We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. ~Isaiah 64:8

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Beautiful Beach

Some photos from our vacation in May to Rosemary Beach, Florida.

Our eldest turned 14 the day before we left.  We had a quick ice cream cake celebration before we left. Unfortunately, my daughter (E) misunderstood when we'd brought the cake home.  She thought I said put it in the refrigerator instead of the freezer.  So, his cake was a little wide at the bottom.  Tasted just as good, though!  Happy Birthday, S!!

The house golf cart, Seabiscuit, was a big hit, and very useful for hauling all our stuff to the beach.  As you can see below. . .

Another hit was the pool.  Even when Baby L had to nap, or had had enough of the beach, we could enjoy the pool.

I promised the boys a trip to the Pensacola Naval Aviation Museum.  They loved it!  The Blue Angel atrium.  Look closely, you can see the boys at the bottom right.

The boys enjoying the cockpit displays.

More beach photos.

Baby L enjoying the sand, sort of.

H trying to catch a tan.

Erik and H enjoyed burying S in the sand - they even gave him a sand-six-pack.

We went back to Pensacola to see the Blue Angels do their weekly practice show.  It was loud, hot, but fun!

Got to get autographs, too!

And we had lunch at the museum restaurant, which is filled with squadron memorabilia.  S especially loved this.

Then some of us crashed on the way home.

E and Baby L dancing while we make dinner.

A last day photo of Grammy and E.

It was one of the most relaxing vacations we've had!

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Master Recipe for 5 Minute A Day Artisan Bread

This recipe was featured in Mother Earth News - where you can find the full story, info and recipe alterations.

Master Recipe (Artisan Free-Form Loaf)
Makes 4 1-pound loaves

3 cups lukewarm water
1 1⁄2 tbsp granulated yeast (1 1⁄2 packets)
1 1⁄2 tbsp coarse kosher or sea salt
6 1⁄2 cups unsifted, unbleached, all-purpose white flour
Cornmeal for pizza peel

Mixing and Storing the Dough
1. Heat the water to just a little warmer than body temperature (about 100 degrees Fahrenheit).

2. Add yeast and salt to the water in a 5-quart bowl or, preferably, in a resealable, lidded container (not airtight — use container with gasket or lift a corner). Don’t worry about getting it all to dissolve.

3. Mix in the flour by gently scooping it up, then leveling the top of the measuring cup with a knife; don’t pat down. Mix with a wooden spoon, a high-capacity food processor with dough attachment, or a heavy-duty stand mixer with dough hook, until uniformly moist. If hand-mixing becomes too difficult, use very wet hands to press it together. Don’t knead! This step is done in a matter of minutes, and yields a wet dough loose enough to conform to the container.

4. Cover loosely. Do not use screw-topped jars, which could explode from trapped gases. Allow the mixture to rise at room temperature until it begins to collapse (or at least flatten on top), approximately two hours, depending on temperature. Longer rising times, up to about five hours, will not harm the result. You can use a portion of the dough any time after this period. Refrigerated wet dough is less sticky and easier to work with than room-temperature dough. We recommend refrigerating the dough at least three hours before shaping a loaf. And relax! You don’t need to monitor doubling or tripling of volume as in traditional recipes.

Refrigerate unused dough in your lidded (not airtight) container and use it over the next two weeks: You’ll find that even one day’s storage improves the flavor and texture of your bread. This maturation continues over the two-week period. Cut off and shape loaves as you need them. The dough can also be frozen in 1-pound portions in an airtight container and defrosted overnight in the refrigerator prior to baking day.

Baking Day
1,  Prepare a pizza peel by sprinkling it liberally with cornmeal to prevent the loaf from sticking to it when you slide it into the oven.

Sprinkle the surface of the dough with flour, then cut off a 1-pound (grapefruit-sized) piece with a serrated knife. Hold the mass of dough in your hands and add a little more flour as needed so it won’t stick to your hands. Gently stretch the surface of the dough around to the bottom on four “sides,” rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go, until the bottom is a collection of four bunched ends. Most of the dusting flour will fall off; it doesn’t need to be incorporated. The bottom of the loaf will flatten out during resting and baking.

2. Place the ball on the pizza peel. Let it rest uncovered for about 40 minutes. Depending on the dough’s age, you may see little rise during this period; more rising will occur during baking.

3. Twenty minutes before baking, preheat oven to 450 degrees with a baking stone on the middle rack. Place an empty broiler tray for holding water on another shelf.

4.  Dust the top of the loaf liberally with flour, which will allow the slashing, serrated knife to pass without sticking. Slash a 1⁄4-inch-deep cross, scallop or tick-tack-toe pattern into the top. (This helps the bread expand during baking.)

5. With a forward jerking motion of the wrist, slide the loaf off the pizza peel and onto the baking stone. Quickly but carefully pour about a cup of hot water into the broiler tray and close the oven door to trap the steam. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the crust is browned and firm to the touch. With wet dough, there’s little risk of drying out the interior, despite the dark crust. When you remove the loaf from the oven, it will audibly crackle, or “sing,” when initially exposed to room temperature air. Allow to cool completely, preferably on a wire rack, for best flavor, texture and slicing. The perfect crust may initially soften, but will firm up again when cooled.

Classic Ratatouille

Adapted from by Julia Child’s Ratatouille

1 lb eggplant
1 lb zucchini
1 tsp salt
Slice zucchini into half-moons about ½ inch thick. Peel and slice eggplant to similar size. Place in mixing bowl and toss with salt. Let stand for 30 minutes. Pat dry with paper towel and set on plate.

3-4 T olive oil, as needed
1 yellow or Vidalia onion, thinkly sliced
2 bell peppers (red, orange, yellow), seeded and thinly sliced
2 cloves mashed garlic
1 bay leaf
1 T fresh rosemary (2 tsp dry)
1tsp fresh marjoram (1/2 tsp dry)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Heat oil in a large skillet. In one layer at a time, briefly saut̩ the eggplant and zucchini (about a minute on each side Рslightly browning). Remove to side dish. In the same skillet, cook onions and peppers slowly in the olive oil for about 10 min.s, or until tender, but not brown.

1 lb firm, ripe tomatoes: peeled & seeded
Salt and Pepper
(To peel tomatoes: dip tomatoes into boiling water – 10 seconds, max.; then peel. Seed by cutting horizontally and either gently squeezing or scooping out the seeds into a bowl.) Slice peeled & sliced tomatoes into pieces the same size as the zucchini and eggplant. Lay these over the onions and peppers. Salt with salt and pepper. Cover the skillet and cool over low heat for 5 minutes, or until tomatoes begin to render their juice. Uncover, baste the tomatoes with the juices, raise the heat and boil for several minutes, until juice has almost evaporated.

Scoop half the tomato/onion mixture out or to side of skillet. Spread the remaining half over the bottom of the skillet. Lay half the eggplant and zucchini on the tomatoes and onions. Return the other half of the tomato/onion mixture to the skillet. Put the rest of the eggplant and zucchini on top.

Cover the skillet and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Uncover, tip skillet and baste with rendered juices. Correct seasonings, if necessary. Raise heat slightly and cook uncovered for about 15 minutes more, basting several times, until juices have evaporated leaving a spoonful or two of flavorful olive oil. Don’t let vegetables scorch in bottom of skillet!

*Can be made entirely the day before and becomes more flavorful when reheated. Serves 6 (as main) – 12 (as side)

Daybook - Monday, June 14th

St. Basil the Great

outside my window . . .  the sun is just past its zenith, I believe, and hot and white.

in the kitchen . . . zucchini bread is in the oven, bread dough is rising on the stove, veggies are washed and waiting to be transformed into ratatouille.

around the house . . . still slowly working on painting rooms here and there.   We stalled on little E's room before our vacation and haven't quite gotten back there.  Hubby says today is the day.

thinking about . . .  a new camera, maybe

listening to. . . the clatter of dishes being put away

thankful for. . . a hubby happy to be the dish-putter-awayer

pondering the words . . . "war-torn Afghanistan could become the 'Saudi Arabia' of lithium"

creating . . . temporarily lost my crochet mojo and had to restart Baby L's summer blanket 3 or 4 times.  I might have it finished before the leaves start turning colors.

one of my favorite things . . .  new purple bath mats (all cotton - no rubber backing) I picked up for $5 at Marshalls

milestones in the past week . . .  we are finally moving on the property!  After a ridiculous of red-tape from  one lender (one my hubby works for - not mentioning any names), we've switched to another lender and everything is going much more smoothly.  We went by the property (to see what other lots had been sold) and saw that we have a drive way and home site cleared!

a few plans for the upcoming week . . .  quick meeting with our new lender to sign some papers tomorrow,   taking Little E to one of the free summer movies Wednesday, working Friday, and H comes home Saturday (from nearly 3 weeks in Sweden with his grandmother).

Sunday, June 13, 2010

How to Quit Planning Meals!

Are you looking for a way to provide economical, home-cooked meals for your family? Are you tired of the constant nagging question in the back of your mind, "What's for dinner tonight?"   I've got a radical idea to pass along to you:  QUIT PLANNING!

Well, at least, quit planning so frequently.

Mary at Evlogia has totally inspired me to make my meal planning and preparation easier by having one meal plan for a whole season instead of a new meal plan each week.  (She also has an amazing series of Household  Notebooks for each season of the Church year.)

Mary is Eastern Orthodox, so her meal plans accommodate her family's needs to maintain the fasting schedule of the Orthodox church.  At first I was skeptical about the lack of variety week-to-week, but then I reminded myself that we tend to eat pizza EVERY Friday night; Indian food on Saturday night, and nachos on Sunday night and we don't get tired of it!   Mary also mentioned one time that most people tend to stick to a handful (or two handfuls) of the same recipes anyway.  And really, Mary's idea might encourage me to have more variety on an annual basis.

I've started with our Summer Menu, and will continue to add seasonal menus during the year (as long as it is still working for us!).  Future Menu plans will probably include:  Fall, Advent (fast), Christmas (feast), Winter, Lent (fast), Easter (feast), and Spring.

Here is my planned Summer Menu (click on the table for a larger view)

I've posted this on my fridge - so everyone knows what is for dinner (and breakfast and lunch) and in my Home Binder.  Right behind it, I have the grocery list (how easy - I don't have to make a new grocery list every week...just look over the one I've already got prepared).  I've typed up the recipes and filed those, too.  No more flipping through cookbooks trying to find recipes in the middle of preparing dinner!

And, Mary, thank you for sharing your meal plan...and inspiring me to keep it simple!

I'll start posting the recipes later this week.