Friday, August 29, 2014

Homemade White Bread

Skip to the end if you just want the recipe card!

I promised quite some time ago that I would share my bread recipe when I got it perfected and folks, I have finally done it. Probably somewhere around 50 loaves later, I finally feel like I know what I'm doing, I mean, I can make this by memory now.

I didn't want to be a half-assed blogger throwing out a bread recipe without really understanding the process. The first bread recipe I tried was good, but the understanding wasn't very good. I've learned my lessons since and I have a couple of tips for you before we begin.

First off, Sift Your Flour before you measure it and put in the bowl. I go ahead and sift the amount I need, for this recipe it is 7 cups, into a separate bowl and then measure it from there. Why sift? Flour is packed into bag, I transfer mine to a pretty glass jar, but it's still packed. Sifting helps aerate the flour, so it's not so heavy. The first time I sifted my 7 cups, I ended up with 2 cups left over because I didn't need all the packed flour once it was aerated. If you get too much flour in your bread it will make it heavy.

Also, there's weevils.

Image via Doctor Who Wikia

Wait, sorry, wrong kind. Sometimes as a geek, I get confused.

There we go. Ewww, much uglier.

Simply because all flour goes through a factory [unless you grind your own], these guys tend to end up in there on occasion. It's a good enough reason to sift, right? They're not poisonous but I really don't like eating bugs.

You can read even more about sifting over at Baking Bites.

My other tip is to let the bread rise. I know it takes a lot of time to make bread, you just have to deal with it. If you try to shorten the time or skip the process, you'll just end up with a sad, hard lump. Also, don't over do the rise! Or the bread will collapse, bummer.

Good news for you, I've made more loaves than I can count and really figured out how long I prefer to let it rise for perfect bread.

But depending on your elevation, it could vary. It may take a few tries to get it really figured out.

And this one is silly but, only use unsalted stick butter! Why unsalted? Because you don't know how much salt is in salted stick butter and you can end up with something much saltier than you intended.

Also be aware that country crock and the likes are not butter! They're spreads and made with oil, things will not turn out pretty. I know this sounds silly, but many years ago, before I was experienced with cooking and baking, I didn't really realize there was a difference. You can laugh, it's okay, we ate a lot of ramen our first year of marriage because I was a horrible cook.

The butter tip goes for all kinds of baking and creating. Someone told me they tried to use country crock to make buttercream icing once, I won't name them but I'll admit I laughed. Not cruelly, I laughed and told them all about how I made the same mistakes early on. I don't have stick butter, country crock is the same thing, right? Wrong. They make sticks, but I don't know if that's butter or not. Make sure you're buying real butter.

On a side note, and in Country Crock's defense, I love me some spread on fresh bread.

That said, let's make some bread!

First things first, you need to bloom your yeast. This can be a little tricky because your water needs to be about 110-120 degrees. It's easier to measure if you have a candy thermometer, but I recently broke mine. I have learned how to watch my water along the way, when it just barely starts to form bubbles at the bottom, it's warm enough. You don't rising bubbles and boiling water is WAY too hot.

For sanity's sake, get a candy thermometer, it's like $5.

In a large bowl you will combine 3/4 cup of sugar with 2 1/2 cups of water, then sprinkle 1 1/2 tablespoons of dry active yeast over the top.

Give it a gentle swirl and let the yeast bloom for 10 minutes.


The yeast will smell sweet and look nice and frothy like above. If it doesn't look like froth, you've killed the yeast and you have to start over. It stinks but the whole recipe depends on good yeast.

I always buy mine in a jar instead of packets just in case my yeast goes kaput, it happens sometimes.


While the yeast is blooming, I usually take the time to sift my 7 cups of flours and melt my four tablespoons of unsalted butter.


Once your yeast has bloomed you will add in the four tablespoons of melted butter, a tablespoon of salt and four cups of flour. [For future reference, you can add all the flour in now, BUT it's much easier to work if you split it up, which I suggest if you're a beginner.]


Outfit your hand mixer with dough hooks [Or you're stand mixer if you are so lucky... I'm glaring at you now, you privileged stand mixer owner person.], these normally come with, if not, there's always your hands.


Mix until it looks nice and smooth, like so. It will still be sticky and there are some lumpy looking bits, but that's okay.

Add one more cup of flour and mix again, this time just until combined [meaning you can't see any dry flour].

At this point you have 5 cups in, go ahead and add one more, making it 6. Again, mix until combined.


The idea is the get your dough to look about like this. Its smooth to the touch, not sticky and pulls away from the bowl. If yours isn't like that, add the 7th cup of flour. You should need the 7th cup, but if you've skipped sifting or packed the flour in the measuring cup, you may already have too much flour.

After the 7th cup is blended, if there is still some stickiness, go ahead and add a tablespoon of flour, one at a time until it becomes smooth.

Another good test is to gently poke it with your finger. If it bounces back slightly, without sticking to your finger, that's a good sign.


Turn your dough out onto a floured surface, baking mat or even some good ol' wax paper works. You can see that I still have a little flour left, that's okay, it was in the bottom of my bowl.

You want to hand knead the dough, about 10 turns, to make sure it's good. If it starts to feel sticky, add that tablespoon of flour and work it in until the stickiness goes away.

The first time you make bread, you may feel highly unsure about your dough being right. As long as it's not sticking to the mat or your fingers and has a smooth feel, you're good. It may still have to texture or look like it has a couple of lumps, but you're okay. Once you make it a few times, you'll get used to what you're looking for.


 Melt another tablespoon of unsalted butter and pour it into a fresh, clean bowl.


Place your dough ball into the bowl and give it a few turns to coat it with the butter. You can see the texture of my ball here, it's smooth but still has some lumps and bumps. It's also shiny because it has butter on it now.


Cover it with plastic wrap.


And a kitchen towel.

Why? The plastic wrap keeps your dough from hitting the towel, you don't want towel parts in your bread, yucky. And the towel, along with the plastic wrap, keeps the dough warm.

Now it is time to let your dough rise for one hour.

Remember earlier that I said I felt like I had the timing down? Do NOT skip this part, the dough must rise and it needs an hour. Don't go over, a few minutes while you prep for the next step is okay, but if left too long the dough will collapse and that's no good.

See you in a hour!

Wash some dishes, read a book, catch up on some netflix, go for a run or whatever you desire, you have a whole hour.


One hour later...

BOOM, check out that dough!

I apologize for the shaky picture, sometimes I get caught up in the process and forget to double check my photos.


Uncover the dough and gently press it down, squeezing the air out.

Some people say the punch the daylights out of it, I like being gentle and just pressing the air out.


Plop it out onto a clean surface and work it out a little like this. It's like a sad little log.


And separate it into two balls, try to be as even as you can, I'm not the best at it.

I'm sure a food scale would help.

You can work these back into smooth balls or leave them like so. I'm a bit lazy at this point, I work them a little, but not until they're smooth perfection.

But be careful, you can overwork the dough!


Spray two bread pans with cooking spray [I like pam, but anything will do] and place the balls into the pans. Push them down and make them fit into the length of the pan.

You can see on top of my loaf on the right there that it's not smooth and together, this will reflect on my final product. I don't care because I'm serving it to my family.


Again, cover the bread with plastic wrap and then a towel. Be sure to cover each with a separate piece of plastic wrap, if the dough rises out of the pan, they make connect. And when you pull them apart, it deflates your dough.

Let the dough rise once again, this time for 45 minutes up to 1 hour.

I prefer 45 minutes, but if you want the bread to be bigger, you can go up to 1 hour. Just be aware it will rise more once it goes into the oven.


This is what my dough looks like 45 minutes later, I am happy with this size because it's a great sandwich size in the end. If you want bigger bread, give it that extra 15 minutes [1 hour total], no more.

Heat your oven to 350 degrees [That's fahrenheit, I'm American] and place the bread in. Be sure that your rack is in the center, you don't want the bread to burn on the bottom or rise and touch the top.

Bake it 30-35 minutes, until it's golden on top.


And TADA, it's done.

Melt 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter, this should be what is left of your stick.

Remove from pans to a cooling rack and brush the tops with butter.

You can cut them after about 15 minutes. If storing them, allow them to completely cool before bagging. If you put them in a bag while still hot or warm, the heat will cook the bread and make it super hard. You don't want that.

I do regret that I don't have a finished product photo! I forgot to snap one once they were out and buttered then left the house. When I came home, my husband had already sliced and stored one loaf and was snacking on the other.

I was a little horrified.

But I love him and it's really not that big of a deal.

Next time I'll put up a "Do Not Touch Until Photographed" sign.

And that, my friends, is how I make my bread.

If anything is unclear, confusing or you just have questions, hit up the comments!

I promise you, bread making isn't that hard, it just takes time and practice. I have faith anyone can do it as long as they don't cut corners and follow the instructions.

If you make your own, find me on instagram or twitter and shout me out so I can see your bread.

Recipe Card

Download the printable pdf HERE!


Good luck!
- Amanda

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Reusable Wardrobe - Kimono


Today I'm back on Reusable Wardrobe after my break last week. This time around I'm tackling one of my new favorites, the Kimono.

Truth be told, I loved the Kimono's when they first started popping up, but I had no idea how I would work them into my everyday wear. 

Many people were shocked to hear I wasn't jumping on the Kimono wagon since I spent most of my teens obsession over Japanese culture. This was mostly due to an anime infatuation, you already knew I was a geek, right?

Once I broke down and ordered my kimono, I started looking for how I would wear it. I had a good idea for fall, with tanks and booties, but what about right now? It's still summer out there! I adored the shorts looks, but most were out of my comfort zone with lingerie like bra tops and high waisted shorts that my booty would not be staying in (I have a few pairs and the booty isn't a big fan).

Before I get into what I've put together, let's look at some kimono's.

My kimono came from RoseGal, I couldn't resist since it was under $15 and shipped free. Granted, I knew there was a catch, it was coming from Korea! It took a month to arrive, I should have paid for better shipping, lesson learned. The quality is as good as most boutiques I've looked at, I just didn't have to pay the markup. I wanted a floral pattern and I wanted mine to be long, this one was all of that.

When picking a kimono, you should think of your existing wardrobe and what it might go with. I chose blue because I knew blue would go with many things I had. I chose floral because I love romantic items and floral, again, goes with many things I have.

Blue Floral Kimono - RoseGal - $14.77 <---- Mine
Floral Tassel Kimono - RoseGal - $15.49
Tellus Kimono - Sosie - $34.00
Touch of Tranquil Jacket - Modcloth - $49.99
Sunlit Kimono - Anthropologie - $98.00 

Now you have a list to get you started, let's look at styling them.



First off, the casual way with shorts and sandals. One of my favorite mixes is included, frayed shorts with a nicer blouse. I love the contrast of a rough piece with a soft piece, you don't even need the kimono to do this. My blouse has the lining sewn in, so I tucked the lining and let the sheer hang down.  I'll be able to wear this on warmer falls days with the kimono paired on top. I have even been wearing it now with it being in the 100s this past week!

This is the one pair of high waisted shorts I have found to fit me, I have a white pair and they creep up my booty so I don't often wear them in public. This acid wash pair actually fits, though their kind of loose of my waist, essentially I bought them a size up to accommodate my hips and butt. I have worn this with another pair of ragged shorts, not high waisted and leaving my shirt untucked, it still works.

And if you're brave, you can wear booties!


I'll admit, I styled this, but I don't know if I'm brave enough. I don't have pencil thin model legs, I have "work out with weights and do your squats BAM legs." So, you know. [I mean no offense to you skinnier ladies, I'm just not built that way!]

The perk to the kimono versus my booty issues....


It covers it! Remember that, if you too suffer from abundant booty.



Next up, I styled it with a pencil skirt. I love pencil skirts, I just don't have reason to wear them too often... I suppose I could just make a reason. They do hug the figure but I kind of like that, once in awhile. I styled mine with a simple tee and some low wedges to keep it from being too dressy for me. You could add a blouse to this outfit and make it much sleeker. Or make it more casual with a graphic tee and a pair of keds.

And honestly, this poor t-shirt is ready for it's grave, white tees last me a season and then they start looking cream colored and gross. I wear them out. [Plus, I'm ready to trade it for a drapey white v-neck]



I love this one, definitely looking forward to wearing this for fall. Its still a bit too warm right now for long sleeves. I love the contrast of the sleeves coming out of my kimono, as well as how the dress is shorter than the kimono up front but longer in back. We have a few festivals coming up that, if cool enough, I look forward to wearing this to.

When it come to dresses, the options are pretty endless. I have a white shift I have paired this with and love, I think it would be amazing over the right maxi dress as well.



To begin, let's pretend these are jeans, okay? I picked these pants up this weekend and I already took them back. Not that there is anything wrong with them, just they we're not a good fit for me. It's a dressier version of joggers [which I LOVE] and I couldn't see them fitting in long term. I swapped them for a casual pair of joggers, which are comfy and much more suited for me.

I wanted to show how the kimono could be paired with dressier pants, a tank and a pair of heeled sandals. But in the long run, I'm not a big fan of these pants, trade them for jeans and the outfit will still work.

My problem is, after taking the photos and getting a good look at the outfit, it felt very.... Golden Girls to me? I mean, I love the Golden Girls, I'm just not ready to be one of them. It also reminds me of the polyester pants my Great Grandma used to wear. I love her and miss her, but I don't want to be wearing her pants.

This must be why I look angry, ha.

Plus these things were so droopy on me, I probably needed a size down. I've hit an odd point in my size where I can actually wear a small, on occasion and it makes grabbing a size quickly a hit and miss. Why did I grab them quickly? The pants were buy one, get one free and I didn't realize it, so I picked these up in my haste.

Thank you, sales girl, for leaving the security tag on, forcing me to return to the store. The much cuter black pair is my new go to pant.

---

And that's Kimonos for you. They're simple while being pretty and fun in your wardrobe.

I have a pin board full of ideas for you over on Pinterest. Plus, remember to find me over on Twitter or Instagram!

- Amanda

Monday, August 25, 2014

Easy Peasy Egg Sandwich


Let Me Tell You All About It

I'm not sure if you have figure it out yet, but I love FOOD.

I'm also the kind of person that thinks a good fried egg make everything BETTER.

And caps emphasize my POINT.

I absolutely love a good, runny eggs pair with, well, anything that will soak it up.

And you hate runny eggs or just eggs in general... well, sadly, this post is not for you.

Heck, I didn't prepare step by step instructions by photo because this is so easy to make. And I may have been so excited about my lunch that I didn't even think about it.

Just be thankful I thought to stop and photography is quickly before I ate it.

I'm not the kind of food blogger that makes things to photography and then dispose of, I am eating everything I share. If I didn't want to eat it, why would I both sharing it in the first place?

Make It

I had a mean craving for a delicious sandwich the other day, here is what I piled on her:
  • Fresh, Homemade Bread
  • Garden Fresh Tomato
  • Organic Kale, Wilted
  • Over Roasted Turkey [From the deli]
  • One Egg
And here is how I made it:
  1. I heated up my frying pan and sprayed her with a little pam.
  2. I tossed my bread in and let it toast. I didn't butter it, the pam did the job for me.
  3. I pulled my bread out and tossed in the turkey, let it get warm and a little crisp
  4. I removed the turkey, sprayed a little extra pam in, tossed my kale in and covered it with a lid. Let it get a little wilted, turning occasionally. It will turn a darker green, but don't leave it in until it turns to mush. It only needs a couple of minutes in the pan.
  5. I removed the kale, sprayed a little extra pam and cracked that egg in. I cook mine like it's sunnyside up and then flip it at the end, letting it cook for about 30 seconds before removing it from the pan. I just have a small issue with undercooked egg whites, that's all.
  6. And this is how I stacked my beautiful sandwich: Bread, turkey, kale, tomato, egg and bread. And enjoy!
Side Notes

For me, this baby is comfort food... I mean, look at it.


Yum.

My only regret was that I didn't have any good 'ol plain potato chips on the side, it needed them, right? Something about a real good sandwich just needs chips.

Also, you don't have to use kale, if you don't want it. I didn't have any lettuce, I just had kale and I'd actually come to like it over lettuce. I wilt it just to make it a little softer, but you can certainly serve it up fresh.

On a side note, since I'm sneaky, I made burgers last week and just piled on the wilted kale and no one was the wiser. Only when I mentioned it the next day did my husband realize what I had done.

Now, I will say, even if I didn't have fresh potato chips, I at least had a coke! A lot of people think their new marketing scheme is dumb, but I love it.

Except for the fact that I still haven't found my name.

Sigh.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Friendly Friday: Mary El Designs


I've had a busy week, starting school and taking care of the domicile, so I haven't had a chance to write my bigger posts. Sorry, no food or wardrobe this week, I'll try to make up for it next week. [And maybe, just maybe a certain item I have been waiting for will come in the mail!]

I wanted to take this Friday to focus on someone other than myself on my blog here! If I had more blogging friends, I'd make this a weekly thing [be my friend!], maybe we'll get there someday. For now, we'll focus on this special lady that I know, you know, in real life.

I am introducing you today to my long time friend's little business, Mary El Designs, her work is beautiful, let me tell you all about it.

In short, Mary has been looking to start a little business on her own. Since I have know her she has done many little sales that I'm sure many of you have done at some point, like Scentsy or Pampered Chef. But this time, she's actually going out on her own and she is doing great work.

Mary is a seamstress, she hasn't worked a ton with clothes, yet, but she is amazing with the bags she does make.

I've seen many people make bags and, while I am not intending to be rude in anyway, a lot of them are just lacking. I'm going to raise my hand and put myself in that category! I don't make bags often because I'm just not that great at it.

Mary's bags look sturdy, well made and properly structured. The top stitching is even and they don't hang funny. I know she goes through a lot of trouble researching the proper materials to use when making each item and takes the time to make sure it is done right.

It's a quality you don't get in a lot of people who "make things" because so many see sewing and creating as a way to make a quick buck.

But Mary, she takes pride in her work and it shows.

I went ahead and stole a few photos off of her blog to show you some of my favorites from her work, before I send you her way.

First, She makes these adorable wallets:


And then she made this ridiculously cute tutu dress, I love the red she mixed in [I'm pretty sure she said it was inspired by the Pirate Fairy]:


I am in love with this clutch design, I love a big bag BUT this clutch would be amazing for date nights:


And this diaper bag! I should mention she is already working on another one because the first was loved so much. It's a great diaper bag for carrying a couple of diapers and wipes, instead of the whole nursery:


These are my favorites but she has many more to look at on her blog and facebook page.

Mary also does work by request, she's made curtains and is currently working on a shirt blanket I cannot wait to see. 

If you're looking for custom work, she is certainly a lady to talk to. She's reasonable with her prices and will go above and beyond to create the item you desire.

Personally, I love to have a custom item that no one could have picked up in store, how about you? If you see something she's made, she can create it for you in almost any color or pattern you like. If you're looking to have something special made, talk to her about it and she'll see if she can make it for you!

You can find Mary and even talk to her about creating something for you here:

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

First Day of School




I'm not sure how it happened, the not so tiny baby I cradled in my arms is now starting school. This is the year, we're starting pre-school and I'm just stunned we are already here.

You're my baby, don't grow up, ever! But you did.



I really wanted to wait until after labor day to begin, but surprisingly, it was my son that begged me to begin. He wants to learn, he's excited about his books and he really wants me to teach him to read. We'll see how that goes.

There isn't much to say, we survived the first day and this momma is beyond impressed with his attempts at writing and practicing his name. He was attentive and listened, but about what I planned for us to do today was his limit. Half day Pre-k homeschool it is!

Of course, to start the day we had to take photos. Sorry kid, I'm your mom, everything must be documented with photos.

I prepared the chalkboard the night before, measured and weighed him so it would be ready to go! Just incase you're thinking there is no way you would have time to do all that on the morning of the first day of school.

I know a lot of people do the first day photos, lots of my friends and instagram friends do for sure. I made the decision to add his "stats" so I can compare on the last day and see how much he has grown and changed. It'll be bittersweet, really.



His stats at the beginning of the school year:

Name: Israel
Age: 4 1/2
Height: 3'9
Weight: 43.5lbs
Favorite Color: Red
Excited to learn about: Dinosaurs and Reading

Pray for me, ya'll, I'm his teacher.

- Amanda

Friday, August 15, 2014

Grill Your Squash (And Make It Spicy!)


Summer, summer, sweet summer foods.

When I say summer foods, some people immediately think of things like hamburgers, hot dogs and ribs. Delicious cook out food, but not where I'm going.

When I think of summer food, I immediately think of fresh vegetables and fruits! Tomatoes, cucumbers, jalapenos, zucchini, squash, watermelon, apples, peaches, plums and the list goes on.

And then there is the thing where I'm the newest grill master in my house and I can't help but put everything on the grill.

So why not squash?

I love squash, it's sweet and satisfying, pairs well with chicken or a steak. I just love it.

I also can't help but put cayenne pepper and red chili flakes on most of what I eat. I like heat and these almost choked my husband... I thought they were delicious! I may have intentionally given him one with a few too many flakes on it, in his defense. I'm not saying I did just that if I saw one with more flakes than I could handle, I'd put it on his plate.

Let's grill some squash!


We begin by slicing it like demonstrated above, you could call this length wise.

Actually, we begin by heating the grill. I'm just assuming you've done this and are probably cooking your meats [unless you don't eat me, then heat your grill!].

Brush both sides of each slice with a little bit of olive oil, this will prevent it from drying out on the grill.


Sprinkle lightly with cayenne pepper and red chili flakes on both side. Remember with both the cayenne and red chili, a little bit goes a long way!


And then add them to the grill. I sill had one piece of chicken on the grill, getting ready to come off.


Let them cook and even char a little. Just be sure to turn them over so they don't burn. The squash will be soft to the touch when it is ready, you can pull a piece off and try it with a fork if you are unsure.


When that squash is done, pull it off and serve with your favorite meat [or no meat] and I suggest cold, fresh tomato slices.

It's simple, easy but delicious!

Download the printable PDF here!