Thursday, October 29, 2009

Cooking with Wheat

First of all, I am in no way an expert on wheat.  The first time I ever used it was after I got married.  However, it is a highly recommended food storage staple, and I am a nut about food storage.  But I am also a firm believer in using what you store.  I was not going to be one of those people with 500 lbs. of wheat in the basement and no idea what to do with it. 
One of my main priorities was to get my family accustomed to wheat in case there ever came a time when we had to rely on it for a more permanent food source. I didn't want our bodies to go ballistic (if you know what i mean).  So... this is what I found that works best for my family:

Wheat flour:
This is what I imagine to be the most popular use, although it is least popular for me.  Wheat flour can replace all-purpose flour for most or all of your baking needs.  However, it does not have a great shelf life.  Once wheat has been ground into flour, it should be used as quickly as possible.  I've heard some people say up to 1 week, and others say it lasts for months.  Personally, I would stick to within a 1-2 week range; especially if you are using it to make bread, which in my experience has the most noticeable difference the longer it ages.
If you are like me, and you don't prefer the taste of whole wheat flour, try using half wheat flour and half all-purpose flour (or 1/4 and 3/4), whatever works best for you.

Cracked Wheat (Bulgur):
Cracked wheat is whole wheat that has been broken (kind of the middle stage between a wheat berry and wheat flour). 

Cooking cracked wheat is the same as cooking rice (2 to 1 water ratio):
2 c. water
1 c. cracked wheat
1/4 tsp. salt
Boil water and salt. Add wheat. Cover, and let it simmer for 18-20 minutes.

This is by far the most popular form of wheat consumed in my family.  I will always make a large batch, and continue to use it throughout the week in various dishes, as it stores very well in the fridge. 
Some of our most common uses include:
- Hot cereal:
warm cracked wheat with milk and sugar (or honey, etc.)  Banana's, raisins, etc. can be added.  (Personally, I would rather fast than eat this, but my hubs likes it).
- Cracked wheat in bread dough:
 I LOVE this.  Just add cooked cracked wheat to any dough (bread, rolls, pizza, etc). and bake as you always do.  It makes the dough go a bit further, gives it some texture, is better for you, but doesn't leave a wheat flavor.  (Check out my 'Recipe - Breads' section)
- Cracked wheat in hamburger: 
I will often times use cooked and raw cracked wheat when using hamburger. 
When making hamburger patties, I sometimes add a small amount (up to 1/4 c. per lb. of meat) cooked cracked wheat to the mix.  It helps hold it all together, and makes them more moist. 
I use raw cracked wheat anytime I use hamburger that will be cooking for a longer period of time (ie: meatloaf, stuffed veggies, etc).  The wheat will absorb some of the fat and juices from the meat, and it blends in nicely (most of the time my hubby and kids can't tell that it is included).     

- Add to Casseroles:
Cooked cracked wheat can be added to practically any meal without being noticed; especially in dishes with strong or spicy flavors.  The key is in the quantity; a few spoonfuls of wheat will not be noticed.  I find it works best with casseroles or one-pot dishes. 
Wheat berries:
These are made by cooking the entire grain of wheat without altering it in any way first.  It does take a significantly longer time to cook, but has a unique texture.  When fully cooked they look very similar to popcorn kernals (size and shape).

Basic instructions for cooking wheat berries:
8 c. water
4 c. wheat
1 tsp. salt
Bring water and salt to a boil.  Add wheat.  Cover and simmer for 1 hour and 10 minutes.

These are 'nut' like me in the sense that they are small and still have a crunch to them.  They work very well in salads.
Some people do eat wheat berries as a hot cereal, but we don't prefer it.

Wheat berries will last several days in the fridge, and also freezes well.

Blended Wheat:
Blended wheat is made by putting cooked cracked wheat in a blender or food processor and blending (adding water) until desired consistency.
Blended wheat works as a great addition to soups, stews, stir-fry sauces, gravies, etc.  It is visible (especially in clear or light sauce recipes), but does not drastically alter the taste.

Blended wheat will last several days in the fridge, and also freezes well.

If any of you wheat lovers out there have any more helpful hints or uses for wheat I would love to hear about it!

Cracked Wheat Bread

About a year ago I started making my own bread.  I always use the Pantry Secrets bread dough recipe (  It is SO much better than store-bought, so fast, and so easy to make that I never looked back. 
Personally, I do not prefer the taste of whole wheat bread, so I always use the 'white' flour version.  However, I also wanted to try and make it a bit more healthy; so I came up with this recipe.
It is a great way to get wheat into your diet, without sacrificing the flavor of white bread.  I'm sure the whole concept will work just as well with your favorite bread recipe.  Because I can't taste the difference, I make all of my bread, rolls, breadsticks, pizza doughs, etc. with cracked wheat now... and yes, my kids love it!
This photo was taken before the bread was baked, because the wheat shows up better.

Cracked Wheat Bread
(Pantry Secrets Bread Dough Recipe + cracked wheat)
5 c. Turkey Brand Flour (Lehi Roller-Mills flour, also sold at Costco)
1/4 c. sugar
3 rounded 1/2 Tbsp. Saf-Instant Yeast
1/2 Tbsp. salt
2 quarter sized drops liquid Lecithin
1 c. packed cooked cracked wheat
1 3/4 - 2 c. HOT tap water

Combine flour, sugar, yeast and salt in mixing bowl, and stir to combine.  Add lecithin, wheat, and 1 1/2 c. water.  After 1 minute of mixing check consistency and add more water if needed (dough should be slightly sticky - forming a ball in the middle of the bowl).  Mix for a total of 6 minutes on medium speed.
Roll out on counter/cutting board that has been sprayed with cooking spray (not a floured surface).  Knead 4 times, and cut in half. 
Form into loaves/rolls/breadsticks.  Let raise for 25 minutes.
Bake at 350 for 25 minutes (loaves) or 15 minutes for rolls and breadsticks.
Makes 2 large loaves (10.5x6x3" pans)

Greens, White Beans and Barley Soup

This may not be the best looking soup (according to my husband), but it is SO tasty!  And filling.  Especially for not having any meat.  I got this recipe from Jake and Michelle Walkenhorst (in my ward); they hosted a 'cooking with greens' cooking group at their house.  I'm not sure which cookbook they got it out of, but thanks for sharing!

½ lb. carrots, peeled
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 ½ c. chopped onions
½ tsp. salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ c. sliced mushrooms (omit these if you are a fungus free family like us)
6 c. chicken stock
2 c. cooked barley
2 bay leaves
1 can. White beans, rinsed
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. dried thyme leaves
1 ½ lb. collard greens, chopped (I used Kale)
1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar

Hot pepper sauce
red or yellow bell pepper strips

Cut carrots lengthwise into quarters, then crosswise into ¼” pieces. Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium heat until it shimmers. Add carrots, onions, and salt. Sweat until slightly softened, 3-5 minutes. Add mushrooms and sweat for another 4-5 minutes, until tender. Add garlic and sweat for 30-60 seconds, until fragrant.
Increase heat to high. Add stock, cooked barley, beans, bay leaves, sugar and thyme. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Add greens and simmer for another 10 minutes. Remove bay leaves and discard., Stir in vinegar.
Season individual serving bowls with pepper sauce, fresh ground black pepper, and garnish with bell pepper strips.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Pasta Salad

This is one of my favorite go-to salads... just ask my family, it is all I EVER bring to potlucks.  I love it most because you just throw in whatever you have, and it always turns out great!

 Pasta Salad Recipe
1/2 lb. your favorite pasta (we loves shells, ditalini, rotini, and bow-ties)
1 can beans (black, kidney, garbanzo or great northern)
1 carrot, quartered and diced thin
1 stalk celery, sliced
1/2 bell pepper, chopped
1/4 c. cubed cheddar cheese
~1/4 c. Italian Salad Dressing (My family really loves the Italian dressing, but I think it is just as good with Ranch)
salt, pepper and Italian Seasoning to taste

The above ingredients I use every time - if I have them I will use some or all of the following:
wheat berries, green or red onions, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumber, tomato... pretty much any vegetable you have stocked in your fridge.
Cook noodles, drain, and rinse with cold water.  Combine all ingredients in large bowl and toss together with dressing and seasonings.  Chill for 2 hours (I hardly ever remember to make it that far in advance for dinner, but the longer it sits, the better it is - makes great leftovers).  Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Quinoa Cooking Tips

Quinoa; pronounced [keen-wa].  Ever had it?  Ever even heard of it?  It is a whole grain (like wheat, oats or brown rice).  It is super healthy for you, relatively inexpensive, and has a great shelf life.  My mother in law bought a huge amount and gave me some to try.  We both had a bit of a hard time figuring out how to prepare it (since neither of us had ever had it before).  Here is what I've found out since then...

It's good!  It kind of has a nutty flavor, and works great as a side dish or a substitution for rice in stir-fry type dishes.  However, it does have a slightly bitter flavor if not prepared correctly.

Very similar looking to sesame seeds, quinoa has an outer coating which can be very bitter if not removed prior to cooking.  To remove the coating, you just have to soak it in water.  (Some brands/companies do sell quinoa pre washed - so you'll have to expirament with what you have).
- Place quinoa in a strainer (make sure you use the metal mesh kind, quinoa is very small and may go right through otherwise)
- Place the strainer in a bowl and fill with water; soak for 15-30 minutes (if you don't have time for this, you can immerse the quinoa in HOT water for 5 minutes, rinsing once or twice; but longer soaking creates better results).
- Discard any that float to the top.
- Use your hand to stir the quinoa every so often while soaking.  You may also need to discard the water and replace it. 
- Once the water runs clear through the quinoa it is ready for cooking.

Proportions and Cooking time:
- If quinoa is wet (has recently been rinsed) you will use 1 c. quinoa to 1 1/2 c. liquid
- If quinoa doesn't need to be strained (dry) you will use 1 c. quinoa to 1 3/4 - 2 c. liquid
- Bring liquid to a boil.  Add quinoa.  Cover and let simmer 18-20 minutes.

Quinoa can be cooked in water, but I like to use chicken/beef/vegetable stock instead (or at least 1/2 stock and 1/2 water).  It really makes a big difference taste wise.
This is what it looks like fully cooked - pretty small, as you can see compared to the peas, but pretty tasty.  I will be posting some recipes soon enough!