Saturday, September 17, 2011

Adventures in the Kitchen - BAKING!!!!

I have never been a baker. I do not like baking. I am awful with dough and I hate measuring things out. All my cooking consists of estimating amounts. Gregg, on the other hand, loves working with dough. He makes the dough to make his own pizzas. The dough was usually made in our bread-maker which we got as a wedding present in 2007. In fact, though we made some bread in our bread-maker, it primarily served as a dough-maker. Well, this piece of equipment which has been with us for over 4 years, broke about a month ago. It moved with us from Charlottesville to Farmville to Lancaster to Lititz. After mourning it for about a week, Gregg and I started talking about replacements. I wanted another bread-maker but Gregg suggested a KitchenAid Stand Mixer which we have always wanted but never bought. However, there are a few reasons why we hesitated:

1)      It is expensive.

2)      How much do you need to use it to justify the purchase?

3)      Since we only make doughs for pizza, it does not seem worth the money.

However, we saw one on a huge sale at Kohl’s and bought it anyway. We bought the black 4.5 quart artisan one and saved over a $100 on its actual price. Then, against Gregg’s inclination, I bought a very cheap loaf pan. Now all I can say is: how did we ever live without this gadget?

In the last month, Gregg has made 3-4 pizza doughs, I have made 4 loaves of white bread and 2 of banana bread. The bread from the bread maker was definitely inferior to store-bought while the bread made from the KitchenAid recipe book is definitely superior. This loaf comes out evenly shaped and baked and is great for making sandwiches. I also made banana bread for the first time – this recipe is from epicurious and I really like it. It is not too banana-y. We also made a gingerbread cake from scratch – I say “we” because it was Gregg’s idea and he did most of the work. It is absolutely amazing. It uses both fresh and ground ginger which gives it a bite which ground ginger alone does not. However, the beer and the brown sugar balance the ginger wonderfully well. This recipe is from Cook’s Illustrated. Gingerbread cookies are next on the fall baking list.

My next venture will be pie crusts and pastry – since I need them to make home-made samosas and apple pies. I usually buy them from the store but I want to stop that. We have a cheap $20 pasta maker and Gregg has been making the pasta dough in the mixer too. I must say, in spite of the costly nature of this purchase, I think we may end up saving money in the long run. Bread, pasta and pizzas as well as pie crusts are expensive at the store.     

One of these days, I want to list my favorite kitchen gadgets. But this one will definitely be one of them. I am so excited. I have always loved the smell of a house with fresh baked bread, cake etc and I want it to be one of Asha’s memories too. Love love love this purchase.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Artsy Craftsy Projects for Artsy Craftsy Dummies

I am TERRIBLE at anything arty. Seriously, I could not draw a stick figure. Asha can draw better now than I can – and she cannot hold a pencil properly. This has never really bothered me. I do not like artsy-craftsy projects. I do not even like decorating my house. However, since Asha has been born, this has bothered me. I have not even made a baby book for Asha yet.

Then I decided to use Shutterfly. I love that site. It allows me to use our pictures of Asha to create all sorts of things which look beautiful. So far I have made one birthday card with it, invitations to Asha’s first birthday and am working on making three different calendars for 2012. The calendars are the biggest project I have undertaken – all three use different photos and layouts.  It is taking me hours to collect all the photos I need, upload them and organize and arrange them. However, they look awesome on my computer. I am also planning to make her a photo book for her with people she should be able to identify. She loves pictures, so the picture book would be a present for her.
I also discovered that there are websites that allow you to custom make family cookbooks. This is something I plan to work on in the future – I think it would be a very cook project.

These websites are made for people like me – people who are not artistic and yet, want to commemorate occasions and events. People who do not scrapbook but would like to do so with the least amount of fuss. These projects require time and trouble but they do not require expertise. I love these websites and the end products I have received thus far are great.