Monday, October 17, 2011

Oh Bread, Why You Make Me Moan So Good?! Part 1

 I owe my family a very large amount of gratitude for raising me the way they did.  Not only were they loving, understanding, and fostered creativity, but they all came from a long line of Bread Devotees, making Damn sure my sisters and I followed suit.

 The only thing I remember my family Ever being Conservative about were the resources in our kitchen.  If we wanted something in particular, we used what we had no matter how inconsistent the results.  My grandmother especially made this clear, "No use in wasting gas to get to the store only to pay what They think you should pay for it!"  We spent a lot of time in the Canned Food Warehouse, the Wonder and/or Hostess stores where they cut day-old items close to pennies.  It was fantastic!  Every once in a while when the moola was a bit more extensive, we'd get little extravagances here and there to supplement our cupboards for the odd baking hair up our butt.  Whatever we got, it would get used sparingly and Momma kept a sharp eye on the level of Vanilla in the bottle. 

 My grandmother made bread A Lot, which at the time was delicious to eat at home but I took for granted those sandwiches she made with that bread for my school lunch.  I wish I could go back and punch Little Me in the face!  I should have been waving that homemade bread around in the air, hailing all that is made of yeast and flour!  Not hiding my lunch in shame for fear of the Lunchables Kids shunning my uniqueness. 

I am not ashamed now.  I love bread so much.  And, in trying not to sound like a foodsnob by saying this, I just don't feel satisfied by the stuff available to buy at the commissary, commercial or bakery, anymore.  It's just not my bag.  I'm trying at every chance to keep us stocked in bread goods that have been kneaded by my own hand.  It takes some time getting used to, but it's worth it.

  So, when it comes to saving some money on the carbohydrates I love, I've been learning to use what I have to make the bread I want.  This includes tortillas and bready-desserts.  Just by stocking the ingredients to make it myself, I've been saving at least $20 on our grocery bill in bread products.  I decided that this was something I should share just in case anyone might decide to save themselves some $$ too.  And believe me, if you knuckle down on a day off from work or any other responsibilities you may going on, it can be fun and satisfying!  Plus, most of the recipes I've come to use (and will share, shortly) regularly don't require your full attention since they take several hours to develop on their own.  Other things can be achieved while you wait, and you'll definitely appreciate saving the money you would've spent on store-bought bread (you're paying for the slicing of the bread and the bag, People!) and pocketing it for other groceries or for a rainy day.

 I am warning you though, these are purely to satisfy your taste buds and your may find yourself up at midnight slicing cheese to go with that umpteenth slice of bread!  Don't say I didn't warn you!!  

Country French Bread

(Oh hell yes . . . )

Sponge Starter (begin 2-16 hrs ahead)
1 cup lukewarm water
1/2 tsp active dry or instant yeast
1 1/4 cups bread flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour

All of the sponge starter (above)
1 cup lukewarm water
3/4 tsp active dry or 1/2 tsp instant yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
3 3/4 to 4 cups bread flour
1 to 1 1/2 tsp salt

Making the Sponge
Stir all of the sponge ingredients together to make a thick, pudding-like mixture.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and store in a dry, warm area for at least 2-4 hours.

Making the Dough
Stir down the sponge with a wooden spoon and add the water, yeast, sugar, most of the flour (adding a half cup or so at a time, retaining at least 1/2 cup for later), and salt.  Knead the dough, adding more flour of the amount required as needed, for about 10-12 minutes.

NOTE: Mix ingredients together using up to 80% of the flour needed.  The dough needs to be pliable, loose and a bit messy.  Let it rest for 10-12 minutes and you'll see that the texture smoother out. Continue kneading it and adding flour as you need it.  The flour needs time to absorb the water while resting so that you use as little flour as possible.  Less flour means the bread will have more holes and be fluffier once baked.

Lightly grease a glass or plastic bowl and a sheet of plastic wrap with olive oil. Place the dough in bowl and cover with the greased wrap.  Wet a couple of connected paper towels and drape over top of the plastic wrap.  Set aside in a dry, warm area for at least 1-2 hours or until doubled in size.

If you'd prefer, let the dough rise slowly in the fridge if you're heading out.  Once it has been in the fridge a while, allow it to come to room temperature; it will warm up and rise at the same time.

After it's first rise, deflate the dough very gently with your wooden spoon, pulling it away from the sides of the bowl so you aren't knocking the air out of it.  The holes are important to maintain! (THAT'S WHAT SHE SAID!)

Form the dough into a round ball.  Place two cookie sheets on top of one another, grease it lightly and dust with cornmeal.  Gently place the ball of dough on the cookie sheets, seam-side down.  cover it lightly with the same dampened paper towels and let it rise a second time until it's puffy and about 50% larger, anywhere from 45-90 minutes.  Slash or crosshatch the top of the dough with a sharp knife, and dust with a little flour.

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees.  Fill a deep baking dish with approx. 6 cups of water and place it on the bottom rack of your oven, placing the second rack in the middle position.  Once the water in the pan begins to steam, place the bread in the oven and reduce the heat to 425. Bake for about 25-30 minutes, it will be a light golden brown.  Yields 1 large round or 2 medium rounds.  10-12 servings.

Mmmmmmm....some sexy bread!

Crimson & Clover

Now I don't hardly know her, but I think I could love her, Crimson and Clover.  
Over and Over.
Well if she come walkin' over, now I think I could show her, Crimson and Clover.  
Over and Over.
My mind's such a sweet thing, I wanna do everything, what a beautiful feeling. 
Crimson and Clover.  
Over and Over...

Everything feels good and right.

  Some of the plans I thought I wanted have now made room for what is making me happiest. My husband, family and friends have been so supportive throughout the journey I've been on, and I am grateful to the core.  My plan to join the USAF is no longer...I tried for too long to convince myself that this was the right thing for me.  All I really wanted was money for college and for starting a family.  But the military is not for me, though I have the deepest respect for my husband, our family and friends who have been successful making that happen for themselves.

  I want to be a beam of support for my husband, who has established himself very well in the military.  I want to go to school, and I can make that happen now, I don't have to put it off.  I want to start a family and so does my husband...and so that will happen as it will.  I'm ready to accept what I know is right for me, no more waiting to know if the time is right.

 Why do we restrain ourselves in this way?  There isn't a right way to do anything, there are only successful examples to learn from.  So why do we inhibit our potential by proclaiming only certain criteria be met first?  As if there is a to-do list we are given upon birth.  There is only to-do what we impose on ourselves or allow ourselves to take on.  It's all self-initiated anyway, so why fight our gut instincts?  I don't have the answer...but I know I'm tired of living by anyone else's expectations and/or measurement of success.

  This doesn't mean that I've lost my drive to do well for myself, I've just redefined that drive with actions that fulfill my happiness and feed my soul.  Loving, learning, creating,'s everything I enjoy and I'm going to thrive on it now.

  I hope to develop my purpose with time, and hope you will too.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Breakfast Shenanigans!

Admit it...

Breakfast food is the Superman of our daily meals and it must be your favorite, just as it is mine. Almost anything can be included in your breakfast and no one would judge you...unless you were say, throwing away the left-overs!  How many evenings have you solved your Dinner-fixing rut with "Breakfast for Dinner y'all!"...seriously, no matter how anyone (like my husband) may deny their love of breakfast food, deep down they are just Lying to Themselves because we all know, Breakfast is magnificent!  Need a little nudging proof?  Fine, but first, you need to get a glass stomach so you can see where you're going with your head up your ass!  

My buddy Shanna won the chance to decide the theme for this blog-diggity and I couldn't agree more with her are some alternative breakfast options...Welcome to Breakfast Shenanigans y'all!

Chile Relleno Quiche

1 cup Cheddar Cheese, grated
1 cup Monterey Jack, grated
5 eggs
1 2/3 cups Half 'n' Half
1/4 cup Salsa
1/3 cup All-Purpose Flour
4 oz. can Green Chiles, drained

~ Preheat oven to 375
~ Mix grated cheeses and spread evenly over greased deep "10 baking dish.
~ In a separate medium bowl, beat eggs, adding flour slowly. Mix in Half'n'Half until well blended.
~ Pour eggs mixture over cheeses, spoon chiles and salsa over the top.
~ Bake for 40-45 mins, cool for a couple minutes and enjoy ;)

My Quality Control Crew says "YUM!"
and "More Mama?"

Berry Buttermilk Pancakes

1 cup Buttermilk
1 cup All-Purpose Flour
1 tbsp Sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
2 tbsp oil (I use Canola)

~ Preheat a greased skillet to medium heat while you mix your batter so its good and hot when you're ready
~ Sift dry ingredients together in a medium bowl
~Add beaten egg, buttermilk, and oil and beat until Just Mixed. Do NOT Overbeat
~ Drop batter by 1/4 cup for each pancake onto hot skillet/griddle
~ Cook until top is full of tiny bubbles and the underside is golden brown. 
~ Recipe can easily be doubled for the truly ambitious hungry bellies!

For the Berry Syrup:
1 cup blueberries or blackberries
1 cup Maple or preferred syrup
1/2 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp vanilla

~ Over medium-low heat, stir all ingredients in a small saucepan until aroma is strong, about 5 minutes
~ Pour this purple velvet all over your cakes, and if you have some left over, you're more than welcome to use as a delicious and inexpensive (yet oh-so-sticky) flavored lube ;)

Cheesy Potato Patties

1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup left-over mashed potatoes
1 egg
1/2 cup flour
1 small chopped onion (or green onion)
1-2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/2 cup shredded cheese
Optional: ground beef or turkey, bacon

~ Heat oil in griddle on medium-high heat.
~ Mix all ingredients well, drop by spoonfuls onto griddle, pressing to 1" thick patties.
~ Turn once, cooking patties for about 2-3 minutes on each side or until browned.
~ Serve hot, but for Jeebus-sakes, don't burn your tongue scarfing the goodness ;)