Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Meet Our Go To Baking Powder Biscuit

I've been home sick the last couple of days.  Neither Walter nor Manuel have gotten sick, thank God.  Unless we want Manuel to lose 3/4 hour pay to take Walter in I either have to struggle to bring him to Out of School Care (OSC) myself or keep him home.  I decided to keep him home.  He's been totally sweet for the first half hour in the mornings - asking if I need anything, tucking me into bed with one of his stuffed animals.  Then ... well, then he starts to get bored, and I'm forced to get up and keep him entertained while trying to rest.

Now that I'm starting to feel better I decided I would make us some biscuits for lunch.  These are our go to biscuits  We usually have them for breakfast at least once a week, and we whip them up for dinner when it's soup or stew.  They are so easy to make, taste great on their own or spread with jam, and Manuel  loves having the leftovers for coffee break the next day.

If you look on-line or in most cookbooks the recipes for biscuits are quite similar.  Flour (white or wholewheat), salt, leavening (baking powder and/or baking soda), fat (shortening, margarine or butter), and liquid (milk, buttermilk or yogurt, and sometimes eggs) are the main ingredients.

Here's the ingredients for today's biscuits:

Flour - 2 cups
Baking Powder - 1 tablespoon
Salt - 1/2 to 1 teaspoon
Butter, chilled and cubed - 1/3 cup
Yogurt and Milk, combined - 1 cup

For the flour I chose to put a bit of wholewheat flour in this time, so I replaced 1/2 cup of flour with this type of flour.  We don't tend to use too much salt ... so despite the fact that I was using unsalted butter I kept the amount of salt towards the 1/2 teaspoon point.  I used about 2/3 cup yogurt and topped this off with milk, using a spoon to stir until combined.

First, I heated the oven to 425F.

Next, I mixed the dry ingredients in a good sized bowl.  Then I got the butter out of the fridge and cut it into cubes (I have used soft butter and margarine with no problems).  I rubbed the butter into the dry ingredients to the point that there were no longer any big chunks of butter.  You don't want the butter to disappear in the dry ingredients, and you don't need to have uniform bits of butter  In fact, I find some differences in size help in the flakiness of the final product

Once the butter is incorporated I added the wet ingredients and quickly stirred to combine.  Like muffins, you don't want to over stir the biscuit mix.  Once things were mostly incorporated I dumped everything out onto the counter.  Using my hands I kneaded the biscuit dough 6-10 times.  Again, don't over handle as this will make for a tough biscuit that's better for hockey practice then eating!  Quickly roll it into a cylinder, cut into disks and place on a cookie sheet.

Bake for 12 - 14 minutes or until lightly golden.

If you can (!) let them cool just a bit before eating.

I have used this recipe as the basis for cinnamon rolls - using a brown sugar-cinnamon-butter concoction on the bottom of the pan and spread on the biscuit dough ... totally yummy!  I have also put grated cheese, ham, raisins, and chocolate chips in at various times for variety.  Still, the basic version is still this families favourite.  Enjoy!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Counting Down to the Move

Remember when you were in elementary or high school and it was summer vacation time?  Remember how at the beginning there seemed like there was so much time?  And then, as it got closer to the end of the summer vacation you started to realize that there weren't so many days left ... and as it got closer and closer to the start of school you started to count the days.

That's me with our house move.

Last night I thought, this is the 3rd last Wednesday of sleeping in the townhouse.  After Thursday and Friday nights are gone from this week, each day has only two more sleeps left.

Only 16 more days.  16 more sleeps.

Do you do this - count the days until something exciting, waited for happens?

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Three Weekends Until Move-Out

We have spent this weekend packing up everything we could from our second floor - bedrooms, linen closet, and bathrooms.  Manuel and Walter moved everything out of the crawl space and into the garage.  We basically tried to box anything we didn't need for the next three weeks.

My workstation was a lap tray - labels, pens, markers, tape gun, and notebook.  Each box was marked with two labels - one a colour coded tab-style label marked with either a U, M, or B plus a two-letter abbreviation for the room.  A second, larger label indicated the box number and the full room name.  One set went on the top of the box and another set on one side.  If a box had fragile items inside an extra FRAGILE label was added to these label sets.  I did 38 boxes this way, taking an occasional break to make popcorn and watch some Magoo videos with Walter.

Next week we'll concentrate on the first floor - kitchen, living and dining rooms, laundry room, and hall closet.

The last weekend before we move we'll spend shifting the upstairs boxes downstairs, and finishing off anything that is still outstanding anywhere in the house.

We've booked a U-Haul 17' panel truck for Thursday night - Saturday.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Preparing to Move

Anybody who knows me well knows that I like to be organized and prepared.  That means research first.  I've been spending several days researching the idea of moving.  How to pack, when to start packing.  How to organize packing.  Who needs to be notified about the move at what point.  Supplies needed.  How best to transport home contents.  There's a lot to consider.

I've found it's somewhat similar to paying bills.  You don't want to pay too early or pay too late.  You have to remember all the bills that are coming due.  Where is the money coming from and where is it going to.  I find that if I think about all the parts that make up the home (including the people in it) - heat, light, food, water, safety, communication, comfort, transportation, education, etc. - and how those things are connected to businesses and institutions I can remember what's coming up.  I use this same idea when planning camping trips, and I'm using this same concept for our move.

So far I've put together a sheet within my Microsoft OneNote file for the new home called Checklist.  I have:
  • 2 to 3 Weeks Before You Move
  • 1 to 2 Weeks Before You Move
  • 2 to 7 Days Before You Move
  • The Day Before You Move
  • Moving Day
  • Post Move In
Under each of these I've been adding bullets for various things that I need to think about or remember to do.

We're right now in the 2 to 3 Weeks zone.  We've organized Gas, Hydro (Electricity), Phone, and Internet/Cable hookups.  Arranged for Canada Post to forward mail for the next 12 months (that's $84 ... $7 a month).  Notified the bank, Doctor, Dentists, Employers about the move. (Still to do - notify Walter's school, update driver's license, car insurance, income tax/government agencies, accountant.) We have been collecting boxes for months.  Have the tape gun (and just bought six more rolls of tape to be sure).  Fragile labels, other labels, a notebook to record box contents.  I'm going to take shredded paper from work to use as filler in packing boxes.

I've decided to label each box in the following way:
  • Circle Label with a big single letter to refer to the floor level - M for Main, U for Upper, and B for Basement
  • Label to designate room.  I'm considering colour coding these labels with crayons (Yes - crayons.  They won't wash off and they give me a wide assortment of hues to choose from).
  • On the same Label the box number.  This number will be recorded in the notebook along with a general description of the contents.  I don't think it's necessary to itemize every object going into a box, but enough information to help locate items is useful.  This list will be used on moving day to check off boxes as they come into the new house.
  • Use a Fragile sticker if needed.
  • All these labels applied to four vertical sides and top side.  (Yes, I know, that's a bit OCD.)
I've got a floor plan - I'll blow up each level and designate it with the M, U, B.  Colour in the rooms so that there is a key plan that I can post on moving day.  I'm thinking:
  • Blue - Bathrooms, Laundry
  • Green - Kitchen
  • Orange - Walter's room
  • Yellow - Our bedroom
  • Pink - Guest room
  • Grey - My office
  • White - Living room, Dining Room
  • Red - Family Room
  • Brown - Garage
  • Purple - Basement
Now - when to do all of this packing?

Weekdays are difficult for us - we work all day, come home, make dinner, spend time with Walter.  Then bath and bedtime with Walter for one of us while the other cleans up.  By the time that's all done it's almost time for bed.  Just a bit of time to relax before we fall asleep.

That means the weekends become critical for us in getting this move organized and carried out properly.  We have three weekends before we move.  Oh My, how did that happen?!

This weekend our plan is to empty out the crawl space - either recycle, give away, toss, or box everything.  Items being boxed will be placed in the garage.  In addition, I plan to box up the contents of the guest room and linen closet, leaving only the furniture pieces alone; and Manuel and I will go through our clothes and box up out of season items.  All these boxes will be stored in the guest room.  Manuel plans to do some boxing of items in the garage that haven't already been boxed up (we boxed up a fair bit when we staged our townhouse in preparation for selling it).

I also am aware that this move is likely quite stressful for Walter.  My plan is to leave his room and the common rooms alone as much as possible so that daily life goes on.  He needs routine and calm.  I'm sure, despite these efforts that he's going to act up.  Children do that when life gets stressful for them.  He IS excited about moving.  He really wants to pack up his own things and be there for the move.  So much that I've agreed he can take off a school day on the Friday (January 25th) to help on the big day.  I've also arranged for my Mom to be around to take him away when he needs a break.