Monday, January 31, 2011

Now I Have a Craving For Spinach Dip -

I am a Food Reality Show addict. 

Give me 


as well as

Cake Boss, Iron Chef, Ace of Cakes, Hungry Girl,

 and I am a happy girl. 
(On a side note, I used to babysit Kat -from WC in A - when I was a teenager).    

I was introduced through those shows to a  whole new world of food that I never knew existed, one that involves creativity and technique. 

So why is it that I am now craving me some Spinach Dip, from a recipe that involves only 3 items:
Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing (one packet), one box of frozen spinach (thawed), and 16 ounces of sour cream?
 I really need to be a little more adventurous.  

So, here's my NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTION #2: 
try to make and bake new foods. 

If you know my family, you know that my husband won't eat anything unless he really likes it.  And if he won't eat it, he won't make the kids eat it either.  And I was raised to clean your plate, no matter what.  It's been a struggle to do any kind of experimenting at all

But I am determined.  I can do it.  I am tired of the same 12 recipes recycled over and over again.  Really.  Any recipes I have already shared here are from that lame repertoire.   Don't get me wrong.  They're pretty good dishes.  It's just the sheer lack of quantity that's lame.

So, at the risk of being embarrassed by the lack of participation, here is my request::

If you have a link to a favorite recipe, leave it in a comment.  If you know of any great recipe blogs, leave the link.  Or, if you so feel inclined, leave the recipe itself. 

And please take Note:  My hubby's biggest food adversion is carrots (or is it are carrots?  I don't know)

And when I make a dish from a recipe you leave or from the link you share, I will post about it and give you credit and link back to your blog. 

Maybe that'll be a little extra motivation for me to be food-venturous. 

Heaven knows I need all the motivation I can get!

(If you are reading this via Facebook, my blog address is:  You can leave your recipe in a comment there.  And leave your blog link there too, if you have one.  Thanks!)

Friday, January 14, 2011

Whole Wheat Bread . . . . . and . . . . . What are YOUR New Year's Resolutions?

I don't often make New Year's Resolutions.  But this year, I have really embraced them.  Why haven't I done this before?  I am thinking it's because I have a fear of failure (of some things), and so sometimes I just don't try.

I think I was crazy for not doing it all these years.  Or maybe, it's because the goals that I have set this year are just a little more realistic than the failed ones of the past. 

Could be.

Goal #1 - Learn how to bake bread.

Two weeks ago, I didn't know how to make a decent loaf of bread. Then last Thursday a good friend taught me and my girls how to do it. Since then, we have baked about 14 perfect loaves of the whole wheat variety (12 of which have already been eaten!) Thanks, Laura, I owe ya big time!

(This, of course, is the First loaf that I have baked that has had a hole in the middle...of course.  Just means I needed to knead it a bit more....)

So, if you are a beginner at baking bread, or have never even tried, try it, you can do it!   That's what I did, and now I am able to use the whole wheat that has been sitting in barrels in my basement (yes, 50 gallon barrels, 3 of them) for years!


Start with:

2 1/2 cups warm water
2 TBS sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 1/2 to 2 tsp salt
3/4 cup potato flakes (or pearls)
2 cups wheat flour
2 TBS shortening
1 egg
3 TBS gluten
1 TBS fast-rising yeast
I just mix everything together in my 6 1/2 quart Kitchen Aid, using the paddle attachment.

Add one more cup of flour, white or wheat.

Once everything is mixed well, I switch to the dough hook.

Then start adding whole wheat flour, 1/2 cup at a time, til you've added around 4-5 additional cups. Dough is complete when it's "cleaning" the bottom of the bowl while it's mixing, and the dough no longer sticks to your finger when you poke it. 

(Also, you can experiment with the wheat/white mix to get it just how you like it.  We like it to be mostly wheat, so I start with 2 cups of white flour at the beginning of the recipe, and use just whole wheat flour to finish it.  It takes a little less flour when you use a higher percentage of wheat flour, so mix carefully!)

Turn out onto floured surface.

Put a little olive oil into the bottom of a large bowl and place dough in and swish around and flip it over so that the top is coated with oil to prevent your dough from crusting.

Set in a warm place and cover with towel. Let rise for about 90 minutes.

Once it has risen, punch it down and turn it out onto floured surface. Cut into two pieces.

Knead to get the air bubbles out, but don't over-knead. Form into loaves and place in oiled bread pan. Let rise just until the dough reaches the top of the pan, about 30 min. It will continue to rise while it bakes.

This one rose just a little bit too much...but it turned out ok anyway...)
Repeat previous step if you want. Another rising will make your bread taste a little less yeasty, which is how we like it.
Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.

And ...what is the best bread baking tip that I learned ?
The best thing I learned was to only let the bread final rise in the pan to just the top. In the past, I would wait and wait until it rose to the size I thought the finished loaf should be....and then when I put it in the oven, it would just collapse because it had OVERrisen.   (I was just LUCKY that this loaf didn't collapse!)
See, pretty basic, but well worth learning. 

Thanks, Laura, for teaching me and letting me share your fantastic recipe.

New Year's Resolution #2?

What is it you ask?

I'm not going to give all the details yet, but I will tell you it also has to do with food.  (And, for once, not necessarily anything to do with losing weight!)

What are your New Year's Resolutions?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Sledding Daze...

This winter, a good friend of mine invited me and the kids up to a sledding hill that she had discovered.  Sorry, Missy, but the hill is MINE now!  haha

The first thing that you need to have to have a great sledding experience is a fire to stay warm by.  The first time we went up, someone had already built a fire.  The next time, I brought newspaper, kindling, and some of the logs that we burn in our wood stove. 
I build fires regularly, so I wasn't worried about getting a rip-roaring blaze going, but have you ever built a fire in the snow?  WHILE it is snowing?  Not so easy, I tell you.  The shot was taken just before all the flames fizzled and just about went out.  Luckily, the people who had built the previous fire showed up (men, of course) and got it going really good.   I didn't see it happen, but there was a plastic jug sitting nearby (but not too close) that I have a suspicion had gasoline or something similar in it. 
But don't get me wrong.  We were grateful!

Another thing that is important to have with you when you go sledding is:
They make it the most fun.  And having friends with kids that are their friends there too, makes it all the better.
(Noelle, warming herself by the fire.  She doesn't look too excited in this photo, but that was only because she doesn't like having her picture taken.  NOT because she wasn't having fun - she was!)

There's nothing better than sledding in north Idaho.  It's free, burns lots of calories, and I hope we can go again soon.  Many more times!