i did it — homemade bread that actually worked

When I was growing up, all the cool kids had Wonderbread.  My family, not so much.  We had homemade wheat bread.  Ugh — how could my mom do that to us?  Didn’t she know the social ramifications?

Fast forward more years that I care to admit, and I’m sending my own kids off to school with their whole wheat bread.  Most of the time, I buy my bread from Alpine Valley Bakery.  Twice a week, all of their breads go on sale for a dollar a loaf.  I kid you not — even their organic bread.  Yeah, I don’t think I can make it for that price.  That being said, there is nothing like a piece of warm bread right out of the oven, and I’m pretty sure that bread is going to taste even better after the poop hits the fan and bread from a store is just a distant memory, but I digress, back to the bread.

One of the reasons I haven’t made bread more often is because I never seemed to get it quite right.  Everyone said it was good, but I wanted better than good.  I wanted super good.  Guess what?  I finally got it right thanks to The Well Floured Kitchen.  Oh how I love this blog.  I could go on and on, but I won’t.  Just visit, I promise you’ll love it.

It’s not exactly how she did it, but she’s way cooler than I am.  I couldn’t seem to get my loaves all nice and pretty like hers or have cool cuts across the tops.  I’m okay with that though.  Maybe one day, I’ll try again, but for now, here’s what I do.

a little bit of bread

Yummy Whole Wheat Bread

6 cups (1lb, 8 oz) white whole wheat flour (I grind my own, but King Arthur’s is good as well)

1 tablespoon yeast

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon organic sugar or honey

2 cups water

If you are using regular active dry yeast, you will need to start by proofing it.  Do this by adding the yeast and 1 teaspoon of your sugar to 1 cup of warm water.  Let it sit for five minutes.

While the sugar and yeast are getting all cozy, place the flour, the rest of the sugar, and salt in a heavy duty stand mixer (hopefully, we’ll still have electricity even though the grocery stores are empty).  Per the tips from the original recipe, I’ve been weighing my flour rather than using measuring cups.  I really think this has made a huge difference — not sure why, but there it is.  If you are using instant yeast, you can just throw everything into the mixer.

Once the yeast has been proofed add and the yeast mixture and the second cup of water to your mixer.  I use the paddle just to mix things around and then let it rest for about fifteen minutes.  Switch over to the dough hook and knead for five minutes.

Once it’s done kneading, I pull the dough out and do a quick wipe down of the mixing bowl with olive oil, just so the dough doesn’t stick as it’s rising.  Put the dough back in the bowl and cover it with a damp towel or plastic wrap, and let it rise for about an hour.  It should double in size.

Punch it down and form into two nice loaves.  I put mine in bread pans, but you can also do round loaves and make it look all fancy.

Cover, and let it rise again for about an hour.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Bake for 10 minutes and then lower the temperature to 375 degrees and bake for 20 more minutes, or until it has an internal temperature of 200 degrees.  This is another tip that I got from Well Floured Kitchen.

There you go.  Pretty easy and oh so good.  You can tell from the picture.  I gave one loaf away and before I knew it, this was all that was left, and I didn’t have time to bake some more.  Sorry.

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a super yummy ranch dressing (that isn’t a total pain to make)

I’ve been meaning to post about this for a while, but I had to get my courage up.  You see I’m an Aggie — a Utah State Aggie to be precise.  Here’s the fam on top of the famous USU True Aggie A on our most recent trip to the motherland.  ImageAs an Aggie, I can’t like anything about Brigham Young University, but I have to say, BYU Creamery’s ranch dressing is pretty darn good.  Thanks to Jillee from One Good Thing, we can now make it at home (and no one will know our association with BYU). 

You mix the spices up ahead of time so you basically have a quick and easy alternative to the ranch in a bottle you get from the shelf which is kind of scary.

ImageRanch Dressing Mix

1/4 cup black pepper

1 1/2 cup parsley flakes

1/2 cup garlic salt

2 tablespoons salt (I like Real Salt, holy cow is it good)

1/4 cup granulated garlic

3/4 cup granulated onion

2 tablespoons dill weed

Combine and store in an airtight container.  It will make about 3 and 1/2 cups of mix.  It will last FOREVER.  Trust me, we eat a lot of salad and I’m still working on my first container.

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Ranch Dressing

1 and 1/2 cups mayonnaise (click here for a really good homemade recipe)

1 cup sour cream

1 cup buttermilk (Don’t keep buttermilk on hand, me either, put 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar in a measuring cup and fill to the cup line with milk.  Let it sit for 5 minutes and you’re good to go.)

1 teaspoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons ranch dressing mix

Wisk together and refrigerate for a couple of hours.  Makes a quart.

Play around with the amount of milk you use.  The original recipe calls for almost twice as much milk, but I found it just a tad too runny for me.  Hope you enjoy. 

Mango-Blueberry Breakfast Couscous

The two little guys would eat oatmeal for breakfast every day if I made it.  I like oatmeal and all, but not quite that much.  One of my favorite alternatives is this mango-blueberry couscous recipe I clipped out of the paper years ago (yeah, the paper — I just totally dated myself — does anyone read the newspaper anymore?)  You can make the mix ahead or just throw everything in the pot all at the same time.  Start to finish it’s about 10 minutes — less if you mix the dry ingredients up ahead of time. 

ImageBlueberry-Mango Breakfast Couscous

1 cup whole wheat couscous

2 tablespoons brown sugar

3/4 teaspoons cinnamon

1/4 cup slivered almonds (or whatever nuts you like, walnuts are super good as well)

1/4 cup dried blueberries

1/4 cup chopped dried mango

1 cup water

1/2 cup milk

In a medium bowl (or pot if you’re making it right away), combine dry ingredients.  Mix thoroughly.  Store in an airtight container until ready to use.

Combine the dry mix with water and milk.  Heat, stirring occasionally until it comes to boil.  Cover and remove from heat.  Let stand for 5 minutes.  Fluff it up with a fork and serve.  Makes about 4 servings or 1 if Thomas is really hungry (you think I’m kidding). 

I used to just eat it as is, but as of late, I’ve been pouring a little milk on top.  It’s good both ways.  Here are before and after pictures to prove it.

Thomas’ bowl.

ImageThree minutes later.

ImageYes, I spawned a human vacuum.

 

the great cookie debate

Last week, I posted my chocolate chip pumpkin cookie recipe.  You can see it here.  I thought, they were okay, healthy tasting, but good enough to share.  Well, that evening, Greg popped a few in his mouth and said, “These aren’t that good.”  (Don’t fret, it was said in a nice way, and I actually like it when he tells me something isn’t good — why would I want to spend time and effort to make something that no one likes.)  Anyway, I felt really bad for posting something that was yucky.  Then Taryn came in, grabbed a cookie and said, “These are so good.”  And the great cookie debate began.

We still don’t have a definitive answer on whether or not these are actually good — as of this morning, all five dozen are gone, so they couldn’t have been that bad.  But, I do feel the need to apologize to anyone that made them and thought they weren’t that great.  Sorry to waste your pumpkin and chocolate chips.  To redeem myself, I offer you another pumpkin recipe.  And this is really good — it was universally approved — no bake cheesecake graham cracker sandwiches.

I found the recipe at The Well Floured Kitchen.  I’m in love with this blog.  She is super cool and makes her own graham crackers.  I had some nasty store bought ones left over from making smores with the cub scouts, so I used those.  They were still wonderful, but I’m excited to go totally Martha and make the graham crackers — next time.  But for now, here you go.

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No Bake Cheesecake Graham Cracker Sandwiches

1/4 cup pumpkin puree (just pumpkin, not the pie filling stuff)

4 oz. cream cheese softened

2 tablespoons organic sugar

1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (or a little more if you like)

graham crackers

Mix the cream cheese and sugar.  Add the remaining ingredients and mix. 

Spread on your graham crackers and make sandwiches — sorry, there’s not much else to say other than if your cream cheese mixture seems a little too soft, put it in the fridge for a bit.

These things are so yummy.  In fact, I need to wrap this up so I can go make some more.  Enjoy.

pumpkin chocolate chip cookies

In theory, it’s fall; although, it was 95 degrees here yesterday.  Regardless of the temperature, whenever I think of fall, I think of pumpkin.  I was a pumpkin lover long before pumpkin was cool, and I still love it.  These cookies are fast and easy and satisfy even my pumpkin cravings.  I have to warn you, they’re pretty healthy as far as cookies go, and they kind of taste that way.  The good news is, you can eat them without much angst.

ImagePumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 cup organic sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar (lightly packed)

1/2 cup coconut oil

1/2 cup butter

1 cup canned pumpkin (just pumpkin, not the pie stuff)

1 tsp vanilla

1 egg

2 cups whole wheat flour

1/4 cup ground flax seeds

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon

1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Beat sugars, butter, and oil until light and fluffy (I whip them for about 3 minutes in my stand mixer).  Add pumpkin, vanilla, and egg; blend well.  Add dry ingredients and mix.  Stir in chocolate chips.  Drop dough by rounded teaspoons on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Bake for 10 minutes or until light brown around the edges.  Makes 4-5 dozen depending on how round your teaspoonfuls are and how many tastes everyone takes as you’re making them.

Serve with a little apple cider and holy cow, what a fun fall treat. 

are you a little nutty?

I am in more ways than one, but in this case, I am talking about a nut lover — pecans, walnuts, macadamias, not so much peanuts, but everything else — yum.  Several years ago, one of my sisters introduced me to those super delicious cocoa-almonds.  Oh, talk about bliss, and then I learned all about sucralose.  Boo, so much for my love affair.  That is until a couple of weeks ago when I happened along this recipe from Stacy at stacymakescents.com.  No sucralose and made in a crockpot.  That’s about as good as it gets I tell you.  She has a pretty detailed tutorial, but if you just want it straight, here you go.

ImageCocoa Almonds

2 cups almonds

2 tablespoons butter

1/8 teaspoon stevia (or 1/3 cup sugar — I haven’t tried it with sugar, just fyi)

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 to 2 tablespoons cocoa powder

dash or dashes of salt (depending on your preference)

Combine almonds, stevia, vanilla, cocoa, and salt in a crock pot.  Mix well.  Slice the butter up and place on top of the nuts.  Turn the crock pot onto high, put the lid on, and walk away.  In an hour, stir.  Walk away for another 30 minutes.  Stir one more time and then place nuts on wax paper to cool. 

All done.  Super easy and good.  Even Thomas loves them, and he wants nothing to do with almonds.

I will give you a little heads up.  If you’re not used to stevia, you’ll be able to taste it.  It’s sweet, but not quite like sugar.  After I ate like three cups, I couldn’t even tell it was there.  Just kidding, I only ate about a cup.  Seriously, they’re that good.  Hope you enjoy.

cookie time

We’ve gone more than a whole week without temperatures topping 100 degrees, so I felt pretty safe in turning on the oven.  Number one on my list of things to make were these gingerbread cookies I spied on Christmas Your Way.  They are so soft and yummy.  The secret ingredient — cream cheese.  Never would have thought of that.  I followed the recipe exactly, with the exception of substituting freshly ground whole wheat flour for the white flour.  No one around here seemed to mind the healthy revision.  They were a huge hit.

ImageSoft Gingerbread Cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened

2 ounces cream cheese, softened

3/4 cup brown or coconut sugar

1/4 cup molasses

1 egg

1 tablespoon water

2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons cinnamon

3 teaspoons ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine butter, sugar, and cream cheese.  Mix until smooth and creamy — I let my kitchen aid do it’s thing for about 3-4 minutes.  Add the molasses, egg and water and mix until combined.

In another bowl, combine the remaining ingredients.

Mix the wet and dry ingredients together.

Shape into two inch balls and place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  I just used a 1 1/2 inch cookie scoop and and just filled it really well. 

Bake for 10-12 minutes.  (This is what the original recipe called for.  My oven is really hot, so I only baked them for about 8 minutes).  After taking them out, let them rest on the pan for a minute or two before moving them to a cooling rack. 

This batch made just shy of three dozen cookies.  Had I really wiped the bowl clean and not snuck a few tastes, I probably would have gotten a full three dozen. 

As I was typing, I thought I had better double check and make sure these were good as I remembered them, so I ate one.   (I tell you, the sacrifices I make for this blog.)  I have to say, they are even better today than they were yesterday when I made them. 

Enjoy. 

don’t you just love pancakes (part 1)

Seriously, they are so yummy.  I don’t think I know anyone that doesn’t like them.  This is actually going to be a two part post.  It may seem backwards, but I’m going to start with what goes on top first because that’s just the way it worked out this time due to my lack of planning.  I know, it’s a familiar song.  Anyway, syrup, mmm, syrup.

001

We like our sweets around here and syrup is no exception.  Syrup however gets a little tricky for us.  While we like our sweets, we also like to be as natural as possible.  As much as I would like to use only pure maple syrup, it’s simply not going to happen because of its cost.  Although, if you can swing it, I highly recommend it.  Man is it good.  A sweet friend brought some back from Ohio for us and wow.  Anyway, after looking at the ingredients on the fakey stuff in the store, I knew I could come up with something better.

Turns out, making syrup is super easy, and now, it’s the only way to go for us.

Homemade Pancake Syrup

1 cup water

2 cups organic sugar

1 tsp maple flavoring (again, this in not ideal, but it’s still better than the high fructose corn syrup laden stuff you get in the store)

Bring water to a boil.  Add sugar and turn down heat.  Using a wisk, stir until sugar completely dissolves.  Patience, my friend, patience.  If you are using white sugar it goes pretty fast, but with unrefined organic sugar, expect to stir for at least a few minutes.  Add flavoring and stir again until mixed.  Grab your pancakes and pour away.

Super easy.  The fun part of making your own syrup is that you can change the flavor.  Don’t want to go with anything imitation — add pure vanilla or almond extract.  Yesterday, I had this awesome idea to try and make apple pie syrup.  (It’s the bottle in the middle, vanilla is on the left, and maple is on the right).  It’s tastes great on my finger, if it tastes as good on pancakes, I’ll share the recipe.

Enjoy.

a little snack for the road

I was trying to think of something snappy to call regular old trail mix for the title of this post, but I’m pretty sure I failed.  It’s cub scout day though, so you’ll have to forgive me.  Not a lot of spare time around here today to come up with creative titles.  Yes, I could plan a little better, but that’s another lesson for another post. 

ImageAnyway, back to trail mix.  My kids love peanuts are raisins, but I wanted them to branch out and add some other healthy snacks to their list or what they will eat — seeds to be specific.  So one day I made a batch of trail mix.  It was met with mixed reviews.  The peanuts and raisins were gone as were the chocolate chips I added, but many of the seeds were left behind.  Over time, less and less was left over, and now pretty much everything is eaten except for the occasional almond. 

The thing I love most about trail mix is that there is no set recipe.  I can throw in whatever I have on hand.  Here are my most common elements — peanuts, almonds, raisins, dried cranberries, dried blueberries, dried mango (cut up in small pieces), pumpkin seeds, raw sunflower seeds, unsweetened dried coconut (the really big flakes), and semi-sweet chocolate chips.  Yesterday I tossed in some white chocolate chips just for ducks, and it turned out to be a really fun addition.  Truth be told, I go pretty light on the chocolate — just enough to make it feel like a treat. 

Image

I don’t really have a set amount for everything.  I tend to go heavier on the peanuts and raisins because as I said the kids like them (and they’re way cheaper), but whatever floats your boat works.  I’d love some ideas as to what you would add.  Happy trails.

whole wheat cranberry lemon biscuits

Every once in a while you come across a recipe that you have to make right now it looks so good.  So it was with this recipe I found at Schneider Peeps.  Holy cow, these biscuits are so incredibly tasty and wonderfully easy to make.  I do have to mention that since they are made with whole wheat flour they will taste “healthy.”  If your family is just starting out on a healthier eating lifestyle, you may want to do half whole wheat flour, half white flour.  The whole wheat flour wasn’t an issue for us — obviously because we ate the entire batch in a day (mind you there were only four of us home).

ImageWhole Wheat Cranberry Lemon Biscuits

1 ½ tbsp freshly grated lemon zest (or 2 tbsp dried zest)
2 ½ – 3 cups freshly ground whole wheat flour
½ cup evaporated cane juice (sugar)
1 tbsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
6 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 ¼ cups fresh or frozen cranberries, chopped
1 egg
½ cup milk
 
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
 
Mix 2 1/2 cups flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, butter and zest together until the mixture resembles course meal.  Just a couple of notes — One, I used a fork, but I think after making these, I’m going to purchase a biscuit cutter.  Two, I made these on a whim and didn’t have any lemons so I used 10 drops of lemon essential oil (make sure you use one that is food grade, many are not).  Mix in cranberries until they are coated.
 
In another bowl, lightly beat egg and add milk.   
 
Add liquid to dry mixture and combine.   
 
If mixture is too wet, add a little more flour. 
 
Drop by spoonfuls onto lightly greased cookie sheet or cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  I highly recommend parchment paper.  I just started using it a year or so ago and I LOVE it.  No sticking and clean up is a snap. 
 
Bake for 15-20 minutes, until lightly browned. 
 
Makes about two dozen.
 
Mmm.  I can’t wait to make these again.  I’m thinking if you wanted to make them truly decadent, you could swirl a little lemon glaze on them.  I’ll update when I try it.