Signs of refreshment: Baking Everyday Oatmeal Bread from Simply in Season

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I think we all have signs that indicate we’re feeling refreshed. For some it might be having the emotional energy to make a phone call, for others it’s winding down enough to sit and read a book, for others still it might be the desire to get out the paint set or get dressed up and go out for dinner. For me I know I’m feeling refreshed when my creativity returns and I bake spontaneously or feel like writing (hello again dear blog and friends of this blog!).

After returning from New Zealand last night, I woke up with a desire to bake some bread. Not just put bread in the machine and then watch it rise in the oven, but really bake. The inspiration for this was my sister-in-law’s incredible loaf that I could have devoured quite selfishly on my own, slathered with butter and munched on with utter delight to my heart’s content. It really was that good. Not just any bread, this was a darker loaf, incredibly moist and filled with goodness. Along with wholewheat flour and oats it contains a healthy serve of molasses, which apparently has the lowest sugar content of any sugar cane product and contains vital vitamins and minerals, such as iron, calcium, magnesium, vitamin B6, and selenium (according to Healthline.com).  I also really enjoyed making this with Adventure Girl and Dash. They found the punching  of the dough especially fun!

9780836194944The recipe for this comes from the cookbook I’ll be saving up for next Simply in Season by Mary Beth Lind. It’s the sort of cookbook that informs as well as provides incredible recipes and focuses on seasonal food that’s locally grown and ethically produced. Right up my ally. It’s a compilation of different recipes which was refreshing as well. The recipe I’ve featured here for instance is not by the author but the author has given credit to whom contributed as I do below. I also liked how the book focused on seasons but successfully makes the north/south hemisphere divide. Living in the southern hemisphere I often get frustrated with the seasons being sorted by months. While I know I can simply compute that June in America or England (etc) equates to our December, sometimes I do get confused. Also, my brother and his wife are exceptional cooks so any cookbook that they use often is high on my list.

I wonder what signs you have that you’re in a relaxed state of mind? I’d love to hear so feel free to comment below!

Everyday Oatmeal Bread by Janet Steiner (from Simply in Season)

Ingredients and Method (combined as within the original recipe)

Recipe makes two large loaves

1 1/2 cups boiling water
1 cup rolled oats (or whole oats, or 12-grain cereal, etc)
Combine and let stand 30 min.

3/4 cup molasses (or maple syrup)
3 Tbsp butter or oil
2 tsp salt
Stir into oatmeal.

2 cups lukewarm water
1 Tbsp active traditional yeast
Mix in a large bowl until dissolved. Add oatmeal mixture. [Note: do make this a large bowl as it’s what you’ll be using to form your dough in]
6 cups bread or all purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
Work in flour to make a medium-soft somewhat sticky dough. Knead 8-10 minutes until smooth. Place in greased bowl and let rise until doubled about 1 hour. Keep covered with damp cloth while rising. Then punch down. Divide into two, and shape into loaves. Embellish tops of loaves with seeds (sesame, sunflower, hemp, etc) if desired. Place in greased loaf pans. Cover and let rise again, about 45 min. Bake in preheated oven at 400 F/200C/180C (fan forced) for 5 minutes and then reduce to 350F/180C/160C ( about 30-35 minutes until they sound hollow when tapped.

Notes:

  • If you’re trying to cut down on carbs this is NOT the recipe for you. The very smell of this bread cooking was enough to make me salivate
  • You can increase the wholewheat flour ratio if you prefer (I used 3 cups wholewheat and 5 cups unbleached white bakers flour)
  • According to other blogs featuring this recipe, it also works well with adding in nuts, seeds and grains or using a grain mix instead of the oatmeal
  • This really is a recipe you can make with kids (at times!). Involving them in the punching of the dough or giving them their own piece to kneed/use like play dough is a fun and contained way of involving them.

 

Cooking for Kids : The River Cottage Baby and Toddler Cookbook

In Australia the recommendation for when babies are to start solids is to start purees at 4 months and solid foods at 6 months. How to do this though can be a minefield, especially for first time parents like us. For some though, when to transition to a full “solid” diet can be the most difficult part. As an example, I was recently involved in a market research group where some of the parents where still feeding their one year olds pureed foods out of “pouches” bought from the supermarket for the majority of meals. For me though, while I started by pushing banana through a sieve and finely processing sweet potato for Adventure Girl, I soon realised that this wasn’t the direction we wanted to take. Simply, and honestly, I was too lazy to do it all myself, didn’t want to use pouches and wondered if there was another way. In my  research for alternatives, I came across the practice of Baby Led Weaning which encourages not feeding your children purees and instead, holding off until your child is 6 months and at that stage introducing solid food. I’m no expert but this has been the best thing for us as a family and this is the direction we’ve taken with Dash as well.

One of the greatest concerns with this form of feeding is choking. The best advice I ever read on this was from Baby Led Weaning, by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett. It said that the gagging reflex is entirely natural and something a parent doesn’t need to be concerned about. The trick is to know when it’s gagging and when it’s choking. To do this it’s simple: count to three. When your child is eating (yes, you really should be there with them!) if they start to gag/choke count to three, if they’re still doing it after the count of three THEN you intervene (watch this video from St John’s ambulance for more details on what to do if they choke). If they sort it out themselves, good work kid! And good work parent… I reckon it’s more stressful for us sometimes than them – I don’t think I’ll ever stop counting 1..2…3 if I see a child gagging.

9781408807569The premise of baby led weaning is that, from a young age, they and you eat the same things – not adults eating purees but kids getting to eat real food that hasn’t been processed already for them. The book that has helped us the most is The River Cottage Baby and Toddler Cookbook. The recipes and knowledge within it enabled us to have the confidence to make this step and enjoy it. I’ve loaned it out to a few friends and each of them has gone on to purchase their own copy. It’s a great resource and one of our regularly used cookbooks. I can remember the first time I made the courgette [zucchini] polpettes and how Mr Incredible exclaimed that he couldn’t believe they were in a baby cookbook. The flavour, especially with the lemon zest and garlic, was great. We make them with quinoa rather than breadcrumbs but otherwise leave the recipe as it stands and I include it below as an encouraging “taster” for you to try, especially if you have young kids.

Courgette Polpettes [aka zucchini balls)

River Cottage Baby & Toddler Cookbook, by Nikki Duffy

Author notes: These vegetarian ”meatballs” are inspired by a wonderful recipe from Italian food writer Ursula Ferrigno. Her original uses aubergines, but I really like this fresh-tasting zucchini version. You can easily double the quantities but you’ll probably need to cook the zucchini in batches.

Freezer-friendly: freeze the uncooked polpette. Defrost before baking.

For babies: these make nice finger food and will introduce your baby to lots of different flavours.

For grown-ups and older children: try adding a few toasted pine nuts to the mix.

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp canola or olive oil
  • 500g zucchini, finely diced
  • grated zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 generous tbsp grated parmesan, pecorino or other well-flavoured hard cheese
  • 1/2 ball of buffalo mozzarella (60-70g), diced
  • 50g breadcrumbs or cooked quinoa
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • freshly ground black pepper and sea salt (optional)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C. Oil a baking tray or line with a non-stick silicone liner.
  2. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium-high heat and fry the zucchini for about 10 minutes, until tender and golden. Set aside to cool a little, then combine them with all the other ingredients to make a thick, sticky mixture. Season if you like (remember that the cheeses already contain salt).
  3. Take walnut-sized blobs of the mixture and roll into balls. Place on the baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes, until golden.
  4. Serve hot, warm or cold, on their own or with pita bread and a tomato salad or sauce.
  5. Makes about 12.