Category Archives: Food and Drink

Works for Me Wednesday: My Personal Salad Bar

It’s been almost two years since I had the brainstorm that dramatically improved my eating habits…for a while. A long while, a year at least. But somewhere along the line, I let the habit slip, and then I forgot all about it.

Time to start over. Here’s the idea: I keep a plastic bin full of yummy salad fixings in my refrigerator.

Boom, one-stop shopping. It’s right there at eye level on the
fridge shelf, where I can’t avoid seeing it. Big bag of prewashed
spinach sitting on top. In the bin are all the little baggies and
plastic containers that I was finding it such a burden to collect from
various points in the pantry and refrigerator. Pine nuts, sunflower
seeds, almonds, mandarin oranges, dried cranberries, real bleu
cheese…mmm, just cutting-and-pasting this list from above makes me
hungry. (They don’t all make it into every salad, of course, just a
random selection. Otherwise there’d be no room for the veggies, which
are, of course, the whole point.)

Also in the bin: sliced mushrooms, diced bell peppers, chopped
carrots. OK, so it’s not a perfect system: I still have to prep the
veggies. But (another duh moment) I’m doing it once or twice a week, at
night after the kids are in bed. Then in the middle of my busy day, I
can scoop a handful of diced peppers out of a baggie and throw it on my
beeyootiful salad. I know, lots of people have thought of this before
me. I don’t claim to be innovative. Except possibly in the matter of
sticking it all in a bin together so all I have to do is pull the bin
out of the fridge and mix-and-match until I’ve got a bowlful.

You can read more about the idea in my original post, but the gist is pretty simple. During the year I was sticking with it, I really did eat a nice big salad pretty much every day because that darn bin was staring me in the face every time I opened the fridge, with the blue cheese crumbles and toasted almonds right on top. Yum.

Rachael Ray makes a quick and easy vinaigrette out of orange marmalade, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil.  Delish, as she says. Or try raspberry preserves in place of the marmalade: oh my goodness is that tasty. I know what I’m having for lunch.

Visit Rocks in My Dryer for more WFWM posts.

Cookbook Open Thread

What is your favorite cookbook? Especially in regard to making regular old weekday family dinners?

I like the Leanne Ely books—Saving Dinner, Healthy Foods, and Frantic Family Cookbook—although I’ve never been able to make the Saving Dinner plan work for us on a regular basis. Picky, picky children here. And hubby doesn’t eat beef or most kinds of cheese.

As long as we’re talking recipes, what are your favorite cooking and meal-planning websites? I had a good time playing around at the interactive Robin Miller’s Quick Fix Meals toy at Food Network, but there aren’t many recipes there; you have to click over here to find the archives.

This week’s edition of Carnival of the Recipes is all about slow-cooker meals, hosted by (appropriately enough) the Slow Cooker Recipes blog. I love my crock pot. Speaking of which, I have half a roasted chicken in the fridge awaiting crock-pottish inspiration…I’m envisioning some kind of chili-chicken-corn chowder, but I don’t have a recipe. Winging it in the kitchen is not my special gift, let me tell you! Time to cozy up to my pal Google…

UPDATED: Found this and this. This one looks tasty. This one too, but Rilla can’t tolerate my having cream. (Wah.) Still, between them all I think I can come up with something.

UPDATED AGAIN to add the Loveliness of Baking fair. Yum!

Cookies and Books

Possibly the nicest things ever invented, no? Cookies and books? Here’s my contribution to Jenn’s Awesome Virtual Cookie Exchange: my Aunt Cindy’s Saucepan Cookies.

Aunt Cindy, for the record, is my great-aunt, and her real name is Cinderella. I am not kidding.

These yummy morsels aren’t really holiday cookies, but I love them, and they’re easy (no baking!), and with oatmeal and peanut butter as the main ingredients, you can eat them for sustenance while you’re making Christmas cookies.

I couldn’t actually find my copy of Aunt Cindy’s recipe (Hush! I just moved in!), but I googled "oatmeal peanut butter saucepan cookies" and found several identical recipes. This one is from (and I didn’t know that bit about making sure it boils hard for one minute, so aren’t you glad I Googled?):

No Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

There’s just one trick; you have to make sure that the
sugar mixture boils hard for at least one minute, otherwise the cookies
will be sugary instead of creamy.


  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup peanut butter
  • 3 cups oatmeal


large saucepan, combine sugar, milk, cocoa, salt, and butter and mix
well. Bring to a boil and cover saucepan to allow steam to wash sugar
crystals down sides of pan. Boil mixture for 1 minute. Then remove from
heat and stir in peanut butter until smooth.

Add oatmeal and mix well.
Drop mixture by spoonfuls onto parchment lined baking sheets or Silpat
sheets.* Let cool until you can touch the mixture; then reshape the
cookies to make them more a ball shape. Let cool completely; store at
room temperature. You can also pour this mixture into a 9" square pan
that has been greased with unsalted butter, let cool, then cut into

*We always dropped ours onto waxed paper.

As for the books, I thought new readers might like a look at the "Books We Love" series I ran on Bonny Glen last year. Lots of gift ideas there, which ties in with the "Best Gifts for Homeschoolers" thing I’ve been doing.

Books We Love, Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

And don’t forget to drop by Jenn’s Journal for a list of all the other Cookie Exchange participants!


It’s all your fault, you…you inspiring bakers, you. YOU got us hooked on baking bread. Hooked! It is flour city around here!

Now that we’re collecting recipes and hunting up breadmaking advice wherever we can find it, Jane and I figured we could use a place to keep everything organized. Which means, yes, another blog. I know, I know. But this one isn’t going to be fancy or formal—it’s more like a big file folder to stuff with recipes and, um, stuff. Contributions will be sporadic and unpolished. Jane will help.


I’m mentioning it here because I’d love you to keep sending me links to bread-related posts. The whole bread thing was a little off topic for this blog (although there is PLENTY of home education happening in our kitchen these days, believe you me), so I thought I’d better take the discussion somewhere else. Come visit! Don’t expect much!

More About Bread

Well, the great success of the Carnival of Breadmaking sure did come as a shock to me. Lots of traffic. People love bread!

Here are some more recipes, contributed by my wonderful readers. I’m going to put them in separate posts for easy reference, and I’ll link them from the Carnival as well. Check the bottom of the Carnival post for new links to more contributors. Don’t miss the little present Danielle Bean shared with us as a postscript to the bread conversation!

Here’s a recipe from loyal reader Haley. Thanks so much for sharing it, Haley. We can’t wait to try it.


  • Dissolve
    in small bowl (I use a pyrex measuring cup for easy pouring later on).
    For the yeast to completely dissolve, wait about 10 minutes.
  • 2 package (or 4 1/2 tsp) yeast
  • 1/2 c warm water
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • Combine in separate bowl:
  • 2 Tb sugar
  • 2 Tb shortening
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 c boiling water
this mixture to lukewarm (hot water kills yeast, so make sure to let it
cool for several minutes) and then add yeast mixture and stir together.
  • Stir in 8 cups of flour and mix well. 
  • Knead
    on a floured surface for 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic– this
    can be done by hand or with a mixer and dough hook.  If it’s too
    sticky, just add flour a few tablespoons at a time.  Place in a large greased
    bowl, then flip over so both
    sides are covered with Pam. Cover with kitchen towel and let rise until
    doubled (probably an hour or more, if my memory is correct).
  • Punch down and let rest 15 minutes.  Divide in half.  On floured surface, roll
    each half into a 12×15" rectangle, then roll into a 12 inch long loaf. 
  • Place
    loaves on greased cookie sheets and make 4-5 diagonal slashes with a knife
    across the top (think classic baguette look). Let rise again until
    doubled in size.
  • Mix together 1 egg and 2 Tb milk and brush on top and sides of bread.  If desired, sprinkle on poppy seeds or sesame seeds.
  • Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.

Haley adds: "I’d love to see more pictures of different recipes as you and your kiddos continue your bread-making adventures.  Happy baking!"

Breadmaking as a Way of Life

Another contribution to the Carnival of Breadmaking. My great friend Joann sent me this lovely email with a recipe that is next on our list to try. I love her words about the joy of the process:

This bread is not hard to make but it is not
quick bread. It’s kind of old world and takes time and prep, but it
does add a rhythm to your life. You can fit this in and the joy and reward
of this process – for the making of bread can become a way of life – is
unimaginably fulfilling. I would think that someone who wove her own cloth would
appreciate this approach, at least for a time. As soon as I am done typing this,
I am going to go make a new starter. My boys have not experienced this kind of
bread making. All they know is that the sister get in the kitchen and amazing
things happen. A boy ought to know how to cook real food.

This is a versatile recipe. Add extra sugar
and you can make nice sticky buns or cinnamon rolls. Shape it into rolls or
knots or parker house rolls or even French bread.
When you are kneading and shaping loaves of bread,
be sure to SLAM them into the table. Really— that’s what the French do to make
their loaves so wonderful.
4 cups very warm water (105 degrees)
3/4 cup instant mashed potato flakes or 1 good
sized potato boiled and mashed with no seasoning
1 cup flour
3 tsp yeast
2/3 cup sugar
Mix the dry ingredients together and then add the
wet and stir until smooth. Let sit 12 -24 hours. It needs to fed every 3 –
4  days.  You keep it in the refrigerator.

To feed: Stir 3/4 cup sugar into very warm
water then add 3 TBSP potato flakes and add this to the starter. Let
it sit at room temp for  8 – 12 hours then put it back in the fridge.
To make bread:
Let your starter come to room temp before using,
then stir it and remove 1 cup for the bread.
In a large bowl, combine 1 cup starter, 1/4 cup
sugar. Then add 1 TBSP salt, 1 1/2 cups very warm water, 1/2 cup vegetable oil.
Stir (I used a whisk and whisked gently)  Now get your strong wooden spoon
and stir in 3 cups flour, stir until smooth. Add 3 – 4 more cups of flour, one a
time. (This is where you need Scott or lots of willing help to take lots of
turns stirring.)  Stir until bread is "smooth and elastic" – the dough
should be stretchy when you pull it, it shouldn’t break right off.
Knead.  To knead—this is so much fun—put
the dough on the table, push your hands into it, and push it away from you. Turn
the dough and repeat over and over until the dough feels nice and smooth. (About
5 – 10 minutes)
Put the dough into a greased or lightly oiled
big bowl, turn the dough so that it is coated with the oil (we use a 5
quart ice cream container) Place a dish towel over it and let it rise for 8 – 12
hours. (To have bread in the morning you start the previous morning, for evening
bread you start in the evening. When the starter is new, you can actually
shorten this to 4 hours if you same one day bread, but the flavor
definitely develops more fully with the really long rise time) On top of the
fridge is usually a warm enough place to raise dough.

After it has risen, PUNCH it down. Literally.
Then knead it lightly for a minute or so. Divide into thirds. Shape your loaves.
To do this, roll the dough into a rectangle, then roll it up jelly roll style
press down on each end with the side of your hands and tuck the pressed part
under. Place into greased loaf pans. Brush the tops lightly with vegetable oil
or softened or melted butter. (Experiment – different shortenings produce
different crusts.)  Cover them with a dish towel and let them rise 8 – 12
Remove the dish towel. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 –
45 minutes. When you tap the bread, it should sound hollow. Remove it from the
loaf pans right away and cool on a rack. Otherwise the bottom will get soggy. It
will slice better cooled, but who waits?
I hope you try this even though it probably sounds
like it takes years to make. It takes about ten minutes to make the starter and
then it takes about 45 minutes the first few times to mix the dough. (Until you
have built up biceps LOL). It takes about ten minutes to knead and shape the
loaves the second time. The rest is all anticipatory waiting
Variations on the theme:
French bread — decrease oil to 1/3 cup. Divide
dough into two pieces. Roll into long rectangles and skinny baguettes. Oil a
cookie sheet and then sprinkle with cornmeal (optional). Lightly oil the dough
on the cookie sheets. Unless you have French bread pans.
Cinnamon raisin bread: Increase sugar to 1/2 cup.
When you roll the dough to make the loaves, rub on some softened butter,
sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and raisins if you like. Roll up jelly roll style
and bake as usual.
You can also use the same method to make nice herb
bread.  Add what you like.
Rolls: Roll dough into balls, flatten and
Knots: Roll dough into balls, then "snakes" then
tie in a knot.
You rise (cover them with a clean
towel) and cook these on a cookie sheet. I spray my rolls (and most doughs
actually) with olive oil from a "spritzer" or just use Pam (or the generic
equivalent). It’s a lot faster than trying to brush them. Especially since my
brush is demolished and I have to use a spoon. LOL
Parker House rolls are made in muffin tins. You
roll three small balls and stick them in greased muffin cup, let them rise and
bake them at 350 for 20-30 minutes.

Joann, thanks so much for letting me share this!

Impromptu Mini-Carnival of Breadmaking Posts

(Updated AGAIN with yet more new contributions at the bottom!)

Well, I really have to hand it to you folks. The bread recipes and advice came pouring in—exactly the kind of flood I was hoping for. Some of you shared links in the comments, and I thought I’d compile them all here in one post for easy access.

Those of you who took the time to email me recipes directly: please let me know if I may share those recipes with the rest of the internet! I won’t post them unless you give me the go-ahead. And thanks so much, all of you. Jane wants to try every recipe and compare them. I say: yum!

Oh, and about our first loaf, Becky asked: "How long did it last?" Answer: Not very long. Scott was lucky to get a piece; the kids pretty much had bread and butter for dinner on Friday night, at their own request. (I made them add apples and cheese to round out the meal.) We actually baked two loaves: the one in the picture, for which we used our brand-spanking-new Pyrex loaf pan, thank you very much.  (Like many of my commenters, I’m a bit leery of nonstick cookware. All my pots and pans are plain old heavy-duty stainless steel. But we did have that nonstick loaf pan I’ve been carting around forever. I decided it was time to ditch it, and the Pyrex pan was only $7 at Target.)

For the other loaf, we used Hooly’s suggestion and shaped a round rustic loaf to bake on our pizza stone. That one was the one we devoured hot from the oven. SO GOOD. It didn’t survive long enough for a photo op.

As for the kneading surface, our wooden cutting board worked just fine. We put a tea towel under it to keep it from sliding around, as many of you recommended. And the kneading itself was the best part of the process. Jane and I had several fits of laughter as we repeatedly elbowed each other out of the way at kneading time.

Here, honey, let me show you how to do it. Like this. And this. And this.

—Mo-om! I get it! Come on, don’t I get a turn?

—Sure, just let me show you how for another five minutes…

All righty, here’s the links I promised. If you have links to other breadmaking posts, send ’em along and I’ll add them to our little unofficial Carnival of Bread, Glorious Bread.

It began with Jove’s post on how baking bread is meaningful work of the most delicious kind. Her daughter tried Wisteria’s recipe with excellent results. Jove explains how they adjusted the recipe here.

After I posted my questions about the process, Shelly shared her mother’s Butter Fluff Rolls recipe, which includes instructions for turning the dinner roll dough into cinnamon rolls. Mmmm.

My pal Lisa mentioned beer bread, and Cay shared Danielle Bean’s recipe for it.

Jennie’s post on How to Bake a Lot of Bread in One Day, complete with step-by-step photos, is a must-see. Be sure to read the comments too; she includes more helpful tidbits there. We took her advice about slitting the top of our loaf with a sharp knife before baking, and I have to say it is awfully satisfying to see that just-right sliced-bread shape every time I cut a piece.

Here’s another young baker at Bridget’s house, and another fine-looking loaf!

If it’s a good hearty oatcake ye’re hankerin’ for, here’s a recipe for Scottish bannocks I posted on Bonny Glen a while back.

That’s all for now, but I suspect there will be more to come!

UPDATED to add Donna-Marie’s post about Cinnamon Twists, mmm…

MORE UPDATES! Fellow ClubMom blogger Loni shares her recipe, which includes wheat she grinds herself with a Whisper Mill.

In the comments, Danielle Bean‘s sister, Helene, links to another sister, Suzanne (author of the lovely blog, Blessed Among Men), who posted a yummy-sounding recipe for herb bread. We’ll have to try that one for sure!

Also, check the comments for CityMom‘s recommendation of a book about breadmaking by a Jesuit priest.

ANOTHER ENTRY: Katherine in Texas shares her foccacia recipe. Oh boy!

MONDAY NIGHT ADDITIONS: Karen’s camera may be uncooperative, but her Italian bread sounds like a crowd-pleaser. It’s Atticus’s bread on the feast of St. Atticus!

Last week, Becky sent me an awesome email full of advice and recipes. I’m thrilled to say she has expanded that into a post for everyone to enjoy. Her recipe for "Old Order Amish bread" was the one Jane chose for our first try. And who knew the word "lady" originally meant "loaf kneader"?

Cajun Cay’s daughter learned the hard way when not to punch down (or poke down) the dough, but Cheryl has enough Brioche to go around. Pass the butter!

TUESDAY UPDATE: Minnesota Mom shares her grandma’s recipe for "coffee cake," aka Christmas bread.

And NYJLM waxes poetic about the joys of working with dough.

TUESDAY A WEEK LATER UPDATEDanielle Bean’s friend, Father Augustine Measures, OSB, shares a homily about bread!

NYJLM shares a link to a New York Times article on breadmaking.

November is National Bread Month! Who knew? Well, Chef Leann did. Here’s her recipe for Honey Whole-Wheat Bread, oh yum, and her answer to "Why bake homemade bread?" Check out the Bread Baking 101 in her sidebar, too.

SATURDAY THE 18TH and the recipes just keep a-rolling in! Haley and Joann both gave me leave to post the recipes they emailed me; thank you very much, my dears. Here’s Haley’s French bread and Joann’s loaves made from a potato starter.