Friday, April 29, 2011

Sourdough French Bread

I decided to make lasagna for tonight’s meal. It was actually on my menu for tomorrow night but my son Jacob was coming home so I decided to make it a day early. I wanted French bread to go with the meal and thought it would be a good time to experiment with some sourdough French bread.

I took my sourdough starter out of the fridge the night before and poured it into a bowl. I added ½ cup whole wheat flour, ½ cup white flour and 1 cup warm water and put the starter in a warm spot to proof overnight. Twelve hours late the smell of sourdough was amazing and it was nice and frothy and bubbly.

I am thinking that the older my starter has gotten (it is only 3 weeks old at this point.. LOL).. the better it is doing. My bread rose better, faster and tasted amazingly good! Much more “sour” taste to it than the last loaf I made.

If you missed my post on making sourdough starter you can find it here:  Soon I will get the info on how to make the starter and recipes on my site.

For now, here is the sourdough French bread recipe I made….

Sourdough French Bread
Makes 2 loaves

3 cups proofed sourdough starter
1T salt
¾ cup warm water
3 cups whole wheat flour
2 to 3 cups white flour

Begin by proofing your sourdough starter. You do this by pouring your starter into a bowl and mixing in ½ cup whole wheat flour, ½ cup white flour and 1 cup warm water. Put this in a warm spot and let it get all foamy and bubbly. The longer you leave your starter to proof the more “sour” your bread will taste. I took my starter out of the fridge at night and let it proof for 12 hours. At that point my starter was very nice and bubbly and had a fantastic sourdough smell.

Now it’s time to make the bread. Pour the starter into your mixer. Add the salt, water and 3 cups of whole wheat flour. Mix this up. Now add white flour a little at a time. Be careful with this step.. sourdough starters vary in how liquid they are and flour can be more or less dense. Add the white flour until the dough no longer sticks to the side of mixer and the dough is not sticky. Now let it knead for 4 to 5 minutes with a Bosch, 8 to 10 minutes with a Kitchen Aid and 15 minutes by hand.

Put the bread dough in a warm spot to rise. I let this rise until doubled in size and it took mine 4 hours to rise well. This may vary for each person to. Judge the time by the dough. It is done when it has doubled in size.

Now punch the dough down and divide it into two pieces.

Shape the dough into long logs and put them on a French bread pan. Make 4 diagonal slices in the bread. If you don’t have a French bread pan you can place them on a cookie sheet.

Now let them rise again. This process took 3 hours for me. Again judge this according to the size of the bread. Let it rise until doubled in size.

When the bread is ready to bake preheat the oven to 375 and put a shallow pan of water on the rack below where the bread will be baked. I used a pie plate. When the oven has preheated put your bread in and spray it with water. I had a clean unused spray bottle (the kind you would use for cleaning supplies) that I washed and then filled with water for this.

Close the oven door and at one minute interval spray your bread again 3 more times. After 15 minutes of baking remove the pan of water. Bake the bread for a total of 30 to 40 minutes. The bread is done when it is golden in color and sounds hollow when you tap the bottom.

Remove from the oven and let it cool on a wire rack.

You will have leftover starter when you are done.  You need to feed it again.  To the leftover starter add 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, 1/2 cup white flour and 1 cup warm water.  Pour it back into your jar, put a piece of cheesecloth on top secured with a rubber band and put it back in the fridge.  Don't forget to feed your starter each week while it is in the fridge.  When you feed it, add 1/4 cup whole wheat flour, 1/4 cup white flour and 1/2 cup warm water. 


Thursday, April 28, 2011

Blog Giveaway Winner!!

And the winner is……
The Lady over at Big Beautiful Mess Blog!! 

Your package will be sent out to you by Cathie
. Congratulations!! You are getting some awesome cleaning supplies!! I keep using them and am more impressed every time!! That microfiber window/mirror cloth with the window cleaner (made from the Basic H2) is totally awesome!

Thank you everyone who participated!!

Now a note from Cathie..

Thanks to Crystal for hosting this giveaway on her site and congratulations to the winner! I will be sending your package out to you. Enjoy!

To all of those who entered and are interested in Shaklee and getting some Basic-h2 for yourself. Shaklee is offering a promotion from now through May 20, 2011, purchase any Shaklee products with a minimum total purchase price of $30 member price, and we’ll waive the $19.95 Shaklee membership fee!

This is the best “Join Shaklee” promotion ever offered! As a Shaklee Member, you will get ...

15% discount (off retail prices) on product purchases
Special promotions, offers and discounts
Unconditional money-back guarantee
Access to, Shaklee’s center for health and wellness news and information from Shaklee’s Health Sciences Team, and product experts

You can order directly on our website:

If you have any questions and would like some more information you can contact me page directly through our web site. Here is the link:  

Thanks again to all who entered and for Crystal for hosting this giveaway. Looking forward to doing it again sometime ;o). (hint hint hint Crystal : )
(yea.. we will do this again! It was fun!! – Crystal :)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

First Ever Blog Giveaway!!

This Blog Giveaway is now officially Closed!

I will be announcing the winner tomorrow.. so stay tuned! 

I am so excited!! This is the first time I have ever done a giveaway on my blog! Sooo.. what am I giving away you ask??? A Shaklee Basic H2 Cleaning Kit for your home.

My friend Cathie B. is sponsoring this giveaway.

You can visit her Shaklee site here:

She sent me a kit so I could try out the Basic H2 cleaner. I am impressed by how much this little 16oz bottle of cleaner can make. It is super concentrated and will make 48 gallons of cleaner! I made a gallon of the cleaner and used it on my floors. I washed all my floors (wood floors as well).. and I was impressed by the dirt it picked up! I also made up a bottle of all purpose cleaner and used it to clean my kitchen cabinet doors and appliances.. It did a very nice job! Cleaned up the greasy mess on the stove top my son left after making himself a hamburger too..

Basic H2 does a lot more than just wash floors and cabinets.. You can use it also to replace Windex. 2 drops of the cleaner added to the 16 oz spray bottle and filled with water will make the window cleaner.

Beyond that it will also clean up the furniture, walls, bathrooms, pots and pans and hand washable fine fabrics. 

I have always been opposed to having 10 different cleaners to do 10 different jobs. I like to simplify my cleaning supplies. I am excited to continue to use it around my home and order more in the future. I appreciate the convenience of only needing one type of cleaner to do many jobs.

The nicest part about the cleaner is that it is an organic cleaner without added chemicals. It is nontoxic, no fumes, hypoallergenic, and more.. You can read more about the cleanser here:

Now for the details of this giveaway ..

The winner will receive the following items from Cathie:

1. 16oz bottle of Basic H2 Organic Super Cleaning Concentrate
2. 3 spray bottles to mix up cleaning solutions (and they are marked for you too.. “window cleaner”, “all purpose cleaner”, and “degreaser” and instructions to make the cleaners)
3. A super nice cloth shopping bag
4. A microfiber window cleaning cloth

5. And.. a catalog of Shaklee products

Here’s how the giveaway works…

Post on your blog or Facebook page about this giveaway and give a link back to my blog and then post back here in the comments section with your name and link to your blog or some way to get a hold of you and let me know you have done this.

On April 28th I will close this giveaway and pick a winner (I’ll draw your name out of a hat :) and I will contact you and let you know.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Homestead Garden: Tomato Starts and Garden Update

I transplanted my tomato starts last weekend. They all had their first two true leaves and ready for a bigger home…

I have real issues with thinning and tossing my little starters. I planted 2 seeds in each little spot figuring they might not all come up and you know what .. they all did.. So I had to make hard choices and pluck out one of them because I don’t have room in my little seed starting box for them all… plus in reality that would be a HUGE amount of tomatoes. So.. I made the hard choices. :)

We have had one of the wettest and coldest springs on record in my parts. So it has been nearly impossible to find enough dry days to get the garden rototilled. You need at least a day or two for the ground to dry out and then another day to finally get the job done. Normally we rototill for the first time in late February or early March. Finally this last week we had 4 nice days in a row (the first since I can’t remember when) and Tobin got out there right away and got the garden rototilled. It looked so good.. even if it was just dirt.. LOL.. sure made me excited for this years garden season to begin!!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Dutch Oven Beef Stew

I put my dutch oven to work again! I tried beef stew in it and it was great!! Here is the recipe I used:

1lb beef stew meat
2 to 3T olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 to 3lbs potatoes, peeled and chopped into bite size pieces
2 cans green beans, drained
1 can cream of mushroom soup (I use organic cream of mushroom soup)
2 cans corn, drained
1 can (14oz) diced tomatoes
2 to 3 cups stock: beef, chicken, veggie..
Salt, pepper, seasoning salt, to taste

Heat dutch oven on the stove until hot. Add olive oil and let it heat up a bit. Add onion. Cook until onion is soft..

Add stew meat and brown…

Add remaining ingredients..

Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and let it simmer for 3 to 4 hours. Occasionally stir the stew so it does not stick.

I served this meal with toasted, buttered sourdough bread and a salad.. and it was delish!


Monday, April 18, 2011

Sourdough Bread

I have made sourdough starter many times. I have had varied amounts of success with it. I first made it using a little yeast to get it going because I just could not believe that you could create a starter that would raise bread without yeast. That worked fine, and I made a few different recipes with it before I forgot about it and it died.

Then I read Sally Fallon’s book, Nourishing Traditions and tried her recipe. It used rye flour and a daily maintenance of pouring the starter into a bowl, feeding it and pouring into a clean jar. I did have success with my starter and my bread, no yeast added. But eventually my starter turned a yucky color and smelled bad.. and I tossed it and I guess I tossed my enthusiasm for sourdough with it. Plus it seemed like a big hassle to change out the jar every day.. life is too busy for stuff like that.. at least for me.. :)

Well, last week I was doing some bread baking and thought.. I want to try a sourdough starter again. This time I started very basic. I mixed a ½ cup whole wheat flour, and a ½ cup white flour with one cup warm water.

I put it in a 2qt. canning jar and put some cheesecloth on the top secured with a rubber band and said.. lets just see what happens… I also did not bother with changing it out to a new jar each day. I just added the flour and water every day to the jar.

I was actually shocked to see that in 24 hours my starter was bubbly and smelled somewhat fermented.. I was encouraged to say the least. Each day for the next 5 days I fed it a ¼ cup whole wheat flour, ¼ cup white flour and a ½ cup warm water. I kept it in a warm spot and it bubbled away and continued to do its thing. 

Five days after I began I decided it was time to make bread. I began by pouring my starter into a bowl and feeding it with ½ cup whole wheat flour, ½ cup white flour and 1 cup warm water. I let that sit and get all bubbly for a few hours (this step is called, ‘proofing’).

After it was done proofing (I could tell because the starter got bubbly and a slight fermented smell).  This took about 3 hours.  The longer it sets the more "sour" your sourdough bread will taste.  Then it was time to make bread.  I used the following recipe....

Sourdough Bread
2 cups sourdough starter
1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour
2T olive oil
4t sugar
2t salt

I put the sourdough starter in my Bosch and added the whole wheat flour, oil, sugar and salt. I mixed this around and started to add my white flour, a little at a time.. this is VERY important to only add a small amount of flour at a time because the amount needed can vary a lot! It will depend on how thick or thin your starter is and the aborbancy of your flour. I found I only needed to add about ¾ cup white flour.. but you may need to add the full cup or even a little more. Judge this by the bread dough. When it is no longer sticky, you have added enough.

Knead the dough… in my Bosch I did this for about 4 to 5 minutes. In a Kitchen Aid you will want to do this about 7 or 8 minutes and if you are doing this by hand then it will be 12 to 15 minutes of kneading.

Put the dough in a warm place and let it rise until it has doubled in bulk. This may take awhile. Mine took about 2 to 3 hours.

Punch it down and shape it into a loaf. Put it on a cookie sheet (I sprayed mine with non-stick spray), cover it and let rise again. By the time I got to this step it was getting late so I left it in my cool kitchen and covered it with a towel and went to bed. In the morning (about 7 hours later) it had risen very nicely…

If my kitchen had been warm, it might have risen faster so doing it overnight would not have worked. In the future I will start my bread making process earlier. The best choice would be to proof the starter before I go to bed and then proceed to make the dough in the morning.

To bake the bread I put the dough in a cold oven, shut the door, turned the oven to 350 and let it bake for about 40 minutes. You will want to check it as it could take anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes. To know if the bread it done it should be golden brown in color and when you tap the bottom of the loaf it should sound hollow.

Leftover Starter
After making the bread dough you will have leftover starter. You need to give it another feeding of ½ cup whole wheat flour, ½ cup white flour and 1 cup of warm water. Then pour the starter into a clean glass jar and cover it with the cheese cloth and rubber band. I again used a 2 quart canning jar. While my starter was proofing I washed my jar and then rinsed it out with some boiling water to make sure there were no stray germs hanging around.. :)

If you don’t plan to use the starter again for awhile put it in the fridge and remember to feed it ¼ cup whole wheat flour, ¼ cup white flour and a ½ cup warm water about once a week.

I plan and doing some more sourdough baking so I left it out after feeding. I will keep feeding it daily as long as it sits out. I will also share my new recipes as I play around with this starter. I would like to try some sourdough dinner rolls, sourdough pancakes and sourdough biscuits.. at least for starters! :) I'll keep you posted!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Few Reflections on Raising Children

(in between the paragraphs of this article are a few random pics of my kids/family through the years)..

Leanne left on Wednesday morning for Denmark to spend 3 weeks with Emily. To say I was stressed for those nearly 24 hours of flights and layovers is an understatement. She arrived safe and sound and is currently with Emily enjoying her time in Copenhagen. But it made me reflect a bit on raising children.

I thought it was tough when they were young. I had to make sure that the home was safe, no sharp objects for them to get a hold of, make sure the cleaning supplies were out of reach, keep the baby gates in place, teach them to play nicely and not be rude, obey the rules, potty training, diapers, nap times, sleepless nights, etc.. Then we move onto spending the nights with friends, outside influences and activities, and keeping a stable home and during it all you think, when they get older this will be easier, I won't fret so much about them… well not quite..…

Then they learn to drive! And you wait up for them, pace the floor not able to sleep until you hear the car pull in and they are home.

Or they join the military and are deployed.. You worry everyday for their safety and pray continually for them. And then praise and thank the Lord when they are finally home.


Some marry and have issues that you listen to and pray for and try and give godly advice. They have children and you now you have grandchildren who you think of and pray for.

And then.. some decide to go and spend a year in Europe! When you don’t see them pop onto Skpye or Facebook for several days you wonder.. is everything ok? And you pray some more… and then they call you and there is peace in your heart when you hear their voice.

And as I was taking my 19 year old daughter to the airport and putting her on what would be a nearly 24 hour flying and traveling experience with little contact.. well.. I prayed some more.. and realized that being a mom never does really come to an end. Your children’s well being is always first and foremost on your mind. And I also realized how simple it was in the days that the biggest challenge was keeping them away from the scissors and cleaning supplies and keeping them happy, well fed and living in a clean home.

Not to confuse simple with stress free.. no those days had their stresses too… I remember one day when I had several little ones in the home and I was pregnant with Jacob. The day was stressful and my father stopped by to see me. He saw my stress right away and said to me, “Can I take the kids for a walk?”… heck yes!! I said.. and as he was leaving with them all (after spending a half hour trying to find shoes and get everyone ready to leave :). .. he said to me.. “Remember Crystal.. These are the Good Old Days.. these are the days you will look back at one day and remember fondly”… aww.. such wonderful words of wisdom from my father. He passed away 5 years ago and I miss him terribly.

But how true his words were! And you know, one day I am sure I will look back at these current days and say the same thing.. “those were the Good Old Days”.

Moms… treasure EVERY day no matter how difficult, stressful or how hectic.. Believe me with 8 children I KNOW hectic and crazy.. .. But, really the years go by quickly and they grow up and new challenges come our way..So when I start to feel stressed by it all.. I remember.. treasure these moments today and ultimately I remember ONE most important fact…

Jesus is in control.. How awesome is that! It goes way beyond anything I can handle and it is so comforting to know that He cares for them more than I can comprehend. He is watching over my children and grandchildren!


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Today’s Bread Baking and Dutch Oven Chicken Veggie Soup

I spent a wonderful afternoon in the kitchen today. I made 4 loaves of bread, 1 dozen dinner rolls and some chicken veggie soup in my new dutch oven.

I started out by making the bread. We were almost out so I figured I better get it going. I made 4 loaves. It is a double batch of my 2 loaf recipe and you can find that here: 

Then I started my chicken veggie soup. Here is the recipe:

Dutch Oven Chicken Veggie Soup
1 onion, chopped
3T olive oil
1 ½ lbs boneless skinless chicken, cut into bite size pieces
1 quart green beans (or 2 cans), drained
1 quart corn (or 2 cans, drained)
2 cups sliced carrots
1 can diced tomatoes
1 quart homemade stock, can be chicken stock or veggie stock (or 2 cans stock)
2 T Worcestershire sauce
1 can organic cream of mushroom soup (a brand such as Amy’s, found in health food stores)
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a 5qt dutch oven on medium high heat. When it is hot, add oil and let it heat up a bit. Add onions and let them cook a couple of minutes. Add chicken and cook until it is no longer pink looking and the onions are soft. Add remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to low. Let this soup simmer for 2 to 3 hours.

Here it is in pics..

After the dutch oven is hot, add the oil, let it heat up. Add the onions and let them cook for a few minutes..

Add the chicken and let it cook until it is no longer pink and the onions are nice and soft…

Add the remaining ingredients..

Cover and turn to low and let this simmer for 2 to 3 hours.. when you are done, taste and add salt and pepper as your tastes prefer..

Serve with a salad and these delish dinner rolls..

I was playing with my roll recipes today and came up with something new. Sometimes I am inspired to just play in the kitchen and this was the outcome for today. Don’t really have a name for these yet.. hmm.. maybe.. Crystal’s Kitchen Play Time Rolls?? Haa..haa.. Well maybe just …

Easy Dinner Rolls
2 cups milk
½ cup cane juice crystals or sugar
2T butter
1T yeast
1t salt
4 to 5 cups whole wheat flour (or a mix of white and wheat, whatever your preference is)

Combine milk, sweetener and butter in a saucepan and heat until the butter melts and sweetener is dissolved. Pour this into your mixing bowl (Bosch or Kitchen Aid). Let this cool until it is a little hotter than baby bath water. When it has cooled down, add yeast. Let it sit for a few minutes and get a little foamy. Add salt and half the flour. Mix and then add the rest of the flour. It may require a little more flour but you are looking for a soft dough that is not sticky. So add any extra flour a little at a time.

Knead for 4 to 5 minutes in a Bosch and 7 to 8 minutes in a Kitchen Aid mixer. Cover and let this rise in the bowl for about one hour or until it has doubled in size.

Turn the mixer on to punch it down and mix it up a bit. Take the dough out of the mixer and divide it into 12 pieces. Spray a 9x13 pan with non-stick spray. Roll the pieces of dough into balls and put them in the pan. Let this rise until double in size; 45 min. to an hour.

When they are done rising bake at 350 for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown. As soon as they come out of the oven rub butter over the top of them.

Enjoy your meal! :)