Thursday, January 29, 2009

Miracle of the Potatoes

Today was a bad day. A really bad day. I knew it was going to be bad when Anna woke us up by coming into our room at 6:15 and my headache from the night before had only gotten worse. I won't go into the details of the day, as they really don't matter. The bad day was entirely inside myself.

There was, however, one miracle. One brief moment where a smile graced my tired features. The miracle of the potatoes.

Knowing that I wasn't going any where today, the effort to get kids into the car being just too much, I needed to come up with something for dinner that didn't require a trip to the store. In a stroke of genius, I thought of shepherd's pie. I had plenty of carrots (I use about 5 times the amount recommended by the recipe), peas (another of my modifications), and some lamb in the freezer. Perfect! I started chopping carrots, thawing meat, and then I reached into the cupboard for the potatoes. I only had three. Normally, I use at least 6 to top my shepherd's pie and I was crushed. Not only could I not find a way to be happy today, but I couldn't even cook dinner for my family.

I tried thinking of anyway to get potatoes. I even tried calling Hubby to see if he could come home early, but the pre-WWII, bunker-like, cell phone reception squashing cement walls of Bagley Hall thwarted me once again. Finally, I decided to just make it with three potatoes. Sure, it wouldn't be as good as the other times I've made it, but it would be food. Then, as I was putting on Anna's shoes so we could run down to the front of the building and cut some rosemary, the miracle happened. For no reason at all, I suddenly remembered that the last time I had gone grocery shopping there had been too much to carry, so I left a new bag of potatoes in the car. Cue angels singing. Sure enough, there they were, in all their potato-y glory.

Thanks to that simple bag of potatoes, I had a smile on my face for at least a half an hour, a record for today. God certainly is mindful of every one of us. I'm glad that he loves me enough to remind me about a forgotten bag of potatoes just so that my day could be that much better.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Robbing the Rich to Feed the Poor

Friday my W2 forms came and I just got this itch to prepare my tax return. Yes, I am crazy, but I love watching my refund in Turbo Tax jump up and up. Friday night was no different, and, when I had finished with what forms I had, a line from Disney's Robin Hood kept running through my mind. I wish I had the software to get just the part I want, but if you go to 1:15, you'll find it.

I'm still giddy from doing taxes and will be at least until our "refund" comes. (Funny they call it a refund when most of what they are giving us we never paid in the first place.) Ah, the blessings of being poor with kids at tax time. And thanks to Mathias for being born last year!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

More and More Bread

I'm sure you are all getting tired of my bread stories, but I just can't help it! As I mentioned in my last post, I'm now an official tester for Peter Reinhart's new book, and I'm already loving it.

How did I get so lucky, you may ask? Well, while writing previous posts about Boris, I discovered Reinhart's blog. I believe he mostly uses it to communicate with his testers, which made me rather jealous at first. Then I noticed that we would be opening up the list for new testers this past Sunday. Of course, I stalked his blog until the official word was out and immediately emailed him to ask to be put on the list. It was a good thing I did, because he had so many responses that he ended up closing the list early, after less than 24 hours rather than a week. I must say, Peter Reinhart (I'll just call him Peter from now on. That's how he signs his emails.) is a very personable guy. I got a reply to my email only an hour after I sent mine, and it wasn't a form letter!

Last night I tried the first recipe, a basic French bread. (While I probably shouldn't give out the recipes, I do plan on showing pictures, especially whenever Boris is involved in the bread making process.) Can I say wow!?! Not only was the bread so easy to mix up, it made the most beautiful loaf of French bread I have ever made, complete with crispy, cracked crust.

Of course, Hubby, Anna and I devoured the bread, which tasted as good as it looked, even though the crust did get a little over done. I don't think I've had such good bread since I came home from France.

Now, if anyone wants to try the bread, there is a super easy solution to that. Ask us over for dinner! (And ask us to bring bread.) He, he, he.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Boris Chronicles: First Steps

It has been a few days, but I did finally take my wild yeast starter on a test run and was moderately sucessful. The start, which has been named Boris (Thanks Bridget!), did very well and grew beyond my humble expectations. I don't think I've ever smelled a sourdough start that sour.

The big test came on Tuesday, when I made two different types of bread using the start. Both recipes came from Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads. The first was the "master formula" or 100% Whole Wheat Sandwich bread (p 78 or p 95; yes, it is in there twice) and the second was Multigrain Struan (p 102). I actually made two loaves of the multigrain because I made a no-salt loaf for a friend. In addition to trying new recipes, and testing Boris, I also tried out some new functions on my camera. Please forgive my lack of photo skills.

The no-salt multigrain bread proofing in the bowl. According to Reinhart, having the flaxseeds soak overnight means that you can put them in whole rather than using them ground and still get all the nutritional benefits.


Proofing in loaf form.


Baking in the oven. Sorry the picture is fuzzy. I was trying to take it quickly so the heat wouldn't escape too much.


A beautifully baked %100 whole wheat loaf. I did mean to get a picture of all three loaves, but why show the mistakes? (They all turned out well enough, but one loaf did raise to long and collapsed a bit when baking)


I will have many, many opportunities to use Boris, especially since I just volunteered to be an official tester for Peter Reinhart's next bread book. Yes, I am a geek, but I'll have my name in the book if all goes well!

Thanks again for all of your name suggestions. It was certainly hard to choose, but Boris just seemed to fit. Hubby suggested that it was the Russian version of Bob, which is the name he gives to everything. (Bob was promptly vetod when he suggested it. There are just too many Bobs in the house right now.)

Friday, January 9, 2009

Adventures of a Wild Baker: It Lives!

About a year ago, I tried to start a wild yeast starter using the instructions in Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads. It worked just fine, until I neglected it for too long. After several other unsuccessful tries (all during the summer and all failed due to mold), I am trying again.

And here he is:

He lives! (Technically, it would be "They live!", but we'll pretend it is masculine and single.)

So, now that my wild yeast starter is well on its way, he needs a name. A friend of mine named her sourdough starter Fernando, and I thought it would be a great idea to name my starter. Fernando is taken, but do any of you have any ideas? I would like to have a name chosen by the first time I use him to bake, so bring it on!