Word Winding

attempting to spin cacophony into sanity

Archive for the category “Tasty Munchems”

MEAT.

There is a quarter of a cow in our freezer. Squee!


There is a quarter of a cow in our freezer, and I don’t even know what all the parts are (but I’m excited to learn).


There is a quarter of a cow in our freezer and we know right where this cow lived.

The blueberries look terrified!


We know right where this cow lived, and it is a gorgeous place to call home.

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Question #22: Should We Shun the Great God Gluten?

(This post is part of a series for July 2013 entitled “Question Month.” Read the intro to the series here.)

My Facebook post earlier today:

“Question No. 22: Should my kids and I go gluten free?”

Truthfully?

Probably. At least for a trial month.

I wouldn’t have even considered it before reading this article. But the writer didn’t just speak to me, she spoke like me; her initial impression of gluten free as the new fad diet followed by her careful doctor-supported trial of eliminating gluten, then adding it back in just to be sure, was rather convincing because it is exactly how I would go about such a thing. And then there is my dear good friend, who has been doing her own trial month with her kids and is seeing positive results ranging from a calmer temperament to the disappearance of a persistent rash.

A commenter posted this WSJ article which includes real science, something I am all about. She also came up with this gem which I am still mooning over: “one person’s anecdotal evidence does not a peer-reviewed study make.”

Yes. That, in short, is why I have been so skeptical.

That, and my desperate love of bread.

Should we go gluten free?

Probably.

Will we?

Ah, that is quite a different question. The cost, the time and extra effort. The starvation of my beloved sourdough starter. I am not sure I have it in me.

Perhaps we will edge ever so slightly in the gluten free direction and see how far we get. We already buy very little processed food, especially grains, for the simple reason that they might, in fact, be not food at all but something more like poison. So we are speaking primarily of a modest amount of bread and bagels, with a smattering of pasta, couscous, and the occasional tortilla.

And beer. But nobody’s perfect. I think we’ll just cut the beer from the kids’ diet and let the adults keep it.

(Jeeze, people. No, our kids do not drink beer, though they do try. And Owlet does pretend. And Platypup may have an obsession with bottle caps that are absolutely never within his reach. Yet somehow he finds them anyway.)

There is reputed to be a place in a town 20-30 min south of us which makes its own flour (home-grown and GMO free, of course. I mean, it is NorCal). I do not know the current price tag but suspect it is a distant number compared with the hefty sack of commercial bread flour we purchase at a local restaurant supply store.

Still, it could be a nice intermediate ground prior to taking the big plunge.

Yes, I think we’ll start there and see how it goes.

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Do we look like we need less gluten?

Sous Chef

When does it stop being just “good experience” for your child to help prepare dinner and start being real help?

Tonight. That’s when.

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Owlet cut nearly everything that needed cutting for our dinner tonight using a small sharp knife. I only refined a few of the larger pieces of onion and zucchini and finished up the tomatoes when they got too goopy for her to want to continue.

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I took care of the meat and twiddled my thumbs a bit (read: prevented Platypup from getting into multiple mishaps). I wound up doing the spices since Owlet was out playing, but she enjoys helping with that step, too, on other days. Then we went out to pick lettuce from our Victory Garden and she cut the lettuce and some cheese, too, again unassisted.

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Do I delude myself into thinking this will happen every night?

Hell yeah.

Our Birthday Owl

If I weren’t caught up in a sea of rehearsals, concerts, birthday parties, travel plans, and even a trip to the DMV, I would write something beautiful for my darling Owlet’s third birthday. But I don’t think you’ll mind too much since I’ve got photos aplenty!

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(The above photos taken by myself and N. Erickson; those below by M. Knight.)

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Yup, pretty fun birthday all around! Orange chocolate bird cake, peanut butter pinecone bird feeders, friends, family, and a cello from my dad. Happy Owlet!

Sweet Sweet Sourdough

The no-carb, gluten-free team shall never recruit me. I love me some bread. But I’ve done my research and know the grains available in your average supermarket are a mutated-mutilated distant relative of those our grandparents consumed as children. You can get involved in a rigorous soaking regimen; been there, done that, not too hard, fairly delicious. But according to every paleo resource on the interwebs, the best (and tastiest) way to render conventional flour into digestible form is via sourdough.

In order to have sourdough bread, of course, one requires sourdough starter. In theory, this is an easy, fun, countertop science experiment. For me, it worked fine in Boston, but alas, my first two Santa Rosa tries turned into a funky witches brew. After a year of intending to do so, I finally purchased starter. (I chose this one.) almost immediately, I saw the creamy concoction I craved happily bubble into being before my eyes.

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There are all sorts of conventions about feeding starters, discarding quantities, etc., but here’s what I do: I try to use it at least once a week. Seriously, that’s it. Mostly I keep up with it just by making another loaf of bread when ours runs out, but there are lots of options… Biscuits, crackers, pancakes, pizza dough, bagels, even cookies! Then I feed equal parts water and flour to replace what I’ve used, stir it in, and that’s that. The rest of the week it sits in our fridge like long-forgotten leftovers to frighten guests.

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I started with a basic recipe and began tweaking. First, I swapped out the sugar — kind of a no-brainer since honey, agave, and maple syrup are all healthier, more natural sweeteners than the granulated kind… Honey is my favorite, but a no-go till Platypup turns one due to the small risk of botulism. Then I adjusted the amount of liquid sugar down and added some herbs (dried thyme the first time, fresh fennel the next two times). You can play around with toppers (egg wash, shredded cheese, or honey on top before baking, or butter after taking it out).

I recently learned a folding technique for getting a taller loaf, which I’ve included here, and I also lengthened the rise times; you’ll end up with a flatter, sweeter bread if you don’t give the yeast plenty of time to feast. What used to bug me about sourdough in my former life, before motherhood, is now a plus: there is a lot of waiting between steps! I used to want to do all the work in one go; now I’m glad it doesn’t have to be done all at once.

The last two times I’ve made it the texture has been amazing. It holds together for sandwiches and when you press it with your finger it bounces back instead of squishing or crumbling. The crust is pleasantly chewy rather than hard, with just a bit of crunch to the top. In short, after years of baking decently well, it is the first time I’ve made unequivocally real bread!

Elizabeth’s First Real Bread

1 c. sourdough starter
1 & 1/2 c. warm water
1 & 1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 c. honey, agave, or maple syrup
1/2 c. olive oil
Handful of herbs
6 c. flour (approx.)

Mix all ingredients together, adding flour gradually until texture seems right. Knead or have your mixer do it for you — this bread is a little too much for my mixer so I usually knead a portion while the mixer tackles the rest and swap out from time to time.

Cover and let rise at room temperature 12-24 hours until doubled in size. In my kitchen in northern California in the spring, this means about 18-20 hrs. Don’t skimp on this step.

Punch down, knead again if you want, and shape into a round or oval loaf. (You can also divide into two smaller loaves if your family is less glutinous about fresh bread than mine and you are concerned about it going stale.)

Let rise about 30 min, then flip over carefully (they make a cool tool for this step, but I don’t have one). Fold into thirds left to right, then front to back, pressing gently to seal the final seam. (My final seam opened up a bit this time and I baked it anyway. It was still great.) Let rise again with the seam on top, until doubled in size from original ball. Yesterday this took about four hours.

[I use a silpat on a baking sheet. I highly recommend a silpat! If you aren’t using one, though, insert a step about greasing or cornmealing the pan.]

Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Make your slashes in the top (seam up) with your sharpest knife — I usually do three parallel slashes. If you are going to brush the top with an egg wash, sprinkle cheese, or drizzle honey, now’s the time.

Bake about 1 hr 10 min for one big loaf or about 45 min for two smaller loaves. I hear bread is supposed to sound hollow when you knock on the bottom if it’s done, but all I get when I try that is some singed knuckles and an indistinct sort of thumping sound so I’ve stopped trying.

When you decide it’s done, take it out and resist the urge to eat immediately — the texture is better if you let it cool!

Here’s our latest loaf:

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Pretty gorgeous, huh?

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