I have never let my schooling interfere with my education. - Mark Twain

Saturday, February 28, 2009


The plan was to get many of the seeds started three weeks ago (such as eggplant, that prima donna that requires such a long growing season) but of course it didn't happen. This weekend will have to do.

Everything will have a start date of March 1. I know that many people start on that date or after, but since we are reputed to have such a long growing season in the Mid-A, I always feel like it's REQUIRED to start by the end of January.

Since this winter has been one of the coldest I can remember for a long time, tough beans. Looks like I'm not going to be moving this year so might as well get a garden going again.

Which is OK cause I love dirt.

March 1: the dirt hits the fan. Here we are crushing Black Pearl ornamental pepper pods for seed extraction. Did some Royal Black African ornamentals also. Now on to eggplant and tomatoes.

March 21: uh, still planting seeds. Got pepper, tomato, and eggplant sprouts already but the greens are just going in the dirt today. What the muck, maybe they'll be up by July.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The pseudo staff of life

I had forgotten how much I love rye bread. This isn’t going to be about serious, New York Deli Jewish Rye Bread; think of it more as Really Easy Pseudo Rye.

Flashback: never having been a serious baker ever in my life, many years ago I purchased a bread machine, a Breadman TR-500. This was their first model and didn’t have the advanced features most machines have today, but was marketed as being great for whole grain loaves. It became my sole source of bread for a few years, and then slowly faded back into the pantry as I returned to buying bread from the supermarket. School and career changing probably had a bit to do with it.

Last year I dug out the bread machine, after some serious dust collecting for 4 or 5 years, and started experimenting again with making bread.

Perhaps not as many people cast a disdainful eye on bread machine baking now as in the past, but I still think there’s this stigma attached. My take is that anything that gets people to cook for themselves, no matter how much the process is automated, should be applauded. Food processors and fancy dancy mixers don’t seem to suffer the same bad rep as bread machines. I have both by the way- there is equal opportunity afforded to all gadgets in my kitchen. The bread machine can accept all the ingredients at once, then sit on the floor, under the counter and unattended (or in another tucked away area) while it does its work. You can’t do that with an open machine like a mixer.

The method I generally use now is to have the machine mix, knead, and complete the first rise, then remove the dough and do the second rise in a bread pan, finishing in the oven. If you are home for the process it just really doesn’t take that much longer than letting the machine do all the work. I’ve even done the refrigerator rise trick- do the second rise in the fridge overnight or all day, then bake in the morning before work or evening after work (per “The Arrowhead Mills Cookbook” bread baking instructions). After the final rise the dough is placed in a cold oven and then the cooking temp is set (also per Arrowhead Mills). Some additional rise occurs as the oven heats up, before the yeast is deactivated.

The recipe ingredients were adapted from “The Breadman’s Healthy Bread Book”, which was published to accompany my first bread machine (had to buy the book separately, but it's still a great reference). The original recipe wanted dried minced onion; I only had onion granules so that’s what is specified here. Worked fine. Fresh, finely minced onion would probably be even better, if you’ve got some handy.

The recipe could also be done completely by hand or mixed in a food processor, dealer’s choice.

Aside: I bought a more recent model of the Breadman a year or so ago, the Ultimate Plus, as it had more programmable features and the “advantage” of being able to make a horizontal loaf. It sucked. The old one wasn’t broke, so I shouldn’t have tried to fix it. The new one is OK for doing a first rise- usually, when the pan doesn’t get knocked off its supports- but machine baking a horizontal loaf is stupid. To really do it properly you have to have 2 paddles, which this does not have, and then you have 2 giant holes in the bottom of your loaf, instead of one. The first machine, which made a vertical loaf, was far superior to this version, but oh well. (Still have the first one- like I really need two bread machines.)

Anyway, boy do I love rye bread. Now I can try making the vegan Reubens from VeganDad...

Rye Bread with Bread Machine Prep

1-1/8 cups water
2 Tbs. canola oil
1 cup bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour- I used half white whole wheat and half regular whole wheat
1 cup rye flour
1½ Tbs. sugar
1 Tbs. caraway seeds, more to taste
1 Tbs. vital wheat gluten
1½ tsp. salt
2 tsp. onion granules, more to taste
2 tsp. instant bread yeast, or 2¼ tsp. active dry yeast

Place ingredients in the bread machine and process on the dough cycle. (Alternatively, bake in the machine, choosing the whole wheat cycle as this recipe uses more whole grain flour than bread flour. Remove from the pan to cool so the loaf doesn’t get soggy).

When the dough cycle is complete, remove the dough and place on a floured board. Punch down and knead briefly to shape into a loaf. Place in a bread pan (or a couche if desired), cover with a towel, and set in a warm area to rise again until doubled. Or use the cool rise method, see above.

When the loaf has risen, place in a cold oven (either in the pan or removed from the couche and set on a baking stone), set oven to 375°F., and bake for 35-45 minutes until golden brown. My (electric) oven usually finishes in 40-45.

Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack. If you used a loaf pan, wait a few minutes, then remove the loaf from the pan so it doesn’t get soggy. The loaf in the picture was done in a pan but next time I think I’m going to bake this free form so the sides don’t look so funky.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Dip redux

Well who'd a thunk. Forget the dip incarnation, the last recipe post became a simmer sauce for sauteed tofu, onions, and mushrooms, served over basmati rice, and it was fab!

I decided it was just too sweet as a dip, but with a little more curry powder sprinkled on the sauteed veggies, and the sauce poured over to heat through, it became the creamy, rich Indian type dish I love but feel guilty about because of the lavish use of dairy. Not a cow in sight for this dinner.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

And another dip

Really, my whole diet is not just dips, I swear. It does seem odd to have two dip posts so close together, especially considering this blog does not runneth over with posts so far (working on that.) I saw this recipe originally at the Whole Foods website, and had a box of silken tofu to use up, so there you go.

The original recipe wanted 8 oz. of tofu, and there is no way I'm going to use a partial box of anything if there's a way around it (see the post for Portuguese Kale soup). So I dumped a 12 oz. box into the bowl and started in on the other ingredients.

I think I only used about a tablespoon and a half of lemon juice, instead of 2, and it seemed lemony enough to me. But the original also wanted a tablespoon of honey. I used agave nectar, which I thought should be milder, and it seemed too sweet. So I'll cut back to a teaspoon and work from there next time.

To manage the sweetness, I increased the curry powder and garnished with some smoked paprika. Nice for finishing even if you don't use much. I think next time a little paprika should go into the dip itself.

Still managed to plow through a bunch of curry dip so far, even with the complaints. Plus I found a use for my poor little broken handled spoon rest. It was too pretty to chuck after I broke it, so now it has purpose in life!

Curry Dip with Chives and Paprika

1 12 oz. package silken tofu
1½ Tbs. lemon juice
1 Tbs. canola oil
1 Tbs. curry powder
1 tsp. agave nectar or other sweetener of choice
1½ Tbs. tamari

2 Tbs. chopped chives (dried, as I had no fresh)
Smoked, hot, or sweet paprika, to garnish

Place tofu through tamari in a bowl and blend until smooth (an immersion blender works great). Stir in chives. Transfer to a serving bowl and chill an hour or so to firm the dip up. Garnish with paprika if desired, and serve.