Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Baking, Boys and Bread

Tonight Gage and I made some really wonderful oatmeal cookies. We started off by creaming the softened butter into the sugars and then changed the three cups of quick oats into 2 cups of quick oats and 1 cup of rolled oats. I've found this makes the cookies chewier...which is the way I like them~!

Gage had a blast discovering new things. He found out what happens when you add flour to the mixing bowl and then flick the switch all the way on :) That was interesting...and had me more than a little concerned that our cookies were going to end up botched. He tried to crack an egg himself, and didn't succeed this time but I'm sure next time he'll get it to break open...haha. His tentative taps on the counter were very adorable as he tried not to make a big mess and waste the egg. All in all, he is a great help in the kitchen when I bake, and even enjoys cleaning up afterwards.

So about these cookies! They are supposedly going to stay soft, even when they are cooled. So far, so good, but I'd like to see them in the morning. :) The recipe called for a greased cookie sheet...I can't remember the last time I had to grease a cookie sheet, but I did it and wasn't disappointed with the end result. I like that this recipe required the dough to chill for an hour, because I plan to mix them up before dinner next time and bake them after cleanup. The timing should be just about perfect!

My five minutes a day bread did not work. I was so frustrated with the first loaf--on the second day I couldnt' even bring myself to attempt baking a second one. I think I figured out where I went wrong. I used the exact times the recipe stated for allowing the dough to rise, and I think I should have let it go longer. The recipe in the magazine stated "allow the dough to rise until it flattens on top" the part I missed is that once it's in the fridge it should collapse on itself! Mine never did that! So the only logical answer I can see at this point is that it never made it to the point of rising that it was supposed to. However--I have no intention of letting this recipe beat me down--I will be remaking soon, this time allowing it to rise overnight.

I'm not sure about any copyrights on the oatmeal cookie recipe--so I'm going to double check that before I post it. (If you want it I'd be more than happy to email it to you.)

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. --Theodore Roosevelt

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Hash Brown Casserole & More...

Tonight I decided to try a recipe for hash brown casserole. The entire ordeal started behind, because I didn't remember to thaw the hashbrowns. :) So after an "express defrost" in the microwave, I managed to get them to fall apart. I had mixed together the sour cream, cheese and soup, and then stirred it into the potatoes...OOPS I forgot to add the butter. was quite the project making this simple recipe. (All recipes will be at the bottom of the post)

I have to admit, for me, the simplest recipes are sometimes the most difficult. For example, the first recipe I ever really truly bombed was Rice-Krispy Treats in 7th grade! Moving forward, I was wrestling with my overfull bowl (my largest bowl is in the fridge holding dough) trying to stir and ended up pouring the entire mess into the 9x13 baking dish then drizzling the butter over it before stirring it right there in the pan! :) I had substituted dry onion flakes because my two onions in the fridge were looking a bit spoiled and when I pulled it out thought I had made a huge mistake and they were burnt!~thankfully it was simply a few pieces of mushroom from the soup that had stayed on top and gotten a tad bit crispy.

Overall I felt like the recipe was bland. At the table, I tossed some seasoning salt and pepper on top of mine, trying to perfect the flavor--and that greatly enhanced it. The next time I intend to use less soup, more cheese and season the hashbrowns with salt before stirring ANYTHING into them. It seems technique has once again won out against sheer ingredients. Mind you--I did not PLAN to make a bland casserole--I simply walked into the recipe with no knowledge of what makes it work. On a side note--I mixed a small bit of Manwich Sloppy Joe on top of the casserole...and that was quite appealing for a second day dish!

Chip really enjoyed the tiny sandwich I made for him from a buttermilk biscuit with a teaspoon of sloppy joe! I served the biscuits because I only had enough buns for the adults and the children don't like manwich YET...

For dessert we finished the dough from one of the "best chocolate chip cookie" recipes I found online. They were definitely better than the ones I typically make, and if you want to know's all about how long you cream the butter and sugars. Turn them nearly white! If you don't believe me--just try it once and it'll make a big difference. I have the blessing of a KitchenAid Stand mixer with a 5qt bowl that I use for most recipes. It took nearly 5 minutes to cream the sugars and butter and then an additional 2 minutes with the eggs and vanilla. This recipe also used more brown sugar than white to provide a chewier cookie!

Hashbrown Casserole
2 lbs frozen hashbrowns (thawed)
1/2 c butter--melted
Salt & Pepper to taste
1/2 c chopped onion ( I used a handful of dried flakes)
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
2 cups cheddar cheese

Mix in a large bowl, turn into a greased 9x13 pan. Bake 350 degrees 45 minutes.

As I type this I'm wondering about adding some veggies--like celery or even just celery salt. Maybe some shredded zuchinni or somethiong....I'll let ya know what I revise this recipe with. Any suggestions would be welcome!

And don't forget to save those sour cream containers...reuse...reduce...recycle....or as I like to say wash and repurpose! I'm planning on planting seeds in the baby food containers I have laying around, and more on how I use containers coming later!

Positively Purposeful!

Great Ideas Need a Home!

I realized as I was baking bread yesterday, that baking and cooking and the quality of each depends more on technique than anything! You can take a perfectly good recipe and butcher it by not using the correct techiniques in baking. My intent is to blog about the recipes I find that are great, how I made them--what worked and what didn't as well as just other helpful things I come across as I strive to make life simple and organic and use less waste. I am jumping into the world of gardening for the first time, learning how to use a charcoal grill, and homeschooling my precious girlie! Follow along with me if you wish and see what God has in store for me in the next few months :)

I have plans for a 5x20 foot garden this summer to save money on produce over the summer and give us all a good reason to be outside daily. Mother Earth News has an entire article on how to do it, and how the woman (author of Edible Landscaping) saved around $700 on produce in one summer! I have a charcoal grill I'm going to learn how to use, with hopes of re-creating a fantastic recipe from my brother Dustin. It's a honey chicken marinade that you grill with lots of peppers, onions and mushrooms! YUMMY! More on that later!

This year is going to be an adventure as I move forward into learning new things and actively repurposing things around the house. I've already began saving up egg cartons for seedlings and have high hopes for what is to come. My only stumbling block is that I promised myself I would organize my house first--which has 2 spaces left for sorting. The storage area upstairs and the basement! So before spring arrives I'll be racing to accomplish those two tasks without letting the rest of the house go to shambles while I work.

An idea I ran across today that I want to mention before I forget was sewing your own produce bags for the grocery store! Now isn't that fantastic? No more "unrecyclable" produce bags beign thrown into the trash--and by creating your own you can customize the sizes!
Something to think about if you buy a lot of produce!

As for the bread I was baking yesterday, I'll let you know how it turns out. The first loaf I made last night was dense but edible. Today I warmed it in the microwave and dipped it in my tortilla soup, and that was delicious. I'm making the second loaf (this is a store it in the fridge recipe to make a loaf a day) tonight or tomorrow and we'll see if this one rises!

Positively Purposeful!