Thursday, March 31, 2011
So she sent me the recipe and I baked two loaves a couple of days ago. I didn't get it to rise really well and it looked flatter, more like focaccia than Natalie's loaves, but it was still delicious. And I'm determined to conquer this bread thing and I'm going to keep at it until I get it right. I can't let a toddler outbake me, not even a Montessori toddler.
Vegan Rosemary Garlic Bread
1½ cup lukewarm water
1 packet active yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
¼ cup chopped fresh rosemary (divided)
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups bread flour
1/3 cup olive oil
3 to 6 cloves of minced garlic
2 teaspoons kosher salt (or sea salt)
In a small bowl, mix the water, yeast, sugar, and half of the rosemary. In a separate large bowl, add 1 teaspoon salt to flour, mix, then add yeast mixture to flour. Mix slowly until the dough forms a ball.
Knead on a floured board for 10 minutes (this is when having a three- or four-year-child around comes handy). Place the dough in oiled bowl, cover, and let it sit in a warm place until it doubles in size (about an hour).
Mix olive oil, remaining rosemary, and garlic. Punch dough down, knead a few times to make it easy to handle. Shape dough into 2 loaves, place several inches apart on the baking sheet. Score loaves, pour oil/rosemary mix on top. Sprinkle each loaf with kosher salt.
Allow loaves to rise for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake bread for 15 minutes or until golden brown.
Friday, March 25, 2011
When I was growing up it was a mortal sin for Catholics to eat meat on any Friday. (A mortal sin is the really bad kind of sin, the kind that condemns you to hell for all eternity. Venial sins are the little sins, like telling a minor lie, for which you burn in purgatory for an undefined period of time. Sister Mary Ignatius said it was sometime between 300 years and 700 billion years. I don’t know where she got her data.) At some point I heard that it was a mortal sin not because eating meat was wrong but because it was considered disobedience to the church. But the Catholic Church changed the rules in the 1960s with Vatican II and now the abstinence from meat rule is in effect only on Fridays in Lent.
Apparently there were lots of exceptions pre-Vatican II but none of them worked in our house. If you were over 60 years of age you were exempt because you were too old. If you were a nursing mother you were exempt because I suppose babies need meat in their breast milk. If you were of Spanish descent you were exempt because sometime in the last 2000 years someone Spanish did a favor for the pope so all Spanish people were henceforth exempt from the no-meat Friday rule. The girls in high school in Mother Rosary’s Spanish class claimed that they were exempt because they were learning to speak Spanish. What a fool I was to be taking French.
Did you ever hear George Carlin’s take on Catholicism and not eating meat on Fridays? George Carlin also grew up Catholic under the old rules. He said it seemed unfair that people were spending eternity in hell on a “meat rap” for their sin before the no-meat on Fridays rule was changed. Timing is everything.
Forever I will associate tuna noodle casserole with meatless Fridays, though sometimes growing up in my house we had fish sticks or pancakes. Over the years I messed with my mother’s basic tuna noodle formula—tuna, noodles, and cream of mushroom soup. My kids loved my doctored-up version of tuna noodle casserole whether it was Friday or not. You’ll never see this recipe in Bon Appetit.
Tuna Noodle Casserole
16 ounces egg noodles
8 ounces cottage cheese
6 ounce can French-fried onions
3 cans tuna
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
1 cup frozen chopped spinach
½ cup grated carrot
1 cup milk
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Cook noodles as directed on package until barely cooked, drain. Mix cooked noodles with cottage cheese, half of the French-fried onions, tuna, soup, frozen spinach, grated carrot, and milk.
Put noodle/tuna mixture in a large deep casserole dish. Top with remaining half can of onions and grated Parmesan.
Cook at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until bubbly and brown on top.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
I happened to have saffron and turmeric and ghee in my pantry and I searched through my files, combined, adapted, and came up with this recipe. It was yummy and really not hard to make. [If you don't have an immersion blender, get one! It's a great little tool!]
Curried Cauliflower Soup
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium-size head cauliflower, cut into florets
1 large onion, diced
1 tablespoon ghee
1 teaspoon sugar
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (½ teaspoon if you want it hotter)
3 cups chicken broth, homemade or from a carton or can
½ cup half-and-half
½ cup coconut milk
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large, deep pan. Add cauliflower, then onion; saute, stirring occasionally until vegetables start to turn golden brown, about 7 minutes. Reduce heat to low, add ghee, sugar, and garlic. Cook about 10 minutes until vegetables are brown and carmelized. Add ginger, turmeric, saffron and cayenne pepper; and saute 1 minute longer. Add broth and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer, partially covered, until cauliflower is tender, about 10 minutes.
Remove a few pieces of cauliflower and set aside. Using an immersion blender, puree until smooth, about 30 seconds. Add half-and-half and coconut milk and heat through. Add cauliflower florets that were set aside and serve.
Makes about 4 servings.
Sunday, March 20, 2011
Indonesian Grilled Swordfish
Combine the soy sauce, canola oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, ginger, garlic, and mustard in a bowl. Pour half the sauce in a low flat dish that’s just large enough to hold the swordfish in one layer. Place the swordfish on top of the sauce and spread the remaining sauce on top. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or preferably overnight.
Friday, March 18, 2011
So tonight I took what I had available and came up with a concoction that actually was quite good. I didn’t measure so I can’t tell you exact amounts. Just punt.
Pasta with Canadian Bacon and Olive Salad
Canadian bacon, about 4 slices, cut into julienne strips
Boscoli Italian Olive Salad, about ¼ cup
Shaved parmesan cheese
Saute the Canadian bacon until crispy.
While the bacon is cooking, boil water and start cooking the pasta.
When the pasta is cooked, drain and toss with bacon and olive salad.
Sprinkle parmesan cheese on the top and eat it.
Serve with beer and oven-roasted asparagus.
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Fen-Phen was a combination of prescription drugs that was used to suppress appetite. Toni and I went to a doctor to get prescriptions for it back when it was the hottest thing in weight loss. Toni and I have done many crazy things together. Going to a diet doctor was but one of our misadventures. We loved Fen-Phen. Dieting was effortless. We were skinnier than ever. It seemed too good to be true and I suppose it was.
It probably has been 20 years since we heard about this doctor who was prescribing the weight loss wonder-drug combination. So we both made appointments and went together to his office in Alexandria. Neither of us liked him—he was a pale, pudgy, weasel of a man and he just seemed creepy. But still, he was a means to an end. Apparently he needed some sort of excuse, some diagnosis, in order to submit the charges to medical insurance and to prescribe Fen-Phen. Amazing but true, both Toni and I were diagnosed with . . . are you ready for this? . . . ear wax. The weasel doctor stuck instruments in our ears, extracted ear wax, and prescribed appetite suppressants. I suppose the appetite suppressants also suppressed the accumulation of any future, deadly ear wax. Go figure.
At first Toni wasn’t losing weight as quickly as she wanted so he also gave her a prescription to rev up her thyroid. Wow—that really worked. The guy was probably giving us drugs that would kill us, but we’d be thin when our hearts blew out.
Yep, it’s a shame about Fen-Phen. It’s a trade-off. Would you rather be a fat person with ear wax or would you prefer to keep your major organs functioning? I know, I know—it’s a hard choice.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
(Never, ever depend on me for a definitive explanation of anything theological. What I write has no theological basis, it’s just an observation.)
I’m not even sure what the term evangelical Christian means any longer. I think it’s supposed to mean that a person who believes in Jesus is called to proselytize, to “spread the faith to all nations.” No one else ever affected me by preaching to me and I’m not comfortable preaching to others. I’m just going to live my life the best way I can, try to “live the Gospel,” and not be an embarrassment to Jesus. Sometimes I fail.
For me it’s okay to defy description. It’s okay to be a liberal, a Bible-toting Christian, a feminist, and a banjo player all at the same time. None of those labels is inconsistent with being evangelical, is it? Can I simply work on being a good Christian and not worry about the labels?
My opinion of Irish food wasn’t elevated much by all the women of Irish heritage who surrounded me when I was growing up. For over 30 years I was married to a guy who was 100 percent Irish. Not a drop of non-Irish blood sullied the family bloodline until he married me, a mongrel. My mother-in-law was a wonderful woman and she made great spareribs. But I recall one Thanksgiving looking at the table and seeing nothing green—there was a turkey, ham and roast beef, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, rutabagas, stuffing, and slightly burned rolls. I think there was a brownish jello mold.
My husband used to complain that I didn’t have the things in the refrigerator that his mother had. Like he could always open his mother’s refrigerator and find a plate of cooked meatballs, unimpeded by any kind of protective wrap. He always entered his childhood home through the back door to the kitchen and walked straight to the refrigerator. I just wasn’t a good wife or a real woman because of a cold meatball deficiency. It was grounds for annulment in the Catholic Church.
Yesterday my dear friend Trish made colcannon and sausages and brought them to my house. Colcannon is a traditional Irish dish that is a sort of cabbage and potato hash. The colcannon was yummy, but note that although it has a fancy Irish name it’s still cabbage and potato hash. What’s not to love about cabbage and potatoes fried together with butter?
For our Irish meal I made a new recipe for Irish soda bread that turned out well—slightly salty, slightly sweet, slightly caraway—and not dry like the commercial soda bread you buy at the market. And it’s easy—just requires a bowl and a wooden spoon, a quick stir, and pop it in the oven.
Irish Soda Bread
2 cups all purpose flour
5 tablespoons sugar, divided
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon baking soda
4 tablespoons butter, chilled, cut into cubes
2/3 cup raisins
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
1 cup buttermilk
Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly butter a 8-inch-diameter cake. In large bowl stir together flour, 4 tablespoons sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in large bowl to blend. Cut in butter with pastry cutter until coarse meal forms. Stir in raisins and caraway seeds. Make well in center of flour mixture. Add buttermilk. Gently stir dry ingredients into milk to blend. Do not over mix.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
I would love to see you!
This is a recipe that I've changed and refined over time. I don't think I ever make it the same way twice but this is a basic version.
Chicken Salad With Artichokes and Tarragon
3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
32 ounce carton chicken broth
½ cup sour cream
½ cup mayonnaise
1 cup celery, cut into julienne strips
1 tablespoon dried tarragon
Salt and pepper to taste
6½ ounce jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and coarsely chopped
Place chicken breasts in single layer in a large pot.
Add just enough chicken broth (add water or white wine, if necessary) to cover chicken. Heat to simmer, cover, and cook very gently for about 10 minutes, until no longer pink. Remove from heat and allow chicken to cool in liquid for 20 minutes.
When chicken has cooled, break into bite-sized pieces.
Mix sour cream, mayonnaise, celery, tarragon, and salt and pepper.
Pour over chicken, add artichokes, and blend gently.
Refrigerate for 4-6 hours before serving.
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
As if there aren't enough things in this cruel world to do damage to an old woman like me! I just found one I didn't expect. But, of course, when one has an accident it's just that--unexpected.
I was reading a thing about home safety, the kind of article I usually see in the AARP magazine. (I really hate the fact that I get that AARP magazine and that I bother to read it. It's just so old.) It discusses injuries (and causes of death!) that happen in the home. The U.S. Home Safety Council says that every year nearly 20,000 people die and 21 million medical visits are needed due to home accidents in the United States. Put me down for one of those medical visits.
Here's what the Council reports:
Those most at risk are children and the elderly--a recent report from Harvard Medical School found that the chance of dying from a home accident increases dramatically after the age of 65. In fact, people over the age of 75 are four times more likely to die from a home accident than those aged 65 to 74.
Of course, people of all ages can be hurt by an accident (you've likely got at least one home-accident story of your own by now). The irony is that most home accidents are the result of human error and could almost always have been prevented.
The list includes the top six causes of injury:
(1) Knife cuts
(2) Slamming fingers in windows or doors
(3) Falling down stairs
(4) Cooking burns
(5) Falling out of windows
Yes, I've likely got at least one home-accident story of my own by now. I've done all of those things at one point or another. The injury du jour happened yesterday. I was innocently putting a box on the top shelf in my office. I innocently stood on my desk chair to reach the top shelf, ignoring the fact that the desk chair has wheels on it. (Don't laugh--I've innocently done it before and it never rolled when it wasn't supposed to roll.) Well . . . yesterday it rolled away when I was at the top of my ascent with a box in my hands. The descent wasn't pretty. I landed crumpled on the floor with a boxful of papers scattered over me like dry leaves on a dead squirrel.
So I sat there on the floor, stunned, saying to myself, "You old fool, just look what you've done now." My arms hurt the most and I expected I had dislodged a fingernail or two trying to break my fall by grasping the edges of the bookshelves. No blood, no obviously broken bones. Eventually I got up and walked. I iced down the hurting parts and waited for morning.
When I got up this morning I realized that the damage is all concentrated on my right side--right arm and shoulder, right leg, and right ankle. This afternoon I went to the chiropractor and he did what he could to straighten me out. His prognosis is that I'll hurt for a while but I'll live.
Do I need to remind myself not to stand on that desk chair with the wheels? I'm an idiot.
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
I believe in him, but sometimes that almost makes it more difficult. I believe but I wonder how a loving father can let his children live in a world that is filled with so much pain. Why are pain and suffering, fear and turmoil, cruelty and depair such a big part of our humanity?
So I’ve been reading the Book of Job to try to understand what God has told us about the nature of suffering. And I still don’t get it. Why did God even take the bait when the adversary (Satan) got him to test Job’s righteousness? Why didn’t God just tell the adversary to go back to hell where he belonged? And what about Job’s alleged friends? A lot of help they were. Job’s children died along with all of his animals then he got herpes all over his body and he scraped at it with broken glass. Yet he wouldn’t curse God. If I get a splinter wedged under my fingernail I might come close to cursing God, but Job didn't.
The only answer is that human suffering is something we cannot understand because God is God and we are not. Job says, “He is not a man like me that I might answer him.” (Job 9:32) Job has no logical explanation for his suffering, but he doesn't lose faith in God. Where does that kind of faith come from?