Wednesday, February 15, 2017

a little more bread talk

If you wish to take your bread baking to a new level, allow me to introduce to you to Mr. Peter Reinhart. 

“Peter Reinhart is the Leonardo da Vinci of bread; his recipes are foolproof, his research exhaustive and yet a delight to read and follow, and his hunger for knowledge and technique is boundless and infinite. He is without a doubt the definitive source of true style and information when it comes to all things baked and delicious, and my go-to guy for all things leavened and sandwichable”
--Mario Batali, author of Molto Italiano


I have his book Artisan Breads Every Day in my possession. I love it. It is filled with detailed instructions, time saving techniques all accompanied with beautiful, full color photos throughout that will make you salivate. 

One of my favorite recipes from this book is The Best Biscuits Ever.  I never cared much for biscuits until I made these. I can serve my family pretty much any kind of soup as long as I pair it with these amazing biscuits.

He has numerous other bread baking books that I would love to read sometime.  

He co-authored a book just for those who are interested in gluten free and sugar free baking.

My friend Gina has compiled a wealth of information on bread making on her blog. I didn't realize that she was a student of Peter Reinhart until today when I did a google search on reviews for his biscuit recipe. She has covered the bases well. I'm anxious to go back and learn more from her in the future.

My mom is the one who first introduced me to Peter Reinhart. The only book of his that I have in my possession came to me as a gift from her.

Let me just say she is quite an amazing bread baker herself. I am sure that I've learned more from her than anyone else about bread baking.  It is not unusual to be served some kind of new and tasty bread if you are privileged to enjoy a meal at her table. 

She is also a good teacher. I think she enjoys sharing her expertise with others, though not in the cyber world. :) 

I don't claim to be a good teacher myself, but boy....am I ever proud of this son of mine who took over my bread baking position this past summer. 



I knew that he really had progressed beyond simply following the recipe the day that he came to me with his dough and said "mom, I think I got this dough just right....feel it". And I pressed my finger into the most perfect texture ever.

Yes. He has the touch. I can count on him to produce nearly perfect loaves of french bread when he is in the kitchen.

Unfortunately, he is back to being a scholar for the winter months and I'm back to being the primary bread baker at this house.



 I will conclude by sharing my mom's famous french bread recipe, which also happens to be the bread recipe that Nicholas likes best.

MY MOM'S FAMOUS (NEVER FAIL) FRENCH BREAD

2 T. yeast
2 T. sugar
2 T. Crisco
2 t. salt
2.5 c. hot water
5-6 (give or take a little) flour.

Mix ingredients together in order given in your *Kitchen Aid mixer. Once ingredients are thoroughly combine use the dough hook to knead the dough for 3-5 min. Add flour until the dough no longer sticks to the edges of bowl. Allow to rest until doubled in size. Punch down and divide dough into two long loaves. Place loaves on a greased cookie sheet.  Lightly score the loaves as you wish.  Brush with a mixture of one beaten egg and 2 T. milk. Let rise. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 min.

This recipe yields 2 large loaves of bread.


*I'm sorry if you do not have a Kitchen Aid. I love mine.

Friday, February 10, 2017

My secret to keeping 8 people satisfied at meal time

Sometimes I think about turning my blog into some kind of foodie blog.

You know, delivering new and amazing daily recipes along with detailed photographic tutorials.

Then I realize that there are 444,444,444 other food blogs on the web.

And when I actually browse other food blogs I realize that I'm not as much of a foodie as what I once thought I was.

I'm actually a bit too practical to be a true foodie.

 I love food. True.

I love preparing food.  { mostly true}

1. As long as it doesn't take TOO long.

2. As long as my family not only approves but can't stop eating the food I prepare.

VERY. VERY TRUE.

So. I have this little trick that I am going to share with you for ensuring 100% satisfaction from your family no matter what dish is set before them.
















B. R. E. A. D.

Yes. I said 'bread'.

 If  just the mere thought of carbs  causes your state of consciousness to be altered  in a negative way then you may be better off not reading the rest of this post.

But to the rest of you, Learn to make good bread.

















Your family will forgive a multitude of culinary experiments and mistakes if you consistently provide unlimited quantities of fresh bread and real butter.

Now it is important that you learn how to bake several different kinds of  bread so that your family will not quickly catch on to your trick.

I'm going to share two of my favorites today.
















This first recipe is what I call  European bread even though the site I've linked here  calls it something more boring like 'no knead bread'.

If you've ever traveled or lived in a European country you will never think about or experience bread in the same way again.

There was a reason that I gained weight during my first extensive stay in Europe. I couldn't stay away from the  bread.

This recipe is perfect for when you're out of nearly every ingredient in the house except for flour and water.

While this recipe is super simple to mix up, it does require some advance planning as it requires extensive rising time.

This bread is perfect served with soup.

A slice of this bread toasted is just flat amazing.

What gives this bread its special European twist ( the super crunchy crust but soft  interior) is the long resting period, the high baking temp. and the water bath.

My family of 8 has been known to eat an entire loaf of this bread in one setting. That was the time of course when they each ate like 2 teaspoons of the entree.

















These Honey Rolls are a close runner up to the European bread here at our house.

I love these because they're so stinking easy to mix up.

You may have noticed by now that I do not like to knead bread.

In fact, I don't like to even get my mixer out.

I am not sure why but I really get a kick out of mixing ingredients together by hand.

Anyway, folks (my family included) always rave over these rolls.

I slather them with honey butter before and after baking them.

I usually whip up some extra honey butter to serve with them at meal time.
















So. When all else fails..............bake a loaf of bread.


*please accept my apologies for not having the correct photos to go with the recipes I shared today. The pictures are of another one of my all time favorite bread recipes.


Friday, January 20, 2017

color

When you're not sure if you're staring at your light grey bedroom wall or looking out the window...

When you look at the horizon and cannot tell where the sky meets the land because there is so little color variation...

When you walk outside and realize that the weather actually feels even MORE formidable than it looks...

When it's going on a week of this kind of overcast weather...

It is time to go on a color hunt.

What a feast for my color starved eyes.













Thursday, December 22, 2016

a simple Christmas

I am a simple woman who loves simple things.

Complex ideas and complicated patterns make me break out in a cold sweat.

Glitz and glam and bling ??  Nah. I'll pass.

My simplicity affects my seasonal decor as well.

My two criteria for decorating are:

1. keep it natural
2. keep it simple

I promise you, I have enough chaos in my life without multi-colored lights blinking or Hallmark snowmen who dance while singing cute Christmas songs.

Here's my Christmas decorations for this year.  I hope my simple arrangements will inspire you to go out and gather some pine and open your cupboards to look for the cloves.  Oh. Don't forget the glue gun.




The scent of the cloves, cedar, cranberries and pine is just intoxicating.


Popcorn strings can be time consuming but I bet you have some old popcorn hiding in the corner of your cupboard somewhere. I personally think that popcorn chains are incredibly charming. The really cool thing about them is that you can take them outdoors and hang them in a tree to feed the birds once you're through with using them for decoration.




My daughter and I  created these baby wreaths to use for name tags at our Lehman family gathering. Again, we used items from around the house and cedar trimmings to create these babies. Our biggest investment was time.

A bit more on the time consuming part of some of my decor...I actually value creating things with my hands that take enough time to slow my heart and mind into a restful rhythm. I often pull one or several children into the process. This is where an artsy 12 year old daughter comes in really, really handy. She truly is the one who transforms many of my brainstorms into reality.

I re-purposed the wreaths after the family gathering to create some Christmas greeting cards.  See...that time investment was not all in vain.


I have  recently become a clip board fanatic. This is a super simple way to change out seasonal decor. You can either create your own art or find an online printable and SHAZAM......you have a new look!





Baby Jesus is represented around our house at a number of different places by various nativities. My little ones have come to love the tradition of wrapping this very life like doll in white cloth and placing him in our manger, which  is a crate. Baby Jesus gets lots of tender loving care, especially by the little girls in my house.


There you have it.


My {simple} Christmas tour.



Tuesday, November 29, 2016

December- a month for giving



It's a dilemma I face every year...

How to make the holidays a special time for the family without fostering a consumerist and selfish attitude.

I have been shocked and appalled at how quickly my children  become engrossed with their own Christmas wish list.

My mom has reminded me that this is natural for children and I shouldn't become overly concerned immediately. It's not fair to give them presents and expect them  not to be dancing with excitement as they anticipate what lies hidden under the pretty paper.

I also remind myself that children really are just miniature adults who live uninhibited.  That thought makes my neck and ears burn crimson. What are my children internalizing from me??

In the same breath, it's been a joy to see them labor long in thought over creating or buying just the right present another family member.

This year we are actually forgoing our usual family gift exchange since we're trying to save money for a big family trip that is planned for the spring.

It has been a surprising relief for me to not have to do any Christmas shopping this year. I thought I would miss it more than what I have so far since I love both shopping and gift giving.

A few things that I'm thinking about as December quickly approaches:

1. My ease of life is not the main goal here. Since I am not spending time shopping with the kids I       should be replacing that time with something else of equal or greater importance.

2. I yearn for my family to learn that it is MUCH more blessed to give than to receive.

When I saw  the idea of a month of random acts of kindness for  December,  I knew it was something that I wanted to try with our family this year.

There are a multitude of online printables and ideas. Just search 'random acts of kindness' and you'll get hit with an overload of splendid ideas.

I created my own list just because I had a calendar laying around and because I really wanted to customize it for our family. I gleaned some of my ideas from online sources.

You probably can't read the words on the photo above very well. Here are a few of  the acts of kindness I included on our calendar:

-serve a hot drink to a family member

-make someone laugh

-write a Christmas letter to a far away relative

-offer to do a chore for your sibling

-make a treat for the mail man

-make a card/treat for the bus driver

-bake soft pretzels to give to the neighbors

-go caroling

-compliment someone

-wish someone (besides a family member) a Merry Christmas

-shovel a neighbor's side walk

-let someone go ahead of you in line

-put together a surprise package to put in a vehicle at church

-help mom address Christmas letters

-collect loose change around the house to donate to the Salvation Army kettle

-invite a lonely friend over for dinner

-make a Christmas card for your teacher


I anticipate doing these random acts of kindness with my family in the coming days. I hope to bring my children on board.  I desire to grow in kindness along with my family.  No act of kindness is too small for big things to happen.

In this season when there is much selfish spending of time and money, let us be people who stand up and extend good will and joy to the world around us.

I'll end with the following quote from Ann Voskamp.

The only way to live a remarkable life is not to get everyone to notice you,
but to leave noticeable marks of love everywhere you go.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

We should've named her Maria

I knew this child had PERSONALITY  before I ever met her. Our first days together only confirmed  the fact that she had STRONG OPINIONS  concerning important and not so important matters.

I thought about it from the start that her charming little nickname rhymed with sassy. I hoped that she would be so gentle and mild that no one would even think of using her name and that rhyming word in the same sentence.

That was a cute thought.












Her PERSONALITY and STYLE have only become more peculiar with each passing day.
Recently we have been having clothing disagreements. She is just 3 years old.

Life without Cassie would be incredibly boring.

I truly adore the spice that she brings to our family.








It seems to me that Maria and Cassie would be soulmates.

When I'm with her I'm confused
Out of focus and bemused
And I never know exactly where I am
Unpredictable as weather
She's as flighty as a feather
She's a darling! She's a demon! She's a lamb!
She'd outpester any pest
Drive a hornet from its nest
She could throw a whirling dervish out of whirl
She is gentle! She is wild!
She's a riddle! She's a child!
She's a headache! She's an angel!
She's a girl!

How do you solve a problem like Maria  Cassie?
How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?
How do you find a word that means Maria Cassie?
A flibbertijibbet! A will-o'-the wisp! A clown!
Many a thing you know you'd like to tell her
Many a thing she ought to understand
But how do you make her stay
And listen to all you say
How do you keep a wave upon the sand
Oh, how do you solve a problem like Maria Cassie?
How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?






I sense the roller coaster ride is just beginning with this girl.

I'm fastening my seat belt.




Thursday, November 10, 2016

when baby #6 turns one

     
Things change a lot from baby #1 to baby #6.

I think wistfully at times of parenting my first baby.

Most days though I really like the comfortableness of getting to be mom for the 6th time.

What I really wish for is the opportunity to go back and raise baby#1 again with the experience that I've gained in the last 12+ years but without the demands of an 8 person household. Yeah. I'm an idealist.

I think Jesus was so kind in the way he planned this whole parenting game.

It can be truly overwhelming when suddenly you wake up and find yourself 100% responsible for a very tiny human being who is 100% dependent on you for everything. In the middle of all the changes and challenges that come with baby #1 you wonder how in the world you could possibly care for more than one child. I think it is merciful of Jesus to allow us to make the hard adjustments to parenthood with just one little person on whom we get to focus all our time, energy and affection.

By the time baby #6 comes along things like sleep deprivation and being responsible 24/7 for small dependent humans are part of life. New challenges come, like getting kids off to school even after a sleepless night with the baby and learning how to juggle the needs of children in 6 different developmental/emotional stages. I think it very kind of Jesus to allow us to become familiar and at least semi comfortable with our role as a parent before giving us a house full.

I find both stages- the new parenting and the experienced parenting- to be full of changes and challenges that are both demanding and thrilling.

How did I get off the subject of my baby's birthday??

Wait! Was I ever even on the subject of my baby's birthday?

Well. Yes. We celebrated our Sweet Elliana's birthday last week.

And yes, the way we celebrated Elliana's birthday was different than how we celebrated Angeline's birthday 12 years ago.

Both celebrations were merry and festive.

But for now I want to talk about celebrating my 6th baby.







       

In the early hours of the morning I gave her some extra snuggles as I remember the details of her coming to us one year ago.

I stroked her silky hair and marveled at the way she has grown and developed physically in the last 12 months.  I thought about the way her personality has been emerging in little bits and pieces over the last 12 months.

 Even though I absolutely ADORE infants I decided that I certainly prefer the curly- haired-sweet-snuggly-gentle-mild-mannered-charming-toothy- Little Elliana over the precious-quiet-little-bundle that was put into my arms early on the morning of November 4.




































The magic of a growing and developing child has not lost its wonder. In fact, I am even more enamored with the wonder of this child and less focused on her developmental milestones. It's probably just me getting older, but every few days I am convinced that I  want to freeze my little girl and keep her my toddling 12 month old whose favorite word is 'mamaaaa'.

Since the siblings were CERTAIN that she could not wait to have her birthday present in the evening we gave it to her quickly before kids headed off to school and dad to work.

Her birthday was mentioned often and lovingly throughout the day by her siblings. Elliana was more than delighted with the extra attention which helped to distract her from her snotty nose and teething woes.

Later in the day, when the house was quieter I sat her down with her present and shot some photos. I love the way these pictures capture some of the little details about Elliana. Her pudgy toes. Her curly hair. Her ability to manipulate small things. The way she sits quietly and concentrates on a task. Her goofy silliness. Her toothy little grin. Her smooth, fair skin. Those brown eyes.







For the first time ever I made a tiny little smash cake just for the birthday girl. She loved it.




 For the first time ever I felt like this birthday cake was really designed for a one year old. The frosting was cream cheese whipped with cool whip. She loved it and I didn't have to cringe about the amount she consumed since it wasn't loaded with sugar. Truth be told, we all RAVED over the cake and the frosting and the fruit. I think the cake will likely be repeated in the future. Angeline created the number one and her name with melted chocolate.

                                             




The other truth is that I took these pictures a few hours before her birthday party. I truly let her poke her finger into the frosting and have some bites. Because. Well. She was just so cute and I really didn't care. That's just one of the awesome parts about being Baby #6.

We gathered around her after dinner and had fun lighting the candles and singing to her. I felt like we all got to enjoy Elliana MORE by not having a big party for her. Lord willing, we will have many more years with Elliana  in which we can celebrate with bigger parties. Party guests are fun, but it's hard to really dote on a one year old and be a good hostess and take pictures all at the same time. 

I have come to understand  that children grow up quickly and have serious expectations about birthday cakes and birthday guests. For this reason, I decided to keep Elliana's first birthday low pressure and fun for all of us. Besides, we really do have a nice sized party with just our immediate family these days.

Here is some raw footage from the real deal:





And this was how we celebrated the first birthday of our 6th sweet baby.