Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Pugs don't do yoga

Ruby cannot fathom what I might be doing, when I take out the yoga mat. She insists that it is time to play (after all, mommy is on the floor, right?). And since I don't seem to want to play then she wants to sit on the mat - you know, to figure out what I see in it. I have had to modify the "sun salutation" around her. Mountain pose while she sniffs my ankles. Downward dog over top of her like london bridge (I hope I never lose my grip and squish her flat by falling on her LOL). Cobra pose while she licks my face and tries to squiggle in between my elbows. Lunges while she jumps up at me or tries to "greet me" dog style. And her favourite, as I finish my session - climbing on me like a mountain goat while I do the corpse pose. Interspersed in all that are attempts to put her smelly, spitty toy squirrel in my mouth (or the crook of my arm, or into my hand, or on my neck, etc.). If I ever get to the point where I can do more advanced poses I will have to block her out of the area. I can't imagine doing the plough pose with that dastardly thing around.

After riding with DD to school, I went on my own little bike ride again. I really have to remember to take a pic of my new bike (I don't feel like getting it back out of the shed right now. The new lawnmower is going to piss me off, I can tell that already). It's so purty. It's white with magenta and purple flowers here and there. The seat springs squeak. I wonder if I can do anything about that? I am getting the hang of the gears and everything. When I was a kid I loved riding my bike. It was more than just a way to get from here to there, it was an event in itself! We lived on an odd shaped block that was much bigger around the back than typical (it went around a school and a small forested area). Completely connected with sidewalk so there was no need to cross any streets or anything. We would go around and around and around. Sometimes we would cut down the forest path and go around the school. The breeze on my face and in my hair, the feeling of freedom. My favourite was to pedal like crazy then kind of coast for a bit. I am beginning to remember that feeling, and experience it again. Kind of silly, really. But I think I needed a little bit of "fun" back.

Speaking of fun, this baking and cooking streak is turning out to be more interesting and less stressful than I had thought it would be - which is definitely a good thing. DD is eating better and BOY can we see a difference! She is more pleasant to be around, has more productive energy, no more complaints and arguments about homework, no more fighting about bedtime. She still isn't eating veggies and has the occasional junky snack. But already I can see her making better choices. MIL bought her a sports drink (another no no here). Normally she would suck back the entire thing (why not, I mean it is corn syrup in a bottle right?). This time she drank maybe 2 oz then put the cap back on and announced she didn't like it. "It's too sweet. And it feels funny in my mouth. Slippery kind of". Scaling back the sugar and the sweet stuff was a good idea, then! For lunch yesterday I cut some leftover steak into long strips and threaded them onto skewers. Those and some fruit kebabs (apples, honeydew, and grapes) and 1 oz of cheese. She took a granola bar as well but didn't eat it. I really believe upping the protein content of her lunch (which stays with her longer than her usual carb fest) has made this difference. As long as she continues to eat them, I will continue to make her these special lunches.

Searching around on the net, I found a recipe to use my wheat bran. Remember the stuff I sifted out of the whole wheat flour? I made an adaption of a recipe I found on an Italian blog. So much of an adaption that they no longer really resemble the original recipe LOL.

Wheat Bran Cookies

7 oz butter (by weight - next time I think I will just use 3/4 cup)

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1 cup wheat bran (mine was a little over but close enough)

2 cups unbleached flour

1/4 cup wheat germ

2 tsp vanilla

Cream the butter and sugar. While that is happening you can toast the wheat bran (I used a dry skillet stirring continually for a few minutes, you can do it in the oven, or just skip it because it makes the house stink).

Add the egg and vanilla to the butter/sugar and beat well.

Add the flour, cooled wheat bran, and wheat germ. Mix until it is all incorporated.

Roll into small balls (I used a measuring spoon and made them about 1 tbsp each, approximately 1 inch balls). Flatten with a fork, or do what I did and use the corrugated side of a meat mallet. Boy, that was fun!

Bake at 350 degrees (I might up that to 375 next time) for 10-12 minutes. Makes about 3 1/2 dozen 2 inch cookes.

Note that there is no leavening other than the egg. These don't really spread and they don't really puff up. After baking they have a crispy outside with a softish (but not doughy) center. The texture almost reminds me of an oatmeal cookie, with a wheaty flavour instead of an oaty one. Next time I might use raw sugar instead of plain white. I think brown might make a softer cookie and I don't want that. Even though these have wheat bran and germ, I wouldn't consider them a "healthy cookie" seeing as there is like a cup of butter and sugar in there. But they are tastey, healthier than something made with shortening and much more sugar, and even DH and DD liked them. Raisins, currents, cranberries, or snipped dried fruit and even nuts would be a good addition in my opinion if you like a more loaded cookie.
MIL sent over some store bought chocolate chip cookes, a brand that DD loves (but I don't like her to have because they are crap but we won't get into that fight now). She had two in her hand, and took one of my cookies as well for her snack. A minute later she came back up, put the two chocolate chip cookies back in the package and took two more of mine! Now that is high praise indeed. Maybe I am having some effect after all.

I will be baking the no knead bread (from starter) sometime this afternoon. I have never seen the overnight proof so big! Of course I just realized I am out of parchment paper so will have to try without it. My loaf won't be such a perfect ball, but that is fine. I'll have to remember to add it to the shopping list. I wonder if I can finally find the pre-cut stuff that stays flat. I also want to make the jelly tonight but that might be ambitious. We shall see.
Here is a gratuitous picture of Jasmine, doing a Sun Salutation of her own, in lazy cat style.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Mondays are for startin'

I was relatively productive today. Well, in the food front. The house still looks like a tornado hit a flea market. But c'est la vie.

One cup of starter was ready to be used. Oh, I wanted to mention. I think maybe "sourdough" is not the correct term here. I think maybe what I have done is propogated by own yeast starting with commercial yeast. For this to be a sourdough, I think other things have to happen. There is no "sour" taste or smell. In fact, it smells more like beer than anything else LOL. Which is fine by me. I think if I wanted to make sourdough from what I have, I would make a dough with this starter and flour and let it sit up to two days. Then divide, throw half away, and add flour and water(?) to the remaining piece and let it sit again. Then I would divide (or not?) and add this piece of dough to the remaining dough ingredients to make a loaf. Let sit to rise, shape, rise again, and so on. I could be wrong again, because it seems there are so many techniques and everybody uses the same terms interchangeably. Basically what I wanted to do was end up with something I could use in place of yeast.

Not because I think yeast is expensive or hard to find, mind you. But I know commercial yeast is designed to rise quick, not necessarily provide flavour. I want my yeast to develop their flavour. And that is done over time. Slow rising and overnight proofing help of course, but for an even more complex product I think a starter is the way to go. Plus maybe I was feeling the need for another pet and this is all I could afford ;). We will call him Stanley. Or Rupert. (Part of me believes that if I name this thing I will be less likely to allow it to perish in the refrigerator from neglect. Wish me luck ;).

This seems like pretty active stuff at this point. I needed to use one cup, but I didn't want two loaves of bread. I decided on a loaf of no knead bread, and a batch of pita bread. I got the recipe HERE. Mind you, I used my starter for part of the water and some whole wheat flour instead of all white. My review will appear in a few days there. I won't know about the loaf bread until tomorrow (it is a two day process, but all of that is basically letting it sit on the top of the fridge and do it's thing). But as for the pita bread?

Heavenly. I ended up with 18 pieces of relatively round *cough*, tender, thin but puffy, flavorful pitas. These are not the kind with a pocket, and not as thick as the greek style. Somewhere in between. Perfect for making wrap sandwiches or using to scoop up hummous or tearing into bits and eating plain while standing at the stove. Ahem. I do know for sure I need a new rolling pin. Mine is a marble model that is wonderful for pastry dough and heavy duty rolling. But for smaller, more delicate jobs I would rather have a lighter european style model. I don't have a counter wide enough for a long one, just a small one will do. I have to work in a tight space and it gets frustrating when you don't have enough room for one sweep of the pin.

This morning I rode my bike with DD (we rode to her school then parted ways and I went a little further on the bike path). It was such a nice morning. Ruby and I puttered a bit in the garden, looking to see what was coming up on it's own. Besides weeds and grass, of course. The asparagus has been coming for a while already and I got one spear. The rhubarb looked tall so I checked for thick stalks. Hmmm. Thinner and pinker than normal. Maybe it is overcrowded. Not that I am complaining, of course. So I pulled several stalks and Ruby helped by barking at me and running around like a loon as I broke off the leaves and tossed them behind the asparagus bed (helps keep the weeds down, but you don't want to do it where you will plant tender veggies - the leaves contain oxalic acid and might keep other plants from growing. It doesn't seem to bother the asparagus, but they hate weeds). Okay, I may have caused this by flapping a huge, prehistoric looking leaf at her and making an odd noise. Or not.

Once it was cleaned I decided to get as far into the jelly making process as I could. At least to the juice stage since I wasn't really in the mood to boil jars today. 3 pounds of rhubarb, 1/2 cup cranberries for colour, one chopped apple for...well I don't know but it seemed like a good idea. That was cooked until the fruit was soft and left to drip in a jelly bag. I could have left it overnight and would have gotten more, really clear, juice. But I had enough for the batch I want to make and I could care less if it is clear. DH and DD just won't eat it if there are "strings" or bits in it. Tomorrow I will heat the juice and add sugar and pectin to make jelly.

The only other thing I did was read the paper. Does it count as cleaning since I put it in the recycle bin once I was done?