Sunday, February 21, 2010

My First Sourdough Starter & Loaf

I love bread, and sourdough is a treat for me. Lately, I've been reading the King Arthur Flour baker's catalogue like it's a magazine. I'm really getting into bread making, and decided it was time to make a starter.

I've been reading Nancy Baggett's book, Kneadlessly Simple, and found her sourdough starter recipe to be pretty simple (ha ha) and that's what I used. The pictures here include the starter just getting going and the finished product.

My starter, unfortunately, isn't bubbly enough to make those really big holes in the bread like you usually find in sourdough loaves. Maybe it's still young, or maybe it's because I accidentally used cold water instead of warm when feeding it daily. Oops! Today, my baby had nice warm water and is bubbling away on the counter much more lively.

The taste of this loaf is lovely, it's sour and soft on the inside - just a bit chewy, but not enough for my liking. The crust, while perfectly browned and crisp, is a bit thin and almost too flaky. So I clearly have more practice ahead of me. But for now, I feel successful. The starter worked!! And it's still alive, so that's a good thing. I hope to be able to pass this starter on to my daughter someday. But in the meantime, maybe some friends will want to bake with it....
Do you make bread? Do you have a Mother Starter? Post a comment and share!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Freezer Cooking on a Whim

I've been known to do some freezer cooking here and there, but mostly I just double or triple recipes I make and freeze the extras for separate meals. But yesterday, I stumbled upon a chicken sale and I knew it was fate! Because just the day before that, I received 2 big boxes of my hostess gift products from when I had my Homemade Gourmet party last month. So, with several packets of mixes and spices in my pantry and a chicken sale...what else could I do but freezer cook today! (I also went to Kroger this morning to stalk the manager's meat specials and came home with some good deals.)

Here's what I started with:
1 big pack chicken breast (about 6 lbs, 8 large breasts) $7
3 packages of ground beef (each was just over 1 lb) $6
4 cube steaks (each about the size of my hand) $4
1 package of stew meat (full price) $3ish

Meat cost = ~$20

Here's what I ended up with:
onion & mushroom cube steak in the crock pot right now
BBQ chicken sandwich kit
Hawaiian Chicken
Burgundy Beef Tips
Santa Fe Chicken
Crock Pot Meatloaf
and ground beef cooking now to make Hamburger Macaroni Dinner and Ground Beef Egg Rolls

That's 8 meals, which will surely provide leftovers on at least half of them, for just about $20. Of course, add in the Homemade Gourmet mixes I used (6 recipes used HG items) and it's a bit more. But still...this is a good example of how freezer cooking can save you time, money AND headache.

The only thing left to do now is work these into a meal plan...and I bet I can do 2 weeks at a time on Sunday! :)

Want any of these recipes? Check out for most of them (and you can be creative if you don't have the proper spice mixes).

Monday, February 15, 2010

Oh Deer!

I wish I could get a picture of this, but they're moving too fast and it's too snowy. :(

My backyard woods is the most amazing place to watch deer. There is currently a small family of 6 frolicking back there. It's so cute! The 4 young ones are literally chasing each other like really tall dogs (LOL!) while the 2 adults watch. The snow is coming down pretty steadily, but they sure don't seem to mind.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Love That Custom Granola

Do you love granola as much as I do? You should. It's practically the perfect food. You can eat it plain, with milk, in yogurt, on ice cream, over fruit...however you want, really. But sometimes, it's hard to find just the right flavor. Especially if you're picky, like me, finding the idea granola combo of flakes, fruits and other goodies can be nearly impossible if you're hoping for low fat to boot.

BUT. The time has come granola lovers! I've discovered a shop online where you can custom create your own's incredible! Why? Because not only do you choose a base granola
(like gluten free, low fat, cinnamon, organic or whatever), but you also can then add in all kinds of fruits, nuts, seeds, tasty treats (like organic gummy bears), and various powders.

It's called Mix My Granola.... and it's soooo fantastic! (and no, they aren't giving me free stuff for saying this...although if anyone is reading, I'd LOVE some free stuff!)

Before you order, click on the nutrition stats button and it give you the low down on your custom blend. Need more fiber? Add some chia seeds. Need less fat? Take out those chocolate covered peanut butter balls.

You get to name your mix and place your order. When it arrives, it's in a tube. A TUBE! How freaking cool is that!?!? I love this site. I actually have 3 custom mixes sitting in my online, where's that email with my discount code??

(ps - if you want a discount code, just fill out the refer a friend thing and you'll get 10% off too!)

Check out and let me know what you choose!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Meal Plan week of 2/9/10

I was out of town until yesterday and didn't do a meal plan until this I'm starting it for today. :)

Tuesday: white chicken chili with naan bread
Wednesday: garlic lemon chicken in the crock pot (homemade gourmet seasoning for freezer meal)
Thursday: 2 chicken breasts from yesterday to make Creamy Italian Casserole (also a homemade gourmet pasta mix)
Friday: crock pot meatballs with Trader Joe's Soyaki marinade & salad
Saturday: leftovers
Sunday: Happy Valentine's Day! I'm not cooking, so it's up to my husband and daughter to figure out dinner. LOL!

The Game On Diet

As many of you know, I am ...let's do I say this...."doing" Weight Watchers. It's more than just *doing* it, because it's a complete change of eating habits and making different choices so it feels like I should say "living it". But 4 weeks ago, a group of girlfriends challenged each other to a new game called The Game On Diet. Because I can barely count my daily points, I opted out. That is, until the first week of the game had ended and ALL my girlfriends had lost weight. Alternatively, I was still on Weight Watchers and I had gained a pound. So, I signed on to the game for the remaining 3 weeks.

Long story short, in three weeks of playing the game, I lost about 4 pounds. Yes, I still counted points (although not as strictly as usual and I stopped tracking after 2 weeks). But there is a lot more to Game On (GO, as I call it) than just what you're eating.

If you're interested, check out this official website and see for yourself. I'll give you the low-down here too...

There are certain rules and regulations to the game. Frankly, it's a bit overwhelming in the beginning, but it makes a lot more sense as you go along.There are points involved, gaining points for doing things on the list and deductions for not doing them or cheating. I'm going to skip the part about the points and just give you the basics. Like I said, it's not just about food...

1) eat 5 balanced, small meals a day - this basically means a carb, protein and fat at each meal.
2) eat at least 4 servings of veggies a day with meals, unlimited sizes
3) drink 100 ounces of water a day. (Holy Cow. That's a lot of water!)
4) no alcohol, no artificial sweeteners
5) you can have one day off a week and one additional meal off
6) work out 20 minutes a day
7) for the duration of the game, choose one new good habit to do and one bad habit to avoid
8) get at least 7 hours of sleep each night

There may be more, but these are the basics. I loved drinking all that water. I've noticed a huge difference in my skin, and I think that's largely what helped my weight loss. After playing for 3 weeks, I realized that I'm not drinking nearly enough water on a regular basis. Now, I noticed that instead of wanting water with crystal light, I prefer plain water. Crazy! LOL

Has anyone else tried this game? Shoot me a comment and let me know your thoughts. We start another round at the end of this week!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Albino Squirrel

I just had to take a picture of this little guy (or girl?) who somehow landed on our upper deck last week. My daughter saw it and thought he was cute....that is, until he tried to jump through the window into the house (fortunately, since it's freaking cold here, the window was closed). Not too bright, those albino squirrels. Once he realized he couldn't get into the house via the window or the sliding screen door, I think he freaked out a little. He started running in circles and then eventually took a flying leap off the edge. I'm sure he's fine. Probably just landed on the lower deck....

In any case, check out the color on this little dude. Very interesting. Has anyone else seen him, or his family members, around? Incidentally, he's also featured on the cover of the community newsletter.