Monthly Archives: May 2012

Just Milling Around


My bowls of grains waiting to be ground: white wheat, rye, white wheat again, and red wheat.

One thing we do in our household is grind our own grain. It’s pretty cheap to buy 25-50 pound bags of wheat, oats, or other grains. We store them in plastic 5-gallon buckets in our shed with tightly sealing lids – you can get these sorts of buckets and lids from a paint shop.

First we tried the Family Grain Mill.

Positive things about the Family Grain Mill:

  • You can get it with a handcrank option, if you’re the hippie homesteading disaster-preparedness type.
  • It makes very nice flour.
  • It’s easy to wash because it comes apart.

Negative things about the Family Grain Mill:

  • It took a  r e a l l y  long time to grind enough grain just for one batch of bread (2 loaves). I think it took the better part of an hour. I don’t recall now exactly how long, because that was 3 or so years ago, but I remember feeling like it was NOT worth my time to have to constantly replenish a hopper that was as slow as molasses in January just to make one batch of bread.
  • The milling part is metal. This isn’t a bad thing as long as you have sorted through your grain first to make sure there are no stones in it, because rocks will really do some serious damage to steel mills if you don’t take the time to sort out rocks.

After using the Family Grain Mill for a few weeks we got tired of how slow it was in comparison with my mother-in-law’s old Magic Mill, and so my husband went on eBay to find one of those for ourselves: the old kind with the stone mill, that Magic Mill doesn’t actually manufacture any more. He soon found one for a good price and we’ve been using that one ever since.

Magic Mill

This is our Magic Mill.

Positive things about the Magic Mill:

  • It’s really fast. I can grind up several kinds of grain and fill various bags/canisters in the same amount of time it took the Family Grain Mill to just do one canister of one grain.
  • It’s got a stone so while I still try to pick out rocks I’m not as worried about it as I would be if we had a steel mill.

Negative things about the Magic Mill:

  • This is about mine specifically: because it’s older and been used, the stones don’t come quite as close together as they originally would have, due to wear. My husband was able to tinker with it to get the stones a little closer, but it’s something to be aware of if you do buy a used one. The flour is still very usable but if I want it super super fine and fluffy I run it through twice. (I rarely bother, because it’s really not that big of a deal.)
  • It’s a little harder to clean out thoroughly than the Family Grain Mill, which all came apart for washing. If you’re on a strictly gluten-free diet you won’t want to buy a used one, because it’s impossible to get every speck of flour residue out. I brush mine out with a bristle brush or (dedicated) toothbrush and call it good. For reference purposes, the picture I posted above was taken between grinding flour and brushing out flour residue.

I also find my small coffee grinder indispensable, pictured in this post. You can find them at thrift stores. (Just make sure they don’t smell strongly of coffee, or everything you grind will smell like coffee.) For small quantities or things such as nuts or flaxseed that can’t be run through the flour mill, this little apparatus is wonderful. I’ve used my blender, but the coffee grinder works far better.

I asked my friends what kinds of grain mills they have and here’s what I learned from them.
  • My husband’s parents have the Magic Mill (an older one than ours). You can look at what Magic Mill currently has available or check eBay for an older model.
  • Carol and Tom have the Ultramill that they bought at Bob’s Red Mill several years ago. They are pleased; usually grind corn and wheat in it.
  • Peter has the Country Living grain mill. This is a hand-crank one. They’ve had it over 10 years and like it.
  • Joy has a K-Tec kitchen mill that her mom bought about 17 years ago. It is a steel mill, doesn’t take up a lot of space ( about the same as a 4 slice toaster) and when you aren’t using it, the mill pan fits over the motor and stores the cord, etc. As far as speed, she hasn’t used any other mills but it seems fast to her. The only negative is that it is loud! Otherwise, they haven’t had a bit of trouble with it and would buy it again.
  • Esther’s is a NutriMill. She’s had it since she got married and thinks it does a good job but has nothing to compare it to.

Do you use a grain mill? What kind do you have, and how has it worked for you?

Categories: around the kitchen | 4 Comments

Postpartum Freezer Food Project of Doom: A Series

Last time I had a baby, I had a really good birth experience – outside of the fact that I tore several places, had a few stitches, and was in pain for 6 or more weeks afterwards recovering from that. I would sooner have given birth again 3 times than dealt with the recovery pain. I’m a wuss, apparently.

Anyway, during this recovery time I was obviously not super mobile, and I was spending a lot of time with GooGoo latched onto my breast suckling, so doing a lot of food prep or housework was very difficult. Two very lovely people brought us food. I appreciated this very much. But I couldn’t help feeling a little bummed that more people didn’t offer. The church where I grew up saw to it that 2 meals a day were brought to any new mom for at least 2 weeks, sometimes more depending on how the mom was doing. I really miss that. I’ve tried to do my part to make sure any new mom at my current church gets a few meals out of me, now that I know from experience how helpful that is.

That all being said, I’ve decided I’m going to not count on anyone bringing me food this time based on my experience with GooGoo’s first few weeks of life. Because this time I’m going to have a toddler to tend to and it’s going to be the depths of hot summer and my husband has a lot on his plate, I’m going to initiate the Postpartum Freezer Food Project of Doom, starting now. I’ve gotten my menu all written up and I’m going to get started on it so that by mid-late July all will be ready for Baby Lou Who’s arrival.

So, I’ve decided that instead of being silent here every other week, as I had originally thought to do, I’ll do a post about freezer food, share the recipes that I’m using, and what I learn along the way. I’m going to freeze some things I’m familiar with freezing, and some things I’ve not tried before, and I’m going to be doing some recipes that are new to me as well.

Today I’m going to simply share my list of what I plan to do, and we’ll go from there. You can feel free to skim. I’ll be coming back and updating it with links as I create posts that correspond with the various meals.

Freezer Meal Plan: Breakfasts
My husband makes breakfast 99% of the time anyway, so we don’t need as many breakfasts pre-prepared, but I’d still like to have enough ready to cover at least the first 2 weeks while we’re adjusting to our new addition and making sense of a topsy-turvy schedule. So here’s my plan for 14 freezer breakfasts:

1-6. Waffles. I will do a double batch on a couple separate days to break up the hours doing it. Quadruple batch should feed us for 6 or so meals at least.
7. Baked oatmeal. I haven’t tried freezing this before, so I’m going to do just one batch and we’ll see how it fares.
8-10. Pancakes. I’ll do a quadruple batch or thereabouts of these.
11-14. Breakfast burritos. Tortillas filled with fakey bacon, cheeze sauce, rehydrated or diced potato, shredded zucchini, whatever. Make 1-2 dozen (I imagine we’ll each eat at least 2 apiece per meal if not more)
Extra fill-ins: blueberry muffins (double batch, double bagged), bran muffins, savoury oat patties. Tofu available to make scrambles.

Freezer Meal Plan: Lunches (lunch is our main meal of the day)
I’m getting a tad ambitious here, and I reserve the right to change/omit at any time. 🙂 None of this is set in stone… or ice… yet. But if I was to make the whole list, this is the bulk of enough main meals for a little over a month.

1-4. Pasta sauce. A quadruple batch would be 12 cups sauce, do half tomatoes and half sauce to be cheaper. Divide into 4 3-cup portions for 4 meals of spaghetti. Pasta can be made as needed.
5-7. Black bean soup. Double or triple batch frozen in 4-cup portions.
8-9. Curry: Double batch, freeze in quart bags and serve with rice.
10-11. Easy Baked Burritos. 2 13×9 pans.
12-15. Pizza pockets. Do 2 batches, maybe chicken/bacon/ranch and a more traditional sausage/tomato/pepper. 32 pockets – 4 meals – freeze 8 to a bag
16-17. Mac and cheeze. 2 13×9 pans. (May also do a couple of these with rehydrated sliced potatoes!)
18-21. Pizza crusts. 4, ready to have toppings added + make pizza sauce frozen in portions.
22-24. BBQ Gluten. Served with rice this is one of the best things ever and should last us at least 3 meals.
25-27. Hot dogs. Just for fun; recipe makes 8-10 and they’re quite large.
28-31. Chickpea cutlets. Chicken nuggety yumminess to fill out a meal.
32-33. Soybean patties with golden gravy. Simple and good for bulking up a meal.
34-35. Taco filling.

So, here’s my game plan: I’m going to shoot for completing one of these a day, and I’m going to try to group together things with similar ingredients (like I’ll cook up enough garbanzos to make the golden gravy and chickpea cutlets on consecutive days). I’ll also make enough extra of the various recipes that we can use a portion for that day’s meal so I don’t have to make something else on top of a large batch.

I’m going shopping now and plan to get at least some of the ingredients I haven’t on hand at the moment to start working on all of this. See you back here in two weeks… or you can come back next week and read about grain mills. 😉

Categories: freezer meals, Mrs Pine Nut | Leave a comment

From Early Death to Corrosion by Spinach

Some people become vegan because they watch those horrifying videos of animals being sliced and diced to death. Other people do it for health reasons. Other people marry vegans.

Plant Life On My Plate

Waiter, There’s Plant Life On My Plate

I really rather hesitate to use the term “vegan” for myself, so perhaps I should clarify something right off the bat. When I do call myself “vegan”, it’s according to the Adventist definition of the word, not the ethical/activist definition. It just means I avoid meat, dairy, and eggs, or in perhaps more accurate terms, it’s a plant-based diet. I have no issues with eating honey or wearing leather shoes at this point in my life.  I should also clarify that I do not STRICTLY follow a plant-based diet; I do occasionally take in some dairy or eggs at other people’s houses or potlucks, or because I’m pregnant and my aversions are all across the board. But I don’t eat meat. I’ve been completely off that now for close to a year and have NO interest in going back.

So how did all this come about?

When I was going through tech school in my early twenties, I worked at a pizza place for a while. One of my coworkers was vegetarian. I would gag every time he’d make us workers a pizza because it would be “corroded with spinach”, and in turn he called my favourite pizza “Early Death”. I loved meat, and the “Early Death” was corroded with it: pepperoni, sausage, beef crumbles, and Canadian bacon, and I liked adding bacon bits on top of that. I quipped back that someone had to make up for all the meat he wasn’t eating. I didn’t like eating “leaves and green things” and frequently informed people I was a plants rights activist and therefore would rather not eat veggies.

Later on I graduated tech school and moved out on my own for the first time. At that time I decided I was going to stop eating the animals that were Biblically declared unclean, but that still left plenty of options open, and I still loved my meat. Large, luscious cheeseburgers. Fish. Oh yummy. Fish and chips. Fried chicken from Applebees. That chicken sandwich from Arby’s. Omnomnom. Arby’s was tantalisingly close to my job, too.

When I met my husband, I was dismayed to find out he was vegan. Was he going to expect me to be one too? Me, the meat-lover extraordinaire? I have many memories of our early dating days that revolve around food. I wanted to make food he’d enjoy, but his ideas about making food were alien to mine. Not only was I a meat girl, I was a recipe girl. While he would just pull stuff out of the fridge and throw it in a pan and make deliciousness, I would be faced by all these veggies and not know what to do with them except make a salad or something.

Time went by and, me being the impressionable sort, his ways began to rub off on me. He managed to squick me out so much by referring to the “lumps of dead animal flesh” in my freezer that my luscious hamburgers would go untouched for weeks until I stopped gagging at his terminology, and I learned to season food by smelling the seasonings, and I could make spaghetti sauce and stir fry that met his approval.

And time went by and I discovered that actually going without meat wasn’t as hard as I thought, although I still jumped at any opportunity to wolf down a bird or a fish or even a buffalo burger if given half a chance.

But it wasn’t until we’d been married about two years that I became fully convinced in my own mind that I would have better health without consumption of animal flesh and decided I was done eating dead animals.

It is true that you learn to like what you eat – or, at the very least, tolerate it. I’m still not in love with spinach, for instance, but I eat it because it’s there, and in the proper context it can be quite palatable. (I still decline to corrode my pizzas with it, though.) The endless array of what you can do with plant-based foods is a dazzling, exciting world, and meat seems so boring in comparison now.

If you’re vegetarian or vegan, what’s your story? What prompted you? How is it going for you? Have you felt positive health impacts from your choice?

[Just a note: I’m going to be doing a food post every second Wednesday now instead of weekly. I may be beginning to fill in the alternate weeks with new topics, or I may just leave them blank. Getting ready for baby in a few months and so I’m wanting to not spend quite as much time on the blog! If I do pursue alternate topics, is there anything YOU would especially be interested in?]

Categories: Mrs Pine Nut | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Nooch and Scrambled Tofu

Today, you get two recipes out of me. It’s about time I finally touch on two very common vegan staples: tofu and nutritional yeast (aka nooch). While it is *not* true that tofu is all we eat when we don’t eat meat, properly prepared tofu is most delicious. Below you’ll find a recipe for one of my favourite ways to fix it.

I really, honestly, have kind of a love-hate relationship with nutritional yeast. It smells weird. It makes me cough every time I open the container to scoop some out. But I eat it anyway, mostly in sauces, because cashew/almond cheeze sauces flavoured with nutritional yeast ARE really good. Sprinkled on popcorn is another common way we eat it. (My husband will practically eat the stuff with a spoon. He likes it on almost anything just in powder form, like buttered toast.) I also know that it’s a good way to get B12, since my animal product intake is pretty minimal these days.

This first recipe is something I got from a friend. She uses it in lots and lots and lots of recipes. Any time I post a recipe that calls for chicken seasoning, use this stuff.

Making Mock Chicken Seasoning

Making Mock Chicken Seasoning

Mock Chicken Seasoning

1 c nutritional yeast flakes
1 Tbsp sweet bell pepper flakes
2 Tbsp onion powder or granules
1 Tbsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried parsley flakes

Place all ingredients in a blender (or, in my case, coffee grinder) and process until fine and powdery. Store in a dry glass jar or tightly sealing glass pyrex dish in a cool dry place.

Mock Chicken Seasoning

Mock Chicken Seasoning: finished product

And, now that you have this magical, versatile seasoning, here’s a simple recipe you can try with it. This is my favourite scrambled tofu recipe, because it is so easy to throw together and very tasty.

Scrambled Tofu

1 14-16oz package of firm or extra firm water packed tofu
2 Tbsp mock chicken seasoning
1/8 tsp ground turmeric (for colour)
Salt to taste

Crumble the tofu into a pan to desired crumbliness of scramble. Stir in chicken seasoning, turmeric, salt, and enough oil to keep the scramble from sticking. Cook it over medium to medium high, stirring often, until it is heated through and has reached your desired amount of dryness.

Optionally, you can sautee some chopped onion, mushrooms, bell pepper, or other desired add-in in the pan before adding the tofu.

Categories: breakfast, flavourings, gluten-free, nut-free, recipes, substitutions, vegan | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pie Wannabes


A luscious mouthful of gingery goodness right here.

I was always a fan of the gooey goodness that is known as a Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pie. As I’ve become more health-conscious, however, the ingredients therein have become really unappealing to me, especially the presence of egg white in the filling. Ew.

The following recipe is a wonderful homemade version of a very comparable cookie, with a filling that does not involve egg whites.

One thing you can do to make this a little fancier is to snip up the raisins before mixing them in. You could probably do this in a food processor, although I haven’t tried it myself. I’ve just used kitchen scissors or a sharp knife. Another fun thing you can do is wrap the individual pies in plastic wrap and pop them in the freezer for a summer treat. Yum.

1 1/2 c shortening
1 c brown sugar
2 flax eggs (6 Tbsp hot water + 2 Tbsp ground flaxseed. Let sit until gel-y.)
2/3 c molasses
2 1/2 C flour
2 tsp soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp ginger
3 c oats
1 c whole wheat flour
1 c raisins

Cream shortening and sugar. Add flax and molasses. Beat until fluffy. Add flour, soda, salt, cloves, ginger, and cinnamon. Stir in whole wheat flour, oats, and raisins. Form into balls. (If you have a cookie scoop, this is a great recipe to use it on so all your cookies will be perfectly uniform.) Roll in white sugar and flatten with a glass likewise dipped in white sugar. You can use the glass bottom as a gauge to make sure your cookies are all the same diameter. These will spread a little, not a lot, but you’ll want to leave enough room so you don’t end up with square-looking pies.

Unless you like square, in which case, go for it.

Bake at 350 for 7-10 minutes.

Tip: If you take them out of the oven when they are still a tiny bit raw inside and let them cool on the cookie sheet for a minute before putting them on a rack, you’ll have a softer cookie.

If you make these just as individual cookies, with a tablespoon cookie scoop, it makes 76 cookies. If you do a sandwich cookie with filling, it will make half that amount. Obviously.

Filling recipe:
1 stick butter sub (I used Nucoa) at room temperature-ish
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
4 cups confectionerssugar
4 tsp vanilla extract

With a mixer, mix the butter, shortening, and sugar until it is combined. It will look crumby. Then add the vanilla to get a nice creamy thick frosting.

This should fill all the cookies as long as you don’t go overboard. You can see approximately how much I put in each sandwich. If you want thicker filling, just double the recipe.

I know you wanted another look.

Categories: dessert, nut-free, recipes, snacks, vegan | Tags: , , | 6 Comments

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