Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Au Bon Pain

I love to bake bread and bread-y goods, and I love the smell of freshly baked bread.  Something about making things from scratch makes me feel like a good Mommy.  I don't bake bread on a regular basis, nor do I putz with kneading bread dough for hours.  I'm a half-baked kitchen enthusiast who doesn't have extra time to bake anything homemade!

I have found a few things I love to bake, bake well, and they get gobbled up before I'm tempted to take a bite.  That's right...I don't taste test anything I make.  I don't even get a crumb.  So why do I love bread?  I think it's the art and science of baking that turn my crank.

Here are a few of my favorite bread/baked good recipes:

Challah Braid

I make this using my Cuisinart Food Processor.  You can make this for the Shabbat, but you don't have to be Jewish to enjoy it!!

Ingredients

3 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
1 package active dry yeast
¼ cup warm water (105 - 115°F)
3¼ cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons table salt
½ cup cold water
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg
Egg glaze (1 large egg and 1 tablespoon water)
Vegetable oil cooking spray

Instructions

In a 2-cup liquid measure, dissolve 2 teaspoons sugar and yeast in warm water. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. 

Insert the dough blade in the work bowl and add flour, remaining sugar and salt. Pulse to combine, about 2 to 3 times. 

Add cold water, melted butter and egg to yeast mixture. With machine running, add liquid through small feed tube in a steady stream as fast as the flour absorbs it. Once dough forms a ball continue processing for 45 seconds to knead dough. Place dough in a floured plastic food storage bag and seal. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 to 1½ hours. 

Place dough on a lightly floured surface and punch down. Divide dough into 3 equal pieces. Use your hands to roll each piece into a cylinder about 1½ x 14-inch. Place the cylinders side by side on a baking sheet coated with vegetable oil cooking spray. Braid loosely from one end. Gently pull and taper each end to a point, then pinch and tuck under loaf. Cover with plastic wrap coated with vegetable oil cooking spray and let rise until doubled in size, about 45 minutes. Preheat oven to 375°F 15 minutes before baking. 

Prepare egg glaze by combining egg with water; brush over braid. Bake in lower third of preheated oven for 20 minutes. Lower temperature to 350°F. and bake until loaf is browned and sounds hollow when tapped, about 10 minutes. Cool on wire rack.
Taken from the Cuisinart Book of Recipes


Cinnamon Rolls

This recipe came in a cookbook given to me by a roommate's mom as a wedding gift.

Rene S's Cinnamon Rolls

Combine:
  1. 1 tsp. sugar
  2. 2 pkgs. active dry yeast
  3. 1/4 c. very warm water
Let stand a few minutes.  Meanwhile, melt 1 c. margarine very slowly on low heat.
Combine:
  1. 2 c. very warm water
  2. 1/2 c. sugar
  3. 1 T. salt
  4. 2 T. salad oil or melted shortening
  5. 2 eggs, well beaten
  6. 4 c. flour
Add yeast mixture to this mixture and beat well w/a mixer.  Add 3 c. more flour -- mix well but do not knead.  (Sometimes you will have to add 1/2 c. or so more flour if the dough is really sticky -- depends on the humidity.)

Turn dough into a greased bowl and let rise until doubled -- about 1 1/2 hrs.  Divide dough in half.  Roll half into a rectangle about 1/2 inch. thick.  Spread liberally with butter from the cupful you melted and sprinkle liberally with sugar (about 3/4 c.)  Sprinkle w/cinnamon.  Roll rectangle up from the wide side and pinch together to form a long roll.  Cut into slices 1-1 1/4 in. thick (A serrated knife makes it easier) and put them in a greased pan so they do not touch.  Repeat with the other half of the dough.  Let these rise until doubled -- 45 minutes to an hour.  Bake at 350 degrees until lightly browned, 20-30 mins.  Turn out of pan while still warm and spread with frosting.

To make the frosting, mix the melted butter you had left from the one cup w/about 1 T. milk and enough powdered sugar to make a frosting of the desired consistency.  You may add a little vanilla or almond flavoring if you like.

As Monica recently said under her breath before biting into one, "There's nothing like homemade cinnamon rolls."



Jason's Quick Coccodrillo Ciabatta Bread 

This I can't wait to make.  I think I'll make up the dough tonight and bake these loaves tomorrow.  Here's a quick link & I'll try to post a pic so you can see the yummy goodness.

Doesn't that look great?!

So, no, I don't think the French are the only people in this world who make good bread.  This house is definately a house "au bon pain!"







Saturday, September 25, 2010

It's Too Late, but...

I wanted to put credit where credit is due.  I took a peek at a friend's blog over at her place, Hidden Fern.  I like the way she has organized her blogs so I decided to do the same here.  I need an organized mind so this is my feeble attempt at getting that.  My blog is really for myself...selfish, I know!  So, I have 3 blog groups now....home based education favorites, my blog favorite "favorites," and my friends' blogs.  This will help me keep up with who I want to and not have to run all over heck trying to do that!  I'm happy to say the least.  Now to find childcare in either Paris or Rome.  Daddy wants to have an international date night!!:)



Ciao for now,
Grace

Friday, September 17, 2010

Hard Friday



I don't know who has a harder time on Friday, me or the kids.  They are obviously ready for the weekend or at least for movie night, but I am ready for adult conversation, reading, or my own on-line movie streaming.  I get a little antsy when Friday rolls around.  With that I've come up with 7 interesting things to do when your burned out on Friday (and you home-school your kids!):

1.  Movie - A - Thon

I've decided when we've all had enough it would be a good idea to set the Lord of the Rings Trilogy side by side and watch 9 hours of gore, lore, and incredible graphics.  The kids love these movies, and I can check this off as History and an extra-curricular activity in film-making!


2.  Sewing Fun

Of course the girls have several cut out pieces of fabric attached to patterns downstairs strewn all around the sewing machines.  I went downstairs last night and tried to make sense of all the pattern pieces.  Unless the dolls don't want to end up looking like Rainbow Bright, I might suggest the girls get down there, match up their pieces, and put an end to their projects.  Maybe a sewing day would be better than math drills!  Home Ec. - check!



3.  Eat Our Way into Oblivion

We could just raid the kitchen and the fridge and eat ice cream and pizza all day doing #1 above.  Costco comes in handy when you want to eat large quantities and you have a lot of takers!  Again, Home Ec. - check!  Personal finance and kitchen skills get used with this one.



4.  Play Dates

Here's my chance to get back at all the neighbors who casually let their kids play here whenever we are doing school.  I could just unleash my brood all over the neighborhood.  What?  You say they're not home?  The cool thing about home-schooled kids is that not only can they pick locks, they know how to make them!  They could just have a heyday in the adjacent homes of the neighborhood!!



5.  Real School

We could casually show up at recess or gym time at the local school.  Problem is they wouldn't want to go in when the bell rings...or would they?



6.  Dad & Kids Day

Of course, I should have thought of this one this morning.  I could have declared a "Daddy & Kid" Day at work.  Daddy's colleagues love the children and would love to have them check out a future chiropractic career!  



7.  Take them to Mass

This one falls under the category of exorcism.  It's always good to rid oneself of the demons within!!  Maybe I could keep mine and get rid of the kids'.  




See more Quick Takes at Conversion Diary.

Ciao for Now,
Grace


Sunday, September 12, 2010

50th Wedding Anniversary!

My in-laws are having their 50th Wedding Anniversary next weekend.  We will be celebrating with a Mass on Saturday morning followed by a luncheon at a hotel reception room nearby.  It will be a small gathering of friends and relatives.  Grandma Carol brought over her wedding, trip, and baby pictures so I could make storyboards for the reception.  This seemed daunting at first, but then turned into a lot of fun.

First, I put gold photo corners on all the pics I decided to use.  I then stuck the photo corners onto the display surface.  This is great if you don't want to damage photos.



Here is one of the finished storyboards.



Next, I had to think of centerpieces.  The hotel is providing table linens so all the tables will have a white tablecloth.  I did a search and found the idea to make photo tents for the centerpieces laying them atop gold ribbon.  After a trip to Joanne's the ribbon was going to be a bit expensive so I came up with a different idea. 

The Photo Tents

I copied some of Grandma's wedding photos and baby and little boy pictures of the boys onto white card stock.  I cropped them and mounted them on gold half sheets of card stock.




Then, I mounted these opposite one another onto a large sheet of black card stock folding each of them in half to make the tent.


I picked up a paper stack at Joanne's that had a few gold sheets inside to use for the base of the centerpiece.  The stack is called "Be Mine" so it's very lovey-dovey...you know, weddings and all!


Here's how the tents will look on the day of the reception.  Pretty cool, huh!



And here's a little secret you should all know about...or maybe you all ready do...Anchor Paper in St. Paul is where I picked up the gold and black card stock.  They sell everything in bulk so I ended up spending about $4.00 on making the photo tents.  The paper stack was on sale at Joanne's for $10.




Masterpiece Cards

I received our shipment of Masterpiece Art Cards yesterday.  How exciting!!  I received this very professional letter from the president, Susan Benford...she's all class.


There is this handy-dandy checklist about the size of a passport (hee, hee!) that has all the paintings listed by CITY!!! So I quickly found (Ahem) Florence.



Each of the cards is approximately 4"X6" and has the painting on one side and the information on the back.

Fra Angelico's Annunciation
Museum of San Marco-Florence, Italy
....Daddy wants to see this!

Everything comes in a sturdy box that has a flip top lid.  All 250 cards are stored here.  In her letter, Susan asked if I could spread the word by "word of mouse."  So that's what I'm doing.  Order them up, Home School Mommies!!



Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Back To School - 2010/11

We actually started school two weeks ago, but this morning I came down to this message from the kids:

Welcome Back to School
(officially!)

So I guess the last two weeks were just a trial run!  Anyway, it was nice to have a quiet neighborhood again.  It was, of course, back to school for all the neighbor kids.  The weather was very chilly, windy, and cold which added to the mood of hunkering down and studying.  

We had a good day.  It was nice to get back to a full day schedule, and I wrapped up a few little details with the trip so I would be fully present during "school time."  The kids liked our new Art History study.  We are using Usborne's Internet Linked Introduction to Art.  That was the funnest part of the day, and the discussion we had was awesome!  Here is one of the paintings we discussed:

Raphael's Vision of a Knight

We'll keep reading a section everday or every other day until the trip.  Little miracles have been coming through day by day with reservations, places to stay, deals, etc.  God is definitely working overtime with our trip planning!

Here is a cute pic just to show how serious we are around here about school!

Sometimes we do "school" in our pajamas!

Ciao for now,
G


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Room For the Holy Spirit

I've been super busy with trip plans...reserving trains from point to point, working out accommodations, and back to the drawing board on accommodations for Jane and Gabe who will be staying behind.  It's difficult work to say the least.  One minute you think you have something nailed down just to have it pop back up the next.  Visits we wanted to make have now gone to the wayside while others we didn't think we would have now come onto our itinerary.  It's amazing how things start to unfold.  I'm definitely feeling crunched for time.  Working on trip plans from here when your destination is a whole day ahead of you, can be grueling.
I decided to quasi-take the day off from trip planning.  I really needed the break, and the kids have been missing me at the school table with them.  Our curriculum has changed this year.  We are concentrating on History and Art because of the trip.  Math, Spelling, Writing, and Grammar are being done independently by each child.  I just check their work to make sure they're on track.  For History we are using Memoria Press's Famous Men of the Middle Ages.  The stories are exciting so I read them aloud to the kids.  Today they wrote essays comparing and contrasting Alaric the Visigoth and Attila the Hun.  In this book, we will be reading about a few popes, Charlemagne, el Cid, and St. Joan of Arc, to name a few.  I'll see if we have time to go back through Famous Men of Rome.
For Art, I pulled all the cards I have from Mommy It's a Renoir from the different museums we'll be visiting:  The Prado, the Louvre, Musee d'Orsay, the Uffizi in Florence (possibly the Accademia), and the Vatican Museums. Since the cards I have don't give us many examples of what we'll see, I ordered Masterpiece Cards just this morning so I can continue to put more works of art on the walls.  Daddy commented last evening that he loves the art gallery upstairs.  Monica and I put the art cards up there since those walls seemed to be the only bare walls left in the house!

On another front...male viewers of my blog can stop reading here since they usually comment to me that I get a bit too personal on my blog.  Hey, I thought this was a Catholic family blog!  Well, that's just how real the Catholic family is!!  So...leaving room for the Holy Spirit not only on the homeschool front, but also on the NFP front, I'll continue.

I recently spoke with a friend about my woes regarding my fertility.  I am a fertile myrtle so my cycles come back pretty quickly after my babies are born.  Consequently, I have found myself in the nebulous cycle zone of breastfeeding.  My friend who is currently expecting clued me in to the sympto-thermal method.  Now, I've been using Creighton Model for years.  I know my cycle pretty well, but as far as spacing of children....well, let's just say I have trouble with self-discipline.  My fertility woes have a lot to do with stress, anxiety, and plain-old coping with the realities of a big family.  You find yourself driving these:


That's our 12 passenger van and our X-Large pop up camper since we can't just stay anywhere when we vacation!


And, in my case, you start doing this:

Kitchen Art Class
because it's just easier to teach them at home than to get all the kids out the door in the morning to be on time for school!


Then there's this which always throws a kink into your plans for keeping up "appearances!"

That was 2 babies ago!


But, of course, there are little things like this that just melt your heart and you seem to dig up just when your current baby hits 9 months to a year.















So my dear friend told me about the sympto-thermal method and turned me over to Fertility Friend. This is a very cool site for online charting. What? You mean no more paper charts & stickers! That's right ladies.  Maybe I'm the only dinosaur around here who still get stickers stuck to my fingers and ink from leaky pens. Oh, well! We evolve, people!  Fertility Friend even has an I-phone app. so I can chart anytime online and sync it to my chart on my computer.  I've been measuring my temps. in the morning, I record them on my IPod, and I record observations throughout the day.  How cool is that?  Now I feel a little more relief at giving my body some time to recuperate before seeing if God wishes to bless us again with another addition.  Consequently, my woes turned to hope...hope that I won't become a slave to my hormones, will be able to enjoy all of my children at their various stages of maturity, and that I will be able to do it from my home rather than a mental facility.

Ciao for now.:)
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