Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Apple Cinnamon Twisty Bread {Kind Arthur Bake-a-long}

I'm sitting here typing, a delicious latte in the space next to me and it's so quiet.  All I hear is the rain falling outside with the quite flutter of the leaves falling from the trees.  I just want to sit and watch it all day.  But this blog post is calling and really, you need another carb-filled recipe to drool over, right?  Ethan actually requested to bring this recipe to school and if I type it and put it on the internet he can just grab it at school.  So, really this post has two points. . . my son's assignment of a recipe we make at home (because recipes have fractions and yes, we use math outside of school) and because this recipe was a HUGE hit on Thanksgiving morning that you really just need to make it (It would make a great Christmas breakfast. . . hint hint). 

I took the week off blogging last week for some family time.  The kids had the whole week off and we headed to the beach and tried to relax as much as possible.  Thanksgiving was spent at my brother-in-laws house and it was just fabulous.  Delicious food, good company, a fun walk and watching the cousins play.  My favorite part of Thanksgiving, though, was eating this bread and drinking a warm coffee while watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade from our couch with my husband. The kids watched for a bit, but then left to read his way through the Harry Potter series and Weston couldn't resist building something with Legos.  No one was fighting or needing me for anything.  It was great. 

This bread was so simple, yet looked so festive. . . perfect for a special morning like Thanksgiving. The dough was so soft and almost flaky!  King Arthur's bake-a-long writer described it as an Entenmann's clone and it was way better than the one at the store.  Probably because homemade is always better, but also no chemical preservative things that are just gross.  I was able to do everything but the glaze the day before, so really, super simple.  I made up the dough Wednesday morning before we did some fun things and it rose most of the day (it only needed less than 2 hours, but I didn't make it until that evening).  That evening after the kids went to bed, I rolled out the dough, made the filling and rolled it up and baked it.  Easy Peazy.  The recipe made two loaves and so there were leftovers for the next day.  I'm pretty sure that Ethan would have eaten the whole thing if we had let him! 

I've been trying to fit in some bread making, because it's a little more intimidating than a batch of chocolate chip cookies.  I'm always on the lookout to learn something new in the kitchen and last year bread making was it! This recipe was one of the King Arthur Bake-A-Long recipes that they featured last year and it was well worth the try.  You can find the original blog post here and see how they made it. 

Cinnamon Apple Twisty Bread
adapted from King Arthur Flour

3 1/4 c all purpose flour
1/2 c plus 1 tbsp dry instant mashed potatoes
3 tbsp suga
1 1/2 tsp yeast
1 1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp soft butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 large egg
1 cup plus 2 tbsp warm milk

2 medium apples
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon

In your mixing bowl, mix together your dry ingredients.  Then add all the wet ingredients and mix with your dough hook until the dough looks shaggy.  Rest for about 30 minutes.  (this is a great time to go switch over the laundry, blow dry your hair, or wrap some presents).  You can skip this if you are short on time, but it really helped make a nice smooth ball. 

Knead the dough with your mixer until is looks like a soft, smooth ball of dough. 

Place it in a greased bowl and cover it with a town until its double the size.  KAF recommends 1 1/2 to 2 hours, but I just left it all day. . . our house is keeps pretty cool, so it didn't hurt the dough at all.

 Just before you are ready to roll out the dough, grate 2 apples. . . you will need about 1 cup.  Put in a small sauce pan and stir in lemon juice, sugar, cornstarch, salt and cinnamon.  Stir until the juices release and the mixture starts getting thicker. . . almost jelly-like. Turn off the stove and set aside. 

Divide the dough in half and roll out one into a rectangle (about 10in by 12in) and spread half the filling over the dough.  Roll up like a cinnamon roll.  Then cut lengthwise down the center of the log, making two logs.  Braid the two halves together and pinch the ends together so they stay,  forming a beautiful twisty bread.
Place on baking sheet
and repeat with the other half of dough. 

Let them rise for another hour or so and then bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes. Let cool before putting the glaze on.

1 c powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt
1 to 2 tbsp milk (I used almond milk)

Note:  If you're doubting the use of instant potatotes. . . trust me.  The people at KAF know what they are talking about.  This recipe used them and now I just keep a package or two in my pantry.  They definitely are a great secret ingredient when your family asks, "Why is this bread so amazing?"

Happy Baking!

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Finding contentment where you live

I used to dream of my future home.  My best friend and I would cut pictures of rooms out of old magazines and glue them to cardboard pieces while we dreamed of our future.  From the kitchen to the baby room and everything in between, I dreamed. I dreamed of pillow filled couches and beds with fluffy comforters and a kitchen with black and white tiled floors.  

Eventually, I grew up and moved out of my parent’s home.  I lived the college life of mismatched, hand-me-down furniture (before it was cool!) and chose to eat and go to the movies over home d├ęcor items, yet still dreaming!  My roommates and I hosted a weekly small group Bible study and many friends despite our low budget decorating.  It wasn’t a big deal because we were college students and nobody had beautifully decorated apartments. 

Fast forward a few years, to getting married, having kids, and home buying.  After a grueling experience trying to buy a house and then it not working out, we found a house that was in a wonderful neighborhood, near sweet friends and a great school.  Not to mention our local library was a block away.  However, as I walked through the house for the first time seeing the bland white walls that were crying out, “Paint Me!” and almost tripping over the blue carpet in the family room that was rolling, this feeling of discontentment washed over me.  Our realtor reminded me constantly the house had great bones and great potential.  All I saw was the scuff markets, rolled carpet, and ugly cabinets. I knew there was no way we were going to be able make all the changes we wanted right away. 

We bought the house anyway and moved all of our furniture in and figured where we were going to put everything.  It took a lot of rearranging until it worked, yet my heart was still discontent.  Our whole front room was pretty much empty. We now had two living rooms and only one set of living room furniture. We knew we wanted to invite people into our home.  We wanted God to use this house for His Glory, but I wondered how. Who would want to come into my home and just sit on our floor? Is that really comfortable and welcoming? These questions wandered through my head a lot during those first few years in our home. My husband and I knew we wanted to make some changes to the house, but we didn’t want to go into debt to do it.  This meant live our lives, be content, and make changes as our budget allowed.

I’m pretty sure the first thing we did was paint.  Those walls were so sad and so thirsty that we needed to splash some color on them.  We painted those walls colors like Midnight Fog and Sand Between My Toes. We didn’t even care that the carpet was rust orange.  We just painted.  It helped.  A  lot.  There were a lot of late night painting parties during that first year while our toddler slept, and it was worth it to give the house a little bit of character while we saved for the bigger fixes. 

We still invited people in and we still laugh that we had Bible Study on our living room floor.  I even hosted a dessert for some ladies in our Mothers of Pre-Schoolers (MOPS) group at my house.  I gathered as many chairs as I could and sat them around the empty floor and ladies gathered in my practically empty front room, eating delicious desserts and chatting with friends. I learned something that evening.  My house didn’t have to look like it walked off the cover of Better Homes and Gardens, but that my heart needed to be in the right spot and people would feel welcome.  People don’t need to have a beautifully decorated room to sit in to fill loved.  It’s nice, but it’s not necessary.  What is necessary is a warm, willing heart that is ready to be used by God.  While it’s fun to decorate and create beautiful living spaces, God will use whatever space you have as long as you are willing. 

I love Pinterest and Instagram.  I can scroll through beautiful posts of beautiful homes and save ideas for later.  I can gather inspiration for my own home and I can admire someone’s hard labor of love as a piece of art.  Unfortunately, there is a trap that we often fall into by comparing our own homes to those seemingly perfect pictures we see in our feed.  We forget to look for the story behind the pictures.  The work it took to get that corner looking just the right way.  The money saved to buy the picture on the wall or the hours spent creating a work of art to save money. Don’t let your not-so-picture perfect home keep you from opening your doors and pouring love onto the people who walk in. Don’t fall into the comparison trap which leads to jealousy and discontentment.  Find ways to be content in the space you are living in.  Visit thrift stores, paint a wall, have a yard sale to get rid of clutter and make some money for that chair you’ve been eying.  Be to free to move the furniture around.  

The reality is that most of us can’t hire Chip and Jo to come do a miraculous flip to our homes and that’s okay.  Create a home that you love and want to invite others into.  Don’t be afraid to invite people into what seems like an empty room filled with random chairs from the kitchen table.  Invite them into a home filled with love and kindness and I promise that they won’t care about the lack of a couch.    

Friday, November 09, 2018

Flashback Friday {Cranberry Buttermilk Scones}

Last weekend I went online to find my favorite scone recipe.  This recipe is one that I found back in the early years of my blog and back when I was using a decent (for back then) digital camera and quickly posting a post about what I made so that I could share the recipe with friends.  And you know what?  The recipe. . . amazing.  The pictures. . . are so bad!  So, over the next year, I am hoping to do some Flashback Friday posts to some delicious recipes that just don't have great pictures so I can update them with new, prettier pictures. . . because let's face it. . . our iphones take better pictures than our digital cameras from 10 years ago!

I;m going to keep this post short and sweet, because I am ready to kick start out three day weekend with some fun! I hope that you find some time this weekend to do something creative or share a meal with some friends.  Enjoy your weekend!

Click here for the original post with the recipe and new, updated pictures.  

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Connection Time {Nov. 2018}

 I had coffee with a sweet friend yesterday and I was reminded just how good for the soul it is to slow down, sit, talk and laugh with friends.  It has been such a busy month full of some adventure and lots of busyness.  I know we can't all sit down and have coffee together (I mean, if you're local. . . let's chat!), but we can take some time and have a conversation via the world wide web.

If you are new to the blog, I like to do these posts about once a month so we can take a break and catch up with real life.  This is a chance for you to get in on the conversation and leave a comment.  I would love to hear your side of things.  It is my goal each month to take the time to stop and connect.  I tell you a little bit of what's happening, keeping it completely real, and then I use some prompts that I fill out and then you can fill out in the comments.  This is a great way to establish community and realness on this site.

So, let's talk about life. 
 We took a few days and headed Southwest to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.  It was a great adventure, where the kids worked on homework in between riding a train, exploring, and feeding wild donkeys in Oatman, AZ.  I'm planning on doing a blog post about it and starting a new travel section on my blog.  The kids had fun trying to see what sights along Route 66 were adapted for the movie Cars. 

 We also had family pictures done by one of my sweet friends.  She is raising money for her and her husband to go to Isreal next Spring and takes the most fantastic pictures!  I can't wait to get them back!  Also, this kid loves having his picture taken! 
 My hubby found out that he got to go to a conference in North Carolina and I got to tag along.  It was one of those trips that we didn't think would happen and it did.  While Jon was learning all sorts of science/air quality stuff, I spent some time with my Google Maps and went on a National Landmark hunt.  I found this old plantation that was just gorgeous.  I didn't have to go far to find places where amazing things had happened.  I also got to head to the Duke campus and check out the Chapel that I had seen so many pictures of.  It was breathtaking!

All that adventuring really energized me and was totally something that I needed.  It has been an incredibly busy fall and I was getting word down and in desperate need of margin.  Exploring new things really fills me up!
 We took some time to see the sunrise and the hot air balloons and as exhausted as we were, it was completely worth it.  It ended up being a random were Ethan didn't have a soccer games, so we came home and napped.
 We also managed to fit in a soccer and a football game in.  I'm seriously astounded at how much we've been doing!  The kids went to their first Fresno State game and it's safe to say Ethan was in love.  Our team is ranked this year and that makes it so much fun!

Now, it's time for the prompts.  First, I will answer them and then at the end there will be the same prompts all ready to copy and paste in the comments.  You can do one or as many as you want.  I love to hear from you (seriously it makes my day to get a comment!). 

Outside my window the leaves are finally changing.  We have a big tree in our front yard that got trimmed yesterday and it's little leaves are usually raining down on our front yard.  It's probably one of my favorite things about Fall.

I am thinking
about quiet and margin.  I'm looking forward to things stopping for the season so I can fully enjoy the Thanksgiving and Christmas season.  My husband is also asking me what I want for my birthday and I am not really sure.  Ideas are welcome!

From the kitchen
I have baked up a storm!  I have a new cupcake recipe headed to the blog soon and I've been updating some new ones.  Stay tuned for some flashback recipes from back when I first started this blog with new updated pictures.

I am wearing
jeans, a sweatshirt, and my white all stars. . . Going comfortable today!

I am creating. . .
hmmm. . . this one is hard.  I am not working on much until I finish some baby gifts that I haven't had time to work on.  My goal is in the next week they will be done!  Then I have a sewing project that I am going to work on for a tutorial.  I also have a few Paper Pumpkin kits that are begging to be done and a few albums to work on.  The list could go on!

I am going
to my son's soccer practice this afternoon with a detour by Starbucks for happy hour!  First of all. . . it's now dark the whole practice and it's been a bit chilly, so a hot latte just sounds perfect!  Also, it's happy hour, so I've gotta take advantage of that! 

I am reading
SO MANY THINGS!  My list is pretty much the same, but I've been distracted by Bake from Scratch's holiday baking magazine.  So many wonderful looking recipes! 

I am hoping to get some things finished now that things are slowing down.  Tomorrow I need to get some cleaning done so I can start our front bathroom cabinets! I'm so excited for a new project!

I am hearing
The clinking of Legos from the room next door.  Weston is creating something, I'm sure.  Ethan is quietly reading his Harry Potter Book. . . I should be hearing the guitar soon.  I love afternoons like this.  Quiet and relaxing! I'm going to enjoy it before heading to soccer!
Around the House
remnants of Halloween are still around.  Keeping the pumpkins and fall decor out until after Thanksgiving.  I can't bring myself to decorate for Christmas this early! 
One of my favorite things
are coffee with friends and quiet days.  But, if you are looking for something physical. . . I am loving library apps overdrive and rb digital.  Checking out magazines is saving us so much money and is allowing Weston and I to read when it's dark at practice! 

A few plans for the week
are finish a quilt, have an outdoor movie night, and slow down and read.

What I am listening to
we've been listening to Diamonds by Hawk Nelson a lot lately because it's Weston's favorite!  I love hearing his little voice sing the words to the songs! 

Now, it's your turn!  Grab your coffee and let's connect! You don't have to do them all! I can't wait to hear from you! You can even private message me if you don't want to make it public.  

Outside my window
I am thinking
From the kitchen
I am wearing
I am creating
I am going
I am reading
I am hoping
I am hearing
Around the House
One of my favorite things
A few plans for the week
What I am listening to  

Friday, November 02, 2018

Spiced Chocolate Chip Cookies perfect for Fall!

Happy fall y'all!

I don't know about you, but it has just plain out crazy over here.  So I ran away.  Well, flew away is more like it.  My husband had a conference in North Carolina and I went with him for some exploring and kid free time.  I got to see fall leaves and experience cooler temps (and a lot of other things, but I am going to blog about that later).  Then, I came home and jumped right back into reality and our leaves starting to change.  Insert happy, happy heart right here.  Fall is my absolute favorite.  The cooler temps, layering clothes, the colors of the leaves, the anticipation of Christmas.  Soon the neighborhood ginkgo trees will turn their bright yellow and I will probably swoon and take lots of pictures because it just makes my heart so happy to watch the leaves change. 
But, before I left, I made some new cookies that Weston picked out from the new Bake From Scratch Holiday Cookie magazine (which you should totally buy because every single recipe looks amazing!).  We couldn't wait until Christmas to make Christmas cookies! Plus, the spices in this cookie remind me of Fall and since the leaves are changing and Halloween just passed, this recipe is a must make for your fall entertaining or after school snack, or even for a family movie night snack.  These did not last long. . .everybody gobbled them up like they were the best things ever!  You really don't need any excuse to make this except that they are amazing!  So, I am going to get this recipe up and this blog post posted and go find my office - it's a disaster!

Spiced Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Cookies
adapted from Bake from Scratch, Holiday 2018

3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp sugar
3/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup plus 3 Tbsp flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp ground cardamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp dried rosemary
2 3/4 cup oatmeal
3/4 cup dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds, chopped
Flaked sea salt for finishing

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Cream together butter and sugars until nice and fluffy. . . this takes a couple of minutes, don't get impatient.  Scrape the edges every now and then to make sure it all gets fluffy and not just the insides.  Beat in each egg and add vanilla.  Slowly add all the dry ingredients, including the spices and beat until combined.  Then add chocolate chips and almonds.   Mix until well incorporated. 

Refrigerate for 30 minutes.  Trust me. 

Scoop nice, rounded balls onto cookie sheet and sprinkle with flaky salt. 

Bake for 12ish minutes.  Let them cool for a couple minutes on the pan before moving them to a wire rack. 



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