Sunday, September 20, 2009


  • I need a new lens and an external flash to take great food pictures.
  • I probably don't need to cook as much food as I do.
  • I seem obsessed with cooking, eating, food.
  • I have finally started running again, only to be cruelly punished by the running gods with a Jacob's hip after only the second day back.
  • I have only two weeks until I will be living in a bathing suit for a week.
  • What am I thinking making chocolate chunk bread two weeks before such an activity?
  • Although, peach pie sounds nice for later this week...and I can always gimply run to offset.
  • Sigh... more time on homework and reading and less on food would be wise.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Can't cook?

My sister-in-law often sends me news clippings. The latest story explained the recent boom in simplified cookbooks as well as cooking schools and new here-are-the-basics cooking shows. Apparently, we have a whole generation from the 1970s on that can't cook. This generation is now grappling with tightened pocketbooks and wants to use the farmer's market product to actually make a meal.
Now, I hadn't actually realized we had a culinary knowledge generational gap. Yes, I had heard about the loss of many home cooked meals, the ever-growing reliance on boxed mixes as cooking and the rise of fast food/take out/take and bake/take and eat. I do have a microwave and think it makes excellent popcorn and bacon with minimal fuss.

But, I had no idea that my friends couldn't cook. Actually, my friends can cook--at least I think they can. I may be selective, only pairing up with people who can cook or they may be particularly adept at buying pre-made and swapping containers. Hmmm, I've only actually cooked with a few of them.

My youngest and I spent a cool and drizzly day at the zoo. After reading the article and trekking the hills of the zoo with several kindergartners in tow, I decided tonight's meal must be a basic soup, one of those soups everyone should know how to make, but maybe they don't.

Bacon Corn Potato Chowder
Adapted from Barbara Kafka's lovely book Soup and my mother's 1970s Velveeta Cheese Bacon soup (w/o the Velveeta now)

1 1/2 lb of baking potatoes, peeled and 1/2" cubed
1 medium onion, chopped fine
1 1/2 cups water
Corn cut from 4 ears of corn
1 celery stalk, chopped fine
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup shredded Fontina or Gruyere cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Roasted peppers (I had broiled some pepper from our CSA - a mix of sweet peppers - I love the colors)
Hot sauce to taste

1. Place the potato and onion in a medium saucepan and add water. Bring to boil and then simmer, covered, 10 minutes.
2. Add in corn, celery, milk and cheese. Stir and bring almost to a boil. Partially cover and simmer for another 10 minutes.
3. Add salt and pepper to taste.
4. Serve with roasted peppers on top and hot sauce to taste for the adults. We had pitas, sprayed first with an olive oil spray before a short time under the broiler to make them crispy, as a side.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Just 5 More Miles

Kids love to do things, particularly things they think they shouldn't be able to do. This is a secret we parents must remember. Make the activity seem hard, too old, too much, just too and your child might surprise you.
This Labor Day weekend, we decided to take the new Fizzy Lizzy tandem for a better test ride, a two-day trip, out on the C&O canal trail to Leesburg, VA and back on the WO&D.

The result: 86 miles total, half on the lovely, shady and bumpy canal trail with a ferry ride across the Potomac and then half on the faster, more crowded paved trail. The girls switched back and forth between Fizzy Lizzy where they needed to pedal (or try to) and the Behemoth Screamer where they rested their feet up and were in danger of falling asleep!

We saw turtles, butterflies, a stray cat, a crane, a snake and all kinds of people and found a rockin' Carolina BBQ place right off the WO&D trail (just close enough for a Saturday out-and-back trip in the future, hmmm).

Oh, and if you really want them to keep going that 5 more miles, have a swimming pool waiting at the hotel or a Vitamin Water in the offering.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Rushed but Blessed Bread

I make bread. I have for 10 years now, maybe more. Every week, sometimes more than once a week, I feed a starter or levain by mixing in warm water and flour. The mixture bubbles and grows, sometimes to the top of the container and over onto the counter (if I have rushed and not dumped it into a bigger bowl even though I know it needs the space). If you are seeking a fake concrete, flour and water dried to an almost impossible hardness is your answer.

After feeding the starter twice, I separate a cup or so back into a Tupperware that then hunches down in the back of the refrigerator until I remember to feed it again. The remainder starter I use for bread, rolls, pizza dough, even on occasion waffles or cake.

Two days ago, I began this ritual again with one difference: my long-awaited, can't-even-believe-it-even-thought-it-is-sitting-on-my-counter Cuisinart food processor is here waiting to be used for the first time.

Now, given my past professional life and bibliophile nature, I really should be expected to read the operating manual prior to using the processor. I had glanced through it, but was more interested in the recipe section than the details on order of assembly, locking mechanisms and such. You can see where this is going, can't you?

I was rushed (ha! like that is a surprise), trying to help the girls with homework before the babysitter came, needed to take a shower and dress for the dinner. Yet, I really wanted to use my starter and get some bread dough made AND I really really wanted to use my new gleaming super-clean-never-will-be-that-clean again processor. I'll save you the floury details and simply state that I did every single step wrong the first time and had to redo. All this in a rush. My husband's comment later: "You were in a rush and you tried to use the new processor?"

To top it off, I of course had no time to actually bake the bread loaves, asking the babysitter to put them in the oven, push the timer button and take them out (like I ever use the timer?).
In the end, the bread didn't rise as much as it could have if I hadn't rushed it. Its squatty shape and tight crumb tell all. And, yet this morning we had fresh bread for breakfast.

Rushed (or Not) Bread via Cuisinart
Adapted from the Cuisinart recipe book

4 c white flour
2 c wheat flour
1 Tbsp salt
2 Tbsp sugar
4-6 Tbsp butter, cut into little cubes
2 c of starter mixed with 1 cup warm water (or 2 1/2 tsp yeast with 1 tsp sugar and 1/2 c warm water proofed for 10 mins and then 1 c of cool water added)

1. With the large (11 cup!!) bowl of the food processor and the dough blade (note to self: put the dough blade in before the ingredients), process the flours, salt, salt and butter on the dough setting for 15 seconds. (Isn't this amazing--15 seconds!)
2. With the processor running on dough speed, slowly pour in the starter/water or yeast/water mixture until the dough forms and pulls from the sides of the bowl. Process for 45 to 60 seconds longer.
3. Pull out your amazing dough--I really can't imagine this. I actually think you should knead it a bit by hand to continue to work the gluten or process a bit longer. As I rushed my poor loaves, I can't say for sure what caused them to be a bit short. I'll experiment and get back to you.
4. If you used proofed starter, shape two loaves and place in greased loaf pans to rise for 1-2 hours or until almost at top of pan. If you used yeast, place the dough in an oiled bowl, let it rise 1-2 hours until doubled, punch down, shape into loaves and let rise another hour before baking.
5. Bake at 400 F for approximately 30 minutes or until light golden brown on top. Turn out of pans. Bake for another 5 minutes, then cool on rack or just slice open and enjoy with lots of butter and perhaps some local honey.

**The cat is not rushed and found sunbeams today.