Sunday, September 6, 2009

New Habits in the Kitchen

The other day my mom and I were discussing the various things that we could cook, bake or make ourselves to save money and benefit from better nutrition. My mom was saying that she always used to make popovers instead of buying dinner rolls. She remarked that she was upset that she had gotten out of the habit and intended to start making them again this weekend.

I felt the same way the other day when I made a batch of pita bread. For some reason I had built up the process in my mind that it was going to be tough and tedious to make them. When I finished, I thought "that was easy" and made a commitment to make them more often.

There are many challenges we face today, regarding food and nutrition. Society tells us that we shouldn't spend more than 15 minutes ever in the kitchen. We are told that cooking and baking is hard and that you need all kinds of fancy equipment and special ingredients to make anything of value. We are told that it is easier, cheaper and better to buy our meals already prepared for us. We are told that we are too busy to take the time to prepare things ourselves. I know this because I believed these things for quite some time. Only did changes in circumstances and information lead me to change.

The truth is that it is valuable to spend time in the kitchen. You can prepare wonderful food with very little equipment and very basic ingredients. Preparing your own food saves you money and saves your health by limiting your intake of processed foods. Your time in the kitchen is beneficial to your health, your family and your wallet.

So here's the challenge. Find just one item in your diet that you normally buy and make it yourself. Just pick one for now. You can always add another in time once you have formed a new habit with the first one. A few possibilities could be bread, jam, salsa, pancakes, soup or broth. Mine for now is pita bread. You can make it yours too if you want. It's easy peasy, great tasting and sure beats the store-bought ones. You know, the kind with a long list of unpronounceable ingredients.

So here's the recipe from one of my favorite food blogs. Go ahead and give it a try. I think you'll be happy you did:)

Great Homemade Pitas

from Under the High Chair

1 tablespoon yeast
1 ¼ cup warm water

1 teaspoon salt
3- 3 ½ cups flour

Dissolve yeast in water for about 5 minutes in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add salt and 1 ½ cups flour and with the dough hook, beat to make a batter. Add additional flour until a rough, shaggy mass is formed. Knead 8 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic. Add more flour if it is too sticky. *You can mix these ingredients in a bowl and knead the dough by hand if you don't have a stand mixer*

Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide into six pieces for large pitas or ten for smaller. I make all sorts of sizes to suit different snacks and meals. Form dough into balls, then flatten with a rolling pin into ¼ inch thick discs. Try and keep an even thickness as this is what helps them ‘puff’.

Let rest on the floured surface 30-40 minutes until slightly puffed.

Preheat oven to 425F.
With a large spatula, flip the rounds of dough upside down on to a b
aking sheet. Bake 10-15 minutes until light golden. Stick around for the first five minutes of baking when the pitas perform their magic and puff up from flat pancakes to proud, four inch high pitas.

These store for up to two days well wrapped or frozen for three weeks.

Stuff with your favorite ingredients. Ours is hummus. You can find it here. Enjoy! Let me know how your new habits are going!

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