Bread: Pain de Mie

Seriously one of the easiest recipes to make–BUT–it has some quirky ingredients. I wouldn’t be making it if my mom (Bless her heart) hadn’t ordered me the potato flour and surprised me with it. <—Apparently I am highly amused at such routine and mundane items! ;)

I’m tellin’ you folks… I was destined to become a 1950s housewife. Minus all the cigarette smoke.

Pain de Mie (From King Arthur Flour)

You can find the full recipe here.

Ingredients:

2/3 cup (5 3/8 ounces) milk
1 cup (8 ounces) water
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) butter
2 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons (1 1/4 ounces) sugar
1/4 cup (1 1/8 ounces) nonfat dry milk
3 tablespoons (1 1/4 ounces) potato flour
4 3/4 cups (20 ounces) All-Purpose Flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine the milk, water, butter, salt and sugar. Add the dried milk, flours and yeast, stirring till the dough starts to leave the sides of the bowl. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased surface, oil your hands, and knead it for 5 to 8 minutes, or until it’s smooth and supple.

Dried milk

Potato flour

Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl or dough-rising bucket, cover the bowl or bucket, and allow the dough to rise till puffy though not necessarily doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours, depending on the warmth of your kitchen.

Dessert: Triple-Layer Bars

Here’s a little secret for you: I *suck* at making bar cookies. It never fails that each time I get a good recipe going? I over-cook the edges and make the middle soggy. Maybe I’m just not using the right pan? (Probably has a good bit to do with it. I’ve never had good luck with stones or glassware. METAL is where it’s at!).

But I didn’t use metal with this, and it still came out good. In fact, as I sit here and type this? I’m enjoying the bits that got stuck to the edge of the pan (make sure you grease your pan gooooood).

These are worth making. To any gal who needs a little bit of sugar because she’s drowning in PMS hormones, these are for you!

Triple-Layer Bars from Taste of Home

Based on this recipe right here.

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup baking cocoa
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup cold butter
  • 2 eggs

TOPPING:

  • 1 package (7 ounces) flaked coconut
  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

Step 1:

In a large bowl, combine the first six ingredients. Cut in butter until crumbly. Beat in eggs. Spread in a greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking pan.

Step 2:

Bake at 350° for 8 minutes. Sprinkle coconut over crust; drizzle with milk. Bake 20-25 minutes longer or until lightly browned.

Step 3:

Meanwhile in a microwave, melt chocolate chips and peanut butter; stir until smooth. Spread over brownies. Cool on wire rack. Cut into bars. (I had to stick my bars in the fridge for them to set. But after, they stayed out on the counter for a long while and held up great!). Yield: 2-3 dozen.

(That may, or may not, be my fingerprint on the top of that chocolate…first piece is always the hardest to get out of the pan!)

Dinner: Blackened Cajun Catfish and Moque Choux

Sounds fancy, doesn’t it?

I bought a bag of partial catfish filets/nuggets from Aldi a few weeks ago and decided it was taking up too much room in my freezer. A quick Pinterest search showed me this: Blackened Catfish from Hunter|Angler|Gardner|Cook. 

I had all the ingredients, so I figured, “Why not?” (What REALLY made me want to cook it, however, was the recipe for a cajun spice. I cannot tell you HOW MANY blogs out there just said, “1/2 cup cajun blend seasoning.” To me, this is a cop-out. How do you know what is really in that spice if you haven’t made it yourself?

Honest opinion: It was merely ‘ok’ the night of. DH and I had leftovers for lunch and I made mini tacos out of the choux and catfish. THAT was 9 times better. Seriously better the next day! (I blame the delicious, delicious butter meshing with the spices. It was more of a sauce than a rub!). 

Blackened Cajun Catfish with moque choux

Ingredients:

CATFISH

  • 4 catfish fillets, or equivalent in nuggets, filet pieces, or other fish
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1/2 cup Cajun seasoning (I actually had to double this. Maybe I used a tad more fish than the recipe called for?)
If you don’t have Cajun seasoning, mix together:
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • 2 tablespoon sweet paprika
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano

MAQUE CHOUX

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 small onion, chopped, about 1 cup
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 4 cups corn kernels (I only had 2 cups and it still tasted delish!)
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • Salt and Tabasco sauce to taste

Step 1:

Make the maque choux first. Heat the butter in a saute pan over medium-high heat, then add the onion. Saute the onion for 1 minute, then add the green pepper. Sprinkle salt over everything and saute for about 4-5 minutes, stirring often. Add the corn kernels and cook for another 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and cover while you make the fish. DO NOT ADD THE TOMATOES HERE. VITAL VITAL VITAL!

Step 2:

Get a cast-iron frying pan hot over your hottest burner (I used a large stainless steel pan. This worked great!). Turn the stove fan on high, and open the windows nearby, as this creates smoke (Hubby walked in the house at this point, and let’s say I didn’t do this. He wondered what I burnt for dinner!). Let the frying pan get hot for a good 3-4 minutes. While the pan is heating up, melt the butter and pour the Cajun spices into a shallow dish (Make sure you have plenty of the seasonings…as my house is now currently out of black pepper and chili powder!). 

Step 3:

Dip the fish fillets in the melted butter, then dredge in the Cajun spices. Shake off any excess (There wasn’t any excess for me… again… I had to make TWICE the amount of spice!). Do this for as many fillets as will fit in the frying pan. Lay the fish down on the hot pan. It will sizzle up fiercely and smoke. This is normal. <– you bet it is! Let the fish cook this way for 2-3 minutes. Using a wide metal spatula (I only had plastic… I make it a great effort to not carry any metal in the house, lest someone decide to maim one of my favorite pans *ahemnotthatthishaseverhappened*), carefully flip the catfish fillets and cook on the other side for another 2-3 minutes.

Step 4:

When you flip the catfish, add the tomatoes and the Tabasco to the maque choux (the tomatoes should be maybe 1/2-way cooked by the time they get from the pan, to the plate, to your mouth. It’s the beauty of the dish!). Serve with white rice (Or in my case, oven-roasted sea salt potatoes!), the maque choux and a good beer a generous serving of banana rum.

 

Day 1: Maintaining Positivity and Mindfulness

My day one started on Sunday, right after I was called in to work at my part-time retail gig. Instead of complaining about needing to work (they hardly ever ask), I immediately said yes. I figured this was an agreeable way to start my challenge!

I went in to work with a smile on my face, and even took the train so DH, who normally drives me, could remain sprawled out on the couch nursing a cold.

I got to work early, and decided to stop at CVS to get DH cold meds and to pick up a few iced teas. I figured DH and I could enjoy some, but perhaps my coworkers would like some as well! I could be the exceptionally cool coworker who brings in “treats”!

While the idea was good, the plan was poorly executed. I ended up sticking them on a back shelf, covered by my coat because there were simply too many people working that day (including me, there would have been 6). I tried not to let this get me down, but felt like one goal--being nicer to others–backfired, and forced me to slack in another goal–being more mindful of my financial state. 

The day did get better after work, when DH decided to go with me to visit my family. My dad worked on my car (and even vacuumed out the interior!). I’m not good at expressing enough gratitude with him, so I made sure to thank him in person, and sent a follow-up text the next day to make sure he knew how much I was still enjoying the absurd cleanliness ;)

I did struggle, again, with food and my grandparents. I feel like this will always be a struggle, and it’s one I need to realize and accept before going in. My grandfather shows love through food–he kept asking if we wanted more, why I wasn’t eating some of everything that he laid out, why I wasn’t eating any meat, etc. etc. Then he laid a huge guilt trip on me with, “We’re just going to throw away whatever you don’t eat. So you should eat it so we don’t waste it!”

That’s a lot to throw on someone’s shoulders.

I did take a little extra. Politely said “No, thank you,” to more. And then wrapped up the leftovers in a container for DH and I to eat for lunch this week. Problem solved.

Since a chicken was involved in dinner, I asked if I could take home the carcass to make chicken soup. Apparently, this sided well with my grandfather, who smiled big, pronounced, “You’re making homemade soup?! Sure! Take it!” And even helped pack it up.

My grandmother, standing nearby as we’re eating and wrapping up items, came over and wanted to share a grocery store find that SHE loved, too. She pushed a boxed banana bread mix in my face and said, “Have you ever tried these?”

  • “Oh, no. I tend to just make my own banana bread.”
  • But this is so easy! It just takes a mashed up banana and an egg!
  • “Well, but how hard is it to measure out the dry ingredients? It’s just flour and baking soda…”
  • But this doesn’t have any added oil! It’s just SO EASY!
  • “It looks like there’s dried soybean oil in the ingredients…and I can’t pronounce some of these.”
  • Oh… well… your grandfather really likes these. And they take no time at all…but if you don’t really want to try it….

I realized at this point that I was acting as if I was superior to her method. She could have just as easily gone out and bought a pre-made banana bread. Instead, she was opting to make her own, the easiest way she knew how (plus? Her flour is probably a few years old. And no telling if the baking soda even works. This was just easier for that 70+ year old woman). I should have been celebrating the fact that she was baking her own breads!

I mentally slapped myself in the face, turned to her and accepted the box. It was different than what I would normally do, but who’s to say my way is the best way? I thanked her and told her I would make it as soon as I had an overly ripe banana, then I’d report back. She was VERY pleased.

If that’s all it took to make someone happy, why was I always stressed out? Why can’t I just let things go? I’m trying to be more aware of how I sound to people, and also trying to embrace family time. Couldn’t I get over myself long enough to enjoy the time together?

I did not start my day with the gym (as I intended). I did not eat as healthily as I could. But this wasn’t about what I didn’t do that day. I DID manage to change my way of thinking. I did manage to bite my tongue. I did accept reason and other people’s preferences.

The big takeaway was on the car ride home. I mentioned to DH that I had a problem with control (to which he rolled his eyes. Apparently this was obvious to everyone except me!). I explained how I felt when, earlier that evening, I realized we hadn’t gone grocery shopping. While we didn’t need much, I’d be pretty sad without fruit for work the next day. My grandfather swooped in, like he usually does during these conversations, and offered up fruit from his house. I preferred to just go across the street to the store and buy fruit.

DH said he’d pass, and that he’d just pick things up on his way home from work to save 20 cents/lb. My grandfather waxed poetic about a local Mexican grocery store that had better prices. Biting my tongue against the criticism of being too tired at the end of the day to shop, and the local store not having good quality produce, I just went into the kitchen and packed up some fruit to get me through the next day instead.

I recounted this to DH, about how in my head, I was fighting with wanting to go and get my own food that I could eat as much of as I wanted, but also that I thought it easier to get it done since we had time NOW. I felt angry that I had to go pack up fruit (they didn’t have a lot. And I didn’t want to wipe them out of food right after they went shopping for the week).

DH totally didn’t see it as an argument, or a fight. He shrugged and said it was just a comment for what he preferred. If I had really wanted to go get fruit across the street, he would have done it. It “wasn’t a big deal.”

But to me, that WAS a big deal. I make all little things “a big deal.”

And I’m trying not to! Light bulb moment. I figured everyone saw things the same way as me, and that they were arguing with my way of doing things. I was defensive and, in turn, stressed out.

Something I’ll be working on for sure!

The Un-Resolution Challenge

I learned through a number of blogs this week (as I tend to browse the blogosphere in my spare time), that as of this Sunday, September 23, 2012, there will be exactly 100 days left in the year.

Something about that number–100–speaks to me. It’s exactly the value of $1.00 USD. It’s a century. It’s the number kids learn to count down from. It’s the boiling point of water in Celcius. It’s the academic grading scale in the US. It’s even. Round. And perfect.

And I’m committing to make use of it.

You see, I’ve been out of sorts lately. I feel like I’m in some sort of life-living rut. My days and weekends are fairly similar in that I wake up, go to work, come home, eat dinner, and go to bed. Rinse. Repeat x5. The weekends offer some variability, but I’m often too worried and stressed about picking up the apartment, doing laundry, baking, running errands, and then trying to find SOME time for fun, that I get incredibly worn out. And lazy.

I hate to resolve myself to, “But this is all life is.” THAT kind of mentality is what got me in this rut in the first place. And my realization is that life can be as much as you make it. And I’m trying to make it more.

DH and I want to make some changes in the next few years. We have a tad less than 4 years until the big 3-0, and if our current routine keeps on until then? We won’t have had much planning or prep for our “big wishes” to be set in place. And we figure if we make a few changes now, we might have a snowball effect on our hands… and thus ready to make more changes later on.

Here’s a few things we agreed we want to have “teed up” for our big 3-0 (we conveniently celebrate our birthdays a mere 4 weeks apart):

  • Be debt-free.
  • Have built-out savings accounts for Emergency Savings; New Car; House.
  • Get a better feel for when/if we’d like to start a family.
  • Know where we’d like to relocate.
  • Be happier.

Obviously, that first one will take a good bit of patience and persistence: between DH and I, we’ve probably got $100k worth of student loan debt. But the sooner we pay it off, and commit to making additional payments, the more money we’ll be able to save in the long run. My interest rates are at a killer 8.6%.

Anyway, back to the proposed challenge at hand. 100 days to end 2012 with a bang and hopefully learn more about what the two of us are capable of. We know change needs to start with us, and we’ve both agreed that something needs to spur this change. I suggested to DH, late last night, that 100 days seems like the perfect amount of time for this challenge. A month would almost be too short–where’s the challenge if just as you’re getting into it, it ends? But anything longer than 3 months might seem impossible and too far away to achieve. 100 days is, again, Even. Round. And Perfect.

As of Sunday, September 23, 2012, we’ll look forward to concentrating on what means the most to us, and tackling projects that we’ve avoided until thus far in our lives.

To give you a feel of what I’m thinking, here’s a list of my own challenge hopes (while I’ll be chronicling this challenge, DH won’t. But he’ll be participating!):

  1. Make use of our gym membership. Knowing that going is better than not.
  2. Declutter the house. Material things shouldn’t rule our lives.
  3. Try new recipes. Don’t limit the palate just because we’re tired.
  4. Make more. Reduce pre-packaged buys as much as possible.
  5. Enjoy the weather/outdoors. We have sleds and skates to use!
  6. Embrace family. In 4 years, who knows where we might be living?
  7. Eat healthier. More greens, less processed foods.
  8. Embrace pescatarianism. I don’t much like meat. Why not embrace fish?
  9. Get back to sewing. I’ve got two quilts in mind already!
  10. Recommit to 135 lb. It was a far-off goal at one point; now it’s not!
  11. Be less critical. Think the best of someone straightaway.
  12. Learn to can. And then fill the pantry for when the pocketbook is lean.
  13. Be less lazy. If something can be done in less than 5 minutes, do it then.
  14. Spend more time on marriage. It takes work; so I want to work on it.
  15. Finish household projects. I’ve got a list brewin’.
  16. Create a budget and savings plan. Then stick to it.
  17. Teach someone who is willing to learn. And have fun about it.
  18. Visit with more friends. And work on making those friendships last.
  19. Be more patient, and try not to get upset. Especially for DH.
  20. Take time to have fun. And include making time for myself.

I’m not quite sure how chronicling this will go, but I do hope to have nicer pictures to accompany many posts, a detailed description of what I want to think about, how I went about doing things, and how I feel.

I’m hoping the Un-Resolution Challenge will help me to realize change can happen at any point in the year as long as I MAKE it happen.

Are you excited? Good. *claps hands* Session over! See you Sunday!

Dinner: Kadai Paneer

*In looking through all the photos from this, I just…have to shake my head! I apologize. My kitchen has atrocious lighting, and no amount of editing can make these photos look good. So, just imaging amazing looking food and we’ll be good ;)

It was 8:00 p.m. last night, and both DH and I realized we were hungry. Our hours were thrown off since we got home from a get-together on Saturday LATE (technically, it was Sunday by the time we got home, if that helps!).

I didn’t want to resort to eating crackers, tortillas and slices of lunchmeat. I also didn’t want to eat plain pasta anymore. I wanted something new, easy and flavorful.

I was actually going to make a rice bake that involved Cream of Chicken soup from Campbells (Since we had cooked rice and the can on hand). But when the husband suggested adding Paneer to it, I didn’t think I’d be able to just “wing” it. So I started googling around for recipes that might work with the three.

You’re probably not surprised to know there AREN’T any established recipes out there that combine rice, Paneer and Cream of Chicken soup ;)

So I nixed the soup. Googled again. Came up with some good ideas, and this delightful dish was made in my kitchen.

I would make it again in a heart beat!

Kadai Paneer

Serves 2-4

ingredients:

2 cups paneer, cubed (I used one package of Paneer)
Half a green bell pepper, cubed (I used a handful of mini orange ones)
1 large onion (I used two medium ones)
2 green chillies (I used one red, but didn’t chop it up. Served as flavor)
3-4 pods of garlic, crushed
1″ piece of ginger, crushed
1 tomato, pureed (I used a handful of small ones)
1 tbsp tomato paste (or another pureed tomato)
A generous pinch of kasuri methi / dried fenugreek leaves (Substituted greek oregano because I had no idea wtf this was!)
1 tsp red chilli powder
A pinch of turmeric powder (Didn’t have on hand. So left out)
1/2 tsp jeera / cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder / dhania powder / malli podi
2 tsp oil
Salt to taste
Chopped coriander leaves to garnish (I didn’t have this!)

Step 1:

Chop the onion into quarters and place in food processor. If you are adding green chilies to the recipe, throw those in here now (if you don’t want them AS spicy, devein and remove the seeds).

I did not use the chilis because I realized I was out of them at the last minute. I had been drying a red chili that a coworker gave me that was a tad hotter than green. Instead of chopping it up, I just threw it in the pan and took it out at the VERY end before I served the dish.

Heat oil and fry this paste until the water lessens a bit (about 8 minutes for me) in a large pan.

Step 2:

Then add the chilli powder, turmeric, cumin, coriander, and crushed ginger and garlic (or ginger garlic paste) and mix well, frying for another minute. It will turn a lovely shade of..brown.. once it’s well-mixed!

Step 3:

To this, add the tomato paste. Confession: I don’t like to buy tomato paste. Even the small cans they come in aren’t small enough for my needs. I end up using a quarter, or a half, and then shove the unused stuff in the fridge. Unfortunately, by the time I need to use it? It’s grown mold!

Ugh. And the thought of spending all that effort to freeze it in an ice cube tray just isn’t worth it to me.

SO. I used Tomato Powder from my favorite shop: The Spice House. You mix 1 part powder to 1 part water and VOILA! Insta-Paste :D Worth buying, and highly recommend it for the flavor! It’s so much better than the canned stuff.

Step 4:

And then add the pureed tomatoes. (The picture looks gross. I apologize!) Mix thoroughly and cook to reduce some of the liquid.

Step 5:

Add the green bell peppers (or other pepper…).

Step 6:

Then add the fenugreek leaves (if you have them… I added just a pinch of Greek oregano instead!). And salt. And cook until the peppers are MOSTLY cooked. Just a tad crunch is good since they’ll be able to cook more shortly.

Step 7:

Finally add the cubed paneer and mix gently until well combined. I used an entire package of paneer, cubed it, and just added it. Definitely did nothing else to it!

Step 8:

Garnish and serve! I chose to serve mine with leftover white jasmine rice, and I whipped up a batch of stove-top flat bread (Will share the recipe for that soon).

 

Dinner: Tofu Tacos

Tofu is one of those weird items that neither DH nor I had tried (on purpose) prior to us getting together. Quite frankly, I didn’t think that a jiggly gelatinous goo floating in liquid could be tasty. Ever.

But I’m so very glad I was wrong. I’ve made tofu a number of times now, and feel comfortable with it’s texture and flavor. It is really very versatile!

After a touch of preparation, this stuff nicely substituted cubed chicken or the need for a meat in tacos. You’d never know it was missing!

Tofu Taco Recipe

Feeds 2-4 depending on appetites!

Ingredients:

1 container tofu, extra firm
1 medium-to-large onion, chopped
1 can black beans
1 tomato, chopped OR 1/2 can chopped tomatoes
1 kabocha squash, cooked, mashed
1/4 cup milk, for squash mashing purposes
1 tbsp melted butter, for squash flavoring purposes
Olive oil for pan
Shredded cheese (we used a spicy buttery one–no clue the name– and a cheddar taco mix)
Salsa (we use Aldi chunky salsa and Herdez Salsa Verde)
Paprika, garam masala, garlic powder, dried parsley, pepper, salt
Tortillas (corn or flour works!), heated on the stovetop

Directions:

Step 1:

I like to use a squash as a base on my tortillas instead of refried beans for a number of reasons–it’s healthier, heartier, and I can reuse it in a number of ways if there are leftovers. I have a hard time with refried beans sometimes…

So I bought a kabocha squash, cooked it ahead of time, threw the innards in a food processor with a touch of milk and butter..and came up with a lovely smash. (Just so you know..my husband was weirded out by the thought of using it in place of refried beans. So he opted to not use anything and eat this as a side… He ate it and loved it!).

Step 2:

Drain tofu for 30 minutes to 1 hour in a collander lined with paper towels (or cheesecloth if you have it). Once fairly dry, slice into 1/2″ long sections, then slice again for small cubes.

Step 3:

Place in warm pan with a touch of olive oil to prevent sticking. Cook in increments of 5-8 minutes, stirring the pieces so that each side turns a nice warm honey shade.

(Getting there…)

Step 4:

Once cooked, remove the tofu. Add a touch more olive oil and the onion. Cook until some pieces are brown, others are translucent.

Step 5:

Season the tofu by adding 1/2 – 1 tsp paprika, 1/4 tsp black pepper, 1/2 tsp salt, a pinch of garlic powder, 1 tbsp parsley flakes, and a few shakes of garam masala. Toss to coat. (Honestly, at this point, you could make it taste like anything. Change it to YOUR tastes!).

Step 6:

Get all your toppings readily available in assembly-line formation!

(Just so you know… we did have some bacon jam and old guacamole on hand just in case.. but no one ended up using either. So back in the fridge those two went for a different night! The last picture right above was what we ended up using….).

Step 7:

Assemble tacos. Then add salsa!

Step 8:

EAT.

(The husband’s plate. With mashed-squash-as-a-side. He had 4 tacos that night total)

(My tacos. With the squash-as-refried-beans-substitute. I was plenty full with these two!)

Dessert: Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Banana Bread Cookies

I always steer clear of banana bread at bake sales and bakeries. If there are cookies? Sure thing. I’ll have a few. Bread? Absolutely. And anything in the sweetroll/braided nut category totally is worth the money to buy.

But banana bread? I mean… it’s a handful of overly ripe bananas, with flour thrown in. ANYONE can manage this! And it’s so easy.

Well. If I saw these Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Banana Bread cookies up for sale? I’d be on those quicker than a dachshund on a spoon of peanut butter.

These are beyond good and definitely worth baking for yourself, your grandparents, your Girl Scout troupe, your neighbors, the folks at the retirement home…. everyone.

As long as they don’t have a banana allergy, that is ;)

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Banana Bread Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 3 c. flour
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1-1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1-1/2 c. shortening
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 c. mashed, ripe bananas
  • 3-1/2 c. oats
  • 2 c. chocolate chips

Step 1:

Mix first 6 ingredients (all dry) in bowl.

Step 2:

Cut in shortening.

Step 3:

Add eggs and bananas.

Step 4:

Mix.

Step 5:

Add oats. Mix. Then add chocolate chips. Mix.

Step 6:

Drop by heaping spoonfuls on cookie sheet (I used a large cookie/ice cream scoop). Bake 8-13 minutes at 375 degrees, until edges and top turn golden brown. If you have a smaller cookie, go for 8 minutes. If you have a large spoonful like me, go for 13!

Yum!

Breakfast: Regular and Blueberry English Muffins

When I was just starting Weight Watchers, I was searching high and low for bread products that weren’t chocked full of points, and that didn’t taste like card board.

Sadly… that doesn’t REALLY exist.

This was long before I really got into making my own bread stuffs. And now that we’re a household that solely makes it’s own bread, or buys bread products from local bakeries in the event that this DIY’er is pooped out, reaching for a Thomas Whole Wheat Cardboard English Muffin just…. doesn’t sound appetizing. And hardly worth my calories!

This recipe can use either white or whole-wheat flour—-the points remain the same though. I made 2 batches of mini English muffins (63 total) and they are 2-pts apiece. And they’re homemade! Yum! (One batch will make roughly 32 of these bad boys. But if you double the size..and make only 16, then they’re 4 pts and much larger than the 4 pt’ers in the store!).

English Muffins (Single Batch)

Adapted from The Frugal Girl

Ingredients:

1 cup warm water (105 degrees)
1 packet yeast (2-1/4 teaspoons)
3 tablespoons butter
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup fat-free milk
5 cups flour, plus additional cup for kneading and counter

Optional: 1 cup blueberries. Or 1 cup cranberries. Or 1 tsp vanilla. Or a few pieces of chopped up bacon. Or 1 cup of finely chopped spinach. Or 2 tbsp honey. Etc. Etc. Anything can really be added to this dough!

(Tip: For lower WW points: Use Whole-Wheat flour, with margarine, splenda and soymilk. It won’t be QUITE the same… but still tasty and roughly 1 pt. ea. for the small ones!)

Step 1:

In mixing bowl, combine 1 cup warm (105 degrees) water and 1 packet (2-1/4 teaspoon) yeast. Let sit for 5 minutes until frothy.

In separate small bowl, melt 3 tablespoons butter, 1-1/2 teaspoons salt, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 cup milk until 110-115 degrees.

STEP 2:

Combine butter mixture with frothy yeast mixture, and slowly add 1 cup of flour at a time until mixture shapes into a dough. For me, this was roughly 5 cups.

(Cups 1 & 2: Runny)

(Cups 3 & 4: Lumpy Gooey)

(Cup 5: Ball!)

STEP 2.5:

If you want to make it blueberry, or any other flavor, while you are mixing the dough together is the best place. I put about a cup (all I had on hand!) of frozen blueberries in the food processor, blended until fine, and then added them to the second dough I was working with.

STEP 4:

Lightly grease a bowl for the dough to rise in. I just used the same one I mixed them in. Let sit in warm spot for about an hour. Go clean your house now ;)

STEP 5:

Once the bread has raised (risen? raised? gotten big?), flour your work surface with part of the 1 cup of flour you reserved. Get a big rolling pin and turn out the dough onto the flour.

(Sorry for the picture. I was in a different part of the kitchen that doesn’t have as much natural light!)

STEP 6:

Roll out dough to 1/2-3/4″ thickness. Use biscuit or cookie cutter to cut circles. With leftover dough? Do the best you can and free-form a patty. It doesn’t have to be perfect to make someone happy ;) (A beautiful thought that I will definitely take from The Frugal Girl!)

STEP 7:

Transfer to ungreased cookie sheet and let sit (to relax the dough some!) for about 30 minutes. Cover with towel.

STEP 8:

On Medium heat (3 was the number of choice on my stove!), in a greased pan on your stovetop, place a few dough balls lightly in the pan. Be warned: Once you put them down, you can’t *immediately* move them. Once they cook you can. So if you mis-place one (like DH did…ahem), you just need to wait ;) Cook for 7-8 minutes each side–you’ll know doneness when they turn a warm honey-brown in spots.

STEP 9:

Flip. Wait another 7-8 minutes.

(I had 3 pans of these bad boys going because I had *SO MANY*)

STEP 10:

Put on plate/mesh cookie cooler. Cut open (if you make the larger ones you can “fork” them open. The smaller ones need a knife for prettier presentation!). Serve :)

Dinner: Pizza Monkey Bread (aka Pull-Apart Bread)

Once upon a husband’s birthday, I decided to take the day off and bake delicious things in the kitchen the entire day. It was 100 degrees outside, and I was DETERMINED. The plan was to make up enough homemade cinnamon rolls to bring to his work for a morning treat.

I *promise* I’ll get to the pizza monkey bread creation in a second. You just need to know the back story first!

So I looked at The Pioneer Woman’s Cinnamon Roll recipe. The recipe says it makes 8. Figuring that not many people were at DH’s work on a Tuesday morning, I just doubled the recipe.

Yeah. Word of caution: This recipe does NOT make 8. I made them slightly smaller than the recipe said, and I ended up with 30-40 cinnamon rolls per batch. Two batches would have RUINED me.

Instead of rolling out the other dough, I split it into multiple containers and tossed it in the freezer to use up later.

I pulled out the last container that I had left of this dough and decided to make PIZZA MONKEY BREAD. <— see! I finally got to the point. :)

If you have a favorite pizza dough recipe, bread recipe, or some sort of easy-rise yeast recipe… use it. I do highly recommend The Pioneer Woman’s cinnamon roll dough, though, for a decadent twist ;)

Step 1:

I got the dough out of the freezer and let it sit to defrost/come to room temperature.

STEP 2:

Once at room temperature, I grabbed a little ball of dough and flattened it in my hand. Like so…

STEP 3:

Then I layered on some ingredients (seriously…anything will do! I highly recommend sauces. While they are a bit messy at times to close up in the dough, they come out SO AMAZING when baked!). I used muenster cheese, salami, chicken and grated cheddar. It’s what we had on hand ;)

(I know the next photo shows that I put the sauce on LAST, but it really is SO much easier to close it if you put the sauce on FIRST!)

STEP 4:

Then close up the ball by pulling the edges in and pinching the dough closed.

STEP 5:

Place in a greased pan. You can put it in just about anything, but I really like the traditional look of a bundt!

STEP 6:

When you get a full ring, melt a few tablespoons of butter in a container, add some fresh garlic/garlic powder, and brush the dough thoroughly. And then just keep layering them in a circle off-set as you go. Keep in mind to brush between layers!

STEP 7:

When you get done with the dough, LET IT RAISE. I sat mine on the counter for about an hour. It puffed up beautifully.

Once you’re happy with the height, melt a few tablespoons more butter, then drizzle it over the top (I think I did 2-3 tbsp here).

Sprinkle with more garlic salt and some italian seasoning.

STEP 8:

Pop into a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes (you’ll want to check on it after the 25 minute mark to make sure it’s not burnt! And to see how much longer it needs). 10 minutes in, when it’s just barely beginning to brown, sprinkle with some parmesan cheese. And cracked pepper.

STEP 9:

When golden, pull out and let cool a bit…

STEP 10:

After it’s cooled, turn onto a plate (why it’s so important to make sure your pan is greased!).

STEP 11:

Each section will pull apart SO easy. Serve with cheese and a side of tomato sauce, and EAT!

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