Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Turkeys, Friends, and Babies.

Dave and I got the party started early this year--the Wednesday before Thanksgiving was actually our first official celebration. I work at a school where we teach English to international students, so many of them have neither heard of Thanksgiving nor experienced it. Needless to say, we wanted them to fill their bellies to the brim with turkey and all the fixings, so all of our campuses have the tradition of having Thanksgiving catered.  It was a hit! Our students went back for seconds and thirds and probably also learned a lesson in gluttony.

Our second Thanksgiving celebration was at my parents' house where the tradition of Mama Pham's egg rolls and Mom B's sweet potatoes and green beans were present. Dave and I spent two days at my parents just hanging out, going to bed late, and watching random TV shows as we don't have cable at our place (P.s. Have you ever seen the show Tattoo Nightmares?! So good!). We ventured out into the wild that is Black Friday later in the afternoon and hit up some stores. The lines were not long, and it wasn't as scary as it probably was hours earlier in the day. Oh, and an amusing side note: My mom showed me some baby booties she knitted and asked when Dave and I are going to let her make some of those for us. AKA "Have a baby already!"  No pressure...

Our third feast: We had a Friendsgiving celebration at our friends Amber and Chris' abode. They got married in May and have put in so much blood, sweat, and tears into making their house a home. It is such a blessing to be in the company of good friends (after not seeing many of them in forever!) and their good friends. At this stage in life, it's incredibly humbling to know that we have such special relationships with people who've walked through some of the most important stages of life with each other. And although we don't live close together, getting to share in what's going on in everyone's lives [like finding out that our friends Kelly and CJ are going to have a baby girl!!!!] is a privilege beyond words. Albeit transient in nature, our catching up feels like home. We had our fill of friends, food, and yes--fart stories (How is it that that happens whenever my friends and I get together?? Don't judge! :))

 Last but not least, we ended our Thanksgiving travels at our friends Ryan and Sherry's house to celebrate Ryan's birthday. We caught up with old friends, made new ones, and had a grown up sleep over. It is bizarre to be grown up, to sleep over at a friend's house, and to wake up in the morning and get to play with your friends' baby. Life is definitely different these days...

So in other words, we have SO much to be thankful for--our jobs, our families, our friends, laughter, and that fact that God is letting us be a part of such an awesome adventure with each other. I have the most amazing teammate, life-liver, and husband. So. Blessed.

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His love endures forever!
Psalm 107:1

Monday, November 19, 2012

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Scones: Another Tweaked Recipe

This past weekend I had a serious sweet tooth, so I decided to get my bake on. I realized we were out of butter, but I was determined that there was a way to work around this without having to go to the store. I remembered that I have coconut oil, so I Googled butter/coconut oil substitutions. Lo and behold, it's a no-brainer! You just use the same amount of coconut oil as you would butter. Yay for easy conversions! This was actually an eye-opening experience because that means that I can use coconut oil in place of butter for any baked good--anything to make dessert "healthy" is right by me (use refined coconut oil if you don't want any of the coconut scent, albeit faint).

To be frank:
Milk makes me gassy.
Butter can give me love handles.
Milk-filled, buttery scones: all of the above.

Coconut oil and almond milk scones. Dairy and I don't get along too well, so almond milk has been an amazing substitute. Coconut oil has been used in our kitchen as well as in some of my skincare sessions (it's great as a makeup remover or a moisturizing mask). We stock up on these goods at Trader Joe's--really well priced in my opinion. Not only are they good for you, together they bake up some delicious edibles!

The scones came out more tender and lighter than your traditional scone, which I loved! Dave was also a big fan of these fall-flavored morsels of awesome. After I get home from work tomorrow, we're going to drop off some early Thanksgiving scones to some of our neighbors. It may seem like a nice gesture, but it's also partially selfish. I don't want them too easily accessible even though they are a bit less indulgent than your typical scone :).

Give this recipe a try; I don't think you'll be disappointed!

(Recipe taken from here and tweaked by me)

For the Scones:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour 
  • 1/4 cup and 1 tablespoon granulated sugar 
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice 
  • 6 tablespoons of coconut oil (in solid form)
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree 
  • 3 tablespoons almond milk
  • 1 large egg 
  • 3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (you can always reduce or add more to your liking)
  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon powdered sugar 
  • 2 Tablespoons almond milk 
  • 2 tsp cinnamon (less or more depending on taste)
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice (less or more depending on taste)
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F and spray pan with cooking spray or lay down parchment paper.
  2. In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice. Add the butter and mix with a fork until the dough becomes crumbly. 
  3. Fold in the pumpkin, milk, and egg. Form the dough into a rectangle on a lightly floured surface, making it about 4 inches by 12 inches. 
  4. Use a large knife to slice the dough into three portions. Cut an X pattern (four pieces) in each portion so you end up with 12 triangular slices of dough. Place on prepared baking sheet.
  5. Bake for 14-16 minutes. Cool on wire rack.
  6. While the scones are cooling, make the powdered sugar glaze by whisking all of the ingredients until smooth. 
  7. When completely cooled, drizzle the tops of the scones with the glaze (or you can dip them into the glaze if you'd like). Let the glaze set for about an hour before serving.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

No Knead Bread: A Simple Wonder

This was a first for me--homemade bread that isn't a quick bread (AKA banana bread, apple bread, etc...). I found this recipe on another blog and decided to give it a few tweaks and have my shot at bread making. Needless to say, I was pretty happy about the result, and the Mr. also approved!

This is one of the easiest recipes ever! The only catch is that you need time. You can't rush it, so I wouldn't recommend making this when you're looking to somewhat quickly curb a craving. The recipe is really simple; it's a great base, which means that you can add herbs, nuts, seeds, dried fruit or anything else to your liking.

For my first try, I decided to make two loaves--a whole wheat raisin walnut and a whole wheat rosemary loaf. I used all whole wheat pastry flour, which I think made the bread a bit denser than normal. It tasted great, but I think next time I'll do a mixture of whole wheat and all purpose flour.

(Recipe taken from Bex a Diary and adapted by me)
Makes one 1 1/2 pound loaf

3 cups all- purpose flour [I'd suggest using 2 cups all-purpose and 1 cup whole wheat flour]
1/4 teaspoon yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 3/4 cup water 
additional flour or cornmeal
ceramic or pyrex dish with an oven safe lid (I used a cookie sheet as the lid)
[you could also use a dutch oven if you'd like]
whatever mix-in's you'd like (see directions for what I used)

1. Combine flour, salt, and yeast in a medium bowl. Mix well. Add water to bowl and mix.
[For the raisin walnut: I added 1 tbs cinnamon, 1/2 cup raisins, and 1/2 cup walnuts to the mix; You'll want to put about a tablespoon of your dried flour mixture in with your raisins and walnuts before mixing it into the main dry mixture, so that they'll evenly distribute themselves throughout the loaf.]
[For the rosemary: I chopped up a few springs of rosemary and mixed it into the dough.]

2. The dough should be sticky and heavy. Cover dough with plastic wrap and let rise for 12 to 18 hours, at room temperature. 12 is good but 18 is better. 

3. The dough will rise a good bit and is ready when the surface is dotted with bubbles.
4. Lightly flour your working surface and dump dough from bowl onto the surface. Sprinkle the dough with a bit more flour and fold it over on itself  2- 4 times. Cover dough with plastic wrap and let rest for 15 minutes.
5. Working with enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to your hands and work surface, quickly work the dough into a ball. Coat generously a kitchen towel {not terry cloth} with flour, or cornmeal (I used a mixture of both). Place the dough seam side down onto the towel and dust the top of the ball with flour. Cover dough with top of the towel and allow to rise for 2 hours. The dough is ready when it is nearly double in size and does not spring back when poked with your finger. 
6. 30 minutes before dough is ready heat the oven to 450*. Place a 6-8 quart covered pot in the oven to warm with the oven. 
7. When the dough is ready remove the pot from the oven and carefully lift the dough off of the towel and gently place into the dish. If it looks a bit messy don't worry, shake the pan a time or two to make sure the dough is distributed evenly. The dough will straighten out as it bakes, cover the pot and place it in the oven. bake with the lid on for 30 minutes, remove the lid and bake an additional 15-20 minutes--or until bread is golden brown. Carefully remove dough from pan and cool on a rack. 
*Note: I sliced the loaves once they cooked, and kept them in an airtight container in the fridge. Whenever you're ready to eat, just pop your slice into a toaster oven for a bit to get it crispy and delish.
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