Monday, February 28, 2011

New Oat Flaker/Roller

My Marga Mulino wanna-be, the Shule Grain Roller/Flaker, decided to go haywire.  The reseller from whom I bought it, assured me it was European made, and not made in China, like its Norpro look-alike, but many of them available on-line are listed as Norpro-Shule, so I still have questions about its origins.  Its durability and subsequent performance says "cheaply made" to me.  After only a few months of fairly light use, the rollers won't roll right and something in the works is grinding itself, leaving fine metal dust underneath--Thankfully, not in the oats, but it still really bothered me.  Hubby took it all apart, couldn't really find a problem, put it back together, and it still won't work properly.  I'd pursue a replacement if I had any interest in having another one of these, but I don't.  Prince Inventive is itching to see what he can do with it.   Meanwhile, I need something that works.                                                                                                                                   
Many internet searches and a conversation or three with another grain-milling mom later, I decided to buy the other flaker-roller I'd been drawn to in the first place...The Family Grain Mill version.  I chose the manual model.   I could have chosen a motorized base, or an attachment that would enable me to run the flaker using my Bosch Universal Mixer, but I like the direct involvement of using the hand-crank, and with the number of power outages we've had this winter, appreciate a way to prepare food for the family without the use of electricity.  I can always get the other base, or the Bosch connector attachment later, since they are available separately.                                                                                                                                                                                                                            and both offered the Family Grain Mill 'family of milling tools' for similar prices and with free shipping.  Both also offered some baking supplies I needed.  Neither indicated availability or expected shipping time.  I had reasonable service from Pleasant Hill Grain for other items, but For Your Kitchen was closer and just a tiny bit less expensive for my whole order, so I chose them this time.  I received it a week after ordering, with the holiday included, which I thought was perfectly acceptable.
Initial impressions:  It seems simple and clean...No exposed nooks and crannies, and the 5-cup hopper is huge compared to the one on the Shule, which held approximately 1 cup of grain.  I am going to wash the hopper, allow it to thoroughly dry, since moisture and grain-milling do not go well together, then try it out and report back.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Bake-Off! And, mostly, a kitchen full of fun

We had 4 of the kids' friends join us for Pizza Night this past Friday...all 17 and 18 year old boys.  Some might find it surprising that after the pizza feed, as their evening's activity they decided on a 'Bake-Off.'  

There were up to 10 kids, plus the 2 of us adults, in the kitchen at a time....some working, some kibitzing, and some just goofing around or cheering on the teams. 

One team worked on Strawberry Lemon Bars while the other worked on Coffee Cake.   
Room for everyone and lots of laughing and fun.  It's just what we wanted when we designed our kitchen and made it the largest room in the house.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

New Batch of Wheat - Protein Content Affects Breadbaking

After an hour of sponging/rising time
I recently got a new batch of hard white wheat.  This is the first time I've tried Azure Standard wheat after years of using Montana Wheat's Prairie Gold.  It entered my mind that I should test the protein levels, but I was lazy and dove right into making bread.  I knew I was in a bit of trouble, when after starting the sponge and leaving it to rise for an hour (half that time should have been enough), I found very little rise or activity.  It should have looked puffy and bubbly, but instead it looked barely different than when I left it.  Thankfully, from prior experience, I knew what to do...The back story:                                                                 

After a few years of using Montana Wheat's Prairie Gold hard white wheat for milling, then baking my bread, with good success, I was having problems.  Using my tried-and-true techniques and recipe, the dough wasn't developing the usual good, smooth, stretchy texture, and the loaves weren't rising well.  The bread itself was crumbly.  
The dough was getting overly warm while kneading in the mixer, and I thought maybe the mixer was at fault, but wasn't sure.  I turned to the Gardenweb Cooking Forum for advice.                                                                                                                                                
"Grainlady" identified the problem: too little protein in the wheat.  This can vary somewhat from batch to batch, due to the wheat field's growing conditions. (If you want to know more about what factors affect protein content, check out this page, which goes into more detail.)  She recommended I do the following test to check the protein level:  

"Measure 2 cups plus 1-T. flour (measure by scooping a dry measuring cup into the flour, filling it, and slightly packing the flour as you level it off against the side of the flour container). Add it to a food processor with the steel knife. Add 1-cup of water. Process for about 30 seconds.                                                                               
If your flour is high protein (somewhere around 13-14%) it will absorb 1 cup of water producing a sticky dough ball when processed for 30-seconds in the workbowl of a food processor with the steel knife. If the dough ball looks somewhat "loose", then you may need to add vital wheat gluten to the flour to increase the protein, or reduce the mixing time and see if you get better results."                                                                                                                                                             
After seeing my photos of my results, she said that if the wheat had adequate protein, the dough should have made a more distinctive ball shape.  In addition to increasing the amount of vital wheat gluten and cutting the kneading time, I should let my first stage 'sponge' for longer than the 25 minutes recommended in my recipe.  (She recommended a 2 1/2 hour sponge, but with that batch I found 1 hour to be enough.) I found elsewhere on the internet, that adding mashed potato to the mix would help, so I did it all, with much more pleasing results.                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

After 90 minutes rising/sponging time-
Notice how much farther up the center post
So back to the present...After another half hour or so, the sponge looked much better, so I was certain that adding a mashed potato and doubling the vital wheat gluten, as I'd learned in my previous experience, would get me satisfactory bread.  No need to do the specific protein test, as the sponge symptoms and response to the added ingredients tell me enough of the story.  I will just make sure I employ the same  routine through using this 25 pounds of wheat.

Previous related post:

Friday, February 25, 2011

An Invitation I Couldn't Refuse..and I'm glad I didn't

Western Washington has been covered with snow up to 15 inches deep the last couple of days.  Everywhere, it seems, but here. We looked forward to the promised 6 to 9 inches, and were unusually disappointed in yesterday's consistent sun!
Last night the weatherman promised 'at least' 2 inches.  We received no more than a dusting.  The scene we awoke to resembled cloud dandruff rather than the beauteous, softly falling flakes we'd been hoping for.                                             
As the day wore on, we saw more snow, finally some heavy and pretty to watch, but it wasn't accumulating...until it started to get dark and the temperatures fell.  Prince CuddleBunny had been yearning for a snowball fight all day, his siblings were fighting or recovering from a virus, so I was invited to join him.  I started some bread rising, mixed up meatloaves, and layered on some warm clothes.  

Our dog, Rosie, joined in for awhile, snowplowing through the yard, but gave up and retreated to the warm house before we were ready to go in.  Her loss.  :-)

It's a sorry snow angel, when grass shows through!

Throwing snow
A welcoming place to return to

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Pancakes fit for a Princess

Princess Artiste was feeling under the weather this week (terrible cold).  When she had a rare craving for pancakes, Prince Inventive made them for her...Especially cheering ones!                                                                                                                              

Feed Me, I'm Yours
Our long-time favorite pancake recipe comes from the book Feed Me, I'm Yours by Vicki Lansky.  It not only has great recipes for babies and young children, but for the family.                                                                                  
I realize it's not necessarily a cookbook everyone has on their shelves, so thought I'd share the recipe, which we double or triple, of course.   We use the maximum amount of milk so the pancakes are a little thinner, as we prefer.                                                                                                                     

Great Groovy Griddle Cakes
adapted from Feed Me, I'm Yours

Combine in large bowl
1 1/2 cups flour (all-purpose, whole wheat, or combo)
1 3/4 teaspoon baking powder                                                                                                                   
Mix together
3 Tablespoons sugar or honey
2 slightly beaten eggs
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 to 1 1/4 cups milk
and add to the dry ingredients.  Stir just until barely moistened, ignoring any lumps.                                                                                                         
Let sit, covered, in a cool place "as long as possible"--Make it the night before and let it sit overnight if you can.                                                                                                                                                        
Pour approximately 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup batter onto lightly greased griddle or frying pan at medium to medium-high heat until just smaller than the finished size you desire.  When bubbles appear on the top surface of the pancakes, flip to cook other side until browned to your taste.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday

I have noticed other bloggers posting nothing but a photo on Wednesdays, so I thought I'd give it a try.  My kids take some pretty great photos, and this way I can share, and take a day off from writing.  Or at least from writing quite so much....                                                                                                             
This is a shot Princess Artiste took during the time we were building.  It's my favorite.  You can just see the determination in Prince CuddleBunny's step and shoulders to keep up with his daddy during a project for the house.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Menopause Journey Update

I recently had my 2nd appointment with the new OB/Gyn to follow up after using an estrogen patch and taking extra progesterone (bio-identical Prometrium) at night, which is supposed to be a little sedative, as well as address hormonal needs.                                                                                                                        
I can't say all my symptoms have been addressed by this regimen, but there are 2 positive differences I note so far.  I had a period since my last visit with her, but instead of being 3 weeks long like the last one, it was only about 6 days, and very light the entire time.  I definitely count that as an improvement.  The bigger one, though, is that I wake in the morning when Hubby gets up for work, and am often surprised to note that it's the first time I remember being awake since falling to sleep hours before.  MUCH better than waking several times.  I still sometimes wake too early, and feel tired during the day, but, overall, everything is better with some amount of undisturbed sleep.                                                                                                                                                    
My symptoms that remain are feeling like my brain can't keep up --foggy or unfocused thinking, and headaches before and after my period.  She decided not to do another blood test yet, as she knows that since I'm still cycling, one day's results will be different than another's, so has decided to treat symptoms instead of judge by lab numbers.                                                                                                                   
Listening to the description of how I feel, and asking pointed questions, she determined that it sounds like I'm still a bit low in estrogen, and maybe progesterone, too.  First she wants me to try a higher dose estrogen patch for about 10 days, and if I feel I need more improvement, I'll add in more progesterone for another week and see if I feel better or worse.  After that, I will see her again to re-evaluate what we do from there.                                                                                                                                                     
Another of her ideas is to try a low dose birth-control pill for a year (until my ovaries decide they've finished their job) that will keep my daily hormone levels constantly even.  The lower dose of hormones would probably be safer, but maybe not what I need to help with sleep.  So we'll discuss that further.  It's just nice to have someone finally listen and address my specific needs!!!

A previous related post:
Blaaaahhhh. Aging. Menopause.
 Warning: Probably TMI

Monday, February 21, 2011

From Freshly-Ground Corn into Muffins

Cornbread Muffins
makes 24 muffins
Preheat oven to 400 degrees on Bake                                                                                                        
Mix together
2 cups (fresh ground) cornmeal
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
4 teaspoons baking powder
and set aside.                                                                                                                                                 
In a separate bowl, stir together
1 slightly beaten egg
3/4 cup canola oil
1 12 oz can evaporated milk
1/2 cup water
1 Tablespoon vinegar 
Note: 2 cups buttermilk, or 2 cups half and half plus 1 Tbsp vinegar can replace the last 3 ingredients
Gently stir the wet ingredients into the dry, just until blended.                                                                     
Optional add-ins:
3/4 cup fresh, frozen, or canned corn
1 Tablespoon chopped jalapenos, or to taste
1 cup sharp or Pepper Jack cheese                                                                                                         
Spoon batter into greased muffin tins, filling each approximately 2/3 to 3/4 full.                                          
Bake for 15 minutes...until a toothpick inserted just off center of a muffin comes out clean.  
Crumbs are OK, but no wet batter.                                                                                                                            
I immediately run a butter knife around the edge of each muffin and lift them so they are tilted out of the pan.  I could put them on a rack, but this keeps them warm awhile, while not letting the bottoms get soggy.                                                                                                                                              

Since it was our first taste of homeground cornmeal, I asked for reviews.  Prince Inventive said they were good, and thought they tasted the same as usual.  Hubby said they had a specifically different taste, but he wasn't sure what it was.  I thought they tasted a little more like fresh corn than with other cornmeal.  What I know is that they rose nicely and everyone wanted seconds.                                                                                              

Sunday, February 20, 2011

My First Home-ground Cornmeal

I finally got a bag of organic sweet corn this week in my order from Azure Standard
so I could use my Corona Corn Mill for its intended purpose.                                                                                                                                                                  
My first grindings were way too coarse, including what looked like corn skin flakes.  I cinched down on the adjustments on the mill.  It didn't seem like I got enough movement to make a difference, but the meal was much finer.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
A rounded cup of corn (about 1 1/4 cups, I'd guess) made 2 cups of cornmeal.  I decided it was a good time to make Cornbread Muffins to go with our chili.  Recipe and results to come!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Walking with my Baby

Prince CuddleBunny is a great motivator, and is helping me with the exercise component of my Bucket List.  He loves to go for our customary walk, which is, at this point, a mile, and just a few times a week.  I think that over time we'll make it longer, and hopefully a daily occurrence.  Already he's turned our walk into a walk-run, and is eager to do more.                                                                                                           
Too cute!
Pretty soon after lunch, he'll start asking when we can take our walk.  It's good that he asks early, so I can make sure and fit it in before it's getting dark...A little easier now that it's lighter a bit longer.                                                                                                                   
adidas Boys 8-20 Basic 3-Stripe Short,Black,M (10/12)As soon as he gets the word I'm almost ready, he runs upstairs, and changes into his 'walking gear.'  He's decided his colorful Nike 6.0 high-tops are now his walking shoes, the weather requires his "puffy coat," and he HAS to wear his "2nd place dream shorts."  These are a pair of simple black Adidas shorts with white stripes, that are much like Prince Inventive's tennis shorts.  His hero's shorts, though, are the opposite colors, white with black stripes, so a pair of those in his size are the "1st place dream shorts" and were near the top of his Christmas wish list this year.  Funny the things that are important.  He was so thrilled to find the black pair on a clearance rack at a local store last month.  I didn't know how well spent that $12 was going to be!                                                                                                                                                                                                  
I am not ready to wear shorts in our 38 degree weather, so my jeans and a coat will do, and my must-haves are my Reebok SimplyTone fitness shoes. They're so supportive, super comfortable, and if they do some extra toning as I walk, it's a great bonus.                                                                                   
We used to walk, side by side, the entire walk, but now Prince CuddleBunny runs ahead, maybe about 50 to 100 yards, depending on where we are on our walk, then runs in place or waits while I catch up.  A couple of times during the walk, I will run to catch up, but the rest of the time, I just maintain my own brisk walking pace.                                                                                                                                                                                                 
I have a difficult time disciplining myself to walk, so it's a tremendous help to have my little partner to push me out there.  The prospect of walking is a lot more enjoyable with such pleasant and enthusiastic company.

Reebok Women's Simplytone Fitness Shoe,Medium Grey/Pure Silver/Citron/White,8 M US
Reebok Women's SimplyTone
Fitness Shoes
Another word on my shoes:  My chiropractor looked these over for me and approved of the way they are designed to create a slight imbalance in all directions (imperceptible to me), which causes the muscles to work a little harder and constantly tone in a balanced way.  He prefers them to the rocking style of fitness shoes that only create an imbalance in one direction, and might be tougher on some people's backs and/or joints.  These are kind of like using a fitness ball as you walk.  :-)
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...