Saturday, January 30, 2010

Baking in Bulk

Baking in bulk in almost second nature to me. Growing up in a household of eleven persons including five growing boys, doubling or tripling recipes was just part of kitchen survival.

While huge batches are maybe not a necessity anymore, I still usually bake more then one item at a time. It just seems to make sense to bake two pans of brownies at a time or make a whopper batch of cookies while the mixer is out.

My baking is not usually organized in any way, just "I need to make some (fill in the blank), what else could I make." But after joining moneysavingmom's eat from the pantry month, I was in desperate need for some baked goods. We had been out of bread for two weeks and needed some snacks and lunch treats (besides freezer burnt zucchini bread!)

Here is a few tips I have found on baking for the freezer.

1. Plan

Making a list of what I would like to bake, and THEN grocery shopping is much better then my usual method of "start a recipe, find out I am missing an ingredient, and start substituting"! I find it best to do baked items one day and save "cooking" for the freezer for another day.

2. Start early

Which for me is the night before. Having ingredients out of the freezer makes all the difference in how much I accomplish. I could have ground my wheat to speed it up even more. If my plan for the day is already made, I can start baking in autopilot while I waited for my brain to wake up.

3. Keep Priorities

This week's baking day went very well. But I've had some days in the past that have not went so well. There are days that children just need extra attention. When I plow through my list and ignore the wails and whines, things go down hill fast! Since I'm a mother before a baker, some days I need to throw out the list. There will always be another day to bake bread.
4.Expect a Disaster

Hopefully not the food, though that can happen too! If my children are playing nicely while I bake, which they did wonderfully this week, the house will look like children were there. Every room of our house was scattered with toys. I even found lego men in my bed!
5. Know When to Quit

Maybe some of you can keep going all day and slide the last pan out of the oven at midnight. For myself, I know that I need to be quitting soon after noon. If I had an early start, by 1:00 my feet are getting tired. Every surface of my kitchen is probably covered in dirty dishes. (In the photo above, you only see the counter by the sink. There was also dishes heaped on the island, and stacked on the table!) By the time I help the children pick up the toys, get them down for naps, clean up the kitchen, and wrap and freeze the food items, Ed will probably be home looking for supper.

Is it worth it? It is to me! Bulk baking or cooking makes for a full day but I love knowing my freezer is filled with lots of good eating! Even if dish washing seemed endless (I don't have a dishwasher) I could have washed the mixer and measuring cups five separate times instead of once. So it is worth it to me.

On the baking day this week I made:
six loaves of whole wheat bread
two loaves of cinnamon swirl bread
peanut butter granola
granola bars
whole grain crackers
angel food cake

Do you bake in bulk? Any tips?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Eat from your Pantry Challenge

Crystal at MoneySavingMom hosted an Eat from your Pantry Challenge in January. I decided to join in.

At the beginning of this month, my freezers were bulging with all sorts of leftover holiday goodies. I had a huge supply of meat, home grown veggies and canned fruit. Actually, looking at all the food I had in the house, I wondered why I needed to go grocery shopping for the rest of the year!

I took a quick trip to the grocery store for fresh fruit, oatmeal, and peanut butter, which I thought were necessities. Oh, and toilet paper and diapers (since I've fallen off the cloth diaper band wagon and just now trying to climb back on).

It was rather shocking to walk out of Walmart with anything less then an overflowing cart and a receipt without an astronomical figure at the bottom.

I had to adjust my usual menus somewhat, but we ate very well. I had to keep in mind what I had available. It was very good for me to be "forced" to eat potatoes and all the other good stuff from our garden instead of pasta, rice and purchased items.

By cleaning out all the baked items in the freezer, I did next to no baking. In the little I did, I discovered that vanilla is an optional item. I actually never missed the fact that I had used it up. I also found out just how much peanut butter and oatmeal we consume in a month's time. The children learned they could live without mac and cheese for a month. Actually cheese is probably the item I missed the most. Almost everything good contains cheese and there really isn't a good substitute.

I am thrilled to open up the freezer now and find empty space! I used up all sorts of odds and ends and even found some zucchini bread! I don't even want to think of how old that was! And it tasted like it too!

I know January isn't over yet, but I did go grocery shopping this week. I was totally out of the wheat that I grind for whole wheat flour. I did have some white flour left, but I had promised Ed I wouldn't lower my cooking standards just to make a point! I think he was visualizing some sort of bland food without any salt. Now I'm stocked up again and yesterday I did a big baking day, which I may write about later.

All in all, I think I could make Eating out of the Pantry a yearly event. I love how organized and neat my pantry looks and am excited about baking again!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

More Muffin Master Mix Recipes

Here is more recipes that use the master muffin mix recipe. (Find it here.) These variations do not perfectly follow the formula I shared earlier but still use the same dry mix.

Peanut Butter and Jelly

Choose one of the liquid options in the recipe here
2 3/4 cup of the master mix
3 T peanut butter
3 T grape or strawberry jelly

Stir liquid ingredients, dry mix and peanut butter together gently. Fill batter in muffin pan 1/3 full. Place a tsp of jelly on batter. Use the remaining batter to fill muffin pan. Bake.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip

2 3/4 cup master mix
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup oil
2 eggs
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Stir together egg, milk, oil and pumpkin. Mix in remaining ingredients. Bake.


2 3/4 cup master mix
2 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
2 eggs
1/4 cup molasses
1/2 cup yogurt or milk
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup oil

Mix together molasses, eggs, yogurt, milk and oil. Stir in dry ingredients. Bake

Ham and Broccoli

1 1/2 cup master mix
3 T melted butter
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1 cup chopped cooked ham or bacon
10 oz frozen chopped broccoli
2 cup shredded cheese

Mix together butter, egg, and milk. Stir in remaining ingredients but save out 1/4 cup cheese to garnish top. Pour in muffin pan. Sprinkle on cheese. Bake.

I'd love to hear about any variations you discover. Or if you have a favorite recipe that you'd like adapted to using with the master mix, email it to me and I'll give it my best attempt.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Artisan Breads Every Day - Soft Cheese Bread

And still more recipe results from Peter Reinhart's Artisan Bread Every Day.

Soft Cheese Bread

This is one of those breads I can't quit eating. The flavor is full bodied and astounding. This is no Wonder Bread! It needs no butter or any other spread to be good. I wish I knew better how to describe flavors!

This bread recipes calls for 6 1/4 cups of flour. I replaced 3 of those cups with whole wheat flour and increased the water by 1/4 cup. I also added 2 T of vital gluten. We prefer whole grains and this change was perfect to our tastes. I didn't have any chives so used only diced onions. (The recipe includes both options.) I grated Cheddar cheese.

The recipe makes two large loaves. I made one long freestanding loaf and two pans of spiral rolls. The rolls were perfect for wrapping up for gifts.

This easy to make bread will return to our table in future days.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Artisan Breads Every Day - Whole Wheat Sourdough Hearth Bread

Still working through the recipes in Peter Reinhart's book...

100% Whole Wheat Sourdough Hearth Bread

I made this recipe way back in November- and I'm just now writing about it. There is a good reason. I hate to talk about my failures. I'd much rather pretend that I never have cooking disasters. Ed is good at not reminding me about past mistakes. But I said I would work through this cookbook and report the outcomes. So here is my honest dismal report.

I've had lots of bread baking failures. But of all the many recipes that I've tried in this book, both when I was recipe testing last spring, and now since the book came out this fall, every one was successful.

Until now. I'm sure it is my fault and not the recipe. Sourdough baking is new to me. I can make 100% whole wheat bread with yeast and I can make sourdough bread with white flour but I can not make 100% whole wheat sourdough bread.

At least not yet. I'm not giving up.

I'm sure there is some way to get the results I'm searching for. One of my problems is by the time I get the loaf baked to the center, the bottom is burnt. This dough felt wonderful. It was soft and pliable and a joy to work with, but once baked, it was hardly edible.

I did a little bit of reading on the forum dedicated to bakers using Peter Reinhart's book and think that part of my problem may be that my sourdough starter is young and may not be potent enough. I may need to give it some time to mature. My starter is languishing in the bottom of the fridge. It appears to still have some life in it and I plan to tackle the challenge in the near future.

Which means, you'll probably be reading about whole wheat sourdough bread again!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Master Muffin Mix

We LOVE muffins! Whether it is blueberry muffins for breakfast, pumpkin chocolate chip muffins on Sunday night, or almond poppy seed muffins with a pot of soup - muffins are always a favorite here.

My husband grew up with all-bran muffins a Saturday night tradition. I've held my family's tradition of pizza on Saturday evenings, but muffins still rank high at our house!

Last year I found a recipe for a master muffin mix. (I wish I remembered where to give the credit.) I loved the idea of mixing up the dry ingredients for a quick muffin mix.

But the recipe only included one variation, almond poppy seed. I was sure there were many more ways to use this mix recipe. Since then I've made dozens of variations of this recipe. Not one has been a flop. I've been wanting to share this recipe with you but keep finding new ways to use the mix. Finally I decided that I'll never run out of variation ideas, and I am just going to share the recipe! Maybe you all can help me find other variations!

Mix up a batch of the master muffin mix.

6 cup whole wheat flour
6 cup white flour
2 cup sugar
4 T baking powder
3 tsp salt

Store your master mix in an air tight container.

When you want to make muffins, choose one of the liquid ingredient options.

Option #1
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup applesauce
2 eggs
1 cup milk

Option #2
1/3 cup melted butter
1 egg
1 cup milk or buttermilk

Option #3
1/4 cup melted butter
2 eggs
1 cup yogurt

Option #4
1/4 cup oil
1 egg
1 1/4 cup milk or buttermilk

Next choose the additional ingredients you desire. The sky's the limit but here is a few variations to get you started.

Almond Poppy Seed
2 tsp almond flavoring
2 T poppy seed
1/3 cup chopped or sliced almonds (optional)

Cheese Onion
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 cup chopped chives
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

1 cup blueberry or strawberry, fresh or frozen
2 tsp grated lemon rind, optional

Cinnamon Apple
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 cup chopped apple

3 slices chopped bacon
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

Banana Nut
1 large banana, mashed
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

3 T cocoa
1/3 cup additional sugar
1/3 cup mini chocolate chips

Combine: First mix the liquid ingredients. Then stir in 2 3/4 cup of the dry master mix and the additional ingredients. Combine until just barely moistened.

Bake: Spoon batter into muffin pan. Makes 12 large muffins or 18 smaller muffins. Baking time will vary depending on variation chosen. Bake at 350 or 375 for 15 minutes. Check to see if additional baking time is needed. Muffins are done when a toothpick comes out clean. Allow muffins to sit for a few minutes before removing from muffin pan.

These muffins are not very sweet. We prefer our muffins to be more like bread then a cupcake but, if you prefer, you can add more sugar to the master mix.

You may choose to use only whole wheat flour, or only white.

If you want to make one of these muffins but don't have a desire to mix up an entire batch of dry muffin mix, for 2 3/4 cup of mix use 2 cup flour, 1/3 cup sugar, 2 tsp baking powder and 1/3 tsp salt.

I have a few other variations, but they don't perfectly fit this formula, and this is getting long enough, so I'll save it for later!

Really, it doesn't sound like a huge time savings to mix up a little flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Maybe it is all in my head. All I know is when I'm laying in bed considering what to make for breakfast, my family is much more likely to enjoy some hot muffins if this muffin mix is in my cupboard!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Baker Creek and Berlin Seeds

You may be a garden fanatic....

If seed catalogs have you acting like a little boy in a candy store. (I'll take one of this. And one of this. And one of everything!)

If the arrival of a large packet from the seed company has you doing a happy dance on the kitchen floor.

I love imagining all the potential in several dollars worth of seeds. I drool over every seed catalog that comes in the mail but have two favorite companies.
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds specializes in rare and heirloom seeds. They search throughout the world to find unusual vegetable plants. Reading their plant descriptions make me want to become a full time vegetable gardener with several acres to fill! Their website is very easy to use. I placed an order last week and it was at my house a couple days later.

Another favorite seed catalog is Berlin Seeds. They offer a wide variety of vegetables for reasonable prices. But I like their catalog for all the additional information they share. Wonder what kind of bug is eating your beans, or why your squash suddenly wilted, or what the spots are on your strawberries? This catalog describes, with photos, common garden problems and organic and conventional methods to avoid the problems.

Berlin Seeds is located in Amish country in Ohio and does not have a website or email address. But I've had good service through their phone number 1-877-464-0892. Call and ask for their free catalog.

I am in no way connected with either of these two companies. Just wanted to share, in case, you too are a garden fanatic who enjoys reading free garden catalogs!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Enjoying God's World -January Plans

It may not be a surprise to know that I love to share the joy of nature with our children. We've watched tadpoles turn to frogs, caterpillars to butterflies, and enjoyed lots of old-fashioned outdoor play. But with our children growing older, I've been hoping to add a little more structured nature study to our days.

This fall I picked up The Kids' Nature Book by Susan Milford at a book sale. This book has a nature related activity for every day of the year! I like what I've read of it so far, but like many other good things, this one is easy to push aside in the busyness of living.

For some motivation, each month I'm planning to list several projects that I hope to do with our children. With 365 ideas in this book, certainly I should find four or five a month that will fit our family. I know if I have a list, I may not do them all, but I am sure to accomplish more then if I have no plans at all.

Here are my monthly goals for the year -
  • To take one walk around our property with something particular to observe.
  • We have a wonderful park nearby that includes woods, meadows, and a creek and hope to visit this park at least monthly for a nature walk.
  • One simple nature related craft project.
  • One simple science experiment.
  • Learn the name of one new bird, animal, plant or insect each month.
  • Possibly add some books, recipes or games relating to nature study.
Projects for January -if the snow continues!

And if it does, it is going to take some real motivation to get me out of the house! You can't tell me that it is fun to bundle up a houseful of preschoolers for a nature walk at the temperatures we've seen the past week! Maybe our nature study will turn into watching the visitors to our bird feeder! Anyway, here is a few ideas for this month.
  • Talk about ways animals keep warm in the winter.
  • Catch snowflakes on a frozen sheet of dark paper and look at them with magnifying glass.
  • Cut snowflakes from paper.
  • Bring a cup of snow indoors and watch it melt .
  • Draw a snow scene with chalk on black paper.
  • Look for animal tracks in the snow and discuss where they may be going and what they are doing.
  • Make snow cream.
I'd love to hear your ideas for enjoying the wonders of God's creation with young children.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Artisan Breads Every Day - Greek Christmas Bread

Another holiday bread from Artisan Breads Every Day by Peter Reinhart.

I love reading "foodie" books and I've been wanting to try my hand at baking panettone ever since reading about food in Italy. Since I've never eaten panettone, I have no idea how close I got. All I know is - it was good!

This recipe was the most challenging one of the book so far. Not that it was difficult, it just took far more steps then most of the recipes. The dough was easy to handle and smelled good enough to eat even before baking!

The panettone recipe in the book includes many variations. I chose to make the Greek Christmas bread. In this variation, the panettone dough had spices, walnuts, and dried cranberries added to it.

The classic shape for the Christmas bread is a boule or round loaf with extra dough used to form a cross on top.

I know that several of you readers also own this book. I'd love to hear your comments on any of these recipes that you have tried!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Artisan Breads Every Day - Chocolate Cinnamon Babka

Christmas gave me the perfect excuse (like I needed one) to bake bread. More specifically, it gave me reason to try some more recipes in Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day book. I hope to sort through some photos this week, so watch for a bunch of recipe reviews.

Most of the recipes in this book use a overnight refrigeration to develop the flavors. I found this method perfect for the holidays. The week before Christmas, I spent an afternoon mixing up batches of bread. My fridge was stuffed with bowls of dough that night! But I had all my cleanup done and ingredients out only one time! The next morning, I pulled out the first batch of dough and had time to get creative with the loaf shaping. Each time I slid a batch of bread in the oven, I pulled out another bowl of dough and shaped it. Besides keeping my head about me on which bread I was working on and how long it needed to rise and bake, it was an easy day! By evening, the table was full of loaves of bread and the house smelled wonderful! Then we had the fun of delivering fresh bread to friends and neighbors!

The Chocolate Cinnamon Babka was a fun bread. I made the recipe exactly as written (shocking, huh!) and the result was as good as it looks! I doubled the recipe so that I could have a loaf for us and a loaf to gift. If I would have realized how large a loaf this recipe makes, I would have made one batch and divided it in half. The dough is rich with lots of milk, butter and egg yolks - perfect for the holidays!

I used the Israeli Kranz cake shaping technique. I've used this method for other breads and am always pleased by how easy it is to make a stunning bread. You can use this method for any bread recipe, especially one with a filling spiraled in the center.
The bread dough was rolled into a large rectangle. The filling (chocolate, cinnamon and butter) was sprinkled in and the dough rolled up jelly roll style. The log was cute down the middle lengthwise.
The two pieces were rolled together to form a spiral and baked.

And the result - Yummy!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

So Good (And Good for you) Pilaf

I read that the top New Year's Resolution is to eat healthier food. With all the rich foods we've had around here, I can understand the goal. Here is a recipe that we love that can fit the "eating healthy" category!

1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 T butter

Saute until tender.

1/3 cup pearl barley
1/3 cup brown rice
1/3 cup bulgar

Add and saute 3 minutes.

2 3/4 cup broth
1 tsp sage
1/4 tsp pepper

Add. Bring to boil. Reduce heat. Cover. Simmer 40 minutes or until tender.

If desired, stir in 1/3 cup chopped almonds and 1/3 cup fresh parsley immediately before serving.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Teaching Children to Memorize Scripture - One Year Later

A year ago, I wrote about teaching children to memorize Scripture. You can read the original post here. The idea was to pick a passage of Scripture and read it to the children every day. At the time, I was amazed at how quickly preschool children memorized Scripture from just hearing it, without any extra effort to laboriously learn the verses line by line.

A year later, I'm still convinced it is an effective way to teach Scripture to young children. The greatest challenge is consistency on the part of Mom (and at our house that would be Me, a person who is much better at flexibility then consistency). How is it that we don't skip meals, remember to do the laundry and can keep up with diaper changes, but Scripture memory is pushed out of a day.

I just read an article by the Maxwell's where they describe their family's method of Scripture memory. A large white board near their dining table holds the passage they are currently working on. At each meal, immediately after prayer, they read the verses together. In this way, the verses are read usually twice a day. The passage stays on the board until everyone knows them very well, then are replaced by new verses. I think combining Scripture memory with a regular daily occurrence, such as meals, may be what our family needs.

This past year, we have chosen one passage a month. Our children's favorites were short Psalms such as Psalm 1, 8, and 100. During the summer, we shortened it to single verses, John 3:16 and the Fruits of the Spirit. I've tried to review old passages about once a week or so. We may repeat some of the passages this year, but we hope to learn some new ones as well.

Now, please don't get some rosy picture of children sitting meekly in a row on the couch with their hands folded, reciting their Bible verses. Those of you who go to church with us know that our children have a double portion of the wigglies. Bible memory verses at our house are often joined with obnoxious noises and a fit of giggles. I love enthusiasm but sometimes need to draw a line when verses are screamed out at top volume while clapping their hands AND hanging from the back of the couch by their feet. And please don't ask my children to give a demonstration.

To give purpose to the wiggles, we've sometimes added hand motions. This has been especially good for lists such as The Ten Commandments. They also love any Scripture set to music and learn them super quick. I like to quote them without singing as well to make sure they could quote it without music. We've even turned it into a energy burning game (otherwise known as a desperate mom winter idea) in musical chairs style, marching around chairs, singing our verses, diving for a chair at the end of each song.

Something new we just started this fall is a Scripture notebook. My goal was review but my paper hoarders love it! Inspired by the Homespun Heart's study on the Fruits of the Spirit for Preschoolers, I type of a verse or passage on a sheet of paper and make a simple drawing depicting the verse. I'm a stick-man-artist only but if I tell the children what the drawing is supposed to be, they believe me. The children color the page and hang in the kitchen while we learn the verse. When we begin a new verse, the old one is added to a three ringed binder filled with page protectors. These binders are cherished possessions and often played with. For pre-readers, the pictures allow them to review the verses on their own.

My goal in Scripture memory with young children is not that they can quote it word perfect, and certainly not that they can preform for others. Rarely, unless they ask, do I request them to say it by themselves. Instead, my goal is that the Word of God is heard in their ears so often that it is embedded in their minds. I'd rather not give any child-training advice until I'm a grandmother with (by God's grace) godly children. But this method of memorizing has worked very well for our family and maybe can inspire you to add Scripture memory to your daily routine.

For more reading on Scripture memory go to Holy Experience and be sure to scroll down to the links on the bottom of this post.

I'd love to hear any of your thoughts or tips on Scripture memory!

Friday, January 1, 2010

A New Year!

As one who loves new goals, schedules, and planners - a new year is a glorious thing! All those blank empty days full of promise that this year I WILL be organized, cook creative healthy meals, complete all the projects I've ever started, and never get impatient with the children!

Since I'm doomed to fail in those endeavors before the first day of January is over, maybe I'd better find more realistic goals. Yes?

I've actually been thinking a lot about goal setting. As much as I love a good "to do" list and probably wouldn't accomplish anything at all without one, they do have their failings. (For all those of you who have some idea that I'm naturally is false. Anyone who is naturally organized would not have to work at it as hard as I. I'm an impulsive, easily distracted, scatterbrain. Take my word for it. Or ask my mom.)

Um, where was I. Oh! "To do" lists. In the past few months I have been increasingly frustrated. Every single day ends in discouragement because "I got nothing done". Sure I've did laundry, meals, and diapers. I have even occasionally cleaned. But all that other stuff, the things I really want to do but never find time for, at the end of the day, that is all I can think of.

For the past few years, a faded yellow card has hung above my sink. It reads "If all you accomplish today is caring for your children, you have done what is important. You have invested in eternity." I know it is true but somehow, when I look at a whole day, it seems that I should find time for a few other things too!

I think the real issue (don't worry, I'm not a deep thinker) is the way I evaluate my success. "You accomplished lots of things today, good Gina!" What a horrible mindset. Wherever do I get the idea that God's approval and my success is based on what I do -for Him, for my family, or anyone else!

Like I said, this has been brewing around my head for months. Despite knowing I've been prone to some bad thinking, I haven't been able to shake it. So I'm laying it all out to you dear readers, just for the sake of some accountability.

I love my planner. I will continue to write out weekly menus and "to do" lists. I am still making goals for the new year. (Without a vision the people perish.) But I am changing my measure of success.

A good day, a successful day for 2010, and every other year, is a day when others see Jesus in me.

"By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples if ye love one another."

Care to join me?

Read a good article that resonated with me at Heart of the Matter here.


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