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The quest for easy, fresh-baked bread…Mission accomplished? (Updated)


The other day, I tried this recipe from Natalie Oldfield’s Gran’s Kitchen cookbook (via 101 Cookbooks).

Why should you even click on the above link to the recipe?

  • No kneading
  • yeasty bread
  • Start to finish (including the time it takes for the bread to rise) in under 2 hours
  • Oatmeal, whole wheat, versatile wholesome-y, tweak-able goodness.

Do it.

I spritzed the loaf with olive oil and sprinkled whole wheat flakes on top before popping it into the oven. Nutty goodness ensued.

Mine was a little bit on the crumbly side after a few hours and a few slices, but I threw the remaining slices into the oven under the broiler (ever-so-quickly), and they made for great toast (with great peanut butter) the next morning.

Mostly, I like this recipe because I can time things so My Man comes home at about the same time I’m taking fresh bread out of the oven. Clever girl. (Yeah, that’s right…my house smells like fresh-baked bread. Hah!)

So, why does the title of this post end with a question mark?

I’ve got a bold tweak in the oven at the moment. I had some bread-machine mix (no bread machine, mind you) for 7 grain bread in the cupboard, so I used it in place of the flours/oats in the original recipe. But then I added salt. And yeast, like the recipe calls for. I suspect that was a bad move, since the mix had these things already. However, the mix had been opened, so I thought some of the yeast might be bust by now. To compensate (really, just because it’s what I do), I threw in a handful of whole wheat flakes and a handful of wheat germ.

I tasted the batter after scooping it into the loaf pan, and it was salty. I might be able to boot and rally, but I’m not sure.

So, we’ll see if I screwed the pooch on this one. It won’t be a reflection on the recipe if I did, so I still encourage you to try it.

The original bread has a whiff of sweetness to it (because of the oatmeal and the whisper of honey), but I think you could easily throw in dried herbs, or conversely add some cinnamon or nutmeg to sex it up according to your needs.

I’m off to check on the bread…and then to contemplate why bending, squatting, putting on and taking off shoes, etc. got so difficult all of a sudden. A couple of weeks ago, my little dude still gave me room. Now he’s hogging up my uterus. Naughty muppet. I’m grounding him until birth.

Post Script

Holy crap, I can’t believe I got away with that bread.

I expected a hard (or alien-like poofiness of a blob) brick of salty nastiness.

As it turned out, I have a slightly salty, very whole grain, high fiber, hearty  yet moist and soft (on the inside) bread.

Awesome.

My standards are pretty flex when it comes to eating my own food… but here’s the thing: my Portuguese man likes the bread.

Success, friends, by the skin of my teeth.

And now I’m more confident about baking.

Boa.

First Trimester highs and lows…


The first trimester of a pregnancy (one’s first, in my case) can be a lonely time. If it was planned, the exaltation in actually managing to conceive on purpose is soon checked by the realization that:

  1. One’s husband/partner is frustratingly pragmatic about not getting too excited, making too many plans, or telling too many (or any) people until the pregnancy progresses further.
  2. One generally doesn’t (tactfully) Facebook the news right after the pee-stick changes, even though one feels like doing so (just after skywriting the news and printing up “We’re Pregnant!!!” T-shirts)
  3. Close friends/confidantes/close relatives agree with the cautious approach of one’s husband in keeping things under wraps until you’ve at least seen the doctor.

An adult, educated woman who intentionally gets pregnant is most-likely aware of the many pitfalls that can occur in the early days of pregnancy. She probably has a philosophical approach outlined that is intended to accommodate the uncertainty of the time, the possibility of miscarriage or other travails, and to maintain a mental space for the “if at first you don’t succeed, try try again” attitude tempered with that pragmatism mentioned above.

That’s all well and good, but once the stick shows “positive”, it’s a whole new game.

What one knows can be quite different from what one feels…and to complicate things further, a recurring bit of advice from wiser women than oneself is that one should enjoy every moment of your pregnancy. Pragmatism and the full-body-embrace-of-living-and-loving-the-moment make odd bedfellows.

And yet it happens. And it generally works. I, lots of women, and Walt Whitman are okay with the fact that sometimes we contradict ourselves. We’re manifold. Deal with it.

It does, however, intensify the level of introspection in this trimester.

I don’t mean to be a downer. From the get-go, I was so hopeful and so pumped that the pregnancy test changed color…at first, I was absolutely (inexplicably) convinced that I’d willed the stick to change color and that perhaps I wasn’t actually pregnant. For one, it had been too easy. Fun, happy lovin’ sans condoms for a couple of weeks. No stress. No angst. No months and months of trying to conceive and considering fertility treatments and all the drama that is implied to be part and parcel for the 30-something-would-be-parents.

And after over half my life of trying not to get pregnant, and being successful, I was surprised that infertility wasn’t part of that ‘success’. Condoms really work, folks. Wow. Mindblowingly simple.

And not to mention that I still wake up sometimes and think “Holy crap! I’m married! That’s AWESOME!!!!”… getting my mind around the fact that I’m somehow ‘allowed’ to be married (strange as that sounds) took some time… then pregnancy?!? Wow.

And then there’s the realization that creation is going on in your uterus. In your uterus. That’s some real Carl Sagan shit right there.

So the future unfolds, you’re blown away by your new-found superpowers, you’re pumped, and eventually (usually after hearing the heartbeat for the first time), your partner allows him/herself to be psyched.

Nice 😉

Being who I am, I emailed Mom and Dad the second my urine produced that elusive 2nd pink line. And my bestie. And another couple girlfriends.

Being where I am, however, meant that we didn’t tell my Man’s parents or family until we had heard the heartbeat and we had the first ultrasound in hand to show them. It was very special when we did share the news with them, but the delay was not in my nature. Even close Portuguese friends were all very nonchalant about the fact that we didn’t say anything about the pregnancy for months.

…I’ll possibly continue this train of thought later 🙂 Until then, keep on keepin’ on!

Thanks, Chow.com–another surprisingly easy recipe of love :)


A bunch of Bananas.
Image via Wikipedia

We had some friends over for lunch (almoço) on Sunday, and despite the heat and a generally relaxed attitude, I decided to try my hand at dessert.

Enter Chow.com.

I flipped through some ideas on Saturday, and the Upside-Down Banana-Coffee tart jumped out– primarily because we’d just bought a lot of bananas (I’m still on that smoothie kick). The other reason, of course, was that I had all the ingredients in the house 🙂

Before I hand you over to the good, good lovin’ at Chow.com, I’ll note that I eliminated all the lemon details (zest and juice) from the recipe, and I used a store-bought puff-pastry dough. Also, be sure to tuck the edges of the pastry crust down into the sides of the pan…you won’t contain all of the delicious gooeyness, nor should you…but you want to keep some of it inside the tart 🙂

Upside-Down Banana-Coffee Tart Recipe

Upside-Down Banana-Coffee Tart
Difficulty: Hard

TIME/SERVINGS

Total: 1 hr

Active: 25 mins

Makes: 12 servings

Upside-Down Banana-Coffee TartSee More in the Gallery

  By Regan Burns

We got the inspiration for this recipe from the French apple upside-down tart known as tarte Tatin. For our version, we’ve replaced the apples with bananas and infused the caramel with coffee.

What to buy: Look for firm-ripe bananas that are still tinged with a bit of green—if they are too ripe, they’ll turn to mush in the oven.

Special equipment: A 12-inch cast iron skillet is perfect for this recipe; however, if you don’t have one, any heavy-bottomed, oven-safe frying pan will work.

Be sure to have a platter or plate slightly larger than your skillet handy for turning out the tart once it’s cooled. One with a slight lip or rim is preferable, as the caramel tends to spread a little once the tart is unmolded.

Game plan: For a slacker solution, use high-quality store-bought pie dough in place of making your own.

This recipe was featured in our Cast Iron Cooking story.

…Get the rest of the ingredients, directions, reader comments (always worth reading!), and delicious gooey goodness here.

Early Afternoon Delight- Smoothie Lovin’


Our immersion blender died some months ago, and it was mourned. However, when we moved into our new/old apartment (we’d been subletting), we rediscovered another immersion blender we own.

I mention this because it coincides with a plethora of fresh fruit from the farmers’ market (now conveniently located across the street) and my increased calcium consumption in the form of yoghurt.

That’s right. Smoothies.

And the smoothie I just made (and am still drinking) is noteworthy in its delicious simplicity.

-1 peach

-1 banana

-a few cacao beans (I still have those? Apparently so!)

-a handful of almonds (thanks Mom and Dad!)

-1 small container of fat-free yoghurt

🙂

Protein, calcium, fresh fruits…happy snack. Yum.

Return from Hiatus with a bonus bump


Olá, Gradissimites! I know, I know…it’s been a long time. Like months. What can I say?

Well, for one, I’m pregnant 🙂 I’m about 5 months in now, and for the first 3+ months, I felt hungover and lethargic, so cooking and food (an important part of my blogging world) was out the window. And of course, it was the tricky first trimester (for the uninitiated, this indicates a window of time during which, apparently, everything and/or nothing causes miscarriage, including jinxing and bad juju), so in the Portuguese fashion, I bit my tongue in re: the fetus situation. For me, this was difficult, since it was pretty much the only thing on my mind, so I simply stopped writing.

Not to worry– the multi-month hangover subsided, I took a trip to the US to visit my bestie and her new fabulous baby girl for some Baby Boot Camp (I passed with flying colors and a Certificate in Baby Neck Cheese), then back home to adjust to a new apartment (My Man moved us in, with some help from Paizinho, while I was away), and then Mom and Dad came for a fantastic visit 🙂 That is to say, things have gotten much happier in the recent past 😉

And now– I have a baby bump (I’m rockin’ it, yo’), and a couple weeks ago (Mom and Dad in tow), My Man and I went to the doctor and found out we’re having a Little Dude 🙂 Though we had no preference, it’s super fun to imagine my Little Dude as he bops around in my belly. I will, of course, be referring to My Man, Little Dude, and the Puppy as “my guys” or “my boys” after the birth. I’m pretty sure such things are mandatory in happy cheesy world.

So, Mom and Dad have returned to their busy lives in the US, My Man’s vacation is over, and the Puppy and I (and Little Fetus Dude) are settling into a routine. Plus, I love food again.

Before leaving, Mom harassed me (as good mothers do) about my protein intake. I pretended to blow it off (I’m still a daughter), but of course, I took it to heart. Yesterday, I made a healthy, protein-rich soup (because Mom is always right.)

The gist of it:
-Two small butternut squash from the market (cubed)
-Two medium potatoes from Paizinho’s garden (cubed)
-Lots of water and some boiling
-Leftover bits of an onion (chopped)
-Leftover 3/4 of a red capsicum (red bell pepper) (chopped)
-Leftover leeks (chopped)
-Vegeta veggie stock, to taste
-A big jar of garbanzo beans (chick peas)

Boil, then blend with immersion blender. Add fresh, chopped spinach and fresh, chopped basil (if you feel like it) at the end. Drizzle with olive oil. Serve.

I also whipped up a flour tortilla with some flamengo cheese and fresh thyme and a pinch of salt and threw it in the microwave with some grill action– a sneaky, pizza-type substance that went quite happily with the soup 😉

Ahhhhhhh….it’s good to be back 🙂

Healthy-ish delights…(Cinnamon Rolls and Pancakes!)


What’s better than taking something indulgent and changing it so you can rationalize less guilt?

Ok. Don’t answer that.

Whatever. The important thing is that I made Cinnamon Rolls in a quick, easy, less-fat-bastard way, and they totally hit the spot. The important thing is that I’m going to tell you my recipe 🙂

(There’s another important thing, too– recently, the culinary rockstars at Chow.com have had the same mindset….so I’ll link to their recipe for healthy-ish pancakes in a moment 🙂 )

(There will be no photos involved. The Cinnamon Rolls à la Gradissima were not long for this world, and the camera was not quick enough to record their fleeting, beautiful existence.)

Recipe: Cinnamon Rolls à la Gradissima

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup regular self-rising flour
  • 1 cup superfine self-rising flour
  • 1/4 cup oatmeal/wheatgerm blend (I did a 3:1 proportion of oatmeal flakes and wheatgerm and threw it into the food processor to make a coarse powder)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar (go raw, if you have it!)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup fat free yoghurt
  • 1/4 cup low-fat milk or light soymilk

Filling:

  • 1 tablespoon ground hazelnuts
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons low-fat milk or light soymilk
  • 1 cup raw or brown sugar
  • 3 teaspoons cinnamon

Icing:

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon low-fat milk or light soymilk (add more for a thinner icing/glaze)

Make the filling first-

  1. Combine hazelnuts, sugar, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Add olive oil and milk and mix until damp and crumbly. Set aside.

Make the dough-

  1. Mix together the flour, oat/wheatgerm blend, sugar, and salt in a large bowl.
  2. Stir in yogurt and milk to make a soft dough.
  3. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough (or use your hands) to make a large rectangle, about a quarter of an inch thick.
  4. Here, you have two options. Option 1: spread half the filling on the bottom of a 8×8 pyrex and half the filling on the rolled-out-dough OR Option 2: spread all of the filling on the rolled-out-dough. Option 1 gives you a crispy, gooey surprise on the bottom of your rolls, but there’s no wrong way to spread the love here 😉
  5. Roll up your rectangle of dough and goodness.
  6. Slice into rolls. (About an inch thick is a safe bet, but if you want to make fewer thick rolls or more thin rolls, by all means, do it!)
  7. Put your rolls into your 8×8 pyrex. I did 9 rolls and spaced them evenly. They grew to squish into each other in the oven quite nicely 🙂

The baking situation-

As you well know by now, I rock a gas oven with no temperature settings. It’s how I roll. I preheated the oven on medium/high and baked the rolls until they seemed done… not too dark, but just starting to get golden on top.

The icing-

  1. Throw your sugar into a food processor and powder it. Throw the milk in and blend it. If it is too thick, add more milk. I like lots of thick icing, so this worked for me 😉

After the rolls are done, put healthy schmear of icing on each one. The heat will soften the icing and you can spread it more evenly.

Eat these babies hot.

AND THEN….

Here’s the Chow.com goodness I was talking about 🙂

Whole Wheat–Oat Pancakes Recipe

Difficulty: Easy

TIME/SERVINGS

Total: 45 mins

Makes: 5 large or 10 smaller pancakes

Whole Wheat–Oat Pancakes See More in the Gallery

  By Aida Mollenkamp

Just because you’re trying to be healthy doesn’t mean you should have to abandon all of your favorite foods, right? Here we doctor up pancakes by using whole-wheat flour and oats, for cakes that are still fluffy yet have a satisfying chewiness that’s actually good for you—sort of.

Read on and get the recipe at Chow.com: http://www.chow.com/recipes/14108-whole-wheatoat-pancakes

Enjoy your healthy-ish delights 😉