Oh How Sweet Life Is Recipe #4: Little House on the Prairie Flashback Whole Wheat Bread

Do you ever watch a movie or TV show set during the 1800’s or read a book from the same era and think,

“I wonder what it was like to have to wear long dresses all the time, even when it was a zillion degrees and crazy humid . . .”


“I wonder how people slept on mattresses stuffed with hay, grass, or cotton, ’cause I’m sure my allergies and back wouldn’t have tolerated any of those . . . “


“I wonder how often people got bladder infections in the dead of winter when the privy was below freezing . . .”

I wonder those things and more. Like how rewarding yet exhausting it must have been to make most foods from scratch since the word “instant” wasn’t in Americans’ vocabulary. And I’m guessing drive-thrus hadn’t been invented yet.

So every once in awhile I get in touch with what I imagine my 1800’s self would be like, had I been fortunate (?) enough to live during that century. I’ll make chunky apple sauce from scratch, can peaches, add veggies to my garden or plant another fruit tree, even bake bread from scratch.

My holiday endeavor this past year was making whole wheat yeast bread as gifts for some lucky people. I find freshly baked bread, with a crisp crust and soft, springy inside, to be delectable, so I thought others might appreciate it, too.


You may think I was overly ambitious by taking on this task, especially since there’s a thing called a bread maker I have tucked away in a closet. You may even contemplate how looney a person must be to take on such a task during one of the busiest times of the year.

Apparently I was nesting, because we’d just moved into a new home a few weeks prior. So there you have it.

Should you also feel like nesting, getting in touch with your 1800’s roots, or want to try something new this year, the recipe is below. It’s really not as hard as it seems. Simply keep repeating, “Yeast is my friend, yeast is my friend” as you go and you’ll be fine.

Who knows? Maybe next December I’ll churn my own butter to go with the bread . . . or not.


3 packages (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast

5 c. lukewarm water, divided

1/4 – 1/2 c. honey or agave (optional)

1/3 c. canola oil

1/2 c. sugar or 1/4 c. sugar and 1/4 c. Splenda

2 tsp. salt

4 c. whole wheat flour

6 – 8 c. bread flour


The dough will seem like it has too much liquid when you’re mixing it up.


In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in 3/4 c. lukewarm water. If the water is hot rather than lukewarm it may kill the yeast. Add the remaining water, honey, oil, sugar, salt, whole wheat flour,


The dough will be too sticky to work with if you don’t add enough flour before kneading it.

and 3 c. bread flour. Mix until smooth. Stir in enough additional bread flour to form a soft dough, which will be sticky.


Place a decent amount of flour on a clean surface before you start kneading and keep adding flour on the surface as you knead so the dough doesn’t stick.

Turn onto a well-floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, about 6 – 8 minutes. Place in a bowl coated with cooking spray, turning once to coat the

top or spray cooking spray on the top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (like in the room where your water heater is located or by the washer and dryer) until doubled, about 1 hour.


The dough balloons up nicely as it rises.


To knead, fold the dough in half and do a 1/4 turn after you push down. Use your upper body weight to push down rather than just your arms so you don’t get tired fast.


Punch the dough down. Shaped into 4 loaves. Place in 9″ x 5″ x 3″ pans coated with cooking spray. Cover and let rise until nearly doubled, about 30 minutes.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 – 35 minutes (depending on if your oven runs hot and whether you’re using glass pans, which bake faster).


This is how the dough looks after you’ve finished kneading. It should no longer be sticky. I cut it with a sharp knife to divide it into 4 loaves.


Looking for something to spice up your weekend? I’ve got just the thing . . .

“I Found my Cooking Mojo” Recipe #4: 

Irresistible white bean dip

I realize that some of you may have thought the name of this recipe was an oxymoron. “How,” you asked, “could anything with white beans in it be irresistible?” Let me tell you – sass and spice can make almost any bean desirable.  In fact, if there were a dating website for beans, I would open a business selling this recipe to white beans because others would find them to be irresistible upon tasting the dip.

Directions: Use a food processor to finely chop the garlic, beans, red pepper, red onion, and pepperoncinis. Be careful that the latter three don’t become mush by over processing them. If you have a small processor like I do, just chop one or two items at a time and combine them in a bowl. If you don’t have a processor, just chop the items by hand.

Add the other ingredients to the chopped items. How much you add of certain ingredients (e.g., lemon juice) depends on your taste. Stir and refrigerate until chilled. You can serve it with crackers, chips, or veggies. You can also add it to most any Mexican dish. Bon appetit. Oh wait, that’s French.

3 cloves garlic

2 15 oz. cans white beans drained and rinsed

1/4 c. finely chopped red pepper

½ of a small red onion finely chopped

2 – 5 whole pepperoncinis finely chopped

1 avocado, mashed

1 – 2 Tbsp. pepperoncini juice

½ tsp. shredded lemon zest

2 – 3 Tbsp. lemon juice

1 – 3 tsp. Chipotle Tabasco

½ tsp. ground pepper

¼ tsp. salt

“I Found my Cooking Mojo” Recipe #3: That’s Some Taasstyy Chili You’ve Got There

Cheese and green onions are great toppers for chili

I have always wanted to love chili.  Something about the color, blend of textures, variety of flavors, and the way it warms my tummy on a “cold” winter day (cold being relative since we live in San Diego) makes me want to crave it all of the time, but I don’t.  That’s because I’ve never been able to take my liking of chili to the level of love . . . until last weekend.

On Saturday I attended a women’s conference at my church.  It was a chilly, rainy day that screamed for some type of soup.  Finding spicy ground sausage in our freezer, I decided that chili would be the soup du jour.  Throwing the ingredients together in my well-worn Crock Pot, I left it to contemplate its existence for a few hours while I was gone.

Upon returning at three that afternoon, I was greeted by the best part of using a Crock Pot – the smell of chili hanging in the air.  I managed to resist the temptation to try it until later that evening.  My husband Dale only lasted until about noon that day.

Add some kick to your chili with Chipotle Tabasco

3 lbs. ground sausage (I used 2 lbs. spicy pork sausage and 1 lb. spicy chicken sausage)

1 large red onion cut into about 1” long by .5” wide pieces

1 15 oz. can chili beans (don’t drain the liquid)

1 15 oz. can pinto beans drained and rinsed

1 15 oz. can black beans drained and rinsed

1 15 oz. can tomato sauce

1 15 oz. can stewed tomatoes

15 oz. chunky salsa (I just filled the tomato sauce can with salsa)

2.5 Tbsp. chili powder

1 Tbsp. cumin

1 tsp. ground pepper

2 Tbsp. Chipotle Tabasco (optional for some nice heat and a smoky flavor)

1 tsp. pepper flakes (optional for heat)

Cook the meat in a pan with the onion.  Drain the grease.  You can use paper towels to remove additional grease by laying a few paper towels in the bottom of a large bowl. Then put the meat in the bowl and press down on it gently with additional paper towels.

Combine all of the ingredients in a Crock Pot and stir.  Put the lid on and turn it on low.  Let the chili cook for about 5 hours.  The great thing about Crock Pots, though, is that you can leave the chili for longer and it won’t hurt it.  I let ours cook on low for 9 hours and then turned it off and let it sit for 2 hours before eating it. It was still piping hot when I ladled it into bowls.

I suggest serving the chili with chopped green onion, shredded cheese (we used cheddar), and a dollop of low fat sour cream.

Are you in love with chili?  What’s the best chili you’ve ever tasted?

Here are two more recipes that will tempt your taste buds:  Fall Infused Belgian Waffles, Smokin’ Hot Spareribs

Don’t Lose a Finger This Thanksgiving

When I was in Colorado a few Thanksgivings ago, my friends, John and Marisa took me to their friends’ house for the holiday feast.  The primary draw at the dinner table was the turducken. What’s that, you ask?  This common question is why I chose to write this story: to put to rest all confusion and questions about this festive treat.

Let’s start at the very beginning.  Turducken is a chicken stuffed in a duck, stuffed in a turkey.  Here’s an illustration for visual learners:

Being the naïve person that I am, I had four questions when I first heard of this treat: 1) how does one debone each of the birds while still maintaining their shape? 2) how does one stuff a full chicken in a duck?  3) why not just cook a duck, chicken, and turkey on their own? 4) where did this fascination with stuffing birds inside of each other come from?

This video answered my first two questions and motivated me to make a turducken one day, or at least until I got to the

One reason I won't be making my own nested bird combo for Thanksgiving

part when the narrator warned about losing a finger when trying to prepare the meat:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k-Co1Ecv_8g.  This word of caution caused flashbacks to my solo trip to the ER last May for a cooking cutting injury.  Four hours in the ER, getting a shot of anesthesia into my gaping wound, and paying five-hundred dollars for the privilege of being poked and prodded like a baked turducken were enough to shift my motivation to saving $8 per month for the next year so my husband and I can order a tri-bird treat from this company: http://www.cajungrocer.com/fresh-foods-holiday-dishes-turducken-c-1_15_24.html?lastaction=add_to_cart&=&page=1.

Once you have taken your first bite of a turducken, the answer to my third question is apparent.  It is one of the juiciest, most flavorful meats I’ve ever had the privilege of eating.  Being a fan of duck, I’m convinced that it is what makes the blend perfect and flavorful.

As to my last question, according to Wikipedia, creating roasts of nested bird has been going on for centuries:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turducken This story indicates that in 1807, a gastronomist named Grimod de La Reynière decided to make a bustard stuffed with a turkey, a goose, a pheasant, a chicken, a duck, a guinea fowl, a teal, a woodcock, a partridge, a plover, a lapwing, a quail, a thrush, a lark, an ortolan bunting and a garden warbler.  Since I had to look up eight of the names in that litany of birds, my motivation shifted a second time to developing a nested bird combination of my own for next Thanksgiving and hiring a butcher to create it.  Below is what I’ve come up with so far.

Have you had turducken before?  Will you have it again?

“I Found my Cooking Mojo” Recipe #2: Fall Infused Belgian Waffles

I’m a sucker for a good Belgian waffle with oodles of berries and syrup on top – hold the whip cream, please.  My world of waffles forever changed, though, when my friend Nyna gave me a recipe for oat waffles that she found in a newspaper.  Oats in a waffle?  I wondered if that was blasphemy.  But then I made my first batch of these new-age waffles.  Each bite was a tasty treat of flavor and serious consistency.  The fluffy, light-weight nature of traditional Belgian waffles paled in comparison to these hardy treats.  I laughed between bites, delighted at the irony of the situation: I was eating a delectable, sweet breakfast item but benefiting my health while doing so.  What a perfect world these waffles create.

The below recipe is modified from the original version.  I altered the ingredients to make the waffles more moist, less gritty (from the cornmeal), and more flavorful.

1 ¾ c. old fashioned oats, ground to flour with a food processor

½ c. cornmeal

2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

1 tsp. baking powder

½ tsp salt

3 tsp. vanilla

1 ¼ milk

1 egg, beaten

3 Tbsp. canola or vegetable oil

Seasonal fruit

Dash of cinnamon

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl until moistened through.  Plug in your waffle iron to let it warm-up while the batter stands for a few minutes.  When the iron is ready, stir the batter, adding additional milk as needed to reach the desired consistency – it is intended to be a thick batter.  Pour ½ of the batter onto the iron, spreading it out before closing the lid.  Let it cook for 3 – 5 minutes.

These waffles are thick and hardy so they take longer to cook than traditional Belgians.  Check the waffle after three minutes to see if it is firm – it likely won’t turn brown.  Remove the waffle to a plate when done cooking.  Add seasonal fruit.  I enjoy combining two or three of the following fruits: strawberries, peaches, nectarines, bananas, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, pears.  Sprinkle the fruit with some cinnamon.  Serve with syrup.  This recipe makes two waffles.  They’re exceptionally filling, so I can only eat ½ of one waffle.

What healthy recipe have you made recently?

Unsure of the benefits of making oatmeal based waffles over traditional Belgian waffles?  Read about the cholesterol reducing advantages here:  http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/cholesterol/CL00002

Also, oatmeal is listed as a diabetes “superfood” by the American Diabetes Association:  http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/diabetes-superfoods.html


I Found my Cooking Mojo

The week Dale and I returned from our honeymoon in June of this year, I celebrated our marriage by settling in for some extended one-on-one time with a Better Homes and Gardens cookbook my mom had given me a few Christmases before.  I hadn’t used it much when I was single because I was rarely inspired to spend hours grocery shopping and cooking just for little ole me.  So our marriage served to unleash a cooking beast that had lain dormant within me for thirty-six years.

Our tasting journey began with sampling many unique recipes, and then morphed into me creating meals based on our need for spice and flavor, and what happened to be in the cupboards and fridge.  As time wore on I found myself yelling “BAM!” as I pieced together items, and discovered that I managed to develop some recipes that were worthy of sharing with the world.   See what marriage can do for a woman?

“I Found my Cooking Mojo” Recipe #1:  Smokin’ Hot Spareribs

1 package pork spare ribs

Pork Spareribs

1 c. salsa

1/3 c. cider vinegar

½ c. beer

½ c. water

½ Tbsp. steak sauce

1 Tbsp. Worchestershire sauce

1 Tbsp. hot sauce (optional for some added kick and excitement)

½ c. brown sugar

½ tsp. garlic powder

2 ½ Tbsp. dry mustard

2 tsp. smoked paprika

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. black pepper

Combine all of the sauce ingredients in a pan.  Simmer on low for about one hour, stirring occasionally.  Let it sit for a few minutes to thicken.

While the sauce is cooking, boil the ribs in a pan with the lid on for one hour.  Remove the ribs.  Cut them between the bones and place them in a casserole.  Pour the sauce over the ribs, reserving about ½ cup for after they are done baking.  Cover the ribs with tin foil and bake at 350° F for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 30 minutes.  This makes four servings.

It takes a lot of effort to make both the sauce and ribs, so we’ve decided to double the recipe each time we make it.  Plus it was so tasty, it was disappointing that we only got two meals out of it.

Our household is low-sugar so we used less than ½ of the amount of sugar most recipes use.  We prefer tangy over sweet, but if you prefer the opposite, you can add up to an additional 1 cup brown sugar.  You may want to start with less sugar and add to taste as you go.

Bon appetit!

How do you BBQ spareribs?  What general BBQ tips do you have?