Making Bread

Bread - the staple of Life

Bread – the staple of Life

Yesterday our summer intern Chris Holcomb made bread – not the fast bread machine type, not the intensive “knead for 10 minutes” type but the slow natural “lets take 24 hours to do this” type. Amazingly it is not labour intensive – a few minutes at a time is all it takes. It was the best home made bread I have tasted for a long time so I thought that I would share the recipe plus links to other articles on no knead bread that I thought may interest some of you.

What it made me realize however is that here is another aspect of life in which we so often miss the best because we want it in a hurry. Our bread machines make 1 hour bread for a quick loaf or else we dash to the store for a basic mass produced loaf because we think we don’t have time. Makes me think of the way we treat our faith. We want a quick fix. We want it now and we are not particularly concerned if it lacks flavour and quality.

Jesus the bread of life is I think like this slow process bread – something to take our time over. Something to savour and enjoy. Something that has us wanting to come back for more all the time.

All that said here is the recipe:

1 ib unbleached white flour

1 tsp dry yeast

1 tsp salt

1 1/3 cups water

Baking stone or cookie sheet, Pizza peel or heavy sheet of cardboard

Starting the night before baking day, in a large mixing bowl use your hands to mix the flour, yeast, salt and enough water to form a soft and sticky dough. Cover and let the dough rise overnight at room temperature. This long cool rise (don’t use warm water) lets the the yeast and various enzymes develop maximum flavour in the dough and also makes for a chewy texture. When you get up in the morning, wet your hands, lift the dough onto a flat, wet surface, then gently stretch it and fold it in half 2 – 4 times. Return dough to the same bowl, cover and let rise until doubled in size. While the bread is in its second round of rising line a bowl with a cotton or linen cloth heavily dusted with flour. When the dough has doubled turn it out onto a work surface and with wet hands stretch and fold, and turn 2 – 4 times until dough begins to stiffen and assume the shape of a ball.

Place the ball into the bowl on the well-floured cloth. Cover and let rise until the dough has almost doubled again. (1 – 4 hours depending on room temp). Turn onto pizza peel or well floured piece of heavy cardboard. Slide onto a baking stone or cookie sheet. Bake at 500F until the crust is golden brown on top and the bottom crust is hard and thumps like a drum when you tap it (about 30 – 40 minutes). Allow to cool before slicing.

The recipe comes from Mother earth News December 2010/January 2011. I could not find the same recipe on line but came across these other articles and recipes at Mother Earth that are definitely worth reading and experimenting with:

Easy No Knead Crusty Bread

Healthy No Knead Bread Recipes

Five Minutes a Day For Fresh Baked Bread

And these great looking recipes from Grit: Rural American Know How

You might also enjoy this video clip.


Having Fun Cooking

Mediterranean diet pyramid

Mediterranean diet food pyramid

One of the things that I always like to do to relax after a long trip is to get into the kitchen and cook. Replenishing supplies like my breakfast granola and eggplant dip (baba Ghannouj) which have become staples for our Mediterranean style diet are always fun. I have posted the granola recipe before, but thought that some of you may would appreciate this very healthy version of Baba Ghannouj too. I took my original recipe and added the pepper which I think gives it a richer flavour and the yoghurt adds a nice tang. If you like it hot at a 1/4 tsp chipotle pepper powder too. It makes a great lunch spread or addition to a Middle Eastern meal.

1 medium sized eggplant

1 red pepper (capsicum)

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/3 cup taheen, (sesame paste)

1/2 cup yoghurt (Greek style preferable)

1 tsp. salt

1 tbsp olive oil (optional)

2 spring onions finely chopped

2 tbsp parsley, finely chopped

1-2 cloves garlic, crushed

Wash and dry eggplant and pepper. Prick eggplant with fork in 3 -4 place. Place eggplant and pepper on a baking sheet and broil (grill) 4 inches away from heat, turning them on all sides until the skin is charred. 20- 30 minutes. Allow to cool. Peel off skin, cut off stem and deseed pepper. Chop eggplant and pepper finely by hand and mash eggplant pulp or blend garlic, pepper and eggplant in a blender until smooth. Combine lemon juice, yoghurt, and salt. Add to eggplant mix. Blend in taheen, mix well. Add spring onions and parsley. Place on a serving plate and drizzle oil over it.


Eating Weeds – Great recipes to try

Weed whacking nettles at Mustard Seed Village site

Weed whacking nettles at Mustard Seed Village site

Tomorrow we head up to Camano Island for the Celtic Prayer retreat.  One of our first tasks is getting the weed whacker out to clear the nettles and other weeds that have grown since our last visit, which probably explains why weeds are on my mind this morning.  Nettles which grow in abundance on Camano Island, believe it or not are very nutritious (rich in vitamins, flavonoids, serotonin, and histamines) and some like Good Natured Earthling think that they are great protection against allergies.  I have not tried her Nettle pesto recipe yet but one of these days hope to and just thinking about this always reminds me that often the “weeds”, those difficult people we want to get rid of, are often the most nutritious elements of the garden – if we give them a chance they nourish and grow all of us in amazing ways.

There are other great ways to eat nettles too.  Nettle soup was a common addition to the diet of early Celtic Christians as well as to many others around the world.  Once you cook the leaves they lose their sting.

Of course one of the most nutritious weeds in the garden is our friend the dandelion.  And I was just sent this recipe by Jason Barr for Dandelion Jelly that certain sounds like a winner.  Thanks Jason.


4 cups dandelion blossoms

3 cups water

4 1/2 cups sugar

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 package pectin


1. Pull the yellow blossoms apart from the green parts. Get lots and lots

of blossoms.  Make sure there are no green parts since the green parts

have a bitter flavor. (It is ok to have a few green parts but don’t

just put all the blossoms in with the greens attached)

2. Bring the water to a boil and fill the water with dandelion blossom

shreds. Simmer over very gentle heat about 5-8 minutes.

3. Pour the water and blossoms through a strainer. Press the blossoms as dry as possible to extract the maximum amount of water (mom used a coffee strainer, a lined wire strainer works too).

4. If you have more blossoms, add blossoms to the strained water and simmer

5. Continue simmering and straining until all the blossoms are used up.

6. Add more water to bring it back up to 3 cups (the blossoms will takes some and some will go due to evaporation).

7. Combine water with lemon juice, sugar and pectin.

8. Bring to rolling boil and stir until sugar is dissolved (mom added a

little yellow food coloring, not necessary). Boil hard for one minute.

Skim. Pour into 5 hot jars (half-pints) and seal.


9. Boil hard for one minute. Skim. Pour into 5 hot sterilized jars (half-pints) and seal.

Notes:Make the jelly the day you pick or it will start seeding (become

white and fluffy)



Local churches launch fresh-food market to change the way we eat

Tom and I are busy getting ready for our workshop Saturday at St Mark’s Cathedral here in Seattle entitled Recession II Ready or Not.  There is still time to sign up if you are interested.

It is encouraging to see what churches are doing to help in this challenging economic times and what better place to find out what is happening than in the local newspaper.  Someone just sent me this article Local Churches Launch fresh-food market to change the way we eat by Roberto Daza which highlights one of those creative possibilities.  What is even more attractive from my perspective is that it is also good for health.

Starting this week, a half dozen local churches are doing more than spreading the word of God. They’re trying to change the way we eat.

They’re using fruits and vegetables, and they have the support of local farmers and businesses to do it. Read the entire article

I also enjoyed reading this article – Cultivating Faith in the Master Gardener by Rev Patricia Hunter which I thought some of you would appreciate.  Right up my alley – gardening an act of faith and a great mystery.

Gardening is a giant act of faith. We prepare the soil, use our compost, plant seeds and then wait. We wait for weeks hoping that insects, grubs, birds and raccoons will not benefit from our labor before we do.

The mystery of seeds turning to fruit and veggies is a great wonder. Sure, we could explain the growth process using scientific details of germination, pollination and photosynthesis, but recognizing there is more to growth than just science is spiritually satisfying. Once we get hooked on eating the fruit of our own hands, gardening becomes a sacred ritual.  read the entire article

And here is another interesting and heartwarming story from Mukilteo

The 7-year-old at Olivia Park Elementary recently was asked to write a paper about his favorite childhood experience.
Grant chose the time he has spent in a new community garden taking shape at this school. A 140-by-180-foot square enclosure of thick weeds, thorny briars and stubborn Scotch broom once dominated the landscape that served as a hideout for illegal drug users.  Read the entire article 

What Makes Us Fat?

This morning I was reading an interesting article from Grist magazine entitledIs Your Shampoo Making You Fat? .  It is a fascinating article that looks at how toxic chemicals not just in our diet but also in our environment – like BPA– can contribute to obesity.

Immediately my anxiety level goes up.  Its not just the food I have to watch out for anymore, even the furniture can exude toxic chemicals that disrupt my hormonal systems.  And of course when my anxiety goes up I can easily reach for comfort food to help bring it down.

So I wonder what is really making us fat?  Is it our stress, our sedentary way of life, the chemicals in our bodies and our environment, the technology we use, our disconnect from God, hormonal imbalances, or just plain overeating and a lack of discipline?  Yes all of these have been accused of contributing to our obesity.   And I suspect that all of them do contribute but what is most puzzling to some is that in spite of all the bad press that obesity gets the figures continue to escalate.

Fast food, fast living, 24/7 consumption is the halmark of our society.  Restraint and discipline are not words that most of us think about any more.  And yet the way we live is killing us.  Diabetes is reaching epidemic proportions but there is no panic such as there is with a deadly flu virus.  We are literally eating ourselves to death and if the obesity doesn’t get us the anxiety probably will.

So maybe the most important contributor to our obesity is complacency.  We are so enamoured of our fast paced, cyber stressed, consumptive way of life and the conveniences it seems to offer that we are willing to overlook the downsides… and the growing epidemic of obesity is certainly one of those.

So what do you think?  As Christians should we be more concerned about obesity, after all the Bible talks about gluttony as a sin and fasting has definitely gone out of fashion?  So how should we handle the issue?  Do you think that obesity is a spiritual concern?  I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

Worshipping God in the Real World – How to Cook Your Life with Edward Espe Brown

After my post on dumpster diving and food justice David Hutcheson-Tipton  suggested I look up Edward Espe Brown and How to Cook Your Life.  Brown is a Zen priest from Fairfax, California, author of the famous Tassajara cookbooks, philosopher, Zen teacher and master chef.  There are some profound comments in this trailer from the film.  I particularly like the comment Treat the food as though it was your eyesight, as though it was that precious.  I agree with him – food is precious and when enjoyed in the company of friends it provides in many ways a glimpse into the kingdom of God.  His thoughts just emphasized for me once again the sacrementality of the food we eat and the ways that our preparation and consumption of it connects us to God and others

A Food Manifesto for the Future

I just came across this interesting article in the New York Times that I wanted to share – certainly made me think

For decades, Americans believed that we had the world’s healthiest and safest diet. We worried little about this diet’s effect on the environment or on the lives of the animals (or even the workers) it relies upon. Nor did we worry about its ability to endure — that is, its sustainability.

That didn’t mean all was well. And we’ve come to recognize that our diet is unhealthful and unsafe. Many food production workers labor in difficult, even deplorable, conditions, and animals are produced as if they were widgets. It would be hard to devise a more wasteful, damaging, unsustainable system. read the entire article


Thoughts About Food

In the Northern hemisphere summer is in full swing – season for harvesting, BBQs and generally enjoying life and food.  In the Southern hemisphere people are celebrating Christmas in July, complete with gift giving, hot roast meals and lots of holiday spirit.    But even during this season of bounty many of us are still very aware of those who do not have enough to eat and struggle with these inequalities.

However you look at it this is a season for thinking about food so I thought that you might enjoy this very thought provoking article: Thought For Food written by Ryan O’Dowd I just came across in Comment the ezine produced by Cardus.

Whole foods, slow foods, back to the garden, back to the earth, come to the table, eat-pray-love, organic, green, natural, local, farm-fresh, grass fed, cage-free, food for Africa, food for China, food for Haiti, food for my starving children. And on the list goes. Food is ubiquitous today.

In her essay “Is Food the New Sex?“, Mary Eberstadt suggests that the tremendous excess of food in the West has raised our awareness of food and led a new and obsessive food culture. Food has become one of the modern modes of self-expression as both young and old make how and where they shop, cook, and eat a substantial part of self-definition. Meanwhile, our increased consciousness and excess of food are matched by our awareness of the shortage of food in the rest of the world. As food grows culturally fashionable, it is increasingly charged with political, social, and economic urgency.

Read the entire article

Justice at the Table – A New MSA Resource

I am delighted to announce that the new MSA resource Justice at the Table by Ricci Kilmer is now available! This resource is a collection of personal reflections and practical ideas to help us redeem “food” in all its dimensions from its mundane place as an annoying chore to a spiritual practice essential to a life of faith. This resource is designed for busy people and includes a mini-booklet for jotting notes on the go.

Ricci continues to challenge me and many of us in MSA about the importance of considering the decisions we make about what we eat and how we think about our food.  Take a look and see how you can continue to redeem your relationship with food for the kingdom of God.

Don’t Give Up Chocolate for Lent – It is Too Good for You

Those of us that are chocoholics know that chocolate is good for us.  But now the Canadians have conclusive evidence to back up our instincts.  So don’t give up chocolate for Lent.

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, a new systematic review from Canadian researchers suggests higher chocolate consumption may be associated with a lower risk for incident stroke and stroke-related mortality.

Results of 2 prospective cohort studies showed, respectively, a 22% reduction in stroke risk for those who had 1 serving of chocolate per week and a 46% reduction in stroke mortality from weekly consumption of flavonoids in 50 g of chocolate vs no consumption. A third study showed no association between chocolate intake and stroke or death.  Read about it here