Monday, March 31, 2014
Bread baking has been a lifesaver for me. It's been a month since I returned home from the U.S. and I'm still not feeling like myself. I am struggling with how I am here versus how I am/was in the U.S. How I am..how I really am doesn't work over here. I've always known this and it's been my biggest struggle since I arrived almost 8 years ago. The seconded I landed in the U.S. it all came back. My husband could hear it when I spoke to him on the phone and I know it made him sad when I came back and instantly lost that main part of me in an instant. It's hard to explain to people who don't live an expat life and more often then not you just keep it all inside because what's the point in talking about it anyway. It is what it is. So I'm dealing with that. I'm dealing with trying to get my groove back with cooking and baking and gardening and taking care of the hens..and to be honest my heart just isn't in it..and it kills me.
So I'm baking bread. Tons of bread. I'm mixing and kneading and forgetting about everything else. I'm concentrating on the dough rising and the shaping and the baking..and then I start all over again with a new loaf. I love hearing the excitement and seeing the smiles on the faces of my husband and sons when they know there is a new bread to try.
Instead of meditation, I've got breaditation to get me through life's ups and downs. Thank goodness for yeast,flour, and salt!
Triple-Seed Wheat Bread
1-1/2 - 2 cups All-purpose Flour
2 TBS Sugar
1-1/2 tsp. Salt
1-1/2 tsp. Poppy Seed
1-1/2 tsp. Sesame Seed
1 tsp. Fennel Seed ( I used Nigella Seeds)
2-1/4 tsp. Active Dry Yeast
1 cup Water
2 TBS Butter
1-1/2 - 2 cups Whole Wheat Flour
Egg Wash; 1 Egg,beaten with 1 TBS Water
1 tsp. Poppy Seed
1 tsp. Sesame Seed
1 tsp. Fennel or Nigella Seeds
In a large mixing bowl or in a bowl of a stand mixer, mix 1-1/2 cups of the all-purpose flour,salt, and seeds.
In a small saucepan,heat the water and butter,over medium heat,stirring frequently,until very warm ( 120 F). Stir into flour mixture and mix until combined ( if using a stand mixer, attach the dough hook and mix until combined). Stir in the remaining 1/2 cup all-purpose flour and enough of the whole wheat flour until a nice smooth dough has been formed. Knead the dough either by hand or with a mixer until the dough is smooth and springy.. about 8 minutes and adding in additional flour as needed ( I used a stand mixer with the dough attachment and only needed 1 cup of the whole wheat flour to bring it all together).
Grease a bowl with nonstick cooking spray and place the dough in the bowl turning once to coat. Cover and allow dough to rise in a warm spot for one hour, or until doubled in size.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Gently deflate dough and turn out onto a counter top. You can sprinkle it lightly with flour but I found it easier to roll the dough out without using any. Roll the dough into a 20-inch rope. Place it onto the prepared pan. Curl each end of the rope in the opposite direction to form a coiled S shape. Cover and let rise in a warm place 30 to 40 minutes or until almost double.
Preheat oven to 375 or 190 celsius. In a small bow,combine the egg and water and mix until combined. In another small bowl,combine the seeds.
Brush the egg mixture all over the dough and then sprinkle with the seed mixture.
Bake 20-25 minutes or until loaf is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped. Remove from baking sheet and allow to cool on a wire rack.
Yield: 1 Loaf
Source: Betty Crocker The Big Book of Bread
Wednesday, March 26, 2014
It's that time of the year,my friends...The time when I sit down and get my container garden all mapped out and ready to go. I wait impatiently for this. I start get super antsy the closer we get to Spring. I make various lists of what I want to grow and then go over it again and again. I narrow it down when I realize I either can't grow it based on our climate ( not warm enough) or it simply doesn't do well in a container. I am taking a chance on a few of them but I am hoping for a very warm summer this year! Everything in the photo above can be planted in a large container. I've got Blue Corn,Mouse Melons ( grape sized cucumbers that look like tiny watermelons but have a lime taste to them),Patio Snacker Cucumbers,Stringless Celery, Tiny Tim Tomatoes,Baby Corn, Rainbow Carrots,Giant Sunflowers ( those will be planted directly into the soil, Chocolate Bell Peppers,Banana Shallots,Golden Zucchini,Bingo Watermelons,Potatoes,Rhubarb (already planted into the ground),Strawberries, and Parisienne Carrots!
We hit a small stretch of what we consider to be warm weather and my husband and I headed to the garden section and got to work! Everything that wasn't producing food or attracting the pollinators was going. So that meant everything but the butterfly bush and a hydrangea plant. The small area in the front with all the planters will be used to grow wildflowers for the bees,and there will be strawberries growing in there.
Here it is after we were done. It took a lot longer than we had expected. The smaller the bush or tree, the harder it was to dig up the roots. The hens were super happy with the huge worms we dug up and decided to share with them that day :)
Today we were able to set up the raised beds. Each one will hold 9 huge containers of veggies that will go out once the weather is warmer. The ladies say,Hello!
I planted my first set of seeds and they are growing happily!
The blue corn kernels about to be planted!
Here they are now..and they've grown almost twice that size since I took the photo a few days ago.
My golden zucchini is coming along nicely as well. I have one baby corn that sprouted up and I am waiting on my tiny tim tomatoes and banana shallots..the end of the month I will be planting the rest.
It's been a busy time around here but a happy and productive one. I've been busy with hens and I wish it was in a more positive way but I'm still dealing with some bare bums and working towards fixing that. We have another stretch of decent weather coming our way and hopefully that means pulling the gas grill out for the first time this year!
Is anyone else growing something this year?
Thursday, March 20, 2014
It's March 20th already! February was a total blur for me and this month is looking very much like the same way! I had plans to take a better photo. Really I did..but the temp hit 68 degrees here in, The Netherlands and that might as well be 80 for us. My husband and I started digging up bushes and small trees from the previous owners in order to make room for our container garden. My muscles are sore but I'm happy to say we have a nicely cleared spot for my ginormous amounts of veggies I plan on growing. So getting back to the pic. I was in the middle of everything and remembered I needed to take a pic of the cake before everyone ate it. So I dropped what I was doing and ran in to grab a slice!
I can honestly say that I was over the moon happy with the result of this months cake from The Cake Slice Bakers. As you know, we are baking from Great Cakes by Carole Walter. As you also know, I haven't been much of a fan of the cakes thus far. I loved this one! We all loved this one. My 13 year old coffee hating kid even loved it. Like a lot. The cake is moist from the syrup. I did use Bailey's in place of it but only because that's what I have on hand..you know, for the days when you need a little bit extra in your morning,afternoon, and possibly evening coffee..No judging! I will also say that I tried in vain to find instant espresso but neither The Netherlands nor Germany had it. So I went with a double amount of coffee and maybe that's why I personally liked it. I'm not a fan of coffee flavored foods but this somehow just worked. It was moist and we topped the cake with slightly sweetened whipped cream and smiled.
Check out the rest of the cakes from the other fabulous cake slice bakers and I can't wait to bake up next months cake!
Monday, March 17, 2014
Before I left for the U.S. I went on a massive bread baking spree to make sure my three guys were taken care of while I was away. I was a tad envious of what they would be enjoying while I was away and looked forward to their reviews. This bread was one that I made before I left and wasn't able to try it myself. I was told that it tasted fantastic and could I make it again. I sure could! I was curious about it too so I baked some up the other day to finally try it out myself. I was not disappointed.
If you love grilled cheese sandwiches then you must make this bread! I'm not trying to tell you what to do but I can personally say that we loved it with shredded mozzarella cheese and sun dried tomato pesto! It also makes an excellent BLT sandwich and should you have any left over,it makes fantastic croutons! An all purpose bread for you. You're welcome. Go bake it!
2-1/4 tsp. Instant Yeast
1/4 cup ( 2 ounces) Warm Water
1 cup (8 ounces) Warm Milk
1-1/4 tsp. Salt
1 TBS Sugar
3-1/2 cups ( 14-3/4 ounces) All-purpose Flour
1 cup ( 4 ounces) Finely Grated Cheddar Cheese..I suggest Sharp!
1/2 cup (2 ounces) Finely Grated Parmesan
2 TBS Softened Butter or Vegetable Oil
2 tsp. Tomato Powder or Tomato Paste..optional for color
Combine all the ingredients and mix and knead them together,either by hand or in a mixer,until you've made a soft,smooth dough. Adjust the dough's consistency either with more water or flour as needed- the dough should be soft but not sticky. ** I used my Kitchen aid for this and didn't need to add anything extra to my dough**.
Shape into a ball and place into a lightly greased bowl. Cover and allow to rise for one hour, or until it's puffy ( though not necessarily doubled in bulk).
Grease a 8x4 inch loaf pan and set aside. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured or greased surface and roll the dough into an 8 inch log. Place into prepared pan,cover with a tea towel and allow the bread to rise until the outer edge has just barely risen over the rim of the pan,about 45 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 or 180 celsius. Bake the bread for 35-40 minutes,tenting it lightly during the last 10 to 15 minutes if it looks like it's browning to quickly. Remove the bread from the oven,take it out of the pan and tap the bottom to check for that hollow done sound. If it doesn't sound hollow place it back in the oven for a few more minutes. When done, take it out of the pan and allow it cool completely on a wire rack.
Yield: One Loaf
Source: King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion
Wednesday, March 12, 2014
I've been back from the U.S. for almost a week now and I'm still trying to catch my breath. Most of what I saw was from the backseat of a car due to all of the traveling we needed to do.
For those that didn't read my last entry..my brother was killed in a head on collision in Oregon on February 13. I flew home two weeks later for the funeral. We scrambled to get everything together in order for me to leave and my husband took time off to keep things together at home while I was gone. It took me around 11 hours to fly into LAX where I met my Dad and step mom. We then went straight to the store in order to get things for the drive to Oregon. I can not begin to tell you the levels of confusion I had upon arriving in the U.S.. It was almost to much to take in after being away for almost 7 years. I went to Wal-mart and stood in the aisles with my mouth wide open from all of the choices. I couldn't even pick out a simple shampoo because of how many different varities there were. I became agitated until I could find the one I used to use before I came here.I noticed that I went straight back to the products I had used before in order to find some sort of comfort in the sea of brightly colored packages that claimed one thing or another.
I arrived Wednesday morning and we left for Oregon the following morning at 7 am. There was a total of 7 of us family members who climbed into a van to make the trip. It took us 17 hours the first day to make it to Washington. I honestly don't know how I made it. I was crazy tired,jet lagged, and stressed beyond belief. I stayed up the whole time and by the time we all went to bed at my Grandfather's house,all I could hear was the ringing in my ears and the constant rocking motion of being in a car. I think I slept a total of 5 hours. The next morning was getting ready and heading to Corvallis,Oregon to meet my Mom,sister in law, and nephews for lunch. I ached from head to tow from the flight and then the long car ride. I was nervous to see everyone and hoped everything went ok.
I spotted my Mom and doubled over with tears. She didn't recognize me at first from all of the weight I had lost. It's one thing to see a picture of someone but sometimes you don't make the connection when you see them up close. We cried and hugged and we all sat down for lunch.
It was weird to see everyone and talk about my brother and everyone looking at me because of how much I had changed. The drive back to Washington was a quiet one. All I could do was look outside and take it all in. I have missed the trees,and the water,and the mountains, and all the wildlife. I have missed the wide open spaces, big roads, and the happy smiles of Americans. In every single store I went into I made sure to chat with everyone that I could. I loved it.
The following day was the funeral and let me tell you how odd it is to have to re-introduce yourself to people because they longer recognize you from the weight loss. I could hear people whispering that they had no idea who I was..and that was coming from an Uncle. A funeral is an odd thing. You see people you only remember being around as a kid or a teenager..and they haven't allowed you to age in that amount of time. I had people talking to me as if I were super young, or a 14 year old who wore all black. I am 39 with two teenaged sons but for some that was to much to take in. So I let them keep me where they wanted in order to bring them some comfort. After the funeral it was back in the car for a quick meal and then on to the road again to California. We made it in a lot less time due to not stopping for every single meal. We arrived Sunday morning and I was to leave again for home on Thursday.
I had zero time to go and see everything that I wanted to and I didn't eat at all of my favorite things..simply because I wasn't hungry,spent the entire time being bloated from what I did eat and just didn't care. I was able to ship two boxes of goodies home for everyone and of course for myself :). It was an odd trip that barely left me anytime with my Dad.
Oh! one of the perks from a massive weight loss is alllllllll the crazy amounts of space I had when it came to the airline seat and seat belt! The last time I flew I was around 300 pounds. Not this time! It felt great to not have to worry about if I was going to fit or not. I had a slight hiccup when entering the U.S. The woman at the customs line wouldn't accept my passport because of the weight loss. She couldn't recognize me in the photo so I started tossing all kinds of picture ID's at her and breaking out into hives as I explained my weight loss to her. Thankfully she let me through.
I'm tired,stressed,depressed, and just trying to move forward. The shock of my brother's death is still with me,dealing with seeing everyone after so long and the reasons behind the actual leaving of the U.S. has all come rushing back. I'll be back up and running next week and I can't wait to show you some of the breads I baked before I left and the ones I plan on getting to over the next few days. It feels good to be baking again and giving myself a break from having to think about things to much.
The U.S. was as beautiful as it ever was and I miss it terribly.