As I reflect upon 2017 and look to 2018 with anticipation, I've already stumbled upon a new theme to weave into our everyday lives. This holiday season was fun for many reasons, but was particularly special because I was able to try my hand at old family recipes...successfully! From discovering my great-grandmother's molasses cookie recipe (a taste I was concerned I wouldn't experience in the same way, since my grandmother's passing) to oatmeal bread that fills the house with the best aroma EVER. I was reminded that going back to the basics with cooking, decorating, and homemaking may be the best idea for a well-balanced life.
I enjoy cooking, but did not grow up in the kitchen - the amount of homework I had from 1st - 12th grade took care of that. My mom is a great cook, but doesn't necessarily love the pressure that can be associated with certain recipes. I've decided that I don't want to be intimidated by anything, and that it's best to face challenges "head on." I want to cook meals that are economical and mostly healthy. I want to create beautiful dishes that would make anyone proud. Most of all, I want to generate new ideas and make memories while doing so. The experiences this year have taught me that I can do more than I thought possible, and it is wonderful to evoke memories that have been tucked away and forgotten, while continuing to make new ones. How awesome is that?!
Two days ago, I decided to try my grandmother's oatmeal bread recipe. I remember smelling the savory, sweet aromas as she would make toast for us at the lake in my younger years. It was dense, yet fluffy, and really took comfort food to a new level. My dad has made the recipe in the past, and it was always a treat to walk into the house when the bread was baking, to smell those same aromas. It has been a while since I've had that oatmeal bread recipe. The process took two days, and I did make a mistake, but it turned out great in the end. Most importantly, I can officially say that while beer bread is a favorite in our family, I can, in fact, bake with yeast.
While reading the recipe card, I accidentally added the yeast before the boiling water. Since water that hot will kill yeast, I thought my only option was to toss out the oatmeal/brown sugar/salt/yeast mixture and start over. That's when Cliff saved the day - if the yeast died when the boiling water was added, why not just add more yeast once everything cools down? I was worried that adding more yeast might still be too much...if some of the yeast had survived "the great boil of 2017," then would more yeast cause the bread to collapse on itself while baking? In the spirit of experimentation, we decided to give it a shot, and I promised that if it worked, he would get all the credit. 🙂
The dough did rise overnight, and again when I divided it into the loaf pans. I was so pleased when the bread baked as it should and the house smelled divine. My favorite moment was smelling that aroma (simultaneously transporting me back to the lakehouse in Alabama and my parent's kitchen in Atlanta) and seeing Cliff's reaction when he walked through the door. That made the 2-day process worth it.
I know that I won't always have time to make bread from scratch, but I do love the idea that I've made something with no added preservatives...just oatmeal, a little brown sugar, salt, yeast, water, and all-purpose flour. Bread is still bread, and carbs are still best in moderation, but I would rather eat them in moderation than be deprived. Best of all, I know I'm eating something made with hard work, no added chemicals, and truly went "back to the basics." If you have an old family recipe you can access, my suggestion to you is to find a way to incorporate it into your week as we kick 2018 off on the right foot!
What is on tap for the new year, keeping this theme in mind? I can't wait to start using my new cake decorating kit (looking for some good options to make cakes from scratch and beautiful icing using less artificial food coloring) and Cliff has a new mortar and pestle to start using. We have so much to look forward to, and can't wait to share the journey with you!
How do you "go back to the basics" with your cooking, or approach to living? Please share your ideas in the comment section below!
Until next time, I hope you enjoy your #hearthhealthhappiness!