9.25.2010

Better x 3 : Homemade Bread

(Why homemade bread is three times better than store bought bread!)

I've recently started baking my own bread for the hubby and me.  Have I lost my mind?  No.  Actually, I find the entire long, slow process of mixing and kneading and rising and shaping and rising and baking to be kind of relaxing.  It almost forces you to slow down, know what I'm saying?  And even though it's a 3+ hour project start to finish, there's so much downtime that you can get plenty of other things done while it's rising and baking.  Plus the aroma is seriously intoxicating.  And not only does homemade bread taste better (the 1st better...so obvious), it is so much better for you nutritionally than a loaf of processed, shelf-stable bread (the 2nd better).  We use it mostly as sandwich bread...though the hubby and I can easily eat half a loaf just slicing it off, toasting it, and eating it plain - no jam, butter or anything.  This recipe is truly divine.



Whole Wheat and Bran Bread

Ingredients:
2 2/3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/3 cups bread flour
2/3 cup oat bran
2/3 cup wheat bran
1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. dry active yeast

1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. canola oil

1 Tbsp. honey
3 1/3 cups water 
2 2/3 cups whole wheat flour (as needed)
1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. salt 


Directions:
Mixing
 -Combine the first five ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  
-Make a well in the center and add in the oil, honey and water.  Mix well.
-Slowly add in two cups of wheat flour until the dough is soft and sticky.  Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for six to seven minutes, adding more wheat flour as necessary.   
-After well combined, place the mixing bowl over the dough and let it rest for 20 minutes. 
-Remove the bowl, flatten out the dough and sprinkle half of the salt over it.  After several turns, add the rest of the salt, and knead for five to seven more minutes until the dough is smooth. 

First Rise
-Put dough into a clean, lightly floured container.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place (the oven with just the light on....or your porch on a warm day!) for 60-90 minutes, until doubled in size.  

Shaping
-Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, and flatten gently.  Divide into two equal pieces.
-With the first piece of dough, flatten with hands into a rectangle (short side facing you).  Fold the top third down, the bottom third up.  Rotate and repeat several times.  
-After compact, shape into a cylinder the length of your bread pan and seal the seam.  Tuck the ends in several times until they're secure.
-Place into well-greased pan (don't forget to grease the top of the lip - makes for much easier removal post-baking!).  Repeat with other piece of dough. 

Second Rise
-Cover with a damp towel and let rise for 45-60 minutes, until the dough has risen well above the rim of the pans. 

Baking
-Bake at 375 degrees for 30-40 minutes until golden brown.  
-To tell if the bread is done, you can do the "tap the bottom" to see if it sounds hollow...but for me, sticking in a thermometer (in the side where no one can see it!) and making sure it's 190 degrees inside is way easier.
-Pop the loaves out of the pans and let cool on a wire rack. 



This is the recipe I used for making my first ever loaf of yeast bread.  First. Ever.  So if it's your first time making homemade bread, you can do it!  Just don't be scared of the dough.  You control it!  

Oh, curious about the "third better" of homemade bread?  That would be how much you can save making it from scratch.  I did the math (and I think I even did it right!) and it costs me $1.08 to make each loaf of this (assuming that my time isn't worth anything!).  To get a good, hearty loaf of bread, it's normally what, $4.50?  It might not sound like much of a difference, but saving $3.50 a loaf on something we buy once a week equals saving over $180 a year!  Ohhhh the damage I could do at Target with $180!  

Hence and therefore....homemade bread is three times better!
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9.18.2010

A bargain of a project

Much to my hubby's dismay delight, I'm joining him in his home office.  Not that I'm not in there always anyway...(Seriously, I'd say that 80% of my awake and at home time is spent in there...the other 20% in the kitchen.  We haven't sat on our couch in weeks!).  But joining him as in putting a second desk in there.  YES!  I have been craving my own desk.  Crafts and projects always require hauling out the folding table, my legs are constantly on fire from my laptop that puts off more heat than a fireplace (exaggeration, but barely)...I needed my own desk! 

I have a "college" computer desk in storage (read: my parent's barn).  You know the type.  El Cheapo, no drawers, just a top on four wobbly legs.  What I needed was a real desk, made of wood, with drawers for my crafting supplies so that I don't have to haul them out of a closet (what I need is ALWAYS in the bottom box).  Just open a drawer, and voila!  Ribbon!  Glue!  Paper!  Paint!  I can't wait for this convenience. 

An expensive "nice" desk is not in our budget, so I jumped on Craig's List and made my first purchase from Craig.  Just look at this lovely creation:



Stunning, no? I mean, what could be better than a dinosaur stenciled desk?  But do you see the price?  $15.  I saw the potential, emailed, they offered to drop it off, I said sold.  

When it got here, I was a little bummed.  It's wood covered laminate, with the side of it missing half of the laminate.   I guess I should have asked...lessons learned.   It'll definitely need some TLC, but I think I'm up for it.  I can be surprisingly handy...thanks to lessons from a father who worked construction/built houses/installed doors and windows for many, many years.  Painting laminate can be ridiculously difficult and tedious, but I've googled quite a bit and think a trip to Home Depot will give me all the supplies I need.  Just some elbow grease sanding, priming with GOOD oil-based primer, more sanding, painting, more sanding, more painting and then sealing... Easy, right?


I'm going to try my hardest to make this look good enough to actually put inside...instead of in our garage! 

9.16.2010

Exam Week (the first of a million)


We had the joy of first exams this week.  Physiology first on Monday, then biochemistry tomorrow (Friday), followed by anatomy next Monday. My hubby has literally been studying his hiney off.  Which is, of course, to be expected.  I mean, it is doctor school after all  ;)  He has been putting in a LOT of time between books, course packs, notes, supplemental lectures (those things the professors post online when they didn't get all of the information covered during lectures!), etc etc etc.  It's never ending.  And the flashcards....OH the flashcards.  Please, picture a hospitality and tourism management major attempting to pronounce some sixteen-syllable long medical term.  My most advanced science class in college was biology 102.  Needless to say, it's brutal. But I do what I can!  
  Hubby: "Why are you taking a picture of my flashcards?"
Wife: "To remember this wonderful time in our life!"
Hubby: (scoffs)


 To add to the joys of exam week:  My hubby goes to a brand spanking new campus of a medical school.  It is gorgeous, so unbelievably beautiful that it's almost too much...almost.  State of the art everything.  Fully integrated technology.  Sweeping, panoramic, wall-to-wall views of the entire city, the river, the skyline.  Basically, the building is eight floors of awesome goodness.  So we are super blessed that he is a part of the first class to go through this new campus.  However, (isn't there always a catch?) this has equated to the students having to help host ribbon cutting ceremonies and attend galas and lead tours when they could/should be studying to keep on top of their never-ceasing workload...Easy?  Not so much. 

I snuck into went to the invite-only ribbon cutting ceremony (I'm kidding - I was okay'd by the dean).  Alllll of the big-wigs of the city (we live in the second most generous place in the nation for charitable giving, so there were some huge financial donors) were there, along with some random alumnus who are now senators and diplomats and the like.   After lots of speeches, which were surprisingly quite good, they cut the ribbon and we all trapised inside.  Since my hubby was forced a volunteer, he gave tours to some of the kind folks.  Then we enjoyed some complimentary libations and yummy snacks while mingling with faculty and donors.  Talking to one of the deans was great - she kept stressing to my Mr. that EVERY WEEK, we need to have a date night: a scheduled, on the calendar, un-interrupted date night.  Pretty sure she was the smartest lady there! :)

My favorite part of the night?  After the celebration was over and a nice dinner out was complete, the hubby and I headed back to medical school.  There's a huge festival this time of year in the city, and they shoot off spectacular fireworks.  We weren't sure if we'd have a good view from the school, but decided to try.  Turns out, it was the best view in the city.  Check these out:





 Not too shabby, eh?  If we have to deal with med school for the next few years, we'll take perks like this when we can get them!

9.14.2010

Bulletin Board Revamp

My hubby has this seriously old bulletin board.  When I say old, I mean, since high school old.  Maybe even middle school.  Who knows.  But he wanted to hang it up in his office/our guest room, so I decided it needed some TLC before it could go up on our walls.  So I gathered the necessary supplies: brushes, paint and a cool stencil.  



I painted the cork part a grey-ish purple (just used the leftover paint in the gallon from when we painted the office, and tinted it a little darker with the black), and trimmed it out in all black.  After everything was nice and dry, I painted in the stencil.  Here's the final result (well, almost final.  It's not on a wall yet.  In fact, the paint wasn't even dry here!):


Personally, I think it looks 100 times better.  Plain corkboards are just so...blah.  This one has pizazz!

9.11.2010

Conquering Homemade Ravioli

I had a serious day in the kitchen, creating something I have longed to do since a spring semester spent in Italy years ago: I made ravioli.  Not boiled from a package ravioli.  Not even made-out-of-wonton-wrappers ravioli.  But the real-deal, full-fledged, authentic, homemade ravioli.

Italian (not EYE-talian,  by the way), food is probably my favorite type of food, both to cook and to eat.  Not that I discriminate against food of any ethnic background, but Italian tops my list nine times out of ten.  This poses a problem for me quite often, because I can't eat dairy.  (Regular alfredo? Not a chance.  Tofu and soy milk alfredo?  Why yes!).  So after a serious craving, I decided to make ravioli for dinner.

I found a recipe for ravioli dough, told myself I WOULD FOLLOW IT (because I rarely, rarely do), and got down to business.  After gathering the necessary supplies to make the dough (recipe in full at bottom), I set off to work.

(No judging my ugly kitchen. We rent.  Someday, I will have a gorgeous kitchen with maple and tile and stainless and granite.  But not today. Not for many days!)

First, you make what I call a flour volcano. Combining the salt and flour thoroughly, you make a well in the center and break the eggs inside. 


Then you act like a child with play dough and knead away (note: take off rings first!).  Eventually you end up with a beautiful ball of dough like this: 


Let it rest for 15 minutes while you make the filling.  For ours, I did a mix of spinach, mushrooms and onions/garlic/fresh ground pepper/Italian seasoning (because I never cook without these ingredients!).  Super easy - Just sautéed it all up and then let it cool in the fridge while I rolled out the noodles.


Back to the dough.  Cut it in half, roll it out (everybody knows the trick about a wet rag under your board right?  That way it doesn't move...useful for chopping veggies too!  Just get a rag damp and spread it out underneath your board.  That sucker won't budge).  This recipe made a seriously beautiful dough, pliable, yet tough that my impatience didn't tear it. 


After I had the two sheets of dough rolled out, I got out my semi-cooled filling and threw it in the blender with an egg and some "mozzarella" (again, no dairy.  So it's pretend cheese), and let the blender work its magic.


Then you just plop little teaspoons of it onto one sheet of dough, about 1.5 inches apart.  Top it with the other piece of dough, and use your fingers to gently press the dough between each dab.  Cut them out, crimp the edges and then let them dry on parchment paper for an hour (this step got me. My eyes must have glazed over when reading the noodle recipe, so I didn't realize this "hour long waiting" step existed.  Needless to say, Mr. and I ate dinner around 8:30!).  It was a useful time to clean up the kitchen though.  I don't know about you, but every time I open my flour canister, it seems like my kitchen ends up a war zone.

(Yes, the recipe makes more than eight ravioli!)

I also made some homemade sauce to go with the raviolis....Phenomenally easy, as I had some of my spinach and mushroom filling leftover which made a great base.  I just added in tomatoes, more onion/garlic, and basil.  Easy peasy!  Just an hour of simmering and it was delicious!


Post-drying, drop the ravioli into boiling water and let them cook up for 10-15 minutes.  Gently remove them with a slotted spoon, and viola!  You have conquered homemade ravioli!


Spinach and Mushroom Ravioli with Homemade Sauce
Ingredients
Dough:
3 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs
Warm water (as needed)

Filling:

1/2 package of frozen spinach
1/2 onion
1 clove garlic, minced
Sliced mushrooms (8 oz)
Italian seasoning
Black pepper
Mozzarella cheese
1 Egg

Sauce:
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce
1/2 onion
1/4 of remaining frozen spinach
1 clove garlic, minced
Dried basil
Leftover puree from filling

Directions

Dough preparation
-Sift flour and salt together.
-Place flour mixture on a board, making a well in the center of the flour.
-Drop eggs into the flour well, using your hand or a fork, break the yolks and beat eggs slightly.
-Combine the eggs and flour together, gradually adding enough warm water to make a stiff dough.
-Knead dough well, until smooth; cover the dough and let it rest for 15 minutes.
-After resting, cut dough in half and roll each half of the dough out on a floured board, into a very thin sheet (about 1/16 to 1/8 inch thick).

Filling

- Sauté spinach, mushrooms, 1/2 onion, Italian seasoning, one clove garlic and black pepper in EVOO.  Cook down, chill and then puree in blender (add in 1 egg and some cheese prior to blending).

Filling the Ravioli

-Drop about 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoonfuls (Small! These will plump up!) of filling about 1 1/2 inches apart all along the dough.
-When the sheet of dough is fully dotted with dabs of filling mixture, cover filling with other sheet of dough.
-Using your fingers, gently press dough between each dab of filling to seal it.
-Cut ravioli into squares with a sharp knife.

Drying
- Allow ravioli to dry for one hour before cooking.

Sauce

-Combine remaining spinach/mushroom filling with tomatoes, tomato sauce, onion and seasonings.
-Simmer for one hour or until pasta is cooked, stirring occasionally.

Cooking the Ravioli
-Bring 6-8 quarts of salted water to a rolling boil (remember that this will take a while, so start it early...another factor that played into our 8.30 dinner time!).
-Drop ravioli in and cook for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until dough is tender.
-Remove cooked ravioli from pot carefully with a skimmer or a large slotted spoon, and drain well.
-Top with cheese and sauce
-Enjoy!

[ Sorry that I don't measure seasonings/spices.  Goes back to my "no-recipe" attitude towards life. Just do what feels right! ;) ]

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9.09.2010

Family Bonding!

Had some family bonding yesterday with my mom and my sister.  We went to Shipshewana, Indiana.  If you’re not from the Midwest, you’ve probably never heard of it.  Shipshewana is a primarily Amish and Mennonite town, with the main draws (at least in my family!) being the flea market, downtown shops, the meat market and the fried chicken.   

First stop for the women of our family was the flea market.  It was pretty calm, being a cooler, windy day.  On a hot summer day, this place is an absolute zoo.  The flea market is pretty awesome – granted, there are the “shirts and socks” tables which we bypass quickly, but there were some quality things to be found!  My sister bought the deal of the day, this set of three kitchen canisters in awesome teal for only $6!



Some of my flea market finds were from the “As Seen on TV” booth.  I don’t normally go for things like this, but they had Ped Egg replacements (do you have a Ped Egg?  If not, get one.  If you keep up with it regularly, you’ll be able to completely take pedicures out of your monthly budget.  It works – I promise!).  While I was paying a whopping $2 for those, I saw these produce saver bags.  I have no idea if they work, but for $2 I figured why not try and see?  If they can make my stinking mushrooms last more than two days, I’d be ecstatic!  I’ll try them out and post a review on here to let you know if they’re worth it or not.



My favorite bargain purchase was the world’s cutest dress-up outfit for our niece.  She’s three and a half and would wear a dress every day of the year if her mama would let her.  Isn’t it adorable?  And there's a little headpiece that will be the icing on her cake!                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                                                        


After a quick stop in the farmer’s market section to pick up fresh fruit and veggies, along with some hardy mums, we headed to lunch at The Blue Plate (helllllllo fried chicken!).  Post lunch, we hit some of the downtown shops.  They seemed way over priced after hours at the flea market!   Here, I tend to take pictures of all of the things I’d like to re-create in my hobby-ing time.  Such as :
Embroidered dish towels.  $10 each.  Yowza!



Letter tags hanging on old-fashioned hooks.  $5.95 for each tag, plus the hooks...

I literally loved this.  But it cost $495, and we had no way to transport it.  Someday, I will have something like this!
 Final stop was the general store and the meat market.  I saw some early 
birthday gifts being purchased (so many kitchen goodies at the general store!  Microplanes...mortar and pestle...French whisks...oh my!).  My mom was so bummed when the meat market didn’t have any hams left, but I managed to get some goodies.  I can’t wait to make homemade bread with flax seeds and top it with that pumpkin butter! 

 








9.07.2010

Fallen in love...with the library!

I have recently re-fallen in love with something from my youth: the library!  As a middle/high school student, I was in my town's library every week, always finding new books to read, anxiously awaiting the next book to come out in a favorite series (Babysitters Club, anyone?) and wandering up and down the seemingly endless rows of books.  Though it wasn't very "cool," I have always loved reading.   In the college years though, there wasn't much time for it other than my text books (yes, I was one of the few who actually read what professors assigned!).  While I've never stopped reading for pleasure entirely, it definitely was much more sporadic during the college years.   That bad habit has carried on the few years since college too.

With my Mr. not having much (read: any) time to entertain me in the evenings, I very quickly realized I needed to find something (quiet!) to do while he is busy studying.  So, last week, I googled the nearest library location and headed on over.  It was so cute and small, even smaller than the one I went to as a kid.  Just walking in, the smell of old books made me smile.  I headed to the counter and got a library card.  The woman who helped me probably wondered why I was so giddy!   I immediately started exploring and quickly accumulated a stack of books to check out.  They also had an awesome magazine selection, of all the ones I'd like to get (but I'm way too cheap to subscribe!).  After indulging in reading a few, I went back up to the lady who'd helped me get my card to check out my selections.  She looked up at me like I was crazy!  Apparently, nowadays, you check out the books by yourself at a little kiosk.  It's so tech savvy - you just scan your card, set the stack on the little pad and it gets all the info about the books and spits out your receipt.  I think that makes me old-fashioned not to know that ;)

Some of my current selections:
  • Mitch Albom: "Have a Little Faith"
    • I've read his other ones, so I figured this was a logical good choice.
  • Donald McCaig: "Rhett Butler's People"
    • Not sure how I'll feel about this.  I'm a die-hard Gone with the Wind fanatic, and tried to read the "Scarlett" sequel.   Couldn't do it.  I'm hoping since this is a different story from a completely different perspective, rather than a continuation of Scarlett’s journey, maybe I'll like it.
  • National Geographic: "Ultimate Field Guide to Landscape Photography"
    • I'm a photography junkie.  This was the only photo book my library had.  I'll have to jump on the library's website to reserve some from the other branches.
  • "Eat This, Not That" (the restaurant edition)
    • It's phenomenally gross and makes me never want to eat out again.  I will, of course.  But it’s so scary what we unknowingly put into our bodies!

After I finish these up in the next week or so, I'll be able to find some more treats to read!  I already can’t wait to head back to the library. 

9.03.2010

Survival of Week One

We have officially survived the first full week of med school.  It really wasn’t as terrible as we (or at least I) anticipated.  Yes, there was lots of studying, of course.  Lots of reading.  Lots of flashcards (speaking of which, did you know that tryptophan is a hydrophobic non-polar amino acid?  Neither did I, until this week's flashcards =D).  But it was do-able. The Hubby's serious background in anatomy has made that class easier, so he can prioritize his studying time on the rest of his courses.

Since you really know absolutely nothing about us (unless my mom found this!), I’ll give you a quick run down of our story, so you know where we are coming from. 

  • The Hubby and I met our freshman year of college.  We lived on the same floor in the same dorm.
  • Before I actually knew the Hubby, I referred to him as “the kid in sweatpants.”  Don’t worry, he has since stopped wearing sweats in public. 
  • Save for a few minutes (okay, months), the Hubby and I were best friends throughout our first couple years of school.
  • We didn’t start dating until our junior year of college, when I was conveniently living in Australia for four months. 
  • Fast forward a couple years.  We’ve both graduated from college, him with a degree in Biomedical Sciences, me with a degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management (what can I say, opposites attract!).  The Hubby finally (FINALLY) proposes in July of 2009.  We quickly realize there were only two weekends the following summer that we don’t already have friends getting married (seriously-we had eleven weddings this summer. That’s a lot of the Cupid Shuffle).  The date is set to June 26, 2010. 
  • The Hubby takes MCATs, does the lovely application/waiting/praying/secondary app/waiting/praying/interview/waiting/praying process.  We applied all over the country, but secretly wished to stay in the midwest, to be near family and friends during this time of change. 
  • I’m wedding-planning my butt off during this time.  Everything came as frugally as I could get it (or, in most cases, make it), except my best-choice-in-the-world splurge of our photographer.  We wanted a spectacular celebration, but kept in mind that the wedding was only one day, and it was our LIFE that was more important.  Plus we knew medical school tuition is outrageous and needed to be practical. 
  • Acceptance letter #1 comes from a DO School.  This school starts classes on June 28, 2010 (two days after our wedding).  Needless to say, this was bittersweet news, because we didn’t want to start out our marriage with one day of rest before medical school.  In essence, it felt like we would be starting out behind the eight ball, and we didn’t want to do that to ourselves.  But at the same time, what if that was the only acceptance letter?  We really couldn’t say no.
  • After a quick check with all of our vendors for earlier availability, and losing some deposit money, we change our wedding date to May 29, 2010, and accept the DO school.
  • Then, of course, the hubby gets accepted into our MD program.  Which starts at a normal school time.  So the first date would have worked. =D  Of course.  But we are so glad to have had an entire extra month together to just enjoy being married before the madness began. 

What have we learned so far?  Friendship is an awesome foundation for marriage.  We have our life priorities straight: God first, each other second and after that we let everything else fall into place.  There’s a time for dinners that take hours to make, and there’s a time for pizza.  If something won’t matter in ten years to you, don’t let it matter now.  Nothing is better than sitting on our balcony with a bottle of red wine and a gorgeous sunset.

It’s going to get bumpy and difficult and stressful – we know that.  But we’re going to lean on God and on each other, and pull through it stronger and more united in our love. 

We’re off tomorrow on an up-north adventure for Labor Day (taking the dock out at the in-laws lake).  With a high of 58 degrees.  Chances the Hubby pulls the "I-have-to-study" card and lets his bride go in the lake??

9.02.2010

In a "Year of New"

My husband and I are in a "Year of New."  We are newly married and learning our new roles as husband and wife.  We live in a new apartment, in a new town (which is thankfully a suburb of our 'old' city).  My husband is a new medical school student, in a brand spanking new medical school campus.  Thus, we have a whole bunch of new debt!  :)

All of this new-ness can be a little bit overwhelming.  A little bit terrifying.  A little bit intimidating.  But it is incredibly exciting.  We have everything we could as for; we have each other.  We are blessed beyond belief. 

This is our journey through medical school together.  My Mr. may be the one muddling through lectures and going to labs (to do things that make me squeamish just to think about!), but this Mrs. will be his behind-the-scenes support system and his secret weapon.  While his classmates are doing the smell-check on their clothes to see if they can pass another day, my hubby will have fresh, clean laundry.  They microwave their frozen meals in the student lounge, while my husband eats a nutritious and delicious breakfast and lunch packed that morning, and comes home to dinner that night (regardless of if it's eaten at 8:30!).  Our place isn't spectacular, but I'll do everything I can to make it a relaxing place, conducive to long hours of studying.  

I'm the wife of a medical school student.  Does that define me?  Absolutely not.  But currently, that's my role. Bring it on.

9.01.2010

Where I Party...

Sometimes, we all get a little bit sick of medicine.  That's why I cook and craft!
I'll be sharing my crafty creations and delicious goodness with some of these lovely blogs, who oh-so-kindly host link parties each week!  Be sure to check them out and join the fun!

33 Shades of Green
A Little Knick Knack