As I continue to grieve the loss of my mother, I can’t seem to focus on any one thing very long. Has anybody else experienced this? Seems like nothing is quite as important as it used to be, including cooking a good meal. But my life is not just about sadness these days. Yesterday, our family was blessed with the birth of a brand new baby girl, born to my youngest son and his wife. God’s antidote for the hole in my heart couldn’t be more perfect or amazing.
One of my not-so-lofty goals in life is to build a library of quick and easy-on-the-waistline recipes for times like these. You know the drill – few ingredients, lots of healthy flavor, speedy assembly and dirty dishes that wash themselves. (I wish.)
I recently ran across this soup recipe, that seemed to fit these requirements, in the Parade newspaper supplement published February 2015. It appeared easy enough with only 5 ingredients, and calls for chicken stock made from the carcass of a rotisserie chicken as the base. You could substitute canned broth or bouillon cubes reconstituted with water. Personally, I prefer to make my own broth with rotisserie chicken and freeze it. Just know, the better your broth tastes, the better your soup will be.
The instructions suggest a dollop of pesto on top. You could leave that out, but I highly recommend it for increased flavor that makes this soup a homerun. In my opinion, the soup looks more appetizing if you stir the pesto into the soup instead of letting it float on top.
The last few days have been all about recalling memories at my house. We buried my 97-year-old mother this past Tuesday. It has been a little rough but I’m grateful for God’s comfort surrounding me in the form of family and friends. (My apologies if you’ve sent me a question in the last week regarding something on this blog and I haven’t gotten back to you yet.)
I have a specific memory about whole wheat berries (the star character in this Cracked Berry Wheat Bread) that involves my dad driving a big green John Deere combine through the wheat fields of our Indiana farm in the middle of July. He would occasionally reach his hand up and behind him to grab a handful of wheat berries out of the hopper. After popping them into his mouth, he would chew for awhile until they turned into a soft, viscous mass, not unlike chewing gum. Mind you there were often bugs and empty chaff in that hopper along with the wheat berries, but he was not deterred.
When it comes to bread, I’m generally a white-bread-lovin’ baby boomer. But I know I need to be eating whole grains, so this bread is the perfect compromise.
How about some crushed wheat berries thrown into that white bread for interesting texture and added flavor? This particular recipe is homemade (with the help of a bread machine), and contains no preservatives. I declare it healthy enough. It’s well worth the calories and effort, although calling any bread made in the bread machine an “effort” is debatable.
Unfortunately, I no longer have access to those fresher-than-fresh wheat berries my dad grew, but I can usually find wheat berries in the bulk bins at our local organic grocery stores. They are inexpensive and well worth the trouble for the texture, flavor, and nutrition they add to this nubbly, crunchy, and earthy-tasting bread. Be sure to boil the wheat berries as directed, or soak them overnight before using for maximum tooth-friendly enjoyment.
Please note if you are new to making bread in your bread machine, I have several tutorials on this blog to help you get the dough just right. Start here.
Cracked Wheat Berry Bread -- A Bread Machine Recipe
A nubby, crunchy loaf with cracked wheat berries you can easily make in your bread machine
Author: Adapted from a recipe by Abby Mandel
Recipe type: bread
Serves: 2 small loaves
½ cup whole grain wheat berries
2-1/2 cups bread flour, divided
1 cup warm water or whey drained from yogurt
1-1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
¼ cup nonfat dry milk solids
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 teaspoons bread machine or instant yeast
Boil wheat berries in 1 cup of water for 20 minutes. Allow to cool (quicker if you add ice cubes) and drain. Alternatively, soak wheat berries in water for 12 hours or overnight. (Softened and drained wheat berries will keep in the fridge up to a week.)
Add prepared wheat berries to a blender or food processor along with 1 cup of bread flour. Process until wheat berries are finely chopped. You will likely need to stop several times to push the flour and wheat berries from the sides of the chopping container back to the middle.
Combine water, salt, sugar, nonfat dry milk solids, butter, and remaining flour to bread machine pan along with ground wheat berries and flour mixture, and the yeast.
Select the dough cycle and start. Check dough after 10 minutes to make sure dough sticks to the side of the pan and then pulls away cleanly. If too wet, add more flour 1 tablespoon at a time. If too dry, add more water 1 tablespoon at a time.
When dough cycle completes, check to make sure dough has doubled in size. If not, leave in pan until it does.
When doubled, remove dough from pan to floured surface and divide into two equal portions. Shape each portion into an oblong shape by pulling dough from the top to the bottom until dough is smooth; then pinch closed. Place seam side down on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper or a silicone mat that has been sprinkled with a bit of cornmeal.
Cover with a tea towel and allow to rise until almost doubled. Preheat oven to 425 degrees about 20 minutes before you expect the loaf to be ready to bake.
Brush risen loaves with glaze of 1 egg white whipped together with 1 tablespoon water. (This is optional.)
Make 2-3 diagonal slashes in each loaf with very sharp serrated knife or razor blade, being careful not to deflate dough.
Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until interior temperature reaches 190 degrees F, or until bottom is brown and sounds hollow.
Allow loaves to cool on rack for an hour before slicing.
Looking for an easy recipe for a special dinner or celebration meal? May I suggest you pin or print this one. With only 4 ingredients (pepper doesn’t count), you won’t even need a recipe after making it the first time. Furthermore, your guests are going to feel extra blessed when you bring this gorgeous Bacon-Wrapped Stuffed Pork Tenderloin with Raspberry Chipotle Sauce to the table.
Consider yourself warned about the come-hither aroma wafting from your oven as this bakes. I promise you. Every man, woman, and child within whiffing distance of your kitchen will be begging for a sample. The bacon combined with raspberry chipotle sauce and pork makes for an exquisite sweet, salty, smoky flavor.
About the cream cheese stuffing (which is not at all difficult to accomplish), consider it a built-in condiment. The contrast between the mild and creamy cheese, the crispy bacon, and the sweet and spicy sauce will have your taste-buds begging for more.
A big thanks to my friend Scooter, of Scooter’s Spaghetti fame, who shared this recipe with me a couple weeks ago. My husband went crazy for it. I recently served it to my sister who was in town from Alabama with her husband, and they also pronounced it a winner. I hope you and the people you are cooking for will, too.
1. I highly recommend covering your pan or baking dish with foil (include the sides). You’ll thank me when it comes time to do the dishes.
2. Don’t use thick-sliced bacon. If you live near a Braum’s store, you might try their bacon. It cooks up beautifully. (It also microwaves nicely for a BLT.)
3. I didn’t specify amounts on the raspberry chipotle sauce. Go sparingly if you don’t like a lot of spicy heat. Be generous if you do. Serve with extra sauce on the side if you live in Texas. I have only tried Fischer and Wieser raspberry chipotle sauce because I’ve been told it’s the best.
4. The recipe serves 3-4 carnivores but is easily doubled, tripled, or more.
We’ve been binge-watching the TV series Heartland the past few cold, winter days. Unlike Downton Abby where the elderly Dowager Countess of Grantham seems to get the best lines, the young neighbor girl Mallory often offers opinions no adults would dare speak. For example: “What is this stuff?” as she looks down at her plate. When told it was Shepherd’s Pie, she remarked, “It looks more like something the shepherd stepped in.”
I hope this doesn’t look that bad, but I admit cooked eggplant is the opposite of photogenic. Is there a word for that? Can somebody help me? In ultrasound, we call it “ultrasound ugly.” Maybe we could call eggplant “food ugly.”
But I won’t let the unfortunate appearance of eggplant keep me from eating it. If you are tired of green beans, broccoli, and carrots, you might try eggplant in this scrumptious vegetable casserole. I only call it dressing because it includes cornbread crumbs. You could just as easily use rice or quinoa in place of the cornbread.
I’m not a fan of boiled eggplant as called for in so many eggplant recipes. I much prefer to grill it using a grill pan so it doesn’t get mushy. In the absence of a grill pan, saute the eggplant in a skillet brushed with olive oil.
I am always looking for ways to trim calories so I’m rather sparing with the cheese. Otherwise, I would stir an additional two ounces of shredded Cheddar into the casserole just before baking.
4 ounce button or portobello mushrooms, sliced or chopped
1 teaspoon ground sage
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup lowfat milk
1 4 oz. can green chilies
1 cup fresh or frozen and thawed corn
1-1/2 cups crumbled, stale cornbread
½ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 oz cheddar cheese, shredded
Use greased grill pan or skillet to cook peeled and sliced eggplant, flipping when browned. See picture above. Set aside.
Melt butter in large skillet. Add onions, celery, peppers, and garlic and saute until soft. Add mushrooms and sage to skillet and cook another 3-4 minutes.
Sprinkle flour over cooked veggies. Stir to distribute evenly. Add milk and continue to stir until thickened. Add cooked and chopped eggplant, green chilies, corn and cornbread crumbs, stirring gently. Season with salt and pepper.
Cook at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Sprinkle cheese over the top during the last 10 minutes.
With Valentine’s Day waiting in the wings, have you thought about making something a bit special for breakfast? I propose these rich and scrumptious scones with a hot cup of coffee or tea to set the mood and tone for the day.
I scored this recipe when volunteering at Bible Study Fellowship headquarters in San Antonio some years back. The people who work there do everything with excellence, including the food. After helping to serve these for breakfast one morning, I was thrilled to get the recipe. [Keep reading…]