Easy Pancake Recipe

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I recently bought self-rising flour so that my daughter could use it in baking recipes that call for it.  It streamlines things, with less measuring.  This is the girl who takes an hour, plus cooking time, to make muffins.

Then I tried it in my favorite pancake recipe, which claims to taste like IHOP pancakes.  I don’t know, I thought they were better.   To me, IHOP pancakes have a slight whang to them, like pancakes from mix.

Using self-rising flour worked great.  I have also made a couple of other changes over time to make the recipe taste better/work better for me.

Easy Pancakes (click for PDF)

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups self-rising flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 1/3 cups milk*
1 1/2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1.Mix the milk and vinegar together and let sit for 5 minutes.
2.Stir together the self-rising flour and sugar in a medium mixing bowl.
3.Mix egg with the sour milk, melted butter, and vanilla.
4.Add to flour mixture and stir until just until smooth.
5.Heat a greased griddle on medium heat. You can tell the griddle is hot enough when a drop of water flicked onto the griddle dances around.
6.Reduce heat slightly.
7.Using a measuring cup as a scoop, pour about 1/4 cup batter onto the griddle. Cook until bubbles rise to the surface of the batter and pop, leaving holes.
8.Flip the pancake and cook until the other side is golden brown.
9.Place the pancakes on a plate in a warm oven to keep them warm while the rest of the pancakes are cooking.

Serves 4, or maybe 6, or maybe 2. Depends on if you are feeding toddlers or lumberjacks.

* Note: The original recipe calls for buttermilk, and you may substitute buttermilk for the vinegar and milk. However, buttermilk is thicker than sour milk, and you may also have to add a few tablespoons of water if the batter is too thick.

Two Winter Bulletin Boards

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I recently decided to put up new bulletin boards at the church building.  The spring bulletin boards were still up in November, and I thought it was about time for a change.  I originally found both of these on Pinterest, but I added my own twists that I thought might be useful to others.


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The original snowman board is here.  Our snowman bulletin board doubles as an attendance chart for the children’s class, with the children adding a different feature to the snowmen each time they come to class.  I traced three different sizes of paper plates onto construction paper to make the snowmen, though using the paper plates themselves would have been easier if we’d had enough of each size.  I drew one hat freehand and then traced it onto different colors of construction paper.  The final touch was a cotton ball stapled to the end of the hat for a pom-pom.

To streamline the process of adding pieces to the snowmen each week, I made a plastic baggie for each child containing the buttons (for eyes and buttons), twigs (for arms), and a construction paper carrot (nose).  We use glue dots to attach the pieces, except for the twigs which I thought might work better with strips of regular tape. The kids really enjoy adding to their snowman each week.


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The original for the “God’s Love” board is here (second down).  It’s hard to tell, but it seems like the original has names on each of the mugs.  I decided to print a scripture out and put on each mug.  This was the fourth and final bulletin board I did, and my enthusiasm was flagging, but finding the scriptures about God’s love was exciting and made this a really meaningful project for me.

To make the mugs, I found a mug template online that I liked and enlarged it to a good size, then printed it directly on sheets of construction paper to be cut out.  The background is a snowman wrapping paper I found at Dollar Tree.  Wrapping paper is much cheaper than the paper sold specifically for bulletin board backgrounds.  Actually, Dollar Tree is also where I got the letters and the shiny border. These are the scriptures I used:

  • Romans 5:8
  • Psalm 103:11
  • Hebrews 13:5
  • 1 John 3:1a
  • Psalm 86:15
  • John 15:13
  • Isaiah 49:15
  • 1 John 4:9
  • Romans 8:38,39
  • Isaiah 41:13

I really encourage you to look them up even if you aren’t going to do the bulletin board, they’re amazing. Doing all of these bulletin boards, when I’d done a lifetime total of maybe two before, gave me a real appreciation for all of the Bible class teachers and other ladies out there who do new bulletin boards on a regular basis.

Prayer Journaling – some thoughts and links

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Prayer is one of our primary resources as Christians, and yet I often feel that my prayer life is a disorganized shambles.  It is extremely rare that I go an entire day without praying (Thanks Mom, for instilling the bedtime prayer habit!) but so many of my prayers are quickie prayers, the mental equivalent of a jotted post-it note, and I often forget important things that I should be praying for.  If I pray at bedtime, I have a bad habit of falling asleep halfway through.

Enter the prayer journal, which I’ve kept with varying levels of success over the years.  I recently started trying to keep a prayer journal again, though I sort of dropped it in all the busyness of Christmas.  I felt the difference, though.

I have a hard time keeping my thoughts reined in while I pray.  I forget I’m supposed to be talking to God, and start worrying about things that need done or the movie I watched last night.  Then I get back to prayer, but before I know it, my mind is wandering around again.  Prayer journals really help me both keep focused and remember all of the prayer requests from church and things that I have to be thankful for (and did you know gratitude has health benefits?).

I also find that praise is one of the most sorely lacking aspects in my prayers.  Neal Pollard has an article entitled Praise Ideas for Prayer that really gave me some good ideas on that.

If I list too many things, I tend to get into a “going down the list” mentality, though, instead of taking the time to truly pray about each item.  For this reason, I try to limit my daily list.  There are always a few things that don’t get written down that I pray about anyway as they occur to me, but limiting myself in this way helps me pray more thoroughly and meaningfully.  I recently read an article that suggested giving each day a topic (family, the lost, the church, etc.) to focus on, and I think I will be trying that in the coming year, too.

And now that I’m out of things to say about prayer journals, I’ll leave you with two more links.

Come Fill Your Cup had an article and challenge on prayer journaling that really has some good ideas: Prayer Journal – Let It Overflow

For Christmas I made several small notebooks to give to people, intended for use as prayer journals, like the one pictured above, which I kept for myself.  I used the tutorial here at Damask Love.  As far as bookbinding goes, it is easy and fast, involves very little glue, and yet still has enough pages to be worthwhile. I used some patterned card stock and chalkboard-style stickers from Hobby Lobby, and I thought they turned out really cute.

Review – The Children’s Baking Book, by Denise Smart

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20141023_094555I recently realized my daughter is about the age I was when I started baking muffins all by myself for 4-H.  She’s not in 4-H, but I thought she might be able to do some more independent baking, so I started looking up recipes online and looking at children’s cookbooks.

The Children’s Baking Book is one I saw on Amazon and fell in love with just because it has such pretty photographs.  But like anything, it got mixed reviews, so I didn’t order it right then.  Especially with cookbooks, I’ve found that I would rather borrow the book from a library or a friend before forking over the money for a book I may not end up liking or using.  I’m very glad my library had this book.

The pictures are beautiful, and each recipe has both a list of ingredients and a list of tools/equipment used at the beginning of each recipe.  Photos illustrate many of the steps, which is especially helpful for beginners.

But, and this is a major but, the book seems to have been published in the UK first (DK Publishing is based in the UK, but is also part of the Penguin Group, which publishes internationally), and the measurements were originally, I think, all by weight.  When it was changed over to volume measurements for the United States, you end up with some odd amounts and artifacts of the process, and some measurements are still by weight.

For example, one muffin recipe called for 1/4 oz. of brown sugar.  I have a scale, so I could have weighed it out, but my daughter isn’t used to measuring by weight. She just saw the 1/4 and put in 1/4 cup.  It didn’t hurt the final product, but out of curiosity I weighed out 1/4 oz. brown sugar, and it was about a teaspoon.

There are also some odd measurements (like 7/8 cup) that are difficult for someone without a firm grasp of fractions other than quarters and halves.  One recipe called for 5 oz. of water, which is an odd number that isn’t marked on either of my liquid measuring cups.  Since the mL measurement was given in parenthesis, I had her use that instead, as one of my measuring cups is marked in mL as well.

I also found that some recipes weren’t well laid out.  The orange poppy-seed muffins recipe had zesting the oranges in the first step, but not how much to zest.  Orange zest was only listed as an ingredient in the glaze, so I had my daughter zest that amount.  Then, in a fit of cleaning zeal, I threw the orange rinds in the trash.  Halfway through the recipe, it mentions that we need to stir 1 tbsp. of zest into the batter, as well.  Yes, I should have read the recipe better, but in my opinion, the recipe should have listed the 1 tbsp. zest in the ingredients list for the muffins.

Another thing was self-rising flour.  Several recipes called for it, so I bought some.  It turns out that self-raising flour (as they call it) in the UK has a lower percentage of added salt than self-rising flour in the U.S.  So the muffins were saltier than I like.

Overall, if this were a cookbook for myself, I would have probably gone ahead and bought it.  I can deal with odd measurements and hybrid weight-volume issues.  All of my cookbooks end up with scribbled notes and adjustments anyway.  However, for my eight-year old, I want something that she can follow step by step without help, and obtain an edible result.  When she has mastered the basics of volume measurement, the most commonly used type of recipe for this country, then she can worry about weight measurements and hybrids of the two.

I think we made three of the recipes – pizza dough and two kinds of muffins.  The pizza dough and the first muffin recipe, which didn’t use self-rising flour, turned out good, but the orange-poppyseed muffins were too salty, as I mentioned.

Lemon Zucchini Bread: Thank you, Internets!

20140730_113457Awhile back, I had a huge zucchini that my mom gave me and I didn’t want it to go bad.  I looked in every cookbook I own, and all I found for zucchini bread was something that used boxed spice cake mix.  Not what I was looking for.

Then I went on Facebook and serendipitously one of my friends had posted a link to this Glazed Lemon Zucchini bread at Lil’ Luna.  The dearest husband loves lemon breads, so I thought it looked like a great candidate.  Then I read the recipe and realized I had no lemon zest, no buttermilk, and no cake flour.

I have a standard substitution for buttermilk that I use all the time, since I hardly ever keep it on hand.  1 tablespoon vinegar per cup of milk, let it set five minutes or so.  It isn’t as thick as buttermilk, but it thickens up a little and has the acid that baking soda recipes need.

Awhile back I needed cake flour for an actual cake, so I knew that all-purpose flour sifted together with some cornstarch would work, and a quick google search refreshed my memory of exactly how much cornstarch.  Another google search also revealed that 1/2 tsp. lemon extract would substitute for the lemon zest called for in the recipe.

Then I was in business.  The bread turned out really good.  Sometimes I think about how the Internet has changed how I cook, and what I cook, and it is pretty amazing.  I have quite a few cookbooks (and there are more all the time) but I rely heavily on the Internet for “quick, what can I make with ______” questions, and substitutions, and the mouthwatering descriptions and pictures of food on blogs are often the impetus for me to cook foods I haven’t tried before, especially foods from other countries, much more so than simply reading through recipes in a cookbook.

Come to the Waters

TreeStreamI used to think the Old Testament was boring.  Well, except parts of Genesis and the book of Judges.  While my eyes still glaze over at the genealogies, the more I study, the more my appreciation for the Old Testament grows.  There are so many connections between the Old and New, so many passages that can only be understood fully if you understand the Old Testament roots.  There are up to 500 Old Testament references in the book of Revelation.

Besides that, the Old Testament can show us the character of God more fully, not only his uncompromising righteousness, but also his grace, his lovingkindness and willingness to forgive his people over and over.

A particular passage in Isaiah has been resonating with me for a couple of months now:

“Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters;
And you who have no money come, buy and eat.
Come, buy wine and milk
Without money and without cost.
 “Why do you spend money for what is not bread,
And your wages for what does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,
And delight yourself in abundance.

(Isaiah 55:1,2) NASB

What a wonderful picture of the grace God planned to offer through his son Jesus. What a wonderful expression of his abundance.  It is only in the last week that I realized this is also (possibly) one of the Old Testament references in Revelation.

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.

(Revelation 22:17) NASB

I’ve come across a couple of quotes recently that I felt also connected with the passage in Isaiah:

“We are bankrupt – we have nothing with which to pay.  To show grace is to extend favor to one who doesn’t deserve it and can never pay it back.” 

— Allen Webster, “Salvation Is Free But It Is Not Cheap”

“Pleasure without God, without the sacred boundaries, will actually leave you emptier than before.  And this is a biblical truth, this is experiential truth.  The loneliest people in the world are amongst the wealthiest and most famous who found no boundaries within which to live.  This is a fact I’ve seen again and again.”

— Ravi Zacharias

And that, to me, is what Bible study is all about, and what makes it so exciting, not just reading the pages in a book, but learning more about the character of God and what he wants from us, internalizing it so that when something comes up (whether in further study, in other reading, or events in our lives) we can make those connections.

Holey English Muffins, Batman!

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When I first started making English muffins from scratch, it really bugged me that I couldn’t get the big holes that store-bought English muffins have.  Then I just sort of accepted that it wasn’t to be, and forgot about it (I’ve never had any luck getting ANY bread to have an open crumb).  Yesterday, I cut open a nice fresh English muffin to find this: 20140624_071215

Nice, big holes, all over.  I don’t know why this batch of muffins turned out with holes and none of my others did.  I have been using the same Sourdough English Muffin recipe almost exclusively for quite a while now.

I have two guesses: one, I really kneaded the dough instead of just stirring/lightly kneading as I have other times, and two, I let them rise not strictly at room temperature, but in warm spot on top of the stove.

Or, maybe the dough was a little wetter than usual.  Maybe I’ll try to isolate the cause, maybe I’ll be too lazy.  Having accepted that my English muffins would have a tight, even crumb, I’m not as worried about it as I was at first.

I used the English muffins to make the Make-Ahead Muffin Melts from Pioneer Woman Cooks.  I’m not even an egg person, and I liked them.  My husband thought there was too much mustard for a morning food, and so next time I’ll leave out or reduce the mustard.  I am really excited about this recipe, because I am always on the lookout for make-ahead breakfasts for school mornings.  You can do all of the preparation the night before, and in the morning just spread the egg mixture on an English muffin (or toast, or bagels; the bread product of your choice) and broil for a few minutes.

And lest anyone think all my baking turns out great (which it doesn’t, but I’m not usually motivated to take pictures of failure) here is a cake fail:

20140610_140946Of course, “fail” is a relative term.  I wanted it to look nice for a birthday party, and had to bake an entirely new cake to replace it.  On the other hand, the cake itself tasted delicious., and cooking isn’t a total failure if it still tastes good.  It did not go to waste.  I used the devil’s food recipe from the Joy of Cooking.

Barley Banana Bread

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20140618_074129This recipe came from the New Complete Book of Breads, by Bernard Clayton.  There’s a similar recipe online here.  I realized I had barley flour I needed to use up someday soon, as well as some rice flour, which the recipe also calls for, and everybody here likes banana bread, so I tried it.

It’s another recipe that requires lining the pan with buttered waxed paper, which had put me off before.  Some days I just don’t feel like fiddling with anything extra.

I realized after I put it in the oven that the recipe didn’t call for any vanilla, and then when I was about to serve it the next morning (he says it is better the second day, and besides, I always make breakfast banana bread the night before) I realized it didn’t call for any cinnamon or other spices, either.  That made me a wonder how it would taste, since my favorite recipe has vanilla, cinnamon, and cloves (as well as shredded coconut).

In the end, I think that if it had all the spices, it might have overwhelmed the delicate flavor of the barley flour, and if you’re going to use barley flour, you might as well taste it, I suppose.  Because there was no wheat flour, the bread was a little crumbly, and a little dry, with a fine texture.

As I have no plans to buy more barley flour, I don’t have any plans to make this bread again.  It is good ( I gobbled three pieces the first time I tried it), but I like my regular recipe better, which uses wheat flour.

 

Loyalist Bread, from the New Complete Book of Breads

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20140605_075422I like recipes with a history, and Bernard Clayton says that this bread was a recipe saved by the families loyal to King George III when they fled to Nova Scotia during the Revolutionary War.  Presumably the recipe underwent some changes over the years, since I’m pretty sure that baking powder and baking soda as we know them were not in use at the time of the revolution.

It’s a very easy recipe, and quite good.  I used whole wheat flour for half of the flour amount, giving it a heartier texture.  It isn’t very sweet, which made it good for breakfast.  I would definitely make it again.

There is a similar recipe here, though Bernard Clayton recommends lining the pans with buttered waxed paper.  I did, and probably would next time, as well, even though it is a little more trouble, because the blueberries burst during baking and baked-on blueberry juice has the potential to cause a lot of sticking.

 

 

Portuguese Sweet Bread (The Bread Baker’s Apprentice)

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20140523_200324Of my bread cookbooks, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice has been least used. It’s just that most of the recipes take so long, and I haven’t been doing many new recipes lately. But I was flipping through it recently, and the Portuguese Sweet Bread caught my eye.

It wasn’t a recipe that required overnight or multi-day resting and fermentation periods, and that was nice, though I did have to buy lemon and orange extracts, which I didn’t have on hand.

I used my mixer to do the kneading, and due to not reading the recipe all the way though before beginning, I just dumped the eggs, sugar, and butter all in together before I realized it called for creaming the butter and sugar before adding the eggs. Oh well. It didn’t seem to hurt it any.

I also cheated a little by letting the dough proof not at room temperature, but in a warm oven for part of the time, speeding things up a little. With the eggs, butter, sugar, and extracts, I’m not sure that the extra time would have really resulted in a noticeable flavor improvement.

It says bake the loaves for 50 to 60 minutes, until the center reaches 190 degrees F in the center. I have dropped my thermometer one too many times, so I just went by color, which the book says should be a “rich mahogany brown”. I baked mine about 50 minutes, the lower end of the given time scale.

The bread was good. Not too sweet, and thus more versatile than I expected. It was excellent with marmalade, but also very good in a ham sandwich. It got high marks from my family, too. The recipe made two small boules, and I put one in the freezer, but the first loaf went so fast that I shouldn’t have bothered.

Next time I will not bake it so long, though. The crust tasted fine, not over-browned, but the inside was drier than it should have been. I’ll also probably bake it in a loaf pan, just because it makes more consistent slices.

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