Thursday, May 13, 2010

Better for You Bread


If there was a "carb" diet permitting you to eat all carbs, I would be a successful dieter! Especially where bread is concerned. I LOVE bread. The crusty outside with a soft center,.....MMMMMM, makes my mouth water. Unfortunatly with the genetics of a woman, it goes straight to my tummy and hips.
Have you ever read the ingredients listed on store purchased bread? My arteries clog just going over the long paragraph! Monogylcerides, Guar Gum, Lactylate, etc... What the heck is all that?!! I'm an domestic chef, not a chemist! I do like to buy fresh bakery bread, at least the ingredients are kept to a minimum.
Every now and then, homemade bread beckons me. At least I know what is in it and its not "gum da tar tar"! Because I like the finished results to come rather quickly, I ventured on a mission to find a good whole wheat bread that could be prepared in a timely manner. Sorry all you bread machine lovers, this one you do by hand.

Homemade Honey Whole Wheat Bread:

3 cups warm water
2 pkgs. active dry yeast
1/2 cup honey
5 cups unbleached bread flour
3 tbsp. butter, melted
1/3 c. honey
1 tsp. salt
3 1/2 c. whole wheat flour

(Here are the brands and ingredients I used)

If you are privilaged to get a hold of some freshly milled wheat flour, that's great! But, for the rest of us, some good store bought flour will suffice.

The first step is to dissolve the yeast (both packets) in the 3 c. warm water.

Add 1/3 c. of the honey to the yeast mixture. And mix well.If you have a stand mixer, attach the dough attachment.)
Add the bread flour in a seperate bowl, or your stand mixer bowl. Slowly add the yeast and mix until well blended.

Add the melted butter, other 1/3 c. honey and salt. Stir, or mix, in 2 c. whole wheat flour.

Flour a flat surface, I used an extra c. of flour to do this, half on the bottom and half on the top. Knead the dough just until it is pulling away for the surface, but still a little sticky.

Place in a bowl, cover with a dishtowel (CLEAN) and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled. This is great to do in an unheated oven. No draft can get to the dough. It will take anywhere from 40 min. to an hour to rise.

Once the dough has risen, divide into three loaves. Place in a greased 9x5 inch loaf pans. Since I only have two loaf pans and two mini loaf pans, I divided the dough according the my pan sizes.

Again, allow the dough to rise until it has topped the rim of the pans. About another 30-45 min. Sorry, I forgot to take a pic of the dough in the pans, so you will just have to invision it!

Bake the bread at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Pay close attention while baking, you don't want to overcook. Once done, brush some melted butter over the tops, unless you want a hard crust.

My oldest claimed this was the BEST bread he has ever had! I'll take that as a compliment. If the haphazard hostess can make this, ANYONE can! If you do make it, please let me know what you think.


Monday, May 10, 2010

Blackberry Pie

Yesterday evening my husband and our boys came in from fishing with a bucket full of blackberries. My mouth began to water at the anticipation of a homemade blackberry pie! I quickly began sifting through my collection of recipes and cookbooks for the quickest and easiest way to acheiving my culinary goal! I found a great one from Southern Living Pies and Cakes. Click Here for the recipe
blackberry pie

I hope you enjoy, and don't forget the vanilla ice cream!

Famiglia Piaaz Night (Family Pizza Night)

I love pizza! I mean, who doesn't?! I do believe it is one of those taste that are born and imbedded within each of us. A friend of mine recently told me how she had made a homemade Margharita Pizza. Everything was made from scratch! It sounded so good that I have been craving a homemade pizza ever since. I do believe in meals made from scratch, but I also recognize the busy world we live in today. If you have the time, however, to put into your meal, try making it totally from scratch. You will be rewarded with not only better flavor, but also the good feeling knowing what is in your meal. That is so important! Try looking at just the ingredients in your store purchased bread next supermarket trip. If you can't pronounce it, it probably isn't that good for you. Both of my grandmothers made (and still do) their meals from scratch. My Mama Riley lived to be 91 and was as healthy as a horse til the end! My Nanny is 80 years of age and other than bodily exhaustion, is healthy. Now to be honest, I do not make every meal from scratch. I to feel the austerity of today's lifestyles. Every now and then though, I like to think I am eating better by preparing a homemade meal. Pizza is one of those meals. Just think grease versus non-grease. Fresh ingredients instead of some fresh and some canned. Here is the two pizzas I made for the family. If making a homemade dough is too tedious or time consuming for you, purchase some premade dough from your local grocery store. Publix carries premade dough, in the bakery section. It is good and the ingredients natural, (so you know your not getting a lot of "crap" in there).

House Pizza

1 can basil garlic tomato sause
1 can no-salt added tomato paste
fresh rosemary
fresh basil (about 2 tbsp. chopped) extra for topping.
2 garlic cloves, minced
salt and pepper
sundried tomatoes (about 1/2 cup), not in oil
1/2 large sweet onion, sliced
1 red or green bell pepper, sliced
3/4 cup sliced mushrooms, (I used baby portobello)
pepperoni, (I used turkey)
cheese (shredded cheddar, mozarella and fresh mozarella)
pizza dough

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Roll out dough until desired roundness.
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Mix together your tomato sauce and paste. Add garlic, rosemary, basil pepper and salt.
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Spread sauce over rolled out dough:
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Add pepperoni, veggies, torn basil leaves and cheeses. Not necessarily in that order. It is your pizza and there is no chef standing over you telling you how to do things! Roll with it!
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Bake at 375 degrees- 400 degrees til golden brown and bubbly. About 30 minutes.
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Lesson learned: put sundried tomatoes on bottom so they don't char! This is why I call myself "haphazard", I do stuff like this ALL the time!

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Have a glass of wine to reward yourself for all your hard work, or a beer; whatever floats your boat! A Greek Salad is a great side for this meal.

Here's one for the kiddies. Just omit the veggies, and , Viola!, a Cheese Pizza!
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Saturday, May 8, 2010

A Lifetime of Influence

I have the pleasure of knowing so many wonderful and inspiring mothers. They come from all walks of life. Each of these woman have left their footprint on my own life. Their influence has affected my personal view of motherhood in some way or another. While each mother has her particular goals and beliefs of parenting, they have shepherd my heart and helped me to grow in different aspects.

There are too many women I have been blessed to know to list, but here is a glimpse of some of those who have been most influential.

My own mother, of course! She is truly an inspiration. Our walk through life together, along with God's graceful guidance, has given us such a rewarding relationship. I do believe that mom's loving hand still instructs me everyday, sometimes in the most subtle of ways, (and sometimes not!). We may not always agree, what mother and daughter does?!
Her love for God and steadfast relationship with Him has helped to show me my own path with God. Mom rises above the occasion and is ALWAYS the life of the party! She has taught me how to treat people and no matter what, to show the kindness. I'd like to think I get my ability to strike up a conversation with anyone, partly from her. She never meets a stranger. I like that about her. She also doesn't care what people think. I think that that is so inspiring, especially in this day and age where the world is so judgmental and critical.
One of the most wonderful things I am able to share with my mother is our understanding of living with an disease. I know it must sound kind of corny, but she has been the one I can talk to about living with Lupus and the daily rigamors it puts me through. She herself was diagnosed with an dibilitating disease. Matter of fact, she has several health problems, but she keeps moving! What an encouragment! We have both come to realize that God is using us in some way, with our diseases. Yet He has not revealed it, I know we serve a purpose. His timing is not our timing. I'm so glad God chose her to be my mother. I can imagine anyone else's hand to hold through my life.
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My grandmother, Nanny,who is in the picture below, is such an inspiration herself. Hardworking, self-driven and a true "Steel Magnolia". Her life has not been a smoothed paved road, yet she has driven down it as if it was. I am mostly compared to her by our family. We share so many of the same qualities and likes and dislikes. Our love for cooking is also part of our ministry. I mean, if you can't make someone happy through their belly, how can you make them happy?! Food is comfort. We get that! When someone passes to the next life, food is always delivered. Whenever there is a celebration, food is served; get togethers for family and friends- FOOD! You see, it's not just a way to a man's heart, but everyone's! Nanny and I are both very independent. Not always a good thing!
Her ability to rely on herself is what has carried her through life and made her such a success. She is loved by everyone she meets, and is called "mother" by those who are not even her own. She strives to God's work for her without complaint, come to think of it, she doesn't ever complain. I could certainly acquire that from her! In short, her influence is continuing and growing with me. Should I outlive her, I know that her legacy will carry on in me. What an inspiration!

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My step-mom, Lainey, came into my life when I was just a little girl. Of course I attempted to rid my dad of her and sabatoge their relationship from the beginning. Fortunatly, Lainey had my number! She knew the way to an only spoiled child's heart- "the Cabbage Patch Kid"! One of the first one hundred, she selflessly gave "Thurman" to me and forever found her way into my heart and life! She was a mother figure of sorts, but more of a friend. Lainey has always had my best in mind , and I am so thankful that her and my mom have managed to be friends. I believe they learned a valuable lesson that many of split families could learn, that life itself is too short to hold animosity against one another. We are all here to serve God's purpose, not our own. Yet how easily we forget! In short, I believe God not only put Lainey in my father's life for happiness, but in mine also. She helped to fill a hole in my heart at a time in life where it was so wide.

me, nik and lainey

There is another lady who I am so blessed to have had in my life for almost 30 years, my Mama Riley. Tears form in my eyes as I write this, for she is no longer here, but happily in heaven. I could probably write a book on her life and everything she endured. Mama Riley was one of sixteen kids, yes that is correct, sixteen. She was the last to die. Before you think she must have been the youngest, no she wasn't. She ws strong in so many ways. I can only imagine life through her eyes. Mama Riley and I had a very special bond that I will NEVER loose. She took me under her wings the day I was born. She also had the "greenest thumb" I have ever known and passed it to me, thankfully! I can remember from childhood walking with her into the stores and down the plant aisle. She would never buy a plant, just pinch off a leaf and take it home to root. This was not stealing in her eyes! Cracks me up! No, I don't do this! Mama Riley loved to cook, also; must have been the generation. I can still smell the Lowry's Pork Chops baking in the oven! She was such a special lady and I have such special memories that I will cherish til the day I die!

The newest "mother-like" influence in my ife has to be my mother-in-law. Ironically, she has the same love for cooking! Go figure! Yes, it is a southern thing that we belles down here are born and bred with!
Meme, as we call her, has such a giving heart. She loves to help others and does so with a joyful heart. She endures life's tribulations with grace and dignity. How many of us go through complaining and whining?! Not Meme, she may get knocked down, but she picks herself back up! She raised two wonderful and God fearing men, one whom I am so thankful for each and everyday! Her tender heart she instilled in my husband and I have come to cherish this part of him so much! Our relationship has grown in the past eight years and I know it continues to grow everyday. My sister-in-law and I, I hope, are the daughters she never had!

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I truly hope that this Mother's Day you will stop and take a momnet to reflect of the "mothers" in your life and their influence. I can assure you as the sun will rise in the morning, that these women have helped to shape and form you in to the woman you are today! If you and you own mother are having trouble relating or or just not seeing eye to eye, now is the time to "Let Go and Let God". Life is too short to hold a grudge and you certainly don't want to pass along such an ill trait to your own children! God bless all of you mothers and Happy Mother's Day!

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Cake Diaries

Today is our youngest son, Riley's, birthday. He is 6! We had his party over the weekend. He wanted an Indiana Jones cake and so I thought I would save the 40-50 bucks and make it myself. It turned out OK and he was happy. The sad part was that I forgot to take pictures of it! I'm like that, forgetful! In my defense, my poor hubby was sick and I was running the party myself. So, if forgetting to take a pic of the cake was the worst of it, I think I can manage! Well, it got me thinking about all the cakes I've made in the past. I am not a professional cake decorator by far, but I did pay attention to my mom and nanny (grandmother) growing up. You see, my Nanny has a bakery/fast food business in the small hometown I grew up halfway in. I remember watching my mom decorate countless cakes. There were traditional to the not so innocent versions. The "boob cake" was the most risque cake I had ever seen. That is until it's male counterpart came along! People would request some crazy cakes! Thankfully, those that have allowed me to make cakes for them have kept the request "G" rated. God bless them! I don't think I could make some naughty cakes! So, I thought I would pull out some pics from my repertoire and share them withyou all. Hope you enjoy!

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This was one I did for a friend's husband.

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This was for my sister-in-laws 30th Birthday! First attempt with fondant

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This was for a friend's birthday.

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The jungle cake was for my oldest's 5th birthday.

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For my nephew's birthday

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Our youngest end of the year school party