Saturday, April 30, 2011

Belle Isle

Tonight I returned from an overnight camping trip to Belle Isle for my friend's bachelorette party. Belle Isle is a peaceful place - beautiful water, good friends, a sunset, a campfire, delicious food, s'mores, birds chirping in the morning, and long hikes. Here's a peek at what we experienced together as we celebrated her marriage.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Banana-Cocoa Snack Cake

My aunt made this delicious banana-cocoa snack cake while we were in New York several weeks ago. We were grateful for a dessert that we could eat, and it's free of all allergens that I can think of except gluten. This cake would be great for breakfast as it isn't overly sweet. I would have taken a picture of the whole thing, but it was eaten too quickly.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Homemade Bouquet

We are back inside after a quick trip around the block for fresh air before the storms hit. We brought a little of the outdoors inside with us for a quick homemade bouquet (picked from our backyard). I am enjoying all the flowers surrounding us this season.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Frozen Baguette Dough

I wanted to mention that I've had success cooking the frozen baguettes. When I'm making the bread fresh, after I finish all the rising and shaping and rising again, I pick which loaves will go into the oven and put them on a pan. I take the remaining loaves, put them on a pan, and place them in the freezer. After they're hard, I wrap them up and stick them in a freezer bag. When I want to bake the frozen loaf, I take it out the night before and put it in a couche on the counter to defrost overnight. In the morning, I heat up the oven normally to cook the baguette. The crust isn't quite as wonderful as being fully fresh, but it's very good and great considering how little work I had to do to get fresh bread in the morning! I'm curious if I could put the frozen baguette directly in the oven. I may try that at some point and report back.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Fried Rice

We have several types of fried rice we make regularly, and here is one of the egg free versions. I thought fried rice always had eggs in it, but I guess most anything can be modified (reminds me of my egg free quiche...). This recipe is another great one for whatever leftover meat is laying around ready to use, or leave the meat out. You can also throw in veggies you have on hand. Though only peas are called for in the recipe, I added shredded carrots I had prepped and frozen over a month ago, as well as fresh chopped mushrooms. Lots of nutrition in every bite, and it's tasty, too! Remember to prep all ingredients before starting to cook, since the process goes quickly.

Fried Rice modified from "Bakin' Without Eggs"

1 TBSP olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 TBSP grated ginger root
5 cups cold, cooked rice
2 cup frozen baby peas
2 cups chopped, cooked chicken
5 TBSP low-sodium soy sauce
6 TBSP chicken stock (use water if none available)
1 tsp dried thyme leaves
1/8 tsp white pepper


  1. Heat olive oil in large skillet. Add onion and garlic; stir-fry 4-5 minutes, until crisp-tender.
  2. Add ginger, rice, and peas; stir-fry 3-4 minutes longer.
  3. Add chicken; stir-fry until hot, about 3-5 minutes longer.
  4. Stir in soy sauce, stock, thyme, and pepper. Stir-fry until rice absorbs the liquid and food is hot, about 3-4 minutes. Serve immediately.

Yield: 4 servings

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Baby Playmats

It has been a season of babies for the women around me. I feel like I've spent a large part of 2011 either making meals for new moms or working on baby gifts. (For this reason I am behind on wedding gifts! It'll happen eventually.) I loved making two baby playmats for babies born in February and March. The original idea came from Handmade Home, but usually project instructions are more inspiration than a guide to what I end up doing.

I used soft baby blankets for the top's base layer, cut shapes out of patterned fabrics and appliquéd them on top, then added the ribbon fringe to the edges. The top, batting, and backing were sewn together with right sides facing each other, leaving a small opening to pull it all through to show the right sides. Then I stitched up the hole and quilted three concentric rectangles to finish the playmat. The idea is straight forward but all the applique pieces made the project take a bit longer than intended. It was fun, and I hope the babies enjoy the textures, colors, and shapes as they spend time on the floor.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Baby Shower Gift

One of the gifts that made me repeatedly smile while I was a new mom was a set of burp clothes with fun fabric on them. Considering all the messes that bombard you at the beginning of parenthood, it's nice to be able to clean it up with a rag that's a little more fun than normal. I'm headed to a friend's baby shower this Saturday, so I decided to make a set of burp clothes for her. Hopefully these will give my friend as much joy as when I used my set.

Part two of the shower gift is a little newborn hat. I got the pattern from this blog post. I appliquéd a decoration on afterward based on what I hear is the theme of my friend's nursery. Both crafts were quick and easy, and I was able to complete them in two evenings.

Materials: Cotton cloth diaper, fabric, pins, thread, and sewing machine

  1. Prewash fabric and cloth diaper.
  2. Measure fabric to fit on the center portion of the cloth diaper (about a third the size of the diaper) and add about a half inch for seam allowances. Check the measurements again, then cut the fabric.
  3. Fold the edge of the fabric under as you pin it to the center of the burp cloth. The top of the cloth diaper will be covered, and you'll be looking at the right side of the fabric.
  4. Sew along the edge of the fabric, backstitching at the beginning and end. That's it!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Taco Soup

John's aunt made this recipe when we visited over Thanksgiving; I think it came from their church recipe book. I love having this recipe on hand. All the ingredients come from the pantry or freezer. I have the ingredients stocked up for when our fresh produce is gone and it's time to go shopping. Also, this was my first go-to recipe for the slow cooker. It made me a little less scared of trying new recipes after we had some recipes that were awful several years ago.

I make some changes to the recipe from what I wrote below. It makes it a little more involved but hopefully also a little healthier. The changes include: cooking dried beans instead of using canned (just guess at amounts, it's not exact); using frozen corn; and mixing my own taco seasoning and ranch dressing (see below). These changes help reduce sodium and other unnecessary ingredients that often come from canned goods. Also, instead of ground beef, feel free to leave the meat out or substitute leftover meat, such as chopped chicken, pork, or beef. Another reason why this recipe is so great is because you can do almost anything to it, and it still tastes great. If after adding all your ingredients, you want a little more liquid, add a couple cups of water. It will be full of flavor after it's done cooking.

Taco Soup from family in North Carolina

1 lb ground beef, browned and drained
2 cans corn
2 cans rotel
2 cans hominy
2 cans chopped tomatoes
2 cans pinto beans
2 cans navy beans
1 package ranch dressing mix
1 package taco seasoning mix


  1. After browning and draining the meat, put everything in the slow cooker and cook on low for about 6 hours or on high for 3-4 hours.
  2. If desired, serve with tortilla chips, shredded cheese, and sour cream.

Yield: 8 servings

Taco Seasoning: Mix together 1/4 C oregano, 3 TBSP chile powder, 2 tsp cumin, 2 tsp garlic powder, 1 TBSP onion powder, 1 tsp salt, 1 pinch ground cloves, 1 pinch ground cinnamon. Use a couple heaping tablespoons for the recipe above.

Ranch Dressing: This is less exact as I change what I throw in each time, but sprinkle in some variety of salt, black pepper, sugar, paprika, parsley, and dried onion as you feel led.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Whole Wheat Baguettes

This round of baguettes was a little different. I changed so many components (some intentional and some not so much) that I'm not sure what made the differences. Here are the changes:

  1. I made the biga the same way but it rested for half an hour on the counter before going in the refrigerator overnight. It was much less fermented looking compared to aging it two nights on the counter (understandable, since the refrigerator slows the process and it was a shorter time).
  2. I used 300 g of whole wheat flour, so about a third of the total. For how much the baby loves the bread, I'm trying to get more nutrition in it. I'd like to use more in the future
  3. I used unbleached all-purpose flour instead of bread flour. Oops! I think this made a big difference.
  4. After mixing the flour and water in step one, I added a splash more of water (maybe 30 g) since it was very dry and not coming together. That did the trick to make the consistency what I wanted.
  5. I more closely followed directions relative to times than I did last week which resulted in less rise time overall.
  6. I made five loaves instead of four and put three of them in the freezer just before they would have gone in the oven. We'll see later how this works out when I defrost and bake them.

And now for the differences we noticed.

  1. As I mentioned above, the dough was dry after combining all the ingredients, so I added a bit more water. My guess is that the whole wheat flour made this difference, but I don't have a lot of experience going back and forth between the two flours, so I'm not sure.
  2. The crust was great when it came out of the oven, but even just a couple hours later it didn't hold its crunch.
  3. The inside of the loaf didn't have the same holey texture as the last time. It was more like a regular store bought loaf of bread.

Next time, I will go back to the longer aging of the biga, stick with the same amount of whole wheat flour, and do my best to use bread flour. I may take a loaf out of the freezer tonight to defrost on the counter overnight and bake in the morning. Hopefully it works!

Here's a picture of the whole wheat baguettes in the couche for the final rise.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Broccoli and Beef

Another dinner from last week was a Broccoli and Beef slow cooker meal over rice. I had to drastically alter the final cook time and temperature because of what was going on during the day. After adding the broccoli, I cooked on low for longer. This made the broccoli too soft for our taste. Also, we weren't thrilled with the flavors. I reduced the vinegar from the original and had to remove the sesame oil because of allergies, but it still didn't come out well. Next time I'll try different seasonings for the beef and get closer to the suggested cooking time and temp to help the texture.

Broccoli and Beef from "A Year of Slow Cooking"

1/4 C soy sauce
2 TBSP white wine
1 TBSP apple cider vinegar
1 TBSP brown sugar
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 lb thin beef, sliced thinly
1 bag thawed broccoli florets, about 1 lb (to add later)


  1. Add soy sauce, wine, vinegar, sugar, garlic, and red pepper to the slow cooker and mix well.
  2. Add the beef and mix to coat.
  3. Cook on low for 6-8 hours, depending on the cut of meat. Thicker pieces will take longer to tenderize.
  4. An hour before serving, add the bag of broccoli, cover and cook on high for another hour or so.
  5. Stir gently to coat broccoli, and serve over rice.

Yield: 4 servings

Monday, April 4, 2011

Vegetable Curry Slow Cooker Meal

Last week we had several slow cooker meals which was wonderful! It gave us a chance to enjoy doing some other things later in the day instead of squeezing in dinner preparations. One night we had a Vegetable Curry Slow Cooker meal. It was good, but not quite as flavorful as when I had it at a friend's house, so I'll have to figure out what I should change. I left out the chili to make it more appealing for the baby, so perhaps that's where I went wrong. I served the meal over rice but the recipe calls for couscous, so use whichever you prefer.

Vegetable Curry Slow Cooker Meal from a friend (not sure of the original source)

1 TBSP olive oil
1 1/2 C chopped onion
1 C sliced carrots
1 TBSP curry powder
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp grated peeled fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 serrano chile, seeded and minced
3 C cooked chickpeas
1 1/2 C cubed peeled baking potato
1 C diced green bell pepper
1 C cut green beans
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp ground red pepper
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (14-ounce) can vegetable broth
3 C fresh baby spinach
1 C light coconut milk


  1. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and carrot; cover and cook 5 minutes or until tender.
  2. Add curry powder, sugar, ginger, garlic, and chile; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.
  3. Place onion mixture in a 5-quart electric slow cooker. Stir in chickpeas and next 8 ingredients (through broth).
  4. Cover and cook on HIGH 6 hours or until vegetables are tender.
  5. Add spinach and coconut milk; stir until spinach wilts.

Yield: 6 servings (1 1/3 C vegetable mixture)

Sunday, April 3, 2011


Last week I had a chance to make baguettes. I started with a biga on Monday and ended with four baguettes on Wednesday. The biga aged on the counter for two nights since I wasn't able to get to it sooner. I was surprised how easy it was to make these while looking after a toddler and having company over. The "drop hook fold" between rises was great for getting the job done quickly and easily. The bread was forgiving when I was late folding between rises. The only things that seemed to suffer were the photos. But at least we had delicious bread at the end of it all.

Four loaves were a bit much for our family to eat before they started getting hard, but instead of making a half portion next time, I'll try freezing a couple loaves when they're ready for the oven and see how they come out when I bake them later.

Here's the biga after kneading and ready to sit.

Here are the baguettes in my impromptu couche.

And the final product hot from the oven! This is how my family ruins their dinner.