Our daily bread: we like it homemade!

Early this morning I was making bread dough. Then I remembered that I haven’t posted anything this week yet. As I am making changes all the time that should contribute to a healthier life, I could find a dozen topics for new posts. But today it shall be about bread – and about how and why I make it myself whenever I can.

Appreciating our food

Bread is important to most of us and we take it for granted to have our daily bread. I am too young to know anything about not having enough to eat, but my mom sure does. During WW II she went through some tough times and as a reminder she has a little plaque on the wall in her dining room. It says: Old bread is not hard, no bread, that’s hard! 

I grew up learning not to waste food and to consider it a sin to do so. (And I truly hope I could pass this on to my own kids!) I think a lot of it has to do with being organized in your kitchen and knowing your eating habits. In my household we very, very rarely have to throw out food, which, unfortunately, can be a small piece of bread, if it started to grow mold on it. When I bake bread, I keep one loaf in my bread box, the other 2 or 3 loaves I freeze. A loaf stays fresh for several days, but usually it doesn’t last us any longer than 2 to 3 days anyways. If my bread happens to get a little hard, it is still good for toasting. If it gets too hard to eat it toasted, I usually cut it up into small slices and use it for bread dumplings or I grind it to crumbs. Making our own bread helps me appreciate it more, because I know exactly how much work and how many valuable ingredients go in it.

How I make bread

I do have several recipes for bread that I use as inspirations, but which kind I make depends on the ingredients I have available. I mix different flours all the time and like to add seeds as well. To not confuse you too much, I write what I used for today’s bread. (To follow the recipe you should have some basic bread baking knowledge.):

500 grams whole wheat flour

700 grams light spelt flour

300 grams white, unbleached flour

800 ml buttermilk (lukewarm)

warm water (probably about 0.5 l, including some to mix yeast with)

5 teaspoons dry yeast (let rise first with a bit of honey)

35 grams sea salt

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

a handful of sunflower seeds

about 3 tablespoons flax seed (grounded)

2 teaspoons bread spice

All ingredients got thoroughly kneaded in the bowl of my machine (see picture). I covered the bowl while letting the dough rise for 1 1/2 hours. Then I interrupted the rising and let the machine run for half a minute and after that let it rise again for 1 1/2 hours. I formed 3 breads, covered them with a cloth and let them rest for 10 minutes. In the meantime I put water in a small aluminum foil pan and placed it on the oven bottom and preheated my oven to 250 degrees Celsius. Before I put the loaves on a big baking sheet, I made three cuts on top. I baked the bread for 30 minutes, then reduced the heat to 190 degrees C for another 30 minutes.

Organic bread, but half the price than store-bought

What foods I can get organic at a still reasonable price, I buy organic. So flour, seeds and apple cider vinegar for this bread were organic. My loaves are much heavier than the ones at the store and depending on the ingredients, my bread is only 50 to 60 percent of the price of comparable bread from a store, which is usually called Artisan Bread. It might be more expensive than the regular bread, especially when it is on sale, but has so much air in it that you can squeeze it together to not even half the thickness. But I stopped buying this kind of bread completely and never did a calculation. The texture and the quality of my bread is so different that I don’t even want to mention the two breads in the same sentence.

Here are the benefits of making my own bread:

– Seeing how much effort it takes to make bread helps me appreciating it more

– Buying organic ingredients produces healthier bread for my family

– Knowing exactly what goes into the bread we are eating gives me a sense of security

– Making bread, especially shaping it, gives me a great sense of  satisfaction

– It costs less

– I can make a much larger variety of breads than any store offers, which is a big advantage, especially when you come from a country where one could eat a different bread each day of the year!

But:

– Bread making takes time

– You have to buy many different ingredients, and some might not be so easy to find in regular stores

– You need a sturdy electrical appliance which can handle a heavy dough (alternately you could knead the dough by hand, which I never tried)

Did you ever make your own bread? Hopefully I inspired you to try! Here are some pics I took earlier this month.

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February 14th: A very special day to me!

For many people Valentine’s Day is a special day. You probably wrote one or more cards, or bought something for someone you love. And most likely you did get something yourself. Maybe it is a day where you and your partner, or spouse, usually go out for a romantic dinner.

Supposedly the celebration of this day goes back to a Christian martyr named Valentinus. The Catholic Church knew three Saints named Valentine, and because of very few historical facts being available about any of them, legends were created. These legends were embellished over time and one says that a priest named Valentine performed secret wedding ceremonies for young men, who were supposed to stay single, as the Roman emperor Claudius II believed that unmarried men made better soldiers. When the emperor found out, Valentine was thrown in jail.  A nice embellishment of the embellishment is, that, the night before Valentine was to be executed, he wrote a card, signed “From your Valentine”, to the blind daughter (who he had healed, according to another part of the legend) of his jailor Asterius,

In North America and Germany

Different countries celebrate – if at all – Valentine’s Day to a different extend. On the North America continent millions of cards are purchased or handcrafted to be given away, accompanied by flowers, chocolates, or even jewellery. I heard with some folks it is a kind of competition: who is getting the most Valentine’s cards? There are also stories of people sending cards or flowers to themselves, so that nobody would think they don’t have anyone that cares enough to send them something. Or is it meant as a treat and a sign of how much they love themselves? I honestly don’t know, although I think there is nothing wrong with giving yourself a gift now and then, whereas pretending someone else sent you flowers or a card, is a different story altogether – and beyond the scope of this post.

In Germany Valentine’s Day seems to be celebrated less intense than in Canada. I am sure sales for the above mentioned items go up, too, and people might buy a card to accompany their gift, but I never heard of anyone buying or making dozens of cards and giving them to their teachers or co-workers, or anyone outside their immediate family.

A special gift

Maybe this has changed in the last 6 years, but I know, even if it has, and even if I was still living there, I would not be part of it. I would not have gone out to buy something for my husband, or he for me. For my family and me February 14th is a special day, but for a different reason. It still has to do with love and a gift, but not with a saint we know almost nothing about. That day, 18 years ago, our youngest child was born. He is a gift that is impossible to top, just like his brother and sister are.

I still got something for February 14th, and I gave something to my husband. He brought in wood, made a fire and left me a nice, warm house before he went to work. I made him breakfast and his lunch, and he will think of me when he eats it. This morning, while we were sitting at the breakfast table, talking about the commercialization of Valentine’s Day and that we deliberately don’t take part in it, he said to me: “I love you all year, not just today.”

In a few days we will celebrate our wedding anniversary, this year our 28th. In all those years we came to realize, that to us, it is not important to do flowers, chocolates or jewellery, or cards for that matter, on a particular day, but to show our love to each other EVERY day, no matter how small the gesture might seem, and to turn each day into our own Valentine’s Day.

Happy Valentine’s Day to you!

Why it is good to listen to your baby sister now and then: How I lost 8 kilos (17 pounds) in 2 months!

I know! This sounds just like some tacky add that promises big weight loss in no time. Believe me; I didn’t intend that to happen when, early last summer, my little sister (who has the audacity to be 5 cm or 2 inches taller than me!) told me about the changes she had made to her diet, based on Dr. Detlef Pape’s book “Schlank im Schlaf”. (It could be translated as ‘Slim in your sleep’ and addresses men and women. Dr. Pape is a German nutrition “guru” and the author of several books.) As many women, who have tried a few weight-loss programs before, I am most sceptical, when it comes to dieting. Actually, I don’t like the term DIET, because I associate negative feelings and words with it, like battle, hunger, frustration, crankiness, abstinence. I don’t believe in short-term diet programs, but in a holistic approach, meaning healthy eating habits, getting enough exercise as well as rest, and plenty of sleep. For the last few years I have been eating pretty healthy most of the time and doing some exercising, still, I ended up with a net weight gain that equalled the weight gain during my pregnancies! So when my sister first told me about separating her food and eating carbohydrates in the morning, mixed food for lunch, and protein for supper, with 5 hour breaks between meals, I thought, ‘well, I heard about that before, but just considered it being one of the many programs, that I never bothered to look into more closely’.

 Getting started

In the fall, when everything had calmed down after a busy summer, I read more about it and also about Dr. Detlef Pape and one of his co-authored books called “Die Hormon Formel” (≈ ‘The Hormone Formula’). This book is written specifically for women and is about how women really lose weight. Unfortunately, the book is available in German only. I had my sister buy it and send it over. Until I had the book, I was starting to do some food separation and went for my regular walks. But I have to admit that I did not always keep the 5 hour no-eating-periods between the meals. And didn’t nutritionists tell us for years, that you should rather have 5 or 6 small meals than three large ones? Nevertheless, I lost about 7 pounds in 3 to 4 weeks. After I read the book, I made some food adjustments according to my hormone type and stuck to them religiously, plus I did the recommended exercises, and lost another 10 pounds in the following 4-5 weeks. But even if one doesn’t want to get too obsessed (like I admittedly did), the results are still pretty amazing. My sister, who doesn’t do any exercising besides walking her dog twice a day, lost about 7 kilos (15 pounds) in 6 months. Some days she even had something sweet right after lunch or an occasional glass of wine in the evening. Being pretty lax over the holidays earned her a couple of pounds back, but after she had followed the program again for a bit, she easily lost them. This really seems to be a good program to keep your weight in check, too.

The book helps looking at the big picture

What I really like about Dr. Pape’s book is how he makes it comprehendable why eating (or drinking) carbohydrates in the evening prevents your body from burning fat during the night. In a nutshell: Carbohydrates make your body produce insulin. If you have that in your blood, the fat cells can’t open up and you won’t be able to burn any fat. That’s why this diet is also called “insulin food separation”. He also explains why it is so important to maintain a healthy weight. There is a section about yoga, cardio exercising and muscle building exercises. Obviously exercising in general is very important for the production of certain hormones which are necessary for the fat burning process. Also more muscle mass means you are burning more calories, even when you are resting. Dr. Pape also talks about relaxation and introduces some methods, as well as points out how stress and not getting enough sleep prevents you from loosing weight, or makes it difficult maintaining your current weight. There is a recipe section as well, which I personally don’t care too much about, but it’s nice when I am looking for ideas. What is helpful though, are the lists of foods that you can eat for each meal, because categorizing food into carbohydrate, protein and neutral – which can be combined with either – isn’t always easy to do on your own.

Fighting snacking

Altogether, this program really works for me, especially because I feel I am doing something for my overall health. Having a tendency to get impatient, the fast results are very encouraging and help me getting through unmotivated times. And I sure have them. There are days, when it seems so easy to wait 5 hours for the next meal, and days, when after 2 hours I wish it was time for supper already. (According to Dr. Pape this happens when you didn’t eat enough at the previous meal.) The most challenging time for me is in the evening, when I want to keep myself from snacking. I was so used to nibble on nuts and fruit, or some yogurt that every time I feel like putting something into my mouth, I grab my knitting needles and don’t let go until the urge passes. So while I am sticking to my personal strict version for a few more weeks, I will at least get some scarves done! Tonight I’ll finish # 3.

For anyone interested, here is a link to the publisher’s website. There is also a little video with Dr. Pape! (Sorry, only in German!)

http://www.gu.de/Buch/19504/Die+Hormonformel.+Wie+Frauen+wirklich+abnehmen.html

I tried the library, book stores and the internet to find something comparable for non-German speaking folks, but without luck. Sorry! If you want to know more, I am more than happy to answer your questions!