Homemade Sandwich Bread

It’s the end of January, and most of our days are stuck inside lately. The weather hasn’t necessarily been our typical New England winter, but it also hasn’t been very inviting. That makes for some very long days stuck inside with two littles!

It also makes me want to bake. There’s just something about cold days giving the urge to get in the kitchen and bake something. The result is usually a warm treat from the oven… fresh and comforting. Like bread? Ah yes, bread…

The best homemade bread recipe on I Heart Nap Time

I’ve never been great with anything involving yeast. There’s something intimidating about getting dough to rise. Or, there was… until now! I decided to give my hand a try at homemade bread again. My past experiences have resulted in heavy, dense bread that never rose appropriately. Like I said, the thought of getting dough to rise intimidated me. It just never worked out! I tried this recipe from I Heart Naptime and fell in love after my first batch. Not only was it just a simple recipe, but it came with clear instructions (and even a short video clip!) of tips on the process. I love visuals. :) Learn how to make homemade bread like a pro on I Heart Nap Time

 

So if you’re intimidated like I was when it comes to the homemade bread department, give this recipe a try. The bread is just absolutely delicious. It has just the perfect amount of sweetness and is super light and fluffy. Ahh, it’s just so good! :) Add it to your favorite soup for dinner, make crusty grilled cheese, pop it in the toaster and slather it with butter and jam…

I’m drooling.

Go check it out. Grab a few necessary items at the grocery store, then take a morning or afternoon to give it a try.

You’ll love it. And so will your family! Guarantee. ;)

Happy Winter Baking!

The Happy Homemaker

 

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Cold Brew Iced Coffee

You may not have heard of this method to making iced coffee before, but the chances are you have. Coffee shops across the country are advertising this “cold brew” coffee, and it’s not a wonder why! When I finally decided to give this method a try (after having pinned it on Pinterest a long time ago), there was no turning back. In fact, I almost prefer this coffee to buying one out at Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks. Maybe I am becoming a coffee snob, maybe it’s because making your own is much cheaper… whatever the case, I will take my own coffee over store bought any day.

Why? Well, I guess you’ll just have to try it yourself! There are many different things you can do to reach the cold brew coffee to your personal taste. You can let it “brew” for longer time, choose different brands and roasts of coffee, grind your own beans fresh…

The possibilities are endless. I have really enjoyed trying out different coffee grinds and have come to find my perfect routine. I originally started following The Pioneer Woman’s recipe for her Perfect Iced Coffee. That’s where it all began. I just love her pictures of the process! I will be showing you a few of my own (quickly taken) photos of how I make up a cup each morning, but her photos are just perfect for showing you the process of making the brew.

Here are a few of my own preferences and tips that I have discovered in my months of making this:

-Do not skimp on quality. Even if it costs you more to buy a nicer brand of coffee, in the end it is much, much, MUCH cheaper. So if buying a $10 pound of Starbucks coffee seems steeper than what you’d normally buy, imagine getting 3-4 weeks worth of iced coffees for only that price! Remember, this is a coffee concentrate by the time you are finished, so it lasts for a very long time.

-Buy a cheesecloth… BUT, don’t fully rely on it to filter out all the itty-bitty pieces of coffee grinds. I invested (very small investment) into a cheesecloth, but found that my brew still looked “murky” after straining. I just don’t like that, so in addition to that, I strain it again through a regular coffee filter over a fine mesh strainer. It works well, regardless of how much time it takes to filter.

-Halve the recipe. Unless you have a huge amount of space in your fridge, you may want to cut this recipe in half. This is what I do, unless I plan on giving a bunch away to people. I just don’t have the space in my fridge. So instead of making 2ish gallons worth of concentrated, cold brew coffee, you’re making 1.

Those are just a few of the things I have found necessary for me during this process. My husband and I are in love with this version of iced coffee, and look forward to every morning when we can go straight to the kitchen and make up a cup of amazing REFRESHING iced coffee!

The best part, in my opinion, besides the taste is that it doesn’t melt down to this watery substance when you pour it over ice. It’s just smooth and creamy (if you like using half n half) and much less acidic than regular brewed coffee.

Below is my process for making up a cup. I have also listed some tools to help make your life easier when you go to make this amazing stuff!

The process to making a cup is simple, but please remember, this is a coffee concentrate. So a lotta’ ice and cream is needed! FILL your cup to the top with ice. No skimping! Next, pour coffee 2/3rd of the way. Add cream, milk, half n half… whatever tickles your fancy. Sugar is good too. ;) I love using a mason jar, so sometimes I put the lid on and shake it up. The end result is a creamy, foaming iced coffee. Mm. Land O Lakes is my favorite half n half. Just look at how cold and refreshing it looks!

And because an iced coffee is not an iced coffee unless there is a straw involved, I get these cheap plastic straws to stick in there. It makes it so much better for some weird reason!

COLD BREW COFFEE

1 pound ground coffee (medium/bold roasts)
8 quarts water

Combine coffee grinds and water in a large container. 
Let sit at room temperature for at least 8 hours or overnight. 
Strain through a cheesecloth over a fine mesh strainer into a clean container. 
For additional filtering, pour through a coffee filter and fine mesh strainer. 
Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. 

To make a cup, fill a glass full of ice cubes. Pour coffee 2/3rd full, and add 
cream and your choice of sweetener. Best made in an old fashion mason jar. :)

I hope you enjoy this as much as we do in this house. Below are some items that you can find to help with the process.

Enjoy!

The Happy Homemaker




Summer Fresh Corn & Zucchini Chowder

I had recently been given a very large zucchini from someone’s garden. ‘Tis the season for fresh veggies! I used half of it in a recipe last week, so decided to find a new recipe to use the other half. I found this summer chowder on Pinterest and knew I just had to try it. It sounded so yummy!

Of course, I had to omit the bacon (hubby hates pork), and didn’t have all of the ingredients I needed, like carrots, celery and fresh herbs. But it still came out pretty incredible. I substituted the carrots with sweet potato chunks, which was almost similar to a carrot in texture in taste anyway. Another tip she gave for a thick chowder without the need for flour or heavy cream was to give half of it a quick zip in the food processor. I was too lazy to do that, so I just took a slotted spoon and smashed a bunch of it up against the pot. It worked just as well and saved me time (and more dishes!).

We sprinkled grated parmesan cheese and quite a few dashes of hot sauce on top. My, it was good. The cheese always takes dishes to another notch, but the hot sauce was really what did it for us. It just gave it that perfect amount of heat to a fresh and sweet dish. Call me weird, but I toasted up an english muffin with a smear of butter to dip into the chowder. It satisfied alllll the cravings of a tired, busy mama like me.

Summer-Fresh-Corn-and-Zucchini-Chowder-19

Photo from Little Broken blog. Check out her other photos of this delicious chowder!

Today, I had the leftovers for lunch and ate it cold from the fridge. It was even better than the night before! The flavors had time to meld together in the fridge overnight and it was the perfect, refreshing cold lunch for a summer day. I love this chowder. I want to eat it every day. And really, it is a low calorie meal, so I could eat it every day if I wanted to. :D

Check out her recipe and get to making this wonderful meal!

The Happy Homemaker

My Favorite No-Knead Bread

I started making this bread a couple of years ago, and recently pulled the recipe out again. I’ve tried basic bread recipes before where you knead the bread, let it rise, etc. and it has just never worked out well for me. It’s probably just because I am impatient and really bad at baking anything with yeast! Until I came across this recipe…

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Don’t you just want to pick it up and smell it?! 

All you have to do is mix unbleached flour, salt, yeast and water. That’s IT. You let it rise for many many hours (18+ hours, usually overnight) and bake in a Dutch oven (or any oven-proof pot with a lid). It’s simple, and it is soo good. It’s a hearty bread, delicious with a nice spread of butter on top! There are many flavors yummy treats you can add to the dough, but I have yet to try any. Once you get the basic method down, the possibilities are endless on what you can add to make the bread extra special. These little loaves make perfect gifts too!

So, if you’re like me and homemade bread isn’t typically your thing, try this recipe. I can assure you that it will be put in your “make again” recipe collection! :) You’ll feel so proud as you pull this beauty out of the oven, and smile in satisfaction when you say, “I made this!”. There’s just something so satisfying about baking your own bread. Forget that cheap, fluffy white stuff you find at the store. ;)

Now, let me just warn you… your first loaf might not exactly be perfect. But that will just make you want to try again and tweak it here and there. Too dry? Just add a bit more water. Too flat? Cut back on the liquid. There are lots and lots of reviews on this recipe, as well as many tips on how to get it to work for you. So, hop on over to Simply So Good for detailed instructions.

Let me know how you like it! Bread baking… is there anything more heavenly? I know you’ll just love it.

The Happy Homemaker

(The photo above is my own. Can you believe I made that?!)

 

 

Chicken with Mustard

I must admit… I have been dodging a post for a while… a long while, I know. First trimester really got me this time around! We had sickness come and go, come and go, through our house, along with my pregnancy fatigue and nausea. I had no energy to get myself ready each day, let alone think about a posting. And even as I sit at my dining room table writing this, my daughter is in my lap munching on apple chunks, and I am trying to keep her from deleting my entire post. See, there is never a dull moment in the life of a mom. :)

So now that I am 15 weeks along, and into my 2nd trimester, here we are. I am back into the swing of dinner meals finally after being pretty lazy for a few weeks. My poor hubby. We have (shamefully) been eating frozen pizzas, soups, and anything pre-made or really easy these past few months. Ick. I was ready to get back to my home cooked meals.Chicken with Mustard - simple enough for weeknights, but special enough for company

The last special meal I made was for me and my sweetie on Valentine’s Day! I was trying to figure out something really delicious, but different and something to “wow” my husband! Since we both love chicken thighs, I knew I had to make this Chicken and Mustard dish when I saw it. Plus, I was going for something French inspired, to add a little flair to the evening. Jennifer from Seasons and Suppers really broke down the recipe and made it easy to follow.

When I made this chicken, it did take a while to prepare. But it was well worth the work and wait. It smells heavenly as it simmers on the stovetop! I don’t cook with wine, so I just substituted the white wine with crisp white grape juice. The chicken was to die for. Absolutely a new favorite to add for special days, or even when having guests over.

Oh, and I should add that I was forced to keep the bacon out. My husband won’t eat anything pig, so I really feel that it would have added even more flavor! Bacon makes everything better, right?! But it was still very delicious. So if you don’t like bacon either, just opt out!

I served this with garlic and parmesan mashed potatoes. I basically used white potatoes and cooked them. Then I added garlic powder, sour cream, butter, salt, pepper, and the star, parmesan cheese. Whip them up and they are so decadent and creamy! We used the gravy from the chicken to drizzle over the potatoes. Are you drooling yet?! I bought fresh asparagus for the green part of the meal, and it just was awesome with the potatoes and chicken.

Try not to skimp on the mustard, either. The ingredients for this recipe are not that complex, and the list is actually rather small. It calls for Dijon mustard and grainy mustard, which are both the main star of the recipe. They aren’t expensive, which is nice.

So if you are looking for a French recipe, but don’t want something difficult, you should try this chicken!

Happy cooking!

The Happy Homemaker

Heartwarming Soups and Chowders for the Chilly Months

Have you gotten into the swing of things with the new year in place? We are almost to the end of January already and I feel like all I wanted to accomplish has not gotten done yet. Part of my excuse is that we will be welcoming a new addition to our family the beginning of September! That has caused lots of excitement in our house, along with a pretty exhausted mama dealing with morning sickness around the clock. But what a great way to start off my new year. :)

Of course with January in full swing, it brings even colder weather with it if you live in New England like I do! I don’t know about you, but this time of year always makes me crave a hot bowl of soup or chowder. Add some homemade biscuits or bread and butter and you have the fix for that mid-January chill. Most people think of soups when fall time arrives, but now is a good time to revamp your recipe collection and add some new heartwarming meals to your weeknight menu!

Here’s a list of some of my favorites, and some new kinds you can try out:

Cheeseburger Soup.

I have used this exact recipe, and it is fabulous! It is so good, and so filling. I can bet your whole family will love this.

Hamburger Soupfinal1resize

Cauliflower Chowder.

Though I have never tried this recipe, it looks heavenly! And it is low-carb too, which is even better. I love cauliflower, and look forward to trying this.

Cauliflower Chowder - A creamy, low carb, hearty and wonderfully cozy soup for those chilly nights!

Lasagna Soup.

This soup is also incredible. So filling, and soo good. Who doesn’t love lasagna? Lasagna Soup - afarmgirlsdabbles.com #lasagna #lasagnasoup

Zuppa Toscana.

One of my favorite soups from the Olive Garden! Did you know you can make this at home, and it tastes just as good? This soup is so yummy.

Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup.

Another recipe to add to my “to make” list! This looks like a very easy soup to put together. I can imagine it has tons of great flavor! Topped with crispy tortilla strips on top… it’s calling my name.

The best slow cooker chicken tortilla soup! Recipe by @bakedbyrachel

Slow Cooker Broccoli Cheese Soup.

I am crazy over broccoli cheese soup. How can you go wrong?! Broccoli… cheese… cream…. ahhhmazing! This is a recipe for your crockpot, which is even better! Slow Cooker Broccoli Cheese Soup | Cooking Classy

Italian Orzo Spinach Soup.

This is a vegetarian soup, with the option to add meat if you like. It’s loaded with veggies, whole wheat orzo, and lots of flavor!

Italian Orzo Spinach Soup | gimmesomeoven.com #recipe

Chipotle Chicken and Corn Chowder.

I don’t know about you, but the picture below makes me so hungry! I have always loved dishes with a bit of a bite, and this twist on the classic corn chowder has me dying to trying it out!

Chipotle Chicken and Corn Chowder

Do these soups and chowders have you drooling yet? I can’t wait to try some of these out, can you? They definitely seem like a good cure for a cold day!

The Happy Homemaker

Simple Sugar Cookie Recipe

How has everyone been doing? I know, you have not heard from me in a while. There are so many good recipes and projects to share, yet I have been busy actually trying a lot of things out! Are you as busy as I am these days? When you make your own Christmas gifts, you are bound to get wrapped up in projects… then there’s the decorating and the parties to attend. And oh, don’t forget about those busy children you have that make a mess seconds after you clean something.

Yes… you totally understand where I am going here.

But in the midst of all this busyness, there has to be some time for cookie making. I recently attended a Ladies’ Christmas Tea at my church, and it was so lovely. We had vintage teacup sets and everyone brought a plate of their favorite Christmas cookies. I don’t really have a favorite, but I do love sugar cookies. There is something about them that makes everything feel like Christmas! Although I have made a batch of them every year since having my own home, I hadn’t quite mastered the awesome sugar cookie that I had been wanting.IMG_7473-2

Who knew it could be so simple? I found a very basic sugar cookie recipe online. No extras to make them more moist or soft. It was just a basic ingredient list. We always are looking for those special ingredient recipes (I know I am!), but sometimes all you need is a traditional recipe and a few tips to get you a wonderful, classic sugar cookie.

Here are some tips:

1. Always, always chill your dough before rolling it out. I have found this step absolutely necessary with not only these cookies, but any other cookie as well. It’s a must!

2. When rolling out your dough, place a piece of parchment paper on your counter and tape down the corners. Or you can use a dough mat if you have that. Place another piece of parchment paper on top of your dough as you roll it out. Or you can use plastic wrap. This was a huge help to me, so the dough did not stick to the rolling pin. And I never used any extra flour for rolling. I feel like extra flour can dry out your dough.

3. Keep your dough thick. You only need to roll it out to about 1/4 inch. I had never made such thick cookies before, but it makes such a big difference with how they bake up.

4. If your dough appears to be too hard after chilling, knead it with your hands for a minute or two. This really helps to slightly warm it up and make it easier to roll out.

5. The biggest tip of all. DO NOT OVERBAKE! If there is one thing that I don’t like, it is over baked cookies. You know your cookies are ready when they are only very slightly golden on the bottom. They will finish browning just a little bit on the pan before you transfer them to a wire rack. The recipe gives you a range of 7-11 minutes, so always go with the shortest time and work your way up according to your oven.

6. Use parchment paper to line your cookie sheet. I do this for all of my baking!

Here is the recipe from Make Bake Celebrate. You can check out her photos for ideas on the right thickness for your dough.

These won’t last long. I made two batches the other night for my family and some friends and they were gone in one evening.

Have fun!

The Happy Homemaker

Below is a picture I took on Instagram of my cookies. You can find the snowflake cookie cutter I used here.