Monday, October 18, 2010

My Quest For Perfect Bread

I've been baking my own bread for several months, now, and really enjoy doing it.  I wrote a post when I first started and showed pictures of my new mill I had ordered and some loaves of my first attempts at bread baking.  The bread had a wonderful flavor and my family seemed to like it, but they were using it more for toast than sandwiches.  It came out on the small side, not rising well and sometimes a little crumbly.  So, I started researching and experimenting with different recipes.  I'm happy to say I've found the way to make sandwich size loaves of bread with great flavor and holding together just like store bought.  I can attest that peanut butter and jelly tastes so amazing on it, just like the old white Wonder bread I remember, but this is whole wheat. 
This is the "sponge" when it is ready.

Second rise is complete and bread is ready to bake.

I start out heating up a cup of water to no hotter than 110 degrees.  I add it to 4 1/2 teaspoons of yeast that I have ready in my Kitchen Aid bowl, mix together until well blended by hand with a whire whip.  I then grind about a cup of hard white wheat berries on the fine grind and add it to the yeast and water mixture and mix it in with the wire whip.  I then cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and leave it for about an hour. This is called making a "sponge."  When I return the mixture is active and bubbling.  To protect the yeast I add 1 1/2 cups of warm water with 2 more cups of the  freshly ground hard white wheat mixing it in by hand, still, and then add 1/2 cup of honey, 1 tablespoon of salt, 2 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1/2 cup of high gluten flour.  By now I'm tired of mixing by hand, so I put on the dough hook for the Kitchenaid and start it on low and add about 1 to 2 more cups of hard white wheat flour.  You don't want the dough to sticky or too dry, so I add enough flour to where the dough is pulling away from the sides of the bowl and to where when it is ready to rise I can pick it up without it sticking to my hands.  I let the Kitchenaid knead the dough for about 10 minutes.  My daughter's Kitchenaid couldn't handle the 10 minutes, so we divided the dough in half giving each a turn for the 10 minutes, mine does just fine.  After the 10 minutes I take the dough out and rub some olive oil on it and return it to the bowl for the first rise, covering it with the kitchen towel.  The first rise is done when the dough has doubled in size.  Time to punch it down and divide into two and shape each one into a loaf and set in bread pans.  Cover, again, with towel and let rise until bread is risen 1 inch above rim of loaf pans and then bake in 350 degree oven 35 to 40 minutes.  I find my bread is done in 35 minutes in my glass loaf pans.  I like to use lecithin to grease the pans, my loaves fall right out when done cooking.  This recipe makes 2 loaves of delicious bread.  My family eats 6 to 8 loaves each week, keeping me busy baking bread!

Sliced and ready to eat.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Tomatoes and More Tomatoes!

I've been overwhelmed with tomatoes this summer.  I planted fourteen tomato plants and have been given flats of them from a produce market for free.  I've made lots of spaghetti sauce, salsa,  used them in salads and sandwiches and have dehydrated them and then ground them into a powder to make my own tomato sauce this winter. 
I was looking at my recent pickings from the garden and decided to make another spaghetti sauce for the next nights dinner.  I didn't feel like blanching them so remembered reading a tip on how you can freeze the tomatoes whole and then the peels will come right off under running water.  So that is what I did and it worked amazingly well.  So easy and quick.
I skinned them all and put them in my crockpot on low until they were all soft and easy to mash.  After mashing I let them cook for several hours more in the crockpot and then added fresh basil, tomato paste, tomato sauce, onions, brown sugar, oregano, salt, elk meat and a chili peppper, we like spicy.  I then left on all night on low, still in the crockpot.  Served over angel hair spaghetti noodles and today over roasted zucchini squash.   So good.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Fall Garden Time

In a couple of days it will be offficially fall.  The summer has gone by so fast, I really wasn't ready for the change in season, just yet.  But, time marches on and time to get ready for cooler weather.
 In the garden I've picked all the onions and chopped them with my hand held food blender and then put them in a tupperware container in small sandwich bags ready for cold weather soups and casseroles. I learned this year that when you plant onions they need to be seperated and not planted in clumps.  Result was my onions didn't get as big as I would have liked because they were crowded.
 I've been picking my herbs and then putting them in ice cube trays and freezing after adding water over them.  I then put the cubes in a large gallon baggie for storage in the freezeer. Works great as I can just add a cube or two to the dinner I'm preparing over the winter months. Speaking of herbs, my spaghetti sauce I canned was so tasty after using fresh basil from the garden.  Much better than the dried that I'm used to.
  I'm still picking lots of tomatoes, zucchini and yellow squash, but I've noticed the plants are looking a little wilted and at the last of their production cycle, yet there are still many green tomatoes.  Last week I shredded some of the zucchini and made bread, which I will be doing, again, this week and then freezing the loaves. 

My onions all ready for the freezer, the hand held blender makes the chopping so easy!

My one and only pumpkin, pretty small, but there is still time for more growing.
One of the Butternut squashes, I think.

My pickings for today, a huge bowl of tomatoes and squash.
My herbs ready for the freezer.
The winter squash are growing nicely and I'm excited to have quite a few of them this year.  I like to cook them in the oven and add brown sugar and butter, so delicious.  I have one little pumpkin growing, I wonder how big it will get before I have to pick it.  For some reason, I had many flower on the vine, but only one made it.  I will be looking  up tips on growing pumpkins for next year's garden.  Oh, well,  I still have so much to learn.  I wish I had learned to garden as a young wife, I would really have a lot of knowledge by now.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Guess Who Came To Dinner

We had dinner guests on Friday evening.  Five of our granchildren enjoyed some time with grandma and grandpa.  I think they will remember it for a long time.  Grandma went to pop some pop corn in the microwave for the movie time and to her and the grandchildren's surprise the bag caught on fire!  Good thing there was a box of baking soda on hand.  After all the excitement and a fresh bag of popcorn, movie went on as planned and we all had a fun time. 

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Enjoying My New Pressure Cooker

I have memories of my mom using a pressure cooker when I was a young girl.  The sound of it hissing and sputtering throughout the kitchen was intimidating after hearing the horror stories of ones that blew up if not used just right.  Those stories are the reason I never felt good about getting one myself.  But, after trying water bath canning this summer and liking it, I wanted to then get into pressure cooker canning so I could can the lower acid foods which couldn't be done safely in the water bath method.  So, I recently bought my very first pressure cooker and chose the Fagor model, a 10 quart size.  The first time I used it I was very nervous that I was going to make a mistake and blow something up, but it was so easy to use.  I canned spaghetti sauce, 17 quarts, and am quite pleased to have been successful.  I have since used it for cooking meals, making potatoes, carrots, pinto beans, string beans and rice.  I like how fast it cooks and am going to be trying many more recipes.  Today, I cooked carrots and it took about 2 minutes after pressure.  All I did was put in a small rack in the bottom, added a cup of water, sliced carrots.  Put on the lid, closed it and turned on the burner to high. Soon, a yellow valve popped up telling me it was at pressure and then the hissing sound of the steam. I then turned it down, but still hearing the steam and turned on the timer for 2 minutes.  After the 2 minutes I removed it from the burner and waited until the valve released.  So easy!!  The white rice I made over the weekend in it was the best white rice I have ever had.  So moist and delicious.  With the rice and pinto beans there is some soaking time, the rice one hour and the beans four hours.  The white rice took just bringing it to pressure and then taking the pot right off the burner, so quick!   I then added lime juice and a little salt,   The beans took 20 minutes of cooking time which I then turned into refried beans for a dip.  Pressure cooking is amazing and economical, saving time and energy and I am glad to have made this purchase.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

First Day Of School Blahs

Granddaughter, Chloe, on her first day of second grade.  She's unhappy her friends from last year were put in the other class.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Free Food

I was given 250 ears of corn and about 60 bananas, today.  That's right, given, translated, free!!!  My  husband and I got busy and shucked, then cut off the corn from the cob on all these ears of corn, taking several hours.  I loaded all nine trays on my Excalibur dehydrator with the corn, packaged the rest in gallon size bags and put in the refrigerator waiting for their turn on the dehydrator.  I just don't have the freezer room so dehydrating is my way of preserving all of it for winter.  The corn will be used in stews, soups, and corn muffins all winter.  I'll then put some of it in canning jars with oxygen absorbers and sealing most of it in food saver bags.  After all the work with the corn we peeled the bananas and then put them in gallon size bags ready for the freezer, which I had to use a shelf in my mom's freezer.  I really need to go through our two freezers and try to free up some space.  We'll use the bananas for smoothies and banana bread and muffins.  Receiving all this was such a blessing and I'm so thankful, but tired!

Friday, August 13, 2010


When I think of summer I think of eating ice cream, going on bike rides, swimming and relaxing.  I've eaten a little ice cream and gone on some bike rides, haven't done the swimming, yet, and the relaxing part has not happened.  But, I've had time with the grandkids and have enjoyed seeing them do all of the above.
Summer is flying by and it's been a busy one for me.  It's been the summer of produce.  My daughter, Christy,  knows the owner of a produce store who has been giving her fruit and vegetables that are not the prettiest to sell, but still good enough to make jams and sauces with. Also, milk that has just expired that I make yogurt with.  Last night I helped her package ripened bannanas  freezing  them for smoothies, there was lots and lots of them that we peeled and then put into gallon size baggies.  She was also given a flat of tomatoes that I took home and processed, today.  I was in the kitchen for hours, blanching the tomatoes, which means putting them in boiling water and then right into ice water.  It makes the skin easy  to peel off and then I cooked the tomatoes into spaghetti sauce.  I seasoned the sauce with my garden basil and with onions I had grown along with other spices in my kitchen.  I was quite pleased with myself after my tastebuds had declared it a success.  I felt rather pioneerish, ( I may have made up a new word).  I'm used to opening a jar of Ragu which is a lot easier, but making it myself felt better.  I was telling Christy I think God has blessed us with all this produce so we could finally like being in the kitchen.  We are both kindred spirits in not liking dealing with food.  Processing all this food has given us a sense of accomplishment and enjoyment in being together. 

Friday, August 6, 2010

How Does My Garden Grow?

This year's garden got a slow start due to lots of rain and cooler weather.  I've been picking squash, a few tomatoes, one cucumber, onions.  The strawberries have already quit producing and we enjoyed what we got, but I thought with two large raised beds, there would be alot more.  Our cherry tree was loaded last year and we picked cherries till we were sick of them, but this year, to my dismay, we were only able to pick a small amount as the tree just wasn't productive.  I am pleased with the tomatoes as they are loaded with green tomatoes and are slowing turning red.  With fourteen plants, we will have our fill of them.  We planted cauliflower and broccoli and something kept eating the leaves, they were so pitiful with lots of holes.  There was several servings of broccoli that I cooked, but gave up on the cauliflower.  I learned something about onions, you need to seperate them, instead I planted them in a bunch.  They  have grown, but would have gotten much bigger if I had seperated the plants.  We also planted watermelon and have one on the vine and more flowering.  The peppers are growing and I love watching them get bigger every day.  We have hot peppers and bell peppers.  We have used up most of our compost for the beds and need to start another compost pile.  I am still in awe how our peelings, coffee grounds, leaves, grass clippings all turn back to a rich wonderful soil.  Gardening opens up your eyes to the wisdom of God and his creation.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


My daughter, Christy and I got together and learned to can jam, today.  It was one of my goals after learning to make bread.  It sure fits, bread and jam, they taste so good together.  We didn't get started until afternoon and worked at it for several hours which included 6 children to tend to, also.  We were both under the impression that it was going to be hard to do, but after canning 16 jars of blackberry and rasberry jam we both agreed it was rewarding and not a big deal.  We used the water bath canning method that meant submerging the filled jars in the canner and boiling for 12 minutes.  We both loved hearing the seals pop as they came out of the canner.  I had also made bread and my sons and grandchildren, plus a neighbor boy enjoyed eating slices smothered in the warm jam, so good!! My next goal is to can using a pressure cooker.

Monday, July 26, 2010

My Recent Finds

I needed a larger purse and was happy to find this one for $2.00

A pretty serving plate, $1.00

Two wooden candle holders that sit on my bookcase, $2.00.

A pair of crystal pitchers for $5.00

A pair of sconces with candelabras, $5.00

One of my favorite finds is this elephant made out of leather, $3.00.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Getting Away

Last week, my sweet husband surprised me with a night away at a little cottage about an hour away from home.  He told me before bed to have a bag packed and ready to go the next morning.  So, the next morning I packed, made some bread, cleaned the house, did some laundry and finished up a curtain project for my daughter-in-law all by late morning!  So much for "spur of the moment" and easy get away.  Moms can't just pack up and leave without lots of preparation, even if most of the five at home are grown.  I had to take a picture of my packing versus my husbands, quite funny.  

His (I kid you, not!)
Mine (A girl needs her stuff!)
Relaxing by the stream.

The happy couple.
We had a relaxing time, we were in a town of 400 posted as it's population, so it didn't have much to offer in the way of entertainment.  It was a time of being together, sitting by the little stream that ran by our cottage and catching up on some reading.  It was nice, we both agreed two nights away would have been better, but thankful for the time we had together.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A Small Project

We have four of these fans hanging from our living room ceiling.  We have lived in our home for 21 years and I can't remember not having them so they are old, but still running without a problem.   After redecorating the upstairs this past spring they really started to bug me.  They were outdated and didn't match the decor or flow of the room.  I knew to replace them was probably going to be about $75 to $100 dollars a fan so the decision was to redo instead of replace. These fans are running daily all summer long and are a must in our large living room with it's large windows covering the front of our home.  They help keep the room bearable as all the windows bring in the heat.  Chuck agreed to tackle the project, which meant taking down each one, cleaning accumulated dust of 20 plus years from the insides with his air compressor, then applying two coats of spray paint to the blades and base of the fan.  The first coat was a dark brown, and then the second coat was Rust-Oleum American Accents Stone which gives a unique textured finish.  I'm pleased with the results and the fans add  to the room instead of detracting.

This is the blade of the fan after the second coat of the textured paint. 

`            They are all up and running, again, and I love the new look.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A Nice Long Weekend

It was so nice to have a four day weekend.  We got together with family, did some work around the house and then by Monday, we decided to get the bike out and go for our first bike ride of the season.  We're a little late, but have been busy and the weather has been more rainy than usual.  The weather was wonderful and so we went for a long ride and found a walking path along the river that was shady and peaceful.  So, it turned into a bike/walk ride.  It was nice to be alone with Chuck and to be out amongst nature.  We have a greenbelt that runs throughout the city where we can bike, walk, or jog.  A large portion of it is along the river which is so pretty and home to many birds and wildlife.  On this walk we saw some swans and geese.  We also got into some interesting conversation with an older couple who told us they had lived on a sailboat for many years.  What an adventurous lifestyle that would be!  We shared with them about raising a large family which was our adventure and then we parted ways richer for our conversation.  We arrived home, refreshed, a little tired and looking forward to our next bike ride.