Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Thanksgiving 2020

I’ve been working, working being a generous word since it’s been over three months, on a series of posts about our trip out West this past summer, but I’m by passing them to post our Thanksgiving season recap. 

Thanksgiving will always be my favorite. No holiday is worthy of more effort, thought, and attention, in my opinion, as the one dedicated to Thanking God for what’s been given us. 

I know 2020 has been an unpopular year, I feel for people who have hated it, those who have experienced loss, shifts in lifestyle, or just great anxiety and fear. 

I’m not among those so it is easy to me to hold to Thanksgiving, and it gives me further reason to celebrate, particularly under the category of anxiety and fear; they hold no power over me, I have been gifted such peace through this year, particularly surrounding the pandemic. 

I haven’t blogged much, as you might’ve noticed, living so far from family and normal was really hard on me and I just didn’t have much to say that I felt would be beneficial to anyone.

But, 2020 is a year that has held an abundance of blessings for our family. Blessings I hold in the open palm of my hand. These blessings are none I deserve, certainly not earned, and I know they could be taken away, but I joy in them everyday while I have them. 

Estel was born this past January and he has been a great baby and addition to our little family.

In March we had a family vacation cancelled by the panic and pandemonium of the pandemic. We took things cautiously for 6 weeks, discerning how to live in these times, how to let it affect us, and after six weeks of following mainstream news, doctors reports, and trends around the world, our lives went back to normal. We have chosen to continue living the way we always have; surrounded by the people we love. Not everyone has made this choice, and they’re welcome to make their own, but for the people we fellowship with, come in contact with, and love, we are all comfortable and at peace with our choice. We’ve spread sickness back and forth, as we always do, no one has had to be tested to find out if any of the sicknesses were Covid. We’ve continued making memories, we’re teaching our children not to live in fear, to make the most of each moment given, and to remember that one day we all will die and we know that day is already chosen by our sovereign God. We pray a lot for those affected greatly by this sickness, for those who do fear, we pray for them to be given peace, for those who have experienced loss to be comforted, and for those isolated and alone, struggling with mental health to be given strength to overcome.

So, the pandemic has blessed us, we’ve been given an insight into living our eternal life counting each moment, holding each day; cherishing our loved ones.

In early summer Casey’s restructured, offering Wesley the next rung on the cooperate ladder, a huge raise, and the option to move back ‘home’ as his region would now encompass most of Indiana and all of Ohio. 

In July the world was open enough for our second vacation planned. My side of the family and our little family headed West. We camped between The Grand Tetons and Yellowstone, exploring both, then headed to South Dakota where we camped and experienced prairies and badlands. It was a great trip, we had perfect weather the whole time, and enjoyed the isolation from the world and time with family.

Also in July we found out our fifth baby was on the way. I’m due this coming April. It’s a surprise but it’s a really good blessed surprise.

In August, the day we left for our Smith family beach trip, I saw a house listing and knew it was home. 

We had a great beach vacation.

Two weeks later Wesley and I (and Estel) had a four day getaway to Leadville, CO, home of our first ever date, closest town to the sight of our engagement, and always a special place to visit.

We bought a house. We closed and moved in October. 

That rounds out the year for us. It has been one, bursting at the seams with blessings. 2020 will always be one of my favorite years as we have moved home and life has taken on a pace I thrive in. 

We are all settled here in our new home, a home I could see having the grandkids and great-grandkids come visit us in, a home I’d like to die in. We’re in Ladoga, 20 minutes North of where I thought home would always be, but this could be home forever and I’d be perfectly content. Someday maybe I’ll write a post telling the story of buying this house and settling here. Someday, maybe.

May you enjoy this Thanksgiving Day (week) as much as I, may you find the things to be joyful for, the things to kneel in prayer and worship our great God for. We are so blessed. 

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Pizza Dough

There is a huge long story post here, this page is simply the recipe. 

Pizza Dough

1 3/4 C. Water
2 1/4 tsp. Yeast
1 1/2 tsp. Salt
4-5 C. Bread Flour

Mix water, yeast, and salt in stand mixer. Allow to bubble for a few minutes. Add olive oil and a cup of flour, mix on low, add a second cup of flour, mixture should be smooth and goopy. Continue mixing on low adding small amounts of flour at a time. Knead on low until 4-5 cups of flour have been added and the dough is smooth, stretchy, and no longer sticking to the bowl. Remove dough hook from machine, oil bowl and spin dough ball until coated. Seal tightly with plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled at which point move it to the refrigerator. Allow to rise in the refrigerator 4+ hours. An hour before you plan to shape pizzas set the dough out and punch it down. During this time preheat your oven to 450°. It is important to give the oven a good while to preheat, you want to be sure it’s actual HOT when beginning to bake.  Divide dough into two sections for large pizzas or 3 for small. Shape, place on stone, top as desired. Bake at 450° 20 minutes or until desired doneness. 

Done kneading
Rising while covered on the counter, ready to move to the refrigerator 
Back on the counter to punch down and rest for an hour. 
Turned into one large thick crust and one small cheesey breadstick ‘pizza’. 

Perfecting Pizza

*Recipe in following post

This post has been a long time in the making. 

Growing up my mom always made homemade pizza. All the way home made, the crust and sauce, and for some time even the cheese; but my siblings and I can all attest that making the switch back to store bought mozzarella, and away from homemade goat milk mozzarella was the right one. 
So that was my example and in the later years of living in my parents home pizza night was often run by me as my mom was running around getting my siblings to sport events. I know how to do pizza, and I know how to do it right.
Once it was just Wesley and I though, making pizza from scratch just wasn’t worth the work, for some reason cranking out 3 or 4 is better than going through the effort for just one. So, we found ourselves ordering Casey’s or Papa John’s if we wanted pizza, or going to one of our parents house on a Friday night and getting the real deal. 
About a year ago I realized I miss making pizza (probably because living away from our families has meant I didn’t even get the chance to help bulk produce them regularly on the weekends), I wasn’t very happy with using up our eat out budget on something I could make, and over all, I had really quit making pizza because Papa John’s crust was better than mine; this led me to the realization I just needed to find (or create) the right recipe and we’d be in business again. 
First I started using the ‘Master’ cheater sour dough some of my sisters had worked with off and on over our years together. It was okay but way to high maintenance for what I was looking for. Next I tried my family’s traditional ‘No Rise Crust’ the one I’d already been using but decided to let it rise. Still not what I wanted, it was just bread-y, tough, crust. 
Finally I decided to do some research, which places had I been too and liked crusts? What did I like about them? That’s when I discovered Wesley and my preference is different. To me Papa Johns is honestly perfect, bubbly, chewy, crisp enough and the right thickness. To Wesley, fancy Neapolitan Pizza places have it right, thin, chewy, but burnt to a crispy self serving plate on the bottom. I set out to find a compromise, we both liked chewy so I started with that and dug into research. 
Both Wesley and my preferences are of a sour dough style, so I started there, knowing something with a decent rise and rest time would be a good compromise. We like the texture Sour Dough’s offer because the flour gets more broken down and ‘digested’ giving it the chewier feel and with the longer “life” the dough naturally will be more airy. 

Pizza Crusts:
This is going to be an abbreviated version of some things I read and learned. 
1) When making loaf breads it’s fine to, and good even, to knead and knead them to death, and even some pizza doughs, but if you’re trying to mimic a sour dough you either go no mix or very gentle - minimal mixing. The tough dough I was used to producing was a result of dumping the majority of my flour in and leaving the mixer on high to “do its job” but ultimately over working the dough, followed up by only a 10 minute rest period gave it no time to recover. The favored way is to either mix the dry ingredients and slowly add the oil and water, mixing on slow until it’s all incorporated and stretchy looking, or, add your yeast and salt to the water then a cup or two of flour and slowly add the rest, like Tablespoon by Tablespoon; the later being my preferred method. 
2) I’ve been a bread baker for a long time, I even worked at a bakery as one, and I’ve always known not to mix your salt with the yeast because it impairs the growth and therefore rise. After noticing several recipes for dough did the opposite I checked the science. If you’re making a fermented dough and plan on letting it rise for awhile come to find out, you actually do want to mix the salt in with the yeast because you do want to retard the growth to allow a low slow gassy rise. 
3) To get a crispy base working with cold(ish) dough is best. 
4) To get big bubbles in your crust a fermenty sour dough is ideal. 
5) Bread Flour. All purpose just isn’t as all purpose as it advertises, Bread Flour is a must for good soft dough and if I ever get the chance I’d even like to try 00 which is apparently what Italian pizza places use. 
After I’d read a book, a bunch of blog posts, and some chefs opinions, I settled on two recipes to try. 
It took a few weeks of trial before I perfected what we have decided is the perfect crust for the average Friday night pizza night. 
I have to start it Friday morning, but if I know Friday is going to be busy it can be started Thursday night. 
I anticipate this crust becoming ‘old and boring’ to me after some time and maybe then I’ll switch it up again. Sicilian Pizza dough..?

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Making Dinner

Two weeks (or so) ago I made breakfast for dinner, donuts, specifically.

With this pandemic and all the pandemonium surrounding it leading to the closing of nearly everything, including the gym; paired with my choice outlet being baking, things haven’t been great for Wesley’s healthy lifestyle plans, so, Sunday I told him I would try harder to make fewer breads and sweets. Until Monday, Monday I was in the mood for donuts.

All day I was debating with myself over making them or not then I remembered I’d made them once before and blogged about it. I reread my own post and realized I was dangerously close to the same mistake, waiting too long to start them and not having time to chill the dough.
It was almost 5 when I headed to the kitchen to whip up some donuts. This time I followed a recipe on Pinterest for sour cream donuts instead of buttermilk. I wrapped the dough in wax paper and put it in the fridge while I started other components for dinner, other things like actual food that feeds you instead of the donut variety that only tastes good.
I diced sweet potatoes and onions for a skillet, made 6 slices of bacon into bacon bits, seasoned my potatoes with garlic salt, smoked paprika, rubbed thyme, and the plan was rosemary which I’m out of apparently so I threw in some poultry seasoning instead. I put all of that in the oven to stay warm while I started oil for frying. I used shortening that I had used in the past for chicken strips, not ideal, I know, but also not worth "wasting" another amount of oil or shortening. I pulled the dough out of the refrigerator, it had been chilling for a full hour, the shortest time recommendable. The wax paper ended up being my only mistake and even that might be more a mistake on Mijers part for selling garbage wax paper. Parchment would have been my choice paper but I was out and since this was only to provide a non stick surface I assumed wax would work. Wrong. Every time I've used this particular roll of wax paper it fails me, the dough did stick, very much so. I rolled it out, used a cup to cut the discs then a large cake decorating tip for the holes, if I do this often I should invest in an actual donut cutter because this really slowed up the process. Frying commenced. I was able to regulate the temperature of my oil well, having let the dough rest made a huge difference compared to my last attempt, and over all I was very happy with them.
As soon as they were done I mixed up the glaze, if I never use this donut recipe again I will for sure be using this gaze still, on anything and everything. Browned Butter Maple Glaze. Amazing. Brown your butter, add powder sugar, maple syrup, and milk until its the right consistency. It was so good.
I glazed, pulled the skillet of potatoes from the oven and began frying some over-easy eggs to go on top.
Breakfast for Dinner.
I intended to post this right after it took place but better late than never.

Monday, April 20, 2020

{Foodie Post No.16 Part II} Butteries; The Recipe

Here is the original hand written copy from my sister, I’ll follow it up with my typed version and come pictures of my efforts. 

Aberdeen Rolls - Butteries

1/2 Tbsp Yeast
1 Tbsp Brown Sugar
1 3/4 cups warm Water
3-4 cups Flour
Pinch of Salt
1 cup Butter, room temperature
1/2 cup Shortening or Lard
(Any combination of butter, shortening, and/or lard should work, I prefer butter so I used mostly butter.)

Combine yeast, sugar, and water to dissolve, allow to set a few minutes to bubble.
Using mixer add salt and flour, kneading on low until a soft, somewhat sticky dough, forms.
Set aside to rise until doubled.

Meanwhile mix butter and shortening/lard careful not to heat/melt.
Preheat oven to 450°.

Once dough has doubled knead gently and turn out onto floured surface. Roll into a rectangle 1/2” thick that would divide into 16 equal squares.
Eyeballing a third of the butter mixture, spread it onto 2/3rds of the dough, fold unbuttered third onto the middle buttered third then the buttered third over both. Roll back to the original size and repeat twice, using up the last 2/3rds of the butter mixture and rolling it back out. Cut into 16 squares. Tuck ends under to form a round-ish shape and place on pan. Allow to rise 45 minutes. Bake 15 minutes until golden brown and flaky.
Enjoy warm with Marmalade or fruit butters or meats and cheeses, or on their own!

I read differing opinions as to tucking the ends under (practical)  vs. tucking them up (pretty) so I did a variety of both, in the end we heartily preferred tucking them under, the edges formed a much better crust for the base when tucked under, and honestly, tucking them up didn’t make them incredibly pretty. 

{Foodie Post No.16 part I} Butteries; The Story

There are 3 Stories about Butteries in my knowledge and here I’ll tell you them all. The first is the actual story, their origin.

Story 1). Butteries, informally, their formal name being Aberdeen Rolls. They are basically a lazy version of croissants. These were made in Aberdeen Scotland, way back in old times women would make these to send with their fishermen on long fishing voyages at sea. They have an unbelievably high fat content which apparently gives them the long shelf life they’d have needed for their weeks at sea. Traditionally they’d have crunchy flat bottoms that you would pile with sliced cheese and cured meat to eat while out on your fishing trip, but they’re preferred as a transport for fruit butters or marmalades.

Story 2). I know story 1 because my sister, Avery from Simple Inspirations, read about them in a library book and chose these to make during her last (I think) year in 4-H for her foods project. She did the research, we siblings enjoyed her practice round. They were delicious, flaky, oozing with butter, and I don’t think we ever got to test their life span because we devoured them fresh from the oven. Our spreads of choice being traditional orange marmalade or some pear butter I had canned the year prior. The one and only “old” taste test occurred at the end of fair week, the Putnam County fair was coming to a close, 4-H kids were required to gather their projects and ribbons, and garbage cans were provided for throwing the containers of moldy food in, but there, sitting in its plastic clam shell was Avery’s buttery, looking golden and flaky as ever, no sign of mold, so she took a bite and passed it around to the rest of us who loved reliving history and trusted that if Scottish fisherman could eat them after a month, we could eat them after a week and if my memory serves me, it was only a little stale but totally fine.
Fun fact: while my sister decided on this recipe for her 4-H project my some-day husband was on a trip with his grandma, cousin, and brother to Scotland and although I can’t claim that at that time I *knew* he’d be my husband one day, I did know it was well within the realm of possibilities.

Story 3). This is our story.  My desire to make butteries was sparked because last week I made grilled cheese sandwiches and needed something for the inside; so I opened a jar of Peach Orange Marmalade made and given me by my sister-in-law Katie. It was (is) amazing and made me want some Butteries to have with it. I texted my sister and asked for the recipe, I looked them up on Pinterest and refreshed my memory on the history and technique of making them. I decided I’d make them Saturday morning for brunch because they were going to take 3 hours and I wasn’t getting up before 7. In the end the two year old decided to be up at 6:45 so I got a slightly earlier start than planned but all was good, I was excited to get going and in the end it might’ve been a good thing because at 7PM Saturday evening my “get up and start butteries” alarm went off, so, thanks Emmitt for being a terrible sleeper and getting me up by the time I’d planned. All went well with the dough although it did take an extra cup of flour, the lamination process wasn’t as hard as I thought it might be. I did try two different shaping techniques as I read differing opinions online; some said to tuck the ends under so the butter and lard would leak out and form crispy layers, some said tuck them up to make them pretty. While they baked I talked to my mom on Face-Time and Wesley fried bacon. Oven beeped and it was time. Wesley turned on some Scottish music and I served up breakfast. I set out the Peach Orange Marmalade and dug the very last, sample size, Kerr canning jar of Pear Butter out from the top of my cabinet. I’d canned it back in 2010, as a 15 year old back at “home” from pears given to us by a family friend. It’s to date the best pear butter I’ve made and I don’t open ANY jar of preserved fruits lightly, no, this was a major big deal. This jar had moved from my childhood home to Wesley and my first rental house, then on to the first house we bought, and was packed and moved for the last time to our current place nearly 9 years after it’s canning date. I texted both my mom and sister saying “Dare I open the last jar?” And the general consensus was a resounding ‘yes of course’ because I’m notorious for hoarding canned sweets, which bothers my mom to no end, so anytime I’m willing to open a jar I’m sure they’ll loudly voice their support.
They were just as delicious as I remembered.
And both the Marmalade and Pear Butter were heavenly slathered on the beautifully crisp, flaky bottoms of the butteries.
This is Part 1, the stories, part two will follow with the recipe, because no one should be subject to reading through a book worth of tales before arriving at the recipe after having searched “butteries” on Pinterest and clicked on a link.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Spaceship 🚀

While I was brushing Jerusha’s hair one morning in the bathroom, she noticed a toilet paper tube in the garbage can. She grabbed it out and informed me we should be saving them for a craft. She collected 3 so we decided to make spaceships, 3 being enough for each non vegetable stage child to participate.

I’m just recording this on the blog because it’s the sort of thing I’ll want to look back and remember having done when the girls say “remember that time you made spaceships with us?” So it’s not a how-to, although it’s incredibly simple, it’s just a memory, and perhaps it can be a reminder; do something, anything, a little thing to build memories but more importantly conversations with your child. We ended up talking about the differences between ours and real spaceships (WARNING: if your conversation goes that direction be prepared for your kids to say they wanted to make real looking kinds, not fake ‘cute’ ones), the moon, what is on other planets and if people could live there, and discussed other crafts we could do.

I used some card stock and cut circles with a quarter of the pie gone, glued them into little caps, cut three pieces of paper for them to have ‘legs’, and I painted some tissue paper orange to be flames but actually having orange tissue paper would’ve been more convenient. We glued them all together and colored little doors and windows per kids’ request.

Then last night happened to be the Super Moon so we spent some time looking at it and pretending the spaceships could fly there.