Sourdough Whole Wheat Bread

If I’m going to make homemade sourdough bread using freshly ground whole wheat flour, I definitely need a system. Otherwise, I won’t have time for this! Below is the streamlined recipe I use every few days (when we’re getting low on our daily bread).

Sourdough Bread w/whole grainsI ventured into breadmaking a few years back, when I finally acquired a VitaMix blender. It could grind wheat berries into flour! Considering that the vitamin E (and other nutrients) in wheat can go rancid so quickly, it just never seemed worth it to make bread. That is, until I finally had access to fresh-ground flour.

The other reason I hadn’t bothered with bread-making was that it didn’t seem particularly healthy. (You know, “Wheat Belly”!) But a friend had told me how she’d heard that some celiac-sufferers could actually enjoy bread again, as long as it was sour-dough fermented. Guess it makes it easier to digest. That sold me on the idea.

A few years later, I’ve learned something else too. Hand-kneading seems to produce the best bread. I thought I could save time at one point, and I began using the dough hook and my KitchenAid to knead the bread. It did not turn out as good! I researched and found that the style of kneading does affect the bread. The molecules in hand-kneaded bread are actually shaped differently in that process, while the machine-kneaded molecules are more stretched out. Not that the reason matters that much… just know that there doesn’t seem to be a short-cut to excellent whole wheat bread, without hand-kneading it.

I’ve also discovered that kneading bread on a wooden board (as directed in most recipes) makes for messy cleanup. Kneading the dough on a Formica counter top was an improvement, as the dough didn’t stick as much. I didn’t have to add as much extra flour to keep it from sticking to the counter, so the bread was moister.

But then I found the best method! I started kneading the bread in an 8-cup glass measuring cup, set on a towel (so it didn’t move around too much), in the sink. It was at a good height for throwing some hearty dough punches. So, it was easier clean-up, and I got a good work-out too.

Oh, one other thing I found out: Hard Red Winter Wheat (or hard red spring wheat) seems the best. I tried Hard White Wheat berries for a season, but the bread didn’t seem as good. After researching, I discovered- no wonder. White wheat might have a milder flavor, but it doesn’t have as much gluten. So the bread doesn’t rise quite as well. So- why not use the red wheat?! It does have an excellent flavor too, when fresh-ground. (Perhaps because it isn’t rancid!)

I still add a bit of “ancient grains” now and then- “Einkorn” is nice for variety. It won’t rise quite as well as the Red wheat though.

Experiment with any or all of the additions (raisins, caraway seeds, millet, palm sugar, walnuts and such). Adding extras will dictate a larger bread pan though—a cast iron skillet works well in that case. Makes one loaf (without additions), about 2 1/2 lb.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 (scant) qt. sourdough starter
  • 1 1/2 c. warm, filtered water (non-chlorinated is best for the yeasts)
  • 2 c. wheat berries, frozen (or 3 c. whole wheat flour) (about .88 lb.)
  • 1 c. more of wheat berries, frozen (or about 2 1/4 c. whole wheat flour) (about .35 lb.)
  • 1 TBS. salt
  • Optional: 1 c. raisins, 1/2 c. millet, 1/3 c. sunflower seeds, 1 TBS. caraway seeds, cinnamon,   1 c. walnuts, and/or 1/4 c. palm sugar or honey

PREPARATION

In a medium bowl (or kitchen-aid bowl), add: > 1 scant quart of sourdough starter (about 3 1/2 c.)

Into the empty jar of sourdough starter, add water, shaking well. Then add that water to the sourdough starter in mixing bowl, mixing well: > 1 1/2 c. warm water (around 105 degrees is fine, or warm to the touch)

Grind flour in a VitaMix, KitchenAid (with attachment), or other mill. Use frozen wheat berries to keep the flour from getting too warm from grinding. Start with: > 2 c. frozen wheat berries (or 3 c. whole wheat flour)

Stir flour vigorously into the bowl of starter and water mixture, until smooth. Pour a scant quart of the mixture back into the sourdough starter jar, to refrigerate until next time.

To the remaining mixture in the bowl, add more flour, plus any optional grains or seeds. (The extra fermenting makes millet and seeds more digestible.). Use: > 1 scant c. more of frozen wheat berries, ground into flour (or use 1 1/2 or so whole wheat flour) > optional- millet, sunflower seeds, caraway seeds

Stir some of second batch of flour in, leaving some out if it’s too thick.The dough won’t be totally stiff, but it shouldn’t be so moist that it sticks to the hands, either. I usually gently hand-knead the second batch of flour in, until it’s mixed in.

Cover the dough bowl with a damp towel or with oiled plastic wrap. Let dough rise until doubled. This will take 4-6 hours in a cool kitchen, or quicker in a warm place.

After dough’s doubled in size, add salt and knead for 9 minutes or so. Optional items can be added, but will make a larger loaf (which will need a larger pan!).

Use coconut oil (or butter) to oil a loaf pan or skillet. Shape the dough into a loaf, rolling it in some organic corn flour or other favorite, to coat the outside. Set in well-oiled pan.

Let rise another few hours, until doubled again. Bake in a preheated, 400 degree oven for 30-35 minutes per loaf (or in skillet). For larger loaves, when goodies like raisins, millet and such have been added, let bake 40-50 minutes. Let sit for 10 minutes, then remove from pan to cool on a rack.

Brazil Bark (For Fast, Healthy Smoothies)

If you scour the web for nutritional info on super foods and health and such, you may already know how cod liver oil is even more effective when mixed with grass-fed butter. You may have noticed that the quality supplier, Blue Ice, carries a product called “Royal Butter/Cod Liver Oil Blend“. (If you love scientific details, check out Sally Fallon’s article here.)

And you know me- always looking for ways to save time and money. Hence, “Brazil Bark”. I take my morning shot of cod liver oil, but also have a smoothie made with a hunk of this bark stuff. It looks like a confection, and it actually is pretty tasty. But also- so convenient!

Mix coconut spread, butter, and Brazil nuts- add chunks to smoothiesThis recipe is a simple one. And when making smoothies, you can add your coconut and nut milk and that side o’ butter (if you’re taking cod liver oil), all in one easy step. The coconut (oil or spread) is for those great MCTs that contribute to brain health and energy. The butter is because it works so well with the cod liver oil we should be taking, to maximize results. And the Brazil nuts are good to include because they give us our daily selenium, which can be hard to come by.

Yes, you could just buy cartons of almond milk for your smoothies. But- larger carbon footprint! You pay for a lot of water and a little nut meat, plus the extra container. Why not just puree a few nuts fresh, right?

I’ll admit, the texture of homemade nut milk can fall short. I’ve tried making nut milks in a generic blender, with no good results. (Some folks take the time to strain it, which helps. But too much work for me!) I thought cashews would process the smoothest, and I suppose they do. I would soak them a day ahead, then process a week’s worth, storing extra in the fridge. But- the cashew milk won’t keep as long once processed. And it was just too much bother.

Forget the homemade nut milk idea. I also wanted to add coconut cream to my smoothies anyway. So… how to save a step? This was getting too complicated. And my husband was saying, “never mind, I’ll just have toast…”

Now, it’s much faster to whip up a highly nutritious smoothie. For smoothest results, I might puree the Brazil Bark first with a splash of boiling water from the kettle. That can cool a bit, but then all the other great smoothie ingredients can get added, and- it’s done!

Brazil Bark

Ingredients

  • 3 sticks butter (grass-fed, like Kerry Gold. “Organic” is not necessarily grass-fed)
  • 2 c. (about 1 1/2 lb.) coconut cream concentrate (or “coconut manna” or coconut spread, which are all 100% coconut meat, ground to a puree)
  • 1 lb. Brazil nuts

Stir nuts into melted butter and coconut cream: > 3 sticks butter, melted > 2 c. (about 1 1/2 lb.) coconut cream (melted) > 1 lb. Brazil nuts

Crimp edges up on a piece of extra-wide, heavy-duty foil, about 2-3′ long. Pour mixture in, let sit at room temperature overnight.

Next day, bark should firm up enough to break into pieces. If not that firm, refrigerate first, then break up, store in glass jar. (I also leave some of it on the foil, to break up as needed.)

Store in refrigerator.

For making a quick smoothie, use a chunk or two of the bark. Two Brazil nuts a day is about right to supply one’s daily dose of selenium. AND, this stuff tastes so good!

 

 

Hot Cocoa (or Cool Fudge), Paleo-Style

Maybe we’re getting used to the drill: More Omega 3 fats, grass-fed meat, wild-caught salmon, free-range chicken, organic produce, etc. Less bread, less processed, less sugar, etc.

But still… Sometimes I just need chocolate! And I need it now. If I have some special chocolate in the house, it disappears pretty fast. Too fast. I may even eat more of it than I should. And then it’s gone. And then I don’t have a chocolate fix to run to!

The recipe below has actually cured me of needing store-bought chocolate. It does satisfy my cravings, and I don’t overeat it!

Hot Smoothie, Chocolate w/Protein PowderI’m not saying I don’t overeat it because it isn’t good. I think that all the nutritious supplements in this mix can satisfy cravings in a healthy way. The body gets nutrients it needs!

You can customize your recipe- it does not require “yucca powder”, “astragalus”, or whatever you’re in the mood to add. But it’s easier to incorporate such foods into our diet if they’re in something we might routinely want to fix for ourselves. (If you’re wondering what’s so great about these natural herb powders, look ’em up at “Jen’s Shop“- I mention what they’re good for there.)

Oh, and if you’re shooting for even less carbs, you can sub VitaFiber for at least half of the honey. Also, if you want something like a protein bar with gelatin instead of whey protein, see the asterisk, bottom of page.

INGREDIENTS for “HARD-CORE CHOCOLATE FIX”

  • 2 c. toasted cacoa nibs (1/2 lb.)
  • 2 TBS. butter (.06)
  • 2 TBS. coconut oil (.06)
  • 1/4 c. honey (.16)(or Vitafiber)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla, if desired
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon (plus turmeric, if desired)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 c. whey protein powder (.06)*
  • OPTIONAL: 2 TBS. yucca powder (.03)
  • OPTIONAL: 2 TBS. astragalus (.03)
  • OPTIONAL: 2 TBS. ashwagandha (.03)
  • OPTIONAL: 2 TBS. Goat Mineral Whey

 PREPARATION

Toast cacao nibs in oven for 10 minutes or so on 350 degrees, until darkened some, and fragrant. Use: > scant 2 c. toasted cacao nibs (.50 lb.)

A Vitamix works well to process the nibs into a puree. Otherwise, use an equal weight of cocoa powder. Process nibs until smooth: > 2 c. toasted cacao nibs

Next, add to Vitamix, with the processed nibs: > 2 TBS butter > 2 TBS coconut oil > 1/4 c. honey (and/or part VitaFiber) > 1 tsp. vanilla > 1 tsp. cinnamon > 1/4 tsp. salt

Turn out into a bowl. Knead remaining ingredients in with hands; mixture may be thick, depending on how many supplements are added. Use: > 1/2 c. whey protein powder

Other items to potentially add: > 2 TBS yucca powder > 2 TBS astragalus > 2 TBS. ashwagandha > 2 TBS. Goat Mineral Whey

Press/pat into a loaf pan; refrigerate.

After chilling several hours, remove from pan, slice into thin pieces, and store in a glass jar in the refrigerator.

 

 

INGREDIENTS for “YUMMIER” CHOCOLATE

2 c. toasted cacao nibs (.55 lb.)
1/2 c. honey (.157)
1/4 c. butter
1/4 c. coconut oil
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 c. whey protein powder
1 tsp. cinnamon (Ceyon’s the best!)

 

* To use gelatin instead of whey protein, soften gelatin powder in water first. Use: > 1/3 c. water > 2 TBS. gelatin

Heat softened gelatin to melt it, then add to blender along with other ingredients.

Kombucha: Easy Recipe (Once You Have Scoby)

I think kombucha brewing is similar to mothering. There is new-mom style, for the woman with her first baby, treating her newborn ever so delicately, trying to keep everything perfect… And then there’s the seasoned mom (or grandma), whose mothering has become much more relaxed over the years.

Brew first ferment Kombucha in bottle!Kombucha brewing should be easy, which you realize after you’ve done it awhile, and see it survive many adverse conditions!

After doing this for a few years, I’ve developed a simple method. I don’t worry about it for weeks at a time (or even months), but I always have a cup or so to drink every day, carbonated and delicious, out of my blue bottle.

If you want more detailed directions, check out “Kombucha Continuous Brew Method”. But if you want to make this as easy as possible, check out the ideas below.

Brew your new starter tea right in a new glass gallon jar. One caveat: It needs to be a canning-style jar (“Ball” is a good one). A cheap dollar-store jar will not work! (It might break…). Run some hot water into the jar first, so it can take the heat from the boiling water.

Add sugar to the empty jar. For those of us drinking a modest quantity of Kombucha (a cup or less per day), this amount works well: 1/4 c. sugar to 8 c. boiling water. Add boiling water to the sugar in the (pre-warmed) jar, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Add 4 tea bags (or 1 TBS. black tea in a tea-strainer ball or cheese cloth “pouch”).

After tea has cooled, remove the bags (or strainer ball/cheese cloth). Set aside the scoby from your old batch, onto a plate. Pour all of the older kombucha into the new batch. (If the liquid has developed brown tendrils or sediment, you might want to strain that out as you pour it into the new batch.) Stir up the mix of old and new, then decant some of that straight into a carbonating-style bottle that has the spring-clamp and rubber gasket. This will allow the kombucha enough air to process. (I don’t think bottle-cap style will work well here, as it seals out so much air).

Put scoby back into the new jar, covered with a paper towel (or a napkin or towel), held in place with a rubber band.

To the bottled kombucha, also add a cup or two of a favorite organic juice, if desired, or ginger or other flavorings. I’m a stickler for using organic- a lot of produce, like apples, are on the dirty dozen list, full of pesticides. Some of my favorites for flavoring kombucha (and kefir) are POM pomegranate juice, organic apple juice, or this Tart Cherry Juice Concentrate. (The concentrated cherry juice might seem expensive, but it takes 53 lbs. of produce to yield 1 lb. of juice!). This black cherry juice concentrate is also a good one.

I used to use fresh ginger, sliced into match-sized strips, laid out on foil, rolled up, and frozen, to be used as needed. (If I didn’t do this, the chunk of ginger would often get too dried and/or moldy, sitting out…) I don’t seem to have much time these days, and have resorted to using this organic ginger extract for flavoring instead. It is VERY convenient!

So, you add your mix of kombucha and fresh sweet tea to the blue bottle, plus the flavoring. Even though this is technically the “first ferment”, your bottled kombucha will go through the same process as the stuff in the jar. It will even grown a little scoby, right in the bottle!

Techie talk: Like the jar of kombucha, enzymes in the yeasts in the bottled kombucha will use the minerals from the tea to break down the sugar into glucose and fructose. So, after a week or so, the sugar’s still there, but in an easier-to-digest form. But it’s still pretty sweet! Give it another week or two- beneficial acids will start forming as the yeasts start eating the sugars up. There will still be some sweetness, for up to 30 days or so.

All this to give just a few time-saving pointers:

  • You can brew your tea right in a sturdy, preheated glass canning jar
  • You can strain the old kombucha into the new jar of cooled sweet tea (saving steps)
  • You can put some of this mix straight into a carbonating bottle along with some fruit juices, to do its first ferment and finishing carbonation all in one place. (This will take at least 2 weeks, so stay ahead of the game!)

Give kombucha about 7 days to get the first fermentation going, after adding more sweet tea. Then, decant (or perhaps it’s already decanted), and give it another 14-21 days to finish. It should get nice and carbonated, and will have the most beneficial acids at this point.

Happy brewing!

Inflammation: Natural Answers (Bone Broth, Etc.)

The picture’s from a time we bought a whole cow, roasted the bones at the deli, and made LOTS of stock… we won’t be doing that again though! (It was a bit of work…)

Collagen- Make Bone Broth for Health!I don’t like synthesized vitamin/mineral products. I believe we need a proper balance of naturally occurring nutrients to maintain health. A lot of studies support this! A natural mineral combination, like that found in this Mineral Whey (from grass-fed goats), is best absorbed. It’s very concentrated, containing more than 20 naturally occurring minerals, and is real alkaline, which helps reduce acidic deposits in arthritic joints. It’s helped some folks with acid reflux, it helps decrease inflammation, and it’s helped some with Osteoporosis, to improve bone mass. I feel like it’s helped me a lot with my joint problems; also, the iron in it is highly absorbed too, which is a plus! (Note- this stuff does NOT taste like regular whey protein, but has a very concentrated, almost salty, mineral taste. So… don’t be surprised by that!)

Another plus about naturally-sourced nutrients: a natural mineral combination helps our chemical balance, which prevents excess calcium from depositing in joints and other organs.

What else can we use to support healthy joints and reduce inflammation? Collagen contains certain compounds, like chondroitin sulfate. Although a younger body can produce this nutrient, that ability decreases with age. Of course, that can lead to arthritis, fibromyalgia, and other issues. A natural source of collagen is made from beef or chicken bones. I’ve been making stock from these “leftovers” for years. The stock doesn’t just add flavor to soups and sauces, but also nourishes our bodies, giving us the extra collagen (and other nutrients) we may need.

It’s been challenging to make enough bone broth at times. We get busy, or I just don’t have enough bones on hand. I still prefer to make my own when I can (then I can use organic, free-range, grass-fed, etc.) But, when I’ve run out of time, I resort to getting some extra collagen from this gelatin– a decent brand that I think smells way fresher than the stuff at the grocery store. I let this form of gelatin “bloom” by sprinkling it in a bit of water first, then adding boiling water to that… if you want to mix collagen right into smoothies, collagen hydrolysate is a better form to get.

My swollen knee has been improving; a lot of reviewers on Amazon have also shown other improvements. As for other natural foods you can take to help fight inflammation, here’s a list:

  • Cherry Juice
  • Ginger
  • Turmeric
  • Feverfew
  • Lemon peel
  • White Willow Bark

Even more info on the nutritional qualities of these foods can be found on Jordan Rubin’s website.

 

Christmas Cookies: Favorite Classics

I’ve decided to post all the recipes (or links) to my fave Christmas cookies on this page, even if written in weights only (you do have a scale anyway, don’t you?!). My granddaughter’s coming over soon to help with Christmas baking, and I liked the idea of showing her what our options are. Here’s what I rounded up…

Almond TartsAlmond Tarts: These are much easier to make now that Trader Joe’s has blanched almonds at a reasonable price. (You can do ’em yourself easy enough, if you have time, but…) Make sure you have plenty of almond extract on hand for these!Grateful-Table-Biscotti-Almond-Orange.jpg

Biscotti (Or see this Biscotti, Healthy Style version): A good cookie for dipping into tea or coffee, this traditional cookie starts as a loaf, gently baked. It then gets sliced; the slices get baked again, creating a crunchy cookie. Usually flavored with almonds or other nuts, citrus zest, and/or dipped in chocolate.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 c. whole almonds, blanched
  • 1/2 c. butter
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 TBS. Anisette (or other flavoring)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 c. flour
  • 1/2 c. coarse corn meal
  • 1 1/2 tsp. anise seed (or orange zest)

Toast: > .40 whole almonds, blanched (1 1/4 c.)

Cream: > 1/2 c. butter > 1 c. sugar

Beat into butter mixture: > 2 eggs > 1 TBS. Anisette (or other flavoring) > 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder > 1/2 tsp. salt

Stir in next: > 2 c. flour > 1/2 c. coarse corn meal > 1 1/2 tsp. anise seed

Add an extra 1/4 c. flour if dough’s too sticky. Grease 2 cookie sheets (or one deli sheet) and form dough into 4 loafs, 2″ wide and 3/4″ thick. Bake at 325 degrees for 35 minutes, until light brown at edges. Cool 8 minutes, then slice loaves into 1/2″ slices. Lay the slices down on cookie sheet and bake 8-10 minutes more at 325.

Grateful-Table-Gingerbread-Cookies-So-Cute.jpg

 

Gingerbread Cookies: Much easier to manage the decorations when we use dried fruits and nuts. Frosting’s the other option, but more time-consuming! Plus, the fruits and nuts (and maybe some chocolate chips) make these healthier.

Russian Tea Cakes (AKA Mexican Wedding Cakes): Versions of this cookie can be found even in grocery store bakeries, though they don’t usually have the same buttery, melt-in-the-mouth texture the home-made ones have. Here’s the recipe I use, using weight measurements for an easier recipe:

  • .50 butter (1 c.)
  • .15 confectioner’s sugar (1/2 c.)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • .65 flour (2 1/4 c.)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • .20 chopped nuts (3/4 c.)

Cream butter, sugar and vanilla. Stir in dry stuff, chill. Form teaspoon-sized balls and bake at 400 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Roll in more confectioner’s sugar while warm.

 

Scotch Shortbread: These are so rich and buttery! Here’s an easy recipe for them using weight measurements:

  • .37 butter (3/4 c.)
  • .13 sugar (1/4 c.)
  • .62 flour (2 c.)

Cream butter and sugar. Stir in flour w/hands. Chill dough, then roll out, cut in shapes. Bake at 350 degrees 20-25 minutes. (They won’t turn brown, but will be done.)

 

Snowflakes (Or Hearts, Etc.): Another recipe I have written down in weights for convenience. Also quicker thanks to the already-shelled pistachios available at TJ’s! A little smear of chocolate glues two snowflakes together; another smear of chocolate on top gets sprinkled with pistachios. Yum!

  • .50 sugar (1 c.)
  • .37 butter (3/4 c.)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • .75 flour (2 1/2 c.)
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • Chocolate, to melt
  • Pistachios, chopped

Cream first four ingredients. Mix dry ingredients together, then add to creamed mix. Chill 1 hour. Cut out shapes, bake at 400 degrees 6-8 minutes. Put 2 cookies together with some melted chocolate. Add a smear of chocolate to the top, sprinkle with pistachios.

 

Grateful-Table-Springerle-Embossed-Christmas-Cookies.jpgSpringerle: This anise-flavored cookie is fun to make; designs are carved on the “Springerle” rolling pin, creating embossed squares that get baked long and slow until they’re the right texture. Not a rich cookie, but a good one for dipping into tea!

Asian Dressing: Sesame Oil, Ginger, Cayenne = Delicious!

We made dinner for 230 recently, for our church’s annual Women’s Christmas Dinner. We paired the marinated pork loin with some roasted veggies and a spinach salad tossed with this dressing. Julienned persimmons from our prolific tree added a sweet and colorful note. It was delicious!

We’ve also enjoyed making a slaw for one of our pork loin sandwiches at the deli, using this dressing, some thin-sliced cabbage, green onion, and cilantro. Another hit!

Sesame Ginger DressingINGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 c. sesame oil
  • 1 c. honey
  • 1/3 c. white vinegar
  • 1/4 c. soy sauce
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. (or more) cayenne
  • 1 tsp. fresh-grated ginger
  • 1 c. extra virgin olive oil

Mix all but the olive oil together with immersion blender. Slowly mix in until emulsified: > 1 c. extra virgin olive oil

Christmas Party Ideas: Yankee Swap/White Elephant with a Twist

Yankee Swap, White ElephantWe had  our 30th annual New Deli Christmas Party this past Sunday- it was wonderful! We always play a few games, and always do a “White Elephant” (AKA “Yankee Swap” or “Snatchy Christmas Rat”). But we wanted to do something a little different this time around, so below I’ve posted a link you can use to change things up as well.

Not Much New Deli Staff! Christmas 2008

New Deli Christmas 2008 (Stephanie’s taking the picture)

Just for extra fun, I had to post the above picture of Tom, Todd, Tyler, and Rose (plus us), taken back in 2008. My, how things have changed. Ty’s now got a job in law enforcement, Rose is happily married, and we’ve gone from having just a few people on staff, to having 13 employees. Wow!

This might have been the funnest Yankee Swap ever- there were numbered cards with cute little poems on ’em, like,

  • “#1 Lucky you, you’re # 1- You get to start all the fun. So grab a gift and grab it quick.
  • #3. Number 3 it’s plain to see. It’s your turn to pick which gift `twill be. And when your choosing job is through, swap with 1 and then with 2.
  • #7 is a lucky number it seems, You choose a gift that has some green. Poke it, and shake it until you get back. Now trade with someone wearing black.

Etc. Fun stuff!

I had a little trouble finding the ready-to-go directions online. A word search led me to a bogus website that mentioned this fun Yankee Swap, but it didn’t link to anything. (That website did sent me some span emails the next day though- that’s all :/)

So I figured I’d post this, with an easy-to-print Word document attached, for you to print a copy for yourself. This particular list goes all the way up to 50; we only needed 25 numbers when we played, but it’s completely flexible that way.

Here’s the Word document: Christmas Party Ideas, Yankee Swap, White Elephant

Have fun!

Almond Tarts (AKA Almond Tea Cakes)

There are plenty of recipes available for these, but this is the one I use. Having it written in weights makes it quicker to make! Another timesaver: Trader Joe’s carries blanched almonds. (We used to blanch ’em ourselves :/ ) I think this makes 3 dozen or so… I’ll find out soon, when I make ’em again!

Almond Tarts
  • 1 lb. butter
  • .45 sugar (1 c.)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla (.03)
  • 1 lb. flour (4 c.)
  • 6 eggs
  • 75 sugar (1 1/2c.)
  • 1.40 blanched almonds (3 3/4c.) (3 c. before processing)
  • 2 TBS. almond extract
  • .90 confectioner’s sugar
  • .20 cream

PREPARATION

  1. Cream until fluffy: > 1 lb. butter > .45 sugar (1 c.)
  2. Beat in, until light: > 2 eggs > 2 tsp. vanilla (.03) > 1 tsp. almond extract
  3. Mix in lightly: 1 lb. flour (4 c.)
  4. Press 1 TBS. of above mix into small tart shells (makes 6 dozen).
  5. Next, beat until foamy: > 6 eggs
  6. Add in and mix: > .75 sugar (1 1/2c.) > 1.40 ground, blanched almonds (3 3/4c.) (about 3 c. before processing) > 2 TBS. almond extract
  7. Fill uncooked tart shell with mix. Bake at 325 degrees for 17-20 minutes. Remove from tins immediately. Frost when cool with: > .90 confectioner’s sugar > .20 cream

 

Meyer Lemon Dressing

I got inspired to create a Meyer Lemon Dressing when I sampled an infused Meyer Lemon Olive Oil and some preserved lemons at a local Farmer’s Market. Delicious, but the price was very high! I figured I’d make something myself.

Citrus rinds are loaded with bioflavanoids, rutin, and other nutrients, so I figured I’d puree the rinds whole. Much easier than zesting them, or steeping them in warm oil, only to drain them off afterward.

I also knew that using my Vitamix on a small amount of rinds just doesn’t work, so I had to make a decent-sized batch. No worries there- the big batch of dressing’s been holding up well in the fridge, and I can add it to a number of dishes to add a refreshing note of lemon. Makes 1 qt.Farro Salad w/Meyer Lemon Dressing

INGREDIENTS

  • Peel of 8 Lemons (.16 lb.)
  • 2 TBS. + 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 1/2 c. virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2/3 c. lemon juice

Process: > Peel from about 8 lemons > 2 TBS. + 2 tsp. salt

Add, process again: > 1/2 c. virgin olive oil

Add, process again with: > 2 c. olive oil > 2/3 c. lemon juice

Store in glass jar, refrigerated. Keeps for months.