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Easy Menu Planning | cooking uncomplicated

How to make homemade bread, the easy way

by Tracy Grossman

How to make homemade bread, the easy way

There’s something about fall that makes me want to put on some soup and bake homemade bread. We live in the middle of Iowa, where sultry hot summers make July and August baking unreasonable endeavors. So when that crisp air starts to linger through the mornings and socks are a source of comfort (and not suffocation) for your feet, it’s time to start up the oven once again.

I did not grow up making bread, but I married a man whose mother made bread for many years. As a result, I was able to sit under her teaching and learn “from an expert” how to make delicious bread. Over the years, I have tweaked, simplified, and changed the process, but I still remember how daunting bread making seemed when I first started. I have learned a few things about making bread that I will share with you, because it changed how I view the whole thing.

Bread making is not an exact science.

We live in an era where we don’t just use measuring cups to portion ingredients, but now culinary experts have graduated us to the use of scales. Our recipes read “42 ounces of flour” or whatnot. For bread? Totally unnecessary. At the core, what you are looking for is texture. Pick simple recipes, and let go of the anxiety of perfection.

People were making scrumptious bread long before they had kitchen scales available.

Bread-baking will not take

It seems like baking bread would be a really time-intensive, complicated process, but in reality, bread is something you can start and ignore most of the day. So, even though it takes many hours to make bread, they are not hours of active participation.

Prepare for imperfection in the process

I think it’s important to mention that this process is probably not going to go perfect the first time, every time. Baking bread can be a kind of art- or maybe like riding a bike. You might have a few flops – I certainly did when I started – burning whole batches or, in the wake of that trauma, pulling them too early, leaving the middle gooey and inedible.

But over time, you will get so good at it that you will be able to make bread with your eyes closed and one toddler tied behind your back. It’s a skill like any other, and to wield it well you need to practice, fail, and practice again.

How to make homemade bread, the easy way

How to make homemade bread

Here is my wordy, step-by-step tour through the bread-baking process.


Grab your biggest bowl and mix together warm water, sugar, yeast, and flour.

  • 3 cups warm (baby-bath temperature) water
  • 4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 ½ Tb. yeast
  • ⅓ c sugar

Yeast thrives in warm environments and eats sugar, so start by mixing the yeast with these things. At this point, you aren’t worried about getting everything mixed together into a cohesive dough, you just want to start waking the yeast up.

Then I go away and do something else for 15-20 minutes. I start a load of laundry or read to a squirrelly preschooler, maybe. During this rest, the initial gluten strands form. You are letting chemistry do the hard work here. Ultimately, taking this break will cut down on the time required to knead the bread.



When you come back, mix in salt, oil, and the remaining flour.

  • 4 tbsp oil
  • 3 tsp salt
  • 1 – 3 cups more white flour

Salt slows down the yeast, so adding it in now (instead of at the beginning) allows the yeast a head-start.

As for the additional flour, stir and add until the dough becomes too stiff to incorporate it all by spoon. Then, turn it out onto a clean, floured counter top, kneading the dough for a few minutes until it is not super sticky, and is all one lump of dough (rather than a gooey mess).

Then leave the dough in the bowl on your counter, covered with a towel, until it is doubled in size. This takes around 1-2 hours but is highly dependent on temperature. In the summer my dough rises extremely fast; in winter it takes much longer.


When the dough has doubled, squish all of the air out of the dough. Turn it back onto the counter and divide it into two.

Grease your loaf pans, shape your dough into two loaves, and plop them into the pans.

Then put the pans back on the counter and let them rise until they are slightly smaller than loaf-sized. They will grow a tiny bit more in the oven before the high temperature kills the yeast.



Preheat oven to 375* and bake your bread for 30-40 minutes.

When they are golden brown – maybe even a bit darker than you would think, take them out.

I always tip the first one out onto the cooling rack to see if the bottom is golden and hollow-sounding when tapped. If it isn’t, I stick it back in for a few more minutes. Better to be slightly overdone than doughy in the middle.  

After it is cooled, bread stores nicely in the fridge or freezer, wrapped in foil or plastic.

Bread-making is a process as much as it is a recipe

In the end, this process (mix, rest, knead, rest, shape, bake) is the same for many bread recipes. When you are armed with the method, you can wield any bread recipe.

Start with this recipe, maybe, or any bread recipe, for that matter, and make something scrumptious for dinner tonight or breakfast in the morning. Or, if you are like us…a mid-afternoon snack straight out of the oven. Through each batch you will learn something valuable (even if all you learn is that a toddler will take a fist-full directly from the top of your fresh loaf if allowed the opportunity).

The results of learning how to bake bread well are totally worth it. There’s just nothing that beats fresh homemade bread with butter (or Nutella) on a cool fall day.


Get the free printable recipe for simple homemade bread:

Do you bake your own bread? Or did you try it after reading this?  How did it go?

Tips & reality checks from my kitchen

~ Capturing the context of contentment in everyday life – in my kitchen. ~

round button chicken

When you prepare and serve 21 meals a week, some bloopers and also some beauties are bound to occur.

This week was no exception.

Pretty Apples

how to menu plan 

If you give a boy an apple… and a knife…

Put the boy in charge of cutting apples, and they will be “geometric.” That is, he said to himself, “Let’s see how many different shapes I can make!”

I didn’t have the heart to tell him that no matter what shape they were, and even if they were all the same, they’d all still be geometric.

But he had a good time and he got the job done and the evidence was quickly destroyed.


how to menu plan 

My breakfast of late: scrambled eggs, greens with a little crumbled bacon, and a small dish of yogurt with blueberries.

Complete, delicious, and enough to carry my through a full, long morning of homeschooling my brood.

Not pictured: copious amounts of coffee.

What’s your breakfast of choice?


how to menu plan 

We had beef-flavored glazed carrots for dinner the other evening – all because I am lazy. But it turned out pretty well.

I’d had to brown some ground beef in my big pan, then I added it to the meal-to-be collecting in the crockpot. When it came time to prepare a side dish, I pulled out my staple shortcut: baby carrots.

I almost grabbed another pan, but then decided the beef bits would just add some flavor and might actually be good – it was a good hunch! Not only did I have one fewer pan to wash, the big skillet was easier to clean for having some extra liquid simmer in it, and the carrots were delicious.

Try it sometime!

Real Helpful

how to menu plan 

Breakfast is such a linchpin to the rest of our day, but it’s easily overwhelming to have to begin the day by feeding all the troops. At least at our house, it can get a little crazy and chaotic. People are hungry, people are groggy, people need to get going.

I’m so excited to be able to bring you some breakfast (and lunch!) tips from Tracy Grossman, a homeschooling mom of 5 (soon to be 6!) who took breakfast pandemonium into her hands and came up with a solution – a simplified solution, no less.

She will be sharing more about what she’s learned, what has worked, and other tips so we can all tame that breakfast beast.

You’ll want to sign up so you don’t miss anything – some of these tips and tricks will be delivered only to email subscribers:

I’ve been using Tracy’s versatile muffin recipe weekly for over a month now. She has some good stuff coming your way!

Life in Photos

feeding people, educating people, managing people, loving people – see snapshots of it all on Instagram:

What we’re eating this week

simple easy homemade family menu plan

Summer is on the way with warmer weather, so it’s time to put away the crockpot and soup plans and dust off my cooler menu options. Soups are so easy that it’s always a little sad, but grilling season and the fresh garden veggies will compensate.


I use Google calendar for menu planning, and that makes it easy to adjust the menu as summer plans flex and change.

Breakfasts This Week

  • Tuesdays & Thursdays: German pancakes
  • Mondays, Wednesdays & Fridays: simple homemade granola with homemade yogurt
  • Saturday: Daddy-made pancakes
  • Sunday: whole wheat cinnamon rolls (made on Saturday)

Lunches This Week

  • Monday: pbj, apples
  • Tuesday: cheesy potato steak fries
  • Wednesday: flatbread made Saturday, pb-yogurt-honey dip, apple & celery
  • Thursday: rice with carrots & peas, topped with butter or cheese
  • Friday: microwave nachos with refried beans

Dinners This Week

Simplified Dinners eBook

Streamline menu planning, grocery shopping, and dinner cooking with Simplified Dinners!


How to menu plan 6 weeks at a time

Remembering how to menu plan

As the end of the school semester drew near, the holidays drew near, the end of the year drew near, I stopped menu planning. I just never took the time to sit down and write out meals – there were always other things I thought I should be doing.

We still ate just fine – Simplified Dinners means a slip up in the menu planning process doesn’t throw me for much of a loop. We had our standard supplies in the pantry and I just made whatever I could with whatever meat I could remember to thaw (or used the tuna or an egg meal if I had forgotten).

But running life without a menu plan is not ideal. It’s not how I want to do things. The truth is, without a menu plan, dinner-making is more exhausting, even when there’s plenty of food to pull meals together. It’s about decision-fatigue. At the end of the day, I want the decisions about dinner already made for me, because I don’t have much energy or attention left over to give it.

The truth is, without a menu plan, dinner-making is more exhausting, even when there’s plenty of food to pull meals together. It’s about decision-fatigue. At the end of the day, I want the decisions about dinner already made for me, because I don’t have much energy or attention left over to give it.

So, I sat down during our Christmas break and planned out six week’s worth of meals in one fell swoop. We homeschool and have 6-week terms and then a week off, so I planned meals through our next term and during our next break, I can dedicate another forty-five minutes to planning out the next 6 week’s worth of dinners.

This process was made quicker for me because I use Google calendar for menu planning, but you can use whatever way you prefer.

Here’s how I did it.

How to menu plan 6 weeks at a time.

  1. Take stock of what’s in your freezer already. I had a ham, some pork, and beef soup bones in addition to the chicken breasts and frozen meatballs I usually have.
  2. Fill in any special days coming up: birthdays, eating out, friends over – if you already have plans on certain days, mark those.
  3. Decide on some standard day-of-the-week dinners. We do chicken on Mondays. I can do chicken a lot of ways, but every Monday morning, I know I need to go grab some chicken out of the basement freezer. Wednesdays are crockpot days at our house. Assign a certain type of meal to some of the days of the week.
  4. Fill in variations those assigned dinner types for the next six weeks. If you spread out your different options for chicken or crockpot dinners, you’ll not feel like you’re cooking and eating the same thing every week.
  5. Start filling in other dinner options. Think about how much time or energy is usually left by the end of the day on certain days of the week. What days are you more likely to feel like cooking and what days are good for pulling out the frozen meatballs? I usually alternate weeks on some meals – Tuesday one week might be a tortilla meal and then rice the next. Planning in six weeks chunks helps make rotations like that simpler to plan.
  6. Make sure you plan the vegetable and side if you need one as well as the main dish. See my post on Menu Planning: Think in Threes for more about planning a complete meal.

Each and every dinner will not happen as planned for the next six weeks, but the plan is in place so that I don’t have to think about it anymore. If I need a dinner plan, there’s one on my calendar. If I feel like getting creative, I can just move the dinner to another day or simply delete that day’s plan. But having the plan in place means I don’t have to panic at 4pm that I had forgotten to think about dinner.

And that’s why I did it.

Menu Planning Made Simple

simple easy homemade family menu plan

free simple menu planner

Today we start school back up! We homeschool year-round, so we start early in order to take extra weeks off during the year and be finished in May. It’s totally worth it. After all, it’s over 100-degrees here in the afternoon: might as well be doing school instead of playing Minecraft, I figure!

So for this month, I’m trying out a new menu planning idea: I have the same weekly rotation of breakfasts and lunches – and I’ve noted in my calendar when to do the prep. Then on busy days, I’ve prepped the food the day before. I’m looking forward to see if it works; that is, if I actually remember to do the prep ahead when I have it planned out! Of course I’ve already simplified dinner planning quite a bit, but with 4 kids needing lessons plus a toddler, I need food to take as little brain power as possible.

So, here’s the eating plan for this week:

Breakfasts This Week

  • Monday: Sunday leftovers with scrambled eggs
  • Tuesdays & Thursdays: German pancakes
  • Wednesdays & Fridays: simple homemade granola with homemade yogurt
  • Saturday: Daddy-made pancakes
  • Sunday: whole wheat cinnamon rolls (made on Saturday)

Lunches This Week

  • Monday: cheesy potatoes
  • Tuesday: quick artisan bread, cheese, fruit & veggies
  • Wednesday: leftover bread from Tuesday, cheese slices, pepperoni, fruit & veggies
  • Thursday: rice with carrots & peas, topped with butter or cheese, watermelon
  • Friday: microwave nachos with refried beans

Dinners This Week

Simplified Dinners eBook

  • Monday: grilled balsamic chicken, salad, garlic toasts
  • Tuesday: chicken fajitas with the fixings, cucumber salad (’tis the season)
  • Wednesday: chicken & cheese pasta salad, watermelon
  • Thursday: “bits & pieces” – leftovers, cheese, veggies, etc. all in cubes
  • Friday: fried rice
  • Saturday: hamburgers

Recipes for dinners on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, & Thursday are found in my ebook, Simplified Dinners. Streamline menu planning, grocery shopping, and dinner cooking with Simplified Dinners!

Simplified Pantry

Simplified Pantry promotes homestyle cooking with basic ingredients. It is possible to cook good food without a pantry full of specialized products. Limits can actually be freeing and promote creativity. Limits make keeping what you need on hand simpler and easier to achieve. Simplified Dinners takes the thinking out of the whole dinner cycle of planning, shopping, and cooking, and makes it easy for you to customize the healthy, whole-food recipes provided according to your family’s tastes.