Real Food

Savor the flavors of everyday real food, fresh from the garden or stored on your pantry shelves.

oatmeal bread

Oatmeal is probably about my favourite bread in loaf form. It’s wholesome, slightly sweet, makes great sandwiches and toast, and is just plain tasty. It’s a loaf that frankly, I don’t make enough of. You can vary the flavor by using cinnamon, or not, and you could use either maple or brown sugar to give it a little sweetness. When “modern” medical gurus tell you to eat more grains, this is what I think it should look like. I’m biased of course towards breads and baking, but hey. Sort of reminds me of the story about Alexander Graham Bell, an old Scotsman if there ever was one. At that time, he was elderly at this point, he was told don’t eat that horrible oatmeal (porridge) you’re so fond of, you need Corn Flakes. His response: “Why should I eat wood shavings?” Back to the oatmeal porridge.

One new kitchen gadget, which I can’t rave about enough, is the new silicone cover or lid that you can freeze, refrigerate, cook with (stove and micro), and use in the oven. They completely eliminate the need for the dreaded plastic wrap. See its use below. I got mine from a really great local shop in Perth, ON, Ground Waves, but I’m sure you can find them in all finer kitchen supply shops. They come in a variety of sizes and colours, round, square, and oblong.

Oatmeal Bread Recipe

To sum up, oatmeal bread is wonderful to make, bake and eat. So without further adieu, here’s the recipe, adapted from King Arthur’s Vermont Oatmeal Maple-Honey Bread. Yield 2 loaves.

2 ¼ to 2 ½ cups boiling water
1 cup thick oat flakes (rolled oats)
½ cup maple sugar or brown sugar (I think the maple sugar is worth it, but of course, pricey)
½ tsp maple flavor, optional
1 tbsp honey *I substituted maple syrup
4 tbsp or ½ stick butter
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp instant yeast
1 ½ cup whole wheat flour
4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
I egg beaten
1 tbsp oats

In a large mixing bowl, combine the water, oats, maple sugar, maple flavor, honey, butter, salt, and cinnamon. Let cook to lukewarm.

Add the yeast and flours, stirring to form a basic dough. A dough whisk works great here. Knead about 7 to 8 minutes by hand, and they say 5-7 by machine. Dough should be smooth and satiny, that supple feel you get with properly kneaded dough. Transfer to a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap or silicone cover, and let rest for 1 hour. To use the silicone lid, just place over the bowl. That’s it. It forms a good seal, much easier to use. When the dough rises, it will push the lid up, but that tells you the dough is pretty much ready!

Divide the dough in half, and shape each half into a loaf. Place the loaves in 2 greased 8X4” loaf pans. Cover, I use a tea towel at this point, and allow the loaves to rise until they’re 1” over the edge of the pans. This is about 1 hour.

If you really want to gild the lily, you can brush the dough with some of the beaten egg, and sprinkle with the oats, if you want a shiny crust with oats on top. Very pretty, see the photo.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake the loaves for 35 to 40 minutes (check by the 30 min. mark). My loaves took 40 minutes, but everyone’s oven is different. Remove from oven when they’re golden brown, and they register 190 degrees on an instant read thermometer (my favourite latest trick, it ensures that they’re done or not). 

See Sue’s new website and blogs at to see what else Sue has been up to. More about this in the next blog!


For the last week we had no propane and as a result I have had to cook all of my food on an electric skillet. This week is Holy week and ,for my family, usually involves a lot of baking in preparation for Easter Sunday. Lent officially ends on the Saturday before Easter at noon. For most Christians the 40 days prior to Easter, known as Lent, is a time of prayer and fasting. Traditionally Christians “give something up” for Lent. Our family gave up sweets so I had to think of something easy and delicious to make on an electric skillet to break our fast.

Fortunately, I remembered one of my favorite child hood treats that my Grandfather used to make during the Easter season, Italian fried doughnuts (Zeppole,or crispelle).

My Grandparents always found a way to tell people how healthy their deserts were.  My grandmother would always tell us exactly what we were eating.  “There are fresh eggs, whole wheat, milk, butter, and no chemicals in here,” she would say in her musical New York Italian voice. Grandpa’s cake (or whatever it was we were eating) made a wholesome breakfast according to grandma.

These doughnuts may not have a heart healthy seal of approval from the FDA, however they are Grandma Grimaldi approved, easy to make, and perfect to break any fast or diet with. Italians traditionally serve them on the feast of St. Joseph, March 19, at Easter, and on picnics. They are usually served for desert with coffee, but rarely for breakfast. Enjoy!

Italian Fried Doughnuts Recipe

6 cups white whole-wheat flour
2 tsp yeast
2 tsp salt
¼ cup sugar
3 eggs
¼ cup olive oil
Water about 2 ½ cups
1 quart of peanut (or other suitable oil) for deep frying
Powdered or cinnamon sugar for dusting

In the bowl of a mixer add flour, yeast, salt and sugar.  Scramble the eggs with the olive oil in a separate bowl. With the dough hook attachment turn the mixer on low to incorporate the dry ingredients. With the mixer running, add the egg/oil mixture and as much water as you need to make a cohesive dough. The dough should be sticky but hold together. Knead the dough by machine for about 10 minutes. Scrape the mixing bowl a few times to ensure full incorporation of ingredients. Next, cover the dough with a damp cloth and allow it to rise in a warm location for about 2 hours. When the dough has risen oil your hands with a little olive oil and sprinkle the counter with a bit of flour. Knock down the dough. To form the doughnuts, pinch small pieces of dough and form into balls about half as big as you want your doughnuts to be. Palm size is just about right but some people like them smaller.

Allow the doughnuts to rise for about half an hour, meanwhile in a deep skillet, frying pan, or deep fryer add the frying oil. Heat the oil to about 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Being careful not to over crowd them, place the doughnuts in the hot oil. Cook them for about 3 minutes per side until they are golden brown. When they are cooked drain them on brown paper for a few minutes. Finally sprinkle them with powdered sugar or roll them in cinnamon sugar. They’re also delicious with fresh jam.

These are best served piping hot.



The term “poolish” is used for pre-ferments added to bread dough using either natural or commercial yeast. Adding an aged rising agent adds flavor and improves the texture of any bread. There are countless methods and recipes aimed at working pre-fermented starter into all types of bread. Stiff vs wet, whole-wheat vs white flour, natural leaven vs commercial — no matter what ingredients are available or the tastes the bakers, the art of bread making provides endless options for finding the right preferment for every recipe.

Finding the method that suits one’s tastes and busy schedule is a very delicate balancing act. Below are very simple directions to adding a little extra tang to your loaf, while limiting the amount of extra time spent measuring, waiting, proofing, and waiting.  They are based off a recipe in an earlier post of mine and is a great example of how using basic, but well-honed recipes to experiment in the kitchen can literally, and easily, add a little extra zest to your day.

Poolish Bread Recipe


2 Large bowls
Whisk, slotted spoon, or other stirring utensil
Baking stone
Measuring cups and spoons
Sharp paring knife



3 ¼ cups unbleached, all-purpose white flour
2 cups warm water
2 ¼  teaspoons yeast
1 pinch salt


6 ½ cups unbleached, all-purpose white flour
4 cups warm water
1 ½ tbsp yeast (4 ½ teaspoons)
1 ½ tbsp salt


On the day before baking, mix the poolish ingredients together in a large bowl, and allow it to rise for 4 hours before placing it in the refrigerator overnight. On the day of baking, combine the flour, salt, and yeast in a large bowl. (Fun fact:  For optimal rise in your yeast, be sure to put the yeast and salt on different sides of the bowl and gently combine them.  Dumping salt directly on the yeast can “injure” the yeast and hinder its effectiveness ever so slightly.) Take the poolish from the refrigerator and cut the starter into small pieces before placing it all in the bowl with the dry ingredients, as illustrated below.

Pieces in Dough

Mix all of the poolish pieces in with the dry ingredients. Add water while stirring continually.

Cover the bowl with a non-airtight cover (I usually use a dishcloth or towel), and let the mixture sit for 1 ½ - 2 hours.

Optional step:  After the first rise, push the dough down to about half the size it is now and cover.

When the dough has risen (again), remove a handful / grapefruit-sized portion of dough.  Place it on a non-stick surface in the shape you want the loaf to be.

Lightly cover for 45-60 minutes.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Before placing the dough in the oven, take the paring knife and cut diagonal slices down the length of the dough. Place dough on preheated baking stone, then place the stone in the oven for 25 minutes.  Allow approximately 10 minutes cooling time once the bread has left the oven. (Remember, the baking process is not complete until the bread is properly cooled.) Enjoy.

Starter Pieces



A few years ago I decided to make Echinacea tincture. I buy a lot of Echinacea tincture to use at the first sign of a cold. I spend $15 on little bottles of Echinacea at the health food coop, but I have Purple Coneflowers (Echinacea) growing right in my own herb garden. This is silly, I thought. I can do this. I can make my own Echinacea tincture. I have heard it is easy to make.

I bought a book about medicinal herbs by Rosemary Gladstar and read all about the easy ways to capture the potency of herbs into easy remedies, such as tea, salves and tinctures. I enjoyed reading and dreaming about it, but it still felt like magic. I thought about it for year. I put it on my to-do list. I thought about it some more. My to-do list included “make tincture” for months, with no practical application of it.

Maybe I need to break down the process. I started writing on my list “dig echinacea herb”, thinking that would do the trick. I’d surely get it done now. 

It didn’t happen. For months it didn’t happen. A bit of inertia going on. Maybe another year went by. I couldn’t seem to do it by myself. I thought if I got someone else involved it might move me along. I would engage an enthusiastic friend into the project. Denise would be into it. I solicited her enthusiasm and together, we dug the roots in the fall. There, step one complete.

The Root of the Problem

I let the pile of roots sit on my porch until they dried into nothing. Abandoned, waiting, waiting, abandoned, until it was a dried up pile of nothing at all.

Another friend, Chris, with six jars of herbs marinating in vodka on top of his frig, had once told me that making a tincture is harder than harvesting and throwing away an herb, but not much harder. He said this as he lovingly rocked each jar back and forth, its contents immersed and feeling very attended to. So Chris says, its barely more work than composting the shriveled up dry roots I had left for dead. Still, they are supposed to impart powerful attended-to energy into the tincture, not emotions of complete abandonment, left on the porch in neglect. I could do better.

The following fall I met Rosemary Gladstar. She is a joy to witness, that woman. It was a pleasure to hear her speak at the Mother Earth News Fair in Seven Springs, Pennsylvania. She stood at the table with a pile of herbs that she brought from her home garden and wild medicinals (read: weeds) from the parking lot of the Seven Springs Resort. Now when I dream over her herbal books, I feel like I am sitting in her kitchen garden with her, talking herbs. She brings all the energy of the medicinal garden into her speaking engagements. She makes it seem easy. She gave us a pep talk on the easy process of making a tincture, pouring vodka over chopped herbs and letting it steep for weeks.

Here she is, ready to help you out too, with this youtube video lesson on making Echinacea tincture. And why exactly, was it not easy from the start? Pour vodka over chopped herbs…what exactly was stopping me? How hard could I make this? I put something different on my to-do list: buy a bottle of vodka. I bought myself a bottle of Absolut Vodka, 80 proof. This was already starting to feel more potent.

Now all I needed was the root. And why exactly was that part difficult? It’s right out there in my herb garden. I think this transformation from pretty flowers to medicine is hard to get my head around. I always had a sense of hesitation, just enough doubt to inhibit the process. It just seems a bit surreal that roots and vodka would concoct something potent. And why not? People in the rainforest or down in North Carolina know that you can cut important plants and use them as medicine. I didn’t grow up with anyone around me collecting tree bark to simmer for my headache remedy, or running out to pick some plantain leaves to heal a cut. Why would I trust the jar from the natural food coop more than roots soaking in vodka? Because its $15? Or because it is purchased…from a wellness center?

I needed to truly own the fact that the most potent remedies are natural plants. I may be on to the, um, root of the problem here.

A Barter Faire Rescue

So the contemplation of all this absorbed another month or two. It was late fall and I was attending a barter faire, with lovingly prepared or harvested items for trade by people in my community. A kind woman had her eye on my sweet potatoes and she offered me a bag of dried Echinacea, leaves and stems and flowers intact. I looked up at her, about to decline because I have my own Echinacea to harvest. But there she was in front of me, and there was the bag, almost in my hands and ready to go. She gave me a gentle, wise look, like she had some confidence and experience in the process and she said, “Just chop it up and pour vodka over it. It’s easy.” I took the Echinacea and gave her some sweet potatoes.

I took it home and chopped it up and poured my bottle of vodka over it. The whole $35 bottle of vodka. Rosemary Gladstar told us to talk to our herbs and instill good intentions in them. For weeks I shook and admired my jar of herbs every day that I went into my pantry for something, gently mixing it, giving it a hopeful thought. Some trust.

A vision of healing my family from the earth. From our garden. From our own efforts. That’s very powerful medicine right there. It’s bound to be.

Pouring tincture

Powerful Medicine

Pouring off the liquid from the spent herbs was exciting. It made five or six little jars of Echinacea tincture, which seems to be about a year’s supply for me. I appreciated using my own Echinacea all winter and I gained confidence that it’s the real deal.

So this season I should make another batch for next winter. From my own coneflowers right in my garden. Right? That’s the next step. Sometimes you have to cut yourself some slack and break difficult processes down into baby steps. Even easy processes. Because sometimes the hard part is psychological. The process was easy the whole time, but I had to bust through my own psychological barrier to the truth: plants are good for you and they make good medicine.

Rosemary Gladstar has many books on herbs. Here are the two that I own and love:

Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide (this one is for gardening herbalists)

Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health (this one is for any kitchen herbalists)

Do you have Echinacea in your garden? Try this whole-plant Echinacea tincture:

I read about whole-plant Echinacea tincture in Rosemary’s book Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide. Start it this spring and go through the whole season into fall, adding parts of the plant throughout the growing season. In the late spring you add leaves to your jar of vodka, then a few young buds, several summer flowers, then dig some of the root in the late fall to chop and add into the jar.  I like the energy of the whole season and the whole plant that is captured in this tincture. I’m a little doubtful that I’ll harvest four times this season for the whole plant tincture, but I’m ready for the challenge of this next step of commitment.

Ilene White Freedman operates House in the Woods organic CSA farm with her husband, Phil, in Frederick, Maryland. The Freedmans are one of six 2013 Mother Earth News Homesteaders of the Year. Ilene blogs about making things from scratch, putting up the harvest, gardening and farm life at Mother Earth News  and, easy to follow from our Facebook Page. For more about the farm, go to


SourdoughAfter I baked my first loaf of bread, I was pretty proud of myself. It may not have looked perfect but I thought that it tasted wonderful. So that gave me confidence to try something new and challenging. To me that meant adding more ingredients!

The recipe that I tried came out of Ed Wood’s Classic Sourdoughs revised A home Baker’s Handbook. I found the Herb Bread recipe and thought this would be wonderful. I had some fresh herbs (which my gardening is neck in neck with my ability to bake or cook) out back that would be perfect for this recipe.

The results were amazing. I have to say it is my favorite bread that I have made yet. I love it with pasta, steak, pork, it just seems to go with anything that you eat. It isn’t an overwhelming taste. You can use fresh or dried herbs. I am learning too that I can change the taste by adding more or changing thing up. I also made too long French type loaves. That is the great thing about this whole baking business, I am learning that experimenting is part of the process. Yield one 1 ½ pound loaf.

Herb Sourdough Bread Recipe

1 cup sourdough culture
1 tbsp butter
1 cup milk
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
½ tsp dried thyme
½ tsp dried oregano
½ tsp crushed dried basil
3 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

Dough Proof

Pour the culture into a mixing bowl. Melt the butter and add the milk to warm. Stir in the salt, sugar, thyme, oregano, and basil and stir. Add the butter mixture to the culture and mix well. Add the flour a cup at a time until the dough becomes too stiff to mix by hand. Turn out onto a floured board and knead in the remaining flour until the dough is smooth and satiny.

Or mix and knead all of the ingredients for a maximum of 25 minutes in a bread machine or other mixer.

Proof the dough overnight (8 to 12 hours) at room temperature, about 70°F, in a large bowl covered with plastic wrap (or leave in the machine pan, removed from the machine, securing the plastic wrap with a rubber band). During this time, the dough should double in size in the covered bowl, or rise to the top of the machine pan. After the proof, use a spatula to gently ease the dough out onto a floured board. Allow the dough to rest for 30 minutes. If marked flattening occurs during this time, knead in additional flour before shaping.

Loaf Proof

After the 30-minute rest, shape the dough. Flatten it slightly, then lift a portion from the periphery and pull it toward the center. Continue this around the dough mass to form a rough ball, then pat and pull into the loaf shape you desire. Place on a baking sheet or in a bread pan and proof for 2 to 4 hours, until it doubles in bulk or rises nearly to the top of the pan. Proof for the first hour at room temperature and then at 85° to 90°F in a proofing box.


Place the pan with its shaped, proofed loaf in a cool oven, then turn the temperature to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for 70 minutes. Or transfer the loaf to a preheated baking stone in a 450°F oven and bake for 40 minutes. When the loaf is baked, remove it from the pan and let cool on a wire rack for at least 15 to 20 minutes before slicing.

I love this bread with just butter, olive oil, bread dipping oil and the list goes on. It is a good thing that I have these sourdough starters from Sourdoughs International and Ed’s advice because I am a bread lover. It is so fun to learn all these different ways to make bread. Happy baking.


bread doughIf not now, when? Tomorrow? Next week? For months I had been wanting to invite my sister and niece over to bake pumpkin rolls. They had asked me weeks before Christmas to teach them and I was happy to oblige. Then days turned into weeks, which turned into months. The new year began and reality hit hard. Within a couple of months, I had attended a memorial service or visited a funeral home six times. A brother, two mentors, an aunt, a neighbor, and my daughter’s longtime boyfriend had all passed away within eight weeks. Their time and my time with them, had run out.

Make some memories you will never forget.

Slow Down to Enjoy

You see, time passes so quickly when we don’t slow down to enjoy it. It is measured by seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, etc. And it passes in its allotted….well, time. Realizing how precious time is and how precious people are, my sister and I selected a date. We rolled up our sleeves and we made pumpkin rolls. If you have ever made pumpkin rolls, you know they can be a little messy. So we made a little mess, but we also made memories. I sent them home with their pumpkin rolls and the only one who was disappointed was my husband because I didn’t save any for him. Because I am the Director of Happiness at Winn Sisters Farm, there were more pumpkin rolls baked the next day.

The lesson that I want to pass on to you is to share your time, but more importantly to share what you know. Most everyone knows that besides reading and writing, I LOVE TO BAKE. I also love to teach. Last summer at the middle school where I work, I taught my students how to bake bread. It was so much fun for me! They mixed, they kneaded, they waited, and then they partook of what I call heaven on earth, warm school-baked bread. They took their loaves home and shared them with their families. Hopefully, that lesson will stay with them for the rest of their lives. When one student came back to the school kitchen to check on his bread he exclaimed, “Ms. Carol, what happened to my bread?”. He had never seen risen dough and thought it was pretty amazing. I feel the same way each time I watch yeast doing its magic.

Basic Whole-Wheat Bread Recipe

bread bowl

The recipe we used at school is one of my favorites. It makes a basic whole wheat bread that is light and satisfying. The recipe makes two medium size loaves of bread and a small batch of cinnamon rolls.

5 teaspoons of active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
2 cups of organic milk
3 tablespoons of honey
3 tablespoons of butter
3 cups of bread flour
3 cups of white whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon salt

I dissolve 5 teaspoons of active dry yeast in 1 cup warm water (about 120 degrees) in my bread-baking bowl. My big, clay mixing bowl is perfect for my bread-making because it can be used for mixing and kneading the dough.

I scald 2 cups of organic milk and let it cool to lukewarm.

I then dissolve 3 tablespoons of honey and 3 tablespoons of butter in the milk. Yesterday I used coconut oil in place of the butter for a little diversion and it worked out very well. Either way works for me.

I then measure out 3 cups of bread flour and 3 cups of white whole wheat flour and mix them together in a separate bowl. I add 1 tablespoon salt into the flour mixture. You will need a couple more cups of flour, but I add it as I knead the dough.

After I see the yeast starting to do its magic, I add the milk mixture to the water/yeast mixture. Then it is time to slowly add the flour, 1 cup at a time and mixing as you go. This is where the extra two cups or so of flour will be used. After you have added the 6 cups of flour, add enough of the extra flour so that the mixture forms a nice workable dough, not too sticky.

Now, it is time to start the kneading. I knead my dough right in the bowl, but you can also use your pastry mat sprinkled lightly with flour. Place the dough on the mat, and using the heel of your hands, press the dough away from you and then fold it in half towards you and press again. Kneading will take about eight to ten minutes for your dough to become smooth and ready for it to rise. Place the dough in a bowl that has been lightly oiled on the bottom and sides. Cover with a pastry cloth. I use white linen cloths that are used specifically for my bread escapades.

Raising takes about an hour and then I punch the dough down. I divide the dough in two (for two large loaves) or three equal parts and place in buttered loaf pans and prepare into cinnamon rolls. The dough is then covered with the cloth again and the second rising begins. About an hour later they are placed in a 375 degree Fahrenheit pre-heated oven to bake for approximately 25 minutes. You may brush the tops of the loaves with butter before and after they bake, if you wish.

This bread takes about three hours from beginning to end. Isn’t there someone you would love to spend that time with? Just think of the coffee you could drink and the problems you could solve while you are waiting for that bread to rise, rise again, bake and possibly enjoy right out of the oven. Don’t you think, that now’s the time?


In response to the article From Field to Flour: How to Grow Wheat in the April/May 2014 issue, reader Jenna Winkeller wrote to us about a homemade device that can make small-scale wheat cultivation far more efficient: a DIY wheat thresher crafted from just a bucket, drill and chain.

“Because threshing wheat by hand is so labor-intensive, it deters some people from growing it,” says Jenna, who, with her husband, Jon, operates Win-Win Farm in Gilbert, Ariz., and has been growing ‘White Sonora’ wheat for three years. “We were wary about continuing to grow it until we put together the bucket thresher. Now I don’t think we’ll ever stop!”

Check out a video of Jenna’s DIY wheat thresher in action below, and head over to Jenna’s post DIY Bucket Thresher for Backyard Wheat Growers on the Win-Win Farm blog to get instructions for assembling your own version of this wallet-friendly, timesaving tool.

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