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Archive for the ‘breads’ Category

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With this Unprocessed October Challenge, I’ve been reading a lot of labels. I forget how much crap is in things. I don’t buy much processed food, or thought I didn’t, but I tend to forget about everyday purchases like tortillas or crackers. Just the other day I threw a pack each of corn and flour tortillas into my cart without much thought. They’re tortillas from a local company, not chicken nuggets so they’re fine, right? Maybe, maybe not.

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1hero.lrg.IMG_3863 The annual Unprocessed October challenge is two weeks in and I’m doing OK. How about you? I’ve slipped up a few times, usually not realizing it until I’m halfway through eating or drinking something but overall this one is certainly do-able. The Vegan-Before-6 challenge I decided to tack on isn’t going nearly as well. Processed foods are easier to avoid, for me at least, but this vegan challenge takes some planning and thought. Neither of which are a particularly strong character trait of mine early in the morning. The very first day, October 1, I ate a mini Snickers bar at work, which technically voided both challenges. Great. Day 2 I purposely drove out of my way to a particular café for lunch where I thought I’d find a vegan friendly option. Not so much so I decided on the fly that simply vegetarian was an ok substitute and had gouda on my rather plain, disappointing sandwich. Day 3 I absentmindedly buttered my morning toast, out of habit. Day 4 I did it again. Day 5 I made a beautiful stir fry packed with vegetables and tofu, then tossed in a healthy shot of fish sauce before I realized what I was doing.  Day 6 I threw all rules to the wind and thoroughly enjoyed 3 fat spoonfuls of pastry cream I’d made for a Boston Cream Pie. It was delicious. And that’s when I decided I would have to amend my challenge. I really have no problem avoiding meat but dairy is my downfall, and I accept that. To do this right, I need to concentrate and now is not time so I’m going to continue with Unprocessed October and make conscious choices in other matters, vegan-ish if I can swing it. No need to beat myself up about this.

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I was talking to my cousin last week and among many things we discussed – work, politics, holidays, travel, hipsters, Reuben sandwiches – was her recently departed mother. My Aunt Patti was a real character, a remarkable woman with strong social and political opinions backed with just as strong action. That woman did things, made things happen, made a difference. She was really funny, had boundless energy and laughed easily. She and my uncle had a bit of hippie in them, lived in a solar house they built themselves, raised and butchered their own animals for a time and had an enormous garden. She approached this newfound hipster fascination with butchery and canning with a bemused grin given that she’d been doing in for years. When I excitedly told her how I was spending time with butchers, learning how to break down a pig, blathering on about heritage hogs and whatnot, she howled with laughter and reminded me that back in the day, Thanksgiving at their house also meant it was time to butcher the pigs they raised. Much to my city girl chagrin I realized I should have paid more attention back then. Patti was also a helluva cook, coming from a long line of great cooks. She was the caretaker of our family recipes, taking the time to learn from her mother and grandmother many of our sentimental favorites.

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In 2010, I wrote about Pretzel Rolls and it’s become far and away my most popular post over these past five years.  With good reason. They’re delicious, both on their own with a little butter and maybe a drizzle of honey or as the base of a fantastic sandwich.  Back when I wrote the post, I wasn’t happy with what I could find at the stores; they were always slightly stale and I found this incredibly annoying.  Why do we continue to buy subpar bread?  So I decided to call it quits developed my own recipe.  They’re not overly difficult than any yeast dough but with the added step of a baking soda poach to get that characteristic chewy brown crust.  Shortly thereafter, I used the dough to wrap all beef hot dogs for a much better version that what you can buy.  Then I just sat back and absentmindedly watched the hits, pleased that others found them as enjoyable as I did.

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Like many travelers, I became obsessed with pizza while traveling through Italy.  It’s unavoidable.  It was the late ’90’s, my boyfriend and I had quit our jobs and were taking three months to travel right after I finished my final graduate school course in Rome.  To make our limited funds last the entire trip, we’d alternate between really nice and really cheap meals.  It’s no surprise that we ate a lot of pizza while in Italy – cheap, plentiful and filling, it made for a good snack or meal. And it was delicious!  Truth be told, we ate a lot of everything in Italy.  It was glorious.  There were authentic Napoletana style pies down south and thick slices sold by the weight farther north.  We tried them all. It was where I enjoyed my first real pizza margherita overlooking an old city wall in Naples, discovered incredibly fresh buffalo mozzarella that couldn’t have been more than a day old, and to my delight, a pizza with an egg in the center, the yolk running deliciously every which way.  All were wonderful, other worldly.  Between the pizza and the gelato, I was happy.  I discovered a lot of glorious things in Italy but this is definitely when my obsession with pizza di patate began.

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Every Thanksgiving growing up started the same way:  warm Pillsbury whack-a-tube caramel rolls and Swiss Miss hot chocolate with extra marshmallows in front of the TV watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in our PJs.  We’d sing along with whatever popstar was floating down 5th Avenue, ooh and aah at the balloons, wait eagerly for the Broadway numbers, wonder why the Rockettes weren’t freezing and freely judge the Santa was based on very important factors like beard length (Was it real? Incredibly important) and costume authenticity.  Then we usually snacked on the turkey livers, squirted some Reddi-Whip in our mouths when our mom wasn’t looking and waited out the long, endless afternoon until Thanksgiving dinner and a few football games.

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Eighth grade trips to someplace historical are a rite of passage in our country.  Growing up in the Southwest, I didn’t realize that for most kids on the other side of the country, this meant a long bus ride to Washington DC for an up close and personal history lesson.  This wasn’t really an option for us desert kids.  Oh, we got something it was just very different yet just as culturally significant.  For us, a young and enthusiastic math teacher piled a bunch of squirmy 13-year olds on a bus and took us to visit her Grandmother.  Let me explain.

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