Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Good Morning and MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Merry Christmas! I hope yours is wonderful and well! I'll get back to you all later... Toodles for now! lisa

Sunday, December 23, 2007

"Clean Up, Clean Up, Everybody Everywhere. Clean Up, Clean Up, Everybody Do Your Share!"

Yeah Right! And so... I got to yell at all four kids this morning. No one helped out last night cleaning up, so I left the big stuff for this morning, needing a little help. All four got up, saw things were done, or semi-done, and just did their own little things. You would think this was a different time of year. You wouldn't think they'd be pulling stunts like this at this time of the year. Maybe Santa a been a little too slack-a-daisical...

Coal is sounding really good to me about now. And so, I cleaned and put away EVERYTHING all by myself. I don't want pats on the back. I don't want to be dramatic, but tables, chairs, and all of the other extras that a big party brings is very time-consuming for one person to do. It gone done, and when I vented, not one of them apologized. And what kind of kids am I raising? I can't take credit for the behavior of the two older ones... they are with their mom most of the time, and their dad doesn't speak up, but my two?!? Yikes!

I thought, for the most part, that I was teaching them to help everywhere they go, including home. Think again, Lisa... Let's just say, this was my wake-up call. If they thought I was being bratty before and too strict, watch out. The new year is bringing on new rules. I'll let you know how it goes...

After putting away all of the tamales and packaging things up, I have absolutely no room in my fridge for anything else. And the kids asked what is to eat! I had to laugh. What do you think? You guessed it... tamales! Pick one, slather it, if you wish, and eat! Mmmm... do not ask me what is there to eat for the next day or two... it is kind of obvious.

Now I've still got to wash all of the crock pots and make sure they are ready to go. I don't have that much room in my house for everything... LOL! Baby steps... But, I'll get to that a little later. It's break time! I'm going to heat up some tamales, sip some cocoa (or coffee) and watch a Tivo-ed Snowglobe. It is supposed to be a good movie... nothing like Christmas movies at Christmas time. Toodles for now - lisa

Tamales Finales! and Moving On...

Whew! I'm not sure how many we made, but I know there were two huge trays of pork tamales, one huge tray of chicken tamales, and 2 dozen pork with green chili tamales. Whew! You can say that again... and so the tamale fest leaves us until next year.

We just had our family party. My husband usually has to work either Christmas or Christmas Eve, so we had our larger family festivities tonight so that he can sleep either way for either day he has to work. It sucks, but it works.

The only thing majorly thrown in the mix this year is... you guessed it (or didn't!)... his kids. Juan has Christmas Eve off this year. So, since his kids didn't have practice after tonight, we pretty much thought it was safe to be able to have them and take them back. Whelp folks... they made "other" plans. Apparently, they "assumed" we were doing the "Santa" stuff tonight as well. Uh... hello! I'd like to not have to alter the calendar! (Can you tell I'm pretty upset?) We haven't had them for the past two years... this would be three... on Christmas or Christmas Eve, so they haven't gotten to spend the magical "Santa" moments with their little sis, Marissa. Two years ago, their mom got a wild hair and just plain withheld them. Last year, since Juan had Christmas Eve off, but something weird was happening, he just told them to stay at their mom's. This year... whatever! I sure hope they can change their plans... If you don't speak up and say something, selfishness will generally take over. Enough venting... I'd like to be able to sleep somewhat tonight... * UPDATE: Actually it was just a total lack of communication. They don't know how to talk to each other or tell the whole thing... so it just makes me NUTSO!

We had a cozy night. Tamales, rice, beans, with chips & salsa (and some dip, too!), finishing off with a cake... yum! I actually did not make the cake this year. Wow! It was difficult for me, but I'm trying to let go, so it won't be so stressful. I bought a Costco Cake. It was pretty OK. I got a "white filled buttercream." For whatever that was worth... so I had no clue what kind of "filling" was in the cake until I cut into it, but I couldn't be picky. When I got to Costco, it was the absolute last cake (sheet cake) they had that did not say "Happy Birthday." We had lots of people, lots of food, and good cheer. The night didn't last that late, but after staying up almost all night (tamale time), I guess this is pretty late.

I'm turning lazier than I thought I already was. Right now... I'm promised myself I'd clean up, but here I am, typing away and eating tortilla chips. They're pretty good, too! It is quiet here, and I guess I can do it, but I'm tired. I just want to chill and fall asleep. And even though I feel quite groggy, it doesn't appear that I can fall asleep, unless you count the typos before I backspace and correct them.

OK, I really do need to get my butt in gear. Not only do I have massive clean-up to do, but I need to finish other things prior to Christmas. I totally sucked this year. I intended to get more stuff done, even started earlier, but yet again, I did not accomplish even 1/2 of what I wanted to, and so... now I'm doing the typical Christmas shopper thingy... running around... QUICKLY!

Uh... and I'm still sitting here, not wanting to get up... wanting to go to sleep. Hmm... sleep is so winning! OK... I'll 1/2 it! I'll set my alarm for 2 hours, do what absolutely needs to be done, and go back to bed! Yeah... see you in the manana!!! Toodles for now! lisa

Friday, December 21, 2007

Takin' a Break from Shredding...

Uh! I've just finished shredding 4 pork picnic-sized roasts... and am now roasting my chickens. I need the break! Tamales are a traditional thing here. We do them every year at Christmas. This year, tonight is the night. Then, with Juan's family, we will have our Christmas party and eat them tomorrow night! Yummy. With some beans, rice, salsa, etc. it is bound to be a great feast. Last year, we introduced the somewhat more American flavor and added a crockpot of chili. Yep, you got it. Some of the more Mexican traditionalists in our family scoffed at the idea, but guess what! It all gotten eaten. Us Americans like to put a little bit of chili (con carne) on our tamale and top it off with cheddar cheese. Totally yum! Anyway, we are doing it again this year.

The picture you see is all of my kids! Clockwise from top left is Juan's daughter (Renee-15), Juan's son (Jr.-18), my daughter (Stacy-14), my daughter (Rey-Rey [another Renee]-13), and our daughter (Marissa-2). No, this is not copyrighted... they took one, and so did I! It's the one "kiddy" thing they will all do for me annually without complaint. They realize (by this time) that they have no choice! They will all change ages within a month-and-a-half after Christmas! They're all getting so big and changing so much. It's extremely hard to keep up with it all. Between school activities and other activities, I'm running all of the time.

Cute tidbit... Marissa was carrying around a copy of this photo. She loves it and all things Christmas. When she took it to her Daddy, she showed it to him and said, "Look! There's Charlie's Daddy!" It took Juan and I a couple of seconds to get it, and Juan started cracking up. Then Marissa told him, "Charlie's coming, too!" If some of you don't get it, my FAVORITE movie (besides the original Gidget and Pretty Woman) is The Santa Clause with Tim Allen. It is so amazing that she has put that in play with reality. She is one smart cookie, and cute, too! It is a great story, but I'm not sure I want to incorporate "Charlie" into the tradition of Santa... hmmm... any ideas?

Whelp, gotta get back to my Crisis Crunch (I'm still the procrastinator...)! Wish me luck! (I may stop by again to take another break...) Toodles for now - lisa

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Baking a Loaf for the Holidays (Part 2)

OK, the dough ball is in the fridge... let's take it out! Take off the plastic wrap (it should have risen quite a bit... and punch it down! That's right... put your hand into a fist and punch down! Did that feel good? I bet it did... let out all of that holiday stress that has you tied up in knots...

Now, do you remember how we kneaded the dough on the board yesterday? OK, then, you are going to do that again. Flour the board, turn the dough out, and push, turn, flour, push turn flour, etc. for about 10 minutes. Let the dough rest. (This gives the gluten time to relax so as to not resist...) Take out your favorite loaf pan and grease it (like yesterday... don't forget the corners...). Roll (or pat) the dough into a rectangle. Fold the dough over to allow the lengthy sides to touch. Now fold the shorter sides over a little bit, to equal the size of the bread pan. Flip it over into the greased bread pan. Cover it with a moist towel and put warm, draft-free area (the inside of your oven will suffice, provided the oven is turned off...) for about an hour. It should be doubled in size. When you give a slight push on the dough, the indentation from your finger should stay. Remove the risen loaf.

Turn the oven on to 350... let heat up. Bake the loaf for about one hour and check it for browning. If all things look beautiful... lightly brush the top with melted butter or milk for a beautiful glossy loaf and let it bake 10 minutes more. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove the bread from the pan and let cool completely. Voila! You have a yummy homemade loaf of bread ready for your dinner or gift-giving. Remember, you didn't use preservatives, so eat it fast! (That shouldn't be a problem....)

Stay tuned... tomorrow I'll give you the tamale episodes... Right now I have to go back to shredding meat!

Are you ready for Christmas? I'm not! For as early as I got started, I sure do not know what happened! Check out the poll, and let me know... Toodles for now! lisa

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Baking a Loaf for the Holidays

I know I've been gone awhile... So, I thought I'd throw in a bit of what I've been doing...
Let's Bake A Loaf!

Let’s take the “oaf” out of the LOAF and make it a wonderful learning experience for you. Bread making can be an art for anyone. From the bare basics through the most advanced baking, there is a tier suitable for even the most inexperienced bread maker. If you have an oven, you pretty much can make a loaf, and even then, there are newer (or older) methods of “baking” bread. Making a loaf of bread definitely has advanced through the ages. Through cultural diversity, there is a world of bread baking out there, and we can make it, too!

We’ll explore the different ways of making breads, and the different ways of baking them. With technological development, bread making has become easier and more time-efficient. Whether you fashion your loaf using a bread machine, mixer, food processor, or even the old-fashioned way (by hand), there is nothing like a homemade loaf of bread.

As the methods of bread making vary, so do the ingredients. Leavening agents have also developed over the years, or rather the understanding of them. Sweetening agents (also known as "feeders") are extremely diverse. One can choose honey, a variety of sugars and artificial sweeteners, and (depending on the type of bread being made) even fruits can provide sweetness to your loaf. There are many types and grains of flours to choose from, as well, and even salts. Using different types and styles of ingredients allows even the most inexperienced baker to experience a variety of breads.

But enough of that… let’s get started. Since the holidays are upon us, what better way to add some homemade goodness than to make a loaf of bread. You can use it to enhance your holiday meal or make a couple and give them as gifts! Yummy! Think of it… even if you’ve never baked a loaf of bread before, you can succeed!

Let’s begin with a traditional “old-fashioned” white loaf of bread. You will need the following ingredients to begin:

For the “sponge”:
1 1/8 c warm milk
3 T granulated sugar
1 1/2 t yeast
3 T butter, melted and cooled
For the bread:
3 c bread flour
1 t salt
extra bread flour (for kneading)

This recipe is really basic, and pretty fun, too. Pull up your shirt sleeves and let’s get started!

The warm water or milk should be about 120° F. When you heat up the milk, be careful not to scald or burn it. If you would rather not deal with milk, use 1 1/8 c warmed water (same temperature) and ¼ powdered milk. Do not continue if you overheat the liquid until it has cooled to the right temperature. If you do… you could kill the yeast.

Add the sugar. Stir the liquid and sugar until it dissolves. Add the melted butter. Add the yeast. (Packages of yeast are usually found in the baking aisle of most grocery stores. One packet [one of the three on a strip] usually equals 1 ½ t yeast.) Be sure to check the expiration date on the yeast. Yeast is a “live culture” and does become inactive. The quality and/or height of your finished loaf depends on a good, active live yeast. After stirring in the yeast, you will see a tan frothy foam begin to form!* *(see note) Yay! You’ve activated the yeast. The yeast is “feeding” on the sugar.

You’ve created a sponge! No… don’t use it to clean up the kitchen! Instead, it “sponges” up the flour, absorbing it all…

**However, if after 5 minutes, there has not been a “foaming” incident, scrap the mixture and try again. Be sure to re-check the expiration date and the temperature of your liquid. If it is too cold, it will not bring the yeast to life. If it is too hot, it will kill your yeast.

Now, you let it rest for about 20 minutes. This is called “proofing.” There is a much more scientific aspect to this, but I will explain that in a more scientific writing phase…

While you are proofing the yeast…In another bowl, place 2 c of the flour. Mix in the salt. Salt is very important in a yeast bread recipe. Salt stops the yeast from overreacting. We are not using an excessive amount of salt in this recipe, so you are pretty safe from over-salinating yourself. Take out your loaf pan and grease the pan (making sure to get all the corners) with shortening. (Or, spray it with cooking spray.)

When the yeast is proofed, slowly pour the liquid mixture into the dry ingredient bowl. Mix this with a wooden spoon. It will become tough to mix. Slowly add the remaining flour, mixing thoroughly after each addition. If it becomes too tough to mix with a spoon… dig in! Put your hands in the mix and mix away. The dough begin to form a ball.

Sprinkle some flour on a clean cutting board and put your ball of dough on the floured board. Sprinkle a little more flour on the dough, now “rock” it. Flatten the dough with the heels of your hands, pushing it and stretching it. Now, fold a quarter of the dough over the middle, turn the dough a quarter turn, adding a little more flour (enough to prevent sticking to your hands… some will stick, but we don’t want a lot…) and push again. Repeat the process! You are now kneading (pronounced like “needing”) the dough. Keep it up for about 10 minutes. The dough should be forming a nice round ball that is smooth and “elastic.” (It will bounce back to shape if pinched!)

Beware! DON’T THROW THE BALL!!! Grease (with shortening or cooking spray) a large bowl. Place the dough ball in the bowl. Take the ball and turn it over again (coating the entire ball with the shortening). Cover it with plastic wrap (greased or sprayed with cooking spray). And… we’re going to do the “cheater” method today!

Put the bowl in the fridge. We are going to let it rise in the refrigerator, giving us and the dough a break (this is quite a bit for your first time out…), and we will shape and bake it tomorrow!

Come back tomorrow, so we can share our loaf together! Oaf! Whew! Get ready to roll up your sleeves again! I might even have pictures!

Toodles for now... lisa