Staples

Well, we’re in our fourth week of school and so far so good. Miss A has adjusted to school with ease and Mr. N is right back in the swing of things. While I’m quickly adjusting to not having to juggle sitters and schedules during the day, our evenings are another story. Between homework (for both kids), gymnastics for Miss A, acting and swimming for Mr. N, reading time, play time and of course snuggle time, we’re still trying to find a groove. We also have mom and dad’s work schedules and the much-needed “decompression” time, and oh yes, we need to eat dinner in there too. Sigh. I know this is the same scenario in many homes across the world, and everyone has their strategies to make it through.

One of the strategies that we’ve found works best for us is a little planning ahead – something that we seem to refine each year. This year it works best if Mike and I sit down on Friday to make our meal plan for the next week, taking schedules into consideration. Then Saturday one of us will do the shopping while the other is carting the kids around to activities, and then on Sunday morning we all cook together. We were talking this weekend about how we never would have guessed that a few of the recipes from our blog would have become such staples in our diet. We really do eat a lot differently than we used to – and a lot better than we used to (also thanks to many of your food blogs!).

We also found that we have a few staples that we make weekly. We start Sunday morning with two batches of Kauai Granola. This provides Mike and I with an easy and delicious breakfast that lasts through the week. It’s also perfect with almond milk. I’ve never been one to drink the milk at the end of my cereal, but the almond milk takes on the flavors of the granola and it’s delish! There’s not a drop left in my bowl. Kauai Granola

We then also make a batch of quinoa and make a salad of varying flavors. One of our favorites is a play off of our Southwest Farro Salad, but using quinoa in place of the farro. I’m surprised that quinoa has become such a staple, but we have a lot of fun playing with different international flavor combinations and quinoa provides the perfect canvas from which to create something new each time. Southwest Farro Salad

And much to our surprise we also find ourselves making this vegan taco quite often. The sweet and spicy combination is fantastic and it makes for a ton of leftovers which is super helpful through the week. It’s fast become a family favorite. vegan tacos

And that brings us to one of our newest staples. You may remember we enjoyed a wonderful visit to Miss C’s farmy back in May. While there, Celi generously sent me home with some kefir grains. Kefir Grains

You can read more about Kefir here, but basically the grains are a live combination of bacteria and yeast which are fed daily with milk. Each day I drain the fermented milk from the grains and add new milk. The fermented milk (kefir milk) can be used for many, many things, but our favorite way to use them is to make fresh bread. Celi has her kefir bread making down to a science and I knew we had to give it a whirl. Kefir Milk

For those of you that have followed the blog for a while know, I am not a bread baker. I’m terrible at it. I kill yeast regularly and I won’t even mention how my sourdough starter came to its gruesome demise, but that’s all changed thanks to Miss C. Kefir bread is wonderfully forgiving. In fact, we have now completely given up buying store-bought bread in place of this wonderful recipe. As I mentioned, each day I strain my kefir and separate the grains and milk. After about five days we have three cups of kefir milk. We combine this milk with three cups of unbleached all-purpose flour. flour

Once the milk and flour are combined, the mixture appears sticky and thick. sticky dough

We then cover the dough with plastic wrap and a dark towel and leave it sit for 12-36 hours. The longer the mixture sits, the more sour the dough will become – kefir bread tastes remarkably like sourdough bread. As you can see from the image below, after the dough sits it appears bubbly and a bit more soupy. fermented dough

After the dough sits and ferments a bit more, it’s time to bake the bread. There are only a few ingredients to this version – honey, salt, olive oil and flour. Incidentally, we have forgotten the olive oil on two occasions and the bread turns out just as well. honey

The honey, olive oil and salt are added to the dough and mixed together. honey bread

Next we add about three more cups of flour and mix the dough until its sticky and stretchy. sticky dough

Then we toss some flour on the counter, divide the dough into two and begin kneading one piece at a time. kneading dough

This is where kefir bread is most forgiving. The dough uses at least another 1 to 2 more cups of flour on the counter as it’s super sticky, but it softens and becomes smooth very quickly. Typically we knead the dough lightly for only a couple of minutes. kneading

Next we shape the dough. We made this particular batch while we were at the country house in Michigan, so we went with traditional bread pans. shaping bread dough

We score the loaves and then cover them and let them sit until the dough doubles. rising dough

The timing on the rise varies. Sometimes it takes only an hour, other times it’s taken two. bread rising

Once it’s doubled, or close to doubled in size, it’s time for baking. We bake our bread for 30-40 minutes at 350F and we end up with a nice golden brown crust. golden brown crust

We let the bread cool (and always make sure to pick off a piece from the back because let’s face it – there’s nothing better than fresh bread straight from the oven!) before serving or freezing. loaves of bread

We typically eat one of the fresh loaves through the week and either share or freeze the remaining loaf. fresh bread

We use the bread for a side with pasta or cheese, as a sandwich bread, in French toast, for caprese salad, toast, a platter for white bean puree…you name it. It’s a versatile bread. kefir bread

As I mentioned, the taste is remarkably similar to a sourdough bread. It’s got that sourdough tang to it and it’s delicious. This bread is easily a 4 spoon recipe for Mike and I. bread and cheese

Mr. N is also a big fan of the kefir bread and gives it 4 spoons. He’ll eat it with anything and everything, and he loves being around when it comes out of the oven for that first taste of the loaf. kefir milk bread

Miss A is our lone dissenter on this one. She doesn’t like the sour taste of the bread, but she’ll surprisingly drink the kefir milk straight up. Talk about sour tang! Still, she prefers regular bread to sour bread and only gives this 2 spoons. Not to worry though, I have a recipe for her coming up soon as well as a sweet use for our sour bread (which Miss A did eat right up!). bread staples

Print this recipe: Kefir Bread

So that’s a glimpse into a few of our regular staples. We also have a few other recipes that have made their way to our table more than once including Mike’s lentil burgers, Bermuda French toast, peach ricotta pancakes, cous cous with cumin, baklawa, mussels in white wine cream sauce, pork, apple and wild rice hot dish, grandma’s cobbler, Maine blueberry pie, rosemary peach lemonade, oatmeal cookies and of course, the maple bacon biscuits.

We’ll be back soon with a tasty and sweet use for the kefir bread. And if you notice we aren’t on a regular schedule anymore, you’re right. We find with both kids in school all day, our evenings and weekends are all the more precious to us. Evenings and weekends are the only time we can all be together (and even that depends on the day). So we’ll likely post once a week or once every 10 days or so, but we’re still here. And we’re still cooking. We’re just opting to go off the grid a bit more too. :) Cheers all and if you come across kefir grains – grab some up. They are easy to keep, forgiving to cook with and they make for some tasty fresh homemade bread.

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30 comments on “Staples

  1. Hi Kristy. I do know exactly what you mean by life be crazy with kids in school and activities in the evening and weekends. It sounds like you and Mike certainly have it pretty well ironed out though. You two sound so coordinated like a black ops mission or something. The kefir bread sounds (and looks) delicious! I would love some of Celi’s kefir. You are a lucky girl. Take care!

  2. Nami | Just One Cookbook says:

    I’m usually not good at putting my thoughts into sentences but your first paragraph explained so well about how little our time is after school started. I always don’t have time and don’t know anymore how I can cut down besides cutting my sleep hours. We do similar planning and grocery runs too. These days it’s harder to find the time for all of us four to be in one spot! I enjoyed this post a lot, peaking through your regular staples at your home! :)

  3. Hello Kristy

    I was on my way to your blog to apologize -deeply- for being missing in action these past few weeks and I find your post that explains perfectly how things are in my house!
    Both my kids are in school this year. Jana in fourth grade and Ibrahim in KG1 and that has transformed my schedule. There is so little free time and it is indeed so precious.
    I loved going through your staples, granola is a staple in my house too. It is wonderful to have around for breakfast or for an after school snack for the kids.
    I have never tried kefir grains but I keep hearing and reading about them and I do have to say that bread looks amazing. I will definitely keep an eye out for them.

  4. Karen says:

    I smiled as I read this post thinking about all the people who say they never have time to do something. Even as busy as you are, you have found time to bake bread. :)

  5. Raymund says:

    You baked that bread so perfect, it looks like it was made by a pro baker!

  6. cecilia says:

    I am thrilled to bits that the bread is a hit, have you tried making it with raisins, maybe Miss A would like it then .. but if she is drinking the milk she is going to have a remarkably healthy tummy and busy schedules like yours run much more smoothly when you are all healthy. i was thinking about you and the kefir today actually. hoping you are keeping it going. Next time come up i may take home a little share to reinvigorate mine. We went without bread for so long that mine got a bit sad.. Your photographs are beautiful today, they are usually beautiful but today they are extra gorgeous. I am going to try and plan my meals more, it obviously pays off .. have a great week ahead.. Love to all .. c

  7. Velva says:

    Definitely crazy, hectic weeks here too. Looks like you guys work it out nicely. The kefir and bread, its imply rocks, Thanks for sharing.

  8. Busy kids are good kids and I hear you loud and clear about the balancing act. Thank goodness for me after all those years of running around with my head cut off after work and kids activities we moved to Asia and my teenagers are one with the public transport system. Life is good again! That kefir bread looks so delicious and you are making me crave this with a bit of honey on top as well. Cooking in bulk on the weekends and also the crock pop was my savior when I lived back in the States. Take Care, BAM

  9. Charles says:

    Aah, I was hoping you’d post this, I was so curious to see it when you mentioned it! I think there are two types of kefir, right? Milk kefir and water kefir? We had a batch of water kefir which you can use to make lemonade and other very healthy naturally carbonated drinks. I really liked it a lot, but… you can only drink so much kefir (added to the fact that over-consumption has a strong laxative effect so I read :p) so in the end we got overwhelmed with too much of it and it died :(.

    This looks really great though – the bread looks amazing… did you try any different shapes, like instead of a rectangular loaf, a “boule” round loaf, or maybe stretching it out into a baguette?

    • Kristy says:

      Hi Charles! Yes, I’ve heard of water kefir as well. I didn’t realize you could make lemonade with it. That sounds interesting! This bread is really great. We’ve done both a boule an a baguette. All the shapes hold-up well. :)

  10. I’m trying to work it all out with one kiddo in school… is this what happens when both are in school?!?! Lawwwwwd, I’m prayin’ already! Pass me some of that beautiful loaf… I’ll take all of it!

  11. Oh, I hear you Kristy… and do you know the funny part? it only gets busier. The homework gets more involved, the commitments get bigger and the travel gets longer. Our Saturdays now start at 5 am so we can travel ax state for sports — yeehaw! ;-). But you’re right, we find strategies. I’m totally blown away by this post. First off, the quality of the food you are prepping is *so* healthy from the gorgeous fruity granola to the farro/quinoa salad to your vegan delight and yes, this amazing looking bread that was clearly an utter success. And I haven’t even gotten to the part that I am *most* impressed by…. making your own kefir?! Are you kidding me… I usually buy kefir and here you are showing us how to ferment it ourselves … WOW. Now I have no excuse ;o) I must do it! (did you know that kefir contains three times the amount of probiotic cultures than yogurt? Seriously good for you!) xo.

  12. oh you betcha I am printing this recipe right now and going to try this bread recipe. My aunt has a fantastic sourdough bread starter recipe that I used to make but i want something new and this is new and this is delicious and if you say its easy then I believe you! Love it

  13. Purely.. Kay says:

    And you thought you were horrible at bread making.. :). You know I’m not a huge bread eater but when I saw that platter with cheese, grapes, and bread.. I got all excited lol. Don’t ask me why but I did. I wish i could have a little but of that for lunch today

  14. Eva Taylor says:

    I’m so glad you posted this recipe Kristy, I was very intrigued when you mentioned it in July when we met. The texture looks amazing and that it tastes similar to sour dough is icing on the cake. Planning ahead is key, but you seem to have it right down! You go girl!!!

  15. Barb Bamber says:

    Oh phew I’m not the only one! I’m working so much these days I have thought I may just have to give once a week blogging a try.. I so miss reading blogs and chatting with everyone, that will be the toughest part. I wish you luck with work and schedules! What a beautiful bread I will have to try, I love the farmy recipes! Now I will need to plan a few meals ahead too! That would certainly help!

  16. hotlyspiced says:

    It seems that with every passing stage, the new stage enters with its own set of challenged. I have two at uni now and just one in primary school yet I don’t seem to be any less busy. Family time is very hard to come by and we certainly have to plan ahead if we want to eat together on the same day at the same time. I love the sound of your morning breakfast xx

  17. Mary says:

    OH MY GOODNESS!! you are in full swing right now and I can SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOoo relate!! your planning ahead is absolutely the right way to go – those loaves look simply incredible -!!

  18. Norma Chang says:

    With 2 young active kids and a home to take care of I have frequently wondered how you manage to get done all that you do. I no longer have young ones at home but still have to rely on a few “staples” to get through some days. Great looking bread.

  19. Never seen such a thick kefir before, we’ve got the thinner version of kefir drink here…
    this bread is awesome, would the bread get a pleasant tangy/sour taste???

    • Kristy says:

      It definitely tastes like a sourdough bread to me (although I’ve never done a side-by-side comparison). I think it’s definitely a pleasant sour/tangy taste, but Miss A would disagree. I’m going to have to try a side-by-side with sourdough now to see. I’m guessing there’s not much difference in taste though.

  20. Great looking bread! I would love to try that. Kefir grains seem to be all the rage these days and I have not tried.
    Beautiful pictures. :)

  21. mmmm yummm <3 thanks for sharing !

  22. sallybr says:

    You wrote this post for me. I know you did, so being this incredibly polite person, I say “thank you!” ;-)

    you know I am mesmerized by the bread, right? I am tempted to procure some kefir, but that will have to wait until the entropic nature of our kitchen gives rise to order.

    Great looking bread, and I am all for a little tang – although I cannot quite picture myself drinking keffir milk from a glass…. that little girl is a tough cookie!

    Lovely post all around!

  23. I share your pain! The juggling is really overwhelming sometimes with all the activities, homework and whatnot. I loved reading about your staples as there were some great ideas there. I have my own too and have taken to making large dinners like Chili on the weekend so that there are leftovers for the night s dinner has to be on the table in 10 minutes. Glad to hear that everyone is settling in nicely..,,

  24. Great staples! I’m going to have to try some of these. I agree that planning ahead makes me much more efficient at the grocery store and in planning meals (not making so much that we’re overwhelmed with leftovers we won’t finish). Thanks for sharing this!

  25. I love the granola idea! Also it is great that you make homemade bread! That really inspires be to make my own homemade bread! Thank you for sharing!

  26. sanjapanja says:

    That bread looks really good!

  27. Dawn says:

    Hi Kristy – I completely understand where you are right now…and I am actually in Chicago preparing for a talk tomorrow! This is my first time in many years…too bad I am stuck in a hotel room!! I am hoping tomorrow after the talk I can get something good to eat.

    Great bread – I can smell it from here!!

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