A bread machine is one of those big bulky kitchen appliances that I never imagined would be an essential item in my house—that was, until I got a bread machine. I love this thing. The loaves that bake in the machine are a little funky in size: tall and puffy with a hole in the bottom from the mixing device. But, the kids don’t complain: they love fresh, warm bread. The thing that I really love about the bread machine is that it mixes dough perfectly. We use every week to make pizza dough: dump the ingredients in and the dough is ready in 45 minutes. All it needs is a short rest and then it’s ready to roll out.
I’ve also discovered that the bread machine can make lots of other doughs, including enriched doughs for brioche, sweet rolls, pan de muerto and challah. Look at this beauty I made yesterday:
And here is today’s school lunch, featuring that lovely bread:
Here at Love and Lunch Corporate Headquarters, we have had a rough couple of weeks (a month?) of sicknesses working their way through the office. As a result, I haven’t been keeping up to date with my lunch posts. But, rest assured, we have been eating. And eating quite well, I might add. I was thinking about this as I made sandwiches for the kiddos last night. I took sandwich requests (always a mistake), so I had to make two different types for today’s lunch: one with mortadella and the other with roast beef. Making these fancy sandwiches made me reflect on my own childhood of bologna, American cheese (Kraft singles), and ketchup (Heinz, please) sandwiches. Yep, that atrocious combo was my favorite. My kids definitely have way better taste than I ever did at their ages.
Of course, I didn’t grow up in California (except for a brief stint in kindergarten when Dad was stationed at March AFB), land of plenty. I mean just look at this strawberry:
My kids are so lucky to have year-round access to such amazing produce. It makes it a lot easier to pack reasonably healthy lunches when you always have delicious fruit and veggies on hand. Here is a round-up of some recent lunches. Almost all the produce is from the SLO Farmers Market. Yum, yum and more yum.
Lunch making just got a little more fun here at Love and Lunch, because—BIG NEWS—we just got a bread machine. I love to make bread and was raised in a house of homemade bread made by my Mom (and expert baker) who learned how to make bread from her Mom (and expert baker), my amazing Nanny Yetman. Well, both Mom and Nanny are probably having a heavenly tête-à-tête right about now—enjoying a nice cuppa and discussing what a hopeless Yankie (this is the Newfoundland term for us ‘Mericans) I am with my newfangled bread machine. Now, I never even considered buying a bread machine until a good friend, neighbor, expert baker and all around superDad extolled the incredible convenience of a bread machine. I thought about it, did some research and then thought about it some more. Then I asked our wonderful neighbor to make us a loaf, which the kids promptly declared the “best bread ever.” Sold.
The bread maker arrived last Thursday, and since then I’ve made three loaves of white bread, one loaf of whole wheat bread and a focaccia (by using the pizza dough setting). This bread is not artisanal or crusty or complex: it’s super soft, amazing sandwich bread. The process is ridiculously easy: measure ingredients, put in pan, press start. A loaf of white bread takes four hours start to finish. Wheat bread takes longer: five hours. Dough whips up in about 45 minutes. Amazing. I’m in love with this newfangled contraption.
Due to the insanity that is life, I haven’t been posting lunches lately. However, I have been making lunches and the kiddos have been helping—not everyday, but I’ll take what I can get. One of my goals this year is the get the kids more involved with meal prep and clean up. I’ve put them in charge of cleaning out their lunch boxes after school, which is a little thing but a big help to me. When I get home from work and am scrambling to make dinner, I don’t have to worry about washing the lunch boxes to clear some counter space. Here are some recent lunches the kids have helped make:
Doesn’t that fruit look delicious? I don’t know what the kids are going to do when stone fruit season is over. For today’s lunch I cut up a couple of nice big yellow peaches and made a salami, cream cheese and cucumber sandwich. I also threw in some raspberries, banana chips and chocolate powerberries for a treat.
Sometimes in the midst of chaos, I find it therapeutic to make stuff. Since I got into a serious yogurt making kick over winter break, I’ve been making yogurt at least weekly. I love having a big jar of thick, creamy whole milk yogurt in the fridge. The kiddos just love yogurt with fruit and muesli and granola and jam—you name it. For Monday’s lunch I packed a tin of yogurt and fruit salad with honey granola sprinkled on top. Yum!
On Monday I was able to work from home, so I made a loaf of whole wheat maple oat bread using the ridiculously easy no knead technique from Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day. I made enough dough for two loaves and at this very minute, my house is filled with the glorious aroma of fresh baked bread. On a Wednesday. At 9:30 at night. You can make bread at random times like that when you dough on hand. Craziness.
I have been a terrible [non-existent] blogger of late. A rash of family visits and general summer laziness are to blame. But, that doesn’t mean that the kitchen adventures have been lacking. Far from it. Several weeks ago, I discovered a recipe for the most incredible loaf of bread you will ever have the good fortune to make in your own kitchen. It’s a variation of Jim Lahey’s revolutionary (oh, yes) No-Knead Bread. If you haven’t heard of No-Knead bread, you should know that it’s the easiest thing on earth: a very wet dough with minimal yeast gets mixed by hand (no kneading required, hence the name), cooked in a super hot cast iron pot in a super hot oven, and comes out like the crustiest fancy pants bread from a fine bakery. No lie.
The only difficult part of making No-Knead bread is forming the loaf and getting it into the steaming hot cast iron pan (I’ve used a cheap-o cast iron dutch oven from Target as well as a 6 qt. Le Crueset French oval dutch oven, and they work equally well). At some point in my No-Knead bread journey, I discovered a great trick for forming the dough into a nice loaf (use LOTS of flour) and getting it into the pot (form the loaf on parchment paper and put the loaf and the paper into the hot pot). Here’s what it looks like:
The recipe I used for this bread called for a nice poppy seed, sesame seed, garlic powder, onion powder, salty topping, which I’m sure is amazing. But, I omitted it, because sometimes the kiddos aren’t crazy about lots of seeds on their bread crusts. And I was worried that the flavor might be a little overpowering: I wanted a savory loaf without too much garlic flavor. Here’s the dough—and parchment paper—being put into the HOT cast iron pot:
And, then, 45 minutes later—my sweet Lord in heaven—this emerged from the oven:
I can’t stop staring at. See what I mean by fancy pants crusty bread? Trust me: it tastes as good as it looks.
Here is a delicious summer lunch with slices of this glorious bread for my culinarily (is that a word) spoiled children:
Thank you to Joy at Braisen Woman for this fantastic and creative take on Jim Lahey’s bread.
Since I made a couple of loaves of bread yesterday, the kiddos get sandwiches today made with yummy homemade whole grain oatmeal maple bread. Aren’t they lucky? The sandwiches are make with sunflower seed butter and blueberry jam. The little bento container next to the carrots contains pieces of fresh mozzarella, which is strangely comforting in its blandness. The strawberries here are now the size of small dogs. Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration, but they are big and beautiful right now.