Maybe I Should Have Stopped When I Was Ahead

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In my last post, I took you on my dehydrating beans adventure. I’ve had the chili mix a couple of times and love it more each time. I need to make more of the basic bean soup mixture.

Encouraged by that success, I decided to try something new. Now, I know most sources say to soak your beans before cooking. In theory, it makes them easier to digest and more nutritious. I must confess that I seldom do that. To be honest, I can’t remember the last time I did. So sue me.

Sometimes, though, I like to sprout the beans. Same reason as soaking, but it takes longer. Unlike an overnight soak (which is how Mom did it), it can take several days for the beans to sprout. But hey, I like sprouting things.

As I stood, staring at a bag of kidney beans, I thought, I wonder if these beans will sprout? This was just a bag of plain, ordinary kidney beans. Not organic. This often means things won’t sprout, especially if they’ve been treated. But I decided that if they didn’t, I’d just go ahead and cook and eat them.

They sprouted! There probably wasn’t anyone more surprised than I was. So I cooked them and put them in the dehydrator.

Probably should have stopped at cooking them.

Sprouted Kidney Beans

At first, I thought I’d put something else in the dehydrator, but no, these things are–perhaps “were” would be more accurate–light red kidney beans. Kind of look like popcorn.

I didn’t have this issue when I cooked and dehydrated them for the chili blend, so I have to assume it has something to do with the sprouting process. Oh, I’ll still use them, but I admit to being kind of disappointed. Live and learn, I guess.

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And Now We Dehydrate Dry Beans

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No, you didn’t read that wrong. I dehydrated dry beans. Well, kind of.

I’ve spent a lot of time on YouTube lately. I kept finding videos about meals in jars. Now that’s nothing new, and I’ve done a few. But then I ran into some about something I’d never even considered doing. Or to be honest, never thought it was necessary. But now that I’ve dehydrated dry beans a few times, I’ll be doing it a lot more.

Let me clarify something. You take dry beans and then cook and dehydrate them. You might be wondering why anyone would do that. I know I did. The answer is a simple one: to save time. When cooking the dehydrated beans, you’re not really “cooking” them. That’s already been done. You’re just rehydrating and reheating them. Which brings up another plus, at least in areas (or houses) prone to power loss. Rather than cooking from their dry state, having dehydrated beans means all you need to do is add water.

Of course I had to try it. After all, I eat a lot of beans, and almost always in soup. So my first project was bean soup.

Bean with carrots, leeks, and kale

I already had leeks, carrots, and kale dehydrated, so all that was left were the beans. I selected Great Northern because that’s my favorite for this kind of soup. I cooked them in water and added no seasonings. I poured the cooked beans into a colander and let cool. Then onto the dehydrator trays. I let them dehydrate overnight. I’m not sure, but I think it took about 10 hours to dehydrate at 110 degrees. When cool, I put them in the jar, layered with the other soup ingredients.

In retrospect, I would have seasoned them when cooking or at least cook in stock. I could have added dry bouillon, either commercial or homemade to the jar as well as any other spices or dried herbs I might want for the soup. But the thing is, I don’t always know how I’m going to want the soup to taste before actually making it. But I have options.

When it came time to make the soup, I just dumped the entire contents of the jar into my soup pot. It took about 20 to 25 minutes for the soup to be ready after the stock came to a boil. And it was mighty tasty.


One of my favorite foods in the entire world–let alone soups–is chili. I decided to do a mixture of the beans I love in my chili. So I cooked a pot of kidney beans, pinto beans, and black beans. This time, though, I added some seasoning; my O Chili Mix, of course. Like the first time, I cooked, drained, and cooled the beans before putting them in the dehydrator.

It took about the same amount of dehydrating time for these as for the Great Northerns. But as I put them in the jar, there was an additional problem. These beans make a mighty tasty snack! Nevertheless, I summoned the strength to get them in the jar, and last night, I used them to make chili. I used my usual chili recipe, such as it is, but I used some of these beans. I also used dehydrated red bell peppers, dehydrated button mushrooms, and dehydrated jalapenos. After reaching a boil, it took about 15 minutes until it was dinner, though I let it simmer longer. It was fabulous. Seriously. I’m thinking I might do a few jars of dehydrated everything I need for chili, except maybe the tomatoes.

After these successes, I did some black beans I hope to use for a salsa soup.

As for storage, I vacuum sealed them in jars. They could also be vacuum sealed in bags.

Give it a try. It’s not as weird as you might think.

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Eggplant Redux

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I love eggplant. But it seems like every time I make it, I make it the same way. Usually as a soup or stew. I was looking for something different the other day and decided to make baba ghanoush (sometimes spelled ganoush). I’ve made it a few times, but it’s been quite a while. But since I had an eggplant to use and I wanted something different, I decided there was no time like the present.

The only thing I knew for sure was that I had to start by roasting the eggplant. And, of course, tahini, lemon juice, and roasted garlic are mainstays. Other than that, I decided to do some experimenting. The first was out of necessity. I could have sworn there was tahini in the refrigerator, but when the time came to assemble my mise en place, well, it was nowhere to be found. So since I had made some Greek yogurt, I used that instead. Along with some whey. By the way, if you want to make a vegan version of baba ghanoush using yogurt, simply substitute vegan yogurt and whey.

I love roasted red pepper, so I chopped a quarter of one and added it. And red pepper flakes, too, because I love the heat. Perhaps the one ingredient you might not be familiar with is dukkah spice. Actually, it’s a blend of seven spices. If you have a favorite blend you use for dukkah, feel free to use that one. This time I used a blend of dukkah spice I got from My Spice Sage. It contains coriander seeds, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, thyme leaves, marjoram leaves, black peppercorns, and sesame seeds.

Baba Ghanoush

Preparation can’t be any easier. Put everything in a blender or food processor and let it rip. Add the lemon juice a little at a time, until you get the consistency you desire.

Now, my baba ghanoush is a bit darker than what you usually see. The reason is simple enough. I put my eggplant in the oven to roast and then got preoccupied. So it got a little more roasted than I’d planned. It might not be pretty, but it sure tastes good.

If you don’t think you like eggplant, try baba ghanoush. It’s great on cucumber slices and pita. Or pumpernickel. Or straight out of a dish with a fork or spoon. You can find my recipe for baba ghaoush here.

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Chili, Anyone?

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But first, some potentially exciting news. I spend a lot of time watching food-related videos on YouTube. I’ve learned a lot from them. And for a long time, I’ve considered making videos about my projects. Well, I’ve started! Yes, there is now a The Enabling Cook YouTube channel. There’s only one video up now; it shows my haul from My Spice Sage, a recent obsession of mine. Keep in mind I’m a novice at videos and not using any fancy equipment. But I hope we all have fun as more videos get posted.

Now, back to the subject at hand.

I’ve never made a secret of my love for chili. Regardless of season or temperature, I love it. And when I want it, I want it. This adoration has been with me since childhood. When we were kids, though, Mom almost always made it with Chili-O seasoning mixes. We weren’t big or adventurous spice people, so it made sense. But have you looked at the ingredients in some of those seasoning mixes? Many have flour, cornstarch, or other ingredients you might not think would be included. Some, like cornmeal, serve a dual purpose. They help keep the ingredients from clumping, and they help thicken the final product. And, of course, salt and sugar (or another sweetener) is included.


Oh Chili Mix

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want those ingredients. So I make most of my own herb/spice blends. I’ve shared a chili blend before, but this is the most current version. It includes my favorite chili mix ingredients. Plus one you might not expect–cocoa powder. Not the hot chocolate drink mix; cocoa. This adds color and depth to the flavor, which I find particularly welcome when making a vegetarian chili or one where I use ground turkey.

I use four types of pepper: chili powder, red pepper flakes, cayenne, and black pepper. The last batch of chili I made also included ancho chili powder, but I added that directly to the chili rather than add it to the mix. You can, of course, add any kind of peppers you like in any amounts. I tend to make the mix more on the mild side because I don’t always want it nose-running hot.

And no, there is no salt or thickening agent in this blend.

That’s the thing about making your own blends. You know exactly what’s in them and how much. If you don’t want cocoa powder, or think you might not want it in everything you might use this blend for, then leave it out and add it where and when you want it. Here’s my recipe for Oh Chili Mix .

I’m going to be sharing other blends in upcoming posts. If there’s something you’d like to see, be sure to let me know. And don’t forget to check out our YouTube channel. Please subscribe.

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Cauliflower Steaks? Who Knew!

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Have you noticed there seems to be a cauliflower version of almost everything these days? Pizza crust, rice, even a burger bun. To be honest, I’ve not given any of them much thought. To be honest, my favorite form of cauliflower is its natural state–raw. Sometimes, though, I’ll put some in a stir-fry, but that’s about it.

Then I saw it. Again and again. And again. Yes, cauliflower steaks.

I’ve been disappointed in faux steaks before. Like portobello mushroom steaks/burgers. Yes, I like the taste, and yes, they do have a more toothy texture, but they’re not steak or burgers. They may be brown like beef, but that’s it. Still, there was a cauliflower in the fridge that needed something done to it–and soon. So I decided to give the cauliflower steaks a go.

My version is different from the one posted by Bosh on Facebook. You can find it here. My original plan was to follow that recipe. But I really don’t care for sweet barbecue sauces (except for Sweet Baby James, of course). So I opted to go spicy. The recipe calls for 1 cup of ketchup. It just so happened I made smokey ketchup this week, so that was taken care of. I left out the maple syrup and cayenne (didn’t have any of the latter). I used ground cumin, ground Ancho chile powder, and red pepper flakes. Other than that, the recipe was identical.

Cauliflower Steaks with Enabling Smokey Barbecue Sauce

No, cauliflower steaks do not taste like what most people would think a steak tastes like. But that doesn’t make it bad. Quite the contrary, they’re very good.  I didn’t do a very good job cutting them into steaks, but the florets are just as good. If you’re going to skip the maple syrup, you may want to reduce the amount of water a bit.

I’ll be making them again. And, of course, the sauce can be used on a lot of things. You can use the sauce as in the original recipe, or use your favorite.




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They’re Not All Perfect

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Over on Facebook the other day, I posted about a vegan cheese fail I had. I was kind of surprised when someone commented that she’d never heard me say that before. But then I got to thinking about it. I guess maybe I don’t (well, except for a massive one on an International Bake Bread Weekend a few years ago). The truth of the matter is that I don’t have many of what I really consider to be failures. They may not have turned out the way I expected, but overall, I wouldn’t call them a failure.

Except for this one.

Pepper Jack Plus

Okay, that isn’t the failure. This is a pepper jack cheese I made using Miyoko Schinner’s recipe. And to say I love it would be an understatement. I’ve made it several times. Each time I’d add something a little different. My most recent version was this one.

Cotswold with chives and onion is probably my favorite dairy cheese to make. So I decided to try a vegan version. Since I love the pepper jack, I decided to use that as a base. But instead of jalapenos, I used chives and onions. Plus, I added some pimento for good measure.

After it was done and had firmed up a bit, I decided to try something I’d seen on YouTube. I coated it with tapioca flour and put it in the dehydrator for about 2 hours to speed up the development of the rind. I learned 2 things in this process. First, as much as I love my Nesco/American Harvester dehydrator, it won’t work for this; the cheese is too tall. And second, though the NuWave oven will work as a dehydrator, it’s a bit awkward. I now have a LEM dehydrator.

After the dehydrator, it sits for a week–at least–before eating. It was worth the wait. If I had more self-control, I would have aged it longer. But I don’t. So I didn’t. Next time. (Yeh, right.)

Anyway, armed with self-confidence, I decided to try Miyoko’s recipe for what she calls a “meltable” Monterey Jack. I had melted both of those cheeses, and while they didn’t melt in the way dairy cheese does, it was okay for me. But since she made a point of saying this other one was gooey and meltable, I decided to try. I followed her recipe. I was disappointed.

Excuse the photo. And I smooshed it apart so you could see inside.

See the yellow in the lower-right corner of the paper? That’s oil After it’s been “drying out” for a day. I don’t know if you can tell, but it’s also evident in the cheese itself. And the taste? Well, it’s all right, but nothing I’d write home about. Does it melt? Not any better than the other two.

And therein lies the fail. I’ve tried another vegan cheese recipe and had the same result. Each called for vegetable oil. Thinking about it, though, I have to wonder if refined coconut oil would have been better, despite what the recipe calls for. After all, it is solid at room temperature. Unless it’s really hot, which isn’t a problem in my kitchen. But I don’t know if I’ll try it. I’m thinking I’ll keep to my base and tweak as my heart and appetite desires.

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Oh the Fun of Bread

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Olive Bread

My love of bread is a big nonsurprise. Okay, a huge nonsurprise. The simple fact of the matter is that I love bread. What I have discovered over the past year, though, is that as much as I love eating it, I think it’s the process that I love the most. Which is a good thing since I need to restrict my carbs.

At first, I bought low-carb bread. It didn’t suck, but there wasn’t anything special about it. And it was expensive. Well, compared to how much my homemade bread cost to make. But most important, I missed making bread. So I looked at the ingredients. Of course, there were more than what is in the basic “Enabling’s Bread.” And then it hit me. Okay, I can be a bit slow at times. The primary reason it is low carb is because they are sliced thinner. Well, sheez. I can do that. So I stopped buying it and started making my own again.

This has worked for me and my dietary needs. I don’t know if the same decision will work for you. But that’s not what this blog post is about.

I want you to make bread. I know I’ve said this before. Probably lots of times. But I really want you to try at least once. But first I wonder, Why don’t more people bake bread?


The most common answer is, “I don’t have time.” Okay, I get that. The bread I’ve got rising now takes between 12 and 24 hours from start to finish. And I know breads that take longer. But the truth? Hands-on time is oh, maybe 20 minutes. That includes pulling all the ingredients together.

And then there’s the, “But it’s so complicated.” Well, I can understand that it might seem daunting at first. At least when you look at some of the recipes. But it can be as complex or as simple as you like. Seriously.

So why should you make your own bread? That’s a sensible question, especially since you can pick up a loaf at the grocery store or even some gas stations. I make it because I find it quite therapeutic–even when I don’t have to knead. But then, I’m a process kind of person. Plus, I know how fresh it is without having to decipher a code.

For me, one of the main reasons is because I know what’s in it. There are only four ingredients needed to make bread: flour, water, salt, and yeast. And you have options for those things. There are myriad flours, and I don’t always use water. As for yeast, you can choose commercial or wild. Each have their place in bread making. You can add eggs and fats, if you want, and make an enriched bread, but that decision is up to you.

Multi-flour with a spelt sourdough starter

Over the next few posts, I’m going to focus on flours. Some may be surprised to know there are flours beyond whole wheat, bread, and all-purpose. Flour choice can take your bread from the ordinary to something new. If you’re lucky, you have many choices available on your store shelves. If you’re not, like me, you can take advantage of mail order. I’m a big fan of Breadtopia. I’ve never been disappointed in their products (flours and other supplies), and the videos are very helpful. And, of course, King Arthur Flour also has mail order. Yep, I’ve taken advantage of that, too. (Actually, I even took a day trip to visit and picked up some supplies not long after moving here.)

I hope you’ll follow the next posts as we take a look at flours. Even more, I hope you’ll decide to make your own.

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Loving Pepper Jack

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Pepper Jack Plus

I have always loved cheese (see my previous post should you have doubts), so when I decided to adopt a more plant-based diet, I was concerned about cheese’s role in the change. Some commercial ones were okay. Some were flat-out awful. And selections in my local stores were limited to individually wrapped cheese slices. I was beginning to think that would be the extent of my cheese experience with a plant-based diet.

I was wrong.

I’ve made lots of cheese. Lots and lots. Yes, I’ve been a cheesemaker for a long time. So it was only reasonable to assume I’d go back to those roots and try my hand at nondairy cheese. I’ve posted about some of those efforts previously. They were hit and miss. But I wasn’t ready to give up. Especially if it meant I could have my beloved pepper jack cheese.


Quick Google and YouTube searches will find the name Miyoko Schinner when it comes to vegan cheese. I started my search with her book The Homemade Vegan Pantry: The Art of Making Your Own Staples. (By the way, the yogurt recipe is fabulous.) I made her “Oil-Free Melty Pepper Jack” a few times and loved it.

About that title. “Melty” is kind of an overstatement. The texture of this cheese is not like the dairy version. Now, that doesn’t mean it’s bad. It’s just different. It doesn’t get really hard. In fact, it’s sliceable but still spreadable. When used for a grilled cheese, it softens nicely, but I wouldn’t say it melts like one finds with dairy cheese.

The recipe calls for cashews, rejuvelac, sea salt, roasted jalapenos, water, agar powder, and tapioca starch. Schinner says you can use juice from sauerkraut instead of rejuvelac. Since my experience with rejuvelac is, well, iffy, I opted for the sauerkraut juice the first couple times.

Agar powder might be unfamiliar to you. It’s a thickener made from algae. I couldn’t find it locally, so I ordered it.

That’s the basic ingredient list, and that’s what I used the first few times. With the latest batch, I changed it up a bit. I increased the amount of jalapenos (might not have been a smart move. HOT!) and added chives, turmeric, and nutritional yeast. Oh, and I used the whey from homemade yogurt instead of rejuvelac or sauerkraut juice.


This is a cultured cheese, so it does require some planning ahead. But it’s all easy. Take the cashews, liquid of choice, nutritional yeast, turmeric, and salt, and whiz in a blender. Pour into a jar, cover with a lid, and let it sit out for a day or two. It’s cold in my house, so I let it go three days. You’re looking for it to thicken, get air bubbles, and have a tangy smell. Like those pictures up there.

When you think it’s ready to become cheese. it’s time to work with the agar. Not a big deal. Combine the agar and all but 2 tablespoons of the water in a small saucepan, cover, and bring to a simmer. AND DON’T PEEK. Seriously. Don’t take the cover off for 3 or 4 minutes. It may look like the agar has dissolved and done its thickening thing, but it could be toying with your emotions. Just wait a couple more minutes.

When it’s fully dissolved, add the cheese mixture and stir well. Really well. You want to make sure the mixture is well combined with the agar. As it heats up, make a slurry with the tapioca starch and remaining water. Add to the cheese and stir, stir, stir. And stir some more. You’re looking for something thick, stretchy, and shiny.

When it’s reached the proper consistency, stir in the jalapenos. Pour into a mold. I use a small springform cake pan. Works great.

I let it cool at room temperature before putting in the fridge to cool completely and set, about 4 hours. Then I take it out, unmold it, and let it sit on my drying rack on the counter for at least a day, flipping it regularly. This creates a “rind” that I really like.

Store in the refrigerator wrapped in plastic or cheese paper for up to 2 weeks, but it doesn’t last that long for me.

As I was licking the left-behinds out of the pot, I was already thinking about my next batch. I need a cashew tree.

Here’s where you can find my version of pepper jack cheese.

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On Soup Suppers and Memories

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Last Sunday morning I talked to my mom, something I do every two weeks. The previous Friday night, my brother and sister-in-law and taken her to the American Legion’s monthly fish fry. Mom doesn’t get out a lot, and she can’t drive at night anymore, so these are special treats. Besides, she says the fish is really good.

Listening to her relate the experience and how much she is looking forward to next month’s it made me ask her, “Do you remember the soup suppers we used to go to when I was a kid? Oh, where have they gone?”

For whatever reason–maybe the cold weather, worrying about the state of organizations that depend a great deal on federal funds, or simply my love of soup–I’ve been thinking a lot about these dinners lately. My family loved them. Soup suppers usually served two kinds of soup, generally a vegetable and perhaps a bean soup. Bread or roll went with them. Chili suppers featured, well, chili. You got a nice hot bowl of chili, on the mild side spice wise, and cornbread. Those were probably my favorite dinners. I am, after all, a huge chili fan who could never understand why lots of restaurants only served it “in season.” I think my dad’s, and probably my brother’s, favorites were the bean suppers. There was always a navy or soup bean soup–seasoned with pieces of ham–available and often a pinto bean. And, of course, a roll or cornbread. As for Mom, I think she liked them all since it meant she didn’t have to cook.

There were also spaghetti suppers, but we didn’t go to those as often. Spaghetti, garlic bread, and sometimes a dessert were featured.

But as Mom and I talked last Sunday, it became clear to me that these suppers were more than an opportunity to get some great food at a reasonable cost. Don’t get me wrong, the fact these suppers were a low-cost way to eat out and get a good, hearty meal was important to my family. We didn’t have the money to eat out often. But there was more. In my hometown, most were held in meeting halls like the American Legion or VFW. We sometimes went to ones held at a church or school, but those were less frequent. I specifically remember having to walk up a really steep set of stairs and turn right to enter one (and you don’t need to know how long ago that was). Long tables were set up, and everyone sat together. And the bowls. No matter what soup was served, it always came in a heavy white bowl; I’d love to get my hands on some of those bowls today.

There were many times when my brother and I were by far the youngest ones there. But it didn’t matter. Everyone was so nice. People brought whatever soup and any sides to you with big smiles on their faces. (Yes, most were women.) There was an almost constant buzz of conversation, occasionally interrupted by laughter, among people, many of whom did not know each other. But it didn’t matter. Food, in this case soup, brought people together. For at least a night, there was no distinction between friends and strangers.

It’s been many years since I’ve attended a soup supper like those of my childhood. I don’t even know if organizations still have them. I know I’ve not seen any listed where I’ve lived since leaving Iowa. That makes me sad. I’m sure there are several reasons why–or more accurately, why not. After all, people are very busy, and many don’t have time to volunteer to help out at these events. I think what makes me saddest of all is that besides great food and atmosphere, people, especially children, will not have the chance to create great memories of the power of food to bring people together for at least an hour or so.

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International Bake Bread Weekend Number 6

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This weekend is the Super Bowl. You know, that football game. Some of us think of it as Puppy Bowl Weekend! But what about next weekend? How do you spend the weekend after the big weekend? Well, this year you can spend it participating in the 6th International Bake Bread Weekend–The Enabling Cook Edition. Yes, February 11-12, 2016, we celebrate bread!

The rules are simple. Actually, there’s only one rule: bake some sort of bread product. A loaf or boule is fine, of course. But so are biscuits, rolls, buns, breadsticks; you get the idea. Gluten or nongluten–your choice. And although it hurts me to say this, yes, you can use a mix.

But before you run for the mix department at your grocery store, let me argue on behalf of making your own. A lot of people go the mix or even frozen loaf route because they think it takes a long time to make bread. Now I’ve described my procedure many times. And if you don’t have a lot of time for hands-on work, it’s a good one for you. It does require planning as it involves a slow fermentation. But your involvement is minimal. Mix the ingredients in a bowl, cover, place in a warm location, and let it do its bulk fermentation for 12 hours or more. How long it takes depends on the ambient temperature. My house is always cold, which is great to keep summer cooling costs down but not so great in the winter. At times, I use my proofing box to hurry things along a bit, but I let it work on its own for at least 12 hours.

After the initial stage, shape as you like, cover, and let rise. This one is a shorter rise; again it depends partially on temperature. I usually let mine go 2-4 hours. Then bake. See, you really can ignore it during most of the process.

As always, I encourage you to use this upcoming weekend to try something new. I made the above bread from homemilled turkey red wheat and bread flour. But to make it a bit different, I added seeds. I’ve been using flaxseeds and chia seeds a lot, but this time I also used poppy seeds and caraway seeds, too. Yes, it’s a seedy bread. And it’s very good. I’ve not quite decided what I’ll be making next weekend, but I’m keeping my options open. I love pumpernickel, so I’m leaning in that direction. I may try it with sprouted rye. Of course, that means I need to get my rye berries in the sprouter.

I hope you’ll join us this year. Whether it’s loaf 1 or loaf 100, it’s a great way to spend part of the weekend.

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