Cooking 101 - Whole Wheat Bread

This bread is SO good. It's 100% whole wheat so there's not a lot of guilt involved when you eat it. I've found that if I use white wheat flour (still 100% wheat), the bread doesn't have a bitter wheat taste, and it stays light and fluffy. AND it makes a killer sandwich!!!

(makes 2 regular-sized loaves)

2 1/2 t. yeast (or two 1/4-oz. pkgs)
1 c. warm water
1 c. scalded milk
2/3 c. honey
2/3 c. melted butter
2 t. salt (or a little less)
2 eggs
4-8 c. white wheat flour

a handful (about 1/2 c.) quick oats
a handful of ground flax (about 1/4 c.)

In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, mix milk, honey, melted butter, salt, egg, and yeast mixture while the mixer is running on low speed. Add the oats and flax if you're using it. Add flour gradually, 2 c. at a time. You may only need 6 c. of flour, you may need a little more, but you probably won't need more than 8 c. The dough should be a little sticky, pulling at the sides of the bowl a little bit. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes. Place in a well-greased bowl; cover and let rise until doubled in size - about 1 1/2 hours.

When dough is doubled in size, punch down dough. Knead a few times on a well floured surface. Cut dough in half; form into loaves and set them evenly into two regular-sized, buttered loaf pans. (The dough should sit about 2 inches below the top of the loaf pan)

Let the bread rise again for another 30-minutes to an hour. Bake it at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until the bread is golden brown and sounds hollow when you tap it with your fingernail. Let the bread rest and cool for at least 15-20 minutes before slicing into it.

The End of a 3-Month Whirlwind

Hi All! I hope you had a great Holiday season! I guess, technically, we have one more big one left - New Year's - but the bulk of it all is over and done with and as much fun as it was, I'm so glad to be done racing around!

Oh, and the day after Christmas my computer CRASHED. Nice. EVERYTHING was lost, but luckily I didn't trust my junky Dell so I had recently backed everything up in September. I only lost 3 months of stuff but it was still painful. So after crying my tears, I picked myself up and drove over to the Apple store where they hooked me up and made me feel SO much better! Aha! Thank you, Apple for making computers that WORK.

So now that most of the holidays are over, it's back to doing what I love - projects! It seems like the three-month fog that is Halloween through Christmas has lifted and everything can settle down a bit finally. It's fun and all, but I'm ready to be done with holidays!

Until I get my act together, here's what I'm drooling over:

LaLa's Paquinos

Aren't these things the CUTEST things ever?!

Meringue Designs
I'm in the mood to do a banner similar to this - maybe for Valentine's Day, and a generic "Happy Birthday" one for any time there's a birthday around here! I'm already getting excited...

These cute Penny Pockets from Happy Zombie would be fun, too - and she gives a GREAT tutorial on her blog.

If I had any energy whatsoever right now, and if I didn't need to go to the grocery store BAD....I'd jump up and make something...haha!


Light Bright!

Leave it to Martha (or should I say - her talented STAFF) to think of something like this! I love it! Don't know where I'd put something like this, but it's so darn cool! Here is a link for the directions. So when the holidays are over - don't put away the white lights - do something like this and get creative with your own designs.


Salt Dough / Homemade Play Dough

I'm finally getting around to posting this recipe - this is the BEST STUFF ON EARTH and it hardly costs anything! I love that my mom reminds me of these simple, fun things.

For a fun night with the kids, or even better - for some time by yourself, mix up a batch of this and let the kids go nuts while you go relax with a box of chocolates in the pantry closet. They'll never know you're gone!

Oh, and I have to add that when I was little, my mom had us make fun Christmas ornaments like this with these very same cookie cutters and I can't tell you how much fun it was year after year getting out our homemade ornaments that we made and painted. I think mom still has all of them from so long ago in a box somewhere. Now my kids have their own set and it was SUCH an inexpensive, fun, memory-making project.

What You'll Need:
2 c. Flour
1 c. Salt
1 T. Oil (vegetable oil or olive oil is fine)
Warm water - about 1 c.
Food coloring (optional)
Cookie cutters with patterns in the middle
Acrylic or children's water color paints
(acrylic doesn't wash out of clothes like the watercolor paints will)
Glitter paint (optional) - makes Christmas ornaments sparkly
Spray Varnish

Combine the flour and salt; add oil and combine

Add water a little at a time. Start by using about 3/4 c. of the water, mix the dough with your hands, and add more water as you need it a little at a time. Dough should be moist but not sticky - just like the store-bought Play Doh.

If you want to paint your creations, keep the dough white. If you don't care and just want the kids to play with it, separate the dough into parts and use food coloring and make dough of different colors. Now let 'em play for hours. Store the dough in zipper baggies in the fridge so it will last longer.

Roll out the dough, cut out your creations, and poke a hole with a toothpick where you want your string to hang from - and give yourself plenty of room for the string/ribbon. Keep in mind that the thicker your cut-out is, the longer it has to bake. Try to keep your cut-outs somewhat thin and uniform in thickness.

Place the ornaments on a cookie sheet (ungreased, of course) and bake them between 200 degrees and 250 degrees for about an hour. Ours were baked at 250 degrees and they were fine, but your oven might be different. Your oven is too hot if your ornaments get bubbles in them. Turn the ornaments over and let the other side bake for a while - maybe 30 minutes to an hour, depending on how hardened they are.

To check for doneness, tap on the ornaments and if they sound crisp, dry, and light, then they're done. If you tap on them and they feel dense and heavy, then they need a little bit longer. Just keep checking them.

When done, let the ornaments cool for a minute, and they're ready to paint. After the paint has dried, spray varnish them and the colors will become more vibrant and the ornaments will last a very long time.


It's That Busy Time Again!!!

WOW! What a fun time of the year but SO BUSY! However, I love this season so much that I'm enjoying EVERYTHING! Oh, and thanks so much for the kind well-wishes while I was sick! That was so nice!

Thanksgiving was simple and HEAVENLY, my hubby and I celebrated our 12th wedding anniversary, my mom came for a fun visit, we've been decorating for Christmas, and that's all just the beginning. I'll try to post something worthwhile soon but until then, HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!

Here's a little peek of what it looks like around our house!

While my mom was here, she and the kids made salt clay ornaments, baked them, and she had the kids paint them. I love it! The kids have a little tree of their very own to display their creations!