Categories
Recipe

Unique Coconut-Oatmeal Cookies Using Sourdough Discard

So much better than store-bought.

I hated store-bought oatmeal cookies when I was young. They were so dry I feared breaking a tooth. They were also flavorless or overpowered by sweetness and spice. Fortunately for me, my mom had the best recipe ever, shared with her by a long-time family friend.

It makes cookies that aren’t overly sweet and allows the oats to be the star. They are crispy, but not hard. They are lightly spiced with the flavor of the brown sugar, and nothing else. They are heaven, even if you don’t like coconut.

When COVID-19 locked us into our homes, I created a sourdough starter. As the discard built, I began hunting for ways to use it so that I didn’t throw it away.

On one of my Zoom calls, my writing mentor, Shaunta Grimes, suggested I write a recipe for making cookies with it. It had never occurred to me, so I began my hunt. It wasn’t long before I found many cookie recipes that used sourdough discard.

I began experimenting. Since I’m not a chef, and don’t fully understand the chemistry of baking, my recipes are usually trial and error. I wondered, could I make my mom’s Coconut-Oatmeal cookies using sourdough?

After comparing several other cookie recipes I gave it a go. The cookies turned out delicious, but there were some differences in baking method, textural outcome, and shelf life. Another difference is that it needs the addition of cinnamon to enhance the flavor. Here is what worked well and we enjoyed.

Coconut-Oatmeal Cookie Ingredients

½ C. (112 grams) unsalted butter, softened
½ C. (96 grams) vegetable shortening
⅔ C. (128 grams) brown sugar
½ C. (96 grams) granulated sugar
2 eggs, slightly beaten
½ C. (125 grams) sourdough discard
1 t. Vanilla extract
1 C. (142 grams) All-purpose flour
1 t. (3 grams) baking soda
1 t. (6 grams) Kosher salt
1 t. (8 grams) ground cinnamon
1 C. (120 grams) unsweetened flaked coconut*
1 C. (112 grams) rough chopped pecans
4 C. (320 grams) old-fashioned oats

*If you can only get sweetened coconut, reduce the amount of brown sugar from ⅔ C. to ½ C. and increase the ground cinnamon to 1 ½ teaspoons.

Mixing Your Coconut-Oatmeal Cookies

Start with the wet ingredients. Mix softened butter and vegetable shortening in 4-cup bowl until smooth. Whisk in the brown sugar and granulated sugar until well blended. 

Allow this mixture to sit for 10 minutes, then whisk for one minute. You want to allow time for the sugar granules to dissolve completely before combining with everything else. Doing this allows you to use less sugar. Repeat this step for a total of four times.

In a small bowl, slightly beat two eggs and vanilla extract. Stir in the sourdough discard until thoroughly combines. Mix into the sugar mixture.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda and cinnamon. Fold in the wet mixture. Mix until mostly combined. Stir in the coconut and pecans. Finally, add the oats one cup at a time until combined. Don’t overmix the dough, as you don’t want to activate the glutens in the flour.

Roll the dough into a log that is about 1 ½-inch to 2-inch in diameter. Wrap it in plastic wrap and chill the dough in the refrigerator for 45 minutes before baking.

Baking Your Coconut-Oatmeal Cookies

Preheat your oven to 325℉. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and slice into ¼-inch to ½-inch thick slices. Place the slices 1-inch apart on a parchment lined cookie sheet. These cookies will spread as they bake, but spread less the longer you mix the dough.

Bake for 11–15 minutes, until they are lightly golden brown around the edges and the centers are soft. Slide the parchment paper from the cookie sheet onto a wire cooling rack. Cool completely before putting into a container for storage. They will be lightly browned with a soft center and crunchy coating.

In my non-sourdough recipe, there is no need to refrigerate before baking. I scoop 1-inch balls of dough from the bowl and place them 2-inches apart onto a parchment lined cookie sheet. As they bake, they spread out and get crispy. The whole surface turns golden brown and crispy.

Storing Your Coconut-Oatmeal Cookies

Cookies made using the non-sourdough recipe can be stored in an airtight container for at least a week. They rarely last that long, however. Sometimes I make a double batch and freeze half for later.

Cookies made using sourdough turn out softer and puffier than the non-sourdough version. We found that they were best if eaten within 3–4 days of making them. They freeze beautifully, though, and you can take them straight from the freezer and eat them without thawing. We prefer doing this.

They remained fresh in the freezer for the several weeks that they lasted.

Delightful Variations

You can add your favorite fillings. If you like raisins, add a cup when you add the coconut and nuts. I sometimes add a cup of mini-chocolate chips or white chocolate morsels. My family’s favorite addition is a cup of butterscotch morsels. Try adding chopped macadamia nuts or walnuts instead of pecan’s.

For Halloween, add a cup of candy corn to the mix. For Thanksgiving, add dried cranberries or diced apples. At Christmas, add a cup of mint chips or ½ cup of crushed candy canes. In the spring, add a cup of fresh or dried blueberries. In the summer, add a tablespoon of orange zest.

They will become a favorite

These are the only type of oatmeal cookies I will eat. Once you try them, the store-bought ones will never again measure up. Even if you don’t like coconut in other dishes (that would be me) you will enjoy the toastiness of it in these cookies. It adds texture and crunch without too much sweet.

Bon Appetit!

Print the original and sourdough version of this recipe for your file.

Pat Davis, a retired teacher and editor of Simply Living and Living Simply, lives with her husband and neurotic cat, Neko. She loves to read, write, travel, bake, garden, sew, and craft.


Read more of Pat’s posts here.

Categories
Uncategorized

Banish Distractions and Achieve Your Goals in 3 Easy Steps

When I use this simple tool, I banish distractions. You can, too.

Banish Distractions and Achieve Your Goals.
 Photo by Timon Studler on Unsplash

Have you ever had one of those days you really needed to banish distractions? Yesterday morning, at 4:00 AM, my husband got out of bed and howled in pain. He could not put any weight on his foot. Pain radiated up his leg. Neither of us had slept much during the night, and now it was over. Obviously my long ‘to-do’ list wasn’t going to get ‘ta-done’.

We spent the next 4 hours in the ER. While I sat in the car waiting due to COVID protocols, he was iced, x-rayed, ultrasound-ed, and pumped full of morphine and another powerful painkiller that didn’t seem to help much. Thankfully, his condition turned out to be non-life threatening.

Has this ever happened to you? Sometimes life’s interruptions high-jack your day. You spin your wheels, busy, busy, busy, but nothing gets done. Your blood pressure rises, your anxiety spins out of control, and you can’t concentrate long enough to finish simple tasks let alone meet your goals. 

This type of negative stress gives you hypertension, anxiety and depression. The stress you have when you aren’t making progress towards your goals is defeating. But there is positive stress that helps you meet your goals. How can you tap into that when life blows you off course?

As a teacher, I was constantly stressed trying to juggle my responsibilities in the classroom with those at home. I had difficulty concentrating and getting things done. Worse, my family felt like orphans during the school year. Something had to give.

My stress almost disappeared when I stumbled across a simple tool that another teacher used.

I banished distractions. It was magical.

And, it was analog. A simple spreadsheet that listed my whole week and helped me set goals for each day was exactly what I needed. I tweaked the original spreadsheet until I had one that worked perfectly for me. When I went home at night, my family had my undivided attention.

Before I retired from teaching, I worked with students who had difficulty with focus and time management. They forgot assignments, missed deadlines, and genuinely couldn’t understand how other students could do so much with ease. Their frustration level was high and confidence low. 

Most solutions were too complex or took too long to manage. So I taught my students how to use my spreadsheet. They only had to keep up with their simple weekly plan sheet.

Keeping it simple, for all of us, made it do-able and sustainable. Making it analog minimized distractions.

How it works to banish distractions

This spreadsheet allows me to keep my ‘To-Do’ list right in front of me in one place. It also shows me any meetings, phone calls, or appointment times I have each day. There is a place for me to make important notes or jot observations.

This is all done by hand because research shows that writing something down helps you remember it better. The more often you write something, the more likely it gets into your brain. If you have it written down, you’re less likely to forget it. So…don’t shy away from this low-tech solution.

Then there is the satisfaction of getting to cross off the things you have finished. Crossing items off their lists allowed my students to pat themselves on the back for a job well done. It gave them a sense of accomplishment.

Step 1 — Set Your Goals

At the beginning of the week, I take 10 minutes to look at my monthly calendar where I have written all my appointments and deadlines for the month. I write down any appointment or meeting times listed on my spreadsheet next to the days when each occurs in the current week. 

My 3:00 Zoom call on Wednesday, gets listed next to Wednesday on the spreadsheet. Soccer practice on Friday at 6:00 gets written next to Friday. Each appointment or meeting should be listed in the order they occur with the time noted.

On a separate sheet of paper, I keep a list of goals and tasks I want or need to accomplish. This includes long and short term goals for both for work and home. I decide which ones I will focus on this week and which day I will work on each goal. 

I write my tasks/goals in the ‘To-Do’ column next to the day I plan to accomplish each task. If I have recurring goals or ‘To-Dos’, I type them into my master spreadsheet to save time each week. I make a duplicate of the master sheet and label it with the current week’s dates. 

I make sure that the days and times of all my meetings and my on-going goals are still correct. If anything has changed, I move or delete it before printing my weekly plan sheet. Then I keep it, and my monthly calendar with me at all times.

Step 2 — Refresh daily to banish distractions

Before you begin each day, look at your weekly plan sheet. Do you have anything else that you need to do that day? Pick up prescriptions, get milk, make a phone call? Add it to your ‘To-Do’ list.

This takes less than five minutes, but it gets you started on the right track at the beginning of your day. When life’s interruptions cause you to lose focus, take a minute to refresh and refocus on the tasks that you need to get done.

My personal weekly plan sheet helps steer me back to my charted course.
Photo by Patricia J. Davis

When you get distracted, having something physical to look at anchors you to your goals. Use it as your compass to steer you back on track and resume your charted course. Reflect on why you are distracted. Are you bored with a task? Do you need to come back to it after a short break? Do you have a meeting or deadline?

If you have a meeting in 10 minutes, pick a task you can finish quickly. If you have been slaving away at something that is difficult or boring (cough, cough — housework), pick something you want and like to do. The important thing is to use your weekly plan to meet the goals you set for yourself.

Don’t forget to cross off the goals you complete and give yourself a pat on the back.

Step 3 — Reflect, Revel and Reset

At the end of each day, take five minutes to review your plan for the day. Make notes about what you did that wasn’t on your ‘To-Do’ list. Did you have interruptions or discover something interesting to research?

Take the time now to cross off ‘Ta-Dones”, if you haven’t already. Revel in them. Doesn’t it feel good?

Is there a task you need to do next week? Do you have an upcoming deadline? Was there a task that you need to move to another day? Write them down on the day you will do them or note them in your ‘What do I need to do next week?’ column.

Did you miss a meeting? Put a check mark next to the meetings you attended and an ‘x’ by ones you skipped. If you need to do something about that (ie. talk to your boss) note that on your ‘To-Dos’ for tomorrow.

Review your ‘To-Dos’ and meetings for tomorrow. This will help you lay them aside, confident that you aren’t forgetting anything. You might be surprised how much better you sleep at night.

At the end of each week, (could be Friday afternoon, or Sunday afternoon) reflect on how your week went. What went well? What went wrong? Can you pinpoint a cause of the problem? What might fix it?

Finally, set yourself up to succeed the next week. Fill out your weekly plan for the upcoming week. Review your monthly calendar and make sure any new or unfinished ‘To-dos’ from your previous week are included this week. 

Banish distractions in less than 10 minutes a day. It will change your life!

When my students first started doing this, they complained. Hard! People avoid change like a toothache. But you can’t always avoid toothaches.

Then the magic happened. After about three weeks, they realized that they were remembering to do homework they would have forgotten. The papers they got back had higher grades. And their parents weren’t on their cases anymore.

They started asking for the plan sheets on Friday afternoon instead of groaning when I handed them out on Monday. They enjoyed getting to reflect about their successes and had better attitudes about their failures. We kept their completed weekly plans in a binder and regularly celebrated their success!

They learned that failure wasn’t permanent, just a problem to be solved. And they had a way to solve it themselves. They felt empowered. Some of them began to experience better mental health, too. Relieving bad stress can do that.

  1. Set your goals
  2. Refresh daily to banish distractions
  3. Reflect, revel and reset

It sounds simple, and after a few weeks of practice, it will be.


Get a free copy of my Weekly Plan sheet here to tweak and use for yourself.

Pat Davis, a retired teacher and editor of Simply Living and Living Simply, lives with her husband and neurotic cat, Neko. She loves to read, write, travel, bake, garden, sew, and craft. Top writer in Food and Cooking.


Click here to read more of my writing.

Categories
Lifestyle

Lose the Quarantine 15 — or More

Getting thinner means feeling better.

I found myself gaining weight during this pandemic. In fact, I gained well over the much discussed quarantine 15. The more weight I gained, the worse I felt, both physically and mentally. I’m sure I’m not alone.

In my mid-30s, I complained to my doctor about gaining weight and asked for thyroid testing. I have several family members whose thyroids underperformed causing weight gain. And I was gaining weight despite dieting and exercise.

My doctor (a woman) ran tests and told me everything was fine and I just needed to eat less and exercise more. I wondered how much more I could do. I already walked almost five miles most days and kept a food log, which was a lot of work. I only ate around 1200 calories a day.

Finally, I went to a well-woman checkup with my OB-GYN. I was in tears, convinced I would be dead within 6 months. I felt that bad. He tried to calm me down (yes, a HE), and said, “Let’s run a few tests.”

The results? My thyroid was underperforming — almost not working at all. He started me on a thyroid hormone and told me to go back to my doctor to follow up. By that time, I had already gained 50 pounds. When I went back to my general doctor, she told me that I would NEVER be able to lose that weight.

Never? Really? How depressing. So why am I exercising so much, and keeping a food log? Why am I starving myself on less than 1200 calories? What was the point?

I quit trying, and over the next two decades put on an additional 15 pounds. When the pandemic came along, the quarantine 15 (okay, 15+) became the straw that broke the camel’s back. I had to do something!

I didn’t want to follow a fad diet. I already knew those didn’t work. I went to my doctor — a different one from the one who told me I would never lose the weight. I told him I was tired of feeling so bad and hurting so much. He did bloodwork and pronounced me healthy.

I decided to do several things that he recommended.

  1. Exercise daily.
  2. Track my food and base my diet on nutrition.
  3. Weigh daily.
  4. Find an accountability partner.

None of these things require you to go to the doctor first, but I would highly encourage you to make your doctor a partner in your weight loss journey. Get a clean bill-of-health before starting.

Build an exercise habit.

Now that I’m 60-years-old, exercise is difficult for me. My knees hurt. My hips hurt. I’m carting around 80 pounds that I need to lose. But there is one exercise that I have always enjoyed. And it costs nothing to do.

I began walking around my neighborhood. I had done it before, so I knew I could do it again. I also knew I could stick with it, because I enjoyed being outside. Money (or lack of) would not keep me from doing it.

A daily goal and schedule is important, or you won’t follow through. Once you have one, you will feel odd when you don’t do it. Your daily goal can increase as your fitness improves. If you need to, you can keep a calendar and put a star on each day you hit your goal.

I started out walking around my block once. Soon it increase to twice. After a while I was able to do a mile and a half in 30 minutes, and I’m still increasing my distance and speed over time.

Besides speeding up weight loss, I also hurt less. And I am breathing better, and sleeping better at night. Find an exercise you enjoy and keep doing it.

Keep a food log.

Writing down everything you eat can be eye-opening. You will soon see what foods you eat too much. For example, I found that I ate way too many sugary sweets: Coke, cake, cookies, chocolate. You get the picture. Those were empty calories that I could eliminate and should definitely reduce.

At first, just listing what you eat is enough. After a while, though, you should start tracking the calories. This, too, will reveal so much. There should be a balance to get good nutrition, and your brain needs a minimum of 135 grams of carbs to maintain its health, too.

One thing I soon discovered while logging my food is how boring my choices are, and how often we ate the same meals. It motivated me to get more creative in the kitchen. Prepackaged foods we purchased seemed quick, but contained more calories and fat that I could control by making them myself.

Keeping track of the food you eat also helps you realize when you have eaten enough, and what you might need to eat more (or less) of to hit your daily goals. You can do this on paper, in a Google doc, or use an app, too. Keep it simple and stick with it.

Weigh yourself at the same time every day.

I’ve found that I get discouraged easily, so I need something to help me know that I’m making progress. Weighing myself shows me that progress. I started out weighing once a week. However, I saw that my weigh bounced up and down. I discovered that when I weighed affected how much I lost.

I did an experiment and weighed at three different times each day: first thing in the morning, after breakfast (which I eat around 10:30 AM), and right before bedtime. I found out that I weighed differently at each time.

But — my weight was consistent between the similar times. If I weighed right after breakfast every day, I found that my weight loss stayed consistent and continued to trend downward. Also, I was able to see daily success. It might have only been .2 pounds, but knowing that it goes down every day helps me.

Pick a time each day to weigh and stick with it. If you weigh before bed, resist the urge to weigh in the morning. Your weight loss will be more evident. Keep track of your progress to keep yourself motivated. A sticky note on your mirror might be enough.

Accountability keeps you motivated.

So far, I have lost 10 pounds of my 80-pound goal. It has taken 2 months, and I still have a long way to go. I know that I will have setbacks and get discouraged. An accountability partner helps me with that. For me, it’s my husband.

An accountability partner keeps you honest about how much weight you’ve lost and the food you track. They also encourage (perhaps badger you) to get out and exercise, even when you don’t want to. I hate sweating and the heat, so my husband makes sure I go before it gets too hot.

A partner can also exercise with you and talk you through it when you want to give up for lack of progress. Mine even lets me know when the meals I make are getting too carbohydrate heavy or repetitive and boring. Maintaining variety in our diet makes sticking to it much easier.

If you have a friend or a neighbor who is on the same journey, partner up and keep each other going. If you have the money, consider hiring a fitness and nutrition coach. Sometimes you can get those things through a gym membership.

Check with your health insurance company to see if they have any wellness programs that include weight loss coaches. Even your doctor can keep you accountable.

The point is — don’t go it alone.

Stay the course.

Never give up on your desire to be healthy and feel better. You deserve that. When you get off track, reset and start again. It’s okay. You don’t have to be perfect to have success, just stick with it long enough to reach your goals.

  1. Establish an exercise habit.
  2. Keep track of your food intake.
  3. Weigh yourself regularly.
  4. Partner up with someone so you aren’t trying to do it alone.

You are worth the effort and will feel much better when you do. I’ve lost ten pounds so far and already feel so much better.

How awesome it that!


Get my free easy 2–week menu plan to help simplify your life and save money!

Pat Davis, a retired teacher and editor of Simply Living and Living Simply, lives with her husband and neurotic cat, Neko. She loves to read, write, travel, bake, garden, sew, and craft.

Categories
Texas Weather

How to Freeze to Death in Texas

One story of a blue norther and a failing power grid.

I woke up a week ago last Tuesday and decided to place my order for groceries, just in case there was a run on everything like there was in March of 2020 when COVID-19 lockdowns began. I planned ahead, menus for three weeks, groceries, water, snacks, gasoline, anything I could think of.

Good thing I did. Now all the shelves are bare — AGAIN!

Then on Saturday, with the cold front bearing down on us, we went to Braum’s and bought two gallons of milk and a few last minute, just-in-case items. Sunday night, it hit. Wind whistled through our back door for two days.

The news told us to conserve energy. Turn off all lights when we weren’t in the room. Reduce our thermostat to no more than 68°. So we put on more clothing and sat in the dark.

My brother-in-law calls anyone who does not live on the Colorado continental divide ‘snowflakes’. He drives a snow cat for the highway department and regularly clears the roads in rough conditions, but I don’t think even he would have liked our weather. He told me to leave the third world country we live in and move to Colorado.

I am not a snowflake!

This past week, we have lived in fear. Fear that our power would go out in our all-electric home and we would have no heat, hot water and could not even cook hot meals. Our fireplace has tall candles in it with hurricane glass over them because we never, ever use it. Decorative, but useless.

In 36 years, we have never cleaned out the flue and we don’t have a pile of firewood rotting in the backyard. It just attracts termites and carpenter bees. To say we were unprepared is an understatement, but so was our whole state. To be fair, the last time this happened was right before Christmas in 1989.

But wait! We had a power grid problem in 2011. This was not unexpected.

The power grid began to go down by Monday night because the providers failed to adequately predict that we would have such a fierce storm, so had failed to prepare for it by properly weatherizing the supply lines. They chose to save the money it would take to do the work properly, and ERCOT, the entity that oversees the utilities didn’t do proper inspections.

Wind turbines froze. Natural gas lines froze. And millions lost power and are in danger of freezing. Many have been without power and water since Monday night, and today is Friday. What was supposed to be rolling blackouts to preserve our grid became days for millions who lost power.

North Texas broke a record low set in 1989, -2°. People who have been without power for days are now having to wade through water from broken water pipes and try to figure out how to pay for thousands of dollars in damages while already struggling with the financial impact of COVID.

This is on top of a shortage of water caused by the power outages, which required boil orders to be put in place in many North Texas cities.

My friend went without power for 40 hours with temps hovering at 0°. An apartment balcony had three foot icicles hanging from it after a water pipe broke and created a monsoon inside the dwelling. Another friend took his family, including a newborn baby, to his parents Monday night. They are still there.

My son’s employer was without power for more than three days. My church had pipes break in the sanctuary and ministry offices, so we will only have online services for the foreseeable future, and no youth or outreach ministry.

My friends, the energy capital of the U.S. is freezing to death.

Then Thursday morning, we learned that our infamous U. S. senator, Ted Cruz, took his two daughters to Cancun on a long planned trip because their school closed due to the weather. Hmmm, does anyone else have a problem with that last sentence?

And isn’t the U.S. Senate in session? So we are paying him to take a vacation instead of representing us? Why am I not surprised.

Maybe it is time for change on many fronts. Pun intended.


Get my free tool to help you build a routine to manage your time.

Pat Davis, a retired teacher and editor of Simply Living and Living Simply, lives with her husband and neurotic cat, Neko. She loves to read, write, travel, bake, garden, sew, and craft. Top writer in Food and Cooking.

Categories
Recipe

Best Easy Meatloaf Ever

A versatile meatloaf you’ll love.

My meatloaf recipe – Photo by author.

When I was growing up, my mother made meatloaf at least once a week. Since that was one of her seven standard menu choices, I soon grew tired of it. She made it the same way every time, and it was boring. Consequently, I almost never made meatloaf for my family.

Until I discovered you could switch it up and keep it interesting. Here is my basic recipe.

Ingredients — Prep time 10 minutes

1 pound lean ground beef (93/7)
1 cup (8-ounce can) tomato sauce
½ cup diced onion
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon beef bouillon granules (or one cube, crushed)
1 teaspoon Grill Mates Montreal steak spice
⅓ cup plain bread crumbs
1 large egg, beaten
1 teaspoon Worchester sauce

I use a lean ground beef to limit the fat content. Meatloaf is pretty fatty, so I try to use a ground sirloin. In my experience, meatloaf is often surrounded by liquid fat when I remove it from the oven, and using 93/7 eliminates that. Also, using a lower fat meat makes 6 servings instead of four due to shrinkage.

Instructions — Cook time 1 hour

Preheat your oven to 350℉ while you mix up meatloaf. Spray a loaf pan with cooking spray to prevent sticking.

In a medium sized bowl, mix ground beef, ⅔ cup tomato sauce, diced onion, garlic powder, bouillon, steak spice, bread crumbs, egg and Worchester sauce. Combine until well mixed. Transfer to your greased loaf pan. Spread the remaining tomato sauce evenly over the top.

Place the loaf pan on the center rack in your preheated oven and cook for one hour. After one hour, remove the meatloaf and let it rest for 10 minutes before slicing it into 6 serving sizes.

Serve it with your favorite side dishes. I love to make mashed potatoes that I can spoon on top and eat, almost like a shepherd’s pie. You can even spoon leftover mashed potatoes on top instead of using the remaining tomato sauce and bake it that way. The potatoes get a little browned and crispy.

Alternatives

Eating the same kind of meatloaf is boring to me, but there are many ways to change it up.

Mushroom Meatloaf

Instead of using tomato sauce, I add ½ can of cream of mushroom soup concentrate. I leave out the garlic powder but slice up a cup of sliced fresh mushrooms. I put ¼ cup of the mushrooms in the meat mixture and arrange ¼ cup of mushrooms on top.

I make a simple mushroom gravy with the remain ½ cup of the mushrooms. Sautee the remaining mushrooms with a tablespoon of minced onions in 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Then add 2 tablespoons of flour and cook for about 1 minute. Add in one cup of beef broth. stirring constantly. Let it simmer on medium-low heat until it thickens.

This version pairs well with roasted potatoes and vegetables that can be baked while the meat is cooking, making this an easy meal.

Italian Meatloaf

For this version, I leave out the Worchester sauce and steak spice from the original recipe. Instead, I add 1 teaspoon of oregano, ¼ teaspoon of basil and the garlic to the tomato sauce before mixing ⅔ cup into the meat. In addition, I add ¼ cup sliced mushrooms to the meat mixture.

For the topping, I spread the remaining tomato sauce on top and dice a medium-sized tomato to sprinkle over it before baking.

This version is great with minestrone soup and French bread in the wintertime.

Mexican Meatloaf

I didn’t come up with this version because I live in Texas and am a Tex-Mex-a-holic. Okay, well, maybe I did. This is my Tex-Mex version of meatloaf.

I eliminate the tomato sauce, Worchester sauce and steak spice from the original recipe. Instead, I mix in 2 teaspoons of taco seasoning and ⅔ cup Pace picante sauce into the meat mixture. Then, I spread ⅓ cup of Pace picante sauce evenly over the top before baking it. In the last 10 minutes of baking, sprinkle with ¼ cup shredded cheddar cheese and let it finish baking.

We like to have this with charro bean soup, tortillas and Rotel™ cheese dip. 

Put these into your menu rotation

Even if you think you don’t like meatloaf, I urge you to try the variations. I think you will be surprised at how different and tasty they are. If you struggle with menu planning, these four variations will keep the boredom away and make your life easier. You can have meatloaf every week for a month!

You could even switch these up by using ground lamb or chicken in place of the ground beef. I would replace the beef bouillon with chicken or vegetable, and cream of celery soup concentrate instead of the tomato sauce. Rubbed sage, salt and pepper could replace of the steak spice and Worchester sauce.

Bon Appetit!


Get my free easy 2–week menu plan to help simplify your life and save money!

Pat Davis, a retired teacher and editor of Simply Living and Living Simply, lives with her husband and neurotic cat, Neko. She loves to read, write, travel, bake, garden, sew, and craft. Top writer in Food and Cooking.

Categories
Lifestyle

10 Things to Give Thanks for in 2020

It was a difficult year, but we can feel hope.

This year has been so difficult for so many. We have lost so much — family members, jobs, businesses.

But we have many things for which we can be thankful. In a year when depression and anxiety has increased (at least mine has), I find comfort when I make a list of those things, instead of focusing on my losses.

1. We’re alive. 

At the beginning of this year, my father passed away, probably from COVID-19, but we will never know for sure now. His symptoms absolutely matched. The Monday after his funeral, we went into complete lockdown. Isolation didn’t help me through my grief. This is true for most people who lost someone.

But…I’m alive. I have made connections with my family and friends online that is almost as good as in person, just without the hugs. I’ve reached out to two of my aunts that I love dearly and don’t talk to nearly enough. I realized that if I don’t reach out to them, they won’t know I need them, and I won’t know they need me. 

And I want them to know I love them, too.

2. A vaccine is almost here!

Hurrah! This can’t happen soon enough for me. It is going to be my ticket out of my house and into public. Again, millions of Americans (dare I say citizens of the world) will be able to resume a normal life. This return to normalcy is long awaited, and will not go unappreciated.

I may have to wait six months or more before I can take the vaccine, but I will take it. This is my way of being a responsible citizen to this world. It is my way of taking care of those I love. It is also my way of taking care of myself. I am not afraid of this vaccine, I welcome it with open arms. And it is safe.

Soon we can eat out, go to the movies, and take a trip. I can’t wait.

3. Most people survive this deadly virus

Although my father likely died from this disease, I have several friends and family members who contracted it and survived. This is true for millions of people around the world.

My niece, who is a nurse, became sick with it. Her daughter and mother (my sister-in-law) also became ill. It took several weeks, but they finally recovered. 

My aunt, who has rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia, also came down with it. She is what they call a long-hauler with long-lasting after effects, but now she finally tests negative. It may take her a while to get over the remaining symptoms, but she has defeated the virus itself.

Several dear friends also tested positive for it. Some were sick with it, some never felt ill. Either way, they are well now. And so are millions around the world.

4. There has been time for self-reflection

Through this past year, there has been time to slow down and really think about what is important in life. And it sure isn’t what I thought it was, at least in the past. Now I know better.

Politics is not important, fairness is. Things are not important, people are. My personal needs are important, but not at the cost of other’s. I view things now in a broader, more global perspective, rather than egocentrically. I need to become “i” and stand side-by-side with others as equals. These are important.

And I need time to develop my best me — the one that cares deeply about others. That requires me to spend time with myself, just me. And that’s important, too. 

I’m grateful for the time to do that. It’s rejuvenating.

5. We can cultivate a new perspective

Since we have had a contentious election and many marches for justice and equality this year, I have a new appreciation for what my fellow Americans who are people of color suffer. I have generally identified with conservatives, but I realized that it does not always reflect my true thinking.

Now I prefer to think of myself as a moderate humanist. While I realize that no solution to a problem will benefit every single person, I prefer any solution to benefit humanity — to lift us all up to a higher moral plane. I want all Americans to have the same opportunities that I have had.

And it may be up to me to help get them there. I read three books this year that started me down this path — Michelle Obama’s Becoming, Stacy Abram’s Our Time Is Now: Power, Purpose, and the Fight for a Fair America, and Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility: Why it is so Hard for White People to Talk About Racism.

My hope is that I can be more open-minded about the struggles that people of color, the poor, and immigrants face in our country. This country was founded with the idea of freedom for all, but we all must do our part to protect each other’s freedom, not just our own. 

6. We can create, learn, grow, and help others

I found, this year more than before, that focusing on creating something useful, learning something new, growing as a human being, and helping others whenever I see a need is my safety net.

I began creating my writing career. It connected me with a whole community of writers who support me, and who I support. Ninja Writer’s has been a lifeline to the world for me, keeping me connected. I have learned so much from them. 

I can use my writing platform to speak out for justice and equality. I can write to help others build a life they love. And I can write about my growth as a human being because, though I am now retired, I still am imperfect and can be a better person. 

7. New life brings hope

My friend’s baby, born in November. Photo by Abbey Lynes-used with permission.

My friend shared her picture of her new baby, born in November. Isn’t he adorable? I think so. His birth gives me hope.

As I walk through the grocery store, speedily trying to collect what few items I need, I see women bravely bringing new life into this world and I applaud them.

I feel grateful when I hear about the first baby born into each of my community hospitals in the new year. These babies represent our future. New lives brought into our world is the ultimate act of hope, and many have that hope.

8. Everyone loves curbside pickup 

I used to take this service for granted each time I picked up my groceries. Afterall, I paid for the service. True, it did save me at least an hour of my time. Then, in this pandemic, grocery stores began to offer this service for free. And it helped to employ many workers, too.

We began to call in our orders to our favorite restaurants and pick our food up curbside, too. This means that we get a taste of eating out, support the restaurant and ensure continued employment for their staff while still staying safe. I love it.

Then, with the approach of the Christmas shopping season, other stores began to offer this service. What a joy it was to drive up, let them know I was there, and they brought it to me. I hate the shopping scene at any time, but especially at the holidays. Just. Too. Many. People.

Since the holiday season is over, stores continue to offer this service. It makes my life so much easier, not to mention safer. Until my husband and I are able to get that elusive vaccine (at least for us in our community) I will be forever grateful to those stores who offer this.

9. Zoom offers social connection

Throughout this pandemic, Zoom has been a lifeline for me. I miss getting together with family and friends so much. I hadn’t seen my family since November of 2019, and Zoom made it possible to get together safely. We laugh and joke and get to see each other more often than ever before.

I also have calls with my writing groups several times each week, which keeps my social needs satisfied while I improve my writing. We give each other feedback and support, ideas and redirection. We build friendships across the nation and the world that make me eager to see them again at each call.

I am grateful for the social connection that this provides while allowing us to stay safely distanced from each other.

10. Streaming services offer more choices

I don’t have cable and don’t watch much TV, but there are some shows I do enjoy. Our old TV, which wasn’t old enough to get rid of as far as I was concerned, no longer supported anything but Netflix and Vudu. 

For Christmas, I got my husband a new BluRay player, thinking it would more provide options and have less trouble with freezing and dropping the network. It didn’t give us the connectivity that I thought it would. So, the day after Christmas, we bought a smarter Smart TV. 

Now we have hundreds of free watching options in addition to begin able to access Netflix, and Vudu. Now we can get Disney+ (for a fee) and Hulu (also for a fee), if we want. Even though I only watch for about an hour or so in the evenings with my husband, we have gotten to see some great new content.

At a time when we can’t go out to the movies, it’s wonderful that they can stream to us.

Leave me a note in the comments to let me know what are you grateful for in 2020.


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Pat Davis, a retired teacher and editor of Simply Living and Living Simply, lives with her husband and neurotic cat, Neko. She loves to read, write, travel, bake, garden, sew, and craft. Top writer in Food and Cooking on Medium.

Categories
Recipe

Cinnamon Rolls Using Sourdough Discard — or Not!

Make these delicious sourdough discard cinnamon rolls, or use my non-sourdough alternative

I am fascinated by sourdough and using sourdough discard in recipes. I’ve developed a whole list of dishes that use it just so the discard isn’t wasted. I first developed a recipe for biscuits. It was such a success that I was inspired to adapt it to making cinnamon rolls, and this is the result.

Because I wanted to make a sweeter roll, I added additional sugar to my biscuit recipe and reduced the ingredients to make one pan of rolls. I also noticed in researching other cinnamon roll or sticky bun recipes that they often put caramel and nuts in the bottom of the dish. My filling oozes out the bottom as it cooks to create that base for the cinnamon rolls.

Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls

Print this recipe.

Make the dough

Begin by making the dough. This recipe is for using sourdough discard, but I will give the alternative at the end of this section.

Ingredients

1 ¼ cup (142 grams) all-purpose flour, reserve ¼ cup for rolling
2 tablespoons (24 grams) sugar
½ teaspoon (3 grams) salt
4 tablespoons (113 grams) unsalted butter, ice cold
½ cup (113 grams) sourdough starter discard
¼ cup (60 grams) buttermilk

Instructions

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Add the butter. Cut the butter into ½” cubes before trying to mash it into the dry ingredients using the tines of a fork. You will continue to cut the butter into the flour mixture until it looks crumbly. You can use a dough blender, if you have one.

In a separate small bowl or measuring cup, mix together the sourdough starter and buttermilk until it is smooth. Add this to the flour mixture. Using a bowl scraper or spatula, gently mix by pulling the dry ingredients from the bottom of the bowl and pressing the dough down over the top of the ingredients, like folding it over.

You want to continue to mix in this manner until all the dry ingredients are fully incorporated and the mixture holds together without crumbling apart. If it is too wet and sticky, add a tablespoon of flour and mix together. You can add additional flour, if needed, up to two tablespoons. It will still be sticky.

Shape the dough into a rectangular brick and wrap it in plastic wrap or put in a quart size storage bag. Put it in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling. This will allow the butter in the dough to get cold again and make it easier to handle while rolling it out and filling it.

Non-sourdough alternative

Instead of using sourdough discard, add 1 teaspoon (4 grams) of baking powder and ¼ teaspoon (2 grams) of baking soda to the dry ingredients and increase the buttermilk to ⅓ cup (75 grams.) The baking powder and baking soda will act as a leavener in place of the yeast in the sourdough starter.

Make the filling

The filling is the star of this recipe, so you need to have plenty of it. You can also add your favorite add-ins like pecans and raisins, or keep it simple.

Ingredients

¼ cup (48 grams) granulated sugar
¾ cup (144 grams) packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons (28 grams) unsalted butter, melted
⅛ teaspoon (1–2 grams) kosher salt
½ cup (56 grams) chopped pecans — optional
¼ cup (42 grams) raisins — optional

In a medium bowl, mix together the sugar, brown sugar and salt. Pour in the melted butter and stir until well mixed.

Fill the dough

Cinnamon roll filling.

Spread the reserved flour on your countertop. Coat your hands and rolling pin. Remove the dough from your refrigerator and place it on a floured surface. Roll the dough into a 12″ x 12″ square. It will be about ¼” to ½” thick. Sprinkle the filling mixture over the dough, spreading it evenly and leaving a ½” border around the edges. This will make it easier to seal the dough.

Roll up the cinnamon rolls into a log.

If you are adding pecans and raisins, sprinkle them evenly across the dough and slightly press them into it. This will keep them in place as you roll it up. Starting at the edge closest to you, begin by tightly rolling the edge away from you. Continue rolling the dough until you have rolled it into a log. 

Wet your fingertips and lightly moisten the inside edge of the dough. This will help it to stick together and not unwind when you cut it. Smooth the outside of the seam to completely seal it. 

These rolls are ready to proof for 4 hours.

Using a serrated knife, even up each end of the log by cutting off the uneven edges. Then cut 1 ¼” slices along the rest of the roll. You should get 10 slices. Turn them on their sides and place in a greased 9″ round cake pan or pie plate. Cover with plastic wrap and allow the biscuits to proof for 2 to 8 hours.

For proofing these rolls, you have two options. The first is to put them into your oven with the light on for 2 to 4 hours. The second is to allow them to proof overnight in your cool house, if the temperature is lower than 75℉. This will slow the rise and allow you to bake them first thing in the morning.

Non-sourdough alternative

If you are not using sourdough discard, you will omit the rise time and bake these immediately. If you wish to bake them the next morning, you can cover them with plastic and put them in the refrigerator. Remove them from the refrigerator and let warm to room temperature before baking them.

Bake the rolls

These rolls are proofed and ready to bake.

Preheat your oven to 350℉. When it is preheated, place the cinnamon rolls on the center rack in your oven. Remove the plastic wrap and allow the rolls to bake for 20 to 25 minutes. I baked mine in my countertop air fryer/toaster oven combo oven. It has the ability to convection bake, so I set the temperature to 325℉ and let it cook for 20 minutes.

Check the rolls for doneness during the last 5 minutes of baking. The top should be golden brown, but not too dark. If you are using a glass baking dish, the bottoms and sides should also be browned. If they don’t seem to be browning evenly, you can move the pan to a lower rack to make sure the bottoms and sides get that golden color, too.

Make the icing

Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese-Buttermilk Icing.

While the rolls are baking, make the icing. Each roll will get about 1 teaspoon of icing. We like to ice each one when we are ready to eat them. That way we do not have to refrigerate the rolls, and can heat them up without the icing running completely off the roll.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons (28 grams) cream cheese
1 tablespoon (15 grams) buttermilk
2 tablespoons (14 grams) powdered sugar
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

Cream together the cream cheese and the buttermilk, until it is smooth. If the mixture appears lumpy, it helps to microwave it for 10 to 15 seconds and whisk vigorously. Stir in the vanilla extract and powdered sugar until smooth and creamy. It should be slightly runny.

Come and get it

When the cinnamon rolls finish baking, remove one from the dish and place a dollop of icing on top. The heat of the warm roll will melt the icing slightly and cause it to run down the sides. Yummy!

I doubt that there will be leftovers, but if there are, you can store these in the pie plate or cake pan by covering with aluminum foil or plastic wrap. Reheat on high for 15 to 20 seconds in your microwave before topping with the icing. You can also put each roll in a sandwich bag and place in your freezer.

My final thoughts

My first attempt at making these cinnamon rolls browned a little too much on top in my countertop oven before the sides and bottoms were sufficiently browned. They still tasted delicious. Next time, I will try lowering the rack to see if that produces more even results.

In my second attempt at making these, I used my full-sized oven and placed them on the rack at the lowest position in my oven for the first half of the bake. Then, I moved them to the middle rack and rotated the pan 180° to finish baking. The results were perfect.

I can’t wait to make these for Christmas. I will let them rise overnight so we can eat them hot and fresh in the morning. 

Don’t forget to print this recipe.

Merry Christmas and Bon Appetit!


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Pat Davis, a retired teacher and editor of Simply Living and Living Simply, lives with her husband and neurotic cat, Neko. She loves to read, write, travel, bake, garden, sew, and craft. Top writer in Food and Cooking.

Categories
Equality

Dr. Jill Biden Earned Her Degree


It is not an honorific, Mr. Epstein, unlike yours.

Shame on you, Wall Street Journal, for perpetuating misogynistic behavior towards women. This Op-Ed is a disgrace to your prestigious reputation and to our society in general. What were you thinking?


Opinion | Is There a Doctor in the White House? Not if You Need an M.D.
Madame First Lady-Mrs. Biden-Jill-kiddo: a bit of advice on what may seem like a small but I think is a not unimportant…www.wsj.com


As a middle-class, generally conservative (but maybe more progressive than I used to be) woman, I am completely offended at this article. In college, taking journalism classes, I was taught that our media had ethical responsibilities to its readership and society. But more and more, those ethical standards are missing.

I understand that this is an opinion piece, but in printing this piece, the Wall Street Journal showed poor judgement at best and certainly malfeasance. No paper should print anything that creates an injustice toward another human being. Printing this is an injustice to half of all Americans — women.

Dr. Jill Biden is a hard working woman who earned her master’s degrees and then her doctorate in Education. And yes, there will be a doctor in the White House, just not a medical doctor. Mr. Epstein, who by-the-way only holds an honorary degree, purports that only an M.D. is a real doctor.

But there other kinds of doctors — Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy,) and Ed.D. (Doctor of Education.) Scholars who earn those titles (and it is not an honorific if you earn it) also use the title of doctor. It is their right to use it because they have worked hard to earn it. Dr. Biden should proudly use it, too.

And no, Mr. Bawer, this is not about the ‘Cancel Culture’ ranting and raving about nonsense. This is about equality and equity. I know women who earned their masters degrees in engineering who were the first to lose their jobs during workforce reductions and were not able to find work in the field they love. Others have been told they do not hold their degree at all, despite the diploma that proves otherwise.


In Defense of Joseph Epstein on Dr Jill Biden | City Journal
You’re nobody nowadays until you’ve been canceled. It’s the new new thing. To be stripped in one fell swoop of every…www.city-journal.org


This is about standing up to hundreds of years of women being put down or held back. Good men will no longer allow this to happen to women, nor will they condone it when another man does it. If she were a man, this would not have been said.

And although our constitution guarantees everyone in the U.S. the right to Freedom of Speech, that does not mean that newspapers should print it. Would the WSJ have printed an op-ed piece that spouted Klu Klux Klan rhetoric? I highly doubt it. Nor should they. This piece is in the same vein.

Women’s rights in America

We celebrate our country’s independence July 4, 1776. It took almost 150 years before women had the right to vote — August 26, 1920, just 15 years before my mother was born. Even through the 30’s and 40’s, women had to give up their jobs after they became wives, tying them financially to a man.

Why? So that they didn’t take a job from a man. Even when they were employed, the most acceptable professions were those of teacher and nurse. Today, women still make $.70 on the dollar compared to men. Let’s not forget how disproportionately COVID-19 has impacted women’s economic stability.

As a retired teacher (I taught for 23 years in public schools), I have often been frustrated that I had no voice, even in my own profession. Our mostly male representatives pass laws that affect us, and often not for the better.

Women, by far, are the largest group of Americans who live below the poverty line. I am unable to draw social security I earned because of laws related to my states teacher’s pension. Because of the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP), I lose ⅔rds of what I should draw, even from my husband’s.

I could qualify for food stamps and Medicaid without my husband’s financial support.

During the 1970’s, there was a little amendment to our constitution that somehow never could get ratified — The Equal Rights Amendment. The biggest stumbling block? The idea that women might have to fight on the front lines in a war. Really?

My mother’s response to that was, “Well, why is it so much better that a man is shot at?” And, of course, it is not better. Why shouldn’t a woman be expected to defend her own country. If the fighting came to our doors, she would have to, so train her how to do it.

Under-representation of women in politics

Women seem to have great difficulty getting elected to office. In my own town, our city council is made up of men. This past election, we had four women run against these incumbents. Not one was elected. Why? Good question. Even my city government lacks the diversity of the community.

At the national level, although women represent half of all Americans, there are fewer than 25% in Congress (25% in the Senate, 23.2% in the House.) Why? Could it be because our two-party system doesn’t seek out qualified female candidates? Do the parties work to support them to run for office?

That is one possibility, but there is another. That women who might run, don’t because they will have to face the kind of ridicule put forth against Dr. Biden. And they would likely be correct in that concern. Haven’t we seen women who stand their ground and represent their constituents put down in Congress?

Or — they may feel unqualified because after being told they are not enough all their lives, they may believe it. This is the biggest injustice. Women have the capability of mind that men have, even if they may not have the same size or physical strength due to lack of testosterone to build muscles.

Women can be scientists, mathematicians, doctors, lawyers, and politicians. They can do things that men are not biologically capable of doing, giving birth, which I would argue shows how strong they truly are. My mother-in-law used to say that if the man had the first child and the woman had the second, there would not be a third.

Sarah Olson Michel said it well in her post about this same article. It’s worth your read as well.Why Jill Biden’s Doctoral Degree Angers People
It’s so much more than misogyny.readmorescience.medium.com

Women’s Rights Matter

So we must remember, as we fight for equality and justice for all, to defend your grandmother’s, mother’s, sister’s, daughter’s, neice’s, and wife’s rights as well as those who have more recently demonstrated in large numbers.

Don’t be silent about this treatment of women. Don’t sit back and just take it. Don’t allow the women in your life to be undervalued. Be the change women need to be treated equally.

Women’s rights matter, too.


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Pat Davis, a retired teacher and editor of Simply Living and Living Simply, lives with her husband and neurotic cat, Neko. She loves to read, write, travel, bake, garden, sew, and craft. Top writer in Food and Cooking.

Categories
Recipe

Honey Oatmeal Bread Made with Love

My grandma’s oatmeal bread recipe is a family favorite.

When I was a little girl, I remember waking up to the smell of fresh bread that my mother had baked that morning. She would cut me a thick slice, still warm, and generously smear butter on it. This loaf of bread would not stay around long because when I wanted a snack, I would eat this every time.

I watched my mom make this bread, but it wasn’t until I was an adult that my grandma taught me how to make bread of any kind. Her yeast rolls are what my family requests me to bring to our large Thanksgiving dinners, though we haven’t met during this pandemic.

Because of the pandemic, I was forced to find an alternative to using store bought yeast for this recipe because I simply couldn’t buy it. After much research, I developed my own wild yeast levain, also known as sourdough starter. After building it up through regular feedings, I could make bread.

While I built up my starter, I did research on how to use it to make bread. Since my starter is made with all-purpose flour and not rye flour, it has a sweeter taste to it, so it is much less sour than normal sourdough, but it does contribute some of that lovely flavor. Here is the recipe I follow.

Honey Oatmeal Bread Recipe

Print this recipe, which also has the original version using store-bought yeast.

Start with a poolish mix — Mixture 1

A poolish mix is used to give your wild yeast stamina and strength. This is the equivalent to dissolving your store-bought yeast in warm water and adding a bit of sugar to make it start rising. While store bought yeast does this within minutes, it takes several hours for the poolish mix to develop. 

It is worth the wait.

Before I begin making the poolish mix, I make sure I have fed my starter that morning, usually about 4 to 6 hours before. This insures that the yeast is highly active, which makes the poolie more robust.

Poolish Ingredients

⅓ cup (75 grams) water
½ cup (75 grams) flour
⅔ cup (150 grams) wild yeast starter, fed within the last 8 hours

In a 3-cup bowl, mix the starter and water. Stir in the flour until it is well combined. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 4 to 6 hours. During this time, you will see it rise to about double its original height. If you want, you can start this before you go to bed and let it rise overnight.

Create your oat base — Mixture 2

As this is oatmeal bread, this part of the recipe is the star. You want to use rolled oats, not instant, as they hold up better, absorb less water, and give the bread a better texture. I use Quaker Old Fashioned rolled oats, but you can use whatever brand you prefer.

Oatmeal base ingredients

1 ¾ cups (413 grams) boiling water
1 cup (80 grams) rolled oats
2 tablespoons (28 grams) unsalted butter

Mix water, oats and butter in a large bowl and let stand for 30 minutes before adding the remaining ingredients.

2 ½ teaspoons (15 grams) kosher salt
½ cup (168 grams) honey (or molasses or raisins)

Mix together until well combined.

Mix it all together

Stir the poolish mix (mixture 1) into the oat mix (mixture 2.) Continue to stir until thoroughly mixed together before beginning to add the flour.

Remaining ingredient

5 ¼ cups (746 grams) flour

Begin adding flour gradually, mixing a half cup at a time until the dough is soft and not too sticky. Reserve 1 ½ to 2 cups (220–300 grams) from the total amount of flour (5 ¼ cups) for kneading.

At this point the dough will be very tacky, so you will need to use the reserved flour on the counter and your hands before you start to knead the bread. Spread about ¼ to ½ cup of flour on your counter. If you have a marble or stone surface to knead the dough, use it. It works great.

Knead the dough — this is not scary, I promise!

Scrape the dough from your bowl onto the floured surface. Fold the dough toward you and press down firmly with the ball of your hand, pushing away from you. The dough will feel somewhat resistant to being pushed. Lift the dough and rotate ¼ turn, then repeat the fold and push technique.

When the dough sticks to your countertop, use a bench scraper to help you lift it, if you have one. Then, spread another ¼ cup of flour onto your counter. Also, sprinkle some of the flour on top of the dough so your hands don’t stick too much.

Keep turning and pushing until the dough becomes soft, doesn’t stick to the countertop easily, and can be formed into a boulle. I find that this takes about 10 minutes. It is okay if you do not use up all your reserved flour. Too much flour makes the bread dense and not rise.

Let it rise

On the top, you can see how my unrisen dough holds its shape in a boulle. On the bottom, you can see that it has doubled in size.

Now it is time for the bulk rise, when you allow all the dough to rise in one large batch. I usually wash the large bowl that I mixed the bread in for this. Before putting the dough into the bowl, generously grease it with Crisco. Set the dough into the bowl, press it down, and then flip it over to coat both sides.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. This keeps the dough from drying out. You want the bulk rise to take 8 to 10 hours, so place the bowl in a cool place (72°F to 75°F.) Because wild yeast is less robust than store-bought, it takes much longer to double in size, which is what it needs to do.

Form and proof the loaves

Once the dough has doubled in size, it is time to form the loaves. I found that it is best to treat the dough gently from this point forward. Do not punch down the dough or press all the air out of it. Because wild yeast is delicate, you will want to keep as much of the rise in the dough as you can.

Spread about 2 tablespoons of flour on your work surface or countertop. Gently tip the bowl to allow the dough to roll onto the floured surface. This recipe makes two loaves, so you will need a knife or bench scraper to divide the dough into two halves. Set one half aside while you work with the other.

Gently stretch the dough into a rectangle that is about the same width as your loaf pan. My loaf pan is 9″ long, so my rectangle is roughly 12″ long by 9″ wide. Be sure you have generously greased your loaf pans with shortening.

Begin rolling away from you, with the 9″ side facing you.

With the 9″ side (width of your pan) facing you, begin rolling the dough into a log, pushing away as you roll the dough. With the seam side down, gently tuck under the ends as you lift the log and scoop it into your loaf pan.

Repeat this process with the remainder of your dough. Cover the loaves with plastic wrap and allow them to proof for 4 to 10 hours.They should double in size. The slower they proof, the better the flavor. You can prepare them at night and let them proof while you sleep and bake in the morning.

The loaves on the top are ready to proof and the loaves on the bottom have proofed for 4 hours in my oven.

There are two options for proofing the bread. The first, and in my opinion the easiest, is to form the loaves before going to bed and letting them proof overnight. This allows the bread to be baked first thing in the morning. It’s lovely to have fresh bread for breakfast.

The second option is to form the loaves in the morning and proof them in your oven. If you don’t have a proofing oven, simply place a pan of boiling water in the bottom of your full-sized oven and turn on the interior light. This will allow the bread to rise within 2 to 4 hours. Then bake as usual.

Bake the bread

Preheat your oven to 325°F. Be sure to remove the plastic wrap from your loaf pans before baking the bread. Before you bake your bread, you will want to split the top using a sharp knife or a bread lame and brush it with a tablespoon of melted butter to help it brown.

Split the top of the loaf using a sharp knife or lame. Angle the knife/lame at a 45° angle and score it quickly.

I like to put a pan of boiling water in the bottom of my oven for the first 30 minutes of the baking time. Remove the water for the last half. This helps create a crispy crust on the bread. Bake the bread for 45 minutes to 1 hour. After 45 minutes, begin to test the interior temperature of your bread. Once it reaches 200°F, it is done. 

If you don’t have a kitchen thermometer, thump the top of the loaf with your fingers. (Like your mom used to do to your ear when you were misbehaving in a store.) If it sounds hollow and the top and sides are browned, it is done.

Don’t be afraid of making bread at home

I know that many people are intimidated by making bread at home. I promise, with a little practice, you will find success. Using the wild yeast is a little bit more advanced than using store-bought yeast, so try my original recipe while you learn. Then, once you are more confident, give the converted recipe a try.

If at first you don’t succeed, try try again. Don’t forget to print this converted recipe and original version.

Bon Appetit!


Print my free handy-dandy list of ingredient weights to help you cook with consistency!

Pat Davis, a retired teacher and editor of Simply Living and Living Simply, lives with her husband and neurotic cat, Neko. She loves to read, write, travel, bake, garden, sew, and craft. Top writer in Food and Cooking on Medium.

Categories
Recipe

Quick and Easy Chicken Alfredo

This dish is on the table in under 30 minutes.

I love when I am able to make a dish from start to table in 30 minutes or less. I especially love it when I am able to use fresh ingredients because I feel like I am serving my family better food. But fresh ingredients doesn’t mean I don’t find shortcuts that still allow me to control what goes into the food.

My chicken Alfredo is a mostly homemade dish that is a crowd-pleaser in my house. I have served it for dinner parties, unexpected dinner guests and just for us. It is a great way to use up leftover chicken, or even canned premium white meat chicken. It is quick, easy, and tasty. Win-win-win! My favorite.

Quick and Easy Chicken Alfredo Recipe

Print this recipe.

The chicken

You can use any kind of pre-cooked chicken that you have. I have use my leftover roasted chicken. Sometimes, I bulk-grill chicken along with other meats when I grill out, and I can use that. Or I quickly bake a chicken breast in my air-fryer before going to work. Sometimes, I have used canned chicken.

Each kind will give a different flavor, but it will always taste great. My recipe feeds three people, which can easily be doubled or tripled for more guests, or divided into servings for quick lunches.

Ingredients — 5 minute prep time

¾ pound shredded precooked chicken (2 cups)
½ cup diced onion (about 1 small onion)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil 
½ cup of sliced mushrooms, about 3–4 caps (optional)
½ jar of Bertolli Alfredo sauce (about 1 cup)
2 cups farfalle (bow-tie) pasta(uncooked)
Salt and pepper to taste

Before you begin cooking, you want to start boiling your water for the pasta. If you prefer, you can substitute thin egg noodles, linguini, or plain spaghetti noodles for the farfalle. Add a teaspoon of kosher salt to the water. This will salt the noodles while they cook, but you will pour off most of it.

Cooking the dish — 15 minutes

While you wait for your water to boil, prepare your diced your onion and any side dishes you wish to have. This meal pairs well with a salad and breadsticks or New York® garlic toast from the freezer section at your store. We often make Pillsbury® crusty French bread, so I start that first.

When the water starts to boil, drop in your pasta and start baking the bread. In a 10-inch skillet, saute the onion until translucent, about 3–5 minutes. Add the shredded chicken, mushrooms, salt and pepper. Cover and heat through.

Check the doneness of the pasta. Once it is almost cooked (al dente — where the outside is tender but there is a slight firmness to the very inner part of the pasta), remove it from the heat, but do not drain it. You will need to reserve half a cup of the pasta water to thin the Alfredo sauce.

Add the Alfredo sauce to the chicken mixture and heat until bubbly. Drain the pasta, but reserve a half cup of the water to mix into the chicken when you add the pasta. This will allow the sauce to create an even coat over the pasta. Stir in the pasta and reserved water and mix until all ingredients are coated.

Serve it with a salad and garlic bread and you have a quick, tasty meal.

Get the kids to eat their veggies!

You can add a cup of veggies to this to add color and variety to this dish. Fresh or frozen broccoli florets can be sauteed with the onions, or you can add a can of drained English peas, fresh baby spinach or kale when you add the sauce to the chicken.

This dish is great to serve at a dinner party. Your guests will be impressed, but you won’t spend all your time in the kitchen.

Don’t forget to print this recipe.

Bon Appetit!


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Pat Davis, a retired teacher and editor of Simply Living and Living Simply, lives with her husband and neurotic cat, Neko. She loves to read, write, travel, bake, garden, sew, and craft. Top writer in Food and Cooking.