Wednesday, May 27, 2020

My Experience Baking Bread From Scratch (bread machine vs. the old fashioned way) ♥

Hello Friends! 

This weekend I made bread *from scratch* for the first time.  Let me just say I've owned a bread machine for years (and love it) and up until now saw no reason to make bread "the long way".  Something triggered me last week and I got the urge to try it.  Maybe it was the fact that after a month my local grocery store finally had FLOUR on the shelves! Hooray! Also, it seems everyone on Instagram is baking bread these days and I'm bombarded with photos of fresh baked bread, smothered with weakness!  I decided to try it and see what the difference is - between the bread machine and the old fashioned way.  

Baking bread has always been intimidating to me (hence the bread machine), but I was up for the challenge.  I found a recipe on Cupcakes & Cashmere.  I saw Emily go through the process on her Instagram stories, and although its time consuming it seemed rather easy. And let's be real.  I've got time.  

So off I went. 

Step one was to mix flour, yeast, salt, and water.  That's it. 

Cover and wait.

and wait....

18 hours later I had dough!  


I kneaded it a little bit, turned it onto a towel, and waited some more....2 more hours! 

Finally it was time to bake!  1 hour later I had bread!

Because of the anticipation and long process I've never been more excited in my life to see a loaf of bread : ) 

I actually made bread.  

And it was good! 

My family loved the bread and although I said this was just an experiment and I would not be making it again it only took less than a day for me to decide to make another loaf.  The first one went fast.  Besides, now that I'm "experienced" I wanted to put my dough in a slightly warmer spot to rise to see if my loaf would come out bigger.  I did.  And it did.  So the second loaf came out better than the first.  Crusty on the outside, light and fluffy on the inside.  

To. die. for. 

So my conclusion is this:  The bread machine is faster and makes a bigger loaf. Making it from scratch is a longer process, but the bread comes out much better.  It really does.  Trust me, I am not tossing out my bread machine anytime soon, but I'm happy I learned a new skill.  Baking bread is fun, therapeutic, and very satisfying.  

It's also delicious warm, slathered in butter! 

Below is the recipe I used in case you want to give it a try! 

Adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery
Time: About 1½ hours plus 14 to 20 hours’ rising
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed

1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.
2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.
3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.
Yield: One 1½-pound loaf.
Introducing NYT Cooking, the recipe resource of The New York Times, where you can brows

Monday, May 25, 2020

S'mores Brownies ♥

Hi Everyone! Happy Memorial Day!

I hope you all are enjoying the long weekend.  I know I am!

We are spending a quiet weekend at home but that doesn't mean we can't celebrate the day, and the unofficial kick off to summer. 

On Saturday I made these yummy s'mores brownies.  If you love making s'mores as much as I do,  you will love these.  You use a box mix and they come together in 5 minutes.  

 I made a quick video to show you how I do it.  I hope you enjoy!!!  

 I'm off to make pasta salad and prep chicken for the grill.  Have a great night friends! 

Thanks for visiting! 

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Taking a Ride ♥

Good Morning Friends! 

Last weekend when Rob suggested we go for a ride in the city I was not onboard.  I had woken up feeling a little off, and wasn't much in the mood for anything. I told him "you and John go, I'll stay home and clean."  I had things I wanted to do around the house.  He said I needed to get out of the house for a while and it was such a nice day we needed a change of scenery.  Plus there could be an ice cream in it for me if I come along. I knew he was right and even though I didn't really feel like it, I agreed. 

For the last month Rob and John have been watching the TV show of Rob's favorites.  John has really been enjoying it and was shocked to learn there is a real Cheers in Boston.  Rob said, "I'll show you!" and off we went. 

Normally a ride into the city is not something I enjoy because of the traffic.  Well, that is currently not an issue since most places are still closed and hardly anyone is on the road.  It was a nice smooth ride, window open, fresh air in my face.... I instantly felt better seeing life outside my own neighborhood.  We just cruised around and never got out of the car, but it was just what I needed to get me out of my funk.  Life is still happening and it's a good thing! 

The Boston Public Garden is my favorite part of the city.   There was quite a few people enjoying the nice weather.  
(I just hope they were being safe)

Why this city is so charming 

And there is is! Rob was thrilled to be able to park right in front!  
On a normal day that would never happen! 

Not pictured is John's smiling face : ) 

Especially when he saw this window because NORM is one of his favorite characters! 

And as promised I got my ice cream.  First DQ if the season.  

It ended up being a good day after all 

Monday, May 18, 2020

Current Favorite Things! ♥

Hello Friends! I hope you all had a nice weekend!

Yesterday I put together this video with some of my current favorite, food, and lifestyle!  All links I mention are in the YouTube description. 

I hope you enjoy it! 

Happy Monday everyone! Thanks for visiting and I hope you have a great day! 

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Blueberry Breakfast Cookies ♥

Hello Friends! Happy Wednesday! 

Do you guys remember when I made blueberry breakfast cookies?   

This is only the second time I've made these.  I don't know why.  I really should make them more often.  After our granola bars disappeared  I was in desperate need of another healthy snack.  It was just a coincidence that I had picked up fresh blueberries at the market. I do have fresh cranberries in my freezer which I almost used, but in the end I went with the blueberries.  I imagine you could use any fruit you want. 

These cookies are yummy and very hearty.  They are called breakfast cookies but let's be real.  

They are good anytime : ) 

The recipe comes from the site No Diets Allowed that I found via Pinterest.

2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup honey
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups quick oats
1/2 cup fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 375.

In a medium size bowl mash bananas.  Add applesauce, honey, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt.  Mix well.  Add oats and mix until well combined.  Fold in blueberries.  Allow mixture to sit for 5 - 10 minutes so the oats can soak up the excess liquid. 

On a parchment lined baking sheet  (or lightly sprayed with non-stick spray) drop Large spoonfuls of dough (I used 1/4 cup measuring cup) about an inch apart. 

Bake in preheated oven 18-20 minutes until slightly golden brown. 

The recipe makes about 10 large cookies and should be stored in an airtight container in the fridge.  

These are so yummy and are perfect with coffee (or tea).  Yesterday I took one on a walk with me.  I realized I hadn't had an "'on the go" breakfast in a long time.  It felt good to eat outside : ) 

I hope you all are having a great week.  Can you believe May is almost half over? Where is the time going?  I'm starting to wonder what our summer will like??  

Sending positive vibes to you all of you! XO 

Thursday, May 7, 2020

10 things I Love - Quarantine Edition ♥

For the last few months I've been doing a series on here listing 10 random things I love.  It's my favorite series because it reminds me of how much the little things in life can bring me so much happiness. Things like a good grilled cheese sandwich or the smell of an old library can totally make my day.  

Today I'm listing 10 random things I love about being in quarantine.  I am guilty of doing a lot of complaining these days and I must remind myself that first and foremost I am grateful for my safety and the safety of my family.  I'm grateful to have a cozy home to be isolating in and to have my husband, son, and parents here with me.  The world is a scary place right now and it's the little things in my day to day life that are bringing me the most joy. 

Here are ten of those random things I love about quarantine:

Not waking up to an alarm everyday

Having time in the morning to take a long shower and use my homemade sugar scrub 

Random afternoon walks/drives

Giving more thought to meals and meal planning

Being able to enjoy Spring not cooped up in my office. 

Rewatching some of my favorite old movies like Some Like it Hot (which I just watched last night :)

Adult coloring books. So therapeutic and addictive. 

Having time to catch up and read my favorite blogs. Also discovering new ones!

Staying in comfy clothes and working in my slippers

Taking time to having a nice lunch (not something I would usually do at work).

I'm realizing that everything I just listed has been very good for my mental well being. 

There is always something to be grateful for.

Be well my friends!  Thinking of you! 

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Homemade Granola Bars ♥

Hello Friends! Happy Wednesday! 

Are you snacking like a maniac like I am? If so I have something to feed your addiction : ) 

Today I'm sharing this easy recipe for homemade granola bars.  I started making these because John loves them and he can't have store bought because of his nut allergy.  Come to find out they taste better (and have less sugar) than the store bought ones. It's also nice to be able to customize what you put in them.  

 I like one (or two) with a cup of tea for an afternoon snack myself.  Anything with a bit of chocolate in it soothes me these days : ) 

Here's the recipe if you want to give them a try:

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.

Line a 9x13 baking dish with parchment paper and spray the paper with non-stick spray.

In a large bowl combine:

4 1/2 cups quick cooking oats
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
2/3 cup softened butter
1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 cups mini chocolate chips
 (add in any extras you like.....)

Mix all the ingredients together with a wooden spoon and press firmly into the pan.  Bake 18-22 minutes.  The edges will be golden brown.  Let cool for 10 minutes and then carefully cut into bars.

 *Don't try to pick them up at this point or they will fall apart.  They will set as they cool.

Let cool completely and store in an airtight container ♥

Note: add in whatever "extras" you want.  John likes straight chocolate chip, but I think dried cranberries, coconut, raisins, or nuts (if you can eat them) would be so good in these bars!

I hope you all are having a positive start to the month.  It's hard to believe we are in MAY and have been home for almost 2 months!  Praying to see the light at the end of the tunnel soon! Summer is coming.  I hope we can all get out and enjoy it! ♥

Stay safe everyone!  

Monday, May 4, 2020

Easy Weeknight Meal: Brown Sugar Baked Chicken ♥

Hello Friends! 

I hope you all had a nice weekend.  In my corner of the world we were finally able to enjoy some nice weather.  On Saturday & Sunday we almost hit 70 degree!  It was certainly good for our moods, that's for sure! 

Today I want to share with you an easy weeknight meal.  This is a favorite chicken dish in my family.  The chicken has a brown sugar marinade which caramelizes as it bakes.  It's delicious and I'm pretty sure you already have the ingredients....: ) 

All you need is: 

3 or 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts 
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tbs paprika
1 tsp oregano
1 tbs garlic powder
salt & pepper 

Salt and pepper the chicken breasts.

Pour the brown sugar, paprika, oregano, and garlic powder
  in a plastic bag.

Add the chicken and shake to coat. 

Leave the chicken (in the bag) in the fridge 2 - 3 hours  (or even overnight) to absorb the flavors. 

 The longer it marinates the better it is!

When ready to cook, preheat oven to 350. Arrange the chicken on a foil lined baking sheet.

Bake 25 - 30 minutes.

I sprinkled a little bit of parsley just to make it look pretty. 


And that's it!

I hope you liked this recipe.  I have a few others to share with you this week so check back soon!

Happy Monday Everyone!  :)