Thursday, May 27, 2010

Today She Learned How To Reuse Water

I don't know if this is just my house, but it seems that whenever it comes time to round up the dishes to load the dishwasher, I dump out a bunch of half-empty water glasses. Recently, in an effort to improve our indoor air quality, we added a few houseplants. Now, I know that some may just dump the water right into the plants, but I'm both forgetful and bad with plants. I tend to over-water them, and I imagine I would get a bit carried away with the water-dumping.

Back track to Monday. I went to Ikea (happy place) and a purple watering can caught my eye. It was only $1.99, so I bought it and figured it might add some fun to my plant-watering.

This morning, while I was doing the glass-gathering routine, it occurred to me that I could dump the water into the watering can over the course of a few days and then water the plants as needed.

It's a small step, but I feel a little better knowing that I won't be wasting the leftover water in all those glasses.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Today She Learned To Use Caution When Making Faces At The Baby

Woman at yarn store: "I was worried about you for a minute."

Me: "Huh?"

Woman: "I didn't see the baby at first and I was worried that something was wrong with you."

Me: ::red with embarrassment::

I had been making faces at my 2 month old baby girl, while waiting for my yarn to be wound into balls. There was a display case in front of me, about 3 feet high, that was apparently blocking this woman's view of the stroller. It must have been quite a sight - me, sticking my tongue out and making who-knows-what expression, at what appeared to be a display of yarn, when in reality I was doing it in exchange for happy coos and smiles.

Note to self: Next time, pay attention to your surroundings.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Today She Learned That Homemade Bread ROCKS!

First, a story about me and the bread machine. Once upon a time I was a bread-making snob. This was in my teen years. I found a recipe for homemade dinner rolls and put them together for Thanksgiving. By hand (okay, with the KitchenAid). They were light, fluffy, sweet and delicious. They became a staple at family holiday dinners. I carefully crafted my rolls every year, paying attention to kneading, rising, etc to make sure they came out perfectly. I prided myself on my ability to make yeast breads - something my awesome-baker mom never mastered. I arrogantly said that anyone who needed a bread machine was cheating.

Fast forward to 2005 - my first holiday season as a married woman. Naturally, as a "grown-up" I was expected to take on other responsibilities in the kitchen, but I continued to make my dinner rolls... However, for some reason, they were more like hockey pucks now. I spent the next 4 years of marriage making less-than-stellar dinner rolls. It finally began to occur to me that maybe all my extra responsibilities in the kitchen (I had hosted several Thanksgivings) had taken my attention away from my precious bread. Then, last year for Thanksgiving, I used my mom's bread machine. The rolls were light, fluffy and delicious again. I had a new love!

My mom sensed this love and I was given my very own bread machine for Christmas. Two failed loaves of bread caused me to set it aside for a few months. In one attempt (using a recipe that came with the machine), the loaf was lopsided and tasteless. In the other (a recipe I adapted), the dough just didn't come together. I was crestfallen... okay that's a bit melodramatic, but I was bummed to say the least.

I decided to dust off the bread machine and search Recipe Zaar for a recipe for Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread. I found this one, which had rave reviews, and decided I'd give it a shot. The secret, according to the author of the recipe, is in using gluten, vitamin c powder, and lecithin granules to counteract the heaviness of the whole wheat. Well, I had gluten, but no vitamin c powder or lecithin granules. Most of the reviewers had omitted the lecithin, so I decided I could, too. I had some vitamin C tablets, so I ground them up to use in place of the vitamin C powder. My bread maker required an extra 2-3 tablespoons of water to bring the dough together and counteract the dryness of our climate.

The result was a beautiful loaf of light, healthy, sandwich-worthy bread. I was absolutely amazed! This recipe will be my go-to recipe for sandwich bread and I have no plans to buy a loaf of bread any time in the near future.

Here's the recipe, with notes on the changes I made (I'll try to remember to take pictures next time I make it to add to the recipe).

* 1-1/3 cups water (*I had to add 2-3 tablespoons because of the dryness here)
* 1/4 cup vegetable oil (*I used Canola)
* 1-1/2 teaspoons lecithin granules (*omitted)
* 3-1/4 cups hard whole wheat flour (as opposed to whole wheat pastry flour - mine had 4g of protein per serving)
* 1/4 cup dark brown sugar (*I used light brown)
* 2-1/4 tablespoons skim milk powder
* 1/4 cup gluten flour
* 1/4 teaspoon vitamin C powder (*I used ground up vitamin C tablets)
* 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
* 1-1/2 teaspoons yeast

*Place ingredients in bread machine in the order shown (or as directed by your machine).
*Set machine to 1 1/2 pound loaf capacity.
*Set the machine to run on the dough cycle. Watch it through the initial mixing process. If the dough is not coming together, slowly add some water.
*At completion of the dough cycle, turn the dough out onto a floured surface and roll into a rectangle about 8"x12".
*Roll dough into a log, starting with the 8" side, so that your log is 8" long.
*Place into a lightly oiled bread pan and let rise until doubled (about an hour).
*Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes or until the top is golden and the bread makes a hollow sound when thumped.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Today She Learned That The Exhaust Fan Should Be On When Adding The Wine

Oops. The title of today's post was supposed to be something mildly impressive like "Today She Learned to Make French Bread" or "Today She Did 8 Loads of Laundry". Both of those are true, but the stand-out in my mind was adding the wine to my hot pan, watching it hiss as the alcohol burned off, and hearing the smoke alarm go off. I instantly chuckled and thought to myself, "Aha, today she learned...". Thankfully the smoke alarm was quickly silenced, the house was aired out, and I finished making my sauce without further incident.

The dish for which the sauce was intended was Chicken Cordon Bleu. I had never made it, but I wanted to cook chicken for dinner and needed something that the Hubby would eat. Too often, when he asks "What's for dinner?" and I answer "Chicken," it conjures in his mind a plain, overcooked, tasteless chicken breast all alone on a plate. I have learned over the years that if I am going to say we are having chicken, I better have a description of what is planned... even better if it involves cheese. Thus, my quest to make dinner began.

Now, here's the thing about this story... One of the big things I need to learn is how to pull together dinner. Once in a while I'll get into the swing of things and put together a menu for the week. That's rare, though. Today I found myself staring at the chicken and thinking about the Chicken Rollatini I had at a restaurant a few weeks ago. That triggered the idea of Chicken Cordon Bleu. Ham & cheese rolled into breaded chicken sounded like something Hubby would like. I quickly found this recipe and concluded that I had most of the ingredients. I breezed through the reviews and decided that I would follow suggestions to brown the rolls in a pan, then finish them in the oven. Since I didn't have heavy cream (and to lighten it up a bit), I figured I could make the sauce with 1% milk.

Since I made pizza dough earlier in the week, the thrill of using my bread machine was fresh in my mind. Again, it was back to the computer where I found a recipe for Bread Machine French Bread, with raves about how good it was when prepared as suggested by one of the reviewers, ~*Miss Diggy*~.

I prepared the chicken rolls while Sophie was sleeping in the afternoon, popped the ingredients into the bread machine and continued my laundry crusade (which I had dedicated my day to). The bread machine signaled the end of it's dough cycle at about 4:30. I shaped it into 2 loaves, froze one and set the other to rise. It went into the oven at 5:30ish, I started searing the chicken at 5:50, popped it into the oven at 6:00, removed the bread, put together the sauce (which, if you recall, is what started this lengthy saga), and dinner was on the table by 6:30. All in all it was quite tasty - I'd definitely make it again.

And the French Bread? Let's just say I'm very excited about making French Toast tomorrow morning!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Today She Learned How To Paint Pottery

It's something I've been wanting to try for a long time! You know, the places with walls of unpainted pottery pieces just waiting for you to make them bright and colorful? It's not that I want to develop a habit of it. I just wanted to try it once. Well, today I had my chance. My mother-in-law wanted to take Sophie to As You Wish to get something done with her footprints. She does the pottery-painting thing quite a bit, so this time I got to do the painting!

We picked out a frame and I set to work while Sophie had
some Grandma time. Since I am a tad bit persnickety, I had to lay out every detail before I could start painting (I once took my nieces to As You Wish and let them paint something... I had a lot of trouble biting my tongue to keep from saying things like "maybe we should lay out some nice guidelines before we start" - or other comments that would seem ridiculous to a 7 & 8 year old).

I can't wait to see how it turned out!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Today She Learned To Make A Blog

That's right. I've joined the ranks of bloggers with one of my very own. My goal is to chronicle my experiences as a new stay at home mommy.

It is often said that we should learn one thing new each day. I'm pretty sure that I learn MANY new things every day. The problem is that I often don't take the time to notice. I figure that this is a good way to be more aware of what I am learning, and to focus my goals. Right now I am trying to learn how to:

  1. Be a mommy,
  2. Be a wife,
  3. Sew,
  4. Knit,
  5. Photograph,
  6. Cook meals without a recipe,
  7. Garden,
  8. Be a better steward of the Earth,
  9. Be more conscious of the quality of food we eat,
  10. Keep a budget.
...and the list could go on and on! So, there you have it. Today I learned to make a blog. I will probably learn many more things today, but that's a start.