Easy Whole Grain Goodies Despite Holiday Time-Crunch

December 8, 2010 in Cooking & Baking Hints, Diabetic Menu Item, Mediterranean, Weight Management, Whole Grains by Joyce Bunderson

As I wrote in a January post Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread, Emily Dickinson was smart to attempt a quick bread for her first loaf, as quick breads are far easier for first-time successes than yeast breads. Remember that we don’t even have to rely on Emily’s saleratus, but can use ordinary baking soda or baking powder, depending on what we’re making. So if you want to make baked goods, you may want to consider starting with quick breads. In this post I emphasize the ease and delightful results of doing so.  Especially during busy holiday times, it shows our love in a deeper and more intelligent way than just providing quick, off-the-shelf goodies made with refined white flours; calorie-laden sugars and corn syrups; and the saturated and trans fats from shortening.

The increasing intelligence of the buying public in demanding more whole grain products is heartening. Last year’s Mintel's statistics and report showed the greatest single-year increase in the use of whole grains since refined flours replaced them. I am truly grateful that so many more whole grain yeast breads, pastas, and cereals are available now. Thank goodness that this notch up in nutritional sanity by food processors is finally beginning to take place. Surely supply and demand principles are at work here. When the public demands changes, in this case, turning to whole grain products and increasingly rejecting fraudulent substitutes, generally the suppliers supply. I’m not saying that they always do it in one easy step. Inevitably they try some intermediate steps to try to keep their current practices in place, and their profit margins as wide as possible, by using inferior ingredients. They believe low prices mean more to us dense consumers than high quality ingredients.

We consumers have the power to unitedly provide a backlash against these practices. I know that many of us have turned the dial all the way back to the wheat field by buying wheat berries. Encased in its fiber-rich hull, with its wheat germ intact, and containing precious (but perishable) omega 3 fatty acids, these wheat berries deliver real nutrition that research proves benefits everything from weight loss to heart health. And, whole grain products can be prepared in ways that taste great! With wheat berries we know that we are getting the whole grain with no nutritionism tricks or attempts to con us– no tricks possible (except perhaps breeding white kernels with fewer of the nutrients). Supplying whole grains costs the processors a little more (they can no longer sell the bran and germ as animal feed, but must leave it in the flour), but at least they will keep some customers who are turning away.  They are discovering that we are also getting smart enough to pay more for non-impoverished bread, pasta, and cereals. Cheap food gives the processors large gross margins, which can be spent on massive advertising, but we are starting to see through the hype and the lies in the advertising messages.

Wheat Berries are one alternative, but at holiday time we enjoy delicious baked goodies like quick breads. I was thinking about all my friends out there in the cyber-world and supposing that your lives are a lot more time-crunched during the holiday season, as mine is. Old-fashioned quick breads are a marriage made in heaven – between ease of preparation, great results, and the cook with a demanding schedule. There are many kinds of breads that are considered quick breads, including: muffins, pancakes, scones, biscuits, nut breads, corn bread, cakes, and soda bread. The producers of ready-made bakery items including quick breads are still dragging their feet in producing them with 100% whole grain flour. It’s hard to find real 100% whole grain muffins, nut breads, or pancakes. So if you’ve made the decision to stop eating impoverished processed flour products, it seems that you may be faced with a time bind. Shall we just not think about whole grains, until the holiday season has vanished? Or is there a way to stay committed to improved nutrition, while spending just a few extra moments?

I think that a quick loaf of nut bread is one of the easy ‘yes’ answers to staying committed to improved nutrition. I used a Dr. Grandma’s Muffins Your Way mix (100% organic hard red spring wheat – none of the impoverished flour) this morning to make a quick, simple and nourishing loaf of cherry nut bread. I doubled the dried cherries and nuts to a cup each from a popular nut bread recipe found in our muffins convenience package. Doubling up on the cherries and nuts makes this a really substantial meal. The recipe could have just as easily been turned into muffins, but I wanted a more old-fashioned presentation. One of the side benefits of making a quick loaf is that you don’t have to slow down in order to evenly divide the batter into muffin tins. Just plop it straight into the loaf pan.

One of the nice things about making your own quick bread is that you have complete control of the ingredients – not to mention the superior taste and aroma that fills your home. Nut breads, like fruitcake were traditionally given during the holiday season. You may discover, like we have, that you enjoy a loaf made without all the candied fruit and heavy white flour brandy-soaked bread. The loaf that I made this morning had a fresh crisp outside, chock full of dried cherries and walnuts. The bread would be just as nice made with bananas, zucchini, canned peaches, dried or canned apricots, apples, pumpkin, cranberries, dates, blueberries, mangos (dried or fresh), raisins, or persimmons to name a few. You can combine different nuts, fruit, and spices; the variations are almost unlimited. Now for the most interesting feature of quick breads, they work very well with 100% whole-wheat flour. There is no good reason to use the impoverished processed flour.

Besides using only whole-wheat flour, you can also control the type of sweetener. Since Dr. Grandpa and I are committed to avoiding calorie-laden sweeteners, like sugar, honey, and High Fructose Corn Syrup, I made his nut bread with the Dr. Grandma’s mix which contains Delight, but I could have made it using Delight and whole wheat flour, but I was in a hurry, wanting to avoid the time of measuring and gathering ingredients.

Last, but certainly not least, by making your own homemade quick breads you control the type of fat that is used. If you purchase a ready-made loaf, you are likely to be receiving hydrogenated fats (source of saturated and trans fats). If you make it from scratch, use a mild extra virgin olive oil like Dr. Grandma’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil or if you’re using the Muffins Your Way Mix, it is included in the package.

The Following Are a Few Hints for Quick Breads:

  • Stir the nuts and dried fruit into the dry ingredients to keep them evenly distributed – not globbed together.
  • Don’t over mix the batter; just mix until the dry ingredients are moistened. If you stir too much, your loaf will be very dense.
  • Make your bread ahead and allow to cool completely to make it easy to slice.
  • Quick breads freeze well – you’ll be ready for company or an Afternoon Tea in minutes.
  • Nut breads and muffins are not only quick to make, but they also lend themselves to becoming a travel meal. Just put your nut bread or muffin in a zip bag and be on your way. If you want it to taste fresh out of the oven, warm it in the microwave for a few seconds.
  • Quick breads are an inexpensive gift of lovely, homemade charm and warmth. Making the gift with whole-wheat flour, mild extra virgin olive oil and Delight, you also tell your recipient that you care for their health without lessening their enjoyment. If you use mini-loaf pans, you will have more gifts from each recipe.

Two ideas that go together are:

1.     The holidays are abundant with opportunities to eat calorie-dense, processed foods, which have been shown to lead to weight gain and health problems.

2.     If you’ve been reading these posts for very long, you know that there are many benefits of eating whole grains, including lower cholesterol, decreased risk of diabetes and heart disease, and weight loss. Since the holidays usually result in weight gain, remembering to choose whole grains could be an important step in helping to begin the year in good health with little or no weight gain.

Two solutions that work well, even during busy holiday times:

1.     Boil up a batch of wheat berries and keep them in the fridge. The stove or rice cooker takes its time to soften up each berry to a chewy, delicious texture, but you do not spend much time. Add them to breakfast cereals, salads, and meatless or low-meat casseroles, as found in many recipes on this website.

2.     Make some of the many kinds of delicious quick breads, whether using our convenient mixes or your own recipes and ingenuity.

Cheery Cherry Holiday Nut Bread

This recipe is reminiscent of old-fashioned fruitcake, but without all the candied fruit, brandy-soaked white flour batter, sugar, and saturated and trans fat shortening. This recipe with no-added sugar and 100% whole-wheat flour has a fresh holiday taste that can be served as a treat, given as a gift or just kept served at an everyday food.

Note: This recipe can be made with only ½ cup of nuts and ½ cup dried fruit; or all nuts, no fruit; or all fruit, no nuts. It turns out great any way you make it. Changing to any other variety of nuts works perfectly. Substituting cranberries, chopped mangos, raisins, chopped apricots or other dried fruit also works perfectly. If you use fresh fruit, the baking time may be altered. See our recipe section.

Ingredients:

¾ cup water

2 extra large eggs or ½ cup egg substitute

¼ cup mild flavored extra virgin olive oil (included in package of Muffins Your Way)

1 cup walnuts, broken (if chopped into small pieces, you will probably want to use less)

1 cup dried pitted sour cherries

1 packet Dr. Grandma’s Muffins Your Way mix

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease an 8½ X 4½ X 2½ inch bread pan with vegetable spray.

Mix water, eggs and oil. Mix walnuts, dried cherries and packet of Muffins Your Way. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix just until moist (do not overmix).

Pour into the greased bread pan. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean from the center of the loaf; about 45 to 60 minutes.

Remove from bread pan to wire rack immediately, before cooling. Best if cooled before slicing.

Can be frozen.

Mix eggs, water and oil

Measure 1 c up dried pitted sour cherries.

1 cup broken walnuts

Mix dried fruit and nuts with flour mixture.

Mix wet and dry mixtures together - mix just until moist.

Spray loaf pan with vegetable spray.

Pour batter into loaf pan.

Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, if desired.

Cool your quick bread.

Slice the loaf into 12 slices, or as desired.

Serve with wassil or your favorite beverage.