Sunday, February 14, 2010

Another tiny knitted bear and more bread

I made another batch of "French" bread.  This time I used Julia Child's recipe, which is very similar to the other recipes I've used, except that it calls for longer rising times.  The rising took about 8 hours, in total, I think.  The recipe certainly isn't more difficult, it just takes more planning.  As I'm in a cabin all day, I don't have that hard of a time in scheduling bread baking, believe it or not.  Here are the finished loaves.  I'm not sure why the tops are so dark- maybe too much steam?
And look, a nice uneven crumb!  I probably could have let it rise a little more, but I've been scared by horrible collapsing bread events at this altitude.

For Christmas, Carolyn and CR gave me a little knitted polar bear ornament.  I was intrigued by its construction, and set about to duplicate it.  The brown bear in the picture is my attempt to do that.
Isn't he adorable?  And really easy to make, too.  His bottom is a toe-up sock toe.  Then his shoulders are shaped like the toe of a top-down sock.  His head is shaped with a typical sock heel, and then his nose is just simple decreases!  The arms and feet are just little tubes.  In short- simple to make if you've ever made a sock.

Another book that I picked up from the library- A Blessing of Bread- has yielded lots of recipes that I want to try (Israeli Pita Bagels, anyone?).  At the moment, I have a batch of Lithuanian Challah rising in the oven.  Unlike most Challah recipes, it's made without any eggs, except for the final egg wash.

Friday, February 12, 2010

And Still More Bread

We've begun to hear back from grad schools.  I'll be visiting UW Madison and UMN Twin Cities/ Duluth next week.  The week after that, Thayer and I will be visiting U of OK for a little bit.  The visits will be a combination of them seeing how they like us, and us seeing how we like them.  Here's to hoping that the weather cooperates with tiny airplanes.

We went into town today.  I picked up some knitting needles for that red sweater.  Also stopped by the library to get bread books!  I checked out The Bread Baker's Apprentice (which on first glance I LOVE), A Blessing of Bread (Jewish bread traditions), and Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume 2 (solely for the French Bread recipe, but I'm also intrigued by the vegetable section).  I don't know what I want to try first!  All of the recipes look so fun and different from my other bread books.

But first, I have two new bread trials that I want to report back on.  First, we made James Beard's delightfully garlicky focaccia.  I think my dough wasn't wet enough (which often happens with Beard's recipes....), but otherwise it turned out very tasty.
I also made the Italian bread featured here.  Very similar to my "French" bread except for the addition of a bit of olive oil and some milk.  It turned out quite tasty.  I've had problems shaping free form loaves in the past, so I was pleasantly surprised by these loaves.


Monday, February 8, 2010

Bread, More Bread!

More "french" bread, because we ate all of my last batch so quickly.  This time, I got the oven really hot before I put the bread in and then turned down the temp.  I'm also slightly improving on my scoring of the loaves, as you can see.  It turned out just as tasty, with a little richer flavor, a slightly less even crumb, and a very nice crust.

My sweater is done and fits wonderfully.  It's quite toasty and- so far- buttonless. 
The weather was beautiful and clear and sunny today.  Linda was kind enough to loan me her snowshoes, and I took them out for a spin today.  So fun!  I was slightly amazed with how much easier it was to get up hills; I'm really clumsy on skis.  To celebrate my new mobility, Thayer and I went up to Judd Falls.

Sunday, February 7, 2010


Because a couple people have wanted the chili recipe, particularly Linda, I thought I could just post it on the blog.  I don't always precisely measure things when I do this, but I have a general idea.  Also, this recipe is very easy to make vegan, if one wishes.

3 cups black beans (dry)
1 cup garbanzo beans (dry)
2 cups lentils (dry)
1 onion
1-2 cups canned diced (or whatever) tomato, depending on how much you like tomatoes
1 can tomato paste (optional - we put them in when we have them, but our chili changes too much time to time to say whether or not we taste a difference)
4 tablespoons chili powder
4 tablespoons cumin
2 tablespoons butter (a nice fat, even a little bit, prevents the mealy mouth feel you can get from just plain beans.  To be vegan, just use olive oil.  I actually usually use both)
1-2 tablespoons of both vegetable and no chicken Better than Bouillon
~1 cup corn, depending on how much you want (we never measure, just dump corn in the pot
~1 cup dry skim milk (you could use regular milk, but you would have to not put in as much water to compensate.  Leave out the milk to make it vegan, but with the milk it adds calcium and makes the meal a complete protein without adding fat.  J- Or you could add a little coconut milk.)
1 tablespoon sage
several healthy squirts of sri racha hot sauce (depending on taste)
salt (no idea how much I put in)

First, we start with 3 cups black beans - we wash them, and then let them soak for 10 minutes, then replace that water and let them soak overnight.  Supposedly, this reduces the oligosaccarides which can cause intestinal discomfort and bloating.  Then we add the garbanzo beans, which don't need a presoak.

The next morning, drain off most of your bean water, but you can save about a cup of it, as it will have really rich black bean flavor to it.  Start cooking the beans, and add the lentils and tomatoes now.  While that's going, saute the onions and then pour the onions (with their oil, for mouth-feel and flavor) into the beans.  You can start adding seasonings whenever you want, but you don't want to add them too early because it's hard to taste accurately with all the extra water that will be boiled off.  However, if you add them too late, the flavors won't be soaked up by the beans.  We tend to add the dry milk towards the end of things.

Something that Jessica and I have tried and works really well is to reduce the acidity of the chili by simply shaking some baking soda into the chili and stirring it.  It doesn't affect the flavor if you don't add that much (as it's reacting with the acid to form salt and water) and we find the chili to be much more pleasant with a reduced acidity.  I, in particular, found that I get canker sores from eating too much of the non-treated chili.  Just be careful not to add too much too fast, as it will bubble and foam and the starch in the water from the beans will give the foam structure so it will build up.  It dissipates after a few minutes.

Just keep cooking the chili until the beans are cooked all the way through, adding water as necessary.  The lentils will completely disintegrate, giving the chili a very meaty stew like quality, only with more flavor and better for you than ground beef.  

Ta Dah!


Hi folks- I just wanted to let you know that we've changed the way comments are added a tiny bit.  To cut down on all of the spam, we've added 'word recognition' to the comment form.  This means you'll have to type that squiggly word into a box.  Shouldn't be a problem unless if you're a robot.  If this is the case, you- the robot- can just email your comments to us (I assume robots are capable of email if they can handle posting spam).

Sweater Frustration and Snow

It's snowing.  It snowed all day yesterday and so far has been snowing all day today.  It's a pretty light  snowfall.  We're expecting 4-8" today.
No, it's not the green sweater that's frustrating- it's my pinky-red sweater that I'm just starting.  I ordered seven very pretty skeins of Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock yarn in "Bold Red".  First of all, the nomiker "bold red" conjures images of a deep, robust blue-ish tinged red, right?  Well, when the yarn arrived in the mail it was more of a pinky-red.  I've made peace with that and I've come to like the color.  Secondly, the sweater I'm going to knit with this yarn is knit at 25 sts per four inches.  Enter swatching hell.  Swatching involves knitting the yarn with different size needles to determine what size you need to use to get the same gauge that the designer used (so your sweater does not end up five times bigger than you wanted).  First, I knit a small square with size 3 needles.  Then size 4.  Then size 1.  Then size 3 again (oops).  Then size 2.  Then I realized that I don't own the needle size that should give me the correct gauge (size 2, but the European size 2= 3.0 mm, not the American size 2= 2.75).  So now I'm waiting for the needles to arrive in the mail.  Ugh.
In the end, the yarn will become this sweater- the Mountain View Cardigan by Connie Chang Chinchio.  The sweater has some ribbing around the waist to add some nice shape to it!

Friday, February 5, 2010

"French" Bread

I tried my hand at Betsy Oppenneer's recipe for "French" bread (from The Bread Book) yesterday.  It's not technically French bread because my oven lacks fancy steam injection (can you believe that?!?), and I made it from our standard all-purpose flour.  Despite the fact that my crust will never be perfectly crusty/flaky/delicious, I labor on.  To develop more flavor and a chewier texture, the bread dough uses half the usual amount of yeast (only one scant tablespoon, no fat, and rises FOREVER (seriously- 5 total hours).  Here it is after its second rising.
My bread rose pretty well, but not to as lofty of heights as I would have liked.  I didn't get the wonderful holey texture of an authentic French Bread.  I fear our very chilly cabin is to blame; next time they'll rise in a slightly warmed oven, just like all our other bread.  The end result was four handsome and tasty baguettes.
And today's lunch, a Quorn pattie with fresh muenster cheese, horseradish mustard, and homemade bread.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Linda and Leanne came to visit us for a few days.  We had a wonderful time sharing our life in Gothic with them.  We shared some delicious food- we made them our tasty chili (Thayer's perfect recipe) and Linda made us a tasty tomato/garlic/olive oil dish.  The weather cooperated perfectly- it was sunny and warm most of the days and Linda and Leanne were able to explore around Gothic on their snowshoes.  Unfortunately, Gunnison Electric did not cooperate as nicely with our guests' visit.  Gothic lost power for about 24 hours on Sunday/Monday due to a very "clever" person driving a fence post into a buried electric cable two years ago.  We lost power and water (by extension, as our pump was out) and had to use our nearby outhouse for the first time this season.  Oh well, all part of the rustic back-country experience! 

[T - Linda in particular found it made her vacation even better, so it wasn't really an issue.  The porcupine was in his usual tree on the second day of their visit, so they got a bunch of pictures of it munching away.  It didn't find them particularly terrifying, apparently.  The power company actually came all the way up to visit us, looking for damage to the power line.  They drove a big snowcat up to our cabin, which means we actually have a big trail going all the way from our cabin into town.  We are keeping one tread track for skis and one for walking.  It's really exciting to be able to go five feet out of our house without having to put on skis.  Now if only the snowcat had visited the weather station!  We'll have to try to maintain it, because its really nice to have.  It's currently snowing, and I don't know how much we're actually going to get.  ]

Anyway, other than the power outage, we had a wonderful visit with Linda and Leanne.  And then, on the way to take them back to the airport, we stopped at Secret Stash in CB and had FABULOUS pizza.  Thayer and I split a tasty pizza with grape tomatoes, ricotta cheese, fresh garlic, and parmesan; we even had leftovers.  [Can you tell that I'm slowly growing more and more excited about fresh veg and going out to eat?]

[T - we'll probably get real fat as soon as we move out of our cabin, just because we'll want to do nothing except eat all the things we couldn't get in Gothic]

Here are Linda and Leanne at the trailhead, preparing for the ski into Gothic.
And here we are with Leanne, taking a short break from the ski.

[T - the sled was heavy!  Linda and Leanne managed to pack very light though, I was able to pull everything in the sled so that they didn't need to have packs on]
There is also exciting news on the knitting front!  I finished my green sweater (except for attaching the buttons).  As we speak, it's blocking on the bed (and the color is most accurate here).
Remember those steeks?  You can see them sewn down on the inside of the sweater here.
And look, waist shaping (and a hem)!!
Thayer and I made some tasty dinner last night.  Homemade tortillas and refried beans!  I was amazed by how easy both processes actually were.  The tortillas in particular were quicker than any other flatbread we've tried up til now (mostly because they're non a yeast-leavened "bread").

[T - The tortillas are really good with cinnamon sugar butter melted on them as a dessert tortilla, as well!]