I made bread from scratch

You guise. I’m a regular Susie Homemaker.

I made bread.

And sure, maybe I searched the internet for bread recipes that included the words “easy” and “quick” and “minimal ingredients” but whatever, this is isn’t an ingredients and effort contest. It’s a bread contest. And I’m the winner. On account of how no one else knew we were playing. Suckaaaaaaa.

I’ve been thinking about making bread for quite some time now for a couple of reasons.

  • My mom makes really good bread. But here’s the thing, she makes all day bread. Letting things rise for hours and multi-cook processes and she worked with my dad’s taste buds for basically forever to try to find the right rye read recipe. The bread is good but the process is daunting.
  • I like the earth. Making my own food puts less stress on the environment. We’re working on living more sustainably and making as much of my own food as possible is one part of that. And once I can find a non-ziplock way to store the bread, I’ll be cutting down on plastic waste too.
  • I like my body. By now we all know that one of the best things we can do is eat the food that lives in the circumference of the grocery store. Produce, meat, seafood, etc. Fresh foods that have one ingredient. How likely is it that David and I will one day eat only those foods? Super unlikely. But I like to make an effort to eat food that’s as close to natural as it can get whenever can. Or rather, whenever we can intersperse it with the frozen yogurt and tater tots.

Mmm… tots…

So anyway, finally feeling inspired enough to make some bread, I sought out a recipe that looked feasible and only minimally frightening. Somewhere inside the depths of Pinterest I stumbled upon The Very Best Homemade Whole Wheat Bread recipe slash blog post on Five Heart Home. I read the blog post at least once a day for several days (no, I’m not kidding) to psyche myself up until earlier this week I finally jumped in…

TARDIS salt shaker!
TARDIS salt shaker!

The recipe makes enough for two loaves of bread but I decided to half it. I have this knack for finding recipes online that look and sound amazing and somehow creating disgusting mountains of food that require us to order pizza. I try really hard but that’s not always good enough. That in mind, I didn’t think making two loaves was a good choice. I didn’t want to end up with two horrible loaves of bread. One would be enough.

I had my fancy pants stand mixer and started mixing away. I thought about writing down the halved measurements of the ingredients ahead of time but decided that was clearly unnecessary. So I poured a couple dry ingredients into the bowl, strumming right along, conserving ingredients and such. When suddenly I thought “Hey, this looks really watery. Like… really watery.” It turns out, I could’ve used that additional step of writing things down. I forgot to half the water. Oops.

watery dough

Two loaves it is!

It looked much more like dough after I updated the rest of the ingredients to two loaf making status.

better dough

Chewy thought so, too.

And so, I continued on with the recipe. There was some bowl covering for a while and some more mixing involved, then it was time to pop the dough lump into some pans and into the oven.

The blog post about the recipe mentions using parchment paper inside the pan because it works to keep it wrapped up nicely. When I tried to put the parchment paper in the pan, it ripped. And then I tried it again and it ripped again. So I said “eff this noise”, greased the pan and put the parchment paper away.

The recipe told me to “gently press” the dough into the corners of the pan. I didn’t catch the gently part until after I had spent several minutes trying to forcibly mush the bread into the corners. Frustratingly, it didn’t stay there. Why are you making me push this dough into the corners? Did you know it wouldn’t stay in the corners? Are you mocking me?!? Is this a test?!?

Once I realized I was being abusive to my dough lumps, I sent them to get cozy in the oven. The little snuggle bugs.

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After the bread was done I let the loaves cool for a little bit before cutting off an end piece and enjoying it with butter. I was pleasantly surprised. I actually really liked the bread. Go figure.

 

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I told my husband how amazing it was and forced him to eat a piece. I’m fairly certain he could not have cared less. He’s more of bread monster than I am but naked bread is useless to him so he just had a nibble and went on about his day. Rude. And since the bread wasn’t horrible, I took one loaf, wrapped it, and put that puppy in the freezer for later.

Also, yes, I now realize that I should’ve left the end of the bread on it and cut a slice from the middle so that I could mush the end back up against the bread later to keep it moist but WHATEVER, ROOKIE MISTAKE, GET OFF MY BACK.

Now that I’m a professional bread maker I’m going to need to do more research. If you look at the bread in her blog post it looks like store bought bread and is even shaped that way. Mine definitely doesn’t have that shape but moreover, doesn’t have that uniform look. The loaves are stretchy and holey and the innards are lumpier. How do I get that perfect looking bread? And look at those slices! Trying to slice this bread makes it bread into big pieces. What the heck am I missing here?

When we’re close to done with our current loaves I’m going to try to figure out what I did wrong with this bread and see if I can make it better next time. Any tips/hints/secret bread society knowledge would be appreciated.

kitchen messThis baking adventure left me feeling pretty accomplished. Who knows what I’ll try and whip up next!

This? This is a standard mid-baking adventure scene. And this is with a recipe with minimal ingredients. You don’t want to see my kitchen when I get fancy with a recipe. It gets ugly. It takes me a long time to clean up after I cook dinner or bake cookies.

And did you notice my cow print apron? It’s adorable, I know. I’m sure there are men around the world that imagine a woman cooking for them in a sexy apron with sexy clothes on. Meanwhile, on pancake Saturdays, David wakes up to me in sweatpants and a cow apron.

I’m straight pwning married life.

 

Eating better plan of action

I’ve spent a lot of time in the past month or two saying I’m going to start eating better. I’m going to make better lunches. I’m going to cook dinner more often. I’m going to do a lot of awesome, wonderful, organized things. Except I never did any planning. And as you may know, lots of broad and generalized ideas accompanied by zero planning will get a person approximately nowhere. 

So now, it’s time to plan. I figure if I lay it all out here then, 1) I can get my thoughts and plans organized, 2) I have more reason to hold myself accountable , and 3) maybe I can help someone else struggling with the same issues too. Since no one step is any more important than the other, I’m just going to lay them all out here and hope that it all comes together smoothly.

groceries

1. Buying groceries for the next 3-4 days only. I try to eat more real food than processed food which my body loves but my fridge does not. Whenever I start planning my meals I always end up buying an entire week’s worth of food. Over the course of a week I might skip making a meal because I’m tired or too busy but that food is still there. By the end of the week I’ve only made four, maybe five of my intended meals but all of the fresh food I bought is wilting away. To the trash it goes and my guilt rises.  Getting this under control means we’re less wasteful and I can save money because I’m not buying excess food that’s never eaten.

2. Perfecting my recipe for a Chipotle burrito bowl copy. My first note was to perfect recipes for my fast food favorites but really it’s just Chipotle that I’m concerned about. I go there weekly and I know that making it at home I could not only save money but make a healthier alternative. I haven’t made my at-home version in a while but I have some new recipes that I can’t wait to try out to make happen. I found an easy recipe for their hot salsa which I think is going to make all of the difference.

3. Making sure there are leftovers. I – like most other nonchefs on the planet – don’t want to cook dinner every single night. But that doesn’t mean I want to be relegated to frozen food or sandwiches either. My mission is to make enough food each dinner for two nights. This means eating the same dinner two nights in a row which is a-okay with me and cuts down on the fuss and planning. Plus, it uses some of the endless mountains of tupperware living in our tupperware cabinet.

4. Have a variety of breakfast foods available. Here’s the deal: I don’t like breakfast. Well, okay that’s not entirely true. I love all the unhealthy breakfasts: chocolate chip pancakes, waffles, homefries, etc. Regular breakfast is boring and I really don’t love eating in the morning but I do it anyway because if I don’t then I reach a point about an hour after waking up where my stomach is slowly dying from the inside out. I usually just have an apple and a cheese stick but after a couple of days in a row I get so angry at the idea of eating another apple and cheesestick that I don’t eat breakfast at all or I grab fast food or pick something weird to eat that I didn’t really want anyway but hey at least it wasn’t an apple and a cheese stick. I’ve created a list of a couple of easy breakfasts that I can alternate between to hang on the fridge so I don’t have to keep fretting and I always have an option. The important part for me with breakfast is making sure I can eat it on my way into work so everything is easily transportable.

– apple, walnuts, cubed cheese
– English muffin, egg, cheese, sausage patties (turkey, chicken, etc)
– quesadilla – tortilla, cheese, diced peppers, salsa
– English muffin, tomato, cheese, egg
Almond Apple Spice Muffins

kyaraben_panda5. Make lunches interesting. I end up eating tons of Chipotle because I give myself one or two of the same lunches to eat all of the time. I need affordable, mostly easy-to-make, quickish-to-prepare lunches that vary throughout the week and are also delicious. I also would love to use tupperware because I have an obsession with organizational containers of all times (don’t even get me started on my love for canvas tote shelves). Cue: bento boxes. I’ve seen them around for a couple of years now and keep saying I’m going to start making bento box lunches but I just… haven’t. I’m going to try them out for a week starting on Monday to see if it’s a manageable new addition to my life and I have high hopes. And, since I’m feeling crazy, I’m going to make lunch for David while I’m at it too. We all win here. I’ve already pinned my face off so if you want to follow my Pinterest board for bento box lunches check it out here.

 

I could probably make more steps but I think starting with five is good enough – no need to overwhelm myself right out of the gate. I’m hoping that these changes help me to get it together and get back on the food train in the right ways. I’d love to hear about your own food planning, bento box, grocery shopping trials and triumphs so leave them in the comments below or tweet me @fitlaughlove.

Recipe: easy peasy slow cooker pulled chicken

pulledchicken2As I’ve mentioned in recipe posts before, I’m not too keen on exacts so you’ll have to forgive me for my estimations in the world of seasonings and the like. I season to taste. David and I like things with oodles of flavor so what tastes fabulous to us might be overwhelming to you. We also love things spicy so peppers are a recurring theme in our home.

Not a fan of spicy? Skip the peppers.

Season at your own discretion.

Ingredients

1 whole organic chicken (it was around 6lbs)

1 green pepper diced

1 red pepper diced

1 bushel of scallions – just as they came rubber banded together at the market – diced

2 cups of cilantro chopped

2 jalapenos diced

2 habanero peppers (I ended up having to make due with 1 because 1 was all black on the inside – ugh) diced

1-2 limes (I used 1 but I think I could have used 2) quartered

A smidge of extra virgin olive oil (I used less than a cup)

Whatever you season your chicken with – to taste

 

What to Do

1. Rinse the chicken and take all of the chicken bits out of the inside. Do what you wish with the bits – I don’t use them.

2. Season the chicken as you would normally. My concoction: just a bit of extra virgin olive oil, crushed red pepper, black pepper, sea salt, onion flakes, garlic powder, Lawry’s Seasoned Salt, McCormick Cajun Seasoning,  parsley flakes. I put the olive oil on the chicken and inside the chicken then I put the seasonings on and inside.

*As you can tell from here that there’s 3 different instances of salt which might be a bit much for some people. I used all in small amounts because David tries to stay on a fairly low-sodium diet but I’m sure you can cut out any or all of them.*

3. Put the chicken in the slow cooker (yes – without water!), and place on highWalk away from the chicken for at least 8 hours – be sure to do something really really fun and delightful. Or, if you’re like me, just do the opposite of that and go to bed.

*You make wake up in the middle of the night to the dog barking at the bedroom door trying to get out to find the source of the chicken smell taking over your home. Disregard. He will go back to sleep eventually.*

4. Remove the chicken from the slow cooker and pull. The meat should really fall off the bone at this point so this job should be fairly easy. Since I was making this during the week I woke up early to pull the chicken (hehe). I wore gloves so I didn’t smell like chicken for the rest of the day. Not sure how to pull chicken? It’s pretty self-explanatory, just start ripping it to pieces.

5. Optional – drain the chicken grease in the slow cooker.

6. Toss all of the pulled chicken back into the slow cooker. Add optional extra virgin olive oil and stir. I put in maaaaybe a teaspoon for the whole batch of chicken.

7. Squeeze all of the lime quarters over the chicken and stir. I chose to do this before adding vegetables because I wanted the lime to saturate the chicken more than the veggies. I also tossed the lime quarters into the slow cooker after I was done squeezing for extra oomph but not necessary.

8. Mix in all of the chopped/diced vegetables and cilantro. Since this was a weekday project I chopped all of this the night before, put them in a bowl, and poured the bowl into the slow cooker in the morning. Made my morning go a little bit smoother so it’s definitely something to consider. I mean heck, you’ve got 8 hours between putting the chicken in the slow cooker and putting the vegetables in so you might as well save yourself about 20 minutes and chop away.

9. Turn the slow cooker on low, walk away and do something spectacular for at least 6 hours. Or, be like me and just go to work instead. Because of my schedule, this sat in the slow cooker for at least 12 hours before anyone ate it and it wasn’t burned by any stretch of the imagination.

10. Eat it in whatever manner you are so inclined. I decided on tacos. Whole grain hard shells, red leaf lettuce, shredded Mexican blend cheese, hot salsa, and Cholula Sauce. It took all of my willpower not to eat twenty of these tacos. The next day, I add just the chicken with cheese, lettuce, and salsa for lunch. The options for the pulled chicken are neverending.

 

**Please note that this makes a large hefty serving (remember when I said it was a whole chicken?) because I am incapable of cooking for just two people at a time – so be prepared to cut this recipe down if needed or freeze some of it. We were having taco night with friends two days later so I made good use of the leftovers. If I’m estimating, this would have made about 20 tacos. Maybe more.** 

This was my first time making pulled anything – have you ever made pulled chicken/pork/etc? If so, do you have any cooking recommendations or suggestions?

Please tell me if you decide to try this recipe out – I’d love to know what you think of it!

 

Recipe: all natural smoothie

strawberry-banana-smoothieThis is a recipe of my own making after doing a bit of research. I don’t add any sugar or use any sugar-substitute so this might seem a little bitter to some (see: my fiance).

I think it’s a great way to get breakfast in when I’m on the go but when I mix up the quantities of the mixture I tend to end up with more of a mush than a smoothie and drinking a mush is quite difficult (trust me).

This recipe isn’t 100% exact to the tee as I tend to be the cooker/baker that adds things without measuring but it’s as close as I imagine and I can get. It fills up my traveling coffee mug (I don’t drink traveling coffee) that I believe is 16oz.

Oh and be sure to use your extra-super-powered blender because I’m pretty sure the death of my one-person blender has a lot to do with my love for smoothies in the summer… oops?

2 Cups Frozen Fruit with no sugar added – I usually do 1 cup of 1 mix from the freezer aisle and 1 cup of a different mix from the freezer aisle

1 Cup Nonfat Yogurt – I switch off between nonfat and sugar-free

3/4 Cup Nonfat Milk – Sometimes I switch this out with soy milk or rice milk – don’t forget this step even if you replace it with water otherwise you’ll end up with mush instead of smoothie

1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

1 Tablespoon Honey

1 Cup Leafy Green Vegetable – I usually go with spinach but trust me, you can’t taste the greens in this at all!

1 Half Banana – this helps to add some softness to the load of frozen bits. I don’t eat bananas by themselves very often but my fiance does so this one works out well because it gets to eat half a banana. I suppose you could use a whole banana if you don’t have a backup banana eater in your house.

 

Directions

1. Blend yogurt and leafy green vegetable together until well mixed and leaf is chopped up decent.

2. Mix in 1 cup of frozen fruit along with banana and blend until well mushed. It’s important not to put all of the frozen fruit in at once so your blender doesn’t cry.

3. Add remaining frozen fruit and milk. Blend until all mixed fantastically.

4. Add vanilla and honey and blend until delicious. I save this step for last so that I know the bits of flavoring had a change to absorb into as many pieces of the smoothie as possible. This is probably crazy talk but it makes me feel better.

5. Drink!