Whole Wheat Bread

March 8th, 2011

For the last two and a half years or so, I have been baking most of our family’s bread.  Over the last few months, I have had several friends ask for the recipe.  Since, I don’t have a recipe I follow, but more one that has evolved over time, I keep meaning to write my method down to share with those who ask.  Of course, it seems there is always something else more important to do, though, than type up a recipe.

This afternoon though, the kids are asleep (finally!), the floor is mopped, and the bread is in the oven.   It also helps that I am between crochet projects and novels, so . . . here I go!  I figured our blog would be a good place to do this, as baking bread is definitely a part of our day to day life, and this way if anyone else ever asks for the recipe, I can just easily point them here!

My reason for starting to bake our own bread is that I really like to eat simple, whole foods, and I have found it hard to find a bread without any extras (corn syrup, lot of sugars, preservatives, etc.) for a reasonable price at the grocery store.  Also, once I got started, I found out that it is pretty easy and makes he house smell great.  Not to mention, what toddler doesn’t like to help and watch things in the mixer?

Disclaimer:  I am in no way a professional.  In fact, I probably do some things wrong.  This has worked for us for quite a while though.

Here is my basic bread recipe.  This is what we use for sandwich bread and sometimes pizza dough, focaccia, etc.

2 cups warm water

1/4 cup honey

2 tbsp yeast

2 eggs

1/4 cup olive oil

5 cups whole wheat flour

1 cup oats

2 tbsp ground flax seed

2 tbsp vital wheat gluten

1 tbsp sea salt

I get my water warm by turning on the tap with hot water only and letting run until the water is hot.  In the stand mixer I then mix together the honey and hot water.  Then I throw in 2 tbsp of yeast (I use Fleschman’s bread machine yeast) and mix it a little until all the yeast is moist.  I let this stand for about 5 minutes until the yeast is all frothy looking.

Once the yeast mixture is ready, I add the rest of the ingredients (in any order) to the mixer.  Not all of the ingredients are really necessary.  I just find this is what works best for me.  If you don’t like oats, you can use 6 cups of flour.  I just like to get a little variety in the grains I use.  You could also probably use plain white flour, though I have never tried that.  I do sometimes use a couple of cups of stone ground wheat flour mixed in with the regular whole wheat and/or oats.  Just don’t use all stone ground wheat.  Every time I have tried using all stone ground whole wheat, it has come out resembling, well, a stone.   I know a lot of people who grind their own wheat, and I hear this makes for wonderful bread.  I don’t have a grinder, so I just by whole wheat flour.  I add the flaxseed for variety (and nutrients) too.  The key is that you need about 6 cups of whatever mixture you want to use.  The vital wheat gluten helps make the bread a little spongier and softer.  Homemade whole wheat bread often comes out really dense, so I find this helps.

Here is one of my biggest baking secrets– I almost always use sea salt instead of regular table salt when cooking and baking.  I get a lot of complements on this.  The big pieces of salt work especially well in sweets.  Sometimes you need to put in a little more sea salt than you would regular salt.  Sea salt doesn’t pack into a measuring spoon the way table salt does.  Otherwise it is a straight substitution.

Once everything is in the mixer, I start mixing it slowly using the dough hook.  Once it combines into a big lump of dough, I crank it up to medium or high.  This makes the machine shake, complain, and wobble around a lot.  Don’t worry.  I have been making bread once or twice a week for a couple of years in my kitchen aide, and it is still going strong.  I kneed it in this way for 5ish minutes.  If the dough is really sticky, add more flour a little at a time and keep kneeding.  Some recipes say to keep adding flour until the dough is dry and unsticky to the touch.  I actually like mine a tiny bit sticky.  This makes my bread softer and fluffier.

After kneeding, cover the dough (still in the mixer) with a clean dish towel and let it sit for about 2 hours.  I have forgotten about my dough for up to 4 hours or so.  It didn’t seem to hurt it.  Then, come back and kneed it on medium or high for another couple of minutes.  Remove it from the mixture and pat it into two loafs.  Place these in 9″ x 4″ loaf pans.  I like to spray mine with olive oil Pam first.  Take a knife and make a slit along the top of the loafs about 1/2″ deep.  This will help it rise well and take the shape you see in store bought bread.  Let it sit in the pans and rise again for 15-20 minutes.  It will fill the pans and come out the top a little.  While it is rising, preheat the oven.  Most recipes say to bake bread at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  When I did this, my bread always seemed under cooked.  I bought an over thermometer and found that if I set my over to 380 degrees it is actually 350 degrees in the oven.  Thus I cook my bread at 380 degrees for 30 minutes.  Once it is done, take the loafs out of the oven, remove them from the pans and let them cool completely on a cooling rack.

We usually store one loaf (that we are currently using) in a gallon bag in the fridge, and freeze the other one for later.  We leave the loafs whole and just slice off pieces as needed.  I hope all this info helps someone!

Here are a couple of helpful links.

This is a helpful link about baking whole wheat bread.

I use this for pita bread.

This is a good simple banana bread recipe that I also use to make sweet potato bread, butternut squash bread, etc.  You just need to add spices like cinnamon and nutmeg for the veggie breads.

Made with Love

February 4th, 2011

Jeff and I both love creating things with our hands.  Jeff is forever working on some sort of DIY project around the house or building something.  I love crocheting, sewing, etc.  As a result, Caleb wants to know how everything is made and who made it.  Sometimes he asks us who made his clothes.  Ummm . . . Target?  A lot times he asks about more random things.  ”Who made the sky?”  This has actually led to some neat conversations about God.

The other day, he was asking who made “those guys, ”  referring to the guys who were mowing the lawns at our complex.  I explained that God makes people and gives them to Mommies and Daddies as little babies.  We talked about how Ethan had grown in my tummy until he was ready to come out as a tiny newborn.  We also talked about how kids grow until one day they will be grown-ups.  Caleb has been fascinated lately by thinking of things he will do when he is a grown-up.  The list includes touching the ceiling, having a wife, and shaving.

Today at lunch he was looking at his arms as he moved them around and bent them.  I asked him what he was doing.  His response was, “I think God took lots of pieces of wood and rolled them up to make my arms.”

It was all I could do to not start laughing.  I love watching him try to figure out how this world works!

Growing boys

January 31st, 2011

I know that all mothers say this often, but I really can’t believe how quickly my boys seem to be growing and changing.  All of the sudden, I realize that my little baby is quite the rambunctious toddler and my toddler is all boy.

At 13 months, Ethan wants to be just like his big brother.  Everything Caleb does Ethan does too.  He repeats what he says, and plays with the same toys the same way as much as he can.  The repeating makes for some really cute moments.  The boys often tell each other “I love you,”  or “wuv oooooo” in Ethan’s case.  Ethan also likes to play with sticks and pretend they are power tools just like Caleb does.  They spend many afternoons trimming the bushes with sticks.  Whenever, Daddy gets out power tools to work on something, the boys also get out their tools to help.  I don’t know how much it helps daddy, but it makes Mommy smile.  I really need to get some pictures of all of this, but taking pictures is not all that easy when there is only one mom to deal with two curious (and quick) little ones.

Ethan is also obsessed with his backpack.  Each Sunday, he gets to take his “pack-pack” to church.  The boys are now in different classes so it is easier if they each have their own bag.  Ethan LOVES wearing his backpack.  He proudly walks around with it on, smiling at everyone.  Of course, he gets tons of attention doing this, which also makes him happy.

Caleb has recently become a climber/jumper.  It keeps me on my toes at playgrounds.  I am already running around like a mad woman trying to keep track of both boys.  Now, it seems every time I turn around Caleb has climbed to the highest place he possibly can.  He gets this from his Dad.  The funny thing is, random people keep telling me that he seems so coordinated.  Then he will trip on grass or something.  Go figure.

Caleb will be three in April, and we are still resisting doing any sort of formal schooling with him.  He is is bright, and we enjoy watching him learning through his natural curiosity.  I love seeing how he is organizing his world.  Lately he is noticing more and more about words themselves.  He loves to point out to me when one word is part of another.  The first time he did this, he said “Diaper and diaper bag have the same word diaper in them.”  This came out of nowhere and surprised me a little.  He has also pointed out wind and windshield, star and starfruit, and Abbie and Gabbie (friends from the YMCA) to me in the last week.

One day we were at the playground, and after watching the lawnmower for a while, he said “Lawn mowers, knifes, and scissors all cut stuff.”  I know it is a simple statement, and probably only a mother would think it makes him a genius, but I was really amazed when he said this.  We haven’t really ever talked with him about grouping things, or similarities/differences before.

Another really sweet moment happened last night after we put Caleb to bed.  Over the monitor we heard him say “Thank you God for bear and for crackers, Amen.”  We often pray with Caleb before meals, and he sees us praying other times as well.   We have asked if he wants to pray, but other than sometimes mumbling along with us while we pray, he always says he doesn’t want to.  We have also told him that he can pray and talk to God whenever he wants.  This is the first time we have actually heard him praying on his own.  The sweetest part is that it was totally unprompted.  He didn’t even know we could hear him.

Quick Stats update

January 21st, 2011

I haven’t blogged in forever, and I just want to make sure I record the boys latest stats before I completely forget them.  Ethan is now at the age where he is into absolutely everything, so I really don’t have time for long blogs!

Caleb was 2 and 1/2 last October.  (That’s right October!)  He weighed in at 28lb and was 36 1/2″ tall.  That put him at 25% for weight and 70% for height.  Right about where he has always been.

Ethan turned 1 in December.  He was 21lb 3oz and 30 1/2 ” long.  (Jeff measures him at home and was adamant that he was only 29″, but the doctor said 30.5.)  That put him at 30% for weight and 75% for height.  He is turning out to be tall, thin and very blond just like  his brother!

Ethan “Bo Beethan” “Head Bruise” “Spazamataz” Akins is 9 months old!

September 22nd, 2010

Last Sunday, Ethan officially turned 9 months old.  This Tuesday we went in for his check up.  He is 19lb 10oz and 29 1/2 inches long.  That puts him in the 50th percentile for weight and 95th for height.  I don’t remember what his head circumference was, but I do remember that it put him above the 95th percentile.  (The 95th percentile is the highest line on the chart.)

In short he is still growing like a weed, but has thinned out quite a bit in the last few months.  Not totally unrelated are his nicknames.  We have taken to calling his “Head Bruise” and “Spazamataz,”  well because his forehead is always covered in bruises and he is a spaz.  He does not ever slow down.  He learned how to pull up and cruise about a month ago, and he is all over the place now.  He can get to standing anywhere he can get one hand on something — anything, stable or not.  He also likes to lunge at things he cannot reach easily from where he is standing.  This combined with his “giant coconut” (as Dr. Marcus affectionately called it) led to quite a bit of bruising on his forehead.  He doesn’t really get upset by the falls though;  we aren’t raising sissies. ;)  A few people have suggested a helmet.  My thought is, “I bet Tim Tebow’s mom never made him wear a helmet when he was learning to walk.”

He loves to eat too.  He eats three meals a day, one or two snacks, and still nurses 6 or so times a day.  He is always happy to see food, and is shoving anything he can reach into his mouth before we can even get him all the way into the high chair.  I still puree some of his food, but he really enjoys feeding himself pieces of food.  Even though he still only has his two bottom front teeth, he doesn’t seem to have a problem eating table foods.

He is becoming more and more communicative.  He loves to repeat sounds back and forth with Caleb.  Often this escalates to screaming, but they are having fun.  When they both are giggling uncontrollably between screams, I can’t find it in myself to make them stop.  Ethan also likes to wave hi and bye.  He lets us know what he wants to do, which lately has been playing outside.  He will stand by the door and bang on it while fussing.  As soon as someone opens the door, he tries to squeeze through.  Then when it is time to come back inside, he throws his head back and screams.  It is funny to see him so clear on what he wants — funny because it is still not a full fledged tantrum.  (Those are not so funny these days.)  He also likes going to the playground and will giggle and squeal as we get closer to the swings.  Then, of course, he also cries when we leave, which means I now have two little boys that cry every time we leave the playground.

With all his energy, Ethan wears me out daily, but I love every minute and am trying to remember to cherish these times.  I cannot believe how quickly he is growing from a baby into a toddler!

I’m in Business!

September 3rd, 2010

A little over a year ago, when I was prego with Ethan, my friend Noelle taught me how to crochet.  I had seen a picture of a cute little bear hat that a friend of hers had crocheted, and I wanted to make one for my new baby.  After several restarts and probably a good 8 or 10 hours of work, I produced and odd shaped little hat that never really did fit Ethan.  However, I was hooked! Pun intended.

First Bear Hat

Since this time, I have crocheted several hats, for my boys, for baby gifts, for children’s gifts, and even a few adult hats.  With each hat, my work has gotten better — cleaner stitches, better understanding of working with different yarns, more creativity.

I have also branched out to projects other than hats.  I have made wash cloths, bath mits, and toys.  I keep coming back to the hats though, as I always seem to have ideas for something else I want to try.

IMG_4684.JPG

When I first started, friends would suggest that I open an etsy shop.  At the time, each hat was taking quite a few hours.  Factor in the cost of supplies, and selling them was really not worth the money.  I have gotten much faster though.

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine who is a photographer emailed asking if I ever sold any of the hats I made.  She was interested in some newborn hats to use as props.  I told her I wasn’t really interested in selling them, but would be willing to trade some hats for some photos of our family.  Thus, my first deal was struck!  Here is the set of hats I made for her.

Here is a link to the first photo she has shared using one of the hats.

A few days later, I was chatting with a friend and showed her the above picture.  She asked if she could buy a hat similar to the white one as a gift for a friend who was about to have a baby.  I finally said sure, and made my first official deal.

It is still not a ton of money for the work, but I really love making the hats.  It is such a fun creative outlet.  I am always coming up with new ideas.

So . . . I have decided that I am officially selling my work!  Now the question becomes how do I want to do this?  Etsy?  Craft shows?  Word of mouth?  Ok, I will definitely go with word of mouth, but maybe one of the other ways as well :)  If anyone actually reads this, and would like to buy a hat let me know!

I also have been doing some sewing and crocheting of other objects.  Sewing is a little more involved though, and with the boys taking most of my time, I find it hard to find time to really get practice.  I did come up with the idea of sewing cute little crocheted appliques onto onesies though, and I would be more than happy to sell those!

onesie

I am excited.  Now to see if anyone actually wants to buy anything!

Imagination Run Wild

September 1st, 2010

I am always amazed at how quickly the boys learn and grow.  I am so thankful that God chose me to be their mother!

Caleb has really started spending a lot of time in pretend play lately.  He has done a little simple pretending for a while, but lately he has been coming up with more elaborate scenarios and playing at them for long periods of time.

For example, the other day, he told me his friend Livi was in his dump truck driving it around.  She drove all over the house and parked several times.  At one point I heard him saying she was getting out to go to the splash park.  She also must have driven several places she wasn’t supposed to because I heard him yell at her several times . . . “No Livi, get out of there!”

He also spends a lot of the day helping his baby doll and animals go potty.  Apparently, there are little potties all over the house.  Caleb will just plop them down on these imaginary potties, and then tell them how proud he is of them.  He often comes by to tell me, “I am going upstairs to put Elmo (or baby, giraffe, etc.) to bed.  I will be right back.”  He doesn’t actually go upstairs; he just puts them on top of the toy box.  He even sat on the couch the other day with Elmo in his lap and told me to be quiet so Elmo could eat.  He was nursing him :)

He also immediately incorporates any new information he learns into his play.  Jeff was in an accident the other day, so we had to get him a rental car.  Monday morning we dropped him off at Enterprise rental car, and explained to Caleb that Daddy needed to get a new car from them that he could drive until his car was fixed.  The rest of the day all of Caleb’s cars and trucks took turns driving to Enterprise to get new versions of themselves.

Conversations with  Caleb are also often interesting.  He talks really well for a two year old.  Trust me — I am not just saying that because I am his mother.  This gives us quite a fun view into the mind of a two year old.  Here are a couple of conversations that cracked me up recently

Caleb: “I am going to get a baby sister!”

Me:  ”You are?  Where are you getting a sister from?”

Caleb: “For Chirstmas.”

Me: “And who is going to give you this sister?”

Caleb: “Just some people.”

Me: “And where are they going to get her from?”

Caleb: “The YMCA.”

Then later that night he exclaimed, “Mandy is going to give me a baby sister!”  Our friend Mandy is currently pregnant with a baby girl.  Apparently Caleb got confused when he heard his friend Connor was going to get a baby sister.

Another funny one was after I explained to Caleb that I was making mini quiches to take to my bible study.

Caleb: “Oh no!  Elmo is so sad!”

Me: “Why is Elmo sad?”

Caleb: “Because his Mommy is not here.”

Me: “Where did his Mommy go?”

Caleb: “To bible study.  It is only for grown ups.”

It is so amazing to see how much he is changing, learning, and growing.  Motherhood really is an amazing gift!

I am bad at blogging.

August 15th, 2010

It is true.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Anyway, it is definitely time for an update!

The boys really change and grow so quickly!  In the last couple of weeks Ethan has started crawling.  In true Ethan fashion he just took off one day in an army crawl.  He isn’t really into practicing.   Then yesterday, he started to crawl on his hands and knees a few “steps” at a time.  Before that we had only seen him push up to his hands and knees a few times.

He has also become quite the explorer.  This is good news and bad news.  Good news because it means that he doesn’t need Mama to hold him all the time.  He is finally happy to be put down and play on his own.  Some of his favorite spots these days are under the kitchen table, looking out the sliding glass door, and laying on the kitchen floor kicking the fridge.  It is bad because he is into everything.  He will not leave the shoe basket alone.  He likes to take the shoes out and chew on them (gross!), and also pick little pieces off the basket.  He is obsessed with cords and anything else he is not supposed to have.  For now we just put stuff on the coffee table or couch to keep it out of his reach.  Earlier tonight though, we caught him trying to figure out how to get up to the coffee table, so pulling up is probably not far away.

He really wants to walk.  He squeals with delight if we hold his hands so he can “walk” around.  I try not to do this too often though, as I am really not wanting to encourage him walking yet.  He also thinks he can walk on his own, and will often push our hands away.  He cannot walk on his own, though, so this usually results in him falling.

Caleb is also becoming quite a big boy.  As he often tells me, he ate all of his food, so he is growing.  He also no longer uses a paci.  We weren’t planning on taking it away yet, but I went to give it to him before his nap one day and realized he had chewed a hole through it.  I let him try one of Ethan’s paci’s, knowing he wouldn’t like them.  Ethan uses pacifiers that are a different shape than the ones Caleb likes.  After than Caleb agreed that he could just try napping without it, and hasn’t needed it since.  He does have more trouble falling asleep though, since without the paci in his mouth, he cannot stop talking.  This meant a few sleepless afternoons for both him and Ethan.  He seems to be getting a little better about being quiet the last couple of days, so hopefully things will get back to normal soon.

IMG_5654.JPG

We actually got him to go to sleep quietly Friday night by bribing him with the opportunity to wear underwear Saturday morning.  We had gone to the store to pick some out last week, and Caleb has been using the potty often.  He has decided he likes using the big potty, not the little one, which is fine with me!  The underwear experiment, however, was a big failure.  Caleb had 4 accidents before 9:30 am.  He had also used the bathroom 4 times in the 2 hours he had been awake.  How often does the child need to go?!  He kept telling me that his underwear was leaking, meaning it was wet.  I tried to explain that it wasn’t the underwear, but that he was going pee pee.  I don’t think he understood.  After a poopy accident, he and Daddy both agreed that it was time for a diaper again.  I guess he isn’t ready yet.  We will just try again in a few weeks.  In the mean time, he still asks to use the potty a few times a day.

He tells me that he is getting big, but he isn’t a grown up yet.  He says he isn’t even a big boy, just “Mommy’s big guy”.

Who is this baby?

July 22nd, 2010

Ethan was born with a head full of dark brown hair.  His newborn hair never fell out like a lot of babies.  It just grew longer and longer.  Then more hair grew in under the dark hair to fill in the gaps.  This made for quite a funny looking ‘do of long dark wisps with thicker, lighter hair underneath.

Last weekend, Jeff pointed out that Ethan’s hair was starting to make him look like “a crazy old cat lady.”  Since cute little bows weren’t allowed, I decided it was time for a hair cut.  Actually Jeff and Caleb also were overdue for haircuts, so after the boys naps Saturday afternoon, we all headed upstairs for family haircut time.

We had taken Caleb to a fancy kid salon for his first haircut.  I realized all they did was comb all of his hair out and cut it to the same length.  I decided that I could easily do this myself, and it wasn’t worth paying $15.  I have been cutting Caleb’s hair ever since — though the haircuts have gotten a little more complicated than that.

Ethan was up first.  I wet his hair, and just started cutting until it was all a little over an inch long.  Jeff was holding him, and calming remarked to Ethan, “Your Mommy is gonna cry when she steps back to look at you.”  I thought I had done something awful, but I stepped back and looked.  The haircut was fine, but my little baby looked completely different!  He was a blond!  We now have two blond boys.  At first, I was upset because my baby was so different, but it has definitely grown on me.

Everyone keeps telling me how big and grown up he looks now.  I have to keep reminding people that he is only 7 months old.  At the time, he couldn’t even crawl yet.  Of course he has started army crawling in the last 2 days!

Here are both boys with their new haircuts.

Diaper Update

July 21st, 2010

I have neglected the blog for a few weeks.  We were all sick last week, first with a cold then a stomach virus, so blogging was not at the top of my priority list.  Here is a quit update about what we decided to do diaper wise.

I really like the ease of pocket diapers, but couldn’t decide between the Perfect Fit Fuzzibuns and the BumGenius one-size diapers.   I ended up getting some of each.  Plus in the middle of all these decisions, BumGenius came out with their 4.0 diapers.  I think these are the best of both worlds.  They are a little larger than the 3.0s, and offer both snaps and velcro.  Going forward I think this will be our diaper of choice.  We currently have enough diapers (with a few prefolds in the mix) to get through a day at a time.  More are currently in the mail, as we would like to be able to wash diapers every other day.

Over all cloth diapering has been a pretty good experience –not super gross or difficult.  I am much happier with the amount of trash we are throwing away.  Plus, cloth diapers are cute!