Thursday, November 7, 2013

Thursday Thoughts

ONE- This past week something really big happened in our small county- we sent a tree to the U.S. Capitol! Every year, a national forest is chosen to supply a live tree for the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., and this year the Colville National Forest was chosen! The tree they selected is an 88 foot Engleman Spruce, over 75 years old, and grew just a few miles from where we live in the county! Hubby and I joined in the festivities as our community celebrated the cutting of the tree and its send-off on the journey it will take around the country before finally making its way to D.C. in early Dec. At the send-off there were carolers, street performers, food vendors, and LOTS of people- it made me feel so patriotic, Christmasy, and proud of our community! What an honor to have a tree from our local forest grace the lawn of the Capitol for Christmas! You can see the top of the tree in the background of the above photo.

TWO- Speaking of Christmas, we had our first snowfall of the season this week! It was only a dusting, and it lasted only a few hours before it melted, but it was lovely! I'm not generally one to hurry in the snow season because, well, once it arrives, it stays. For a long time. So I'm in no rush. But I have to admit, I love the way it looks and it does make the house feel snug and cozy.

THREE- Speaking of cozy, I am in love with my new fleece pajamas!! Hubby got me an adorable set for my birthday and I practically live in them (as much as I can respectably get away with). They are so soft and warm- perfect for these nights that are now dropping frequently into the 20s. Do you have a favorite pair of winter PJs?

FOUR- Speaking of PJs, one of my favorite things to do in my PJs is drink tea!! We have really been into drinking tea lately- which was encouraged by several birthday gifts- new mugs, a new teapot, a gorgeous wooden "tea box", tea, a tea bag holder- you get the idea! There is something so comforting and snug about a steaming cup of tea wafting a soothing aroma. What's your favorite tea variety?

FIVE- Speaking of tea, I just saw a trailer for Downton Abbey Season 4. I'm probably a bit late on that, but oh well. We are working our way through Season 3 again an it is not any easier the second time. I cried for Lady Sibyl again and I am dreading the finale. The first time I watched it I think I grieved for a week! Sad, but true. Anyhow, Season 4 looks no less dramatic. Less death, hopefully, but wow. I've seen some pictures of Mary in black (*heart breaks*) and Mary and Tom with their respective babies (*heart breaks again*). Sigh. Do we seriously have to wait till January??? If you happen to be from the UK, NO SPOILERS PLEASE!!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Pumpkin Waffles {with Maple Whipped Cream}

So I've come to the conclusion that waffles and whipped cream were meant to be together.

Just typing that is making my mouth water.

Oh, my. We made these amazing waffles last night and they.



Do people say "killer" anymore? Yeah, I usually don't say it much either, but these. Oh, these just are.

Whoever thought to pair maple and pumpkin together is an absolute genius. Those two elements together just scream fall and marry perfectly visually and in your mouth.


You would be committing a serious, and I do mean, serious error! The real whipped cream laced with maple just takes these amazingly spicy and pumpkiny (yes, I just invented that, spell check) waffles to a whole new level. And you don't want to miss out on the ride.

Oh, and just for the record, bacon LOOOOVES hanging out with maple and pumpkin.

Just sayin'.

Pumpkin Waffles with Maple Whipped Cream
makes 4-5 waffles (on a round Belgian waffle maker)

For the waffles:

2 cups baking mix (like Bisquick)
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 cup milk
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 TB unsalted butter, melted
1 TB vegetable oil
1  large egg

For the whipped cream:

1 cup heavy cream
2 TB maple syrup

Lightly grease a waffle maker with some nonstick spray and preheat it according to the manufacturer's directions. 
In a bowl, whisk together baking mix and pumpkin pie spice. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture.
In another bowl, combine milk, pumpkin, vanilla, butter, oil and egg. Whisk until smooth. Add to flour mixture and stir until just combined (a few lumps are ok).
Add 3/4-1 cup batter to the waffle maker and close lid. Cook according to the manufacturer's directions. Remove waffle with a fork and keep warm while repeating with remaining batter.
Make the whipped cream: in a chilled bowl with stand mixer or handheld mixer, beat cream with syrup until soft peaks form. Serve with warm waffles and more syrup if desired.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Sourdough Pizza Crust

So you remember how I took that sourdough bread class in October?

Well, I've been faithfully feeding my starter on a {fairly} regular basis and it has grown! Or it had grown. I recently gave a couple of cups away to my sisters in Oregon who want to try their hand at sourdough tending and baking. Now I need to work at building it back up again.

But before I gave some away, I was starting to get quite a jar full. So I decided to try making sourdough pizza crust! Even though my starter isn't super sour, I thought it would make a deliciously flavorful crust. It did! What a yummy change for our Friday pizza nights! The sourdough crust was a great blend of chewy and crisp, with a very subtle but rich flavor. I usually make a whole wheat thin crust, but this new crust will definitely be added to the rotation whenever I need to use up a cup of starter!

It is a little time consuming, but worth the effort! I've heard it said that sourdough is a lazy bread. It needs lots of time to rest in between steps. :) This pizza crust is no exception, but the great thing is that it makes two crusts, so if you are a small family or a couple like us, you can freeze the other crust for next week!

Sourdough Pizza Crust
makes 2 thin crust 12" pizzas or 1 thicker crust 14" pizza

1 cup sourdough starter (straight from fridge, unfed)
1/2 cup hot tap water
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp instant yeast

Spoon starter into a mixing bowl. Add hot water, flour, salt and yeast. Mix to combine, then knead till smooth and slightly sticky, about 7 minutes at medium speed using a stand mixer fitted with dough hook. Place the kneaded dough in a lightly greased container and allow to rise until just about  doubled in size. This might take 2 to 4 hours, depending on how vigorous your starter is.
For two thinner pizzas, divide the dough in half and shape each half into a flattened disk. Drizzle two round 12 in. pizza pans with olive oil, tilting to coat. Place one half in each pan. Cover and let rest for 15 min.
Gently press dough towards the edges of the pans. When it starts to shrink back, cover and let is rest again, about 15 min. Finish pressing the dough to the edges of the pans.
(For 1 thicker crust pizza, follow directions above without dividing dough in half and using a jelly roll pan or 15 in. pizza pan.)
Cover pan(s), let dough rise until it's as thick as you like (mine was fine without rising any longer, but you may find you want to let yours rise for an hour or more).
Preheat oven to 400.
For thin crust, prebake the crust about 4 min. before topping. Top, then bake until cheese is bubbly, about 8 min. For thicker crust, prebake about 8 min. Top, then bake about 10 more minutes.
Remove from oven, let cool slightly before slicing and serving.
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