Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Tasty Tuesday: Challah-lujah!

As you probably know, I've been working my way though the breads of the world and coming up with my own recipes along the way (more on my own flavorful sourdough recipe next week).

This past week I had to tackle an interesting challenge in order to make an absolutely gorgeous Challah loaf. The pictures of this bread from around the internet absolutely intimidated me - sculptured, artisanal, radiant come to mind as a descriptors. Taste is primary, but beauty is a requirement that comes in a close second.

To top it all off, my mother never taught me how to French Braid. My aunt always french braided my hair when she came to visit, so I never learned. And, according to the internet sources a French Braid makes for a beautiful Challah.

What to do when faced with these challenges in life? Try. Fail. Fix. Succeed.

My first failure came when using my bread maker. Instead of using the dough setting, I accidentally used one of the bread settings and then promptly left the house to go shopping for plants. When I returned home, the house was filled with the wonderful smell of baking bread! 

Delightful... Taste? Check! Texture? Fair. Beauty? Epic failure.

Round two was a success? I made a couple of modifications to the recipe (I used my new favorite bread blog at King Arthur flour as a recipe framework - they have tons of great tips) and we arrived a delicious and gorgeous loaf.

1/2 c. warm water
7 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (divided 5 & 2)
1/4 c. honey
2 eggs
4 c. all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp dry active yeast

Egg Wash - 1 egg + 1 tbsp cold water 

1. Add the liquid ingredients, including 5 tablespoons of EVOO, to the bottom of your mixing bowl. Quickly beat the eggs and add to the rest of the liquid ingredients.

2. Combine the dry ingredients and mix in order to make sure that the salt and yeast are distributed. Then add the dry ingredients to the liquid ingredients.

3. As you mix (either in a mixer or the bread maker on manual / dough program), watch the consistency of the dough. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of EVOO to achieve the soft pliable texture (dare I say gooey goodness?)
4. Allow the dough to rise for 2 hours (covered).*

5. Now here's the braiding part... The part my mother never taught me. Separate the dough into four equal volume cylinders.
6. Then you roll each cylinder into a long rope (20+ inches). The rope should be about 3/4" in diameter. Pinch the top of the four ropes together (you can spray with a tiny bit of water to help the adhering process). Imagine the ropes are numbered left to right 1 through 4.

7. Take the leftmost outside rope (1) and loop it around and under the rightmost inside (3) rope.

8. Take the right-most outside rope (4) and loop it around and under the leftmost inside rope (2).

9. Go back to #7 and repeat 7 and 8 (alternating) until you have braided the whole loaf. (See Mom? It isn't that hard.) Pinch the finished end together.

10. Place the loaf on parchment paper on an insulated cookie sheet. You can cover the loaf loosely by wrapping the parchment paper around it, or use a damp towel, for its final rise (60-90 minutes).

11. Preheat your oven to 365 degrees F (most recipes call for 375 degrees F, but I found 365 degrees F works better in my oven and does not over-crisp the crust)

12. Whisk together your egg wash and brush over the loaf.

13. Place your loaf in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. After the 20 minutes, place a loose tent of foil over your challah loaf and then continue baking for an additional 25 minutes (to ensure that you cook the sides and don't burn the crust)

14. As with other breads, I use the cake tester method to tell that it's done. If my bbq thermometer pulls clean and the temperature is close to 200 deg F, we are ready to eat!Needless to say? Remove from the oven to cool.

Note: Other recipes call for vegetable oil. We don't really keep this on hand in our house and olive oil adds just a tiny bit of extra deliciousness. I used vegetable oil in the first attempt and EVOO in the second attempt with an extra tablespoon for good measure above the 6 tablespoons recommended by KA.

Note 2: I'm a woman on the go, so sometimes I only have so much time but still want to serve a lovely and handmade treat to visitors. You can stop at step 4 either before or after the two hour rise. I've found that I can let the dough rise and then place it in the fridge for up to 3 days. Then I just take it out and resume the forming and then allow a final rise before placing it in the oven. I have also formed the bread and then placed it in the fridge for a long final rise until ready to bake it. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

Monday Montage: Top 7 Adoption Posts

I want to thank each of you for following the blog on Scarlet Threads. I know that we've meandered through a lot of topics over the years, but a specific topic is a top focus for our organization: Adoption and Orphan Care. I wanted to share a few of our favorite posts on the subject!

Thanks to one of our partner families for sharing this post about their ST Fundraising success! We just shipped out three new Adoption Fundraising Kits this month to adoptive families!! I love that we get to be involved in so many families' adoption journeys in such an empowering way! Our adoptive families keep 50% of the purchase price to help bring their new little one home. Not to mention, we distribute grants from the Scarlet Scraps Adoption Fund to a couple of our partner families each year (as funds permit.)

This post is simultaneously my favorite and the most heartbreaking post from Carrie during her journey to bring Alea home. Suffice to say, it is one of the most read as well.

3. Life Grows with Love - Results
Our community (you) achieved simply outrageous results during our #STOrphanCare campaign. Each year we have picked a child from New Day Foster Home to sponsor. We identify and communicate this child's medical needs and find matching donors. Our amazing community does the rest. Last year, with our matching donors, we raised $7,500+ or 16 months of anti-rejection medications for transplant recipients at NDFH.

I love this joyful post from a New Day adoptive family. "Knowing someone sponsored our child before we ever knew she was our child; I can’t even explain the emotions it stirs inside me when I think of that."

It's soooo worth it!  "If you’re reading this, you might know someone adopting, or considering adopting, and wondering….well, how hard is it?  I can tell you, when we first set down the adoption road, we had NO IDEA what we were in for ;)" - Erika Jensen

"I want to remember it all.  The way I saw her walk in... I knew it was her even without seeing her face, just  because she was the size I imagined she would be.  The way she clutched my China necklace the moment they handed her to me, winding those little fingers in and out, in and out." - Carrie
"Our bags are mostly packed.  A few more things in, a few things out, and they will be ready for the final zip. And just like that, here we are: Our last day home. The day before we leave for China.  My last day in our own home as a stay-at-home mama of my ONE feisty and sweet little girl." - Carrie

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Thrifty Thursday: Scraptastic Handbag

Mother's Day is coming up! And, we have a gift idea for you. One of our Scarlet Scraps Handbags, which conveniently is 40% off now through Thursday. The gift also has an extra special meaning because proceeds of all Scarlet Scraps sales go to our Adoption Grant Fund.

Regularly $20, the sale price is $12.

keep reading... there's a coupon code coming!

Remember that there is also a giveaway going on on Five Heart Home and we're offering 20% off all purchases of $30 or more when you add the coupon code "giveaway" to your shopping cart!

So, that means you should buy 3 of these beauties - one for you, one for your Mom, and one for your friend's birthday - $60 of product for $28.80 (plus tax).

Beat that, Target! Fair trade is affordable!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Tasty Tuesday: What to do with Easter Ham?

No, I'm not lazy! Yes, I have not put up any recipes in a couple of weeks. Never fear, however I returned to the kitchen last night to make a delicious and gorgeous Challah bread. So, keep an eye out for that Tasty Tuesday gem.

Today, I'm sharing a recipe from our blog affiliate Tina (from Mommy's Kitchen). She has a great idea for what to do with an Easter ham - Fried Rice! Simply scrumptious from the looks of it.


Aren't we so lucky to have partnered with another amazing lady/blogger/foodie? I think we all win. Great recipes for our community, more traffic for Scarlet Threads, a bigger mission, and a better world.

PS - Don't miss Mommy's Kitchen's Sugar Cookie Recipe that Tina posted a couple of years ago on our little blog!

PPS - Join the ranks of our Affiliates, earn a commission, and build the ST Mission! click here

Monday, April 21, 2014

Priscilla Giveaway on Five Heart Home

Hey Friends!

I just wanted to let you know that there is a giveaway on Five Heart Home this week and our sweet Priscilla is on full display, along with several other Mother's Day goodies in a gift basket. Click over to enter and then share your joy by pinning the post, tweeting, and sharing on facebook.

If you haven't already clicked over to enter, Five Heart Home is one of our Advertising Affiliates! And, we are so proud to have partnered with such an amazing blog. I just found out that Samantha's (founder of FHH) recipe for Glazed Ham and Freshest Spring Veggies was featured on People.com! How awesome is that??? And, let's not forget her Triple Chocolate Banana Bread (our most highly visited blog post EVER!)

We are forming new partnerships all the time and would love to work with you as an individual affiliate, or if you have a blog we would love for you to consider our Advertising Affiliate program - it comes with several great perks...

Our Priscilla apron (Reg. $36, Giveaway Winner FREE) is one of our most popular styles to date and we only have about 10 or so remaining in stock. As you probably remember, all of our patterns are limited edition and once they are gone they are gone. So, if you can't wait to find out if you won the giveaway go ahead and pop on over to make a purchase. Use "giveaway" for 20% off your order of $30 or more (now through May 10th).

So, stop by Five Heart Home, enter, and then stay a while and take a look at all of the delicious recipes that Samantha has to share!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Lean In Baby Girl!

Our newest member is being knitted in to her forever family! 
And, we know that you are part of the Community that already loves her like crazy. 
Drop by Carrie's personal blog to Lean In!

"You’re learning we’re your people and that we care about you...  You reach to be held by us if someone else has picked you up.  You smile wide when your daddy walks in the door after work.  You reach out in the dark while you’re sleeping, and if you feel me there, you settle back into dreamland... your heart is being knitted to ours."

"So lean in baby girl… I’m your mama and you’re my girl.  You aren’t alone anymore.  You aren’t fighting by yourself.  You have a daddy who knows just how you like to play, a sister who can make you smile, and a whole family and community who loves you like crazy.  Snuggle close and take a deep breath.  You can rest now."

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Thrifty Thursday: Sassy Suzy

It's the perfect time to purchase a lovely Mother's Day gift - ahead of schedule I might add! And, we have an idea that's super economical, too. visit out sale page

Our short shipping freeze has ended! Carrie has returned from China with a beautiful snuggly baby in tow and the family is settling in nicely at home in Midland, TX - with a touch of jet lag. Aren't those eyes gorgeous?

So, now we can have a little sale to celebrate! Suzy is still a favorite and we are going to put her on sale for $15 this week - Regularly $25. Sale ends next Thursday. Now, you could purchase it for your mother, or maybe you should buy one for yourself too. You need to be protected from all the splatter, too!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: A Giveaway on the Way!

A giveaway is on its way! Five Heart Home will be including our lovely ruffled Priscilla apron in a Mother's Day giveaway basket, which you all will be invited to enter. We'll keep you appraised of the situation, but make sure you check the facebook page, twitter feed, pinterest, etc. so you don't miss out!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Tasty Tuesday: Butternut Squash and Bacon Soup

It all started because I had half of a butternut squash in my fridge with no idea what to do. I don't usually cook with squash - other than the calabaza or summer squash sauteed in butter, olive oil and sprinkled with white pepper, black pepper, and salt. So, I had to resort to "the google" for ideas.

I remembered quite some time ago I made a butternut squash, apple, bacon, and onion soup. I remembered it being quite good, but then I never made it again. What does that say? Clearly our residence never had another opportunity or craving for said soup... until the other day.

"the google" gave me some good ideas of recipe framework and then this masterpiece was born. The starting point was (of all things) a Martha Stewart recipe. Thanks for the inspiration, Martha!

Corn Bread Muffins and a light summer salad are delicious accompaniments. I imagine that the recipe below might be relatively easy to convert for a vegetarian diet or gluten-free diet!

Butternut Squash Soup
30+ minutes, Serves 4*
*Note: Quantities as stated serves 4 normal people with sides. If you are a McKean family member, this recipe serves 2-3 people. If you are my father-in-law, this recipe serves 1.*

4 oz. chopped Bacon (Ends and Bits)
2 tbsp. butter
1 medium yellow onion - roughly chopped
4 1/2 c. Butternut Squash - peeled, roughly chopped 2 c. Chicken Stock
1/2 c. Water
Garlic Powder


1. In a large pan, melt the butter and add bacon. Cook until just crisp.

2. Add onion and squash. Saute until onions are translucent. Dust with garlic powder, thyme, parsley, salt, and pepper.

3. Add liquids and bring to a gentle boil. Cook until squash is fork tender. Check the seasoning of the broth and correct to taste with thyme, parsley, salt, and pepper.

4. Puree in batches in a blender.

5. Correct seasoning and serve!

Thrifty Tips & Tricks

I always keep some bacon "ends and bits" in the freezer. It's two pounds of bacon that isn't in those pretty little strips, and it sells for a lot cheaper. It may be a bit fattier. But, as I have everyone in my house recite - "Fat is Flavor!" Say it with me now, "Fat is Flavor!"

Parsley is not just a garnish. We keep some parsley around to make quinoa tabouli, spaghetti carbonara,  and other dishes. It adds some clean peppery flavor that we love. To keep it fresh, we wrap it in a paper towel and then place it in a ziplock with plenty of air. My mother in law showed this to me and it is how I keep all of my fresh herbs for astronomically longer time in my fridge. If you aren't going to use it before it goes bad, put it on a baking sheet and place it in the oven at 250 degrees F until thoroughly dried. Then crush and add to your dried parsley in your spice cabinet.

In a pureed soup, you can throw in almost anything with compatible flavors. I didn't do anything outrageous in this soup, but I did use my previously cut red onions and yellow onions and then supplemented with an additional yellow onion.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Monday Montage: Discussion Board - Orphan Epidemic

I was super blown away by the responses in our discussion board last month! I love that we were able to open a dialog about one of the tough topics in the world around us. We received a lot of feedback from people who didn't know that sex trafficking was an issue in the world, let alone here in the US. So, it validated our effort to bring to light the dark places of the world. When we shine a light - through recognition, discussion, and prayer - darkness falters and retreats.

This month, we want to talk about something that most people are aware of. And, thankfully so! Adoption is a miracle! I am thrilled that so many people answer the call and take part in this redemptive response to tragedy. Many of us are painfully aware of the tragedy and aftermath of abandonment, some of us have watched people heal first hand, some of us are healing.

"Adoption in my opinion is a redemptive response to a tragedy. It is a necessary response and one that I strongly believe in... but it is a response to a tragedy."
- Carrie McKean
Ever since reading Carrie's blog from last Friday (Hats, Hearts & Healing), I haven't been able to get the heartbreak off of my mind. It seems the rest of my friends who keep an eye on the ST blog, feel the same way. I have heard from bunches of people that the post brought tears to their eyes. It certainly did mine.


And then there were more tears when I read this article. In 24 hours, a journalist witnessed 8 infants abandoned at the Guangzhou baby hatch. The wounds of abandonment are on full display in the article. And, it isn't just the wounds of the abandoned. It would seem that heartbreak isn't reserved for the abandoned. I imagine the wounds that I see in a 60 year old adopted man, that haven't healed, are also on the hearts of his parents - birth and adoptive.

One thing that gave me some semblance of hope from the article is this:

“The sole purpose of us sending the child here is its survival. Life is above all things. We just hope our child will be able to survive here.” - A Father First

Thoughts? Join our discussion board either by leaving a comment here or on our facebook page.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: Fabric Market - Rock Star Negotiator

Deng Jie is on the right. Can't you just see the determination in her eyes? I'm thinking we are getting a good price today! Rock star negotiator.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Tasty Tuesday: Perfect Pumpernickel

I think a dark rye is a daring bread because it seems so easy to "get it wrong." Then again, we should all agree that there is value in every attempt on the road to great bread. It seems like I've begun to understand the doughs a little better. The doughs with sugar (like a rye) are going to be a bit stickier, and they don't need more flour... put down the flour. And, they'll be baked at a slightly lower temperature to avoid burning the crust.

This recipe received rave reviews from the food critics (a.k.a. my husband and next door neighbors). It may have been the real butter - it makes everything better.

Go ahead and put your own spin on things. Don't be afraid to try new things... if you don't have one ingredient, try another. After all, many of the great inventions were accidental discoveries.

FYI - I did start with the same starter from our first "Becoming Bread" recipe. It adds such a wonderful complex fermented flavor... some might call your bread an artisan bread! You can of course skip the starter entirely. To skip the starter, use 2 1/4 tsp of dry active yeast. Because there will be less moisture, you can also use less flour.

Pumpernickel Bread
(adapted from Hodgson's Mill Rye Bread Recipe on the back of the container of rye flour.)

1/2 c. Starter
1/2 tsp dry active yeast
1 c. lukewarm water
2 tbsp. molasses
2 tbsp butter - melted
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tbsp. cocoa powder
1 tbsp. wheat gluten
1 3/4 c. rye flour
1 1/2 c. bread flour

As mentioned in a previous blog post, I usually use a bread maker for the heavy lifting for mixing and kneading. I would add the ingredients to the bowl in the order listed above, but if you mix well, you can get away with adding them in any order.

Reserve a portion of the bread flour and add as appropriate. This dough is a bit sticky and it won't have the same texture as a french bread dough, so don't try to replicate the french bread texture or you will end up adding too much flour... which will make a brick loaf.

Allow 2 hours for the first and second rises. After the first rise, form into either a baguette or a boule. Make sure you put the boule seam side down. (Maybe we should do a short post on how to form said boule?) I used a bit of olive oil to keep the bread from sticking to my hands.

Bake on 390 degrees F for 30 - 35 minutes or until done. Use the cake tester method to check done-ness - it should pull clean. The thermometer also works - make sure the internal temperature is above 205 degrees F.

Just a tip - if you serve this for dessert with honey and butter, it is a crowd pleaser!