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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Kitchen face-lift {part four} – Taking a turn for the ridiculous

So.  Do you remember that little face-lift we started on our kitchen? 

We were just going to paint.  Then we decided to replace the floor after we ripped out the old pantry and built a new one.  But in the midst of all of this, we were absolutely, without question, no-doubt-about-it going to keep the existing cabinets and countertops.

Remember that? 

If not, see the part one, part two and part three blog posts.

Well, we’ve turned a corner into the land of “this is ridiculous.”


My son walked into the kitchen this morning after my husband removed the cabinets, cook top and wall oven and pronounced:

“This place is out of business!”

Yes, son.  Yes it is.

Monday, December 27, 2010

BBA Challenge #25 – Pizza Napoletana

Historically, I have made a simple pizza crust from my sourdough (wild yeast) starter. So not involving her here made me a little sad. But I was going to try it (all the while thinking that it wouldn’t be as good).

I don’t know about you, but when I bake bread, things get a little messy…


On to the dough…



On twitter that day, I wondered aloud, “To toss or not to toss. That is the question.” Well, two of my baking buddies convinced me that I couldn’t not at least try to toss the dough. So, I decided I would in spite of my concerns about pizza dough ending up on the ceiling.

Well, it looks like the ceiling was the least of my concerns.


But, when it’s going into a 550+ degree oven, I’m not too concerned about a little floor dirt. NOTHING would survive that oven.

I finally got it pulled into a somewhat amoeba-esque shape and let my daughter finish off the toppings.

100_7939 100_7940 100_7941 What truly amazed me was how easily the next two balls of dough pulled into almost perfectly round shapes. With all my messing around, the first ball of dough was not as easy to shape. But the next two, with the gluten so completely relaxed… it was a SNAP. A couple of quick hand movements and it was done.


As you can see, we obviously made pepperoni pizza. But I also made one of my favorites… lamb pita pizza.

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This pizza definitely got a seal of approval from my family!


We need to make pizza again. Soon.

To see my other Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge blog posts and to read about the challenge, go here.

Monday, December 20, 2010

BBA Challenge #24 - Panettone

As you can see from the dates of all my pictures, I baked this bread much earlier in the year. I felt like it might be time to actually post this.


Panettone is one of those breads that I was not really looking forward to. It has all kinds of dried fruits and didn’t really look like it was up my alley from the pictures. Basically it looks like fruit cake except in a yeast bread form.

So maybe it’s timely that I’m posting this around Christmas-time.

The only thing is that fruit cake has never been the slightest bit appealing to me. Maybe it’s the pecans. Maybe it’s the candied fruit. May it’s the low proportion of cake to the other two ingredients. I don’t know. But me and fruit cake = meh.

So getting to this bread was not terribly exciting for me. However, as part of the challenge, I was interested to make it and see how it went.

I always look for new ways to use my wild yeast starter, and when I found out that this was one, I was pretty excited.

Wait, have I ever shown you a picture of my wild yeast (sourdough) starter? Well, like any proud mama, here she is…


Isn’t she just the cutest thing?!?! All those bubbles just make her beautiful, don’t you think?

Ahhh. But moving on.

I don’t know why, but I found it interesting that when I combined the vanilla, rum and orange extract that the mixture became cloudy. I felt a little like a mad scientist as it happened.



But I digress.

Next came the process of seeing what fruits I was going to use. I’ve already mentioned my aversion to the idea of candied fruits so clearly, it would be some blend of dried fruits; the exact blend would be dictated by what I had on hand. Ultimately, my fruit combination consisted of raisins, dried cranberries, dried cherries, dried dates, and dried apricots.

100_7838 And then came the process of actually making the dough and bread….


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The bread turned out beautifully.

To be honest, I was pleasantly surprised. I didn’t hate it when I tried it. And my husband actually said he liked it.




I made some of the dough into little muffin type rolls with the intent of doing the “Holiday Bread Brule” as described in the Grace Note on page 206. Without going into great detail, we’ll just leave it at… not so much. But the bread pudding it made was pretty good and would be a nice addition to any Christmas or holiday dessert menu.

I don’t know that this would be one that I would do a lot, but would definitely consider it for making bread pudding.

To see my other Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge blog posts and to read about the challenge, go here.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Holy Globuli, Batman: A lesson in Ancient Roman cooking

Sarah is taking Latin this year as a fourth grader.  Our school ascribes to the classical education method which includes, obviously, everyone taking Latin for a number of years beginning in fourth grade. 

When she came home with an extra credit project to make a dish (and write about their experience in making it) that they might have had in Ancient Rome for the Saturnalia celebration, I knew that this was right up our alley.

As I began to search for recipes on the internets, I came across this squidoo page that had several recipes on it.  Among those was Globuli, which is what Sarah ultimately chose to make and write about.

This is the recipe we followed as stated on the squidoo page liked above:


Curd cheese (or Ricotta), 500 g or about 1lb 
1 cup semolina
olive oil

Press curd cheese through sieve or let it hang in cheese cloth until it's drained well. Mix with the semolina into a loose dough. Let it sit for a few hours.

With wet hands form the mixture into dumplings. Quickly fry them in olive oil for a few minutes. Drain and roll in honey.


We talked a lot as we worked about the types of conditions the Ancient Romans would have cooked in.  We talked about how they wouldn’t have had refrigeration and that their ingredients would have all been basically room temperature.  We also discussed that they wouldn’t have had precise measuring cups and tools and figured that they would have “eyeballed” most of their ingredients.  We tried to use very simple tools, but did break down and use the spring loaded scoop to help measure out the balls of the dough.  

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Here is her write-up (exactly as she wrote it):

“I opened the lid to the ricotta.  It was cold so we heated it up for 35 seconds in the microwave.  They did not have refrigreaters so their ingredients would be room temp.  We then let it set a while and then mixed it up with semolina, semolina was a flower made with wheat from Italy.  It looked good, but we had to wait a few hours.

Next I wet my hands and put some dough in my hand.  I rolled it around into a smooth ball.  After I made them all I started to put in hot olive oil to fry them.  After that I put them on a sheet to drain the oil.  Then I stirred them in honey.  Then I put them on a plate.  I tried on, and it was yummy.  I had a good time.”

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Mike and I each tasted a bite and it tasted a little bit like a hush-puppie. 


So here’s to Ancient Roman cooking.  Very few ingredients and simple tools.  But I’ll take refrigeration and a spring loaded scoop any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

King Arthur Baking Demonstrations and a Giveaway

**Congrats Rachelizabeth!!**

A couple of weeks ago, in his sermon, our pastor told a little story of a man who was asked if he knew what his wife’s favorite flower was. “Of course,” he said, “Pillsbury.”

Amidst the chuckles from the congregation, I looked over at Mike who had that “what an idiot” look on his face. He then motioned with his hand toward me and said with a knowing laugh, “King Arthur, right?”

Yes, baby. You know me too well.

King Arthur is my favorite flour. I can’t always purchase it because of the price. But if I had my preference, I would probably use it all the time. It is such good quality without all the additional processing that many of the less expensive brands use.

So to tell you that I was excited to find out earlier this year that their travelling baking demonstrations would be coming to North Texas would be a huge understatement.

I attended both their Pies and Tarts and Sweet Yeast Breads demonstrations in Grapevine yesterday. Part of me said, “Why are you bothering? These are not topics that you have great anxiety over anymore.” But then I decided that you just never know what little tip you might pick up.

So I went to both sessions and they were pretty good. I did, in fact, pick up a few little hints and tips that I hadn’t thought of before. The kids even went with me to the evening session about bread and both enjoyed watching her make cinnamon rolls (and I don’t think there is any way I’ll get through this weekend without making a batch, just so you know).

And I even won some door prizes of 5 pound bags of flour. I won one of them when I went to the class at noon and then each of my kids and I won one at the evening bread demo. It was awesome.

So, in case you either live in the area and were not able to make it, or you live in an area that they are not coming to this year, I would like to pass on to one of you some of the swag we got.

I am going to give away: 1 recipe booklet (includes a King Arthur Flour coupon on the back), 1 bowl scraper and 1 $10 gift card toward a $20 purchase (to be used in the next 90 days at the King Arthur Flour online store).


How to enter this giveaway:

  • Leave a comment on this blog post (including an email address where you can be reached) telling me what you might buy with the gift card.

That’s it. I’m not doing extra entries with this one.

The giveaway will end on Tuesday (12/7/10) at 10 pm at which time comments will close.

I will announce a winner on Wednesday morning (12/8/10) after my kids are able to use the “oh-so-scientific-method” of drawing a name from a hat.

Good luck and happy baking!

P.S. If you live in the Fort Worth area, there is one more day of baking demonstrations today (12/2/10) at noon and 6 pm :
Radisson Hotel Fort Worth Fossil Creek
2540 Meacham Blvd.
Fort Worth, TX 76106

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Your dachshund might be spoiled if…

Your 14 1/2 year old dachshund might be spoiled if…

… November starts a four month stint of constant shivering because the temperature has dipped below 80 degrees.


… And in the course of all that shivering, when snuggling up next to Papa doesn’t do the trick to warm her up, you cover her up with the heating pad.

So… yeah… she’s definitely spoiled.  There’s no “might” about it, is there?

But at about 98 people years old, she should be, right?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Kitchen face-lift {part three} - A random update

Hi there.  Remember me?  In case you forgot, my name is Donna and this here blog is my internet home. 

And, believe it or not, I do know that there are three elements that make up this blog.  Faith, Family and Food. 

Yes, that’s right.  One of the elements of this blog is food.  You wouldn’t know it by my recent posting history, would you?  I simply haven’t posted much food lately.

My apologies if you have found your way over here looking for great recipes and adventures in my kitchen lately.  However, if you’ll remember from this post and this post, my kitchen has kind of been under construction.  And still, even now, it looks like this:

100_9710 A busier work schedule for my man is good…. except that it means that little has happened on the kitchen in a while.

Trade-offs.  Meh.

This “under construction” status of my kitchen and the associated dust along with soccer, strep throat (for my Little Man and I), Bible studies, retreats and speaking at a retreat, the blogging of food has, well, been set aside. 

I have been cooking and have tried some new things.  In fact, last weekend I baked some sourdough bread and made cassoulet.  It has been so long since I have had the smell of bread baking in my house...OH how I’ve missed it.

However, I don’t know if you realize, but typing out recipes and taking pictures and all that goes into blogging food… it’s time consuming.  And clearly time is not something I’ve had just a lot of lately.

So all this is to say that I do hope to get back to food blogging.  But it’s just going to take a little while longer. 

If you read here, please let me know you still come by periodically by leaving a quick comment.  Tell me… what have you been up to?  Have you cooked anything fun and exciting lately?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Baseball is in the house

We've been watching a lot of baseball lately.

"Why?" you ask?

Well, if you haven't heard, the Texas Rangers are in the World Series, which started last night.

If you're not from around here, that's a pretty big deal. It's their first WS appearance. EVER.

Now, we are not a huge sports family. We like our Aggie football and such, but overall, pro sports have not been a big deal to us. But the Rangers are a little different for me.

This is a team I really did grow up with. Since they were rarely winning, tickets were always cheap and we went to games pretty often. I remember getting Steve Buchele's autograph. My mom has always been a huge Ranger fan and I think she has that baseball card, now.

This is also a team that is really just a lot of fun to watch right now.

And then there is a certain player who is a sold-out Christian and shares his daily battle against addiction with the world. I loved being able to wake up the next morning after they won the American League Championship and Josh Hamilton was awarded the AL MVP and show my kids this video of his acceptance and explain that this was part of why them winning was such a big deal. That a memeber of our community had and, better yet, took the opportunity to give the glory to God and proclaim His name before 50,000 people and millions on television. The amount of press that he has received these last few days has been immense. And just about every time you see him, he is proclaiming God's goodness. Now, that is something I can get with.

And all the baseball we've been watching has renewed an interest in it for my little man. In fact, we took baseball gear with us to his sister's soccer practice last night so he could practice.

It is so... dang... CUTE!!!

Fast forward to Game 1 last night. *sigh*

All I can say is that while I have been super impressed with him as a pitcher, Cliff Lee had better watch out. There might be a 5 year old who wants his job.

We have not given up hope, though. We have faith in you, Texas Rangers! We know you can do it! Because you have already brought baseball back into our house.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Training up my own child

I wanted to share with you our little story from this last weekend. I got an email a few weeks ago about tickets to attend the taping at Life Today with Beth Moore for their Wednesdays with Beth segments for last weekend.  I have been before, but through the series of circumstances that led to me getting the tickets this time, I came to really see the Holy Spirit being in charge and that something great was up. I had no idea, however, what it would be.

I texted a faithful bff and sister in the faith immediately and we were both totally on board to go. I then contacted a couple of other friends in the area. One already had tickets, but the other did not. At this point 3 out of the 4 of my tickets were spoken for.

That last ticket… it was a toughie.  One of my friends had a woman on her heart that has been going through a difficult time and we both tried everything we could think of to convince her to come with us. But it was not to be.

I finally had the idea to invite my 9 year old daughter to come with us for the Friday night session. She was unsure about it, but the clincher was when I told her that dad and brother would just be watching the baseball game (the Rangers) again that night… she was MORE than willing to get out of the house at that news. HA! At the same time I continued to try to get someone to take the ticket for Saturday.


Friday night came and it was just so wonderful. Sarah sat nearly on the edge of her seat the entire time. Bible open, highlighter and pen in hand; taking notes and highlighting important words and phrases in her Bible.


It was the most precious sight for this mother’s eyes to see.

At the end of the evening the Life Today staff began talking about the next day’s schedule. Sarah looked at me and said, “Y’all are doing this tomorrow, too?”

“Yes,” I replied. “I didn’t figure you’d come since you have a soccer game and stuff. Do you want to come back tomorrow?”

“Oh mom, yes! This is SO worth it.”

Well… how can you argue with that, I ask you?

She was up the next morning before I even got the chance to go wake her up. She was ready. Hungry and ready. (I’m about to tear up just writing this.)

It was so clear by mid-way through Saturday’s sessions that the 4th ticket was intended for her the whole time. God had reserved her a spot and wouldn’t let me give it to anyone else.


You see, the Lord has just been pressing down on me and putting on my heart with such heaviness the urgency concerning the spiritual education of my children. He has just opened my eyes to the need for parents like myself to really model what “Training up [your own] child” looks like for other parents. We can’t put the responsibility on anyone else if we want to take every step possible to turn around the current trend of young adults leaving the church and their faith behind in droves never to return.  We can’t continue to expect that our kids are getting everything they need from a 1 hour Sunday school class once a week.  We can’t continue to  allow someone else to be the model for them.  That is our job as their parents and we need to take it on. 

What an opportunity this was for me to share in some Bible teaching with my daughter and allow her to see the beauty of women gathering together and loving on one another in the name of Christ. It was also an opportunity for obedience and for me to live out what I’ve been saying with my mouth: I will not be held captive by my kids’ sports schedules; it’s not the most important thing. It really felt like this was God saying, “Are you going to walk what you talk?” I think I passed the test.

And the Lord blessed me with being able to see a little of the fruit of our labor over the last 9 years.  It is such an encouragement to me to keep on and even step it up.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

What to do when you have a tooth fairy fail

We’ve all been there, right?

Child loses tooth.

Child puts tooth under pillow (or in tooth box).

And somehow amidst dishes, work, laundry, housework and watching the Rangers beat up on the Yankees (well maybe that’s just me), the tooth fairy messes up and the tooth remains and the money is absent.

So, what do you do?

I got some ideas from some friends on Twitter today. So here’s my top 5 things to do when you experience a tooth fairy fail:

1.  The tooth fairy doubles the loot when she is too busy to make it to a home one night. (via @Dinnersforayear)

2.  Sneak the money under pillow now and have the child look again. Maybe she didn't take tooth because she got a phone call in the middle; a tooth emergency called her away. (via @alisonzajac)

3.  Hide the $$ under the bed. Ask if she looked everywhere...when found...all is good. (via @laughingmomma)

4.  If your son or daughter still believes in an actual tooth fairy, it may be time to fess up.

This last one is how it went for us today since I don’t think Sarah has ever believed in an actual tooth fairy, but knows it’s just something fun for parents to do with their kids.  (This was not necessarily by design, but just how it worked out in our family.)

5.  Apologize and, if possible, use it as a spiritual training moment. 

Her dad explained that he has been stressed and worried about some work things and that like Ahaz that we have been studying this last week in our BSF Isaiah Bible study, he hasn’t been trusting God with it.  The consequence of which was him forgetting about her tooth.

Thankfully, we have a daughter who is just so easy going that she took it all in stride.  We’ll make up for it, but I’m also thankful that Mike didn’t miss the opportunity for the spiritual lesson along the way.

So… what funny or serious things do you do when you have a tooth fairy fail moment?  Come one… we’ve ALL had them.  Fess up!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Your dachshund might be spoiled if…

Your dachshund might be spoiled if you take her to soccer practice and let her ride in the front seat with you.

head out the window

And then while teaching your daughter how to walk her, you say:  “She’s not in charge. Be the person. You be in charge.”

And you realize that doesn’t match up with what’s going through your head:  “Of course she’s in charge.  She knows it and would have it no other way.”

walking the dog

Thursday, September 30, 2010

My deep thought today...

I love being a mom.

But there are times,

Like right now,

That I really hate being a parent.

Anyone else?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole

Friday was a long awaited day in our house.

A movie opened that had been anticipated with great excitement:

The Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole

If you don't know anything about this, it might sound a little weird. Owls? Really? To give you some background, the movie is based on a series of children's books written by Kathryn Lasky. I was completely unaware of these books until this spring when someone mentioned them on Twitter, I think in response to my looking for books that might interest Sarah and her voracious appetite for reading.

I began to look for them and had no luck at my local Half Price Books. But when we took our big ol' long trip this summer, we packed her dad's Kindle and decided to download a couple for the road.

This is a lot of what I saw in the car over that 3,000 miles...


And this...


That’s her Webkinz owl that has since earned the name “Twilight.” He was flying like she imagined him doing in the book.

So, needless to say, the books were a hit. And when we found out the release date of the movie, it went on our calendar and she and I planned to go. The movie was a delight. "Way different from the books," according to Sarah, but a delight to both of us all the same.

Two brothers. One chooses to believe in and have faith in what he has never seen. The other believes only in himself and what he can gain. It is a story of heroes and the battle between good versus evil both on a corporate and an individual level. I came away from it with a strong Star Wars vibe which the director talks about briefly in this series of interviews.

It is very well done and here are just some of my thoughts:

It is a bit intense at times. I'd say it's not something I would take a child younger than 8 to see. I know my 5 year old would have been pretty freaked out at times. Two things that I noticed that added to the intensity:

  • Because owls are nocturnal, most of the scenes are at night and therefore generally just dark. Which kind of mirrors some of the weighty material in this battle of good versus evil.
  • Because of the director’s style (mentioned in the video above) many of the battle scenes are not graphic, but are done in a tight, close-up style.

The story tellers did a wonderful job of incorporating some humorous moments and characters into the plot to lighten the mood from time to time.

I've grown a bit weary of everything being in 3D lately, but this movie done in 3D was amazing. Breathtaking, actually. I thought, “This is 3D done right.”

I only realized later how distinguished the list of actors was that did all the voices. I love that I couldn’t really tell who any of the voices were. It allowed me to really engage in the characters of the owls instead of picturing the person that goes with the voice.

I liked most of the sound-track during the movie. It added to the action without being obtrusive. However, the contemporary song thrown in the middle of the movie just didn't work for me. However, the tune was catchy and if said sound-track produces some decent safe music my daughter can listen to, I'll be okay with that.

From what I understand, this movie covers the first three books of Kathryn Lasky’s series. I do hope they do well enough with this one to make more.

If you'd like to see some more professional family reviews of this film:

Pluggedin Online
(I find it funny that an owlet coughing up an owl pellet was a negative element in this reviewers eyes. Sarah has brought them home before from science camp. See this post and this post. Nothing negative about that, in my opinion.)

Parent Previews

Monday, September 27, 2010

Things I love about fall

Cool, crisp mornings.

Coffee in my cup.

Honeycrisp apples.




Open windows.

Lower electricity bills.

Apple pie.


Christmas is coming.

Knowing that leaves will eventually fall.


What about you? What do you love about fall?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Kitchen face-lift {part two} - The Can of Worms that keeps on giving

So do you remember me talking about home improvement projects really just being a can of worms just waiting to be opened?  If not, see “Part One” here.

Well, as the old, weird and actually quite disturbing song from my childhood goes,

The worms crawl in,

The worms crawl out,

The worms play pinochle on your snout…

Needless to say, our project now exceeds the term “face-lift.”  And yet, I’m not sure what else to call it.  Kitchen rehabilitation?  Ridiculous kitchen project?  The kitchen project that never ends???

And a busier season of work for Mike (no complaining here!) and school plus extra-curricular activities for the kids has left us with little time to work on the project.  But we have made some progress.  Just not all of it is in areas that we expected.

So far, we have removed the wood paneling and the fluorescent lights from the ceiling and installed can lights.


We have painted our eating area… with a little help.


We have also scraped all the popcorn texture off the ceiling in the hallway.


All of these items were totally on our list of things to accomplish.

However our attention from this part of the project got diverted when I convinced Mike that it was okay to hire out the drywall and texture work.  As we talked through what all we would hire someone to do that phrase that strikes fear into any home improvement project participant came up, “Well, if we’re doing that, doesn’t it make sense to go ahead and do this while we’re at it?”

You see, we have these cabinets in the hallway that we use as a secondary pantry and mostly some random storage.  The cabinets, however, are not all that useful since they are far too deep (deeper than arm-length) for anyone to be able to find the things that inevitably get shoved to the back.


And the pantry in our kitchen is really not terribly functional.  The shelves are very shallow and not tall enough to fit much of anything.  It has always been a jumbled mess because nothing fits.


For a couple of years now we have talked about tearing out the hallway cabinets and making it into a step-in pantry and getting rid of the useless one in the kitchen.

Picture it with me:

We are standing in the kitchen late one night after the kids are in bed and we’re talking through what we are doing.  Finally Mike says, “Well, if we’re going to pay someone to come in and do the texture on the walls anyway, then doesn’t it make sense to go ahead and build out that pantry in the hallway like we’ve talked about for years since I’ll have to put in a new door and some new drywall around it?”

“Well,” I said, “it certainly doesn’t make sense to go and do all of this only to tear it back up later to do another project.”

And so, the pantry project was born.

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At this writing we’ve actually finished with converting those hallway cabinets into a step-in pantry that also includes a place for my big KitchenAid stand mixer to be stored on a rolling cart.  All that’s left is to install the door (with contact light switch – awesome!), one more piece of drywall and the floor.


Now that everything from the old pantry is moved over to the new one, we will tear it out and begin prepping that space for some display shelves for cookbooks and a sort-of kitchen office area.  I’m having to design this part from scratch because I can find no pictures or anything like what I imagine in this space.

100_9557 Display Shelf Plan

The drawing will probably not make a whole lot of sense right now, but those are built in shelves to the right (for cookbooks and a small storage space for kitchen office and computer things), a flat screen tv in the middle and open shelves to the left for some decorative / display items.  This is just a concept right now, so I’d love any feedback you have on the design.

Now, if you look back at my first post, there was a list of what would go and what had to stay.  I have mentioned several things in this post that were totally on our list and a few additions to the list.

But, you know how I said that the floor had to stay?  Remember how I said that there was no way that my husband was going to let me replace it right now?  Well, first think of all the twists and turns this project has taken so far and then let me just leave you with three words:

Can. Of. Worms.