Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Easy Yummy Homemade Bread

I know that not everyone enjoys baking, but when I bake I am in my element. I may have missed my calling as a baker but it is most definitely one of my passions.  I love baking, not cooking, but baking.  Breads, pies, muffins, cakes, cookies, English muffins, lasagna, casseroles, really if I can put it in a Pyrex dish or on a sheet and put it in my oven I will do it!! 

I love making homemade bread, it helps me break out some stress relieving exercises and I get to make my house smell extra homey, AND a great treat to eat for the next couple of weeks.  Who wouldn't want their home to smell like home made bread?  Who wouldn't want to eat homemade bread for a week, at least you can pronounce all the ingredients in this bread unlike some of the store bough breads with all their preservatives.

I make my homemade bread sans breadmaker.  I HATE, no I LOA(th)Ve the breadmaker.  I had a breadmaker but it always made such a mess that I only used it a few times then I sold it in a yard sale.  Besides when I do it without the breadmaker I get 4 loaves of bread and a dozen to two dozen buns or cinnamon buns. 

So I do everything just like my mom, grandma and great grandma did when they made bread at home.  I use a recipe my grandma got from her mom so the recipe is old and it always delivers AWESOME bread, just ask my neighbour Al.  I honestly think making my bread by hand is what makes the difference.  I always found I loved the bread I made without my breadmaker much more than the breadmaker bread.

My recipe is simplicity it's self.  There are a few ingredients to measure out but lots of it is by feel from years of making bread.  I have been making or assisting in making bread since I was in grade 6.  My mom used to make bread and pizza dough and pizzas that she sold out of her house to bring in a little extra income for us.  I loved when I would come home and my house smelt like a bakery. 

When I am making bread this is the recipe I use and the steps I go through.
      We start with 1/2 cup luke warm water.  Add 1 tbsp of yeast (quick rise or traditional) and 1 tbsp sugar to the water, let stand for 10 minutes for the yeast to begin working.
       In a large bowl add 2 cups of hot water.  Then add 1/4 cup of sugar and a heaping tbsp of lard to the warm water.  Stir to let the lard dissolve in the water.
      Now add 2 1/2 cups of cold water to the hot water.  Add in 1 beaten egg, mix all these together.  Add your yeast and stir again.
     Finally, we begin adding water, you are going to need at least 10 cups of flour, but don't add it all at once, and it's likely you will need more than that.  I start off by adding 5 cups of 12 grain flour mix from Nutters.  But you can do it with whole wheat, or just white flour.  That's what makes this recipe so great, you can pretty much make any type of bread.  The rest of the flour I add is white.  It may be in my head, but when I use straight whole wheat flour it makes it hard to work with same with the 12 grain mix.  So I add the white flour into the mix and add as much as I need until the dough forms a ball and is no longer sticky.
    I let the dough rise until it's twice the size it originally was when I stuck it in the oven.  I do use my oven to let my dough rise, the trick is to turn on your oven light and let your oven warm up for 10 minutes to no higher than 100 F.  I do this while I mix my dough then I turn the oven off.  It helps to speed up the rising processes. You could if you want turn on the hot water in your shower and let the steam in the bathroom rise the bread, but that's going to have you using a lot of water.  If I use quick rise yeast I will only do this once, but if I use traditional yeast I let the ball of dough rise twice before I make my bread loaves.
     When the dough is finished rising, I shape the loaves, I make them so they fit the pans and are at least an inch below the top.  Usually you would use 450 g of dough to make a regular loaf, so if you have a scale and want to measure that's what you are aiming for.  I then let the loaves rise until they are double their size then I bake them for ~45 minutes at 350 F.  I say approximately because I often bake by smell, when I smell the bread and the top of the loaf is golden I know the bread is done.

The bread is then done and I get to enjoy and nice warm loaf of bread!!  So if you are looking for an easy how to bake bread, this is it.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Thinking Blog......

I envy people that know what their passion is, I think they are the luckiest people on the planet.  I envy people more who know what their passions are and are able to make money doing what they love.  I don't know that I am one of those people.  I am not sure why, but I guess that's the way things go from time to time. 

I am trying to figure out what my passions are, I am in my 30s, you would think I would know what they are, but I struggle with that.  I grew up in an atmosphere where time is money and money is time, so don't waste either.  I don't know why I keep that cliche in my head because all it does is bring me down, but I keep it in my head because I need to make money, and if I don't make money my family will struggle.  I can't do something I love if it is going to cause my family to struggle financially or so that we can not enjoy a lifestyle to which we have worked hard to earn.

I went to school for 4 years because I LOVE helping people, helping young people develop their passions.  I went into teaching because it was something I thought I would love.  I do love it, I  love being in the classroom, but I don't love the uncertainty that is in the field of teaching.  Until you have that permanent contract, life is always in upheaval.  It's the uncertainty, the constant looking for a job that causes me anxiety.  Maybe I am not a good teacher, maybe that's why I don't have a full time contract, or maybe I just haven't found the contract that is for me.  Or maybe I turned down the contract that I should have taken, and now it's just a struggle looking for that job that will make me calmly happy.

I am sitting in front of my computer thinking about my passions, what passions do I have that I could turn into a job. I have a passion for learning, I love to learn new facts and tidbits of information, it adds and interesting twist to life to always be learning.  I love baking, I love reading, I love writing. I love my family.

I make sacrifices for my family, and do things that I don't exactly have a passion for, but I do it so my family can have a better here and now.  Is that the right attitude?  Should I maybe make the family sacrifice so that we all struggle a bit but we do so because we are working to become passionate about what we do love??  Maybe but I don't think the bank would necessarily like that option.

I could open a restaurant, I could try to become a professional blogger/ writer.  I could maybe take some library science courses to become a librarian, or I could stay home with my family and raise my children and open a day home.  I honestly feel that I would be good as a day home provider, as long as I could still get out of the house from time to time doing adult activities.  I get a bit of cabin fever and to be in the house for any length of time would maybe cause some insanity. 

I just hate this uncertainty, it causes me to become depressed, maybe if we don't go away this summer I will try opening a day home and use my earnings to go back to school to take some part time classes.  I just know, without a doubt, that I cannot continue on the path that I am on, because it has too many pitfalls, too many dark holes that I am struggling to get out.  

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Baked Potato Soup

OMG!!! That's all I can say for that, it was so good and so tasty!!!

I made Baked Potato Soup in the crockpot last week, another Pinterest idea and it turned out fabulously!!!

Even Adrian liked it and sometimes he is picky about the soups he eats.

I got the recipe here.  And cut it in half, with some extra potatoes.  It was easy to do and because it was in the crock pot I didn't have to stand over the stove for hours!!! Loved this one!!!

Pumpkin Donuts

Yummy, that's all I have to say about this!!!

I made some donuts with Adrian's help on Friday night.  It was a great time, we worked together and created a great thanksgiving snack to serve on Sunday when the family came over. 

We used to make donuts with my mom all the time when we lived in Wakaw.  I loved it, I have so many great memories of baking with my mom, they are happy memories. I  used to think we were just baking but we were creating great memories and that's what I want to do with my kids.  I LOVE baking and stuff so I am hoping my kids enjoy doing it with me as they grow.

I was in a pumpkin mood, and after the pumpkin muffins I wanted to try to make pumpkin donuts. I searched online and found a great recipe so I whipped it up and made up 45 donuts.  I struggled with the donut making as I did not have a donut cutter, nor did I have a round cookie cutter or a smaller cookie cutter to make the holes, I am telling you it was an interesting situation.  I eventually found a sugar cookie cutter and that worked to cut the main circle but the inner hole had to be made using a melon scoop from Pampered Chef.  Not all my donuts came out looking perfectly round, but they all tasted good.  Afterwards, my neighbour gave me a great tip, use a round glass for the circle and a shot glass for the donut hole.  Makes perfect sense, once you hear it, but sometimes in the moment it's hard to come up with these ideas.  So next time I will be making use of the millions of shot glasses that are in my house.

I also made some glaze for the donuts.  It turned out great and the donuts were so yummy.  It's definitely a recipe I enjoyed but not one I will do all the time.  It was  a lot of work, and I think I prefer regular cake donuts or sour cream donuts, so I would rather make those treats!!!

I got the pumpkin donut recipe here.  It's very easy and yummy especially if you really enjoy Pumpkin treats!!!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!!

Well Thanksgiving has come and gone and it was a crazy weekend at our place.

We had 15 people over for Thanksgiving supper and a couple guys who stopped by afterwards.  It was  a great time.

On Saturday we went to Home Depot and picked out our bathroom reno supplies.  We are completely redoing our main bathroom. It's going to be a big job, but when it's done things are going to look AMAZING!!! So lot's of money later we headed to the Rebel's game.  It was a good game, but the Rebels lost.  It was fun going to the game with everyone again, It's been a long time since I have gone to a hockey game with the family.

Then on Sunday we had Thanksgiving supper.  It was a big production. Adrian had bought a large turkey.  Ok when I say large, I mean this was the largest Turkey I had ever heard of.  It was 31  LBS.  Yup 31 LBS for 15 people.  That means we got 2 lbs of turkey each.  Needless to say I have a lot of Turkey still in my fridge.  We also had pie and perogies and cabbage rolls and pumpkin donuts and pumpkin muffins.  It was a feast for the palate!!!

Monday I stayed in my pjs all day and did nothing. Seriously, I am starting to get sick so I needed a day to just do nothing, no Pinterest projects, no baking, no nothing and it was exactly what I needed. I even read an entire book yesterday. 

This was a terrific Thanksgiving weekend!!!

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Tree of Thanks

Sometimes crafts are simple, so simple that you can't believe you didn't think of them before.  The craft I did today was one that seriously took an hour of my time from start to finish.  The only reason it took an hour was because I let Lil Man walk instead of pushing him in a stroller.

Since this is the season to be thankful  for all we have, I thought it would be a great idea to make a Tree of Thanks.  I saw it on Pinterest and I added it to my Thanksgiving traditions board.  It may even be something we keep around until Christmas, it seems like a fun idea.

So Lil Man and I went out walking today to collect some twigs.  I collected the twigs he just walked with the dog.  It was a great walk and it tuckered him out which gave me two glorious hours of peace and quiet in the house. 

When I got home I also picked up a few pine cones from under our pine trees and brought them inside.  I put some glass stones in the bottom of a vase I had already and added the pine cones.  Then I arranged the twigs I had collected in the vase.  It looks a little empty right now, but soon it will have little cards on it that have different things people are thankful for.

I am using card stock, a tag punch and a hole punch to make the tags, then I will set them beside the tree display with markers and let people add them as they wish.  Thanksgiving traditions have begun!!!

Pumpkin Cupcakes (Muffins)

I love Thanksgiving and Fall for one reason only, and no it's not the weather, PUMPKINS!! And all the different pumpkin dishes you can create with Pumpkins.  The drinks at Starbucks, the Pumpkin pies in the store, the muffins, the cookies, and so many other things as well.  I read a tweet from @jeffschroeder that said "On our way 2 Seattle & I stopped 2 get a tasty pumpkin smoothie.  Why is Pumpkin only a delicious seasonal treat?  I vote 4 pumpkin yr round"  and I totally agree. So I am a happy baker at this time, because I can make all kinds of pumpkin treats!!!

For my next Pinterest project I am made Pumpkin muffins for Thanksgiving.  I found the pin originally on my friend Becky's board and followed the link to the recipe.  Yesterday afternoon, Lil man and I made these muffins and they turned out fantastic.  FANTASTIC so tasty, my eldest son loves pumpkin stuff too and tried to eat all of them, but I froze them to save them until Friday when I will ice them serving on the weekend.  I think I will only do 10 at a time so that I can save them for other events too!!  But I may even make up another batch, they were seriously that good!!

Here are some photos of how they turned out.
Such tasty morsels and I am sure the calories do not count!!!  I made some cream cheese icing to top them off with and we added that as we ate them.  It was a great treat, tomorrow I shall make Pumpkin Donuts, I may even fry them up too!!!

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Organizing my Family

I love to be Organized, unfortunately, sometimes getting to this stage is a lot more difficult than one would suspect.  I try very hard to stay organized but it's so easy to be lazy or lax in your intentions and then things get lost all over the place.  This makes things a disaster and then it is hard for you to get to that place you need to be in order to have success.  I truly believe that successful people are very organized.  I am on my way to being that.

There are a lot of things I want to do with my life, so many in fact that sometimes I think they are competing for attention and then disorganization happens because I only half way complete any one project.  Trust me I know my faults, and starting things but never finishing them is definitely one of them.  So I am going to start at the basics and work my way to successful organization that I can transfer to all areas of my life, family, work, home based business, writing, I know I can do it I just have to stay focused.

First step is organizing my family.  I am going to create a home binder that we will all use to organize ourselves so we are all on the same page for what is going on. 

After going to some websites I have come up with how I am going to start organizing my family in this binder.  I have found some great printouts that I am going to use to help me create my own.  I believe in the digital age and eventual my binder is going to become a computer file that will send out notifications via emails and the hard copy will just be for certain things that don't allow you go, but I know I can do this it will just take some work.

So the first step was determining what sections I would have in my Binder and what order they would go in.  I used i heart organizing for her ideas of creating the binder.  She also had free printables but they ended so I had to search the web for some new printables, I found organized home that had some great ones to piggy back off, and this site as well had some great calender printables that I printed off.

So I am going to start organizing my binder today, my sections are 1) Contacts, 2) School Info 3) Calenders 4) Grocery and Meal Plans 5)Finances 6)Home Maintenance 7) Auto Maintenance 8) Outings. 

In my contact section I will have inserts, so pages I just add to the binder, they will start with our immediate family Contact numbers, cell, work etc.  Then we will have a Family Yellow Pages section where we will put extended family members' numbers and address, then Important numbers like Doctors, school, work etc.

In the school section I will have two sub sections one for both boys.  I will have a school contact sheet, and a sheet with picture of each boy, in case anything happens.  This is more important for Lil Man than Chan-man, but I will also file any information from the school in this section as well, so we have it all in one place.

Section 3 will be working calendars, this will be where we schedule everything and then transfer it to the hanging calendar.  This way we can always see what everyone is doing in the month.  We will also be able to work ahead in this binder and it will have birthdays listed that way we can always see who has a birthday coming up.

The food section will have a few lists, so this will have to be a pocket insert so we can take things out of it with ease.  We will have a grocery list, freezer meal lists, take out menus, meal plan sheets and meal wish lists.  This will also have special events planning meal lists, things like Thanksgiving, Birthdays and those things that you don't do all the time, but would hate to forget something for those meals.

Finances which is my least favourite section, but an evil necessity, will follow.  We will be able to slide bills in to the pockets and record the bills down on the tracking sheet and record when they have been paid then we can file them into the filing cabinet (that's a mess I must re-organize that as well).  I will also keep pay stubs in there as well. 

The next two sections are maintenance sections.  Home will be a pocket divider and Auto will be a regular divider with a check list.  We can keep chore lists in there and yearly checks you need to do on the house, monthly checks, those kinds of things to keep the house looking great and running great.  I will also keep a renos section in the home section so we know which project we want to work on next and what it will all entail to complete that project.

The last section will be the when we are leaving the house section.  We will keep a babysitter checklist in there, I may even get some laminated paper to put this on so it can be used with a dry erase marker, that way I don't have to keep printing off a new one each time.  That may be an idea for a couple other ideas, actually Staples does laminating and it's not too expensive.  This section will also have some First Aid stuff and travel checklists so we are prepared for when we leave the house.

Ok so here is my Pinterest Project for today to start this.  I am going to put up my sheets that I create in future blogs so when I do, you can use them and hopefully I will be able to do so in such a manner that you can edit them to fit your family.  Off I go!!!

Re-furbishing an old Microwave Stand

Thirteen years ago my exes father made us a microwave stand for our kitchen.  It was either made for us or given to us by his sister.  When we split up I inherited that piece of furniture and it has moved with me to every house I have lived in.  Three years ago it ceased to be a microwave stand and became a counter top and junk drawer where all the junk got tossed.  It was becoming an eye sore and hard to keep clean.  I am sure many of you know that most stuff that ends up in junk drawers is stuff that you think,"Oh, I'll get to that later." or "Oh this will be a good place to keep this for now."  If not well now you know my train of thought.

We have so much paint in our house from having to repaint every room in this place, we aren't done yet, but we are getting there.  So I decided to refurbish my ugly microwave stand.  It wasn't ugly when we got it but after years of wear and tear it was showing it's age.  I hauled the stand downstairs and opened a can of paint.  That was step one, give the stand a face lift.
This is the start of the painting, but you can see how worn the white paint was, and stained as well!!

Next I went to Walmart and bought a sash rod for $3.67 to hang a new curtain on.  Then I bought a tie up curtain for $10.  I took this home and put it on the front of the stand and now I have a pretty new mini buffet table in my dining room!!!
all done and in my dining room!!!
So for $14 dollars I got a great piece for my dining room and I will get a few more years out of this piece before I send it off with Chandler to University!!!

Sunday Morning Brunch Idea

So I tried a new recipe out on Sunday.  It seemed like a pretty neat idea when I read about it on Pinterest so I thought what the heck let's try it.

I really enjoyed it. 

I took eggs and milk and mixed them together like scrambled eggs.

Then I sprayed my muffin tins with cooking spray and lined them with Maple Turkey Breast.  I did it so the meat formed a cup like a muffin cup.

Next I poured the egg into the turkey meat and then I added tomatoes and onions and cheese to top.

Finally I baked them in the oven for 30 minutes pulled them out and served.  It was a great 40 min recipe with cooking time.  Perfect for busy mornings because they were great reheated as well!!!

I suggest this for a change from regular egg breakfasts, you could use any meat, ham, chicken, which ever and any omelet additions as well.

Chalk Board Pantry

So another GREAT pinterest find was the idea of using Chalk board paint on your pantry doors so you can keep track of grocery list and meal plans.   I loved that idea.  I also hate my white kitchen cupboards so GUESS what I did today!!!

2nd coat inside door
second coat outside door
I painted my pantry doors with chalk paint.  I am lucky I guess because my kitchen cupboards have some design on them that makes it easy to choose where to chalk paint.  After two coats I have some new chalk boards in my house.  I think these will be great for us and for Lil Man as he has taken to colouring on walls as of late.  Trust me I am very frustrated with this behaviour but hopefully this will help him learn where he can colour and where he can't.

I am loving this idea and when we redo our kitchen in the next couple of years I will be incorporating this idea for sure!!

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Spanish Rice and Baked Cheesy Tomato Chicken

So this is another of my Pinterest projects.  I made for supper Spanish Rice and what turned into a recreated Chicken Parmesean.  I didn't have parmasean cheese so I had to improvise, it actually turned out really well and I will make it again.

So I learned how to make Spanish Rice from my best friend Alex.  I still think her's tastes better but I am a work in progress.  This is definitely an easy recipe to make once you know what to do.

So to begin with you chop up 2-3 tomatoes (this is dependent on size).  Cut them into blend-able cubes and blend them up.  I used my Magic Bullet and it was super easy.

Next take a large pan and add some oil to the pan, heat the oil up, then add rice to brown.  Stir constantly to brown the rice.  I used 1 1/2 cups of rice and 2 tbsp of vegetable oil.
Now add the Tomatoes to the rice and stir letting the rice absorb the tomato juice.  You can also add onions I do this now so the onions can take on some of the tomato flavouring as well.   Keep stirring the rice until the juice is mostly gone.  Notice in the picture that most of the juice is gone.

Now add chicken broth I added 3 cups of chicken broth, so you make this just like regular rice where it's one part rice and two parts fluids.  Alex had Tomato broth that she added to her water when she made her rice but I cannot find Tomato Broth cubes anywhere, but I would so like too I think that's what makes the difference.  They are cubes just like Knorr cubes of beef boulion, and I think they would be great for this recipe so if you find them I suggest using them just add one cube to your water and then add it to the rice.

Now let the rice cook on a medium heat until all the water (chicken broth) is absorbed.  Serve and Enjoy.

The Chicken was even easier to do, take chicken breasts or chicken pieces whichever cut you like the best and put in the bottom of a glass pyrex baking dish.  Or any baking dish you are comfortable using.  Add spaghetti or tomato sauce on top.  I used a spaghetti sauce because I was in a hurry and I didn't want to have to flavour my tomato sauce.  Then top with cheese.  Bake at 350 for 45 minutes and Serve and Enjoy

Leaf Jars

So the other day Lil Man and I went for a walk to the park.  Lil Man loves walking to the park, but it is a little heart attack inducing for me because he doesn't like to hold hands.  He's a big boy you know, almost two and he can do it himself.  However, we have gotten to a point in our walks where he will hold my hands when we cross the street or when there are large groups of people around.  Other than that, it's 'no I do it," or "no! No Hands mommy!"  So away we went down the street to Normandeau school.

We live in a area where we are close to two school and there are quite a few little parks all around, but I chose Normandeau because we have to cross the least amount of streets that way.  So away we went with our plastic bag hunting for fun colourful leaves.  Lil Man loved running along the path and picking up leaves.  He didn't collect too many but he had fun!!  After we had foraged enough leaves we went home.

I had seen a craft where you modge podge leaves onto a glass then you can put a candle in the glass (a tealight) and light it and it makes a neat lantern.  This part of the craft isn't really that conducive to do with little children that don't necessarily follow instructions, so if I were to do this with him again, I would work on a piece of wax paper and I would do the jar alone.

At first I was putting the modge podge just on the leaves but they were not sticking that way.  I decided to modge podge the glass then stick the leaves on then modge podge over the leaves to give it that glazed look.  That worked much better.

It was a quick craft once Lil Man stopped "helping" me, but it was definitely fun to go out with him to collect the leaves and have a part of the afternoon out enjoying the coming fall weather.