Thursday, August 20, 2009

My Latest Scrapbooking Pages

I wanted to post a couple of my latest pages that I have made. Now that school has started back, I haven't had very much time to scrapbook. But whenever I get a spare moment, I will work on a spread or two because it is just so much fun!

I recently got a design pack from the My Memories Suite store called "Chugga Chugga." It's a darling pack of train themed digital papers and embellishments. When I saw it, I immediately thought of my son, Malachi, who is obsessed with trains. Here are the pages I've made with the "Chugga Chugga" pack. (Note: they are a little grainy because I saved them as a lower quality photo.)

I have gotten a lot of questions from friends wondering what I use to create my scrapbook layouts. I only use My Memories Suite! I don't have photoshop, and while I bet photoshop could help me create even better layouts, My Memories Suite can create everything you need without any outside help! Rarely do I like something enough to advertise for it, but this is one of those things that I love! It has really streamlined my scrapbooking--it's faster, cleaner and much cheaper than conventional scrapping. If you are interested, I have put an ad on the right column on this blog. If you click on it, you can check out more about the product. I really think it's worth every dime if you enjoy scrapbooking!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Yummy Bread!

This is a post I've wanted to do for quite some time, but I just now was able to get to it! My kids have milk allergies, and if you've ever read ingredient labels for bread, you'll see that EVERY single bread they sell at the store has milk in it! So, I have started making bread for the family each week. Not only is it milk free (at least the way I make it), but it is so much cheaper (less than $.50 a loaf) and is healthier without all the chemicals and preservatives.

I tried many different recipes for whole wheat bread before stumbling on this one from a vegan cookbook. (Since vegans eat milk-free, it has been very helpful for me to look at vegan resources.) The first time I made the bread, it came out so wonderfully soft and delicious, I seriously thought it just a fluke. So I made it again, and it came out just as well. So I've been making it ever since. My family loves this bread so much that it is really hard to keep up with the demand. I make the dough into dinner rolls, sandwich loaves, and I even will make smaller, hoagie type loaves with it, too. So it's a very versatile dough.

Okay, here's the recipe! This recipe is enough to make 1 loaf or 3-4 hoagie loaves. This bread does take quite a while to make, since it is a double-rise bread. So make sure you don't wait til the last minute!

  • 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (I use the bread machine yeast)
  • 1/2 cup warm water (about 110 degrees)
  • 3/4 cup warm milk or milk alternative of your choice (I have always used almond milk with great success, but cow milk would be just fine, too)
  • 2 Tblsp. brown sugar, maple syrup, or sweetener of choice (I have always used sucanat)
  • 2 Tblsp olive oil or vegetable oil (I have always substituted with coconut oil which gives the bread a sweet, slightly nutty flavor that is amazing!)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 3/4 to 2 cups bread flour
In a bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water and let sit until it is foamy. Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, combine the milk, sweetener, oil, salt and 1 cup of the whole wheat flour and mix until creamed. Add in the yeast mixture and the remaining 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour. Mix well. Add the bread flour, a little at a time until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Remove from the bowl and knead the dough for about 5 minutes--until smooth. You can add more bread flour to the dough if the dough is getting too sticky.

Oil a bowl (I love Spectrum's non hydrogenated palm oil shortening for this) and then put the dough in the bowl. Slide it around in the bowl and then turn the dough over to coat both sides with the oil. Then cover with a clean towel and put it in a warm, undisturbed place to rise. It will be ready when it's double its starting size. I usually use my microwave to store my dough while it rises.

Once it has doubled in size, punch the dough down and form the bread loaves or rolls, or whatever shape you're wanting to make. Then place the formed dough into well oiled bread pans (again, I use the spectrum shortening, and I love pyrex glass bread pans.) If you are unsure of how to properly roll up the bread dough to form a pretty loaf, there are a lot of good resources out there. So just search for the shape of loaf you want to make, and I bet you'll be able to find a good tutorial.

Cover the bread in the pans again with the towel and let it rise again until doubled. Once the bread is nearly done, then you can preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the bread for 25-40 minutes (depending on the size of the loaf and how dark you want the crust.) I usually bake mine for 30 minutes. You can brush with butter for a crispy crust, but I never do, and it still is great. Once the bread comes out of the oven, remove it quickly from the pan and transfer to a wire cooling rack so the bottoms won't get soggy.

This bread takes several hours to make, but it is so worth it. Because I'm strapped for time, especially now with homeschooling the kids, I make big batches. I usually make 6x the recipe every week. You have to get quite creative when doing 6x the recipe because that much flour certainly doesn't fit in my kitchen aid mixer bowl! So, I add the bread flour to the mixture by mixing it all together on the counter top. (I saw Ma Ingalls do it this way on Little House on the Prairie once. That's where I got the idea! :) ) It makes a mess, but it works very well. Usually, I can get 4 sandwich loaves and 6 or 8 hoagie loaves out of the recipe. I bake half of them right away, and then I wrap and freeze the others for use throughout the week. That way, we have fresh bread all week long, and I don't have to spend the time again.

A couple tips about freezing the dough: I learned the hard way how to freeze bread dough. The first time I did it, I just formed the loaves like normal, and then wrapped them in plastic wrap and froze them. When I got them out to thaw them in the bread pan, I found out that they were too long to fit in the pan! I had forgotten to check to see if they fit! So, please make sure they fit first. But also, remember that the yeast is still active until it is frozen. So, between wrapping the dough in plastic wrap, and the time that it actually freezes hard, the bread is still going to be expanding. That brings me to my next tip that I learned the hard way: make the bread loaves too small for the bread pan before you freeze them, that way they will be able to expand and still fit in the pan when you are ready to thaw. To thaw the bread, just unwrap the dough and place it in a greased pan. Cover with a towel and let sit for several hours until thawed and doubled in size. This can take quite a while, so what I do is put my bread out to thaw after dinner, and by morning it is ready to be baked. I'll bake it before breakfast and that way I get to enjoy the smell of fresh baked bread throughout the house all day long!

I really hope you enjoy this bread as much as I do. I'd love to hear what you think about it if you try making it!