Whole Wheat Pizza Dough (for the Bread Machine)

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The weather here has been beyond amazing lately. It’s February in New England and sometimes I find myself in a t-shirt. Outside even. It’s been heavenly and I hope it continues.

What seems to be the early coming of Spring has sent me into a baking frenzy. I simply can’t stop making bread. Have you ever seen the cookbook Flatbreads & Flavors? It’s like crack for homemade bread makers. I just can’t stop. Before we know it it will be far too gorgeous outside to stay in and bake. I was planning on making tons of crackers this winter too and I’ve done next to none. Woe is me.

Recently, I couldn’t find a recipe for whole wheat pizza dough for bread machines on the World Wide Web. It’s always a little troubling when a recipe search just comes up empty. Doesn’t the web have everything on it by now? Anyhow, I was forced to do a little experimenting and come up with my own.

This recipe is actually a mash-up of my husband’s recipe and one I found in a bread machine cookbook. I’m not sure if any of it actually makes sense. But it works for me. I make the dough in the bread machine and then put it in the fridge overnight. My husband does the overnight rest, but I forget why – probably something to do with gluten development or something.

I haven’t tried throwing this dough to make a traditional pizza pie, but it would probably rise to the occasion. I’ve been making ten thousand pinwheels instead. I have enough pinwheels for an army in my freezer. My kid’s school lunches are going to be very predictable, but yummy, for the rest of the year.[/donotprint]

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough Recipe (Bread Machine)

Scant cup water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups bread flour
2 teaspoons active dry yeast

Put the water, sugar, olive oil, salt, and flours in the bread machine pan. Make a well in the flour for the yeast and pour it in. Put the machine on the Dough setting. Check on it once the knead cycle has been going for a little while to make sure it’s not too wet or too dry.

Divide the dough in two and place each dough in a lightly greased 2-quart airtight container. Place the containers in the refrigerator overnight.

30 – 60 minutes before you are going to need the dough, place it on the counter and allow it to come to room temperature. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface or onto a baking sheet.

The rest is up to you! Happy pizza!

Yield: 2 pounds of dough, enough for 2 12-inch pizzas
Prep-time: 5 minutes

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Bumstead Sandwich

Don’t let me be a bad influence on you. I’m pretty sure deli meat is the devil incarnate. But…well…let’s talk about the olive tapenade. What else can one make with olive tapenade? This is all I ever use it for and it seems a terrible shame.

Bumstead Sandwich Recipe

This recipe is adapted from The Last Minute Party Girl by Erika Lenkert.

I love this recipe for parties because I can do almost all of the work ahead of time and we still get to eat a satisfying warm sandwich.

1 large whole grain baguette, halved lengthwise
2 tablespoons butter, softened
3 tablespoons black olive tapenade
1/3 cup goat cheese
1/4 pound of thinly sliced turkey
1/4 pound of thinly sliced salami
5 slices of pastrami
1/2 cup jarred roasted red peppers, rinsed, patted dry, and sliced into strips
1 cup spinach, washed and dried

Scoop out the innards of the baguette leaving the crust intact. Feed the innards to the kids.

Slather the butter on the top half of the baguette. Slather the bottom half with the olive tapenade and goat cheese. Load the meats, red peppers, and spinach onto the bottom half of the baguette. Cover it with the top half of the loaf.

Wrap the sandwich tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until it’s party time (up to 48 hours).

Preheat the oven to 300 degree Fahrenheit. Place the unwrapped sandwich on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes.

Slice on an angle into about ten 2-inch wide segments. Hold the sandwiches together with a toothpick and serve immediately.

Yield: 10 sandwiches
Prep-time: 15 minutes
Bake-time: 15 minutes

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The Dark Side of Keeping Chickens

Overall,  I’m amazed at how easy chickens are to take care of. But sometimes the whole situation reminds me of breastfeeding. Everyone’s so busy talking it up and saying how great it is that they forget to mention that there are moments when it truly sucks.

For instance:

1. Culling

Sometimes a chicken that was supposed to be a girl turns out to be a boy. In fact, I think it happens about 1 out of 10 times since chicks are so difficult to sex. After about a month of non-stop crowing for a half hour every morning, something had to be done (see above photo). What we thought was a butch hen was quickly becoming a rooster with a capital ‘R’.

Turns out there isn’t a drive-through slaughter house in our area catering to wimpy wannabe farmers. Even though we were fond of Miss Rooster, the rest of world saw her/him as a disposable entity that we needed to deal with ourselves. Gulp.

Apparently there will be more culling in two to three years when our hens are past their prime. They can live for several years, but if you’re in it for the eggs like we are it doesn’t make sense to keep them around. I’m not looking forward to it.

2. Start up costs

We found our little blue coop on craigslist, but it was still $500. I’ve seen fancy new coops for $1500. Then you have to build a yard around it. We used a healthy amount of hardware cloth to build ours so the yard cost somewhere between $100 – $200 more. Then there’s the food and the bedding. I don’t even want to do the math to figure out how many eggs our hens would need to lay to make up the costs. And I really don’t understand how farmers manage to make any money off of this kind of stuff.

The good news is that the chicks cost next to nothing.

3. Maintaince

Chickens poop a lot. So far it hasn’t gotten too smelly. But I’ve heard it can be a real stinkfest.

So all in all, I’ve discovered that keeping chickens is not always a pastoral love fest. But then when you’re cleaning out the coop for the millionth time, you find one of these:

I’m still a newbie, so it still feels better than Christmas morning to find a little egg hanging out in the nest box. It’s a miracle. I wonder if it will ever get old.

Thank you little hens.

Our Daily Bread

[donotprint]Right after college, one of my roommates got a bread maker. After a couple months of excitement, she started to complain about feeling alienated from her bread. The machine was quietly tucked away never to be seen again.

Given this experience, I resisted getting a bread maker for a long time. But a few years ago I ended up with one and haven’t looked back. I have a Zojirushi which seemed like a good idea because it has two paddles and produces a traditionally shaped loaf. But now it’s pointless because a couple years ago I decided to use the machine to make the dough and then bake it in the oven. Those paddle holes in the bottom of a loaf are disheartening. And the crust always came out way too dark in the machine.

Just in case there are some other folks out there who are as pre-occupied with bread as I am, I thought I’d share my stand-by recipe. It’s mostly whole grain and is the main source of flaxseed in our diet.[/donotprint]

Whole Wheat Flax Bread Machine Recipe

This recipe is inspired by Flax Prairie Bread from Ameriflax. I usually use King Arthur’s all-purpose flour for this bread, but if you have bread flour by all means use it instead of the all-purpose flour. It delivers.

1 1/4 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup ground flaxseed
2 tablespoons safflower oil
2 tablespoons honey
1 cup all-purpose flour or bread flour
2 cups white whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast

Put the water, salt, flaxseed, oil, honey, and flours in bread machine pan. Create a small well in the top of the flour and pour in the yeast. Run the machine on the Dough setting. When the dough is ready, punch it down and form it into a loaf shape. Place the dough in a greased bread pan. Cover with a light-weight towel.

Allow the dough to rise for an hour or until it is doubled in size. Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 28 minutes. Remove loaf from pan by turning it upside down and catching it with an oven mit. Allow the loaf to cool completely on a cooling rack. If you put it away before it cools, it will get soggy. Store in an airtight container.

Yield: one loaf of lovely bread
Prep-time: 10 minutes

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A Little Patch o’ Earth

Over the weekend my husband was out cutting down some deadwood and found what looked like an old garden plot. We moved to our current house under a year ago and we didn’t notice the plot because it was buried under an intense patch of thorn bushes. It’s probably been at least 20 years since it was used.

After a couple days of clearing out matted and prickly vegetation of all sorts, we have a roughly 20 x 20′ patch of semi-terraced dirt.

The soil looks good. I just placed a giant seed order at Burpee’s for corn, carrots, flowers, pickling cucumbers, slicing cucumbers, four kinds of tomatoes, herbs, dino kale, swiss chard, and sugar snap peas. Now all we need is a fence to keep the critters out and a way to safely ignore the fact that we have a bit of a slope. Shouldn’t be a problem, right?

 

Ode to The Family Dinner

Once or twice a year I am overcome by a mounting sense of desperation over what to feed my family. I just start coming up blank more often than I’d like. (I probably should just be keeping a dinner journal to help myself remember what has and hasn’t worked. That would be a good idea. It would be fun to use a 5-year journal.)

Last Spring I bought a copy of The Family Dinner while I was looking for answers. I ended up getting a lot more than I hoped for. While the recipes are great, I hadn’t counted on such a serious dose of inspiration and guidance for staging family dinner.

Family dinner sounds easy. Make dinner. Eat together. But the book opened up a new world of possibilities to me. We’ve always actively avoided after-school activities that cut into the dinner hour. But we still needed an extra push to make family dinner a strong part of our family’s routine where we would eat together but also linger afterwards. The book showed me how it’s done. It reminded me how inspired parenting and building a family can be. Along with her own examples, David shares stories from the likes of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Mario Batali about what their family dinners were like as children.

As a result of my reading the book, we started memorizing poems by Robert Louis Stevenson. Along with the list of recommended reading from the book, we have some general and nature reference books. These are kept by our dinner table at arm’s length and have proved useful when my kids started asking crazy questions like “What is electricity?”.

When I first read the book I was on a mission to make family dinner happen every night of the week. Now I just go with the flow and am happy if it happens more nights than not. We’ve become slackers in the poem memorizing department too. But the bottom line is that the book has had a huge impact on the health and happiness of my family. We’ve started building memories at the dinner table. Hats off to Laurie David and Kirstin Uhrenholdt!

Honey Salad

Honey Salad is my new favorite way to use up Thanksgiving turkey leftovers. My youngest loves it because most of it is her favorite food color, white and beige, and the dressing is sweet.

Honey Salad Recipe

This salad is great sprinkled with chopped honey roasted pecans, if you have any handy. My kids refuse the addition. But, personally, I’m a big fan.

For the dressing:
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 tablespoons dijon mustard

For the salad:
2 medium apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
3/4 cup chopped sharp cheddar cheese
1 heaping cup chopped cooked turkey
1 tablespoon raisins (optional)

In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, honey, and mustard until well combined. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, toss together the apple, cheese, turkey, and raisins (if desired). Pour on the dressing and toss to coat. Serve immediately.

Yield: 2 1/2 cups
Prep-time: 15 minutes

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We Have Egg!

It arrived a month late, but all is forgiven now that we’ve finally had our first egg from our hens.

I think I was feeding the hens too many of our kitchen scraps and they weren’t getting enough protein to produce eggs. A few weeks ago I cut the scraps way down. But I had still pretty much given up hope. The days are getting shorter here and supposedly output usually decreases during the winter.

But enough with the boring details….we have a hen that laid an egg! We’ve been feeding and tending these birds for months and months. The egg’s arrival feels miraculous.

No word from the hens (we’re down to only two from the original six – long story) yet as to which one of them finally stepped up to the plate. Regardless, one of them gave us a lovely egg. My taste buds were most likely clouded by the fact that the egg was from hens we had raised, but I’ve gotta say it was mighty tasty. (Don’t think I’m terrible and didn’t share it with my family, we all had a bite.)

The shell was thick which is nice. Thin shells bother me. It was a bit speckled which I’m chalking up to first time jitters. The yolk wasn’t as dark as I’d like. I’ll try throwing them some fresh parsley and see if that does the trick.

If you’ve got any other tips for me, please share them in the comments below. As you can probably already tell, I need all the help I can get.

Book Review and Giveaway: Kitchen Counter Cooking School

Do you sometimes peek into other peoples’ shopping carts at the supermarket? Kathleen Flinn, a recent graduate of the Cordon Bleu,  took shopping cart voyeurism to the next level when she cornered a woman because her cart was full of highly processed foods. Before you knew it they were hanging out with the supermarket’s butcher learning how to cut up a whole chicken.

Flinn’s book about her ensuing experiences is called Kitchen Counter Cooking School: How a Few Simple Lessons Transformed Nine Culinary Novices into Fearless Home Cooks. This book chronicles her quest to heal the disconnect between people’s desire to eat well and their inability to function comfortably in a kitchen.

Apparently, some folks are two generations removed from anyone who regularly put a home-cooked meal on the table and they don’t have the time to teach themselves. Basically, it doesn’t do one much good to read The Omnivore’s Dilemma if you don’t know how to peel and chop an onion.

Inspired by her supermarket encounter, Flinn gathered a group of volunteers interested in reclaiming their kitchens and thoughtfully guided them through a culinary education during which they mindfully tasted salt, learned how to hold a knife, and how to use flavor profiles to make meals on the fly among many other things. Recipes related to specific lessons are included at the end of each chapter.

Kitchen fundamentals like how to prepare a roast chicken, cook vegetables, and make a cake from scratch are the kind of things we should be teaching our children so that the next generation won’t be so useless in the kitchen. There were plenty of moments in this book when I was shaking my head and made a mental note to be sure that my kids know how to cope in the kitchen when they grow up. Flinn’s students colorfully illustrated how much of a hole can be created in people’s lives in the long term if they can’t perform an act as basic as being able to properly feed themselves and their families.

I’ve made Flinn’s adaptation of No Knead Bread about fifteen times already. I used to pay $5 for fancy artisan bread boules. Now I make them myself and they cost us about 60 cents a pop. I love them.

Thanks to the folks at Viking, I’ve got a giveaway copy of Kitchen Counter Cooking School for you today.  All you have to do is enter a comment below and tell me who taught you how to cook? (if anybody) and I’ll use one of those random number pickers to select the winner. Comments will close on October 7, 2011 at 7pm.

Update – October 7, 2011: And the winner is Staci Rae! Thanks to everyone for your comments. I love hearing from you.

Critters

Excuse the lack of a snack recipe. Too hot to snack these days. I have a bunch of stuff in the hopper, but I don’t even feel like looking at pictures of food right now. Insects, oddly, seem much safer.

Here are a couple caterpillars we stumbled across recently.

This white fuzz ball is an American Dagger Moth. At least that’s our best guess. It’s in the fetal position here. Not having the best day apparently.

This green one below is a Red-Lined Panopoda Moth.

And here’s the icing on the cake, the first walking stick any of us have ever seen in the wild. Apparently, these can be kept as pets. But since it hardly moved for 10 minutes while I was taking photos, I’m sure the kids would be bored with it in about 3 seconds.

This one’s missing a leg. It got around just fine though. Cool little bugger.

And while we’re on the subject, here’s a giant millipead we found by our front door a while ago. Whenever we find them in the wood pile we get to harass my husband a wee bit because they turn out to be one of the few things in this world that completely freak him out. You think you know a guy…

I said the walking stick was the icing on the cake, but this Luna moth probably has it beat. At least ten of them showed up around our house on May 30th. There must have been a female nearby sending out her oh-so-magical pheromones. The males where thrashing around like crazy and crashing into all our outdoor lights. They were so beautiful when they finally took a rest. I took at least 8,000 pictures.

Did you know that these guys have no mouths? They live for about a week, mate if they’re lucky, and die. It’s so baffling yet marvelous.

I really hope they come again next year.