Creativity in your Kitchen

As a general rule, I like to solve problems in life. And as a general rule, these are the only times that I would consider myself to be creative. I get to practice this a lot in my kitchen figuring out recipes and food substitutions for my food sensitive kid. So, in my life, creativity only expresses itself out of some need.

Yesterday, I was forced to be creative in my kitchen for lunch and dinner because 1) I forgot my what my original meal plan was. And 2) Neither backup plans worked either.

Now, this is where most people would pull out a box of Mac & Cheese and call it good. That’s great if you have an easy option like that. But, about the only things I can buy pre-packaged for our food sensitivities are flour tortillas and graham crackers. That doesn’t make for much of a dinner.

So, I had to use what was on hand and make it ready within about 30 minutes. What I came up with is below. Not my best cooking ever, but it was hot, healthy, and homemade, and I’m proud of that. How do you show your creativity in the kitchen?

This was lunch. Flour tortillas, crisped in the oven to be quesadillas, lentils cooked and smashed to substitute for refried beans, leftover Jalepeno lime chicken from the the fridge, topped with homemade herbed ricotta, seasoned toasted pumpkin seeds, my homegrown herb garlic dehydrated cherry tomatoes, and some fresh chopped Jalepenos. It was actually tasty.

See below: Dinner consisted of turning the innards from our carved pumpkin into pumpkin bisque courtesy of our Instant Pot, cooked sausages from the freezer, and cabbage sautés with onion. It made for a good fall combo.

Have you come up with any creative meals lately?

Sprouting Grains

Sprouted and ready to store in the freezer.

I’ve been sprouting spelt for the last 9 months to grind to make our bread each week. I was so intimidated by the idea when I started. And I really couldn’t find any reliable information or consistent techniques online. But, now that I have it figured out….. it’s so easy! There’s really nothing to it. Once you have it worked into your routine, you can easily sprout a batch ahead, and always benefit from the additional nutrition that sprouting makes accessible to your body in your breads and baked goods.

Easy Steps to Sprouting Grain:

(These steps work with any grain.)

  1. Soak your grain in a large bowl overnight, or for about 10-12 hours.
  2. Drain into a mesh colander and rinse.
  3. Return the drained grain to the bowl, cover with a damp tea towel.
  4. Rinse every 6-12 hours, depending on how fast it dries out until you see little tails at the tips of each seed.
  5. Spread on your dehydrator and dehydrate 110-120 degrees (I usually do 115) until the grain is hard and cannot be indented when pressed upon by the end of your fingernail.
  6. Store in sealed mason jars in the freezer if you don’t plan to grind your grain within 2 days.

That’s it! Give it a try. Sprouted grain makes a softer flour, is easier to grind than unsprouted, and I think makes lighter baked goods.

Unsprouted spelt berries.

Cover with water and soak for 12 hours.


Sprouted. See the tiny tails on the tip of each seed?


Before dehydrating.


After dehydrating.

Dehydrated and ready to go in the grain mill.

In the mill. About to become flour.

Compare: Left – after dehydrating, Right – before dehydrating.

Fresh Bread – Step by Step

img_0070I’ve been so blessed to be able to make my family delicious loaves of bread like this the past year.

Here are some step by step photos if you want to try too.

First you need a cute helper like this. She makes the job much more fun and is a hard little worker. She would make her great-great grandma Maggie proud. She stirs with determination until all the flour is added.

To get to this point however, you need a big bowl, wooden spoon, 2 tsp of Active Dry Yeast, 1 tbls of sweetener like sugar or honey to give the yeast a boost, and 1 cup of warm water. Not hot or you’ll kill the yeast. Body temp is best. Stir to moisten the yeast (that’s what she is doing) and then set the spoon aside and let it sit for about 5 minutes until it is bubbly and foamy. This is called proofing your yeast. This is how you know that it is active and alive.

The photo below shows what the yeast will look like once it has been proofed. Nice and foamy with some bubbles.

Now you start adding your flour. You can use whole wheat, white whole wheat, all purpose, or any combination of those. I like to use spelt with a little all purpose mixed in.

Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the flour of your choice on top of your proofed yeast and water mix, but do not stir. Then sprinkle 1-2 tsp of salt on top of the sprinkled flour. Then add 1 tbls of oil. I like olive oil. Now stir all that up. Add more flour 1/2 cup at a time until the mixture is no longer gooey and the dough starts to hold together, pull away and clean the sides of the bowl. It will be messy and sticky at first, but will soon start to form a smooth ball.

Turn the dough out on to a floured surface. Knead gently adding as little flour as possible to keep the dough from sticking to your kneading surface and your fingers.

IMG_1171 (2)

Knead, keeping the outer skin of the dough as smooth as possible, until you feel less resistance in the dough and it starts to feel silky when you push it away. Once you reach this point, stop and pull off a strawberry sized hunk of dough. Flour it and gently begin to stretch it in all directions to see if you can stretch it thin enough to see light through the fibers of the dough without it tearing. If it tears easily, then you need to knead some more. This is called the “Window Pane Test.” If it stretches thin enough and doesn’t tear, and you can see light through then you know you have kneaded enough.


Now, oil your mixing bowl and return your dough to the bowl, cover with a damp dish towel, and let it rise. You know it has finished rising when you can poke two fingers into the dough about 1/2″ and the indentations stay. Once it has risen to this point, you are ready to throw and shape your loaves.


This is also a good time to liberally butter your loaf pan.

Remove your dough from the bowl and gently roll and shape it into a rough log shape. On a sturdy surface, throw your dough down on the table to remove any air bubbles. Really slam it down hard. You should hear a good hard slapping sound when it hits the table top. Do this 5-7 times. Then reshape your dough into a log shape just slightly shorter than your loaf pan.

These are my loaves after shaping.

Cover the loaf with a damp dish towel and let it rise until it reaches the tops of your loaf pan. The loaves below are finished rising and ready to go in the oven.

Put the loaves into a pre-heated oven at 400 degrees. Cook for 25-30 minutes until browned well on top. They should also be browned well on the inside of the pan. Another test to be sure that they are finished cooking is to remove them from the pan and thump the center of the bottom of the loaf. It should sound hollow. These loaves are cooked nicely.

Remove from the pans to cool immediately after removing from the oven.

Let the loaves cool completely before slicing with a serrated knife.

Enjoy with butter and your favorite jam.

The Benefits of Baking Day

I have a page in the “Kitchen” on my blog called “Baking Day.” In it I wax poetic thinking of Ma Ingalls and my great-grandmother, Maggie, working in their kitchens. I imagine them in their vintage aprons, leaning over their wooden kitchen tables, kneading their bread. They have flour dust on their faces from swiping back the wisps of hair from their faces that have fallen down.

Not many people have a baking day anymore. Each day is much the same as another, running from one errand or activity to another. But, for the last 2 years or so, Saturday has become my baking day. I often will go grocery shopping in the morning, and spend the rest of the day cooking. It’s exhausting but rewarding. Sometimes it’s hectic. Especially when we have another activity that day that cuts into my baking time. But, I’m learning to guard my time on Saturdays as much as possible. That time in the kitchen is valuable to me. And it can be quite pleasant. If the kids are outside, I can sing, listen to music, listen to a podcast, or just get lost in my own thoughts. The kitchen is a good place for that. I’m finding that between technology, daily appointments, and the responsibility of teaching and caring for the kids (all of which have their place in life), I don’t have enough of that quiet time in my head.

Baking day helps me be well prepared for my week. On a typical baking day, I produce a lot of breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and sometimes dinner prep that help me survive Monday through Friday when I just don’t have the time to devote to the kitchen. Below are some photos of what I typically make. Would a baking day make your life easier? I’m finding that I really do need mine.

Sprouted Spelt Bread

Banana chocolate chip muffins.

Snacks for the week.

Sprouted spelt waffles for breakfast.

Granola for hubby’s breakfast.

Elderberry herbal syrup.

Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

This was dinner tonight. Give it a try.

Start with enough sweet potatoes for the size of your family. I did one per person and had leftovers as they were large and not everyone ate a whole one.

Wash the sweet potatoes and prick all around with a fork.

Bake at 400 for 1-1.5 hours depending on the size of your potatoes.

While they bake, assemble your filling.

Filling: ground turkey, chopped onion, garlic, celery, cabbage, red bell pepper, salt, pepper, seasoned salt, sage, oregano, olive oil, flour, and water.

Brown the turkey meat. When cooked through, add a little olive oil to your pan and sauté the onion, celery, garlic, cabbage and red bell pepper. Now add the salt and pepper to taste, a sprinkle of seasoned salt, and the oregano and fresh sage. I used about 1 tbls. of fresh sage but you could use about 1 tsp of ground as well.

Next, a couple of tablespoons of flour into your meat mix and stir until the flour has absorbed. Then add about 2-3 cups of water. The addition of the flour and water will create a sauce which will keep the ground turkey from becoming too dry. Turn off the heat once the sauce has thickened.

When you’re sweet potatoes are soft when squeezed, remove them from the oven and place on a cookie sheet and slice open. Butter and lightly smash the insides. Then top with the meat mix. I sprinkled buttered homemade crumbled bread on the top. Return to the oven on 400 for about 15 minutes until the bread topping is toasty. Sprinkle with feta cheese crumbles to serve.

Dehydrating Tomatoes

I decided to take the advice of my friend Carolyn Thomas at Homesteading Family and dehydrate some of my end of the season tomatoes. It was fun and easy.

We’re still getting the last of the ripe tomatoes off our cherry tomato plants. Since this is about the only vegetable that I seem to be able to grow prolifically, sometimes we don’t eat them up fast enough. Enter my dehydrator.

I simply sliced them in half, and seasoned them with a bit of salt, pepper, granulated garlic, oregano, and savory. You could use any seasonings you like.

Lay them out on the dehydrator tray and dehydrate at a temp below 150 degrees until they are crisp.

If you have a few that are past the point of saving, then squirt out the seeds into a bowl, cover with water for a day or two to loosen all the gel, and then lay out on a paper plate to dry for the next year’s growing season.

Fresh Bread Out of the Oven

I’ve been honing my bread making skills this last year. Follow my bread making journey by reading the latest on the Baking Day page.

Just can’t beat freshly baked sprouted spelt bread and raspberry jam.