Sunday, May 3, 2015

Back to a Beginning, with a side of Pickled Radish.

 As always, my timing is off a bit-- it's been a few months over a year since I took a year's hiatus, and no doubt I've lost any momentum this blog might have had. But in the words of Stuart Smalley, "that's-- okay," because I'm ready for taking on challenges, and I'm also thinking of altering this blog, in future; perhaps changing the location, and somewhat of the outlook as well.



 My goal for this blog was always just to share foodie experiences, past and present, through the lens of my eclectic, home-based vegetarianism-- for me, that means recipes, along with ideas about food and eating and their importance in our lives. Family related food issues, seasonal and daily rituals, tweaking recipes, restaurant visits, all rolled into one blog that is sometimes a straight ahead review, sometimes more meditative, but always focused on telling the story in words, and hopefully, in graceful prose.

 As I've been told, this is not to everyone's taste. I am not a photographer, do not have a model kitchen, and those are two reasons I have generally eschewed the common practice of documenting each step of a recipe with a picture here, but there are other reasons. For one, words & thinking are my thing, the part of blogging that truly excites me; for another, if I never see another blog pic of KitchenAid beaters dripping beige batter into a big blue pottery bowl, it'll be too soon.

 I'm not meaning to put down those who blog out of sparkling, gorgeous kitchens and like to show a step-by-step process of every single blessed recipe they make, but I frankly don't need it, and I'm not interested in being another such blogger. There are plenty of them, some who do it so wonderfully (and with fantastic writing, too) that I would be ashamed to try, even if I had the will, the time, the camera and the kitchen. I would rather emulate their enthusiasm, their attention to detail as cooks, than to bother flooding this space with pictures of my odd little throwback kitchen and its contents.

 For those who have never read about it before, my kitchen is just retro enough (circa 1968) to be a pain in the ass without having any magnificent fun vintage qualities, unless you think that silver & gold reflective wall paper on every kitchen wall is charming. What the hell, it goes with the Harvest Gold appliances that are all more or less dysfunctional at this point, though they were clearly top-of- the-line when first installed 40+ years ago; and the wavy gilt stuff gives off a vaguely hep Hugh Hefner vibe in the early summer evenings. I'm serious-- you can't look at it too long without getting dizzy.

 That's what I cook out of, until I can afford to redo the lot, but trust me, you don't want to see it often. Right now, the dishwasher pipes need major repair, and the sinks and countertops have hit critical mass, laden with extra bowls and glasses I haven't bothered to do more to than rinse out and stack-- my dryer is also unwell, I've been sick a lot in the last year, and I just can't keep up, with two important appliances down until who knows when.

 Still, I'm determined to eat well, better than well, but more simply for a while. I've taken on the http://www.vegetariantimes.com/vegan-challenge/28-day Vegan challenge that starts today, May 3rd, hosted by the VT through sponsorship of the Ancient Grains brand. Vegan is not necessarily more simple, but for us it will be this month, as I'm using the challenge as a great way to lower our sodium intake (no cheese!) and also incorporate more raw fruit and veg into our everyday diet.

 If you've read this blog in the past, you may know that I've been trying to get up to 50-60% raw for some years. Family life has gotten in the way, as has being a sickly chief-cook-and-bottle-washer. If you're the one chopping all the food, you can't be ill for weeks on end and still get it done. To this end, dropping the cost of our few remaining animal foods has had the added benefit of allowing me to buy the occasional pre-chopped squash or pineapple, and some frozen entrees for emergencies. Thank goodness we have a Trader Joe's here now!


(If you haven't read this blog in the past, here are some posts to start with:  http://vegetarianatlarge.blogspot.com/2012/10/sweet-fruits-of-fall.html
http://vegetarianatlarge.blogspot.com/2012/08/baking-essentials-vegan-chocolate-cake.html
http://vegetarianatlarge.blogspot.com/2012/07/tried-and-tweaked-thursday-bean-corn.html
http://vegetarianatlarge.blogspot.com/2011/08/watermelon-gazpacho-and-other-things-i.html
http://vegetarianatlarge.blogspot.com/2011/01/barbecued-spam-and-other-childhood.html


 So, I'm taking the household into Veganist territory (having read Veganist some months back), partly in order to go more raw for good. I received a couple of lovely new vegan books last year, too: Vegan on $4/Day, and The Veggie Lover's Sriracha Cookbook. Last year, while on hiatus, I read at least a dozen raw or vegan cookbooks, learning the modes, methods and ideas that make for a successful transition. And as I've been leaning towards the change for ages, now seems a good time to experiment more fully, as we head into Spring, assured of finding more local fresh veg in the markets. I'm looking forward to eating more fruit than usual, and making my own soymilk yoghurt in the crockpot, and I'm going into it all with a sense of adventure and a light heart, not a veil of judgment. It's my hope the blog will reflect these sentiments.

 Today has been a good, gentle warm day so far. Our breakfast was old-fashioned oatmeal with many nuts and seeds, some sliced banana, a sprinkle of chocolate, and our usual unsweetened coconut milk. Lunch was a hummus sandwich with some quick-pickled radish** and grilled arugula on whole wheat Tuscan pane bread, and organic strawberries. Dinner will be red sauce and pasta with field roast sausage, and a many-greens salad. We have Soy Creamy mini nice-cream sandwiches in the freezer, for a sweet. A good balance of whole food and time-savers, for this first day of the challenge, and the screen door of my office is letting in the light breeze and sunshine.

 Not exactly deprivation, is it?


 Have a delicious Sunday evening. Peace,
                                                                    Mari



**The easiest pickled radishes you can find-- just thinly slice cleaned radishes into a jar of your favorite pickle liquid after the last pickle is gone, add a couple of extra tsp. of salt and a shot of extra vinegar ( I like red wine vinegar for this but any type will do), stir, cover, and refrigerate as usual. In an hour or two, you will have nice radish pickles, and by the next day, they'll be addictively delicious.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Of Healing and a Hiatus-- and My 100th post!

 Thank you for your kind wishes and good thoughts, all. My surgery in May went exceptionally well, I began healing quickly, and I'm starting to feel close to normal in some ways, as of this month.

 Nowadays I'm into other kinds of healing too, having begun the creative recovery program known as The Artist's Way, from the book and class by Julia Cameron (with Mark Bryan). I recommend this program to anyone wanting to wake up their senses and creative life, not just artists of all types.

 I wasn't fully asleep, mind you; but being sick for years throws you into vast realms of mental sludge, and I felt I could use the help in climbing out. It was begun on a whim, sidelined by obligations for a couple of months, and now I have begun again. I'm enjoying the challenges set.  each day, you must write several pages of longhand whatever-comes-out, and each week, there are tasks and a date with your inner artist, to help you restock your creative koi pond with fresh wiggly delights.

Jellyfish! Dangerous, like all art-- but pretty.


 To dedicate myself more fully, and to help get my emotional juju with food back, I am taking a hiatus here on this blog, for a full year. A Full Year.


 Yes! I will return in January 2015, to reinvent this place for food writing and exploration. Friends, even when my health issues were getting better, my life had become a little static, a little too contained to feel I had something of use to offer foodwise. And I recently left my long-time food community, the CLBB, due to a growing lack of inspiration there, and some unpleasant forum conversations. C'est la vie-- we can but be who we are, and if we are not valued for that in a certain place, then why stay? Anyway, I have left behind many things in the last year, but I'm not going to leave this blog swinging in the wind. I never let sleeping blogs lie... I kill 'em off or rejuvenate them instead.



 So-- till next year, I thank you, and I have appreciated your interest, care and comments. Feel free to check back in a few months, as new roads may lead me to a new blog, a new focus. I will surely be checking in on the blogs linked here, and I suggest you do the same, because they're awesome, creative and well-written.

 And seeing as this is my 100th post, may I suggest that if you haven't read me from the beginning (and no one, I believe, has) you may want to go back there and read some older posts. Some good stuff there, and hopefully, thought-provoking work.


 Peace, joy, discovery, tastiness, and a very happy new year to you--

                                                                                                 Mari

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Healing Foods and Retro Cheesecake.

 At the end of May, I had my baby-making equipment forcibly removed for my health-- on Wednesday, May 29-- and didn't get to eat anything but broth & juice until late Friday morning. In fact I went for over 35 hours on nothing but a few ice chips towards the end of that time frame. Though I'd been told the food at Sisters Hospital on Main was good even if you were vegetarian, I didn't feel like sticking around long enough to really find out.

 Instead, since I was doing amazingly well for a person with an auto-immune disease after a major operation, I came home and had half a veggie sub. And my family has been bringing me food ever since-- sprouted quinoa and roasted vegetables with a tub of peach sorbet from my niece, soup and some burgers for the hubby-man from my mom, lasagna and chili and muffins and more from my big sister, pretty and tasty chive heads from my younger sis (and I'm looking forward to her spicy black bean burgers soon).

 I've felt so much better for these meals, made with love and forethought, brought as needed and given with care.  My body began to try to act normally pretty quick under the influence of such good stuff. Every day has brought more movement, less discomfort. And it's healing just to know that I don't have to rely on takeout when I'm too tired to cook, which happens at least every other day. Knowing that the hubby-man has food to get him through the worst of it helps too-- I can take a nap during the day without worrying that he'll starve through his workweek because I was resting like I'm supposed to. I can shop the fridge instead of making him go shopping when he's had a full day.

 Both family and friends have done other wonderful things for me: brought me books to read and magazines to enjoy, flowers to scent the house. They've run errands and done laundry and  it's overwhelming. I've gotten visits and cards and gifts in the mail, a pedicure while I was in the hospital and a pot of fully mature herbs to use when I feel up to cooking. All of this, bolstered by the food, had made a giant difference. You wouldn't believe how short a time it's been since the surgery, if you saw me walking around doing dishes today. That's how lucky I am in my choice of surgeons and my bounty of loved ones. That's how powerful a gift of healthful food can be.

 I felt so well and good yesterday, I cooked a whole meal-- sloppy lentils (okay, they're super easy), veg in sauce, baked potatoes and a retro cheesecake, the soft creamy kind I never had in childhood. This is the kind that starts with a can of sweetened condensed milk, an item rarely found in my kitchen; but I remembered having bought one some time back as I was leafing through a recently acquired dessert cookbook, and there was a recipe for that creamy, fluffy unbaked cheesecake, topped with cherry pie filling. For once, it sounded good. Maybe that's a natural side effect of reading four dessert cookbooks in a row.

 It was not a success but not a total failure. Being so easy, you'd wonder how it could get screwed up, and I'll tell you: I used a food processor to mix the whole thing, instead of a mixer as specified. Even using less liquid and more chill time, I ended up with more a cheesecake-flavored spoon pudding than a cheesecake. The upside is, it tastes good, and I've found out now that the Baker's Corner cherry pie filling, sold at Aldi's, is the best canned filling ever. Not too sweet, it seems to be made from sour cherries and has a deep, tart fruity flavor. Worth the cost of the cheesecake experiment for sure! Though I'm putting the failure all on myself and my use of modern methods, the cookbook/recipe was so old I can't be certain that the relative leanness of our contemporary dairy products isn't partly to blame, so I won't share this recipe until I've tried it again as written and had more success.

 Not to be satisfied with a pudding, I've stuck the bulk of the cheesecake mess in the freezer, and we'll see if we get a cheesecake-y frozen dessert** for the effort.

 Because sometimes sweets are healing, too.

Thanks to all my family, here and in Indiana, and my friends all over the world, for your gifts, help, and kind thoughts-- it's working!


  Have a delicious week. Peace,

                                           --Mari



**Yes, we did. Freezing this baby made it so good, I might do that every time.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Heat of the Moment-- Red Sangria

 In my office, there's a sweet breeze. I'm at the table that serves as a desk having red beans and rice, and chilling a gift of raspberry vodka to make one twisted, perfect Cosmo.

 You have to have some way to beat the heat. Mine is throwing some easy food in the mini-crockpot and looking forward to a great cocktail in the yard later. In hot weather, a single, wonderful chilled drink does it for me better than a pitcher of cheap beer; but a pitcher of Sangria is not to be spurned.
 Below is one we tried recently, and enjoyed.

 I've always preferred Sangria made without soda of any sort, and this one fills the bill. It does require a simple syrup, which I made in the cool of morning, which is the best time to get any cooking done these days even if you, unlike us, have AC.

 By the end of a hot day, no one really wants to cook. Do all your chopping and such as soon as you get up, and by evening you'll feel like a genius for having made your own life so easy. You'll also love having a glass of this fruity Sangria with your easy dinner. If you need something stronger, hop over to the Cocktail Lady's blog, and look through her past year's cocktail recipe entries-- there's sure to be something you'll enjoy. Just reading through a week's worth of cocktails has a mellowing effect.


I have, of course, tweaked the original recipe a bit, just to suit my taste. It was overly sweet for me otherwise, and I like lots of fruit.

Red Sangria

Friday, May 3, 2013

Changing lanes-- grocery lanes! The Update.

  As foretold in past posts, I have shifted around my shopping habits, going into new stores for new foods, trying to look at our daily meals with a fresh eye. There's been some success and some falling back on takeout, though mainly that happens when I'm sick. But I've been sick often since January.

  One neat thing is, when forced by sheer necessity to visit my old stomping grounds at Aldi's and Dash early in the experiment, I found myself taking a new approach, buying different foods for different meals than usual. That makes rejigging your diet easier-- what is hard, is to let habitual purchases fall by the wayside so you're not buying new things at the same time as you stock up on all your boring go-to meals, which will end up displacing the fresh ideas you had, costing you twice as much weekly and eventually leaving you with a cupboard of expired inspiration.

 On the CLBB, we have ways of dealing with this cupboard. We have pantry cleanout challenges to use up the odd ingredients, or we each ask "What do I do with ---?" and collect the recipes that other experienced cooks share in sympathy. They've all been there, they know the drill.

 Problem is, I can't afford this leftover approach. I say this knowing there is a bag of raw peanuts and a jar of vine leaves lurking in my own cupboard, mocking me by their very presence. Not to mention the last of the green tapioca beads I bought in the Asian grocery, (which I have discovered are quite a pain to cook) and the mini-cupcake liners I never used for truffles after all.

 Staples like eggs, milk, bread or flour, cheese, juice, apples, carrots, nuts-- all of these items are higher priced now than they were when I moved back to Buffalo six years ago. Even for those who don't buy almond milk, cage-free vegetarian eggs, whole-grained or gluten-free flours, organic carrots. The prices will continue to climb, and what can we do? Try to make more and more money?

 Even that won't be enough, someday not too far away. There will be shortages, there is a need for a change in our food production systems. Right now, the cost of eating cleaner and more compassionately is being pushed onto those least able to bear that cost. You and I, the poor and infirm, the weak and helpless among us, the deliberately weakened animals born to a short life of hideous cruelty and a vile, protracted death. And the food we eat is less nourishing by degrees, more hurtful than helpful. This hasn't been going on for as long as it seems, either-- the same meals that nourished my grandmother to a sprightly 88, have caused or contributed to a veritable chaos of health in most of my generation of the family. And we ate fresh food, prepared from scratch, from childhood. Yet my mother and my two older sisters have had cancer. Myself, my younger sister, my niece, several cousins raised with us, all have chronic illnesses.

 The top six people at Tyson don't care, nor do the gods of Monsanto; and they don't share our burden. The people that live as vastly as kings, are also the people that run the media sources that make you and I feel terrible for buying juice we can afford for our kids. They want you to point to yourself when the question of where and how the fruit for that juice is grown comes up, they want YOU and I to identify with the hapless  growers and pickers and packers whose back-breaking labor is barely paid for, those countries full of people that cannot grow most of their own food anymore because our top corporations have purchased the land for us, spraying it indiscriminately with toxins that hurt everyone and everything. Those kings of industry, those top people, those media whores want you and I to shuffle guiltily between Walmart and the Co-op, making ourselves crazy and poor trying to solve the world's problems while they shovel images of the good life we can never have at us through the ads in Rachel Ray Everyday.

 And we have to do it; we have to stand against the worst that we see, we have to fight from a small base, making inroads as we can.

 I have my own plans for this, growing slowly and not-so-surely. But they won't show up much here in June, my friends. I'm having a hysterectomy at the end of May, and I won't be doing much cooking or shopping come June! So this blog will be on a limited hiatus, from June to sometime in July. Afterwards, it is hoped, my summer obsession with the farmers' market will spur me to inspired creations that I can post here to delight you.

 If you would like to write a guest post, though, during my off time or anytime this summer, please let me know! With recipes or without, it will be a welcome change. Meantime, expect a post or two before my June Hiatus.

 Have a lovely weekend!

   --Mari 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

You Gotta Feed the Monkey...

  As a woman that became a full-time professional salaried nanny at the age of 18, and worked as one for most of the 25+ years since, I've become acquainted with my fair share of picky eaters.

 The battle of the table is a hard one to win, and often one of the primary frustrations of new parents and nannies alike. There are few issues that can be both so silly and so worrisome at the same time; and table troubles can have a lasting impact on more than the way your children will eat as adults.

 What happens too often is that parents and other caretakers, in an effort to make sure the kids are reasonably nourished, become short order cooks in their own kitchens, slaving away for love at a job they would never, now, do for money. And it gets worse and worse, instead of better, as children get used to being literally catered to!

 Enough. It isn't healthy for any child to think that the world revolves around them-- and most children will eat at least some of the healthy food they see their parents and other adults actually eating.

 Don't give in to boxed organic junk food, 10-times-a-day snacking, and don't give in to the frantic need to make sure your child has eaten enough, if it means you are jumping up and cooking three meals in sequence several times per day. Aren't there better things you could all be doing? Here's how, tried and true, culled from decades of experience in creating, and correcting, poor eating habits.

1. Put out a small meal or snack with no more than three items, including one thing your kid/kids usually will eat. This goes for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and maybe one of two daily snacks-- though at snack time, the selection should be smaller- 1-2 foods.

2. Sit down and eat with them, even if you have to leave after a few minutes. This makes more of a difference than you know, if you're into the habit of flying around doing other things while your kids scramble your brain with requests for more, different, better. When I stopped using snack time as a chance to catch up on side work, like emptying the dishwasher, the kids ate better consistently, and we all felt ready for that next play session.

3. Get out of the meal zone fast, after serving one meal or snack only-- do not cater to different tastes too much, do not worry if the meal doesn't get eaten. Instead, have a healthy something or other packed in a bag that they don't know about; have them quickly help you clean up a bit and then get out of the house or at least the kitchen, and play or read with the kiddos. When the little darling that wouldn't eat their oatmeal is starved and moaning about it, offer them that piece of fruit or cheese chunk or red pepper strip that you have socked away, and if they're really hungry, they will eat it. if not, I assure, they aren't going to starve to death.

4. Realize that no change comes instantly, and healthy eating is a time investment that pays off long. So make it fun, by letting them help grow and prepare some of their own healthy foods. Make it interesting, by having frequent picnics in odd places and at odd times, like a snow picnic I shared with some kiddos in front of a museum one winter's day; or a castle feast in their own playroom, with pictures of jugglers and performing lions that we drew and colored first, then hung with painter's tape on the walls for atmosphere, along with some scarf "tapestries." Last of all, make it a habit by eating well, most of the time, yourself. If you don't know the difference between a treat and an everyday food, neither will they.

 Here are the NOTS-- and they do become knotty problems difficult to solve, if you're not careful to avoid these typical parental/grandparent pitfalls.

1. Don't ask your kids what they want to eat for most meals-- they're not supposed to be raising themselves, making their own food choices and incidentally, your food budget choices along with. That's your job-- you are the one with superior discretion, an understanding of good nutrition and its effects over time, and the master of your own time budget, too. It's okay to give them a chance to participate in meal planning once in a while, but not often.

2. When offering a choice of snacks or other foods, give only two options, and NEVER give a completely open choice** -- small children aren't capable of making that kind of wise choice, and will tend to become fussier, confused, and harder to please, merely because you have left a big, big decision to their tiny minds. Instead, give them one option they often enjoy, and one you hope they might enjoy, and have tried with mixed results. And make sure, after they haven't taken that particular choice, to offer it again regularly, but not so constantly that it draws resistance from being overdone.
That's a classic move from impatience. You have to be the one to be patient, it's not their job.

 And if you do the same for other choices, like toys, books, music and games, you will gradually find your kids becoming more easily satisfied and less fussy. Kids need boundaries to thrive and learn, and this is one often overlooked way of setting reasonable limits, a way that helps provide security for them, as they absorb the comfort of knowing that you are in charge. That's what they really want and need, so give it to them, and let them get on with the real business of childhood-- learning and having fun, instead of making all the important decisions they are not yet prepared for.

3. Don't offer treats on a daily basis-- that means fruit rollups, Pirate Booty, and crackers, as well as candy and soda and cupcakes. These are junk foods, and shouldn't be part of your kids' daily diets. It doesn't matter if the corn was grown by monks and hasn't been near a chemical, it's still cheesy popcorn, it's still junk, just slightly healthier junk. A half PB& J made with fruit spread at least has some protein, and high-quality carbs if made on whole-grained bread. Fresh fruit, or a handful of dried, makes a reasonable serving of natural sugars, whereas fruit leathers give far more sugar per serving, and less fiber, than say, half a peeled apple or a 1/3 cup of melon chunks. They're less filling, too, leading to the need for more, more, more. Real food satisfies in more than one way-- junk satisfies taste buds only, while dulling them to the nuances of good, fresh food.


 Let's talk nuts and bolts, now, real foods for real kids. From the very beginning, offer wholesome whole grains, fresh fruit and veggies, chunks of plain soft tofu, (prepared gently and without seasoning or toppings. Cooked oatmeal or other whole grains should be a standard breakfast, with small amounts of natural sweetener like molasses, agave or real maple syrup, along with wholesome toppings. Soup or sandwiches make good breakfasts too; don't get fooled by advertisers that sweetened cold cereal is the best morning fuel. Lunches can be anything from a cold veggie plate, with hummus or spinach dip, to cooked rice and beans, to blended soups or smoothies and some fresh muffins or bread, or pasta salads. Try to offer some protein, some quality carb and some fresh veg or fruit (or both) at each meal. Nut milks, for those not allergic, make a great starting point for a quick soup or smoothie, and they have enough nutrition and heft on their own to be a substantial part of a child's meal.

Here's a few things you can make for snacks or small meals, that please kids and seem treaty when they aren't: artfully carved veg like tomato roses, carrot curls, hearts and other shapes carved from cuke or pepper sides; savory whole-wheat biscotti or biscuits (with cheese, sun-dried tomato snips, or pine nuts for more interest), fruit salads that have a little veg in them (like carrot shreds, tiny cubes of seeded tomato or cuke or zucchini), and nut butters with grated apple on pita triangles.

 By the time your child is one and a half at the latest, they should start to eat what you eat for dinner, minus overly spicy, or choky, fibrous foods. Get a food mill and use it when needed, to mash up what you're having into a digestible offering. Then keep a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables and cheese, bean dips or yogurt handy for snacks to fill in the cracks.

 Kids will often eat something raw, like pepper strips, that they won't eat cooked. Or sometimes, it's the other way around! Our perception of snack food doesn't have to be theirs-- be more creative and watch them eat healthier without issue. Stir fry or lightly sauté veggies with a tiny pinch of salt and offer at room temp. Throw the cherry tomatoes you'd thought they eat raw into a pan just long enough to soften slightly. And don't be afraid to gloss cooked veggies at dinner with a little butter and/or honey-- after decades of experimentation, I've found that it's better to get kids eating veg with a little fat than not eating them at all. My mother got us to ADORE cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, spinach-- all by serving them cooked tender-crisp and dotting them with a little butter and salt. To this day, I prefer vegetables to sweets.

 For years, I followed parent rules and gave children plain cooked broccoli, and watched them reject it-- parents have reason to be concerned about fat consumption, but the little bit of interest fat adds to veg, isn't where to cut it out of. When I started cooking vegetables at work the way I'd had them in childhood, lo and behold, more kids started eating more veg more easily. Besides, small children really do need fat for brain development, among other things; a severely low-fat diet doesn't produce healthy kids. Cut out the sugar, which they truly don't need.

 Well, aside from the notes below, this is probably enough to get most parents feeling a little insecure and defensive-- but please, don't be. We all make mistakes feeding kids, we all mean well, and we can all make changes for the better. Be patient, with yourself and them, and don't forget that kids are easily distracted-- use it! When they fuss about their meal, tell a joke and then pass the peas. Take them away from the table and do something else for a while. But don't make deals, don't serve them dessert instead of good food, and don't let yourself become a full-time chef in your own home.

 Peace, and a peaceful mealtime to you, Mari


 A young friend  of mine, enjoying brekkie.







**This goes double for restaurant meals-- You should look at the menu, choose two things, and offer the kids the choice, before the server comes to take your order, not while she's there.

 Not adhering to this simple rule is one of the primary sins of annoyance parents commit in restaurants, that drives servers and other patrons insane and practically guarantees bad service for everyone. A side benefit of limiting menu choices is, your family becomes welcome at all restaurants you patronize, because the employees know you're not going to waste their time asking little Johnny what he wants to eat and then arguing with him, while the rest of their customers are waiting and hungry. It's good childcare and good restaurant etiquette.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Going Wild with Onions

 As I was sitting in my kitchen office, watching the lovely sunshine illuminate the utterly unlovely back lawn as revealed by melted snow, I felt the need of some uplifting flavor to keep up my Spring Awakening, and thought about making this bread from Brother Juniper.

 Wild Rice and Onion Bread is a treasure of a recipe. It's both comforting and crisp, with an aroma as it bakes that draws people into the kitchen, hungry looks on their faces. One slice is never enough. It's beyond tried and true-- I've shared it with friends, many places, and then watched my friends share it too. Easy but delicious, with a crisp crackly crust and a soulful flavor that needs no adornment.

 Rolls from this dough are wonderful, or a nice round loaf, decoratively slashed; but frankly I've taken to making long baguettes of it, in order to enjoy more of that savory crust! And the bread is gorgeous to see, speckled with grains that peek out from the crust. The savor and texture of the onion and rice make a for a fresh, hopeful almost-spring nosh.


WILD RICE AND ONION BREAD  from Brother Juniper's Bread Book--
                                                                       Slow Rise as Method and Metaphor, by Peter Reinhart

(Adapted slightly by Amvyn from the CLBB. Thanks, Amy!)


8 C unbleached high-gluten, bread, or all-purpose flour
1/3 C chopped dried onions or 1 C diced fresh onions
1/3 C brown sugar
2 Tbsp instant yeast or 2 1/2 dry active yeast, proofed in 4 Tbsp warm water
1 1/2 Tbsp sea salt
1 C cooked & cooled wild rice blend
1/3 C buttermilk
1 1/2 C warm water

Mix all the dried ingredients, including the yeast and rice, in a bowl, then add the liquid ingredients, reserving a little water for later for adjustments during kneading. Turn the dough out onto a floured counter and knead for 10-12 minutes, or until dough is elastic, unified and tacky but not sticky.

Return dough to a clean bowl, cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap, and slip the bowl into a plastic bag. Put it in a warm spot. Allow between 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours for dough to rise/double.

Shape as desired, into 2 loaves or a loaf and rolls, place in greased pans, cover and let rise again, allowing 45-60 minutes for rising. Cut a star pattern in the top, or for rolls, brush with an egg wash made of 1 egg beaten with 1/2 C water. This is a good idea if making baguette, too.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree F oven, for approximately 45 minutes-- rolls will take 12-15 minutes. These loaves are best if sprayed with cold water frequently during the first 10 minutes of baking to make the crust brittle. Cool thoroughly on wire racks before cutting. Makes 2 round loaves, or about medium 15 rolls.
 Serve with soup, or with sandwich makings, or on its own, though a glass of wine would be sooo happy sitting next to a slice of this bread.


 Keep those thoughts of Spring coming! Peace, Mari