Mix It Up Monday – Pancake Mix

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from Tracey G.

Potato Pancake Mix from King Arthur Flour

I have tried for years to make potato pancakes I actually like, lol. Mine always taste “too” whatever of the moment: too eggy, too floury, etc. and so forth. I’ve never been happy with any recipe at home I’ve tried, but always love them out in a restaurant. So, I was pretty excited to find this Potato Pancake Mix at King Arthur Flour!  Since I’ve yet to be disappointed in a mix of theirs, I was really excited for this one!

It’s super easy to prepare – you just add water. If you want to, they list you can add some chopped onion, chives or scallions. I didn’t do that, as my boys probably wouldn’t have liked them (I would have loved chives though!) so I just added about a 1/4 teaspoon of extra onion powder and some parsley for the pretty green. After you add the water, you let the “batter” rest about 20 minutes to thicken up (they also state you can add more water to thin it down more if you like, I just went with the original amount called for). To cook them, you heat some oil in a skillet and use about 3 tablespoons of batter to make a pancake. I think I used slightly more because I didn’t get the potential 18 out of it, I think I got 14. They cooked up easily, and browned nicely.

And I’d like to add here that my house smelled like the yummiest diner while I was making these! It even drew Harry’s attention away from his XBox playing! “Mom, what do I smell? Are those hashbrowns?” This was his first introduction to a potato pancake, so when I said “no, they’re potato pancakes”, I got the craziest look from him “potato PANCAKES??” Then he came in to see what I was talking about and at that moment started bugging me for one. No no no, they need their photo taken first! Silly boy.

So, anyway, once done and photographed, now was the deciding moment – we get to taste them. I made Harry go first, lol!! I have no idea why, but I did. And when I got the thumbs up from him, I knew we had a keeper, lol. I then tried one and couldn’t have been happier! I didn’t even add the usual favorites of sour cream  & apple sauce to go with them – just ate them plain! They do remind me of potato pancakes I’ve had in restaurants, and that for me is huge, because that’s the taste I was looking for (or thereabouts) and I’ve found a way to have it at home. Of course I’ll keep trying to make them at home, it’s one of those things I’ve been determined to master, but in the mean time, this is a fantastic substitute!!

from Kris B.

Honey Oat Pancake Mix

I have to say this upfront: Given the choice of pancakes or waffles, I much prefer waffles.  With that said, however, I am also willing to try almost anything that uses oats or oat flour.  So, I was onboard with these honey oat pancakes.  I even resisted the urge to follow the alternative on the mix box to make waffles instead of pancakes.  And because I am fairly sure that I was an adult before I knew that pancakes could be made from scratch and didn’t come just from that big yellow box, I’m still OK with pancakes from a mix, though the purist in me likes most other baked goods from scratch.

The Honey Oat Pancake Mix requires that you add eggs, butter or oil, and milk to the mix.  Stir it all together until thoroughly mixed and then your are ready to go.  They are cooked on a lightly greased skillet like you would any other pancakes.  The instructions on the box suggest that you use 1/4 cup of batter per pancake.  I used a 1/3 cup measure.  This made ten 5-6′ pancakes.

When I was mixing the batter, it smelled very “grainy” and not in a good way, if that makes sense.  I don’t know how to explain it other than that.  I tasted a bit of the uncooked batter.  It was not sweet at all, which is unlike most pancake recipes.  I figured that would not be a problem because I knew I would add fruit or syrup, which would sweeten them up.

As the pancakes cooked, they puffed up into nice thick cakes.  That made me think they would be light and fluffy.  Wrong!  They were super dense, not at all like the familiar “yellow-box” pancakes from a mix.  I soldiered on, layering them with bananas and pecans and drizzling a little maple syrup over the top, hoping that my lack of satisfaction with them thus far was the result of my admitted bias toward waffles.

I really wanted to like this mix.  I have to be honest here and say that I really didn’t like it, even topped in my absolute favorite way.  If bananas, pecans, and maple syrup can’t make a pancake taste good, nothing can!  I should say here that I did use almond milk instead of regular milk in the recipe; that could have made a difference in the texture, although I use that substitution all the time and have not noticed any major issues in the finished product.

I feel bad when I can’t give something a positive review, but as Tracey said when I shared my honey oat pancake woes with her, “Not everything is going to be a winner.  There has got to be failures in there somewhere.”

*****

UPDATE – When I went to grab the link for this mix from the King Arthur website for, I discovered that they no longer offer it.  Maybe I wasn’t the only one who discovered that this was not their best mix.  🙂

I guess we’ll all be trying the potato pancakes mix!

If nothing else, I highyly recommend the pancakes of your choice topped with bananas, pecans, and maple syrup!

 

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Friday Favorites – What’s For Lunch?

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from Kris B

As I wrote in last Friday’s post, I have been packing lunches to take to school for a long time!  Even when it was an option, I rarely ate a cafeteria lunch at school.  The exception to that is when I lived in Hawaii.  School lunch was a quarter back then and included all the pineapple and papaya I could eat.  I only lived in Hawaii for eighteen months so I didn’t get tired of the pineapple and papaya.  I imagine after twelve years of such a lunch, one might never eat pineapple and papaya again!

Mealtime at my house growing up was not fancy, extravagant, or adventurous.  Dinner was always meat, potatoes or rice, a green vegetable, and some kind of bread.  The rare treat was when we had breakfast food for dinner.  And, we rarely went out for a meal.  Admittedly, this was not just my family; it was the norm in the sixties and seventies, at least among the families I knew.

Lunch, whether at home or packed for school, was equally as predictable – a sandwich, chips, an apple, cookies, and milk.  My dad loved bologna so that was the go-to lunch meat at my house.  Sometimes I got ham, which was my preference. Oscar Mayer; it came in the yellow package and the meat was square.  That’s why I liked it.  It fit better on the bread than did the round slices of bologna.  Either meat was accompanied by both mayo and mustard, both on both sides of the store-bought wheat bread.

My chips of choice were Fritos.  I remember when Frito-Lay started selling them in the “lunch-sized” bags.  I believe there were six bags in a package and you got a free Frito Bandito eraser pencil topper.  I collected them in all the different colors.  The Frito Bandito was the product mascot from 1965-1971.  I think he then was deemed “politically incorrect”  in 1971 and thus he disappeared.  Those pencil toppers might be valuable collector’s items now. 🙂

My mom always bought red delicious apples.  It was always a whole apple in my lunch.    I’m not sure the idea of cutting and coring an apple before putting in my lunch ever even crossed my mom’s mind!

Cookies were either Oreos, Chips Ahoy, or Fig Newtons.

I always bought milk at school.  For most of my time in school, a carton was less than ten cents.  There were no soda machines at school.  Our drink choices were milk, water, or nothing.  That was it.  And no one complained about it.

So what’s in my lunch bag now?  The contents of my daily lunches have changed, but they exemplify the same level of simplicity and predictability as they did when I was a kid.  I do still have an apple every day.  The only difference is that now I use the apple slicer and have eight uniform pieces.  And, no more red delicious apples!  I am a fan of honeycrisp apples.  My bag of Fritos has been replaced by a bag of baby carrots.  Every now and then, I will make a PB&J sandwich, but most of the time, my “main course” is either celery and peanut butter or a Luna bar.  The biggest change in my lunchbox over all these years is no more cookies.  Some days that is a bigger disappointment than others.  On the days that I miss those Oreos most, I make a trip to the faculty lounge with the hope that someone has left some goodies to share.  I’d say the odds of that are about 50/50.

The same things for lunch day in and day out may seem boring to some.  For me, it’s one less thing to worry about.  I don’t have think about what to buy for lunches when I grocery shop or what to pack in the morning.  I can accomplish both tasks on auto-pilot.  And the truth is, the way my schedule is, I eat breakfast at 6:15 and lunch at 1:30.  By that time I get to lunchtime, I am usually so hungry that I am happy for whatever has made its way into my lunch bag!

Thinking about my history of school lunches has made me realize just how much a creature of habit that I am.  I also realize that keeping things simple is what comforts me and keeps my stress level minimal.

I wonder what lunches will be like if I ever decide to retire!  I suspect I’ll still eat the same way.  The one big plus may be that my Luna bar, carrots, and apple will be accompanied by freshly made coffee instead of a travel cup of cold-ish coffee that has been siting on my desk since 7am. 🙂

from Tracey G.

When I was in school, I think it was pretty equal as to whether I bought lunch or brought lunch. I can remember, back then, the newspaper would print the weekly menu, you paid x amount of dollars for your weekly lunch card that I think got punched out, so you could get school lunch until you had no more punches left, then repeat the process. I’m sure I did that until junior high, where you paid cash as you went so you could order off the “a la carte” menu. It always depended on what I liked – if it was something good that day, I ate a school lunch, and if not – home lunch it was!  So, with that, my favorites would be:

Home Lunch Category: Hmmm, this is tough, I never liked PB&J until I got older, like my 30’s (but I mostly love peanut butter sandwiches, no J, lol), so that wasn’t a lunch option for me. I think my favorite was a thermos of Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup (or their Chicken and Stars soup) and some chips/crackers! Since there weren’t cool juice boxes back then, and my thermos was in use, I was forced to get milk – BLECK! I do not like to drink milk. I will drink it with chocolate or strawberry syrup, that’s it. The end. So, I’m sure the milk I got at lunch went mostly untouched! But that was elementary for the most part, once I hit junior high and high school it was rare, with either the lunch line of choices or the short, sandwiches-only line – that I’d bring lunch from home lunch at all.

School Lunch Category: I can recall a LOT of things I didn’t like that they’d have for “hot lunch”. There even a few times of having my mom come to eat lunch with me the day something yucky would be served so I could prove, that yes, the hot dogs were really GREY! So, what I can remember is that one of my favorites, that stayed a favorite throughout my school career, was the ever-popular square pepperoni pizza! And nope, still didn’t dig milk, I was so happy when I got to high school and could have a fruit punch or something other than milk!!

So, for me, those are my two faves – that I can recall at the moment anyway, lol. I’m sure I’ll think of loads more AFTER this gets posted!

What was your favorite lunches in school – either home or school-provided? How about now?? Leave us a comment and let us know!

 

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Tuesday In Texas – Think It, Write It, Do It

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from Kris B.

Deep down, we all know that discipline and structure create a sense of security.  As parents, we spend much of our time creating that sense of security for our children…perhaps moreso than most kids believe is necessary.  When we become adults, structure is often dictated by our “adult” responsibilities.  when we are “off the clock,” we want freedom – no have-to’s, no must-do’s, no structure, no discipline! 

I find myself asking if this free-form approach to time is really what I want and need.

Back in May as my spring semester was coming to an end, I had mental lists of things that I was going to accomplish over the summer.  Cleaning out drawers and closets, printing and hanging photos, some redecorating, knitting, writing, lots of things.  After all, my days were unencumbered by work responsibilities.  Many of the outside activities that I participate in during the academic year were also on summer hiatus.  My time was MY time.  I was in control.  And what happened?  I failed to do the majority of the things I had intended.  August and the start of the new school year rolled around and on my list there were more things in the undone column than the accomplished one.  As I think about my summer in retrospect, I realize that I, like a child, need structure in my life.  Apparently over the summer when I was in control, when my time was MY time, I was not mature enough to create for myself that structure that I so desperately need.

It’s already week four of the semester, a quarter of the way through the fall term.  School is in full swing as are all those activities that were not happening over the summer.  Work, meetings, deadlines, and rehearsals fill my schedule.  And yet, I have crossed more things off of that summer to-do list in these past four weeks than I did during my entire three months away from it all.  How is that even possible?

It all boils down to the fact that I need structure, and maybe not just structure, but rigid structure.  Apparently I am one of those people who the more they have to do, the more they get done.  When my schedule is filled with “must-dos,” I tend to literally also schedule in the should dos and the want-to-dos.  Writing something down in my planner guarantees that it will get done.  When I can see my life as a big picture, I know where I can squeeze in a load of laundry, or knit for a few minutes while dinner cooks, or read before I’m so tired that I can only make it through one paragraph.  I also schedule in “down time,” time with no technology, with no specific task except to have no specific task.  Yes, I have to write that down in my daily schedule.  Here’s to my sad reality.

Anyone who looks at my planner would probably run as fast as that could in the opposite direction because it makes me look like an absolute control freak.  I’m really not.  What I am is someone who does not function well without order and discipline.  And, I don’t multitask.  Therefore, to keep myself from becoming overwhelmed and having to multitask, I have to plan well.

Yes, sometimes things don’t go as planned.  Since I am really not a control freak, most of the time I am flexible and can easily readjust to spontaneity…after a quick consultation with my planner. 🙂  I do have a weekly menu planned, but if you call and want to go out for dinner, I’ll almost always put the plans on hold and join you.  I simply need a plan even if all it does is serve as a point of departure.  And, I am willing to depart!

Part of my daily discipline,one about which I am rigid about, is writing morning pages, a practice encouraged by Julia Cameron in her book, The Artist’s Way.  It involvers free writing, a brain dump, first thing every morning for thirty minutes.  I have done this for ten years or more.  It really does set the tone for me day as well as help thoughts bubble up to the surface.  The words that end up on the paper are not always pretty, but they are always necessary. 

A few years ago, I added writing a daily haiku to this morning routine, These daily haiku are often a distillation of these three pages down to seventeen syllables.  Here is proof positive of my absolute need for structure and discipline in my life.  The haiku form has both!

In case you are wondering how I ended up writing on this topic today, here is a haiku that was born out of a day of morning pages last week.

*****

Steadfast discipline.

Living with true intention

Amidst the chaos.

                                            KEB 9/10/18

*****

These thoughts have been whirling around in my head for a week.

For me, it comes down to this:

Time is our most valuable asset, bar none.  We all use it differently.  We all need to use it differently.  I encourage you to look at how you spend your time each day.  Are you doing the things that you need and want to do?  If not, what can you do to remedy that imbalance?  A wise person once said to me, “I don’t want to hear you say, ‘I don’t have time for____.’  That’s not true!  The truth is that you don’t make the time.”  

That statement was truth then and has stuck with me for many years.  Think about what for you is worth taking time.  Write it into your daily schedule.  Do it!

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Mix It Up Monday – Left To Our Own Devices…

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Moravian Fruit Coffeecake

It was down to the wire for me this week in deciding on a recipe to make! Usually this would be decided for us, via KAF’s Bakealong, but as nothing new has come out this month, we are figuring they must be done with it. That left me a last-minute-scramble as I hadn’t had anything decided upon, nor even thought of…

So, we decided to grab our Sift magazines and see what we could come up with. I ended up having to go back to the Spring issue, and found this fantastic recipe for the Moravian Fruit Coffeecake. It read as being easy enough, but that’s never stopped me from complicating a recipe, lol. And it delivered in the easy-to-make category! It’s something I can say I’ll make again a lot!

But, as I was getting prepped to list out things etc, I noticed that the website version differs slightly from the print-version in the Sift Magazine. I followed the magazine version, and thought I was being so clever adding in some of my Easy-Roll Dough Improver, well, it’s listed in the ingredients in the web-version – but not the print. There’s also a difference in shaping method, the print-version states to pat the dough into a 10-inch square with a lip on the edges, and the web-version states to roll/pat the dough into a 12×8-inch rectangle (with the lip etc). I went with the 12×8 rectangle in this instance.

Here are the ingredients, first is the web-version, then the Sift Magazine version…

Web Version Ingredients List:

DOUGH

FILLING

TOPPING

  • brown sugar
  • pumpkin pie spice, or ground cinnamon plus ground nutmeg and ground ginger
  • unsalted butter
  • heavy cream
  • Instant ClearJel

SIFT Magazine Ingredients List

DOUGH

FILLING

  • fresh berries, or coarsely chopped peaches, nectarines, apples, or pears
  • Instant ClearJel
  • granulated sugar

TOPPING

  • brown sugar
  •  ground cinnamon
  • ground ginger
  • ground nutmeg
  • Instant ClearJel
  • unsalted butter
  • heavy cream

As you can see there are a few differences, and again I went solely with the magazine version, (which also means I did NOT use pastry flour) in every way except the shaping form and size. And really, it is super easy, wow, I was impressed with the ease of making such a yummy treat! I don’t see why the  web-version wouldn’t be just as easy as well.

To make the coffeecake, you make the dough first, and it gets an hour or so to rise. Then, you pat it into your shape and create the lip on the edge, top with your berries. On top of the berries you evenly sprinkle the Instant ClearJel and sugar mixture. It now gets another rising. After the second rising, you then top with the brown sugar, Instant ClearJel, and spices combination. The next two things are a drizzle of melted butter, then the heavy cream gets drizzled over that – now it’s oven ready!

After baking, mine didn’t look as pretty as theirs, I did quarter my berries instead of leaving them whole, and for some reason my brown sugar didn’t “melt down” as much as it looks like theirs did, so it makes mine look burnt. But it’s really not – it’s just the brown sugar in the topping! But no matter how it looks, it sure tastes fantastic! Simple flavors that are perfect together. I am encouraged now to try other fruits, I’d love to do peaches and then a peaches & raspberry combination as well.

I have a feeling this could become a weekend staple as it’s just that easy-peasy to make! It’s a good thing it looked better photographed as served piece because before it was even photographed, I’d say at least half of it was gone!!!

Do give it a try, it may not always look pretty, but it sure is yummy!!!

from Kris B.


Three-Cheese Semolina Bread

We’ve all heard the saying, “Life is what happens while you are busy making plans.”  As Tracey said, that is exactly what happened to us with this week’s recipe choices.  Over the past eighteen months or so we have enjoyed adding the monthly King Arthur Flour Bakealong recipes to our monthly offerings.  The Bakealong weeks have been the only time that Tracey and I make the same recipe and share our different perspectives on that process.  These recipes also often challenged us to try making things outside of our comfort zone.  We kept hoping that a new recipe for September would appear, but that never happened.  So despite having planned recipes for five months in advance, we both found ourselves scrambling this week at the last minute.

We decided to try something out of the Fall 2018 Sift magazine.  As I thumbed through its pages, lots of things looked tempting, but I couldn’t make a decision.  Finally, about ten days ago, I sent Tracey a message saying that I was going to make Ginger Molasses Amber Ale Cookies (p. 84).  They sound good, don’t they?  When I finally sat down and read all of the recipe’s words, I discovered that it calls for golden raisins.  All of the sudden, it didn’t sound so good.  I like golden raisins, but something about them in this particular recipe didn’t sit well with me.  Since we try to make the recipes we share here as closely to their original form as we can, I figured I needed to move to plan B.

Plan B was Pecan Pie (p. 40).  Plan B came and went in a flash.  I thought about the calories/Weight Watchers points in a piece of pecan pie and realized this was not my best choice.  I am within ten pounds of my goal and I knew that eating pecan pie would slow down my race to the finish line so I decided against that option as well.  I have not completely abandoned this recipe, though.  I may try it at Thanksgiving when there are more people around to help eat it.  🙂

We were coming down to the wire.  I needed to make a commitment to something.  Because I had semolina flour leftover from the Breakfast Sandwich Pizza that I made and shared here a few weeks ago and because I like bread and cheese and because I was making meatloaf for dinner and because my husband likes leftover meatloaf sandwiches and this sounded like the perfect bread for that, I finally committed to making the Three-Cheese Semolina Bread (p. 73).  A slice of bread, even cheese bread,  has to have fewer calories than a piece of pecan pie!

Also in its favor, this is a super easy bread recipe.  Mix all of the ingredients.  Let it rise two hours.  Shape the bread.  Let it rise another hour.  Bake for 30-40 minutes.  Enjoy!

Ingredients as listed on the King Arthur Flour website:

  • Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • semolina flour
  • instant yeast
  •  salt
  • Pizza Dough Flavor, optional
  • garlic oil or olive oil
  • lukewarm water
  • freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Provolone cheese, smoked or plain, mild or sharp
  • coarsely crumbled Asiago cheese, mild or sharp

As was the case with Tracey’s recipe, there are slight variations between the website version and the printed version of this recipe.  The magazine version does not even suggest the optional Pizza Dough Flavor.  My first thought when I tasted the bread, made following the Sift magazine recipe, is that it needs some black pepper, something to give it a little kick.  The addition of the King Arthur Pizza Dough flavor may give it that little extra something.  I’m going to make that addition next time.

The other difference is in the shaping and baking instructions.  The magazine directs you to make one 14″ loaf or two smaller rounds and bake them on a baking sheet.   I made two small rounds.  The website version suggests baking the bread in a 14″ to 15″ stoneware baker.  I think this is a better option.  My loaves came out flatter than I like so I’m thinking that one bigger life would be better.

All that said, this bread, with its three cheeses, is really good.  Eaten warm, it needs no topping.  The pockets of cheese are enough.  It also was a perfect complement to our meatloaf! 🙂

Happy baking!

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Friday Favorites: 3 Favorite Back-To-School Things!

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from Tracey G.

Well, another list that’s going to be really difficult to narrow down to three, after talking to Kris, I have a feeling we’ll have some overlap on these as well! There seems to be at least one or two universal favorites when you’re a kid (or even an adult, I still love office/school/stationery supplies!). So, before I over-think this, here are my narrowed-down-to-three choices:

Lunchbox – Yep, this would be one of my favorite things, probably along with all kids throughout the ages! I can remember a few of my super-faves, like my Speed Buggy lunchbox I think from 1st grade, and my Wonder Woman lunchbox in 5th grade. If I remember correctly, they were all metal until my 5th grade version. Or at least that’s the first one I remember being vinyl!

New Clothes – This I think was something that stuck with me all the way through high school, the annual trip for new clothes! Where I live, there were very few clothing places, so we’d do a little shopping up here (there was a favorite store in a neighboring town I just loved, called Three Sisters, was a wonderland of shopping for little girl! LOL) and then head downstate to the Detroit area to finish – time to hit the malls! Always a good time! Mom & Dad would hand me what felt like a pile of cash and turn me loose, lol. Funny, but the older I’ve gotten, the more I really dislike clothes shopping….

New Crayons – Yep, nothing better than a new box of crayons. Just don’t touch mine. Get your own box.

I really could go on and on, there are lots of other favorite things, and if I really wanted to I could get very detailed, lol. But I reached back to childhood and grabbed the first 3 feel-good-back-to-school items that jumped out at me!

 

from Kris B.

As I mentioned in a previous post, “back to school” as either a student or a teacher  has been part of my life for fifty-two years.  When Tracey and I started talking about this post, we realized that there are many perspectives from which we could write – from that as a student, as a teacher, and as a parent getting our own children ready to go back to school.  

I have always liked the process of preparing for the start of a new school year, both as a student and as a parent. Getting my girls ready to start school was a little different from it was for me.  Through middle school, they wore uniforms to school so there was no serious back to school clothes shopping.  The older kid got new uniforms and the younger one got hand-me-downs from her sister.  Well, she did get new athletic uniforms because used gym clothes are just yucky!  Then there was the shopping for supplies – one of my girls was obsessive about everything matching.  If she had a blue folder for math, she also had to a blue binder, a blue book cover, and a blue pencil.  Repeat this process with a new color for every subject.  I remember the days of getting down to the last needed item and it being out of stock in the necessary color.  Back to square zero.  Supply shopping became a scavenger hunt of sorts.  It was fun for the first few subjects, but could get crazy making!  Fortunately, my older daughter could have cared less about school supplies – one notebook for notes from all of her classes and one pen, preferably black, and she was good to go.  Woe to the teacher who wanted her to keep a single neat notebook for that class.  Yeah, this is the child who made 100’s on all of her work in high school chemistry, but a got a B in the course the first grading period because of “unorganized course materials.”  

As I thought about my own back to school favorites, I realized that not much has changed for me in terms of what I like best between when I was a kindergartener and now that I am a professor.  I still look forward to the same new things every year.  

Here is my list of Three Favorite Back to School Things:

A New Lunchbox – It probably surprises no one that even my favorite thing about school revolves around food. LOL!  I think my lunchbox love is coded in my DNA.  When I started kindergarten, now 52 years ago, I still remember being incredibly disappointed because I could not carry my lunch to school; therefore, I didn’t need a lunchbox.  For some reason, the school had a policy that if you were a “walker,” you could either walk home for lunch or eat a hot lunch in the school cafeteria.  Carrying your lunch to school was not an option.  To this day, I don’t understand why this was.  I’m also not sure why I was so disappointed by this; it’s not like I had ever taken my lunch to school and was losing a familiar routine.  I was four and had never even gone to pre-school!  It was, however, traumatic in a four-year old sense of traumatic.

In fact, my first playground crush grew out of lunchbox love.  My friend, David, would let me carry his lunchbox in the hall since I didn’t have one of my own.  His lunchbox was metal, red plaid, and had a silver latch – a true lunch box.  Nothing says love like this!

I finally got my own lunchbox in second grade, still metal  with a silver latch, but mine had the  Peanuts characters on it.  And, it came with a thermos!   The ones that were held in place by a metal arm in your lunchbox?  The breakable ones?  The ones that if you accidentally dropped your lunchbox you had milk with glass shards?  Do you remember the old thermoses? Those were good times!

Somewhere in junior high, I decided that lunch boxes were uncool and switched to the much cooler brown paper lunch bag.  That was cool until I didn’t dry my apple completely when packing my lunch and it got the bag wet causing the bottom to fall out resulting in my lunch being like Hansel and Gretel’s trail of crumbs through the junior high hall.  That definitely was not cool!  Lesson learned.  I went back to a more substantial lunchbox, though one with no characters and no breakable thermos!

To this day, I still pack my lunch every morning before school and I did for my girls as well.  There is something about that little bit of home in the middle of the school day.  And, I still buy a new lunch box at the beginning of every school year.  My younger daughter, the one with the color-coded school supplies, inherited my love of lunch boxes.  She is now gainfully employed as a predictive analyst and still packs her lunch in a lunchbox to take to the office.  Finding the “perfect” one is a life-long quest for the two of us.  We often buy lunch boxes for each other and then discuss their pros and cons.  Mother-daughter bonding at its best!  When we find THE ONE, we’ll be sure to share our discovery with you!

New Shoes – When I was a kid, new shoes were a big deal!  At any given time, I only had two pairs of shoes – school shoes and play shoes, and I knew never to get them mixed up!  I got new shoes twice a year.  That was it.  When I was in elementary school, my school shoes were leather lace-up Buster Brown oxfords.  The only thing that changed from year to year was the color – one year brown, one year mahogany, and the best year was the blue ones!  They had to be polished regularly.  That’s why I couldn’t wear them out to play after school.  If I scuffed the toes, they did not last long enough.

Play shoes were canvas Keds.  I never really liked them, but when I was a kid, what I liked and what my mom was willing to buy were not always in agreement.  In fact, I was guilty of going to play on the swings and dragging my toes in the dirt with the hope of wearing holes in my toes so that I could get a new pair of shoes, preferably not like the ones I had.  Sadly, this never worked.  I wore beat up shoes until it was time to get a new pair and when I did get, it was another pair of Kids.  I was lucky if I got to choose between white and navy blue.

In high school, I got a coveted pair of orange Converse All-Stars.  From that point on, there was no turning back.  Once I realized that shoes can make or break how I feel about myself, my choice about what I wear on my feet became a serious one!

I’m still a fan a Converse and I could probably get away with wearing them to school even now, but I don’t.  Well, I have, but I don’t regularly.  (The good thing about teaching in the School of the Arts is that creativity and individuality are appreciated, even in faculty dress. :-))  At this stage in my life, comfort is my primary consideration since my teaching days are six hours straight of standing.  Though it is difficult to find just the right shoes, especially since free-standing shoe stores are almost non-existent, I do enjoy the search.  These days, I have WAY more than one pair of school shoes and one pair of play shoes.  And, the rebel in me does switch them around!  Athletic shoes to school and leather shoes on the playground…why not?!  Adulting needs to have some privileges!

Pens – I like to write.  And I prefer to write by hand rather than typing on the computer.  I like to handwrite because I like the feel of pen gliding across paper…but only when I have the right pen.  When I was in school, I always wrote with the traditional looking Bic pen – the clear one with the blue cap that had the pointy piece that was intended as a pocket clip.  Now I prefer bold tip roller ball and gel pens…black or blue for writing and purple for grading.  I have never graded in red because that can have the potential to look like a blood bath on student papers.  In my head, purple seems a little less violent.  

I do have my favorite brands of each – Pentel Energel 1.0 in purple.  And, Tul .07 Rollerball pens  for general writing.  Nothing fancy!

What I realize is that it really is the simple things in life that lead to a happy school year – a homemade lunch in a new lunch box, comfy shoes, and a pen full of ink.

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Midweek In Michigan – Back to School Routine

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from Tracey G.

I can’t believe how fast Summer Vacation seemed to go – we got out rather late, mid-June, and this year was the first year we went back before Labor Day. It certainly seemed to help the summer feel extra short. Which is kind of a bummer where I live, because June is usually still kind of Spring-like weather here, it’s not warmed up yet very much. Our summers start late, but stay nice usually through September. I  can remember when I was in school, getting all those new Fall school clothes, only to go back in 80 degree temperatures! It was annoying, I wanted to wear my new sweaters!

But no matter when you start, it’s still a groove to get back into. Even though we’ve been back since August 28th, I still feel like I’m forgetting something every morning, even though so far – transition has been really smooth! Our mornings have run without any issues, which really makes me happy since I am not much of a morning person. I’m the girl who sets out EVERYTHING the night before that I can. I get out Harry’s cereal bowl, spoon and milk glass, you name it – if it can be set up, I set it up. That really makes a difference in my world as to how the mornings go!

I also drive Harry in every morning, since he’d have at least a 45 minute bus ride to school. That’s a little extra sleep for him, so it’s worth it to me. (But he does ride the bus home!) So, since I am the “bus driver” we have  pretty well set up schedule, and I have alarms set on my Fitbit so I know where I am at, time-wise, and what we should be doing at that point. That has been a huge help to me to have signals like that to keep us right on track, and it works beautifully. I will take the help wherever I can get it – as I said before, I’m not my sharpest in the morning, lol, so all the reminders and helpers I can get are essential for me. It’s what happens when you force a night owl to be a morning person!

Now, I wish I could find my afternoon groove though, it all seems to go downhill when it’s time to get him from the bus stop – it’s usually 4:20 or so when we get home, and then the race is on to get dinner made (or lately it seems I need figure out dinner first, I haven’t gotten back into my meal planning quite yet!), eaten, cleaned up etc and in the middle of all that, get Harry’s out-loud reading done, any homework he may have and then bathed and ready for bed. I can honestly say time flies from the pickup point to the bedtime point, lol. That stage of this seems to be lagging in finding it’s groove, but it’ll get there. Probably just in time for school to get out and Summer Vacation to start!

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Mix It Up Monday – Have Your Drink and Eat It Too!

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fromTracey G.

Caribbean Rum Cake from King Arthur Flour

I’ve had this Caribbean Rum Cake from King Arthur Flour on my to-make list for a LONG time. It was the last in the Year of the Bundt series they did, and I never had any rum around, and it was something I never remembered to buy, lol. Last Christmas on a whim, I asked my Mom-in-Law if they had any rum laying about, since they host more gatherings and whatnot, and she did! So, instead of the traditional borrowing sugar, I borrowed rum!

But then, I never seemed to have a chance to make it, it kept slipping through the cracks, so when I saw that a cake week was coming up – I knew immediately it would be this cake I was making! Finally!

The funny thing, though, is I am not a rum fan, lol. I prefer my Pina Coladas and any other tropical-style drinks, virgin. I don’t like the alcohol taste. (I’m more of a beer drinking girl!) So, for me to make this cake was kind of funny, a huge leap of faith and also an experiment in whether I’d be wasting a bunch of ingredients!

I am happy to report that I actually LOVE this cake! Oh my goodness, it’s yummy! I did make one minor addition to the syrup – instead of just adding vanilla, I also snuck in a little more butter rum flavor as well… The longer this cake has sat, the better this cake has gotten! Unfortunately, Jeremy’s not a fan of it, he doesn’t like rum, and even it being in cake-form isn’t enough to help! So, that unfortunately leaves it all to me! Yikes! I will have to find a way to share this thing, somehow, because it’s a lot of cake when it’s just for one person!

The ingredients are super simple, the only extra items I needed to get was the rum and the instant vanilla pudding (usually I have the pudding on hand, but had used my last package as an impromptu dessert one night!).

CAKE

  • King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • sugar
  • 3.4-ounce box instant vanilla pudding mix (not sugar-free)*
  • baking powder
  • salt
  • unsalted butter
  • vegetable oil
  •  milk
  • large eggs
  • rum, plain or spiced
  • vanilla extract
  • butter-rum flavor, optional
  • almond flour, for dusting baking pan, optional

SYRUP

  • unsalted butter
  • water
  • sugar
  • salt
  • rum, plain or spiced
  • vanilla extract

 

So, this would be a great cake for a cocktail party, it’s dessert and cocktail all in one! Seriously though, the rum is cooked in both instances, so I’m sure the majority of the alcohol has evaporated, but they do provide a non-alcoholic variation as well. I was actually going to go with that option, but threw caution to the wind and decided to give the true version a chance first! I am interested too in trying the non-alcoholic version though, as it just relies on the Butter Rum Flavoring, which I absolutely adore (reminds me of the Brach’s Butterscotch Candies, my all-time favorite things besides their Bridge Mix, lol), and maybe Jeremy might like it better that way! When I do make it, I’ll report on whether it’s just as good, better or the same!

One little side note, while I was getting the batter in the Bundt pan, I had the song “Rum And Coca Cola” by The Andrew Sisters (another favorite of mine, I love The Andrew Sisters!) in my head, and told Kris I felt like I should’ve had a 50’s-style flouncy apron and high heeled shoes on with a cigarette in one had while the spatula was in the other, lol. It was a very strange feeling!

from Kris B.


Pumpkin Espresso Bundt Cake

Rain, slightly cooler temperatures, and pumpkin flavored anything and everything lining the grocery store shelves are certain indicators that fall may actually arrive here in Texas.  I am not one of those who gets excited on September 1 when Starbucks begins serving Pumpkin Spice Lattes.  I’m not a Starbucks fan to begin with; I am faithful to my sugar-free vanilla latte with almond milk and an extra shot from Dunn Bros. coffee.  I’m not sure why I’m not a PSL fanatic; I love coffee and an I love pumpkin and its typical accompanying spices.  I guess you really can’t teach an old dog, or an old coffee addict, new tricks.

Cake, however, is another story.

When I found this recipe for Pumpkin Espresso Bundt Cake on the King Arthur Flour website, it immediately went into the “must make” file.  Pumpkin, coffee, pumpkin spice, and cinnamon…how could it be bad?  It was almost like finding the perfect purse.  Not too big, but big enough.  The right number of pockets.  The color I’ve been looking for.  The perfect strap length.  You understand the feeling.  All of the pieces come together in a perfect combination.

This is a bundt cake layered with spicy goodness.

CAKE

  • pumpkin purée
  •  eggs
  • vegetable oil
  • brown sugar
  • granulated sugar
  • vanilla extract
  • King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour
  • baking powder
  • baking soda
  • pumpkin pie spice
  • cinnamon
  • salt

FILLING

The cake batter is mixed in a single bowl.  In a separate bowl, the filling ingredients are combined. The cake is assembled by alternating layers of batter and filling in a 10 cup well-greased bundt pan. Make sure you know exactly how big your bundt pan is!  My “standard” looking pan is 14 cups.  Yep, I know this because I made a cake awhile back that looked more like a crueller than a bundt cake because there was not enough batter in that recipe to fill the pan.  I intended to buy a smaller bundt pan at that point, but never managed to remember that when I was in a place to do so.  It crossed my mind about the time that I reached into the cabinet for the pan to make this cake!

Fortunately, my cathedral bundt pan is 10 cups.  And how appropriate for all of those people who worship the union of pumpkin spice and espresso! 🙂

Here are a few words from King Arthur Flour about bundt cakes and their pans.

For finishing, this recipe calls for a glaze consisting of granulated sugar, hot brewed coffee, and optional rum to be brushed over the warm cake so that it soaks in.  I’m not a fan of this kind of glaze so I opted for a more standard powdered sugar glaze that is added after the cake is completely cooled.  I used 1 cup of powdered sugar and 3-4 TBS of hot strong brewed coffee.  Between the thicker obvious glaze and the cathedral shape of the pan, the glaze didn’t run off the cake in a pretty way, but let me tell you, don’t judge a cake by the its looks!  This cake is one of the best pumpkin recipes I’ve ever had.  That’s saying a lot because not only am I faithful to my sugar-free vanilla lattes with almond milk and an extra shot, I am also faithful to my mother’s recipe for pumpkin bread.  I will make no other pumpkin treat in the fall but that.  Until now…If this “cheating” weighs heavily on my heart, I may try adding this recipe’s filling as a layer to my mom’s pumpkin bread, but that is a personal loyalty thing having nothing whatsoever to do with this recipe.  It is fantastic just as it is!

And the best part?

The Pumpkin Espresso Bundt Cake pairs perfectly with my vanilla latte!  It is indeed possible to have your drink and eat it too! 🙂

 

And, just to make you smile on a Monday, take a few minutes to watch this video!  It captures the true joy of cake baking!

 

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Friday Favorites: Our 9 Favorite Movies

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from Tracey G.

In honor of September being the ninth month, we decided our Favorite Movies post would be nine movies each! We plan on doing (or attempting it anyway 😉) a post every month of “X amount” of things that correspond to the month number. This should be interesting!

And now our first one… 😃

It’s been awhile since I’ve watched a movie just for me – or I should say as an adult, lol. Once Harry was born, I really didn’t have the time like I’d used to – and now what movies I did (and still do!) watch are mostly kid movies. Which, that’ll have to be a whole post unto itself because there’s been a lot that I’ve really enjoyed!

I have a pretty decent sized movie collection, variety of old VHS (that I slowly but surely want to replace with DVD’s) and lots of DVD’s. I have a criteria before I buy a movie though, it has to be one I want to watch over and over and not get bored with it, lol. There are few on my list that I don’t own, but now that I think about it – I should!

  1. Practical Magic – I loved the book and I love the movie with Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman, I swear I can recite the lines right along with them!
  2. Enchanted – I can’t help it, it’s enchanting! I love the scene where Amy Adams sings while cleaning up the New York apartment, and all the various “street” and “city” critters come to help!
  3. Gladiator – I’ve loved Russell Crowe forever, and I love him even more in this movie, I can watch this story over and over and I still enjoy it.
  4. Titanic – Yep, I love Leo and Kate in this story, even though I know the ship sinks (a line Jeremy is fond of teasing me about as to why I’d want to watch a movie where we know how it ends) I just flat-out love the story of Rose and Jack!
  5. Ever After – This has to be one of my all-time favorite Drew Barrymore movies and I’m guaranteed to teary-eyed at the same parts EVERY SINGLE TIME, I mean you think I’d be prepared by now…
  6. 50 First Dates – I had never been much of a Adam Sandler fan in his early career, but when I saw a couple of his comedies and then THIS movie came along, I was hooked. And add in Drew Barrymore and it’s even better in my opinion!
  7. The Patriot – There is something about this movie, gets me every time. I love period stories (see Gladiator above) and anything dealing with the Revolutionary War, I’m in. Toss in Heath Ledger (taken from us way too soon), and I’m all set.
  8.  A Knight’s Tale – This wasn’t an ordinary Knight’s tale, lol, I was instantly enamored of the way the film makers blended a medieval storyline with contemporary rock music! It was unexpected, but very, very cool. Oh yeah, and Heath Ledger.
  9. Snow White: A Tale of Terror – This isn’t your childhood story of Snow White, lol. This is probably more like how the original one went before it was Disneyed up, lol. We all know that the original “fairy tales” were a lot darker than we’ve been presented with! But Sigourney Weaver kicks butt as the Evil Queen and I love that the 7 Dwarfs are actually a den of thieves (some with hearts of gold), one of my favorite movies from way back!

And in closing, let me just say this is by no means all of my faves, this list was culled from a HUGE favorites list, lol. It needed to be pared down to just 9, it was a struggle let me tell you! But, it also provides me with lots more favorite movie lists! (Books will be just as difficult!!)

from Kris B.

I have to start by saying that movie watching is not my “go to” form of entertainment.   I haven’t seen most of the blockbuster movies. In fact, I may be the only person who has not seen all of the Harry Potter movies even once, forget multiple times.  This probably makes me culturally illiterate.  So be it.  Lol!

My biggest problem with watching movies is that when I finally settle down and sit still in a dark place, I tend to fall asleep.  When my girls were little and we’d go to the theater to see a movie, the girls’ would call it “mom’s $7 nap.”  (Movie tickets were cheaper back then!  Now, with all the home movie viewing possibilities, I do a little better with staying awake.  Sometimes for me to see an entire movie, though, I do have to hit rewind a time or two.

My other issue with movies, probably because my down-time seems so limited, is that I am picky about what I will watch.  I don’t like violence of any kind.  I don’t like movies that are scary or depressing.  I don’t like science fiction and fantasy.  I know.  You are probably thinking, no wonder she doesn’t see very many movies; she is too darn picky!  I like movies that either make me think or make me happy.  Bonus if they do both!  Confession here: I am a sucker for chick flicks.

I was surprised that when I began writing down my list, I actually had more than nine from which to choose. 🙂 I had to do some thinking when are began culling my list.

All that said, here is my list of my nine all-time favorites.

  1. 84 Charing Cross Road – It’s about books.  It’s about letter writing.  It’s about human relationship. It stars Anne Bancroft.  All of these are things that speak to me.  I was so taken by this movie that when I went to London for the first time, I had to find 84 Charing Cross Road.  It was a Pizza restaurant in 1998.  The movie, based on a true story, takes place between 1949 and 1968. I was crushed, but life goes on.
  2. It’s Complicated – This movie, starring Meryl Streep (one of my favorite actresses) and Alec Baldwin, whose characters are a long-divorced couple, is about their ongoing relationship that is, well, complicated.  The movie came out in December of 2009, right after I had gotten divorced.  Like the characters in the movie, Jane and Jake, my relationship with my ex was also complicated so this movie spoke deeply to me.  It’s one of those that made me both think and laugh.
  3. August Rush – A passion for music is the thread that weaves this story together, a thread that weaves through my life as well.
  4. Immortal Beloved – The less familiar details of Ludwig von Beethoven’s life are chronicled in this movie based on Beethoven’s personal letters.
  5. The Sound of Music – I Think that my attitudes about movie going may be genetic.  This is the one and only movie that I ever went to with my mother.  It had just been released and I was five years old.  I watched it again in 2005 when my youngest daughter was cast in the role of Liesel in the stage production of this show and I was the property manager for that production.  The fact that it is about how music brings people together doesn’t hurt either.
  6. Where to Invade Next – The title of this film is misleading.  I am a fan of most of Michael Moore’s documentary movies as they shed light on many of the social issues facing the world today.  In this optimistic and really gentle movie, Moore travels to other countries “invading” their lifestyle and looking for the positives that he can bring back home.
  7. To Kill A Mockingbird – I am generally not a fan of books that become screenplays; this one is an exception.
  8. Vision – This is a German film, with subtitles, that chronicles the life of Hildegard of Bingen, a 12th century Benedictine nun.  The movie shows the strength of a woman in a time when this was overlooked.
  9. Christopher Robin – I had to amend my list after seeing this movie a few weeks ago.  I am a lifelong fan of Winnie the Pooh and the writings of A. A. Milne. Simply stated, this is a movie about rediscovering that childlike joy in life that is often snatched away by adulthood.  This movie is beautiful and provocative.

Just for fun, after compiling my list of nine favorite movies, I did an online search for IMDB’s “must see” movies.

If you are curious, here is their list of 40 movies you must see before you die.

Let’s just say that either I am going to live forever, or I have a lot of movie watching to do!  I have seen ten of these…maybe.

It’s fun to see that we didn’t have any overlaps in our favorites list! But that diversity in no way dampens the fact that we’d be totally happy to grab a beverage (coffee!) sit down, watch a movie and share a bucket of popcorn (or two) together! 😃

Leave us a comment and let us know what your all-time favorite movies are.  If you happen to watch one from our lists that you haven’t seen before, we’d like to know about that as well.

Happy Friday!

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Tuesday in Texas – Labor On!

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from Kris B.

Last Monday brought with it the beginning of another school year and my return to work after being away from school for three and a half months.  Yesterday, the Labor Day holiday, was ‘a day set aside to honor the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, laws, and well-being of the country.”  With all of that, work has been in the forefront of my mind.

I, like most educators, often hear, “Teachers are so lucky because they only have to work nine months out of the year.”  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy having my summers off, but I wouldn’t necessarily call having them off “lucky.”  First of all, teachers also only get paid for nine months a year.  For most that nine month salary is divided over a twelve month period.  If I want to get paid for twelve months, I have to work twelve months, just like most others.  Almost no one gets paid for doing nothing!  And, during those nine months that teachers are working, our workdays are 14-16 hours a day, maybe more.  All of that time may not be spent at school.  If we are lucky, we can grade or prep at home on the couch in our pajamas with dogs curled up beside us.  I am not complaining about my job; I’m simply stating that with almost every scenario in life, there is much more to it than what  may appear on the surface.

All that said, I do love my job.  Getting to the place where I can do something I love every day, well every day for nine months a year, took a lot of a different kind of work to get to this place.  Last Monday I posted this photo on Facebook with the comment that I now have been a professor as long as I was a student…26 years.  

A friend exclaimed, “You went to school  fourteen years of school beyond high school?!”  (I resisted the urge to say, “No.  Four of them were ninth grade.  I’ve learned that sarcasm doesn’t become me.). Seriously,  I hadn’t thought about it quite like that before, but I guess I do.  Admittedly, the last few years I was only doing research and taking clarinet lessons, but I was still a student; I still was under the spell of a grade at the end of the semester.  Those twenty-six years of being a student are what allow me to now spend every day doing work that makes me happy down to my core.  There were many occasions during that time of being a student where it would have been much easier to throw in the towel and do something else.  Academia, particularly at the doctoral level, is not a place where people always play well with others!  But thankfully, all that is now twenty-six years behind me and I feel blessed to be where I am doing what I do.

I am often asked what I teach.  My response is that I am a professor of music theory.  With a blank stare on the face of the questioner, again comes “so what do you teach.”  I used to go into this long discourse about what music theory is, unintentionally making the one who asked me the question very sorry for having done so.  Lately though, I’ve reconsidered my answer.

For many academics, their expertise in a specific field is how they define themselves.  “I am a biologist that also teaches.”  It has taken me awhile to realize that though all of my training is as a musician and I do teach music, at heart, I am a teacher first.  Music is simply the vehicle through which I came to teaching.  For me, teaching is much more than imparting targeted knowledge; its about equipping students with tools that will enable them to become creative thinkers and problem solvers.  It’s also about being a positive role model.  It’s about being an example in showing respect and compassion for every person in the classroom.  It’s about demonstrating the power of disciple and the power of forgiveness.  It’s about explaining the importance of both success and failure.  It’s about knowing when to talk and when to listen.  It’s about being a caring person.  That’s the real work I do.  That’s the work that all of us should do no matter the job we have.

I feel much more fulfilled when a student remembers me for having let them cry in my office after they broke up with a boyfriend or their parents kicked them out of the house than when they remember augmented sixth chords.  Though I am happy when my students go on to fulfill their dreams in music, I’m equally happy for the ones who have no dreams, the ones who stop by to see me before they make a choice that has only one final outcome.  Trying to give hope to someone who has never known hope is the real work, it’s the most challenging work anyone can do.  

And it’s work we all must do if we want a world that is happier and healthier. 

It doesn’t matter whether you are a teacher, a grocery sacker, a doctor, a truck driver, a homemaker or anything else, respect and compassion for all those we encounter is the most important work that any of us can do.  The hours are grueling; it’s a 24/7 job.  The pay may not be good. But, the rewards are immeasurable!

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Mix It Up Monday – Start Your Day Off Right!

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from Tracey G.

Water Bagels from King Arthur Flour (shown here with Everything Bagel Topping)

I love bagels. They are one of my all-time favorite bread products. Half of the fun of going down to my mom-in-law’s was to get to go to Einstein’s or Bruegger’s Bagels to get some of the tasty treats – because as much as I’ve loved Lender’s (which is all I have access to where I live up here in the wilds of Northern Michigan, lol), they just aren’t the same as those types of place’s tastes and textures.

I used to make bagels at home, but they never quite filled the bill either, they were just lacking that “bagel magic”, they tasted like regular old rolls. So, I’d given up making them. Then, I ran across the King Arthur Flour recipe for Water Bagels – I was intrigued. It uses Non-Diastatic Malt Powder. What?!? Was that the missing link in my bagel-making adventures? Could one ingredient be all that was needed to get that real bagel flavor as close as I could at home? So, I bought some from KAF. It turned out to be a very small investment in really BIG bagel quality and flavor!

Since then I’ve been making them until the weather said I must take a break when summer came along. I’ve made a cinnamon-raisin version, plain, asiago cheese bagels, and my all-time favorite, the Everything Bagel. And let me say – that although it might sound like a lot of steps, it really isn’t. They are easy, and it’s a fairly quick process to get them from beginning to eating them coming out of the oven! I will forever make my own now! They freeze well too!! I slice them in half, then wrap them, individually, in plastic wrap and pop into a freezer bag. To use, I thaw for about 30 seconds in the microwave, then toast them as desired. Perfect!

The ingredients are really basic, the only different item is the non-diastatic malt powder or they list that you can use instant malted milk powder (all this malt talk has me wanting an ice cream shop chocolate malt!). But here’s a breakdown of the ingredients:

DOUGH

  •  active dry yeast or instant
  •  lukewarm water
  •  instant malted milk powder or non-diastatic malt powder
  •  sugar
  •  salt
  •  King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

WATER BATH

It’s a very simple process, mix your dough and let it rise. When it’s risen sufficiently, you transfer to a lightly greased work surface. At this point, I get my oven heating and my water bath started (I just use a large deep skillet and it works great!) You divide your dough into 16 pieces (good thing they freeze well, because it makes a fairly big batch!). Roll each into a ball, then start forming your bagels! They recommend poking your hole in it with your index finger, then twirling it on your fingers – this works really well, to get a large enough center hole so you don’t have a bagel “bun” after they’ve baked. Mine still aren’t always pretty and perfect looking – but toppings help hide that! KAF has a great blog post on making and shaping bagels it shows you here: How To Put The Hole In The Bagel: And Other Good Bagel Stuff

Now you can top them anyway you like, I brush my freshly boiled bagel with egg white first then add my toppings. I have recently bought some dehydrated minced garlic and some onion to make a couple more of my favorite flavor bagels! I even have plans on making a blueberry version!

The possibilities are endless once you make this recipe the first time and see just how easy it is – I’ve so many ideas I can’t wait to try once it’s back to Baking Weather here! They are easy and absolutely delicious, I can honestly say I will never every buy bagels again!!

 

from Kris B.

Breakfast Sandwich Pizza

Two of my favorite things wrapped up into one amazing package – breakfast and pizza!  Because breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, I’m always on the lookout for something new and different…and easy…to try.  Though I love sweet breakfast treats like muffins and coffee cakes, I need something with protein to carry me through my long mornings.  So, when the breakfast category comes around in our recipe rotation, my search goes directly to a savory breakfast selection.

This recipe for Breakfast Sandwich Pizza works like any traditional pizza recipe; you make the crust and then you top it and bake it.  Don’t let the fact that you have to make the crust from scratch turn you off!  It’s a simple process and can be made as far in advance as 36 hours.  It does require a 45 minute rise followed by at least four hours in the refrigerator, so you do have to think ahead a little bit, but its easy to make the night before and pop it in the fridge.  The next morning, the dough is proofed, ready to go, and the Breakfast Sandwich Pizzas can be whipped up in just a little time!

THE DOUGH

For a change, I had on hand all of the “extra” ingredients that this recipe uses – Easy-Roll Dough Improver and the Pizza Dough Flavor.   I have used the Pizza Dough Flavor before in the dough for traditional pizza.  It is a mixture of cheese flavor, garlic, and spices.  Though you could probably make a similar concoction on your own, this is a quick and easy way to take your pizza dough up a notch.  I had not used the Easy-Roll Dough Improver before so I can’t speak to the difference that it makes in a recipe.  What I can say is that when it came time to roll and shape this crust, it was super easy to work with.  This dough had no “snap-back” at all!  That is the one thing that frustrates me the most about making homemade pizza dough; you roll it into a 12″ circle and the next thing you know it has shrunk back to a 10″ circle…no fun!  I’m anxious to try the Easy-Roll Dough Improver with other pizza dough recipes.

When you are ready to make your Breakfast Sandwich Pizza, divide the dough into four, six, or eight pieces, depending on the desired size of your pizzas.  I divided mine into four pieces, which, as you can see in the above photo, yielded some good-sized thick crust pizzas.  I love crust so I was happy with the thickness of the crust, but a pizza this size was too much food for me.  My husband said that he would prefer a thinner crust next time.  I think that dividing the dough into six pieces may be the best option for our preferences.  With this batch, we split one of these pizzas in half and shared and it was plenty filling.

The topping is easy and flexible.

TOPPING

  • large eggs
  • shredded cheddar, Swiss, or Monterey Jack cheese
  • bacon, diced ham, or cooked, crumbled, sausage

I used Monterey Jack cheese and diced Canadian bacon.  Next time, I am going to saute a little bit of onion and bell pepper and add it to the mix.  We need our veggies at breakfast too, right?

All of the topping ingredients are mixed together and then spooned onto the crust that has been baked at 450 degrees for 8 minutes.  The one place where you need to pay close attention when putting the pizzas together is in the final shaping of the crust.  You need to make sure that you have enough of an edge that the egg doesn’t run off of your crust.  Once the egg mixture topping is added, the pizzas are returned to the oven to bake for another 16 minutes.

That’s it!  Really very simple.

I froze my remaining pizzas with the hope that on busy work mornings I can pop them into the toaster oven and I’ll have a homemade filling breakfast with no effort.  I’ll report back as to how these taste after having been frozen and reheated.  If they taste just as good, this may become one of those recipes for which I set up an assembly line and make a few different kinds over the weekend, freeze them, and have breakfasts covered for a few weeks in advance.  That would sure simplify my life!

If your college days of cold pizza leftover from Friday being your Saturday morning breakfast are past, but that pizza for breakfast thing still sounds good, give this recipe a try.  You won’t be disappointed!

Oh, and you probably want to trade in the Friday night beer for Saturday morning juice or coffee! 🙂

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