Wednesday, December 31, 2008

By Request: Sausage Bread 101

Submitted by: Michelle

I recently gave into the pressure of Linda and Kazzer and signed up for Facebook. Who would have known how many people from my past would come out of the woodwork? My first day being on Facebook I re-connected with 2 friends from college and BOTH of them made a comment about their love of my sausage bread. Joe, the funniest man I've ever met, said specifically, "Why don't you do us all a favor and post the recipe??!!!" So, by popular request, here is how I make sausage bread...but first, a brief history.

For those of you west coasters who aren't familiar with sausage bread, it is a tasty mix of Italian sausage, mozzarella cheese, and bread dough all rolled together. My east coast family introduced me to sausage bread long ago, along with chicken riggies, tomato pie and half moons, and my Aunt Rosemarie helped me find a recipe that I could use to re-create sausage bread at home being that I don't have a local Italian bakery around the corner pumping out loaves for me to purchase. After reading many a cookbook about bread baking as well as pizza dough, I have tweaked the recipe just a bit to ensure success.

Sausage bread is not a quick meal, but the end result makes it totally worthwhile. If the words "Kitchen Aid Mixer" and "dough hook" mean nothing to you, I suggest you purchase your bread dough at the grocery store. There is no shame in using Bridgeford dough (found in the frozen section of most stores) and I have done it when time is short and sausage bread has been a necessity.

If you are up for making your own dough, here's what you need:

DOUGH
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 c dry milk (I'm not sure why this is part of the recipe and I have feeling it could be omitted if you don't have it on hand.)
1 tablespoon Crisco
1 package dry yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 cups warm water (approximately 110 - 115 degrees)

James McNair, one of the cooking gods that I worship, recommends heating the water, mixing in the sugar and then sprinkling the yeast over the top and gently mixing. In about 5 minutes or less, you should have a foamy, yeasty concoction. If you don't, your yeast isn't working and you need to start over.

While you are waiting for the yeast to do its thing, mix together the flour, salt, dry milk and Crisco in the bowl of your Kitchen Aid mixer. Add the yeast once it has activated and using the paddle attachment, mix all ingredients together. (It will be sticky.)

Using dough hook, knead dough for about 5 minutes. Pinch off a piece of dough. If it is extremely sticky add a bit more flour (a few tablespoons) and continue to knead. Dough should be smooth and slightly sticky, but will form a ball without leftover residue on the bowl. Keep kneading and pinching and adding flour as needed.

Cover dough and let rise in a warm, draft free spot for 1 hour. It should double in size. I like to put my dough in a bowl with a little bit of olive oil. I cover the bowl with plastic wrap and then a towel.
While you are waiting for the dough to rise, you can assemble the filling. You will need:

FILLING
1 pound good Italian Sausage (not the pre-packed stuff like Johnsonville! Go to the meat counter and find something fresher. Better yet, go to Henry's or Bristol Farms or an Italian Market - Claro's if you live in the Claremont area - and get some house made sausages. )
Freshly grated mozzarella cheese, about 2 cups
grated Parmesan cheese, about 1 cup
1 extra-large egg (or 2 small), separated
salt
pepper
garlic powder (optional)

Take the sausage out of the casings and fry in a skillet. Depending on the quality of flavor of the sausage, add some pepper and garlic powder to season it up.
Drain the sausage either on paper towels or through a fine mesh sieve to eliminate excess fat.

Put sausage into a bowl with the egg yolk and some Parmesan cheese (about 1/2 cup) and mix well. Set aside.
Once dough has risen, divide into 2 equal parts and roll out onto lightly floured surface.
Spread half of the sausage mixture over the dough and then top with mozzarella cheese and another sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.
Fold edges in and then roll into a loaf.
Place seam side down on a cookie sheet. Cover and let rise for another 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, brush with egg white and sprinkle sea salt and herbs (I used freshly chopped thyme but rosemary or oregano would be fantastic too!) for an added gourmet touch.
Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 25-30 minutes or until golden brown on the outside. I like to bake my sausage bread on a pizza stone, but using a cookie sheet will work just as well.
Serve with a simple salad and some marinara sauce on the side for dipping.


Monday, December 29, 2008

Decor Elements Rock My World

Submitted by: Michelle

The foyer of our house has a long wall. For many years I've talked about putting up wedding photos of David and me as well as other family members. My inspiration came way back in 2002 (or was it 2003?) My cousin-in-law Angeline had done something similar in her Arizona home. (She and her family have since moved to New York. That's how long I've been thinking about this!) You may have noticed it takes me a quite a while to put plans into action. I'm always hemming and hawing about whether to do something and wondering if I'll actually like it. Good thing I have my front row friend Linda! She helped me get off my duff and buy inexpensive frames at Michael's and then she helped me decide how to hang the wedding photos of my grandparents, my aunt and uncle, David's parents, my parents and our siblings. Now the foyer looks like this:

There is plenty of room to add more photos of David's grandparents, my Polish grandparents or of nieces and nephews as they get married over the coming years.

I liked the look of the wall but I wanted something to tie it all together so I decided to try out a decor element from Stampin' Up! They are like the tattoos you find in the Cracker Jack box, only bigger and made for walls not bodies. Decor Elements aren't that new to Stampin' Up! and as a demonstrator one would think that I would have lots of experience with them, but being that I tend to move at a snail's pace when it comes to new things, this was my first encounter with a decor element and a wall.

I started by trimming the outer paper down and taping the image to the wall using painter's tape.
Following the directions that came with the decor elements, I had my image on the wall in a matter of about 10 minutes. Our walls are textured, which made the process a teeny-tiny bit laborious, but I am convinced that smooth walls would make the process a breeze.

This is the finished project. I think it looks mighty nice, don't you?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Mother-Daughter Time

Submitted by: LindaI'm blessed to have a mom I enjoy spending time with. She and my dad live about 2 miles from me from May through September each year, and we have a lot of fun together during that time. My mom and I enjoy our weekly visits to Michael's to use our 40% off coupon, and we spend a ton of time stamping cards (or as my dad likes to say, "cutting and pasting"). My mom always makes delicious pecan rolls for our family. This holiday season, I asked to help so that I could learn how. Her recipe was handed down from my Grandma Klippenstein, who got the recipe with her Sunbeam mixer. These rolls have a sweeter dough than usual cinnamon rolls.

Here's the dough after it has risen once.
Mom is rolling out the dough after putting butter, cinnamon and sugar on it.
We put the rolls into prepared pans (brown sugar, cinnamon, butter, pecans) and let them rise again. Now they are ready to bake.

Yum! They were done around 4 pm, and we all had to stop everything and eat a hot fresh pecan roll with a glass of cold milk!!!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Drink Some Sunshine

Submitted by: Michelle

As you may have noticed, I have a thing for organic, healthy eating. A few summers ago I started experimenting with juicing fruits and vegetables and found that I really liked the fresh flavor of apples, oranges, beets, ginger, carrots and all things natural. My mom had a juicer she loaned to me and I used it so much that it broke! Last year for Christmas, David bought me the mother of all juicers, the Breville Juice Fountain. He did his research and found a top of the line machine with a motor big enough to squeeze juice out of a tire! Now, whenever I feel like it, I can have fresh juice in a matter of seconds.

My favorite juice combination is orange, beet and ginger but today I made straight up orange because I had a large amount of freshly picked beauties from my father-in-law's tree. Though my juicer could easily grind up the rind, I usually cut it off of any citrus fruit I may be using. Other fruits and veggies, like apples and carrots, I leave the skin on, which makes the process ever so easy.

Here's a look at my machine squeezing Vitamin C and other goodness from the oranges with ease.

And here's my end product. A week's worth of juice. Can you say tasty?
So go ahead...give juicing a try. You and your body won't regret it.

Friday, December 26, 2008

My Val-Pal

Submitted by: Michelle

In 1991 I began my teaching career at Northview High School in Covina. Little did I know that one of my students would end up being a front row friend in the years to come.

I first met Valarie in September of 1994. She was a shy and quiet student in my freshmen honors English class. I instantly liked her. She had excellent work habits (something a teacher always enjoys in a student) and was a fantastic writer. Valarie quickly became one of my favorites though I tried not to let it show since teachers aren't supposed to have favorites, right? She often sought me out for advice, usually in letter form. She'd write me a lengthy note on ruled notebook paper and then I'd write her one back. I still have all the letters she has ever written me, sorted by year and tied with pretty ribbons. There is something about a handwritten letter that means so much, especially when written by someone who looks up to you and isn't afraid to tell you so.

Valarie, or Val Pal as I like to call her, and I kept in close contact throughout her high school years. The summer after she graduated from high school I got married. I only invited 2 students to my wedding and Valarie was one of them. I love the photo of us below and have it in my wedding album because it meant so much to me that she shared in one of my most special days.

Me and Val
June 27, 1998

Even after she went to college, we kept up our pen-pal friendship. I would send her care packages at Boston University and she would write me long letters and e-mails, letting me know the details of college life. She ended up transferring from BU to Cal State Los Angeles and unfortunately, we became disconnected. She was busy with her schooling and her boyfriend (who would end up becoming her husband!) and I was busy moving to the desert and becoming a kindergarten goddess...I mean teacher.

Fortunately Valarie, like me, possesses the "never let a good friend go" gene. I've always been one to hold on to friends for life. I write letters (mostly e-mails now), I take trips to visit people who live far away, and I especially value those with whom I have a long history. I've known my good friend Julia since the 3rd grade and I'm going to visit my high school friend Leslie next week!

Over the years since Valarie was in college, she has refused to let our friendship dissolve and I am so glad! She makes trips to visit me, she e-mails me and whenever I am in Claremont visiting Linda, she makes time in her schedule to see me. And now that I've turned her into a Stampin' Up junkie, we share that too!!! Over this past year we have spent more and more time together and I've enjoyed every moment. Just last week we took an impromptu trip to West LA to visit T Salon (see blog entry dated December 2) and then had a late lunch at one of my favorite Pasadena restaurants, Houston's. The photo below was taken there.

Me and Val
December 21, 2008

The evolution of a friendship is such an interesting thing. Now that Valarie and I are both grown up people, I am finding that she and I are quite alike, particularly when it comes to having empathy for others. And looking back over her letters before writing this entry, I am reminded again of her outstanding wit, intelligence and loyalty as a friend.

I value friendships so much -- they are what keep me going day in and day out -- and I am so glad that one of my front row seats has been unexpectedly filled by Valarie.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

December 25, 2008

Heap on the wood!
-the wind is chill;
But let it whistle as it will.
We'll keep our Christmas merry still.

-Sir Walter Scott

Merry Christmas from Linda and Michelle!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Welcome to my Home!

Submitted by: Linda
Last Sunday when we took our family picture, Craig and I stepped outside to experiment with the camera and he snapped this pic of me. As much as I feel a bit silly posting pictures of myself, I feel like it captures my "philosophy" about my home and having people over.

Long story short, we once lived in a teeny tiny house with 2 small children, then we were privileged to live rent-free in Craig's grandma's house. At Grandma's house we were blessed to live there, as we were right across the street from Craig's parents. We have such sweet memories of that time, however the house itself was a mishmash of carpet, wallpaper, varieties of paneling, and so on.

When the door opened for us to buy our current home (a block from the school where I teach), we were thrilled to have SPACE for everyone and plain white walls!!! Craig and I felt so blessed and thankful, we decided to open our doors whenever our home was needed. When our church moved from San Dimas to Claremont, our house really became a hub of activity, especially with youth group kids.

So our goal has been to have a home that is "warm and welcome" for anyone who walks through our doors. Tonight we will be hosting the Wallace Clan for a soup supper and Christmas tradition of having the children spontaneously act of the nativity story from the book of Luke, and have birthday cake for Jesus. Tomorrow I will host my Roll side of the family for steaks, gift giving and singing carols. (Don't worry, I'm not cooking everything!)

Yes, it is work to entertain (getting teenagers to help??!!), but Craig and I have so much fun doing it that others say we make it look easy. The bottom line is, we're happy having people in our home. And by the way, if you're in my neighborhood, please stop by. I can always add an extra plate.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Linda's Christmas Tip #12

Submitted by: Linda
Hello everyone! With family in town and all the hustle and bustle of preparing for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, I'm a little late putting today's post up.

This is an idea that will probably not work for this Christmas (after all, we are 48 hours away and counting....). However, this cute idea is a fun thing that will work for party favors, candy gifts (Valentine's is coming), or as a cute holder for a gift card. Your family or friends will love pulling open the lid of the can to find a nice surprise inside.
Start by saving soup cans by using a 'safety' type can opener, and open it with the opener rather than popping the top. Any can with a pop top will work. The cans pictured in front are Campbell's soup cans, and the one behind is a larger broth can. Then fill your clean can with:
*Hershey Kisses or other candy
*Trinkets, jewelry, small toys
*Cash or gift cards
The can pictured with the tool paper and wrench has an OSH giftcard inside, and the "can 'o tunes" is an ITunes card.

Now, here is the tricky part: The only glue I've found that works isn't even glue. It is called "Crystal Effects" (sold by Stampin' Up) or Crystal Lacquer (sold at Stamping stores). After I put the glue on the lid, I set a paint can (or something heavy) on the can overnight.

In the past I've elaborately decorated the cans, but you can see above, it looks cute with thematic scrapbook paper and ribbon.

By the way, don't even ask how many empty cans I have stashed away for future projects!!!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Mini Break in Sierra Madre

Submitted by: Michelle

This weekend I took a road trip to visit Anna and Max, my niece and nephew and I brought along Celeste, one of my former kindergarten students, to play with them. It was great to get out of the desert for a sleepover with the kids.

We arrived at lunch time and the kids enjoyed Mickey D's around a table in Anna's room.
During the afternoon there was nothing but play, play, play and gingerbread cookie decorating, though I think more of the sprinkles and colored sugar may have been comsumed than put on the cookies.



And I got in lots of cuddle time with Anna's new dog Fifi. She is 4 pounds of cuteness that bounces around the house.
I had been feeling a little ho-hum about the holidays this year but after a sleepover with 3 kids I'm ready for Santa and elves and Christmas fun.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Photo Destination: Linda's Couch

Submitted by: Linda

Here's the virtual version of our Christmas card. To see the hand-stamped front, visit the blog archive "Linda's Christmas Tip #2" dated Nov. 12. Usually we have a great pic in a fun destination, but this year our destination is our living room. We plopped onto the couch, set the camera timer, and here it is! My hair looks a bit funny , probably because I'm the one who pushed the camera button and then ran to the couch to get in the picture!!!
(Inside of card follows:)
Here’s the brief update from the Wallaces:
Craig: APU Alumni Guy, Favorite Uncle (who helps the nieces and nephews in their
home remodeling projects)
Linda: Kindergarten Teacher, Blogger (Ladies, check out www.frontrowfriends.com), Early Morning Walker
Tommy: HS Senior, Mountain Biker, Mexico Worker, California Driver, Tennis Player
Nick: HS Junior, Junior High Youth Leader, Mexico Worker, Tennis Player, Funny Voice Master
Let the Peace of Christ rule in your hearts
this Christmas!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Linda's Sugar Cookies

Submitted by: Linda
To quote Rachel Lynde from Anne of Green Gables fame, "I'm known around these parts" for my sugar cookies. I am not saying these are the best sugar cookies ever, but I do have a small fan club who request them throughout the year and especially at Christmas. When my boys were small, I enjoyed finding the perfect cookie cutter to coordinate with their birthday party theme.

I have very fond memories of making these with my mom during the holidays, and we learned some important lessons, including: blue frosting is not always appetizing and those little silver balls/sprinkles can really hurt your teeth.

I also fell in love with the old-school cookie cutters - I love the ones with handles and scallop edges.

Well, my mom (and other family members) have designated me as the "official sugar cookie baker" because I have found some tools that have helped make my sugar cookie baking projects easy and successful. (Don't men say it's all about the tools?) I'm going to share my tips, which I'm sure will help you with any variety of sugar cookie dough. I will include my recipe at the end, for those of you (Beth) who are wishing for it!

1. The "No Mess Dough Disc" - this is a plastic disc that comes with a little cotton "sheet" that goes over it. I believe that when I use this, it requires less flour to roll them out, so there are no "tough" cookies, even with the dough that has been rolled out several times. I found my disc online for about $16.99.
2. The other tool pictured above is the hand-held pastry roller. I use this in lieu of a big rolling pin. This way I have more control over the dough as I'm rolling it, so it is easier for me to get them all at a consistent thickness.
3. The other secret to my cookies is to pull them out of the oven just before they start to brown. We like them soft rather than crunchy. Pictured below is the finished product, with simple powder sugar/milk frosting and sprinkles.

Linda's Family Favorite Sugar Cookies
Blend:
1 heaping C. sugar
1 C. shortening
2 eggs, beaten
1/3 C. milk
1 t. vanilla (of course, Penzey's is best)

Add:
3 1/2 C. flour (you will need a bit more flour when you roll them out)
1 t. baking powder
1 t. soda
1/2 t. salt

Mix well. Roll 1/4 inch think and cut with cookie cutters. Bake at 375 for about 8 minutes. Remember, you will want to pull them out before they get brown. Watch them carefully, if they are getting too brown you may want to turn your oven down to 350.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Sometimes I Can't Help Myself

Submitted by: Michelle

I swore I wasn't going to do it this year. I was going to take it easy. I was going to keep things simple. I wasn't going to push myself to be the overachieving teacher who handmakes gifts for her 5 and 6 year old students. I was just going to give the kids crayons and a little holiday coloring book. No biggie.

I'm not sure what came over me. Maybe it was Santa's spirit. Maybe it was my inner elf. Maybe it was knowing I didn't "have" to do it. Whatever it was, I found myself buying Hershey's chocolate bars in bulk at Costco on the rainiest day ever when I should have been at home staying warm. Thursday morning at 2:30 AM I was dusting off my glue gun when I should have been sleeping.

But now that all the goggly eyes are in place and the jingle bells are securely attached, I am glad to have 27 reindeer to give to the little people who spend their school days with me.


Reindeer Sandwiches!

Submitted by: Linda
Here's a tried and true kindergarten recipe. My kindergarten friends are making this in class this week at centers time. They love it, of course! I'm sure you can figure it out from the picture, but here are the ingredients:
1 slice wheat bread cut diagonally
peanut butter
2 chocolate chips (or m&ms, or raisins, or...)
4 stick pretzels
1 maraschino cherry

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Linda's Christmas Tip #11: New "Vintage" Tablecloth

Submitted by: LindaI received a gift certificate to Barbara Cheatley's Antique/KnickKnack store here in Claremont, and when I went shopping, look what I found!!!!!! This beautiful new "vintage" table cloth (made by Moda)! I just love it. I am really picky about buying Christmas decorations because: A: It's only out for one month out of the year and B: I already have a lot of things I love, so if I buy something new I have to get rid of something else. When I saw this, I knew it was a "must have"!

My tip for today is to adopt those same rules when buying Christmas (or other) home dec items. You have to love it enough to say 'goodbye' to something else, and be willing to store it during the off-season.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Chocolate & Cinnamon Rugelach

Submitted by: Michelle

Probably my favorite Christmas cookie is the rugelach (say: roo-gah-lah), though I'm not really sure it is a Christmas cookie. I just happen to bake them at Christmas time. They are created from a delicate dough made of butter and cream cheese and sweetened up with chocolate chips and spiced up with cinnamon. So yummy. So easy to make. And a real crowd pleaser as they appear as if they took days and a pastry chef to make, whilst in actuality any cookie baker, novice or pro, can produce them.

I've turned many of my friends into rugelach lovers, particularly Claudia, the 13 year old daughter of my front row friend Veronica. Over the weekend, Claudia and Veronica came over for a rugelach making tutorial.

We started with the dough, which does requiring chilling, that I had made the night before. It is simply made of butter, cream cheese, flour and salt.


I rolled the dough out on a lightly floured surface. The shape isn't perfect but that's OK.

Claudia brushed melted butter over the dough and then sprinkled cinnamon-sugar.

We added mini-chocolate chips and then cut the dough into 12 triangles.


Claudia rolled the triangles (starting at the large end) into cookies.



Once on the cookie sheet, Claudia brushed egg white over the tops and add another sprinkle of cinnamon-sugar.

We baked them up and had ourselves a tasty treat!


Some Reasons Why I Love This Cookie:

It is unusual. Not the typical cookie that everyone is making

The dough mixes up easily and is not difficult to work with.

Every bit of the dough is used, unlike cookie cutter cookies where the left over scraps either have to be re-rolled or thrown away.

Anyone can make them and look like a professional baker.



Chocolate Chip & Cinnamon Rugelach
from the Williams-Sonoma Cookies & Biscotti cookbook

PASTRY
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 lb. cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour

FILLING
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
cinnamon sugar (recipe below)
1 bag miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips (you won't use them all)

TOPPING
1 egg white beaten with 1 tablespoon water
cinnamon sugar

CINNAMON SUGAR
Mix 1/2 cup sugar with 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

To make the pastry, combine the butter and cream cheese with a hand mixer or Kitchen Aide using paddle attachment at a high speed, until smooth. Add the flour, a little at a time, and mix well. On a lightly floured surface, form the dough into a log. Cut into 4 equal pieces. Flatten each piece into a disk and wrap separately in plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter baking sheets or better yet, use a Silpat mat! Let 1 dough disk stand at room temperature about 10 minutes to soften slightly. Place on a floured surface and roll out to a round, about 1/8 inch thick.

Brush the dough with 1 tablespoon butter (I don't measure. Just don't put too much. You don't want greasy cookies.) Immediately sprinkle with 3 tablespoons cinnamon sugar. ( I don't measure.) Top with chocolate chips. Using the rolling pin, gently roll over the filling to help it adhere to the dough. Cut the round of dough into 12 wedges. Starting at the wide edge, roll up each wedge. Transfer the cookies to prepared baking sheets, arranging point-sides down. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.

Brush the cookies with the egg white-water mixture, then sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake until golden brown, about 15-20 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.