Wednesday, February 27, 2013

California Trip (Wordless Wednesday)

Our family loves the beach.  Allison and Sarah comb the rocky areas for crabs while Joey dives right into the waves and gets soaking wet, no matter what the weather or what he's wearing.  Lillian favors finding a quiet spot to read, while Katie and Harmony let the waves tickle their feet.  Cami loves to be a part of it all.

There was a kind couple there on our last day who let Joey use their paddle board.  He had a great time.

I turned around and Katie had decided to strip to the buff.

Disneyland was also a big hit. 

This is always happening to Cami -- Asian tourists can't resist her blue eyes and quick smile.

I got to spend hours in Fantasyland with the littlest three while DH took the biggest six on more wild rides.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Favorite Bread Recipes

After testing a lot of recipes, here are my current favorites.

French Bread  

* Amazing French Bread from Keeping it Simple This one has a nice texture and tastes just a tad salty (in a good way).  The best part about it is that it only takes about 70 minutes from start to finish.
    1/2 cup warm water (not hot)
    2 Tbsp of yeast
Mix these two things together and let yeast dissolve in water for 10 minutes.  While you wait add these ingredients into a large bowl:
    5 Tbsp oil
    2 cups warm water
    3 Tbsp sugar
    1 Tbsp salt
    3 cups flour
Mix the ingredients with a large spoon. 
Add yeast mixture and stir.
Add another 3 cups of flours into mixture and stir.
Place dough on floured surface and then knead with your hands for 10 minutes, until the dough isn’t sticky anymore.  Add more flour if it’s too sticky.  Divide the dough in half and roll into rectangles (or as close to rectangle as you can), about 9x12 inches.  Roll the dough onto itself (like as if you are rolling a cinnamon roll) starting at the long edges (so the width of the roll is about 9”).  Grease a cookie sheet and then put the seam of the dough down, facing the sheet.  Then with a little water, close the ends with your fingers.  Cut three diagonal slits on the top using a knife.  Let raise for 30 minutes.  Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes or until golden brown.


Tanya Killian's Dinner Rolls

½ c. sugar
2 T. yeast
2 ¼ c. warm water
Mix, then add:
2 eggs, beaten
¼ c. butter, softened
2 t. salt
2 cups flour
Mix, then gradually add 4 more cups of flour.  You want a soft dough, but not runny.  Let rise for 1 hour in a greased bowl.  Roll inot 24 or 30 rolls and place on a greased jelly roll pan.  Let rise, covered with tea towel, for one hour.  Bake at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes or 350 for 20 or so minutes, until the bottom has browned.

Bread Bowls

* Italian Bread Bowls by Mel's Kitchen Cafe
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast (use 1 tablespoon instant yeast)
  • 2 1/2 cups warm water
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 7 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon cornmeal
  1. In a large bowl (or bowl of an electric mixer), dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes. (You can omit this step if using instant yeast.)
  2. Add salt, oil and 4 cups flour to the yeast mixture; beat well. Stir in the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, beating well with an electric mixer at medium speed after each addition until a soft but not sticky dough is formed (you may not need to use all 7 cups). This bread bowl dough needs to be a bit firmer than a roll/bread dough so that the bread bowls rise up instead of out.
  3. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 6 minutes (or let knead in an electric mixer). Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 40 minutes. Punch dough down, and divide into 6-8 equal portions. Shape each portion into a round ball. Place loaves on lightly greased baking sheets sprinkled with cornmeal (or use silpat liners or parchment paper). If desired, slash the top surface of the bread bowl several times with a sharp knife or razor. Cover and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, until doubled in bulk, about 35 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake in preheated oven for 15-18 minutes until golden brown and baked through.

Whole Wheat Bread

I'm still searching for more recipes to try in this category (suggestions), but the best one I've found so far is from my friend Ana Blake:

Ana Blake's Oatmeal Wheat bread
3 T yeast
3 T gluten flour (I get mine at a local health food store)
4 1/4 cups warm/hot water
7 cups wheat flour (I grind about 25 lbs once per month and keep it on hand)
Add the above ingredients to your mixer, let it go for about a minute, then turn it off and let it sit for 15-20 minutes to "sponge" or until it is doubled in size.  (On warm days it goes faster.)

After it has risen, turn the mixer on to punch the "sponge" down and add the following:
4 cups oats (quick or regular, it doesn't matter)
2 T salt
1/2 cup sugar (or honey)
1/2 cup oil
2 cups white flour (adding some white flour, along with gluten flour helps the consistency and flavor of the bread A LOT)

Mix for 9-10 minutes.  Spray four loaf pans, shape the loaves (I just use a sharp knife to quarter the dough and roll each loaf a few times with the heels of my hands, tucking the ends in) and add them to the pans and let rise for 30 minutes or till double.  Put pans in oven, turn oven on to 350 (DON'T preheat first).  Bake for 15 minutes, then rotate pans from bottom shelf to top and bake for 15 minutes more.  Butter (or spray) the tops to make them soft.  Makes four loaves.

Monday Musings #7: Almost March

*  I had one day last week -- Friday -- when I woke up feeling rested.  It was an unfamiliar feeling, and it was wonderful.  I was able to use naptime to exercise and run on the treadmill instead of needing to lie down myself.  An extra two hours in my day?  Wow.  I would love it for that to continue.  I woke up tired again today, but at least there's an external cause -- Katie came crawling into bed with me at midnight and kicked me a good part of the night.  Maybe if my brain was functioning in the middle of the night, I might have been smart enough to walk her back to her bed?

* This little cutie turned one year old on Valentine's Day.  She delights us all with her quick smile and cheerful heart.  Everyone adores her.  There's something wonderful about the influence a baby has on her older siblings.  No matter how cranky or moody they might  be, she can always brighten their day. 

*  I've been doing fairly well with my goals for the year, particularly with the "learn to enjoy cooking" one.  Too bad my kids aren't doing so well in the "learn to enjoy eating mom's cooking" department.  Oh, most of them are fine.  It's just two who are extremely picky and refuse to try anything other than pizza, lasagne and peanut butter sandwiches.  We've been making them eat a small amount of everything anyway, in the hopes that a more balanced diet will allow them to live long enough to afford their therapy someday. 

*  Fridays, I've been making soup every week and I've found some really yummy soups.  One of our favorites is this Chicken and Dumpling soup.  It tastes divine, though the dumplings aren't as thick as I wish.  I tried a Lion House cookbook recipe for the same kind of soup last week and while also good, it wasn't quite as tasty and the dumplings weren't any better.

*  I've been making bread or rolls once or twice a week as well.  Even my picky eaters don't complain about that.  I made these bread bowls on Friday and they were fantastic, though if you make them, I recommend dividing them into 8 or 10 bowls.  I made six and they were way too big.

*  I've been frustrated and discouraged by my *very* slow progress in weight loss this time.  In the past eight weeks, I've lost 5.5 lbs.  This is the first time I've tried losing weight when I haven't been nursing and it is much harder.  And I think I'm just mentally having a harder time feeling motivated to watch everything I eat.  This is my third winter/spring in a row where I've hit it hard and I'm just tired of it.  I want the weight to just melt off this time without me having to do much more than run.  But that's not how my body and appetite works.  I am determined, however, to do much better in March. 

*  Though the weight isn't coming off like I want, I am making progress on the running.  I ran 32 miles in January and I'm on target to run over 50 for February.  I've found a wonderful running partner who influenced me to join her team for the Wasatch Back Ragnar this summer.  It's a 24-hour race from Logan to Park City.  I'll have three legs.  The first is a very tough, 6.5 mile jarring downhill run.  Then I have 8 miles straight up.  I finish out with an easy 3 mile run through the streets of Heber.  I'm excited for it, and especially to be training differently.  Instead of going for distance endurance, as I have in the past, I'm going to be adding lots of hills and other terrain.  I signed up for the Thanksgiving Point Half Marathon on April 27th and after getting up to that distance, I'll focus the next two months on pushing up and down the hills.  It should make me an overall better runner.   I'm going to switch from the Utah Valley Marathon to the half distance so I can focus on running quality rather than quantity. 

*  I'm getting faster at running and it feels great.  Friday, I took to the treadmill for a mile to see if I could beat my fastest time, 10:03 from last summer.  My most recent fastest has been 10:34.  I got 9:30.  It about killed me, though, so I don't think I'll be running that fast over long distances any time soon.  Still, I've been doing more 11-minute miles instead of 11 and a half or 12 on my longer runs, and I love seeing the progress.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Monday Musings #6: How many more weeks 'til spring?

*  We got home Saturday from a week in sunny Southern California.  It was lovely.  The view from our room was divine, but even more lovely was the fresh air and warmth.  

Utah's inversion where we live has been especially awful this year, with snow lingering on the ground since Christmas and very few days in January above freezing.  We try to go to a warmer place for a week every winter, but I think this year we craved it more than usual.  We had a great time at the pool, at the beach, and at a little place called Disneyland.  I'll share more photos later, but doesn't this one of Harmony say it all?

*  I want to write more, but often I feel tired and uninspired so I don't.  I was reading this article about Brandon Sanderson yesterday, though, and I was struck by his advice for writers:  "Sit in a chair and write.  Ignore this thing they call writer’s block. Doctors don’t get doctor’s block; your mechanic doesn’t get mechanic’s block. If you want to write great stories, learn to write when you don’t feel like it. You have to write it poorly before you can write it well. So just be willing to write bad stories in order to learn to become better.”  So, if you find my posts boring at times, just know I'm taking his advice to heart.

*  I found this article in the Wall Street Journal about the consequences of America's falling birthrate interesting.  Among the middle class, our birthrate rivals China:  "Chinese women have a fertility rate of 1.54. Here in America, white, college-educated women—a good proxy for the middle class—have a fertility rate of 1.6. America has its very own one-child policy. And we have chosen it for ourselves."   I don't know if I agree with the article that more incentives are the way to encourage more children as I tend to think that government programs mostly are a bureaucratic nightmare.  I also thought it was interesting that the average birthrate for a woman in 1800 was supposedly 7 children. There was a woman I met on the beach last week in California who seemed amazed that I had birthed 9 children, as if it wasn't physically possible. So it's interesting to me to note that in an age where the medical care was so primitive, and women died more often in childbirth and in general, the average was so high.

*  I lost five pounds in January.  I came home from our trip and stepped on the scale to realize I'd gained six on our trip.  Six pounds in one week?  Ick.  I didn't think I'd eaten that much, though maybe the homemade cookies and the rice crispies with peanut butter and nutella on top were a contributing factor.  I did go for three runs near and on the beach, though, and they were great.  I've got to get motivated to lose the weight and get my fitness back.  I'm starting the first week of marathon training tomorrow, though I'm thinking I might switch to the half-marathon because I just don't know if I'm motivated or ready for the longer distances by June.  I'm supposed to run 6 miles on Saturday.  My longest run in the last few months has been only 4.25 miles so I'm a bit intimidated by that distance.  

*  We don't have channel television at home, so I'm always fascinated by what's showing when we go on a trip.  If you were an anthropologist trying to infer what Americans are like based on what's on television, I'm afraid you'd figure we were all either superficial brats or crazy loons.  From people obsessed with weddings (why is Say Yes to the Dress still on?  Do people really watch that?) to mothers subjecting their kids to screaming dance teachers or enrolling their toddlers in beauty pageants to people out in the wilderness spending eight hours digging for $15 worth of gold, we're a strange bunch.  Then you have shows like Doomsday Preppers, where guns and ammo are just as important as MREs and freeze-dried tomatoes.  Weird.


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