Saturday, February 19, 2011

A tip for when you are baking bread, and also generally in life when things don't go your way.

Okay, this is a quick one.

Almost every weekend (Friday night/Saturday morning), I make a couple loaves of bread. Brian eats it throughout the weekend as sandwiches and toast whenever he's hungry between meals.

So this has become a tradition for me. I've done it so often that I don't use a recipe anymore. Flour, grains, sugar, salt, yeast - dump it all in. Add some butter or oil. Mix it up in the mixer and slowly add water. Mix until blended, separate into loaves, let rise for a bit, then bake. Every time, it's a success. I have made it more times than I can remember.

UNTIL a couple weeks ago when I decided to fidget with the loaf size. I did almost everything the same, except maybe adding a little less flour - and suddenly, I wound up with two squatty, dense loaves. Surprise! So this is just to say that if you are foraging into the world of baking your own bread, don't give up if you run into a bump in the road. This might sound haughty but I thought I had baking bread down PAT. I guess I was wrong! Anyway, this morning I made bread again, and it was perfect.

In other news, I think this is going to be a great weekend. Right now Brian and Bo are running around some public hunting land, scouting for new spots and tiring themselves out like crazy. I'm about to leave to sing at the nursing home with our church choir and on the way home I'm stopping at the store to buy MUSSELS, baby! Whole Foods is getting 20 pounds in this morning - I called. Then tomorrow I'm heading off to the library booksale, because as a matter of fact I am still on a book-buying bender for children that don't exist yet.

More on that later, but you should see how big the stack in the empty room has gotten. : )

Anyway, I hope you all have a wonderful weekend, too! (Bake some bread, if you're up to it!)


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Forecast calls for more sunshine and several imminent purchases

Seems to me that spring is here. It's been in the sixties all week and the predictions don't show the temperature dipping much lower. We're heading for a short trip to Florida soon and I reckon when we get back, winter will be gone. History. Poof!

Too bad.

Oh, well. I feel like all I do on this blog is complain about the weather, so I'll stop right here. All I'll say is that, this year, I'm investing in one of these:

No, not a family of vacationing Norwegians - a pool! Maybe a little smaller than this. Maybe even a small footbath. Something I can set up on the deck, fill with water, and utilize to avoid collapse in between watering the garden and the wilting landscaping. Somehow, I will battle, and win.

So I suppose that's an awkward segue into what I want to say. I'm hoping the hot, humid summer will pass quickly because we're looking WAY ahead... to the fall. Guess what's happening then? I'll give you a hint: it's going to be a completely new experience. Lots of people have done this, but we never have. And surprisingly, Brian is looking forward to it LOT more than I thought he would. I'm a little nervous, I'll admit, but I have enough faith in myself that I think I'm up to it!

Want to know what I'm talking about?

Have you guessed yet?

Well, I'll tell you!

We're going on our very first hunting trip together!

We're going elk hunting! YIPPEE!

If we're lucky enough to draw a tag, Brian and I are trekking into the foothills of Montana with our supplies on our backs and a WHOLE lot of walking to do. I can't believe Brian wants to take me - and I can't believe he thinks I'll like it! - but I figure if he can do it, then so can I. Last night he was so excited, telling me what the trip will entail. "We'll have to get you a good backpack," he said, "and some good hiking boots."

Guess when he started shopping for those things? Yup. This morning, I got two links in my email - "want to buy these?" He's not the only one that likes spending money! We are quite a pair.

We'll be out in the wilderness for about ten days, maybe more. I hope we see lots of wildlife and have some good weather, and I wouldn't even mind running into a bear. We'll both be packing, so I'm not too worried!

I can't believe I'm excited about this!


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Lovely. Simply lovely.

How was everyone's Valentine's Day? Ours was lovely. (Haha! Get it? LOVEly?)

We had a simple meal - fried catfish and cheddar grits - but to me, there's no better way to show love than with some comfort food. I don't know who sent the catfish home with Brian - it was one of his coworkers - but whoever you are, thanks. It was great. (Though I think I've confirmed to myself that I'm not a fan of Old Bay seasoning. Is there cinnamon in there?)

Bo had honey ham and scrambled eggs in his kibble, which Brian says - and I agree - is one fine meal for a pooch.

The weather was beautiful all day, and the tomato seeds I wrote about here actually started sprouting! Now that was a nice thing to see on Valentine's Day. Last year I didn't soak the seeds before planting, and they took almost a month to germinate. So the moral here: soak 'em. I also got a Gurney's catalog in the mail, and you know what? The spell of those catalogs never fails to capture me. Pictures of ripe, juicy fruit, perfect vegetables, and lush flowers... sometimes I just have to throw the catalog into the trash to avoid spending my money on things that will not look like the pictures, with the lack of my gardening thumb. Or at least, not for a very, very long time.

(HOWEVER, Gurney's is a good company. They have a lifetime guarantee on their plants, and their quality is good. I'm not knocking them at all. But two years ago we ordered a couple hundred dollars worth of fruit trees, and we received a box of bare-root plants. Basically, a pile of twigs. It's just how they ship them. That was kind of a bummer. With patience, though, they flourished and are now all doing fantastically. So... take that as you will. Sorry for the long side note.)

Most of all, yesterday, I was struck by all the love I have in my life. Love from friends, family, Brian, and from God.

On Sunday the pastor asked us if anyone wanted to stand and share about the love of God in his or her life. Sitting there, I thought, How could you even begin? I should have stood, if only to say that I just didn't know how I could even express it. Life is good right now for me and Brian, but even if it wasn't, God would not love us any less. If he chooses to give us children someday, it won't mean he loves us more. As a human I'm so tempted to talk about God's love in terms of how he's kept us healthy, or because he's provided for us above and beyond our needs and even our wants. But I can't measure his love in that way. I just don't know how to measure it, but I love this verse of a hymn we sang on Sunday:

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above,
Would drain the ocean dry.
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.

I don't know exactly what I would write on the parchment. Where I'd even start. Maybe just, Thank you, thank you, thank you. Thank you.


Monday, February 14, 2011

The Way We Decided to Get Hitched, Part III.

Ahhh, Monday. But this Monday is different - it's Valentine's Day. A day to appreciate your sweetheart, and ALSO, in my opinion, to cherish the people that love you. Family that loves you is a gift from God, and friends, though you can put your heart and soul into being friendly, are also a tremendous blessing that you just have to chalk up to Providence. I have incredible friends across the United States that are in all different places in life. Some are single, some newly married, some are parents, and some are close to being grandparents, but no matter what we have or don't have in common, we have a bond that is truly wonderful and special. To all of my friends and my wonderful family - Happy Valentine's Day! You are more of a blessing than you'll ever know.

But today I am also so thankful for Brian, and when I find myself in these sappy moods I get a hankering for a good old love story. So although my own love story isn't one for the ages, I sure do feel lucky to be living it. And I suppose today is as good as any other to finish telling you...

The Way We Decided to Get Hitched, Part III.

(If you're not caught up, here's Part I and Part II.)

When we finished Part II of this story, I was anxiously wondering when Brian was going to make me his FIANCEE. We had picked a wedding date - and it wasn't far away - and I wanted to get started on wedding planning as soon as possible!

But convinced that I would be waiting until May (less than four months before our selected wedding date) to have The Question asked of me, I began planning a few things for the wedding. I admit, it was exciting, especially since my mom was all aboard The Wedding Train, too. We got some books out of the library and began doing a little footwork. And one day, as my mom, my sister, and I were driving home from an appointment that was just in the way of a bridal consignment shop, I suggested we pop in and check out what was available.

And that day, even without an engagement ring, I bought my wedding dress! It was four sizes too large and it wasn't at all what I'd expected to like, but the minute I put it on and the seamstress pulled the fabric behind me so that I could see what it would look like if it actually fit, it was beautiful. She assured me that she could work her magic on it and make it just my size, and the thought of spending less than $200 for my wedding dress appealed in a pretty big way.

Throughout the weeks leading up to my visit to see Brian in March, I began to feel peace about waiting to be engaged. I embraced the excitement of planning our wedding and I was so looking forward to spending time with Brian in North Carolina. His parents were flying down to see him and wanted to pay for me to come, too. (As a side note, God bless them! Happy Valentine's Day to my in-laws, who are a second family and more than I could ever have hoped for. They are also a tremendous blessing from God, and I love 'em like crazy!) Anyway, I was simply counting down the hours until our plane would leave Detroit and take us south to my true love.

The night before we left, my bags were packed and my mom insisted I do my nails so that "they would look nice for Brian." She gave me a beautiful French manicure.

When our flight touched down in Raleigh, Brian's parents rented a car and we drove to pick Brian up from work. He walked out of his office building to greet us, and I ran to him and jumped into his arms. All the time we had spent apart made it so much sweeter to see each other.

That night, the four of us went to a hockey game - one of Brian's coworkers had given him tickets for great seats in the Priority Lounge. Brian's parents were so much fun to hang out with and we had a fantastic time eating pulled pork and watching the game. At one point, Brian held my hand and pulled my silver, heart-shaped ring off my finger. He slid it onto his finger and it didn't even reach his knuckle. "I'll hold onto this," he said, "for... sizing." He gave me a pointed look and I smiled at him. "Okay, babe."

The next day was Thursday, March 2, 2006.

Brian had to work that morning, but after noon he was coming home and we were going to head to the Outer Banks to spend the weekend. Brian's parents and I drove from our hotel to his apartment, stopping on the way to get groceries for a special lunch. Sandy and I worked in his tiny, barely-stocked kitchen to make Swedish dumplings and blueberry pie. The food was steaming hot when Brian walked in. "We made your favorite food!" we told him excitedly. "Oh.... great," he replied, a little hastily. "Awesome! Well, let's eat, I guess, and then we really should get on the road." We enjoyed the meal and wrapped up the leftovers, and Brian was simply itching to get started on the five-hour drive.

Once on the road, he seemed to relax. The day was a little cool, but the sun was shining brightly and the trip to the coast was enjoyable. Brian and I were having fun talking with his parents and soaking up the time with each other. We had about four more days and an exciting trip ahead of us to the islands off the coast of North Carolina, and I didn't want to miss a second.

The sun was beginning to set when we reached the coast, and Brian convinced us that it'd be best to stay overnight instead of trying to make it to the ferry that would take us across the sound to the Outer Banks. "I really want to walk by the ocean before the sun goes down," he insisted. So we pulled off to the side of the road and walked over the dunes, and there was the ocean, roaring in the sunset.

Brian's parents walked along the shore and the two of us lagged behind, walking hand-in-hand and looking at purple seashells that lay scattered on the sand. I planned to keep a few as mementos of the trip. "Look at this one!" I exclaimed, picking up a particularly vibrant one. "And look at this one!" Brian picked up a few too, and I slipped them into my pocket. We looked out at the waves and strolled slowly together as the wind whipped my hair. Brian looked down at the sand, then turned to pick something up.

"Hey, look at this one!" he said, turning back around. And I looked down, and between his fingers was a diamond ring, a beautiful sparkling round solitaire on a thin band of white gold.

Completely astonished, I actually thought he had found that on the sand. And then I realized that he was proposing. And my hands flew to my mouth and I gasped, and he laughed. And he got down on his knee and he said, "Maegan, will you be my wife?"

I can't tell you how my heart pounded, how thrilling and special that moment was. I'm sure I said yes but all I wanted to do was hug him. I pulled him up and I jumped into his arms and I squealed, and he spun me around and we kissed. And then he slipped that ring onto my finger, that perfect, beautiful ring, and he said, "Wait 'til we get inside and you can really look at it. It's a good one." But I knew that already. Brian never did anything halfway.

In a second we were running to his parents, and I jumped up and down and held my hand out to his mom and said, "Look! Look!" She cried, and she hugged us, and Brian's dad slapped him on the back and good-naturedly scolded him for keeping such a secret. "You guys would've spilled the beans somehow!" Brian explained. Turns out the only person he'd told was my dad, and now, thanks to my mom, I had beautiful nails to go with my perfect ring.

The rest of the visit was a fabulous blur of excitement. We called our family and friends. We went out to a beautiful restaurant and proudly told our news to the server, who brought us a special dessert to share. We spent the rest of the trip looking from the ocean, to each other, to the ring on my finger - so many beautiful sights to take in, over and over again. We made so many incredible memories on that trip, but there's no question that the best one was the moment Brian asked me to marry him. I don't think I'll ever forget that night - I don't think I even could - but now, it's here on my blog.

Maybe I'll read it out loud to Brian tonight.

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!


Thursday, February 10, 2011

PSA Thursday.

I know, I still have to finish my engagement story. But I'm not going to do it today. Don't get too wound up, now. I'll finish it all in good time. And it'll be so worth it. It'll make you laugh, cry, and run out of the house and spin around in the rain with your arms spread out, yelling, "Wheeeee!"

But not today.

No, today I woke up and I looked out the window at the freshly fallen 1/8" of snow and I thought to myself, Today looks like a public service announcement kind of day.

So here goes. My public service announcement:

I was talking to a friend yesterday and she mentioned that she was bummin'. And (being the ever-compassionate friend that I am) I said, "Why?" She told me it wasn't a big deal, that she was probably being silly, but then she explained that she had recently hand-made a gift for a friend of hers. She'd put a lot of thought and time into it and she'd been so pleased with how it turned out. "But when I gave it to her," she said, "she didn't even act like she liked it. She was like, 'Huh. Thanks'."

Her story reminded me of a time (when I was much younger) that my family was going through some financial struggles. My mom was invited to a baby shower for a church friend she'd known for years, and she wanted to give her something nice but didn't have a lot of money. So you know what she did? She painted a gorgeous watercolor of a child's hand being held by God's hand, with a Bible verse underneath it about how the Lord watches over little ones. My mom is a wonderful artist, and the painting came out beautifully. I'm not just saying this because I love my mom. She really is talented, and the painting was precious. She framed it and gave it to her friend at the shower.

Of course, you know where I'm going with this. The friend was mildly pleased... "Oh, thanks." And then upon later visits, my mom saw that she hadn't put the painting anywhere in her house. Not the nursery or the bathroom. Not even in a closet. (Well... okay. I don't think my mom checked the closets.)

My PSA, for all you folks out there who are getting married and having babies: When somebody give you a handmade gift, appreciate it. Go bonkers. Display it.

Today we've become so enamored with expensive, name-brand stuff. We've gotten to the point where we see an expensive gift and think, "A lot of love went into that." But let me tell you, handmade gifts take a lot of love - picking out the project, purchasing the supplies, thinking about what the recipient would enjoy. And not to mention - they take time. I recently bought a cross-stitch kit for a Christmas stocking to make for Brian. I was convinced I could order it in October and get it done by Christmas. Did I finish the stocking by Christmas? Did I finish the reindeer's FACE in time for Christmas?

NOPE! I have put dozens of hours into that stocking and I'm not even a quarter of the way finished. If I had received it as a gift, I would have thought the giver had spent a mere few weeks on it (and I guarantee you I would have appreciated it, but beside the point), but I would have been wrong about the time put into it. Handmade gifts, whether they're clothes or blankets or stockings or wall-hangings, take a lot more time than we realize. And handmade time equals love, in a more precious way than money=time=love.

Do you see what I mean?

So when someone gives you a gift that they made, show them that they've made you feel like a million bucks. And display their work, too. Wear the jewelry. Hang the painting. Put the throw pillow on your couch, for Pete's sake!

In fact, do what my brother- and sister-in-law did this Christmas. I had wrapped a gift for their brand-new baby girl - nothing special, just a few toys I'd bought on Amazon - and on the top of the package I'd attached a Christmas ornament that I had made. It was really simple, just a flat piece of clay in the shape of a teddy bear with a little face and my niece's name and birth date. (I suppose I'm going against my whole point about handmade gifts take lots of time, but this really hadn't taken a whole lot of time. I still put love into it, though.) And my brother in law held it up and went, "WOW! Did you make this?" And I nodded, and my sister-in-law said, "I can't believe you made that! That is so cute! Thank you so much!" And my brother-in-law said, "Seriously. Just that alone would have been an awesome gift."

And you know what? That made me feel like a million bucks.

So go forth, and do the same thing. --- End of announcement. ---


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

La la la.

Last night I came home from a neighborhood homeowners' board meeting around 9:30. I had some laundry to finish up and I had left the kitchen kind of messy, so I knew it wouldn't be a very relaxing evening before it was time for bed. We don't stay up very late and I was worried that Brian would want to head to bed right away, so I was kind of rushed as I pulled into the driveway and got out of the car.

But Brian opened the front door to greet me as I walked up the porch steps. He smiled. Bo bounded out in front of Brian and his whole body wagged like a short, fat wiggleworm. "Hey honey!" said Brian. He welcomed me inside and talked with me as I sorted laundry and threw things in the dishwasher. It was a nice night, and we made it to bed by 10:30. Not great, but not bad at all.

I love my two guys. I love coming home to them. I love taking care of them, feeding them, and keeping a nice house for them.

I love my little Bo, my baby guy, who's curled up beside me right now on his bed. I've covered him up with his blanket, which I don't think he minds. I like to pretend he appreciates it.

And I love my big man, my Brian. He works hard and takes care of us, and he's such a great husband. I love knowing he'll be around for me and Bo.

So, that's pretty much it for today. Life is good.


Monday, February 7, 2011

Doom and gloom and me-oh-my.

I did something this weekend that made me both pleasantly optimistic and panicky, both at the same time! WHAT, you ask, could be so cheerful and horrifying, to inspire such conflicting feelings?

The answer: I started tomato seeds for my garden.

It was exciting to pull out my packets of heirloom tomato seeds and begin soaking them to help germination. I ordered a few more varieties from Diane's Flower Seeds and started soaking a few bell pepper seeds too. After 24 hours of soaking, I planted them in my little seed-starter greenhouse, lovingly filled and watered with hands clothed in brand-new gardening gloves.

All the while, I felt a satisfying enjoyment, picturing bushy, well-watered plants and rows of home-canned tomato jars lining the pantry. There is something so refreshing about planning one's garden in late winter. All the mistakes and foibles of last season are wiped away, with the promise of compost, Round-Up, Preen, new tomato cages, and of fresh energy to provide a clean slate for brand-new plants. In the garden of my daydreams, weeds, pests, and hot, dry weather don't bother me a bit. And sitting at the dining room table, looking out at the gray skies, the cold weather makes yard work even seem possible.

But once the tomato seeds were tucked into their beds of planting mix, the inevitability of their growth hit me like a brick. Soon the tiny leaves would appear, and then - THEN -

As we climbed into bed last night I felt myself seize up in panic. Oh no, I though. Oh NO! Summer's going to be here soon! The realization that February was almost halfway over startled me enough that I reached over and grasped Brian's arm. "Honey," I complained urgently, "winter's almost over! What are we going to DO?" All the romantic garden scenes I'd been picturing gave way to a stark image of reality in the Raleigh summer sun - dried-out garden rows, flourishing weeds, heat so strong it wilted entire trees. Early every morning last summer, I painstakingly watered the garden, brushing ticks off my legs as I walked through the grass and wiping sweat off my neck before the sun had even risen. Yet despite my efforts with the hose, midday would come and the world would be drooping, dying in the heat. I worried for my garden and its produce was sadly lacking. Even the raspberries, our champions of heat and drought, became pitiful. Everything was pitiful. I was most pitiful of all.

And I was so looking forward to winter, anxiously awaiting the cold relief. I can't believe it's almost over.

And mark my words, as soon as March gets here, winter is long gone. Oh February, why, why must you be so short?!

AUGH. GAH. ARGH!!! Summer is almost here!


Friday, February 4, 2011

Another unpleasant task ahead, followed by a VERY pleasant recipe!

I have a few things on my blog to-do list that I'd like to cross off before I get all of my wisdom teeth taken out this afternoon. I can't tell you how little I'm looking forward to this appointment, and THAT statement is me reeealllly trying to be positive here.

I've stocked up the fridge with soft foods to eat and thankfully I've got the weekend to rest up. I confess I'm a little worried about Brian. I have no idea what to expect, so hopefully if he needs to ask me where the lunchmeat or the toaster is, I won't be too konked out to answer.

I have to finish my engagement story, yes. I know, I know. But not today. Patience, grasshopper. February is (supposedly) the most romantic month of the year! Sleet, slush, bitter cold Valentine's Day, red hearts all over Walmart, pictures of cartoon cupids dangling unexpectedly in the pharmacy... Ahh. The anticipation you're feeling about my tale of romance will just add to the atmosphere of love. Breathe it in. Soak it up. Ahh.

Finally, I'd like to post another bread recipe. Unfortunately, there aren't any process shots because I frankly didn't expect these rolls to be so ROCKINGLY delicious. But they are!

No-Knead Rosemary Rolls with Cheddar and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

-4 cups flour (bread flour is preferable)
-1 3/4 teaspoons salt
-1 1/2 teaspoons yeast (I was in a hurry and wanted the bread to rise quickly, so I used a tablespoon)
-2 teaspoons sugar
-1 tablespoon olive oil
-1 1/2 teaspoons rosemary, sprinkle of garlic powder, a few grinds of black pepper (I used Tones Rosemary Garlic Seasoning)
-1/2 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes (Mine were extremely dried out from being in the fridge for many moons - they rehydrated just fine. Also, you can add more if you love sun-dried tomatoes.)
-Small block of cheddar cheese, maybe 2" x 4" x 1" - sorry, doesn't need to be exact - diced into small cubes (you could use shredded cheddar but it will blend into the dough more, and I prefer the chunks of cheddar but use what you've got!)
-2 slightly scant cups of warm water

Extra stuff: 1 egg, extra olive oil, seasoned salt, extra cheddar and Italian seasoning

1. Mix the flour, salt, sugar, yeast, olive oil, seasoning, sun-dried tomatoes, and cheddar cheese together in a large bowl or Tupperware container.
2. Pour in two cups of warm water and mix with a sturdy butter knife or wooden spoon. If the dough is extremely shaggy, add little bits of water to help you get all the flour incorporated. The texture of the dough will be the same as the texture of the bread bowl dough I showed you the other day.
3. Cover with plastic wrap or a lid. Let rise for as little as 40 minutes or as much as 40 hours - just keep punching the dough down when it doubles in size.
4. Dump the dough onto a floured board and form into a rough circle. Chop it like a wheel into twelve pieces.
5. Prepare a baking dish (I used a 10" Pampered Chef Stoneware dish - you can use a casserole pan, a cookie sheet, a metal cake pan, whatever) by coating it with olive oil and lightly sprinkling seasoned salt over the oil (optional).
6. Form each piece into a roll by pinching the bottom. Arrange into your baking dish with a little space between each roll.
7. Beat the egg in a small dish. Brush it onto the tops of the rolls and sprinkle with extra shredded cheese and/or Italian seasoning.
8. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.
9. Preheat the oven to 375F.
10. Bake on the bottom shelf for 15 minutes. Move to top shelf and bake for an additional 20. If the rolls are browning too much, cover with foil.
11. Turn out and let cool for a few minutes. Break apart, eat, and enjoy! Really, no butter needed for these babies.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

And then I ate the bowl!

In my mind, winter is the direct equivalent to soup, even here in the South where you can wake up one morning and bizarrely walk out the door to 65 degree weather. I LOVE soup, all kinds of soup, and I make it a frightful lot! Brian is an awfully good sport about it. :)

This is something I like to make every now and then when I want to make soup feel a little fancier. It's easy and delicious. Ladies and gents: crusty bread bowls!

These are the size of a very large roll (waste not, want not!). I allot approximately 1 cup of flour per person, but if you want really large bowls you could increase the recipe amounts by 1/2 or even double.

Ingredients for two bowls:
2 cups flour (bread flour is preferable)
-3/4 teaspoon salt
-1/2 teaspoon yeast
-1 scant cup water

Here's how ya do it:

Grab yourself a tupperware:

Throw in two cups of flour, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon yeast, and mix 'er all up. I like to use a butter knife.

Now microwave a scant cup of water for about 40 seconds or until warm.

Mix in the water until the dough is sticky and no flour remains unmixed. Add tiny bits of water gradually if the dough is too scraggly. When it's done, it should be all lumpy and sticky like this: see?



Sorry. I don't mean to yell at you. Anyway, throw a lid on it and let it rise for a few hours.

Now it's perfect!

Look at that!

Would you just LOOK at that?

JUST LOOK AT IT! (Hahaha. Semi-related funny video here.)

Hehe. I get passionate about my bread bowls. Pardon me. Anyway, grab a large board and something to bake on, like a cookie sheet. Here, I'm using a pizza stone.

Flour the board generously and dump the dough out. Roll it around to coat with flour.

Chop it in half. I like to make Brian's bowl a little bigger than mine, so I just eyeball it.

Form into rolls by pinching the dough at the bottom until the ball is taut. See how small they look? Of course, they'll rise and get a little bigger, but I don't like to make them huge because - who wants to eat a loaf of bread in one sitting?

Sprinkle your baking apparatus with cornmeal or spray with cooking spray, throw on the bread dough, and cover with a clean dishtowel or rag.

Let rise for 30 minutes. See - they've gotten a little bigger.

Cut an X into each loaf with a sharp knife. This isn't crucial, but I like to do it.

Bake at 450F for 25 minutes. If you make larger bowls, increase the cooking time. If the top starts burning, decrease the temperature to 400F.

Aww, how pretty.

Let them cool before cutting. And let me tell you, you are going to love how crusty and chewy this bread is! See how great it looks?



Haha! In truth, I just figured out how to work the 'macro' setting on my point & shoot. I like using it now. :)

Now, you'll know how to do the rest. Slice the top off , and cut up the 'insides' and the 'hat' to dip in your soup. Although the bread is crusty enough to stand up to brothy soups, I prefer to make thick soups for these, like chili or stew! Tonight is creamy chicken stew with potatoes and vegetables.
Yay for cheap and delicious meals!

Now go forth and bread it up, baby!


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Blog spotlight and the tricky business of cooking brown rice.

First of all, a great big SHOUT OUT to a new blogger friend, A, at Remember All the Way. She just posted on Sunday that after three years of trying for a baby, she and her husband are PREGNANT! I just can't imagine better news. Click over to her blog to read her story - God has been faithful to bring her through a lot of dark times. I also love A's blog because she is ALSO a wonder wife - lots of great recipes, gardening tips, hostessing tips - and she's a dog-mama too, which is RIGHT up my alley.

This morning, she gave a shout out to The Wonder Wife and I am so thrilled and grateful! Thank you, A! In honor of this great... uh, honor, I present to you an oft-used tip:

How to Cook Brown Rice Perfectly without a Hassle! As you know, brown rice is so much healthier than white, but cooking it on the stove has always been frustrating for me.

Here's how:

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Measure 1.5 cups of brown rice into an 8x8 Pyrex (or similar oven safe dish). Add a teaspoon of salt and any seasonings you fancy. (I added chili powder since I'm making it for a Mexican dish.) Add a tablespoon of oil or butter on top of the dry rice. Now, bring 2.5 cups of water (or broth, for more flavor) to a boil on the stove (or in the microwave). Pour the liquid over the rice, cover tightly with foil, and bake for 60 minutes.

Perfect brown rice, every time. Voila! This makes a lot of rice, and it stores well in the fridge. I throw it into my enchiladas for some extra fiber or mix it with sauteed vegetables for a stir-fry. Scroll below for pictures of this extremely simple process!

Thanks everyone! Have a great Tuesday!