A Day Off

I was doing great at blogging once again… and then my maternity leave came to an end.  *Sigh.*  Something’s gotta give, right?  It’s certainly not going to be my family, and it won’t be my teaching, and (unfortunately) it can’t be cleaning… so blogging it is.  It’s dissapointing – surfing around on other people’s blogs and on Pinterest is a rejuvinating activity for me, and I love keeping this blog as a type of time capsule and organization tool.  I’ll have to leave it for weekends and holidays, though – and unexpected days off of work, like today.  Unfortunately, my unexpected day off is due to a lice outbreak at school.  Yikes… a quarter of my class was sent home on Tuesday.  Because I saw lice.  Crawling.  In their hair.  I’ll take what I can get, though – a day off is a day off.  After being checked for lice myself (none to report, thank goodness) and washing every cloth item in my classroom, I’m prepared to spend the rest of my day off wearing the Bean in the Moby, sipping on coffee, and bumming around on the internet.  It’s not something I would have let myself do when I was on maternity leave full time, but hey – I’m a working mom now, and I feel entitled to a “me-day.”

Soft and Chewy Dinner Rolls

The name says it all – soft and chewy dinner rolls.  Potato flakes are the secret ingredient in this recipe, and I do believe they make all the difference.  I’ve made rolls before, but these are easily the most similar store-bought white rolls – in a good way, not an “I’m-eating-paste” way.

These take a couple hours to make, though hands-on time is minimal.  This is a great lazy Saturday recipe.   And bonus – according to Cook’s Country, you can take the rolls out of the oven at about five minutes, or when they are just starting to brown.  When they cool, you can freeze them for up to a month.  To finish the rolls, let the rolls thaw on a prepared baking sheet for an hour, then bake at 400 for 10 minutes.

Soft and Chewy Dinner Rolls

adapted from Cook’s Country April/May 2011
makes 12 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups water, heated to 110 degrees
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup instant potato flakes
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

Directions

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position.  Heat oven to 200 degrees and turn it off.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper.  Grease a large bowl.
  2. Whisk water, oil, and sugar in large liquid measuring cup until sugar dissolves.  In bowl of stand mixer fitted with dough hook, mix flour, potato flakes, yeast, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt until combined.  With mixer on low, slowly add water mixture and mix until dough comes together, about 1 minute.  Increase speed to medium and mix until dough is smooth and comes away from sides of bowl, about 6 minutes.
  3. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and knead briefly to form smooth, cohesive ball.  Transfer dough to prepared container and turn to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap and place in turned-off oven until dough has doubled in side, about 45 minutes.
  4. Gently press down on dough on lightly floured surface.  Divide dough into quarters and cut each quarter into 3 equal pieces.  Form each piece into rough ball by pinching and pulling dough edges under so that top is smooth.  On clean counter, cup each ball with your palm and roll into smooth, tight ball.  Transfer to prepared baking sheet.  Cover loosely with plastic and let rest in turned off oven until doubled in size, about 20 minutes.   (Unbaked, formed rolls can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours).
  5. Remove unbaked rolls from oven and discard plastic.  Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Brush rolls with egg and sprinkle evenly with remaining salt.  Bake until golden brown and 200 degrees in the middle, about 15 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through baking.  Cool rolls on sheet 10 minutes.  Serve.

Day 8 of 31 – I’m well on my way to a better photo

After a short hiatus for the holidays, I’m back into my 31 days to a better photo.  I found that after just a couple weeks of a break, I’d forgotten everything I learned… awesome.  So I went back, reread the first seven days of the tutorial, and attempted to summarize my new knowledge.  I felt like a college student again, with all of my headers and bullet points.

A RECAP

There are three ingredients that can be fiddled with on a camera: shutter speed, ISO, and aperture.  Changing the setting of one (or all three) will change the outcome of your photo.

Shutter Speed

  • how long the lens is open
  • measured in seconds
    • ex: 2″ = 2 seconds
    • ex: 250 = 1/250 of a second
  • a longer opening lets in more light, but will be blurry unless everything (camera and subject) are perfectly still
  • on my camera:
    1. flip dial to M
    2. press center button
    3. up and down arrows control
    • on left side of screen

ISO

  • number refers to light receptors
  • low ISO = clear photo, high ISO = grainy photo
  • measured in numbers such as 100, 200, 400, 800
  • on my camera:
    1. flip dial to M
    2. press menu
    3. scroll up or down to get to ISO

Aperture

  • Size of lens opening
  • Small number = small border around large opening = focus on subject with everything else blurred
  • Large number = thick border around small opening = all of photo is in focus
  • Measured in F stops (my camera only has two choices – 3.5 and 8)
    • ex: f/3.5 would have a single sharp subject and a softer focus on the rest of the photo, f/8 would have the entire photo sharp
  • On my camera:
    1. flip dial to M
    2. press center button
    3. left and right arrows control
    • on right side of screen

2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 7,000 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Cheesy Ranch Chex Mix

We’re a traditional Chex Mix type of family.  Until recently, I’ve rarely varied the recipe aside from, say, adding a cup of mixed nuts instead of a cup of peanuts.  Just to spice things up a bit around here, I went wild and tried an entirely new (to us) flavor combo: cheesy ranch.

I’ll say this: not the original.  I’ll also say this: pretty tasty nonetheless.  I don’t think I’ll be exchanging our classic Chex Mix recipe any time soon, but this was fun to try, if nothing else!

Cheesy Ranch Chex Mix

recipe adapted from Chex
makes 26 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 9 cups Corn, Rice, or Wheat Chex (or any combination)
  • 2 cups bite-sized pretzel twists
  • 2 cups bite-sized cheese crackers
  • 1 cup mixed nuts
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 1-ounce package ranch dressing or seasoning mix
Directions
  1.  Heat oven to 250. In ungreased large roasting pan, melt butter in oven.
  2. Add cereal, pretzels, crackers, and nuts; stir to coat.  Add ranch mix and cheese; stir again.
  3. Bake 1 hour, stirring every 5 minutes.   Spread on paper towels to cool, about 15 minutes. Store in airtight container.

The Bean at Two Months

Size

What a big girl we have!  All of that eating is paying off, as Bean is growing by the minute.  She’s now eight pounds, according to our scale at home.  She still wears her newborn size clothing, but her wardrobe has expanded, as she can wear her 0-3 month clothing as well if we roll up the sleeves and legs.  Her little bottom still easily fits into her newborn size diapers, though her digestive system has outgrown them – yikes!  She wore her very last newborn dipe on her two month birthday, and is now officially a size one.  We use cloth diapers for her occasionally, but they’re gigantic on her tiny body, so we’ll have to wait a few more months until she can wear them more frequently.

 

Milestones

We’ve got a smile!  Bean’s tight-lipped sleep smiles have progressed to wide awake, open mouth smiles.  They’re sporadic, but they’re there!  In addition, Bean went from crying only to a much larger vocabulary of coos, goos, and grunts.  She’s much more alert now, staying up for longer periods of time and being more interested in our household happenings.  Paul and I also had a milestone this month – our first date, baby-free!  Bean stayed with Grammy, Poppy, Katie, and Soo Yeun while we spent three hours at Barnes and Noble.

 

Sleep

We had our huge, gigantic, earthshaking milestone this month – sleeping through the night!  On Thursday, December 8, 2011 – a day we will always cherish and remember – six week old Bean slept from midnight on the dot to 5:02 am.  And, drumroll please – the following night Bean slept from 11:30 pm to 9:00 the next morning.  Straight through!  That’s 9.5 hours!  And then the next night, 8 hours!  Since then, she’s been treating us with an occasional full night of sleep.  Bean has also been trending toward an earlier bed time (almost always before midnight now) and will sometimes go right back to sleep after a night waking if we pop a pacifier in her mouth.

 

Eating

Bean is still an excellent eater, chowing down about eight times per day.  She’s a bit fussy for bottles and alternates between loving and being disgusted by her pacifier.  She usually always enjoys sucking on her fists (if and when she can find them, which is typically only with help).

 

Social

This month, Bean attended her first party of the season (and her life).  She charmed everyone while sleeping through the Whitman Thanksgiving gatherings.  She was able to meet her Great-Grandma and Great Grandpa Poeschl and much of the rest of Grammy Mary’s side of the family.

 

Play Time

Bean learned her first game this month!  If someone sticks out a tongue at her, sometimes she’ll smile or stick her tongue back.  We can also now add “swinging in the baby swing” to Bean’s repertoire of pastimes.  It typically puts her to sleep, but she certainly seems to enjoy it – it calms her down when nothing else will.   Bean also enjoys riding in the front carrier, though this also tends to knock her out.  When she is awake, she enjoys looking at pictures in books, playing bicycle legs, and staring at toys.  She despises tummy time, though it’s forced upon her by her evil parents.

Breakfast Casserole for Two

Egg Bake

Egg bakes can be delicious, but they can be overkill for our small family (especially since one of us doesn’t eat solids yet).  Enter Cook’s Country’s Breakfast Casserole for Two.  We’ve made and enjoyed this before, and it’s definitely on the short list for Christmas brunch!

Breakfast Casserole for Two

recipe from April/May 2011 Cook’s Country
makes 2 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 slices bacon, chopped
  • 2 slices hearty white sandwich bread, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 6 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 scallions, sliced thin
  • 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Directions

  1. Adjust oven rack to upper middle position and heat oven to 475 degrees.  Cook bacon in 8″ nonstick, ovensafe skillet over medium heat until crisp, about 8 minutes.  Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towel-lined plate.  Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from pan.
  2. Add half of bread to skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes.  Transfer to medium bowl and toss with toasted bread.
  3. Whisk cream, eggs, salt, and pepper in another medium bowl until smooth.  Stir in bacon, scallions, and cheddar.  Add egg mixture to now empty skillet and cook over medium heat, using spatula to scrape bottom of pan, until eggs are just beginning to set, about 1 minute.  Fold in bread and lightly pat mixture into even thickness.  Bake until puffed and golden brown, 7 to 9 minutes.  Serve.