Friday, December 31, 2010

the new best bread

When I was feeling ambitious last month, I baked up a storm of bread. My brother-in-law passed along an awesome recipe, and I think we've all eaten our weight in the stuff since I tried it out. And my favorite way to make it is as a cinnamon loaf-- wrap the dough up with tons of butter, cinnamon, and sugar.
But it's great everyday bread, too. My complaint with homemade bread was always that it was too dense and crumbled too easily. Not so with this recipe. It's soft, tender, and sooo tasty.

The recipe seemed a little crazy at first, but it's pretty simple once you run through it. So here we go:

Combine in mixing bowl:
2 1/2 Cups very warm water (my gauge has been 2 cups of the hottest water
from my tap, plus 1/2 C of room temp water )
3 C freshly ground whole wheat flour
1 T plus 1 t. yeast
1 T wheat gluten (ordered from PH grain, though grocery stores carry it)

Stir just until mixed and let mixture stand 10 minutes

1/3 C half canola oil, half applesauce
1/3 C honey
1 T. lemon juice (no need to be fresh)
1 T sea salt
3 1/2 - 4 C whole wheat flour
1 T dough enhancer

*additional ingredients can be added or subbed for some of the flour: flax meal, millet, oat bran, nuts, etc.

1. Knead bowl of mixer (with dough hooks) for 10 minutes. Do not add any
additional flour until the end. The dough will look sticky and you'll
think, "I need more flour" but wait and it will form a ball. At the end of
kneading, the dough should be slightly sticky to the touch, but not stick to
your hands. Adjust as needed. Use a little flour to lightly coat the
dough, and pull out of the bowl.
2. Immediately divide the dough into two equal portions, and knead each
loaf for 30 seconds forming a loaf with no creases.
3. Place each loaf into a greased and floured pan. Let rise approx 40 min.
(until just above the lip of the pan) Make sure you preheat your
oven according to when you estimate your bread being ready to put in the
oven. (this is critical, bread needs to go in preheated oven...if it is too
risen, it will be airy and fall apart, but if not risen enough it will be
dense and cakey)
4. Bake bread at 350 for approx 30 minutes. When you tap the top of the bread, it should sound hollow.
5. Remove bread from pan and onto a cooling rack immediately. Let cool at
least 15 minutes before cutting into it and eating a big buttery piece, and
let cool completely before bagging (no sweating inside the bag).

*Notes: I didn't have the gluten or dough enhancer at first, so I used white bread flour instead. It has an higher level of gluten and results in a better bread. So, if you don't want to track down those extras, just use bread flour. My next step is to get a wheat grinder so I can use the freshly ground wheat flour for the most nutritious bread. (Something that makes Sam sad. He likes white bread and would probably choose Wonder bread if given the option.) Wheat begins losing its nutrients as soon as you grind it, so the fresher the flour the better.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Healthy Dose of Pride

Chances are, if you read this blog, you also read my family blog or are friends with me on facebook. Which means, you have seen our (now belated) Christmas video. If not, here is a link.

Speaking of Christmas, I gifted Bria with my big sewing project from last month. Are you ready? PILLOWCASES. I know, I know. So complicated. But I am, nevertheless, very proud of myself. My mom bought this fabric for me a year and a half ago, but I never did anything with it until Thanksgiving, when I was (admittedly) bored out of my head in Utah. I only had to redo the first pillowcase once, and I did the second pillowcase without any supervision from my mom. Three cheers for me!
And now use your microscope vision and check out that top stitch!
Well, Santa didn't bring me a sewing machine (I wasn't really expecting him too), so it will be a while before I continue to hone my fine skillz, but for now I am just floating along on this little bit of pride at my handiwork.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

already thinking about 2011 instead of going to bed

I know I'm about two weeks early, but I have two resolutions for 2011.

1) Make my bed every day

2) Run a 5k

I've never been good at resolutions, partially because I always come up with approximately a trillion of them, so I'm hoping the simplicity with result in success. Also, yes. My resolution is to make my bed every day. This has never been a habit, much to the chagrin of my mother. In fact, I even got scolded when I was in Utah last month for not making my bed. Some people (um, okay, I) never learn. Until now!!
And a goal for 2011 (entirely different from a resolution) is too cook more new things. This includes using certain ingredients I have never before used. Starting with . . .
Mushrooms (I know. I really have never cooked with a mushroom)

Speaking of next year, I am already planning a road trip for the spring. I fully intend to return to NYC and take Sam with me this time. I need to hit up all the bajillion restaurants I missed from my trip in May, among other things. In addition (either in another, later trip or on the same one) I am plotting a trip to Niagara Falls and maybe even a drive westward-- as far as Chicago? I don't know.

I do know, however, that I can't believe Christmas is in ten days. Bria is at this perfect age where all the plotting and planning going into present-shopping will result in a wondrous payout come Christmas morning. I haven't been this excited about the holiday since I was probably 10. And, Santa, if you're reading, just know that these are the things on my list:A sewing machine. Maybe you've heard, but I have been awfully crafty lately. Oh, you didn't really hear about that? Well, that's because I forgot to blog about it.

A wheat grinder. Guys. I found the world's best bread recipe this week. I'll share soon.

And the ability to float in my sleep. Or a new mattress. Either one.

So, Santa. Sorry I didn't give you much notice, but you'd better get on that pretty quickly. You only have ten days.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

On Gingerbread Houses and Heartbreak

Last time I made a gingerbread house was in 2004 with this boy I had a crush on. His code name was the Hobbit (hey, I was 19). And I was slightly obsessed with him, and he gave all sorts of mysterious signals that made it seem my interest was mutual. (Like bringing me graham crackers and frozen cool whip one night because I mentioned once it was a favorite snack.) The gingerbread house was the pinnacle: a boy would surely only craft a gingerbread house with me if he loved me, right? The next day, while showing the house off and suggesting this meant The Hobbit and I were well on our way to coupledom, a mutual friend said, "you know he has a girlfriend, right?" Hopes dashed. Heart broken. That gingerbread house went straight in the trash.

Don't worry, I was married to Sam less than a year later, so it's not like my heart didn't mend quickly.

So, a couple weeks ago I went to a gingerbread making party. It was just me and Bria, since Sam was working, so I let her stay up late, eating more candy than she did on Halloween while I crafted this beauty. I'm quite proud of my handiwork.
My favorite part was using some Trader Joe's candy-coated, chocolate-covered sunflower seeds for the roof. They are super tasty and kind of lovely too.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Darth Deer

This weekend was mainly spent celebrating the first days off work Sam has had since Bria and I came home from Utah. And it was also spent scheming and planning for the almost two weeks Sam will have off for Christmas (the latter should explain the former). Also included were things like this:
And this pumpkin bread pudding, which I only remembered to take a picture of after the fact (it was soooo good).

Speaking of pictures, there's a chance I took that picture on my brand-spankin'-new, early-Christmas iphone-- which was FREE. I didn't know I cared about technology, but I do.

We also ate soup with Hannah and Rob, who graced the suburbs with their presence for the day. The story of this soup is that it is a replica of the Zuppa Toscana from Oliva Garden. I used to hate that soup-- like seriously loathe it and gag at the very thought of it. Then, when I was pregnant with Bria, I started craving it. And now I love it.

1 lb ground sausage (regular or spicy-- just make sure it's not maple)
3 large red potatoes, sliced in half and then sliced into 1/4 inch thick slices
1 large onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
8 cups chicken broth
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 bunch kale, chopped
freshly grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Brown sausage in large soup pot. Remove sausage and set aside. To the pot add chicken broth, potatoes, onion, and garlic and bring to a boil. Simmer until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Add cream and sausage to the pot and warm through. (Do not boil.) Add kale several minutes before serving. Top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


So, I work for this interior design firm. And we just launched a new website today. It's all very exciting. Check it out. And like us on facebook, if you wish.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

I Liiiiiiiiiive!

Ok, I have to admit that the subject of this post is homage to one of Bria's new favorite movies: Blan (known to some as Mulan). Can I also say how happy I am she chose one of the Girl Power Disney movies as her favorite? Granted, I did heavily influence her choices. ("No, no, no, you won't like Sleeping Beauty. And while we're at it, let me tell you about how bras are evil.") (Just kidding. I promise.)

Anyway, I am alive, even though this blog is no proof. But Bria has also not napped since we returned from Utah, and it makes me want to cry Every. Single. Day. But that's ok, because we're deep in the holiday swing. I even made a couple crafty things. (Gasp!) I know! I, the queen of anti-craft have been making things. With my own two hands. I'll be the first to admit that it's strange. I'll take pictures later. For now though, you can see that we have also been shopping for Christmas presents, which has included many trips down the toy aisle at Costco to see what Bria is drawn to:Which is apparently pretending to be a monster while riding a horse.

Also, this morning, I am making this-- one for me, and one for a friend-- (with smoked gouda instead of smoked mozzarella) and I can tell you that the smell of smoked gouda, garlic, thyme, and parsley on your hands will make all your troubles (nap strikes or otherwise) melt away.