Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Broken Glass Jello

I made this a few days ago and it's been a HUGE hit with the kids. The recipe is super simple, easy to make, cheap, and looks and tastes amazing.


4 boxes of Jello (I used Raspberry, Lime, Orange, and Blue berry)
2 packets of unflavored gelatin (each box has 4 packets, I did NOT know this until after I bought the ingredients.)
1 can of Condensed sweetened milk (not the same as evaporated milk)

Start by taking 4 square containers, I used tupperware, and dumping the different packets of Jello in them. Ooooh pretty!

Prepare the Jello like normal, and place in fridge to cool. It's recommended you have a LOT of time for this to cool. I did not, and my jello didn't come out of the tupperwares as pretty as it could have.

Once the jello is ready cut into square blocks and place in a large dish. Prepare the plain gelatin by adding 1/2 cup of cold water to it (in a separate dish) and waiting just a minute. Meanwhile boil 1.5 cups of water and pour on top, and dissolve the gelatin completely. Add the condensed milk, stir, and cool to room temperature (otherwise you'll melt your jello when you pour it on top).

Once cooled pour over top of your jello cubes, and chill in the fridge for a few hours, preferably overnight. Cut and serve!!

You can see mine isn't as pretty because my jello didn't cube up as well, but the kids loved it and thats the important thing!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Pillow Soft Dinner Rolls/Bread

I've made this recipe twice now, once a few weeks ago and again tonight. It is quickly becoming one of my favorite bread recipes.

4.5 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 cups warm milk (I heat this on the stove and warm until it's hot to the touch but not uncomfortably hot)
1/2 cup warm water (I use this from tap and just turn on my hottest setting. My water heater is set at 120 degrees. The first time I made this I used 3/4s cup of water. No difference in final product, it just increased the amount of flour used.)
6 tablespoons shortening (I don't measure this exact, just scoop and dump)
2 eggs
1/4 cup of sugar
1.5 teaspoons of salt
7 cups of all purpose flour (use good quality flour!)

A few weeks ago I made tortillas and used cheap cheap store brand flour. They turned out terrible. They were hard and salty, and I quickly learned (and decided) to not use cheap flour ever again when making bread products. I prefer to use King Arthur, and haven't had any issues with it.

I decided to make two batches, one for dinner rolls and one for two loaves of sandwich bread.

The first thing I do is to proof my yeast by dissolving it in my warm water. I turn the mixer on slightly and just stir it to make sure it's completely dissolve. It will puff up a bit and thats perfectly fine! It's supposed to do that.

Then I heat the milk up on the stove until it's warm/hot to the touch but not uncomfortably so, and pour that into the yeast mixture.

All this time I am stirring with Betsy. Then I add the 6 tablespoons of shortening. It will not completely dissolve and may clump up. This is fine, it will dissolve as the flour is added.

Then I crack in the eggs, add the sugar, and the salt, and three cups of flour, all while mixing.

Once the initial flour is added the shortening will dissolve, so don't fret if it's all clumpy until this point. The flour stirs in pretty quickly. After that I add flour by the half cup until the dough begins to firm up. I've never had to use all 7 cups of flour, but I do use a fair bit. Once it begins to firm up I switch to my dough hook. At this point I may still need to add some more flour, normally about a cup or so, but I add it slowly and wait to see how the dough reacts. If it falls apart and beings to get softer I add more flour, if it's starts forming into a nice ball I back off. Making bread is all about feel, and the more you do it the more you'll get a feel for it.

Once the dough is the way I like it I knead it for a few more minutes and then dump into a bowl with a little oil in the bottom. I turn the dough once making sure that the oil completely coats the bread.

Place it in a warm place, either near your stove on warm or if it's summer anywhere in your kitchen will probably suffice. Cover it and let it rise for an hour.

At this point I had both of my doughs rising. You can see the one on the left has been rising for about 30 minutes longer and is well over the top of the bowl. This bread does RISE.

After an hour your dough should have doubled in size.

Now comes my favorite part! The dough punch! It is as satisfying as bubble wrap. Literally punch your dough down.

Once the dough is punched down I start ripping off pieces and placing them on a greased cookie sheet (I rub the cookie sheet down with shortening). You'll need at least two pans to cook all these rolls. The original recipe says to turn out on a floured surface, I've never done this. This is also satisfying. Your dough should be pretty stretchy and smooth. I always make mine way too large, but I use the leftover rolls for sandwiches for the days after. Smaller rolls would probably be better if this isn't your intention. These also freeze well, so don't be upset when you yield more rolls than you and your loved ones can possibly consume in one meal.

Cover the rolls on the cookie sheets again and let rest/rise for 30 minutes.

Bake in the oven at 350 degrees.

I won't give a time as it depends on how big your rolls are. You want them lightly golden browned on the top, but not overly brown on the bottom.

After they come out melt some butter or margarine in the microwave for a few seconds.

Rub the melted margarine/butter on the tops of your rolls.

The finished product is so soft, and such awesome quality. A lot of people complain, in the original recipe, about lack of flavor but I think these rolls taste like great quality bread. They don't need the bells and whistles

Like I said, I adapted this recipe for sandwich loaves. All the original steps are the same, but instead of pinching/tearing off clumps for rolls, I tore it in half and placed each in a greased (with shortening) loaf pan.

Baked this for roughly 26 minutes, until the tops were lightly golden brown.

And did the same butter treatment to the top. This also helps prevent the bread from becoming too dry.

This is my first time using it to make sandwich bread, but it turned out awesome!

The inside looks just like sandwich bread!

Even with broken arms, it sliced up so easily and thin for sandwiches

I sliced one loaf and got two of these wrapped packages, and wrapped the other loaf and placed it in the freezer for later consumption.

Even for beginner bread makers this recipe is pretty simple, easy, and very easy to adapt to make other types of bread.

New cooking challenge

I'm starting a new challenge! I know my 300/60 challenge petered out, but I DID actually complete it to the best of my ability. I just ran out of things to post by the end of it.

My new challenge is a cooking challenge. This will keep me from eating out as much, and to get the motivation to try all the new recipes I've been pouring over.

I will:

Post at least 4 times a week, complete with pictures and step by step instructions.

I will link back to wherever I stole the recipe from or give the cookbook and page number.

I will make at least one "Make ahead meal" a week, whether this is frozen or shelf stable (such as a granola or homemade crackers)

I'm excited!! I will begin this today and go for the next month :)

Friday, September 16, 2011

Had to question myself

Twice this week I have had to question whether my beliefs were offending or insulting to others, and whether I was in the wrong for them. I came to the conclusion that I wasn't wrong, but perhaps my beliefs insulted others. I suppose every belief out there could be an insult to others.

Earlier this week a friend of a friend on facebook used the "N" word to describe a group of people. She claimed it wasn't racist as the "N" means ignorant and there are ignorant Black people. I came to the conclusion that the "N" word is racist, shouldn't be used, and that people who use it are either 1)racist or 2)ignorant to the history of that word.

I don't like any word that is used to put down a group of people. Among some of my most hated are the "N" word (a word so vile I can't type it or utter it without feeling absolutely shameful and dirty), the word "retarded", "gay, "fag", and just about any other racist term. None of those words have any other inference but hatred. Saying something is "gay" is always an insult, and that in turn insults every homosexual out there. Same with "fag". "Retarded" went from a medical term to one used to insult everything. It's uttered everywhere and makes me cringe every time.

I understand that there are black people who have taken the "N" word and used it on themselves as a term of endearment. It still makes me cringe, but not as badly. I understand wanting to take a vile word and try to take ownership of it. Someone has less of a chance of insulting you if you own the word. I'm physically handicapped. I'm okay with my husband, my friends, and my handicap friends jokingly calling me "gimp" or something similar. However, if a stranger yelled that at me I would be livid and highly insulted.

If someone I know uses the "N" word it will forever color my perception of them.

I lost a friend off facebook tonight. I can't say I'm surprised. It was a long time coming. We were really really good friends years ago. I could have seen myself remaining friends with her our entire lives. Then she converted to a very very strict religious Christian sect. She suddenly became someone it was hard to hold a conversation with. Many things she said or did I didn't agree with but bit my tongue - such as encouraging her child to spread the word of God at public school. She was my friend, she was new to her religion and it wasn't my place to say otherwise.

A few months ago she posted a copy and paste rant on facebook that basically was complaining that non-Christians are free to speak their mind but Christians aren't. I responded, thinking foolishly that she was expecting responses. I posted that its not that us non-Christians don't want to hear what Christians have to say but merely the way it's posted. Being in your face Christians who tell others they are sinners or are going to hell is not the way to get your point across. This spun into quite a few people, all with similar beliefs as hers, attacking me for being a non-Christian. Please note, I am NOT an Atheist. There are numerous religions out there besides Christianity and Atheism. She told me repeatedly that she can't and will never "respect" my religion or beliefs - even though I told her numerous times that I respect hers and respect doesn't mean you have to agree. She kept telling me that basically I'm going to hell unless I repent and that my religion was garbage.

A few weeks later she apologized to me only after talking to a fellow Christian who told her the proper way to convert people. I knew at this point our relationship would never be the same. I'm not anti-Christian by any means. Most of the people I love the most are Christians and I respect them completely for their beliefs, I also respect the majority for the way they conduct themselves as Christians. There are those that anger me, and as I'm surrounded by Christians those are the type that catch my attention the most. If I were surrounded by Muslims, or Buddhists I'm sure I'd have more to say and I would read more articles about the ones I disagree with.

I use MY facebook as my way of posting articles that anger me, fascinate me, or make me happy. I might post an article about a child abuser, or a very sweet heart touching story, or something political/religious. I have learned to not comment on others Facebooks when they post something I disagree with but I welcome opinions on mine. It's how I learn. I believe you must always question yourself to continue learning and reaffirming your beliefs. If it wasn't for debating and discussions I wouldn't be the type of parent I am today. If you can't question yourself and come out still believing you were never really strong in those beliefs in the first place.

I posted an article about a senator in NC who was very anti-homosexuals and a lesbian in that state who had a conversation with him. She was threatening to leave the state if he was re-elected just like many businesses who left due to the anti-homosexual beliefs. My entire comment was "This is worth reposting". Thats it. I didn't say the guy was a douchebag, although I do believe he is one. Chris's friend, who enjoys "trolling" by arguing everything I write responded and we discussed it back and forth for a bit and then moved on. My mom commented a few times, and then my friend commented.

Somehow the conversation got off track and became about Christians and their beliefs, the interpretations of the bible, and how the bible has been used throughout history to deny the rights of others. I talked about how different interpretations show that there is no where in the New Testament that strictly prohibits homosexuality if you use the definitions of that time period. She was dumbfounded that I would believe her God could condone it. Never once, in any of my postings, did I say Christians were awful vile people. However, no one can deny that the bible has been used in the past to deny the rights of others - specifically women, and black people, and interracial marriage. Today it's the homosexual population.

The conversation ended with her deleting me off facebook and messaging me that she's tired of my rants on Christians. She is continuously posting pro-Christian stuff, pro-Bachman/Perry articles, and blogs discounting other religions. She fails to see the hypocrisy in this.

I am always quick to say that I don't lump all Christians into the same group, but I had to really look back at myself today. Was I in the wrong for my posting? I had to come to the same conclusion I had earlier. No. As long as there are a group of people who are bent on denying the rights to others I will be out spoken against them. This means I am against the belief and those who force it that would deny women the rights over their own body, the rights to homosexuals, and the right to freedom of religion - any religion, even the non-Christian ones. Does this mean I'm against Christians? No. I don't care what religion you are, you have no right to take the rights from others. Regardless of what your bible, preacher, or beliefs say. There are numerous beliefs in the bible that are no longer in use today, and one day this will be another.

So even though I lost a friend, regrettably, I do feel I am in the right. Hopefully one day we'll reconcile and we'll grow old together, but not as long as she feels that her religion supersedes the feelings of those who believe differently, or the rights of those she disagrees with.

"The right to swing my fist ends where the other man's nose begins." - Oliver Wendell Holmes

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Feeling like a whale, and stuff

I feel like a whale. Here I am at 14 weeks 5 days. I think my body has given up on me and has just decided to pretend we're already nearly done. I was looking at belly shots of when I was pregnant with Anastasia, I wasn't much bigger than this at 32 weeks 5 days. I am so excited to eventually be done being pregnant and get my body back into rocking shape and LEAVE IT THERE.

Some where along the way I've lost my brain. Completely lost it. Without thinking I volunteered to not only be a Girl Scout Leader but to completely START UP a new troop. Completely. This is really stressing me out as there is so much to do and all the literature was kind of dumped on our laps without too much guidance. We (another insane mother volunteered with me) have to start a business bank account once we decide on dues and convince other parents to give us money, map out an entire year of girl scouting, make sure the girls are earning patches and petals, and adhering to Girl Scout Guidelines (which are actually pretty relaxed which only makes it more difficult to figure out a starting point).

As if my insanity hadn't caused enough stress, at Anthony's first Cub Scout meeting it was revealed that they didn't have any den leaders for his Wolves den. So of course I volunteered. I can't help myself. I've been told numerous times in the past I need to learn to say "no" but I can't. I can't ignore someone in need. It will be my downfall. Luckily, the previous Wolves Den Leader was super organized and just handed me all her supplies, so this will be a lot easier than the GS. Plus, I'm one of 7 leaders in the Pack and all of them have been supportive, which is a lot more help than just one other mom who has no idea what she is doing either.

The Blue and Gold ceremony for the CS is only 7 days after my tentative induction date. Originally it was ON my induction date, but thank goodness it's not anymore! As long as I'm out of the hospital I'll be there! I get cabin fever sitting at home too much.

Couple all of this with raging hormones, a flare of my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and looser joints (which means more dislocation and pain) and I am worn out. I'll rest when I'm dead I suppose!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Sometimes I feel as if I'm drowning

I know I have been awful lately about updating this. I have been so busy being sick, and tired, running after the 4 kids, getting the older 2 ready for school, and dealing with the fallout that school brings. Especially with Anthony.

I feel as if I fell off the wagon a few weeks ago and have been running to get back on - and repeatedly missing it. I have been so stressed out and grumpy that I'm not being the wife, friend, or mother I want to be. I pulled back out my go to author, Dr. Sears, for advice, and am currently rereading "The Discipline book". I don't feel as if I've done the best job of gentle discipline lately. It's so nice to have affirmation that the way I'm parenting isn't bad, and a gentle nudge to get back on track.

Anthony can quickly make me want to bury my head in a pillow and scream as loud as possible. There are days I feel we need to walk on eggshells around him to make sure he doesn't have a meltdown. I talked to his teacher and told her his issues with TV and she replied, "Are you sure its not something YOUR watching at home - he's fine at school". Thanks lady. I'm sure. We don't watch TV when he's home. And his outbursts can come days or hours later, it's not always immediate.

I spent the first 2/3rds of his birthday party dealing with meltdowns and urging him to complete the task he was set to do hours prior to the party. All because Chris, being nice, let them watch a cartoon that morning while we got the house set up.

I don't even know where I'm going with this post, I just needed to vent as I am dealing with, yet another, meltdown this morning and Chris is at the gym and unable to help.