Friday, March 30, 2012

Amazin Cajun Chicken Strips Recipe and Char Crust Dry Rub Giveaway (Giveaway Closed)

**The giveaway is now over (but the recipe is still delicious & highly recommended!)Congratulations to Valerie Taylor Mabrey who won this giveaway!***

I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to review some Char Crust Dry Rub, and I know my husband and I are both going to be sad when we run out (luckily a store in town sells it, so we can get more). One of the flavors we got to try was "Amazin' Cajun" and I want to share my chicken strip recipe I made with it! (PS: Read to the end to find out how to enter to win some Char Crust for yourself!)

What you need:
  • boneless skinless chicken
  • Char Crust Amazin' Cajun Dry Rub (we used about 1/4-1/3 of a packet for two large chicken breast halves which was enough for for about 3 adult meals-we had leftover chicken for the next day & enough Char Crust to do this again 2 or 3 more times!)
What you do:
  • Cut off any big chunks of fat, veins, etc. (anything you don't want to eat)
  • Put some Amazin Cajun dry rub in a bowl
  • Coat each piece of chicken in Amazin Cajun dry rub
  • Place each coated piece of chicken in a baking pan
  • Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, flipping chicken strips after 8 minutes if desired.
  • Eat!! (As with almost all meat, it is optimal to let it rest for about 5 minutes or so before cutting it open, but it is still delicious immediately.)
before baking-chicken strips completely coated, 1 lightly coated, and some uncoated
My thoughts:
  • I actually used a lasagna pan lined with a Silpat to cook it and it worked really really well. If you don't have a Silpat, parchment paper would work well too.
  • You need a pan with sides though so that juices don't drip out into your oven. There weren't a ton of juices (Char Crust seals them in), but enough that you wouldn't want them dripping off a cookie sheet and starting a fire in your oven.
  • If you don't like a ton of spices, put a tablespoon or two in a bowl and then pat however much you want on each piece of chicken. I did one chicken strip with just a little bit of the seasoning and it was actually really good and much less spicy than the ones that were totally coated.The less coated though, the more juices will come out.
  • This would work well with any of the Char Crust flavors, and you could do fun combinations like Ginger Teriyaki Char Crust chicken strips with stir fry veggies, or Garlic Peppercorn Char Crust chicken strips with spaghetti noodles and marinara or alfredo sauce.
The Giveaway:

You could win a 4-pack featuring the following flavors of Char Crust (descriptions taken from Char Crust website):
  •  Roasted Garlic Peppercorn features the robust flavor of roasted garlic and onions with the zing of peppercorns and a hint of Worcestershire and lavender. Its versatility has made it a best seller. It complements steaks, lamb, seafood, pork, poultry, and potatoes.
  • Ginger Teriyaki is a balance of sweet teriyaki, fragrant ginger, plus a tingly touch of wasabi that lends a new dimension and creates a modern teriyaki interpretation. It complements chicken, fish, and steak.
  • Amazin’ Cajun is a spicy-sweet blend of piquant cayenne pepper, onion, garlic, oregano and a mélange of other Mardi Gras flavors. It brings the sublime heat of New Orleans to catfish, chicken, shrimp, and even “dirty” rice.
  • All American Barbecue takes the best flavors of American barbecue and blends them into a tangy-sweet, slightly spicy rub. It has rich molasses from Memphis, tangy tomato from Kansas City, mustard, pepper and vinegar from the Carolinas, plus a wisp of smoke from Texas.
To enter to win a 4 pack of Char Crust dry rub spices, visit the Char Crust website and then leave a comment below telling me which flavor you think your family would like most.

Then, for extra entries, do any of the following and leave a seperate comment for each:
  • Like Char Crust on Facebook
  • Follow @CrunchyConMom on Twitter
  • Pin or repin this recipe on Pinterest (you can only do this once)
  • Tweet about this giveaway i.e. "I'm entering to win delicious @CharCrust Dry Rub from @CrunchyConMom & you can too! Enter here:" and leave the link to your tweet in your comment (you can do this once each day)
  • Leave a thoughtful comment on another Crunchy Con Mom post and tell me which post you commented on (you can do this once each day)
On Wednesday April 11th at midnight I'll draw a winner, so be sure to enter before then. I'll contact the winner by e-mail to get their mailing info, and if I don't hear back from them after 48 hours, I'll redraw.

I received free Char Crust dry rub seasoning for review purposes but received no other compensation for this post. All opinions are honest and my own.

This giveaway was listed at

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Double Chocolate Banana Bread

I'm attempting to bake bread 50ish times in 2012 and post lots of recipes, pics and tips. I hope I inspire you to bake too!

I had a trio of bananas quickly browning, and my son was begging for chocolate chips, so I decided to bake chocolate banana bread. I found a recipe online, tweaked it a little, and here's what I came up with:

What you need:
  • 3 brown bananas
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 dash salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

What you do:
  • Mash the bananas up. I like to leave them a little chunky, but you can mash them as much as you want.
  • Add the sugar, eggs, oil, and vanilla and mix.
  • Add the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, and mix.
  • Add the chocolate chips and mix.
  • Pour into a greased loaf pan and sprinkle granulated sugar on top.
  • Bake at 375 degrees for 60 minutes or until a tootpick comes out clean.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Homemade Bunny Oreos (chocolate sandwich cookies in Easter shapes!)

When I saw the adorable Mint Shamrock Oreos from the blog Confessions of a Cookbook Queen, I knew I had to try them...with my own Eastery twist on them. If you want to make your own Bunny Oreos, or as I lamely like to call them "Bunnieos!" for Easter (or anytime), here's how you too can make Easter bunny cookies:

What You Need:
Cookie Dough:
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup+2tbsp sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 packet or 11/4 tsp unflavored gelatin
  • 2 tbsp cold water
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

What You Do:
  • Cream the butter and sugar
  • Add the other wet ingredients
  • Add the dry ingredients.
  • Mix
  • Roll out the dough to about 1/8-1/4 inch thickness
  • Cut out your desired shapes
  • Bake at 325 for 8-15 minutes depending on the size of your shapes (these bunnies took about 8 minutes. The roundish ones I attempted before I admitted my lack of spatial skills took closer to 15.)
  • Dissolve the gelatin in 2 tbsp cold water. Place the container you are dissolving it in into a bowl of hot water to help it dissolve.
  • In a second bowl (or the cookie dough bowl which you already washed out somehow because you are amazing.), cream the shortening.
  • Add vanilla and mix.
  • Add gelatin (don't let the gelatin set before you add it. If you do, you'll have big yucky gelatin chunks in your frosting. Better to leave it out altogether than to have chunks).
  • Add powdered sugar and mix.
  • Frost cookies while still warm, making "sandwiches" from two chocolate cookies stacked with frosting in between them.

My Notes:
  • Obviously this would work with pretty much any shape cookie cutter you have, or round using a cup or lid or whatever you have on hand. Easter bunny cookies or Easter egg cookies seem especially appropriate this time of year, but I'd stay away from shapes with long thin appendages if choosing a different shape for some other holiday or season. The ears of these rabbit cookies occasionally broke off- eggs would be much easier to achieve consistent results with right away! 
  • Use ugly-but unbroken-ones as bottoms and prettier ones as tops.
  • Eat broken ones yourself or give them to your small helpers.
  • If you want to dye the filling, I recommed adding food coloring when you add the vanilla.
  • If the unflavored gelatin scares you, just ignore it. The texture won't be quite as similar to real Oreos, but they will still taste good and be fine.
  • I recommend frosting your bottom layers on a plate or other flat surface and not in your hand to prevent breakage if you have a delicate shape (I had a ton of bunny ears break off until I realized that was the cause)
  • I was using a sort of small surface to roll the dough out, so I only rolled out about half the dough at one time.
  • I didn't count, but if you use a small cookie cutter like I did, this recipe makes 10 bazillion cookies and is perfect for bringing to a family holiday celebration...and then you spread out the calories amongst your relatives instead of being tempted to eat several dozen yourself :)
Thanks so much to Kristan from Confessions of a Cookbook Queen for letting me post her fabulous recipe!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Why I'll Eat Pink Slime

Pink slime makes me picture this:
"She slimed me" by Jurvetson via Flickr creative commons

Not this:
"Impovised Petite Cullotte" by Arnold Inuyak via Flickr creative commons

But as I've researched the recent hysteria surrounding "pink slime", I've discovered that the reality more closely resembles the second picture than the first. So what is "pink slime," and why am I so okay with feeding it to my family even after so many people have been quick to condemn it?

Lean finely textured beef (LFTB) is, on the most basic level, the meat that clings to the fat when commercial cutters slice steaks etc off of large pieces of a side of beef. BPI, one of the nation's leading producers of LFTB, says that the pieces of beef they use to make LFTB are about 50% meat and 50% fat. To seperate the meat from the fat, they heat the whole thing up and spin it around. The fat melts and drips out, and the lean meat is left. The high-speed spinning they use to get the molten fat to drip out is what turns the meat into a paste. To fight e. coli and other bacteria, they spray the meat paste with ammonium hydroxide gas. This is the step that most alarmed me when I first heard about pink slime. But upon further research, I found that this isn't really what I pictured. I was picturing the gallon of ammonia I keep in my cleaning closet to scrub my kitchen floor. But this isn't that. This is a gas of ammonia and water, and by spraying the meat with a small amount, the pH of the LFTB is raised slightly, but that slight increase is enough to fight the harmful bacteria. The USDA and FDA both approve of this process. But what was even more convincing to me was the discovery that beef already has ammonia in it naturally, but not as much as many other foods. I loved this graphic:

Bacon Cheesburger

  • Bun - 2 oz = 50 mg (440 ppm)
  • Bacon - 1 oz = 16 mg (160 ppm)
  • Condiments – 2 oz = 50 mg (400 ppm)
  • Cheese – 1.5 oz = 76 mg (813 ppm)
  • Beef – 3.2 oz = 40 mg (200 ppm)

  • In other words, if the ammonia in beef is its biggest flaw, we are in big trouble, since most of us also eat bread and cheese!

    I know that there are problems in some areas of food manufacturing, included processed meat. But I honestly think that the process of making LFTB from the leftovers of fine steak cuts instead of throwing it in the trash is a great idea that keeps beef prices low and avoids unecessary waste of our planet's resources. BPI, for example, estimates that the US beef market would need an extra 1.5 million heads of cattle each year to replace the beef saved by the LFTB manufacturing process.

    Let's direct our anger and attention to those things in the food system that are actually genuinely bad. Like the fact that it is so much cheaper to buy Easy Mac than real cheese. Or the whole HFCS/corn sugar thing. The thing is, if anti-"pink slime" crusaders are successful, the result will be hundreds or thousands of lost jobs, millions more cattle killed each year, and more low-income families eating Easy Mac instead of meals made of lean ground beef like tacos and spaghetti. Meanwhile, beef will become an out-of-reach meat for average families, like salmon or lamb, because of its high costs.

    To me, that doesn't sound like an improvement.
    Pass me the pink slime, please!

    *I contacted BPI and asked them for permission to use their bacon cheeseburger graphic, and I mentioned a few other statistics from them. I was in no way compensated for this post. I do feel bad, however, for the hundreds of people who are probably going to lose their jobs because of media hysteria. Demand for BPI's products has already decreased to the point that 3/4 of their plants are closed for at least short-term.

    Cure for the Mondays 3/26/2012

    On Mondays I post stuff I've seen in the last week that made me laugh or smile. I hope it brightens your day too, especially if you've got a "case of the Mondays"!

    These strawberry-mango smoothies sound absolutely amazing, and thanks to my newest addiction, lactose-free Yoplait yogurt, I'd actually be able to drink one!

    We probably don't really have enough space for one of these, but I love the idea of an easy DIY outdoor pizza oven. Even better? This tutorial does it with such commonplace materials it could definitely be done for under $20.

    Don't tell my husband about these white chocolate truffle cupcakes-he looooves white chocolate and will want them immediately. I will definitely have to whip up a batch for Father's Day or our anniversary though!

    If you have kids old enough to not choke on it, I love the idea of making your own rock candy. It's a science experiment and a tasty treat all in one!

    What fun links did you discover this week?

    Thursday, March 22, 2012

    Sara Haley Expecting More Prenatal Fitness Video Review

    I recently got the opportunity (even though I'm not pregnant) to review Sara Haley's new prenatal fitness video Expecting More and I totally love it!

    What it is:
    Like me when I was pregnant, Sara was frustrated with how boring/non-challenging/low-key all pregnancy workout videos seem to be. But as a trainer with Reebok, she knew just what to do about it-and created her own exciting and challenging workout that expecting moms and new moms can safely do. And the end result of that development process is Expecting More!

    Who made it: Sara Haley is a personal trainer whose experience includes several years as a Reebok Master Trainer, teaching classes at prestigious health clubs, and appearing in at least 10 fitness videos!

    Overall impressions:
    I love her sensible approach, and her reminders to not overdo it, but also to not be afraid of sweating or using your muscles. Besides the obvious applicability to pregnancy, I also think this video is awesome for women who are trying to conceive and might be worried about running/bouncy aerobics/etc when half of each month they hope they are pregnant and are just waiting to find out, and don't want to jeopardize their pregnancy with dangerous exercises. Sara's exercises, while safe for pregnancy, are also active enough that I think doing them for an extended period of time wouldn't result in a loss of fitness the way most pregnancy workout plans would. Personally, I plan to combine her DVD with a couple days of going for long walks with my husband and son next time I'm pregnant. Last time I was pregnant, I had trouble with diastasis recti, and I think it is largely because I was basically afraid to workout while pregnant, but found actual pregnancy workout DVD's boring-and couldn't feel them in any of my muscles. With Expecting More, I know that won't be a problem next time. I also love that she has 6 different workouts available on her DVD, so that you work slightly different muscles and don't get bored of doing the same thing everyday.

    Buy it:
    Expecting More is available from Amazon for $39.95 at time of posting this.

    Learn More:
     You can read more about Expecting More at Sara's website, or join the live webstream event this afternoon at 1pm Eastern (noon central)

    I received a free copy of Expecting More for review purposes but received no other compensation for this post.

    Monday, March 19, 2012

    The Temperament God Gave Your Kids (book review)

    What it is:
    The Temperament God Gave Your Kids is the third in a series of books about how the classical Greek "temperaments"-updated with modern psychology, of course-affect modern families. This book is specifically targeted at parents and its subtitle "motivate, discipline, and love your children" gives a good peek at what the authors hope readers will come away better equipped to do.

    Who wrote it:
    A married couple, Art and Laraine Bennett, who previously wrote The Temperament God Gave You and The Temperament God Gave Your Spouse. You can follow Laraine on Twitter as @LaraineBennett.

    First Impression:
    I immediately liked the book and the common sense voice of the authors. One quote that stood out to me early on was
    Most important for us as Catholic parents, it is vital to remember that the human person is never determined by his environment of his biology, but is fundamentally free. That is, our God-given temperament significantly influences our emotions and behavior, as does our environment, yet we are created by God to be masters of our own actions.
    • Easy-to-read
    • Funny examples
    • Didn't favor any one temperament
    • Focused on older kids
    Overall Impressions:
    I think they did a great job of including lots of real life examples to help apply the concepts they were talking about, although I wish they had included more examples for younger kids-I didn't notice many examples and tips that would be applicable to toddlers.
    I also liked how easy they made it to identify personality types-I immediately recognized the personality type that my husband and son have-and that it wasn't my personality type. It was a little harder to recognize my own-I think I need to go get their first book and figure it out though (I think I am very much a mix, while my husband and son are clearly strongly one type, so that probably contributes to my trouble identifying my own type)!
    And I thought they did a good job of pointing out strengths of each type, and how to help kids overcome their weaknesses, but without making any one type seem bad.

    The bottom line:
    This book is interesting, sensible, and a quick read. I'd definitely recommend it to parents, especially those who seem to have a very different personality type than their children!

    This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on The temperament God gave your kids. They are also a great source for a baptism gifts or first communion gifts. I received a free copy of this book from the Catholic Company for review purposes but received no other compensation for this post.

    Cure for the Mondays 3/19/2012

    On Mondays I post stuff that made me laugh and smile in the past week. I hope it brightens your day too, especially if you've got a "case of the Mondays"

    These lemon souffle pancakes look amazing and sound perfect for spring and summer:

    And I'm not as good at photography as the creator of those lemon pancakes, but I am still proud of how cute my piggy bread turned out earlier this week:

    In honor of Feeling Stitchy's birthday, Mollie from Wild Olive came up with these adorable free birthday themed embroidery patterns (which my toddler wanted me to sew as soon as he saw):

    I'm a sucker for playdough/slime/silly putty recipes, and this "gak" recipe is no exception! I'm sure my toddler would get a big kick out of playing with this stuff:

    PS: After reading some interesting things about Pinterest and copyright laws, I am now only pinning things that had a "pin me" button or which I've received direct permission from the creator to post. If you have fun recipes or craft ideas you think I'd like, please let me know if I can pin them! And feel free to pin any of my craft or recipe ideas!

    Saturday, March 17, 2012

    Colcannon: perfect Irish side for people who (think they) don't like cabbage

    Want to serve cabbage in honor of St. Patty's Day but afraid your family won't touch it? Try Colcannon! Basically, colcannon is mashed potatoes and cabbage. My husband and I were both afraid it would be gross and were surprised to totally love it. And while it sounds complicated, it is actually really simple once you do it. So if you're looking for something new to try tonight, we definitely recommend it.
    photo of cabbages by La Grande Farmer's Market via Flickr

    What you need:
    • 2 lb potatoes
    • 1 lb cabbage
    • 1/2 medium onion
    • 1 cup milk
    • 4tbsp (half a stick) of butter
    • 2 cloves garlic
    • black pepper
    • cayenne pepper

    What you do:
    • Rinse and chop, but don't peel the potatoes
    • Boil the potatoes until soft enough to mash (for me, about 20 minutes, but your stove mileage may vary)
    • Rinse the cabbage and place in a pot.
    • Cover cabbage with water (actually, mine stuck up out of the water a tiny bit. It was fine) and bring to boiling
    • Cover, turn heat down to medium, and boil for 12-15 minutes.
    • Chop onion
    • When the potatoes and cabbage are almost done (or after the potatoes are done, if you are running out of burners), put your chopped onion and the milk into a saucepan/skillet/whatever. Cook on medium until onions are soft, but milk isn't boiling yet.
    • Drain and mash potatoes. Add butter.
    • Drain cabbage and chop on cutting board, then add to potatoes
    • Add onion and milk mixture to mashed potatoes
    • Add garlic, black pepper, and cayenne pepper to taste
    • Mash it all up, serve, and enjoy!
    My notes:
    • The original recipe called for an entire stick of butter, and I'm sure that would taste even better if you aren't too concerned about the fat/cholesterol content of this meal.
    • Fresh garlic is so delicious and easy to use, but feel free to use garlic powder if that's all you've got on hand. The garlic flavor is important to this dish, but the texture isn't
    • Leeks were in the original recipe instead of onions, so for more authentic Irish flavor, use that.

    Thursday, March 15, 2012

    Piggy Bread

    I'm trying to bake bread 50ish times in 2012 and I'm posting lots of pictures, recipes, and tips to let you know how it's going and hopefully inspire you to bake some too!

    I saw this adorable picture a while ago on Pinterest:

    and knew I wanted to try to make piggy bread for my toddler too. But I wanted to use dough I had on hand (the original recipe on Cafe Chocolada has a fun recipe translated from Croatian...but I was in a hurry, lol), and I don't keep peppercorns on hand (plus they seem like a choking hazard) so I wanted a new idea for the eyes too. So here is my version of Piggy Bread.
    fresh out of the oven!

    What You Need:

    What You Do:
    • Mix the dough, knead the dough, and let it rise for an hour
    • Seperate the dough into 4 portions, then let it rest for 10 minutes.
    • Divide each dough ball into 2. Make flatish discs out of 6 of them.
    • Use one of the remaining dough balls to make 6 flat ovals for the noses and place one on each pig face. If you want to add smiley faces like I did, make sure there's a little bit of room to do that under the nose.
    • Use the last dough ball to make 12 triangular ears. You can do this by making 12 seperate triangle pieces, or by making 3 flat circles and then using a pizza cutter to cut each into 4 quadrants. I made the ears individually because I didn't think of the pizza cutter thing at the time, but I bet it'd be way more efficient.
    • Place the ears where they go. Tuck the ends under the faces.
    • Toss a clean kitchen towel over the piggies and let them rise for 30-45 minutes.
    • Make two small slits on each pig nose and one round slit under the noses for the smile.
    • Bake at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until just beginning to turn goldeny brown.
    ready to go in the oven!
    My Notes:
    • I tried 4 different options for the eyes and they all worked, but our favorites were chocolate chips and pretzel bits. The pretzel bits were hard to break apart other than with my mouth, so I don't recommend that option if you are making these for non-relatives (even though really the 400 degree oven should kill any germs you might have...still gross)
    • Tiny blobs of cheddar cheese worked pretty well, but don't overfill the holes or it spreads and looks demonic.
    • Brown sugar and oats was tasty, but the sugar didn't melt like I was hoping. Maybe adding a tiny bit of butter would help. Anyway, it looked fine and tasted fine.
    • Kids old enough to make ovals and triangles out of playdough would probably love helping you make these!
    • I think these would also be awesome with the Almost-Famous Breadsticks dough, or any dough that can hold a shape well.

    right before the toddler took one bite out of each....

    Monday, March 12, 2012

    Cure for the Mondays-St. Patrick's Day Edition!

    On Mondays, I post stuff that made me laugh or smile in the past week. I hope they make you laugh and smile too, especially if you've got a "case of the Mondays"! In honor of St. Patrick's Day this Saturday, today I'm posting all my favorite Irish-inspired ideas I've seen lately:

    Did you see the recipe I posted for Irish brown bread? It turned out really delicious-my husband, son, and mother-in-law all liked it!

    Layers of green gooey goodness:

    A free St. Patrick coloring page:

    DIY shamrock shakes!

    I think this table runner would be adorable as coasters instead (some with just the Shamrock, some with just the Irish flag, etc)

    Irish flag kabobs sound yummy and are cute

    Cute tutorial for making paper bag St. Patrick

    I think making shamrocks out of three regular pretzels and one pretzel stick all covered in white chocolate is brilliant!

    St. Brigid's crosses out of raffia or pipe cleaners

    Friday, March 9, 2012

    Celtic Cross Embroidered Kitchen Towel

    As my mom's Christmas present for 2011, I gave her a "towel-of-the-month club" membership...a.k.a. I'll be embroidering her a towel each month in 2012. I'll post pics for all of you to see too in case you are looking for embroidery ideas! Here's what I stitched up for the month of March:
    I need to work on my photography...but you get the idea here :)

    In honor of St. Patrick's day (and our Irish heritage in general), I used this beautiful free celtic cross pattern from Mary Corbet's Needle N' Thread. I used a gold medium braid from Kreinik thread (but you could use any gold ribbon or even gold DMC floss) and DMC cotton floss in colors 699 and 702.

    I did the outermost circle in a simple stemstitch, I couched the golden braid, I did split stitch for the swirly inner cross, I ignored the little connective lines (oops!) and I did a woven spider wheel for the circles in the lighter green, except that the innermost circle is whipped with one strand each of light green, dark green, and gold. I originally satin stitched the circles, but didn't use interfacing and they didn't turn out round. So I ripped them out and redid it with the spider wheels, and I'm prety happy with the end result. It was a pretty fast sew, especially the couching, and you couldn't definitely whip one up this weekend in preparation of next Saturday's festivities (or for anytime-Celtic crosses never go out of style in my opinion!)

    Thursday, March 8, 2012

    Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

    I'm trying to bake bread 50ish times in 2012 and I'm posting lots of pictures and recipes so you can all see how it's going. I hope it inspires you to do some baking of your own. If you have a favorite bread recipe, please leave me a link in the comments and I'll try to make it sometime!

    This week, I baked whole wheat sandwich bread by mostly following a recipe from Better Homes & Gardens (sadly I can't find their recipe online at all, so they either got rid of it or changed the name or something I guess!)  It turned out really well-a bit crispier of a crust than store-bought bread, but otherwise fairly similar in texture. My husband and I both liked it toasted for his sandwich at lunch, and it was also yummy warm with honey and butter. Besides enjoying this bread's flavor and texture, we also liked knowing that there weren't any preservatives, artificial ingredients, or HFCS in this bread, unlike most of the wheat breads available for a reasonable price at our grocery store!

    What you need:
    • 2-3 1/2 cups of unbleached all-purpose flour
    • 1/3 cup brown sugar
    • 3 tbsp butter
    • 2 cups whole wheat flour
    • 1 packet or 2 1/2 tsp yeast
    • 1 3/4 cups warm water
    What you do:
    • First, mix 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour with the yeast
    • Next, melt the butter in a microwae safe bowl or measuring cup in the microwave for 30 seconds
    • Add the water and brown sugar to the butter and microwave for 30 more seconds
    • Pour the liquid mixture into the flour/yeast mix and stir
    • Add the whole wheat flour and mix it up
    • Add as much of the remaining all-purpose flour as you can
    • Knead for about 5 minutes (should be smooth and elastic)
    • Put a little olive oil in the bowl, then put dough back in and swish around to lightly spread oil around bowl and dough surfaces to prevent sticking 
    • Allow to rise until double, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours
    • Punch down and divide into two portions
    • Place in two 8in loaf pans and allow to rise until doubled again-about 30-45 min
    • Bake at 375 degrees for 35-40 minutes

    My notes:
    • I am going to try filling a lagasna pan with water to create steam in the oven and see if that results in a softer crust next time.
    • The original recipe calls for melting the butter, water, and brown sugar in a saucepan, so if you are anti-microwave or just have the time, feel free to try that instead. With a toddler underfoot and beautiful weather outside, I was going for speed!
    • I used glass loaf pans and they worked out fine, but could have been a contributor to the crusty loaves. Metal loaf pans would probably result in slightly softer crusts.
    • One thing I recently discovered that is a huge help is "food and bread storage bags." Basically they are plastic baggies that hold a gallon of food. A loaf and a half (all the was left by the time I actually tried to bag it up) of this bread easily fit in the bag, which tied with a twist tie. Anyway, it is definitely keeping the bread fresh, which is awesome, and it was way way cheaper than normal gallon-sized plastic baggies. I definitely recommend getting some of these if you plan on baking your own bread (and they are definitely reusable for more than one loaf of bread) but aren't quite ready yet to buy a bread box, or haven't found the right one for you yet.

    Monday, March 5, 2012

    Cure for the Mondays 3/5/2012

    On Mondays I post stuff that made me laugh or smile in the last week. I hope they cheer up your day too, especially if you've got a "case of the Mondays"!

    This picture makes me want both a fuzzy football shaped blanket and a new baby...

    Awww a mama tiger licking her baby....

    Source: via Crunchy on Pinterest

    I LOVE the idea of sewing fabric bowl covers instead of having to use plastic wrap or foil. Besides storing leftovers (*only leftovers that I don't want in an airtight container, but I'd be using a tupperware or something then anyway and not foil or plastic wrap), I think these would also be perfect for putting over bowls of bread dough that are rising.

    The idea of a fabric toilet paper roll holder seems both useful and decorative. It seems like it'd be pretty easy to sew your own too.

    And this random funny quote made me giggle. Oh and um, almost fall off my unicorn.

    What has made you laugh and smile recently?

    Thursday, March 1, 2012

    Check me out on Ain't No Mom Jeans today!

    I'm two places at once today! Besides my post below on Irish brown bread, you can also check me out on the mama fashion blog, Ain't No Mom Jeans pretending I know anything about fashion. Check out my post on dresses for very busty nursing moms here!

    Sneak peek: One of my favorites of the suggestions I made:

    Irish Brown Bread

    I'm attempting to bake bread 50ish times in 2012 and I'm posting lots of pics and recipes to let you know how it's going. If you have a favorite bread recipe, let me know in the comments andI'll try to make it sometime!

    I recently checked out the delightful Malachi McCormick's Irish Country Cooking by Malachi McCormick from the library and love the recipes but especially the personality of the author, who grew up in Co. Cork in the 40's and 50's. The charming Mr. McCormick claims that brown bread, not soda bread, is the "real Irish bread". It sounded tasty, healthy, and quite appropriate for March so I whipped up a loaf. Here's how you can too:

    What you need:
    • 4 cups whole wheat flour
    • 2 cups unbleached white flour
    • 1 tsp baking soda
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 2 cups sour milk

    What you do:
    • Mix all the dry ingredients
    • Make a well in the middle
    • Pour the milk into the well
    • Mix well to, in the words of Mr. McCormick, "make a thickish dough, not too wet or floppy"
    • On a floured surface, form the dough into a roundish flatish circle, about 7 inches in diameter
    • Use a wet knife to make a big X on the top of the loaf
    • Bake in an 8 in cast iron pot prepared with butter (see my notes for more suggestions) at 400 degrees for 40 minutes
    My notes:
    • It was super dry-drier than pie crust or biscuts-when I added 2 cups of milk, so I added about a half cup more. It is rather dry in my house, so I'd still recommend starting with 2 cups, but don't be surprised if you have to add more. I'd add extra no more than 1/4 cup at a time until the texture seems right.
    • Mr. McCormick suggests using an 8 in round cake pan with a lid in lieu of a cast-iron pot, but as I didn't have one of those either, I used two glass pie pans, one as the pot and one as the lid.