Ditch the Bread Machine

Nearly 2 years ago, I was watching a friend’s two daughters while she had to work. We took a day trip to Barnes and Noble, my favorite haunt on any afternoon. I armed myself with a decaf, quad-shot Americano and treated them to hot chocolates so that they were temporarily distracted from begging. We split up, them to drool over American Girl Doll paraphernalia and me to the usual corner – cookbooks and fitness titles. I had a $30 gift card burning a hole in my pocket so I felt compelled to buy something.

Earlier that year, I had taken it upon myself to learn the art of bread baking. As an incentive I had given away the bread maker. My mother-in-law frequently inspired me with golden loaves of a million varieties; my mom had raised me on homemade bread – so from scratch that she actually ground her own wheat! So far, all of my attempts had been rather floppish. I had thrown away the equivalent of pounds of flour with each discouraging batch. So, when I spied a book called, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, I laughed – and then fell for it.

I knew it had to be a gimmick, but I’m the queen of returns, so I figured I’d give it a shot and if it failed, bring it back for a more promising book. I made my selection just in time, as the two girls scampered toward me with their arms full of American Girl Doll books, outfits and audio. I escaped the store only by convincing them that I didn’t have anymore money – I didn’t – only a gift card.

I was so excited to begin my next baking disaster that I started that very evening. Short story – success! It works, nearly infallibly! I have been making loaves in five minutes a day for my neighbors, my husband, my co-workers and strangers. I’ve made bread bowls, and french baguettes and sweet cinnamon bread and granola bread for breakfast. In order to protect the mystique, and encourage you to eagerly comment on this post, I’m only going to share one recipe with you. This is the master recipe. It can be shaped and altered into any number of recipes, and there are other completely different recipes in the book too. Each one fits the premise  – Five Minutes A Day.

So here goes:

In a 5-quart plastic container with a lid, mix 3 Cups of lukewarm water, 1.5 T salt and 1.5 T yeast. Mix in 6.5 Cups of flour. You may have to stir it in batches if you’re doing it by hand. You can use a mixer with a dough hook, but I’ve only ever used a wooden spoon and elbow grease. Don’t knead it!  The dough will be wet and loose enough to conform to the shape of the container. Cover it with a not-airtight lid and allow it to sit on the counter for about 2 hours. (This doesn’t count as labor time.)

Two hours later toss the container in the fridge and forget about it until you want fresh, hot bread.

When you’re ready, remove a portion of the dough. You can plan on the recipe making about 4 1-pound loaves so remove about a fourth of the dough. It is an amount the size of a grapefruit. Lay the lump on a floured surface and sprinkle a little more flour on top. Spin the dough clockwise, carefully tucking the raw edges underneath to form a smooth ball. Let it sit for about 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 450 and place a pan on the bottom of the oven that you can fill with water and allow a baking stone to heat in the oven as well. When you’re ready, slide your free-form dough ball onto a preheated baking stone. Fill the pan beneath with about 1 Cup of water and close the oven. Let it steam-bake for about 30 minutes. Take it out and ENJOY!

One small note here, all of the recipes in this book are free-form, part of the artisan appeal. My husband doesn’t like much crust and these loaves are usually pretty crunchy on the outside. You can shape your dough and put it into a loaf pan and bake it that way. I still recommend steaming it – you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the difference from regular baking.

Let me know if you try this recipe – if you do, send me a picture! The first person to sent me a picture of their golden masterpiece will receive a free copy of the book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day. 

Here’s my picture: 





Growing With Granola

I have contemplated staring a recipe blog, something like “Recipes for Recovery.” I am testing the idea here on Mondays, so I am very interested in the response. If you enjoy the healthy, adapted recipes you see here and would like to to see more foods and recipes that have encouraged me to eat again, please comment!

Briefly: I fought a loosing battle with anorexia for about 13 years. Then, I began to get the upper hand. There are still battles sometimes, but the war is won and I’m not ever going back. In the thick of my struggles, I outlawed many foods and categories of food. First it was fat, then carbs became evil and protein was innately scary to me.

The first time that I actually saw the cloud of fear around food roll back was in Washington state, near Percival Pier in Olympia. The Olympia Farmer’s Market is renowned. Geometric shapes of colorful fruits and vegetables spill over the tops of semi-permenant carts. The heady fragrance of cinnamon roasted pecans winds through the sea of shoppers in the fall months. Friendships ignite over heads of cauliflower and bundles of wildflowers. Artists mix with farmers mix with bakers and ranchers.

The first time I wandered through the market, I was alone. Tears sprang to my eyes as I observed crowds of people expressing nothing but appreciation for the indulgent art of eating. Food was about color and nutrition and pleasure and friendship and spontaneity. Food was fresh and new and lively and shared and personal and creative. I desperately wanted to experience food in that way.

So that was the beginning of NEW. Later, I volunteered at the Co-op in Olympia. The Co-op was crowded with hippies and hemp. It was open air and very chilly in the winter time. My section was the dry goods, so I restocked oatmeal and granola, cereal, flower, nuts, seeds and fruits. I wondered how people enjoyed nuts? granola? Oh how delicious they looked, but I knew they harbored hundred of calories in a child-sized handful.

I began to find joy in food by making it. I applied the same principles that farmers and bakers do. Perhaps, I thought, their love for food comes from the investment of their time and creativity. So I took it upon myself to make granola. I’ve since made tons and tons of varieties and experimented with recipes from friends and websites. I realized, much to my delight, that granola is easily manipulated successfully. So don’t stick with what I post here. I’m purposefully giving vague ingredients and amounts, because if you vary the baking time, you really can’t go wrong.

Enjoy! Appreciate the joy of creating and eating!

P.S. My greatest love to Dana, who gave me my first granola recipe. Dana, there is no one like you and never will be. You inspired so much of the healing God has brought me through. Not only inspired it but helped me to survive it. I love you!!


2 C puffed rice

2 C  old fashioned oatmeal, or other dry flake cereal such as rye flakes, barley flakes, etc.

1/4 C shelled and salted sunflower seeds

1/4 C dry roasted and salted soybeans

1/2 C mixed, chopped, salted nuts

1/4 Splenda

1 T spice of your choice – cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, if you’re really bold try the SMALLEST dash of cayenne

1/4 honey or flavored syrup (can use sugar free) like maple, carmel, vanilla, coconut

add dashes of water, probably up to about 1/2 C

Stir to determine if it’s the consistency you want. The entire mixture should be damp but not soggy.

Here you can add lots of things: wheat germ, flax seeds, more nuts, stevia if you want it extra sweet, switch out some of the water for olive oil or melted butter

Spread your granola on two greased baking sheets and bake at 300 degrees for about 20-30 minutes stirring regularly. Feel free to take it out at any time you think it is done. Make sure it cools completely before storing it. At this point, I like to mix my granola with another boxed cereal to make it last a little longer and alter the flavor. Try Cascadia Farms version of Cinnamon Toast Crunch or Cinnamon Chex or Honey Nut Cheerios or Kashi Honey Sunshine or Peanut Butter Puffs by Puffin Cereal.

Let me know if you try this recipe and make it your own!

You’re Kidding Me Cookies

The first version of these cookies was called “Fool Yourself Cookies.” I don’t remember how I found the recipe but I’m really glad I did. I am even happier that I never settle for good enough, first try, or suggested methods. You have to try MY cookies. Just in case Fool Yourself is trademarked (it’s not) I altered the name for my cookies, as in: You’ve Got to be Kidding, These are Healthy?

2/3 C instant oatmeal

1 tsp. baking powder

1 scoop chocolate protein powder

2 2.5 ounce containers prune baby food

2 pkgs. Swiss Miss sugar/fat free hot cocoa mix

2 Tbs. cocoa

1/3 C Splenda

Mix all ingredients. Space evenly on greased cookie sheet – 9 spoonfuls will equal 60 calories per cookie. Bake at 300 degrees for 10 minutes. These are divine, but I highly recommend making your alteration. You can’t go wrong. Try Tbs. of PB2 instead of cocoa. Use a full banana instead of prunes or use applesauce or pumpkin or…

Be sure to share your changes here in the comments section. I might want to try your ideas!

Starbucks Has Nothing On Me!

Hands down, my favorite recipe right now is my morning protein shake. Now, before you go back to reading someone else’s blog, or back to your email or to make yourself a sandwich – take a look at this scrumptious concoction. I admit, the first publication of this recipe was not a protein shake.

Eating Well, a wonderful website and even better magazine, published this recipe as a frozen mochaccino, an excellent (and cheaper) version of Starbucks Frappuccino. Being a vegetarian, I’m always on the prowl for more protein that is NOT cheese, egg whites or tuna. And, being a former Starbucks employee, having lost my discount there, I am always on the prowl for yummy drink substitutions.

I have provided a link to the original Eating Well recipe, here, but if any of you are even moderate health-nuts with a tub of protein powder in your pantry, at least try my version.

Abby’s Protein Shake (that I literally drinks every single morning, and would like to drink 2 a day!)

1 Cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk [I use Almond Breeze]

2 packages artificial sweetener

1 scoop of protein powder (vanilla or chocolate depending on your preference) [I use Isolyze]

1 Tbs. cocoa powder or PB2 if you like peanut butter and who doesn’t?

At this point, if you want to add some pizzazz, you can add a Tbs. or so of Davinci flavored syrup

And NOW for the secret ingredient: frozen coffee ice cubes. The day before, save your left over coffee, add a Tbs. or so of instant coffee to double the strength and freeze in an ice cube tray. I add 8 cubes + 1 regular ice cube to my mixture.

It’s so easy. One blender – toss it all in and blend like crazy! The longer you blend, a whey protein will tend to thicken and volumize. I love that it usually overflows one Eskimo Joe’s cup and I get to drink the rest straight from the blender.

If you make this recipe as I have listed above, and use a sugar free flavored syrup, your drink (the whole thing) will have about 190 calories. It doesn’t get better than that!