A birthday celebration, a killer workout and some homemade sandwich bread

Hello!

Yesterday was Thing 2’s birthday! Of course, because it was the middle of both the work week and the school week, we had to keep our celebration to an easy minimum. I didn’t really have the time to make an all-out feast or whip up a homemade cake with homemade frosting but that was okay! What she really wanted was Chinese food and an ice-cream cake from Baskin Robbins. She’s a cheap date! Ha! No, she just knows what she likes and we’re alright with that. So, after a little Chinese take-out and before the ice-cream cake, we gave her our gift. We’re getting her an iPhone! We’re eligible for an upgrade on our plan and she’s been wanting one for a while so we figured, she’s a good kid so why not? πŸ™‚ It’s time for her to stop using our hand-me-down Droids (which, we love and both still have, btw) and let her have a new phone. So, we’re hitting the Verizon store tomorrow – she’s working tonight – and she’ll be happily iPhoning by Friday night. Win!

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I had a killer workout this morning. (And thank goodness because, hello, I ate ice-cream cake last night!) My upper body muscles weren’t as stiff and sore as yesterday which was good because my plan was for the P90X Upper Plus workout. 40 minutes of working out every muscle in my upper body. Intense. I followed that up with the Ab Ripper X workout to make sure I would be really sore tomorrow. πŸ™‚

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Luckily, I have a Roman Chair in my workout room so I was able to do the pull-ups in the workout. If you don’t have a pull-up bar or a Roman Chair, you can always throw a band over a door or railing or something like that. Just make sure it’s sturdy and that the band isn’t going to slip off. You definitely don’t want to get hurt or break anything, whether it’s a bone or a part of your house. πŸ™‚

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As part of my baking frenzy last weekend, I made some sandwich bread. I run in stages where I will make loaves upon loaves of bread and then I stop and buy bread from the store. I really felt the pull to bake and we were out of bread anyway so I decided to make a loaf. πŸ™‚ I have this A.May.Zing cookbook from Cook’s Illustrated. This thing is HUGE. Seriously, it’s bigger than an unabridged dictionary. And, it’s WAY more fun to read! πŸ™‚ There are recipes for everything you can think of that you would ever want to make! Plus, they give background on how they developed the recipes and why they chose certain ingredients over others, etc. So, it’s more than a cookbook, it’s a learning tool. I love it! Anyway, I flipped open to the bread section and looked at their recipe for sandwich bread. Of course, there’s is a white bread and I’ve been known to throw down some white bread but, I felt like changing it up a little. So, I added some whole wheat flour and substituted some flax seed for 1 tablespoon of the butter. Did you know that flax seed is an appropriate substitute for some of that fat in a recipe? Yep, you can use 3 tablespoons flax in place of 1 tablespoon butter, 1 egg, etc. You’re eliminating some of the fat, yes, but you’re adding in super-healthy omega 3s – essential fatty acids that your body doesn’t make – that help control metabolism, can help reduce inflammation, and all sorts of other good stuff. Plus, they add a nice nutty flavor to what you’re using them in. πŸ™‚ So, I’ll give you the original recipe with my substitutions in parentheses. Either way, you won’t be disappointed!

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Another bonus about this particular recipe? It’s been designed to get you from ingredients to fresh-baked bread in just about 2 hours. Haven’t made bread from scratch before? Well, 2 hours is LIGHTNING FAST! Homemade bread can be an all day evolution! You can start after breakfast and have a loaf ready in time for lunch. Just don’t eat the whole loaf right when it comes out of the oven. Om nom nom!

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American Sandwich Bread

3 1/2 to 3 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the work surface (I used 2 1/2 cups all-purpose & 1 cup whole wheat)
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup warm whole milk (about 110 degrees) (I used 1% – we don’t keep whole milk in the house)
1/3 cup warm water (about 110 degrees)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (I used 1 tablespoon butter and 3 tablespoons flax seed)
3 tablespoons honey
1 envelope (about 2 1/4 teaspoons) instant yeast (also called rapid rise)

1. Adjust an oven rack to the lowest position and heat the oven to 200 degrees. Once the oven temperature reaches 200 degrees, maintain the heat for 10 minutes, then turn off the oven.

2. Mix 3 1/2 cups of the flour and the salt in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook. Mix the milk, water, butter, honey, and yeast in a 2-cup liquid measuring cup. Turn the machine to low and slowly add the liquid. When the dough comes together, increase the speed to medium and mix until the dough is smooth and satiny, stopping the machine two or three times to scrape dough from the hook, if necessary, about ten minutes. (After five minutes of kneading, if the dough is still sticking to the sides of the bowl, add the remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time and up to 1/4 cup total, until the dough is no longer sticky.) Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface; knead to form a smooth, round ball, about 15 seconds.
Place the dough in a very lightly oiled large bowl, rubbing the dough around the bowl to coat lightly. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the warmed oven until the dough doubles in size, 40 to 50 minutes.

3. Gently press the dough into an 8-inch square that measures 1 inch thick. Starting with the side farthest away from you, roll the dough firmly into a cylinder, pressing with your fingers to make sure the dough sticks to itself. Turn the dough seam-side up and pinch it closed. Place the dough seam-side down in a greased 9 by 5-inch loaf pan and press it gently so it touches all four sides of the pan. Cover with plastic wrap; set aside in a warm spot until the dough almost doubles in size, 20 to 30 minutes.

4. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Boil 2 cups of water and pour into a baking pan, and place it on the bottom rack. If possible, put the loaf on a rack above the baking pan of water (my oven is much too small to have a loaf of bread on anything but the bottom rack) otherwise put the two pans side by side. Bake until an instant-read thermometer inserted at an angle from the short end just above the pan rim into the center of the loaf reads 195 degrees, 40 to 50 minutes. Remove the bread from the pan, transfer to a wire rack, and cool to room temperature. Slice and serve.

P.S. This bread makes a FABULOUS grilled cheese sandwich. Just saying. πŸ™‚

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– jennifer

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