Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Summer Sun Tea

Summer time is here, or at least I wish.

Whenever we get a few sunny days, I crave summer. I want fresh sun-warmed tomatoes, salads with shaved radish and carrots from our garden. Burgers on the grill that we enjoy at our patio table.

Spring is peeking around the last corner of winter, warming the sun spots in my yard. But here in Minnesota, we're farther than I'd like until summer food and fun becomes a daily reality. SO I have a few coping strategies to help my summer deprived self wait out the weather.

The one I'll tell you about today is Sun Tea. Basically summer captured in a jar. I remember coming home from school late in the year, when we were all itching for school to be over, to a jar set out by my dad. The sun shining through the amber liquid just seemed to whisper...I'm almost here, trust I'm coming ~Summer.

Now you have to have a sunny day to make it, which is why I don't have any pictures of a finished product. The tug-of-war between warm and cold has shifted again with flurries in our forecast.

It's an easy recipe- put water, tea bags, sugar, and lemon in your preferred proportions in a clear jar or clear covered pitcher and let the sun warm the water and brew the tea. (Remember sugar+lemon+water=lemonade so put more sugar and lemon and you're making an Arnold Palmer! Yum!)

You do have to be careful with leaving it out too long if there's sugar in it.** (I'm mainly saying this as a legal disclaimer that if you leave it out for a LONG time, like days, please don't sue me for getting sick off of it :D )** I think you'll be hard pressed to wait out the anticipation for four hours because this is so good you'll want it asap.

I like putting black tea along with a fruity herbal tea so I get the strong color and taste but the lightness of the herbal tea.

Find a sunny spot and let it sit there for a few hours. Four hours normally does quite nicely, on a hot day it may be finished even quicker. I have a stone patio that gets marvelously warm in the sun so I put it there to make the process faster.

Also, add vodka, sparkling wine, or other alcohol after it is finished and you have a fun summer cocktail.

This easy, fun treat will have you pulling up a lounge chair in anticipation of summer as you sip it in delight.
God Love You
Enjoy Life

Summer Sun Tea

1/2 cup sugar
3 tea bags (vary type of tea to create your own blend)
2 Tablespoons lemon juice (I'll use a sliced lemon if I have one)
1/2 gallon water (or enough to fill the container)

Set out in the sun...for a while (4 hours is fine)
After the tea has brewed, the sugar might not have dissolved, but a quick shake or stir should take care of that.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Facing a Change

Taking time for myself has always been hard. When I was younger and lived with my parents and siblings, I didn't feel like I could ask to do things because there were so many of us. I am the middle of five and when I stared being the age when activities ramp up, my older sisters were in college and my youngest brother was a toddler. My parents both worked at the college my sisters attended and we had built a new house. Money wasn't tight, but it wasn't free flowing either. I learned quickly to limit the things I asked for because not everything was going to be funded.

Then, as always, I went to an extreme. I, for some reason, decided to not make my parents spend any money on me. I had only a small scope of the expenses they incurred. I did not account for water, insurance, or electricity to name a few. I did make sure to not to ask for special snacks, gadgets, clothes, or extracurricular activities. If I did have to have them spend money, I got things on clearance and did the minimum activities possible.

This did more to make me dislike sports because of refusing to get the proper equipment or doing things where I would have to buy equipment. I missed out on fun optional field trips because i didn't want to burden them more. None of this was supported by my parents. when they found out what I was doing, they sat me down and let me know it was actually causing burdens, on them and me, by trying not to be a burden (my paraphrase of the conversation).

In college, my school came first. I rarely did things to make me happy. Normally my choices were fueled by either how it impacted my grades or by why I thought others would see and how they would judge me.

I started telling myself the lie that if everyone was happy, I wouldn't need to look after myself.

I'm realizing now as time has flown at breakneck speed, valuing myself and keeping my spiritual, emotional, and physical health a priority are my biggest weaknesses.

I want to change that.

I want, for the sake of all the people I love, to be healthy. Not bowing to what I think people think of me, but working out myself with fear and trembling in the lap of my loving Savior. If he  has valued me, I have to value me. He deserves seeing me , his child, thriving in the life he gave me.

So I choose to run, literally I've started running. I choose to make what I enjoy making without the anxiety of, "will people buy it?" clouding my mind. I choose to eat when my body needs nutrients, an cry and laugh when I need to. I choose to make things I enjoy, because God made me to make. I choose to be who he has made me in the life he has given me.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Beautiful Bread

Our family is a bread family. We just are, there's bread and butter at the table nearly every night. We love great bread.

Even more so, I've come to love baking our bread. I used to shy away from a loaf bread because I could never get it to rise correctly. It would be either flat and dense or too light to stand up to sandwich use. I was ready to throw in the towel, then I stumbled across the Easy French Bread recipe in my More With Less cookbook. I started out making it as written in french loaves but soon realized I could replace our store bought sandwich bread with this easy bread. 

I experimented, never truly failing because we ate all the bread (even though one batch I made into breadcrumbs and croutons). After making a few changes to the recipe, this is what I've come to. Please try my recipe but feel free to make your own substitutions, that's half the fun:

8 cups flour (all purpose is fine but bread flour makes a huge difference in the elasticity of the dough since it has more protein)
1/8 cup (2 Tablespoons) dry yeast (I buy a 2 pound package for $5 at Sam's Club and we use that up in about 2 years. You can also just use two of the square packets of yeast)
1/8 cup (2 Tablespoons) liquid fat (I use olive oil but you can use any liquid fat like melted coconut oil or butter, it will change the taste slightly)
1/8 cup (2 Tablespoons) sugar (I use honey, but all that's important is that there is sugar to feed the yeast and make a nice fluffy bread) 
2 1/2 cups whey drained from making Greek yogurt (Yes, I make my own yogurt. Yes, I will be writing about it later. Yes, I understand almost no one has this lying around the house.)
OR 2 1/2 cups filtered water* (Filtering water removes the chlorine in city water which can kill the yeast)

Combine flour, yeast, oil, and honey in an electric mixer equipped with a dough hook. Turn on to speed setting just above lowest Stir setting (on mine this is #2)

Slowly pour whey (or water) as the mixer is going and let it knead the dough until nothing is sticking to the sides (about 5 min)

Take dough out of bowl and spray bowl with cooking spray. Replace dough and spray the top with cooking oil. 

Cover with a cloth and let rise for 1 1/2 hours in a warm place. 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Punch down (really more like a poke is fine) and divide into 2 or 3 sections. 
These sections normally pan out for us (haha, pan pun intentional) perfectly in 2 regular loaves that peek out over the edge of the pan and a pizza crust; or two large loaves that pop up over, sometimes overflowing the pan, if you forget about them...not that I've ever done that.

When oven is preheated, put sections of dough into greased loaf pans. 
Bake for 35 minutes** until golden brown and hollow sounding when you thump the top of the loaf. 
Remove from pan and allow to cool on wire rack

The heel of a fresh baked loaf of bread that has been slathered in butter is ecstasy; so please, take this chance to enjoy this delicacy with gusto. 

God Loves You
Enjoy Life


*adjust baking time to 30 min
** If using water, baking time will be shorter