Sunday, April 18, 2010


People. Have I told you that cooking is not my forte? Don't get me wrong; I can follow a recipe, make basic dishes, even occasionally turn something out that makes my family ask for seconds. But throw in something like "capers" or "reducing" and all of the sudden I'm no longer in my comfy world of crockpots and cream of soups.

Just know I speak the hand to God truth when I say this will never, ever be a cooking blog.

But I have discovered this fabulously easy, holy crap that's freaking good recipe and I am feeling the need to share it. Trust me when I tell you that you need to make this recipe. Want to impress your family, friends and neighbors? Need to soften up your boss before asking for that raise? Longing to have a cooking one-up on your mother-in-law? This is it, people.


Yes, bread. Simple, heart-warming, delicious, bread. Bread that you can make with your very own hands in your very own kitchen, no fancy tools required. Bread that will elicit moans of delight from the mouths of those you deign to share it with. Bread that you will want to make in double and triple quantities, because, hey, it really is that good.

I bow down to Trent at The Simple Dollar for posting this recipe. Trent, you have my taste-buds' undying love and devotion.

For those of you who are anal retentive detail oriented bakers such as myself, I am reposting the recipe here in easy-to-copy-and-paste-into-Word format.

I give you ... Bread.


¼ cup milk
5 tsp sugar (or 1 ½ tbsp)
1 tsp salt
5 tsp butter (or 1 ½ tbsp)
1 package active dry yeast (21g or 2 ¼ tsp)
2 ½ to 3 ½ cups unbleached white flour
Corn starch or nonstick cooking spray (just used to prevent the bread from sticking to the bowl or pan)

One large mixing bowl (a second one is useful, but optional – you can get by with one if you’re willing to wash it in the middle of the process)
One spoon to stir the dough
One ¼ or ½ measuring cup
One 1 tsp measuring spoon
One bread pan (i.e., meatloaf pan)
One hand towel to cover the bread dough as it rises


Warm up your mixing bowl – the best way to do that is to just fill it with hot water, then dump out the hot water, leaving the bowl rather warm. Mix up the yeast according to the directions on the packet (normal instructions are to add 1 c. water). Stir this until there are no lumps in the yeast. Let sit for 5 minutes.

Melt the butter in the microwave, then add it, the milk, the sugar, and the salt to the yeast liquid and stir it up until everything looks the same (a very light tan liquid). Then add two cups of flour to the mix – don’t add the rest yet. Your bowl should look something like what’s shown below, where the spoon is in the bowl.

Start stirring, and then add the flour about 1/4 cup at a time every minute or so. It will stick to the spoon big time at first – don’t worry about it. Keep stirring and adding flour until the dough is still slightly sticky, but it doesn’t stick to your hands in any significant way. Also, it should largely clean the sides of the bowl, leaving just a thin layer of floury stuff. It’ll look something like this:

Now comes the fun part: kneading. Take a bit of flour between your hands and then rub them together over the top of an area on the table where you’re going to knead the dough. Do this a few times until there’s an area on the table lightly covered in flour. Then grab the dough ball out of the bowl, slap it down on the table, and start beating on it. Do this for ten minutes. Just take the dough, punch it flat, then fold it back up into a ball again, and repeat several times. You can also take it in your hands and squeeze and twist it.

When the ten minutes are up, shape it into a ball (like shown below), then either clean up the bowl you were using before or get out another bowl. Coat the inside lightly with either corn starch or nonstick cooking spray, depending on your preference, then put the ball of dough inside the bowl.

Put a cloth over the bowl and sit it somewhere fairly warm for an hour. If you have a warming area on your stove top, that’s a great place to put it – set the warming area on as low as it will go, as I’m doing in the picture above. This is a good time to clean everything else and put the stuff away, but leave the flour out and the floured area on your table untouched.

Here’s what the dough looks like before rising ...

... and then an hour later after rising, still in the bowl:

It should be roughly double the size that it was before, but don’t sweat it too much if it’s larger or smaller than that, as long as it rose at least some amount.

Punch the dough down (three or four good whacks will cause it to shrink back down to normal), then lay the dough out on the floured area and spread it out in a rectangle shape, with one side being roughly the length of the bread pan and the other side being about a bread pan and a half long.

You may need to put a bit more flour on it and on the table to prevent sticking. Then, roll it up! The roll should be roughly the same size as the bread pan, as shown below.

Tuck the ends of the roll underneath, with the “under” side being where the seam is. Then spray the bread pan down with nonstick cooking spray (or coat it with cornmeal) and put the loaf inside of the pan.

Cover that loaf up with the towel, put it back where it was before, and wait another hour. This is a good time to clean everything up, then go do something else fun. The loaf should raise some more:

Put the loaf in the oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celsius) for thirty minutes. When it’s done, pull it out and immediately remove it from the pan to cool. It’ll look something like this, hopefully:

Let it cool down completely before slicing.

(If you copy this into Word, you're going to have some extra spaces. But once you delete them, it should be ready to print!)


It's so easy to tweak this recipe just a bit and get some unbelievably good variations. Prior to the roll-up step, add cinnamon and sugar to turn your bread into a mouth-watering dessert. Or replace the salt with garlic salt, and prior to roll-up add Italian seasoning (and maybe some parmesan cheese) for the perfect pasta accompaniment. Personally, next time I'm going to add sugar and cocoa because really, you can't go wrong with chocolate.

Let me know how yours turns out ... bon appétit!

*Props to Marcus for cementing this word in my mind forever, along with the laughter and good memories that come with it. Long live D&D nerds! ;-)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Tale of The Bed and The Condom (it's not what you're thinking)

Memory foam is a fabulous invention.

Memory foam mattress pads are even better. Like sleeping on a wee bit o' fluffy heaven.

Until, that is, you add children who like to sleep with their parents but still occasionally wet the bed. Oh, and cats who act out in stress by peeing on your sheets.

At that point, your wee bit o' fluffy heaven becomes a big effing piece of shit from hell. It sucks up the pee smell and it's impossible to clean, and when you try to clean it anyway it's impossible to dry, and it's OMG WHY THE HELL DID WE EVER BUY THIS THING?!?


After one episode of goddamn-it-why-aren't-you-in-your-own-bed child pee and three episodes of stressed-out cat pee in the space of exactly 6 days, we decided that we needed to either really clean the thing or just get rid of it already. I don't know about you, but sleeping with the enchanting smell of urine under my toes is just not high on my list of best ways to spend my down time.

After pouring about a gallon of Nature's Miracle on it, the pad had evolved into smelling like chemical-treated urine. So. Awesome. We made the last-ditch decision to pull it off the bed and clean it in the bathtub, using the shower head to soak it thoroughly in the desperate hope that we wouldn't have to throw $125 of "innovative, hypo-allergenic, temperature-smart, open-cell therapeutic foam*" out the window. Or, out the slider and off the deck, if you will.

We spent about an hour wrestling the damn thing into the tub and soaking it down. I'll tell you what, if I ever live in a house where basement flooding is a problem, I'll just line the floors with memory foam. That crap sucks up water like nobody's business. We did our best to (very, very carefully) dry it out, but after almost another hour of employing every drying technique we could think of, we still had a water-logged, 500-pound behemoth on our hands. Oy.

But! A genius plan came bubbling up out of the depths of my foolhardy brain. For the sake of fun and adventure**, we hefted the dripping pad back in the bedroom, on top of the bed. No, we did not put it directly on the mattress. Come on, do you really think we're that stupid?

You know what? Don't even go there. Do not even go there, people.

Anyway, we laid it on top of a couple sheets so that we could spread it out nice and flat. Then we proceeded to suck every last drop of water out with our fabulous, industrial-strength steam cleaner. Quick as a wink, our pad was good as new and ready for us to lay down for a stink-free good night's sleep.

Or, maybe - just maybe - my genius plan of using the steam cleaner did not work out quite so well. And maybe - just maybe - it took us another hour of hard labor to admit that. And maybe - just maybe, people - we ended up dragging it back into the tub with the admittedly stupid idea that it would just dry on its own. For thirty two days. But whatever.

Either way, in the end, we had ourselves a clean, dry, non-smelly mattress pad.

{pause for applause}

(Hey, I applauded, okay?)

(Quit looking at me like that.)

The night we declared the pad to be bedworthy, I announced to my husband that I had purchased a new mattress accessory. Voilà! Enter the queen size vinyl mattress protector! We had a huge fight loud argument heated discussion nice chat about the pros and cons of topping memory foam with a layer of vinyl. Despite his reluctance, N gracefully bowed to my request that we try putting the vinyl on top of the pad, where it would actually do some good in the event of yet another urine-fest. Or, I may have possibly said something snotty along the lines of the vinyl would go on top or the pad would go in the trash right then and there. I'm not really sure. Details, they slip my mind at times.

Lying in bed that night, after weeks of sleeping on an incredibly uncomfortable mattress, I blissfully reveled in the return of my beloved wee bit o' fluffy heaven. Sleepily, I turned to N and cuddled close. He lovingly put his arms around me before speaking.

"This mattress protector ... "

"Yes?" I yawned. "It isn't as bad as all that now, is it. Admit it, you can barely feel the thing." Even 90% asleep, I feel the need to not only be right, but also have the last word about it.

"It's ... it's ... it's like we've put a condom on our memory foam."

I laughed so hard, I peed.

*So says the Product Description on Amazon***
**aka, sheer stubbornness
***I may have manipulated the Product Description a smidge for the purposes of this post

Thursday, April 1, 2010


Beyond Snapshots is giving away a gorgeous red Lola epiphanie camera bag. They asked for photo entries that represent red.

This is Kays, warming up after a couple hours of Christmas tree hunting. To me, this is what red means ... holidays, soft sweaters, cute hats, sweetheart lips, and that hint of color in the cheeks of a child who has been playing in the crisp, cold winter air.

Go here to enter your own snapshot for a chance to win the bag - but know if you do, I might be forced sneak into your house one night and steal it. 'Cause, yeah, it's that awesome.

You can see a much clearer copy of this pic on my Flickr page. Blogger is not so hot on the uploading of the photos.