Sunday, January 27, 2008

Home-made bread

I tried a new bread recipe this weekend. It was interesting in both ingredients and method -- some new twists and turns I'd not seen or tried before.
This is in the EXTREMELY EASY category. The trick is having enough time to commit to being present with this bread at a few critical moments. I'll do it again, now that I'm a little more familiar with its timing -- but I would consider this a "free weekend" project when you're housebound because of weather or sheer desire.

I'll go through some photos of the steps first, then will share the odd little recipe at the end:

First, all the things we need. Unbleached all-purpose flour; whole wheat flour, instant yeast, salt, water, BEER, vinegar.

Dry ingredients:

Wet ingredients. Mmm. Ingredients.

Stirred together to form a "shaggy ball."

All tucked in for the next 8 to 18 hours.

First rising:

Ready to knead:

Smooth as a baby's bottom:

Preparing a parchment lined skillet for the second rising:

Spraying the top with no-stick spray:

It took another two-hour nap at this point.

Now, I see if it's awake and finished rising the second time. Close enough.

The oven has been heated to 500 degrees, with the dutch oven inside. HOT.

I flour the top of the loaf:

And then cut a 6-inch slit in the top

Using the parchment sling, the loaf now gets popped into the very extremely hot *ouch* dutch oven. The lid is put on top.

Then the heat is turned down to 425 and the loaf bakes, covered, for 30 minutes. Then the lid comes off and it bakes for another 20 to 30 minutes untiil it is dark brown and an instant-read thermometer reads 210. (I'll check to see how it sounds.)

Then it cools for two hours on a wire rack while I run off to play handbells.

When I took the lid off the pot, the parchment had already turned brown. This will be interesting!

The Verdict: The bread is GREAT. Good, crusty, flavorful. Definitely a peasant type bread. Would make a great soup bowl type bread.

Straight out of the oven. Too hot to touch!

Back from bells -- about an hour and a half cooling time on the rack. Cut and ready for butter!

It's soooo good.

The regular bread recipe calls for 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour. The version I made substitutes 1 cup whole wheat flour for one cup of the unbleached.

I would make this again, now that I've got the hang of the timing. It would have to be on a weekend when I knew I would be home at the key times without being too stressed. Total time to do: 5 minutes for the mixing step. Lots of waiting. 5 minutes for the little bit of kneading before the second rise. 5 minutes to super-heat the oven and dutch oven. 5 minutes to get it ready to bake. An hour of time while it's in the oven.

There are other options in the recipe as well. I like this well enough to forego store bread. I just have to be careful not to devour the whole loaf when it comes out of the oven!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Oh, the traffic!

For a couple of weeks now, I've had a routine of counting the number of cars that cross my path in the morning on my drive to work -- specifically, I count how many cars I have to wait on in order to cross the street at each intersection.

Now, you might want to know that I drive down one street, Chestnut, from Thirteenth to Third (and yes, the formal names of the streets are spelled out here.) The main north-south street along my path is Fifth Street. Seventh Street is the heaviest secondary north-south street.

This morning I didn't have to wait on a single car! Not one! I thought for a minute the cable truck at Fourth Street was going to snag me, but sure enough, he cleared the intersection before I completed my stop at the stop sign.

One morning I hit it at the wrong time on Fifth Street. Cars were piled up everywhere. I had to wait for 10 (yes! Ten!) cars to cross before I could go.

I guess that's the hazard of crossing a four-lane road in the morning in the big town.

Most days the commute takes me two or three minutes. I think it took FOUR MINUTES to get to work that day. What's cool is that I have time to look at the drivers, and most days I know those people crossing my path. I see teachers, librarians, city office workers and others that I talk with regularly.

It's also fun in a voyeuristic sort of way driving through the one historic neighborhood in our town. It's pure coincidence that these are the people I've gotten to know best here. The old houses are charming, especially in the early-morning light. And there's a bit of something incongruent seeing these people leave their stately, well-ordered and preserved homes and rushing off in their SUVs and mom-mobiles. I like that. I like seeing them scurry off to jobs where they have to pretend that they weren't running behind trying to get there.

It's also fun watching the city manager's secretary, a tall, dour woman, walking towards city hall dressed in jeans, a blazer and high-heeled boots with little fur cuffs.

What sort of dichotomous observations have you had about the people you see in the mornings?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Happy Happy Unbirthday to me!

This is weird and funny and slightly strange and kooky....

Someone just had a fancy decorated cake delivered to "Trixie" at my office. There was a nice birthday card and also two small sugar-free cakes included. The bakery delivered it twice because no one here knows who Trixie is.

The cake wishes "Happy 50th UNbirthday, Trixie".

Obviously this is someone who knows me pretty well, if they went to this elaborate length. First, it has to be someone who knows I use the name Trixie online, who knows I am diabetic, probably someone who knows my real birthday is April Fool's day and is pulling a prank. And someone who likes me well enough to go to the trouble!

Whoever it is, they have me smiling all day!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Shy Longhorn


This guy will never make it to Detroit to introduce a new truck like the longhorns featured on Erudite Redneck's blog.

He's just a little too shy.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Cheating Death Left and Right

Earlier this week my guardian angel managed to keep me from getting bashed in the face by a skateboard. Yay guardian angel!

Today I had a followup visit with my doctor about my diabetes. I was diagnosed in September and my blood sugar numbers were astronomical: Fasting blood sugar was 270 and my A1C, which is a measure of blood sugar over a three-month period, was 10.8. At the time I saw her in October when she gave me these results, she told me the scale only went to 11. In my classes, I think they said the scale went to 13. In any event, 10.8 is like, right up there in the deadly range. You never, ever want to be told you have a 10.8 A1C score.

And just for grins, my cholesterol was 268, HDL was 49, LDL was 189, triglycerides were 151. I also had some wacked-out liver enzyme numbers.

Doctor had told me that I needed to get serious because "death is grabbing for you, girl." We started aggressive therapies and I took a series of diabetes education classes. I swore off sweets and radically monitored all my carbohydrate intake. I started some power walking on my lunch hour and some other things. I did what I had to do.

And today, I got the TA-DA Gold Star Award (well, she said I deserved a gold star. She really didn't give me one, but wouldn't that have been cool?)

Forgive me, but I don't have the sheet in front of me with all the numbers. I was busy showing it off at work and left it there this afternoon. I'll tell you what I know for sure.

Fasting blood sugar dropped from 270 to 170. Yay me!
My A1C level dropped from 10.8 to 7.0!!!! YAYAYAYAYA ME! (Normal is about 6. I'm almost normal!!! I'm certainly in a good range for someone with diabetes.)
Cholesterol dropped to 184. YES. Rarely in my life have I gotten it below 200. This is amazing. Good cholesterol is up. Bad is down. Triglycerides are down. All are in a very good range right now. YAY me!

Blood pressure? Oh, you want to know about my blood pressure too? Well, lissen up my friends! I had a blood pressure of 222/121. Yes, I did. How I didn't have a stroke - I can only credit my guardian angel and good luck for that.

TODAY my blood pressure was 124/68.

I can live with that. Thanks, Doc.


Tuesday, January 08, 2008

To Anyone Who Has Loved a Dog

Recommended Reading:

Good Dog. Stay by Anna Quindlen (Random House; 1 edition November 20, 2007)

This is a quick little read that will fill up the heart of any dog lover and just as quickly drive them to tears. I stopped by the library on my lunch hour to return some books and picked this up just to have something to read across the street as I ate lunch.

More than half the book is photographs of all kinds of loving dogs. Most made me smile; several made me laugh out loud, which surprised me. It also surprised me to find myself weeping over the words as I ate my pulled-pork sandwich.

Anyone who has lived through a dog's life cycle with them will know the struggle Quindlen describes about making decisions for their loved pet. And anyone who has done that will know about the tears.

Just a side note: I finished the book and my sandwich about the same time and was able to return it to the library before heading back to the office. Take an hour for yourself and give this one a look. You'll be glad you did.

Monday, January 07, 2008

A close call this evening


My town just built a cool skate park for the skateboarders and others who like alternative sports. It's a project I have supported and am very proud of.

The ribbon-cutting was this evening and I was there to take pictures of the first official day of the park. It was a BLAST. If I had been able to swipe a skateboard from one of the kids, I would have. I swear I will be skating there before I die, somehow.

Anyway, I was taking shots from all over the park. These preadolescent boys were all coming up and calling me "picture lady" or "newspaper woman". It was so sweet, really. They are good kids and I'm thrilled they have a place for this park in the old neighborhood where I grew up.

There was another lady who was over in one corner of the pad trying out a Razr scooter and the city manager asked me to go get a photo of her.

I sent one of the boys over to her to tell her to come towards me. She said no. I told the boy to tell her G.M. sent me. She laughed, but still said no. She was just learning.

So I'm standing next to the side of one of the half pipes and I bent over to set my pen on top of my camera bag, and just as I started to straighten up, I saw a flash of red out of the corner of my eye and felt something brush the top of my hair. I was thinking "Boy, I hope that wasn't a bird pooping on me."

Well, it wasn't a bird pooping on me. It was a loose skateboard that one of the kids lost control of at the other side of the half-pipe that came flying straight at me. If I had been standing fully upright, it would have smashed full force into my face.

All these new young friends of mine were shocked and stunned into silence at the top of the ramp. When they could finally breathe again, the kid who lost the board was nearly crying when he said "I am SO GLAD you are OK!"

Me too!

Saturday, January 05, 2008