My Weekly Bread

While I’m not quite ready for The Great British Bake-Off yet, I am moving right along in my baking development.

First we had the oatcakes:

bread oatcakes

Simple, tasty, nutritious. I should make some more of these soon.

Next, I made a loaf of whole wheat bread and experimented with adding some of my Gamino’s olive salad to it.

bread with olives

It tasted good, but it came out looking like meatloaf. Not the look I was going for. A friend and I rebranded it as vegan meatloaf. (The photo shows that I clearly did not work the olives into the loaf well enough. They shouldn’t be in layers.)

My next experiment was with pita bread:

whole wheat pita bread

As easy and delicious as it was, I’m not sure I’ll be making that recipe again unless I do a Mediterranean dinner. A half pita is all that fits into my calorie budget, and those tiny pockets don’t have room for much in them. So they’ll be a once-in-a-while kind of bread.

I also made some homemade pizza crusts:

homemade pizza crust

This was a basic recipe from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. I liked it because it was easy to portion out and freeze the dough in Cammy-sized servings. I had one this past weekend, and it was every bit as good as if I’d made it fresh. But I didn’t make it fresh, because I had a new bread to make for this week.

I love Oroweat sandwich thins. I like the Nature’s Own thins, and I’ll tolerate the Aldi brand. But two things bug me: 1) the cost of Oroweat ($3.50/8 thins) seems too high for what you get, and 2) the ingredient label, while not horrible, has lots of…stuff on it.

So. Y’all know how my mind works. I had flour, I had yeast, surely there was some way I could DIY my own sandwich thins. And so I did:

homemade sandwich thins

And they’re delicious! (I’m always so surprised when that happens. LOL)

I didn’t invent the recipe, of course. I Googled and found a zillion nearly identical recipes, and finally chose the one on Retro Kitchen as a good place to start, just because I like retro kitchens in general. And isn’t that a good thing considering my kitchen remains stuck in the harvest gold 70s?!

The sugar and yeast do most of the work in this recipe, but there is a bit of effort in the rolling/shaping of the buns. As you can tell, my bun shaping skills can use some practice. :)

I made my thins a bit small and ended up with 18 thins! I didn’t do a detailed cost analysis but I’d guess my 18 thins cost about the same as one package of 8 Oroweat thins. More importantly, I love the extra-wheaty flavor of this homemade version, and they’re much more satisfying than the store-bought thins. Win-win!

I’ll definitely be making my own thins again when I run out of this batch (that should be a couple months). I might experiment with the Fleischmann’s recipe that uses honey to create the sponge. Honey-Wheat sandwich thins? Oh yes.

I’ve only got a couple more recipes on the near horizon. For one thing, my freezer is getting full, and for another, the summer heat will not inspire much in the way of baking. I do want to make some scones, which I now pronounce skahns in honor of TGBBO, and I’d also like to replicate the Schnuck’s dinner rolls my family loves so much. (Schnuck’s closed locally and took their rolls with them.)

Oh, and I almost forgot: for those keeping up with my kitchen inventory, I have acquired a few new gadgets:
digital kitchen thermometer, biscuit cutter, small sifter

I used a Target gift card to take advantage of a sale on digital kitchen thermometers. I never trusted my “instant read”, plus I found it difficult to read, instantly or otherwise. I found the biscuit/scone/donut cutter at the flea market my parents and I visited on the coast, and I snagged the tiny sifter at a yard sale this past weekend. (Yes, Jeannie, I am getting rid of an equal number of items.)

And that brings you up to date, I think. If you happen to have a good scone (skahhhhn) recipe to share, or if you happen to know the recipe for Schnuck’s dinner rolls, I’d really appreciate a share.

Mantras I Have Known

Do I seem calmer to you? No? Well, it’s not from lack of trying.

I’ve installed a new app on my phone: Calm. It’s a meditation tool to help focus, calm, and relax the mind. Although I know how to meditate, I’m not doing it very well or consistently, so I’m currently going through the 7 Days of Calm program. It’s all good so far.

Sidenote: This company also has a great website if you just need a calming two minute break during the day. It’s called Do Nothing for 2 Minutes. If you touch your keyboard or mouse, the clock starts over. Ask me how I know that. :)

While my thoughts were drifting (calmly) along the meditative path yesterday morning, different mantras I’ve used from time to time kept popping into mind as the meditation coach did her smooth-voiced spiel.

Practice makes improvement.

I think this one came to mind just because the speaker kept reminding me that it was okay if my mind wandered, that meditation was a practice, yada-yada-yada. (Sometimes I want to tell her to hush, I just want to breathe. Which is a clear sign it’s working, I guess.)

Still, it was a good reminder to give myself a break when I don’t do something perfectly. Even when I don’t do it perfectly by my redefined version of perfection, which is “mostly right”. :)

We see it when we believe it.

which I always think of in tandem with

Something wonderful will happen.

I can’t remember most of Brian Tracy’s speech about the power of expectation, but these two phrases have stuck with me for over 20 years. I only wish I remembered to practice them every day. While I do believe that wonderful things are happening all around me, it’s difficult to remember to look for them when I’m pondering the future or reliving some past haunt.

My time is now.

When my friend Beth was struggling with Alzheimer’s, she couldn’t remember a lot of the past and knew she didn’t have an extended future (here on Earth, anyway.) All she had was Right Now, and she made the most of it. I sometimes (as in, frequently) have to remind myself that the most important time in my life is Now. The past is over, and I can’t predict the future. Other than that something wonderful will happen.

Own your choices.

After all these years (seven or eight now, I think), I realize that over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been blaming other peop–I mean, things for choices I’ve made. That needs to stop. Now. I’m in charge of me.

Because it’s the right thing to do.

The reward for doing the right thing is doing the right thing. It never ends, and I love it.

Break time is over.

I’m really feeling this one. I’ve not been far off track, but I haven’t been feeling entirely “me” lately, if you know what I mean. The morning meditation (and warmer weather, I’m sure) is definitely helping me straighten things out and focus on the here and now.

Do you meditate? What mantras have inspired you lately?

Really Home This Time

What a whirlwind couple of weeks! I had a work trip, a fun trip, a dog-sitting weekend, a job interview (x2) that went nowhere, and something else I’m forgetting. But I’m home and getting back into the swing of things today.

My fun trip was a semi-last minute jaunt to the coast with my parents. We went first to Mobile, AL and then over to the Mississippi coast. On the lonnnnggg drive down, I discovered that I have a pedometer app on my phone! Nothing would do but that I start pushing it right away.

pedometer 16,042 steps

Of course it’s my personal best; it’s the first day I used it! LOL I have no idea how accurate it is, but judging from the fatigue in my feet, I’d say it’s probably pretty close. We walked a large flea market that morning, and I walked around a casino that evening watching other people gamble, so there were lots of steps.

I matched those steps the next day by walking across the Biloxi Bay Bridge which joins Biloxi and Ocean Springs. Mom & Dad were going fishing on the old remnant bridge, so they dropped me off on the Ocean Springs side and went off to do their thing.

biloxi bay bridge

The gulf side of the bridge has a walk/run/bike lane that spans a little over 1.5 miles. On the Ocean Springs side, there’s an absolutely gorgeous tile mural depicting ocean scenes.

mosaic wall ocean springs

If you’re ever driving along U.S. 90 in Ocean Springs, it’s definitely worth a stop to see. Here’s a close-up of one of the panels:

mosaic panel least tern

Thanks to protected nesting grounds, least terns abound in the area. I could watch them swoop and dive for their food for days.

Back to the bridge. Local artists have created copper plaques from remnants of the previous bridge to represent scenes of the area. These plaques are mounted every quarter mile or so and provide a refreshing way to pace the walk.

As I was starting the downhill part of the walk, I looked over to the bay side of the bridge and spotted some familiar fisher-people:

parents fishing

The state has put the old, hurricane-wrecked bridge to good use as a fishing pier, and that’s where my parents were spending the morning. They only caught one little fish, but they seemed to have a good time. They also seemed very glad to see me after I’d trekked the extra mile or so to their fishing spot. (I had to detour through a casino for the facilities first.)

The next day I rented a car so that the parents could do their thing while I went to visit my friends in the area. I got to see Sally, of course, and enjoyed a nice visit and beach walk. Their section of the coast is more residential, so we had the beach pretty much to ourselves. (I logged about 50,000 steps on this vacation, believe it or not!)

Spring on the coast is a month or so ahead of us, so I got to see lots of pretty flowers. Exhibit A is the “car garden” blooming in the yard of the home my friends are renting while their new home is being built.

car garden

If I understood correctly, this car was a Katrina victim. It’s being put to good use now, that’s for sure. The wisteria in the background rounded it all out nicely.

As so often happens, the vacation was over much too soon. If someone hadn’t booked a pet-sitting gig for the weekend, we might have stayed an extra day. Or two. :)

I moved back home yesterday and started the drudgery of laundry and such. In amongst all the chores, I also baked some pita bread!

whole wheat pita bread

It puffed! More importantly, it tasted great! I was a little doubtful about taste because I used a no oil/no sugar recipe I found on, but it turned out good in the end. I think I didn’t knead the dough long enough, but this wasn’t bad for a first effort.

And that catches me up to today. More chores, including a grocery run for the fresh fruits and veggies that have been sadly inconsistent in my diet over the past few weeks. Absence definitely made the heart grow fonder. Although I was already pretty fond of them. :)

As of today, I have no trips scheduled at all, and I’d like to keep it that way for a while. I need some consistency and stability for a while. A good long while. LOL