DIY: Whole wheat bread

I recently bought 1 pound of instant yeast from King Arthur Flour for 11.95 (including shipping and handling), and I have been regularly making bread with it.  You can either make sandwiches with it (if you use a loaf pan) or toast it (either a loaf pan or dutch oven).

It is terrific fresh out of the oven, and can be used for a few days afterward.  You can then store it in the refrigerator and revive its crunchy, delicious crust with a toaster.

Whole Wheat Bread

Makes 1 loaf (9 x 5 pan) or 1 round (dutch oven)

  • 1/2 tsp. yeast
  • 1 3/4 cup whey (from homemade yogurt) or water
  • 2 3/4 c. all purpose flour
  • 7/8 c. whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp. salt

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Let rise anywhere from 2 hours to overnight.

IF USING LOAF PAN: Transfer to greased pan and loosely cover until dough has risen to touch the top of the covering (plastic wrap or tea towel).  Bake for 30 min. at 450 degrees, then remove from pan and bake directly on rack for 10 more minutes.

IF USING DUTCH OVEN: Preheat oven to 450 with dutch oven inside for approx. 30 minutes.  Grease dutch oven and transfer dough to the pot.  Bake for 30 min. covered, and then uncover dutch oven and bake for 10 more minutes.

Let cool completely before slicing (although I never can wait to eat that first piece).

DIY: Sourdough starter

I am in the process of making my first starter for sourdough bread.  I am not sure how it will turn out in a sourdough loaf, but the kitchen smells like apples and booze right now, so I think it is probably working.

I am using the foolproof method, which uses a bit of commercial yeast and is considered cheating by purists, but I like easy, no-knead types of bread so obviously I am willing to cut corners in order to avoid a failed experiment that wastes my flour.

Sourdough Starter

Mix by hand 1/2 cup of all purpose flour, 1/8 tsp. of instant yeast, and about 1/3 cup of filtered (non-chlorinated water – you want yeast to grow in your starter!).  If you don’t mind truly experimenting, you can omit the yeast and hope there’s enough in the air that wants to live in your dough.

Cover with a tea towel at room temperature overnight.  For the next 3 days, feed the starter with 1/3 cup flour and 1/4 to 1/3 cup water daily.  After each feeding it should have the consistency of gravy.

After the first 3 or 4 days of feeding, pour out 1/3 of the starter and continue feeding for another 4-5 days.  After about 10 days total the starter should be ready to use in a sourdough recipe.

 

Crossfit WOD with weights only

My favorite part of a Crossfit workout is the weight lifting portion (with actual weights, n0t just body weights).  I find rowing and running and jump roping and burpees to be boring exercises.  If I am going rowing, I want to be in the water with an oar – if I am going running, I want to be running away from bears (that part’s not true – not a good idea to run from bears, by the way).

So it is no surprise that my favorite workout of the day/metabolic conditioning workout/met-con involves weight lifting.  Today we did a 20-minute workout using a barbell.

  • Deadlift
  • Pull
  • Clean
  • Push-press
  • Push-jerk

Doing one of each counts as 1 rep, then you do 1-2-3 ladder sets with a partner – partner 1 does 1 rep, partner 2 does 1 rep, etc., until you each finish 3 reps.  That counts as one set, after which you add weight and do another 1-2-3 ladder set.  As many as possible for 20 minutes.  It gets really hard but it’s a lot of fun!

Picnics and Potlucks: Avocado dip

Since it is picnic and barbecue season, I thought I would share a recipe that I bring to various potlucks throughout the summer: avocado dip.  It is delicious and easy, makes a ton (which occasionally means leftovers!), and you can either make it entirely out of fresh ingredients or you can buy some pre-made ingredients.

Avocado Dip

Ingredients:

  • Approx. 5 avocados
  • Cumin
  • Garlic salt (or garlic powder and salt, or fresh garlic and salt)
  • Lemon juice
  • Homemade plain yogurt (or sour cream)
  • Salsa (approx. 2 cups, either jarred or homemade)
  • Cilantro
  • Cheese (a Mexican blend, or cheddar, Monterey jack, etc.)
  • Fresh tomatoes
  • Green onions

Mash 5 avocados with cumin, garlic salt, and lemon to taste.  Layer on the bottom of a 9×13 casserole dish.  Cover with yogurt, then salsa for the next two layers.  Sprinkle cilantro over the salsa.  Add a cheese layer, then top with fresh diced tomatoes and green onions.  Serve with tortilla chips.

Alternative grocery stores

I usually shop at Fred Meyer, Trader Joe’s, and Safeway for groceries.  Over the past few months I have been keeping a list comparing the prices of our staples (milk, eggs, chicken, etc.) from each store.  After deciding to make Thai sticky rice and mango for dessert, I went to the Asian grocery store about 4 miles away to look for the sticky rice.  The store had comparable prices for many items, but was much cheaper in terms of produce (Rainier cherries for 2.99/lb, bean sprouts for .49/lb) and things like eggs, which were cheaper than the Western grocery store prices except for steep occasional sales (Fred Meyer: $.99 per dozen eggs).  In addition, we were able to buy shelled peanuts for 2.12/lb, so that we can make peanut butter in our blender for cheaper than it would cost to buy a pound of peanut butter.

While I don’t plan on going to 4 grocery stores every week, I think an occasional run to the Asian market will yield interesting fruits and vegetables that might not normally be sold in the Western stores, and cheaper staples whenever we may need them.  It’s helpful to keep a list on my phone of all the things that we usually purchase so that I can do some comparison shopping on the spot.

DIY: Mango and sticky rice

I live in Seattle, where the unofficial food of the city is Thai.  If you walk down my street, you can pass 5 different Thai restaurants of varying quality.  One thing they all do well, however, is mango and sticky rice, which I try to eat whenever it is in season.  This can add up, though, and since we haven’t been eating out much, there are fewer opportunities to have it.

I have attempted to look through Thai cookbooks for meal ideas, but given the fact that we like to eat a variety of dishes, and each dish seems to require 20 different ingredients, I have been daunted from making the attempt to cook Thai food.

Not so with mango and sticky rice.  It requires only 6 ingredients, half of which are staples  (mango, sticky rice, coconut milk, sugar, flour, and salt).  I used two websites to help me perfect my recipe: Thai Table and Makin’ It with Frankie.

First, soak the rice for a couple of hours, then steam it in a steamer inside some muslin or cheesecloth for about 20 minutes.

While you’re doing this, heat up the coconut milk on medium heat for 5 minutes, whisking constantly, along with 1 tablespoon of flour, 2 tablespoons of sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt per cup of coconut milk.  (Unsurprisingly, this mixture tastes a lot like haupia, a coconut milk Hawaiian pudding that I can eat by the tubful.)

Add about 1/3 cup of coconut milk mixture to a cup of hot sticky rice, then serve with mango.

You can also save the rice and coconut milk for later – the rice reheats very well in the microwave.  You save a lot of money over the price of a restaurant dessert, and it is just as delicious.

My best friend, the library

People who know me notice that I am always reading.  Left unchecked (by work or other things), I would probably read 15 books a week.  This would be a very expensive habit if not for the excellent Seattle public library system.  I can either check out books from a location, or on my Kindle online.  I can also check out DVDs with varying amounts of wait time.  Mr. LL and I also like to spend time there reading books and magazines on the weekend.

We now use the library for these things (as a substitute for things that we would otherwise have to pay for):

1) Borrowing books (instead of buying them from Amazon or the bookstore): I rarely ever bought books before now, but Mr. LL tended to buy books since he doesn’t zip through them as fast as I do.

2) Borrowing DVDs (instead of having a monthly subscription to Blockbuster Online)

3) Recreation (instead of going to the coffeehouse to read and drink coffee)

The trade-offs are:

1) Wait times: I can’t immediately get popular books or DVDs, but there are plenty of other books to read, and in many cases, we got a DVD from the library while the same DVD was still languishing at #1 in our Blockbuster queue.

2) No coffee while we read and hang out: Normally we have coffee before or after we go to the library.  What we really like is just being somewhere away from home.

Bottom line:

This probably ends up saving us about $60/month in coffee drinks and DVD subscriptions, and even more if you count the books that we might otherwise buy.