Saturday, 28 February 2015

Macaroni and Cheese

 It has been ridiculously cold where I live in Southern Ontario!  I mean, -35 COLD!!  Comfort food has definitely been craved, so what better to satisfy those cravings like good old fashioned Macaroni and Cheese?  I know there are lots of families that like to dress up their Mac and Cheese, but around here, my family likes the basics.  So here is a great recipe that guarantees a casserole dish full of creamy, yummy, comfort!

To make Macaroni and Cheese, You will need:

- 1 box whole wheat pasta (I used a 500 gram package bowties, but  elbow pasta or any other shape is good)
- 6 Tbsp butter
- 6 Tbsp whole wheat flour
- 3 cups grated old cheddar cheese
- 3 cups 2% milk
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1 and 1/2 tsp ground mustard
- freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 1/2 cup buttered breadcrumbs, optional

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Cook the pasta in a large pot of water, al dente, drain and rinse with hot water and return to pot.
In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.  Add flour mixed with salt, pepper and mustard.  Whisk to combine and make a roux.
Slowly pour in milk, whisking constantly to avoid lumps. continue to whisk until sauce is thickened and bubbling.
Add in the cheese, stirring constantly until almost melted and remove from heat. continue stirring until cheese is completely incorporated.
Pour cheese sauce over the pasta, and stir to combine.
Transfer pasta to your casserole dish, sprinkle breadcrumbs over pasta (if using), cover with foil and cook in oven for 20 minutes, until heated through.

This recipe makes enough to easily feed 6-8.  I make a large batch of this because my daughters love bringing a thermos of this to school for lunch the next day.

Hope you enjoy this as much as we do!

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Oatmeal Muffins

I always pack my daughters a "grain snack" in their lunches, but I do not like to buy the processed granola bars/cereal bars in stores. I prefer to control the level of sugar my girls consume, plus I get to sneak in some healthier ingredients  ;) I add a mere 1/2 cup of chocolate chips to these, because everything is better with chocolate!
These oatmeal muffins have become their favorite snack.  I hope you enjoy them as much as my girls do!
Yields 18 regular muffins, or 12 regular and 12 mini muffins.

To make these muffins, you need:

- 1 and 1/2 cups oats (old fashioned or quick)
- 2 and 2/3 cups all purpose whole wheat flour
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 4 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 beaten eggs
- 1 and 1/2 cups milk (whatever you have on hand, I use skim)
- 1/4 cup canola oil ( I use first press)
- 1/4 cup apple sauce (unsweetened)
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 cup semi sweet or 70% cocoa chocolate chips

In a large bowl, combine oats, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
In a separate bowl, combine milk, eggs, apple sauce, oil and vanilla.
Stir the egg mixture into the oats mixture until moistened.
Add in the chocolate chips!
Pour batter into greased muffin tin.  I use 1/4 cup per muffin for regular sized muffins. For mini muffins, 1 heaping tablespoon. 
Now, here is the secret!  preheat your oven to 425 for regular sized muffins.  Bake for 5 minutes @ 425, then turn oven down to 375 for 15 to 18 minutes. 
Starting the cooking process at a high heat like this provides for a fluffy, muffin with a high rise. Because we all know the muffin top is the best part!

Bake mini muffins at 375 for 12 minutes.

These muffins freeze beautifully, in case you were wondering!  


Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Whole Wheat Hamburger Buns

As I do a lot of bread baking, I thought I would give you the best recipe I have found for Hamburger Buns, and I have tried a lot of recipes!  This one is PERFECT!  Seriously yummy! These homemade buns definitely take center stage on hamburger night, and I get the satisfaction of knowing my family are eating whole grain goodness without any preservatives.  I love that!

To make hamburger buns, you will need:

1 Tbsp active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
2 Tbsp honey
1/2 cup milk 
1 large egg
2 Tbsp oil (I use first press canola oil)
1 tsp salt
3 cups whole wheat all purpose flour (spoon and sweep method to measure)
1 Tbsp vital wheat gluten
1 Tbsp melted butter (optional)

- In a stand mixer bowl with paddle attachment,dissolve honey into water and stir in yeast. 
-In a separate bowl, whisk together milk, oil and egg.  Add to yeast mixture and mix until combined.
-Add in salt, flour and wheat gluten (I add the flour in 3 batches to avoid a cloud of flour).
-Once the flour in incorporated and the dough is "shaggy", switch to the dough hook attachment and knead the dough for 5 minutes.  The dough should be smooth and elastic.
- Grease a clean bowl and transfer dough into bowl, turning greased side up.
-Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot to rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
- Once doubled, turn your dough onto a lightly floured surface and shape into a log. Cut the log into 8 equal pieces and shape into a tight ball.
 Place the balls on a parchment lined baking sheet and return to a warm spot for the second rise, until puffy and hamburger sized, 30-40 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 375.  If desired, you can brush the tops of your buns now with the melted butter. This will help the tops brown as well as keep the buns soft.  I personally do not find this step necessary.
- Bake for 15-18 minutes.
-Allow the buns to cool to room temperature before slicing.  If your are not using these within the next day or two, I would recommend freezing them until needed.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Whole Wheat Focaccia bread

I have been on a mission to have only homemade bread in our home for a few months, and have been avoiding focaccia.  It scared me!  And I don't know why! This was not hard at all!  In fact, I actually messed up a few steps and it still came out perfect!
Give it a try, it is practically foolproof!

to make Whole Wheat Focaccia, you will need:

3/4 cup lukewarm water
1 Tbsp honey
1 tsp quick rise dry yeast
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 3/4 cups whole wheat bread flour
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp italian seasoning

- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, combine water and honey.  Sprinkle the yeast over water and let sit for 5 minutes, until yeast softens and starts to bubble.
- On low speed, add oil, then salt.
-Add flour in batches as well as 1 tsp of italian seasoning.
-Knead until mixture forms a smooth elastic dough and pulls away from the walls of the bowl, about 15 minutes.
- Transfer dough to a greased bowl, turn the dough so that the greased side is up and cover with plastic wrap.  Leave it to rise in a warm area for 45 minutes, or until doubled in size.  I turn my oven onto 250 for 30 seconds (just to warm the oven) and place my dough in there to rise.
-Grease a 10 inch round pan or a 8 x 12 inch rectangular pan (I use canola spray). Press dough to fit into the edges of your pan, then, make dimples in the dough with your fingertips.drizzle with olive oil and remaining italian seasoning.
-Leave to rise in a warm area for approx 45 minutes, until doubled in size. (I return it to my oven)
- Remove the dough once doubled from the oven (if that is where it was rising), cover with a clean towel.  Preheat oven to 375.
- Remove towel and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until top is golden and crisp.
-Cool completely on a wire rack.
Can be stored for 2 days at room temperature in an airtight container, or longer refrigerated.