5-Minute Artisan Bread

Monday, May 21, 2018

A few months ago, I happened upon a book called "The Kitchen Counter Cooking School."  It was a truly terrific book, and inspiring in a lot of ways.  The basic premise is that the author (a graduate of Cordon Bleu in France), decides to hold a free series of workshops for people who can't cook, and help them learn the basics in order to improve their eating lives.  

They all happen to be women (she had a man involved initially, but he dropped out before it started),  of all different ages, and many backgrounds, and then she and a few other chef and culinary friends teach them all sorts of skills from chopping vegetables, to making bread, to not wasting as much food in the kitchen.  

One of the recipes that she includes is this 5-minute artisan bread recipe.  Perhaps you have heard of it before (I had), but I felt like it would be a good fit for my current life.  So I tried it out!  It isn't the best loaf of bread I have ever made (that would be the super buttery brioche that I made for Christmas Morning...), but it was very tasty, and SO fast and easy.  Even I can squeeze in 5 minutes to throw together this loaf.  

It makes a smallish loaf (Actually 4 smallish loaves, total), but it is perfect for our little family to eat with a soup for dinner.  Sometimes there are leftovers, and sometimes their aren't.  Either way, it is a great way to get a homemade bread out in record time.  

Super Easy Artisan Bread
From The Kitchen Counter Cooking School & Artisan Bread in Five

3 cups lukewarm water
1 Tbs yeast
1 Tbs Salt
6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (you can substitute up to 1/2 of the flour with whole wheat flour)

In a large bowl, or container with a lid, combine the water, yeast salt and flour, and mix with a spoon until the flour is incorporated (it will be a wet dough, and quite lumpy). Cover lightly, but do not seal, if you are using a lidded container.  Put in the refrigerator overnight (you can also use after two hours.  See this article for directions on how to do that). 

The next day, lightly flour the top of the dough in the container, and pull out 1/4 of the dough.  

Form it into a ball, and place on a cornmeal sprinkled silicone mat or parchment paper.  Let the dough sit for 40-90 minutes.  The dough will not rise a lot during this time, and that is okay.  

Preheat your oven with a baking stone in it, to 450°F and place a heat-proof pan (like a cast iron or metal pan) on a rack below the stone.  

Slash the top of your bread with a very sharp knife.  

Carefully slide the loaf onto the hot baking stone and pour a cup of water into the heat proof pan below.  Quickly and carefully close the oven door, and let it cook for 30-35 minutes until golden brown, and hollow sounding when you tap it.  

Remove and let cool until it reaches room temperature, then serve.  

Zucchini, Beet, Apple Bread

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The older I get, the less I am liking sugar.  My dad has never really liked sugar, in my lifetime (although apparently he did used to eat a Three Musketeers bar everyday in his lunch in high school), and I never understood that.  But these days, the less I eat sugar, the better I feel, and the less I like it.

In all honestly, I just really don't like the way eating a lot of sugar makes me feel.  I typically end up feeling foggy, headachy, or sick, so we have been cutting out a lot of sugar in our diets.  Also, there have been a lot of studies lately that show how terrible eating sugar is for our bodies.  We just don't need it and it is causing all kinds of issues with our bodies.  

This bread is a wonderful way to have something slightly sweet and tasty feeling without getting the sugar rush.  Plus it is a great way of incorporating more vegetables and fruit into your diet!  

Chocolate, Beet, Zucchini Bread
Adapted from Kitchen Matters
1 loaf

1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
3/4 cup shredded, unpeeled zucchini
3/4 cup shredded, unpeeled apple
3/4 cup shredded, peeled beet

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Grease a standard sized bread loaf tin.

In a medium bowl, mix the oil, yogurt, syrup eggs and vanilla until combined. In a large bowl, mix flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg together.

Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ones.  Fold in the zucchini, beet and apple and pour it into the pan.

Bake for 50-60 minutes until a toothpick comes out lean.

Let cool for 5-10 minutes, then let it cool.  Eat within 3-4 days.


Life-Saving Items for the first 3 Months of Twins

Monday, May 14, 2018

Let's face it, having twins is just hard.  It is also completely wonderful and amazing, but there are a bunch of things that make it pretty difficult (two babies, not sleeping, trying to nurse in tandem, or bottle feed two... you get the picture).  So, today I wanted to share a few items that made having twins a little easier for me.

Twins are more common than they used to be (I read a statistic somewhere that said 1 in 30 children born is a twin now!), so maybe you are having twins, or you know someone who is having twins.  Here are a few items that made a big difference those first three months!

Life-Saving Baby Items for the first 3 months of Twins

Rock 'n Play - We had borrowed one from a friend, but only having one was super inconvenient, so my kind mom bought us a second one.  We still use them almost every day(babies are almost 6 months), and used them constantly for the first 3 months.  We haven't ever used the vibrate feature (I have heard that can make babies dependent on it, and I certainly didn't need that), but it can vibrate, and I think some of the fancier models can play music, too.
Munchkin Pad - This is silly, but these were amazing.  A friend gave us a beautiful crocheted Moses basket, and these were the liners, but I ended up using them long after the babies grew out of the Moses basket.  We had a number of episodes where I would set one of the babies on the couch for just a minute while I was getting ready to nurse them or something (I couldn't hold them both at the same time very well at the beginning) and very often, they would spit up, or leak through their diaper at that exact moment!  So inconvenient!  These are small, portable, waterproof and washable, so they were terrific for taking around the house and using to change diapers or just set the baby on, if you are worried about the couch or carpet (which I am, because both belong to my in-laws).
Tubby Todd's all over ointment ($10 off your first order through that link) - We LOVE Tubby Todd, and my babies have truly terrible skin.  They have eczema, they peeled like crazy (pretty much every doctor we saw during their most peely stage was shocked at how much they were peeling), and are dry and red most of the time.  This ointment hasn't solved the problem (it is doubtful that much could, honestly), but has helped keep a lot of the redness and chapping under control.
Baby Car Seat Cover - These are the best.  We went to the hospital at 2 1/2 months, when the babies got RSV, and I was so grateful to have them over each car seat when we were sitting in the waiting room with tons of other sick, coughing people.  They are also so good for nursing, can double as a blanket, if needed, and are light, but not sheer.  They are amazing.
NoseFrida the Snotsucker - Another necessity if you have a wintertime baby.  When the babies got RSV, their case was mild enough that they didn't need oxygen, but they did need to be suctioned out regularly, to help keep them comfortable.  It was amazing to be able to do it at home (not quite as effective, but still fabulous), and to know I could clean the whole thing out.  Those bulb syringes, while wonderful, can be really disgusting after a good cold.
Baby Socks - One of the unexpected things about twins, is that not only do they scratch themselves as infants, they also scratch each other.  We still have them wear socks on their hands regularly to protect them from each other.  My favorite pairs that we have were a gift from some of Adam's professors from Austin, and they are by SmartWool.  They are warm, stretch, are machine washable and stay on so well.
Cloth Diapers Burp Rags -  One of our neighbors gave us a huge stack of these (she had twins about 30 years ago, and they were still sitting in her garage), and they have been my favorite.  I love how absorbent they are, and that they are a super neutral color, and that they are all the same color (the minimalist in me, maybe?).  They are better than any other burp rag we own, and I am so glad I have about 15 of them, because they get used all the time.


A Few Things I have Learned...

Monday, March 12, 2018

The last three months of being a parent of twins (and a toddler) has kinda rocked my world.  I remember hearing parenthood was hard before I had Fox, and then Fox was born, and it totally changed my world, but you can't really imagine what being a parent is like until it happens.  Same is true with twins.  People tell you it will be difficult, but you don't really know what that means until you do it.  Can you do it?  Sure, but it is still difficult.  So I have spent a lot of time thinking about what is important, what makes my life better and easier, and things I am grateful for.

This is a semi-random list, but these are the things I have learned since becoming a parent:

- Treating a shower like a treat makes every day as a mom better.

- Routine and good habits makes parenting 100% easier.

- Almost everything you need to do can wait until tomorrow (except loving your family).

- Staying in for dinner is easier than going out (especially when we have eggs).

- Getting outside improves my mood (and Fox's mood) by at least 50%.

- Imperfect isn't always bad.  One of my favorite sweaters is missing a button.  The mess of toys on the floor means Fox had a happy day.

- Gratitude for life and a little mascara makes for a beautiful mother.

- Making cookies always makes the day better.  Eating more than one cookie always makes the day go worse.

- Family dinner is insane, but totally worth it.  Do it every night and it will pay off.

- There is no such thing as doing nothing with your kids.  When I am sitting on the floor, holding my twin boys and listening to my 3 year-old, I am doing something important. They need me, and need my time, hugs, and listening ears.

Badger and Bear: One Month Old

Friday, March 9, 2018

Okay, so this actually happened at the end of December, but I love how I have a photo record of Fox's first year (didn't do so great on monthly photos after that), and decided I want to do the same thing for the twins.  It is so fun to see how much they grow and change through that first year.

(What so much of twin life looks like)

So, a few things about them at one month:

- They are still sleeping most all of the day.  We get eyeballs here and there, but for the most part, they just sleep.

- Definitely not sleeping through the night at all.  They are getting up to eat 2-3 times a night, sometimes more.

- Their fussiest time of day is typically between 7 and 9PM, where they take turns screaming for an hour or so.  Sometimes longer.

- They are intensely snuggly.  They love being held, and are so happy to snuggle up right into you to nap.

- A few people have asked about their twin connection, and at this point, I don't really see it.  They don't mind being around each other, but there is no calm that comes when they are together.  More likely they will accidentally whack the other twin in the face.

- They are still super thin and small, and make me want to protect them in a real way! Saggiest little leg skin.  It is SO sad.

- Badger is the squeakiest baby around.  During the night, we hear tons of little squeaks from him.  We always know who is awake, based on that.

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