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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Perfect Wheat Grain Bread

I mentioned earlier that I have been working on the perfect bread recipes. I have already posted my favorite combination of White Bread ingredients. So now for the wheat. They say that third time is a charm – it was in my case. I’m afraid that I had to tweak the recipe slightly and figure out the sweetener that worked best.

Bread #1 – was really thick and didn’t rise much
Bread #2 – while good tasting, it fell in the middle before it was done cooking. I also learned that if I leave the house before the bread is done and neglect to take the bread out of the machine right when it is finished, the bread continues to cook in the heat and gets a little too crunchy.
Bread #3 – Perfect. Tastes fantastic. Toasts to perfection and raised twice the size as bread #1.

For the grains I used what I had. I had old fashioned oats and flax seeds. I put the 1/4 in my bullet and ground them so it would mix into the bread and not be obvious (didn't want to give my son a reason why not to eat it). 

Here it is:

Wheat Grain Bread - FOR 1 1/2 LB. BREAD MACHINE

1 1/2 cups       water
2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
1/4 cup            honey
2 1/2 cups       white whole wheat or whole wheat flour
1 cup                unbleached bread flour
1/4 cup            sunflower, oats, sesame and/or flax seeds
1 tablespoon   vital wheat gluten
1 tablespoon   wheat germ
1 1/2 tsp         salt
1 1/2 tsp         yeast

Put all of the ingredients into the bread pan in the order listed. Program for basic bread, and press Start.

Take a look at the dough after it's kneaded for about 10 to 12 minutes or so; it should be smooth, not sticky (too little flour) or lumpy (too little liquid), forming a nice ball. If the dough looks good at this point, you're all set.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Best Basic White Bread Recipe

I mentioned in a previous post that I was trying to eliminate the preservatives from our food. I also said that I had begun to make my own bread. There is nothing like home made bread – especially really good bread!

After a couple of not-so-fluffy loaves, I have done it, by george. This recipe is great for sandwiches and toast. I adapted it from a recipe from King Aurthor’s Flour website. I have also figured out a great wheat bread recipe that I will post later.

This bread may be prepared and baked right in the machine (1 1/2-pound or larger models), or prepared in the machine, then given a final rise and baked in a conventional oven. I just threw everything in the machine and let it do the work. Easy.

Basic White Bread

1 1/3 cups water
1 heaping tablespoon (1 1/8 ounces) honey or sugar (1/2 ounce)
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1/2 cup nonfat dry milk granules
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons salt
4 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour or Bread Flour
1 tablespoon wheat germ

Place the ingredients in your bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer, and program the machine for white or basic bread, or for the dough cycle if you want to bake in the oven. Press Start.

If you're using the dough cycle, after the cycle is complete, allow the dough to continue to rise in the machine until it has really doubled in bulk. Remove the dough, shape it into a loaf, and place it in an 9" x 5" loaf pan. Let it rise until almost doubled. Bake the bread in a preheated 350°F oven for 35 to 40 minutes.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Kitchen Organization Idea

While surfing the web the other day, I came across something called a Kitchen Folio on Great Idea! I have a corner by my microwave that is devoted to the catch alls that I need close at hand – but this little area can easily get out of hand! I love the idea of organizing these important papers and saving some money by using supplies that I already had and really making it personal to my needs. So... Here is what I did.

I took a project folder with pockets that I had in my stash of office supplies (this was probably left over from college or even high school or days.

The pockets will be perfect for take-out menus (we don’t use them often, but handy to have on hand), and random to-do’s that I get in the mail or maybe new recipes that I am trying that week.

I printed off pages that will help keep my life a little less crazy since everything will be in one place rather than scattered in my kitchen or office. But it was really important to me to keep it simple so it gets used.

Printed pages include:
·        Goals for month and year
·        Important phone numbers for quick reference & Babysitter use
·        Freezer Meal inventory (laminated)
·        Weekly menu plan (laminated)
·        Medical information
·        Running To Do list
·        Gym class schedule for a quick reference
·        Extra pages for projects, ideas & notes

I didn’t want to do anything too fancy, because this should be an evolving folder. As the family changes and grows – so does this. I used some fun stationary that I had in the closet. I sent my husband to work with the menu planner to have laminated, that way I can use a dry-erase marker and save paper. I thought about doing the same thing with the Freezer inventory.

You can also add other pages like important dates, calendar, gift ideas or grocery list. But this was not important for us. My husband and I have a synced google calendar and my grocery list is on my phone (I love it!) and it is synced with my husband’s phone, in case he goes to the store or needs to add to the list. For gifts I have a running spreadsheet so I have something to reference and plan, after all I don’t want to repeat presents from last year.

For me this project was 100% free. And I think that it is working out really well so far!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Sauce Project #1

Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

I have made the first preservative-free dip today. I am very happy with the results and how easy it was to make. It tastes great, but I tweaked a few ingredients for the future. I think there was a little too much parsley for one batch in the original recipe. I used fresh crushed garlic (yum!) and organic mayonnaise that I had in my fridge.
One batch was enough to fill up a 12 oz bottle ¾ of the way. This will not last long in my house. Next time I will make a double batch for sure! Here is the recipe:

Buttermilk Ranch Salad Dressing
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon minced dried onion
2 clove garlic, minced or ½ tsp of garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese

Mix all ingredients except buttermilk in a small bowl. While stirring, slowly blend in buttermilk. Chill at least 2 hours before using.

(This recipe is low in sodium and low in carbs.)

The real test:         Kid approved? YES 
                        +  Does Sarah’s skin react? NO
                        = A Winner!

UPDATE: This recipe was really yummy, but more like a dip than a salad dressing. The other issue I had is that it didn't look like Hidden Valley Ranch, so my son wouldn't eat it. What I changed:

Buttermilk Ranch Salad Dressing - take 2
2 cup mayonnaise
2 cup sour cream
2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon minced dried onion
2 tablespoon of garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons Parmesan cheese

I put it in a Ranch container to "fool" the kids.
MUCH Better!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Morning Online Shopping Trip

I have to go out later for milk and whatnot. But I love looking around online to see if there are any great deals. Especially with the holidays coming up, my brain is thinking about all sorts of creative ways to save money and get what I need for less than if I just went shopping.

Well, I have a bunch of psycho-deal-searching-bloggers on my facebook in a “deal” category so I can click over there and basically spend 30seconds looking it over and deciding whether there is a deal worth my time. Some days there is nothing and some days there are a lot of promotions going on. I was so excited about it, I wanted to share (this worked out really well since my kids are occupied for the moment).

·        20 custom photo holiday cards for $1.49 from SeeHere
·        $12 cookie scoop (Xmas present!!) for the cost of tax at One Kings Lane
·        12 Custom Thank You Notes for my son’s b-day for the cost of tax (Last year I realized that these were not cheep. $11 for 8 cards is just insane)

Hurray for me. I spent about $5 this morning for things that I need anyway. Here is how I did it:
-         At Create a 4×8 photo card and choose to purchase 20 copies, use promo code 25cards at checkout. By ordering the 25 cards the promo is for, you end up spending $2 more, so I just purchased 20. I usually purchase 50 cards at Costco for $15, so if I can get all my cards for less than that… I am doing pretty good.
- is giving away a $15 credit for people who sign up for an account (or refer a friend who makes a purchase). I signed up for an account and TA DA! One King’s Lane is a designer discount site. If you go there and see something you like, get it! Their sales are only up for 24 hours and things tend to sell out before then.
-         I used the $13 coupon code ForFree at Ink Garden. You can choose from several customizable products until 12/31 if you are a new customer. I went through (6% cash back) before I went to the Ink Garden. Don’t forget to go to ShopatHome first especially if you want to buy more than the coupon is for.
Comment if you have found any great deals you are proud of.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Sauce Project

The other day, an interesting thing happened. My baby had a skin reaction to Ranch Dressing. OK. This might not seem like a problem to most people, the simple solution would be to stop giving it to her. But my children are dippers. They will eat twice as much food if they have a sauce to dip it in. My son alone goes through a bottle… well, in not a lot of time.

Since the baby didn’t have an allergic reaction, only a skin reaction, I came to the conclusion that all the chemicals in the dip had to go. So the project… Making my own dips and sauces. I found some recipes that were highly rated by other people and put them in a file to print so I can try one at a time.

The goal: Cut out preservatives and save money while I’m at it. (I am just taking this a bit farther since I have already started making my own bread and freezer cooking as much as will fit in my freezer.)

Here is what I want to make:
  1. Catsup
  2. Buttermilk Ranch Dressing
  3. BBQ Sauce

These are the essential condiments in my refrigerator. My kids go through the Ranch and Catsup like there is no tomorrow. The BBQ Sauce, that one is my preferred sauce to dip. After I try these out, I will post the results… I’m super excited. I might even add a couple more to the list if it turns out well!

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Online Saving Game

With the holidays coming up I am always learning new ways and sharing my secrets on how to save money on everyday needs and gifts. Well, I have given so many of the same recommendations that I thought I would blog about it in case other people are looking for the same type of information. So here goes…

When I am looking to purchase things, I like to do some research first to find the best place to get it and maybe look for coupons if I don’t have one (even for eating out. A lot of restaurants have coupons available online). In most cases you can get items online for less money and have it shipped free – saving the gas and time. And in other instances you can actually earn money on purchases you were going to make anyway!

First let’s discuss rebate sites. There are two sites that I like to look at and they are both similar in nature.
Both contain store coupons, online coupon codes, (and best of all) links to the websites that give you a % of money back on your total purchase. That is awesome! Last holiday season I made about $40 back from the gifts I was going to purchase anyway. These sites are always updating their information and have regular specials that give extra cash back for a period of time.

Here is how it works. I was talking to a friend who was looking to purchase a Nook Color. If he were to purchase that online by clicking to Barnes & Noble through either one of these websites today, he is eligible for the free shipping coupon plus the 2% (or more) that the rebate is (the rebate may change, which is why it is good to be a part of both sites to check out which one is higher). These sites mail a rebate check quarterly.

Restaurants are pricey. Especially when you have kids to buy for too (and if you are like me you end up buying a regular entree for your kids so they get a more rounded meal). Sometimes I just don't have time or energy to cook at home so I have figured out how to save a little by examining the menu closely and sniffing out the deals from other sources. If you like Costco, there are some restaurants you can get $100 worth of gift card money for $80 - 20% off isn't bad and if you have a coupon for that restaurant too then the meal can be much more affordable. There is also

There are a few different sites that specialize in eating out. Through or, you can get coupons to print out. But is different in that you can purchase gift certificates to eat out. If you just visit the website, they advertise a $25 gift certificate for $10. BUT if you have a coupon code that they email you or that the rebate sites have available, you can get that at up to 90% off – that’s $25 to spend on food for $1 upfront! Awesome! BUT say you go through to get to and you get 25% cash back for the certificate purchase… nice right?!

This is actually just a rewards site. Some “swagbucks” are like a game to get, some are super easy. It is also a search engine where you can get random rewards by using it. So I switched my browser preferred search engine to Swagbucks. I have cashed my rewards in for gift cards. You can also save up for raffles, and other material things worth a few bucks (like digital pictures) or a lot of bucks (like a 32 inch HDTV).

Another great site is and Plastic Jungle
You can sell gift cards that you won’t use and/or buy gift cards for less than the value. Soooo if you shop at Target or Best Buy anyway, it might be nice to get a little extra for your money. You just have to wait for it to come in your mail.