Monday, March 28

How to Make English Muffins

I've been wanting to make English muffins for a long time, but kept avoiding it because I was intimidated. Well, I finally decided just to go for it, because really, is it that big of a deal if it doesn't work out - of course not. Thankfully though, they were surprisingly simple, and turned out a lot better than I had anticipated. ** I have not provided a bread recipe here, the one I use is copyrighted, however, any bread dough will work as long as it's made with yeast. You will also need a griddle ** To make these, you will need to use a yeasted bread recipe - whichever is your favorite. I can't share mine, because it's really not mine. I use the Tassajara Bread book for our sandwich bread. The recipe yeilds two loaves, so instead of the two, I made one loaf, and used the rest of the dough for the english muffins. That gave me enough dough to make 12 muffins. Here's how to do it... After your dough from your bread recipe has been punched down, and then given time to rise again, dump it out onto a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle a little flour on top of the dough, and roll it flat to about 1/4". To cut out my ciricles (you want them about 3" in diameter for standard size, but it really doesn't matter) I used the rim of a large coffee mug. Place the cut out circles on a wooden board or parchment lined cookie sheet that has been lightly dusted with either flour or cornmeal, and then sprinkle more flour or cornmeal on top. Cover with a towel and let rise until doubled in size (about 20-30 minutes). Heat your griddle to high and cook the dough circles one side at a time. Reduce the heat to medium after a minute, and cook for about 5-7 minutes. Repeat the same process for each side. After this, I couldn't tell if my muffins were cooked all the way, so I placed them in my oven for about 10 more minutes at 350 just to be sure. They turned out fantastic! If you've ever had the desire to make your own english muffins, try it! You'll be surprised at how simple it really is. Have a great day, Lisa

Tuesday, March 15

Planning Ahead Series - Part 2 - List Making

The most important thing I do each week to stay on track and get everything done is make lists. I make about 3-4 depending on the week.

The first list - Meal Plans (I've written about this in more detail, you can view it here). I've simplified the process down to just figuring out what to make for dinner Mon-Fri, and two different breakfast options. Hannah and I are the only ones who eat lunch at home, so we just eat leftovers typically.

Why this works for us: Not having to figure out what to make for dinner every night during the week saves me a ton of wasted time. Compiling it all to one sitting saves lots of time. I do this on Sunday mornings because I can always count on the whole family being together and can get their input. I write the week's menu on a dry erase board on our fridge, and during the week, all I have to do is take a quick look, and make what's written down. This helps my husband too, I work nights, so he just has to look at the board, and knows what to pop in the oven or make.

The Second list - Groceries. Once I know what we're eating for the week, making the grocery list takes 5 minutes tops and again, saves wasted time from wandering around isles in the store, and saves money - we only buy what we need. I also use the dry erase board for this as well. If we run out of something during the week, either myself, or my husband quickly jots down the item, and that's the end of it.

The Third list - What to bake. I try to get most of my week's baking done on Sunday's during my "Catch-Up" day. Though Hannah and I like to make bread during the week sometimes too - but that's usually "extra" bread, like a braided loaf or cinnamon raisin. Every week I usually bake 2 loaves of bread, some sort of muffin and a batch of granola bars on Sunday.

The Fourth list - the odds and ends. I only shop for this list once a month, sometimes less. It includes staples that we use on a regular basis and that I usually buy in bulk. The reason for this is because I have to go to a handful of different places (both online and driving) to get the type of food I want for our family. We do shop at Costco for bulk goods, and they offer a lot of healthy and organic options. During the winter, in order to get local food (ex. ground beef, honey, eggs and so on), I have to drive to a handful of different places around town. I hate driving in circles, so again, I condense it to once a month, sometimes less.

This seems like a lot to do and time consuming, but really it's not. With the dry-erase board, most of the list making gets done on it's own over the course of a few weeks or so, and the actual amount of time I spend on the first three lists, is probably 10-15 minutes a week tops. Those 15 minutes save me hours (allowing me time for more enjoyable things, eh em, knitting), and a lot of money.
Give it a try, see what works for you.

Wednesday, March 9

Plan Ahead Series - Part 1

I often get asked how I manage to get so much done. In reality, I don't. I really think that part of the reason it seems like I do so much, is because the things I do are not really mainstream. Making most of our food from scratch, for example. Or having the time to finish a lot of knitting projects, or sewing or crafting. I do have two children, with one more on the way, and yes, I do work outside of the house too, although part-time - about 20 hours a week. So, with that said, I thought it might be fun to give you a little glimpse into my "system", if you can call it that. It really just boils down planning ahead and making lists -which not only saves me a ton of time, but money as well....
Part one of this series is about having a catch up day.

My catch up day is Sunday. First thing in the morning, I start a load of laundry, and I don't stop until all of it's done. I've done up to 8 loads in one day - yes 8. This allows me to only have to wash one or two loads during the week. I think the only nice thing about laundry is that you only have to pay attention to it randomly during the day, and a lot of other things can get finished at the same time.

I also bake my brains out on Sunday. Today for example (yes, this is also the day I do most, if not all of my blogging - after the little ones go to bed), I made two loaves of bread, a batch of banana crunch muffins and a large tray of granola bars. I could have baked more had I started earlier, but we had family stuff to do in the morning, so I had to start at 2pm. But now, I have bread for sandwiches and toast for the week, muffins for breakfast and granola bars for lunches and snacks. I still need to make tortillas, but I decided I'd rather blog tonight instead, and save the tortilla making for Hannah's nap tomorrow afternoon instead of the other way around. She's much more likely to want to help and hang out in the kitchen than she is by the computer.

This brings up another good point. I do all this on my own. My husband was at work while I did everything, and the kids were happy as can be helping me out in the kitchen, or jumping in the pile of clean clothes. When they got bored with that, they played with each other, and then on their own. The whole time they were right by me, and we never once turned on the t.v. or plugged in a game system. We still had time to play outside while the bread was rising, and sit down for dinner together.

I also managed to sneak in small cleaning projects, like the windows, a quick microwave and dishwasher wipe down and things like that. It might not seem like much, but every extra little thing I can do during my "catch-up" day, frees up more time for me during the week - when life is a bit more rushed.

And, last, but most importantly, I make all of my lists on Sunday... More on that soon to come...

Have a great day!

Tuesday, March 8

Fat Tuesday!

photo credit

Happy Fat Tuesday everyone! We don't do much over here for Mardi Gras, but I do try to bake a king cake for desert. A traditional king cake has a small plastic baby baked inside of it (which, because of my small children, I leave out).

Last year I made a super simple and quick, however very non-authentic cake. It takes about 30 minutes to make. You can see it here.

Tonight I'm going to try and make a more authentic cake using this recipe. I'll color the sugar in the same way as last year.

Do you celebrate Mardi Gras? Please share what you do.

Monday, March 7

Austin's Birthday Re-Cap

Well, I definitely won't be getting the mom of the year award. It just dawned on me that I never shared Austin's birthday on the blog. I feel awful. Thankfully though, he's not reading it. But still....

My little man turned six on Feb. 13th, six! It's still hard for me to grasp. He's still so small, but yet so, so big. In the last few months especially, he has grown in not only inches, but also intellect - at a speed that has blown me away. He started reading, and is accelerating at such a fast pace. Within the first week, he went from reading simple to words, to simple sentences. He can finish a book, cover to cover, all on his own. And now, he's reading everything he sees - signs, pictures, mail, trucks, everything.

Back to his birthday though. In an effort to keep everything in our days simple - yes, even special days, we had a simple dinner. We gave him control over the whole event. He wanted it at our house (which is where it would have been anyway, but thankfully it was his idea this time), and he wanted sausage pizza (not made by momma - gotta love him), strawberries, grapes, and a big store bought cake, baked the way he wanted. Simple enough, and that's exactly what we did. It was the most relaxing birthday we've had - and, more importantly, one of his favorites - which made us happy.

It's hard sometimes, to keep things in perspective when it comes to our children's birthdays. It's so easy to go over-board, and try to do everything and anything for our kids, when really, as it turns out for our family anyway, all they want is their own day, in their own way.