Sunday, July 28, 2013

Strawberry Picking a Fight.

"Going Strawberry Picking Today!!"
Doesn't it sound wonderful? Well, it's not. I'm sorry. There is probably something wrong with me but it felt like free labor. Did I really just pay these people to let me do manual labor and pick tiny strawberries every 10 feet? I think I came at a bad time. Or maybe, as a gardener, there wasn't very much satisfaction in harvesting someone else's food. Want to know what was satisfying? The doughnuts. Also, the Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp I made.

Ok, well...some of us had fun.

I had never worked with Rhubarb before, I hadn't even tasted it. It sounded delicious, though, and so I tried it. Looking at the recipe list, it seemed like you couldn't go wrong. The pie turned out amazing and so I wanted to make it again. Only bigger. Boom. Crisp. Get it done. 

4 cups 1/2-inch thick sliced rhubarb (about 1.5 pounds)
2 pounds strawberries, hulled and sliced in half
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup cornstarch
large pinch of salt
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
large pinch of salt
12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
1 cup cup coarsely chopped pecans
a friendly dash of cinnamon 

That's all there is to it. To make the topping, you put all the ingredients in a medium bowl and work the cold butter in with your hands. In a separate bowl, add all of your ingredients for the filling. Then, grab a handful of the topping and toss it into the filling and pour the filling into a large pan. Cover it with the topping and bake at 400 for about 25-30 minutes or until it is "crisped"
Just do it. It's satisfying. At least more satisfying than strawberry picking was for me. 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

That's Amore

My oven had been broken since father's day. Along with my little heart.

I'm just as spoiled and privileged as I sound. I deserve no pity. I just had the urge to complain.

Now, my oven is fixed! It will heat up and stay hot. It does it's job so I can do mine. I could barely contain myself long enough for the repair man to leave. I had yeast, water, and sugar spongeing within moments.
It was pizza night. We were going to do it right. Light. Spite. Fight. Bite. (rhyme urge)
Andy's Pizza dough Recipe

   Since oven day, I have slow roasted tomatoes, made pizza and made some delicious crusty soup bread. I just finished reading The Storyteller by Jodi Piccolt (again, like you've never caved and indulged?). The main character in the book was a baker who came from a long line of bakers. I read very thorough descriptions of bread making and just had to do it myself. I had to wonder over the process. Those that are around me while I bake know my reaction to yeast reacting. It's magic every time. It's hopeful and scientific and unknown all at once. You are not just a baker, you are a conductor. It creates space. It demands time and respect.

I have a hard time sharing dough recipes. It's hard to say exactly what I do. I do as the dough tells me each time. I give and take on the wet and dry ingredients. So I'll give you my skeleton recipe and you can make it your own.

My recipe is Tiff and Andy's Pizza dough recipe. I change it by using whole wheat flour (at least half) and Honey instead of sugar.

Add any toppings you want, I love green peppers and onions. I also love tomato basil. You can make your own sauce if you're fancy, but my tomatoes just started ripening so I just get a jar of pasta sauce I like. Real talk.

You need:

10 0z of warm water (90-110 degrees)
1 tbs honey
3 tsp yeast

2 tbs olive oil
2 tsp salt

1 1/2 cup white flour
1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour

Start your water, honey and yeast in a bowl and give it 5 min to sponge. Then add your olive oil, salt, and flour, mix well. Knead until completely incorporated and smooth. It should feel satisfying and smooth and peaceful. It should inspire you. That's how you'll know it's time to give it a little rest. Put your dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover it with saran and a towel and put in in a room temp dark space for at least an hour.

When it's time to bake your pizza, have your pizza stone and oven at 450.
roll out your dough and prep your oven peal or pizza pan with some corn meal then add your rolled out dough. Shape your crust, add your toppings and bak for 10-15 min or when the cheese is bubbling, hissing and toasty.

This recipe makes 1 large pan pizza or 2 thin crust pizzas. The dough can be made in advance and frozen or stored overnight in the fridge.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Summer Reading List and Panko-Coconut Zucchini Fries with Sweet Chili Sauce

Hello friends! We are in the midsts of summertime and you know what?, everything is great. Personally, I have really been working, eating, and sleeping, but I am doing my best to enjoy myself and find ways to break up that routine. Lately, I have been reading daily and day dreaming about new adventures. My brother Michael is moving to Madison in the near future, and I really would like to explore what the town has to offer. I don't really know Wisconsin that well because I never really go farther than Lake Geneva when I'm visiting Darla. I'm also in need of a good camping trip. A getaway where I can see the stars and only hear the sounds of nature. One where I can sit by a warm campfire and in the morning go on an amazing day hike. If you know of any places like that, please let me know. I'm dying to go there. 

On another note, I am excited to share my summer reading list with you. I think it's a nice variety. Some are recommendations from friends, some new releases from favorite authors, and the rest I find randomly by browsing bookstores. Enjoy, and please, if you read or have read any that are listed and would like to chat, I would love that. :-)

Her: A Memoir by Christa Parravani
The Swarm by Frank Schatzing
Inferno by Dan Brown
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
The Wild Trees by Richard Preston
The Dinner by Herman Koch
Look at the Birdie by Kurt Vonnegut
Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks
Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff

I also have some food to share with you. Enjoy!

Panko-Coconut Zucchini Fries

2 large zucchini and/or yellow squash, sliced into 1/4 inch slices
1/8 cup panko crumbs
1/8 cup coconut flakes
1/8 cup freshly shredded parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp ground pepper
2 egg whites

*if there are any other seasonings you enjoy, feel free to create a new flavor!

Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.

Combine panko crumbs, coconut, parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Place egg whites in a separate bowl.

Dip zucchini slices in egg whites, followed by the breadcrumb mixture. Coat evenly.

Spread zucchini on baking sheet. Bake for 7 minutes. Turn zucchinis over. Bake another 6-7 minutes, or until they look golden and crispy. Serve immediately. Use Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce for some extra flavor.

Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce
yields about 1 1/2 cups

1 cup plus 2 Tbsp water, divided
2 Tbsp organic cornstarch
3 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 Tbsp)
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh Fresno, red Thai chilies, or red jalapeño peppers
2/3 cup organic sugar
1/3 cup rice vinegar
2 tsp salt

In a medium saucepan, add remaining cup of water, sugar, vinegar, peppers, garlic, and salt. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
In a small bowl, whisk together 2 Tbsp water and cornstarch.
Stir cornstarch mixture into simmering sauce and cook until thickened, about one to two minutes.
Remove from heat, let cool completely. Use immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

<3 Heika

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Rosemary Bread

I'm in love and her name is Rosemary. She's subtle and sweet with a hint of the forest.
To be fair, I haven't always been the biggest fan of the herb. I think that's because I always overdid it. Rosemary is what we can strive for. Allowing our presence to be appreciated and known without having to lay it on too thick. It's pleasant alone and brings out the best in what it's paired with.
Give this bread a try.

This recipe is adapted from macaroni grill's rosemary bread.

You'll need
2 cups warm water (110 degrees)
2 tbs yeast
2 tbs honey
2 Tbs olive oil
2 tsp sea salt
4 Tbs chopped rosemary
About 2 cups organic all purpose flour
About 2 cups organic whole wheat flour

Mix the water, yeast and honey and allow it to rest for 5-10 minutes. Then add in the olive oil and salt. Add flour until the dough pulls from the side of the bowl. It's around 5 cups. So about 2 1/2 cups of each. Then add in 2tbs of the rosemary and knead for about 10 min. (I used my kitchen aid and dough hook)
Roll the dough into a ball, coat with olive oil and then cover with cellophane while you let it rise until doubled (1 hr)

Punch down the dough and shape in to four equal loaves. Sprinkle corn meal on the oven peal and place loaves on there spaced apart. You may need to separate them and have 2 of them rise on parchment paper. Slice each loaf with an X and sprinkle remaining rosemary and a little sea salt. Allow to rise for another hour covered with a bakers cloth.

Bake on a pizza stone at 375 for 15-20 min.
This bread is great for breakfast with eggs. Lunch with tomato slices or served with dinner with a plate of olive oil, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Enjoy it however you'd like and you'll be so glad you have Rosemary a try.

Monday, July 8, 2013

A word from myself last summer.

Well, at least I’m learning something. Right? Tell me that is the point of all this. Oh please, let me learn something. Let this shape me. Let me look back and say, “I learned so much…I wouldn’t change a thing”.
            Maybe I’m learning to celebrate the finest beams of light. Like my little cinnamon and sugar holder hiding in my mother in law’s kitchen. Like, a perfectly small and sincere egg waiting for me as a little thank you gift from my sweet birds. Like a big open mouthed kiss from the most beautiful girl to ever grace this dark planet. Like a husband who holds my hand even though it makes his skin feel weird. Like a best friend who sticks it out with you even though you’re in a tent in the woods covered in tics in a rain storm.
            Maybe I’m leaning more practical things. Like you have to keep a pair of flip flops in the car if you’re planning on wearing hot pink crocs in your real life in case you want to stop for a latte. Or to thank the great good God above for that daily bread of yours because He gives and takes away. Maybe I’m learning that it’s okay to just keep the olive oil out all day if it’s in a cute canister. Or that a spoon full of sugar helps the oatmeal go down.
            Maybe I’m learning all this to share it with someone who will eventually be in my shoes. Or maybe I’m learning it just as mere tools in my belt to use as I go on in life. Either way, I can trust that there is no such thing as wasted suffering and that everything works together for the good. And so, I will walk through the valley, if you want me to.

Love, Darla

Bowl of Lunch: Squash

We lunch often, right Heik? I mean, sometimes we go to Simple, but mostly we put stuff in a bowl. It doesn't sound fancy, but it is. 
This particular bowl is a squashy, tomatoey, oniony bowl. So good. So, so good. 

I think healthy eating gets lost. We lose ourselves in complicated recipes. We just keep searching for a healthier version of a brownie. Then, it's lunch time and you're just hungry. A flour-less, egg-less, chocolate-less, love-less brownie won't save you now! 
You need some real life options. I suggest experimenting with Bowls Of Lunch. 
If you fuel yourself with powerful and clean food all day, then you can just eat a regular brownie for dessert. As my wise Grandma would say, "All you need is a taste". Meanwhile, bring life and color and excitement to clean eating. It doesn't even feel like a sacrifice if you put a little love in it. 

Bowl of Lunch: Squash

You'll need:
A buttercup squash, pealed and sliced
A thing of grape or cherry tomatoes halved
A white or yellow onion sliced in to rings (or strips if you can't handle it) 

3 tsp oregano
olive oil (wing it) 
Cooked brown rice or Quinoa (pasta works too) 

Set your oven to 375
Start with tossing your squash with a splash of olive oil and some salt. Lay each piece evenly on a greased and lined pan and roast for about 50 min until it's soft through and starting to get a nice golden crisp. 
In a medium mixing bowl, toss tomatoes olive oil and oregano together and coat evenly. Give it a little salt and pepper and spread it evenly on a lined and greased baking sheet. Roast them for 20 minutes, stirring them half way through. 
Once those two things are in the oven, sauté your onions until translucent. 

When all of your timers go off, assemble your bowl over some rice and add a bit of S&P to taste. The tomatoes should give it enough moisture to feel like a sauce. Happy Bowling!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

My Thoughts on a Day

     Some days, you don't know where to begin. Today started off, the way days do. I woke up, started the coffee maker, and let the chickens out. Then Lila woke up, so I brought her in to kiss her daddy and brought her down to make her breakfast. The lake was calm and beautiful. The sky was clear. My sweet husband came down and greeted me warmly. So why did today seem impossible?
It's because today started out as days do. It's going to be a regular day. I'll pack Jordan a lunch and send him off to work and then do whatever I want with Lila.
     What an impossibly simple task. I couldn't. I looked at Jordan all ready for work and didn't know what to do next. How could today be normal when I lived a nightmare two days ago? When are my days supposed to be normal again? I don't think there is an answer.

     My reality is this, on May 28, I had a regular day. I sent Jordan off to work and kissed him and wished him a happy anniversary. I had a couple of things to do and then I packed Lila up and took her with me to my doctor's appointment. It was just a check up. I was 12 weeks pregnant. After the initial pleasantries, my doctor tried to find the heartbeat. I had been in on May 11 for an ultrasound and heard the heartbeat and was eager to hear it again. I saw concern sweep over my doctors face even as she tried to hide it. I handed Lila a toy to try to get her to stop crying but I think she knew I was nervous and it scared her. I was sent over to the hospital to try to get them to find the heartbeat. After confusion, back and forth, and a half hour wait, I was led in. At this point, my sweet Lilliana had used up all of her patience points and was losing it. She climbed up on the bed with me as the technician tried to find my baby's heartbeat. I saw it on the screen. I recognized the little bean, I had seen it only a couple weeks earlier when I got to see and hear it's perfectly tiny heart flutter. There was nothing. It wasn't a regular day anymore. In fact, that day threatens the normalcy of any day from now on. Phone calls were made. My loved ones were on their way. I'd never be the same.
  So here I am. Two days later. My heart. My heart is so sad. I loved the little baby I held in me for a short 3 months. I didn't even get to see my baby. If I did, I'd say,
              "Sweet one, you are so beautiful and loved. You were loved in my dreams before I even knew you were a part of me. You were created by a wonderful God. I wanted you so bad. We all couldn't wait to meet you. You would have loved your big sister and, let me tell you, she would have loved you. I'm sorry that I can't keep you. I would have done my very best, but God has a plan. We can't possibly see it from here. For some reason, you were called home early. That does not mean you aren't missed. I'll think of you always and forever. My sweet lost one. Your Mommy loves you."

    So, now, I'm faced with days. Mountainous regular days. It's going to take prayer, and practice and perseverance, but I'll be able to do it. Today's mission. Banana Bread. My Lila and I set out on a mission. we putzed and shopped and played and napped and eventually got a loaf of banana bread out of the oven. What a small thing to feel so accomplished about. We did it, though. On an impossibly regular day we accomplished a simple thing and I needed that.

     Meanwhile. I woke up to a regular day. With my precious little girl and my strong and sweet husband. The lake was beautiful and our garden is flourishing. The wind smells sweet and the sun is shining. I must be the luckiest woman alive. It's perspective that makes or breaks a day. I have to remind myself to count my abundant blessings and move forward. I don't have to forget what happened. I don't have to pretend I'm whole. I just have to see the big picture and embrace an eternal and all knowing God.