Monday, 29 December 2014

My Journey to Relational Prayer Part 1

Every year I choose a word to be my theme for that year. In 2013 that word was contentment and I used Ann Voskamp's book One Thousand Gifts to launch me on that journey. It was successfully life-changing and I"m grateful for that. I continue to count my gifts - from the minuscule to the great. It is a beautiful practise. Last year my word was prayer. I've felt a distance from my Father God lately that is not comfortable and that is very different from the closeness I once had with Him. Instinctively, I seemed to know that prayer is necessary to bring that closeness back. I started reading a book I had purchased some time ago by Larry Crabb called The PAPA Prayer. I didn't get far in it last year. Not that it is incredibly academic making it difficult to read - I wouldn't describe it that way at all. It is a more intimate conversational type book but also explanatory in order to give the reader understanding of what true prayer should be. No, it's not the style that held me back from reading deeper, it's fear.

I know that relationship with God is life changing and, frankly, I'm a tad comfortable with my life the way it is. BUT (and it's a big, important but) obviously I'm not entirely comfortable or I wouldn't have this unquenchable desire to draw closer to God.  So my word for this year, 2015, is once again prayer (as a side note, I will also be adding hospitality to that this year - tackle two areas outside my comfort zone in one year ... a huge goal!). I will continue my reading through this book and will not let fear overtake me.

The PAPA prayer is about relational prayer. A true prayer must start with relational prayer because relationship with God must be at the centre of everything. Really, it's what differentiates us from others who acknowledge there is a God but don't believe, right? Like the demons for example!

This is my blog and part of me longs to write profound essays that inspire people, or creative tutorials that help people in their creativity, and so on. And, it being my blog, I should be allowed to do that!! But I don't think that's being authentic to who I am. So, I'm doing things differently. I'm going to be vulnerable. I'm going to leave my comfort zone, one toe at a time.

This journey to relational prayer terrifies me. I know it will change my life because I know God will change my life. I have to trust that the changes He brings will fit with the life He has me in - married and a mother to 2, almost 3, children. I am afraid of new things. I am afraid of failure. I'm afraid of change. I like to be comfortable and change is not comfortable. But I know that this change will better me. I know it is for my good and, quite possibly, the good of my family!

A huge part of relationship with God is also spending time in His Word (the Bible) so I will also be including snippets of that adventure in these posts. I am attempting to read through the whole Bible, using the ESV Reader's Bible (that my lovely in-laws gave me for Christmas) following the advise give in this link from The Gospel Coalition: How to Change Your Mind.

So this is the start of my terrifying, life-changing, beautiful journey to relational prayer. I document it for my benefit - so I can look back and see what changes have occurred in my life, to see how God has been working in me; but I invite you along for the ride if you want to join me. I might not be profound and inspiring but I will be honest.

I can't guarantee any regular type of posting but, hey, hold me accountable and post a comment or drop me a note if you want to know how the journey's going! :)


The launch page for all posts in this series can be found here.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Is Santa Real? or Why Do We Celebrate Christmas?

It's the season of Advent, more commonly known as the season of Christmas. It's my favourite season of the year. I love everything about this season: the music, the treats, the decorations, the colours, the traditions, the excitement that fills the air so thickly it's almost tangible! :) But mostly I love how each of these things serve as reminders of why we celebrate Christmas. I love this season because it reminds us that, in a suffering world, in a world burdened by sin, sorrow, war, etc., God sent His on and only Son to be Immanuel - God With us - to redeem a lost world, to save us from the sin that enslaves us and to grant us life everlasting!

But where does Santa Cluas fit in into all of this? Because, lets face it, he's a huge part of the Christmas celebrations and traditions we see around us. And, in our home, with a very aware 4 year old, it is a conundrum that has come to the forefront and requires an answer. Our oldest daughter is very inquisitive and is not content with the simple answers people usually give to young children. She wants to know and understand!

Recently, she and I had a really good discussion about Christmas ... or at least the start of one:
"Mom, does everyone celebrate Christmas?"
"No, sweetheart, not everyone does."
"Why, Mom?"
"Well," I ask her, "why do we celebrate Christmas?"
"Because it's when Jesus was born so that He could die for our sins and be our rescuer."
"That's right! And does everyone believe in Jesus?"
"No, not everyone," she answers rather sadly.
"Right! So there are people who don't celebrate Christmas because they don't believe in Jesus."
"But some people don't believe in Jesus and still celebrate Christmas."
"Right, and those people celebrate Santa Claus and gift giving and enjoy those things."
... pause as she ponders this ...
"Mom, is Santa real?"
"Well, dear, sort of ..."
This led to me briefly mentioning Saint Nicholas but I changed the topic because I wasn't ready to go in depth with this ... mostly because I was driving at the time and this is the type of conversation I'd like to have face to face without distractions. :) But it still requires explanation. Who is Santa? Is he real? How does he fit into Christmas?

We have a Christmas tradition in our home where we wrap 24 different Christmas books - some Christian, some secular - and the girls get to unwrap one each day as a way to count down to Christmas Day. One of these books is called Santa, Are You For Real? (and will be opened this year on December 2 ... click on the book title to find it on Amazon). It explains, simply, the history of Santa Clause in a way a kid can understand, all the way back to Saint Nicholas. Briefly, saint Nicholas was a Christian man who lived a very long time ago and ministered to the poor, giving gifts to them in secret. It was in his memory that the tradition of gift giving developed and his name eventually evolved (devolved?) to Santa Claus. This is what we will talk about with the girls tomorrow - especially the oldest.

Yes, Santa is sort of real, because of who he represents. And I think it's ok to include this in our celebration because Saint Nicholas also points us to Christ. It was in honouring Christ that Saint Nicholas ministered to the poor. I want my daughter to understand (and it helps that she wants to understand).

Currently, she understands why we celebrate Christmas but she also believes in Santa. She understands that we buy the gifts that go under the tree but she also believes that Santa is the one that fills the stockings. When she saw the gifts (the books) under the tree this morning, she asked who put them there. I told her Mommy and Daddy did. She asked if we also help Santa fill the stockings. I took the opportunity to talk more about who Santa/Saint Nicholas was.  Is this bad that she believes Santa is real? I'm not sure it is - as long as she understands why we celebrate Christmas and why Santa Claus is sometimes included in Christmas celebrations.




Saturday, 18 October 2014

{Day 18} Krentenbollen!

On Monday my family and I are hosting an evening with some other homeschool families. This is the first in a series of evenings in which each family chooses a country to teach the other families about. We chose The Netherlands as the country we will present about on this first evening of the series. As a result, I have been having to get together various Dutch foods! Bread is an obvious choice (breads are pretty common to most cultures) and there were a couple choices that I was considering. One is oliebollen which is a deep fried dough with raisins (and sometimes apples) ... kind of like a fritter, I guess. But I don't have a deep fryer so the only other way to make it is the way my mom did it - in a big pot of oil on the stove. Darran didn't like the idea of me doing that with little girls running around me and, honestly, it is a lot of work and since this month was so busy, I wasn't too keen on doing that either. Also, oliebollen is traditionally made for New Year's and, for some reason, it just seems wrong to make it at this time of year instead of New Year's. :) Then there's roggebrood which is a thick, heavy, dark rye bread but I honestly never really liked that and I have this thing about not really enjoying serving guests things that I don't like. I do remember my parents eating roggebrood with cheese when I was growing up. It must be an acquired taste. :) Then there are raisin buns or "krentenbollen". (Actually, with the name krentenbollen, they should also have currants in them but I prefer them with just raisins ... probably because I grew up eating them that way.) I LOVE raisin buns! I remember we'd often have them on Sundays. They are so delicious with a little bit of butter or margarine spread on them and then sprinkled with white sugar! :)

So, I decided today that I would make raisin buns. That way I wouldn't be stressing about it tomorrow or Monday (and I need to make boterkoek on Monday) and I can just put them in the freezer and take them out to thaw on Monday. I looked online for recipes since I don't have a recipe for them. Neither did my Mom. She never made them but always bought them at a local bakery. Actually, I don't remember her ever making bread from scratch! I wonder what made me want to start?! :) The recipe that I found to be the easiest to follow can be found following this link to the blog called Weekend Bakery. This recipe was very similar to other recipes but it had included instructions that I remember my mom commenting about when we moved to a new town and that local bakery was just not making the raisin buns quite right. She conferred with the baker in our old town and gave some tips to the bakery in the new town. (The secret was soaking the raisins.) The results were, of course, wonderful! So, the above link will take you to the best recipe for Krentenbollen. While it looks like an intimidating recipe with some of the steps (sweetener with zests, soaking raisins), it is actually very easy! I made a couple of very slight changes. :)

First, with the soaking of the raisins, they say to let them dry for 2 days before making the dough (at least they say that is the preferred method). However, I don't have the counter space to have a tray of raisins sitting there for 2 days. I need my counters for other things, too! So I opted for their alternative method - drying them really well (I ended up actually squeezing out some of the water they soaked up while they were soaking in the water) and then dusting them with flour. This worked very well and the raisins still retained enough moisture to result in a deliciously soft, moist bun once all was said and done! :)

Second, where the author describes how to incorporate the raisins, we are told you can do it by hand, "pinching" them in so they are evenly dispersed throughout the dough (can we say OCD?!), or you can use a "spiral mixer" to mix them in. Since I was using my Cuisinart with the dough hook, I opted for trying that to mix in the raisins. Yeah, that didn't work so well - started turning the raisins to mush! Ack! I took it out of the bowl and mixed them in by hand, kind of just kneading them in. They were not very evenly distributed through the dough but it was alright.  In the second batch of dough, I added the raisins as the dough was kneading (towards the end of the kneading process). This worked quite well but the dough started separating so, for the last few minutes, I had to pull out the dough and knead it together a bit. This was not as intense as the work required with the first batch and the raisins were much more evenly distributed.

I found the recipe a bit of a challenge to follow at first because it was all in grams and I'm, of course, used to cups, mL, etc. :) BUT, it was recommended to me to pull out my kitchen scale and do the measuring on there. I did that and it was really easy and worked wonderfully! Because, seriously, who knows how much 220 g of milk is?! :) That's European recipes for you I guess! :) It was a good learning experience for me.

I HAD to taste one of the buns, obviously. I couldn't just leave them until Monday and hope they'd be good enough to serve to guests! I had to be sure they'd be yummy! So, I cut one in half while it was still warm, spread on some butter and sprinkled both halves with white sugar. Then I shared it with my oldest daughter who'd been begging through the whole process for a taste! :) She LOVED them (but then, she thinks raisins are like candy so that was expected). I was flooded with memories of childhood as I ate my half. It was that good!! I couldn't stop at just one and had to have a second. (Don't worry, there's still plenty to share with our guests!)

I let my husband have a bite but he didn't like them. BUT, he really doesn't like raisins and he thought it was too sweet with the extra sugar sprinkled on. Our youngest daughter also, surprisingly, didn't like them. She took one bite and spit it out! :) I don't know if it was the raisins or the extra sugar that did it for her though because I know she doesn't like very many sweet things and I was pretty sure she liked raisins but I could be wrong on that. However, I figure 50% of our family enjoying them is pretty good. And it just means that, next time I make them, there's more for me and Annalise! :D

I wish I had taken pictures through the whole process (that's an area I really have to work on with my blogging) but I didn't - sorry! I will try to take photos the next time I make these and then I can add them to this post at that time (maybe)! :) But here are the photos I did take ...

This is the beautiful sugar mixed with the lemon zest and orange zest. This is so very delicious! It smells so fresh and gives the buns a wonderful flavour. Honestly, I'd like to just take a spoon to this and eat it all up straight! :)

My dear husband, Darran, insisted he had to take this photo of me kneading the dough (in my not so tidy kitchen). He thought it was rather funny since I was living a lovely cliché - barefoot and pregnant ... in the kitchen! lol
This is the first batch. No, they don't LOOK exactly as they are supposed to look. I was lazy in the shaping of the buns so some ended up being really wonky. The one on the bottom left is the one that Annalise and I shared since it looked the weirdest. BUT the flavour is what counts and that was spot on! :) Aren't they just so beautiful?!


Friday, 17 October 2014

{Day 17} Food Processor Pizza Crust


(Disclaimer: Life happens. I got behind on this challenge. So you're going to see hopefully 4 blog posts today while I attempt to catch up. :) )

So, Friday is pizza night in our house! :) Last time I shared our basic bread machine pizza dough and a few of our favourite pizza recipes. This time I decided to try a different dough - one that seemed a lot easier. It is from the Company's Coming Pizza cookbook by Jean Pere (with one small change which is why this blog post has a different name than the recipe in the book). Page 117 in the afore mentioned cookbook is where you'll find the recipe I used by I will include it here as well for your reference.

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 tsp instant yeast

3/4 cup warm water
2 tbsp cooking oil

Food Processor Method: Put first 5 ingredients into food processor fitted with dough blade.  With machine running, pour warm water and cooking oil through tube in lid. Process for 50 to 60 seconds. If dough seems sticky to remove, add about 1/2 tsp flour to make it easier to handle.

Hand Method: Put first 5 ingredients into medium bowl. Stir together well. Add warm water and cooking oil. Mix well until dough leaves sides of bowl. Knead on lightly floured surface for 5 to 8 minutes until smooth and elastic.

To Complete: At this point, you may choose to roll out and press in greased 12 inch pizza pan, forming rim around edge. Or place dough in a large greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover with tea towel. Let stand in oven with light on and door closed for about 1 hour until doubled in size. Punch dough down. roll out and press in greased 12 inch pizza pan, forming rim around edge.

So, as you can tell from the title of this post, I chose to use the food processor method because, obviously, it's WAY faster and perfect for this busy mama! :) I did not do a mix of whole wheat and all-purpose flour as I'm currently out of whole wheat flour. I just did 2 cups of all-purpose flour. For the oil, I used olive oil which is our standard oil for pizza dough. :) We love it like that!

So, was this a good dough? Kind of. I loved how easy it was but I found that there wasn't enough sugar. The dough we make in our bread machine is sweeter and much nicer as a result. This one seems a tad on the bland side. I guess, if you're going for healthy, this would be the better option though. :)  We also found the dough to be quite heavy and, of course, much thicker than what we usually use for our pizzas but still workable. :) Verdict from hubby on how the pizza tastes with this crust: a shrug, a nod and an "it's ok". And I would add to that, "it's really rather bland." So I'd say it's not on our list of favourites but it will certainly be kept on hand for when we're in a time crunch because it really takes just a couple minutes to make! :)

Well, you win some, you loose some. :) Here's some photos! :)



YUM!

{Day 16} An Interview about Bread Memories with Darran :)


(Disclaimer: Life happens. I got behind on this challenge. So you're going to see hopefully 4 blog posts today while I attempt to catch up. :) )

Darran (my husband) has told me on a few occasions about memories he has of his mom making homemade bread. Perhaps this is one of my motivations to make more homemade bread. :) So I thought I'd "interview" him to find out more about his memories of bread. :)

Here goes:

Me: When do you remember first having homemade bread?

Darran: When I was about 2.5 or 3.

Me: Was it made by your mom or someone else?

Darran: Probably made by Mémère when Daniel was born and she came to help. I got to help make it.

Me: What was it like?

Darran: It was nice and soft and warm.

Me: When did your mom first start making bread for your family? Why?

Darran: Probably around that same time but not regularly until we were teenagers (when she had more time). She made bread because we were eating her out of house and home - it was cheaper, we liked it and she liked to do it. And we ate a lot of bread so it made sense to make a whole bunch at a time.

Me: What's your best memory of your mom making bread?

Darran: Coming home, opening the door and being hit by the smell of fresh bread and cinnamon buns. We'd get home from school, eat half a loaf of bread and a bunch of cinnamon buns and then we wouldn't be hungry for supper. :) And in the summer you could smell the bread down the street.

Me: Did she make a variety of types of bread or just one type?

Darran: She made white and whole wheat bread and cinnamon buns

Me: What was your favourite type of bread growing up?

Darran: white bread and cinnamon buns

Me: How did your mom making homemade bread influence you?

Darran: It helped me appreciate homemade food, home cooking. Made me appreciate the effort she went through to make it for us.

Me: Did it make you want to do more (baking, etc) in the kitchen?

Darran: Yes, you could say that.

Me: Anything else you remember?

Darran: No, just really liking the smell, the texture and the taste.

Thanks Darran for helping me with this post! :D You're the best! :)

My dear husband, Darran! :) I don't have a picture of him eating bread (that would be more relevant right?) and he wouldn't let me quickly take one so, here's the most recent one I have of him ... with our youngest daughter. :)

{Day 15} Baking Bread with Kids


(Disclaimer: Life happens. I got behind on this challenge. So you're going to see hopefully 4 blog posts today while I attempt to catch up. :) )

Baking bread can be a challenge and time consuming in and of itself (especially for those of us who have challenges with time management!) but adding kids to the mix? Well that just increases the challenge exponentially! :) BUT, it can also make baking bread more fun! :)

My children are 4 and 2. Most of the time, when I'm trying to work alone in the kitchen, they tend to get underfoot. They want to help (of course)! :) Sometimes it's just easier to send them out and get the baking done on my own. But, honestly, in spite of the extra chaos, it's often so worth it to let them help! If I'm making a dough or bread in the bread maker, it's not too hard to let them add the ingredients to the bread pan and they feel accomplished for being able to do what they see as super important work! :) They feel pride in their work and I get bonding time with your kids! :) With the 4 year old, I can also use this time to teach skills about accurate measurements, math (how many cups of  ____ do we need; if we've already put ___ cups of flour in, how many more cups do we need; etc.)

It's important to let go of some control when baking bread with kids. Let the flour get over the counter! Hey, some will even spill on the floor! :) It's really not that heard to clean up and the kids will learn some great lessons and have some great bonding time with you! And, the kids can even help clean up afterwards! Another great teaching moment for you and them! :)

Of course, the easiest bread or dough to let them help with is the kind you make in the bread machine. The whole experience if over quicker which, you might think, is less stress for you and less stress is good! BUT, what about the experiences and memories you'd be building with your kids if you took the time to make more traditional bread? What about the lessons you can teach about science, math, patience, etc? Aren't the lessons and memories worth so much more than a few moments of less "stress"? I think so! My girls learn to knead dough. The learn that this takes time (and builds muscles). They learn that the better kneading makes a better dough which makes a better bread. With my hands guiding theirs, they experience the bond of touch. We smile at each other and enjoy each other's company while we work the dough, shape it into loaves and put it in the oven to bake. They learn important lessons about safety in the kitchen. They, in the long run, are learning how to provide healthy meals for their families when they have families of their own. They learn patience - bread making takes time as you wait for dough to rise (sometimes multiple times) and then to bake and even to cool! Though, if I'd let them, they wouldn't wait for bread to cool and would just eat it the moment it came out of the oven! :) They're learning that waiting gives great results! :) These lessons in patience will help them when they need patience in other situations in life as well!

I've discovered that, yes, at first it is a tad more stressful when you let your kids be involved in the whole process of bread making. But, take a deep breath, put a smile on your face and teach your child in the kitchen! The stress is not nearly as much as you'd imagine once you just let go of that control you cling to. :) And the rewards so infinitely greater than any stress you could imagine! :) No, your bread probably won't be perfect or end up just as you thought it would. But it's bread ... that you baked with your children! Embrace it! :)


I know I included this photo in a previous blog post but it was worth sharing again ... my 4yo kneading her bread dough. :)

{Day 14} Stocking Your Pantry

(Disclaimer: Life happens. I got behind on this challenge. So you're going to see hopefully 4 blog posts today while I attempt to catch up. :) )

My standard pantry stock has changed slightly since I've started making my own bread ... and I mean making my own bread by hand, not with a bread machine, though there are essential ingredients needed for bread machine bread as well. :)

Of course you need flour - LOTS of flour! :) All-purpose (white) flour is a standard go to for most breads, doughs and other baked creations. With all-purpose flour you can make quite a variety of breads, quick breads, etc. However, if you want to make things a little healthier and more flavourful, I also recommend having whole wheat flour and rye flour in your pantry. I will often substitute one for the other in various recipes. For example, the first time I made my own pita bread, the recipe called for whole wheat flour which I did have on hand at the time and used it. The pitas were soft, moist and ever so delicious - SO much better than grocery store pitas!! However, the next time I made pita bread, I was out of whole wheat flour but I had rye flour. I used this instead and the pitas were just as delicious as with the whole wheat flour!

Yeast is another standard ingredient but there are a number of types of yeast. Instant yeast (or bread machine yeast) is what you need if you'll be making dough or bread in your bread machine ... or if you just don't have a lot of time in your day for the whole bread making process. You can make your bread dough in the bread machine and still bake it in the oven (for a nicer bread - better shape, nicer crust) - just use the dough setting instead of the bread setting.  Then there's Active Dry Yeast. This is the more traditional yeast and takes time to prep or activate it.  Yeast is very important in bread making (unless you're making a quick bread).  Yeast causes the dough to rise, it helps the dough develop (making it stronger ... don't ask me the science behind that), and it gives it a wonderful flavour and aroma.  This flavour and aroma will be stronger using active dry yeast than using instant yeast. Did you know that yeast is a living organism? It's a single-celled fungus! I believe this is the reason that some people have negative reactions to it (like my husband). :)

Sugar (white sugar is the standard) is another key ingredient. Sugar reacts with the yeast, helping it to do it's job, by aiding the fermentation process. Even pizza dough requires a bit of sugar! :) In addition to white sugar, you can also add brown sugar and honey for sweetness.

Many doughs will also require butter or oil as part of the wet ingredients. If given a choice between butter or margarine, use butter! And for oil, I prefer olive oil. These ingredients give a much more enjoyable flavour to your dough or bread!

Of course, no pantry is complete without salt. I don't think I've yet found a dough/bread recipe that doesn't call for salt. My preferred salt is sea salt. It seems to be a more mild flavour than table salt or kosher salt (of course, if you are eating kosher, use kosher salt!) ... kosher salt is my next favourite and regular table salt comes right at the bottom of that list. :)

There you have it - the 5 standard ingredients necessary for making bread or dough! With these ingredients, you should be able to whip up a nice loaf of bread, a pizza dough or some soft dinner rolls to enjoy with your family! :)

What about you? What are some of your key ingredients for baking bread? Of the standards I listed, I'd say that my favourites are the various flours. :)


Monday, 13 October 2014

{Day 13} I Cheated ...

Today I cheated. I made Thanksgiving dinner. We were having company join us for said dinner. They asked what they could bring. I suggested pie and dinner rolls (since I had everything covered and those were more time-consuming things that I could do without having to make). She brought some awesome Pillsbury biscuits. I baked them. That counts! I still made a type of bread! I just didn't make the dough. :) Today I'm thankful for easy to make biscuits and friends who help by bringing them! :) Also, of course, thankful for the plenty of food we can enjoy and the friends to enjoy it with.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

{Day 12} Day of Rest

Today is Sunday, a day of rest. I'm actually taking a day of rest today to - no bread, no blogging about it. Just this note to let you all know.

Wishing all a blessed Sunday!

Saturday, 11 October 2014

{Day 11} Overnight Cinnamon Buns

Pure deliciousness!!! Just looking at this photo makes my mouth water! :)


Hi there! Welcome to another post in my 31 Days of Bread series! :) This time I'm sharing with you Overnight Cinnamon Buns! This follows the same recipe as the Overnight Breakfast Buns I made earlier (posted here). Then, after the last rising, instead of forming into egg shapes/buns, you divide the dough into 3 portions, roll out each portion into a rectangle, spread softened butter or margarine on top, sprinkle liberally with brown sugar and then cinnamon. The cookbook had instructions on how much of each but, honestly, I just prefer to wing it at this point. I know how much my family and I like! ;) Then you roll up the dough, cut it into 12 pieces and place on a greased baking sheet. Do the same with the other 2 portions of dough. Cover these buns with a towel and let stand overnight. In the morning, follow the baking instructions in the Overnight Breakfast Buns recipe.

These ended up being really nice, soft, tasty cinnamon buns! I have another cinnamon bun recipe that I will sometimes make that involves lots and lots of sugar and topping everything with a carton of whipping cream (un-whipped) prior to baking. Those are rich and fabulous for a dessert but these buns are great for a nice breakfast/brunch and are not too rich, rather are quite light with just the right amount of flavour! :)  We enjoyed them for a light breakfast before heading out to my in-laws to celebrate Thanksgiving today! :) And we brought most of the leftovers along with us to be enjoyed there. I'm pretty positive my in-laws rather enjoyed them! :)

This is just after rolling out the dough, adding the delicious filling and rolling up and slicing! :)

My awesome husband was the one to wake up with the girls this morning and he remembered to take a photo for me before putting these risen lovelies in the oven! :)

The girls are super eager to eat these!! :)

Fresh from the oven! :)

Yum, Yum! :D

Stuffing her face with deliciousness! lol



Friday, 10 October 2014

{Day 10} Slow Cooker Pumpkin Bread

Perfect for this Thanksgiving season! :) Beauty in the kitchen! :)

This is a recipe I found on Six Sisters Stuff and was rather intrigued by it. I LOVE pumpkin anything! :) I was glad that this 31 Day challenge offered me an opportunity to try this recipe out. (Find the recipe by clicking on "Six Sisters Stuff" above.) Let me just start by saying, if the recipe looks small for your huge slow cooker, IT'S NOT!! :D I've learned this by experience! :) We have LOTS AND LOTS of pumpkin bread to eat now. The good things is that everyone in my family seems to really enjoy it so I don't think we'll have a problem eating it up! :) Also, it's Thanksgiving (Canadian) weekend and so we'll take it out to my in-laws tomorrow for our Thanksgiving dinner there and I'm sure it will be consumed quickly! :) The recipe ends with a recommendation of "honey butter, butter or honey". I spread honey on our slices and WOW that is phenomenal!! Highly recommend that if you decide to make this bread as well! DH says he wouldn't call this a bread as much as a cake or loaf. I'd agree with the loaf description (though not really a cake). My girls call it cake because I called it dessert when I served it to them after supper this evening. :)

I should also add that, as is mentioned in the original recipe, the sides (and bottom) get a little over-cooked in order for the main part of the bread to be cooked. So, I suggest just trimming those parts off. Alternatively, I think that next time, I'm going to do one recipe (NOT double it) and put it in a loaf pan, then put some water in the bottom of the crockpot (just a slight amount at the very bottom of the pot) and put the loaf pan in there to cook. I've seen other recipes with these instructions and it seems to make sense. :)

I apologize here for the short post (and late post). It was a busy day and I was dealing with a sick toddler (including a visit to the doctor). Everything seems to be ok now though with her so that is good! I've also had to get started on tomorrow's bread! :) So, short post, but SO delicious. Seriously, tomorrow when you wake up, go buy the ingredients you need and make this bread! It is so so so delicious! :)

Top view - isn't that a beauty?! :)


Thursday, 9 October 2014

{Day 9} Bread in a Bag

Today I turned bread making into a Science lesson for my 4 year old. I found these instructions over at Skip to My Lou for making bread in a bag with little ones. The author said it was done with her sons 4th grade class. I thought this would be an easy one to do with my daughter but it was actually more difficult than we thought ... or maybe I just thought it was because I chose to be very hands off. I held the bag open and my daughter did everything else. :) Oh, except adding the oil because, really would you trust a 4 year old to hold a big jug of oil in one hand and try to carefully pour it into a tablespoon she's holding in the other hand?? :) My little (big?!) girl was SO proud of herself and her bread! The recipe says you can use active dry yeast or fast-rise yeast (instant). I would recommend using only instant yeast. We used active dry yeast and found we didn't get a very good rise from it. If you have a lot of time, go ahead and do this recipe with your kids! It's a great learning experience and  a fun activity to do with your kids (and a great homeschool activity! :) ) but, it's not the greatest activity when you're already having a rushed day. DH tried the bread when he came home and liked it but noticed some colour blotches in it. :) Yeah, that's because at one point my 4yo was colouring with Crayola markers, got it all over her fingers and forgot to wash her hands before pressing out the dough ... and I forgot to remind her until after I saw blue and green finger prints all over the one piece of dough. lol Good thing Crayola is non-toxic!! :D  And at least it only got on one loaf! :)  I would describe the bread, as made, as heavy but very moist and soft on the inside with a nice, not too hard or crispy crust. DH said it had a bit of a zip to it but we can't figure out what would have given it that (unless that was also the Crayola markers). On a whole, we were quite pleased it. For the recipe, please head directly to Skip to My Lou where I linked above. :)

For now, photos of my daughter doing her thing! :)

Mixing the first bit of water, flour, sugar and yeast. :)

Even though she totally looks unimpressed with me, she is actually having fun! :) See the blue Crayola ink by her mouth?! :) Here she's kneading the dough before we split it into 3 pieces.

Of the 3 pieces of dough, I flattened out 1 to show her what to do. She did the other two. She's working hard to get it flat and rectangle! :)

Rolling up the flattened dough (as per instructions) before letting it rise one last time. Look at those hands work!

Why does she look so grown up in this picture?! Here she's covering the dough with a towel while it rises. :)

The finished bread! My dear girl is SO proud of it! :) She wants to bring some of it to Grandma & Grandpa's house for Thanksgiving this weekend! :)

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

{Day 8} Not by Bread Alone

People, it's been a busy month, a busy week ... stressful. Today I'm still going to talk about bread, kind of, but no recipes, no experiments. Today I need bread for my soul. I've been so tired and busy and ... and the introvert that is me is getting tired of interaction with people that aren't my immediate family - whether people in the stores, librarians, strangers on the phone, non-strangers (but acquaintances) on the phone, the thought of upcoming meet-ups with women who are not yet friends but hopefully will be ... Seriously, the panic at that thought of that upcoming meet-up (tomorrow evening), makes my throat tighten and makes me want to cry and hide in a hole. I'm sure I'm not the only one like that but sometimes it feels that way. And then this weekend is Thanksgiving (Canadian of course) and we're going to DH's parents for dinner on Saturday and I love them but it's still interacting with others who aren't immediate family, who I didn't grow up with, who I don't know like my own skin ... and then church on Sunday and teaching Sunday School ... and then hosting Thanksgiving dinner on Monday (which I'm hugely looking forward to but also carries it's own kind of stress) ... and I just want to lock myself up in my room or become a hermit or something ... and maybe have a good cry or two. Oh and did I mention that the 4yo and I watched an episode of Road to Avonlea this afternoon? The episode where Sarah, who already lost her mom also looses her dad too (in an accident at his work). Not easy for a 4yo to handle and not easy for this mama who lost her mama to handle!

And then on top of it all I signed up for this challenge (which, the Dutch pride in me will NOT allow me to quit) and chose bread of all things to be my topic!! What was I thinking?!?!

And I just need bread (sustenance) for this soul of mine. And my DH walks in the door and say, "Jen, pray." Just like that and I'm broken and reminded of God's grace and His strength and I say a quick prayer and look forward to quiet time when the girls are in bed and DH is out with brother-in-law and I can dig into the Word and speak with God and live in peace.

So I read this verse:

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is notlife more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? ... Matthew 6:25-24


Tuesday, 7 October 2014

{Day 7} Koek

My mom's Koek was one of my favourite things to eat ... and still is! The smell of this baking brings back so many wonderful memories! It's bittersweet too as it reminds me of my mom who passed away almost 2 years ago. The temptation to call her while baking this was great, the remember that I can't was hard. But, the positives: memories of childhood, of baking with Mom, of sitting down to warm Koek thickly buttered ... :) Those memories make me smile. I remember her telling me how to make it ... how it's important to NOT use the electric stand mixer but that it is so much better done in a simple mixing bowl with a wooden spoon. :) And how it's important to line your loaf pan with wax paper before putting the dough in.

Koek is the Dutch word for cake. But I think this can count more as a bread than a cake. Sure it is sweet, but some breads are quite sweet! And, as I said, it's best enjoyed thickly spread with butter/margarine ... who does that to cake? No one! You only do that to bread! Therefore, this must be bread! :)

I love how baking this makes my home feel so wonderfully warm! :)

I think it's ok for me to share the recipe here. If it's not, I'm sure my family will let me know. :)

So, here you go:

Mom's Koek

Ingredients:

4 cups  flour
2 cups  sugar
4 tsp     baking powder
2 tsp     baking soda
4 tsp     cinnamon
1/2 tsp  nutmeg
1/2 tsp  allspice
2 cups  milk
2/3c up oil
1 cup raisins (Optional)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Mix all ingredients in a medium to large mixing bowl. Stir until moist. Line 2 loaf pans with wax paper (you may need to grease the loaf pans slightly first so the paper stays in place). Divide the dough over the two pans. Bake in oven for 1 hour. The above ingredients will make 2 loaves. To make one, obviously just cut the ingredients in half. :)

I was so eager to cut into this loaf that I forgot to take photos first. :) So, here is the only picture you get! :)

Beauty!!

Monday, 6 October 2014

{Day 6} No Bread Today!

It has been one of those days people - I've barely been home. I had intentions of making a quick bread (yeast free) tonight but I also have to do groceries for the week and we're currently preparing supper. A bit too crazy! So I'm not baking today. And, hey, it's my blog so I can do what I want with it! :)

I decided today that I'm going to write about some favourite breads of mine.

I generally like most breads but I for sure have some favourites.

Raisin bread or, better yet, raisin buns are one of my all time favourites and hold warm memories of my childhood. (FYI, years ago, not sure if it's still the case, Coaldale Bakery in Coaldale, AB had THE BEST raisin buns ever! :) ) Nothing like raisin buns or bread with butter spread on top and white sugar sprinkled on top of that! :D

Pita bread is something I grew to like as I became an adult. It's only in the last few years that I decided to try making them myself. I make them by hand (in a bamboo mixing bowl with a wooden spoon) and it is so rewarding! I heard that using metal utensils to make bread just doesn't do it right and I would have to agree - if you can use a wooden spoon or your bare hands, you're going to have a nicer dough! :) The pitas are amazing, how the rise in the oven in the few minutes they bake, how moist they are compared to what you get at the stores ... they're just fabulous! Fry up a bit of chicken and stuff that along with Ranch dressing, cheddar cheese and sliced cucumbers and you have a delicious lunch! :)

Biscuits (or scones) are another favourite in our house. They are great for breakfast, warm with butter and jam or, they are a great side with a hearty stew for supper (especially cheese biscuits/scones)! :) (And yes, I'm lumping biscuits and scones into the same category.) :)

Now, my ultimate favourite which tends to be available just at the holiday time (Christmas usually) for us Dutch people. Oh! Did I mention I'm Dutch, even though I have a Scottish last name? I'm first generation Canadian (both parents immigrated from The Netherlands) but married a Canadian of Scottish & French descent. :) Fun cultures here! :) So this amazing Dutch holiday bread? Stollen!! This is a bread that is filled with dried fruits, raisins, currents, etc and, right down the middle, is a lovely filling of almond paste! Let's just say, this is AMAZING!!! I was thrilled to see that our local Dutch bakery already has some in stock. This bread is great for breakfast or for coffee time with butter (HAS to be butter) spread liberally on top! :)

There you have it! Some of my favourite breads of all time! I hope you enjoyed this post and this little break from my bread baking adventures. I hope to continue with the baking tomorrow! :)

Until then ...

Sunday, 5 October 2014

{Day 5} Challah

Golden Crisp Beauty! Goes well with my Fall decor too! :)


So perfect for a Sunday evening, today I chose to make Challah! There are many recipes for this out on the internet and in books. Some are made traditionally by hand, others in the bread machine (at least the dough is done in the machine). :) Being a busier day (why is it that Sundays are always busier?), I chose to make my dough in the bread machine ... it also allowed me to take a nap while the machine did all the work. :)

This is the recipe I followed:

Bread Machine Challah

Ingredients:
Water                                                       2/3 cup
Large egg                                                1
Cooking oil                                             2 tbsp
Bread flour                                              2 cups
Granulated sugar                                    1 tbsp
Breach machine (instant) yeast              1 ½ tsp
Salt                                                         1 tsp

Large egg, fork-beaten                           1
Water                                                      1 tbsp

Directions:
Place first 7 ingredients in bread machine in order given. Run through the dough cycle. Divide into 3 parts. Roll each part into 16” long ropes. Place on greased baking sheet. Pinch ends together. Braid the strips. Pinch ends together and tuck under the loaf. Cover with a tea towel. Let stand for 45 minutes until doubled in size. Preheat the oven while you’re doing this (and if your house is on the chilly side, put your baking sheet with the rising loaf on top of the stove to get some extra heat to help it rise).

Mix the beaten egg with the water. Brush over top of braid. Bake in 375 F oven for about 25 minutes. Remove to rack to cool. Makes 1 loaf.

As you can see by the above picture, I had some extra dough (because I didn't cut into equal thirds so one long rope was longer than the others) so I used the rest of the rope to make a little knot for the girls to eat. They thought it was great! :)

Oh. My. Goodness. This was delicious! There is not much left over! :) The crust was so beautifully crisp and the inside so soft and moist! Such a perfect loaf! :)

Apparently, you can also add honey to the recipe (same amount as the sugar) so I think I will try that next time ... and some vanilla too!

DH decided he needed to put me in the photo. :) This is the bread after it had risen and just before I put the egg wash on it.

Close-up of the bread pre-egg wash. :) Isn't it beautiful?! 


I'd also like to send you over to this link to read about Challah: http://www.aish.com/sh/t/rai/48970616.html ... it makes it so much more fitting for this to be a holy day bread (whether Saturday for Jews or Sunday for Christians). I especially like these words from the author: "Literally, challah is a mitzvah in the Torah (Numbers 15:17-21), which enjoins us to set aside one piece of dough from each batch we make, as it says: '…It shall be that when you eat the bread of the land, you shall set aside a portion [of dough] for God.' "

Blessings to you and yours this Lord's Day!

Saturday, 4 October 2014

{Day 4} Cinnamon Coffee Cake is Bread Too!

A chilly Saturday afternoon couldn't possibly get better than this! :)

A chilly Saturday came to us today. My in-laws were over since last night (so they could watch the girls for us last night while we went to see this new life via an ultrasound). :) They stayed the night so that DH and his dad could work on basement renovations (bathroom's almost done!! Yay!!). My mother-in-law said she was craving something cinnamon (and my autumn scented Scentsy bars that I was burning/melting? wasn't helping). :) We were thinking about what I could make for a bread today that would be easy and would satisfy cinnamon cravings (because, of course, when she mentioned that craving, I immediately also started craving cinnamon)! I opened my Company's Coming Breads cookbook and looked at the index and lo and behold, there was Cinnamon Coffee Cake!! DH said, "that's not bread, that's cake!" To which I replied, "if it's in a Breads cookbook, it counts as bread!" We were all satisfied with that logic. So, after breakfast (of left-over Overnight Breakfast Buns) I got to work on baking!  Again, the credit for the recipe goes to Jean Pare and her Company's Coming Breads cookbook, page 47.

Cinnamon Coffee Cake

Filling Ingredients:
Brown sugar, packed                                           ½ cup
Chopped walnuts or pecans                                 ½ cup
Ground cinnamon                                                1 ½ tsp

Cake Ingredients:
Butter or hard margarine, softened                      ¾ cup
Granulated sugar                                                 1 ½ cups
Large eggs                                                           3
Vanilla                                                                 1 ½ tsp

All-purpose flour                                                3 cups
Baking powder                                                   1 ½ tsp
Baking soda                                                        1 tsp
Salt                                                                      ¼ tsp

Sour Cream                                                         1 ½ cups

Filling Directions:
Mix all 3 ingredients in small bowl. Set aside.

Cake Directions:
Cream butter and sugar in large bowl. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. Add vanilla. Mix

Stir flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in medium bowl.

Add flour mixture to egg mixture in 3 parts alternately with sour cream in 2 parts beginning and ending with flour. Sprinkle 1/3 reserved filling in greased 10 inch angel food pan. Spoon half the cake batter over top. Sprinkle with 1/3 filling. Spoon on second half cake batter. Top with remaining 1/3 filling. Bake in 350 F oven for 50 to 60 minutes. Makes 1 large coffee cake.


 I did make a bit of changes. I had taken some apples out of the freezer as I intended to make apple crisp to go with dinner last night. That didn't happen. So, I added apples to the layers as well like so: apples, filling, batter, apples, filling batter, filling. This resulted in a delicious flavour and gave a little bit of necessary added moisture! Also, I didn't find it very cinnamon-y so next time I think I'd double the amount of filling and possibly even add a teaspoon of cinnamon to the flour mixture.

Everyone loved the cake for dessert after lunch!! :) Pictures? Sure!

Even though I let the girls lick beaters, they still sneaked the bowl from the counter to continue licking more! :) ... At least they took a cloth with them! :)

Little Emilie, barely able to reach the bottom of the bowl but she managed! :)

I LOVE this shot - she adapted by taking the bowl to the floor but I think it's adorable how innocent she looks! :)

The cake has finished baking and has been flipped out onto a plate for serving! :) You cannot imagine how delicious our house smells at this moment! :)

So pretty! :)


Enjoying dessert! 

Look at that sweet face! :) She sure loved her cake too! :)
 
Yeah, I think we took a good chunk out of it! :) Look at those lovely layers! :)

Friday, 3 October 2014

{Day 3} Pizza!!

This week has been cray busy! I needed a break today so, from the approval of many, I bring to you pizza! :) We make our own pizza dough. Honestly, we mostly just follow the recipe in the bread maker manual (it is one thing I regularly use the bread maker for ... in fact we have pizza every Friday!) but I make some changes. My favourite is to use garlic infused olive oil instead of just regular olive oil ... the hint of garlic in there is amazing, especially for our appetizer pizzas! :) I will also, on occasion, add italian seasoning to the ingredients so it mixes in the dough but this one I will usually only do when we have pizza with a tomato based sauce (a more traditional pizza). Our favourite pizzas are BBQ Chicken (which is on the menu for tonight), Chicken Bacon Ranch, and Farmer's Sausage with Onion! They are fabulous. Here are instructions for them all (but photos only of today's pizzas: BBQ Chicken and the appetizer cheese pizza). We also like thin crust pizza so, the small dough that our bread maker says is sufficient for one pizza we actually split over two pizzas and we get beautiful, crisp thin crusts! :)

BBQ Chicken Pizza

Ingredients:
pizza dough (1/2 recipe if you like thin crust)
BBQ sauce of your choice (our favourites are Cattle Boys or the Club House Wild Whiskey Smoked BBQ)
Chicken cut into 1" pieces and seasoned with Buffalo Wild Wings Chipotle BBQ Fire Roasted seasoning before frying (FYI Buffalo Wild Wings is the absolutely best place to go to eat fabulous wings!)
Mozza cheese
Cheddar cheese

Directions:
Roll out dough and spread on pizza pan (sprinkle corn meal on pizza pan to prevent sticking). Liberally spread your BBQ sauce onto the crust. Then place your chicken over that and top with your mozza cheese and a bit of cheddar to give it some extra zip. Bake as per recommendations of your bread machine but if you're going with a thin crust, 400 F for 20 minutes is good. :)

Chicken Bacon Ranch Pizza

Ingredients:
pizza dough (1/2 recipe for thin crust)
Ranch salad dressing (we prefer the Hidden Valley brand but Kraft is good too)
Chicken cut into 1" pieces and seasoned with salt and pepper before frying)
Green onions, chopped
Real bacon bits
Mozza cheese
Cheddar cheese

Directions:
Roll out dough and spread on pizza pan. Sprinkle corn meal on pizza pan first to prevent sticking. Liberally spread your Ranch dressing over the crust. Sprinkle with most of your mozza cheese. Place your chicken next and sprinkle with green onions and bacon bits. Top with the rest of the mozza cheese and a bit of cheddar for added zip. :) Bake as per recommendations of your bread machine but if you're going with a thin crust, 400 F for 20 minutes is good. :)

Farmer's Sausage and Onion Pizza

Ingredients:
pizza dough (1/2 recipe for thin crust)
BBQ sauce of your choice (though I highly recommend the Wild Whiskey Smoked BBQ for this one)
1-2 farmer's sausages fried up and then cut into small slices
1 onion chopped and fried up in butter
Mozza cheese
Cheddar cheese

Directions:
Roll out dough and spread on pizza pan. Sprinkle corn meal on pizza pan first to prevent sticking. Liberally spread your BBQ sauce over the crust. Give the sausages a quick fry whole (to make cutting them up easier). Remove to a plate, slice up, return to pan to finish frying along with chopped onions. When onions are looking nice and caramelly (I can count that as a word right? :) ) and sausage is fried, removed to a bowl (you can remove some grease if you want but I don't usually). Spread sausage and onion over your pizza. Top with the mozza cheese and a bit of cheddar (cheddar gives it extra zip)! :) Bake as per recommendations of your bread machine but if you're going with a thin crust, 400 F for 20 minutes is good. :)

Appetizer Cheese Pizza

Ingredients:
pizza crust (1/2 recipe for thin crust)
Italian salad dressing (the Kraft Tuscan Italian Olive Oil dressing is best)
Garlic salt
Mozza cheese
Cheddar cheese
Parmesan cheese

Directions:
Roll out dough and spread on pizza pan. Sprinkle corn meal on pizza pan first to prevent sticking. Liberally spread your Italian dressing over the crust. Sprinkle a bit of garlic salt on top of this (more if you didn't put garlic infused olive oil in the crust, less if you did). Top with a good sized amount of mozza cheese, a bit of cheddar and a sprinkle of parmesan. Bake at 400F for 20 minutes. :)

OK, some pictures! And I need to apologize for them. I intended to take photos before we all dug into the deliciousness that is our homemade pizza BUT they are so awesome and everyone was so hungry that we all grabbed some before I could take photos. And I'm pregnant so my memory isn't so great sometimes. :) Anyways, we were almost done the pizza before I remembered to take a photo. :) So you get one photo with both pizzas in it.

The one on the left is the appetizer cheese pizza and the one on the right is the BBQ chicken pizza. :) I'm please to say that there was nothing left by the end of the meal. :)

This is not a typical "bread" so to speak, but as I was reminded earlier today, pizza dough has flour and yeast so we can easily call it bread! :) I hope some of these pizzas intrigue you and that you try them yourselves. Oh! Before I forget, the Farmer's Sausage one is also really nice with a mild Italian sausage in place of the Farmer's Sausage. :)