Monday, October 29, 2012

From the Kitchen: Homemade English Muffins

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I never really thought I’d drool over English muffins. But then, I had never had a fresh one. I made this batch of homemade English muffins today… my first try. It was a complete and utter success and I think the experience has ruined store-bought English muffins forever. Forever.

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I found this recipe on the King Arthur flour website (while looking for something else) and was intrigued. I imported the recipe into my iPad’s Paprika app (love!) but didn’t get a picture, and then forgot about it. But at the grocery store today I couldn’t get myself to spend vast quantities of cash on cereal, and I needed to make some easy and tasty breakfast foods to feed my people this week. I wasn’t sure how these would turn out, but literally every recipe I have tried from King Arthur has turned out better than expected, so I decided I’d give it a whirl. I almost made a double batch, but my inner voice told me not to. Good thing, because the one batch made 28 English muffins (the recipe says 16, but they would be HUGE). I ate one of the first to come off the griddle, covered with some homemade Michigan strawberry jam we received as a favor from the wedding we attended this past weekend. It was yummy tasty delicious scrumptious heavenly indescribably good. Since I want what’s best for you too(really!), I strongly encourage you to try this recipe.

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English Muffins (from the King Arthur Flour website)

Ingredients:

1 3/4 cups (14 ounces) milk, warm
3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) butter
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons (7/8 ounce) granulated sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
4 to 4 1/4 cups (17 to 18 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast

Directions:

Place the ingredients in the pan of your bread machine following the manufacturer's instructions. Use the "dough" or "manual" setting. After the cycle is complete, transfer the dough to a cornmeal-sprinkled surface and roll it out until it's about 1/2-inch thick. Cut out circles with a floured 3-inch cutter (or use a glass if you don’t happen to have a cutter). Re-roll and cut out the leftover dough as many times as necessary to use it all up. Cover the muffins with a damp cloth and let rest for about 20 minutes.

Heat a frying pan or griddle to very low heat. I used an electric griddle and set it to 300 degrees, which worked beautifully. Do not grease, but sprinkle with cornmeal. Cook as many muffins as you can fit without crowding at a time, cornmeal side down first, for about 7 minutes a side (maybe longer). Check after about 3 to 4 minutes to see that the muffins are browning gently and are neither too dark nor too light; if they seem to be cooking either too fast or too slowly, adjust the temperature of your pan or griddle. You can squish them down a bit if they seem too tall and you are afraid the middle isn’t cooking enough. When the muffins are brown on both sides, transfer them to a wire rack to cool, and proceed with the rest.

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Breakfast will never be the same.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Etsy Thoughts: Make, Photograph, List, Repeat

I just spent several weeks making “merch” like a crazy person followed by several weeks of photographing and listing it (then getting sidelined by a bad cold). At present, I have managed to list all my retail cashmere hats and wholesale recycled wool and cashmere flower brooches. It feels good. And also incomplete. I expect it’ll take another week or so to put up the retail flowers and wholesale hats. And hopefully some smaller gift sets of each. Then I’ll be ready to buckle down and do some home improvement-type projects that are waiting patiently (and some not-so-patiently) for attention.

Here’s a smattering of what has become available in TheJuneBride Etsy shop recently, in no particular order…

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Well, that was fun! It’s nice, every now and again, to take stock of what one has actually accomplished (and not think too hard about all the other things that one has not yet accomplished). Refreshing!

Hope your weekend is great! Don’t work too hard :)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Thrifting for Gold: Pottery at the End of the Rainbow (with Easy Spanish Rice)

How did it get to be Thursday already? This week certainly hasn’t “flown by”, but neither have I been energetic enough to get a post going. So sad. I have been laid out for several days now with a very bad cold. Surprisingly bad. One of those colds that gives you a sore throat from coughing, and makes you wonder, “What exactly are the symptoms of pneumonia again?” I feel pretty sure at this point that I’m getting better, but I’m still trying to keep hydrated and not overdo it, for the sake of my poor abused lungs. And because we have a growing number of commitments this weekend, including but not limited to a wedding, a baby shower and another funeral. It’s been one of those weeks that you pray ends up being character-building.

During my various stints lying on the couch, my constant companion has been a new favorite mug. You remember, the one I wrote about some weeks ago. Oh, lovely hand thrown mug! Holder of 16+ ounces of tea at a time. I love you so!

But the story gets better! The next time I popped into the thrift store where I had purchased the mug, I saw the rest of the dinnerware set. Gasp! There was more!! They smartly decided to dig through various boxes to see how much was actually there to sell it as a group rather than piece by piece. They regretted selling the one mug before they realized it (ha ha!). Since I was in love and had no idea what they would find or what they would ask for it or when they would actually put it up for sale, I asked them to please call me when they were ready to sell so that I could have the first shot at it. This goes against every bargaining instinct I possess which, under normal circumstances, would dictate showing no attachment and always asking for a lower price. But… I wasn’t sure I could walk away. The heart loves what it loves, and you don’t always know why!

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It took the store a couple of weeks before they actually put it up for sale.  In the end, they had found six full place settings of the stuff, plus a seventh set minus the mug I had already bought and an eighth small plate. Oh joy!! Their asking price was 60% of the maximum price I decided that I would have paid. I didn’t even ask for a lower price. I know I said I wouldn’t be buying any more thrift store mugs anytime soon, but… plans change. I now have 7 full place settings each including a dinner plate, a salad/dessert plate, a large bowl and a mug. And one extra small plate just for kicks. Each piece has the lovely cross stamp, and it's like hide and seek to find each one since placement varies greatly. I can’t tell you how much I enjoy having dinnerware with character! They will work nicely with canning jars when I finally decide to go that route for our household beverage containers (someday, after my people break enough of our current glasses). I also secretly think I could mix and match with other partial pottery dinnerware sets I may encounter on distant future thrift store expeditions, when we have more need for “grown up” dishes and less need for plastic Ikea ones.

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In the bowl is one of my go-to Mom lunch foods… Spanish Rice topped with sour cream and cheese. The bread is a new favorite recipe… olive oil dough from the book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.

Spanish Rice (the fast way)

Ingredients:

2 cups cooked rice, any type (I like to use Vigo’s yellow rice mix)

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 can diced tomatoes, drained

1 cup frozen corn

Seasonings of choice (salt, pepper, garlic powder, cumin, cilantro, etc)

Directions:

Mix well and heat thoroughly.

Eat, topped with your favorite cheese and sour cream.

Refrigerate leftovers.

Reheat.

Eat again.

You can always add some meat if you want more protein, or whatever other veggies you want. It’s basically fool-proof, and always ends up being filling and tasty.

Happy thrifting! Stay healthy :)

Monday, October 15, 2012

My Life in a Nutshell: Sad, and Suddenly Swamped

Last week (and this week) just became insane. I won’t trouble you with the details, but it involves some unpleasant small-house-repair-turned-big-house-repair, the very unexpected death of a wonderful young man in our parish, and a million trivial things conspiring against me and my self-inflicted “creative productivity” deadlines. So, the lesson here… flexibility.

And, since I don’t know if I’ll get the chance to write much this week (after the added insult of silence last week), I am going to fill in the content gap by posting a couple pictures of one of my favorite people… Joey, one of my adorable godsons! His mom (a wonderful lifelong friend and childhood neighbor of mine) brought him and his 3 brothers over to play for a tiny while a few weeks back, and I took the opportunity to snap a few pics for our mutual benefit, borrowing my neighbor’s coleus garden as a backdrop. He’s a cutie, and he reminds me that, even when things seem hopeless and hard to manage, we’re here in large part just to love the people God has given us.

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I hope to get current pictures of my other handsome godsons in the near future, and finally get the whole set of their charming faces up on my wall to remind me to pray for them each day. Gosh I love these guys!!

Hope your week is shaping up to be a good one (make it so!). Be safe, be well, be happy :)

Friday, October 5, 2012

From the Kitchen: Belated Birthday Cake

This cake was right on time, it’s just the post that’s belated, luckily! My little baby girl - my first bundle of joy (and also of trouble) - turned 8. Eight. EIGHT, people! How did that happen? Goodness the time flies when you’re incredibly busy having fun :) She requested a chocolate cake with vanilla frosting. Initially she hoped it would have a prehistoric shark-like creature on it (she was very specific, but I forget the name now), but ultimately we settled on a cake that “looks nice” with purple icing. OK, I can do that.

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My older sister gave me a book this past year, 100 Cakes and Bakes, written by longtime British baking personality Mary Berry. I really wasn’t aware of her existence prior to reading the book, surprising because she has published over 70 cookbooks, but she’s got a very impressive history (studied at Le Cordon Bleu, judges on various cooking shows on the BBC and generally has kicked culinary derrière for decades). I accept her baking authority.

Anyway… I decided to try the Very Best Chocolate Fudge Cake (pg. 24). Mmmm. I encountered a few hang-ups on the way, but overall, it was delicious. First issue was that the book, being of UK origin, was in metric measurements. So there was some deciphering of weight-to-volume measurements. The second issue was of overall quantity. I needed to feed 12, but one recipe of this cake essentially made two 9” pancakes. The recipe called for 8” pans, but I had 9”, so that’s what I used. They were about 3/4” high. So I baked another recipe after my pans had cooked and ended up with 4 thin layers. The final issue was that I used vanilla Bettercreme for the icing. Bettercreme is a bakery-type frosting and filling that last without refrigeration and is wonderful to pipe, but it just wasn’t the taste that anyone really wanted with this cake. Next time, butter cream.

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Very Best Chocolate Fudge Cake (recipe for 9” 4-layer cake, as I made it; altered to US measurements)

Ingredients

1/2 cup cocoa powder, sifted

3/4 cup boiling water

6 large eggs

4 oz milk

1 1/2 cup self-raising flour

1 tbsp baking powder

1 cup butter, softened

2 1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. prepare 4 9” cake pans by greasing them, then placing a round of parchment paper in the bottom. If you don’t have 4 9” pans (who does?), you can make this in two half-size batches.

Mix cocoa and boiling water in large bowl until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and beat until it is a homogeneous, thickish batter. Divide mixture between pans and tap to level the batter.

Baking time might vary, so keep an eye on these. Bake 15-25 minutes, until they are risen and the top springs back when pressed with fingers. Cool in pans several minutes, then flip onto cooling rack, peeling off parchment paper (it’ll get soggy if you don’t). Allow to cool completely. May be frozen prior to icing, just seal well in a container with something between layers to prevent them freezing together.

Ice and stack as desired! Delicious with ice cream, just like cake should be.

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Thursday, October 4, 2012

My Life in a Nutshell: Getaway for the Girls

Last weekend was a dose of just what I needed. I managed to sneak away for the weekend (thank you, fabulous husband!) with several amazing lady friends for some good times and a refreshing break from the norm. I love my life and was afraid of missing all my people, but the <48 hour vacation in St. Joseph, Michigan, was thoroughly enjoyable. I go to a calmer place just thinking back on it. Only 51 weeks till we can go again…

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We hiked at the dunes, participated in a little bit of local wine tasting, enjoyed a tasty lunch out and took a very brief foray into a bizarre scary vintage shop. We cooked a tapas-style dinner and chatted until the wee hours of the morning about 11 PM, when we realized we were too tired to stay awake any longer. Mass on Sunday, brunch, then a 2-hour drive home. Perfection. I am so very blessed to have these ladies (and also many more who weren’t able to get away) in my life.

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Monday, October 1, 2012

From the Kitchen: Carl Goh’s Zucchini Bread Recipe

This has been my favorite zucchini bread recipe for my whole life. I believe it was in the book Beard on Bread, and it’s what my mom always made. This is another recipe I’m adding primarily for my own benefit, but, as always, feel free to enjoy it too!!

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Carl Goh's Zucchini Bread
Ingredients:
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cup raw grated zucchini
  • 3 tsp vanilla
  • 3 cup flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (optional)
Directions:
Beat eggs until light and foamy. Add sugar, oil, zucchini, vanilla, and mix lightly but well. Combine the flour, salt, soda, baking powder and cinnamon and add to egg/zucchini mixture. Stir well until blended. Add nuts and pour into 2 9X5X3 loaf pans. Bake 350 for 1 hour.