Thursday, March 31, 2011

Pita Bread

I know, this is a bread blog, right? And yesterday I shared a recipe for pickled jalapeños... what is this girl doing?

Well, it is all very methodical, because for dinner we had pitas - with homemade whole wheat garlic pita bread, falafel, veggies, feta cheese AND - pickled jalapeños! I mean, a woman cannot live on bread alone.

To make your own pitas at home all you have to do is follow is a simple bread recipe, roll them out like you are making a pizza, bake, slice down the middle and stuff with loads of yummy stuff!

Ingredients for Whole Wheat Garlic Pita Bread mostly from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian 
2 cups unbleached white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/4 cups warm water
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp yeast
2 tsp sea salt
2 tsp garlic powder (double if using fresh)
1/2 tsp sugar

Mix the yeast, sugar, olive oil, garlic powder and salt in a bowl, and add the warm water. Let sit for a couple minutes.

Then add in the flour all at once and knead until elastic. Roll into a ball and leave to rise for a couple hours.

It never fails to amaze me - look at how much it rose! 

Divide the dough into 6 pieces and roll them into balls. I left my dough to rise for closer to 3 hours, and it was a bit dry, so as I was rolling them I did so with wet hands.

Roll them out into rounds, no thinner than 1/4 inch in thickness. Let rest for 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400 F.

If you are using a baking stone, dust a pizza peel with flour and place 2 or 3 pitas on it, depending on how they will fit onto the stone. If you don't have baking stone, you can use a lightly oiled cookie sheet. Bake them for about 5-7 minutes on each side.

Then you have beautiful pita bread! 

Let them cool, and slice them down the middle about halfway, using the tip of the knife to carefully carve out the remaining half of the pita.

Then fry up some falafel. 

Slather homemade hummus on one side (coming tomorrow!) and begin stuffing with falafel. 

And cheese, and veggies, and those crunchy pickled jalapeños!

Then top with some fantastic dressing! I bought this months ago, probably before Christmas, and completely forgot about it until I found it while spring cleaning the kitchen. It's SO good. 

All in all, an extremely satisfying meal. 

And today, for about one GLORIOUS hour, we has this: 

SUN!!!!! Short-lived, but beautiful. 

Not so satisfying: Well, now I'm sick as well. I suppose when you live with someone, and share a bed, and a bathroom, and a car... it was bound to happen. I am slamming back the orange juice, putting away the Airborne, and sipping on hot tea... Hopefully it will pass quickly!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Dreary Spring Days

Well... it's raining. And gray. And dreary. And I haven't seen the sun for over a week, and not even the happy lamp is helping right now.

After I got back from Holden Village I was excited about being super productive. All the laundry (6 loads) was finished last Saturday, folded and put away. Also, I finally used a gift card from Christmas and got some new panties and a new bra. Glorious; especially when Victoria's Secret runs their 7 for $25 sale! Totally worth waiting for. =)

On Sunday we began Spring cleaning... went through everything in the office. Decided it was time to recycle all the extra wedding invitations, registry cards, and six month's worth of paper. How on earth is it that we collect SO damn much paper? I really don't need 3 new credit card offers per day thank you very much. At any rate, the office is clean and organized, just how I like it. Then we moved into the closets and a bit of the kitchen on Monday, cleaned those out, organized, wiped down shelves, and gathered up a few items we didn't use or need anymore to donate. We had momentum.

THEN, a bratty kid at the Y sneezed in her hands and then directly placed her hands into the tub of Legos. All momentum came to a screeching halt. Now, the husband is sick. I am not doing all the spring cleaning on my own!

This weather has got me down. I usually make it through the winter just fine, but when the winter weather lingers when I am so ready for spring, it is hard to not be grumpy. I am trying to be positive and keep up my spirits, so here are some things that I have been doing to fight the dreary spring days and keep up some momentum:

1. Drinking lots of tea and orange juice. I want to stay healthy!

2. Heading to the gym - I am totally a fair weather outdoors-woman; when it is cold and rainy I hibernate. So, to keep up my energy and conditioning, I have hit the treadmill.

3. Yoga. It's peaceful, soothing, a stress-reliever, and a strength builder. All from the comfort of my living room... when I can kick Ross off the couch and National Geographic.

4. Baking simple loaves of bread - our favorite, a honey whole wheat.

5. Little spring cleaning projects are still going on, one at a time, like cleaning out the kitchen shelves and cabinets. And constantly doing the dishes. I HATE doing the dishes, which is why I always volunteer to cook. Someone else can do the dishes. But when my someone else is sick... I do them. Because I love that someone else. A lot. And - I am grateful that I have dishes to do, and food to put on those dishes.

6. Trying to spice things up in the kitchen - literally - with pickled jalapeños! Who knew it would be so easy to make your own pickled-anything at home? It is easy.

To make pickles (from cucumbers, carrots, radish, celery, eggplant, peaches, turnips, beets. etc) from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman.

1 pound jalapeños (or other)
3 Tbsp salt
1 cup white vinegar or white wine vinegar
1/8 cup sugar
Spices - mixture of cinnamon, bay leaves, mustard seeds, allspice berries, whole cloves, black peppercorns, coriander seeds, dill seeds, cardamom seeds (about 1/8 cup total)*

Wash and slice, quarter, etc. your vegetable. Place them in a colander in the sink and sprinkle with 1 Tbsp of salt, toss well, and let sit for 2 hours.
After that, pat them dry and place them in a non metal bowl.
On the stove, mix all the remaining ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil. Then, pour over your vegetable/jalapeños and let cool down to room temperature.
Transfer the jalapeños and pickling liquid into a jar, and let sit in the refrigerator for at least 3 days. They will be good for up to 3 weeks.

They're sweet, sour and spicy all at the same time! I love it!
*I didn't have all the spices, nor was I going to go buy them, so I used what I had and some were powdered. It turned out just fine, just that the liquid was a bit cloudy. Be creative! 

7. Oh, right, and spring quarter started, which means I have to revert into graduate student mode again. This quarter I'm working on my field project, doing an independent study, and TA-ing Environmental Science 101 -  a class of 450 students, mostly freshman. %-) That's a lot of bodies - considering a class that size would have been 25% of the undergraduate student population at CLU!

Ah, the joys and soggy salutations of Spring! What's on your Spring cleaning list?

Sunday, March 27, 2011


Ross and I fell in love with crepes at the Bellingham Farmer's Market when we first moved to Bellingham 2 years ago (has it really been that long?!?!). In addition to vendors with fresh, local produce and artisan crafts, every market has hot and ready to eat food as well. That first summer, without fail, we would go to the market and get "Le Viking" - a buckwheat crepe filled with cream cheese, smoked salmon, and caramelized garlic onions. Uh- MAZING. And to top it off - there were dessert crepes too. 

Then our second spring and summer in Bellingham rolled around, and we were salivating in anticipation of those crepes... but the Crepes Guy never came back!!!! It was painful, we were in angst... we'd never tried any other vendor. I'd sort of just resigned myself to never having them again, but if there's anything I've learned over the past few months it is this: YOU CAN MAKE THEM YOURSELF. 

So we did, and started with dessert crepes for breakfast. 

Crepes from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman 
1 cup whole wheat flour 
Pinch of salt 
1 Tbsp sugar 
11/4  cups milk 
Splash of Brandy 
2 eggs 
2 Tbsp butter, melted and cool 
Desired fillings (mashed bananas, nutella, berries, yogurt. etc.) 
Plus oil for the pan and powdered sugar to sprinkle on top 

Mix together all the ingredients and wish until smooth. 

Now read carefully: the trick to a successful crepe is to let your pan heat up - and only pour on the batter when it is nice and hot. Spray a little oil on the pan, use a ladle to pour some batter in and use it to swirl the batter in the pan until it forms an even, thin layer. 

Very quickly (maybe a minute) it will dry out on top. Then flip the crepe and cook on the other side for about 30 seconds. It should brown only slightly and never crisp. You can stack them on a plate and fill them later, or multi-task and fill them as you go. 

Filling is super simple; just spread out the ingredients evenly, not too much, and then roll the crepe. 

I made some filled with warm mixed berries, and topped them with vanilla yogurt and sprinkled on powdered sugar. They were delicious! 

Next time - we're going to skip the sweet and try savory crepes with (you guessed it!) smoked salmon, cream cheese, and caramelized garlic onions.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Holden Village

I'm back!!! I got home late last night from a wonderful week at Holden Village near Lake Chelan, where I did a training in CPR and Wilderness First Aid for their staff - just another one of my many hobbies. It was a great way to spend my spring break - though the village just hit over 300 inches of snow for the year while we were there! It was anything but spring!

Holden Village is a year-round Lutheran ecumenical retreat center deep in the Cascade Mountains and offers a place for peace, rest and renewal. Without phone service, internet or television, and transportation coming in and out the village only 3 days a week in the winter (you cannot drive there, you either take the boat and then the Holden buses or you hike in) ... it is as remote as it can get. 

Holden Village is a very special place to Ross and me; this is a picture of our first trip to Holden in February of 2010. Holden is many things - but first and foremost it is a worshiping community. Vespers (evening worship) is held every night at 7 and is the one activity during the day that every member of the community comes together. That usually happens at meals too, and the food is FANTASTIC, though it is not required.

In the dining hall 
 If you've been reading my posts for a while, you know that I like to use the cookbook the village printed - Lavish Simplicity. 

Someone once told me that if you ever wanted to see fully realized Christian environmental stewardship, you must go to Holden Village. When people ask me what Holden Village is, I tend to say that it is a Lutheran hippie commune. As it is a remote community, there is no public waste service. All waste is meticulously sorted and is under the supervision of the village Garbologist. Waste is separated into landfill, burn, recycle, and compost, and every village staff member helps sort waste once a week as part of their commitment to the community. 

And consider power - the Village produces nearly all of its power from a single hydroelectric plant on Railroad Creek; essentially, the village power is free, granted there is the cost of maintenance. If the creek is flowing low, as it does in the winter, all village members do their part to conserve energy; dryers are turned off, lights are turned off, computers shut down, and no one uses a hair dryer either. 

The simple lodging with handmade quilts in each room, with mints on our pillows. (That was amazing - but unfortunately only an option if you bring an awesome friend who places them on your pillow every day. Thanks Hayley!)

The famous Holden school buses. 

Waiting on the dock for the Lady of the Lake. 

Enjoying the views.

And since I love food... and bread... I present a photo essay of (a very small minute amount) of what the village cooks bake every day, from scratch.