Monday, January 18, 2010

Basic Bread

Last fall I got myself a bread machine with a Kohl's giftcard. I'm sure that card was meant for me to purchase clothes for myself, but the mom in me wanted to learn how to make bread for my family. Having a super tight food budget right now, making bread is a simple way to pinch pennies, and with a bread machine it's not very hard at all. You need to start out with the right ingredients and a little basic knowledge on how to use them.

First off I recommend using bread flour. You can use all-purpose flour, however I have had more bread failures with that then I do bread flour. You can mix all-purpose with bread flour too if you want, or with whole wheat if you like. Half bread, half all-purpose wheat turns out nicely. For this, I'll use plain unbleached white. I also purchase yeast in a jar. It's more cost effective, and of course I keep the jars when I'm done to store other things in.

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First step is to measure out your yeast, if your using jar yeast you need to let it come to room temperature. If your using packet yeast, be aware that the yeast in that packet can die, so don't buy too much at once. If you refrigerate your packet yeast, don't forget to let it come to room temperature before you use it. Want to know more about yeast? Read here.

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While the yeast is coming to room temperature, I measure out the dry ingredients and put them together in a bowl. I use organic sugar, and sea salt along with my flour. I'll post my entire recipe below.

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In my bread machine, I add hot water, and oil first. Followed by my dry ingredients.

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Finally I add in the yeast, and I'm ready to go. My particular bread machine takes three hours to cook, so I started it early in the afternoon so we can have fresh bread for dinner. Left over chicken from Friday's chicken will become chicken salad very shortly, along with home made french fries from the bag of potatoes. I have a home cooked meal that hasn't cost me any extra because the ingredients were already in my home.

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Basic Bread Machine Recipe:
  • 1 cup of warm water
  • 3 tbs organic sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 3 tbs oil (any oil, olive, vegetable, canola)
  • 3 cups of unbleached bread flour
  • 2 1/4 tsp dry yeast (one packet if your using those)

    What to do if your bread fails. Why did your bread fail? Yeast is the issue. Sometimes adding more salt to your recipe will help your bread, and if your yeast is old, that will be a doomed loaf too. There's not much you can do to save your loaf of bread but..don't toss it out. There are things you can still use it for.

    1. Bread crumbs. Stick it in your food processor and grind it up (if it's a solid brick, make sure it's a heavy duty processor). Keep said bread crumbs in the freezer to use on an as needed basis. Remember store bought bread crumbs probably have some preservatives in it, and yours don't. If you don't freeze them, they'll mold.

    2. Croutons for your salad. Cut them up in bight size pieces, drizzle them in olive oil and herbs and toast them in your oven. Yum!!

    3. Wintertime? Chop some up and feed it to the birds.

    Whatever you do, don't throw it away! :) Enjoy.
  • Sunday, January 17, 2010

    Decluttering and Making Cash too

    With the likelihood of us having to move here in the very near future, I've started de-cluttering and trying to sell some odds and ends around the house. A few weeks ago I sold our family room entertainment center on craigslist. Hopefully craigslist isn't something new to you, but if it is, just check it out. It's basically a free classified website. Jobs, furniture, everything.

    This week, I dug through some of my crafting supplies and made an Ebay listing of some of my old soap making stuff. My best friend had given me all this stuff a year ago when she was de-cluttering. I enjoyed making soaps, and even gave some as gifts. It was a quick fix for my creative energy. Sadly, I don't have time to make things like I used to, so it was one of the first things I was willing to let go of.

    Anyway, hopefully I'll get enough to pay for some groceries in the next few weeks so I don't have to dip into our savings. Yard sale season is coming up too, and flea markets around here are big business. This coming spring I plan on doing a local flea market for a few weeks just to get rid of more stuff. It's likely I'll have about half the amount of square footage I have in our current house.'s time!! Happy Sunday everyone.

    Saturday, January 16, 2010

    Friday Night Chicken

    So, I found this recipe while searching for an easy roast chicken recipe. I'm sure some of you know I am a long time vegetarian, but having recently reintroduced meat back into my diet, I had to learn how to cook it.

    Not only was this recipe amazing, it's pretty inexpensive too. We have an extremely strict budget because my husband is still unemployed. I refuse however to budge my core values of providing whole organic food to my children and myself. I am ever conscience of the horrifying factory farming of animals, so I am careful about the poultry that I chose. I found a medium size organic farm raised chicken for $7.75. It wasn't some huge blown up Perdue, but I know my kids aren't getting strange chemicals and hormones.

    Next the recipe calls for potatoes, celery, onion, and carrots. Last night, I didn't have celery on hand, but I love to add it when I can. A 1 lb bag of organic carrots is only $.99, and a 5lb bag of organic potatoes is only $4.99. Being the recovering vegetarian that I am, I also grabbed a few organic yams, which were only 50 cents a pound. I had an onion on hand as I typically do, but to add one onion in the mix will probably add about $.50.

    So, if you add up the total for this one meal that in my family easily creates leftovers for lunch tomorrow you get totals like this.

    $7.75 -- organic chicken
    $2.00 -- 2lbs of 5lb bag of organic potatoes
    $.50 -- 1/2 lb of organic carrots
    $1.00 -- side of maple yams
    $.50 -- onion
    Total $11.75

    There are so many things that could go well with this dish too. Adding garlic to your veggies helps so much, and even parsnips would be great too. I use a local white wine to make the juice. Virginia is a well kept secret in the wine world. Shhh.

    We'll be nibbling off this chicken the rest of the weekend, and once the potatoes and carrots are gone, we'll turn the rest of the chicken into a Sunday afternoon chicken salad sandwich lunch.

    Enjoy the recipe, be sure to thank the original guy for it too. Oh, here is a picture of today's leftovers. I forgot to take a picture of the bird last night before we dug into it.

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    Friday, January 15, 2010

    New Direction

    This year will be full of new things. My husband was laid off in November, which I mentioned a while back. My new years resolution ended up being simple. I want to incorporate wisdom in my life. I want to learn to look a few steps ahead of each decision, similar to the way people play chess (or those unlike me who are actually good at chess).

    Two months have gone by and we've only had nibbles for employment that have yet to turn out anything. I have considered, and am still considering going into business for myself. I also plan on returning to classroom teaching this fall if the need is still there. Sadly, that puts homeschooling my son off. He'll have to return to the classroom.

    I've gathered my friends around me, and I know that to be wise, I need to surround myself with wisdom. My closest friends are wise women, and I'm lucky enough to even know a few wise men. I'm treading carefully, and I'm curious, scared, and excited to see where I end up. I'd take more chances if it weren't for my beautiful children. It seems likely now my husband will leave for the other side of the country, and I will stay behind and tend to our children. More soon. I will be showing my house updates soon. I'll probably be selling it, so just would like to share what I will be doing around the house to give it the extra edge to compete on this crazy market.

    More soon.

    Saturday, January 2, 2010

    Just for fun, New Year's Meme

    1. What did you do in 2009 that you’d never done before?
    I went to a spiritual retreat this year. It was eye opening, and amazing.

    2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
    I did! I will be making more.

    3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
    Yes, my sister-in-law had her sweet baby Bo this passed September. My best friend is about to pop too.

    4. Did anyone close to you die?
    No, thank the gods.

    5. What countries did you visit?
    I stayed home this year.

    6. What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009?
    Well, I'd like my husband to have a job. So, security, that's about it.

    7. What dates from 2009 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
    I don't have a date, but November was a sad month. That's when my husband got laid off, and I knew our life would never be the same.

    8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
    My biggest achievement was being brave enough to home school my son. It was a difficult decision, and I went with it.

    9. What was your biggest failure?
    I feel like I've made some bad decisions in the passed that have made my life harder then necessary. I don't want to go into details, but, I'm trying to remain positive and learn from my mistakes.

    10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
    Nothing substantial.

    11. What was the best thing you bought?
    We bought a new van over the summer. Well, new to us van, it's a 2007. We needed it!

    12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
    My children, just for being awesome.

    13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
    At times, my own.

    14. Where did most of your money go?
    Mortgage, and bills

    15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
    I can't say that I really looked forward to much this year. It's been a tight year.

    16. What song will always remind you of 2009?
    I'm a musician, I think there are many songs that will remind me of this year.

    17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
    a) happier or sadder? I'm happier
    b) thinner or fatter? about the same
    c) richer or poorer? poorer

    18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
    Growing more vegetables, and storing more.

    19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
    Feeling down. Last winter was rough.

    20. How did you spend Christmas?
    Chillin’ at home.

    21. Did you fall in love in 2009?
    Over and over again.

    22. What was your favorite TV program?

    23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
    No. Hate is a waste of time and energy.

    24. What was the best book you read?
    I have read so many books, but I have to say my latest was probably one of the best. I started George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones trilogy, now working on the second, Clash of Kings.

    25. What was your greatest musical discovery?
    Hmm, I'm a musician and have been for my entire life. It's hard to discover new stuff at this point. I guess if anything, Leonard Bernstein's Chichester Psalms was a new peice I played this year, and loved it immensely.

    26. What did you want and get?
    A happy healthy family.

    27. What did you want and not get?
    More cash flow.

    28. What was your favorite film of this year?
    Up was cute, Harry Potter was pretty good.

    29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
    I turned 31, and I think I just had a nice day with my family.

    30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
    If my husband didn't get laid off, that would have helped tremendously.

    31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2009?
    Sweatpants rule. Hey, just keeping it real.

    32. What kept you sane?
    My kids. They are the brightest spot in my life.

    33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
    I'm a pretty big fan of Virginia's senator, Jim Webb. Him and I seem to have a lot of the same priorities.

    34. What political issue stirred you the most?
    The bailouts were annoying and ridiculous. No one is bailing us out, and we're falling. The health care debate is annoying too. We need some kind of change, and I wish people would stop being blind to that. Propaganda is pretty lame too. I don't think people realize how brainwashed we are.

    35. Who did you miss?
    My best friend. I wish she lived closer.

    36. Who was the best new person you met?
    I met a ton of great women at the spiritual retreat I went to. Awesome awesome women.

    37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2009.
    I learned that life is like a game of chess. If you want to win, you need to learn to look a few moves ahead. Make wise choices.

    38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

    I'm not sick but I'm not well, and I'm so hot, because I'm in hell!! Ok, I'm not in hell, but still. ;)

    Happy New Year!

    Friday, January 1, 2010

    Happy New Year!!!

    I hope everyone is nursing their hangovers, and enjoying the bowl games on T.V. I'm slightly paying attention, I'm not one for sports, but West Virginia University is playing, so I have to root for my boys.

    So after great consideration, I've finally chosen some goals for myself for this year. I will stick with these goals as long as they remain prudent for my family.

    My first goal is to simply be on top of things. To organize, reduce and reuse when I can. To be green. Green!! Drive less, walk more, grow more of my own food, and continue to process what food I grow. To hand make gifts again this year, and keep it solely handmade. One priority I have to make is to myself, to get healthy. To stay healthy, and maintain a healthy weight. So, hopefully this month I can reflect some things on this blog that I will continue to do.

    First thing I did was organize my lower cabinets. They were just a royal mess, pans everywhere, three years of one time use plastic bags shoved in one of them. I hate plastic bags, I loathe them. They should be illegal, and people should stop using them. This is one of my goals this year is to use them as little as possible, and the ones I do use, will be recycled. One thing that disgusted me I learned watching the Oprah Show. It was about the large trash fields in the oceans. That plastic particles are in almost every drop of ocean water, and will possibly remain there forever. There are the great garbage swirls across the globe. Sometimes visible from the surface, mostly underwater. It's out of our minds because we aren't there to see it.

    What can you do? Recycle these trash bags, and one time use plastic bags. Almost every grocery store has a recycling box in the door. Wal-mart does too. If you believe they should be outlawed, write to your senator. I wrote to both of mine via e-mail, and you can find yours here.

    In the end, my goals this year are to act. Not quietly doing my part, but to get involved. To walk the walk. To take care of my family, my home, my town, and my planet. To do my part, and show how simple it is to do it. Happy New Year!!


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