Baking Redemption

That loaf of sourdough that I overproofed really did turn out quite flat. And worst of all, I cut the shit out of my finger when I was slicing it. Has anyone else noticed a greater tendency to injure yourself during This Special Time? I have felt anxious and distracted, my mind reeling with lots of thought-fragments, and I keep hurting myself. Sliced finger, slammed thumb in car door, burned self just picking hot cheese off of a hot frying pan like some kind of cheese-eating ding-dong. 

At any rate, I have achieved sourdough bread redemption. On the advice of a twitter pal, I tried a different no-knead recipe. I had been using the NY Times Sam Sifton one, but I switched to the King Arthur one and followed the technique from Maurizio Leo’s blog (he is great on technique!) and I have done this twice so far and had good results both times. I also finally got my paws on some bread flour (as opposed to all-purpose) and I can see it made a difference from loaf to loaf. 

Here’s a little progression if you want to see the difference:

The first loaf is the overproofed one from the NYT recipe — not necessarily the recipe’s fault. I should have put it in the fridge overnight, but I didn’t realize. The second one is my first try with the King Arthur using AP flour, which is already much better. The third is my newest one from yesterday: King Arthur again and bread flour. Very happy with this loaf!

I also used my starter to make some sourdough cinnamon rolls for Mother’s Day and shewwwww:

They were good. Everyone has requested I make some again soon, which I absolutely will.

On the other hand, I’ve been having some issues with my chocolate chip cookies. I have had a go-to recipe for ages now — the one from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. I’ve never had a problem with it ad they cookies turn out just the way I like: even thickness, chewy texture, minimal spreading. The dough is easy to work with. 

That recipe calls for tapioca flour, however, which I don’t currently have. I tried to make it with an egg instead, assuming the tapioca was a substitute for egg, but it turned out all wrong. The dough was too wet; I had to add extra flour; the cookies came out too cakey. Disaster. That’s what I get for assuming I know enough to hack a subsitution in a baking recipe!

phoebe

Next, I tried the NestLAY TollHOOSE recipe after lots of people said they loved it, and it was fine but not great. It’s an all-butter recipe, and while I like the taste of butter and the way it allows for some nice crispness on the edges, it can be tricky to work with. I know to keep the dough extra cold to prevent spreading, etc., but they still spread too much, got too thin in the middle, and were delicate where they should’ve been chewy. They tasted great, but the recipe just isn’t quite what I am looking for. 

I finally have some tapioca flour on order from Target (it has been oddly hard to find!), so I may just go right back to my vegan recipe, but I’m also interested in finding a non-vegan go-to for when that’s what I have, ingredient-wise. The quest continues, but I am suppose I am willing to take on this onerous research.

Baking & Books

It’s nap time right now and while I usually follow the popular advice of “sleep when the preschoolers sleep,” I am awake right now tending to the loaf of sourdough that is currently in my oven. It smells amazing but is going to bake up too flat because I think I overproofed it. Next time I will try something with a refrigerator rise. It’s fine. I will keep trying and keep learning. Until I run out of unbleached flour and can’t get any more, I suppose.

IMG_4987

Looks beautiful from the top but I assure you it is the shape of a frisbee.

Earlier in the week, we finished our family read of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, which was really fun. The kids are not quite 4.5 years old, so they are probably a little too young for the series, but I had bought the (beautiful) illustrated version when All This began, and they were curious about it, so we gave it a shot.

At first, they were mostly intrigued by the images but had a tough time staying focused for the length of an entire chapter, but as we went along, they got better and better at sitting and listening and asking questions at appropriate breaks in the narrative. They have a lot of questions, it seems, but really they just want to talk about it and they get so excited. They erupted into cheers after we read the chapter where Harry helps Gryffindor win the first quidditch match. They want to know why Professor Snape does not like Harry. What does it mean to get “expelled”? What does wingardium leviosa mean again, anyway? How does Prof. Dumbledore already know that the cat is really Prof. McGonagall?

We also put on the audiobook sometimes while they are playing or coloring, so they get a low-key review of what we’ve read recently.  The morning after we’d read the last chapter, they came into our bedroom first thing asking if we could read Harry Potter again, starting back at Chapter One.

We’ve talked about the book so much that it shouldn’t surprise me that when we finally started watching the movie they remembered so much detail. At various points, L yelled out, “This is Chapter Two, The Vanishing Glass!” and “That is Hagrid, Keeper of the Keys!” His favorite part of the book, by the way? Was the illustration where we finally got to see Voldemort’s eye peeking out from Prof. Quirrell’s turban. He’s really hoping that in the movie we will get to see Voldemort’s “WHOLE BODY.” Kids, man. (We saw the first half of the movie last night and will finish tonight — they don’t necessarily do well with watching 2.5-hour movies in one sitting at this point.)

It has been such a delight to share a book I love with them, I tell you what.  I have no plans to get the next novel for them any time soon — I’d rather move through the books slowly so they have time to grow up a little between the earlier stories and the scarier later ones — but I do hope they keep up their enthusiasm for the series and it becomes something we can enjoy together going forward. Please please please!

 

Meal Plan Sunday

Sunday night! This is a nice Sunday night in particular because I don’t have to get ready for work tomorrow. The kids have preschool but I am “off work” or working at home for the week. Mostly reading novels, I hope. Before I get into the plan for this week, here are a couple of things from this past week:

Vegetarian lettuce wraps
Leftover filling turned into a rice bowl. Add yum yum sauce and sambal oelek.
Two very good helpers who are getting too big for the shopping cart.

Sunday: burst cherry tomato and shrimp linguine from Run Fast Eat Slow. We love carbs in this house! (CW)

Monday: baked Thai tofu bowl. Kale and quinoa base, roasted vegetables, peanut sauce.

Tuesday: some kind of vegetable soup. (CW)

Wednesday: some kind of big salad, likely with roasted garbanzos as the protein and kale as the base.

Thursday: Thanksgiving! We’ll be eating at our neighbors’ house and we are responsible for mashed potatoes, a roasted assortment of fall root vegetables, and a pie. I might do a pumpkin pecan pie?

Friday: TBD and/or leftovers. Not sure how the leftover situation will shake out if we don’t eat at home?

What do y’all have planned?

Pie Night

Somehow, out of the desire for a Friendsgiving of sorts, my cul-de-sac neighbors and I wound up having an entirely pie-based party tonight. It was a magical confluence of ideas and timing and one of the most fun things that has ever happened at my house. We wound up eating a meal that consisted of seven different pies. Let me tell you about them.

Everyone went with one sweet dessert pie and one savory entrée pie:

My next-door neighbors brought a classic pumpkin pie (with fresh whipped cream!); individual hand pies made with sausage, potatoes, and apples; and (!) a bonus banana cream pie.

My across-the-street neighbors brought a sour cherry pie and a zucchini pie (with egg and cheese).

I made an apple pie and a butternut squash galette.

Listen, y’all. Every single pie was fucking delicious. Here are some pie awards of great distinguishment:

1) best handful of nutrition and buttery flaky deliciousness: the sausage hand pie

2) most rustic French and beautifully seasonal pie: the squash galette

3) prettiest vegetable pie: the zucchini and egg

4) my favorite dessert pie: the sour cherry

5) the most classic and flawless fall pie: the pumpkin with whipped cream

6) the beat surprise bonus pie, and so decadent: the banana cream pie

7) the classic American pie: the latticed apple pie

Y’all. Somehow it was one of those rare occasions where the six children wound up playing (mostly nicely) together the entire night — I mean, granted, the two older girls (6 and 8) undoubtedly got annoyed with the four younger kids (aged 3.5-4) at various points, but they all did great. And! The grown ups got to be grown ups and talk about grown up shit like bookstores and fantasy kitchen renos and the return of bootcut jeans. I mean, thank god.

I finally even got to open up the giant bottle of red wine that’s been sitting in my kitchen forever because I can never imagine disposing of that much red wine. But friends, I think we did it.

Pie Season

I love fall baking, especially pies. I mean, one can bake pies any time during the year, of course, but fall is when I tend to bake the most pies. Apple and pumpkin are my favorites for Thanksgiving — I love doing decorative crusts on the apple, especially. Here are a few inspiration images I’ve saved over the years:

Mine are never quite this elaborate, but it’s so much fun to try!

This weekend, I get the chance to bake a couple of early Thanksgiving pies for a neighbor-friend get-together, so I think I’m going to do a double-crust apple and a savory vegetable galette. Lots of folks on Twitter recommended the butternut squash and caramelized onion from Smitten Kitchen, which looks right up my alley. I love butternut squash for fall dishes (a fun gourd that sometimes gets forgotten due to all the pumpkin), but do you know what I really love? Caramelized onions. Cooked in butter, in particular. That smell is one of the most heavenly cooking smells I CAN’T EVEN STAND IT. So this recipe seems perfect. I think I’ll make the crust doughs tomorrow night, bake the apple Friday night, and then do the galette Saturday morning.

In other pie news, tonight I made the dough for Friday night’s pizza (this recipe is pretty much flawless every time) which will be resting and slowly rising in the fridge for the next couple of days. Pizza, apple pie, squash galette– pie season truly is upon us and I. AM. HERE. FOR. IT.

Meal Plan Sunday

Here we are again getting ready to begin another week! But there is pizza to look forward to on Friday, so we’ve got that going for us, which is good.

Here are a couple of highlights from last week’s kitchen efforts:

Crockpot Thai curry and brown rice. Garbanzos, sweet potatoes, and bell peppers. They all hold up pretty well in the crock all day, especially if you cut the peppers a bit bigger. Cannot recommend strongly enough going to an Asian grocery for imported Thai curry pastes. The flavor is noticeably better.
Antipasto-ish salad. The protein was roasted garbanzo beans and I just went to town with artichokes, slow-roasted tomatoes, olives, peppers, and so on.

Sunday: Caesar salads (CW)

Monday: Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps à là PF Chang’s. These are super tasty but require a good amount of chopping. I like to make a double batch of the filling and repurpose some of it for another meal — see Wednesday.

Tuesday: chicken salad, maybe in sandwiches? CW is in charge of this one.

Wednesday: Rice bowl featuring sushi rice, leftover lettuce wrap filling as the protein, some other veggies, and yum yum sauce.

Thursday: BLTs (CW)

Friday: Pizza, New York Style. Will do one pepperoni and one veggie + Field Roast.

There you have it! Let me know if you’re making anything great this week, especially if it’s vegetarian or can be easily made to be.

Meal Plan Sunday

One of our traditions is that on Sunday mornings we do a little informal kitchen inventory and menu planning and then go to the grocery store for our weekly provisions. It’s a nice bonus to do it at a time when the rest of the world is at church because then we can shop in a near-empty store. We’ve been going to Aldi lately, which maybe I’ll say more about at another time, but right now I’ll tell you that we got everything we needed for these meals plus, you know, the rest of our weekly stuff, for about $150. We used to spend $200-250 at Kroger. So satisfying!

I figured I’d share the menu plan, but before I get into it, here are a couple of things I made last week that I really liked:

One of many variations on a grains/greens/beans bowl. Tahini yogurt sauce and roasted sweet potatoes make this one of my favorites.
Butternut squash risotto with a poached egg. Could have used some kind of toasted nuts or something for crunch.

Here’s the plan for this week — and, if I think of it, I’ll follow up next Sunday with photos of the favorites:

Sunday: Three Cheese Tortellini with mushrooms, kale, and Field Roast (CW)

Monday: Big Salad. Probably a kale base with slow-roasted tomatoes, roasted garbanzo beans, artichoke hearts, Kalamata olives, feta. Maybe a grain as well.

Tuesday: Jambalaya (CW)

Wednesday: Slow-cooker curry and brown rice. Coconut milk base with sweet potatoes, bell peppers, garbanzo beans, and some really good Thai red curry paste from the Asian supermarket.

Thursday: Some kind of wild rice soup that CW is making from A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen

Friday: Creamy tomato soup (also from AYIAVK) and grilled cheese sandwiches. I’m going to get the Good Bread.

Six Years

It’s our six year anniversary! I went back to look for wedding and honeymoon photos for this post and had a lovely stroll down memory lane.

2013

The day feels so crisp in my memory, but it also feels like a lifetime ago. I think primarily that’s because our day-to-day life has changed so much since having the twins. Like today, we spent the morning snuggled up in bed with them while they watched Curious George and we got an extra half hour of sleep, allowing us to get out of bed at the luxurious hour of 6:45. We wrangled them in the yard while I cleaned off the back porch and CW mowed the lawn, both of us legitimately excited to get these two neglected chores checked off. Right now, CW has taken them down to the neighborhood playground and I’m here enjoying the quiet house for a little while (a truly great gift!).

Tonight, though, we will head out on a date and enjoy some of our favorite special-occasion treats — fresh oysters, martinis, something wonderful for dinner, dessert with Really Good Coffee, and possibly an additional drink at a Second Location — and we’ll get a lyft back home so no one has to be the driver. We’ll get to have a whole night of enjoyable conversation without (we hope) anyone interrupting us to scream about anything.

I braved my TimeHop app today for oyster photos (please note that is November 9, 2019 and therefore I only looked back at the previous two years; I could not really bear to go back three years to see the morning-after-the-election tears) just to show you our tradition. I’ll make sure to snap another one tonight!

2019 and better than ever

Fridays

I work from home on Fridays, so it’s a great opportunity for me to head out for a longer run on a day when it won’t eat into family time (just work time, heh). I love starting my day this way, and I often make it even more fun by running in a different part of town after dropping the kids off at school.

Their “school” is a daycare, by the way, which means that they have to provide meals— breakfast, lunch, and afternoon snack. They don’t also have to provide breakfast and coffee for parents, but they do. In the parents’ lounge just off the main entrance, there’s always a huge pot of coffee and a tray of something like muffins, mini bagels, or biscuits. But on Fridays, there are cinnamon rolls. Warm, soft, cinnamon rolls with a drizzle of icing on them. Y’all. They are SO GOOD.

What I’ve been doing is grabbing one on my way out the door and leaving it in my car for post-run fuel. It’s not exactly still warm an hour later, but it’s still pretty damned delicious. Today I even leveled up by placing a mobile order with Starbucks to pick up right after my run so I had hot coffee to go with it. It’s taken me over forty years, but I feel like I’ve finally learned some things about how to do life.

November is Here

Today feels like one of those days when everything is coming together perfectly. The weather finally got cold, for one thing. I went out for a run this morning and needed long sleeves. I swear there is nothing more wonderfully invigorating than a long-ish run in the cold.

Long-ish, you know. Long-er. Long-adjacent. I went for 6.2 miles today, also known as 10 kilometers. Not on purpose; it just wound up being a perfect 10K route that I ran serendipitously and by feel. The trees are starting to turn; the sidewalks are littered with the pine needles, acorns, and other seasonal detritus; the parks are full of older people walking their dogs and children collecting leaves and sticks. At home afterward I had hot coffee waiting for me and a slice of leftover pumpkin bread I could pop in the toaster.

My main task for work today is to make some significant progress toward finishing the novel I’m teaching in a couple of weeks. It’s rare that I assign a book I haven’t yet read, but I have it on good authority that this one will be a great addition to my class, so it’s time to dig in. I suppose I’ll have to spend some amount of hours today reading, snuggled on the couch with a blanket and another cup of coffee. I cannot complain about this life. It’s a work-from-home day, by the way, which is what allows me to do things like go for a 6-mile run and then read on the couch all day on a Friday. Yes, I am grateful for the flexibility of my job and no, I do not take it for granted.

Tonight is Pizza Friday, and I am making a couple of New York-style pies featuring this dough recipe (which is pretty much flawless) and maybe the kids will be in a happy mood when they get home and maybe we’ll watch a movie and have some leftover Halloween candy. Hell, man; anything is possible.