March 28, 2012

Potato, Patahdo: Meh... Does It Matter?

I did a potato and eggs cookery class last night and heard something that if I'd known before, I hadn't been paying attention, because it was ALL NEW to me. Are you ready for this? Because it's big. And makes a difference in how you cook them...if you're interested in great results that is. Here goes: potatoes can be classified into two categories: Mealy and Waxy. Wow. Such simple information. Now what do I do with it? And why does it take paying a chunk of change to go to a class to find out something that I could theoretically find out for free on a 30 second YouTube video?

Examples of Mealy: Russet, Idaho Russet and others with thicker skins which look dull to me.
Examples of Waxy: Yukon Gold, white, red, fingerling and others with thinner skins that look a little shinier and cleaner to me.

Mealy potatoes have high starch content and fall apart when cooked. They are good for baking, mashing and deep frying. So baked potato bars, mashed potatoes and french fries. And that's pretty much it.

Waxy potatoes are also known as the chef's potatoes. You can do all sorts of things with them because they hold their shape after being cooked. In our class we used the Yukon Golds to make several dishes.

I've made Pomme Rosti (hashbrowns) several times in previous years. It's simple, right? Sure, grate the potato and pop it in a frying pan. Cook for a bit and flip it over. Easy-peasy. Or so I thought. I haven't been able to get mine to consistently turn out. Ever.

My problem? The potato. I usually buy and use regular brown potatoes at the other words, the mealy ones. I thought they were all the same (besides slightly different colors and flavors). They aren't. They turned into a gooey mess for a reason. This morning, I made the boys Pommes Rosti and they turned out. I used the red potatoes we had in our cupboard. Yay!

I learned to make Pommes Anna last night, too. It was good...even if extra-crispy because my partner and I forgot them in the oven while we were working on latke. We got that on the stove and then remembered our Pommes Anna. Then we burned our latke. What a mess. We also learned how to do scalloped and duchess potatoes and also how to get mashed potatoes that tasted like the ones at the Salish Lodge. Next experiment? Croquette (tater tots). We didn't have time to do them last night. But I've got a good idea where to start. Maybe we'll make some for dinner tonight...but I think I need to go buy some more potatoes. Waxy, of course.

FYI: the secret to the mashed potatoes is all about the butter. Instead of a little butter with your potato, it's a little potato with your butter. Seriously. So fatty. So good.

Other mashed potato tips:
1. Peel potatoes after they've been cooked. You can put them in a hot oven (400*F) for a few minutes after peeling, too. This dries out the excess moisture from boiling and gets them ready to soak in the butter.
2. Instead of mashing, use a food mill/ricer. They'll be light and fluffy and not gooey from intense mechanical pressure.
3. Heat the milk before adding it in. You can also infuse it with garlic in this step. Cold milk will give you the same results you've always gotten. Not the fantastic texture or flavors that I have never been able to duplicate at home. Until now. Cooking classes are truly amazing. Seeing, hearing, smelling, doing, tasting. All in the moment. It truly helps ensure success cooking at home.

Potato, Patahdo: Meh... Does It Matter? I'm so glad you asked. Why yes, yes it does.

March 26, 2012

Dirty Laundry

I'm okay with laundry. 
Peed in sheets.
Skid marked undies.
No problem.
As long as I don't have to fold it.

But my good graces expire
when every day a certain little boy
comes home with mud on his pants.

The story sounds similar each time.
He slid down the hill next to the bus stop,
Fell down on the playground,
Or jumped off the swing and landed on his bum.
Then he comes home with muddy pants,
Flakes of dried dirt congregate in little piles
next to his shoes in the entryway,
And he sits on the couch,
Plays on the carpet,
Oblivious to the mess he's spreading.
This will not do.
Not do at all.

My sweet 5 year old is now doing laundry.
He's scrubbing dirt off of pants,
Separating undies from peed in pants,
Sorting colors,
Measuring soap,
And pushing buttons.
He doesn't really like doing laundry.
Me neither.

This past week a friend came over to play.
The sand box called to them.
They couldn't resist.
It had rained and the sand was wet.
Dirty bums galore.
But not Jett.
"Mom! I didn't sit down in the sand!"
And a few days later:
"Mom! I was on the monkey bars,
I fell down
and landed on my hands and feet!"
He's learning.

March 21, 2012

Spelt Bread Recipe

The first time I tried to make spelt bread (last month) was a disaster. Well, not really a disaster. I know you remember my  Bunny and crumble breads. But I couldn't get the dough right, it wasn't totally cooked before I had to leave the house, I cooked it on residual heat for a few hours and it ended up being super heavy. Which is fine if you're making bricks. I needed it for sandwiches, though. Spelt and wheat both have gluten, which I took to mean that they behaved the same. They don't. So that just means I have to be smarter than my grain. Or smart enough to handle it's sass.

The spelt bread I made this afternoon was so delightful we had sandwiches for dinner.

Spelt Bread Recipe:
Don't be a hater about the measuring by weight. It's actually easier to measure and get consistent results that way rather than in cups - with packed vs. unpacked flours, etc. It's also nicer to put honey directly into the dough bowl instead of into a cup and then pouring that into the bowl. Go to Amazon and pick up a kitchen scale. I got this one to weigh Kira when we were tracking her weight closely as a newborn. I love it and it's got a tare feature which is a must.

Combine 750 g water and 1200 - 1300 g spelt four (I used freshly ground spelt) until it looks shaggy. So in the stand mixer, I set it to stir and it went for about a minute or less. Let the mixture sit for 20-60 minutes.

Do some dishes. Clean the counter. Put a load of laundry in.

Come back and sprinkle 25 g yeast to the top.

Then add 100 g honey, 100 g molasses and 2 eggs. Start the mixer up again and add 45 g of Kosher salt and 250 g multi-grain flour (mine is made of equal parts of rye, rice, spelt, wheat, quinoa, pinto bean, millet and barley). You'll probably mix it for about 3 minutes. You may want to add more flour. But realize this will be a sticky dough...don't think smooth as a baby's bottom. That's a good way to make brick bread.

Transfer the dough into a container to rise. It will double or triple in size over the next hour and a half. When this happens, divide it evenly into your pans.

Pat down the dough carefully (it's sticky) so that the globs of dough are semi-even in the pan. It will rise again so you don't have to be too concerned with shape. If you do it wrong, it doesn't matter. Send me a photo of your lop-sided bread.

This recipe yields enough dough for two 13"x4"x4" pullman loaf pans. If you don't want to bake this much bread at once or your pans are smaller, you can save unused dough in the fridge for a few days until it's time to bake again.

After 30 minutes of the second rise, start preheating your oven to 350* F. It'll take 15-20 minutes to reach the proper temp. Then bake the bread (dough should have almost doubled) for 40 minutes. It will rise a bit more. Thanks to my sister, I now know that if I stick a thermometer in the middle of the loaf, it should read 200* F when it's done. If you're like I used to be then you can test it by just tapping on it to see if it sounds "hollow"...whatever that means.

My dinner sandwich: Spelt bread, aioli mustard, tomato, avocado and basil.

March 7, 2012

Big Girl Tantrum

See this face?

So sweet, right? Yeah. But not always. I'm pretty sure I just broke my toe. I had a temper tantrum and kicked a shoe or backpack or whatever it was in the middle of the hall. I'm just like my kids. Except bigger.

 The worst part is that I'm leaving tomorrow on vacation a business trip to Salt Lake City and will be limping around. Not exactly ideal timing. I'm sure it won't be all bad. I'm going to a blogging conference, which will also be a lot of fun. Plus, I can take my shoe off and no one will really notice.

Little Kira is staying home with dad. I've been pumping a little each day the past couple of weeks and now have the freezer stocked with milk. She doesn't like formula and I love Tymon too much to leave him with a screaming/hungry baby. This will also leave me engorged and pumping in between classes at the conference. I guess that won't be so bad. More like a thirst quencher if I get hungry and don't want water. Ha ha ha.

2 Days Later - Yowser it hurts.

March 1, 2012

The Last Letter

Sending off the last letter.
February's Month of Letters warms my heart and now that it's over you'll hear me breathing a great sigh of relief. I enjoyed writing and connecting with others. Each night, Tymon and I walked to the mail box late. Often after midnight. I don't think I've seen so many stars since working outside in the desert of southern Utah. The one on one time with Tymon walking with the heavens was the best part.
 I admit it, though, there were times when the hour was late and I didn't know who to write but I knew I had to choose someone, pressure mounting with each passing minute. Hense the feeling of relief because I no longer have to choose someone.
So who did I choose? 25 lovlies - family, friends (high school, college, mission, church, work), a stranger in the hospital, Costco, DSHS, and even my old host families in France and Russia (until now I never contacted either one after leaving).
I think the most difficult part of the letter writing was thinking that I had to write something that wasn't already on my blog...did you notice a shortage of posts this past month? Yeah, I had to save my material for the letters. Another challenge was getting over the feeling  that I needed to write timeless messages of if they had to be like dying words to remember me by. Ha ha ha. Since I don't intend to check out for a while, I forced myself to be present and write in an every day conversational tone. It made me think about each reader as a person and appreciate each relationship.
I received many forms of responses: one return hand-written letter (yes!), phone calls, several emails, Facebook messages, and even a text. Thank you!
So what's next? We Johns are a driven sort. Tymon and I are taking on A Total Transformation for 30 minutes a day this month. We expect to develop at least a couple effective parenting strategies out of the program. Short and sweet goals certainly make self improvement seem manageable. 

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