Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Birthday Feasting

On Monday we celebrated HandyMan's birthday, which actually falls today.  Since his calendar was full for today, but yesterday was his day off - he elected to have his birthday a day early.  Since GBaby's too little to know - he can get away with that this year!

As is a tradition in our families growing up, we've continued the tradition of allowing the birthday celebrant to choose their menu for their birthday.  Here's what kept me busy on Monday:

For brunch, we had Mascarpone Stuffed French Toast with strawberries.  It took the idea from the recipe, but made fresh bread for the french toast on Sunday with my Basic Bread.

hmbday1From there sliced up huge chunks of it and put the slit in slices for the cheese and grilled them up.  The finished result was very good.  A little sweet for my liking and since I LOVE cream cheese, I think I would rather have them stuffed with cream cheese - but it wasn't my birthday :).hmbday2

Lunch didn't come until about 2 - and the Birthday Boy requested Potato Leek Soup with Pumpernickel Bread.  I melded a couple of different recipes for the bread and it turned out very well- says he who likes Pumpernickel.

hmbday3(The loaf was actually darker - the photo came out light)


For dessert, Cheesecake:

hmbday5Happy Birthday!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Life in Fast Forward

March is wrapping up and I find myself again, wondering where the time went.  My days have been full of a 14-month-old and husband and all that is involved in caring for and feeding said family.  Budgeting, bills, shopping and home projects seem endless at times.  Days were warmer, which turned energy towards outside chores.  Our local Relay for Life is drawing near which adds in some web-maintenance and work with that planning committee.   I'm working on getting ready for my summer craft fairs and preparing the inventory necessary for those events.

I have dreams of all sorts of blog entries in my head that have yet to make it to the screen - but hang in there - I have the photos and notes and they will make it to your screen.  This week is promising to hold gardening time, family time, great food and sunshine.  What's not to like about that!

I hope to spend some time this week, slowing down a bit and focusing on my goals for April.  I have one nagging in the back of my mind that I'm trying to avoid because I want to be outside playing and gardening or baking, or taking "me-time" after GBaby goes to bed, or doing just about anything else besides that thing that needs to be done.  I think I'm going to have to give myself a kick in the pants and get into gear and take on one area of my life (maybe 2) that are such a challenge.  Stay tuned for that too :)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sunday Sunshine

sunflowerPracticing contentment by remembering the graces of the week and practicing gratitude by giving.

I am thankful for this moment.  The house is quiet, GBaby is napping.  I have a moment to collect my thoughts and write, accompanied by a favorite CD I haven't listened to in some time and Cadbury Mini Eggs.

In our house the weeks leading up to the major Christian holidays, are a frenzy of activity as HandyMan works longer hours and the calendar fills with more engagements.  This Easter season is no exception.  I was particularly thankful to have a family night out on Friday night to do some shopping.  Dinner out was partially complements of a free meal coupon which is always a bonus.

I am thankful that HandyMan is understanding when I hit a day of zero-motivation and seemingly nothing gets done.  I'm thankful that I've learned to give myself the grace to have these days every so often.

I'm thankful for family that will pop in for a visit to dote on GBaby and friends who do the same.

I'm thankful for GBaby's grins, baby steps, fearlessness and excitement for bath time.  She fills my life.

I am thankful for my health and the health of my family.  I am thankful that my crocuses are blooming and the hope of warmer temperatures by the end of the week.

I have continued filling bags and am on track for our 40 bags by next Sunday.  It is great to be able to give.  We also received this week: more fresh eggs and super yummy chocolate cake :).

Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light.” (James 1:16) May the light of the Father brighten your week!
Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light.” (James 1:16) May the light of the Father brighten your week!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Home Farming Movement

2010gardenI have to admit, I generally don't support Kraft Foods with many of my grocery dollars since their product lines are processed foods and contain many additives that I try to avoid.  However, they recently launched the Home Farming Movement with sponsorship by Triscuits and partnership with Urban Farming.  This I can support.  It is a movement to support those who want to grow their own vegetables this summer. I love it when big companies take on projects that bring people a step closer to living naturally off the land where they live!

The website is full of helpful information and also contains a message board area to post your questions.  They have information for container gardens, raised beds and plot gardens as well as information customizable by region if you enter your zip code.

In my opinion, it's worth checking out for some fresh ideas or tips to get you started if this is your first year.

Here is the press release and here is the website.  Have fun!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Destination: Warm Fresh Bread!

breadjourney While on any journey, one looks forward to the destination, and in some cases, many destinations.  As I wrap up this portion of the bread journey - we will arrive at loaves of warm, fresh, bread.  I plan on continuing on the my bread journey and sharing as I go.  HandyMan has requested Pumpernickel bread for his birthday and I'm curious to try a gluten-free sandwich bread recipe.

Without further ado -one of my favorite bread recipes.  You can substitute flours in whatever combination you wish to experiment with keeping in mind the texture you want from the finished bread and the gluten contents of the flours you are using.  For this batch I used almost equal parts of bread flour, white whole wheat and all purpose flour.

Basic Bread

2-1/4 teaspoons of Dry Active Yeast (1 packet)

3 tablespoons Sugar

2 cups Warm Water

1 teaspoon Salt

4-5 cups of All Purpose Flour


Place the yeast, sugar and warm water in your mixing bowl.


Let sit about five minutes, or until foamy.


Add 1/2 of the flour and salt and mix. (*If you are using multiple types of flour, it can save time to combine the flours in a separate bowl and add the flour mixture to the bread dough)


Continue to work in remaining flour until dough pulls away from the bowl.  Dough will be soft and slightly sticky.


Spray a large bowl with cooking spray or cover lightly with oil.  With floured hands, removed dough from the mixing bowl and place dough in the clean bowl.  Turn it over so that the ball of dough is lightly coated with oil/cooking spray.


Cover and allow to rise for 1-2 hours or until at least doubled in size.


Here is where this recipe differs from many others.  From this point on, you want to handle the dough as little as possible.  You can either make one large loaf, or two small loaves.  Since we are a small family, I usually opt for the small loaves-you may choose your own adventure here! :)

Take a sharp or serrated knife and separate the dough (skip this step if making one loaf).


I made one free form loaf one sandwich style loaf from the two pieces of dough.  To form the free form loaf, remove one of the pieces of dough gently with floured hands.  Gently pull the sides down towards the bottom of the loaf until a smooth ball is formed.  Place dough on a floured silicone sheet or parchment paper and allow to rest for 20 minutes.


While the free-form loaf is resting, preheat your oven to 425 and place your baking stone in the middle of the oven and a metal baking pan or broiler pan underneath it.  Once dough has begun to rise a bit, score the top of the loaf with your sharp or serrated knife.  When the oven is hot, place the loaf (parchment/silicone sheet and all) onto the baking stone and pour about 1 cup of water into the baking pan and carefully and quickly close the oven door.  Bake for 35-45 minutes or until nicely browned.  Loaf should sound hollow if tapped.  The longer you bake, the crisper the crust.

In the same fashion, take the second piece of dough and pull it into an oval and place it in a greased loaf pan.  I only have glass pans, so I knew I wouldn't have a very "sturdy" crust on that loaf.


Allow the loaf to rise 30-40 minutes and score the top if you choose.  Then bake at 375 for 40-60 minutes -or until browned and it sounds hollow to the tap.


After warming the house on this rainy afternoon and making it smell WAY too good, here were the finished loaves:



And by the time they had cooled enough to cut into, everyone was ready to eat!


(It was still a little to warm so the middle gummed together a bit when we cut into it!)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Bread Journey: Choosing Bake-Ware for Home Made Bread

breadjourneyI think there are as many pieces of bake ware for bread as there are days in the year.  Many specialty breads have specialty baking pans and pans come in a myriad of metal types, stone ware and silicone.  For the purposes of this journey, we’re talking about a basic free-form loaf that is shaped and then baked or a loaf of bread made in a traditional loaf pan.

bjbakingstoneIf you are making a free-form loaf, I strongly recommend a baking stone.  If you don’t have a baking stone, a cookie sheet or an air-bake sheet is second best.  The baking stone, when preheated with your oven, provides a very evenly heated baking surface, making for a crisp bottom crust.  I form my loaf on a piece of parchment paper, allow to rise or rest as the recipe calls for and then place the loaf – parchment and all – onto the stone.  This method has achieved great results.  I've also used a silicone baking sheet instead of the parchment and had good results.

bjloafpanGlass and metal loaf pans are most common for baking traditional bread loaves.   In my experience the metal ones allow for slightly quicker baking time as the glass takes longer to heat up.  If using a dark metal pan or non-stick pan, you may want to reduce your heat slightly.  Every oven bakes differently so you will need to experiment.  An oven thermometer (which I have yet to invest in but should) can take some of the guess-work out of the baking process by giving you your actual baking temperature.

Generally, you will not get a crisp a crust on a loaf pan bread as you do on a free form bread.  You can cheat, however, and start the bread baking in the pan for 1/2 to 3/4 of the called for cooking time.  Then, quickly remove the bread from the pan and place it on your baking stone (which has been in the oven) and allow the loaf to finish cooking.  This will crisp the crust up nicely.

Once you have your dough and bake ware established, it’s time to bake bread!  Tomorrow, we bring it all together with one of my favorite easy bread recipes.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sunday Sunshine


Practicing contentment by remembering the graces of the week and practicing gratitude by giving.

It seems that as the weather gets nicer, the weeks fly by even faster! Today I am particularly thankful for Sunday Afternoon Naps (although it seemed wrong since it is so nice out) but we will have family work time in the backyard when GBaby wakes up.  It has been great to be able to hang the laundry outside this week and get my peas planted.  Amidst these chores, I have introduced GBaby to dirt, and grass and leaves as she has been toddling around in the back yard.

parkdateThursday was a day for errands in town and GBaby and I had a burger & fries date at the park while HandyMan was at a lunch meeting.  It was so fun to watch her thrilled with the swings but so enamored with her burger that she couldn't give up one for the other.  And it was a beautiful day to boot!

We continue to sift through our home and experience the joy of giving as our Lenten disciplines continue.  I also received a gift of fresh eggs from a neighbor who has chickens this week which was a great blessing!

GBaby is waking up and a sunny afternoon is calling us outside -

Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light.” (James 1:16) May the light of the Father brighten your week!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Freezer Friday-Clearing the Freezer Week 3

freezerfridaysmWe interrupt the Bread Journey for this week's Freezer Friday.  This week we've been in and out so much that mealtimes have been very sporadic.  Since we're eating meals from the freezer, no worries!  We've just been heating stuff up when it's time to eat and all is well.  Here are a few things that have made it to our bellies this week:

The Bread Journey will continue next week with a look at different types of bake ware and bringing the whole process together to bake a great loaf of bread.  Finally I have put together a quick and easy troubleshooting guide to address many of the common problems when baking yeast breads.  I had intended to get more of this up this week but life, GBaby's teething and nice weather rearranged my schedule a bit.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Tricks & Tips for Mixing Great Bread Dough

Whether you like to dig and mix your bread dough with your hands, feeling the softness as you knead and release some stress, or let your mixer or bread machine do the work, mixing up bread dough requires a bit of TLC, close observation and sometimes a bit of intuition.  Here are a few tips that I've stumbled upon with my baking - usually the hard way - that can help you mix up a great batch of bread.

bjdough2 Observe the recipe with flexibility. Many baking recipes, like cakes and cookies, can be followed to a “T” with a great result every time.  Yeast breads are a little different.  I can use the same recipe as my neighbor and have completely different results.  Take your recipe one step at a time and watch for the cues from your dough – especially when adding flour.

Proof the Yeast Most bread recipes begin with something like this: “Add [some amount] of yeast to [some amount] of warm water”.  Some recipes are specific about what they mean by “warm water”.  In general, as long as the water coming out of your tap is warm and not steaming, you should be fine.  The purpose of this step is to activate the yeast.  In about five minutes you should see the little specs of yeast begin to soften, puff up and dissolve into the water. It is very important to make sure this happens – if the yeast isn’t growing in your water, then it’s not going to grow in your bread dough and your dough won’t rise.  Sometimes, if your water is too warm, it will kill the yeast instead of waking it up.  Other times, yeast may be outdated and not hold a leavening power anymore.

Incrementally Add Flour-Once you’ve gotten your yeast proofed and other liquids into the mix, it is time to add the flour.  No matter what your recipe says, I do not recommend adding all your flour at once.  Start with half the flour the recipe calls for.  Mix that much in to get your dough to a batter-y type consistency.  Then add remaining flour a bit at a time.  Remember, the denser your dough is, the denser your bread will be.  If you have not reach the full amount of flour that the recipe calls for, but your dough has pulled away from the bowl in a nice ball – you may very well have enough flour in your dough. On the flip side, you may have added all the flour that the recipe calls for and your pile of dough is still a sticky mess.  Add additional flour 1-2 tablespoons at a time until you have a smooth ball of dough to work with.

Once you have mixed up your dough, place it to rise according to the recipe and walk away.  Let it do it’s rising business and come back later to finish your process.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

What's in Your Flour?

breadjourneyEvery warm piece of fresh bread to grace the dinner table holds three foundational ingredients: Flour, Water and leavening.  The flour makes up almost 75% of the final loaf of bread.  So let’s look at the flour options and decide what will be best for your bread.

Anatomy of Wheat Flour

While there are many types of flours on the market-oat, rye, rice, semolina and more – we are going to focus on the flours in the wheat family.  Wheat flours come from the grains of the wheat plants.  Just as there are many varieties of say, tomatoes, there are also a number of varieties of wheat Kernel_of_Wheat_350_DPIplants.  Each wheat kernel is made up of the bran, germ and the endosperm.  Differing quantities of these parts of the kernel are found in different types of wheat flour and all three must be present for a flour to fall with the “whole grain” category.

Gluten protein found in wheat flour gives bread dough its elasticity by forming the strands necessary for the dough to capture the carbon dioxide released by the leavening agent.  The gluten content of flours is also referred to as the flour protein content and is measured as a percentage.

Below are a few of the more common wheat flours available in most of our American grocers.

Bleached All Purpose Flour – In general, I avoid the bleached all purpose flours.  Their bright whiteness comes at the cost of processing with harsh chemicals and removal of many of the nutrient carrying germ and bran.  This also leaves the flour with a very low gluten content making it a poor choice for bread.


Unbleached All Purpose Flour – Most unbleached all purpose flours will weigh in at about 10% protein content making them a great choice for bread making.  This happy medium of flour also mixes well with other lower protein flours to lighten the loaf.  It too is made from just the endosperm of the wheat kernel.


Bread Flour – Bread flour is an unbleached all purpose flour that carries a higher protein content (12% protein) therefore making for a chewier bread. It can be combined with denser flours to add a bit more texture to the bread.  It also serves well to help free-form loaves hold their shape through rising and baking.


All Purpose Whole Wheat Flour – An all purpose whole wheat flour is going to contain the whole grain of the wheat providing excellent nutritional value as well as a moderately low protein content.  When combined with Unbleached All Purpose Flour, great loaves result.

Whole Wheat Bread Flour - Whole wheat bread flour has a higher protein content than the all purpose whole wheat flour and can usually produce a pretty good loaf on its own.  It can be combined with an all purpose white flour to lighten it up a bit if a 100% whole wheat is too dense for your liking.


White Whole Wheat – White Whole Wheat flour is relatively new on the scene and I’ve only found it in my stores through one manufacturer.  It has the nutrients of a full whole wheat but is made from a white wheat kernel and the flour is lighter than a traditional whole wheat.  It mixes nicely with an all purpose flour to make a beautiful light loaf.

Disclaimer: I am not an expert.  This is merely information distilled from my readings of Bread, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking and RecipeTips.com.  Flour photos from RecipeTips.com.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Bread's Place on Our Dinner Table

breadjourneyOften, warm bread often sits along side a favorite meal on the American dinner table.  Sometimes it is the centerpiece of deli sandwich or hearty sidekick to a soup dinner.  A fresh loaf has even been known to be the main course alongside fruit and cheese on a summer evening on our back porch.  There are many ways to include bread in your menu, and while the grocery store bakeries often do a great job with their warm loaves, nothing, in my opinion, beats a warm loaf from my own oven.

I began baking bread in earnest about six years ago when I took a step back and wanted to bring our kitchen table back to the basic ingredients and away from processed foods.  Fortunately, we do not have any food intolerances in our family, so bread is still a regular part of our diet.

breadjourney1I had dabbled in bread making prior to that and enjoyed the process of working with the dough.  I enjoyed the process so much that I turned down the offer of a bread maker from a friend.  More recently, I have brought my MamaMixer into my bread making process, but I still enjoy getting my hands in the dough.

I have experimented with different ingredients and types of breads.  Plain loaves, Focaccia, baguette, pizza crusts, pretzels, bagels, cinnamon rolls, Parker House rolls and Brioche just begin to list the many types of bread that have marched out of my oven.  Most attempts turned out wonderfully, but I was still looking to perfect a good, crusty loaf of bread.

I’ve found that it is a perfect combination of ingredients and baking process that make this possible: part art, part science.  With a little information added to your recipe and a bit of experimenting, the perfect loaf of bead is just waiting for you.

This week we will look at the different types of wheat flours used for bread making, tricks to getting the dough “just right” and choosing the perfect bake ware: each a step in the Bread Journey to lead us to a great loaf of bread.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sunday Sunshine

sunflower Practicing contentment by remembering the graces of the week.

It is still Sunday for a few more hours, so on an evening when I'd find it easier to stack up complaints of the last 24-hours, I'm going to focus on the good things from this past week.  In no particular order:

  • Paying off HandyMan's student loans!

  • A full night of sleep on Thursday night

  • Warm bread & Blueberry Pound Cake

  • A happy during the daytime teething baby

  • Visiting with friends over a meal

  • Girl's night in with a friend

  • Daffodils coming up

  • Buds on the magnolia tree are getting fuzzy :)

  • Dreams of summer and warm weather and gardens

  • Productive work time

  • A walk in the sunshine

“Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light.” (James 1:16) May the light of the Father brighten your week!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Cheap/Free Seeds & Garden Planners!

2010gardenWhat better way to get you in the gardening spirit than warm sunshine and  free stuff!

Erin over at $5 Dinners has posted some great gardening freebies that are too good not to share!  She has posted some great garden planner sheets for square foot gardens and container gardens as well as a planner for when to plant and how much you harvest!  This gal is organized!

Interested in some free seeds to kick off your gardening season?  Visit TheDinnerGarden for your free seed packets!

For the price of a postage stamp, you can get three varieties of basil for your garden from Tomato Heirlooms.  You just have to sign up for their newsletter.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Freezer Friday

freezerfridaysmWe have had another great week of meals, although I have to admit that I miss cooking - although I've still been baking which gives me a bit of a culinary outlet.  We were out of the house for two dinners this week.  Here's what has graced our table from the freeze.  Hope it gives  you some great ideas for menu planning.

Shepherd's Pie with Cheddar Garlic Smashers

Tacos - I pulled tortillas, taco meat and black beans from the freezer and paired them with salsa, lettuce and grated cheese for a dinner of tacos.  I had the leftovers later this week as a taco salad.  Good stuff!

Meatloaf & Garlic Cheddar Mashed Potatoes - a hearty meat and potatoes dinner right from the freezer.  We added some broccoli, also from the freezer, and had a fairly rounded dinner.

Lasagna - Saturday we will be hosting some friends for lunch so I pulled a couple of the frozen Lasagnas out and will add a veggie, fresh bread and cake.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Make Your Own Powdered Laundry Detergent

greencleanAs I strive to eliminate unnecessary chemicals from our household, I began to explore options for making our own laundry detergent.  Many of the "recipes" I found were for liquid detergents which required melting soaps and mixing and shaking and more work than I wanted to put into it.

Then I found the recipe for Jabs Homemade Laundry Detergent.  He has a great tutorial on how to make this powdered laundry detergent with three ingredients:  1 bar of soap, 1/2 cup Borax, 1/2 cup Washing Soda.  Here area  few of my notes on the process:

Grating the Bar of  Soap I have used the Fels-Naptha soap and found that it is very difficult to get it to break down into a small grain.  I tired letting the bar dry out as a commenter suggested and that didn't work for me. So I've resorted to grating the bar of soap, adding the Borax and Washing Soda and then running it through the food processor.  This works great

Does it Really Work? Yes.  I have used it on the cloth diapers and they come out clean as ever.  (*Note, this soap may build up on all-in-one type diapers and non-cotton diapers reducing their absorbency) I still add oxy-whitener to the diapers and whites as I always have and have noticed no difference between this and the expensive green detergent I was using before.  The real joy of it -it really only takes 1 1/2 tablespoons per load.  Concentrated detergent, less space used in my laundry room.

Less money, less waste, clean clothes.  What's not to like?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Bread Journey

breadjourneyI love to make bread.  To take a handful of ingredients, give them a good spa treatment - massage, rest, and sauna - and voila: warm bread.  Over the last ten years I have thoroughly enjoyed the therapy of making bread: pouring my energy into the dough and watching that work come to a rather immediate fruition.  I find the whole process is extremely gratifying.

Recently, I've begun to expand my knowledge base in the area of bread making.  From the types of flours and their properties and importance to bake-ware and baking methods.  So, beginning next Monday, I will be guiding the Bread Journey, exploring all of these things and more.

Make sure to check back for tips and tricks to making a great loaf of bread. Subscribe to our RSS Feed by clicking here or become a fan of ThrivingMama on Facebook to see our updates in your feed.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Sunshine Made Me Do it

2010gardenLast Saturday was a beautiful day.  The sun was shining, a bird was waking up from winter and singing a song.  The winter chill gave way to a bit of spring-like warmth.  I opened my mailbox and the colorful images of my seed catalog met my eyes.  Mind you, this is the third one I've gotten.  The other two were skimmed and sent to the recycle bin.  But this one was opened, perused, dreamed over - the sunshine made me do it!  Then the catalog was ripped up- first as I pulled the pages out that held the vegetables that I dream of growing in the garden this summer, then as GBaby explored the remaining pages filled with bright colors.

We use the Square Foot Gardeningmethod in our 9 raised beds and have gotten quite a haul of produce the last two years.  I am hoping and praying that we will do as well this year. Last year we were plagued by some forest creature that devoured my green beans.  I am scheming ways to keep the varmint out of my garden this year.  As always with a relatively small space, I'm always scheming how to get the most of our favorite veggies in the space we have.

So, a good 6 weeks before I can even think of putting a seed in the ground, my garden is all planned out - well almost.  Stay tuned - as our garden season approaches I will be putting up regular updates.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Homemade Granola

granola3I have fond childhood memories of making  fresh granola and homemade yogurt with my mom.  Since apples rarely fall far from the tree, this is a practice that is now a regular activity in my kitchen.  I make a batch of granola that will usually last us the month and make fresh yogurt a quart at a time as the Yogurt Jar empties.

Here is my Base Granola Recipe, with lots of room for personalization.  As you can see, in the pictured batch I used dehydrated blueberries from last summer and slivered almonds - so good!  Enjoy!

Base Granola Recipe

6 cups Rolled Oats

1/2 cup Wheat Germ

1/2 cup Flax Seeds

1/2 cup Brown Sugar

3/4 cup Vegetable Oil or Melted Butter

3/4 cup Honey

Up to 4 cups of Add-Ins in any combination (your imagination is the limit here - anything you like will work!):

Before Baking: pecans, walnuts, slivered almonds, sunflower seeds, coconut

After Baking: dried fruits (dried cranberries, dried blueberries, raisins)


1. Thoroughly combine all ingredients (except "After Baking" Add Ins).

2.  Spread mixture out on a jelly-roll pan (cookie sheet with sides), or a broiler pan.  It shouldn't be more than about 1/2 deep and you may need to bake it in multiple batches.

3. Bake at 325 degrees for 15 minutes and remove from oven and carefully stir the mix.  Bake for an additional 10 minutes at a time and then 5 minutes at a time as it gets closer to your preference of toastedness.  Make sure to stir thoroughly in between baking times and monitor closely as it begins to toast as it can go from golden brown to burnt in a matter of minutes.

Let cool and enjoy!  Store in an airtight container for best freshness.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Sunday Sunshine

sunflower Practicing contentment by remembering the graces of the week.

Returning from travels often brings a flurry of chaos as one tries to regain their footing on the path to a normal routine.  This week was no different.  However, among the chaos, there were moments of joy and brightness that make me remember how blessed I am.

Spring is slowly creeping up the East coast. Snow is melting as the sunshine warms the air.  I even saw the first signs of fuzzy buds on my magnolia tree this morning!  It brings the anticipation of the full bloom that will come within a few weeks.

gwalkGBaby continues to work on her walking, although the terrain here at home is a bit rougher and the air a bit cooler than last weeks walks, she still loves to be outside.

I am thankful for library networks and bread books. For audio books and websites.  I am thankful for generous grants and bills paid. I am thankful for study times with friends.  I am thankful for full nights of sleep.

May you find a moment to think of the things that have brightened your week.

"Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light." (James 1:16) May the light of the Father brighten your week!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Freezer Friday: Clearing out the Freezer-Week 1

freezerfridaysm As I mentioned earlier this week, Freezer Fridays  will have a different look this month as I post up what we are eating out of the freezer and link back to the recipes.  Here are some of the meals that have graced our counter this week.

Chili Potato Bake- I had a bunch of red potatoes that needed to be used up so I chopped up about 6 cups of potatoes, added 3 cups of Three Bean Chili and baked it at 375 for about an hour.  I added about 2 cups of shredded cheddar to melt on the top for the last ten minutes.  We served it up with sour cream and it was a hearty lunch on a wintry day!

Spinach/Chicken/Rice Bake- I took one of the bags of mixed chicken from my Chicken Cooking Day and added frozen spinach and 8 cups of cooked rice.   I tossed everything together with a cheese sauce and had a great casserole.  It made 4- 8x8 pans so three of them went to the freezer.  It seems I can't help myself from batch cooking!

Spanish Rice Bake - I pulled Spanish Rice Bake from the freezer, paired it with a side of Pinto Beans (also from the freezer).  I added a tossed salad and we enjoyed a fairly balanced dinner.

Soup, Bread & Salad- Tomorrow night we'll have Butternut Squash Cream Soup, leftover salad and fresh bread.

This week completely got away from me - here's hoping for more blogging time for next week :).

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Menu Planning Tools

Just as I sat down to put some recipes together to post, GBaby woke up from her nap. So that will have to wait. For now though, I want to share a great link for menu planning tools. Money Saving Mom has put up a set of eleven different menu planning templates.  They look great and I'm excited to give them a try!

Click Here to check them out.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

February Wrap Up & March Madness!

As I wrapped up February with a family vacation I took a little bit of time to go back to my 2010 Goals and found that I'm actually doing quite well!  I did well with my February Kitchen Goals as well. Watch for an upcoming blog on how to incorporate whole grain flours in your every day baking!

Now by some warp-speed of my calendar, it is March already!  How did that happen?  This month things are going to be very goal focused for me.  Here's what will be going on in my house this month:

40bagsDe-cluttering through my the Forty Bags in Forty Days project.  We started this on February 17th and so far 12 bags have left our house.   Since we were gone last week we have a little bit of catching up to do this week.

kitchen challengeIn the kitchen this month, we are working on a freezer challenge to try to empty down our chest freezer before spring and summer bring a new wave of fresh produce.  Most of our main dishes will be meals that are already prepared and in the freezer, or from ingredients that are in the freezer.   My Freezer Friday posts this month will not be what went into the freezer, but link-backs to recipes that have gone into the freezer over the previous months.

I will also be working diligently on baby food to keep GBaby in a healthy balanced diet that is full of iron (as we were informed of a deficiency last month).  I also plan to do a bit of baking and experimenting with a new technique of bread-making.

From the time that I'm not spending cooking this month, I will be sewing - stay tuned for updates from the sewing table too!

There is a lot in store for March - make sure to subscribe to ThrivingMama for your favorite blog reader or follow us on FaceBook so you don't miss out!