The Dayton Kitchen

Eating well. So get ready and get butter.

Bread. (I) Bread. (love) Bread. April 29, 2008

Filed under: baking — pameladayton @ 6:00 am
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I have tried and tried at different points in my life to make bread.  And in the spirit of being bitterly honest, it was awful.  Every.  Last.  Dry.  Bit.  Horrible, I tell you! 

But I have been reading more and more about food additives, preservatives, and colors, and those things, my dearies, are worse than my bread.  And the ingredient I am currently hating the most: corn syrup.  I also am not a fan of partially hydrogenated ANYTHING! but I have been working to eliminate the corn syrup-filled ingredients from our diet. Please note:  We eat marshmallows.  We lo-uh-uh-uh-ove marshmallows.   And there is just no way we will be removing s’mores from our diet, corn syrup or not.  And people, I have read the labels.  Every last one at the tiny grocery store in town, and many labels in the bigger town (they do call it a city) to the north of us, and I have found one bread that does not have corn syrup.  ONE!  It was a Pepperidge Farms whole grain bread, and a few of the breads in that line also had no corn syrup. 

So in the spirit of winning The Battle of the Corn Syrup, I ventured into making bread for the Dayton Five.  I experimented with the Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Baking book, which yielded some lovely results.  But those recipes didn’t utilize whole-wheat as much as I wanted, and they felt labour-intensive.  So while they were good, that one place did not provide what I was looking for.  Other nutty-whole-grain friends of ours have been making bread for years, so I called for their recipe. 

And that was the answer to the deep and penetrating question of bread. 

The best thing about this recipe is that it is flexible.  Add oats, don’t add oats.  All white flour, all wheat flour, a comibination…whatever you want will work.  Half a cup of sweetener, a whole cup, it’s all good.   Butter, olive oil, vegetable oil…what you have in your kitchen will be just fine.

That said, I use rolled oats.  Actually, I use a seven-grain rolled mix that provides a wonderful nutty flavour.  And I am moving toward using 80% whole wheat (the kind I purchase is Prarie Gold, it’s ground to a consistency similar to white flour, much softer than other whole wheats I’ve tried)/20% white flour.  For sweetener, I use a half cup of raw sugar, and I use olive oil.  The eggs are optional, and I always use them.  Not sure why, exactly, but I do.  And finally, I use instant yeast that I purchase from my Bulk Food Store.  It costs $2.99 for a pound.  That is an amazing deal.  The packets cost about a dollar, if I am remembering correctly, and who wants to spend an extra dollar per batch of bread?  Not me.  So look for instant yeast in big packages. 

And the most important thing: USE A SIFTER!!!!  Why? Because in a 1 cup measuring, umm, cup, you can get nearly two cups worth of sifted flour.  Flour is one of those things you measure by weight, not volume, and it’s not meant to be packed like brown sugar.  So go buy a sifter and thank me later.

what you use:

  • 2 cups rolled oats (or not)
  • 6-7 cups warm water
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 – 1 cup sweetener (sugar, honey, maple syrup)
  • 2 Tablespoons yeast
  • 1 cup wheat bran (or not)
  • 7-9 cups flour
  • 1/2 – 1 cup butter or oil
  • 2 Tablespoons salt
  • 6-8 cups flour

what you do:

  1. In an ENORMOUS bowl, combine oats, sweetener, and bran with 6 cups warm water.  Let sit for 5 minutes.  Or until you remember that you had started to make bread a while ago.  (If the latter is the case, stick your finger in the mixture.  If it’s mostly warm, you should be good to go.  If it’s room temperature, boil 2 cups of water and add it to the mixture.  Stir well and proceed.)
  2. Add yeast, and 7-9 cups of flour.  At this stage, it should be really easy to stir with a wooden spoon.
  3. Let sit for at least an hour.  This is the sponge stage of the bread.  It’s where the yeast makes out with the sweetener and the natural sugars in the wheat.  It gets all bubbly and full of itself, like a couple of naughty teens.
  4. Stir in all of the rest of the ingredients.  This is where I abandon the use of a utensil to mix the bread.  Because, really, I come with two handy (har, har) ones on the end of my arms, and they work way better.  And, hey, less dishes.
  5. Knead the bread.  I have such an enormous bowl that I just knead right in the bowl.  (Yes, also I don’t like to clean my counters, it’s just way easier this way.  Purist I am not.)   Knead until the bread is elastic and springy, and you are tired of kneading.  About 10 minutes.  Or so.  Don’t be a wimp.  You might need to add flour if things are getting sticky.  Sticky = bad in breadland.
  6. Put the bread back into your enormous bowl.  Cover it, if you like.  Or don’t.  This bread is not a fussy guy.  Let it sit for about an hour.  It will grow to twice its original size.  Like seamonkeys.  But better.  Much, much better.
  7. Punch the dough.  This is not so much about thrashing your bread as it is about letting some of the fermenting gasses out.  If you are a lover and not a fighter, you could gently poke the air out of your bread.  Do what you need to do, but get the air out of the bread.
  8. Let it sit for about an hour.  Yes, again.  Patience, people.  Use this quality time to oil you bread pans.  Gently oil.  Bread does not need to bathe in oil as it is baking.  That is called fried dough, and you find it at carnivals and amusement parks.
  9. Cut the dough into three equally-sized blobs.  Flatten each blob, one at a time, into a square that is slightly longer than your bread pan by slightly longer than your bread pan.  Roll up the dough, nice and tight.  Fold the ends down toward the seam (that is where you ran out of dough to roll up), and place the loaf in the pan.  Gently apply a little oil to the top of your loaves.  That makes it purty.
  10. Let the loaves sit for about half an hour.  This is a good time to not forget you are making bread.  Otherwise, your bread will rise too darn much and then it will be a disaster.  And I can’t help you with that.  Sorry.  Turn your oven to 350 degrees.  Or 375.  Whichever.
  11. Bake bread at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes, and 375 degrees for 30-35 minutes.  To find out if it’s done, tap or knock on the top of the loaf.  If it sounds hollow, it is done.  If it sounds full, it is not.
  12. Turn out of pans onto a cooling rack.  Cool completely before cutting, or you will have a serious mess to clean up.  That is, unless you plan to eat the entire loaf at once.  Then go ahead and dig in.

There are a lot of steps involved in this recipe, but I think that the hands-on time is 30 minutes or less.  There’s just a lot of waiting time, which could be used to drink coffee, read, or paint your toenails.  I mostly do laundry when I’m baking bread.  Actually, I just mostly do laundry, bread or not.

Bread is not scary.  Try it.  Just remember to use a sifter.


rice April 28, 2008

Filed under: in the kitchen — pameladayton @ 1:13 pm

I am putting not much effort into this post, because Alanna at A Veggie Venture and the folks at Cook’s have already done a bang-up job. 

We are Carb People.  And in an effort to eat better, we switched to brown rice.  I don’t have a lot (read: any) patience for watching water boil, and stirring, and stuff, so after burning rice to a very unnatural and crisp and stinky state, I discovered this recipe, and I lovelovelove it.  And so will you.

Try this:  instead of rice, or in addition to rice, use a variety of other whole grains like barley, wild rice, millet, or wheat kernels.  The result is a wonderfully flavorful dish with a nice conglomeration of texture.

Try this, part 2:  I don’t bring the water to boiling before adding it to the rice.  And the rice has been received with cheers of joy from the kiddos, so I happily leave that step out.

Try this, part fin:  Bouillon.  Cubes.  Or the other kind, whatever that is.  It’s more flavorful than salt, and it keeps the Mister and the kiddos from getting out the salt shaker.  I am not so much in favor of the salt shaker, but that is another subject for another day.  The end.



what are we doing to ourselves? April 26, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — pameladayton @ 3:28 pm
Tags: , , ,
I’ve seen a number of posters hung in the windows of local businesses lately, advertising a pancake breakfast being held in memory of a young man who recently passed away from the effects of an eating disorder.
I knew this young man when he was a child, and what a charming boy he was!  We worshipped at a twenty/thirtysomethings service together as adults.  I know for a fact that his life, and sadly enough, his death have strongly impacted my community.  His family and church have begun an eating disorders support group, and while I don’t know this for fact, I assume that this group has something to do with this young man.
I think it’s likely that I am going to sound rude, and that is not my intention at all, but these posters have brought a question to my mind that I am going to share with you.  Why is it that people are chosing to remember this young man with a food event?
I have a basic understanding of eating disorders.  And this is it:  The disorder is about control.  Food is used, or not used, to establish control.  So why is it that the weapon used in this young man’s death is being used to remember him?  It seems equivalent to remembering a murder victim by hosting a gun raffle, or celebrating someone who suffered an alcohol-related death in a bar.  It doesn’t make sense to me.   There are hundreds of ways to raise money in memory of an anorexic without using food.  A 5K, a walk-a-thon, a golf tournament, a concert…the list is long and there is an equally long list of people in our community who have organized such events.
And if the organization has goals of reaching out to people living with an eating disorder, is a food event the best way to get them interested in the support group?  My best guess, uneducated as it is, says no.  Will a city’s homeless population go to a soup kitchen in a rural area?  No.  Will a “turn in your semi-automatic weapon” drive be successful if it is held nowhere near the demographic with the weapons?  No.  Will anorexics jump in their cars and drive out to the pancake breakfast?  Probably not.
We have such a food-centered life here in the US.  And it is getting to be a serious problem.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, 13.8% of children ages 2-5 are overweight, and it only gets worse as they get older. 18.8% of children 6-11, and 17.4% of children 12-18 are overweight.  And for adults the statistic is frightening: 32.9% of adults are overweight. 
The statistics on eating disorders are not as accurate, due to the secretive nature of some disorders (bulimia, for example), but they are alarming.  The National Institue of Mental Health figures that 1 of 5 women in America has an eating disorder.  The Renfrew Center Foundation, which works to advance the education, prevention, research and treatment of eating disorders, says that eating disorders affect 24 million Americans, and 70 million others across the world.   And 50,000 people will die from the effects of eating disorders.
Looking at the statistics on eating disorders and obesity together, it’s no wonder that people with self-worth and self-image issues decide to use food.  It’s there, right in front of us, all the time!  Everywhere we go, we are surrounded by images of, advertisements for, places to get food.  Even when visiting friends, food is practically crammed down our throats.  I know I do that (not the actual cramming), but if someone stops by, I offer something to eat and drink…I grew up seeing that (thanks, mom) and now I do it without even thinking about it.  I use food to exhibit my hospitality, and that’s really not necessary when I stop to think about it.
As a nation, we need to stop glorifying food.  We need to exercise some serious self-control.  Especially now, as the food situation around the world is nearing a crisis level, we need to examine how we use food, not only as nourishment, but in other ways, too, before it’s too late.

The Garden, 2008 Edition April 23, 2008

Filed under: scoring good food — pameladayton @ 9:49 pm
Tags: , ,

My flowers are blooming! I am so excited. The daffodils that are showing off their bright yellow faces, and white and purple crocuses have popped up to join the snowdrops. The tulips are promising to have a good year, too. There are enormous groups of tulip leaves popping up all around my house. I don’t know what it is, exactly, about tulips that make me love them so, but oh, my dearies, I love tulips.

I am going to try my hand at a few rosebushes this year. I got some last year, and we didn’t love them enough, so they up and died on us. I’ll attempt to love them more this time around, so we’ll see what happens. And also some echinacea, more lavendar, two kinds of sunflowers (for MyGal’s Bit of Earth), pansy, nasturtiums, and a variety of herbs.


I finally made my list of seeds to purchase for our vegetable garden this summer. I also got some fabulous rhubarb seed, which, according to Heirloom Acres, is a gem due to its low acidity and relative sweetness.


I present to you Vegetable Garden 2008:
Tema Green Bean


Great Northern Shell Bean


Blue Lake Pole Bean


Green Sprouting Broccoli


Red Core Chanteney Carrot


National Pickling Cucumber (It’s endorsed, for crying out loud. How can I not?)


Salad Greens Mix (includes Arugula, Green Wave, Southern Giant and Red Giant mustard greens, Mizuna, Red Russian Kale, Tatsoi and Komatsuma. That is a mouthful.)


Spring Lettuce Mix (includes Ruby Red, Oakleaf, Black Seeded Simpson, Buttercrunch, Paris White Cos, and Salad Bowl Red. That’s another mouthful.)


All American Parsnips


Sugar Snap Pea


King of the North Bell Pepper


Purple Beauty Bell Pepper


Howden Pumpkin


Rainbow Swiss Chard


Amish Paste Tomato


Rutgers Tomato


Pearly Pink Cherry Tomato

Spaghetti with Rich Meat Ragù April 13, 2008

Filed under: in the kitchen — pameladayton @ 5:54 pm

I am a lucky girl, I tell you.  I have a friend who subscribes to Food & Wine Magazine and is kind enough to pass them along to me when she is finished with them.  And I have another friend to whom I pass along the mags when I am done.  And she has a friend…

I love me some spagets, and this is one of my favorite recipes.  I made it for dinner tonight.  You should make it, too.  You won’t be disappointed.  Unless you don’t like meat.  Then you’re in for some trouble.

Here’s a couple of tips before you get in up to your elbows.

First, browned meat is not grey.  It should be brown, and look as if it is a little on the crisp side.  Think marshmallows when you are browning your meaties.  Would you eat a grey marshmallow?  Well, maybe you’re utterly weird and like that sort of thing.  But SHOULD you eat a grey marshmallow?  Absostinkinlutely not.  But should you eat a marshmallow that is golden brown, one that looks like the heat was making out with it, and how?  Absostinkinlutely you should.  With chocolate and graham crackers, too, but I digress.  Grey meat is not so much flavorful meat.  But something about leaving it sit, in the pan, on the heat, and the fat, in the meat…now that is right.

Another tidbit for you: I had no italian sausage, but I do have ground pork and ground beef, and that was what I used.  So while the meat was browning, I cleared some meat out of the way, and threw a tablespoon or so of fennel seed in the pan, and let it get all toasty and fragrance-ish.  Then I stirred it in real good.  And I used a little more onion and more garlic, so the meat was all seasoned and kindasorta like sausage.  I was also out of rosemary (and I never have sprigs of the stuff) so I used thyme, my most favoritest herb ever.

what you use:
3/4 pound spaghetti
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 pound ground beef chuck
3 sweet Italian sausages (10 ounces), casings removed
1 onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 1/2 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
One 3-inch rosemary sprig
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup whole milk
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for serving
how to use it:
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Cook and drain spaghetti.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large, deep skillet, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the ground beef and sausage and cook over moderately high heat, breaking up the meat with a spoon, until browned, about 6 minutes. Add the onion and garlic and cook over moderate heat until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, until the meat is coated, about 3 minutes. Add the stock and rosemary and season with salt and pepper. Simmer the sauce over moderate heat until thickened, about 4 minutes. Add the milk and simmer for 2 minutes. Discard the rosemary sprig and season the sauce with salt and pepper.
  3. Add the spaghetti to the sauce and toss over low heat until combined. Use extravagant amounts of sprinky cheese.

Pancakes April 10, 2008

Filed under: breakfast,in the kitchen — pameladayton @ 2:34 pm
Tags: , ,

It’s been a while, and I apologize.  I offer you today a wholegrain pancake recipe that you will love.  And how do I know you will love it?  Because the children watched me add all the ingredients with disdain, but inhaled them at a speed that would make a learjet jealous.

I have a few batter bowls with a handle and pour spout that I use for pancakes.  I like to pour them into the pan; the Mister uses a measuring cup, I think.  Whatever works for you is what you should do.

In the batter bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups of flour (I used 3/4 cup whole wheat and 3/4 cup all-purpose), 1 cup of oatmeal (rolled or quick), 1/4-1/2 cup cornmeal, 2 teaspoons each baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon, 4 Tablespoons sugar, 4 Tablespoons oil or applesauce, and 2 eggs.  Add a scant 2 cups milk or buttermilk, so the batter is not too thin and not to thick.  You can also use plain or vanilla yogurt.  That is good, too.

I fry them in my large cast iron pan that is brushed with vegetable oil.  When the edges look firm, and the bubbles that rise to the surface have popped, it’s time to flip.  I cook pancakes at a very low temperature because I get distracted by other things and burn them, and that makes the short people irate.

Yesterday when we ate these, the children requested blueberries and chocolate chips.  It was a little much for me, as pancakes are the one bread-based treat I prefer without chocolate.  And of course we doused them with good old fresh New York Maple Syrup.  Can’t beat that.


  This little fella is a pancake tortoise.  We did not eat him.  There was no harm done to any sort of critter in the process of creating, preparing, or eating the results of this recipe.