March 18, 2009


in the kitchen ›

the bacteria that is growing in my kitchen

About 4 months ago, I sent a self addressed stamped envelope to these people and a couple of weeks later, that envelope was filled with a very small baggie containing about 1 tsp. of white flakes.  I got all giddy and immediately started reviving this sourdough into an active starter.  The legend is that this sourdough starter has been alive since the Oregon Trail times.  The man that started this all was Carl Griffith.

"Carl T. Griffith, who gave a sourdough starter to anyone who asked, or who sent him a self-addressed stamped envelope, died early in the year 2000 at the age of 80. He is known for his generosity and the high quality and vitality of his sourdough starts, which came from a sourdough culture carefully nurtured and preserved in his family for over 150 years."

Since Carl has passed, his friends and family have been continuing the tradition by sharing the starter with anyone who wants it for free.  Isn't that just so fun?

When I first got the starter, I experimented with sourdough bread for a couple of weeks and found the San Francisco bread to be the tastiest, especially as french toast.  I also made an incredible pizza crust and can't for the life of me find the recipe I used.  When I tried to duplicate it on Deacon's Birthday, it majorly flopped and I sent Andy out to Little Caesar's just before our company arrived.  

Here's what's been going on in the land of sourdough bread at my house this week.  It seems like a lot of work, but it's REALLY not.  I'm finding that sourdough bread can be quite flexible for you as long as it has enough time to do its thing.  And if you don't have enough time, just add some commercial yeast to help it rise like normal bread. 

  • Sunday: Fed Sourdough Starter and let sit overnight
  • Monday: Started a sponge for sanfrancisco sourdough by adding flour and water to some starter and letting sit for 24 hours
  • Tuesday: Added more flour, water and salt to sponge to make bread dough, kneaded for 15 minutes, let rise 2 hours, deflated, let rise another hour, kneaded again a tiny bit and put into loaf pans.  By now, It's like 9:00pm, so I put the bread in the fridge so that it wouldn't rise too much.
  • Wednesday: The bread didn't rise much in the fridge so it is now rising in the oven with the light on.

I expect to start baking this bread within the next hour.  It's fun because you get to spritz the side of the oven with water and watch it steam up.  That makes the crust nice and hard.

And here's the other yummy living food I made this week.

Homemade yogurt isn't as difficult as it seems either.  All you need is milk and some yogurt or a yogurt starter.  I have a yogurt maker so I use the directions from it, but I have heard that you really don't need one to make your own.  You can use a crock pot or your oven to make it.  Honestly, it really tastes the best with whole milk both thickness and texture but you can make it reduced fat or fat free by thickening it up with powdered milk which I have done before.  It is a great healthy alternative to commercial yogurt to give to the children also.  Deacon likes his with crunchies (granola) on top.  I like to put a bit of honey to sweeten it as well.

So there you have it, some good old fashioned food science right here in my kitchen.

The bedroom is still in the works, we ran out of paint so we have just a bit more to go before it is completely painted. I have a few DIY decorating projects that I'm planning to do in there too.  I'm excited.  My first order of business is to go buy a staple gun.

March 12, 2009


in the kitchen ›

stretching your dollar

I've been using equal parts dishwasher soap (the cheap stuff from aldi), borax and baking soda. Use 2 Tbsp in your dishwasher for each load. It gets the dishes real clean. Try it, you'll save so much money.
You can also use borax to stretch out your laundry soap, it's great stuff. Not all grocery stores carry it, but Target does.

Check out for more dollar stretching advice.  Also, if you're so inspired to try to get a hold of your budget- as I have been lately, is an incredible free and easy to use tool.

March 08, 2009


in the kitchen ›

The Quest

I've been trying to change the way I've been eating for the better lately.  I'm amazed at how quickly I can get full on so much less food than I was eating before.  It's been a real challenge for me though at night after the kids are in bed; the urge to snack is very strong.  I've lost 2 pounds in the past week which isn't much but it's a start.

There were 2 things that pushed me to start paying more attention to how I was eating: 1)I have a gig coming up that is going to be filmed and played on a local TV station and 2) Heidi's success with her eating journey.

So what have I been doing?  Eating lots and lots of salads!  Salads for atleast 1 meal a day, and sometimes a side for the other meal.  If it's the meal I always "beef" it up with egg whites, tuna, fish or chicken and lots of yummy veggies.  A typical day would look like this: Breakfast: Oatmeal with dried fruit, walnuts, 1 tsp brown sugar and 1/4c whole milk on top (YUMMMY).  Snack: Apple, banana, orange or fruit smoothie.  Lunch: Beans and Rice or a salad.  Snack: Granola bar or fruit or yogurt.  Dinner: Grilled Marinated Chicken with a veggie side and some rice or couscous.  Then I'm done eating for the day.  No more mindless snacking throughout the evening.  Sometimes if I'm about to go to the gym, I have a hard boiled egg as I'm leaving the house.  My trick is to plan out my snacks and it really keeps me from doing anything stupid.  It's not hard to grab a banana or granola bar before I leave the house and eat it when the time is right.  

It's actually been quite good for the grocery and restaurant budget as well which is a major bonus.  So I hope I can stay on track a bit more with this plan so that it just comes very naturally to me and I can lose those remaining pounds that I gained during pregnancy.  

The sad thing is that I'm going to take a bit of a hiatus from baking bread.  The kids have been coping with whole grain waffles with peanut butter and tortillas with cheese but it's not the same.  I'll start making it again soon.  I'm just trying to build up my will power a bit more.

Despite my best intentions

to blog often enough to get a bit if inertia on this blog, I've been quite busy caring for and cleaning up after sick children this week. I'm exhausted and praying that I will not catch the bug.

Andy left my camera in Columbia, so the new blogs won't have my pictures, but I have some good ideas for posts for next week and possibly even sound clips from my most recent gig at the sylviatheater.

Some of the things I'd like to cover in the next few days are:
-Groceries: Budgeting, planning, and ways to cut the bill.
-The new easter coveralls I am (planning on) making for the boys.
-My new aqua trench coat and other great thrift store finds- I seriously made out like a bandit filling up a trash bag for $7!
-A new way of eating, and response to Heidi's quest for thinness diet.


February 20, 2009


in the kitchen ›

whole wheat bread

Bread had been my therapy.  When things are crazy, the living room needs to be cleaned, I haven't showered in ages, I'm so comforted when I see the homemade bread on the counter.  It's a small thing I do to pretend that I am a superior homemaker.  And the gentle rocking that you do as you knead the bread for 6-10 minutes is so addicting you don't want to stop.  Like a baby, I'm so comforted by the sway.

I've been baking and refining this bread recipie for about two years now.  I now am at the point where I don't need to look at my recipe card and I barely need to measure.  This bread is perfectly hearty, soft and sweet.  This bread can be used with every meal.  Breakfast: Bread slathered with Peanut butter.  Lunch: Grilled Tuna fish sandwich Dinner: Soup and salad with bread on the side.  And a snack: Toast with coffee.  However, you shouldn't necessarily eat all those the same day unless you're an avid exerciser or fast growing toddler (don't give the toddler coffee either).

I started using this recipe, but over the years have changed it slightly.  Here's the updated recipe.  From start to finish, it takes 3 hours, but each step is small so you don't feel like you've been slaving away in the kitchen.

It makes 3 loaves.  That means one for now, one for the freezer and another to give away to a neighbor or friend (or you can keep that one in the freezer too).

First Step: 

Mix the following:

-3 cups warm water (115 degrees)

-2 packages yeast - try to make sure your yeast is fresh.  

-1/4 cup honey - you're best off if you can get a nice big mason jar of fresh local honey.  It is far better tasting than the grocery store stuff and can even be good for allergies.  Costs about the same, really.

-4 cups white bread flour - all purpose will work in a pinch.  

-1 cup Whole Wheat Flour 

-1 Tbsp Vital Wheat Gluten - you can make the bread without the gluten, but I find it just makes it a bit more fluffy and fool-proof.  It can be found by the flour at the grocery store.

Cover that loosely with plastic wrap and let sit for 30 minutes.  It will get big and bubbly.

Second Step:

mix in small bowl: 

-3 Tbsp. melted butter

-1 Tbsp salt

-1/4-1/3 cup honey

Mix these well and add to big bubbly bread dough.  

Add in 2 1/2 cups more Whole Wheat Flour with a wooden spoon and eventually your hands.  Knead in another 1 to 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour.  The bread should be nice and smooth and elastic.  If you don't have much experience kneading bread, watch this video.

Let rise in a greased bowl for about an hour.  It should be double in size.  It may need more time in the winter and less in the summer.  Then put into 3 greased loaf pans and let rise for another hour*.  Loaves should be about an inch above the top of the pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.  Remove from loaf pans, coat tops and sides with butter to keep the sides and top moist and let cool.  If you are freezing, cover with saran wrap and aluminum foil as soon as it is cool and place in the freezer.

*sometimes I like to make cinnamon raisin swirl bread with this recipe.  Or even whole wheat rolls tied into knots.  Once you have the basics down, be creative.  It's your bread.  Enjoy it.  Share it.

Check in tomorrow so I can show off my new vintage dress that I found today at the used clothing store.  It is being held hostage until I return with cash.  Who carries cash anymore?