New kitchen goodies

Christmas has come and gone in our little home but with it came lots of baking, an excellent turkey, skiing and a wonderful visit with my brother.

Happily, with the holidays came all of my requested kitchen items. If I can only get over this silly cold, I can start making use of them. In the meantime, I'm imagining good things.

Finally! Unfortunately it doesn't fit in any of my baking pans but I'll use it in anyway and just kinda fit it in there as best I can. And it's an excuse to get a commercial size half sheet pan in the future. According to their website I'm envisioning even, stick-free cooking. 

Roasting pan
My brother lives next door to ikea and picked this up for me. I used it for the turkey and enjoyed handles that fold down and a removable tray to remove the bird from the drippings. Speaking of turkey,  I tried brining for the first time. It's my new favourite method and Craig and my brother said it was the best turkey ever. I followed these directions
Citrus juicer
I juice lots of lemons, at least half of one per day in my morning water. It's coming in handy for my less than healthy self; making lots of lemon, honey & ginger tea.

(sharp) Kitchen scissors
Mine were getting sooooo dull about a year ago. These actually cut stuff. I use them almost daily for chopping herbs, opening packages, etc.

Glass straws
This was a gift to myself. I checked the mail everyday for like 3 weeks waiting for them. These little guys are hard to get a hold of! Initially, it was only going to be a smoothie straw (that's it on the left) but I ended up getting a few more. 

**If you are in the market for your own glass straw, I noticed (where I bought mine) has a short-term deal: Until midnight January 3rd, get free shipping on orders of $35 or more. Use coupon code SHIPJAN13
Well, I'm going to juice a few more lemons for tea and read a book on the couch for a while near the fire. Wishing you a happy healthy day!

Easy everyday bread

Today, I've made a detailed post on how to make this simple, virtually foolproof bread.

Only 6 ingredients!

Maple syrup
Olive oil

But first, I finally figured out what these red metal posts are for. Ok, it didn't take me long but I was curious after they started showing up around mail boxes, garbages & benches.

It's for the snow! It gets so high that the plows need them as markers to know where stuff. Yes. That's all. I thought it was interesting.
Back to bread. When I first started baking it, it seemed like a lot of work for something easily bought. But the lack of good bread available drove me to persevere. It quickly got easier and now we only eat 'my' bread. Our home smells amazing when it's baking and I feel a little like a pioneer woman.

Bread making can be a little intimidating. I thought it was almost impossible to make a decent loaf at home unless you were some bread artisan guru. I'm happy to say that we can all be bread artisans with this one. This recipe is truly very easy and the bread you'll make is a perfect 'everyday' kind of bread that slices well, freezes great and keeps up to 5 days on the counter. 
sliced bread on potter and sliced bread with the rest of the loaf on a cutting board
A couple things I've learned: 
  • Use scales. Much easier, faster & consistent. My measures are in grams for that reason. 
  • Try to use a proper bread pan. It makes a difference (I've included pics below to compare).
Yield: 2 loaves

Ingredients and Directions
Mix in a large bowl
  • 800 grams bread flour  (I used to use 100% whole wheat but I've started to use 50% white and 50% whole wheat. It's a little softer and easier to slice than the 100% version. But the other is still really good if you're looking for a 100% loaf)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 4 tsp instant yeast

Then pour in the bowl with the flour
  • 100 grams of extra virgin olive oil 
  • 50 grams maple syrup
  • 450 grams of warm water
Stir with a spatula until well combined. Scrape sides of the bowl.
large stainless bowl with flour in it on a scale
It should be messy and look shaggy. Get it mostly together and then dump on a lightly oiled surface. Start to work it together with your hands. You may need to add a little more flour but don't add too much. Try oiling your hands with a little olive oil if you've already added some additional flour to the dough and feel the need to add more (you may not need more, just your oiled hands). It should start to get elastic and smooth as you knead.
3 pictures of dough. The first one of rough dough in a bowl, the second on a work surface and the third after kneading.
After kneading for 10 minutes (if you feel your shoulders & arms burn, you're doing something right) settle the dough in a round shape. It should look like that last picture above. Spread about 1 tsp of oil in the bowl you were using to mix (saves on dishes!) and put dough in. Cover. After 1-2 hours (a warmer kitchen will need less time), POOF! It should about double in size. 

Dough before and after the first rise. In a stainless steel bowl.
After rising, dump dough out on work surface. Fold the dough in half and cut. Work each half down and shape into a log. Place in a buttered bread pan.  

Cover bread pans with a sheet of parchment paper and let rest 1-2 hours. POOF again, I love that part.
Raw dough in the bread pan X2. Covered with parchment paper then after it has risen for 2 hours.
Bake in a 350 degree oven for 40 minutes. Tent it lightly with aluminum foil after 20 minutes to keep the crust from overly browning. There's that smell........yummmmm.

FYI. The loaf on the left was made using a bread pan while the one on the right is more like a banana loaf pan. They both taste fine of course, but the bread pan makes one that looks more like a loaf of bread. 
Baked bread from 2 different styles of baking pan. Shows how the commercial style baking pan creates a more traditional style of loaf.

After loaves have cooled completely, double bag what you don't plan to use right away and stick in the freezer. For the loaf you plan to eat now, store it in a plastic bag on the counter and use within 5 days. Don't refrigerate, it dries out faster. Don't worry, if it felt a little fussy and time consuming, stick with it and I promise, it will get so easy you'll never buy bread again.

5 handmade gift ideas

Being one who enjoys making the gifts I give, I'm always on the lookout for ideas. But not any idea will do.....My criteria is: 
  • easy to do
  • easy to find supplies
  • something useful
  • looks polished / not too homemade
So far, I'm making hemp kitchen cloths ...and they're coming along nicely. But here are 5 more I'm seriously considering (I made the belt hanger already thingy and it's awesome-I kept 2 for me). 

1. Etched glass

I have been wanting to try this. Apparently, all you need is etching cream (this is the one item I'm worried about finding around here but I'm hoping for the best), masking tape/stencils and thrift store glass. Here's an Etsy inspiration. 

photo, urbanbelle couture

2. Body scrub/ bath salt

So easy it's almost silly that people buy this stuff (no offense if you have, of course). But it seems like it must be harder than it is, so makes for a great gift! You can find everything at a drug store. Package in a pretty container, tie on a custom tag. 


Candy cane sugar scrub
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup oil (like sweet almond or olive oil)
5 drops vanilla essential oil

5 drops peppermint essential oil

Lavender bath salt 
2 cups Epsom salts 
1 cup baking soda
10 drops lavender essential oil 
optional: add a handful of whole dried lavender (they look nice but I usually leave them out of my mixes as it's a pain to clean the tub after)

3. Belt hanger

I made one of these for Craig last year but he prefers to hang belts on the curtain rod in our bedroom. I think clothing organized people would appreciate it. I have 2 of them (now) and they keep all my belts tidy and awesome. 

photo, Martha Stewart

Drill holes into a wooden hanger about 2 inches apart then hand screw hooks into it. You might have to snip the ends of the screws if they're too long, I had to. 

Another super easy one. All you need is a food processor. Use organic sugar and lemons to make it a little more special and put the ingredients on a homemade tag. It will keep several months in the fridge.  

photo, Martha Stewart

5. Dark chocolate bark

One of my favourite treats during the holidays! I buy the big dark bars when I'm at PC to start with. Here's a recipe for Chocolate bark with fruits and nuts that looks amazing. The more stuff in there the better I think. Wrap in parchment paper and place in a small, coloured paper bag. Tie with twine or ribbon. 


More gift-making ideas of mine...hand cream...3-card sets...natural room spray

Happy gifting! Have any handmade gift ideas to share?

Crocheted hemp kitchen cloth

Happy Monday!! I'm trying out some enthusiasm since I don't really feel it. It was a rainy weekend (again). I did a bunch of cooking last week but didn't do much since Friday. We went to Vernon on Saturday to buy a new toilet and new kitchen lighting (3 spot lights and now I can see what I'm doing!). And a nice surprise was that Vernon was sunny. Sunny and like 8 degrees. It was like going to Mexico for the day.
a box of parchment baking cup liners

So, I recently got addicted to baking with parchment paper and I noticed they had parchment liners too.  Compared to regular paper cups that for me leave like 1/3 of the muffin stuck to the paper, these ones are great! Nothing sticks to them AT ALL.  Really, they are lovely and perfect. If they have any fault I would say that they are too non-sticky and the paper comes off on its own if you handle it too much.

On to other things. Being December 3, that means getting my hand-made cards ready and making simple crafts. My crafting supplies are strewn around on the kitchen table and probably will be for a while since I've only made 5 cards. It's a 'tree & stars' theme (I think it was last year too-you can't really go wrong).
5 handmade christmas cards laying on a wooden table
I'm making kitchen dish cloths. After making them last year, I got hooked on using them. They machine wash and don't smell bad like synthetic cloths tend to. They last like crazy (I used one daily for a year washing it at least once a week and it lasted beautifully-I was going to include a photo but it was pretty ugly in then end). Here's my brand new one I stitched up last night. I could only find hemp yarn locally but I think it will work out better than cotton. I did a little research and learned that hemp fibres are super strong, not itchy and they dry extremely quickly naturally. Made for kitchen cloths I'd say.
hemp yarn, crocheted kitchen cloth, scissors and crochet hook on a wooden tableThe pattern is super basic; a single crochet rectangle with a triple single crochet border using a #4 or #5 hook. If you need some help with that, here's directions from someone who already made a great little video. 

Of course I tried it out right away. The sturdiness of the yarn made for perfect scrubbing action.
Crocheted hemp kitchen cloth held over the sink by a hand

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