Burger/Hotdog Buns from Scratch… with a little help

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One of my family’s most indulgent indulgences is fresh bread. We do the usual sandwich bread and such, but especially in the summer, we make hamburger and hotdog buns from scratch.

You see, we’ve found that buns are really cheap to buy… if you’re willing to put up with the sugar, corn syrup and preservatives. Artisan and preservative-free bread, however, comes at quite a high blow to our wallet.

The secret to the best of both worlds is the bread machine. We have a wonderful bread machine, and not only do we use it for loaves, but also for the easiest dough!

Ingredients:

1 14 cup milk (I usually use a cup and eighth organic whole milk and water up to the quarter mark)
1 large egg
6 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp sugar
4 cups bread flour
1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp vital wheat gluten  (or 4 tsp vwg)
2 tsp salt
2 12 tsp yeast

 

Set your bread machine to the “dough” cycle.

Cut or tear dough into 12 equal pieces.

Shape pieces into round buns and oblong hotdog buns, and place on a cookie sheet (I always use parchment paper).

Preheat oven to 375 degrees, or 360 on convection.

Bake for 15 (convection)–22 (conventional) minutes until lightly browned.

Aaanndd… you’re done!

Pressure Cooker Pizza Sauce

I’ve been asked for the pizza sauce recipe that I used in my Homemade Pizza Dough recipe, so here it is.

I used one of my favourite kitchen gadgets to make this, the Instant Pot, but you can easily use a regular pressure cooker as well. I’ve made pizza sauce in the slow cooker as well, but I’ve found that the slow cooker blends the flavours while the pressure cooker seems to explode the flavour, go figure.

Ingredients:

14 cup Garlic chopped
12 cup Olive oil
1 can Canned tomatoes (794 g)
To taste Salt
2 Carrots chopped
1 Onion chopped

Method:

1- Fry garlic in olive oil until the garlic becomes fragrant.

2- Add onions and carrots.

3- Add canned tomatoes and pressure cook for 45 minutes.

4- Season to taste (I add a little salt, basil and oregano)

That’s it! That’s all there is to it. Enjoy!

Audio-visual credits: FreeImages.com/Nathalie Dulex

Shortcut Homemade Pizza

I won’t lie—pizza is just about the perfect food. It has grains, vegetables (when made correctly), plenty of protein… and, if store-bought, has oodles of salt and fat. My scale—and my clothes—warned me plainly that if I wanted to enjoy one of my favourite foods on a semi-regular basis, I needed to come up with a formula that wouldn’t load the pounds on.

I’ve made pizza at home in the past. I’ve experimented with different dough recipes, different ingredients, learned the hard way not to load too much of any ingredient on (my oven would have made a very good garbage disposal), but of all things, what stopped me from making pizza regularly was all the work that went into making the dough. You know: measure, mix, knead, rise (and make sure you find a place that’s warm enough to let the bread rise without baking it, which is harder than it seems in my formerly Canadian kitchen), time the process, etc. I simply haven’t the brain power left by the time it strikes dinner o’clock. I have it on good authority that kneading and punching dough is a great stress reliever… by the time I get to it, the only thing that would relieve my stress is to kick the dough out of the window.

Anyway, passive-aggressive tendencies aside… I finally came across a bread machine recipe for pizza dough! (I know, I know, regular recipes can be adapted for use with a bread machine… need I remind you this blog is about indolence?) It seemed too good to be true: use the bread machine to make the dough, including rising time which I didn’t have to time myself, then stretch it out (no rolling!), dress and bake. Can’t get much easier than that.

The pizza dough recipe I used can be found here. As you can see, it has only half a teaspoon of salt, and a mere two teaspoons of honey instead of refined sugar. The recipe is for a 12″ round pan (I think), but I just used the cookie sheet that came with the temporary, furnished apartment, and stretched it to fit. I also make this pizza sauce and keep it frozen so we always have it on hand. Have a look:

Bonus: the kids love it! Every time I make it, they ask for at least one more slice. *warm and fuzzy feeling* Score!

60-second Minimum Maintenance Nails

Now, you know that while I love playing with cosmetics and colour, I rarely have the time to indulge myself as much as I’d like to. This is especially true of manicures and pedicures. While they are in that vague category of necessary luxury (I mean, come on—how often have you seen a person, of either gender, in a beautiful outfit but with ragged, unkempt nails?), for women particularly nails seem to take an inordinate amount time to groom.

Apart from the time it takes to actually get a manicure (let alone a pedicure), a fresh mani is so very, very easy to mar! When I lived in NYC, I got into the habit of putting all my jewelry, outerwear, hat and so on, and even paying (including tip) before the polish went on my nails. Now that I drive, even that ritual doesn’t cut it, as I invariably ding my beautiful mani on the seatbelt. Or on the gearshift. Or on, you know, my skirt.

You can imagine, then, how excited—and skeptical—I was when one of my bubbliest coworkers told me about GelMoment products (affiliate link, but doesn’t benefit me). I had heard before about expensive UV lamps (for home use) and marginally faster-drying nailpolish… but I did not believe GelMoment’s 60-second claim.

So I tried it out.

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Surprise #1—the UV lamp turned out to be an LED lamp that under $30 and comes in a fun range of colours. Actually, now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure all the products cost less than $35. See pricing here.

Surprise #2—the nailpolish came in a range of pretty colours as well.

Surprise #3—Huh. Each individual coat of nailpolish actually did dry in 60 seconds! I did my usual flapping hen impression until my coworker gently pointed out that I didn’t need to. I rubbed my thumb over the nail… and it really was completely dry. Caveat here: the LED lamp is so small that you can only fit two fingernails in at a time. Okay, I’ll take five minutes’ drying time over an hour any day.

nails

Next up: How long does it last?

I love my cleaning service!

I unapologetically bow down to my cleaning service.

I know a number of people (mostly female) who deem a cleaning service an indulgence, a “non”-necessity. You know, they’re probably right. I’m sure I could manage to find a broom somewhere and eventually locate a dust bunny or two. I’m much more likely to stare straight at a shelf cradling an inch of dust and not even realize I’m looking at dust.

You know what? I’m okay with this.

There are those professionals who are brilliant at chasing down microscopic threads of dust that, when banished, make the entire house sparkle. The same people who actually notice the eight layers of grime on our oft-used gas oven (a love affair Blue-Eyes and I share despite our lust for our Instant Pot) and actually has the brainpower to do something about it. Both my husband and I walk into the house (at varying times) and stop… and heave a sigh of relief.

If you’re the sort of person who can mark a speck of dust at 10 paces and then efficiently eradicate the same… I doff my proverbial hat to you.

Otherwise, if the general cleaning gets to you, do consider investing in a cleaning service. Mine comes twice a month (our Roomba fills in), and I tell you that the service is the saving of my household’s sanity. It’s not the cheapest investment, but it is totally worth it!

PS: If you’re in the Caledon or Brampton area, you can contact my cleaning service, Sisters Green Cleaning. Let them know I referred you!

Surviving (Short-Term) Solo-Parenting

You all know that my husband travels a great deal for work. It’s one of the reasons we’ve looking to move from our almost-idyllic home.

So, how do I survive solo-parenting with two toddlers and a dog? Well, I take shortcuts. Lots of shortcuts, and unapologetically.

  • I hire a fortnightly cleaning service. Well, this I do whether or not I’m solo-parenting, but I do it nevertheless. I adore my house cleaner, who simply zooms through the clutter the kids manage to accumulate and still make my bed. A miracle.
  • I use a Roomba several times a week, usually when the kids and I are in bed (it’s quite loud, but totally worth it). It won’t declutter or mop (though I’m lusting after the model that does the latter), but the wonderful thing manages to be incredibly thorough AND get those nasty little fur mats that always snuggle up to the legs of my chairs.
  • I don’t fold laundry the instant the dryer is done (and both Mamma and Mom-in-law are turning over in their respective recliners as they read this): I wait until I*have the time. Which is hardly ever, so I tend to buy no-iron clothes whenever possible. And I don’t worry much when the kids have wrinkled t-shirts at daycare. We won’t mention how often my husband and I just grab our (slightly wrinkled) clothes straight out of the basket before we race off to work. Or to dinner. Or to a wedding. You know.
  • We are a cloth-diapering family… but I lean on the disposables a bit more than usual when I’m solo-parenting. Yes, cloth diapering is great for the environment, for your weekly garbage limits, and oh, for your baby too (no, really). Sometimes, though (when I’m convinced the ancient Roman god of chaos has taken up residence for the hour before I load the kids in the car), I’ll use that one completely-unenvironmentally-friendly diaper just to catch that first, incredibly messy morning poop. And then I’ll go back to cloth. Sssshhhhh…
  • I use an Instant Pot. Almost. Every. Single. Day. You see, I love take-out. Not love as in Disney or Pixar love, but a deep, soulful appreciation of something amazing that someone else cooked…. Not necessarily the taste (I cook quite well, thank you), but the convenience. A piping hot, (hopefully) freshly-made meal, just waiting to be devoured at the end of a long day. Umm… well, not so much: invariably I end up extremely thirsty after the sodium. A slow cooker gives me most of the advantages with very few of the disadvantages. As long as I remember to… no, not just to assemble the ingredients. I usually do that the night before, so that I can just shove a plug into the wall in the morning. Alas… I frequently forget to shove that plug in, since the rest of the receptacle is sitting quite complacently in my fridge. (Oh, I have to put the slow cooker on. I’m just going to take the milk out for the kids. Putting the milk back: drat, forgot the Instant Pot. Okay, will just wipe the screaming kids up and then put the Instant Pot on…)
  • Fortunately, I can always resort to the pressure cooking function of the Instant Pot. I do have an old-fashioned Indian “whistling” pressure cooker that puts the fear of all sorts of deities into my children and the dog, but I much prefer the Instant Pot which utters barely a hiss while it pressure-cooks my neglected “slow cooker” meal to perfection.

You see, I’m not perfect. Far from it. I revel in taking shortcuts to ensure that I never have to be perfect!