Our favorite pizza

Confession: We always have pizza on Saturday nights, unless we are away from home. It’s a tradition I grew up with in my family, and now my children count on it.

The soft and delicious crust is a recipe passed down to me by my mom.

Pizza Dough

1 scant Tbsp. yeast
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 cup warm water

— Stir together and let rest 5 minutes.

1 Tbsp. oil
½ tsp. salt
Garlic salt to taste
Oregano to taste
2 ½ cups hi-gluten flour

— Add, and knead with dough hook attachment in mixer until dough is soft and elastic, no longer clinging to sides of bowl. Let rise till double, 30-45 minutes. Pat into pizza pan.

Sometimes I shake extra herbs into the dough – sage, thyme, parsley, basil. Or I use half a cup of whole wheat flour and two cups of hi-gluten.

Recently we’ve been stuffing the crust. We cut string cheese in half the long way and wrap the dough around it – or use equivalent size strips from a chunk of bulk cheese.

Then we butter the top of the crust (only the stuffed part) and sprinkle it with garlic salt, to make basically a stuffed breadstick. Now the crust is the best part of the pizza!

We add pizza sauce and our favorite toppings – usually a pound of bulk sausage, browned; mushrooms (on all but two slices); shredded mozzarella; and lots of pepperoni. We bake it at 375° for 30 minutes, and enjoy together.

Yum.


Do you have food traditions for certain days each week? I’d love to hear them, and give them a try in our family.

Also, just FYI – I let Kelly comment on my last post to give an update on how she’s doing. By now she’s as active as ever, having to be reminded of the doctor’s orders to go easy on her tummy until her follow-up appointment. Thanks for your kind words to her and to me.

Whole Wheat Honey Bread

Hi there, dears! I hope your holidays were as delightful as mine!

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Confession: I thought I’d never try a how-to video again, but I did.

My sis-in-law was asking for a tutorial post on bread-making and I said—“Oh my. You just have to be there.” So I created a movie for her, in lieu of countless pictures and thousands of words.

This 12-minute video will teach you to make Whole Wheat Honey Bread {printable recipe here} from start to finish, alongside a few general tips for working with yeast. I’m not a professional, and probably mistaken in a few minor points, but I refuse to be held responsible for accidents. Yours or mine.

My husband and I filmed this a year and a half ago, when I had braces, smaller glasses over which I barely peered, and stage fright, as evidenced in my sober opening and rapid flow of words. But various technical difficulties and staff shortages pushed off our production date, and here we are.

(Not that I don’t have stage fright still.)

So. If you’re interested in bread baking, enjoy! There’s comic relief along the way in the form of children and animals, and a formidable string of bloopers clipped onto the end. This is real life in my kitchen. Stay tuned.

Any questions or corrections, please share them below.

Just for Kim Zook, a most loved sis-in-law.

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I have my fingers in many pies at the moment, and so my blogging is going to turn a temporary corner. For the next four to six weeks I plan to post more simply… a picture, a thought, a quote, or a question for discussion. You are free to liven things up as much as you wish; I’m still here and still listening. Just very busy wearing other hats.

Seven homemade gifts for Christmas

Oh me, oh my!

Our homemade gift exchange brought out some delightful creativity in the family. We had homemade log cabins and furnished doll houses for little girls, wood-framed Lego baseplates for boys, gift baskets of treats, personalized T-shirts, denim blankets, wooden shelves, pretty scarves, knitted slippers, and more…

Here are a few our little family made, most of them super-simple. I share them to spark your thinking. I’m going to say this only once: Do not try them all. I had to make a mental note for 2014–no more than (x number) of homemade gifts!

1. Prepaid dates basket

12 dates

Inspired by this website and armed with funds from a personal project, I created this for my husband: twelve envelopes containing plans and gift certificates for date nights, one for every month of the New Year. You can be as extravagant or frugal as you wish in planning time together! I interspersed bigger dates (an IMAX movie, dinner out, or a mini-golf spree) with no-cost fun (a hike, a picnic, a free concert, an intimate rendezvous). He was delighted, and the planning and scheming brought me much joy.

2. “Fun in a Box” for couples

fun in a box

Using an idea from thedailydigi, I made a list of spunky, low-cost, slightly tacky activities for couples to do together, and gave them to our brothers-and-sisters-in-law in Christmasy little boxes. View or print my list here: Fun in a Box (for couples).

3. Grapevine wreath with seeds

For a sister-in-law who loves to garden, I saved seeds from my flowers and herbs, packaged them in little envelopes, and hung them with ribbon on a homemade grapevine wreath. You could buy seed packets instead of making them yourself; but if you live in the Midwest and have access to woods, chances are you can find an abundance of wild grapevine. The wreaths are sooo fun to wind up.

4. Chocolate chess set

chessmen

With a simple chocolate mold (available here from amazon), we made black and white sets of chessmen, gluing the chocolate halves together with caramel. And of course, here’s how to make the board if you want a playing set…

5. Sock puppets

sock puppets

This was another favorite project—forgiving, low-cost, and open to infinite variation. Simple instructions at wikihow… and then, the sky’s the limit!

6. Jar mixes

For another SIL, my son layered gluten-free food mixes in Mason jars.

For the fourth jar in the set, we combined bath salts with fragrance oils and a drop of food coloring, for layered relaxation.

7. Framed word art

And finally, you know the rage with photos of alphabet letters in nature, to spell inspirational words? Believe, Rest, Love and so on? We shot our own, with the kids forming the letters to spell our word of choice. Turned them black and white, added simple black frames from Dollar Tree, and called that project complete.

We even got our cat in on the E!

E b&w

F

F b&w

G

G b&w

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Are you inspired? Tired? Haywired? I’m singing Christmas songs…

Last year: a homemade Christmas

Confession: I have trouble talking publicly about Christmas until there’s snow on the ground. This is unfortunate, and unlike my smart friend Gina, who has been doing a Christmas Countdown for weeks already. But yesterday, the magic came… and oh, does it look pretty as it falls!

snow angel

As our extended family gets bigger, the Coblentz side has decided to appoint a different couple to be in charge of our giving each year: first, Dad and Mom planned the event; the next year, my oldest brother and his wife, and so on down the line of siblings. This breaks things up, adds beautiful variety, and eliminates unhappy extended discussions about when and what and how much. (Also it gives several years of cushion time before putting my 15-year-old brother Ted in charge of things, who would undoubtedly have us all out in the woods hunting venison to donate to local soup kitchens.)

One year we pooled money to help my brother and his wife fly home from far away. Once we played A Minute to Win It and said the winner would get the money pool–secretly planning to donate it to the couple who’d been through a lot that year, and give them a vacation together.

Last year, Ryan and I brainstormed a traditional gift exchange, with one stipulation.

September 21, 2013

Dear family,

Christmas is three months away! And while I’m not into singing Jingle Bells just yet, I did want to let you know what Ryan and I have in mind, so you can start brainstorming.

I guess it’s our turn to be in charge this year. We batted around several ideas (donating money to the poor in a foreign country to buy pigs or goats or something; pooling money to do a group activity together—) and finally settled on an idea we really like.

We want to do a traditional gift exchange, with the stipulation that the gifts must be original—made, designed, or modified by the giver. Don’t panic. You don’t have to turn into a “crafty” kind of person to participate; each of you is already good at making something the rest of us aren’t, so think outside of the box and be yourself. Use your imagination, but please don’t overwork, overspend, or overstress.

You may help your child as much as you want.

I made a list of ideas to get you started thinking. Before we exchange names and send the results to you, do you have anything to say? Any curses, questions, or complaints?

Waiting to hear from you,

Ryan & Shari

Two months later, excitement was running high. Gifts were being planned and produced, secreted and stashed in every dark corner. Here’s our list of suggestions.

  • Something from wood
  • Something from yarn or fabric
    • A hat/ scarf/ wrap
    • A blanket or pillow
    • A tote bag
  • Something from nature
    • A plant start
    • A set of fossils (I’m kind of joking, but there are those among us who would love it)
    • Seeds you saved or a wreath you made
  • Something personalized
    • A framed photo
    • A photo collage
    • A mug/ mouse pad/ puzzle/ throw with a personal picture or name on it
  • Something to eat
    • A pie/ a cheesecake/ a dozen cookies
    • A jar mix (great ideas here)
    • Anything you grew or preserved
  • Original artwork or photography
  • A personal audio or video recording
  • A certificate
    • For something to do together
    • For a service you will perform
    • For a gift you will give three times next year (or twelve times, or whatever)
  • A book
    • An online photo book / memory book
    • A homemade book, made by slipping photos of your own into an album or CD case [see tutorial here]. You could make a memory book, an advice book, a grandma’s-brag-book, or a recipe book!
  • Homemade consumables
    • A personal care item like soap or body scrub—many easy recipes online
    • A set of homemade cleaning supplies
  • A handmade toy or game
    • Puppets, play-doh, blocks, doll, sock monkey
    • A piñata
    • A chess set/ checkerboard/ any other game you create

{Click here for the Printable Version–Ideas for Handmade Gifts}

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Do you give handmade gifts at Christmas? How do you coordinate your extended-family holidays? I’d love to hear your ideas! Next time I post, I’ll share some specific gifts we made, with pictures.