Musings

Rediscovering

What to do when you’ve done it all. More than once.

By now some of us have baked far too much, cooked more than we thought we were capable of, cleaned until we can’t clean any more and have become bored by what we normally look forward to watching.

There is something special about rediscovering things you used to do, but for reasons no one remembers, you stopped doing.

Me? I pulled out my CD collection, turned on the DVD player and started rediscovering my music collection.

Streaming is a great option, but as many have discovered not everything is available to download or tuck into a playlist. My CD and DVD collections fill the gap left when what is available just isn’t interesting at the moment.

I have to admit, I do forget that my ancient DVD player has the capability to do more than play video. It is a nice surprise because not only does it allow me to play my music, it plays it through my TV which has pretty amazing speakers. Win/Win!

So far, I’ve pulled relaxing works to listen to. I may move into some soundtracks or rock and roll or <shrug> who knows?

What I do know is that there is something to occupy that space in my head that isn’t overwhelmed by all the outside noise. Not that the Outside Noise isn’t sometimes necessary, it is just a bit too much.

So, if you are feeling a bit lost and in need of Something Different, why not dig into your stash and see what treasures you can find to replace the Outside Noise and restore some joy?

Musings

Around The House

Or, How to Freak Out The Cat Without Trying

Today was a Finish Up Project Day. Why? I have no idea other than I just needed a change. 🙂

I finished clearing out the laundry area. This was done after steam cleaning the floors, putting shelving back into place and stocking it with a better organized group of Things I need To Have Handy But Don’t Need Every Day.

This project has been going on long enough Bella Cat discovered the Interesting Hidey Spot Beside and Behind the Dryer. It no longer exists as the shelving resides next to it and the steamer has a new home behind it. 🙂

As I mentioned floors have been steam cleaned, or vacuumed, depending upon location. Trash taken out. Dishes done. Laundry done – and (miracle!) out of the dryer.

Bella had been lounging on the bed when I started steaming the floors. Sadly, it was at that same moment she decided to see what I was up to. Picture: Cat stuck in doorway, terrified of The Thing in Mom’s hands. I finished what I was doing and she flew past me to come to a screeching stop in the Living Room and wonder what had happened to all the Stuff.

This cat Really Does Not Like Change and the afternoon was full of it. Smells were different. Spaces were no longer there. (!!!) Spaces were once again there. (!!!!) Windows were opened and fans on. That funny thing that made some noise but lots of funny air. And, let us not forget, the vacuum was out and about. Yikes!

Bella has once again discovered the Library window and has been enjoying every second possible watching Outside and napping while Mom Works.

She has also discovered the front door and has been seen stretching out to luxuriate in the sunshine.

I’m willing to think she has recovered from her stressful day. Me? I could use a nice glass of wine, a hot shower and a nap. 🙂

Cooking · Dining · Food

Frozen Treats

Okay, let’s be honest here, lots of us (not pointing fingers) have been enjoying home made breads and cakes during our Stay At Home Adventures. Some of us might say, a bit too much. 🙂

As it is allegedly Spring and heading into Summer (I say this because, as I type this, currently it is a scootch above freezing and has been pouring rain…) fresh fruits are heading into the market.

So, how do you enjoy those succulent sweet morsels without adding on more inches? Not into making a pie or cobler? Don’t want to make jam or jelly? What if you have dietary restrictions? What do you do if you don’t have a lot of specialty equipment in your kitchen? Well, you make sorbet!

Sorbet is made from water and fruit puree or juice. It contains no milk, cream or eggs, and is one of the oldest forms of frozen desserts. Records of frozen sorbet-like desserts date back to the ancient Romans and Chinese, where they were made with snow, fresh fruit pulp and sweetened with honey.

Not to be confused with sherbet. The difference between sorbet and sherbet is mainly how much dairy they contain. Sorbet contains no dairy whatsoever, while sherbet contains a little cream or milk to give it a richer, creamier texture.

Simple. Easy. Delicious.

Sorbet can be produced using very simple equipment. At the very least, you can use a potato masher or a fork or, if you have one, a blender. The food processor is also an option. No ice cream maker is needed.

You can use whatever fruits you have on hand. If they are just this side of over ripe and you aren’t sure what to do with them, this is a great option. You can also adjust the flavors any way you like. Say, for instance, you want to add a touch of mint or maybe almond. You can use extracts or, if you have the plant, chop up some mint to add to the mixture before you freeze it.

So, how do you actually do it? Simple as 1 – 2 – 3:

  1. Cut up the fruit.
  2. Freeze the fruit.
  3. Blend (or puree) the fruit.

Let’s start with the fruit. You will want about 3 – 3 1/2 cups of frozen fruit.

You can prep your own or use frozen fruits. Keep in mind that while the bags of fruits from the market are already in uniform sizes, their sweetness may vary depending upon when they were harvested and frozen. This really isn’t much different than fruits you pick and process on your own. Bottom line: Check the sweetness and adjust as you see fit. You can add honey to adjust if you need to.

If you are prepping your own fruit, try to get them as uniform as possible – this will help them freeze at the same rate. Speaking of freezing, a good option is to prepare the fruits and have them in the freezer overnight. If you can’t wait that long, leave them in the freezer at least 3-4 hours or until they are frozen through.

You will need to have room in your freezer for a sheet pan that you can lay the fruit on to freeze. Avoid placing the fruits on the pan in such a way as they will touch and/or clump. Clumps make processing more difficult as they won’t be easy to separate.

Method One: Using Blender or Food Processor

  1. Freeze the fruits.
  2. Put into blender or food processor along with any sweetener needed.
  3. Blend until smooth.
  4. You might need to add a little warm water and press the fruits down to process.
  5. Eat immediately as a soft freeze or return to the freezer for a hard freeze.

Method Two: Manual Press

  1. If using already frozen fruits, set them out to semi defrost. If using unfrozen fruits, cut up and add to a large bowl.
  2. Use a potato masher or two forks to break up the fruit into a small puree.
  3. Pour fruits into a freezer safe container – preferably something shallow. Freeze for about an hour.
  4. Remove from freezer, stir the fruits to break up ice clumps. Return to freezer. Repeat until fruit is totally frozen.

Get creative! Combine fruits to make delicious desserts. Do you already have a favorite smoothie recipe? Why not adapt it to make sorbet?

You could put the mixture into smaller containers, add Popsicle sticks and have a great cool treat for young and old alike.

What if you have chunks of really good chocolate on hand? Why not add a few to the softened mixture before you eat – or pop the mix back into the freezer? You could also add larger fruit chunks to the mix to really up your game.

Sorbets that use naturally sweet fruits have low calorie counts. They can be elegant additions to a Company Dinner or an easy luscious treat any time. They prevent food waste, which is also a plus for your budget.

Give them a try and let me know what you think!

Musings

Bread Follow Up

As I mentioned yesterday, I have a very old Sears machine that I love.

When I moved, this machine lived in storage for far too long, and as a result I ended up buying a different machine for the interim. When the storage locker was cleared, the second machine went to the second hand shop with my blessing. It made great dough, it was a lousy baking machine.

My machine, old as it is, does all the functions perfectly.

If you are considering a machine, you don’t need to spend a lot of money to get a good machine. Good Housekeeping has done a great review on 6 Best Bread Machines to consider.

Why buy a machine instead of making bread by hand? You can have flexibility to create bread while doing something else entirely. (You don’t do all your laundry by hand, right? Same principle.) You have control of the ingredients in the bread. No additives or chemicals to keep it shelf stable. If you have dexterity issues, the machine takes the “work” out of the process.

If you are considering a machine, please keep in mind you will need space to use and space to store the machine.

Whatever you decide, good luck!

Cooking · Food

My New Favorite Bread Recipes

I’ve owned a bread machine (or two) over the years and the one prevailing issue I’ve had is some inconsistency with the results.

My preferred machine is a 20+ year old Sears model that I Absolutely Adore. Note: I doubt you will be able to find one like it. This machine makes wonderful bread, is easy to use and is reliable.

That being said, there are always opportunities to see what else I can do with it. I have yet, for example, to try making jam or cakes in the machine. But I can see the time when I will give them a try.

In the meantime, I happened across this recipe from Food.com and gave it a try. Boy! Was I amazed! The recipes is: Throw Away The Bread Machine Instructions White Bread.

One of the main takeaways is that you start out proofing your yeast in warm water before you add the rest of the ingredients into the pan. Just as you would if you were making bread by hand. That short 10 minute wait gives you time to gather all your ingredients, measure them out and make sure that the yeast is still active. Sort of a jump start, if you will.

Because I use yeast from a jar that I store in the refrigerator, and I don’t let the yeast come to room temperature before I start, the time spent in the warm water does double duty. It not only brings the yeast up to temp, but gets the proofing underway before the machine starts combining ingredients.

The very first attempt with the recipe netted a lovely high loaf with a golden crust, even crumb and lovely taste.

As I continue to experiment, I will be sure to use the proofing method in this recipe. I know it won’t work for delayed baking, but for general use it should be a huge help.

As I think further, one thing that may explain the inconsistency issue is the temperature of the water used. Straight out of the tap sounds easy, but if it is cold outside, the water will be cold. If you draw hot water, be sure it isn’t too hot – it needs to be at least 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Too cold and the yeast won’t grow, too hot and you’ll kill the yeast.

What else do I use my bread machine for?

  • Pizza dough.
  • Sweet dough for cinnamon rolls.
  • English Muffin Bread.
  • French bread (not the traditional kind but I could if inclined)
  • Italian bread
  • Dinner Rolls

Fresh bread made at home is less expensive than store bought and I know what is in it. While I use a machine, I started out making bread by hand and, contrary to what some people may think, basic bread is basically 15 minutes of work and a couple of hours of waiting; waiting for the rise and waiting while baking.

Which, come to think of it, is pretty similar to using a machine. 🙂

Either way, the end result is tasty, tempting and a true treat!

My Favorite Tools and Resources

While I’ve usually had excellent luck with my original bread machine, I did have a different one that made great dough, but the baking left a lot to be desired. I was lucky to be a part of an online cooks message board (long since gone) that had bread bakers as part of the group.

The group recommended The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook by Beth Hensperger. This book was a life saver as it provided much needed information about how the machines work their magic and what to do to help them do their jobs. The biggest take away from the book was to use additional gluten when baking in a machine. I tried it – and it worked!

This book contains my favorite pizza dough recipe!

Somewhere along the line I came across the first three books in the Bread Machine Cookbook series by Donna Rathmell German. These books have been great fun providing interesting recipes and options for using the machine.

These books have my favorite English Muffin Bread recipe along with the recipe to make the sweet dough for cinnamon rolls.

Fleischmann’s Yeast has a wonderful website (Breadworld.com) that holds an amazing array of recipes for hand and machine made breads and pastries.

King Arthur Flour’s website (kingarthurflour.com) not only has a wonderful recipe section, but their online shop has some great tools in addition to the flours, seasonings, chocolates, etc. They have a great community section where you can ask bakers for help with any question you have regarding baking.

Bread making doesn’t have to be complicated. Bread is actually very simple. Enjoy the process and don’t be afraid to experiment.

Around the House · Crafting · Food · Media

A Little of This

And A Little of That

For those of us who are staying put, sheltering at home can be a bit of an unexpected, not to mention unwelcome, opportunity to discover ways to keep ourselves busy.

Some folks will dive head first into a lot of binge watching. I know I have quite a few series I’m behind on.

Other folks will gather around the gaming table, or find ways to do their online gaming with friends.

Crafters will catch up or start projects that have been waiting in the wings.

Folks will head to the kitchen to see what miracles they can create from the cupboard and pantry.

There is a lot of Spring Cleaning going on.

My YouTubers have been working hard to provide content for their regulars.

All of these are attempts to provide a sense of “normal” in a world that is pretty much anything but.

There is no “Right Way” to find normal. Each person does certain things because it provides a way for him or her to focus away from stress and worry and relax.

I encourage all of us to take walks, check on those we love via phone or email, watch, read, do the things we do in a safe and thoughtful manner.

We all know the drill; wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Stay at least 6, if not 10, feet apart from other folks. Pay attention to the medical experts.

We will get through this. Together.

Musings

Spring Has Arrived!

Ever since I first moved to California, Spring arrived with Naval Oranges.

Now, for some that might sound a bit odd, but please consider. Southern California has basically one, maybe two, seasons. Summer and Wet Summer. After a while, unless the Weather Angel gets a bit on edge, it is pretty much the same, day after day.

For a girl from the Midwest, who was used to having Four Entire Seasons, this was…a touch confusing. I could totally lose track of where we were in the year simply because there was nothing to highlight the changes.

Outside my window, the trees were either Evergreens or Palms. And then one year I went to San Francisco in October and was totally blown away by all the red, yellow and orange leaves. Yep, San Francisco has trees that are not Palm Trees. Wow! I’d forgotten what Fall looked like.

My dad thought I was nuts, but he also thought that 40 degree weather isn’t “cold”, either. To be honest, from his point of view when the weather got down to the 20’s that was cold. If it did that in Southern California people would be in shock, if not the hospital.

Anyway, back to Spring. Today I got my First of the Year Naval Oranges.

With all the things going on right now, that small touch of sweetness brought a bit of normal back. Better than flowers in the yard. Better than blue skies. Better than warm temperatures. Better than chocolate.

I hope you find what makes Spring for you. Enjoy it. Embrace it.