Monday, October 22, 2012

Baking Bread....The Easy Way

Does baking bread scare the beejeebees out of you? Do you stay away from any recipe that tells you something needs to rise?
Do you feel like your watching a Cymbalta commercial right now?

I used to be terrified of making anything in the kitchen that included yeast. 
However, I never realized that I was missing out on something wonderful.

Some of you emailed me last week and loved the crock pot recipe.  It was so easy, I assumed it was almost dumb for me to post it on my blog!  But your response was so kind, it encouraged me to share a few secrets I've learned about baking bread.
I hope if you haven't tried this before, you might want to before the holidays.

First of all, I do not own a bread machine.  Probably never will.
Like I need ONE more appliance that needs to be cleaned or find a home in my kitchen! My cabinets kind of look like Monica's closet on the tv show "Friends".  Remember the episode where she opened up her closet and everything came crashing down around her?  I so get that.  Neat looking on the outside but don't you dare go scrounging through my drawers, less you want to risk getting a concussion or a limb removed.

This bread recipe came from my mom's best friend Betty.
Betty was the type of lady who always baked wonderful things in her kitchen when I was growing up.  She definitely should have had a blog if that were the thing back in the 70's.
So hence the name, "Betty's Bread".
Otherwise known as delicious, sour-dough-like manna from heaven.
And would you think I am really weird if I told you I had most of these ingredients on hand at any given time?
Here's what you'll need to make this. (Plus about 3 very interruptible hours of your time).  
Easy Peasy.

The first step is to mix  your three packages of yeast with 3/4 cup of warm water.
The secrets to baking with yeast?
Use new and good yeast.  It is a living organism after all, so it does go bad.  Don't leave it in the pantry for months like I tend to do with other items.

It should look a lot like this once mixed with water, or even a little more bubbly-ish.  Bubbly-er.  Whatever.

The other important thing about yeast is the temperature of the water.  Too hot or cold will kill that lovely yeast.  You always want it "luke warm".  Think baby's bath water here.  Not the temperature of how I like my bath water and showers. (Really hot by the way).  A baby remember?  Nice, warm, gentle.  
Scalding babies and yeast is not a good idea. 

The next and hardest step in this recipe is measuring and mixing your cottage cheese and buttermilk.
Yes, I just said cottage cheese and buttermilk.  
They will make this bread delicious, you just wait and see!

I say this is hard because I hate the using-the-blender part.  I kind of hate blenders all together.  But since you got that sucker out, whip up some margaritas I say!

After you blend these two ingredients, you have to heat it up a little on the stove.  Because remember that lonely yeast?  You wouldn't want to kill it with cold buttermilk.   

Then, in your very large bowl, you're going to want to mix everything together.  (I posted the recipe below).  Your yeast mixture.  Your buttermilk mixture.  Your sugars, oils, sodas, salt and eggs.  And finally you'll add the flour.

Evie girl loves making bread!

(FYI.  I would not recommend anything other than the real Pillsbury fatty fatty white flour here.  I once tried whole wheat and it turned out terrible.  This is a treat.  Just don't eat it every day!)

After you add the flour, the mixture should rise after an hour.  I always cover mine with a towel.
Not sure why, only I saw my mom and grandma always do this. So I do it too.

After you put it in three loaf pans, bake and enjoy the smell coming from your kitchen!

I always spray a little Pam spray on top of the loaves so they look really "bakery-esk". 

Slice and enjoy.  I will warn you.  My family can eat an entire loaf as soon as it comes out of the oven!
Eat one.  Give one away.  Freeze one.  And pat yourself on the back for baking homemade bread!  


3 PACKAGES regular yeast (not rapid rise)
Mix the yeast and warm water in a separate bowl until dissolved

(Put BOTH in blender AND MIX until smooth.  Transfer mixture to a saucepan and heat until lukewarm, or same temperature as the yeast mixture).

5 tbsp. sugar
4 tsp. salt
¾ tsp. baking soda
(mix together in a very large bowl.  Pour cottage cheese mixture over this. stir.)

3 eggs, well beaten.
Add eggs to the large bowl.  Then add the dissolved yeast mixture. 
Add 7- 7 ½ cups flour to this.  Mix well.

Leave dough in bowl, let it rise for one hour.
Stir down mixture.  Divide dough into 3 batches, put in 3 well greased loaf pans.  Let these rise for 45 minutes.

Bake loaves at 350 for 35 minutes. cool on wire racks. Rub oil or butter on top of bread after cooling to make it beautiful.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Easiest Crock Pot Recipe...Ever.

Chicken Something or Another for the Crock Pot  

So I was not kidding about the easy part. 
Virtually dummy proof.
I had forgotten about this recipe until it turned cold last week.  And I realized my family might want a warm meal after a long weekend working at the farm.
(More on that another day) 

Here's what you will need:

1. Some frozen chicken breasts. Preferably the kind that get stuck in the back of your freezer and when you find them, you think to yourself I must do something with these immediately.

2. A can of cream of mushroom soup.  Or chicken.  Or asparagus. Or Mr. Potato Head.  You get the point.  Whatever you find in your pantry will suffice.

3. A package of cream cheese.  Just not the fat-free kind.  But who are we kidding?  You don't buy that stuff anyway, right?  (If you do, we must talk because this could seriously jeopardize our friendship).

4. A dried packet/package of "Good Seasons" Italian Dressing or Garlic & Herb Dressing mix.

Throw, and I mean in a very literal sense, THROW all of this goodness in a crockpot. Don't you dare feel the need to stir.  Or thaw anything.  That would require too much effort.

Turn that baby, and by baby I am referring to your friend Mr. Crock Pot, on low for 6, 7, or 8 hours.  Whatever strikes your fancy.  The beauty as we know of Crock Pot cooking is we can be lazy, er, flexible with our timeliness.

When you come home from school, or work, or wake up from your nap, take in the smell coming from your kitchen.

I usually serve this over some angel hair pasta. (Not to be Mrs. Redundant here...but again, any carby-noodle item in your pantry will work).  Better yet, while the pasta is boiling, put a little steamy-top-thing on your pot and steam some broccoli so you can feel good about getting a veggie in for the day.

Feed your family or guests and make them think you slaved all day.
My kiddos love it. I hope you will too!

Thanks for reading. And hope you are enjoying fall.

P.S.  Here's the Sugar Maple by our road.  I could marry it I think it is so pretty. By next week it is going to be ridiculously orange.  And please don't tell anyone but I took this while sticking my arm out the window as I drove by.  Shhhh.


This week linking up to:

Monday, October 1, 2012

A Few Thoughts on Friendship

This past week, I had a chance to go to a luncheon and workshop where one of my very favorite authors, John Townsend, spoke.
If you haven't heard of him, he is the guy who wrote books like Boundaries, Necessary Endings and Safe People.
Love that guy.  

He spoke to us about friendships.
I cannot stop thinking about the power and simplicity of what he said and how it has stuck with me.  In my own words and experience, I'm going to share what I learned from him.

He started by gently and reminding us of why we all need friends.   There is a lot of unseen potential in the healing and redemptive power of our friendships.  This makes me think of the many Proverbs that speak to how good friendships enrich our lives and bad ones can cause us a lot of grief.

John asked us all to think about the people in our lives that we call friends.  And if we are struggling to determine whether it is a beneficial friendship, we should all think about how deep we can go with them.  If I am vulnerable with someone I consider a friend, what do they do with that?  
Do they draw near?  Or do they turn away from me?  Do they judge me?  Try to fix me?  We should pay attention to this.  I know for me a real strength I have is to see the world through extremely pragmatic eyes.  I LIVE and BREATHE in the practical.  So at times, I really have to remember that people just want to be loved, not fixed. 

This was such a Godly reminder to me that a true friend draws near. Of course we get busy.  We forget things.  We have full lives.  We have other relationships that need tending.  But more often than not, a good friend is one who takes the time to look straight into your eyes and sincerely ask, "How are you?"

Dr. Townsend also encouraged each of us to define our friendships into two categories:  service or mutual. Let me use "Laurie words" to describe this.  We all have relationships that are supposed to be service driven.  Especially if you are a pastor, counselor, teacher, coach, or mentor.  
These relationships are not supposed to be balanced.  Because in them, we will always give more than we receive.  
Where he cautioned us that we can get into trouble is if we don't have enough mutual friendships.  
In a good friendship, there should be a mutual sharing of good news, life events, problems, and concerns.  Except for times of crisis.  If you start to feel like you need to down a glass of vodka, poke your eyes out, or take a three day nap every time you leave a certain friendship, chances are it is not a mutual friendship.

We were also encouraged to do better at choosing our friendships. 
We choose our careers.  We choose a marriage partner.  We should also feel  the freedom to choose friends, as opposed to being passive.
 I wonder why this seems so much harder for adults than kids?  Do you suppose we just get lazy?  Isn't it easier to just be friends with whoever is at the office, carpool, or next door than intentionally choose people to be friends with?
Or I actually think in my own life it is because I get afraid.  I play a horrible, ugly tape in my head that says something like this:
Why would they want to be friends with me?  Am I good enough?
They probably already have enough friends.  They are probably too busy for me.
And what if I put myself out there and they reject me?

Dr. Townsend reminded us to just get over it.  Take a risk.  Not everyone is supposed to be my friend and that is okay.  But I can't very well complain that I am lonely if I never have courage in seeking out relationship.
At some point I have to ask, and stop waiting to be asked.  Friendships are too important to keep in passivity.

The final push he gave us in looking at our friendships, is to take the risk to add structure to our relationships.  The best example I have of this in my life is what one of my dearest friends said to me a few years ago.

We had just met at a few social functions.  We liked each other.  I remember always seeing her and thinking to myself that I would like to know her better.
I will never forget one day months after this, she called and said, "I want to see you and your family more.  Can we start getting together on more weekends and schedule times to be together?"

How life changing that was for me.  A healthy person will give you room to respond.  They will not guilt or pressure you to spend time with them, but instead, they will ask and follow through.

Thank you God for the good friends You have given me.  As I look over my life, I see their faces and I smile.  A friend's heart are indeed deep waters.  But true friends draw this out of us.  Please continue to surround me with life-giving relationships. Help me to pour "life" into them by being open, kind, responsive and vulnerable. Thank you above all for giving us relationships and allowing them to grow us and heal us. I am so glad You never meant for us to do life on our own.  Amen.