March 2, 2015

pretzelized bread dumplings

2015.02_pretzelized bread dumplings
I was making a batch of bread dumplings, and it was a rather large batch, so I decided to pretzelize two of the loaves. I added a shake of baking soda to the boiling water and boiled them like normal. Then I put them on a pan, sprinkled salt on them, and baked them for a bit. They got a nice brown color, like pretzels do. They are delicious!

February 22, 2015

the food waste stream

2015.02_the friday store

We have a huge a surplus of food in this county that gets thrown out and yet there are people who go hungry. It's so... illogical and unkind. I know of three ways to remedy the situation. Do you know of others?

1. Dumpster diving requires thrifty and brave souls who individually and regularly check store dumpsters for salvageable items. Found treasures include packaged foods that are near expiration and bread or produce that is bagged separately and in decent condition. Risks include trespassing, getting messy, and potentially wasting your time. This is not a very wide reaching solution and it seems to me that trendy, privileged people are more likely to partake in this activity.

2. A friend of ours recently stumbled on a place near us called The Friday Store. It is tucked away in a business park.  For a discounted price they sell food items that are about to expire or have some flaw like upside down labels or dents. It is only open on Friday and Saturday.  The owners spend the rest of the week gathering near expiration foods directly from local grocery stores. Disadvantages include that the store is not very well known so it doesn't have a super huge impact - though it still probably has more impact than dumpster diving. Also, while it does seem to have patrons who are shopping there out of budgetary necessity, it still has the trendy, privileged patrons like ourselves going for fun or righteousness. Either way, it is a great resource and I do recommend checking it out if you're in the area!

3. There are programs like Boulder Food Rescue that utilize volunteers to collect donated food items from local grocery stores and then redistribute it agencies that work with people who need it. I favor this solution because it gets more food to more people who need it but then again it requires a lot of volunteers.  Oh hey, if you have spare time on your hands, you can follow their instructions for starting a food rescue near you!

February 18, 2015

i love my bread machine: 3 favorite recipes

2015.02_i love my bread machine 2
A loaf of rye made in the bread machine

I've been making bread in our bread machine at least once a week for the past couple years. Sure, it's great because it takes less than 10 minutes to make a loaf of bread, but I really enjoy using a bread machine because it is so predictable. When I make bread by hand, there's all these variables: how much flour did I add during kneading? how long did I let the loafs rise and at what temperature?

The beauty of the bread machine is that all those variables are controlled and are exactly the same from one cycle to the next. When I was making bread by hand it often turned out flat or really dense. With the bread machine, I am free to tweak the ingredients from cycle to cycle, knowing that the proofing will be perfect every time.

On weekends, when I have a little bit more time, I often makes baguettes using the bread machine dough cycle.

Another great thing about bread machines is that they are plentiful at thrift stores. When our gratis machine finally broke and I couldn't fix it, I picked up a new, larger machine from a thrift store for 10 bucks.

Here are some general tips on the bread machine process:

Flour - I always weigh this out on a kitchen scale, otherwise the scooper can compact the flour and it is hard to know if a cup is really a cup. All wheat and rye flours I’ve come across are 4.5 oz. per cup. We buy 25 lb. bags of all-purpose flour from a local organics wholesaler that sells to the public. 25 lbs. fits perfectly in a five gallon bucket, which we fit with a Gamma lid.

Paddle - The bread machine’s mixing paddle often gets stuck in the bottom of the loaf when you take it out of the pan. I keep a small pliers in the kitchen for the purpose of removing the paddle. There’s always one or two slices in the middle of the loaf that are holey, but hey, that’s bread machine bread.

Order of ingredients - Wherever possible, I add ingredients in the order that minimizes dirty spoons. For example, in the case of tablespoons, I always add sugar (dry) before oil (wet). I also always add oil before molasses since it prevents the molasses from sticking to the measuring spoon.

Yeast - We buy a large package of bulk yeast and keep a small container in the fridge, refilling it from the bag, which we keep in the freezer. You can use the packets too.

2015.02_i love my bread machine 1

Here’s my favorite bread machine recipes:

Seed Bread - 1.5 lb. recipe
(source: modified whole wheat bread recipe from Regal Breadmaker Guide & Cookbook)

8 oz. water
1 t. salt
1 T. sugar
1 T. oil (olive or whatever)
1 T. molasses (optional)
1 egg (optional, makes a fluffier loaf)
4.5 oz. whole wheat flour
9 oz. all-purpose flour
1 t. yeast
1/2–1 c. seeds (I usually do mostly sunflower or pumpkin seeds, supplemented with a few tablespoons of flax, sesame, poppy, or mustard seeds, or even uncooked millet)

Use whole wheat and dark crust settings.

Sourdough - 1.5 lb. recipe
(source: ??)

1 1/4 c. sourdough starter (see below)
1/3 c. water
1 t. salt
1 T. sugar
1 T. oil (olive or whatever)
13.5 oz. all-purpose flour
1 oz. cornmeal (optional)
1 T. vital wheat gluten (optional, gives a better crumb; omit if using high-gluten bread flour instead of all-purpose)
1 t. yeast
1/4 t. citric acid (optional, add if you want it to be extra sour)

Use basic/white bread and medium crust settings.

Sourdough starter recipe (source: Fleischmann’s Yeast Bread Machine Favorites)
2 c. all-purpose flour
2 c. water, lukewarm (105–115ºF)
2 1/4 t. bread yeast

Combine and cover loosely. Let sit on the counter 12–24 hours and then refrigerate until ready to use. I keep my starter in a 24 oz. canning jar (wide mouth, tall, straight sides).  When I take out the 1 1/4 c. of starter, I replenish with 1 c. flour and 1 c. lukewarm water.

Baguettes - 3 lb. recipe
(source: modified Zojirushi bread machine baguette recipe)

I have a 2 lb. bread machine, but find that I can make 3 lbs. worth of dough using the dough setting. The dough overflows the pan a bit when rising, but not uncontrollably. I usually only make these on weekends because baking in the oven take a bit more time.

2 c. water
1 1/2 t. salt
1 1/2 t. lemon juice
1 lb. 8.7 oz. (700 g) all-purpose or bread flour
1 T. vital wheat gluten (optional, gives a better crumb; omit if using high-gluten bread flour instead of all-purpose)
2 t. yeast

Favorite additions to the baguette dough are rosemary (1 T. dried) and olives (3/4–1 c. kalamata)
  1. Use the dough setting.
  2. When cycle finishes, use a spatula to pour/scrape dough onto a floured counter. Sprinkle/spread some flour on the top too. Cut into three chunks with the spatula. Loosely shape the chunks into baguette or batard shapes (it is pretty forgiving) and set on floured pizza stone.
  3. Preheat oven to 470ºF. Let dough rise about 40 minutes, covered with a damp cloth.
  4. When ready to bake, flour the tops of the dough again and score the tops.
  5. Bake for about 30 minutes.
To give the baguettes a better crust, steam them by putting a pan of cold water in the oven at the beginning. I also cover up the oven’s vent opening (as far as I know, only electric ovens have this) with a damp cloth until the last 5 or 10 minutes of baking.

Before rising:

2015.02_baguettes 1

After baking:
2015.02_baguettes 2.JPG

Three olive-rosemary loafs made with the baguette recipe:
2015.02_bread machine

January 14, 2015

diy toy crates

2015.01_toy crates
My homemade shelves found a new purpose! The shelves were originally built to showcase canned and fermented foods in our dining area. A year or two later we moved to a house with a smaller dining area so we stowed the shelves away in the second bedroom. Next we had a kid and the second bedroom became a kid's bedroom. Toys began to multiply so my dad helped me build wood crates to contain said toys. See? Lovely!

December 14, 2014


Glögg is a Nordic mulled wine that is optionally spiked with stronger alcohol. A friend of mine's grandparents basically do a glögg bar crawl to Swedish bars in Chicago each Christmas season. I partook once. Good times! Now when I am feeling festive for the holidays, I make glögg at home and share it with others.

750 ml bottle of red wine
250 ml inexpensive brandy
1 c. sugar
1/4 c. dried currants
1/4 c. blanched almonds
10 cardamom pods
5 cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1 orange zested
1 T. minced ginger

Combine red wine, brandy, sugar, currants, and almonds in a pot.  Place spices in a jelly or tea bag and submerge in the pot.  Heat on medium low for 45 minutes.  Remove spice bag and serve.

December 12, 2014

vegan nacatamal pie

2014.12_vegan nacatamal pie
A friend of ours recently left Colorado to travel the world and teach English. Her first destination will be Nicaragua. In the process of lightening her load, she left us with her crock pot. I thought it would be nice to expand my own horizons and make a Nicaraguan dish for our first crock pot meal. I honestly had no idea what Nicaraguan food was like until I looked it up. It's interesting how we seem to be satisfied with a certain number of ethnic foods (Chinese, Thai, Indian, Italian, Mexican) and ignore inspiration from other parts of the world.  Anyway, I made Nicaraguan nacatamal pie - a crock pot version of nacatamales which are fairly similar to Mexican tamales. Instead of using pork butt I made these vegetarian and added anasazi beans though small red beans would have been more authentic to Central American cuisine. Speaking of food diversity, wouldn't it be interesting to have more bean options on our grocery store shelves?

Filling Ingredients:
anasazi beans, cooked
rice, cooked
potatoes, sliced
bell peppers, sliced
tomatoes, sliced
onions, chopped
green olives, minced
achiote paste
black pepper

Topping Ingredients (adapted from The Cooking Bride):
2 c. instant Masa Harina
1 t. baking powder
¼ t. salt
2 c. veggie broth
½ c. olive oil

Mix the filling ingredients in a 6 qt. crock pot.  Mix the topping ingredients and glop it on top of the filling.  Cover and cook on low for 5 hours or until potatoes and masa dough are cooked.

December 10, 2014

paracord macrame plant holder

2014.12_paracord macrame plant holder
Just in case we ever need a survivalist stash of paracord, there is some wrapped around our hanging plant... But really, this was a fun craft project. I melded instructions from henhouse and whimseybox. I had to do and undo the project three times until I was satisfied. Luckily it was an easy process. Apparently not all paracord has the same breaking strength so pay attention to what you buy. I bought 550 pound cord which is the most common and what the survivalists go on and on about. Next I plan on making a paracord dog collar for Francois which might actually prove useful someday while backpacking.

November 12, 2014

vegetarian bigos

2014.11_vegetarian bigos
Bigos is an Eastern European stew made of cabbage and various meats.  Its alternate name is hunter's stew.  Shall we call the vegetarian version forager's stew?  Houby (mushroom) hunter's stew?

1 lb. tempeh, diced
3 medium russet potatoes
1/2 head red cabbage, chopped
1 medium onion, diced
2 large carrots, diced
3/4 oz. dried porcini mushrooms, rehydrated in warm water for 20 minutes
3 1/2 oz. gourmet mushroom mix
8 oz. white mushrooms, sliced
10-15 prunes, diced
2 c. sauerkraut, drained
2 c. water + 2 cubes Not-Beef bouillon
1 c. red wine
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 T. tomato paste
2 T. molasses
1 T. marjoram (or oregano)
2 t. black pepper, ground
2 t. caraway, ground
1 t. dijon mustard
1/2 t. paprika
1/8 t. nutmeg
2 cloves garlic, minced
dash of liquid smoke

Saute the tempeh until browned.  Bake or boil the potato and then dice. Saute the cabbage, onion, and carrots and set aside.  Saute the mushrooms until they begin to release liquid.  Put everything in a large pot and cook on medium for 20 minutes or more.

November 3, 2014

back porch

We finished redoing our back porch!  It was quite an eyesore and a safety hazard when we bought our house 2 years ago.  Some of the columns were pieced together 2x4's that did not run the full height of the structure and most were minimally anchored to the floor slab if at all.  We replaced all of the columns with red wood posts that our neighbor salvaged from a construction site and we securely anchored them all.  For a clean and simple outdoor space, we removed all of the screens and fencing.  There aren't many mosquitoes in Denver so a screen porch is not very useful.  I can only guess that a previous owner used the space for dogs.  To maintain our enclosed backyard, we built a new horizontal wood slat fence along the driveway side of the porch.  The ceiling and rafters all got a fresh coat of white paint.  I am very happy with how this project turned out! (thanks Mom and Dad for all of the help!)

2014.11_back porch 1 2014 after

2014.11_back porch 2 2014 after

2014.11_back porch 3 2014 after

2014.11_back porch 1 2012 before

2014.11_back porch 2 2012 before

2014.11_back porch 3 2012 before

October 9, 2014

rhubarb coffee cake

2014.10_rhubarb coffee cake
Everybody likes to talk about rhubarb when it first makes its debut in the spring. Our winter appetites long for something fresh so we accept this tart vegetable as placeholder in our pies until the real fruits ripen. Then it is forgotten until next spring. But seriously folks, you can sparingly harvest rhubarb through fall as long as you keep enough leaves on the plant so it can come back next year! Spread out the tart vegetable love and enjoy the benefits of continuous harvesting and lazy gardening!

(recipe from Smitten Kitchen)