Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

I am always amazed at how big hurricanes can get.  I recall some pictures of other hurricanes filling the entire Gulf of Mexico.  Sandy was a big one too.  The news said it was between 900 and 1000 miles wide. That means that one storm can affect a lot of people. I believe this one affected about 25 % of the population of the USA.

Our prayers go out to all those who have suffered losses in this hurricane. People lost their loved ones, homes, cars and jobs.

However, one of the ways we can help mitigate our own suffering when events like this happen is to be prepared. Put together a 72 hour kit, keep some food storage in your house as well as water storage. (Most people don't have running water if they don't have electricity.) Have a few methods of cooking without electricity ready so you can eat the foods that you have stored. 

These simple steps can help you keep a sense of normalcy as you try to deal with the damage - whatever it may be. You will never know when you need it, be prepared!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Is That Food Still Safe to Eat?

Have you ever wondered what the answer is to the following questions:
  • The olive oil has turned cloudy: Is it still OK?
  • Are eggs still safe after the expiration date?
  • Is it safe to leave canned food leftovers in the can?
  • Is raw ground beef OK if it is turning brown?
  • Can you safely reuse marinade?
  • Do spices ever go bad?
  • Is bottled water safe to drink after the expiration date?

I found this really cool web site called Still Tasty that is dedicated to answering questions on food safety. It gives guidance on how to store all kinds of food, answers specific questions like the ones above and has blog entries too! 

There is even an iPhone App so you can check out the site while you are in the grocery store!

The site has a search feature if you are looking for information on a specific food item.  You can also use the buttons across the top of the page to help you get the type of information you want.

With food prices as high as they are, we all need to get the most value possible out of the money we spend on food. I now have this site in my Favorites folder!

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Best Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever!

Since I make my own flour, everything we eat is whole wheat. Sometimes it can be a challenge to make desserts like cake, cookies and brownies with whole wheat.  So when I find a good recipe, I love to share it!  This is truly the best whole wheat chocolate chip cookie recipe I have ever tasted.  On top of that, these cookies are easy to make.

Here are the ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup + 1 TBS sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla (I make my own. You can see how to make your own vanilla here.)
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour (I use white whole wheat that I grind myself.)
  • 3/4 cup oats (You can use rolled oats but I usually use oat groats that I grind myself.) 
  • 2 cups (or to taste) M&Ms or chocolate chips (sometimes I use white chocolate chips)
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
Start with the butter at room temperature.  You can also heat it in the microwave for a few seconds to soften it. Beat together the butter, sugars, salt, baking soda, baking powder and vanilla.  I beat mine with a spoon.  No need to get out the beaters or food processor.

Add the egg and beat until smooth. Scrape the sides of the bowl and beat again until smooth. Here is what mine looks like.

Add both the flour and oats, then mix to combine. The texture of the cookies is a bit different if you use rolled oats (vs. oat groats) but it is still good. A dough with rolled oats will spread a bit more when baking.

Add the chocolate chips and walnuts. Mix well. These cookies are for a chili cook-off at my church so I added the entire two cups of M&Ms.

Cover and refrigerate until chilled.  You can chill for several hours or overnight. If you used rolled oats, this step is important as it will help the cookies hold together better while baking.  When I use oat groats, sometimes I chill the dough and sometimes I don't. For this batch, I used oat groats and I did not chill the dough.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.

Take a bite! You won't believe they were made with whole wheat flour!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Summer/Fall Garden Update

I have been watching the weather very carefully for the past few weeks trying to make sure that I get the most out of my summer garden before the first frost.  I am trying to get a year's worth of green beans so I won't need to purchase any between now and next summer.  My goal was 51 quarts for this year. I picked some green beans yesterday.  Here is what I got.

The picture doesn't give an accurate view of how many I picked.  I estimate there are enough beans here to fill 3 quart jars. I currently have 48 quart jars of green beans canned up.  If this batch makes 3 quarts, I will have my goal of 51 quarts. Even better, I still have some additional flowers and some small green beans left.  I should be able to pick a few more times before frost!

It was also time this week to pick the peanuts.  Here is a picture of some of my peanuts.

Picking peanuts is easy.  First, use a pitch fork to gently loosen the soil around the plants.  If you pull the entire plant up like you would a weed, you are guaranteed to leave some peanuts in the ground.  Gently loosening the soil with a pitchfork will ensure most of the peanuts stay attached to the plant.  Here is what it looks like when you pull the plant up.

Commercial operations usually pull the plants up and then leave them on the ground to dry a bit before completing the drying operation in large drying machines.  Since I am a home grower, my peanuts are picked and washed by hand and then left to dry in the house.  This time of year, the peanuts are drying everywhere.  There is hardly a place to sit, or a table to eat on without peanuts drying on it too.  For example, here is a section of my dinning room table. The peanuts are on freezer paper.

It will take about 6 weeks for them to dry completely.  Then I will separate them. I will use the Spanish peanuts to make cooking oil. The Virginia Jumbo peanuts will be roasted for eating.  In addition, I will separate out some to save as seed for next year.

I have also planted a few things in the fall garden.  I have carrots, garlic and spinach in now. Here is a picture of some of the garlic.  The carrots and spinach haven't made an appearance yet.

I can't wait to try my hand at making peanut oil for cooking (this is the first year I have tried to make cooking oil).  I will be very glad when I can cross oil off of the list of what I must purchase at the grocery store!  Stay tuned and I will let you know how it comes out!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Cooking with Food Storage: Banana Nut Bread

One of the things I like most about this time of year is all the wonderful quick breads you can make that taste yummy on these cool crisp mornings.  Today, I made a banana nut bread.  The best thing about this quick bread recipe is it lends itself really well to using all shelf stable ingredients!

Here are the ingredients:
  • 3 bananas, mashed (I used 1 1/2 cups freezed dried bananas, reconstituted)
  • 1/3 cup butter (You can used powdered butter or you can make your own butter. You can see how to make your own butter here. Of course, it tastes great with fresh butter from the store too!)
  • 1 egg (If using powdered eggs, use 2 TBS.)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla (I make my own. It's easy! You can see how to make your own here.)
  • 1 1/2 cups flour (I used all purpose whole wheat flour that I made myself. You can see how to make your own flour here.)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • pinch of salt
The first thing to do is mash the bananas.  I used 1 1/2 cups freezed dried bananas which  I had to reconstitute.  Here is a picture of mine standing in warm water.  They usually take about 5 minutes to reconstitute. 

When the bananas were ready, I whipped them a bit with a fork instead of mashing. Next, combine the bananas with the butter.  If you are going to use powdered butter, measure out 1/3 cup powdered butter and reconstitute using a bit less water than what is called for on the package. Add a bit of oil as well as you add the butter to the bananas.  The powdered butter will behave better in the recipe when you add some oil.  Add between 1/8 and 1/4 cup.  I don't measure, I just take the 1/4 cup measuring cup and fill it about half way.  Both olive and canola oil work well.

Next, add the egg, sugar and vanilla. If using powdered eggs, you can reconstitute them first, if you would like (sometimes I do and sometimes I don't).  Mix well. I whipped my batter with a fork.

Now, add the flour and baking soda.  The directions for this recipe said not to over-mix the flour, just stir until moistened.  For some reason, it never seems to work out that way for me.  I always end up over-mixing!  After looking at the batter, I decided to add some walnuts and 1tsp of banana flavoring.  Then I mixed again.

When ready, pour into a greased 9 x5 pan. I used Pam on mine.

 Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.  As an alternative, you could cook this bread in the Sun Oven or the Cardboard Box oven too. It will bake well in both.  Here is what mine looked like after taking it out of the oven.

Let it cool for 15 minutes in the pan, then run a knife around the edges and remove the bread from the pan.  Let it cool completely before adding glaze or sprinkling with powdered sugar.  I made a pumpkin bread along with this one and when they were cool, I sprinkled powdered sugar on both.

And there you have it!  A delicious quick bread made with all shelf stable ingredients!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Cleaning Your House With Just Water

Is it possible to clean your home with just water and keep it germ free?  According to the company Norwex it is. I was introduced to this company early this summer when I was invited to a party (like a Tupperware party).  This is a global company with independent consultants all over the world. It specializes in products to help you clean your home without harsh chemical cleaners. To that end, they sell cleaning cloths (and other things) that clean and eliminate germs with just water.

I was way too busy with work to attend the party, but my friend left me a catalog and told me what the most popular items were. After looking through the catalog, I decided to order a few things.  Here is a list of what I ordered.  The links below are to the product descriptions in English for the United States.
  • Dryer Balls:These are placed in the dryer with the laundry.  They help to lift and soften the laundry and also help to eliminate static cling without dryer sheets of fabric softener.  Here is a link to what they look like: Dryer Balls
  • Three Microfiber Cloths:  These cloths clean without any chemical cleaner product of any kind. Here is the page that shows what I bought: Microfiber Cloths
    • Window Cloth: This works on windows, mirrors, faucets or anything else that shines.
    • Enviro Cloth: My friend told me that the consultant at the party put chicken juice on the counter and then did some kind of test for germs to show that they were present. Then, the consultant used the enviro cloth (I believe it was damp with water)  to wipe up the chicken juice. She tested for germs again after cleaning with the enviro cloth and no germs were present.
    • Large Enviro Cloth: My goal for purchasing this one was to make sure I didn't have to wash the cloths every day after using them.  I wanted one extra.
After using these products all summer long, I wanted to share with you some of my thoughts on using them and how they work. I'll start with my most favorite purchase: the dryer balls!  These things are great! They separate the clothes while drying and leave the clothes really soft!  Now, I only use the dryer on a seasonal basis.  In the summer, clothes don't dry quickly here in the south without using the dryer. (Because of restrictions, I can't put my clothes outside on a clothes line.) In the winter, I use drying racks in the house and only use the dryer for items that must be dried quickly. Under those circumstances, the dryer balls work great! One of their best features are little spikes to help lift the clothes and dry them faster. I've never seen the spikes on the dryer balls you can purchase in the big box stores.

I also like the enviro cloths. They do clean well with just water. I use them on the kitchen counters, kitchen and dining room tables as well as the bathroom counters and faucets (I haven't use them on the toilet yet). The window cloth really does get mirrors and windows clean. The cloths are easy to use and easy to clean.  I am impressed with the company and the products I purchased.

Really, the only downfall I can see about these products is their price.  I applaud the company's goal of cleaning chemical free, but I don't think this is the most frugal way to do it. So, I have decided to save the enviro cloths for special cleaning projects and not use them in my day to day cleaning.  This way I can make them last longer and I won't have to replace them as quickly.

If cleaning your home without harsh chemicals is something you are striving for, checkout this company. You may just find something that could help you move away from using chemical cleaning products.  You can also read some of my previous posts on how to clean your home with vinegar and baking soda here.  Using vinegar and baking soda to clean your home will help you eliminate harsh chemical cleaners and save you money too!

Full Disclosure:  I don't get any compensation from this company.  I am just a customer.  My consultant told me everything I bought has a warranty so Norwex guarantees their products will not fall apart on you!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Making Apple Butter

Apples are everywhere right now in the Northern Hemisphere.  A sure sign of Fall.  I prefer to get mine from the many apple farms we have within a few hours of my house rather than buy them from the store. If you have apple trees in your back yard, even better!  You have a yearly source of many delicious apples. 

I usually purchase a few bushels of apples each year.  In addition to eating them, I also can a lot: apple pie filling, apple sauce, and apple juice.  This year, I have also canned apple butter.

There are many ways to make apple butter. A friend of mine told me that she remembers her mother cooking the apples for days while the wonderful aroma filled the house.I know someone else who cooks her apple butter in a crock pot overnight. You can also find an apple butter recipe on page 53 in The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. My way of making apple butter is a bit unusual but much quicker.

I actually make both apple juice and apple butter at the same time. When I go to the apple farm, I ask for seconds. Seconds are apples that are somehow flawed, they are considered 'second best'. Sometimes they have a scar on the skin or maybe they are small or misshaped. Seconds work very well for apple juice and apple butter, no need to spend extra money on the perfect apple for this.

I start with 1/2 bushel of apples and my Hamilton Beach juicer. (I know, it uses electricity!) The first step is to wash the apples and juice them.  I do cut the apples in half so they fit in the juicer better. The juicer really makes juice that has more of an apple cider consistency with lots of bits of apple pulp in it.  The pulp is the key to getting the apple butter. Here is a picture of what comes out of the juicer. You can see some of the pulp and foam on top of the juice.

The next step is to pasteurize the juice.  I heat it to 190 degrees and hold that temperature for five minutes.  Don't let the juice boil.  I usually stir frequently to break up the foam and let it 'melt' into the juice.
Now, at this point you could process the juice for canning.  You won't get any apple butter but you will get a juice with an apple cider consistency. Before opening the jar,shake well (just like apple cider) and drink that wonderful juice.  I canned the second bushel of apples this way. 
To make a clear juice and separate the apple pulp for the apple butter, the next step is to strain the juice.  I run mine through cheesecloth.  I set up another pot, put a strainer on top with the cheese cloth in it and pour the juice in.  If I had the patience, I would leave the juice to drip for 30 minutes or so.  I don't.  What I do is pour in little batches, then move the cheese cloth to a clean spot and pour some more.  All the while, I am collecting the apple pulp and putting it into another bowl. 

At the end of this process, you will have a clear apple juice ready for canning (well, clearer apple juice - if you want it as clear as what you get in the store, strain it a few more times) and apple pulp ready to turn into apple butter.
Put the apple pulp in a large saucepan. Add:
  • 1 1/2 tsps cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 3 to 5 cups of sugar (add this to taste - I added 2 3/4 cups) 

Heat to boiling on medium heat stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. When it starts to boil, turn the heat down to simmer and let it cook for 1 hour.

As the apple butter cooked, I canned the apple juice.  I didn't strain it again. You can see here it still has a bit of pulp in the bottom of the jar.

The apple butter is done when it doesn't separate. Put a teaspoon full on a chilled plate. If the butter holds its consistency and liquid doesn't run off when the plate is tilted, the butter is done.  I must apologize, I forgot to take a picture of my testing plate. Here is a picture of the finished apple butter.

At this point, its ready to can, freeze or eat!  If you are going to eat it directly, pour into a container and refrigerate.  I canned most of mine. The jar in the picture above went into the refrigerator to eat now. Here is the final product along with some of the canned apple juice.

If you are interested in learning how to can, you can read an overview of the canning process here.  Be sure to save the discards from the juicer!  You can turn that into vinegar.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Honey, The Perfect Food

I normally don't like to post about the same topic twice in a row, but I am going to make an exception this week.  Honey is an excellent food to keep in your food storage program.  In fact, I am going to go so far as to say it is critical.

Honey has many uses.  Some of the more common ones are to put it in hot drinks where it can sooth a sore throat, drizzle it on oatmeal, drizzle it on graham crackers or my personal favorite - use it when making homemade bread or other goodies. I love it on oatmeal and graham crackers too!

I know some people who store a five gallon bucket of honey. I don't have that much, but I do have about 15 lbs. I also store 7 lbs of molasses. For the purposes of this post, I will lump honey and molasses together. I use molasses in my bread recipes too. And besides, it is critical for those yummy gingerbread cookies at Christmas time!

I found a few websites that offer some additional advice on what you can do with all that honey. 

If you don't have any honey in your food storage program, I strongly encourage you to add at least a small bottle.  It lasts practically forever in the original package.  If it does ever crystallize, you can heat it in the microwave or place the container in a pan of hot water until it is re-melted. You can also use it in the crystallized state.  On many occasions, I have used it that way in my bread recipes.

Even if you never eat it, honey has so many other uses that it makes it an important item to store. Consider adding a bottle (or two) of honey to your food storage program!

Monday, October 8, 2012

How Is Your Food Storage Supply Coming Along?

Planning a long term food supply is critical for weathering any storm life may throw at you. My church counsels that we each need a one year supply of foods for our family.  (Three months supply of foods you normally eat and a one year supply of longer term foods such as rice.)

I know I have mentioned the importance of food storage a few times on this blog.  You can read some of those posts here. How are you doing gathering your supply? Are you having any challenges? If you are, feel free to ask questions in the comments below.  I will be happy to help.

I have gathered a few additional web sites that I think may help you determine how to start or refine your food storage plan.

To cut costs, take advantage of BOGO sales. Try purchasing fruits and vegetables in season when they are cheapest. Try avoiding the expense of fruits and vegetables that must be imported. The additional handling costs will add little value. You may also consider clipping coupons for additional savings. Don't forget that with the holiday season coming soon, baking supplies will go on sale. 

 It is an excellent time to stock up if you can!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Make Your Own Soap, Part IV

This is the last post in the series, Make Your Own Soap. In this post I will share some of my soap recipes and suppliers that I have successfully used for the last 20 years. If you want to read the posts in order from the beginning, click here.

In the last post, we combined the lye water and oils, mixed until it traced and then set the soap up in the mold. It sat undisturbed for about 24 hours. Check the soap before you unmold it to be sure it is completely cooled.  If it is still warm, let it sit a bit longer.

Once the newspaper feels completely cool to the touch, unwrap the soap, remove the saran wrap and remove it from the mold. You can wear rubber gloves if you would like. I do not wear gloves at this point, there isn't any more lye in this batch - it is all pure soap now and is not dangerous.

I usually turn mine out onto freezer paper. I cut 5 lb soap blocks with an old broken cheese slicer. It cuts the soap into exactly 1 inch slices. I then cut the slices into individual bars. I don't use this knife for anything but soapmaking. I make my bars 1 x 2 x 3. It is a nice size bar to hold in your hand.

I usually take the leftover end pieces and make soap balls. When cutting the soap, it is very soft at this point in the process. It feels like Swiss cheese. You can easily squeeze the left over pieces into shapes to make soap balls. 

When cutting the 8 lb block, I usually use these wooden cutters I purchased about 15 years ago. The cutting edge is a piece of thin metal wire - just like a cheese slicer. 

In order to have hard soap, the bars must dry for a few weeks. I dry mine on a portable cart lined with some paper towels. What I like best about this cart is I can wheel it out of the way when I need to. At Christmas time I tend to have a lot of soap drying and having the carts on wheels is a big help. They can be wheeled in and out of the laundry room quickly to keep them out of the way.

Here are some of my favorite recipes. I use these two recipes more than any other I have. If you substitute a different base oil for any of the ones I have listed here, you are going to have to recalculate how much lye you will need for that specific recipe. Please be sure to consult a book on soapmaking before you make your first batch of soap.

Bath Soap
22 oz. palm oil
26 oz. coconut oil
22 oz. canola oil
10 oz. olive oil
4 oz. cocoa butter
24 oz. water
12 oz. lye
3 - 5 TBS sweet almond oil (to superfat the soap)
2 oz - 5 oz scented oil (based on preference - you could also completely omit the scent as well)
coloring (optional - follow the directions on the package of coloring you purchase to determine how much to use)

Laundry Soap
50 oz. canola oil
10 oz. palm oil
10 oz. coconut oil
19 oz. water
9.5 oz lye

To make laundry soap, the first step is to make the bar soap using the recipe above. The bar soap is then grated and mixed with borax and washing soda to make the laundry soap. Stay tuned, I will create a post on how to make laundry soap soon!

I have been purchasing my supplies mostly from two suppliers for the past 20 years. These companies are honest and ethical. You can get just about everything you need from these two companies and you can trust them. (I don't get any form of compensation from these companies, just a satisfied customer for 20 years):

I get most of my base oils from the discount club stores. However I do purchase palm and coconut oils in 5 gallon buckets and I get mine from here.  Search the Internet and you can find other suppliers as well.

I got all of my pots, spoons, containers and most other tools from the big box stores. Once you have the tools, you shouldn't need to purchase them again unless you drop something and break it. I got my scale to weigh everything from an office supply store.
If you think you would be interested in making your own soap and have questions - email me. I will be happy to help!

And there you have it! Soap you made yourself!

If you liked this post, you may also like:


Monday, October 1, 2012

Cooking with Food Storage: Make Your Own Bread

One of the foods I make the most is bread. It is the staff of life! I think it is very satisfying to know how to make bread from scratch. Toward that end, I use a variety of recipes to make bread. The one I am posting about today is one of the easiest for beginners.

This recipe is from my friend Chef Tess. If you haven't seen her blog yet, I encourage you to go there and browse a bit.  You will find all kinds of recipes that are easy to follow and give you delicious results! You can read Stephanie's original post for this bread recipe here. This is my interpretation of Stephanie's "Bare Bones Wheat Bread" recipe.

Here's the list of ingredients:
  • 2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup water - cool to the touch (This is to proof the yeast. I used lukewarm water.)
  • 6 cups whole wheat flour (I grind my own.)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 1/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 2 TBS honey
  • 1/4 cup oil (I used olive oil.)
  • 3 - 5 TBS dough enhancer (Stephanie doesn't use this in her original recipe.  I make my own. You can read about how to make dough enhancer here.)

Let's start with proofing the yeast.  I use instant yeast and everyone I know tells me that instant yeast doesn't require proofing.  For this recipe, I proof it anyway. Place the 2 tsps of yeast in a bowl and add the 1/2 cup of cool water. Let it sit for a few minutes.  Here is what it looks likes after sitting for a few minutes.

While the yeast is proofing, add 6 cups of whole wheat flour to a large bowl. Then add the salt and dough enhancer (if you are going to use it.)

Mix it well and set aside. Add the honey and oil to the 2 1/4 cups lukewarm water.  Stir to dissolve the honey, then add the yeast proof mixture. Stir again.

In the bowl of dry ingredients, make a well in the center of the bowl to accept the liquid ingredients.  Pour the liquid ingredients into the well.

Stir from the center to make a smooth batter then gradually incorporate the rest of the flour.

At this point, wait 10 minutes or so to see if the dough needs a bit more flour or a bit more water. You want the dough to be soft. Once the 10 minutes is up determine if the dough needs tweaking.  If it does, add  the water or flour in very small amounts until you have a soft dough., Turn the dough out onto the counter top to knead. To keep the dough from sticking and to keep things clean, I always place it on a piece of freezer paper.

Now, this is the part most people won't believe.  To get a good rise, you must knead the dough by hand 600 strokes. If you want to, you can use an electric mixer with a dough blade. It should take about 6 minutes.  If you don't have an electric mixer, the 600 strokes is critical to develop the gluten in whole wheat.  When I do it by hand, it takes about 20 minutes. I let the dough rest for a few minutes every 150 strokes. This dough is a bit sticky. Although the stickiness will decrease as you continue to knead the dough, it will remain a bit sticky. Resist the temptation to add more flour. It would be better to mist your hands and the counter top with a little water. Even better yet, get used to the stickiness until you are finished kneading.

When you have finished, put the dough in an ungreased bowl to let it rise. I rinsed and reused the original mixing bowl.  Lightly grease the top of the dough. I used Pam spray. Then cover it with plastic wrap. Here is a picture of mine.

Let the dough sit in a warm spot (80 degrees) for 90 minutes to 2 hours. Sometimes I put mine in the oven after I turn it on warm for a few minutes. On this day, I was canning apple juice and the kitchen was quite warm so I let it sit on the counter. It only took 90 minutes to rise. Here is what it looked like after the 90 minutes was up.

Turn out the dough on a lightly floured surface. I used another piece of freezer paper. Gently deflate the dough. Try not to break the smooth surface.  Flatten it out a bit and then cut it in half. Form each half into a ball (again, try not to break the smooth surface.) Roll each ball flat. You want to form it into somewhat of a rectangle. A rolling pin works great for this. I used one for this batch.  Here is what it looks like after flattening it.

Take each flat piece and fold it into thirds - like you are folding a letter.  This is important to shape the loaf well.

Now, roll the dough back and forth to form a log. Tuck the ends under the bottom and pinch them in.  Here is what mine looks like.

Grease the pans well and gently place the dough into the pan for the second rise. To get a good shape to the final loaf of bread, you should use an 8 x 4 loaf pan. I sprayed mine with another light coat of Pam and covered them with plastic bread bags like those used to store bread.

The second rise should take between 35 - 45 minutes.  I let mine rise 45 minutes.  When they are ready, use a sharp knife to lightly slit the top of the loaf. The vent helps to give the loaf a good shape and allows it to rise correctly in the oven.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Bake for 15 minutes. Then, turn the oven temperature down to 325. You can open the oven door a crack to quickly cool it down to 325. Bake an additional 30 - 35 minutes.

When done, remove from the oven and remove from the pan. Cool completely before cutting. With this beginner's recipe for bread, you can bake a perfect loaf every time!