8.27.2014

Homemade Graham Crackers



We all got back from a lovely weekend trip to New York City on Monday night. Aaron had an actuary conference on Monday afternoon (sounds riveting, eh?) so we made a weekend of it. Oh, and the two weeks before that I was in Idaho for my brother's wedding. It was just wonderful.
I'll be writing more about it later, but for now here is a recipe that has become a staple in our house.

My brother's reception included a s'mores bar with a variety of graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate bars. Before I gave Sawyer a graham cracker I browsed the ingredients just to see what I was giving him... Hmm, hydrogenated oil, high fructose syrup, and lots of preservatives. Delicious. I still gave him a cracker and he LOVED it. So I decided when I got home I was going to make him some homemade cracker without all the sketchy ingredients.

I have tried a few recipes in the past that just didn't turn out that well. Too greasy, too soft, and on and on and on. I finally stumbled across this recipe from The Homemade Pantry (amazing book!) and I knew I could stop my search from the perfect homemade graham cracker.
The thing I love about this recipe is I can triple it and freeze the extra dough. Then, when we are in need of a snack, we just let the dough thaw before rolling it out and baking.

Graham Crackers

adapted from The Homemade Pantry

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour*
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) chilled coconut oil, cut into 1-inch cubes
4 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In the bowl of a standing mixer, combine the flours with the salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and the brown sugar. Mix for 10 seconds using the paddle attachment, then add the butter and coconut oil. Mix on medium speed for 30 seconds.

Combine the honey and vanilla with 1/4 cup cold water in a liquid measuring cup and stir to combine until the honey is mostly dissolved. With the mixer running on medium-low speed, slowly pour the honey mixture into the bowl, giving the mixture time to absorb the liquid. Continue to mix for another 20 seconds, or until the dough comes together. It will still be slightly crumbly. Push the dough into a ball, wrap it in waxed paper, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, and up to 3 days. (The dough can be wrapped and frozen at this point.)

Take the dough out of the refrigerator about 20 minutes before you are ready to bake. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cut the dough in hlaf, and lay one half between two sheets of waxed paper dusted with rye flour. Roll the dough as thin as you can get it, ideally 1/8 inch. It will still be crumbly, but just press it back together and keep rolling. Use a pizza wheel, crinkle cutter, or knife to cut 2 x 3 inch rectangles. Use a spatula to separate the rectangles from the waxed paper and set them on an ungreased baking sheet. The crackers won''t spread, so they can be quite close. Reroll any scraps and repeat--then repeat again with the second half of the dough.

Bake for 15 minutes, or until just starting to brown at the edges. Cool on a wire rack. The crackers are great out of the oven, but their flavor improves the next day.
Notes

STORAGE
Room temperature: covered container, 10 days
Fridge: unbaked dough in waxed paper, 3 days
Freezer: unbaked dough, wrapped in plastic and a freezer bag, 4 months (thaw in the refrigerator before rolling out); baked crackers, freezer bag (recrisp in a 375 F oven for 5 minutes), 4 months.

*I used freshly ground whole wheat pastry flour, which worked well. However,  I only needed 2-3 tbsp of water instead of 1/4 cup. I would recommend adding only 2 tbsp water with the honey and then adding more water as needed to create the right consistency.




8.05.2014

To The Mothers Who Cannot Breastfeed



In celebration of World Breastfeeding Week I'm writing a post for all the mothers out there who cannot or (or choose) not to breastfeed.

I'm writing this because my heart goes out to you. You are constantly reminded of the benefits of breastfeeding from studies and opinions that tell you "breast is best" and that "if you try hard enough, it will work."

I have many friends and acquaintances that were only able to breastfeed their babies for a short time, or not at all. I also have friends that were not able to actually breastfeed their babies, but they pumped and fed their baby breastmilk via bottle.

I've spoken to many of these women and have felt so much heartache for them because of what they go through. If their own disappointment weren't enough, they are bombarded with disapproval at their inability to breastfeed by family, friends, and even strangers.

We all know breastmilk is amazing and there is no shortage on research studies to prove it, so I'm not going to go into detail about breastmilk. However, I am going to talk about the actual act of breastfeeding. 

I'm not a doctor, lactation consultant, or child psychologist. I have take a few classes on infant and child development, but that is all. The suggestions below are simply that: suggestions.

Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding contains two parts: the milk and the act of feeding. You can feed your baby breastmilk, but not actually breastfeed. Breastmilk is nutrition that nourishes the physical part of the baby. But breastfeeding nourishes the mental, emotional, and psychological aspects of the baby's development. 

During my time at BYU I was able to hear many experiences from professors and students that interned/worked at orphanages in Romania. The babies in those orphanages were given adequate physical nourishment, but they were deprived of mental, emotional, and psychological nourishment in the form of holding, rocking, touch, and communication. As a result, they were severely delayed in development, especially in the area of personal-social.

In her book Bright From The Start, Jill Stamm makes the bold and intriguing opinion that breastmilk only accounts for a portion of the benefits of breastfeeding. She states that way in which we must breastfeed (baby lies on his/her side close to mother and within 18 inches of mother's face) nourishes the growing brain and fosters healthy personal-social development. She also believes that because we must breastfeed on both breasts, both sides of the baby's brain are strengthened and developed. The left eye, arm, hand and foot are all used when the baby is lying on his right side, and vice versa. She says this could account for the cognitive abilities of breastfed children. Both sides of the brain are properly strengthened.

The act of breastfeeding also consists of skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby. I once wrote a research paper on the benefits of skin-to-skin contact for premature infants and it was astounding at what a difference it made! Babies who were given skin-to-skin contact with their mother gained more weight, had a steady heartbeat,  ate more, and did better overall as compared to premies who did not receive skin-to-skin contact.

If you are breastfeeding your baby you are forced to drop what you're doing (maybe not immediately, but eventually), focus on the baby, and spend one-on-one time with him/her. This act alone strengthens your relationship and gives you the opportunity to bond with him/her.

So, what does this mean for mothers that cannot breastfeed? EVERYTHING! You can do all the things I mentioned above whether you breastfeed or bottle feed!

You can mimic the act of breastfeeding by:
  • Switch the sides you bottle feed - right side for one feeding, left side for the next.
  • Give your baby some skin-to-skin contact during feeding (bare chests is optimal because they can hear your heartbeat). Massage is another great way to get some extra bonding and skin-to-skin contact in your daily routine.
  • Hold your baby at most feedings. I know this may be hard because you're busy and your older infant can hold the bottle on their own, but that 10-15 minutes of one-on-one time does amazing things for your baby's development.
  • Communicate, touch, and focus on your baby during feeding.
I don't have sound research to back up these suggestions, but honestly, there hasn't been a lot of research on the benefits of the technical aspects of breastfeeding. Most of it is about the nutritional aspect.
Who knows? Maybe future research will find that a portion of the benefits from breastfeeding was actually the way in which it was conducted, and not just breastmilk.

I hope this has helped in some way, and given you some tools to make the best of your situation, no matter what it is.