Whole Grains

Corn Bread

This recipe is a staple in our house.  The ingredients are always on hand.  Everyone always likes it.  And it’s so good with so many things, like baked beans, chili, scrambled eggs and sauerkraut salsa, even just simple soft butter.

We use 100% corn meal instead of including some unbleached flour, so it’s gluten free, and we soak it in kefir.  Kefir seems to work much better than yogurt or buttermilk to give a nice light texture and higher rise.

Ingredients:

3 cups cornmeal

2 1/2 cups kefir

3 eggs

1/4 cup honey

1 teaspoon Celtic sea salt (If you live in TN, get this amazing salt cheaper when we order it wholesale through our co-op!)

2 teaspoons baking soda

1/4 cup melted butter

2 tablespoons butter oil or coconut oil

First, ideally the night before you’re going to be baking, combine 3 cups cornmeal with 2 1/2 cups kefir.  Cover the bowl and soak overnight, or up to 12 hours.

When you’re ready to bake, preheat a large cast iron skillet in a 35o degree oven.  (Alternatively, you can bake in a buttered 9 x 13 pan, but don’t preheat it.)  Melt 2 tablespoons of butter oil or coconut oil in the skillet.

Combine the eggs, honey, salt, baking soda and melted butter in a bowl and add the soaked cornmeal, but don’t over mix.

Pour the mixture into the hot skillet, and bake for about 20 minutes.  The edges will become a nice crispy brown (if you’re baking in the skillet, that is).

Chicken Alfredo with Homemade Noodles and Steamed Vegetables

Every Friday night, one of my children cooks with me.  I can get the girls cooking with me most any night, but not the boys.  They’d rather be digging, building or getting into trouble.  So our Friday night tradition is my way of making certain our boys grow up with the ability to prepare at least a  handful of their favorite dishes.  And it’s working.  The chosen child gets to choose the meal and a dessert, help prepare it and set the table with china dishes.  It’s special, complicated, messy and fun, and each child looks forward to “their night.”  Out of my five children, three of them chose this for dinner over the past five weeks.

We make Chicken Alfredo with homemade noodles – that’s a big part of the fun at our house – and we use the egg whites leftover from the Alfredo sauce to make the noodles.  If you prefer, save your egg whites for a lemon meringue pie, and use store-bought noodles instead.  Just know that you’re missing a home-made delight!

Ingredients:

1 whole chicken

4 carrots, peeled and cut into short sticks

1 head broccoli, chopped (keep the stem pieces separate from the flowerettes)

For the sauce:

2 cups cream

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter

3 oz Parmesan cheese, finely grated

4 egg yolks

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Rinse the chicken and pat dry.  Rub with butter, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and bake in an uncovered casserole dish for about 2 hours.

While the chicken is baking, prepare the noodles and get some water boiling to cook them.

To make the sauce: Pour the cream into a medium saucepan, and warm gently over medium heat.  Add the butter, and cook until melted.  While stirring with a wire whisk, add the grated Parmesan cheese and allow to melt.

You need to be very careful when adding the egg yolks.  If the sauce gets too hot, the eggs will curdle, like scrambled eggs.  Start by stirring a little of the sauce into the egg yolks.  Then pour the yolks into the sauce and whisk, while continuing to cook over medium heat until the sauce thickens.  Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper.  (If your eggs happen to curdle, you can still save the sauce.  Either strain it to remove the bits of egg or puree the sauce in a blender.)

Steam the carrots and broccoli:

To steam the vegetables, place the broccoli stem pieces and carrot sticks in a steamer basket over a pot of boiling water.  Steam them for 5 minutes before adding the flowerettes; then steam for 5 more minutes.  This keeps the flowerettes from getting overcooked.

When everything is finished, serve noodles onto individual plates, top with steamed vegetables, slices of chicken and ladle sauce over the top.

Serves 4 – 6.

How to make homemade noodles, with or without a pasta maker.

Recently, my children and I have rediscovered the satisfaction of making homemade noodles using our hand crank pasta maker.  This is truly a group activity in our house, and well worth all the effort.  Someone feeds the dough through while someone else cranks, and three others stand at the ready to cut the noodles or better yet, help lift the four-foot noodles out of the machine to dry on the counter.

It is totally possible to make noodles without a pasta maker, perhaps even preferable.  The noodles will be thicker since hand-rolling doesn’t produce nearly as thin a dough as a machine can, and consequently pleasantly chewy.

Right now, we’re using a mixture of half soft white wheat flour and half unbleached.  I fully intend to figure out a healthier alternative with 100% whole wheat, someday. (My attempts so far have resulted in a dough that tears and breaks before I can get it rolled out.)   But even if I never get around to it, these are certainly better for you than store-bought white spaghetti, and much tastier!

Mix the dough:

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1 1/2 cups unbleached flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup eggs (about 4), lightly beaten

1 tablespoon olive oil

Combine the flours and salt in a mixing bowl.  In a separate bowl, mix the eggs and olive oil.  Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the egg mixture all at once.  Stir to combine as much as you can, then knead the rest in with your hands – it should be a pretty stiff dough, but still soft enough to squeeze without straining.

At this point, I divide the dough ball into halves and work with one at a time.  Place a damp towel or an inverted bowl over the second half of dough so that it doesn’t dry out.

To make the noodles without a pasta maker:

Generously flour your counter top.

Using a rolling pin, roll the noodle dough out into as thin a rectangle as possible.  Then, starting from one long end, roll the dough up jelly-roll style.  Slice the dough into 1/4 inch slices and unroll each noodle.  You can toss them into a pot of boiling water or soup right away or dry them to use later.

One good way to dry the noodles is to set a broomstick between two chair backs  and hang the noodles over the broomstick.  Another simple method is to lay them out on a counter, being careful to keep the noodles from touching each other too much or they’ll stick together.  Once they’re dry, you can store them in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.  If you plan to store them longer than that, it’s best to put them in the refrigerator or freezer.

Here’s how to make the noodles in a pasta machine like mine:

Flatten the dough with your hands and lightly flour it on both sides.  Set the machine to the first (or widest) setting and push the dough through.  Most of the time, the dough rips quite a bit the first time through.  Just assemble it back together and put it through the first setting again.  After the second or third time through, your dough should start to resemble a sheet, even if it does have holes and tears in it.  Flour it on both sides again if it has gotten the least bit sticky, fold it, and put it through the first setting again.  Repeat this until you have a nice smooth sheet of dough.

Set the machine to the second setting; roll the dough through.  It is important to flour both sides of the dough whenever necessary to keep it from sticking to the rollers – they’re difficult to clean.

Roll the dough through the third, fourth, and fifth settings.   On my machine, this is as thin as we like our noodles to be. Keep narrowing the rollers until the dough is as thin as you like.

Move the crank over to the noodle cutter, and pass the dough through.  If you plan to dry your noodles, it’s easiest to make them very long.  Otherwise, cut them about 10 inches long as they come out of the cutter.

Toss directly into boiling water or soup, taking care not to let them stick together.

Makes enough for a very noodly pot of soup or a main dish for 6 people.

(Give me a little while and I’ll get some pictures posted.)