Interesting Weekend

28 09 2008

This weekend started like any other – trying to sleep in, but started by being rudely awakened by the alarm clock, reminding us to hurry up and get the girls ready for gymnastics. So, we woke up at 7:45 to get the ladies ready. The Baby, however, wasn’t having it. She wasn’t especially hungry and started the day by throwing her stuffed dog across the table and into her sister’s pancakes (I’m a big fan of pancakes on the weekend. They’re quick and easy to make and they fill those little tummies, but I digress…). A few additional factors made us run a little late today and made things extra-stressful, but we made it.

On a total AW note, I weighed myself today and I have lost 13 pounds in three weeks. No idea how idea how I did it, but I’m totally okay with it!

We went to my friend L’s engagement party tonight. Surprise! It ended up being her wedding, instead! You could have knocked me over with a feather! And my church lady friends are on a retreat this weekend (which I skipped to go to the engagement party/wedding), so I have no one to discuss this with tomorrow morning over coffee!

Despite all of that, this weekend was the September challenge for the Daring Bakers – lavasch crackers, with my choice of spread/dip. The recipe is as follows and, might I say that I was quite excited for a savory challenge, instead of the usual sweet one!

Lavasch Crackers

RECIPE – Recipe Reference: The Bread Baker’s Apprentice: Mastering The Art of Extraordinary Bread, by Peter Reinhart. Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, CA. Copyright 2001. ISBN-10: 1-58008-268-8, ISBN-13: 978-158008-268-6.

Here’s a simple formula for making snappy Armenian-style crackers, perfect for breadbaskets, company and kids…It is similar to the many other Middle Eastern and Northern African flatbreads known by different names, such as mankoush or mannaeesh (Lebanese), barbari (Iranian), khoubiz or khobz (Arabian), aiysh (Egyptian), kesret and mella (Tunisian), pide or pita (Turkish), and pideh (Armenian). The main difference between these breads is either how thick or thin the dough is rolled out, or the type of oven in which they are baked (or on which they are baked, as many of these breads are cooked on stones or red-hot pans with a convex surface)…

The key to a crisp lavash,…is to roll out the dough paper-thin. The sheet can be cut into crackers in advance or snapped into shards after baking. The shards make a nice presentation when arranged in baskets.

Makes 1 sheet pan of crackers

* 1 1/2 cups (6.75 oz) unbleached bread flour or gluten free flour blend (If you use a blend without xanthan gum, add 1 tsp xanthan or guar gum to the recipe)
* 1/2 tsp (.13 oz) salt
* 1/2 tsp (.055 oz) instant yeast
* 1 Tb (.75 oz) agave syrup or sugar
* 1 Tb (.5 oz) vegetable oil
* 1/3 to 1/2 cup + 2 Tb (3 to 4 oz) water, at room temperature
* Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, or kosher salt for toppings

1. In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt yeast, agave, oil, and just enough water to bring everything together into a ball. You may not need the full 1/2 cup + 2 Tb of water, but be prepared to use it all if needed.

2. For Non Gluten Free Cracker Dough: Sprinkle some flour on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter. Knead for about 10 minutes, or until the ingredients are evenly distributed. The dough should pass the windowpane test (see http://www.wikihow.com/Determine-if-Bre … ong-Enough for a discription of this) and register 77 degrees to 81 degrees Fahrenheit. The dough should be firmer than French bread dough, but not quite as firm as bagel dough (what I call medium-firm dough), satiny to the touch, not tacky, and supple enough to stretch when pulled. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

or

2. For Gluten Free Cracker Dough: The dough should be firmer than French bread dough, but not quite as firm as bagel dough (what I call medium-firm dough), and slightly tacky. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

3. Ferment at room temperature for 90 minutes, or until the dough doubles in size. (You can also retard the dough overnight in the refrigerator immediately after kneading or mixing).

4. For Non Gluten Free Cracker Dough: Mist the counter lightly with spray oil and transfer the dough to the counter. Press the dough into a square with your hand and dust the top of the dough lightly with flour. Roll it out with a rolling pin into a paper thin sheet about 15 inches by 12 inches. You may have to stop from time to time so that the gluten can relax. At these times, lift the dough from the counter and wave it a little, and then lay it back down. Cover it with a towel or plastic wrap while it relaxes. When it is the desired thinness, let the dough relax for 5 minutes. Line a sheet pan with baking parchment. Carefully lift the sheet of dough and lay it on the parchment. If it overlaps the edge of the pan, snip off the excess with scissors.

or

4. For Gluten Free Cracker Dough: Lay out two sheets of parchment paper. Divide the cracker dough in half and then sandwich the dough between the two sheets of parchment. Roll out the dough until it is a paper thin sheet about 15 inches by 12 inches. Slowly peel away the top layer of parchment paper. Then set the bottom layer of parchment paper with the cracker dough on it onto a baking sheet.

5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit with the oven rack on the middle shelf. Mist the top of the dough with water and sprinkle a covering of seeds or spices on the dough (such as alternating rows of poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, kosher or pretzel salt, etc.) Be careful with spices and salt – a little goes a long way. If you want to precut the cracker, use a pizza cutter (rolling blade) and cut diamonds or rectangles in the dough. You do not need to separate the pieces, as they will snap apart after baking. If you want to make shards, bake the sheet of dough without cutting it first.

5. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crackers begin to brown evenly across the top (the time will depend on how thinly and evenly you rolled the dough).

6. When the crackers are baked, remove the pan from the oven and let them cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. You can then snap them apart or snap off shards and serve.

Note: I topped mine with rosemary, sage, and a touch of kosher salt.

Options for toppings

You may use your choice of topping/dip/salsa/relish/spread for your lavash crackers as long as it is vegan and gluten free.

We had a couple of favorites that you might want to try along with your own creations:

Honeydew – Peach Salsa from The Splended Table (http://splendidtable.publicradio.org/re … eydew.html)

Try the salsa with grilled seafoods and poultry, or over rice noodles. Chile could be added to taste. Is best eaten within several hours of preparation. Use organic ingredients if at all possible.

* juice of 1 lime
* 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
* 1/4 to 1/2 cup finely diced red onion
* 1 Red Fresno and 1 Hot Yellow minced chile (seeds removed)
* 1 to 2 teaspoons sugar,
* 1/2 ripe sweet honeydew melon, cubed into bite-sized pieces
* 4 small, ripe peaches, peeled and cubed into bite-sized pieces
* salt and freshly ground black pepper
* 1/3 cup minced fresh coriander, or coriander and mint combined

In a medium bowl blend the lime juice, garlic, onion and chilies. Let stand 20 minutes, then blend in sugar and fruits with salt (a generous pinch) and pepper (to make piquant) to taste. Refrigerate up to 3 hours. Fold in fresh herbs just before serving.

Copyright 1997 Lynne Rossetto Kasper, all rights reserved.

Tahitian Almond Dipping Sauce by Robert Yarosh and Lisa Soto, from The Complete Book of Raw Food, Lori Baird, Editor.

* 1 1/2 cups almond butter
* 1/2 cup pine nuts
* 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
* 1 clove garlic
* 1/4 cup fresh orange juice (you may want to add more juice or add some water, depending on the consistancy you like).
* 1 1/2 tablespoons agave syrup or honey

Blend all ingredients together until smooth (in your blender or food processor). Serve with your favorite crackers and fresh fruit.

Not thrilled with a sweet opping, I did some digging online and here is what I ended up making as a topping, instead (note: I am NOT an olive fan, by any means, and ended up digging the olives out of my serving, but I have friends who love olives, so I made this for them. See? The sacrifices I make for my capadres?! Next time, I’d like to add some sauteed onion to add some depth to the flavor).

Ingredients:

1 can tomato sauce (8oz)

2T chopped black olives

3 large mushrooms, chopped

3/4c frozen spinach

1oz feta cheese

1t olive oil

Pepper to taste

Directions:
1. Put Olive Oil in a small pot or deep sided pan. Heat over medium.
2. Add mushrooms and sautee until their juice as released.
3. Add the spinach and cover the pan until the whole mix loosely incorporates.
4. Add the tomato sauce, cheese and olives, stirring to mix and let the cheese melt.
**If you don’t have feta : riccotta salata and a creamy cheese are an excellent substitution.

Use by topping lavash and baking or store and add to crisped slice of bread and bake.

Next time I make these, I’d like to treat them like gourmet pizzas and top one with turkey, swiss cheese, and crushed tomatoes, another with ham and swiss, and the last one with pepperoni, mozerella and crushed tomatoes, just to appease Hubs. I’ll let you know how that works out!

Advertisements




Lights Out, Uh Huh…

18 09 2008

You may or may not be aware of the massive blackouts that have occurred from Texas all the way up to New York (hence, my J. Geils Band reference), but we felt Hurricane Ike’s wrath all the way up here in Hooterville. In fact, the entire town was basically shut down four an entire week. I know I really shouldn’t complain about not having electricity for four-ish days when there were people in Texas who lost their homes, but I really do find disruptions to my routine distressing. All of the forced downtime gave me some time to think as I got caught up on my housework and I have had several mini-revelations I’d like to share with you:

1. There are stages you go through during a long-time blackout, much like the stages of dying and/or grief:

  • Shock. “Oh my God, the lights are out! I wonder how long this will go on? Where are the candles?”
  • Elation. “Really? I don’t have to go to work today? I can get some one-on-one time with my kid AND get caught up on my housework? And I can’t do the laundry I’ve been putting off? Score!”
  • Boredom. “Sure, we can sing the clean-up song from Barney while wearing tiaras and blowing bubbles in the backyard! We’ve got all day, my little friend! I’ve already cleaned the house, alphabetized the toys in your room, AND made a scrapbook of your third cousin Itchy’s wedding!” (Meanwhile, you’re secretly plotting a looting spree with your girlfriends because there really is nothing else to do)
  • Denial. “The lights won’t be on til two weeks from Tuesday? Nuh-uh. They’ll be on tomorrow. I just know it! The crews are working really hard.”
  • Anger. “What?! (struggling to maintain composure) You told me this morning that the power would be back tonight. Now you’re telling me that it won’t be back for another week? Hold on a sec… (tone becomes increasingly shrill) If I told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times, don’t bother Mommy while she’s on the phone. Yes, I know you need to go to the potty! (pause) Figure it out! Just leave Mommy alone! She’s talking to the nice man from the %$#!@ electric company! (tone brightens a little) Now, what were you saying?”
  • Bargaining. “Maybe if I get my house clean and ready for the power to reappear, the lights will magically come on all by themselves. It could happen! Kind of like ‘Field of Dreams’…if I clean it, they will come.”
  • Acceptance. “Screw it. The power is never coming back and I’m going to die a horrible death at the hands of looters who will step over my lifeless body as they search for my iPod, which they’ll probably sell for crack, anyway. Bastards. Where’s the wine?”

2. During a lengthy blackout, your spouse and children can do nothing right. Just accept it and relocate to an undisclosed location and be done with it.

3. Too much time on your hands is a bad thing. Trust me on this.

4. In the shower, no one can hear you scream, especially if you stuff a washcloth in your mouth first.

You think I’m kidding, don’t you? I have never dropped the f-bomb as many times in my life as I did over the past few days. Seriously, it was ugly and I’m just now starting to come down from all of the excitement.





Hmmm…

11 09 2008

It’s been an interesting last couple of days. Where do I start?

Let’s see, work has been really good lately. The week started slowly and, with that, my sense of paranoia was in overdrive, but all is well now. Also, a couple of bursts of intuition where new business is concerned look like they may be paying off, so I’ve been mentally doing a happy dance for the past few hours.

Meanwhile, after trying to discuss a work-related idea with Hubs and being repeatedly shut down, I sadly came to the realization that Hubs will never really respect what I do for a living and I have to learn to live with that. He thinks that aspects of what my company does are evil, but he’s learning to keep his mouth shut, especially since it’s keeping a roof over our heads. Really, all I wanted, after having been starved for interaction with live humans today (my boss and my buddy were both busy with other things, so I was completely alone for hours) and then dealing with the Baby, who was quite manic (more on that in a sec), I desperately wanted to have an actual conversation with my husband that didn’t revolve around kids, politics, what’s wrong with the world today, or TV. More than anything, my feelings were hurt that he didn’t want to hear about something that’s important to me and that I find exciting.

The Baby has been a handful lately. Yes, I know she’s 3, but I’ve had a hard time with her. She’s been getting really snarky, especially toward me, and I’m not sure how to deal with it. I ask her to do something and she tells me no. I give her dinner and she throws it. Anyone have any parenting advice? I’m not a spanker and time-out’s aren’t working. What do I do now? I’m seriously getting tired of peeling spaghetti off the dining room wall!

The Big Kid’s birthday party is Saturday, so we’re frantically trying to clean the house before the in-law’s arrive. What I wouldn’t do to have a maid for the next couple of days! Looks like the menu will consist of make-your-own pizzas, snacks, crudites (veggies and dip, for those not in the loop), and cake. Very simple menu, but the kids will love it. Now, if only I can figure out what to get her as a present! She’s going to be 10, which is a strange age, as far as gift-giving is concerned. She’s too old for a lot of the toys that are out there, but not quite old enough for the electronics she wants.

Meanwhile, the diet is coming along swimmingly. I have lost 8 pounds (yay, me!) by pretty much going against all of the advice the diet gurus publish – I skip meals, I don’t work out, and I probably drink too much water. While I may have a headache occasionally from missing a meal or two, I’m starting to fit into the pants I was about to toss into the box to take to Goodwill. Again, yay me! I was bulimic at one point, so I seriously have no idea how to lose weight without involving disordered eating of some sort, so bear with me and my funky eating habits! Seriously, for the most part, I am doing pretty well – I am eating a lot more fruits and veggies than I usually do and I’m getting pretty good about eyeballing what a portion size is supposed to look like (1 ounce of cheese is about the size of a domino, a serving of meat is equal to the size of a deck of cards, use a salad plate instead of a dinner plate, and fill your plate 1/2 full of veggies and then divide the remaining half between protein and carbs), so don’t fear. I AM eating and I’ve come to the realization that I will never be a size 2 supermodel and I’m okay with it. I do want to be healthy and energetic. Basically, the goal is to be smarter, daintier, with a better wardrobe, and just plain fabulous by the time I’m 40. Dang it, I wanna be a MILF!

The garden is doing great! My herbs are flourishing, so I may have some to harvest soon. The tomatoes are going crazy, so I will soon be making roasted tomato bisque. The zucchini, broccoli, snap beans, and lettuce are growing quite nicely and are loving the cooler temperatures and rain we’ve been having, so it could be a great harvest this fall!

Finally, I have to give props to the crew at ALDI. I zoomed in there 5 minutes before closing time and did a commando-like sweep of the store in my 15 minute shopping trip. While I’m sure the crew wasn’t too thrilled to have me there right at closing time, they were still kind and gracious. So if they were thinking, “Gawd, lady! Would you leave already,” you’d never know it and I appreciate it.





Seriously, Can’t We All Just Get Along?

6 09 2008

I’m seriously astonished by the lack of tolerance in the world. Yep, I’m actually going to discuss politics today, sort of. I have been volunteering for the Obama campaign (and before you start telling me that my views are wrong, etc, let me just stop you now by saying that this in not that kind of blog, so just unclench and let me finish!) and I’m really enjoying it because of all of the people that I’m meeting.

Today, I volunteered to help register people to vote, plus we sold yard signs and buttons. An older gentleman came up to our table and started talking about Obama and how he’ll always be a n*****, started arguing his politics, etc. At this time, the Baby was in the tent with me, so I was pretty unhappy that this guy dropped the N-bomb in front of my 3 year old. At that time, I asked him not to use that kind of language in front of my daughter and he scolded me, calling me a bad mother for exposing my young daughter to a communist like Obama. At that point, I just smiled and realized that further conversation was just plain pointless, so I politely asked him if his voter registration was current and to be sure to vote his conscience in November. He looked surprised and I let him know that we would probably never agree on politics and that was okay, but I also didn’t have to listen to him using that kind of language around my child and that I would appreciate it if he would just move along. Someone else drove past our table, rolled down the window, and flipped us off. Why was that even necessary?





Comin’ To Getcha!

5 09 2008

While I know that I’m no trendsetter when it comes to fashion, I can’t help but notice certain looks that are just plain wrong. And, of course, I am very free with the snark, much to the chagrin of Hubs. As a public service, I feel that I must bring certain offenses to the collective conscience before issuing citations, so let the bashing begin!

  • When you work in a law firm, no matter how hot your dinner date later that evening is, it is never appropriate to wear a cocktail dress to work. For example, there is a law firm in my building that employs a rather voluptuous woman. Tuesday, she came to work in a black cocktail dress, complete with a flared skirt, plunging neckline, and low back. It does not matter how hot it is during the day, or how hot your companion at night is. These are a few things that should never be seen in the office. EVER!
  • That same woman came to work in a fitted football jersey a few days later. Mind you that she has generous proportions, as many women do, which is why she would have been much better served with a jersey that skimmed her curves, rather than clinging to every lump, bulge, and ripple.
  • Finally, I saw something yesterday that nearly caused me to wreck the car. Let me preface this by saying that I work with women in a very artistic environment who wear what I call tube dresses over a wife-beater shirt. What I mean by this is that the dress is shaped like a tube top with an empire waist and flared skirt, paired with a simple white tank top. I have seen a few variations on the women I work with and they rock the look, which I could never pull off. Meanwhile, the woman I saw yesterday wore this style of dress over an long-sleeved oxford shirt with black hose and shiny bronze flats. HUH??? The proportions were completely off and the total effect was just plain wrong. Seriously, did she not look in a mirror before she left the house?

Ahhh…got that bit of snark of out my system and am feeling much better!

Meanwhile, the Big Kid turns 10 next week and we’re having a small get-together for a few friends, the GP’s, and my brother. We were planning to order some pizzas, but she doesn’t care to much for the pizza we had planned to order. She asked if Hubs would make the Chef Boy R Dee pizza kit instead, which I immediately vetoed (call me a snob, but I just can’t serve that to company!). Instead, I believe we’re letting the girls make their own pizzas. Cross your fingers! I’ll let you know how it turns out! In the meantime, any thoughts on toppings?

Finally, if you’re in the mood for a new website, check out Blissfully Domestic for your daily fix of all things Martha. From food to DIY to gardening, it’s all there. Plus, you can catch my alter ego writing on the home and gardening channel on all kinds of stuff – rearranging the furniture, conquering doggy odor, etc. If you venture over, leave me note on the forum, mmmmkay?





I’m Officially a Relic, I Think

1 09 2008

I’m in one of my moods today and that only means one thing – lots and lots of baking. I started off with a pecan pie to surprise Hubs. Now, I have two loaves of whole wheat bread rising. I was getting ready to post my trusty Better Homes and Gardens cookbook recipe and thought that I might save time by finding it online and copying and pasting. However, my recipe wasn’t on the BH&G website. So I then turned to All Recipes to see if I could find a similar recipe, but to no avail. All of the bread recipes were for bread makers. Doesn’t anyone else make bread by hand anymore? I, myself, really enjoy the process of kneading and rising and, eventually, baking. Man, I feel old!

This raises an interesting paradox. I prefer to bake bread by hand and occasionally use an old-fashioned typewriter (gasp!). I pay my bills either online or over the phone and have no clue how much a postage stamp costs, yet I’m a firm believer in the power of a hand-written letter. I’d rather die than receive a business call in my off hours, yet I feel completely powerless without my cell phone. No ground-breaking conclusions here, only questions: why, why, why? Why are we so tied to electronics and technology, yet retain some of the more charming elements of the world in which our parents were raised? When did this revolution officially happen? I don’t recall ever having been invited!





Oooooh, Pretty!

1 09 2008

Hello. My name is Sara and I am a purse-a-holic. It started simply enough with the wooden handled reverable Papagallo purse my mom got me in middle school, but it soon developed into a full-on obsession. From there, I scoured shops and yard sales in search of the ultimate handbag. Like a tru addict, I needed more and more to get my fix, so I then turned to the wonderful world of online shopping. I can now say that I am the proud owner of two vintage Coach bags, a few Gucci pieces, and a truly mind-blowing Prada tote.

So, today I was getting my daily twitter fix when I made the acquaintance of the Elliott Lucca Tropez Demi (retail value $118) in a luscious shade of raspberry. The Tropez is a truly gorgeous bag that gently flirts, rather than overtly seduces. Her sleek lines go with everything from denim to a favorite dress and can go to nearly every occasion.

So, in the interest of public service (ie: trying to save the world from the horrors of disastrous fashion choices), head over to momdot.com for a chance to win this little beauty for yourself.