Saturday, June 20, 2009

Bread, delicious bread!

I found this recipe & wanted to adapt it to try with my kitchen aid stand mixer. I also had some white flour I needed to use. AND I never make just one loaf of bread, so I wanted to double the recipe. This is what I came up with and it's officially a WINNER in this house. It was very tasty!

Christina's Honey Half Wheat Bread

3 cups unbleached white flour
4-5 cups whole wheat flour
4 teaspoons active dry yeast (I buy it in bulk @ costco) = 2 packages
3/4 cup honey
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups warm water
1/4 cup butter

Here is how I made it.

Warm 2 cups of water up in a measuring cup (approximately 110-120 degrees), then stir in active dry yeast. Let it stand approximately 5 minutes, until foamy.While yeast in standing, I measure out 3 cups white flour, 3 cups whole wheat flour, and 2 teaspoons salt, into a bowl. Then in another measuring cup, I measure out honey and heat it up for 30 seconds (makes it easier to pour). In my kitchen aid bowl, I put my butter (melted or room temperature) at the bottom. Then I pour my water yeast mixture in and mix it. Then I add my honey and mix. Then I add my pre-measured flour into it and mix by hand for a moment. Then I put my kitchen aid bowl on my kitchen aid stand mixer and start it going at speed two. I gradually add the remaining flour (1-2 cups whole wheat) until the dough is still kind of sticky, but still is hangs onto the dough hook. Once it reaches this point, I let it run for a 4 or 5 minutes more. By then, it forms a nice smooth ball of dough (leaving some of the dough on the edges of the bowl). Then I take my ball of dough out, and plop it into a greased bowl to rise. I will often scrape out the dough that is stuck to the sides of the mixing bowl and add it to the ball of dough and knead it for a minute. Let it rise until doubled and punch down.

Divide in half or in three parts (just in half produces two LARGE loaves, three parts makes 3 average size loaves). I don't do anything fancy to shape my dough. I just pat and punch until it feels as if I've gotten most of the air out and then do some more patting until I get into the shape I want it. I then put the dough in two (or three) greased bread pans and let them *almost* double and at that point I bake them at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes.

*cross posted from my personal blog,

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Rainbow Cake

Over the past few weeks, the food blogsphere has been buzzing about rainbow cakes. All because of this post. To tell you the truth, I hadn't heard of them until someone linked that blog entry on the LOK Household forum. The idea of a color cake certainly piqued my interest. With a combined birthday coming up in July, I thought I might give it a try. My problem was that the author (as well as many variations I found around the web) only showed how to do a round cake. With a big family, most cakes I make are sheet cakes. In fact, we eat cake rather often around here since a box of mix is pretty cheap and a sheet cake can feed my crew nicely for dessert (we usually skip frosting and just use powdered sugar or fruit for topping). So, my plan to make a rainbow cake this weekend turned into a bit of an adventure as I decided to see if I could get as good results with a rectangle baking pan. Since this is feeding a crew, I doubled the recipe. The post above noted a diet version of the cake. I decided to make the traditional version.

Here's the ingredients. I would normally use a generic cake mix, but Duncan Hines was on sale. Assuming you have food coloring on hand, the cost of this cake (including the eggs and oil for the cake) is about $5. Mine easily fed my family of 11 with leftovers. I actually wanted to try the neon food coloring, which added another $4 to the cost.

Make the cake mix as noted on the box. Separate the batter into small bowls. Add 10-15 drops of food coloring, depending on how deep you want your color. I wanted this to be a family food project, so I had the kids mix the colors. They had a blast. Note that I used both the neon food coloring and some regular food colors I had on hand.

I decided to do a wide variety of colors. The neon food coloring made things interesting! I have to laugh. In the original blog post about rainbow cakes, the author had such nice pictures of her colored batter in glass bowls. Nothing like that in these parts. We used Gerber snack bowls and Zoopal spoons!

I wasn't really sure how to arrange the batter, so I just winged it.

Here's the finished first layer.

I then just poured the remaining batter in various spots over the top of the first layer. When you do this, don't worry about the batter mixing. As long as you simply pour the batter on top (or next to) another color, it will be fine. The completed "pour":

My cake was doubled, so it took about 45 minutes to cook. Just cook according to the box directions and be sure to check it periodically. It's done when a toothpick in the center comes out clean. Cool thoroughly. Even though the picture is not the greatest, you can see the colors came out quite nice. I said the cake looked like a jigsaw puzzle. Jim said it looked like a map.

Here's a side view of a few of the cut pieces. I was very pleased. Doing a sheet cake worked out perfectly. As you can see, the neon food coloring definitely made some bold colors.

Because this was a test cake, I purposely did not frost it right away. I did go with the same type of frosting as the original blogger. I used lemon pudding, only adding half the milk (1 cup) so that it was very custard-like. I then folded in 2/3 of the container of whipped topping. I then frosted each piece before serving. Here's a bit blurry picture of the finished product.

The experiment was a success. The cake looked great and tasted great too. I have 2 kids' birthdays on July 4th (yes, can you believe that--2 of my kids born on Independence Day). I originally thought that doing a rainbow cake would be cool, but this technique would also make a great red-white-and-blue cake.

Whatever I decide to do for the birthday, the most important thing is that the kids had a blast making the cake...and even more fun eating it.

You can find the full recipe (including printable version) HERE.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Experimenting with menus

I am going to be trying a little experiment with my menu planning style. For this month (and into the next I guess) I am going to make a two week basic menu (and their will be repeats, trust me) and we'll just repeat for the second half of the month. I know, people have said to do things like this before, but I'm slow at catching on LOL!

I loath making a menu every week, after doing the same thing for weeks on end I feel a tremendous pressure to change things up and impress my family (this is all in my head btw - they're happy to eat whatever they don't have to make themselves).

SO, tell me how do you plan your menus? or do you even bother?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Fifteen minutes or less....

I value healthy eating, but I also value my sanity :). As a mommy of five precious little bundles, managing the home and homeschooling, I am left with very little mental energy to really think about much else, like cooking! I have little unwritten rules to make my life easier, one of which is making dinner prep no more than 15 minutes long. Any longer and it's not a practical meal for me to make for my family more than once every great now and again. Prep time does not include cooking time, so if it takes me 5 minutes to throw a casserole together and an hour to cook it, that still qualifies.

We love to eat pizza around here (what good ol' American family doesn't?), but I am unwilling to pay for the delivered kind and right now I don't have the time management skills to make my own pizza dough every time we have pizza. Thus was born the tortilla pizza. I'm sure it has been made many times before in many different ways, but here is how we do it around here. General ingredients are as follows: 1) Burrito sized flour tortillas, purchased in the ethnic food section for $2 for a pack of 10 (each has 5 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein per serving), 2) shredded mozzarella or cheddar cheese, purchased in bulk from Costco to cut back on the cost, 3) pepperoni, also purchased in bulk at costco to cut back on the cost, 4) fresh roma tomatoes purchased at costco in bulk (we LOVE costco!). You can add all sorts of stuff to these if you'd like (green peppers, onions and mushrooms for instance), but this is the basic recipe.

Heat your oven to 425 degree F. On tortilla #1, add slices of roma tomato, top with cheese, then add pepperoni. Pop it in the oven on a cookie sheet for about 4 minutes. While first one is cooking, prepare the second one. As soon as the first one is done, slide it onto a plate and pop the already prepared tortilla in the oven and proceed like that until you have all that you need cooked. One will serve and adult in our house (served with cut up veggies and fruit of some kind). Also, if you do not have fresh tomatoes (or just don't like them!) a can of crushed tomatoes is a great substitute.

I hope you enjoy!

Large Family Cooking

Large Family Cooking