Monday, December 26, 2011

Homesteading Goals for 2012

I can't believe that the Christmas season has already blown by! I had meant to do posts about the decorating- I incorporated real greenery for the first time in years and so thoroughly enjoyed the smell it gave off throughout the season. I made a lovely mixed greenery wreath for the front door using cuttings gleaned from a box that Lowe's had available from their Christmas tree sales along with boxwood and barberry  from my own yard. My Ryan and I went pine cone hunting around the neighborhood on a cold sprinkley day and I sprayed those with a silver spray glitter to finish it off. (I should note that the inspiration for the wreath came from here. Amy, over at Homestead Revival has many great ideas!)

Sooo happy with how this turned out. :)
I also added a little three foot fraser fir on the entry table that I walk by multiple times a day, and fresh cuttings on the mantle along with a poinsettia and paperwhites.

Mantle Close-up. I added some pothos cuttings for variety.
Paper-whites sprouting in early December

I didn't change much on my everyday mantle, just added the decorations in the center.

The main tree on Christmas Eve. No silk flowers here this year. Felt poinsettias made a wonderful impact. You can see the paper-whites bloomed right on time. They should last a few more weeks which will give my psyche a nice boost through the first cold, dark weeks of January.

Speaking of felt poinsettias, I had also intended to do a couple of hand made tutorials- the wreath, felt flowers and a tea tray made from an upcycled thrift shop picture frame among other things. I like to add some burgundy to the tree because my living room has a lot of this color in the carpet and pillows and I think that just red and white, although lovely on the tree, can sometimes look out of place in the room. I had planned to make some red and burgundy felt rosettes but that is a project that will have to wait until next year.  I did manage to take some pictures of some of my projects in process:

And then there is the requisite information about the hazards of Christmas with a toddler in the house:

Who me?
That would be one of my garlands.

And that would be the other one.

There could have been a post about the Christmasy stuff we did together like the totally awesome Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert:

Or how we went too late, again, to get the kids's picture taken with Santa at Bass-Pro Shop and took one with Frosty instead:

I could have done a post about how we wrapped presents in homemade paper, but we didn't this year. We used up some of the stuff that we didn't use when we did that last year. Somehow, there's still plenty left.

I could have done a post about the Christmas Eve meal that we ate, in our pajamas, because we didn't have any guests this year.
My traditional Mennonite zwieback turned out better than last  time.

Ryan making his "Elf Boots" napkin folds

Napkin Close-up
The Centerpiece

The Table Set-up

Two of my guys

Our Christmas Eve Dinner

And of course all the baking...I had two 2am nights of baking in which I tried a couple of new sugar cookie recipes and found one that I love. I made Springerle for the first time- turned out OK. I also got it in my head that I was going to make apple strudel, from scratch. It turned out really well but I was a little apprehensive starting out. Google and YouTube were wonderful teachers. I do wish that I had taken a picture of it before it was gobbled up.

But I have promised myself that I will not be a perfectionist and I will not let this blog bog me down. I want it to remain fun, so I will not be back-tracking over the last month and trying to create all of those posts. Instead, I'll just say I was too busy living and doing all that stuff I love to have time to write about all of it. Kind of like taking pictures. I love to take pictures, lots and lots of pictures, but sometimes, when I forget my camera, it's kind of cool to just live the moment instead of trying to record everything. Sometimes it's more enjoyable that way.

So I'm jumping back in where I am. Off and running in the new year with so many ideas and things I want to do and try. Now that I have really committed myself to this process of producing my own food, and cooking from scratch for the health of my family, I figured I should set some goals for the coming year to help give me some direction as I move along this path. Here's what's coming up:

1. Plant a garden: Last year I finally managed to get in some berries. I planted 2 blueberries, 3 raspberries, 3 grapes, 1 blackberry, 3 hardy kiwi, and 3 rhubarb. Of those, 1 raspberry, 2 grapes, the blackberry, kiwis, and 1 rhubarb took. I also got in some lilac that I had wanted for a long time. I have an existing herb garden with sage, oregano, thyme, chocolate mint and lemon balm. (I plant basil and rosemary in pots each spring since I've never had luck with them indoors and they aren't hardy here.) Right now, with our house on the market and wanting to buy some land I'm not planning on replacing any of the lost plants, but I do want to make sure to put in a vegetable garden. I finally installed some stepped beds along the side of the house last fall and now that the holidays are over, I am anxiously awaiting weather that is warm enough to fill them up, using the square foot gardening method, with tomatoes, peppers, onion, peas, carrots, lettuce, and more. I also plan to use the easement along the back of our property to plant Seminole squash, regular and sweet potatoes in straw or loose mulch, and maybe some corn and pole beans.

2.  Bread: I've got my honey wheat sandwich bread to a place I'm happy with. Same goes for pretzels, biscuits, and sugar cookies, blueberry muffins and pancakes. I want to try sour dough and maybe some other artisan loaves. A good Italian Rosemary bread is on the list and I need to continue working on the original list of baking goals: croutons, pita/flat bread, bagels, quick breads, and carrot cake. Scones, baked donuts and cinnamon rolls are also on the list.

3. Cheese: Learn how to make it. I've made my own sour cream. Next is a whole milk Ricotta, and on from there. Hopefully by the end of the year, I can be on to some hard cheeses.

4. Yogurt and Kefir: Obtain cultures to make these myself.

5. Keep updating my cook book and trying new recipes. Work on consistently completing weekly menu plans and finding more healthy dishes that the kiddos will gobble up.

6. Obtain the necessary supplies and learn how to can all that fresh stuff that my garden WILL be producing. :)

7. Find a local orchard and go pick peaches and apples.

8. Get some mini citrus and banana plants that can be raised in pots and brought indoors during our Midwest winters. A Meyer lemon, dwarf guava, super dwarf Cavendish banana, and some sort of orange top this wish list. In conjunction with this I will have to pare down on my other house plants to make room.

9. In addition to paring down my inedible tropical plants, I desperately need to purge my craft room and finish several projects.

10. We purchased our first 1/2 hog this year and I am loving shopping in my freezer for delicious pork cuts. Next, I'd like to find a source for grass fed beef and purchase a portion for the freezer. Same goes for free-range chicken and eggs.

This year promises lots of adventures. Wish me luck!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Light Up the Dark Candles- Guest Post

Hi all! I've got a guest post today from a great guy that I had the privilege of setting up next to at a craft fair in Lawrence, KS last year. James Mowrey is a talented candle maker who makes all soy candles. This guy even does custom scents. I must have spent an hour just smelling all of the different candles he had to offer. They are amazing!

He has everything from the clean fresh scents of linen and coconut,

to delicious cinnamon apple or banana nut bread.

There are even barbecue, bacon, fresh buttered popcorn, or fresh cut
grass, and they all smell divine!

Try fudge brownie, peppermint, or coffee scents to wake you up; or fireside, or butt naked when it's time to snuggle up.

Here's what James has to say about why soy is better:

What are soy candles?
Soy candles are made from soy wax, which is hydrogenated soybean oil.
Soy wax was invented in 1992 by Michael Richards who was looking for a
cheaper alternative to beeswax. As he entered the candle industry he
realized there was a growing demand for natural wax candles. Soy wax
is often mixed with fragrances to produce scented soy candles. They
are available in supermarkets and specialty stores and can also be
bought online. It is also easy and very rewarding to make soy candles!

Advantages of soy candles:
Soy candles have to following advantages compared to paraffin wax candles:

Soy candles are cheap- Beeswax is a great natural alternative to
paraffin, but to get the same results as a soy-based candle, it is
very expensive. Soy wax is a new alternative to paraffin wax that is
cost effective. Soy wax is also made from a renewable source.

Soy wax is natural- Soy wax is a favorite of environmentally
conscious people because it is made from a renewable source and is not
made from petroleum. Burning soy candles does not increase the CO2
level in the atmosphere. However, some suppliers may add some
synthetic wax or paraffin to their soy wax to adjust its physical

Soy candles last longer- Some suppliers claim that soy candles can
last up to 50% longer than paraffin candles. And they do!

Soy wax spills are easy to clean- It's very difficult to remove
paraffin wax from furniture or textiles. Soy wax spills can easily be
cleaned up with hot soapy water.

Soy candles produce less soot - Soot should be avoided because it is
very unhealthy and can eventually coat furniture and walls. Soy
candles produce about 90% less soot than paraffin candles.

Scented soy candles distribute more flavor- The incorporation of
soybean oil lowers the melting point of the candle, which translates
into cooler burning candles and faster scent dispersion. The lower
melting point of soy wax results in a larger size of the liquid wax
pool around the candle wick. It is from this liquid wax pool that the
essential oils evaporate into the atmosphere.

To find descriptions of James's candles along with more mouth watering photos go to and click on the online store tab at the top. Candles ship nationwide. Make sure to like his facebook too so that you can find out where he might be attending his next craft show, where he usually offers a discount.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Better Than McDonalds Peppermint Mocha

And you don't even have to leave the house.

This doesn't quite qualify as a whole, real food, but it definitely would be in the once in a while decadent treat category! And you can make some choices that make it a whole lot healthier than the Micky D's version by using Nestle chocolate which is HFCS free, homemade whipped topping, and less sugar. You can find their ingredients here.

First, make a cup of good strong coffee. Add some warm, frothed milk if desired. (You can create the milk foam without an expensive steamer! There are little wands that will do the job, but I just use my French Press. Warm the milk, put it in the press and pump the handle up and down until the milk has turned into foamy decadence.) Add about 1/3rd of a candy cane. That's it! If you really want to make it a treat, you can add whipped cream and chocolate, but it's not really necessary. Enjoy!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Thanksgiving Recipe Round-up

Now that the frantic Black Friday shopping is over and the Christmas decorations are (almost) all up, I'm going to rewind a little bit and give you my Thanksgiving recipe round-up. This year we had an amazing, intimate Thanksgiving with just the kids. I cooked everything completely from scratch- not a single can, box, or frozen item was to be seen and I didn't even lose any sleep over it. Those who have attended my holiday celebrations in the past know that I frequently stay up nearly all night prepping, waiting for rolls to rise or bake or any other number of tasks deemed essential for the perfect holiday meal. This time I kept the menu simple, started three days ahead of time, and was able to really enjoy both the creation of the meal and the additional time spent with those I love.

Fresh turkey
Sour cream and garlic mashed potatoes
Sausage stuffing
Green beans
Cranberry sauce
Sliced bread
Pumpkin and Pecan Pies

For the Turkey, I purchased a fresh one and brined it for the first time. Here is an excellent tutorial on how to brine a turkey. I purchased a spice mix from World Market- this was my ONE convenience item. You can see it here. Other specialty stores sell brine mixes for nearly $20, this was on sale for only $4.99 and I figured I'd spend way more purchasing everything I needed separately, so in the interest of frugality, I decided it would be ok to fudge on just this one item.

Oops, a little blurry- looked clear on the camera. This is the brine.
Basically, the process of brining involves dissolving the spices in a gallon of water over the stove. Then after letting the mixture cool, you soak the Turkey in it over night. I declined to purchase the $7 brining bags that I came across, instead I simply used a clear, clean, tough, outdoor garbage bag, tied tight. I tried to set this in the roasting pan and then in the fridge, but the pan wouldn't fit no matter which way I turned it, so I just put the bag in and prayed. Luckily we had no leaks.

Turkey in the pan that wouldn't fit in the fridge.

For roasting I combined Alton Brown's recipe found here for the aromatics and Martha Stewart's butter and wine gravy recipe found here for flavoring on the outside. I soaked a cheese cloth in the butter and wine mixture and covered the turkey, then roasted for 30 minutes at 425 and finished at 350, removing the cheese cloth at the end so the turkey could turn nice and brown. Be careful with the excess butter and high temps.

Sour cream mashed potatoes are an every day favorite in our house and hubby is the potato expert. He just mashes them with milk, butter, salt, pepper, garlic powder, sour cream, and mayonnaise until it tastes right. When I do it, I like to run them through the food processor to make them extra smooth. These are so tasty they hardly need gravy.

Speaking of gravy, mine separated and was super salty from the brine. That still needs work...

The sausage stuffing was a combination of recipes found herehere, and in my local paper, the KC Star, in the November 20, 2011 issue in an article entitled "Stuff Yourself!" by Elizabeth Mitchell.

First, we must start with a corn bread. This recipe comes from the More-with-Less Cookbook by Doris Janzen Longacre.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Mix together:
     1 c. cornmeal
     1 c. flour (part or all whole wheat ok)
     4 t. baking powder
     1/2 t. salt
     2 T brown sugar
     1/2 c. dry milk powder (optional)
Make a well and add:
     2 beaten eggs
     1 c. milk
     1/4 c. oil
Stir just until smooth. Pour into a greased 9x9" pan and bake 25 minutes.

Then, we'll make the stuffing:

In a 10-12" skillet, brown:
     1 lb sausage
     1 med. onion
Wipe out the skillet, then add:
     2 T. olive oil
     2 c. chopped celery
     1-2 T. fresh sage
     1 t. fresh thyme (or 1/2 t. dried)
     1/2 c. fresh parsley
     1 t. fresh rosemary
Saute until just cooked. Meanwhile, crumble a 9x9 pan of corn bread and most of a loaf of homemade wheat bread (recipe found here). Add:
     1 3/4 c. chicken broth
     1/4 melted butter
     4 eggs, beaten
Toss in the sausage, onion, and contents of skillet. Place in a greased 9x13 casserole dish and bake at 350 for 25 min, covered, then another 15-20 minutes uncovered, until golden brown.

The Grean Beans came from the November 2010 issue of Good Housekeeping and were made that year by my mother-in-law who gave me the recipe.

2 T. olive oil
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 large onions, thinly sliced (I think I only used 1)
1 clove garlic, crushed
8 oz. cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
4 oz. shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded, thinly sliced (I found a mix that was only 4 oz total-worked fine)
3 lb fresh green beans, trimmed (I used 2)

Heat a covered sauce pot of water to boiling. Meanwhile, in a 12 in. skillet, heat oil on medium high. Add thyme and onions; cook 10-12 minutes or until browned and very tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in garlic and cook 1 minute. Add mushrooms and cook 5 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in 1/2 t. salt and 1/2 t. freshly ground black pepper. Remove and discard thyme.

Add green beans and 2 t. salt to boiling water. Cook, uncovered, 8-9 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Drain and rinse with cold water. If making ahead, transfer mushroom mixture to a medium bowl and beans to a resealable plastic bag. Refrigerate up to overnight.

When ready, return beans to sauce pot, add mushroom mixture, stirring to combine. Cook on medium until heated through, stirring occasionally.

The Cranberry Sauce is super easy. Just rinse a 12 oz bag of berries, removing any soft or bad ones, then add them to a lidded pot with 1 c. sugar and 1 c. orange juice. Boil until most of the berries have popped, stirring often. Serve warm or cool.

A good pie crust tutorial can be found here. I halve the salt to suite my own preference but it's good as is. I also used the video here, which gives some excellent technical info. This video gives you some good tips on rolling your pie dough and this one gives some neat ideas for decorating the edge of the crust.

My dad gave me some huge seminole squash that he grew this summer and told me that they are supposed to make excellent "Pumpkin" Pie. He couldn't have been more right! I used the recipe here, increasing the puree to 2 c. because the pie pictured looks a little flat. It turned out divine!

That squash is as big as my kitchen aid!
To make the puree, you can either peel, cut and steam the squash or pumpkin, then run it through the processor, or if you're lazy like me, just cut it in half, scrape out the seeds, then roast it at 350 in a pan, flat side down with 1/2 inch of water in the bottom. Once cool, just scoop it out of the skin into the food processor.

Puree from the Seminole squash. I saved the seeds to plant next year. Just rinse them and lay them on wax paper to dry for a week or so.

For the Dark Pecan Pie, I used Paula Dean's recipe found here, substituting cheap whiskey for the bourbon and 1/3 molasses with 2/3 light corn syrup for the dark corn syrup. So good.

Whipped cream is so very easy to make. Beat 1 cup of heavy whipping cream until soft peaks form, add   1 t. pure vanilla and 1 T. sugar. Continue to beat until desired consistency is reached. Don't over beat because it will become lumpy and more like butter.

Here is the schedule that allowed me to do all of this. The idea is to get as much of the prep done ahead of time so that you have as little as possible to do the day of.

Monday: This is my usual baking day, I made an extra loaf of my regular bread for the stuffing and to serve in lieu of rolls. I put it in the freezer after it had cooled so it would stay fresh.

Tuesday: Shopping day- went and picked up the turkey, brine, and fresh ingredients that I needed. My step-son was a HUGE help because he came along and helped with the baby man while I was in and out of stores. He also shelled most of the pecans that came from my mother-in-law's tree for the pie.

1. Take the sausage out of the freezer so it will be ready to brown tomorrow. (I forgot this step.)
2. Bake the corn bread
3. Make dough for the pie crusts and refrigerate
4. Make pumpkin puree
5. Brine the turkey
6. Go ahead and set the table
7. If you have time, you can also prep veggies (except potatoes), getting them trimmed, sliced and diced so they are ready to cook.
8. Make whipped cream
9. The pies are best baked the evening before, but can be done first thing the next morning. They'll need time to cool before serving.

Thursday: Everything else :)

I should also include our center piece since it was a huge part of the celebration. I put some bare sticks in a clear vase filled with pecans to stabilize them. Then, we cut leaf shapes out of scrapbook paper and had everyone secretly write about things that they are thankful for on at least three leaves. During dinner, we took turns guessing what everyone had written. There were certainly some gems. We all got some good laughs and there were some very sweet moments as well.

This list will be invaluable to me when next year rolls around, making it super easy to put on the traditional meal, no planning needed! Hopefully it will provide you with some inspiration and ideas for your own family traditions. Now, on to Christmas!

This post is linked at the Monday's Homestead BarnhopFat Tuesday, Domestically Divine Tuesday, and Frugally Sustainable

Saturday, November 12, 2011

We cut the cable!

Yesterday began our TV experiment. We have cut the cable! Yes, you read that right, with two boys ages 8 and 10 who love to watch cartoon network and a little one just beginning to show interest in Nick Jr., we have decided to cut the line. We aren't going completely TV free. We still will have the local channels only because they were free with our new internet connection, and we have Netflix streaming and are considering Hulu Plus. We may have come to this decision eventually but were forced to consider our options after our relationship with AT&T U-Verse went sour. Without going into the whole sordid story, after several years of service, somehow the cables that they used to install the boxes suddenly were no longer compatible and we would either have to pay $275 for them to rewire everything, or we could cancel and sign back up as new customers, but after the introductory period, for the same service we were currently receiving, we would be paying about $40 more per month. After researching our options and considering just how much we were spending every month, bearing in mind the few channels that were actually enjoyed with any regularity, and the quality of some of the shows that the older kids were becoming fond of, we decided it was a good time to go cold turkey. As unbelievable as it may sound, even though I am the one who is diving into the whole homesteading, self-sustainable, minimalist, etc, etc life-style, it took some convincing from my husband to give this a try. And even though I barely watch any television myself, I still had a hard time with the idea of cutting the chord, mostly because I was concerned about how the kids would react. So far, so good, but it's only been a day and they have certainly expressed their feelings about the situation. But when hubby mentioned taking advantage of the lack of zombie time in front of the TV to spend more time together and the $1000 dollars a year saved that could be used toward the trips that we love to take, how could I say no?

For good concise articles offering more reasons to cut the chord, click here and here.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Pork Chops and Bread Crumbs

Last night I made the pork chop recipe found here. Yes, I love! They were absolutely delicious!! I followed the instructions as written with the exception of doubling the sauce using one can cream of mushroom and one of golden mushroom as recommended in the reviews. I also sauteed fresh mushrooms in the pan after frying the chops and just added the rest of the sauce ingredients, warming it on top of the stove, and never added it to the baking pan. We ended up with way too much sauce- I only did four chops instead of six- even though we used some in lieu of gravy for our mashed potatoes. I plan to freeze it and use it over chicken in the crock pot some other night for a quick dinner. I think in addition to the yummy sauce, what really made this a stand out recipe was the homemade bread crumbs that I used. I've been steadily saving the crumbles that are left after slicing my loaves each week and had about a cups worth in the freezer which was more than enough. I added some Italian seasoning to it since the recipe called for Italian bread crumbs and I think it worked perfectly. If you don't already have some handy, making bread crumbs is beyond easy. Just leave a couple slices out on the counter for an hour, then break them up and blend them in the blender or food processor until the desired consistency is reached. Experiment with adding seasoning after or while blending and using already seasoned herb breads. There are so many possibilities!

Monday, November 7, 2011


Ok, here it is, what you've all been waiting for, da, dadada, da da daaaaa...I have perfected a homemade sandwich loaf! No trans fats, no preservatives, no high fructose corn syrup. Just fresh from the oven (well, weekly at least) homemade goodness. I'm sure there are those that have done this before me, but I feel like I can honestly call this recipe all my own. I must credit the original recipe that I started with. You can find it here. I made several changes to suit my own tastes and relied heavily on input from reviewers on the original site. I've found that this bread lasts at least a week in a plastic bag and holds together perfectly as a sandwich. Without further ado...

(Pic to come!)

Honey Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread
Makes 2 loaves

Start with:
2 ½ c. water, 110 degrees Fahrenheit
3 teaspoons active dry yeast
¼ c. honey
3 c. white or regular whole wheat flour 

Mix with paddle mixer or wood spoon until well blended and let sit for 20-30 minutes until puffy

2 Tablespoons melted butter or olive oil
1/8 c. additional honey or molasses
2 teaspoons salt
2 Tablespoons vital wheat gluten 
Additional unbleached bread flour until dough cleans sides of mixer (approximately 2 1/2 cups).

Knead 8-10 minutes on low until the dough is smooth. Or knead by hand. (I like to finish 1-2 minutes by hand after my mixer has done it's job.)

At the end, if desired, add about 1/2-1 cup total steel cut oats, milled flax, chopped sunflower and/or chopped walnuts, millet, etc. Knead just until mixed. Place in a large, lightly greased bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise about an hour, until the dough has approximately doubled. 

Punch down. Divide with a sharp knife and shape into loaves. Place the loaves in greased pans, cover again with plastic wrap and let rise until it tops the pan by 1”. (I generally remove the plastic toward the end for about the last 15 minutes to allow the dough to really poof.)

Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes. Rub tops with a stick of butter while still hot and remove from the pan as soon as it's cool enough to handle. 

Note: If adding seeds, I recommend kneading by hand after adding them. I almost burned up my mixer because the dough became too heavy.

Note 2: Vital wheat gluten is what makes this a perfect sandwich bread. It helps the heavy whole wheat rise better and gives it that soft texture that helps it hold together for sandwiches. It can be reduced or omitted for a slightly hardier loaf.

Note 3: Although NOT slicing the entire loaf before storing can help it last a little longer, I find it's just so much easier to have it sliced and in the pantry ready to use. So I slice it up and store it in a gallon size Ziplock. Works perfectly for us. :)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A little Halloween Fun and Biscuit Success!

This year for Halloween we joined forces with some friends to build a haunted yard. We spent most of the day before Halloween at their home enjoying a pot luck barbecue and carving pumpkins while the guys set up, then headed back over on Halloween night for trick-or-treating. I had a little extra fun with the dishes I brought.
Potato Salad with Grated Carrot and Radish Eyeballs

Fruit Punch
For the potato salad, I just made a standard salad with mustard and mayo then added grated carrots and radish for extra color. The eyeballs are partially pealed radishes with holes dug out to fit a lifesaver and some mini chocolate chips in the center. I've seen these done with olives too but I just used what I had on hand. Tip: If you're going to add radish to your potato salad, do so sparingly. It was very strong.

For the punch I mixed a can of orange juice and a can of lemonade concentrate then used a bit of the mix to cook tapioca beads, adding more as it started to gel in the pan. Once the tapioca was cooked, I added a few drops each of green and red food coloring and put the whole lumpy gelatinous goop into the orange juice and lemonade mix. To that I added a two liter bottle of sprite, several sour patch straws (or gummy worms), Swedish fish, and three large scoops of rainbow sherbet and voila, I had Putrid Pond Water Punch, complete with worms and fish eggs.  I assure you that although it looks absolutely disgusting, its tart lemon flavor is delicious.

Aaand last but not least, I made some pretty darn good biscuits today! The recipe can be found here. I reduced the salt to 1/2 teaspoon and replaced all of the shortening with real butter. Some of them were a little lopsided but overall they rose nicely and had a glorious buttery flavor. Another recipe I've looked at uses an extra 1/2 cup flour and 1/3 cup milk. I might try that next time just to see what happens. For our Halloween breakfast, I also made these, but cooked them in muffin tins. I made and indention in each before baking and filled that with cubed ham and cheese and called them Halloween Blobs. I have been told they must go on the regular breakfast menu rotation. Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture before they got gobbled up.

Update*** Check out these beauties. I added the extra flour and milk, plus an additional approximately 2 tablespoons of flour because the dough was too soft to work with. They are still a little lopsided, but these are the softest, biggest biscuits yet. Definitely found a keeper! The original recipe can be found here. Below the picture you'll find my version.

2 cups plus approximately 2 tablespoons- 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 T baking powder
3/4 t. salt
1 T white sugar
1/3 c. COLD butter
1 c. milk

Whisk together dry ingredients, cut in butter with a pastry blender or fingers then add milk. Press or roll out dough to about 3/4 inch thick and cut with a large biscuit cutter. Work the dough as little as possible. Repeat until all the dough is used. Bake at 425 for 13-15 minutes. Enjoy 100% trans-fat free giant jumbo buttery goodness. Makes about half a dozen.

I also captured a picture of the so called blobs. These are a great portable breakfast with a little bit of protein! I wonder how they'd taste with some cream cheese on them.

PS. Notice my new baking sheets? I got two at Walmart. It's the Nordic Ware "Natural Commercial Bakeware" and they cost me just over $10 each. Here's a link to the same thing on Amazon. The rolled lip keeps them from warping in the hot oven. They clean up easily and bake like a dream. I've only used them twice, for the biscuits and for a batch of pumpkin spiced cookies, but so far, I really, really like them! I will need at least a couple more before I embark on my annual Christmas baking extravaganza. These replaced my cheapo flat sheets that I discarded after my last biscuit baking catastrophe that ended with the use of the kitchen fire extinguisher.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Bread Results

I have finally managed a nice full size loaf, and the added grains are wonderful. The extra gluten allowed the plain wheat loaf to rise beautifully. The grain loaf, where I added milled flax and steal cut oats after the first rise, didn't do as well. I don't know if it was the extra kneading necessary to add the grain or the grain itself. These are wonderfully smooth loaves perfect for sandwich making. I must say that I do like a heartier flavor in my bread; that's one of the things that makes baking your own bread so great. For the kids who are used to store bought wheat bread though, this will be a perfect and oh so much healthier substitute. I think I will keep a pre-cut loaf in the freezer for the children's lunches; using it frozen in the morning since it will easily defrost by lunch time, and at the same time help keep other things in the lunch cold. I have not attempted this as 100% whole wheat yet. It's about half and half unbleached bread flour and whole wheat, but I think it should work fine. I'm going to pick up some King Arthur's white whole wheat and see what happens with that. King Arthur's seems to be reputed to be a very good flour for yeast breads. Meanwhile, I will keep experimenting to find something that will satisfy my husband's and my desire for a something a little more hearty. I'm going to wait to share the recipe because I'd still like to tweak it a little in an effort to make it a smoother process with measurements that will be easy to remember so that when one is attempting as I am to quit buying store bought bread, it is a simple procedure to whip up a couple of loaves once or twice a week without pulling out any cook books and without dirtying every measuring instrument you own. Clean up is my least favorite part of the baking process and the less I have to do the better.