23 January 2017

Easiest Bread Ever

Bread is the food of life.

Baking bread takes me to faraway places, like the time we traveled to England, and scones, biscuits, and homemade bread were a part of every meal and table.  It takes me to my favorite Italian restaurants, the crispy yet chewy crusts that absorb those delicious oils and sauces or my favorite butter dense with fresh herbs.  

It is the mainstay of my favorite breakfast, avocado toast.  A hearty piece of bread perfectly toasted, with smashed ripe avocado, olive oil, and salt and pepper sprinkled liberally over all.  The textures, the aroma, the taste buds smiling really big!

I found a recipe on Pinterest for a 5 ingredient bread made in an hour.  Of course this caught my attention and I have tried it several times.  I have made adjustments the recipe based on my personal experiences.  Here you go.

Easiest Bread Ever

2 small envelopes of fast rising yeast
1 T good honey
2 c warm water (as for a baby's bath)
4 c flour
1 1/2 t salt

Preheat oven to 375.

Pour water in a glass bowl.  Add honey and whisk until incorporated.  Add yeast and stir.  Let yeast activate, about 10 minutes.

Sifting the flour isn't necessary, but you might want to stir the flour if it has been sitting in a canister for awhile.  Measure 4 cups into the bowl of your mixer that has been fitted with your dough hook.  Pour the yeast mixture into the bowl and begin mixing on low speed.  Let the dough hook do it's work for about ten minutes or until all flour is incorporated.

Bring the dough to your surface and knead four times, and on that fourth time, form into a long loaf. (I always mess this up and make a round ish loaf, which takes more time to rise and bake!)  Place on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper.  Cover with a towel and let rise 20 minutes.  If the bread doesn't look like it has at least doubled in size, let it rise 10 minutes more.  (I take a photo of it before it rises so I can compare)

With a knife, cut slits on top of the bread.  You can brush it with melted butter or olive oil if you want.  Place the bread in the oven and bake for 15 minutes.  Insert a long toothpick to check for doneness.  It should come out clean.  Remove bread from the oven and let cool on the counter.  Slice and serve.

It is delicious.  

I have added in herbs in a batch, in another I added in garlic powder.  Both were amazing.  

I feel like a baker now!  I can make the bread without a recipe and I love that you can knead it a little.  It turns out every time I make it!

Give it a try, and feel yourself transported to Italy and a baker's shop.  You deserve that!

21 January 2017

Healthy Soup Options #SoupSwappers

Our resolutions are freshly made, but you might find yourself starting to slide a bit, the salads are getting monotonous and you long for something comforting to eat.  A group of bloggers have banded together to give you some healthy soup options that will leave you feeling satisfied and happy.

You might remember that our group, The Secret Recipe Club, disbanded a while back.  I am happy to say that one of our group, Wendy Klik, of A Day in the Life on the Farm  rallied us together and we have started a new group called Soup Saturday Swappers.  You can find us on Facebook if you are a food blogger and want to join us!

The herbs I used were the ones I harvested and froze for occasions just like this.  My herb garden provides me so much pleasure in the summer, and when I harvest and use them in the winter, even more so!  This herb mixture is basil, oregano and thyme.

We also used my husband's homemade chicken stock.  Each time he roasts a chicken, I am having him make stock.  It was over the top delicious.

I'm planning my herb garden for this spring.  It is going to be huge and so much fun!

My soup was inspired by a recipe I saw at Kitchen Cents posted by my friend, Rachel.  Her soup is fantastic, all I did was reduce the fat (no herbed butter) add some of my own personality to it!  I hope you will enjoy it and make it soon.

Chicken with Gnocchi Soup

by Our Good Life
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Ingredients (4 servings)
  • 2 cooked chicken breasts, chopped
  • 4 c homemade chicken broth
  • 2 c water
  • 4 T minced herbs (basil, thyme, oregano or parsley)
  • 4 carrots, chopped
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1 pkg potato gnocchi
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste
Bring water and chicken broth to a boil. Add carrots and celery and cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Add chicken, herbs, lemon juice, and gnocchi. Cook until gnocchi rises to the top, about 4 minutes. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Serve.
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20 January 2017

Jessica Fechtor's Cherry Clafoutis #CooktheBooksClub

Cook the Books read Jessica Fechtor's memoir called Stir: My Broken Brain and the Meals that Brought me Home for our bimonthly selection. Jessica's writing is what we teachers like to call "authentic voice."  Even though I have never met her, I know I would recognize her when she spoke. Her book tells the story of her brain aneurysm at the age of 28, her nothing-short-of miraculous recovery, her food blog and how food and cooking helped her return to the world.

I was completely, soulfully and utterly mesmerized by this book.

Jessica writes her story in carefully crafted, simple yet powerful sentences, that sets the story free to soar. We walk beside her bleeding brain, recover with her outside of surgery, struggle with physical therapy and the loss of sight and taste, celebrate when things start to go well, cry when they aren't. And between all of this, is food.

Not just any food, but food, like Jessica, that has a heart.  In its own simplicity, she talks about toast with good bread and butter.  She talks about fruit in a way that makes you sit up and take notice. There are certain canned tomatoes and a certain salt that make food sing.  (You will need to read the book to learn these things!)

While I read her journey to recovery, I was thinking about mine, several years ago, and how I thought about food.  Food is a connection between love and wellness, between love and healing, between love and caring.  Food is offered when things are bad, when things are good and when things are just right. Find the foods that say love to you, and you can find your way back home.

I was intrigued by all the foods Jessica mentions in her book, but I was certain I wanted to create the Cherry Clafoutis at home.  My husband loves cherries and I wanted to taste this simple dessert that features cherries at its core.  It was delicious and I hope you find it so, too.  I modified her recipe to fit our dish.  Here's how I made it:

Cherry Clafoutis

1 T softened butter
sugar for dusting the pan
1 cup of fresh cherries, pitted
1/2 c milk
1 T brown sugar
1/2 t baking powder
1 egg
1 t vanilla
1 T brandy
1/4 t salt
2 T flour
confectioners sugar for finishing

Preheat oven to 375. Use the butter to coat a round cake pan, thickly coated. Dust the pan with sugar and shake out any excess.  Put the cherries in the baking dish (I halved mine) in a single layer.  In a blender pitcher, add milk, brown sugar, baking powder, egg, vanilla, brandy, salt and flour.  Blend on high speed for 1 minute.  Pour the batter over the cherries and back for 30 minutes.  The clafoutis will puff up and turn golden brown.  A tester will come out clean.  Serve at room temperature, dusted with confectioner's sugar.

Serves 4

Read the book.  It will nourish you in both mind and spirit.  Come back and thank me later.

18 January 2017

Valentine Candy Bouquet #OrientalTrading

I was given product from Oriental Trading for my review but all opinions are my very own!

Valentine's Day is approaching and we are all scrambling over our pinned posts to find a gift for those in our lives who go above and beyond to make our lives easier.  I, too, am looking for that gift, and I believe I have found one that is easy, creative and inexpensive, yet also is beautiful and tasty!

This candy bouquet is so pretty in person.  All you need are candies, a vase or container, foam to hold the candies in place, tape, and floral sticks.  All my candies were purchased from the Valentine's page of Oriental Trading!  So many choices, both in kinds and colors!  You will see so many ideas when you visit the Crafts Section, too.  I searched the whole section just in case there were ideas I hadn't thought of yet!

Green foam and plastic container came from a dollar store.
First I wash and dry the container. I place the green foam in the container and create a grid with tape. This holds the foam in place and also helps me know where to place the candy.  In this bouquet I am using chocolate roses, lollipops, rock candy sticks and Hershey's chocolates taped to floral sticks.  I start in the center with a chocolate rose and surround the rose with lollipops and rock candy.  I added more roses and lastly, I add the Hershey candy in for more depth and texture.  Add a card and you are ready to present this to your favorite people!

What do you think?  

Let me know if you make one and be sure to send a photo!  I'll send photos to Oriental Trading, too!

17 January 2017

A Moonbow Night #ourgoodlifebooklist

In my first read by author Laura Frantz, I am taken in by the authentic voice of the era that the author seems to write with ease.  The opening sentence "There was no cure for the whirling April snow, the cold seeping through thin, trail-worn moccasins from the frozen forest floor" draws you quickly into the misery of trailbreaking in 1777 with the threat of harm and the lack of filling food to look forward to each day.  A Moonbow Night is the story of survival in the wilderness during the first flood of landowners to Kentucky.  Temperence, the main character of the story, is a strong, smart and savvy woman of the frontier.

The author makes sure that each character is grounded and sincere.  Each has distinct voices and mannerisms that make you love and sometimes, dislike them.  All have strength of character when times call for it and all have weaknesses that nearly do them in.  The author weaves the story like a fine artisan, and the story emerges just like a tapestry.

She has a tendency to tie us up in detail when we are on the edge of our seat waiting for the outcome of a serious situation.  This does not endear me to her, in fact, I found myself skipping large portions of text in order to find out what happened next and probably missed some fine work.  I am not regretful of my decision to skip ahead, as I did not find anything lacking when I got to the end.

My personal favorite chapter was when the Moonbow Inn first comes into our world.  The descriptions of life, food, people, and the Inn drew me in and I reread those sections over and over.  Beautifully done, and nurturing for my soul.

I review books for Revell Read and the books are given to me for free in exchange for my review. All written work is my own opinion.

16 January 2017

Vanilla Extract

I like making my own vanilla.  Real vanilla extract is expensive in the store, and I can make my own with ease and I happen to love the taste.  The hardest part is finding a good vanilla bean and I can make that easy for you, too.  Order your vanilla beans from Penzey's!  (not an affiliate link)

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Clean bottles that hold 8 oz of liquids
vodka, enough for each bottle
vanilla bean, 1-2 per 8 oz of vodka

Make sure your bottles are clean and dry.  Pour the vodka into your bottles.  Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and drop into the bottle.  Let the vodka and vanilla bean sit together for 3-6 weeks. Strain the liquid and rebottle before gifting.

Use the vanilla the same way you would use store bought vanilla.

I use all precautions and store this vanilla in the refrigerator.  Since there are no preservatives, I want to place it in a safe spot.  This is the super delicious vanilla I use in my Warm Vanilla Drink.

14 January 2017

Truman and Wilson Give Back!

Chewy.com gave us our treats, but the opinions expressed are our own!

Wilson and Truman had an opportunity to give back and they did!  This month at chewy.com you could choose to order Wellbites and in turn, Wellbites would donate five cases of food!  As rescued dogs themselves, they understand the need to share and give back.  We are so proud to be a part of Wellbite's campaign.

Wellbites are also very good.  Truman and Wilson preferred these treats over others they were offered when they came from outside.  Wellbites come in a variety of flavors.  Beef and Turkey, Turkey and Duck, Lamb and Salmon and Lamb and Chicken.  We were given the Beef and Turkey ones, which were, according to our dogs, yummy!

Wilson is a West Highland Terrier and Truman is a Cavashon.  These two white pups give us endless fun and joy, and being honest, annoy the dickens out of us from time to time.  Both dogs love to nap and bark, and sometimes do both at the same time.  No. Kidding.

Wilson's heavy coat sheds little and he needs little care but he likes to be brushed from time to time. Truman does not like to be brushed but tolerates it.  He looks at us with his big eyes begging to be done with this!

This is an older picture of the two.  Best Buds!
Those of you with furbabies of your own, what are your joys with pet ownership?  Share some of your thoughts, don't be surprised to see yourself quoted on Facebook one of these days!

11 January 2017

Ham, Egg and Cheese Breakfast Sliders-The Ultimate Breakfast Challenge

Welcome to the Ultimate Recipe Challenge-Breakfast! hosted by Kim Six of The Kim Six Fix.  You will see a lot of breakfast recipes from fabulous bloggers!

I love coming up with recipes for my family during the holidays.  For the first time, we needed a breakfast that could be eaten on the run, so I made up these breakfast sliders.  This is a combination of all sorts of recipes I found on the internet and pinterest.  My family was crazy about them but we ended up eating them at the table anyway!

These are super easy but a bit time consuming.  I got up early that day to get them made.  That's probably why we had time to eat at the table, come to think about it!

Ham, Egg, and Cheese Breakfast Sliders

by Our Good Life
Ingredients (4 servings)
  • 12 slider buns (dinner rolls)
  • deli sliced ham, 1/2 pound
  • 12 slices muenster cheese
  • 9 eggs
  • 1/2 c butter, melted
  • 1/4 c real maple syrup
  • salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9 x 13 pan with nonstick foil. Cut the rolls in half lengthwise (like a hamburger bun is cut) and put the bottoms in the pan. Take half the cheese and place it on the buns. Take the ham and lay it on top of the cheese. Scramble the eggs in a pan with seasoning. Scoop the eggs and put them on top of the ham. Place the rest of the cheese on top of the eggs. Place the bun tops on top of the cheese. Mix the melted butter and syrup together and pour over the tops of the buns, making sure all buns get some of the mixture on them. Use it all. Bake for 15 minutes or until the syrup mixture is absorbed and the cheese melted.
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09 January 2017

Word of the Year is: CONQUER

I have been fortunate to be with a group of strong women who know how to take charge of their lives and because of that, I have managed to hold on to mine by a thin thread. We always chose a word of the year and a couple of the women always held us accountable.  While I didn't always achieve what I wanted, I always did better than I thought I would!

So this year's word, CONQUER, comes from the fact that my goals have been similar for the last several years.  This year I want to CONQUER those goals so I can move forward with my real goal: retirement and travel and fun with my husband as long as we are able!

Let's look at last year's blog goals:  I met my goals for Pinterest and Facebook fans.  I did not meet my goals for Twitter and Instagram.  In fact, I stalled on both Twitter and Instagram.  I am actually ok with that for one main reason:  my Google Analytics say that Pinterest and Facebook are my biggest referrals, then Google.  My 2017 blog goals are to continue to grow in Facebook and Pinterest, work on Instagram and Twitter, and make a better effort for a presence in Google+.  I would like to see my page views rise as well.  That means better content, which is also a goal!

Personal goals are the same:  lose weight, get healthy, eat better, work on relationships, work hard on my educational goals, and work to improve my community.

My husband and I made a huge commitment to reduce debt in our household and I am pleased to say that we were able to reduce our debt by over 60% over all.  We love to eat out and go to events and concerts and shows, so to do this, we cut back on events, eating out, tickets to ball games, selling things we no longer wanted or needed.  We will continue this goal for the 2017 year, too.  We try to make sure that each of us has what we need to be happy but we try not to fall for every little concert and event that St. Louis has to offer!  (which is a lot!)

I have read many of your goals and aspirations, and I want you to know that I am ready and willing to help any of you out however I can.  Reach out via email at terri@terristeffes.com  Let's figure out how we can help each other, there is enough wonderfulness in the world for all of us!

08 January 2017

Cheeseburger Stew #SundaySupper

You know the feeling you get when you wrap a warm  blanket around your shoulders and pull your feet up to the fireplace?  That is the feeling you get when you first bite into my Cheeseburger Stew. Warm and comfortable cheeseburger taste in a bowl!  This slimmed up version is difficult to differentiate from the full fat, high calorie version you find in diners, but it is much better for you!

When #SundaySupper asked us to make recipes using lean beef, this is one recipe that I love to use lean hamburger in.  You don't have to drain the fat from the burger which is a time saving step.  I never know what to do with that leftover fat, anyway!  With the wholesome goodness of carrots, onions and new potatoes, this soup leaves you feeling happy and satisfied.

This soup is outstanding at a tailgate party, or the SuperBowl, or any college game day football game. I usually have crackers, toast points, or sliced baguettes available for dipping.  Finished with your favorite, cold beer, it's a winner!

To make the "cheeseburger" part of the stew really stand out, we garnish our soup with ketchup, mustard and dill pickles.  Stir the garnish into the soup before eating.  It really tastes good!

Cheeseburger Stew

by Our Good Life
Prep Time: 10
Cook Time: 30
Ingredients (6 servings)
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 3 carrots, chunked
  • 4 new potatoes, cut in fourths
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • 8 oz low fat Velveeta
  • 3 T flour
  • 3 c lowfat milk
  • 1 T steak seasoning
  • ketchup, mustard and dill pickles for garnish
Brown beef in the bottom of a heavy Dutch oven. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and steak seasoning. Add 4 cups of water. Add carrots, potatoes, and onion. Bring to a boil and cook 15 minutes until vegetables are tender. In a separate pot, bring 3 cups of milk to a boil, reduce heat. Sprinkle 1 T of flour into milk and whisk thoroughly, continue with the remaining 2 T of flour. Cut cheese into cubes and add to milk, whisking until cheese melts. Pour cheese sauce into hamburger mixture. Heat thoroughly.
To serve: ladle soup into bowl. Squirt dollops of mustard and ketchup into the soup. Add 2 dill pickles to the top. Before eating, mix garnish into the bowl and eat.
Or: ladle soup into the bowl and add shredded cheddar cheese and crumbled bacon.
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