Review: Brownberry Health-full Breads

Disclaimer: I received a coupon to try Brownberry Health-full breads for free as part of a BzzCampaign through BzzAgent. This is a program where you take surveys and they match you with companies who would like you to try their products and provide honest feedback.

First of all, long time no see! I apologize for that. I haven’t had that much to say since I’ve been living on my own, and cooking and homemaking just isn’t as exciting when there’s only one person involved. I have, however, been getting back into Once a Month Cooking a bit (I’ll try to post more about that soon). I also joined Weight Watchers at the beginning of the year. So far I am down about 15lb, and a lot of it is a result of cooking and eating at home.

When I received a campaign invitation to try the Brownberry Health-full breads, I was pretty excited, since they’re high in fiber and protein. This is great for Weight Watchers. I find a lot of the light whole wheat breads to be pretty icky (too squishy, no flavor) so I was hoping this would be a great alternative.

As you can see, there are three varieties available. I had a bit of a hard time finding them but finally tracked them down at the larger Giant Eagle (grocery store) near my house. I selected the 10 Grain variety since it looked good to me, and I have been using a Nickles (local bakery) bread that’s similar and which I like.

I was really pleased with the texture of the bread. It has a nice crumb; it’s not too squishy and soft but not hard like a baguette (well, obviously). The crust is deliciously chewy and the topping adds a lot of flavor. So far my favorite sandwiches have been:

  • Turkey, cheddar, apple and onion slices, and dijon mustard;
  • Hummus and veggies (spinach, carrot shreds, olives, tomatoes, whatever is on hand);
  • Grilled cheese with sharp cheddar and a little garlic.

It also makes great toast for breakfast, and helps keep me full a bit longer thanks to the protein content. I would definitely recommend this bread. It’s a little pricey, so watch for sales or coupons, but I like it the best of all the “healthy,” whole wheat breads I’ve tried.

Here’s my turkey sandwich mentioned above:

Turkey, cheddar, apple, onion, and dijon on Health-full 10 Grain

I’ve basically been eating a sandwich for lunch each day, and the bread is good enough that I don’t get bored. I’ve got a second job interview this week so hopefully I’ll be working outside the house soon. That means packing a lunch, and it’s easiest for me if I can follow the same pattern most days. I’ve tried making the sandwiches a few hours ahead to see how they hold up, and as long as there’s a buffer (like light mayo, mustard, hummus) between the bread and the fillings, it doesn’t get soggy too fast.

I definitely love this bread! I’ll be posting more in the future here too, I think, and maybe I’ll finally update my site banner, ha ha.

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What’s for Dinner?

I haven’t done Menu Plan Monday for a couple of weeks; somehow my schedule’s gotten all off-kilter and I haven’t had my menus done. We’ve been doing decently well at eating at home, though, and that makes me happy; part of it is using Schwan’s for certain premade items. I don’t feel like the nutrition is quite up to par there, but as I think I’ve said, it keeps us in the habit of eating here rather than running out for fast food. Small steps, right?

I figured I’d type out our “menu plan” for this week, though some of it is, you know, post-dated.

  • Monday: Lunch was… apparently unremarkable. I think it was a scavenging kind of day and I had cottage cheese and peach preserves. Dinner? Taco Rice, one of the world’s perfect foods. I had a lot of homemade salsa on hand, which makes it even better. Have I posted here about taco rice? If not, I really should, sometime. I hate to admit this, but it’s really good for eating at the computer. I was unexpectedly invited to raid in World of Warcraft on Monday night, and I was glad my dinner was in a bowl, with a spoon. Ahem.
  • Tuesday: I had a leftover peach-marsala glazed pork chop with rice for lunch. For dinner, we got sandwiches at Jimmy John’s, and lo, they were delicious. And filling.
  • Wednesday: Griddled cheese fidlops (aka grilled cheese sandwiches), potato chips, and green olives for lunch. We’re having sirloin steaks, tomatoes with blue cheese, some frozen vegetable, and baguette for dinner — the steaks are marinating now in worcestershire sauce, kochujang, garlic powder, and seasoning salt.
  • Thursday: I’m thinking fried rice for lunch, to use up the half of my steak I probably won’t finish tonight. Dinner is FOOTBALL TIEM!!!1!11! because it’s the season opener for the Steelers. We’re having buffalo chicken dip, and a spinach and mushroom pizza from Schwan’s. The pizza is actually really good — usually I hate frozen pizza because it almost always has red sauce, and I hate oregano + tomato (= BLORF). This has a creamy garlic sauce and the crust is not bad for frozen ‘za. I think there will also be beer involved.
  • Friday: Leftover pizza and dip for lunch. Picadillo for dinner, and this time I think I’ll be able to post a recipe. Mmm. I’m going to try to get some plantains, too, to go with it — I’m not sure Zack’s ever even had a plantain.
  • Saturday: Something quick for lunch, though I don’t know what, and stuffed cabbage! for dinner.
  • Sunday: Leftovers for lunch (whatever’s around), and I get to go out for Mexican with a friend who’s stopping through town. Woo!

Peach Preserves

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I love canning. It’s a ridiculous amount of work at totally the wrong time of year, when you consider how much time you spend stirring boiling fruit over a hot stove in close proximity to a giant pot of boiling water, but then you get these shining jewel-colored jars of delight. Something about lining up homemade preserves on shelves makes me feel like no matter what the economy does, everything is OK.

I don’t have a pressure canner, so I really only do fruits, pickles, and tomatoes (though I know lately the Ag Extensions have been reporting that the acidity of tomatoes is just on the borderline). Sometime I’ll have to get a pressure canner, but really that’ll wait until I have a really big garden — otherwise, why bother? Right now I have plenty of room in our small chest freezer for leftover vegetables.

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I didn’t grow these peaches, but they’re from Michigan — Benton Harbor, actually. I’ve been there! I bought Michigan sugar, but just regular ol’ Sure-Jell, of whose provenance I am unsure. I got about 4.5lb of peaches, which worked out perfectly. Originally I wanted to do three batches: One plain, with the skins on; one with cinnamon and nutmeg; and one with vanilla. After I got everything out I realized I was only going to have about seven jars, so I decided just to do plain old preserves… but with half the skins left on, because I like the texture it gives to the finished product.

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First thing was to peel some of the peaches. I used slightly underripe fruit; the pectin in fruit hits its maximum level just before the fruit is fully ripe, and goes downhill from there. I find I can use less sugar and still get good peach flavor with fairly firm peaches. Just cut an X in the blossom end (opposite of the stem end), drop into simmering water for a minute, then plunge immediately into ice water. The skin becomes fairly easy to slip off. I had 10 peaches and skinned 6 of them. Witness the peach carnage!

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I’ve had a few incidents with slippery knives and sticky hands, so at this point I just squished them through my fingers like I do with whole peeled tomatoes, thus killing two birds with one peach pit (ha! ha!) — getting the fruit into small pieces and removing the pits. Despite the appearance of the cutting board, I just did this directly into the saucepot.

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Now would perhaps be a good time to mention that while all this peach dissection was taking place, I had my canning pot (really, it’s a large stockpot) going with gently boiling water, in which I sterilized the jars and bands for about ten minutes. The lids, because of the heat-activated seal, go into a smaller pot and I just pour boiling water over them and let it cool. Everything then goes to rest on the towel on the left; it’s really best not to set hot glass jars onto a solid surface because the temperature change can cause shock and breakage.

P1040703For this batch, I essentially followed the directions in the Sure-Jell Low Sugar box; it calls for 3c of granulated sugar, but I went with about 2-3/4c because I knew my fruit probably had a decent amount of its own pectin. The sugar is measured out, then 1/4c is set aside and mixed with the box of Sure-Jell (1.75oz), then added to the fruit — which I cooked for a little bit on its own and went over with a potato masher, just a little, to avoid GIANT CHUNKS.

P1040705Then, the truly exciting part begins. By this point the jars were sitting on the towel, awaiting their delicious new contents, and I was standing in front of the stove with a wooden spoon and wishing I’d thought to make myself some tea. Luckily, it was about 60F and windy, so I had a nice breeze coming in. To make jams and preserves, you really have got to bring the mixture to a full rolling boil. I have cooked with several people who get something to the point of just simmering, decide they are tired of staring at it, and declare it to be at a full rolling boil. Nope. You need to wait until it’s still bubbling vigorously even while you stir. It takes longer than it should, so you should probably make yourself tea first.

Once a full rolling boil has been reached, you add the rest of the sugar, return to — guess what? — a full rolling boil again, and boil for one minute. At this point it’s good to work fast, and if you have a wide-mouthed canning funnel (I don’t), it’s a bit easier. Ladle the fruit into the jars, leaving at least 1/4″ of empty space at the top so they can seal. Wipe down the threads and jar lips (if you don’t, they might not seal, and that’s more of a pain than doing it in the first place), and put the lids on. You want to tighten the ring fairly tightly for the sealing process, so water doesn’t sneak into your lovely preserves — I feel like I’ve said this before. Have I? After they’re sealed, you can take the ring off altogether, since the seal is at the lid, but nobody wants boiling water strong-arming its way into the jam party. It helps to use a towel to hold onto the jars while you tighten the rings down — they’re really hot. No, really.

P1040714Gently lower the jars into your canning pot; it’s really a good idea to use a canning rack, and I should have. I don’t worry about it as much with a gas stove but I was convinced the electric cooktop was going to overheat the glass and make everything go explosionary. The water must cover the jars by at least 1-2″; it’s a good idea to have another, smaller pot of water boiling so you can top up as needed. Bring the water to a gentle boil, throw a lid on there, and boil for 10 minutes, assuming your altitude is about sea level. After that, you can take the jars out, again gently, and again set them on a towel to cool.

P1040716It is at this point that my favorite part of the entire process takes place. As the remaining air in the jar cools, it shrinks, creating a vacuum seal, and you’ll hear the jar lids go “ping!” as each one seals. The cats think it’s pretty hilarious, too. If you don’t want to sit around and count pings, you can come back later and test the seals — the lids shouldn’t pop up and down when pressed, like baby food jars. If they do, the seal’s no good, and you should either refrigerate those and use them right away, or reprocess — which, yes, involves reheating the fruit, refilling the jars, etc. When I wipe the jars down well, I almost never have problems with sealing. Maybe one jar in 20 will have a sealing failure, and that’s probably an overestimate.

Let everything cool down; the pectin, like Jell-O, won’t really set for real until it’s cool. Actually, sometimes it takes up to two weeks to set (I’m looking at you, apricots), which is a mystery I haven’t bothered to Google yet. Label the jars, because even though you think you’ll remember what’s what, there will be a time next year when you can’t remember what this orange gunk in a jar is. I like peach preserves with cottage cheese, oatmeal, or crackers and cream cheese. Or toast.

Peach Preserves

  • 4.5lb peaches, washed, partially peeled if you like, and chopped or smashed fairly coarsely
  • 3c/375g sugar (I used 2-3/4c because of underripe fruit having more pectin)
  • 1 box Sure-Jell LOW SUGAR pectin

This should yield about 7 or 8-8oz. jars of preserves. Enjoy!

Guacamole

Guacamole

Guacamole

I’m not sure I want to admit this in public, but avocados give tomatoes a run for their money in my “favorite foods of summer” category. I like to eat them on toast, in a fashion similar to Tomatoes on Toast, only without the mayonnaise. Actually, they make a good substitute for the mayonnaise. Also good? Avocado, turkey, bacon and tomato — on toast, naturally.

Sometimes, though, I do branch out into non-sandwich territories; shocking, I know. Guacamole is one of my favorite things to eat. When I lived in Columbus, there was a 24-hour taqueria that served guacamole. When you ordered, they broke out the avocado, smashed it together with some onion, cilantro, salt and lime juice, and filled a small styrofoam takeout container. For about three bucks. That, a spoon and a glass of horchata made up my dinner many, many nights after getting off work at the restaurant. At 2am.

When I make guacamole at home, I follow a progression similar to my method for tomato enjoyment. At first, I just use lime juice and salt; later in the week I’ll add onion and cilantro, and if I’m feeling crazy I might put some tomatoes in there too. Garlic, too, sometimes. It’s not one of those things that lends itself to recipes, but I tried to pay attention a few minutes ago so I could give you a recipe. Please feel free to scale up or down, add or subtract ingredients, and otherwise do as you please. It does go brown quickly, but I find it freezes pretty well. I always toss a pit in the freezer bag, though I don’t know if that helps it to stay green while it thaws. I figure it can’t hurt, right?

Guacamole

  • 4 medium avocados
  • juice of half a lime
  • 1t kosher salt
  • 1 small white or red onion, chopped, optional
  • handful of fresh cilantro leaves, chopped, optional (don’t use the stems for this)
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped, optional (I recommend removing the pulpy seed bits)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced, optional

Cut the avocados in half. I do this by slicing around the pit, then twisting; if they’re reasonably ripe, the pit will come free easily. If not, the guacamole might not be very good and you might want to stop and use them sliced on sandwiches instead. Or you can whack the pit with your knife; it will stick to the blade, but don’t hit too hard or you’ll have the devil of a time removing it. Remember, they’re slippery.

Squoosh or spoon the avocado flesh into a bowl, and add the remaining ingredients. Go easy on the lime juice at first. Its strength really varies wildly from lime to lime. If you’re going for a chunky texture, just smash a few times with a fork and lightly blend everything together; this is what I usually prefer. But sometimes you want something that’ll make a good sandwich spread when the tortilla chips run out, in which case, break out a spoon and mash it down to a smooth texture. Taste for seasoning; add more lime or salt if necessary. I like to let the flavors meld for about five minutes before eating.

If you’re going to freeze some, do it right away, before it starts to oxidize.

A Little Tea

Circular Tea Swap Tea

Circular Tea Swap Tea

I love tea. So I count myself lucky to be a participant in the BPAL.org circular tea swap that’s running right now. Essentially, there is a giant box of tea — see contents above — making its way around the country. Each person receives the box, tries various teas, replaces as much as they took with OTHER teas, and sends it on along. There are easily 50+ kinds here (I’ll update with a real total when I get through them all). It’s tea madness!

I love drinking tea. It’s a little ritual that makes me feel more anchored, and more at home. I don’t actually drink much hot tea in the summer; I’ve never gotten the “hot beverages cool you down” effect, much as I’ve tried. But I do like iced tea, and sweet tea. Still, it’s best when the weather starts to cool (which actually it’s not doing right now — it’s getting hotter, but a girl can pretend) and I feel like I can cuddle up with a cup of tea, a book, and a comfy sweater. I doubt it gets much better unless, of course, there’s a teapot and a tea cozy involved.

My favorite teas are English Breakfast (with just a touch of milk, no sugar), gunpowder green, and Zhenya’s Coconut Chai. I like lots of herbal teas (really tisanes, yes?) as well. I suspect my time with the swap box will introduce some new favorites.

Summer’s Midnight Snack

Tomatoes on Toast

Tomatoes on Toast

I know I said I was cutting back on the midnight snacks, but hey — at least it’s not cheese. There aren’t many things I like about summer; I’m a cool-weather kind of girl. Summer’s redeeming virtue, though, is the availability of tomatoes. I know that you can buy “tomatoes” year-round, but I refuse to eat them. They’re mealy, pasty, and taste of nothing, a pale ghost of real tomatoes picked ripe and in season.

You can imagine my dismay, this year, at the general failure of the tomato crops. The weather’s been too cool here for them to thrive. But I spend 9 months of the year dreaming of tomatoes, and so when some appear that at least smell like tomatoes, I buy them. The first batch are eaten out of hand, like apples, with a little salt; after waiting so long, I need the unadulterated flavor. After that’s passed, I can start using them for other things. Salsa (which, if you have a hand blender or food processor, is completely trivial to make at home), BLTs, and other raw applications come first, and only near the end of tomato season can I bring myself to start canning tomato sauce.

This year’s tomatoes haven’t yet been good enough to match my anticipation, so I’ve moved fairly quickly into the sandwich phase. I do like BLTs, but who wants to fry bacon at midnight? Well, a lot of people, but not me, not tonight. My grandpa used to make a sort of spinoff on the BLT: Cook overripe tomatoes in leftover bacon grease and eat them on toast. That’s one of those Depression-era Appalachian recipes everyone should know in these belt-tightening times.

But tonight I turned to simple tomatoes on toast. The reason BLTs are so good, in my opinion, is the saltiness and crunch of the bacon playing off the acidic sweetness and soft, melting texture of the tomatoes. So this sandwich, which features crisp toast, a little mayonnaise, tomatoes, and salt does pretty well for a fix.

Tomatoes on Toast

To begin, obviously, you need toast, and you need tomatoes. I am somewhat ashamed to admit that the bread depicted here is Aunt Millie’s Butter Top, but in this application, it works. Slice the tomatoes, and spread a thin layer of mayonnaise on each of two pieces of toast (this keeps the juicy tomatoes from un-crisping it).

Tomatoes meet toast, and are greeted with a liberal dose of kosher salt. Whatever you do, please don’t use iodized salt here; purity of flavor is 90 percent of the appeal. Top with the other piece of bread, cut into quarters (nearly every toast-based sandwich is better cut into quarters), and eat.

Menu Plan Monday: Tuesday Already Edition

Well, this isn’t the first time I’ve forgotten to upload my menu on Sunday evening (the time Org Junkie’s post goes up) or even Monday. But maybe you’re a menu procrastinator, too, or maybe you’re looking to swipe some ideas for next week.

Today’s also the last day of IComLeavWe for July; signups for August should be open tomorrow, and if you haven’t participated, I recommend it! I had a lot of fun reading new-to-me blogs, leaving comments, and getting acquainted with a few new folks. I’ve kept a blog in one form or another since 1999 (I think — the Wayback Machine doesn’t have all of it archived), but I’ve never been very good at expanding beyond real-life and forum friends in my blog reading. ICLW kicked me out into the wider world, and I liked it — so I say, even if you feel shy or like you “don’t  belong,” please sign up!

And now, le menu de la semaine:

  • Monday: Erm, what DID we eat? Oh yes, BLTs, potato chips, and hot fudge sundaes. Ahem. Very healthy, you know, what with the lettuce and tomato. Right?
  • Tuesday: Oven-baked breaded chicken tenders, crash hot sweet potatoes, and salad. (More on today’s dinner at the bottom of the post.)
  • Wednesday: Chicken Marsala, accordion potatoes, braised baby carrots with thyme.
  • Thursday: Fair food! Zack and I are planning to hit the Lenawee County Fair and eat funnel cake for dinner, which makes Monday’s dinner EVEN WORSE.
  • Friday: Zatarain’s (honestly, their jambalaya mix is tasty, even if it’s not really jambalaya) with chicken, salad, and fruit.
  • Saturday: Leftover chicken Marsala with pasta and perhaps other vegetables that need to be used up.
  • Sunday: Deli turkey, Stove Top stuffing, mashed potatoes, and gravy from a mix. Maybe with green beans and cranberry sauce, too. Because everyone needs cafeteria Thanksgiving dinner on a regular basis.

So about Tuesday’s dinner: The chicken tenders are quite easy; Meijer (the grocery chain here) sells chicken tenders for the same price per pound as whole boneless, skinless breasts (BSCB, as it were) — which is actually the same price as the bone-in kind. Anyway, not the cheapest thing, but sometimes we buy them anyway. Just pat them dry, dredge in seasoned flour, dip in an egg, then coat in breadcrumbs or more seasoned flour, put on a Pammed baking sheet and spritz the top with more Pam, and bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes.

Tonight’s seasonings featured salt, onion powder, smoked Spanish paprika, coriander, black pepper, chipotle powder, rosemary, Old Bay, and probably some other stuff. I sort of have this habit of looking through the spice cupboard and going “oh, that sounds like it’d go,” and adding it in, especially for stuff like chicken tenders where gourmet isn’t really one of the possible outcomes.

Now, the crash hot sweet potatoes. I decided to skip the parboil and put them straight into the oven, whence to be smashed and beseasoned. This did not work well and I recommend doing the parboiling recommended in the recipe. They were still tasty tasty, but kind of dry around the edges and not really “smashed” so much as “dented.”

Due to its general unattractive nature, there was no photographic evidence of tonight’s dinner; instead I present you with last Friday’s meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and green beans (tossed with olive oil, cumin, fenugreek and um… something else, and roasted in the oven at 450F).

BBQ meatloaf is for nomming

BBQ meatloaf is for nomming