Saturday, December 26, 2009

Amish Friendship Bread

In an age of instant gratification, Amish Friendship Bread and the 10 days it takes to ferment before it can be baked seems like a hard thing to wait for. This is a good lesson in patience, especially if you have little ones who love the bread. (Now if we could only find a way to teach the men a bit of patience, too). 

No, this is not really a 'healthy' recipe, but it is a wonderful bread to share with friends during the holidays. If you are low on will power like me, bake the bread in 3 smaller disposable bread pans and give a loaf and a bag of starter along with the directions to a couple of friends.

I received my very first Amish Friendship Bread starter a couple of months ago from a neighbor. *Somehow* I lost track of the days, afraid that I had ruined it I threw it out. I don't think any of us had ever tasted the bread before, so we didn't really know what we were missing.

Then, a couple of weeks before Christmas, one of Brianna's violin students' Grandma gave her a loaf of the baked bread. OH MY GOODNESS! I believe it is the best dessert bread I have ever tasted. I sliced a couple of pieces for a friend and I to munch on while we crafted downstairs and came back upstairs to find most of the loaf finished (all while Bri was at work), and then the rest got finished during breakfast, so the pour girl never even got a slice.

So, Bri asked the Grandma if she could have the recipe so I could bake her a new loaf and came home with 2 cups of starter and the recipe. I baked the bread along with my Christmas pies, and have the other cup on the counter re-starting.

Just wanted to share the recipe here for all my friends and family.


Bread:                                        topping:
1 cup starter                                  1/3 cup sugar
3 eggs                                           1  tsp cinnamon1 cup oil
½ cup milk
1 cup sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp vanilla
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
2 cups flour
1 large box instant vanilla pudding mix

Stir the bread ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Combine the 1/3 cup sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon in a separate bowl.

Spray 2 loaf pans with non-stick spray, dust with 1 tablespoon each of the cinnamon sugar mixture. Pour batter evenly into the pans and sprinkle the remaining cinnamon sugar mixture over top.

Bake 1 hour @ 325 degrees. Cool until bread loosens from the pan (10 minutes) serve warm or cold.

Makes 2 loaves, about 10 slices each

Leave the 1 cup starter on your counter
On days 1-5, mush the bag.
On day 6, add 1 cup sugar, 1 cup flour, 1 cup milk and mush well.
On days 7-9, mush the bag.
On day 10, pour the starter into a NON-metal bowl and add 1 1/2 cup sugar, 1 1/2 cup flour, 1 1/2 cup milk. Stir well, place 3 cups of the starter into 1 gallon zip top bags - 1 cup per bag. Give 2 to friends along with these directions and the baking directions, place one on your counter to re-start (or in your freezer for a later date, just allow to come to room temperature and then follow the above directions).
There will be 1 cup remaining in your bowl to bake the bread with. 

If you have run out of friends who are willing to take the starter, put the 3 bags in your freezer. You can bring to room temperature and follow the baking directions without going through the re-starting process - just don't forget to re-start the last bag ;)

If you don't have a starter, follow these directions to create one. There are recipes out there that call for yeast, I have not actually made the starter yet but from what I read this is the recipe to use.


They say to use a container that you can cover loosely, like a glass bowl that you can cover with cheesecloth and secure with rubber bands. Your container should be glass, plastic, or glazed ceramic and have more than a 4 cup capacity. I know that starter gets passed to friends in gallon size zipper top bags, but the air flow is supposed to be better for the fermentation process (I am by no means an expert on this, so if you have a way that has worked for you in the past, by all means, stick with that!) Once you have the starter created, just re-starting  and you shouldn't have to make it again.

Combine 1 cup sugar with 1 cup flour, stir well. Add 1 cup milk and combine completely. Cover loosely (with a lid left slightly ajar or secure a paper towel or cheesecloth to the top with rubber bands. Keep at room temperature and stir (with a NON metal spoon) every day for 17 days.

Day 18, do nothing.
Days 19, 20, 21, stir
Day 22 add 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup milk and stir completely
Days 23, 24, 25, 26 stir
Day 27 add 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup milk and stir completely
Separate into 4 starters, give 2 away to friends, use one to restart and the other to bake.

Individual starter (1 cup portions) can be kept in the freezer in gallon zipper top bags until ready to use, then left on the counter until room temperature before starting the 10 day restarting process.

A little note:
Though I'm sure none of you are nearly as forgetful as I am, here is a trick I am trying to keep me from loosing track of the days on the bag of starter I have fermenting on the counter. On the outside of the zip top bag in permanent marker, I wrote 1-10 with the date below each number and circled 6 and 10 to remind me.

Monday, December 07, 2009

One easy way to make the vegetarians AND the carnivores in your house happy

Or, "A Tale of Two Chilis"

So, my daughter decided to take the healthy road and eat a mainly vegetarian diet. Let me tell you, in our house, that's no easy feat. She started with a fully vegetarian diet over spring break earlier this year (March 2009) and has added some poultry and seafood back in.

When her dad cooks, he doesn't take her into account. She thinks he still believes that she will just give in and eat the steak, and he secretly stands out by the grill plots beef and pork meals just to driver her crazy while he laughs maniacally. 

When I cook, I try to cook poultry or seafood. If I am cooking something that has beef or pork in it, I will do a separate thing that she and I can share. This works very well for me right now, I try not to eat B/P more than once a week for health reasons, and my husband doesn't get mad because it's not a separate meal for just one person. Not sure how I will make that work for me after she leaves for college, but I guess I will cross that bridge when I get to it.

Now, to the point of this post, CHILI! Chili is one of our family favorites, but my husband feels like it HAS to have beef inside and a beer to wash it down. All the talking in the world will never convince him that the beans are enough of a protein source, so I've stopped trying. Now I just make one pot for the omnivores (aka, the boys) and one for the flexetarians* (aka, the girls)

I've finally perfected the dual pot chili and thought I would share my recipe with those of you who have a household like mine, or just have friends with different diets and you want something to serve at your next gathering.

A Tale of Two Chili's

1 1/4 cup diced bell pepper**
1 1/4 cup diced onion
1 1/4 cup sliced celery***
5 cloves garlic
cumin, cayenne, chili powder
1 pound ground beef
3-15oz cans chili beans****
3-15oz cans kidney beans
2-15oz cans great northern or other white bean

Drizzle a little olive oil in a large sauce pan, heat, and add the diced vegetables, minced garlic, and a good sprinkle each of chili powder, cayenne, and cumin. Cook over medium heat until the vegetables are tender.

Into a 4-5 qt slow cooker, pour about 2/3 of the cooked veggies, 5 cans beans (2 pinto, 2 kidney, and one white) and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp cayenne, and 1 tsp chili powder.

Into a 2-3 qt slow cooker, add the remaining 1/3 veggies and 3 cans beans (1 of each). Stir in 1/4 tsp cumin, 1/4 tsp cayenne, and 1/2 tsp chili powder. The vegetarian chili is ready to cook, just cover and turn on low for 5-6 hours. 

In the saucepan you used for the veggies, crumble the ground beef and season with 1-2 dashes each of you seasonings and brown. Drain and add to the larger slow cooker. Cover the slow cooker and cook on low for 5-6 hours.

Serve with your favorite chili accompaniments and enjoy.

(Oh, BTW, if you don't have any omnivores in your household, just skip the meat part and you have the perfect pot, even for a vegan)

** I like to use the mini bell peppers so I can have a mix of colors
*** I've found it easiest to take the whole heart, rinse, spread it out just a bit to cut out the leaves on the inside, and then slice directly from the heart
**** we like the hot chili beans, but if you prefer your chili a bit milder you can use mild chili beans or plain pinto beans. Use whatever kinds of beans you prefer, you will need a total of 8 cans or about 120 oz

*FLEXETARIAN: you like that word? Yeah, me too. I just recently came across it, but it fits me perfectly, because I do still indulge in beef on occasion (and on even rarer occasion, pork), but now I'm more selective when I do and keep it to once a week, and am working on reducing it more until it's all but gone from my diet.

Here's what wikipedia says:
Flexitarianism is a semi-vegetarian diet focusing on vegetarian food with occasional meat consumption. A self-described flexitarian seeks to decrease meat consumption without eliminating it entirely from his or her diet. There are no guidelines for how much or how little meat one must eat before being classified a flexitarian. Flexitarian is distinguished from polpescetarian, i.e., one who eats only chicken and fish, but does so exclusively