Archives

Surrender Bread

If you’ve read my previous posts, you realize me and bread are mortal enemies. Bread hates me, and I hate bread. Well, I LOVE bread. My body hates bread but more importantly I hate MAKING bread. And bread does NOT like me. It doesn’t like coming out right for me. It wishes me dead.

But I battle the beta cell killing diabetic poison thing almost every week and hope and pray for mercy. I have a bread machine because, damnit, I paid a lot for it and it WILL come through!

I found a recipe in my file box for French Baguettes. It required ONLY the dough cycle on the machine. AHA! I can try to do the hybrid thing, that way if it fails I will have TWO things to blame: The oven AND the bread machine!

My bread machine actually has a preheat function so I don’t have to worry about precise temperatures. Score.

The weird thing about this recipe was it didn’t call for a second rise. That’s really weird. Maybe I wrote it down wrong. I dunno. So, being that this is the first time I tried this recipe, I’m going to do it like the recipe says. Next time, I’ll try a second rise.

So, first, grab the water. Cause the bread machine book thingee tells me I have to add the liquid ingredients first.

Now I add the dry stuff.

This is how it looks before I turn it on.

Now I flip it to the dough cycle. Which kneads it and gives it a first rise.

Don’t let the simplicity fool you. Bread is a moody, evil bitch. And I’m done being fooled by simple recipes when all I ever get is freakin’ door stops.

So anyway, it’s set for 2 hours. So I go and proceed to do some knitting or some other such thing to keep my nervous mind off the probably going to fail dough that I’ll have to bake.

Once it’s done, you gotta roll it into wands. Normally, this is where you’d have a second rise but, as I said before, recipe doesn’t call for it.

It said to cut slits in the top, which I did.  It also said to spray it with some water or put a pan of water in the oven to make it crunch. No. That’s too much work for something that I was pretty certain was going to be disappointing. I’ve learned my lesson when it comes to the yeast beast. I refuse to put too much heart and soul into the bread unless I know it’s gonna come out.

And of course, I forgot to take a picture of the finished product. Sorry.

But I can tell you it actually came out good. Was it super light and fluffy? No. But it wasn’t super dense either. It was good enough that all try baguettes were eaten at dinner. So this is something I’m going to try again, perhaps this time with a second rise and with the water misty thing.

*squints eyes* Make no mistake. I still don’t trust bread. I still think it’s out to get me. I still think that at any time, at any place, it’s going to fail on me. Fool me once, shame on you….Fool me twice….

———-

French Baguettes

1 cup water

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp yeast

1 1/2 tsp sugar

3 cups of bread flour

Use dough cycle on your machine and add ingredients as called for in your bread machine instruction book.

Remove dough, divide into 2 or 3 pieces. Roll into skinny wands. Place on baking sheet coated with cornmeal. Slash top with 3 diagonal cuts.

Place in 450 preheated oven. Bake 12-15 minutes depending on thickness.

When done, they should be deep brown and sound hollow.

Place water in the bottom of a pan in the oven or spray with mist of water for a crunchy crust.

Unpluggeth!

I was sitting in my kitchen the other day happily typing away some recipes of mine into my Ipad’s recipe organizer. I’m trying to get it all in there so that I can throw away a lot of my recipe cards and have a nice, single organized place for all of them.

I’ve recently gotten Mr. B interested in steampunk style decor. He’s been pulling apart lamps and watches that would instead be garbage and making really cool stuff out of them. I’d had a long day of working, cleaning, taking care of my old pup and generally getting things done. Sitting down to type recipes was actually relaxing to me. And then I hear him say:

“Do you mind if I turn on Netflix for some background noise?”

This spawned a conversation. Mr. B and the Texan almost ALWAYS need some kind of noise going in the background. Even when they sleep. Mr. B is an ultra-gamer, he can spend hours and hours and hours day after day in front of the PS3 whereas Texan is usually glued to news, sports, message boards on his phone or the history channel on the TV and if not that then the radio.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love my gadgets. My Ipad my Iphone and I do watch some TV: True Blood, Game Of Thrones, Californication, re runs of Family Guy. But in general, I’m not a “tv watcher.”

I’ve been poked at because I like my house silent. Like that’s a weird thing. I don’t mind kids laughing or dogs barking, I don’t mind organic noise. But I’ve truthfully gone entire weeks without a radio or TV and would probably go entire weeks without a computer if it wasn’t part of my job. I enjoy the quiet. I’m one of those people that relishes the silence when the power goes out. There’s no more electric buzzing from the plugged in but not running electronics in the house. It’s back to story telling and talking and knitting.

My BFF had actually once made a comment that she liked my living room a lot and that she plans on having one like it. There’s no TV. When we are in the living room, we TALK. We don’t eat dinner with the TV going, ever. It wasn’t even a hard and fast rule, it was just natural. Dinner times means catching up time.

I’m not so worried about people plopping in front of the TV or the game console, hell I do it. I’m more worried about what they AREN’T doing. Especially with children.

If you are pacified by the TV, or some other electronic thing, chances are you aren’t thinking about the walk you could take, the place you could go fishing, a trip to the zoo, a skill you could learn. I often wonder what happened to the great old art of “talking” or “teaching.”

This can most obviously be seen in going out to dinner. Go on. Go out to dinner with a bunch of friends, friends under the age of 35 especially. They are GLUED to their phones the whole time. My BFF found a fantastic idea called “phone stacking.” Put your phone on the table at dinner, all of you, first one to pick it up has to pay the bill. I thought this was a great idea but then she asked me:

“Well, what if your phone is ringing?” See what I mean? What are honestly the chances that THAT phone call is an emergency one? And if you are really worried about it, then how about if the phone rings incessantly, THEN it’s ok to pick it up. But, with the advent of technology feeds the “I-can-get-ahold-of-you-any-time-I-want” mentality, and the definition of “emergencies” become well, slightly altered.

I’ve gone fishing in the past where my friends haven’t put down their phones the whole time. I HATE that, you are in nature, enjoy it. If I go hiking, unless I need the GPS, the phone gets LEFT in the CAR. It’s just me and the dog and the noises around us.

When I suggest to people to unplug, including their children, they almost get into a panic. They start to make excuses like addicts. Well, just this one last week or I can’t because…it’s actually rather sad. What’s sadder is if you’ve ever know children who are addicted or “raised” on television, you’ll notice that their attention spans for anything, literally, are about 8-10 minutes long: exactly the amount of time between commercials. How about instead of just family xbox game night or family board game night, there’s family craft night? Family hike night? Family garden day? Something that sort of disconnects you from a serious central focal point of amusement and hones a skill or appreciation? I’m certainly not battering the way people do things, they are just suggestions. I get sad at the thought of “environmental deficiency” and I’m most certain that this condition actually exists. So many people don’t even get daylight nevertheless proper outside time.

As a chick who loves crafting and everything “homey” I mourn the days of crafting circles and actually LEARNING things from other women. Not buying DVD’s, books or looking it up on the internet. Nor am I talking about circles where everyone just gets together and does their craft and talks, though, those are a lot of fun. But knowing someone who knows how to knit, sew, make this or that and will teach you,  having days out of the season to all get together and can stuff, or make pierogis (which is a PAIN to do alone) or whatnot. It’s not just the act itself, it’s the social bonding as well. It’s how memories are made. It reminds you no man is an island. But the people who still do these things in and of themselves are few and far between, nevertheless a whole group of people in the same area.

I’ll notice a lot of people saying too that “they aren’t interested.” That annoys me. Maybe it’s because I really do believe in broadening one’s horizons, but how do you know if you aren’t interested if you don’t try?

All that being said, I don’t hate technology. I LOVE it. It certainly has it’s place. When I think of all the waste in landfills that things like MP3 players and Kindles have saved (though I still do love me an old book, and I’m totally sad at the closing down of SO many book stores),  or how  many lives technology has saved, I certainly know it has it’s place. I just often worry that this technology, instead of having it’s place and enhancing our lives, is simply taking it over.

Perhaps try a little bit today to unplug and listen to the silence. See if there is something there. Or enjoy that there is nothing there at all. Quiet, organic time is something that can be very rich and fulfilling, especially when you’ve only your own thoughts and the noises outside or in the house. It’s totally amazing the things that are there that you’d never notice if you are pinned to your phone.

Orange Dried Pineapples

I dry a lot of food. It’s easy, stores forever, reconstitutes well especially when you have one of those “I ran out of fresh” whatever moments, and they make great snacks and mixes.

They had pineapple on sale. My only regret is I only bought two. I love pineapple. My blood sugar doesn’t.

I also had some left over orange juice in the fridge from New Years. Orange juice is only a diabetics friend when you go hypo and need a quick boost.

Pineapple. Orange Juice. You get the picture.

I’m always looking for new and creative ways to dry fruit. Thank you Mary Bell for all your ideas! Man, that woman is wonderful.

I decided to try soaking some pineapple in orange juice overnight and drying it to see what it came out like. Cause really? Orange and pineapple. Heavenly.

In case I haven’t bragged enough, here’s my big bad dog dehydrator.

And the easy peasy slide out drawers.

So I soaked the pineapple overnight. I had to test some to make sure it was good before I dried it. Ok, I had to test several pieces. Can never be too safe. It was delicious.

Then line them up on the trays.

It took about 10 hours on the setting I had to make sure it was totally dry. There should be no moisture in it, but not be dry and brittle.

And into my little plastic tubs they go. You might remember these tubs from an earlier blog. They are endlessly useful.

If you cut these into rings and dry them, they look like flowers and make GREAT decor for the tops of cakes. They also make great every day snacks. You can reconstitute them for different recipes, for plain eating or drop them into some iced tea or lemonade for some flavor. They are so good, and stored properly, they’ll last forever.

I’m gonna have to keep myself away from these too. Although they are a nice primal snack, I can’t go overboard because of the sugar content. Be warned, they are hard as HELL to stop eating!

Pain In The Arse But So Worth It Home Made Pasta

There are a few things that I make that aren’t, technically, “worth it.” By worth it I mean that the cost of doing it myself is not really saving anything when you consider the time it takes to make it. Pasta is one of these things.

Is it because I can’t actually eat pasta or my diabetic beta cells will attack me and make me go blind with high blood sugar? Surprisingly, no.

Is it because home made pasta is more expensive than store bought? No, it’s not, it’s cheaper, but marginally. When you consider the time it takes, it’s not really cheaper since pasta is SUPER cheap. Ok, maybe mine doesn’t have all the chemicals in it either.

It’s pretty much because it’s SUCH a pain in the ass to make, even with my little gadgets, that I’ll still go and buy pasta before I make it. But making it is SO worth it. And I’ve promised myself one day, one great awesome day, when I have the entire day to kill, I will make enough pasta to last this family a year. For now, though, I made enough for just two meals.

I used my handy dandy pasta attachment for my kitchen aid. Yes, man has made such things. I can’t even imagine the pain in the ass it would be to make this without it. I once used a regular hand crank pasta machine, and I’m just too damn lazy.

For all intents and purposes, pasta is super easy to make. You can find a slew of recipes online for it. It requires two or three ingredients usually and comes out, amazingly and shockingly, very very good.

So, the first thing I did was dump the ingredients in my kitchen aid. I believe it was flour, eggs, and some salt. What’s hilarious is that the instructions say you should make a well, put the egg in it, blah blah blah. Yeah, whatever, I just dump it all in there together. I really don’t know what difference making a well would make. But, then again, I’m no chef.

So I dump it all in the kitchen aid with the dough hook attachment

It takes a little bit for it to smooth out. But it does eventually smooth out, not totally silky smooth, but enough like dough.

It starts to roll in on itself and gather up the bits and pieces as it does this. It’s exciting isn’t it!

The dog certainly looked excited.

Ok, maybe not. But it’s imperative she’s in the kitchen with my while I do this. She’s my good luck charm.

Now, I attach the pasta do-hicky to the kitchen aid. Ain’t it cool?

And I start hand kneading the dough. It just kind of helps it form a little better cause it can be a little dry.

The first attachment I use is just a flattener. No, that’s not a technical term, it’s just what I call it. It rolls the dough flat. It has various settings on the side, 1-6. 1 being the thickest, 8 being the thinnest. Depending on what kind of pasta you want, you can roll it thick or super thin. I wanted spaghetti, so I’m figuring on rolling it to a 5. 6 would be like angel hair.

First you’ve got to roll it through #1 quite a few times, folding it half, then reinserting it. This makes the dough silky smooth and pliable, stretchy even. This is what you want. It helps to dust it with a little flour every few times to keep things running smoothly.

Eventually, it’ll become the width of the attachment, which is what you want.

A little ball of dough will eventually stretch to several feet long, so don’t go all happy on how much dough you initially put in there. Usually a palm full is enough.

Once it’s gone through #1 a few times, then it goes through each successive flattener size once until we reach 5. At 5, the sheets are pretty long and look like this:

I’ve got the kitchen aid book open right there! Tips for perfect pasta! Yah right! Perfect pasta=someone else coming in my kitchen and doing it.

Anyway, I lay the sheets on pieces of wax paper that I’ve sprinkled with flour until I’ve done the entire recipes worth of dough. This takes awhile, don’t fool yourself. One recipe worth of dough can easily take 30-45 minutes just to flatten into pieces.

So I go back and flatten some more pieces

See! It even LOOKS stretchy!!!

The dog still isn’t excited at this point. But, she sure did get way more excited when meat sauce was being poured over the cooked, finished product.

Now that all the sheets are flattened I proceed to cut them into spaghetti sized noodles and set them in a “nest.” I was never good at the “nest” thing, the way they’ve got them all nicely nested in the store. Here’s my version of a nest:

It REALLY helps if you have two people doing this because the sheets can get LONG and ANNOYING.

I wasn’t going to be drying this particular batch because it was all going to be used within a couple of days. If you want to keep them long term, you can always nest them, after dusting them with some flour, and freeze. OR if you have the room and patience, go ahead and dry them and stick them in bags or jars for long term storage.

Cooking home made pasta CAN be a little tricky, mostly when it’s fresh. Here’s how I do it:

Salt the crap out of the water. I do that any way, no matter if it’s fresh or dried. I once heard an Italian chef on PBS I think it was say that pasta water should be “salty like the sea.” I agree. The taste is so much better.

Then, get the water to FULL boiling and dump a little bit of olive oil in there. Then put in your fresh pasta and cook it, no kidding 1-3 minutes. I’m so not joking. It does NOT take long and there’s nothing worse than overcooked pasta.

And let me save you a little hair pulling: It’s gonna stick together. It’s not store bought, chemical laden pasta. It’s gonna stick. Learn to live with it. It doesn’t detract from the taste. The worst thing your family is going to do is take bigger bites. And that could be just cause it’s so damn good.

So, there you have it. Home made pasta. Enjoy it! Actually, you BETTER enjoy it because there are diabetic, urban homesteading, pasta making bloggers that CAN’T enjoy it because their body rejects carbohydrates in any form! (That’s my version of “there are starving people in china.”)

Bread is a moody bitch

Bread and I don’t get along. It’s not just the diabetes. It sincerely hates me.

I love bread. No. Let me correct myself: I love eating bread. Probably because I can’t have it. Bread and peppered olive oil is my favorite thing ever. I mistakenly thought I would love making it too. I don’t. Mostly because out of the 500 times I’ve tried to make it, I’ve had about 5 good loaves. No. I’m not joking.

My obsession with making bread started with a bread machine I bought at a thrift store about ten years ago. It was 5 bucks and it seemed like such a cool idea. I even bought a bread machine cookbook with it. Yet, I couldn’t get consistently good loaves. I followed the recipe exactly. I even busted out the thermometer to check the temperature of the water. Nope. Still crappy loaves.

About every ten loaves it’d throw me a good one. Just enough to keep my hopes up. Eventually I got pissed and gave it away.

A few years later I ran into my kitchen aid. Boy do I love my kitchen aid. One of the main reasons I got it: the dough hook! Hey! I could do this! It was the machine making crappy bread not me! Yeah. Right.

Consistently crappy loaves still. I tried every recipe known to man. Same thing. Maybe one or two good loaves.

To make matters much worse, Mr Super, former pastry chef turned truck driver who also happens to live here, decided to give it a try on one of his days home. I watched him. He didn’t even follow the recipe exactly! He was throwing pinches here and handfuls there, not even measuring. I gasped at this blaspheme. I giggled cruelly to myself: couldn’t wait until his bread came out all nasty so I could say I told you so and feel better about myself.

But it didn’t. It came out perfect. Boy was I pissed. So. I did what any green with envy aspiring bread artist would do. I made him do it again. And again. One more time. Perfect golden loaves each time. The bastard.

Next I made him supervise me. I made him tell me what to do, just like he’d done it. Door stop bread.

I made him write down the recipe so I could try it when he wasn’t home. Same thing. Crap bread.

He swore to me that bread just didn’t like some people. That his mother couldn’t make bread to save her life but his step dad, who didn’t do much cooking, could bake bread like a pro. The goofy trucker he is he insisted that I don’t talk nice enough to the ingredients while I’m doing it. That he whistles tunes and is all happy while he’s measuring and so is his step dad. So I tried that.

No. I’m not kidding. I really did try it.

I stood in my kitchen forcing a smile and appealing to the yeast. “I just want to be able to make bread for my family, you see” I appealed to the evil flour.

Yet another doorstop.

At this point he claimed that the yeast, which was a living thing after all, could sense my insincerity. That was it. I’d had enough. If I needed bread, I’d just buy it. I don’t expect you to understand how hard that was for me. I don’t just “buy” anything. If I can make it, I make it, and I like doing it too. Bread was quickly becoming my nemesis.

So my dough hook sat lonely in a drawer for another couple years.

I tried my hand a few times at making bread kneading with my own hands. Nope. Still messed up every load in some way. Didn’t rise. Too doughy. Too dry. Too heavy. I added flour, I added water, I added more yeast. I bought all new ingredients. Nothing. Yet Mr. Super would do it and out comes perfect bread even when we worked side by side out of the same damn cookbook.

Maybe there was something to this yeast not liking certain people thing.

I repeated this cycle yet again with another bread machine I found at a garage sale. It was a super fancy one that could make rice and jam and everything. I made rice and jam like once. I made bread.  Loaf after loaf with yet again only a few good loaves. Yet Mr. Super’s came out perfect.

So I eventually gave that one away too. Stupid machine.

I tried again the old fashioned way. I tried sour dough rye. The instructions read to me like Greek but I have it my best shot. The starter was great. The bread itself sucked. Was blood awful in fact. It smelled like socks and beer and it didn’t rise.

I tried the kitchen aid again and back to the old fashioned way again. Nothing was improving my odds no matter how fresh my ingredients, how perfect the recipes, how adjusted my techniques. And all I kept hearing was maybe yeast just didn’t like me. I thought I was beaten. I was pretty sure I was. I had accepted it for the most part: I suck at making bread.

Then I, completely by happenstance, came across a machine called the Zojirushi Home Bakery. It’s a bread machine. It’s THEE bread machine. This puppy was like $300 and I had convinced myself, as desperate people will do, that this was going to solve all my problems. It made jam, it made cake, it made meatloaf for the love of God. And most importantly it made bread.

The Home Bakery

I fancied myself not a fool this time. Perhaps it was my bread  machines all along, and not me! Mind you I completely ignored the fact that Mr. Super seemed to be able to make perfect bread in the same bread machines that gave me crap.

Smug and self assured, I researched it like crazy. It always got good reviews. There were a few peppered here and there about how the blades needed replaced too often, but nothing about door stop or non risen bread. This was the one for me. So I bought it. And I used it. I used to make cake. Make jam. But I was afraid to use it to make bread. Until one day I got the balls to do it just using the manual’s recipe. By God, it came out great.

Alright, alright. I talked myself down. Maybe it was just a fluke. So I made another loaf. It was good. By the time I got to my fifth loaf, it had once again descended into bread hell. Door stops, unrisen, too doughy. But I was get MORE good loaves than I had before, that’s progess.

That’s where I am at right now. More and more good loaves. Just like anything else I learned I had to improvise but not mess with the recipe TOO much. Some of the really funky breads I tried didn’t come out but then I didn’t really expect them to. Just for reference: Cheesy Jalapneno Cajun Bread…not so good.

So here I am, still making bread. I learned what dough should look like. It should bounce around the maker, nice and elastic, once it’s on it’s second knead. Too dry or too doughy and it won’t rise. More important, peaking constantly at the bread by opening the top isn’t a good idea. It really does affect it. This machine has a preheat cycle, so I don’t have to worry AS much about the temperature of the water. I still make sure it’s luke warm though. As far as wheat bread goes, I don’t know. I’m the wrong person to ask. Not a single loaf of wheat bread I’ve ever made has come out. Go figure.

I recently ran out of bread flour. I bought a 25 lb bag of it awhile back and used that up trying to figure out how to make the perfect loaf. So now I’m stuck with white flour only. I don’t tend to USE a lot of flour unless I’m baking, which I do mostly around the holidays, so I don’t opt for the super expensive stuff. But I’d heard all bread flour is is regular flour with gluten. About a year back I found Gluten on clearance at the grocery store, super cheap too. I bought a bunch of it thinking it would help my bread making adventures. Note to self: Adding TOO much gluten makes the bread rise too much and then it falls. Just like yeast. I’ve had that happen a million and one times.

Yesterday we were out of bread for lunches, so off I went to make some more. I altered the recipe from the manual a bit.

1 1/3 cups of water

4 1/4 cups white flour

4 TB Sugar

2 TB dry milk

2 tsp salt

2 1/2 TB butter

3 tsp active dry yeast

3 TB gluten

Don’t just throw everything together, there is actually a method to this madness. Whereas most recipes call for bread flour, like I said, this one is altered by the addition of gluten AND an extra teaspoon of yeast. If you’ve got bread flour, skip the gluten and reduce the yeast by a teaspoon.

Dual Paddles Baby

Ok, now you can’t just go all willy nilly and throw the stuff in there. Because it won’t work. It really won’t I’ve tried it. You have to add the liquid first. Make sure it’s roughly room temperature, maybe a little warmer. Too hot and it’ll kill the yeast. Too cold and it won’t rise. Don’t let the liquid ever come in contact with the yeast when you put the stuff together. Why, I dunno. But it does make a difference.

Then add your flour. Kind of sprinkle it around the machine so it’s even. It’s worth noting here that if you have more than one paddle on your machine make sure they are both facing the same way or you’ll get lopsided bread.

Now you add your dry stuff, save the yeast. The dry milk, the salt, the sugar, the gluten. It’s important to sprinkle these ingredients around the sides of the pan so that they don’t come in contact with the yeast prematurely, especially the salt.

Now add the butter. Chop it up into little bits and pepper it around the sides.

Now comes the yeast. I like to make a little well in the middle of the flour, kind of like you do when you are making pasta, and put the yeast in there. Set it on a regular crust cycle (depending on your taste) for white bread.

Make a well to put the yeast in

You are done. Now you hold your breath and pray. Now you decide to leave the house because you can’t stand waiting 3 hours to find out if you are a total failure.

I peaked. It was looking a little lumpy, but it was only the first knead so I held out hope.

It might look lumpy at first

One holiday shopping trip later and my bread is done.

And it actually came out good. This time. It was a LITTLE more crusty than I’d like, but hell I’ll take it.

The bread cooling. It didn't suck! Yay!

Thank God this machine makes loaves that look somewhat normal instead of those weird vertical loaves

I put the crust setting on medium and I wish I would have done light. But I was afraid to do that, what if it didn’t cook? When I’ve toasted up home made bread before it gets MUCH harder than regular store bought bread so make sure if you are gonna toast it, you use a lighter dough cycle, that seems to help. Or if it IS too hard when it’s toasted, make milk toast. Again, not something I can normally eat (BUT DEAR GOD I LOVE IT), but it’s so damn good, and something that you really can’t do with store bought bread. Just toast up your home made bread, put it in a bowl, cover with milk and butter, and microwave that bad boy until the butter is melted. Then eat it. It’s like a soupy, yummy, milky, buttery bowl of goodness. (Made myself go into a carb fit overe here).

Storing home made bread is a bitch too. Let me save you a bunch of heartbreak by giving you these pointers. There’s nothing worse than getting a great loaf that goes crusty and moldy in 2 days:

Don’t bother with fancy bread holder tupperware nonsense. Yes, this is me, the kitchen gadget QUEEN telling you this. Don’t waste your money. No matter how many vent holes it has, it’ll either mold or go hard.

You can wrap it in foil and leave it on the counter but keep in mind it’s really annoying to wrap and unwrap. Ditto on plastic wrap.

Don’t put it in the fridge, it’ll dry out.

Don’t put it in the freezer, same thing.

Linen bread bags are ok I guess, but they are usually too small and kind of a pain to get the bread in and out of.

Just as an FYI, I’ve never successfully frozen unbaked bread dough no matter what I do to it. It doesn’t rise once it’s out of the freezer. If I could pull this off I SO would.

THE BEST method I’ve found to keep home made bread fresh, soft, and anti moldy for the longest time is putting it in a grocery bag. Just a regular old plastic grocery bag on the counter. Simple, effective, and free. It works perfectly. All my years of buying this and that and trying to invent a bread holder and it was staring me in the face the whole time. So simple. Damnit.

Also, don’t slice it before you use it. Slice as you go. Otherwise the bread is stale. Mind you, slice thinner than you think. We have a tendency to slice REALLY big slices when it’s not needed.

Speaking of slicing, I have a gadget for that. On my second bread machine garage sale purchase they had this. A wooden fold up bread slicer. Just put your knife in the grooves and perfect slices. Cut the bread when it’s cooled down a bit, otherwise you run the risk of it deflating. And use a serrated long knife. They work the best.

Fold Up Bread Slicing Guide

Here it is open

Only problem is, for me anyway, once you do this long enough you don’t need the guide to slice any more. You just do it naturally. I don’t know why I kept this thing. It is cool though.

Free Hand Slicing

If you followed this recipe and your bread came out screwed, please don’t blame the recipe. Don’t blame yourself. Don’t blame the machine. It’s fate. It’s God. It’s bread, the cruel bitch. She’s moody. Just try again. And again. Eventually, you’ll probably get it. Maybe you won’t. Maybe bread really IS one of those thing some people can do and others can’t, but you never know until you try. God knows I’ve been trying. I suspect I’m NOT a person bread likes, but maybe I can play pretend with it.

And if you don’t have the patience to keep trying, then start buying stock in wonderbread, grab your machine, go to your driveway and drop kick your machine before you drive over it. No one will blame you.

It’s a power thing

I have a job. I work from home, I own my own business. But I also take care of a home. I MAKE this place a home. And I love doing it. I find it sacred. I actually LIKE cleaning. This could be my half Polish blood talking (ok, it is). I HATE the word homemaker. It sounds so 50′s housewife. That is NOT me, as you probably can already tell. I do nothing different that what many a woman before me have done since the dawn of time: I rule my Queendom. There’s some finesse involved, yes, one doesn’t want to be an overbearing ruler. No one should ever EXPECT or DEMAND that you do all this, but if it’s appreciated and welcomed and respected, it’s one hell of a great thing to do. The sun rises and sets on your home. Plus, if you are in charge of the laundry and the food you can always put Icy Hot in the boxer shorts and poison the food (lest they forget…).

But it’s responsibility and work and it’s lovely. Cleaning is one of these tasks. I like the phrase “housebitch duties.” Yeah, I know, it’s offensive, but own it. It doesn’t have to mean “women’s work”, cause I systematically make the guys do it too. It’s only offensive when you take it that way. Make it your own! I can’t stand PC terms, they drive me insane. Have a sense of humor!

That being said, my life does NOT consist of bouncing around my kitchen in an apron and high heels getting meatloaf in the oven by 5. No. LOL. Oh boy no. And anything that will make my duties faster or easier so that I can do some other crazy crap is all good by me. So I have a robot.

Yes, I have a Roomba. Did you ever have a doubt? Home Gadget Junkie. I know.

If you don’t know what a Roomba is, go hide under the blankets and don’t ever admit that to anyone.

A Roomba is basically a vacuuming robot. Check out  irobot.com. They make awesome gifts. They really do. They are a little pricey so there’s something to be said about really considering whether you’d use the thing. And yes, I’ve got the Scooba too. It washes the floor. So there.

This little robot actually picks up WAY more than you expect it too. Here’s the little brat working for me this morning:

That’s right. It’s my slave. I put googly eyes on it so I can look down at it. It’s a power thing. (Thank you American Dad, hilarious episode!)

If you are seriously debating one of these guys, let me quickly break down the goods and bads of this thing:

Goods: You don’t have to vacuum yourself and it’s great for everyday cleaning. It does pretty good size rooms. It gets up quite a bit of stuff. It’s hilarious to watch your dog get pissed at it. It even kinda gets in corners. The newer ones dock themselves and even have a thing where you can set it to get off it’s lazy dock and clean your house on a certain day and time. It has virtual walls that come with it so you can tell it to stay in a certain area. It can go under your tables and couches no problem. It has a spot clean function so if you are too lazy to clean up a spill (like coffee grounds for example), you can pull it out and make roomba do it. It also has a dirt detector so when it finds a really dirty spot, it lights up blue and stays in that space for awhile.

Bads: It doesn’t replace a normal vac. It never will. It fills up really quick and needs it’s brushes cleaned a lot. At least after every cleaning, if not half way through cleaning depending on the amount of pet hair you have. It DOES like getting stuck on things like cords and low hanging curtains. Don’t underestimate this things suction, it’ll suck up your drapes, pennies, pins, all kinds of stuff. Sometimes it gets PMS and decides it wants to stay in only one area of the room. This is really only a problem if you have a big open room like ours, but every once and again it will just miss a big spot. If you have pet hair, be prepared to clean this things wheels and stuff after each cleaning cause it WILL get stuck. They are also not indefinite, the battery DOES wear out so you should let it go dead about once a week. Completely dead.

It’s got this little hair removal tool for the brushes, which is rather awesome. Being a first generation Roomba owner, when I bought my new Roomba and it came with this little tool I was both happy and skeptical. You kind of run this red little tube thingee up and down the brushes in a spiral motion and it’s supposed to remove the hair. And it really does. My Akita is currently blowing her coat and my Border Collie is constantly shedding. If you own an Akita, then you know they are just spectacular perfect dogs, but twice a year they blow their ENTIRE coat and it ends up on the floor in sheets (one day I will learn how to spin yarn and I’ll make Akita Wool! Don’t cringe, it’s no different than lambs hair and lambs roll around in poop. Dogs usually don’t). Anyway, I’ve got TONS of hair, as you can see below. Mind you this is from ONE level of my house AND I vacuumed yesterday.

Roomba Hair Removal Tool

It gets up A LOT of hair.

All in all, it’s totally worth the money IF you are going to use it. Ditto on the Scooba, but that’s an entirely different post.

Some people prefer to just use a stick vac. I hated my stick vac. It didn’t have a hose so it didn’t get into corners. As much as I try to clean, I really don’t want to be doing a full on room cleaning with the vac every single freaking day. Once a week with my Dyson is enough. And the Dyson is AWESOME, super heavy and nearly as tall as me, so you can imagine I don’t want to drag that bad boy out every day either.

Given it’s the holidays, I would love to buy this little thing for damn near every person I know. There are the people who I know wouldn’t use it. My grandmother, rest in peace, wouldn’t use something like this. She’d probably slap me upside for using it and not just using an old style corn broom. The woman STILL used a ringer washer and line dry well into the 80′s. Ohhh, I miss the line dry. AND the ringer washer. I wouldn’t want to HAVE to do that but it’d still be cool to have one of those. They are so gratifying.

Now that I’ve gone completely from robots to electricity free cleaning, I’ll leave you with that. I love the Roomba. And if for nothing else it’s great for days when you wanna boss something around but no one is home