6-Ingredient Bread Recipe Tutorial – EASY

I’ve made this recipe a million times, I could make it in my sleep. I might be sleeping right now, who knows? I’ve added this and that to transform it, but every bread I’ve made, starts here.

When I was breastfeeding my daughter, we realized she had trouble digesting dairy and soy. We had a hard time fitting special dairy and soy-free pre-made breads into our budget, so I resolved to make my own. I just really love sandwiches!

I had never made anything with yeast in it before this whole dairy-free soy-free ordeal, and I had very little experience baking at all.

I dove right into it, I made 850 million loaves. I ate bread, soy-free hummus, and lunch meat for 18 months straight. Then, all of a sudden she weaned, and I’ve now turned myself a pretty whippy chef. We still buy loaves of cheap regular bread, but sometimes I make a little extra effort and pound this out.

Ingredients:

2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast

2 Tbsp sugar

2 1/4 cup warm water

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 Tbsp salt

5-6 cups unbleached flour

Here we go

First, proof the yeast. 2 ¼ tsp (or one packet) yeast with 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar and 2 ¼ cups 120-130 degree water (just hot enough to hurt your wrist a little when you run water over it)

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After about ten minutes of proofing, add the 2tbsp oil, 1 tablespoon salt and 2 cups of the flour.
Mix until combined.

 

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amount of flour top left to bottom right- 3 cups, four cups, 4.5 cups, 5 cups

Work the rest of the flour in, one cup at a time, until dough is sort of smooth.

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This is too sticky

It should be juuuuuust barely still sticky. If your hands get sticky, slap that flour pile, and keep working a little flour in at a time.

You can coat with a small amount of oil in a large bowl and cover to let rise for about an hour or until it’s doubled in size. I just let mine rise on the counter with no oil, because I like the crust it kind of makes.

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The amount of added flour depends on a few different things, including the humidity in your house. What’s important is the texture of the dough. I had a lot of flour left over but I didn’t waste it, I made two little tortillas, ha.

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Punch down and divide into two rolled loaves and set in oiled bread pan, and cover to rise an additional 45 minutes.

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I manhandled one of the loaves, but it ended up rising evenly. What a metaphor…

Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees for about 35 minutes, when tapped it should sound hollow and the outside should be a golden-y color

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See, the lumpy loaf ended up being totally fine!

Let cool on rack, then you can either freeze it or cut it right then and there for a sandwich or something. If the bread doesn’t come out on its own, you can wiggle a knife around the edges to loosen it, just remember to oil that pan a little more next time.

 

I like to dip mine in soup since I tend to under knead, and sometimes that makes for a more loose texture.

I hope you try this recipe, it may seem like a lot to take on, but you really have only about 20 minutes hands-on time. Even less if you use a stand mixer! I used to use a stand mixer for this, but for some reason cleaning the machine hurts my brain and I end up neglecting it. I knead the bread on a roul-pat, so clean up couldn’t be more simple!

Bread is my favorite food, there’s a million different types of bread and you can eat it with basically any meal. Homemade bread can turn any boring BLT into a masterpiece, or any vegan soup into a belly-filling weekly fav.

You may be able to substitute the ingredients with different types of flour, or even use more sugar for a sweeter bread. Playing with it is half the fun!!

Have you ever made homemade bread before? Did it turn out? What problems did you face? I could ramble about it forever if you’d let me, so feel free to share in the comments!
Thanks so much for reading, have a great day!

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The Best Sugar Cookies

I am on a journey to the secret of pinterest-perfect sugar cookies. I’m taking it kind of personally. I want tasty, perfect texture, skillfully placed icing, adorable cut out characters. I’m working on it.

I think the first place you start with making “fancy” cookies is to have a solid recipe. I’ve tried this one a few times and it has never let me down. I’ve only ever made blobulous cookies before I came across this recipe.

Here’s an example of the difference of my cookies now to my cookies from 2015

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I hope that picture is enough to convince you to switch to this recipe. I’m passionate about it, ha.

Here it is:

Ingredients:

2 sticks room temperature unsalted butter

1 cup granulated sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

*1/2 tsp almond extract

1 large room temperature egg

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

3 cups all-purpose flour

*the almond extract is not required for them to look perfect, but the taste is just slightly different and adds a different dimension with the almond extract

Having the butter and eggs room temperature is an extra step in the prep, but I was doing some research on cookie science and I learned a few things about that. If the butter is too warm, the cookies will get droopy and lose their shape. This was one of the biggest improvements to my technique, as I always used to use melted butter and never once thought of the repercussions.

INSTRUCTIONS

Step 1: Preheat to 350 and cream the butter and sugar together

Step 2: Once the sugar and butter is combined, add the extracts and egg, and beat until well combined

Step 3: Add baking powder and salt, then add flour one cup at a time. It may seem a smidge dry, but once you work it a little, it comes together.

Step 4: Cut ball of dough in half and roll out anywhere from 1/4 inch to 3/8 or really however you want.

Step 5: Cut out shapes with cookie cutter or make balls and flatten

Step 6: Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake in middle rack for 6-8 minutes. 6 minutes is usually exactly right for my oven. You may have to experiment to find your sweet spot. As you can see, I put mine relatively close together.

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I leave them to finish cooking on the hot baking sheet for 5-10 minutes or however long it takes me to finish cleaning up the giant mess I just made. Then I put them on a cooling rack so they fully cool.

Waiting until they’re fully cooled to put the icing on is always so difficult…

But you must, or you’ll get cookies like in my last post.

For the cookies I made today, I made two different typed of icing, both with the same base. For the green dinosaurs, I put a dash of ground allspice in the powdered sugar, which is why it looks crunchy. It was an experiment. Pretty tasty, but it might work better in a whipped kind of icing.

I used:

2 tsp corn syrup

1 cup(or more) powdered sugar

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

2 tsp milk

Last time I used water, but this time I wanted something a little more substantial. I had to add a bit more powdered sugar to thicken it up, and just added two drops of food coloring.

My goal was to be a little fancy with this, so I wanted to make like a peppermint design on the round cookies. I outlined it like all the tutorials said to do, then filled in after it dried a little.

To get the icing all the way to the edges of the outline, I used a toothpick to drag the icing while it was still wet.

The red design was made with two drops of red food coloring in a splash of water. I dipped a wooden toothpick in the red water, and dragged it in squiggly lines from the outer edge into the middle.

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It’s not perfect but from far away they look really great! Come to think of it, these would be cool for Halloween bloodshot eyeball cookies!

Well, there it is, my best attempt at cookies so far. I’ve grown a lot, and I’m very proud. I’m still on the lookout for perfect icing, so if you have a good recipe, let me know!

I hope you all have a great day and awesome holidays and I’ll talk to you later!

 

Grocery lists and tips

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I’ve been grocery shopping as a grown up for long enough now that I have learned a few things I want to share with you today.

How I make my grocery list, the route I walk through the aisles (yes this is important) and also getting the best deals and the best quality food. Time is money and no one has time to aimlessly wander through the grocery store.

In my last post about meal planning, I touched briefly on decision fatigue and how having so many options can lead to making decisions you didn’t plan for. This also applies to the grocery store and one way to avoid this is to make a specific list and stick to this list.

It’s important for budgeting and also for ensuring that you don’t buy too much or too little of something.

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The first step to having a comprehensive grocery list is to pop open that fridge and see what’s in there. Is it totally empty? Do you have anything that needs to be used before it goes bad? Leftovers that can be transformed? Ideally this should be happening before you make your meal plan, but it’s also a lot to digest. (ha)

Find out what you have, what you can do with it, and write it down. Cross check your meal plan, see what’s in the freezer, and don’t buy things you already have.

Moving on, grab your meal plan and associated recipes and find out what you need to buy. Seems simple, but can be tedious and a lot of people skip this step thinking they can just do it by memory. I cannot tell you how many times I thought I knew what was in a recipe only to realize I forgot something really important. Here’s how this looks for me:

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this menu should cost less than 50$!

If you only plan for dinners, like me, you’ll need to find out what extras you’ll need. For us this usually looks like apples, eggs, cheese sticks, lunch meat, bacon etc. You might not need a set plan for those mid-day meals, but it’s important to put them on the list. It may be helpful to plan it, but if you’re new to meal planning it can get overwhelming. Don’t stress yourself out! Practice makes perfect.

Coupons!

I shop at a grocery store that has online coupons, and their app has their weekly advertisement on it. If yours doesn’t have coupons, it likely has a weekly flier of all the sales that you should be checking. If you realize that chicken is on sale, and ground beef is not, you may want to re-evaluate your meal plan to include more chicken meals. You don’t have to, but if your goal is to save $$ then shopping the sales is the best way to get started.

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My “fairy” category refers to the coupon fairy who sprinkles her unused coupons throughout the store for other people to use.

They send out a variety of different coupons to my house as well, some very useful- like onions. Some, though are kind of a trap to get you to buy things you wouldn’t normally buy. Don’t fall for it! The 50 cent off coupon for *insert name brand product* will never be a better deal than the store brand (that is probably made in the same factory by the same company, but….. 🐸🍵)

Although I have been known to buy Sargento cheese slices if there’s a coupon because it is actually better. You’ll have a better idea of what works best for your family than me, so use your best judgment!

ALSO

There have been many instances where I bought all the vegetables I needed for two weeks worth of meals, only to realize that many vegetables didn’t last that long. I remedy this by only buying one week’s worth of vegetables and then popping back in the store for the rest at a later date.

Pantry items such as rice, dry beans and canned goods are usually great to have a stash of in your house.

Speaking of pantry items

I only had one new year’s resolution for 2018 in an attempt to save money. “Get good at dry beans”

My daughter is picky about meat but loves beans, so I found myself buying oodles of canned beans. They’re convenient and already cooked so it seems like an easy choice, but if you look at the price vs. how much you actually get, I quickly realized that dry beans were a better value. This article breaks down that math for you.

I had tried many many times soaking the beans, boiling, soaking for different times, salt, no salt, I just really struggled with dry beans. They never turned out right and I wanted to “get good” at dry beans!

I read this article that gave me a lot of great tips. I usually put them in a crockpot for 4 hours on high (I add a few spices sometimes, but not salt, it makes them smooshy for some reason) and it works perfectly.

So, now you can ‘get good’ at dry beans too, it’s worth it!

Alright, bean tangent over, let’s talk about..

Aisle route

Everyone’s grocery store is different, but what I like to do is start on one side and weave my way through the aisles so that I end up at the checkout lane. I can usually buy 145$ worth of groceries in about a half hour. With a toddler in tow!

I only have a couple things that influence this route

  • Dairy products, I like to put in the cart last because warm milk or ice cream makes me queasy.
  • Which side of the parking lot I park on (one side is closer to pantry items, one side is closer to produce.
  • How much produce I need to buy, I might hit the deli before the produce depending on what I need

I go down each aisle I need only once (usually…) I check off my list as I go, and I write my list BASED on the aisles.

Typically looks like this: produce, deli, meat, cans and broth, dry goods and sauces, snacks, cheese, butter, eggs, milk and other dairy.

I usually have no reason to be in the frozen aisles, so I avoid them altogether since frozen pizza is just too tempting. Your mileage may vary.

I skim through those aisles, grab and GO. Your planning has been done before you get to the store so your brain doesn’t even have to be activated, just check off your list and run!

Grocery shopping doesn’t have to be such a nightmare. Use your coupons, shop the sales, and most importantly STICK TO YOUR LIST. Don’t get lost trying to make hard decisions while you’re there. The more familiar you are with your grocery store’s set-up and sale schedules, the easier this all becomes.

If it seems like a lot of work, I promise it gets easier and you can email me with any questions you have. I could ramble on about this stuff forever. That’s why I’m here! Also let me know if any of you have a specific route you take to navigate the grocery store or if you can think of any other ways to cut down on browsing time.

Thanks so much for taking the time to read my tips, I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

Beginner’s guide to meal planning

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Meal planning can be intimidating. Whether your goal is weight loss or to better organize your day, I’ve come up with a few tips to help you figure out what works best for your lifestyle.

I struggled most with the commitment aspect of it in the beginning. How on Earth could I know what I wanted to eat for dinner next week? The secret here is that the simplicity of already knowing what is on the menu narrows down your options. You have a choice of what you planned, what’s in your pantry, and you don’t have the entire internet worth of recipes to choose from anymore.

They’ve studied this phenomenon, it’s called decision fatigue -when you have a million things to choose from, it’s harder to make that choice. When you have one week of meals planned, that’s seven meals you can choose. If you don’t feel like making what you planned, it’s okay to swap days around! You’ll find you do it less the more you meal plan, though.

It’s soo much less stressful for me to know what’s for dinner, make the dinner and be done with it. My grocery shopping is done, no running to the store for last minute items, and ultimately more time spent with my family. Or bubble baths…

First thing’s first, you must assess your abilities. When I first started meal planning, I literally thought meat sauce with spaghetti was an accomplishment (sometimes it still is) and if I’m being real here, my first meal plans consisted of sauce with different types of pasta at least three times a week.

If this is you, that’s perfectly okay! If you’ve been cooking for longer or are naturally a gifted chef, you can get a little bit more complicated. Whatever your speed, choose recipes that are attainable and fit your lifestyle and schedule.

Making a master list of your favs is also a good idea.

The way I usually plan, I pick recipes for two weeks. Payday to payday, mostly so I have fewer trips to the grocery store. I write a list of days of the week- FSSMTWTFSSMTWTF

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I break those days down into the “type” of day they are:

O– days hubby is off work, we cook together and don’t need leftovers for his lunch

W– days he works and needs lunches and I’m mainly on my own as far as cooking

V– days I volunteer and he cooks, and I usually need leftovers for my lunch

This way I know what days I’ll need to cook meals with enough leftovers, and which I don’t.. basically.

Figure out your “type” of days (you can have more than three!) and what types of meals fit in best. Maybe you have a recurring activity each week where you don’t have time to cook and those can be your crock pot “set it and forget it” meals. Or you can even plan to eat out. It’s your life, you know it best. Observing dinner trends in a journal may seem obsessive but it really helped me recognize my patterns in the beginning.

When I write out my meal plan, I include the day of the week, the type of day, the meal itself, the protein, and the carb/starch (it’s not dinner if it doesn’t have both, according to my husband)

I do this for a couple reasons, one being that it makes writing out my grocery list easier if I know that six meals include chicken breast, three are ground turkey, five are beans, etc… but also because I make my own tortillas, buns, bread, dinner rolls, and need to know what needs to be made ahead of time. You may not need to be that specific, but it really does make the grocery list a little easier to plan out if you know what you are going to be using.

I have a lot to say about grocery lists and grocery shopping, but I’m going to make a separate post about that!

The reason I’m mainly focusing on dinner is because that’s the meal most people actually cook for, and is the best way to ease yourself into a schedule. Starting out planning breakfast lunch and dinner can be a bit overwhelming or hard to stick to, and that’s where I made my first few mistakes.

I keep toddler-friendly breakfast and lunches on hand, like quick grab and go kind of things because that’s easiest for me, and I end up just eating her scraps anyways (like the apples left to wilt with literally half a bite taken out)

So you’ve found your recipes, figured out what day you’re most likely to cook and eat those recipes, wrote them on your calendar, got your groceries and are moving and grooving through life. Dinner time comes around and you realize that agreeing to make lasagna noodles by hand for tonight’s lasagna isn’t going to be in the cards today.. What do you do?

You’ve got a few options. You can swap meals with another day you’ve planned for. This always drives me crazy, I don’t know why I just don’t like to swap days. My favorite solution for this is to find another way to use the ingredients in the meal you planned for. You can turn that lasagna into some other kind of pasta dish. Get creative, maybe throw some balsamic vinegar into the sauce, slap some ricotta on top and you’ve got yourself a really tasty experiment that no one knows wasn’t planned!

Once, I planned for a chicken and squash casserole only to find out that my squash went bad. I live a ways from the grocery store, so I had to get creative. I threw some rice in the rice cooker with a little broth and soy sauce, and there you go, chicken and rice! Getting creative with food is half the fun of cooking. Something I never understood until I (reluctantly) started cooking full meals every day!

This is the video that popped up on my subscription feed that really inspired me to get more serious about my meal plan and she has a lot of great tips as well! She’s great, I watch every video she puts out no matter what it’s about.

There is no one solution to the perfect meal plan, no micromanaged checklist that I could ever come up with will ever be perfect for you. You’ve got to just do it! Trial and error, and learning from mistakes (we call mistakes ‘experiments’ in our house) is how you learn!

As long as you learn something every time you burn dinner or try to thaw chicken in the microwave and end up cooking it (and then crying and having to throw it all away) then all hope is not lost!

I just know that there is an organized brilliant genius chef inside everyone and I want to help find them! I believe in you!

I would really love to read about all your meal planning or prep fails or triumphs in the comments, I’m really interested in learning where everyone is coming from on the subject and keep the learning going!

Hope to hear from you guys! Thanks!