Friday, February 27, 2015

(The Best) Homemade Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread Recipe

I've had lots of requests over the years for my whole wheat sandwich bread recipe so I'm finally sharing it here!  I have tried a lot of sandwich bread recipes and this has now been my go-to recipe for at least three years.  It evolved from a combination of different recipes, technique and ingredients being tweaked and changed many a time to fit our tastes and ingredient preferences.  And it's finally perfect, I think.  I love that it makes two loaves at a time.  Currently, I make two batches at a time and bake them all together, yielding four loaves at once.

It was really hard finding a whole wheat sandwich bread that didn't contain a lot of added ingredients, sliced well, and tasted good (I don't like how most whole wheat breads are super sweet!).  Even the ones at the store had lots of extra softeners and preservatives OR were way too pricey for the amount we'd use.  So homemade it is.  But this, my friends, I think is the final recipe.  We now go through about half a loaf every lunchtime and seeing that we'll probably be up to a loaf a day in several years or so, I'd best be teaching the older boys how to do it, too, eh?

Alrighty.  Enough blabbing and onto the recipe.  And because I hate saving recipes and having to scroll through tons of pictures every time I use it, I'll give you the synopsis here and then a clearer description with pictures below.

(The Best) Homemade Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread
(makes 2 loaves)

2 3/4 c. heated water
1 Tbsp. active yeast
3 Tbsp. sugar 
(I use unrefined organic but if sugar ain't your thing, you could sub in 4 Tbsp. honey)
3 1/2 c. white whole wheat flour
3 c. whole wheat flour
1 Tbsp. salt
1/4 c. olive oil

Heat your water to approx. 100-110 degrees F.  I stick mine in the microwave for 1:20 and it is perfect. Pour in mixing bowl and add in yeast and sugar and stir gently.  Allow yeast to proof 5-10 minutes until grown and creamy.  

Add in flour, salt, and oil and using your mixer's dough hook, knead about 1-2 minutes only until dough pulls together and is well combined.  You could knead by hand, I suppose, but in full disclosure, I've never tried it.  Oil your bowl and cover.  Allow to rise about 30 minutes or so until doubled.  Punch down and knead a few times and form into two loaves.  Place each loaf in a well oiled loaf pan and allow to rise again approximately 30-45 minutes until doubled.  (I place mine in a warm 120 degree oven.)  Keep in oven and turn oven on to 375 degrees and bake 30-35 minutes until golden.  Allow to cool about 10 minutes or so before removing from pan.  Enjoy!

A bit more description:
After heating your water, pour it in mixing bowl and add yeast and sugar.  Allow to proof about 5-10 minutes until it's nice and creamy and looks like the pic on the right.

Add in the flours, salt, and oil and knead in your mixer for about a minute until the dough pulls nicely together...

and looks sort of like this.  Spray your bowl and flip your dough around so it's well oiled, too, and cover.  Allow to rise in a warmish place about 30 minutes until doubled.  (FYI, did you know you can use olive oil with a little bit of water added in a normal spray bottle and it works just as well as the spray oils with all the yucky additives?  True.)

After it's doubled, it should look something like this.  Except in one bowl.  I'm making a double batch here.  Punch down dough and divide in two.  Knead a bit and form each half into a loaf.

Place in a well oiled bread pan and allow to rise again for 30-40 minutes.  I heat my oven just a bit to 120 degrees or so and place the bread right in to rise quickly and without the need to transfer for baking.  In case you're wondering, I don't notice much of a difference between the glass and stoneware pans.  I think I prefer the glass only because it shapes nicer and I can see through the bottom to make sure the bottom has baked well.  

After the rise they should look something like this (again, with just two loaves ;)
Leave the loaves in there.  Set the oven to 375 degrees, the timer to 35 minutes, and bake until golden brown.  (With baking four at a time, sometimes I have to switch the top and bottom shelves for the last few minutes to make sure they bake evenly.)

Take 'em out and let them cool about 10-15 minutes.

Admire your beautiful loaves.

Keep admiring.  And smelling.

After the 10-15 minutes is up, you can now carefully remove them from the pans.  I first release them on the sides with a metal spatula and if the pan was well oiled, they should then come out easily.  Once completely cooled, three of my four go in a gallon freezer bag and into the freezer until needed.  

The other gets ogled by the boys until lunch is made.


Please hit me with any questions in the comments!  I hope you enjoy!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

February Snapshots

Life here has been pretty quiet.  I will try not to yammer on about the seemingly endless weather misery that has been our February since we all know about that.  But just for future me and posterity's sake:  it's been bad.  We started February out just fine but several weeks in a row of below zero real temps and snow upon snow upon snow has taken a toll on everyone's psyche.  We're breaking records and we've been homebound a lot.  I'm not sure why we live in a place where for much of the year it literally hurts to go outside.  But thankfully we have stayed pretty healthy, we have the huge blessing of a working furnace, and I thank God that most days we have no place we truly have to be.  


Thought I'd share a few of our semi-notable February moments... 

St. Valentine cookies (which I can proudly say I let my boys decorate with abandon)

The cutest of Indian hobbit boys

I came in the room one afternoon and saw the two of them hanging on the couch like this.  It's good to have a brother sometimes.

Some Fat Tuesday paczkis at the local donut shop.  The plan was for our traditional pancake dinner but with the freezing cold, the hens have barely been laying so we didn't have the eggs.  Plus, me = tired.

John Paul caught this pic on my new fancy phone when I was getting David ready to play outside on one of the "milder" days (read: 10 degrees).  For some reason, I love it.

During dinner one evening I caught a glimpse of something outside the window.  It was our neighbor para-boarding out in the field behind the house!  He was flying and the boys were in awe.

And my new fancy phone also lets me capture moments like this and send them to Papa at work.  Luke at our co-op.  He just started his own little Montessori class and was quite proud.

And random homeschooly moment:  I was at the table paying bills when they somehow organized all this.  Two had traced themselves and were coloring in their bodies (David's complete with organs and bones) and the other was illustrating Charlotte's Web.  So pretty much they don't really need me in this homeschooling thing, I think.

Yay!  Brian started work on building new built in benches for the kitchen.  We long ago outgrew our table and seating situation in there.  I have been hankerin' for some benches to simplify floor clean up and to fit more little bottoms.  He had many little helpers for the project.

Wood delivery

Did you notice how great the cellar looks?  I mean, for a cellar and all?  It was scary rough down there but Brian spent a whole lot of nights in late fall and December painting and cleaning it up and now it's not a horribly disgusting place to be!  

Learning from the master

I spotted an owl hanging outside our window the other night.  John Paul looked it up and it's an eastern screech owl.  It hung out for a while and didn't even fly when we put the flashlight on him!

These pictures look so adorable, right?  I mean before you look closely and realize they're training their animals for battle...

Ah, boys...

One of the many icicles from our house…the boys thought it glorious fun to precariously lean out the upstairs window and yank a few down...

Three post bath boys in a box.  The radiator traps the heat in there so they were warming up :)

Yet another batch of elderberry syrup in progress.  So very thankful that all we've dealt with so far this long winter is a mild cold.  There are so so many yucky things going around this year.  I started adding in fermented cod liver oil to our breakfast smoothies just to up the hippie/nutrient factor a bit.

Even when it's seven below outside, the chickens still need to drink

and what few eggs there are need to be gathered.

Our sidewalk has been getting narrower and narrower as the month has worn on.

As has my driveway opening.  You can't tell and I'm far too wimpy to go out for a better picture but the van can barely squeak out between the drift and shovel piles.  

Dear spring, please come soon.

Once again doing the linkity up with Like Mother, Like Daughter!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Seven Helpful Gifts for the Postpartum Mom

*This post originally appeared at Call Her Happy as Jenna took a postpartum blogging break.*

One of the sweetest things I can think of to do for a newly postpartum mom is to bring something for her.  So often, people bring something for the baby, which is lovely and generous, of course, but a gift for mom is a beautiful, tangible way to let her know that her job is important and that she's remembered, too.  And usually baby is already well taken care of, it's mom who needs a little TLC, right?

When we really look at it we can be honest and admit our postpartum culture in our wonderful country stinks.  It really does.  In most places around the world and throughout history a woman would have a whole community of women gathering around to help for at least six weeks.  She barely gets out of bed, doesn’t have to think about cooking or cleaning or tending her other children, and is able to focus her primary attention on nursing, bonding with her baby, and healing. but what we can do is think of small ways to show mom that she matters, tooHere?  

We get maybe a week, two if we’re lucky, sometimes with a couple meals from lovely friends dropped off at the door (and often those friends have their own brood of little ones to tend to), and then we’re done and expected to be back to normal life again.  When a woman has a need to be cared for physically, mentally, and emotionally and when the community has the chance to truly show their support of new life, we kinda fail.  It doesn’t foster a culture of life and doesn’t breed well for healthy motherhood.  It’s no coincidence that our rate of PPD, postpartum physical issues, and nursing complications is higher.

We’re not going to change that overnight, especially when many of us are running our homes and raising little ones, but what we can do is think of small ways to show mom that she matters, too. And maybe in that way do our own little part to support a culture of life.



Always food.  
A ready made dinner is wonderful or something frozen that she can easily take out on a rough day.  So is a batch of healthy muffins or an egg casserole for breakfast.  Or a bag of basic groceries.  One of the greatest way to help is to organize a meal schedule and pester people to sign up (and yes, sometimes you have to do a lot of pestering) so that at least that first month postpartum has a meal brought every other day.  Both Care Calendar and Take Them a Meal are super convenient (and free!) resources for online scheduling so people can pick a day that works for them.  A gracious mom would, of course, never snub any meal brought but a gracious giver also should take into account the family’s eating style, preferences, and (of course) allergies.
If a homemade meal is not doable, a gift certificate for any local restaurant that delivers so that she can pick the day she needs it most, is also a wonderful idea.

Nursing Basket

I sometimes like to give these at baby showers but they’re great for a postpartum gift as well.  Possible things to include:  a water bottle, some healthy granola bars or other snacks, a magazine or book, good breast pads, some Mother’s Milk tea, some nipple cream or lanolin, maybe a nursing cover (if you think she’d appreciate that).  I’ve even included a nursing tank at times if I think mom would use it.

Certificate for Cleaning

Oh my, I would be thrilled to get something like this postpartum.  What a generous gift that would be!  Often you can find deals for housecleaning on sites like Groupon and the like and they’re not too unreasonable.  Why not go in on one with a group of friends?  Or, if you know she’s not the type of person that would feel guilty and can accept your help, maybe you could offer to come for a few hours yourself and scrub some bathrooms and vacuum while she rests and snuggles that little one?

Bath and Body Items

I’ve made homemade crunchy-type baskets full of personal gifts for the mom and baby but you could certainly do it with store-bought things as well.  I like to include some homemade herbal bath packs and bath salts to help with healing, some homemade salve, tea (either a breastfeeding tea or a red raspberry leaf tea would be a good choice to help her body recover), and maybe some calming essential oil blends.  If you know her favorite lotion or soap, you could put that in, too.  Earth Mama Angel Baby makes some wonderful natural products specifically for postpartum moms – balm, bath herbs, and bottom spray to name a few.

In-house Massage

A few of our local massage therapists have just begun offering in-house postpartum services!  Wouldn’t that be lovely to give?  A gift certificate (again, maybe with a few friends if you can’t afford it on your own) for a half hour or hour massage where mom didn’t even have to pack up baby and leave her house?  Luxury.

Help with Any Older Children

Some moms are more comfortable if you come stay at the house and simply keep the kids busy and fed.  Others would love for you to come take the older kids away for a few hours so she can have a little bit of quiet and rest (especially if you have your own children that will need to be there).  Ask her which one she would prefer and respect her boundaries with what is allowed and not allowed with her children.  (And please don’t bring them back high on sugar or too overtired! ;)

A Spiritual Bouquet

One of the absolute best gifts I think you could give a mom is the gift of prayer.  You can do it yourself or, even better, arrange for a group of friends to offer their own Rosaries, Masses, sacrifices, and other prayers for her during this special yet often difficult time.  Let her know in a card or some other way the things that you are all doing to lift her up in prayer and support her.  Maybe attach a Blessed Mother, Saint Brigid (patroness of newborns), or Saint Monica (patroness of mothers) medal or prayer card along with it.

I’m confident that helping and supporting and valuing postpartum mothers more is vital to building up a culture of life.  Got any other ideas of tangible ways we can support these moms?  Please share any ideas you have (or things you valued or would have loved to have had yourself) in the combox here or at Call Her Happy!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Where to Find Your Lent

I'm a little scared but I'll admit it.  
By yesterday I was already feeling tired of hearing about Lent.  It could be the February. Or the tired and pregnant. Or the subzero crazy-making temperatures.  Or the too much time online. It seemed like Lent was everywhere on the internet and all I could hear and feel was more, more, more. More ideas, more activities, more inspirational quotes, more clever fasts and prayer ideas. Here's what you should do, here's what you should fast, here's how you should observe, here's the way to have THE BEST LENT EVER.

It was almost overwhelming and I felt the tease of pressure coming down upon my soul. Wait, what is my big elaborate Lenten plan this year? What novel thing must I do to beat last year? How creative can I be with my penance? Which of the many many creative activities out there will I do with my kids? How will this be my best Lent ever???

It's wonderful indeed that there is a renewed love for the liturgical year within the Church and beyond and that that is being shared online more than ever. So wonderful. Ideas are wonderful and sharing is wonderful.  Integrating that liturgical life more fully into the home is wonderful and the ideas keep coming. It's all wonderfully wonderful. Heck, I've got a whole lot of that here on these pages.


But there is a danger in missing the point and a danger in relying too much upon the opinions of others to form our Lent. And a danger in throwing out the ages old and time tested methods of the Church for what feels new and exciting. I felt better today after the quiet Mass in our little church and realized the simplicity of it all.  

I needed to remember where to find my Lent.

The heart of it is not going to be found through that blog or that charismatic Catholic celeb. It wasn't going to be found by pinning all the activities or asking everyone else what creative penance they are doing.

My Lent?  The one that is tailored just for me and will draw me deeper into the mystery of His Passion and give my heart that oh so necessary rending?

It will only ever be found at His feet.

Those many many ideas and resources are all wonderful, hear me right, please. They provide inspiration and God can speak through them, too. He speaks through our conversations and the sharing. But the only place to find peace and true growth in Lent is when our resolutions and activities are founded upon what HE wants. When time is given before Him to honestly seek His will. When He is given an open heart and when His opinion bears the most weight. It is only when He is asked - what He would like left behind, what He wants given, and where it is that a heart may be too attached - it is only then that Lent will bear the fruit it is supposed to. And I needed to remember that.

All I should do is what HE wants me to do.

His desires may not be flashy or Pinterest worthy. They might not be clever (or maybe they will be something completely unique and creative). But the only place to find out those desires is at His feet and listening to Him first. And really, there is still nothing that can replace the Liturgy of the Church and the centuries old traditions that have been passed down to us

Sometimes, oftentimes in fact, I think maybe it's okay if your Lent looks a little boring. What God wants to do within your soul is not. But what it looks and feels like getting there? It may not be novel or unique or flashy. It may not be blog or Pinterest worthy. But it will be based on centuries of tradition within the Body of Christ which maybe should hold a little bit more weight than that catchy idea we saw online. Right now, for me, I need to be wary of the ideas that are novel for novelty's sake or that will tempt me toward busyness for little spiritual benefit. And perhaps we should all be even more wary of people who throw off those centuries old traditions and sneer at fasting and the wisdom of the ages as petty or outdated. 

Prayer, fasting, almsgiving.
Living in the Liturgy of the Church.

The only description the Catechism has of Lent is:

By the solemn forty days of Lent the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert.
CCC 540

and the only thing in the Catechism about how we do that, outside of the required days of fast and abstinence, is this:

The seasons and days of penance in the course of the liturgical year (Lent, and each Friday in memory of the death of the Lord) are intense moments of the Church’s penitential practice. These times are particularly appropriate for spiritual exercises, penitential liturgies, pilgrimages as signs of penance, voluntary self-denial such as fasting and almsgiving, and fraternal sharing (charitable and missionary works). 
CCC 1438

The preceding paragraphs of that description are worth reading about the expressions of penance in the Christian life (and thanks be to God, there is not a mention of Pinterest worthy crafts or activities anywhere). I'm feeling the need for a simple, back to the basics Lent this year. One focused on what He wants first and that is rooted in a (hopefully) humble submission to the wisdom of the Church and the beauty of the Liturgy. One (hopefully) rooted in repentance and growing in virtue and one that will turn my heart a little bit more into what He wants it to be. 

So outside of the required practices of the Church, what is the rest of your Lent supposed to look like?
I have no idea.

But I do know Who does.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A Peek Inside Our Homeschool

When I was asked to give my readers a little peek into our homeschool but only through photos, it sounded pretty easy.  But I realized as I was doing it, that it was a whole lot harder than I imagined not only to get the photos of a normal day at our house but also to keep myself from wanting to narrate every single one and explain what's going on.  But I won't, promise!  I'll just ask you to remember that what you see here is just a *tiny* peek.  A glimpse.  You won't hear the sibling fight in the background or really get a feel for the chaos that can sometimes ensue as we try to make these things happen.  You won't see the tantrum (from me or the boys) or hear the noise.  Oh, the noise.  But please shoot me any questions you may have in the comments and I'll be happy to answer them!  Oh, and yes, these photos were taken over the course of two days…because I just couldn't take them all in one day and actually do the homeschooling, too.  But they're a good mashed-up representation of a typical school day for us.
Okay, mouth shut.  Commence window peeking.

This post is part of the See Me Homeschool blog hop and link-up hosted by Theresa at Ordinary Lovely and Micaela at California to Korea.  I'm so glad you're here and thank you to both for asking me to be a part of it!  To get a glimpse in more homeschooling windows or to add your own, please click on either of their links or the image below!

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