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Friday, May 29, 2009

Mr. Mom FAIL

My man is a heckuva great husband. Fantastic father. Enthusiastic car guy. Mr. Fix-it.

He's a lot of things.

But he's not a mom.

He's been home with the kids all week. And will be next week too.

The kids are having a blast.

BUT.

In HIS words, the house is currently in a state of Mr. Mom FAIL.

The evidence:


The dish sponge got placed on top of something that turned adhesive and part of the sponge stuck to the counter top.





The same thing happened to a box of cereal on my kitchen table.




And the t.v. / play room... oh I just can't even talk about it.




Now, it's not like I'm some neat-freak house keeping goddess. And I'll take some blame as there has been a lot of sugar, flour and water thrown around my kitchen as of late between bread and cookie production. But the house was pretty well clean on Monday.

Ahhhh well. We'll get it cleaned up soon.

I just hope that "Jaws the vaccuum cleaner" doesn't come after him.




(In case you were wondering, permission was granted to write this post.)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Cake and cookies and icing, Oh MY!

My princess celebrated her 8th birthday back in March. But, since she decided she really wanted a birthday party at one of the local bounce house party places, we told her that she would have to wait on a party and share the party with her brother. She happily agreed.

Now, we have a dual birthday party coming up in just a little over a week. And I, being the INSANE person that I am, offered to make them separate cakes. Of course, Sarah chose flowers and butterflies while Nathan wants a fire truck.

Naturally.

And on top of doing a cake for each, we decided that some decorated sugar cookies would make nice additions and party favors rather than the silly goody bags that always get sent home with tons of junk in them.

But I don't have any opinions about goody bags.

So, if you're wondering where I am over the next week, I'll be in my kitchen... knee deep in cake, cookies and icing.



Aaaaannnnddd... on top of all of this, we're having a garage sale this weekend.

Needless to say, there will not be a "Foodie Friday" post tomorrow.

And I would imagine that much of the time that I would normally devote to writing next week, will be taken up with cake and cookie decorating.

So, until I dig out of all this sugar, I'll catch you on the flip side.

And trust me, pictures of completed cookies and cakes will be forthcoming.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

BBA Challenge #2 - Greek Celebration Bread (Artos)

Disclaimer - I had a great idea as far as the formatting of this post goes... but I finally had to give up and just post it. It may not be pretty, but here it is.

The second bread in our Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge was Artos, otherwise known as Greek Celebration Bread. This is an interesting bread that includes dried fruit, nuts and lots of spices including cinnamon, allspice, cloves and nutmeg.

The method that Mr. Reinhart suggests in his formula includes the making of a "poolish" which is pretty much like a starter of some flour, water, and a little bit of commercial yeast. I mixed my poolish together on Friday evening and then once it began to bubble, I stored it in the refrigerator until my baking day on Sunday.


As I was preparing to make the bread and getting all my spices out on my baking day I noticed that I had everything but the ground nutmeg. Then, I remembered that I had some whole nutmeg. With no microplane in my possession, I had to resort to the "old fashioned" mortar and pestel. So I sliced of a bit and began to grind it up. Have you ever seen the inside of a nutmeg? It was actually fairly easy going, easier than I expected.









The next challenge I had to overcome was the nuts. It's no secret that we just don't do nuts around here. No, we're not allergic. And yes, I like peanuts and peanut butter. And my man likes him some chocolate covered almonds. But to have nuts in a bread or cake or any baked good for that matter. Um, no thanks.

So. What to do? Well, what's a celebration without chocolate? And I had just enough of some really good chocolate chips leftover from making some cookies recently. SCORE!!





I mixed up all my dry ingredients then added them into the poolish along with eggs, butter, milk, orange extract and vanilla (I didn't have almond extract).





Once again, I encountered a dough that is starting to look much closer to cake batter than bread dough. This is the 2nd time I've encountered this dilemma, 1st time was with the Anadama bread. Plain and simple, it just needs more flour. But how much more?




I probably added another cup to 1 1/2 cups. I start by adding 1/2 cup at a time knowing it needed quite a bit more. But then as it thickened some, I added only 1/4 cup at a time not wanting to add too much. I figure I can always add a little more, but it's hard to take it out.


Once it started looking a bit more like dough, I let it rest for 20 minutes or so while I did some other things.



Several people mentioned their mixers having a hard time with kneading this dough. Mine seemed to do okay with it. But for some reason, I just can't resist kneading a little by hand. I have just got to have my hands on the dough at some point.

And I actually felt like I achieved a pretty good window pane ("pain") with the elasticity this time.



Toward the end of the kneading time, I added my raisins, dried cherries and finally the chocolate chips. My method of mixing them in was to stretch out the dough, holding it by the edges and making a large disk. Add some fruit or chocolate chips on top and fold them in several times and repeat. I was hesitant to do a lot of hard kneading with the fruit and stuff in there.




Then it was time for the first fermentation.









With fermentation complete, it was time for shaping. I chose to do a braided loaf, so I divided the fermented dough into three sections. I rolled each out and stretched them into long strands.






The instructions in the book have you start this braid in the middle and go to one end, then braid the other.









I was a little surprised that my braid turned out looking pretty good.








I have a disposable aluminum baking pan that I usually use to put over bread as it proofs, but it was too small, but the lid to my cake taker worked great.




After proofing.
It. Was. Big.
And ready for the oven.



After only the first 20 minutes, it was already a nice golden brown. As I mentioned this to some other people on twitter, they encountered the same thing. I probably should have tented it with some foil to prevent over browning at this point, but I didn't think of it in time.



I checked the doneness again after another 15 minutes. But it did not get fully done until a total of 40 minutes. This was my final loaf.








My impressions of this bread:

Not difficult, but it challenged me to do a few new things. For instance, I had not used a poolish before (nor had I ever heard of one). I personally think that the use of the poolish helped the gluten and elasticity of the dough to develop better. I also had not braided a dough before, so that was kind of fun as well.

The taste was good. I know it's not authentic since I didn't use nuts and used chocolate instead, but if I'm going to make something, I want at least a fighting chance of getting my family to eat it. Some have said they like it for breakfast, but I'd say it also makes a fine afternoon snack. Maybe for a tea or something.

Would I make it again? Yes.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Mama Braggin' Monday - Memorial Day

Happy Memorial Day everyone.

The kids have been at Nanny's (Mike's mom) house this weekend and later today we are all going to a baseball game.
I have mama braggin' things to share, but they will wait as we pause this day to remember the many sacrifices made by those in the armed forces for our freedoms.


I had a friend once say to me that she would feel like a failure as a mother if her son chose to go into the service. I tell you, I couldn't feel more the opposite. And, you know, Nathan says that he wants to fly helicopters when he grows up, so...

We're headed out to a baseball game today. Do you have any plans?

Well, whatever you are doing today, be safe and remember why we have this holiday.

Have a wonderful Memorial Day holiday.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Foodie Friday - Springtime in Texas

It's late spring here in Texas and that means thunderbumpers, warmer weather, and the beginning of summer (which arrives here far before much of the rest of the country). Last week, in particular, was very warm. Warm enough to, dare I say, swim.

I got home from work on Friday afternoon to find out that the kids had wanted to wait until I got home so that we could all go down to the pool together. "Oh dear," I thought, "That means I have to put on my swimsuit."

It wasn't pretty.

But we went down to our neighborhood pool on this warm Friday afternoon and had a great time. I even got a rare glimpse of "Scuba Steve."



Yes it was all fun.

Until.

Well, let me just ask you, do you see anything amiss in this picture?



No? Well that's because it's under the surface. And that "IT" was my man's iPhone.

Let me just say that iPhones and water... they don't like one another.

*Sigh*

So while springtime in Texas means the start of summer and swimming, it also means several things food related. And one of those things is:



Crawdads. Mud Bugs. Crawfish.

Yes, when I thing of spring I also think of a good ol' crawfish boil.

We have two friends that each throw one almost every spring. And I can't think of when they have landed on the same day. So I just know, headed into spring, that we have two Saturdays that are spent among friends peeling mud bugs.

It just doesn't get much better, in my opinion.

And just a natural part of any crawfish boil is the kids gathered around the ice chest or pool of live ones.



There may or may not be a little torture of the live ones. That's considered top secret information and I cannot confirm or deny the presence of torture.

But usually there is a pardon from the boiling pot waiting for at least a few of these tasty creatures. We have brought home more than our fair share of Mr. Pinchys.



I feel the need to tell you that my kids love crawfish as much as I do. It was two years ago that I couldn't peel them fast enough for Sarah, so I told her that she'd have to start peeling her own. She has stepped up to it and we have a good time peeling crawfish together. Nathan likes them too, but more so at one friend's house than the other where they are a little more spicy.

And with any good crawfish boil, there is the inevitable pot luck that goes along side. It's usually full of side dishes, dips and best of all, desserts.

Last year I showed up to my friend Carrie's house without my homemade brownies and we were almost booted out of the place. I didn't make that mistake this year. And sure enough, by the time we left, my serving tray was completely empty. I tell you, there is no more satisfying feeling than when your dish is completely devoured.

Although, I took my Cream Cheese Pound Cake to my friend Sherri's house and we came home with a bit of it. That's pretty satisfying, too because then you actually get to eat some of the fruit of your labor.

This year, Carrie also asked me to make Jambalaya. "Oh wait, you want me to make a big pot of yummyness? Oh, well, okay. Twist my arm."



So here's my recipe for Jambalaya. It's probably not authentic Cajun Jambalaya, but it's one of those dishes that you can just kind of throw everything in a pot and out pops something wonderful!

So, if you ever have the opportunity to participate in what someone one twitter called a "proper southern crawfish boil," I highly encourage you to do so. Not only is the food usually SO good, but the friendship and fun are even more so.

Oh, and guys, never put your iPhone in your swimsuit pocket. I'm just sayin'.

Dishes in this post:
Jambalaya
Brownies
Cream Cheese Pound Cake

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Cake Week

In honor of "Cake Week" over at my friend Lisa's blog, Stop and Smell the Chocolates, I posted my Cream Cheese Pound Cake recipe yesterday afternoon. Click here to head over to my recipe blog and see it as well as my Chocolate Sheet Cake recipe.

Enjoy!!!

(Come back tomorrow for some talk of spring time in Texas for Foodie Friday.)

Monday, May 18, 2009

BBA Challenge #1 - Anadama Bread

Before I could start on my first loaf of bread for the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge, I needed some bread flour because I was out. So, I sent my man to the store.



Does my man deliver or what???

Now, before my fellow bread bakers have a conniption fit because I'm using Costco's brand of bleached bread flour instead of a fancy King Arthur organic unbleached bread flour, you have to understand that we are on a very strict budget these days. I stopped at the Target across from my office to pick some up and got to the checker with my King Arthur unbleached bread flour in tow only to find that the 5 pound bag was ringing up at almost $7.

Um, no, thanks.

Considering that my 50 pound bag from Costco cost us $12, I think it will have to work.

A word about Anadama bread for the unfamiliar: it's an interesting combination of ingredients including corn meal and molasses. Now, I didn't have anything but regular dark molasses on hand, and again with the budget issues, I was not going to go out and purchase light molasses for this one thing.



You start out making a soaker which is a pre-ferment mixture of cornmeal and water and allow it to sit overnight. Soaking the cornmeal is supposed to allow it to begin to soften and to draw more flavor out of the coarse cornmeal.

Then I added yeast, flour and water for the sponge.



1 hour later:



Then came the rest of the ingredients and a good mixing in the stand mixer with the paddle attachment. At this point the book suggests that I may even need to add water to achieve a "soft, slightly sticky mass."

Well, the fact that my "dough" was dripping off the paddle attachment like batter concerned me a little.



I continued to add some flour until it was a little thicker, then I decided to try to hand knead it and help it to become more "tacky" rather than "sticky." So, I poured it (very literally) out on to my floured counter top.



(Yes, I have dogs and I KNOW that at this point it looks like dog vomit. Thanks.)

In fact, it you were on Twitter on Friday evening when I was working on the bread you would have experienced my woes real-time. Here are some of my tweets from Friday evening.

I'm having a bit of a problem getting the dough to be "tacky" and not "sticky." Letting it rest for a minute. Or maybe it's me. #bba
10:40 PM May 15th from web


Hubs is watching a movie on tv in the other room. I asked him what he was watching. He said one thing and I heard another.
10:51 PM May 15th from web


He said "Bourne" (as in Bourne Supremacy). I heard, "P---"
10:52 PM May 15th from web


I'm beginning to think that the "window pane" test is an urban legend. Looking it up on snopes now. #bba
11:01 PM May 15th from web

@LMAshton I got pretty close this time. IMO it's a window "PAIN" test. #bba
11:12 PM May 15th from web in reply to LMAshton


On the upside, kneading the Anadama dough with all the cornmeal in it, my hands are very smooth. #bba
11:15 PM May 15th from web


(That tweet about the Bourne Supremacy was just to see if you were paying attention. But, yes, that really did happen Friday evening.)

Finally it got to the point where I felt like I could leave it to do it's first fermentation. I even checked the temperature like Mr. Reinhart suggests in the book. He said it should register between 77 & 81 F. Mine was in the 80 F range.



About 1 - 1 1/2 hours later (it was late - notice the change in date):



Once it had risen/doubled in bulk, I shaped and panned the loaves while having to adjust and guess on the loaf sizes since my bread pans are different sizes.



Then I covered them and put them in the fridge until morning.

Nighty night.



I was fairly surprised at how much the loaves rose in the fridge overnight.



It didn't take long for them to warm up and proof the rest of the way before baking the next morning.



A little spritz of water and sprinkling of cornmeal and into the oven they went.





And out popped this loaf of bread...







Overall impressions:

This was not a difficult bread to make on any level really. It was a nice basic bread to start out with and yet added the soaker step which I had not ever done before.

The Anadama bread is good. Not FABULOUS by any means and not as sweet as I expected. But good. I can totally see it as a good bread or toast to have with breakfast.

Would I make it again? Yes.

Mama Braggin Monday - Independence

Mondays are the day of the week that I shamelessly brag on my kids here on the blog. So, join me if you like. I'd love to see what awesome things your kids are up to.

To see my original post about Mama Braggin' Monday, go here

~~~

We went down to the pool on Friday evening, an adventure that I'll have to post about later. We got back and told Nathan to go get changed out of his swimsuit and back into his clothes; all the while thinking to ourselves, "What are the odds?"

Not long later, he came out, completely dressed. He was so proud of himself that he even got the tag in his shirt in the back. It was easy for us to tell that yes, in fact, the tag was in back.



He was completely proud of himself and we left things just as they were as dad took them to the store with him to get a few things.

He's just getting so big and independent.


~~~~

So here's your chance. Brag away, friends. Our kids need to be bragged on every once in a while. Try to mention Mama Braggin' Mondays on your blog if you get a chance to spread the word.

If you need help in what to do with this Mr. Linky thing, then please click here.