Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Homemade English Muffins

Oh, English muffins.
So delicate, so delicious.
My very favorite breakfast (or lunch) is a toasted English muffin with an over-easy egg and a slice of avocado. Amazing.
And as it turns out, they're pretty easy to make.
I looked at a bunch of recipes, a lot of which involve making a kind of batter and frying it in metal rings.
Ain't nobody got time fo dat.
So I worked off of a recipe from Budget Bytes.

The only change I made was to substitute whole wheat flour for half of the flour.


1 tsp. active dry yeast
1 Tbs. sugar
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup milk
2 Tbs. butter
1.5 cups whole wheat flour
1.5 cups all purpose flour
3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup cornmeal

1. Mix together the yeast, sugar, and water. 

Let it sit for 5 minutes or so until it starts getting frothy. Yum, right?
(I love the smell of yeast, tell me I'm not the only one...)

2. Melt the butter in the milk. 

3. Mix the flour and salt together, then add the milk mix and the yeast mix. It will be a sticky dough.
Add flour by 1/4 cup of a time until the dough becomes more solid and pulls away from the bowl. (I only added 1/2 cup more of flour.)

4. LIGHTLY flour your work surface and start kneading your dough. You don't want to over work the dough or use too much flour, or you'll end up with some tough muffins. Knead for about 5 minutes.

5. Shape your dough into a ball and place it in a oiled vintage pyrex bowl*. Oil the top of the dough, and cover with plastic wrap. 

*you probably don't need a vintage pyrex bowl, but I haven't tried it so I can't comment on that.

Let it rise for about an hour, or until it's doubled in size.

6. Punch that sucker down. Oil your fist first, so you don't end up with dough on your hands. 

7. Cover and let rise for another hour. Now it's looking good. 

8. Punch the dough down again and roll it out on a floured surface. You want it to be around 3/4 of an inch thick. I used a cookie cutter to cut my biscuits, but you could use a cup if you don't have a round one. Try and cut as many as you can out of each rolling because the dough is more difficult to roll out each time. You can see my biscuits to the left are a little wonky. Put the circles on a pan covered with cornmeal. Sprinkle more cornmeal on top of each biscuit.

9. Cover your biscuits with a damp towel and let them rise. Again.
Curse yourself for trying to make these because it's taking all freaking day and you really just want to eat one already.

10. Now it's time to cook your precious little biscuits. Be careful! You don't want to "pop" them. I deflated a few, and trust me, after all this waiting, it is a real bummer. 
Heat up a skillet or frying pan, coat it with oil and transfer your biscuits to the pan. 

11. Cook for 7-9 minutes on each side. You'll be able to tell when they're done, the have a hollow sound and a beautiful golden brown crust.

I made 9 English muffins from this recipe.

The don't have as many "nooks and crannies" as store bought English muffins, but they taste just as good. Trust me!

I'm waiting on another batch to rise right now. I've got eggs and avocados waiting with me too. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Starting from Scratch and Vanilla Almond Apricot Granola Bars

I have three kids,each with their own food issues. My oldest needs food around the clock, my middle son is very underweight, and my baby could live on fruit snacks alone.
My husband and I have our own issues, but let's not get into that. (Ahem. Taco bell.)
It's a convenience thing for us. 
Fruit snacks, granola bars, gogurt, chicken nuggets, the list of boxed and bagged foods in this house is endless.

There are a bazillion reasons to cut out processed food. I'm not going to go into a lot of details because a, I don't know everything and b, you can google just as well as I can.
But I'll give you my reasons for going "clean".

1. It tastes better.
Fresh is always better. There's a reason why everything from the Farmer's Market tastes so much better than anything from Walmart. 
2. Those empty calories aren't doing ANYBODY any favors.
Like I said, my son Jared is skinny. Not the good kind of skinny that I wish I was, but scrawny. When I was thinking of ways to give him extra calories, I started thinking about the calories he was already getting. Yeah. Not good. All those chips aren't helping him grow, and they're sure as hell not helping my diet either.
3. It makes me happy.
The feeling of cooking or baking something from scratch is incredibly gratifying. Watching my kids devour the food I made with my own hands is just a bonus. Plus, it keeps me busy and makes me feel productive, both of which make me happy.
4. The cost.
I don't care what anybody says, processed food is not cheap. A freaking box of fruit snacks is over 2 dollars and it lasts about 3 days. 
5. Skill.
The only thing I can make consistently from scratch is chocolate cookies. (um, they're amazing.) I want to add to that list. 
6. My kids.
After reading about what I'm really feeding them, I can't turn a blind eye. I really love knowing that I'm feeding them food that is nourishing their bodies and allowing them to grow physically and mentally. Plus, I definitely want them to think I'm the best cook ever. Their wives won't ever stand a chance.

So this summer we're starting from scratch. Get it? Yeah, ok...
Food isn't the only thing I'm trying to make myself, I'll be doing tons of other projects as well, all which I will blog about, so stay tuned!
Who knows, maybe we'll love it, get a few chickens and move to a farm. (In my dreams) Maybe I'll try and sneak a cow into the garage and get fresh milk. I'm kidding, but look at these Mini Jersey Cows. I DIE.

Ok, so without further adieu, here is my first from scratch recipe!
(I made this recipe up, mostly based on ingredients I already had in the house. I'm definitely going to make another batch, so I will come back with more tips!)

Vanilla Almond Apricot Granola Bars

Makes 16 bars

2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup sliced almonds (not pictured)
2/3 cup honey
1 large egg
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp. vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 2 qt. casserole dish. (That's what I used, and I made 16 bars. You can use a different size pan, but the thickness of your bars and the baking time will change.)

2. Mix oats, sugar, cinnamon, flour, apricots, and almonds together in a large bowl.

3. Make a well in the middle of the mixture, and pour in the egg, honey, oil, and vanilla.

4. Use your hands to mix the egg and oil into the oat mixture. I put my hand in the middle and kind of scrunched the dry mix into it a little bit at a time. Those probably aren't the best directions, but just try it.

5. Press the mix into your greased dish. Try to make it flat, but it's not the big of a deal.

6. Bake for 20 - 25 min. Every oven is different, so just watch them. If they are getting brown around the edges, they're probably done.

7. Let the bars cool about 10 minutes before you cut them. Don't wait too long, or they'll be too hard to cut. 

Then, eat! They are seriously delicious. 

Kid approved!

I wrapped mine in wax paper, which the kids seem to enjoy ripping off. They could be stored in a Tupperware container or a baggie.
As for me, I plan on crumbling one up in yogurt for tomorrow's breakfast!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Mimosa Basket

I made this gift basket for my mom this year. 
(I gave it to her early so she could enjoy it in the morning!)
It was quick, easy and cheap!

The basket includes:
a bottle of champagne
2 small glass bottles of orange juice
2 navel oranges
a tangelo
a bar of dark orange chocolate
orange striped straws
a mini peach rose plant.

The whole thing only cost me around $15 dollars, but it looked like it cost at least twice that!
With any luck, I'll wake up to a mimosa too!
Happy Mother's Day!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day everyone!

Free downloadable card here: