill before adding the grain.
I always grind everything on the "pastry" setting for a finer flour.  Hit "on", and let it go for a few minutes, and voila, flour.

If you're thinking of adding a grain mill to your kitchen, I'd highly recommend it!  I'm happy to answer any questions you might have about the ins and outs.

That's what she said.

I've shared this over at Real Food Wednesdays, Frugally Sustainable, It's a Keeper, and Simple Lives Thursdays.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Those in glass houses shouldn't throw dirt clods

When we moved in to my parent's rental house last summer, I was aghast at the condition of the yard.  Weeds were five feet tall, and everything was overgrown and looking so janky.  I vowed then to always keep the gardens and flower beds looking tidy and beautiful.

In my defense, in Western Washington it gets dark at 4:30 pm from late October until mid-February so I leave the house and return in the dark.  I don't get a chance to see the results of my lazy ways until the weekends which are always so busy getting ready for the next week that weeding drops to the bottom of my priority list.

A few weekends ago, I was washing dishes and looked out the window to see that my garlic bed was totally covered in weeds.  Thinking they had totally smoothered the garlic that I planted last October, I was resolved to kick my own ass for letting that seed garlic be wasted.
Then I started wedding.
When my parent's moved out of this house in 2007, I believe my father decided to carpet bomb the property with bulbs.  They are EVERYWHERE and I can't keep up with them.  Despite clearing the garlic bed of bulbs last fall, many were still coming up with the garlic.  How do you know the difference between a tulip bulb and a garlic start?

If you accidentally pull up a garlic start, it smells like garlic and makes you yell "fuck".  That's how you know.

After about an hour and some very very cold hands later, the bed was pretty clear, and I set my sights on the kale plants.
Perhaps I will stop scoffing at the idea of mulch?

This area under the kitchen window is scheduled for a remodel in the next month or so.
Those bushes will be removed and replaced with blueberries.  When we moved in last year, my motto for the garden was "if I can't eat you or you don't attract a gaggle of honey bees, your ass is gone".  After about 4.3 billion hours of weeding and pulling things out of the wilderness that was the garden beds, I looked at these bushes and thought "you may stay.  For now".  Their eviction notice has been served, and they will be gonzo in a few short weeks.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Monday tip of the week!

This week's tip is an easy way to save bars of soap in the shower!

Back in college my sister insisted on a suction cup soap holder thingy in our shared shower.  I made fun of her (that is what sisters do), but I'm eating my words now.

Getting a plastic/nubby soap saver can literally save your soap.  Deep thoughts on a Monday morning. The idea is that the soap sits above the soap dish, so instead of getting that soap "goo" at the bottom of your soap dish, you get a solid/dry bar each and every time.  And because you aren't losing soap to "soap goo", the bar lasts a whole lot longer.

You can order them online, but I've found them cheaper at Target.  It's a small $3 one-time investment to save you money on soap in the long run.

Have a cheap trick you want to share with my readers?  Shoot me an email at

Friday, February 24, 2012

Thursday, February 23, 2012

How to section a grapefruit and a new label

I've added the label "useless information" just for post topics like this.

Ever seen a recipe or dish with sectioned citrus and thought "recipe looks yummy, but how in the hell do you section an orange or grapefruit"?  No?  Ok, well, pretend you did and now I'm about to save the day and show you how to do it!  Aren't you so thankful for my blog? :insert eye roll here:

1) First, slice the top and bottom off of your grapefruit
2) Then, position the knife next to the pith and make a slice to the bottom following the shape of the rind.  Trim the whole fruit.
I have man hands.  I know.  You don't even have to mention it.  They're also scarred a bit red from a gas oven explosion in 2005.  That is another story for another day though.
3) Hold the grapefruit in your hand, and position the knife on one side of the section.  Make a slice downward.
Repeat on the other side of the section, popping the section out.

Continue with step 3 for the whole grapefruit.
I like to slice up a bunch of these and store them in the fridge for quick additions to packed lunches, and/or snacks.  And then my gorilla mitts and I enjoy eating them throughout the week.

Now that you have a great snack on hand, what about the huge amount of discarded citrus rinds?  Simple!  Pack them in a glass jar, and cover them with vinegar.  After a month, strain them twice and now you have a wonderful grapefruit-scented cleaning agent.  <------ stole that tip from Pintrest.

I've shared this over at Simple Lives Thursday, and It's a Keeper.
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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Week night apple pie

Ohhhhh this is such a fun and easy recipe!  I really hope you guys love it!

My in-laws were coming on for dinner last Friday, and I wanted to make apple pie, but I was getting home about 15 minutes before they were scheduled to arrive.  I'm a somewhat fast cook, but not that fast.  Earlier in the week, I had an epiphany on how to make a speedy and delicious week night apple pie.

Weeknight Apple Pie.  Well.  Kinda
12 wonton wrappers
2 apples, peeled and diced
1 pear, peeled and diced
4 tblsp of brown sugar (try homemade)
4 tblsp of honey or evaporated cane juice, or sweetener of choice
A gallon, errr a tblsp of cinnamon
1/2 cup of whole wheat flour
1/2 cup of old fashioned oats
1/4 cup (half of one stick) of butter

1) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2) Mix the apples and pears in a bowl, and drizzle a little honey over the fruit, and toss with a spoon.

3) Add the dry ingredients to a measuring cup, and add the butter and microwave until the butter is melted.  Probably about 35 seconds.  Stir.

4) In a muffin tin, place one wonton wrapper in each muffin (for lack of a better word) hole.  That's right, I said it - muffin hole.

5) Spoon a scoop of the fruit mixture in to each wonton wrapper.

6) Top with a scoop of the flour/oat mixture.

7) Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the wonton edges are lightly browned and crispy.  Serve with a scoop of ice cream.

8) She shoots, she scores!  And the crowd goes wild.
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Monday, February 20, 2012

Monday tip of the week - save energy when using your dishwasher

I know, I know that using a dishwasher uses more electricity than hand washing, though it does use less water.  But guess what?  I have only a limited amount of time each day, and I spend enough of it cooking.  If I also had to add hand washing all dishes to my list of crap to do, I'd order take out daily.

So, when our dishwasher is full, we wash our dishes on the "energy saving" setting and "air dry" as soon as dinner is over.  It is usually done washing before we go to bed, and we open the dishwasher and pull the racks out to dry over night.

Come morning, we have dry dishes without spending money on the energy to dry them.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Meal plan for February 20th - 26th

This week is very sparse for us in terms of dinner.  I'm either working late, we're getting our taxes done, or we have a dinner banquet thingy to attend.  We're hardly home at all this week!

So, I'm only making buffalo chicken wraps with sweet potato fries and home canned pears, or yakisoba again.  I'm going to make a big batch of mac and cheese for the week for lunches and various late dinners.  Organic cauliflower was on sale this week, so I'm going to roast it with some carrots and then puree it to add to the mac and cheese.  I've never tried it before, so shhhhhh don't tell Jack!

This week I spent $42. 31 at the grocery store, and $3.50 for a raw milk. 
I also spent $17.96 of my grocery budget on four toddler hoodies that were clearanced out for $4.49 each.  I then spent $1.23 on felt at the fabric store to turn these in to 4 birthday presents for various kiddos in our lives.  Intriqued?  If the project turns out, I'll be happy to share the details.  And if it doesn't turn out, just forget I ever bought the stupid things.

How about your guys?  What does your week look like in terms of meals?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Dare I say the bestest oatmeal ever?

I'm a reader of Kath Eats Real Food, and anyone who peruses her site knows that oatmeal is a favorite of hers.  She inspired me one cold morning last week and I created what I'm pretty certain is the world's best oatmeal.  Bold statement?  Let's do a deep dive in to the details and you can determine for yourself!

Oh, and I make this on weekday mornings.  It takes about as much "hands on" time as instant oatmeal, but keeps my belly full and happy until lunch time.  There is no way that instant oatmeal would give me the same results; my tummy would be growling by 8 am!

It's important that you don't use "instant" or "quick cooking" oats for this.  Look for the term "old fashioned".

Instant/quick cooking = wonder bread
Old fashioned = whole grain bread

Both are technically "bread", but one is much better for you than the other.  I buy my oats from Azure Standard in 25 lb bags; organic for $18.75.  So in terms of cheap breakfasts, this one is at the top of the list.

Bestest Ever Oatmeal
(the measurements are doubled since this guy I married seems to get hungry in the morning too.  Pfft!)
2 cups of water
1.5 cups of rolled oats (not instant)
sprinkle of salt
1 tsp brown sugar (try homemade)
splash of vanilla (try homemade)
1 tsp chia seeds
1 tblsp almond butter (try homemade <--- that is peanut butter, but I use the same recipe with almonds)
small pat of butter
Fruit of your choice
the pièce de résistance : 1 homemade graham cracker

Now before we get started, you need to know four things:
1) I have a huge supply of frozen peach halves in my freezer that I froze this summer.
2) I also have a huge supply of homemade graham crackers in the freezer.  So, I'm no knocking out graham crackers every morning for breakfast.
3) I'll explain how I can make non-instant oatmeal on a busy week day morning by sharing my timeline.
4) I like my oatmeal still a bit "chewy".  Soggy watery oatmeal is not the result of this recipe.

We good?  Ok then!

Timeline: before I start drying my hair, I put the water on to boil.
1) In a medium to large pan (I find the water boils a lot faster when it's not "deep"), boil 2 cups of lightly salted water.
This, for those of you who don't know, is water boiling in a pan.  You're welcome.
Timeline: go back to the bathroom and dry my hair.  Please keep in mind my hair is wicked fine and dries super quickly.  Turn on flat iron.
2)  Come back and add the 1.5 cups of oats.  Turn the heat to low or off, keep the pan on the burner, and put the lid on it.

You know the captivating photo above of boiling water?  I really outdid myself by putting a lid on it!
Put my frozen peach half in the microwave for 45 seconds.

Timeline: back to the bathroom to flat iron my hair.  Now that I'm all stylin' and profilin', I'm done with the bathroom and am headed to the kitchen.
3) Give the oats a good stir, add the vanilla and pat of butter, and put the lid back on the pan.

4) In a bowl, chop up the peach, and put the almond butter on top.

5) Cover with the hot oats, chia seeds, and brown sugar.  Top with graham cracker.

6) Immediately take to your blog like an ass proclaiming your dish to be superior to all other breakfasts.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

DIY insulated curtains

Please keep in mind that I am a total novice when it comes to sewing, so if I can make these curtains- you can make these curtains.

There is a small window off of our kitchen that faces southwest and lets in so much sun during the summer.  It's also above the 52 degree garage, and during the winter it lets out a lot of heat during the winter.  The window is covered with some dingy metal mini blinds, and I had my sights set on insulated curtains for that window.  Because the window is so small, I didn't want to spend money on new curtains.

We had two sets of old ugly/boring curtains from our last apartment.  One set was a plain brown panel, and the other set was a beige.  Just looking at them put me to sleep.
I found some "sassier" fabric that I loved for 30% off at JoAnn's, and then I had a 20% total purchase coupon.  My "fun" fabric cost me $4.61.  I cut the fabric to fit the size of the window, and then cut it in half vertically.  Then I made a 1/4 inch seam on the sides (long part) of each panel.

After measuring the the top and bottom of the panels, I cut four three inch wide strips from my ugly brown curtain, and then pinned them for a 1/4 inch seam.  Then I sewed the seam.
I pinned the "pretty sides" of the fabric together, and made a 1/4 inch seam to connect the brown strips to the top and bottom of my fun fabric.

At this point I stopped taking pictures because I was trying to beat the clock of Jack's nap time.  Then I cut and sewed the old insulated curtains on to the back of the new panel.

We used the curtain rings we had for the old set of curtains, and then Troy hung a small bar up that I got on clearance at Joann's.  These curtains have made a big difference in terms of heat loss.  I'm looking forward to their heat blocking tendencies during the summer!

In hindsight, I would have made each panel about 2 inches wider.  Also, I would have never cut bangs my junior year of high school.
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